Tonty, Henri de
Tonty, Henri de:see Tonti, Henri deTonti or Tonty, Henri de
, c.1650–1704, French explorer in North America, b. Italy. Serving in the French army, he lost a hand in battle; his skillful use of the appliance with which the hand was replaced was
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Tonty, Henri de(1650–1704) explorer; probably born in Paris, France (evidently son of the Neapolitan banker Lorenzo Tonti). He joined the French army at age 18 and in 1678 went with Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, to explore in North America. The Native Americans would call Tonty "Iron Hand" because of a metal hand that replaced the right one lost fighting in France. He supervised building of the Griffon, the first sailing vessel on the Great Lakes. He survived extreme deprivation—and a wound from an Indian raid—in the Illinois country (1680) and then went with La Salle to discover the mouth of the Mississippi River (1682). Between 1683 and 1700, based mainly in Illinois, he was effectively commander of France's possessions and settlements in the Mississippi Valley. After 1700 he joined the French colony at New Orleans and died of yellow fever near present-day Mobile, Ala.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.