they approached a more populous and fertile part
of the coast, upon which they landed occasionally
to procure provisions, and were immediately in
volved in bloody affrays with the natives. Thus
harassed by sea and land, famishing with hunger,
their barks shattered and scarcely manageable,
these unfortunate wanderers lost all presence of
mind, and became wild and desperate. They were
again driven out to sea, and scattered during a stor
my night. At daybreak three of these tempest-
tossed barks rejoined each other. In one, which
was the best manned and the best sailer, was Pam-
philo de Narvaez. Alvar Nunez, who had com
mand of another, seeing the Adelantado making for
the land, called upon him for aid. Narvaez replied
that it was no longer time to help others, but that
every one must take care of himself. He then made
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 23
for the shore, and abandoned Alvar Nunez to
make the best of his way with the other bark.
After wandering along the coast in his bark for
many days, Narvaez anchored one night off the land.
All his crew had gone on shore for provisions, ex
cepting one sailor and a page who was sick. A vio
lent gale sprang up from the north, and the vessel,
in which was neither food nor water, was driven out
to sea, and no tidings ever heard of her after. Thus
perished the ill fated Pamphilo de Narvaez.
The only survivers of this disastrous expedition
were Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, arid four of his
companions. After the most singular and unparal
leled hardships, they traversed the northern parts of
Florida, crossed the Mississippi, and the desert and
mountainous regions on the confines of Texas and
the Rocky Mountains, passing from tribe to tribe of
Indians, oftentimes as slaves, until at the end of se
veral years they succeeded in reaching the Spanish
settlement of Compostella. Fronx thence Alvar
Nunez proceeded to Mexico, and ultimately arrived
at Lisbon in 1537 ; nearly ten years after his em
barkation with Pamphilo de Narvaez*.
* This chapter is chiefly taken from the " Naufragios de Alvar
Cabeza de Vaca," with occasional references to Herrera.
Hernando de Soto his birth adventures in Peru
Jits out an armament for Florida touches at the
Canary Islands arrival at Cuba.
ONE would have thought that after the melan
choly result of these sad enterprises, and others of
less note, but equally unfortunate, the coast of Florida
would have been avoided as a fated land. The
Spanish discoverers, however, were not to be de
terred by difficulties and dangers, and the accounts
rendered of the vast extent of this unknown coun
try, and of opulent regions in its interior, served to
prompt to still bolder and more costly enterprises.
It is proper to note that the Spaniards, at this
period, had a very vague idea of the country called
Florida, and by no means limited it to its present
boundaries. They knew something of the maritime
border of the peninsula, but Florida, according to
their notions, extended far beyond, having the con
fines of Mexico in one direction, the banks of New
foundland in another, and expanding into a vast
Terra Incognita to the north.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 25
The accounts brought to Europe by Alvar Nunez,
of the expedition of Pamphilo de Narvaez, contri
buted to promote this idea. It was supposed that
this unfortunate cavalier, in his extensive march, had
but skirted the borders of immense internal empires,
which might rival in opulence and barbaric splen
dour, the recently discovered Kingdoms of Mexico
and Peru ; and there was not wanting a bold and
ambitious spirit to grasp immediately at the palm of
The candidate that now presented himself for the
subjugation of Florida, was Hernando de Soto, and
as his expedition is the subject of the succeeding
pages, it is proper to introduce him particularly to
the reader. Hernando de Soto was born about the
year 1501, in Villa nueva de Barcarota,* and was
of the old Spanish hidalguia, or gentry, for we are
assured by one of his biographers that " he was a
gentleman by all four descents ;" that is to say, the
parents both of his father and mother were of gen
tle blood ; a pedigree which, according to the rules
of Spanish heraldry, entitled him to admission into
the noble order of Santiago.
*The Portuguese narrator assigns Xeres de Badajos as the birth
place of De Soto ; we follow, however, the authority of the Inca
Garcelasso de la Vega. Herrera. Hist. Ind. Dec. VI. L. 7. c. 9.
agrees with the Inca.
