In this rough affray all the horses were more or
less wounded, and one of them afterwards died of
his wounds. The cavaliers returned to the camp,
wondering at the temerity and prowess of the savage,
and not a little ashamed to confess that one single
Indian had treated them so roughly.
At another time, a party of twenty horse and fifty
foot sallied out on a foraging expedition to gather
maize. After they had collected an ample supply,
they placed themselves in ambush in a hamlet about
a league from their quarters, in hopes of entrapping
some Indians. In the highest part of what appeared
to be a temple, they placed a sentry, who after some
time descried an Indian moving stealthily across the
228 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
public square ; casting around furtive glances, as if
he dreaded a concealed foe.
The- sentinel gave the alarm, and Diego de Soto,
nephew to the Governor, one of the best soldiers in
the army, and an excellent horseman, spurred into
the square to capture him. Diego Velasquez, Mas
ter of the Horse to the Governor, followed at a dis
tance on a hand gallop, to aid De Soto in case of
The Indian, seeing them approach, trusted for
safety to that fleetness of foot for which his country
men were remarkable. Finding, however, that the
horse gained upon him, he took refuge under a tree,
as the natives were accustomed to do, when they
had no lances to defend them from the horses.
Here, fixing an arrow in his bow, he awaited the
approach of the enemy. Diego de Soto came gal
loping up to the tree, but, not being able to ride un
der it, wheeled close alongside and made a thrust
with his lance over his left arm at the Indian as he
dashed by. The latter evaded the blow, and, dra\v-
ing his arrow to the head, let fly at the moment that
the horse was abreast of him. The shaft buried
itself just between the girth and the stirrup-leather;
the horse went stumbling forward fifteen or twenty
paces and fell dead without further motion.
Diego Velasquez spurred up to the relief of his
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 229
comrade, and, brushing by the tree, made a lunge
with his lance in the same manner. His luck was the
same ; the Indian dodged the lance, shot another
arrow just behind the stirrup-leather, and sent the
horse tumbling forward to take his place beside his
companion. The two cavaliers sprang upon their
feet, and rushed upon the Indian lance in hand.
The savage, however, contented himself with his
good fortune, and made off for the woods, just
keeping an even pace ahead of them, scoffing and
making grimaces, and crying out, " Let us all fight
on foot, and we shall then see who is the best."
With this taunt he took refuge among the thickets,
leaving the cavaliers to mourn over the loss of their
Some few days after the misfortune of these two
horsemen, Simon Rodriguez and Roque de Yelves,
set out on horesback to gather fruit that grew in the
woods skirting the village. Not satisfied with pluck
ing it from the lower branches, seated in their sad
dles, they climbed the tree to gather it from the
topmost boughs, fancying it of better flavour.
While thus busied, Roque de Yelves gave the alarm
of Indians at hand, and throwing himself from the
tree, ran to recover his horse ; but an arrow, with a
barb of flint, entered between his shoulders and
came out of his breast ; he plunged forward and
230 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
lay stretched upon the ground. Rodriguez was too
much terrified to descend. They shot at him like
a wild beast, arid he fell dead, pierced by three ar
rows. Scarce had he touched the ground when
they scalped him and bore off the trophy in triumph.
The arrival of some Spaniards to the rescue saved
the scalp of poor Roque de Yelves. He related in
a few words the event, and, making confession, im
mediately expired. The horses of the slain Span
iards fled towards the camp, at the tumult and at
tack of the Indians. Upon the thigh of one of them
was perceived a drop of blood. He was taken to
a farrier, who, seeing that the wound was no greater
than that of a lancet, said that there was nothing to
cure. On the morning of the ensuing day the horse
died. The Spaniards, suspecting that he had been
struck by an arrow, opened the body at the wound,
and, following the trace of it, found an arrow which
had passed through the thigh and the entrails and
lodged in the hollow of the breast. They were
perfectly amazed at. the result of the examination,
for an arquebuse could scarce have sent a ball so far.
Tidings of a gold region. The Spaniards break up
their winter cantonment. A fatal encounter.
