Page images
PDF
EPUB

winds, to lie by till the 18th. On the 28th, La Salle discovered Florida and, having been informed that the currents in the gulf set strongly in for the east, he did not doubt that the mouth of the Mississippi lay a great way to the west; consequently he bore westward. On the 10th of January, 1685, he was near the object of his search, without knowing it, and passed it, without sending any of his people ashore. Some days after, beginning to be sensible of his mistake, he wanted to return; but Beaujeu refused to obey him, and La Salle acquiesced, though he had been extremely obstinate in all their differences of minor consequence. Still holding to the west, they at last arrived, without knowing where they were, at the bay of St. Bernard, one hundred leagues to the west of the mouth of the Mississippi. Here La Salle discovered a river, which he mistook for the Mississippi; and here he resolved to land his people. On the 20th of February he sent orders to the commander of the Amiable, the merchant ship, to lighten her, that she might sail up the river, and ordered one Le Belle to command her; but the captain of the vessel refused to receive him. Meanwhile, some of La Salle's company, who had landed, were carried off by the savages, and as he himself was hastening to their rescue, the Amiable was run ashore, designedly as it was thought, by the commander. The crew was saved, and some part of the cargo. The whole of it might have been saved had not the vessel's long boat been destroyed on purpose. Next morning, the Amiable bulged; so that no more was got on shore than thirty casks of wine and brandy and some barrels of flour and salted meat. A bundle of blankets and several other things, being driven from the wreck to the shore, were seized by the savages. They were demanded by La Salle and his people with so much roughness, that the Indians resolved to be revenged and refused to give up their booty. La Salle seized their canoes, which they had left ashore, an outrage which greatly exasperated them. Advancing in the night to his camp, they killed some of his men, and wounded others. Among the latter was Moranger, his own nephew.

It appears, from all accounts, that La Salle was obstinate, proud and passionate, to the last degree, qualities ill suited to such an undertaking. Beaujeu, who considered his station as commander of a royal ship, superior to that of La Salle, to whose orders he was subjected, could not bear with his peevish, tyrannical humor and took all opportunities to thwart him in his projects. All the sensible and independent part of the adventurers, some of whom had risked large sums in the undertaking, were disgusted for the same reason. They complained

that all their hardships were owing to La Salle's headstrong humor, in his disdaining to advise with any one; and some of the most considerable among them proposed returning to France with M. Beaujeu, who was making ready for his voyage. La Salle applied to him for the cannon and bullets, which he had on board; but Beaujeu answered that the season was so far advanced, that he could not spare time, as they were in the bottom of the hold, for putting them ashore. This was not the only mortification La Salle met with at this time; for, though the captain of the Amiable was convicted of running his vessel ashore with design, yet Beaujeu received him and his crew on board, and, setting sail, he left La Salle with no more than ten field pieces ashore, and almost quite destitute of balls and ammunition.

These untoward circumstances were far from daunting La Salle. He set about erecting a storehouse, which he intrenched and fortified as well as he could, though Hennepin says that the fort was almost finished before Beaujeu sailed. While the fort was building, La Salle gave the charge of it to Joutel and left about one hundred and twenty persons with him. With the remainder, which did not exceed fifty, he proceeded in his own frigate up the stream, still of opinion that it was either the Mississippi, or a branch of that river. He had not made great progress, when, hearing some discharges made by Joutel against the savages, who were molesting the store-house, or fort, as it was called, he returned with five or six of his company, and informed Joutel, that, having found a most commodious situation, he had begun to build a fort further up the river. He then took leave of Joutel and returned to his newly founded fort, where he soon perceived that the savages had robbed his workmen of their tools and utensils, and that even when they were supplied with others, they knew not how to use them; so that the work went on slowly.

In the beginning of June, La Salle sent an order to his nephew Moranger, to bring all the people from the old to the new fort, excepting thirty, who were to be left with Joutel and the store-keeper. Scarcely was the main body gone, when two ruffians entered into a conspiracy to murder these two officers, and desert with their spoils. This plot was discovered by a third soldier, whom the conspirators wanted to make an accomplice, and Joutel put them both in irons. On the 14th of July, a fresh order came from La Salle, commanding Joutel to entirely abandon the first fort, and repair to him with all his people, which he accordingly did; but he found La Salle and his new settlement in a wretched condition. The fort was but little advanced; for scarcely any part of it, except a small magazine, was covered over head. They had planted and sowed; but little came up, and even that little had been destroyed by wild animals. Several of the most considerable adventurers were dead, and maladies were every day increasing among the living. All these mortifying circumstances greatly affected La Salle; but he dissembled his chagrin and continued to behave with incredible spirit and industry. No sooner were his people reunited, than he set them the example of working at the fort with his own hands, which would have had an excellent effect by raising an emulation among the men, had he not destroyed it by his excessive cruelty and severity. He gave them no respite from labor; he could not bestow on any one a civil expression; he punished every fault with the utmost rigor; and misery, which commonly renders other men sociable, seerned only to exasperate him into inhumanity. At the same time, despair and want of wholesome food threw his men into a kind of languor, which carried off numbers. To crown those misfortunes, the imprudence of some of his people had rendered the inhabitants of the place irreconcilable enemies to the new settlement.

The natives were called Clamcoets, a cruel, perfidious people, but remarkable for covering their

« PreviousContinue »