"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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.