1540. THE Governor remained five months in
winter quarters; and such was the fertility of the
province of Apalachee, and the quantity of maize,
beans, pumpkins and various other kinds of grain,
pulse and vegetables, besides a variety of fruits,
that there was no need of foraging more than a
league and a half around the village to find food in
abundance, though the force consisted of fifteen
hundred persons, including Indians and above three
During this time, De Soto endeavoured to collect
information respecting the country in the interior,
that he might regulate his march in the spring. In
the course of the winter two Indian lads of about
sixteen years of age were brought to him, who were
natives of distant provinces, and had travelled with
Indian traders. They offered to guide him to those
provinces ; and one in particular spoke of a remote
province towards the east, called Cofachiqui, go-
232 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
verned by a female Cacique, whose town was of
great size, and who received tribute from all her
neighbours. The Spaniards showed him jewels of
gold, pieces of silver, and rings set with pearls and
precious stones ; and endeavoured to ascertain if
any of those articles were to be found in Cofachi-
qui. He gave them no doubt a vague and blunder
ing reply, which they interpreted according to their
wishes. They understood him that the chief traffic
in that province, was in those yellow and white me
tals,* and that pearls were to be found there in abun
dance. It was determined, therefore, to march in
search of Cofachiqui.
Accordingly, in the month of March, (1540,) Her-
nando de Soto broke up his winter cajitonment,
and proceeded to the northeast. Being apprised
that they must travel many leagues through an un
peopled wilderness, the Governor ordered his men
to provide themselves with provisions. The In
dians they had captured and made servants, being
exposed naked, and in irons, during the severe cold
weather, had nearly all perished, so that each sol
dier was obliged to carry his supply on his back.
* The Portuguese Narrator asserts, that the lad described the
manner in which the gold was digged, melted and refined with
such accuracy, that those who were experienced in mining, de.
clared he must have witnessed the process.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 233
After a toilsome march, they arrived on the evening
of the third day at a small village called Capachi-
qui.* It was situated on high ground on a kind of
peninsula, being nearly surrounded by a miry marsh,
more than a hundred paces broad, traversed in va
rious directions by wooden bridges. The village
commanded an extensive view over a beautiful val
ley, sprinkled with small hamlets. Here the troops
remained quartered for three days.
About noon of the second day, five halberdiers of
the General s guard, sallied forth from the village,
accompanied by two other soldiers, Francisco de
Aguilar and Andres Moreno. The latter was a
gay, good humoured fellow, and from frequently
using the exclamation Angels ! was nick-named by
his comrades, Angel Moreno. These boon compa
nions sallied forth, without orders from their supe
riors, and in a heedless manner, merely to amuse
themselves, and take a look at the neighbouring ham
lets. The five guards were armed with their hal-
berts, Aguilar with his sword and shield, Moreno
with a sword and lance. They crossed the bog,
and a strip of thickets about twenty paces wide,
beyond which was an open country with corn fields.
Scarce had they advanced two hundred paces,
* Portuguese Narrative, c 13.
234 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
when the ever watchful Indians sprang out upon
them from their lurking places. The startling war-
cries and shouts of both parties, roused the soldiers
who were reposing quietly in the village. They
took not time to cross by the bridges, but dashed
across the swamp where the water was up to their
breasts, and rushed on to the rescue. It was too
late ; the Indians had disappeared ; and the five
halberdiers lay stretched lifeless upon the ground,
each pierced with ten or twelve arrows. Moreno
was yet alive, but transfixed with an arrow, barbed
with flint, and the moment it was extracted from his
breast, he expired. Aguilar, who was a hardy sol
dier, more robust than his companions, had defend
ed himself stoutly ; he was alive, though badly
wounded and adly battered about the head. The
Indians, having exhausted all their arrows, had clos
ed with him, and belaboured him with their bows.
With such might did they wield them, that Agui-
lar s shield was shivered in pieces, and his scull laid
As they bore him back to the encampment, they
inquired as to the numbers of the enemy, and he
declared there were more than fifty, which he said
was the reason why his party had been so suddenly
defeated. One day being nearly recovered from
his wounds, his comrades began to jeer in a rough
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 235
soldierlike style, asking him whether he had counted
the blows he had received, and if they had hurt
much. " I counted not the number of the blows,"
replied Aguilar somewhat crustily, " but you will,
one day or other, receive the like, and then you will
learn whether they hurt or not." Being further
bantered on the subject, he broke forth in testimony
of the valour and generosity of the Indian warriors.