26 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
Whatever might be the dignity of his descent,
however, he began his career a mere soldier of for
tune. All his estate, says his Portuguese historian,
was but a sword and buckler. He accompanied
Pedrarias Davila,* when he went to America to as
sume the command of Terra Firma. The merits of
De Soto soon gained him favour in the eye of Pedra
rias, who gave him command of a troop of horse :
with these he followed Pizarro in his conquering ex
pedition into Peru. Here he soon signalized himself
by a rare combination of prudence and valour : he
was excellent in council, yet foremost in every peril
ous exploit ; not recklessly seeking danger for dan
ger s sake, or through a vain thirst for notoriety, but
bravely putting every thing at hazard where any
important point was to be gained by intrepidity.
Pizarro soon singled him out from the hardy spirits
around him, and appointed him his lieutenant. f Was
there a service of especial danger to be performed,
De Soto had it in charge ; was there an enterprise
requiring sound judgment and fearless daring, De
Soto was sure to be called upon. A master at all
weapons, and a complete horseman, his prowess
and adroitness were the admiration of the Spanish
soldiery. They declared that his lance alone was
* Properly written Pedro Arias de Avila.
t Herrera Hist. Ind. Decad. V. L. ii. c. 2.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 27
equal to any ten in the army ; and that in the ma
nagement of this chivalrous weapon, he was second
only to Pizarro.
He was sent by that commander on the first em
bassy to the renowned and ill fated Inca Atahualpa,
whose subjects, we are told, were filled with sur
prise and admiration on beholding his wonderful
feats of horsemanship.*
He afterwards commanded one of the squadrons
of horse that captured this unfortunate Inca and
routed his army of warriors.f He led the way with
a band of seventy horsemen, to the discovery and
subjugation of the great province of Cusco, in which
he distinguished himself by the most daring and
romantic achievements. J We might trace him
throughout the whole history of the Peruvian con-
*Herrera. Hist. Ind. Decad. V. L. 3. c. 10. says, Hernan-
do de Soto sprang upon his horse, and aware that the eyes of the
Inca were upon him, he made his steed curvet, caracole and leap,
and striking in his spurs dashed up so near to the savage Prince
that he felt the very breath of the snorting animal. The haughty
Inca was as serene and unmoved as if he had been accustomed all
his life to the charge of ahorse. Many of the Indians, however,
fled in terror. Atahualpa immmediately ordered the fugitives to
appear before him, and sternly reprehending them with their cow-
ardice, ordered them all to be put to death for having behaved so
dastardly in his royal presence.
t Vega. Com. de Peru. L. 1. c. 21. Herrera D. V. L. 2. c. 11.
| Herrera, Dec. V. L. 4. c. x. and lib. 5. c. 2. 3.
28 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
quest by a series of perilous encounters and marvel
lous escapes, but our purpose is only to state briefly
the circumstances which directed his ambition into
the career of conquest, and which elevated him to
the notice of his sovereign, and of all contemporary
cavaliers of enterprising spirit.
Hernando de Soto returned to Spain enriched by
the spoils of the new world ; his share of the trea
sures of Atahualpa, having amounted, it is said, to
the enormous sum of a hundred and eighty thousand
crowns of gold. He now assumed great state and
equipage, and appeared at the court of the Emperor
Charles V., at Valladolid, in magnificent style, hav
ing his steward, his major domo, his master of the
horse, his pages, lacqueys, and all the other house
hold officers that in those ostentatious days, swelled
the retinue of a Spanish nobleman. He was ac
companied by a knot of brave cavaliers, all evidently
bent on pushing their fortunes at court. Some of
them had been his brothers in arms in the conquest
of Peru, and had returned with their purses well
filled with Peruvian gold, which they expended in
soldierlike style, on horses, arms, and " rich array."
Two or three of them deserve particular notice, as
they will be found to figure conspicuously in the
course of this narrative. Nuno Tobar, a native of
Xeres de Badajos, was a young cavalier of gallant
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 29
bearing, great valour, and romantic generosity.
Another, Luis de Moscoso de Alvorado, likewise of
Xeres, had signalized himself in his campaigns in the
new world. A third, Juan de Anasco, was a na
tive of Seville. He had not been in Peru, but was
not inferior to the others in bravery of spirit, while
he was noted for his nautical skill and his knowledge
of cosmography and astronomy.
