to conceal his death from the surrounding hostile savages, was sunk by his surviving followers in the deep current of that mighty stream.
Of the entire expedition, less than half, an enfeebled and wretched remnant, finally reached the coast of Mexico
, in the summer of 1543, glad to have escaped with their bare lives from the inhospitable swamps and savages they had so recklessly encountered.
It does not appear that any of them, nor even De Soto
himself, had formed any adequate conception of the importance of their discovery, of the magnitude of the river, or of the extent and fertility of the regions drained by its tributaries; since more than a century was allowed to transpire before the Mississippi
was revisited by civilized men. And its next discoverers were not Spaniards, but Frenchmen ; although Spain
had long possessed and colonized Florida
on either side of its mouth.
But the French
--now firmly established in Canada
, and penetrating by their traders and voyageurs
the wild region stretching westward and south-westward from that Colony — obtained from the savages some account of this river about the year 1660; and in 1673, Marquette
, proceeding westward from Montreal
, through the Great Lakes
, reached the Mississippi
above its junction with the Missouri
, and descended it to within three days journey of its mouth.
In 1682, La Salle
descended it to the Gulf of Mexico
, and took formal possession of the region in the name of his king and country.
A fort was erected on its banks by Iberville
, about the year 1699; and in 1703, a settlement was made at St. Peters, on the Yazoo
New Orleans was first chosen as the site of a city in 1717, laid out in 1718, when the levees which protect it from the annual inundations of the river were immediately commenced, and steadily prosecuted to completion, ten years afterward.
The colony of Louisiana
(so named after Louis XIV.) remained a French possession until 1762, when it was ceded to Spain
New Orleans gradually increased in trade and population, but the colony outside of that city was of slight importance under its Spanish rulers, who did little to develop its resources, and were not popular with its mainly French inhabitants.
In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte
, then First Consul, induced the feeble and decaying Bourbons of Spain
, then in close alliance with revolutionary France
, to retrocede to her Louisiana
, almost without consideration; and the French
flag once more waved over delighted New Orleans.
In the United States
, however, the transfer was regarded with regret and apprehension.
Our settlers beyond the Alleghanies
, who must export their surplus products through the lower Mississippi
, or see them perish useless and valueless on their hands, had been for fifteen years in a state of chronic and by no means voiceless dissatisfaction with the alleged jealous hostility and obstructive regulations of the Spanish
rulers of that essential outlet.
Threats were freely uttered that they would soon descend the river and clear its lower banks of the Dons and drones who seemed to burrow there only as an impediment and a nuisance.
were charged with fomenting intrigues in Kentucky
, which had for their object the alienation