The La Salle Expedition on the Mississippi River: A Lost Manuscript of Nicolas de La Salle, 1682

Book Cover Image
William C. Foster (Editor)
Translated by Johanna S. Warren



The La Salle Expedition on the Mississippi River presents the definitive English translation of Nicolas de La Salle's diary account of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's 1682 discovery expedition of the Mississippi River from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This previously unknown manuscript copy of a diary by Nicolas La Salle (who was not related to the explorer) was discovered recently in the collection of rare books in the Texas State Archives. La Salle's successful journey down the Mississippi culminated in an internationally recognized French claim over the river and lands later called the Louisiana Territory, which the United States acquired by treaty from France two hundred years ago. La Salle's 1682 expedition and the subsequent Louisiana Purchase of 1803 shaped both the dimensions and character of this nation and provided a platform for westward expansion into Texas and beyond to the Pacific.

Prepared from detailed notes, the present version of Nicolas de La Salle's diary provides the most complete and authoritative account available of this historic North American adventure and territorial claim. By careful cross-document analysis, Foster projects an extended expedition chronology that adds about two weeks to the journey, corrects the date that La Salle's claim was announced, and revises erroneous interpretations of the journey made by most contemporary French and American scholars.

The narrative account tells of La Salle's encounter on the lower Mississippi with Indian chiefdoms that represented remnants of the once proud and powerful Mississippian cultural tradition that dominated the American Southwest from Georgia to Texas during the beginning of the last millennium. Nicolas de La Salle and other La Salle chroniclers record that Native American horticulturalists on the lower Mississippi cultivated European domesticated fruit trees and melons, including Spanish pomegranates, peaches, pears, plums, apples, and watermelon. Using both archeological and documentary sources, Foster concludes that orchards at sixteenth-century Spanish missions and outposts in northern Mexico were the most likely source of the European fruit and melons served to La Salle's party on the Mississippi. The author also carefully traces Native American regional interaction and Indian trade networks that crossed northern Mexico and Texas to the lower Mississippi in the early seventeenth century.

La Salle's diary account, newly translated by Johanna S. Warren, is edited and annotated with an introduction by William C. Foster. The work includes maps prepared by the noted Southwest cartographer John V. Cotter.