General ; and, though that really generous spirited
cavalier endeavoured to make every reparation in
his power, by marrying the lady, De Soto could
never afterwards be brought to look upon him with
At this time there was on a visit to the Governor
in the city of Santiago, a cavalier, upwards of fifty
years of age, named Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa.
He was of a noble family, and of a brave and gal-
liard disposition, having seen much hard fighting in
the Indies, in Spain and Italy, and distinguished
himself en various occasions. He now resided in
the town of Trinidad in Cuba, living opulently and
luxuriously upon the wealth he had gained in the
wars, honoured for his exploits, loved for his so
cial qualities, and extolled for his hearty hospita
This magnificent cavalier had come to Santi
ago with a pompous retinue, to pay his court to the
Governor, and witness the festivities and rejoicings.
He passed some days in the city, and when he be
held the array of gallant cavaliers and hardy sol
diers assembled for the enterprise, the splendour of
their equipments, and the martial style with which
they acquitted themselves in public, his military spi
rit again took fire, and forgetting his years, his past
42 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
toils and troubles and his present ease and opu
lence, he volunteered his services to De Soto,
to follow him in his anticipated career of con
A volunteer of such military experience, ample
wealth, and great influence in the island, was too
important not to be received with open arms ; the
Governor immediately made him Lieutenant General
of the army ; the post from which the gallant but
unfortunate Nuno Tobar had recently been de
The conduct of Vasco Porcallo, shewed the poli
cy of this appointment. He was so elated with this
distinction, that he lavished his money without stint
in purchasing provisions for the armada. He was
magnificent too in all his appointments, camp equi
page, armour and equipments, having caught the
gay and braggart spirit of his youthful companions
in arms. He carried with him a great train of Spa
nish, Indian and negro servants, and a stud of thirty
six horses for his own use : while with the open
handed liberality for which he was noted, he gave
upwards of fifty horses as presents to various cava
liers of the army.
The example of this generous and high mettled,
though somewhat whimsical old cavalier, had a
powerful effect in animating the inhabitants of Cu-
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 43
ba to promote the success of the expedition, and in
inducing some of them to enrol themselves among
the followers of De Soto.*
* The Portuguese narrator dryly asserts that Vasco Porcallo
engaged in the expedition merely with a view to get slaves for
his estates in Cuba. This narrator, however, is to be distrusted,
when he assigns motives to the Spanish leaders, for whom he
seems to have entertained a national jealousy. I have preferred
the motives attributed by the Inca, as they seem borne out by facts,
and by the general conduct of this veteran Porcallo, whose charac
ter is quite Spanish and peculiar. Indeed, throughout the whole
work of the Inca, his rich and copious facts are always in harmo
ny with the characteristics of his persons.
Juan de Anasco twice despatched to Florida. His nar
row escape and safe return. Final preparations
of the Governor.
FOR three months the governor made a tour of
the island, visiting the principal towns, appointing
officers of justice to rule in his absence, purchasing
horses, and making other provisions for his expedi
tion. Towards the end of August, he repaired to
Havana, where he was afterwards joined by his
family and all his forces. Here he remained for a
time aiding the inhabitants, out of his own fortune,
to rebuild their houses and churches, which had re
cently been destroyed by French corsairs.
While thus occupied he twice despatched the
Contador Juan de Anasco, in a brigantine manned
with picked sailors, to coast the shores of Florida,
in quest of some commodious harbour to which the
expedition might sail direct, and find secure anchor
age, and a good landing place for the troops.
Juan de Anasco, was well fitted for such a ser
vice, combining the sailor with the soldier, and pos
sessing some skill in nautical science. He was fond,
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 45
too, of hazardous enterprise, never flinching from
toils or perils, and was an excellent leader, though
somewhat touchy and choleric.
Three months elapsed after his departure on his
second voyage, without any tidings of him, and
great fears were entertained for his safety, when at
length his tempest-tossed bark arrived at Havana.
No sooner did Juan de Anasco and his crew put
foot upon land, than they threw themselves on their
knees, and in this way crawled to church to hear
mass, in fulfilment of a vow made in an hour of great
peril. When this was done they related all the
dangers they had passed on sea and land ; having
once been in imminent peril of foundering, and
having passed two months on an uninhabited island,
subsisting on shell fish gathered along the beach,
and wild fowl knocked down with clubs.
