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of the Spaniards, when some of his men abandoned him, and he was obliged to return. He was absent ten months. If Cavelier and Joutel had been open and frank with him, and had told the whole truth when they first arrived, and thus enabled him to form his plan immediately, it is more than probable that his zeal and enterprise, prompted as they were by the noblest motives of humanity, would have been crowned with suc
For several years, he held the chief command in the Illinois country, by a commission from the king, his head-quarters being at Fort St. Louis. He joined Iberville at the mouth of the Mississippi about the year 1700, and two years afterwards was employed on a mission to the Chickasaws. His route from Mobile to the Chickasaw nation is delineated in some of the
Neither his subsequent services nor the time of his death are known.*
All the facts that can be ascertained, concerning the Chevalier de Tonty, are such as give a highly favorable impression of his character, both as an officer and a man. His constancy, and his steady devotion to La Salle, are marked not only
* In the Petition of the Chevalier de Tonty to the Count de Pontchartrain, some of the events of his life are narrated. See APPENDIX, No. V. - The Sieur de Tonty, a captain in the army, who commanded for some time Detroit, was his brother.
by a strict obedience to orders, but by a faithful friendship and chivalrous generosity. His courage and address were strikingly exhibited in his intercourse with the Indians, as well in war as in peace; but his acts were performed where there were few to observe and fewer to record them. Hence it is, that historians have done him but partial justice. And it is most unfortunate, that the narrative from his own pen, originally written, as his character justifies us in believing, with fidelity and truth, should have been so mutilated and deformed by some mischievous hand, as to render it a reproach to his name, rather than what it might have been, à testimony to his merits, and an honorable monument to his memory.
One censure has been cast upon the Sieur de la Salle, of a very grave nature, which deserves a special notice.
Charlevoix says, “It is certain that M. de la Salle, finding himself at the Bay of St. Bernard, and having soon discovered that he was at the westward of the river for which he was searching, might, if he had entertained no other design than that of finding the river, have procured guides among the Cenis Indians, during his first journey, as Joutel did afterwards; but he had a strong desire to go towards the Spaniards, to obtain a knowledge of the
Mines of St. Barbe." *
From this passage of Charlevoix, and one or two others, it is evident that he supposed La Salle to have left his forlorn colony in a state of desolation and distress, and to have strolled away to the borders of New Mexico, in search of these chimerical mines. Other writers have been betrayed by him into the same belief. But this idea is entirely erroneous, as the reader cannot but be convinced from the details of his journeys, which have been above related.
Joutel likewise observes, speaking of La Salle's first journey from the Bay of St. Bernard, that “he penetrated far into the country, inclining towards the northern parts of Mexico.”+ But we must remember, that Joutel was not with him during this journey, and does not pretend to describe it. The only person, who wrote an account of it, was Father Anastase, and he was one of the party. He says expressly, and more than once, that, when they left the fort, their route was northeast, and afterwards more easterly; and they passed in this direction a long way beyond the Cenis villages towards the Red River. And Joutel himself informs us, that the second journey was over the same track as the first, and
* Histoire de Nouvelle France, Liv. XIII.
that La Salle was killed at a place where he had been while on the first journey.
Hennepin tells us, that, before the Sieur de la Salle began his discoveries, he used to talk to him in Canada of these imaginary Mines of St. Barbe, and hoped that he should find them at some future day. This may be true, for the same chimera at that time and afterwards troubled the dreams of many persons in France. Near the close of the volume, containing the English translation of Hennepin, is an absurd story by an unknown hand, purporting to be a description of La Salle's last voyage and death. The writer says, that he proposed to his men to go with him from the coast to the Mines of St. Barbe, where they would find a “rich and easy booty;” that some approved and others rejected this proposition, till they fell into a quarrel, and came to blows; and that the Sieur de la Salle was killed in the fray.
From these suggestions and rumors, and others of a similar kind, it seems to have at length been regarded as an historical fact, that he really engaged in this adventure. No authentic account of his death was published, till that of Le Clercq, four years after the event. Meantime La Salle had enemies enough in Canada, and in France after the return of Beaujeu with his vessel, to circulate any tales that might be told to his disadvantage. Scarcely a fact connected with his discoveries, however, is more demonstrable, than that he never went a day's journey from the Bay of St. Bernard towards Mexico, and that all his travels were eastward, in the direction of the Mississippi or of the Illinois. Hence it is impossible that he should have gone in search of the Mines of St. Barbe, which were supposed to exist somewhere in the northern parts of Mexico; nor is there any creditable authority of early date for believing, that he entertained for a moment such a design after he landed.
The reader may be curious to know the fate of the unhappy colonists left at the fort. The story, as related by Charlevoix, is brief and sad. When the neighboring Indians, whom he calls Clamoets, heard of the Sieur de la Salle's death, and of the dispersion of his men, they made an attack on the fort, and massacred all that were in it, except three sons and a daughter of M. Talon, and a young Frenchman named Eustache de Bre
These were spared, and led into captivity. Their tender age seems to have been their shield of protection. Meantime the Spaniards of New Mexico, alarmed at the movements of La Salle, and hearing that Frenchmen had penetrated to the Cenis Indians, despatched a strong military force to that nation, where they took Larcheveque and Grollet prisoners. Another party found Ta