AUSTIN, Texas–The Center for Studies in Texas History at The University of Texas at Austin has released the definitive English translation of The La Salle Expedition to Texas, Joutel’s classic account of the La Salle expedition of 1684-1687. The center is part of the Texas State Historical Association, which is located at UT.
Edited and introduced by William C. Foster, an author and board member of the TSHA, and translated by Johanna S. Warren, the journal recounts the dramatic story of adventure and misadventure in Texas as experienced by Henri Joutel, one of the few survivors of La Salle’s last expedition. La Salle has gained much attention recently in the wake of the excavation and conservation of his ship the Belle, which was wrecked in Matagorda Bay.
Joutel served as post commander for La Salle and, as a lay historian, he described in accurate and colorful detail the daily experiences of the expedition group. These adventurers encountered Native Americans and their unique cultures, enormous herds of bison and unknown plants and animals, including lethal flowering cactus fruit and rattlesnakes.
Priests and soldiers, deserters and murderers, Native American leaders, and a handful of pioneering French women who worked side-by-side with the men, complete the cast of characters. Many of these colonists died from disease, starvation and battle. La Salle, in fact, was killed by his own men. As Foster recounts, “Joutel worried that his accurate account of La Salle’s death, which occurred without confession, last rites or burial, would be subject to editorial tampering, and so he withheld the publication of his manuscript. It was not made public for another 200 years.”
Joutel’s notes also detail the precise route La Salle’s party followed in 1687 from the Texas coast to the Mississippi River. Foster has used Joutel’s descriptions to establish where La Salle was murdered by his men, and also to correct many erroneous geographic interpretations made by scholars during the past century. By using a copy of the original manuscript for the translation, Foster and Warren were able to correct errors made by French editors in the original publication. This volume is thus the most accurate edition in circulation.
The La Salle Expedition to Texas is available from the Center for Studies in Texas History and the Texas State Historical Association.