Joutel was born in Rouen. After serving as a soldier, he joined La Salle's expedition and became the commander of La Salle's southern colony and base of operations in the New World at Fort Saint Louis (Texas). After the loss of the colony's ships, a mutiny, and La Salle's murder by others, in 1687-88, Joutel led members of the expedition back to France, going north, over land and river, by way of the Illinois Country to New France in what became Canada. Joutel's journal provides some of the earliest written information on the interior, natural history, and ethnography of central North America.
After Joutel returned to France, he became a guard at the city gates of Rouen. He was unpersuaded by the Minister of Marine, Louis de Ponchartrain, to return to America but lent his journal. The journal returned to the Gulf Coast in the Iberville expedition that finally established a lasting French presence near the mouth of the Mississippi River in 1699.
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