Imágenes de páginas

wild beasts of the forest. Thus, at the age of 43, in his vigorous manhood's prime, perished one whose exploits have so greatly enriched the history of the new world. His successes required for their accomplishment an undaunted will and invincible courage, which few could bring to the aid of an enterprise. His failures were partly caused by the vastness of his schemes, and in part because his imperious nature would not permit him to conciliate the good will of those he employed and was compelled to trust. While he grasped one link in the chain of his extended enterprises, another, through treachery, slipped from his hand.

"It is easy to reckon up his defects, but it is not easy to hide from sight the Roman virtues that redeemed them. Beset by a throng of enemies, he stands, like the King of Israel, head and shoulders above them all. He was a tower of adamant, against whose impreguable front hardship and danger, the rage of inan and the elements, the southern sun, the northern blast, fatigue, famine and disease, delay, disappointment and deferred hope, emptied their quivers in vain. That very pride which, Coriolanus-like, declared itself most sternly in the thickest press of foes, las in it something to challenge admiration. Never under the impenetrable mail of paladin or crusader beat a heart of more in. trepid mettle than within the stoic panoply that armed the breast of LaSalle. To estimate aright the marvels of his patient fortitude, one must follow on his track through the vast scene of his interminable journeyings, those thousands of weary miles of forest, marsh and river, where, agaju and again, in the bitterness of baffled striving, the untiring pilgrim pushed onward toward the goal he was never to attain. America owes him an enduring memory; for in this masculine figure, cast in irou, she sees the heroic pioneer who guided her to the possession of her richest heritage.” *

Those who were not in sympathy with the assassins concealed their resentment, and on the 2d day after the murder the party was again in motion. On the main stream of the Trinity they were again compelled to halt for the purpose of buying provisions of the Indians. Here the two murderers, who had arrogated to themselves the command of the expedition, declared their intention of returning to the fort, and there building a ship in which to escape to the West Indies. This impossible scheme, together with their refusal to let their accomplices in the murder share in the spoils obtained by it, soon led to dissensions. The breach rapidly widened, and at last the aggrieved parties shot the murderers, an act which was but the recoil of the crimes they were the first to introduce. Thus ended the bloody tragedy, enacted with such atrocity by these pioneers of Christianity and civilization, that even the debased savage of the wildernesss looked on with the utmost amazement and horror.

Joutel, with the brother and nephew of La Salle and 4 others, whose innocence would permit them to return to civilization, commenced anew their travels, leaving the guilty behind. Proceeding in a northeastern direction, they encountered by day a monotony of tangled forests, grassy plains, and miry fens; by night, chilly rains alternating with starlit skies, in whose pale and mystic radiance they soundly slept and dreamed of absent friends and distant homes. At length, after a journey of two months, in which they had been led by guides furnished by various tribes, they stood on the banks of the Arkansas, opposite an Indian vil lage. Gazing across the stream, their eyes fell on a hut, nestled among the trees of the forest, while a cross near by showed it to be the abode of Christians. Actuated by a common impulse, they


*Discov, of the Great West.-Parkman,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

fell on their knees, and with emotions of gratitude thanked God for having directed them to this outpost of civilization. Two men issued from the cabin and fired a salute, which being answered by a volley from the travelers, a canoe put out from the shore and ferried them over the stream.

The long lost wanderers were cordially greeted in their mother tongue by the occupants of the dwelling, who proved to be 6 of Tonti's men, whom he had left here in his assent of the Mississippi.* This noble officer, who had been restored to the command of the fort on the Ilinois by order of the King, had heard of La Salle's disaster, and immediately equipped an expedition with his own means to relieve him. With 25 Frenchmen and 5 Indians, he left the fort on the 13th of February, 1686, and soon descended the Illinois and Mississippi to the Gulf. Not finding any traces of him at the mouth of the river, he sent his unoes to scour the shores for a distance of 30 leagues on either side. Not seeing or hearing anything of LaSalle, who at the same time was wandering among the wilds of Texas, in a search equally fruitless, he retraced his course to the fort on the Illinois, leaving, as already mentioned, some of his men near the mouth of the Arkansas. The travelers, from motives of policy, carefully concealed the death of LaSalle from their hosts, and when sufficiently recruited recommenced their journey. Proceeding down the Arkansas, they soon found themselves on the great river which had so long been the object of their search. The 13th of September found them at the confluence of the Nlinois, and 11 days more brought them to the fortcrowned rock, which, like a sentinel, stood watch over its peaceful waters. They landed and were soon met by parties from the fort, who, after the usual salutations, inquired for LaSalle. Substituting adroitness for a frank avowal of the truth, they replied that they had left him in Texas, and at the time of their departure he was in good health.

