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On April 9, 1682, Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, paddled into the Gulf of Mexico. He and a small band of men in three canoes had become the first to navigate the entire length of the Mississippi River--"the object of his day-dreams, the destined avenue of his ambition and his hopes." He claimed the river and its enormous watershed for France and named it after King Louis XIV. Five years later, while searching for an overland route to the Mississippi, La Salle was killed by mutinous members of his party. La Salle had spent nearly half of his 42 years in North America, enjoying some triumphs and enduring many hardships.
Francis Parkman, one of America's greatest historians, tells the story of La Salle, his rivals, and the struggle over North America in La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West. Parkman was an adventurer himself (he recounts his own five-month trek through the American wilderness in The Oregon Trail), and his experiences on the (admittedly different) frontier lent him a certain authority. He wrote with a fluid, 19th-century grace--"All day there was feasting without respite, after the merciless practice of Indian hospitality"--though some readers may find his prose too florid. First published as part of his epic seven-volume study, France and England in North America, La Salle has been inexplicably out of print for decades. Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) rescued this classic for reissue in the Modern Library's Exploration series. With an introduction by Rick Bass, La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West is a welcome addition to the early history of North America. --Sunny DelaneyFrom the Back Cover:
"Parkman was . . . perhaps the first great historian the United States produced, certainly still one of [the] most notable. The vividness
of his narrative breathes the excitement he felt . . . in penetrating
the Great American Wilderness."--John Keegan
René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle (1643-1687), one of the most legendary explorers of the New World, is best known for claiming the entire Louisiana Territory for France in 1682. Two years later, he was given the order to colonize and govern the great expanse of territory between Lake Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico. He set out from France with four ships but never reached his destination. Landing somewhere in East Texas, he and his men were ravaged by disease, weakened by hard labor, even gored by buffalo as they tried to locate the mouth of the Mississippi River, which was obscured by the sandy sameness of the Gulf coastline. In 1687, on a third attempt to locate the river by an overland route, La Salle was murdered by his own men in the desolate country between the Trinity and Brazos rivers. His body was never found.
First published in 1869, La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West is the vivid, richly detailed story of that final grim expedition, told by America's foremost historian.
Francis Parkman was born in Boston in 1823 and is best known for his masterly seven-volume series, France and England in North America, and for the annual prize awarded by the Society of American Historians in his honor. He died in 1893.
Jon Krakauer is the author of Into Thin Air, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Into the Wild. His work has appeared in many
magazines, including Outside, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. He chose the books in the Modern Library Exploration series for their literary merit and historical significance---and because he found them such a pleasure to read.
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