Andre Penicaut, a carpenter, sailed with Iberville to the French province of Louisiana in 1699 and did not return to France until 1721. The book he began in the province and finished upon his return to France is an eyewitness account of the first years of the French colony, which stretched along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas and in the Mississippi Valley from the Balize to the Illinois country. As a ship carpenter, Penicaut was chosen as a member of several important expeditions: he accompanied Le Sueur up the Mississippi River in 1700 to present-day Minnesota, and he went with Juchereau de St. Denis on the first journey from Mobile to the Red River and overland to the Rio Grande, to open trade with the Spaniards in Mexico. Penicaut helped to build the first post in Louisiana, at Old Biloxi, and the second post on the Mobile River.
Penicaut was at his best when describing the lives and social customs of the Indians of the region. He saw them in realistic terms, showing no prejudice toward their native habits. Neither were his French colleagues cast in heroic or villainous molds—though their accomplishments must strike modern readers as truly epic.
When first published, Fleur de Lys and Calumet was a major stimulus to scholarship in the field. This new edition will be welcomed by a new generation of scholars and readers interested in the colonial history of the Deep South and the Mississippi Valley.