The Abbé d'Esmanville was one of three Sulpician priests who accompanied the La Salle expedition to the Gulf of Mexico and landed at Matagorda Bay in Texas in February 1685. The others were René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle's elder brother, the Abbé Jean Cavelier, and the Abbé Chefdeville. D'Esmanville, like the engineer Minet and several others, returned to France with Capt. Taneguy le Gallois de Beaujeu on the ship Joly, out of disillusionment with the enterprise. The abbé, like La Salle and many of his company, is said to have been from Rouen. His name, although most often written d'Esmanville, says Villiers du Terrage, perhaps should be d'Amonville, as a family living in Rouen in the twentieth century is so called.
D'Esmanville's brief sojourn on the Texas coast lasted only until the Joly sailed on March 12, 1685. Yet his writings comprise a valuable source on the expedition as a whole, since they relate events of the Joly's round-trip voyage. A copy of d'Esmanville's journal, says Jean Delanglez, was obtained by Claude Delisle for use in preparation of the 1703 Delisle map, Carte du Mexique et de la Floride.
D'Esmanville himself explains his reason for returning to France in terms quite different from those of the expedition historian, Henri Joutel. La Salle, he said, confided to him after arriving on the Texas shore that he planned to send troops to conquer the Spaniards of Nueva Vizcaya. Protesting that the superior of missions, the Abbé Tronson, had sent him to make war on demons rather than Christians, he decided to abandon the colony.