les contes aux environs de la rivière de misisipi.
NICOLAS DE FER
A fascinating map of the Mississippi River Valley including Florida and the Caribbean islands, outlining the discoveries made by René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle as well as those of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. The map was published in Nicolas de Fer’s Atlas Curieux ou le monde représenté dans des cartes générales… in 1705.
The map’s focus is on the 1682 expedition by René-Robert de La Salle who claimed much of the Mississippi River Valley for the French Crown and named the region Louisiana after King Louis XIV of France. De la Salle, along with 300 colonists, would return to the Gulf of Mexico in 1684 with the intent of founding a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Although the expedition was beset with many hardships, de La Salle was able to erect Fort St-Louis in what is present day Matagorda Bay, Texas, some 400 miles (640Km) west of their intended destination. Although, de La Salle continued his search for the Mississippi River, his efforts proved fruitless. He was, however, able to explore much of the Rio Grande and parts of eastern Texas. De La Salle would meet an untimely end in 1687 when he was killed during a mutiny whilst trying to find a route North to New France. In fact, the map’s cartouche depicts his assassination.
It is of important to note that De La Salle’s expedition and plans to colonize the Mississippi Valley fostered a sense of concern for Spain and their American Colonies. As a result, the Spanish formed a search party in 1686 to locate De La Salle’s colony which they believed was located somewhere between the Rio Grande and the Mississippi River. The French fort of St-Louis was eventually found in April 1689, but had already been laid waste to because of an earlier attack by the Karankawa tribe. Being as it may, the Spanish feared that the French would begin to colonize the region anew, and thus threaten their lucrative silver trade. As a result, the Spanish built small outposts in eastern Texas and Pensacola. Nevertheless, the French maintained their claim to Texas until it, along with all lands West of the Mississippi River Valley, was ceded to Spain following the its defeat in the Seven Year’s War with the Treaty of Fontainebleau on November 3, 1762.
De Fer’s map also makes mention of d’Iberville’s 1698 expedition to relocate the Mississippi Delta and attempt, once again, to colonize the Gulf of Mexico region. Although d’Iberville was unable to establish a colony near the Mississippi River delta, he was able to establish a fort in what is now Biloxi, Mississippi. D’Iberville would return to the region two more times, and helped establish what is today Mobile, Alabama and Fort Maurepas, which became the capital of Louisiana before being transferred to New Orleans in 1718.
De Fer’s map is important because it is a very early depiction of the French attempt to colonize and thus claim the Mississippi Valley. In doing so, the French posed a threat to Spanish claims in the Gulf of Mexico. The map notes not only the locations of Fort St-Louis, established by de La Salle, but also, the fort near Biloxi, Mississippi, erected by d’Iberville. It is also interesting that the map depicts the location of the place where de La Salle was most likely killed, and the route by which the Spanish used to travel to Fort St-Louis which they eventually demolished.