The world was at that time resounding with the
recent conquest of Peru. The appearance at court
of one of the conquerers, thus brilliantly attended,
could not fail to attract attention. The personal
qualifications of De Soto corresponded with his
fame. He was in the prime of manhood, being
about thirty-six years of age, of a commanding
height, above the middle size, and a dark, animated,
and expressive countenance. With such advan
tages, of person and reputation, he soon succeeded
in gaining the affections and the hand of a lady of
distinguished rank and merit, Isabella de Bobadilla,
daughter to Pedrarias Davila, Count of Puno en
Rostro. This marriage, connecting him with a
powerful family, had a great effect in strengthening
his influence at court.*
De Soto might now have purchased estates, and
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 1.
30 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
have passed the remainder of his days opulently and
honourably in his native land, in the bosom of his
connexions, but he was excited by the remembrance
of past adventures, and eager for further distinction.
Just at this juncture, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
returned to Spain with tidings of the fate of Parn-
philo de Narvaez and his followers. His tale, it is
true, was one of hardships and disasters, but it turned
the thoughts of adventurous men to the vast and un
known interior of Florida. It is said that Alvar
Nunez observed some reserve and mystery in his
replies when questioned as to whether they had
found any riches in the country they had visited ;
that he talked of asking permission of the Crown to
return there and prosecute the discovery, and that
he had even sworn his fellow survivors to secrecy
as to what they had seen, lest others should be in
duced to interfere with his prospects.*
The imagination of De Soto took fire from what
he had gathered of the narrative of Alvar Nunez.
He doubted not there existed in the interior of Flori
da some regions of wealth, equalling, if not exceed
ing, Mexico and Peru. He had hitherto only fol
lowed in the course of conquest ; an opportunity
now presented of rivalling the fame of Cortez and
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 2.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 31
Pizarro ; his reputation, his wealth, his past ser
vices, and his marriage connexions all gave him the
means of securing the chance before him. In the
magnificent spirit of a Spanish cavalier, he asked
permission of the Emperor to undertake the con
quest of Florida at his own expense and risk.
His prayer was readily granted. The Emperor
conferred on him in advance, the title of Adelantado,
which combines military and civil command, and a
Marquisite, with an estate thirty leagues in length
and fifteen in breadth, in any part of the country he
might discover. He, moreover, created him Gover
nor and Captain-General for life, of Florida, as well
as of the Island of Cuba. The command of this
Island had been annexed at the especial request of
De Soto, as he knew it would be important for him
to have the complete control of it, for the fitting out
and supplying his armaments for the meditated con
No sooner was De Soto thus gratified in his wishes
than he provided for his brothers in arms who had
accompanied him to Court. Nuno de Tobar he ap
pointed his Lieutenant-General, for which post he
was well qualified by his great valour and his popu
lar qualities. Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado he
made Camp Master General, and he procured for
Juan de Anasco the appointment of Contador, or
32 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
royal accountant, whose duty it was to take account
of all the treasures gained in the expedition, and to
set apart one fifth for the crown.
De Soto would likewise have engaged Alvar
Nunez Cabeza de Vaca to accompany him, and
offered him highly advantageous terms, which he
was at first inclined to accept, but subsequently re
fused, being unwilling to march under the command
of another in an enterprise in which he had aspired
to take the lead. He afterwards obtained from the
Emperor the government of Rio de la Plata.*
But though Alvar Nunez declined to embark in
the enterprise, his representations of the country in
duced two of his kinsmen to offer their services.
One of them, a brave and hearty cavalier, named
Balthazar de Gallegos was so eager for the expedi
tion that he sold his houses, vineyards and corn
fields, and fourscore and ten acres of olive orchards,
in the neighbourhood of Seville, and determined to
take his wife with him to the new world. De Soto
was so well pleased with his zeal, that he made him
Alguazil Mayor. The other kinsman of Alvar Nu
nez was named Christopher Spinola, a gentleman
of Genoa, to whom De Soto gave the command of
seventy Halberdiers of his body guard.
It was soon promulgated throughout Spain that
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 4.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 33
Hernando de Soto, one of the conquerors of Peru,
was about to set out on the conquest of the great
empire of Florida, an unknown country, equal if not
superior in wealth and splendour to any of the gold
en empires of the new world, and that he was to
do it at his own expense, with the riches gained in
his previous conquests.