It is said the object of the evasion was to enable the old priest, Cavalier, as the representative of LaSalle, to derive some advantage for himself and companions in the settlement of his brother's estate. Tonti was absent, fighting the Iroquois, but his lieutenant received them with a salvo of musketry, and provided for them comfortable quarters in the fort. Tonti, not long after, returned from bis martial expedition, and listened with profound interest and sympathy to the story of the disasters and sufferings of the travelers, as related by the elder Cavalier. He did not scruple to tell Tonti the same story by which he had deceived others in regard to the death of his brother. Moreover, after living for months on the hospitality of his generous host, he added fraud and meanness to deception. This flagrant outrage he perpetrated by forging an order on Tonti, in the name of LaSalle, for 4,000 livres, in furs and other goods, which his unsuspecting victim generously delivered to him at the time of his departure.

On leaving the fort, the travelers proceeded to Mackinaw, where they exchanged their ill-gotten fürs for clothing and means to defray their expenses home. Without further delay, they made their way to Quebec, and thence to France, whither they arrived in October, 1688, having spent more than four years in their dis"This was the commencement of Arkansas Post, captured by Gen. McClernand during the Rebellion.

tant wanderings. They were men of only average ability and energy, yet, moved by the most pressing necessity, they performed one of the most remarkable voyages on record. They now, for the first time, divulged the secret of LaSalle's death, and the king issued orders for the arrest of all who were privy to his murder. It does not appear certain that any of them were ever subjected to a criminal prosecution; but rumor has it that part of them perished by their own hands, and part by the Indians, whom their misdeeds roused to vengeance.

In the mean time the news of LaSalle's death also reached Tonti's men on the Arkansas, and was thence carried to him in the fort on the Illinois. It is more easy to imagine than describe the feelings of this most devoted of all LaSalle's followers when he learned the tragical manner of his death. But without useless waste of time in grief for him whom he had so long and so faithfully served and who was now beyond reach of help, he determined to make an effort to rescue his perishing colonists. For this purpose he left the fort in December, 1688, with 5 Frenchmen and 3 Indians, and, after a toilsome journey, arrived at the mouth of Red River, where he learned that some of the accomplices of LaSalle's murderers were in a village some 80 leagues distant. On making known his intention to visit the town all his men refused to accompany him, except two, a Frenchman and an Indian. Not being able to enforce obedience, he resolutely set out with them, but unfortunately a few days afterwards, lost the greater part of his ammunition. Still undeterred, he pushed on to the town, but no trace of the criminals could be found. When, however, he questioned the villagers respecting them, he concluded from their suspicious demeanor, that they had previously been there, and that the Indians, incensed at their misdeeds, had probably put them to death. Having accomplished nothing thus far, and now almost without ammunition, with bitter disappointment he was compelled to return. In retracing their steps they met with more than the usual amount of hardships attending a march through an unexplored wilderness. On arriv. ing at the Indian village on the Arkansas, Tonti, as the result of exhaustion and exposure, became sick of a fever, but recovered in time to reach the fort on the Illinois by the first of September.

