The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle

Overview


Robert Cavelier de La Salle: daring explorer, empire builder, shaper of history—and shameless schemer who abused his followers and deceived his king. In The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle, acclaimed historian Robert S. Weddle reveals how La Salle and his closest associates spun a web of secrecy and falsehood about their travels, dissembled their objectives, and put their own spin on his exploits by suppressing other would-be diarists. Weddle’s study represents a major revision of the story of La Salle ...
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Overview


Robert Cavelier de La Salle: daring explorer, empire builder, shaper of history—and shameless schemer who abused his followers and deceived his king. In The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle, acclaimed historian Robert S. Weddle reveals how La Salle and his closest associates spun a web of secrecy and falsehood about their travels, dissembled their objectives, and put their own spin on his exploits by suppressing other would-be diarists. Weddle’s study represents a major revision of the story of La Salle and his times as they have been traditionally understood, with few of the major characters in the epic tale emerging unscathed. Even his death was misreported by survivors of the French colony in Spanish-claimed territory as they sought to save themselves.

This book had its genesis in the Texas Historical Commission’s 1995 discovery in Matagorda Bay, along the Texas coast, of the wreck of La Belle, the last of four vessels that La Salle brought to America on his final mission. Artifacts salvaged from the ship shed new light on the efforts of La Salle and his two hundred colonists to establish the first European settlement between Florida and Mexico, a settlement that has been erroneously labeled Fort-Saint-Louis.

As history provided the clues that led to this archaeological discovery, so archaeology now fills in the blanks of history, raising a host of new questions about the ill-starred colony. Weddle marshals the evidence to answer those questions, reframing the old picture of one of France’s premier American explorers in the light of new discovery and setting the record straight.

Weddle’s exhaustive research has resulted in a work not limited to La Salle’s final misadventures in Texas. Rather, he chronicles the explorer’s activities throughout his travels in North America, drawing on several unpublished sources to provide a more accurate picture of La Salle, both as private individual and as legendary explorer.

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Robert S. Weddle, a Fellow of the Texas Historical Association, is widely regarded as the dean of Texas colonial historians. Author of La Salle, the Mississippi, and the Gulf: Three Primary Documents and Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle, also published by Texas A&M University Press, he is an independent historian with a background in journalism and publishing.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations IX
Foreword XI
Acknowledgments XIII
Introduction XV
Part 1 The Price of Glory
1. Navio Quebrado: Derelict at San Bernard 3
2. "Our Wise Commander": On the Path to Glory 21
3. "A Step from Madness": The Wreck of Ships and Dreams 40
4. Seeds of Confusion: The River of Mystery 65
Part 2 A New Direction
5. The Pawn Game: In the Hands of the Schemers 83
6. Storm Flags: Forecast of Failure 104
7. The Parting Gun: A Farewell to France 119
8. Voyage of Destiny: The Hidden River 135
Part 3 The Lost Colony
9. Unhappy Landing: Shipwreck and Savagery 157
10. The Hostile Shore: "A Curse upon Our Labors," 179
11. The Fort That Never Was: "Saint-Louis of Texas," 196
12. Fatal Journey: Vengeance and Reprisal 214
13. Legacy of Deceit: The Bitter Fruit 235
Postscript: In the Backwash of Dreams 254
Notes 263
Bibliography 305
Index 313
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