To say that Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was determined is like saying the sun is warm. La Salle made his way from Eastern Canada to the Great Lakes. Then he traveled by canoe down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. This vast territory was dense unexplored wilderness, controlled by the fierce and powerful Iroquois. To make the merely daunting nearly impossible, La Salle was on his own. His King, Louis X1V, would provide neither protection, men nor money.
Through one setback after another, La Salle kept on going. His men deserted him; he walked a thousand miles, in the middle of the brutal Canadian winter, back to Montreal and organized a new expedition. The Iroquois threatened; he brought together rival tribes, and speaking in their own language, united them into an alliance against the Iroquois. La Salle's ship sunk with a fortune in furs meant to finance his expedition. Again, he walked back to Montreal and found new financial support.
Part adventure, part biography, Despite All Obstacles is the fascinating story of this obstinate and courageous man who had dreams as large as the continent and a will to match those dreams.
About the Author
Joan Elizabeth Goodman is the author of Beyond the Sea of Ice, and A Long and Uncertain Journey, the first two books in the Great Explorer series. She lives in New York City.
Tom McNeely is one of Canada's leading illustrators and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications. He lives in Toronto.
"In Adversity he was never cast down and always hoped with the help of heaven to succeed in his enterprises despite all the obstacles that rose against it."
Chronicle of La Salle's Last Expedition
by Father Anastasius Douay
On April 9, 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, stood on a small rise of dry land where the great muddy Mississippi poured its waters into the Gulf of Mexico. He had changed his travel-worn shirt for a coat of brilliant red, kept especially for this moment of glory. By him stood his two closest companions: Nika, the Shawnee, and Henri de Tonty, his lieutenant. Father Zenobe Membré was there to bless their endeavor. Around them stood twenty-two Frenchmen and a small traveling village of Abenaki and Mohican who'd come with La Salle on the final leg of a journey begun, and interrupted, many times over the past five years.
Against incredible odds, La Salle had conquered the mystery of the mighty river that cut through the middle of America. Others had traveled it before him, but he was the first European to follow its course from its juncture with the Illinois River to its conclusion in the Gulf of Mexico. His mission was a complicated endeavor, every bit as difficult for its time as launching a space station is today. Only La Salle wasn't NASA. He was just one man. He alone negotiated with the French monarchy to get the necessary approval. He raised the funds, hired the men, and organized food, shelter, and supplies for the expedition.
At the mouth of the Mississippi, the men raised a tall, straight tree and carved on it the arms of Louis XIV, the dazzling Sun King, the greatest ruler France had ever known. La Salle stretched out his arms and claimed the entire Mississippi River basin from north to south, and from the Alleghany
Mountains in the east to the Rockies in the west, for Louis and France. It was the huge midsection of the great North American continent, an area more than double the size of France.
Here was a gift fit for a great king. Spain had the riches of Mexico; England had the Atlantic coast; now France would have the heartland of America.