Henri Joutel Journal

An account of La Salle’s 1684 expedition in Texas

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Henri Joutel, a native of Rouen, France, accompanied René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle on La Salle's 1684 expedition to establish a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. He kept a record of his travels, describing daily life and the things he saw along the way. His notes were first published in this 1713 book titled Journal historique du dernier voyage que feu M. de La Sale fit dans le golfe de Mexique.

Although others wrote about the La Salle expedition, Henri Joutel’s journal was the only one made at the time of the expedition which covers the journey from beginning to end. He details the struggles of building a temporary settlement in Texas and what life was like for the colonists. The cultural details of Indigenous life he observed were also recorded in great detail. He lists the names of 116 Native Tribes and describes homes, hunting methods, and ceremonies. It was also in this 1713 published edition of the journal that the name “St. Louis” was given to La Salle’s settlement, the name used by archaeologists and scholars today.

In 1684, Henri Joutel sailed with La Salle aboard the ship Le Joly and during the voyage became his trusted lieutenant. After mistakenly landing in Texas, Joutel was left in command of the colony when La Salle left to look for the Mississippi River. After the first unsuccessful expedition, La Salle returned to the main camp. In 1687, when La Salle left on his third and last journey, Henri Joutel went with him. During this trip, La Salle and three of his men were murdered by others in the group. Joutel and the remaining members of the group continued on until they reached the Mississippi River. Henri Joutel and some of the men made the long and difficult journey up the Mississippi to Canada; they eventually made it back to France in 1688.

After his return to France, Henri Joutel relied on his notes to finish compiling his journal into a piece for publication around 1691. A French editor, without Joutel’s approval, reduced and altered the original text, publishing a condensed version in 1713. This edited 1713 French version and an English translation published in 1715 were the only records available to scholars of Joutel’s journey until 2014 when a complete translation was published. Copies of the 1713 journal are rare. Founded in 1971 the gallery is a leader in the collecting of rare books, manuscripts, maps, and artwork from the 16th to 19th centuries.

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Henri Joutel Journal Artifact from Matagorda Bay, TX
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