This unsuccessful effort was the last attempt made to rescue the unfortunate colony from the savage immensity that shut them out from home and civilization. Their final destruction by the Indians was learned from the Spaniards of Mexico. Spain claimed the country bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, and from the capture of LaSalle's vessel in the West Indian Seas, his designs became known. After several attempts to find the location of his colony and destroy it, a Mexican expedition, guided by one of the French deserters, pushed across the wilderness to the fort. Seeing no evidences of life without, the Spaniards spurred their horses through the open gateway of the fort, and found only the ruins of what had once constituted the stores and furniture of the garrison. From French deserters domesticated among the Indians, it was learned that about 3 months before, a band of savages ambushed themselves under the banks of the river, while others drew the garrison out of the fort for the purpose of traffic. At a given signal, the concealed foe rushed from his covert, and immolated indiscriminately the men, women and children. Thus ends one of the

most extensive explorations known to history. As a great geographical discovery, it is only second to that which made known to Europe the existence of the Western Hemisphere. The great valley thus thrown open las since been filled with a constellation of prosperous, happy states. The city which death deprived him of founding, and which his sagacity foresaw would become one of the great marts of the earth, is now the emporium of the South. America owes him a debt of gratitude which she will ever be unable to pay, and in like manner, as a type of incarnate energy, his deeds she will never forget.

HEXNEPIN.-It will be remembered that LaSalle having concluded that Hennepin could do more good by exploring the Illinois and Upper Mississippi, than in preaching sermons and that he with two companions were sent on that mission. Having descended the Illinois and commenced the ascent of the Mississippi, they were surprised, and taken by a band of Sioux, who conducted them up the river to the falls of St. Anthony, and thence to their villages in the vicinity of Mille Lac, Wisconsin ere Hennepin spent the Spring and Summer in hunting, acting as a physician, and studying the Sioux language. Autumn at lenght came, and with the consent of the chief they were permitted to depart. Proceeding

by way of the Rum, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Fox rivers to Green bay, they spent the winter with the Jesuit Missionaries. With the opening of Spring they moved down the lakes and St. Lawrence, to Quebec, where Hennepiu was recei ed hy the governor, who listened with profound interest to the recital of his travels. From America be went to France, where an account of his travels were published in different languages, and read with great interest. Not meeting with the encouragement in France he expected, he went to England and was taken into the service of King William. This monarch wishing to set up a claim to Louisiana. induced him to modify the narrative of his discovery so as to favor his claim. Yielding to bis request he wrote a new account, in which he falsely stated that before his voyage up the river he first descended it to the sea. Thus while he endeavered to rob Lašalle of his principal laur els, he tarnished his own fame and was afterwards stigmatized by his countrymed as the prince of liars.



A Dependency of Canada.-Twelve years elapsed after La Salle's fruitless attempt to found a colony on the Mississippi, before the government of France made a second effort. At length, fearing that England might obtain precedence in the great valley, the king set on foot an enterprise for this purpose. M. d'Iberville, who had exhibited such mature judgment and prompt action in the wars of the French-American possessions, was chosen to command it. Having encountered the icebergs and snows of Hudson's Bay and the burning sands of Florida, he was now ready, at the command of his king, to encounter the malarious marshes of the Mississippi. The two preceding years he had established colonies on Ship Island and the head of Lake Borgne, and about the middle of February, 1700, sailed up the Mississippi, to found a third one on its banks. A site was selected for a fort and set. tlement, about 38 miles below New Orleans, and while he was engaged in its erection, Tonti descended from the fort on the Illinois, with a party of Canadians, to assist him. Tonti's intimate acquaintance with the Indian languages and the tribes living on the river, made him a valuable acquisition to the new colony. Availing himself of his assistance, D'Iberville resolved to further ascend the river, explore the country on its banks, and form alliances with its inhabitants. In company with Tonti, his brother Bienville, and other parties, he passed up the river to the Nachez tribe, which he found more powerful and civilized than others le had visited. The great beauty of the surrounding country induced him to select it as the seat of the future provincial govern. ment, and the bluff on which the city of Natchez is now built, he chose as the site of its capital. He named the prospective city Rosalie, in honor of the wife of his patron, the French minister of marine, and 15 years afterward a fort was erected on the site by his successor. D’Iberville now returned to his ships below and embarked for France, while Bienville explored the country about the mouth of Red river, and some of the party from Illinois were sent to ramble for 6 months in the remote west, in the vain search for gold.

With this expedition down the Mississippi, Tonti, the most trusted officer of LaSalle, disappears from the roll of authentic history. The following are some of the acts which distinguished his adventurous life during this period : His mediation in the at

« AnteriorContinuar »