Henri de Tonti

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Henri de Tonti Henri de Tonti.jpg
Henri de Tonti

Henri de Tonti (1649/50 August 1704) was an Italian soldier, explorer, and fur trader in the service of France. [1]

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.


Early life

Henri de Tonti, an Italian from the Kingdom of Naples, was most likely born near Gaeta, Italy, in either 1649 or 1650. He was the son of Lorenzo de Tonti, a financier and former governor of Gaeta. Alphonse de Tonti, one of the founders of what is now Detroit, was his younger brother.

Kingdom of Naples former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Lorenzo de Tonti was a governor of Gaeta, Italy and a Neapolitan banker. He is sometimes credited with the invention of the tontine, a form of life insurance, although it has also been suggested that he simply modified existing procedures.

His father, Lorenzo, was involved in a revolt against the Spanish viceroy in Naples, Italy, and was forced to seek political asylum in France around the time of Henri's birth.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

A viceroy is an official who runs a country, colony, city, province, or sub-national state, in the name of and as the representative of the monarch of the territory. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roy, meaning "king". A viceroy's territory may be called a viceroyalty, though this term is not always applied. The adjective form is viceregal, less often viceroyal. The term vicereine is sometimes used to indicate a female viceroy suo jure, although viceroy can serve as a gender-neutral term. Vicereine is more commonly used to indicate a viceroy's wife.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

In 1668, Henri joined the French Army and later served in the French Navy. During the Third Anglo-Dutch War, Henri was part of the French troops that King Louis XIV sent to Sicily in 1675 under the Command of The Duke of Vivonne to support the rebellion of the important town of Messina (circa 100.000 inhabitants in 1674) against the crown of Spain. Tonti took part in the military operations in the village of Gesso, up the hills near Messina and he lost his hand in a grenade explosion. From that time on, wore a prosthetic hook covered by a glove, thus earning the nickname "Iron Hand". Among the officers fighting beside the French expedition corps, there were the brothers Antonio and Thomas Crisafy, who years later Tonti will have the chance to meet again in Nouvelle France. [1]

French Army Land warfare branch of Frances military

The French Army, officially the Ground Army to distinguish it from the French Air Force, Armée de l'Air or Air Army, is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces. It is responsible to the Government of France, along with the other four components of the Armed Forces. The current Chief of Staff of the French Army (CEMAT) is General Jean-Pierre Bosser, a direct subordinate of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA). General Bosser is also responsible, in part, to the Ministry of the Armed Forces for organization, preparation, use of forces, as well as planning and programming, equipment and Army future acquisitions. For active service, Army units are placed under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA), who is responsible to the President of France for planning for, and use, of forces.

French Navy Maritime arm of the French Armed Forces

The French Navy, informally "La Royale", is the maritime arm of the French Armed Forces. Dating back to 1624, the French Navy is one of the world's oldest naval forces. It has participated in conflicts around the globe and played a key part in establishing the French colonial empire.

Third Anglo-Dutch War conflict

The Third Anglo-Dutch War or the Third Dutch War was a military conflict between the Kingdom of England and the Dutch Republic, that lasted between April 1672 and early 1674. It was part of the larger conflict between the Dutch Republic and her allies and France, and the third of a series of naval wars between the English and the Dutch.

Exploring with La Salle

La Salle's expeditions on the Mississippi La salle expedition.jpg
La Salle's expeditions on the Mississippi

In the summer of 1678, Tonti journeyed with René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who recognized him as an able associate. La Salle left Tonti to hold Fort Crèvecoeur in Illinois, while La Salle returned to Ontario. While on his return trip up the Illinois River, LaSalle concluded that Starved Rock might provide an ideal location for another fortification and sent word downriver to Tonti regarding this idea. Following La Salle’s instructions, Tonti took five men and departed up the river to evaluate the suitability of the Starved Rock site. Shortly after Tonti’s departure, on April 16, 1680, the seven members of the expedition who remained at Fort Crevecoeur ransacked and abandoned the fort and began their own march back to Canada. [2]

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle French explorer

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle was a 17th century French explorer and fur trader in North America. He explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. He is best known for an early 1682 expedition in which he canoed the lower Mississippi River from the mouth of the Illinois River to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France.