Juan de Anasco, however, had faithfully fulfilled
the great object of his cruise, having found a secure
harbour on the coast of Florida. He brought with
him, also, four of the natives whom he had captured,
to serve as interpreters and guides.
All his forces being now assembled in Havana,
and the season favourable for sailing being at hand,
the Governor made his final arrangements, appoint
ing his wife Dona Isabel de Bobadilla to govern the
island during his absence, with Juan de Roxas, as
46 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
lieutenant governor, and Francisco de Guzman as
his lieutenant, in the city of Santiago. These two
cavaliers had been in command prior to his arrival
at the island, and had proved themselves worthy of
this great mark of confidence.*
* The Inca, lib. 1, c. 13.
t Portuguese relation, c. vii. Herrera. D. vi. L. 7, c, 9.
De Soto meets with an old comrade, Hernan Ponce
much against the will of the latter.
WHILE the Governor was waiting for a fair wind
to embark and set sail, a ship was seen hovering off
the port, driven there by stress of weather, but evi
dently endeavouring to keep to sea. Three times
it was forced to the mouth of the harbour, and as
often fought its way against contrary winds to the
broad ocean, as if the greatest anxiety of the crew
was to avoid the port. At length, after struggling
four or five days against tempestuous weather, it
was compelled to come to anchor in the harbour.
This ship came from Nombre de Dios, on the
Isthmus of Panama, and this was the story of its
singular conduct. On board of it was Hernan
Ponce, an old comrade of Hernando De Soto.
They had sought their fortunes together in Peru,
and when De Soto left that country for a time to
visit Spain, he entered into articles of partnership,
or brotherhood, as it was called, with Hernan
Ponce, as was frequently done by the Spanish dis-
48 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
coverers and soldiers of fortune in the new world.
By these articles they bound themselves, during
their lives, to an equal participation of gains and
losses, and of all things, whether of honour or profit.
After the departure of De Soto for Spain, Her-
nan Ponce had amassed much wealth, and had re
covered several debts which De Soto had left with
him to be collected. Having turned all his property
into gold and silver, and jewels and precious stones,
he embarked for Spain, but, at the port of embar-
cation, heard of the new enterprise of his old com
rade De Soto, and that he was at Havana with a
great and expensive armament for the conquest of
Hernan Ponce had no ambition of joining in
the conquest ; and he feared that De Soto, having
expended all his own wealth upon hi* outfits, would
claim his right of partnership and seek to share the
treasures he was carrying home, if not to grasp the
whole. Hernan Ponce, therefore, had been anxious
to steer clear of the port of Havana and to pursue
his voyage, and had made large offers to the mari
ners to induce them to keep to sea, but tempestuous
weather had absolutely driven them into port. No
sooner did Hernando De Soto hear of the arrival
of his ancient comrade and partner, than he sent per
sons on board to-compliment and congratulate him
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 49
upon his arrival, and to invite him on shore to share
with him his house, his possessions, and all his
honours and commands. The message he followed
up in person, repeating all his congratulations and
Hernan Ponce would gladly have dispensed with
both compliments and fraternity, and quaked in se
cret for the safety of his treasures. He affected,
however, to reciprocate the joy and good will of
his former comrade, but excused himself from land
ing until the following day, pleading the necessity
of sleep and repose after the fatigues of the late
tempest. De Soto left him to his repose, but sus
pecting, or having had some intimation of his real
circumstances and designs, he secretly stationed
sentinels by sea and by land to keep a watch upon
the movements of his ancient comrade. His pre
cautions were not in vain. Hernan Ponce about
midnight landed two coffers, containing all his gold,
pearls, and precious stones, to be concealed in
some hamlet, or buried on the shore, leaving only
the silver on board, to keep up appearances, intend
ing to pass it off on his partner as the w r hole of his
No sooner had the mariners landed the coffers,
and conveyed them some distance from the boat,
than a party of sentinels rushed out from a thicket,
50 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
put them to flight, and seized upon the treasure,
which they conveyed in safety to the Governor.
