four were slain before the savages could be over
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 11.
144 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
A signal vengeance was then taken upon the pri
soners. Some of the Spaniards were so exaspe
rated at the wounds they had received, and at the in
telligence of the maltreatment of the Governor, that
they wreaked their fury upon every Indian in their
power. Others, who were cavaliers, thought it be
neath their dignity to take away the lives of slaves
They brought their prisoners, therefore, to the grand
square of the village, and delivered them into the
hands of the archers of the General s guard, who
despatched them with their halberts.
Among the cavaliers who thus brought their cap
tive slaves to be executed, was one of a small and
delicate form, named Francisco de Saldana. He
entered the square, leading after him a powerful In
dian, by a cord tied round his neck. No sooner,
however, did the savage perceive what was passing,
and the fate that awaited him, than, driven to des
peration, he closed upon Saldana as he walked be
fore him, seized him with one hand by the neck and
with the other by the thigh, raised him like a child,
turned him topsy turvy with his head downwards,
and dashed him to the ground with a violence that
stunned him. Jumping then upon his body he would
have despatched him in an instant had not a num
ber of Spaniards rushed with drawn swords to his
rescue. The Indian seized Saldana s sword, and re-
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 145
ceived them so bravely, that though there were
more than fifty, he kept them all at bay. Grasping
the sword with both hands, he threw himself into
the midst of them, whirling himself round like a
wheel, and dealing about blows so rapidly and madly
that no one dare oppose him, and they were oblig
ed to shoot him down with their firearms.*
These, and many similar scenes of desperate va
lour, occurred in this wild affray. That the inter
preters and the Indian allies who had accompanied
the army from the other provinces might be em
broiled with the natives of the neighbourhood, so
that they would not dare thenceforward to abandon
the Spaniards, they were compelled to aid in the
destruction of the prisoners, many of whom were
tied to stakes in the public square, and shot down
with their arrows. f
In these battles and the subsequent massacres,
fell Vitachuco and thirteen hundred of his warriors,
the flower of his nation, among whom were the four
brave leaders who had survived from the lake.
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 11. fldem.
The Portuguese narrator calls the village whore this affray
took place Napataca.
The Army pass through the province of Osachile.
Come to a vast morass. Severe skirmishing with
the Savages. Preparations to cross the great mo
1539. THE blow which the Governor, Hernando
De Soto, had received from Vitachuco, had been so
violent that it was half an hour before he received his
senses. His whole face was bruised and disfigured,
and several of his teeth were broken, so that for
twenty days he could partake of no solid food. It
was necessary to remain four days in the village,
before he and his wounded soldiers were sufficient
ly recovered, to bear a journey; On the fifth day,
he resumed his march, departing in search of ano
ther province, called Osachile.*
The first day they journeyed four leagues, and
encamped on the bank of a large and deep river,
which divides the two provinces, and over which it
was necessary to throw a bridge. They had
scarcely begun their preparations, however, when
* This name is spelled Uzachil, by the Portuguese Narrator.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 147
they beheld the Indians on the opposite side, in hos
tile array. Abandoning their construction of the
bridge, they hastily formed six rafts, on which a
hundred men passed over, cross-bow men and ar-
quebusiers, and fifty horsemen, carrying with them
the saddles for their horses.
As soon as these reached the land, their horses
were driven into the water, and made to swim
across.^ Their owners received them on the shore,
saddled and mounted them immediately, and gal
loped out into the plain. At sight of them, the In
dians took to flight ; and the Spaniards worked
without molestation at the bridge, which was finish
ed in a day and a half.
The army passed the river, and after travelling
two leagues through a country free from woods,
came to large fields of maize, beans, and pumpkins,
with scattered habitations. While they were dispers
ed about the fields, a number of Indians lurking in
ambush among the grain, assailed them with flights
of arrows, by which many of them were wounded.
The Spaniards started in pursuit of them Jance in
hand. There was some sharp skirmishing ; many
natives were wounded, and a few taken prisoners.
The latter had chains put about their necks, and
were distributed among the soldiers ; and made to
148 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
carry the baggage, pound the maize, and fulfil other
The Spaniards arrived at Osachile, a village
about ten leagues from that of Vitachuco. It con
tained two hundred houses which were deserted,
the Cacique and his people having fled to the woods,
terrified by the rumours of the sanguinary massa
cre of Vitachuco.f The Governor sent proffers of
peace and friendship to him by the Indian prisoners.
He made no reply, however, neither did any of the
The village of Osachilef resembled most of the
Indian villages of Florida. The natives always en
deavoured to build upon high ground, or at least to
erect the houses of the Cacique or Chief, upon an
eminence. As the country was very level, and high
places seldom to be found, they constructed artifi
cial mounds of earth, the top of each being capable
of containing from ten to twenty houses. Here re
sided the Cacique, his family, and attendants. At
the foot of this hill was a square, according to the
size of the village, around which were the houses of
the leaders, and most distinguished inhabitants. The
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 12. t Idem.
t The river Oscilla may take its name from this old Indian vil
lage and province.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 149
rest of the people erected their wigwams, as near
to the dwelling of their chief as possible.
An ascent in a straight line from fifteen to twenty
feet wide, led to the top of the hillock, and was
flanked on each side by trunks of trees, joined one
to another, and thrust deep into the earth ; other
trunks of trees formed a kind of stairway. All the
other sides of the mound were steep and inaccessi
While in the village of Osachile, the Spaniards
learnt that they were not far from the province of
Apalachee, the country of the Apalachians. Of this
province they had heard the most wonderful ac
count as to its great extent and fertility, and the bra
very and ferocity of its inhabitants. Throughout
their march the Indians had predicted that the war
riors of Apalachee, would transfix them with their
lances, hew them in pieces, or consume them with
fire. De Soto was little moved by their menaces ;
his great desire was to see this boasted province ;
arid, if it were as fertile and abundant as represent
ed, to winter there. He remained, therefore, but
two days in Osachile, at the end of which he re
sumed his march.