Illinois State of the United States of America

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

Ontario Province of Canada

Ontario is one of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada and is located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province accounting for 38.3 percent of the country's population, and is the second-largest province in total area. Ontario is fourth-largest jurisdiction in total area when the territories of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are included. It is home to the nation's capital city, Ottawa, and the nation's most populous city, Toronto, which is also Ontario's provincial capital.

In the spring of 1682, Tonti journeyed with La Salle on his descent of the Mississippi River. Tonti's letters and journals are valuable source materials on these explorations.

When La Salle returned to France in 1683, he left Tonti behind to hold Fort Saint Louis on the Illinois River. [3] He was to relinquish this control for a period to Louis-Henri de Baugy, under the orders of Frontenac. Three years later, he learned from remnants of La Salle's ill-fated Texas settlement that La Salle was attempting to ascend the Mississippi River. De Tonti proceeded south on his own in an attempt to meet La Salle on his ascent. He failed to find La Salle and made it to the Gulf of Mexico before turning back. He left several men near the mouth of the Arkansas River to establish a trading post there on land granted to him by La Salle for his service. This location would become the historical Arkansas Post, the first permanent European settlement in the lower Mississippi region. [4]

Illinois River Illinois tributary of the Mississippi River in the United States

The Illinois River is a principal tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately 273 miles (439 km) long, in the U.S. state of Illinois. The river drains a large section of central Illinois, with a drainage basin of 28,756.6 square miles (74,479 km2). The drainage basin extends into Wisconsin, Indiana, and a very small area of southwestern Michigan. This river was important among Native Americans and early French traders as the principal water route connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi. The French colonial settlements along the rivers formed the heart of the area known as the Illinois Country. After the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Hennepin Canal in the 19th century, the role of the river as link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi was extended into the era of modern industrial shipping. It now forms the basis for the Illinois Waterway.

Louis-Henri de Baugy, Chevalier de Baugy was from a noble family of France and came to New France as a member of the party of Joseph-Antoine de La Barre, who was replacing Buade de Frontenac as Governor General.

French colonization of Texas

The French colonization of Texas began with the establishment of a fort in present-day southeastern Texas. It was established in 1685 near Arenosa Creek and Matagorda Bay by explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle. He intended to found the colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River, but inaccurate maps and navigational errors caused his ships to anchor instead 400 miles (640 km) to the west, off the coast of Texas. The colony survived until 1688. The present-day town of Inez is near the fort's site.

Wars with English settlers

During 1687, Tonti was engaged in wars with the English and their Iroquois allies. In 1688, he returned to Fort Saint Louis and found members of La Salle's party who concealed the fact of La Salle's death. Tonti sent out parties to find survivors and then started out himself in October 1689.

Tonti travelled up the Red River and reached the Caddo villages in northeastern Texas in the spring of 1690. The Caddo offered him no assistance, and he was forced to withdraw.

Life in lower French Louisiana

Tonti experienced several financial difficulties in the 1690s, and in early 1700, he commenced a journey down the Mississippi to make contact with Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville, [1] who had established the Louisiana (New France) colony. Tonti reached French Louisiana and joined the colony.

In 1702, at Old Mobile, he was chosen by Iberville as an ambassador to the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes and conducted several negotiations. [1] De Tonti, for whom the historic district north of present-day downtown Mobile is named, returned to the Old Mobile Site, with three Chickasaw chiefs and 2 Choctaw chiefs. The chiefs were rivals, but after Iberville had finished addressing them and presenting them gifts of guns and ammunition, they agreed to aid the settlers. The 22-year-old Bienville (a younger brother of Iberville) translated for Iberville. [5]

Tonti also led punitive expeditions from 1696 until 1704, with his cousin De Liette.

In August 1704 Tonti contracted yellow fever and died at Old Mobile, north of present-day Mobile, Alabama.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "A tour of Mobile's first 100 years", staff reporter, The Press-Register , Mobile, AL, 2002-02-24, webpage: MobReg-2.
  2. "Henri de Tonti, Founder of Peoria"
  3. Fort Saint Louis (Illinois) is distinct from the Fort Saint Louis founded in French colonization of Texas.
  4. Kathleen DuVal (February 6, 2013). "Arkansas Post". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved June 2013.Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. "Henri de Tonti Historical Marker" . Retrieved August 9, 2009.

See also