The confusion and distress of Hernan Ponce, at
thus losing his beloved treasure by a measure in
tended for its safety, may easily be imagined. He
landed the next day with a sorrowful countenance,
and took up his abode with De Soto.
In the course of their private conversation, he
soon revealed the misfortune of the preceding night.
De Soto had been waiting for the occasion, and
now broke forth indignantly, reproaching him with
having attempted to conceal his treasures, through
want of faith in his justice and friendship. To show
how groundless had been his distrust, he now order
ed the coffers to be brought in, and requested him to
open them and see if any thing were missing.
He furthermore declared that all he had expended
in his present undertaking, and all the titles, com
mands, and privileges he had obtained from the
crown, he had considered as for their mutual bene
fit, according to their terms of co-partnership and
fraternity; as he could prove by witnesses then
with him, who had been present at the execution of
the writings. He now offered, whether he chose
to accompany him in his conquest or not, to share
with him his titles and commands, or to yield to
him such of them as he might prefer.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 51
Hernan Ponce was confounded as much by the
overwhelming courtesy of the Governor, as by a
sense of his own delinquency ; but his heart yearn
ed more after his own treasures than after all De
Soto s anticipated conquests. He excused himself
as well as he could for the past, pretended to be
highly gratified at being still considered partner
and brother, but declined all participation in De
Soto s titles. He begged that their writings of co
partnership might be renewed and made public,
and that his Excellency would proceed with his con
quest ; while he returned to Spain, leaving to some
future occasion the division of all their gains. To
testify his acceptence of one half of the conquest,
he entreated his Excellency to permit his wife
Dona Isabel de Bobadilla, to receive from him ten
thousand dollars in gold and silver, to aid in the ex
penses of the expedition ; being the half of what he
had brought from Peru.
De Soto granted his prayer; the ten thousand
dollars were paid into the hands of Dona Isabel, the
articles of co-partnership were renewed, and dur
ing the whole stay of Hernan Ponce at Havana, he
was always addressed as his Excellency, and re
ceived the same personal honours as the Governor.
The heart of Hernan Ponce, however, rested
with his money bags, and delighted not in these
52 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
empty honours. Under various pretexts, he deferred
sailing for Spain until after the embarcation and de
parture of De Soto and his army for Florida.
Eight days after the Governor had sailed, and when
there was no longer a likelihood of his prompt re
turn, Hernan Ponce addressed an instrument in
writing to Juan de Rojas, the Lieutenant-Governor,
declaring that the ten thousand dollars given to Her-
nando de Soto, had not been paid as a just debt,
but extorted through fear lest he should make use
of his power to strip him of all his property. He
begged, therefore, that Dona Isabel de Bobadilla
might be compelled to refund them, otherwise he
should complain to the Emperor of the injustice
with which he had been treated.
When Dona Isabel heard of this claim, she im
mediately replied that there were many accounts
both new and old to be settled between Hernan
Ponce and her husband, as would be seen by the
writings of their co-partnership. That by those
same writings it would also appear that Hernan
Ponce owed her husband more than fifty thousand
ducats, being the half of the amount expended in
the outfit for the conquest. She demanded, there
fore, that Hernan Ponce should be arrested and held
in safety until all these accounts could be examined
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 53
and adjusted, which she offered immediately to at
tend to, in the name of her husband.
Hernan Ponce obtained a hint of the new troubles
preparing for him, and fearing, should he fall into
the hands of justice, he would meet with but little
mercy, he hoisted sail before the harpies of the law
could get hold of him, and made the best of his way
to Spain, leaving his ten thousand dollars and all
the unsettled accounts in the hands of Dona Isabel.*
Having thus disposed of this episode, we will step
back eight days in our chronology, to relate the sail
ing of. the expedition for Florida.
* Hist, of Florida per el Inca. Lib. 1. c. 14, 15.
5 - -
The armament sets sail from Cuba. Arrival and Land
ing in Florida. Exploit of Vasco Porcallo.
