La Salle Expeditions - Impact


Beginning in 1700 the French Government began to become interested in the discoveries made by La Salle. The land was better for farming and settlement than lands in Canada and the government began plans to colonize the region. The land gained further importance with the growing power of the English colonies on the eastern seaboard. To counter the English colonies' growth a series of forts and outposts was built along the important trade routes pioneered by La Salle, including a new post named St Louis, this time on the west shore of Mississippi River. The French continued to control parts of La Salle's discoveries until as late as 1803.

La Salle's expedition began written history for most of the Midwest and his contact with the tribes of the west served as an important record of the early history of North America.

LaSalle Texas expedition between 1685 and 1688 triggered a series of events that culminated in Texas with all its wealth joining the United States of America.

LaSalle was never reported to have problems associating or interacting with the indigenous people in North America except for the Karankawa Indians of the gulf coast of Texas. Soon after his arrival in Texas in Jan 1685, LaSalle was able to determine from the tool marks on human bones at old Karankawa campsites that they practiced cannibalism as a matter of course. Thereafter, likely as a matter of self-preservation, LaSalle and his settlers viewed themselves in a state of war with the Karankawas. In fact, many settlers were lost to the Karankawas in the years that followed and the settlement itself, Fort St Louis, was overrun by the Karankawas in Dec 1688 and all remaining adults killed. In early 1689, a Spanish column searching for the French settlement happened upon the devastation that had been the fort and buried the remains of the dead which, inter alia, consisted of bones with tool marks scattered about the site.

LaSalle triggered a Spanish effort to settle Texas with colonists of their own to deny the French entry and generally establish their sovereignty over the area. Any colonists moving north through the lands of the Karankawas in east Texas had to be protected by accompanying soldiers at great expense and each settlement had to have a small garrison of soldiers as well. Eventually new settlers from Mexico became but a trickle while the influx of Americans from the north increased.

In 1823, Steve Austin organized the Texas Rangers for the protection of settlers mainly from the depredations of the Karankawas.

The immigrants from the USA and Mexico gradually evolved into Texicans all having one interest – their Texas and freedom from Mexican occupation. When Generalissimo Santa Ana crossed the Rio Grande with 6000 men in 1835 intent on reinforcing Mexican sovereignty in Texas, the Texicans declared independence. Santa Ana, at first, enjoyed success in his invasion by winning a number of battles. His most dramatic success was his victory at the Alamo in San Antonio. But he had expended men and material without achieving his end goal being the defeat of General Houston and his forces. After the Alamo, he unwisely split his forces and went looking for Houston. This was a major military blunder. Elements of the two armies met at San Jacinto on 21 Apr 1836. Houston with 900 men attacked Santa Ana and his 1400 troops during the siesta in the afternoon of that fateful day. Eighteen minutes after contact, it was over. Mopping up continued for the rest of the day and into the next day. Half the Mexican force was killed and the other half, including Santa Ana, taken prisoner. In the result, Santa Ana agreed to the independence of Texas and his army moved south of the Rio Grande leaving Texas free and independent in its wake. As history records, a few years later, Texas became a state of the United States of America bringing into the union its phenomenal oil, mineral and agricultural assets that fueled the massive industrialization of America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In his Texas period, LaSalle lost his life and failed to find a route to the Pacific or to found a permanent settlement that would establish a claim for the King of France over the area. But he had set in motion a chain of events that ended with Texas and its huge land mass and riches becoming a part of the United States of America.

The Karankawas continued their lawlessness, their looting and killing of settlers, until armed retribution by the settlers reduced their numbers to 59 by 1855 forcing them finally to withdraw to safety south of the Rio Grande into Mexico, never to return.

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