" You must know," said he, " that a band of more
than fifty savages sprang out of the thickets to at
tack us ; the moment, however, they saw that we
were but seven, and without our horses, seven war
riors stepped forth and the rest retired to some dis
tance. They began the attack, and as we had nei
ther arquebuss nor cross-bow, we were entirely at
their mercy. Being more agile and fleet of foot
than our men, they leaped around us like so many
devils, with horrid laughter, shooting us down like
wild beasts, without our being able to close with
them. My poor comrades fell one after the other,
and the savages seeing me alone, all seven rushed
upon me, and with their bows battered me as you
witnessed. I concealed all this before, through a
sense of shame ; but so it really happened, and may
it serve as a warning to you all, never to disobey or-
ders and sally forth in like careless manner."
The story of honest Aguilar had probably receiv-
236 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
ed from him a romantic colouring ; yet, such in
stances of magnanimity, or rather bravado, are said
to have been common among the warriors of Apa-
lachee. They had great confidence in their own
courage, strength, and dexterity, considering them
selves equal if not superior to the Spaniards, when
equally armed, and when the latter were not mount
ed on their horses : at such times they would often
disdain to avail themselves of superior numbers.
Reception of the Spaniards by the natives of Atapa-
ha. Their arrival at the province of Co/a, and
what happened there.
1540. LEAVING this village, the army in two days
crossed the frontier of Apalachee, and entered the
province of Atapaha.* It was the custom of the
Governor on entering a new province, to lead the
way himself, and see every thing with his own eyes,
rather than trust to the accounts of others. He ac
cordingly chose forty horse, and seventy foot, well
armed, with shields, arquebusses and cross-bows,
and penetrated the country in advance of his army.
On the morning of the third day, they came in sight
of the village of Achese. The Indians had fled to
the forests, carrying with them their wives, children,
and effects. The horsemen dashing into the village,
made six prisoners, two of whom were warriors
that had remained behind to remove the infirm.
The two warriors came into the presence of the
* The river Atapapaha may derive its name from this ancient
238 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
Governor, with a fearless and lofty demeanour.
" What seek you in our land ?" said they, not wait
ing to be questioned, "Peace or war?" De Soto
replied through his interpreter, Juan Ortiz, " we
seek not war with any one, but our wish is, to cul
tivate peace and friendship. We are in search of
a distant province, and all we ask is food by the
road." The warriors instantly offered to supply the
wants of the army. They sent two of their com
panions to their Cacique to relate all they had heard
and seen, and charged them to warn all the Indians
they should meet, that the Spaniards carne as
friends, and were to be received and aided accor
dingly. On the departure of the three messengers,
De Soto ordered the Indians to be set at liberty,
and regaled and treated as friends.
De Soto, being rejoined by his army, reposed for
three days in this village, and then resumed his
march north-east, ascending for ten days along the
banks of a river, skirted by groves of mulberry
trees, and winding through luxuriantly fertile val
leys.* The natives were peaceable and domestic in
their habits, and never broke the peace which they
formed with the Spaniards.
On the eleventh day they crossed the boundaries
* Supposed to bo the Flint River.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 239
of Altapaha, and entered the province of Cofa,*
having, according to custom, sent messengers in ad
vance with proffers of peace to the Cacique. This
chieftain in reply, sent a deputation of two thousand
Indians to De Soto, with a present of rabbits, par
tridges, maize, and a great number of dogs. The
latter were held in high esteem by the Spaniards ;
for, next to their want of salt, the greatest cause of
suffering was the scarcity of meat. Game was
abundant, and amply furnished the natives with
food, for they were very skilful in the use of the
bow and arrow, and very expert at making all kinds
of traps. The Spaniards, however, being constant
ly on the march, had no time for hunting ; and
moreover, dared not to leave their ranks for fear of
falling into some ambush of the enemy.