This was enough to draw to his standard adven
turers of all kinds and classes. Cavaliers of noble
birth, soldiers of fortune who had served in various
parts of the world, private citizens and peaceful ar
tisans, all abandoned their homes and families, sold
their effects, and offered themselves and their re
sources for this new conquest.
A striking account is given us of the arrival of a
party of these volunteers. As De Soto was one day
in the gallery of his house at Seville, he saw a bril
liant band of cavaliers enter the court yard, and has
tened to the foot of the stairs to receive them. They
were Portuguese hidalgos, led by Andres de Vas-
concelos ; several of them had served in the wars
with the Moors on the African frontiers, and they
had come to volunteer their services. De Soto joy
fully accepted their offer. He detained them with
him to supper, and ordered his steward to provide
quarters for them in his neighbourhood. A muster
being called of all the troops, the Spaniards appear-
34 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
ed in splendid and showy attire, with silken doublets
and cassocks pinked and embroidered. The Por
tuguese, on the contrary, came in soldierlike style,
in complete armour. De Soto was vexed at the
unseasonable ostentation of his countrymen, and or
dered another review in which all should appear
armed. Here the Portuguese again came admira
bly well equipped, while the Spaniards, who had
been so gaudy in their silken dresses, made but a
sorry show as soldiers, having old rusty coats of
mail, battered head pieces, and indifferent lances.
The General, it is said, marked his preference of the
Portuguese, by placing them near his standard. It
must be observed, however, that this account is
given by a Portuguese historian, who naturally is
disposed to give his countrymen the advantage of
the Spaniards. Other accounts speak generally of
the excellent equipments of all the forces.
In little more than a year from the time of the
first proclamation of this enterprise, nine hundred
and fifty Spaniards of all degrees had assembled in
the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, to embark in
the expedition.* Never had a more gallant and bril
liant body of men offered themselves for the new
* The Portuguese narrator gives six hundred as the number of
men assembled, but we follow the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega,
whose authority is corroborated by Herrera and others-
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 35
world. Scarcely one among them had grey hairs,
all were young and vigorous, and fitted for the toils
and hardships and dangers of so adventurous an un
De Soto was munificent in his proffers of pecunia
ry assistance to aid the cavaliers in fitting themselves
out according to their rank and station. Many
were compelled, through necessity, to accept of his
offers ; others, who had means, generously declined
them, deeming it more proper that they should as
sist, than accept aid from him : many young cava
liers came equipped in splendid style, with rich ar
mour, costly dresses, and a train of domestics. In
deed, some young men of quality had spent a great
part of their substance in this manner.
Nuno Tobar, Luis de Moscoso, and several other
cavaliers, who had distinguished themselves in the
conquest of Peru, expended the greater part of their
spoils in sumptuous equipments. Beside the cava
liers already specified, we may mention three bro
thers, relatives of the Governor, who accompanied
him ; Arias Tinoco and Alonzo Romo de Cardefio-
sa, both captains of infantry, and Diego Arias Tino
co, who was standard bearer to the army.
There were also enlisted in the enterprise twelve
priests, eight clergymen of inferior rank, and four
monks ; most of them relatives of the superior offi-
36 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
cers : for, in all the Spanish expeditions to the new
world, the conversion of the heathen was not lost
sight of in the rage for conquest.
This brilliant armament embarked at San Lucar
de Barrameda, on the sixth of April, 1538, in seven
large and three small vessels. In the largest,
called the San Christoval, which was of eight hun
dred tons, embarked the governor, with his wife Dona
Isabel de Bobadilla, and all his family and retinue.
They set sail in company with a fleet of twenty six
sail bound to Mexico,* and with great sound of
trumpets and thunder of artillery. The armament
of De Soto was so bountifully supplied with naval
stores, that each man was allowed double rations.
This led to useless waste ; but the governor was of a
magnificent spirit, and so elated at finding in his train
such noble and gallant cavaliers, that he thought he
could not do enough to honour and gratify them.
On the twenty first of April, the fleet arrived at
Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. Here they
were received with greaf parade and courtesy by
the Governor, who bore the title of Count de Go
mera. The Count seems to have been a gay and
luxurious cavalier, with somewhat of an amato
ry complexion, his domestic establishment being-
graced by several natural daughters. When he
came forth to receive his guests he was dressed in
Portuguese Narrative, c. 4.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 37
white from head to foot, hat, cloak, doublet, breeches
and shoes ; so that, according to the old Portuguese
narrative, he looked not unlike a captain of a gang of
gipsies. During three days that the fleet remained
in the port, he entertained his guests in jovial style,
with feastings and rejoicings.