They come upon the first traces of Pamphilo de
On the 12th May 1539,Hernando de Soto sailed
from Havana on his great enterprise. His squa
dron consisted of eight large vessels, a caravel, and
two brigantines, all freighted with ample means of
conquest and colonization. In addition to the forces
brought from Spain, he had been joined by many
volunteers, and recruits in Cuba, so that his arma
ment, beside the ships crews, amounted to a
thousand men, and there were three hundred and
fifty horses. It was altogether the most splendid
expedition that had yet set out for the new world.
The prevalence of contrary winds kept the squa
dron tossing about, for several days, in the Gulf of
Mexico. At length, on Whitsunday, the twenty
fifth day of May, they arrived at the mouth of a
deep bay, to which, in honour of the day, De Soto
gave the name of Espiritu Santo, which it still re
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 55
They had scarce arrived on the coast, when they
beheld bale fires blazing along the shores, and co
lumns of smoke rising in different directions. It
was evident the natives had taken the alarm, and
were summoning their warriors to assemble. De
Soto was cautious, therefore, as to debarking his
troops, and remained several days on board ; sound
ing the harbour, and seeking a secure landing place.
In the mean time a boat was sent on shore to pro
cure grass for the horses. The sailors brought off
also, a quantity of green grapes, resembling those
of Spain, which had been found growing wild in the
woods. They were of a kind different from any
that the Spaniards had seen either in Mexico or
Peru, and they regarded them with exultation as
proofs of a fruitful and pleasant country.
At length, on the last day of the month, a detach
ment of three hundred soldiers were landed, and
took formal possession of the country, in name of
Charles V. Not a single Indian was to be seen,
and the troops remained all night on shore, in a
state of careless security. Towards the dawn of
day, however, an immense number of savages
broke suddenly upon them with deafening yells ; se
veral of the Spaniards were wounded with arrows,
many were seized with panic, as new levied troops
are apt to be in their first encounter, especially
56 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
when in a strange land and assailed by strange foes.
They retreated to the edge of the sea in great con*
fusion, crowding together so as to prevent each
other from fighting to advantage, and sounding the
alarm with drum and trumpet.
The din of the tumult was heard on board the
fleet. The late seemingly lifeless hulks were im
mediately as busy as a hive of bees, when their re
public is invaded : armour was buckled on in haste,
and a reinforcement quickly landed. The Lieuten
ant General Vasco Porcallo, with seven horsemen,
took the lead, not a little pleased with having so
early an opportunity of displaying his prowess.
Dashing his spurs into his horse, and brandishing his
lance, he charged upon the savages, who made but
slight resistance, and fled. He pursued them for
some distance, and then returned highly elated with
this first snuff of battle.
Scarcely had he reached the camp, however,
when his horse staggered under him and fell dead,
having been wounded by an arrow in the course ot
the skirmish. The shaft had been sent with such
force as to pass through the saddle and its housings,
and to bury itself, one third of its length, between
the ribs of the horse. Vasco Porcallo rose trium
phant from his fall, vaunting that the first horse that
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 5?
had fallen in this expedition was his, and his the first
lance raised against the infidels.
The remainder of the troops were now disem
barked and encamped on the borders of the bay,
where they remained a few days reposing after the
fatigues of the sea. They then marched to a vil
lage situated about two leagues distant ; while the
ships being lightened by the landing of the troops,
were enabled with the aid of the tide, to take their
The village was deserted by the inhabitants. It
consisted of several largo houses, built of wood and
thatched with palm leaves. At one end stood a
kind of temple, with the image of a bird on top,
made of wood, with gilded eyes. In this edifice
were found strings of pearls of small value, having
been injured by the fire, in boring them for neck
laces and bracelets.
In an opposite quarter of the village upon an ar
tificial eminence, near the shore, so constructed a
to serve as a fortress, stood the dwelling of the Ca
cique. Here the governor took up his residence,
with his Lieutenant, the veteran Porcallo, and his
camp master Luis de Moscoso. The other houses
were converted into barracks for the troops, and
store-houses for the provisions and ammunition
brought on shore from the vessels. The trees and
58 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
bushes were cleared away, for the distance of a
bow-shot round the village, so as to give room for
the cavalry to act and to guard against sudden sur
prise in the night time. Sentinels also were placed
at every point, and parties of horsemen patrolled
The governor at length succeeded in capturing a
few straggling Indians, natives of the place, from
whom he learned the cause of the fierce hostility of
their countrymen, and their desertion of the village.