The Cacique of Cofa received the Spaniards
with a generous welcome, giving up his own man
sion to the Governor, and providing quarters for the
army. The province over which he ruled was very
fertile, plentiful, and populous. The natives were
* We have followed the Portuguese Narrative here, as the
Inca s is evidently in error in making the Spaniards enter the
Province of Achalaque, (the country of the Cherokees) at so early
a period. This tribe dwelt much further to the northward, on the
skirts of the Apalachian Mountains, and was not reached by the
Spaniards until a month afterwards. The Portuguese historian
calls this province Ocute.
240 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
peaceful and domestic in their habits, and extremely
affable. They treated these strangers with much
kindness, and detained them five days with their
The Adelantado had brought with him, thus far,
a piece of ordnance, but finding it exceedingly bur-
thensome and of little use, he determined to leave
it with the Cacique. That the natives might have
some idea of its use, he ordered it to be loaded, and
pointed at a huge oak without the village. In two
shots, the tree was laid prostrate, to the infinite
amazement of the Cacique and his subjects.
De Soto told them he left this wonderful machine,
as a reward for their friendship and kind hospita
lity ; to be taken care of until he should return or
send for it. The Cacique and his warriors were
deeply impressed with this mark of confidence, and
promised that it should be guarded with vigilant
On the sixth day, the army resumed their march
in quest of the adjoining province of Cofaqui,
whose Cacique was an elder brother of Cofa s, and
was much more opulent and powerful. Cofa and
his warriors escorted the army during one day s
march, and would have continued unto the frontier,
but the Governor would not give his assent. The
Cacique, having taken an affectionate leave of the
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 241
Spaniards, ordered his people to accompany the
strangers, and do all in their power to serve them.
At the same time, he directed a chief to go before,
and warn his brother Cofaqui of the approach of
the Spaniards, and beseech him to receive them
kindly. The Adelantado, continued his march
through a pleasant and luxuriant country, fertilized
by many rivers, and inhabited by a more docile and
gentle race, than any he had yet seen. At the end
of six days, he bid adieu to the territory of Cofa.*
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 13.
Reception of the army by the Cacique. Prepara
tions for penetrating to the province of Cofa-
1540. THE moment the Cacique Cofaqui receiv
ed the message of his brother, he despatched four
chieftains, with a train of Indians, to welcome the
Spaniards to his dominions.
This message diffused joy throughout the whole
army. They marched cheerily forward, and soon
came to the confines of Cofaqui, where they dis
missed the Indians of Cofa. When the Cacique
knew by his scouts that the Christians were near,
he went out to receive them with a retinue of war
riors, richly decorated, carrying their bows and ar
rows in their hands, withtall plumes upon their heads,
and over their shoulders rich mantles of martin skin,
finely dressed. Many kind words were exchanged,
the Indians and Spaniards unsuspiciously mingled
together, and entered the village with joyous shouts.
The Cacique conducted the Governor to his own
house, and retired himself to a neighbouring hamlet.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 243
Early the next morning the Cacique came to visit
De Soto. He freely imparted every information
respecting his own territory, and spoke of a plenti
ful and populous province, called Cosa, which lay
to the north-west.* As to the province of Cofachi-
qui, he said that it lay contiguous to his dominions,
but that a vast wilderness of seven days journey
intervened. f Should the Governor, however, per
sist in seeking it, he offered to send a band of his
warriors to accompany him, and promised to furnish
him with all necessary supplies for the journey.
De Soto had fixed his mind too intently on Cofa-
chiqui to be diverted from his course, and signified
his intention of continuing on. Scouts were accord
ingly sent out in every direction, to assemble the
Indians, and in four days the village was thronged
with them. Four thousand warriors were to escort
and guide the Spaniards, and four thousand retain
ers to carry their supplies and clothing. The chief
articles of provisions, were maize, dried plums,
grapes, walnuts, and acorns ; for the Indians had no
domestic animals, and depended for flesh upon the
produce of the chase.
The Spaniards, seeing themselves surrounded by
such a multitude of Indians, although they were as-
* Portuguese Relation, c. 14.
t Garcilaso de la Vega, L. 3. c. 4.
244 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
sembled for their service, kept a vigilant and unre
mitting watch by day and by night, lest, under the
guise of friendship, they should attempt their de
struction. But it soon appeared that these troops
were destined for warfare in another quarter.