Among his daughters was one named Leonora de
Bobadilla, who particularly attracted the notice of
the youthful cavaliers. She was not more than se
venteen years of age, and extremely beautiful. De
Soto was so pleased and interested with her ap
pearance and manners, that he entreated the Count
to permit her to accompany his wife, Dona Isabel
de Bobadilla, who would cherish her as her own
daughter ; intimating that he would procure an ad
vantageous match for her among the noble cavaliers
of his army, and advance her to rank and fortune
in the country he should conquer.
The Count de Gomera, knowing the munificence
of De Soto, and that he would be disposed to per
form even more than he promised, confided his
daughter to his care, and to the maternal protection
of his high minded and virtuous wife.
On the 24th April the fleet again set sail. The
voyage was fair and prosperous, and about the last
of May they arrived in the harbour of the city of
Santiago de Cuba.
Rejoicings of the inhabitants of Cuba on the arrival
of De Soto. Deposition of NuTio Tobar. Don
Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa, appointed Lieutenant
General of the forces.
THE arrival of a new Governor with so important
an armament was an event of great joy throughout
the island of Cuba. When De Soto landed, the
whole city of Santiago turned out to receive him.
He found a beautiful horse, richly caparisoned, wait
ing for him, and likewise a mule for Donna Isabella;
which were furnished by a gentleman of the town.
He was escorted to his lodgings, by the Burghers on
horse and on foot, and all his officers and men were
hospitably entertained by them ; some being quar
tered in the town, and others in their country
houses.* For several days it was one continued fes
tival. At night there were balls and masquerades ;
by day, tilting matches, bull fights, contests of skill
in horsemanship, running at the ring, and other
amusements of a chivalrous nature.
The young cavaliers of the army, vied with each
* Portuguese relation, c. 4.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 39
other and with the youth of the city in the gallantry
of their equipments, the elegance and novelty of
their devices, and the wit and ingenuity of their
mottoes. What gave peculiar splendour to these
entertainments was the beauty and spirit, and excel
lence of the horses. The great demand for these
noble animals, for the conquests of Mexico and Peru,
and other parts, rendered the raising of them one
of the most profitable sources of speculation in the
islands. The island of Cuba was naturally favoura
ble to them, and as great care and attention had
been given to multiply and improve the breed, there
was at this time an uncommon number, and of re
markably fine qualities. Many individuals had from
twenty to thirty horses in their stables, and some of
the rich had twice that number on their estates.
The cavaliers of the army had spared no expense
in furnishing themselves with the most superb and
generous steeds for their intended expedition. Many
individuals possessed three or four, caparisoned in
the most costly manner ; and the Governor aided
liberally with his purse, such as had not the means
of equipping themselves in suitable style.
Thus freshly and magnificently mounted, and ar
rayed in their new dresses and burnished armour,
the young cavaliers made a brilliant display, and
carried off many of the prizes of gold, and silver,
40 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
and silks, and brocades, which were adjudged to
those who distinguished themselves at these chival
In these, no one carried off the prize more fre
quently than Nuno de Tobar, the Lieutenant Ge
neral. He was, as has been said, a cavalier of high
and generous qualities, who had gained laurels in
the conquest of Peru. He appeared on these occa
sions in sumptuous array, mounted on a superb
horse, of a silver grey dappled, and was always
noted for the gracefulness of his carriage, his noble
demeanour, and his admirable address in the ma
nagement of lance and steed.
Unfortunately the manly qualifications of Nuno
Tobar had procured him great favour in the eyes
of the beautiful Leonora de Bobadilla, the daughter
of the Count de Gomera. A secret amour was
carried on between them, and the virtue of the la
dy was not proof against the solicitations of her
The consequences of their unfortunate inter
course were soon too apparent to be concealed.
De Soto was incensed at what he considered an
outrage upon his rights, as a guardian over the lady,
and his confidence as a friend. He immediately
* Portuguese Narrative of Conq. of Florida, c. 7.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 41
deposed Nuno Tobar from his station, as Lieutenant