Here it was that he first came upon the traces of his
predecessor, Pamphilo de Narvaez, and unfortu
nately they were of a cruel character. Narvaez in
his expedition to Florida had been bravely opposed
by the Cacique of this village, whose name was Hir-
rihigua.* He succeeded, at length, in winning his
friendship, and a treaty was formed betwen them.
Subsequently, however, Narvaez became enraged
at the cacique for some unknown reason, and in a
* We give this name according to Garcilaso de la Vega : the
Portuguese narrator calls the Cacique Ucita. These two authori
ties often differ as to Indian names. Sometimes they merely vary
in the spelling, as is natural where the names were caught by ear,
and did not originally exist in writing. At other times they differ
entirely ; one narrator having probably heard a village and pro
vince called by its proper and permanent name, the other by the
name of its cacique. These discrepancies are common and una
voidable, in the narratives of adventurers among savage tribes,
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 59
transport of passion had ordered his nose to be cut
off, and his mother to be torn to pieces by dogs.
These merciless wrongs, as may well be supposed,
had filled the heart of Hirrihigua with the bitterest
hatred of the white men.
De Soto, having heard this story, endeavoured to
appease the cacique and to gain his friendship. For
this purpose, he treated his subjects, whom he had
captured, in the kindest manner, and sent them, la
den with presents, to seek their chieftain in his re
treat, and invite him to amicable intercourse. The
Cacique was indignant at his subjects for daring to
bring him messages from a race who had injured
and insulted him so deeply. " I want none of their
speeches nor promises," said he, bitterly, " bring
me their heads, and I will receive them joyfully."
De Soto was reluctant to leave so powerful a foe
between himself and his ships, and endeavoured, by
repeated envoys to soften the animosity of the ca-
whose language is unwritten and but little understood. Where
irreconcilable differences occur, we are generally inclined to fol
low the Inca, as he received his facts from three different mem
bers of the expedition, one a gentleman of rank, the other two,
private soldiers ; whereas the Portuguese account has merely the
authority of a single witness. The account of the transactions
on landing are chiefly taken from the Inca, and occasionally from
the Portuguese Narrative.
60 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
cique : but every message only provoked a more
bitter and scornful reply.
While thus negotiating with this vindictive sa
vage, he received intelligence that there was a Spa
niard, a surviver of the followers of Pamphilo de
Narvaez, living under the protection of a neighbour
ing Cacique called Mucozo.* To obtain the ser
vices of this Spaniard was now a matter of great
moment, for, having lived upwards of ten years in
the country, and become acquainted with the lan
guage and customs of the natives, he was well fitted
to act as guide, interpreter, and negotiator. He ac
cordingly despatched the brave and trusty Baltasar
de Gallegos, the chief Alguazil, at the head of sixty
lances, and under the guidance of a native Indian,
on an embassy to the Cacique Mucozo, to obtain the
release of the Spaniard, and to invite the chieftain
to the camp, with assurances of great friendship and
As this Spaniard was subsequently of great ser
vice throughout the expedition, and as his story is il
lustrative of the character and customs of the na
tives, and of the implacable resentment of the ca
cique Hirrihigua, we will diverge for a moment
from the main course of our narrative, to relate
some particulars of his adventures.
* Mocoso. Portuguese Narrative.
Story of Juan Ortiz.
SHORTLY after Pamphilo de Narvaez had left the
village of Hirrihigua on his disastrous march into
the interior, a small vessel of his fleet which was in
quest of him, put into the bay of Espiritu Santo.
Anchoring before the town, they saw a few Indians
on the shore, who made signs for them to land,
pointing to a letter in the end of a cleft reed, stuck
in the ground. The Spaniards supposed, and pro
bably with justice, that it was a letter of instruction
left by Narvaez, giving information of his move
ments and destination. They made signs for the
Indians to bring it to them. The latter, however, re
fused, but getting into a canoe came on board, where
four of them offered to remain as hostages for such
Spaniards as chose to go on shore for the letter.
Upon this four Spaniards stepped into the canoe and
were swiftly conveyed to shore. The moment they