A few days before the time appointed for the de
parture of the Spaniards, the General and his offi
cers being in the public square, the Cacique ordered
his chief warrior to be called. "You well know,"
said he to him, " that a perpetual enmity and war
fare has existed between our fathers and the Indians
of Cofachiqui. That bitter hatred, you are aware,
has not abated one jot ; the deep wrongs, the notori
ous injuries we have suffered from that vile tribe still
rankles in our hearts, unrevenged ! the present op
portunity must not be lost !
You, the leader of my warriors, must accompany
this Chief and his braves, under their protection to
wreak vengeance on our enemies ! I need say no
more to you, I leave our cause and our honour in
your hands !"
Some account of the Chieftain Patofa. The Indian
boy Pedro has a marvellous visitation.
1540. THE Indian leader, whose name was Pa
tofa, was of a graceful form and striking features.
His expression was haughty and noble, promising
dauntless courage for war, and gentleness and kind
ness in peace. His whole demeanour showed that
the Cacique had not unwisely bestowed his trust.
He arose, and throwing aside his mantle of skin,
seized a broadsword, made of palmwood, which a
servant carried behind him, as a badge of his rank.
He cut and thrust with it, as skilfully as a master of
fence, much to the admiration of the Spaniards.
After going through many singular evolutions, he
stopped suddenly before the Cacique and made a
profound reverence. " I pledge my word," said he,
" to fulfil your commands as far as in my power ;
and I promise, by the favour of the strangers, to re
venge the insults, the deaths, and the losses, our fa
thers have sustained from the natives of Cofachiqui.
My vengeance shall be such, that the memory of
246 CONQUEST or FLORIDA.
past evils shall be wiped away for ever. My daring
to reappear in your presence, will be a token that
your commands have been executed. For, should
the fates deny my hopes, never again shall you be
hold me, never again shall the sun shine upon me !
If the enemy deny me death, my own hand will find
the road ! 1 will inflict upon myself the punish
ment my cowardice or evil fortune will merit !"
The Cacique Cofaqui arose and embraced him.
" I consider," replied he, " that what you have pro
mised is as certain as though it were already ac
complished, therefore do I reward you, as for ser
vices already rendered." Saying this, he took from
his shoulders a mantle of the most beautiful martin
skins, and placed it, with his own hand, upon the
shoulders of Patofa. A present of a mantle or
plume, or any other article of dress, was considered
by the natives of this country, as the greatest honour
their chief could confer upon them, more especially
when presented in person.*
A singular event happened the night before the
departure of the army. One of the two boys taken
prisoner in the province of Apalachee, had guided
them thus far. The other, whom they named Pedro,
was to conduct them from thence to the dominions
* Garcilaso cle la Vega, L. 3. o. 5.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 247
of Cofachiqui, where they expected to find gold, sil
ver, and precious stones. About the mid watch,
this youth woke the soldiery with his screams of
murder, and calls for help. The alarm spread
throughout the encampment ; they dreaded some
treachery of the Indians ; the trumpets sounded to
arms ; all was tumult ; they buckled on their ar
mour, seized their weapons, and prepared for ac
tion. When it was discovered that no enemy was
at hand, an inquiry was made whence the alarm
had proceeded. They found the Indian boy Pedro,
half dead, trembling with fear and terror, and foam
ing at the mouth like a maniac. When they
asked him why he had called for help with such
strange outcries, he said, that a demon with a huge
visage, accompanied by frightful imps, had appear
ed to him, and forbidden him, under pain of death,
to guide the Spaniards to the land he had promised ;
at the same time they had dragged him out of his
hut and beat him, until he was so bruised and weak
ened that he could not move. He added, that the
demon seeing the Christians approach, had vanished
with all his imps he knew from this, that the devils
feared the Christians, and he begged they would
baptize him immediately, lest the demon should re
turn and kill him.
The Spaniards were prcplexcd by this story,
248 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
which seemed to be corroborated by the contusions
and swellings on the boy s face and body. The
priests, being called in, baptized him, and remained
with him during this night and the following day, to
confirm him in the faith.* As the boy proved to
be an elaborate liar on various occasions, the fore*
going tale may be considered a marvel of his own
invention. The Cacique accompanied the army
two leagues on their march, when, charging Patofa