The Spaniards were three days traversing an un
inhabited desert, twelve leagues in extent, which lay
between the two provinces, and about noon on the
150 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
fourth day, arrived at a great morass.* It was bor
dered by forests of huge and lofty trees, with a
dense underwood of thorns and brambles, and
clambering vines so interwoven and matted toge
ther as to form a perfect barrier. Through this, the
Indians had made a Jiarrow path, scarce wide
enough for two persons to walk abreast. In the
centre of the morass was a sheet of water half a
league in width, and as far as the eye could reach in
De Soto encamped at an early hour on a fine
plain on the skirts of the forest, and ordered out a
hundred foot, consisting of cross-bow men, archers,
and pike men, with thirty horse, and twelve expert
swimmers, to explore the passage of the morass,
* This is supposed by some to have been the great swamp of
Okefenokee, lying in lat. 31 North, on the frontiers of Georgia
and Florida. Mr. M Culloch in his Researches, imagines it to
be the Ohahichee swamp, and his opinion is entitled to great cre
dit, as he has investigated the subject more thoroughly than most
writers. It must, however, remain a matter of conjecture and
uncertainty ; for, it is almost impossible to trace out the route of
De Soto and his followers, at the commencement and close of
their expedition, as the distances given by both the Portuguese
and Spanish chroniclers, are often exaggerated and sometimes
Vide Kerr s Voyages and Travels, V. 5, p. 456.
M Culloch s Researches, p. 524.
Darby s Florida, p. 19,20.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 151
-ascertain the depth of the water, and search for a
ford, against the following day.
The Spaniards had penetrated but a little dis
tance into the forest, when they were opposed by
Indian warriors. The passage, however, was so
narrow, and so completely walled on each side by
thorny and impervious forest, that not more than
the two foremost of each vanguard could come to
blows. The Spaniards, therefore, ordered two of
the stoutest to the front, armed with sword and
buckler, followed by two others, cross-bow men and
archers. In this wa^they drove the Indians before
them until they came to the water. Here, as both
parties could scatter themselves, and had room for
action, there was some hard fighting. Many good
shots were given, and several were killed and wound
ed on both sides.
Finding it impossible, under such heavy fire, to
examine the depth of the water, the Spaniards sent
word to the Governor, who came to their aid, with
the best soldiers of the army. The enemy likewise
received a reinforcement, and the battle became
still more fierce and bloody. Both fought to their
waists in the water, stumbling about among thorns
and brambles, and twisted roots, and the sunken
trunks of fallen trees. The Spaniards were aware,
however, that it would not do to return without dis-
152 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
covering the pass ; they continued, therefore, to
charge the enemy with great impetuosity, and suc
ceeded in driving them out of the water. They
found that the narrow pass through the forest con
tinued through the water, being cleared of thorns
and roots, and sunken trees, so that the Indians
could wade up to their middles, excepting over
about forty paces of the mid channel, where it was
too deep to be forded. This they passed by a
bridge of two trees fastened together. The oppo
site side of the morass was bordered by the same
kind of impervious forest as the other, and, like it,
traversed by a narrow Indian path. The distance
through the two forests, and across the morass, was
about a league and a half.
The Governor, having well reconnoitered the pass,
returned with his men to the encampment. Here
he held a council of war, in which the difficulties
and dangers of the case were discussed, and the
mode of meeting them determined upon.
It was arranged that two hundred picked men
should be thrown in the advance to secure the pass,
and prepare the way for the passage of the main
body. One hundred of these were to be horsemen,
and one hundred foot soldiers. The former being
better armed than the infantry, and protected by
bucklers, always received less injury from the ar-
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 153
rows of the enemy ; they were, therefore, to take
the lead, on foot, as horses would only be an embar
rassment in such a narrow pass. In this way they
would, as it were, form a shield to the hundred foot
soldiers, consisting of arquebusiers and archers.
They were all to be provided with bills, hatchets,
and other implements for clearing an encamping
place in the opposite forest, on the side of the mo
rass i for, as the Spaniards would have to pass the
narrow ford one by one, in the face of a ferocious
enemy, it would be impossible for the whole army
to traverse the morass, and both borders of wood
land in one day. It appeared advisable, therefore,
to make a lodgement in the opposite forest.
* Garcilaso de la Vega. P. 2. L. 2. c. 1.
Of the perilous passage of the great morass.
1539. An, the requisite preparations being made,
two hundred picked men sallied out of the encamp
ment, each soldier carrying with him in his bosom
his day s allowance, consisting of a little boiled or
toasted maize. Two hours before the dawn of day
they entered the defile of the forest, which they
traversed as silently as possible until they reached
the water. They soon found the ford where the
stones, and roots, and sunken logs had been cleared
away ; keeping along this they came to the bridge
made of fallen trees and logs, across the deepest
part of the channel. This they passed without mo
lestation from the Indians, who had left the whole
pass unguarded, not imagining that the Spaniards
would dare to penetrate the dense forest, or ford the
deep and perilous passage of the morass by night.
When they perceived at daybreak, however, that
they had passed the bridge, they rushed with great
fury and loud cries and howls to dispute the passage
of the morass yet to be traversed, which was about
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 155
a quarter of a league. The Spaniards received
their attack manfully: both parties fought up to the
j, middle in water. The Indians were soon repulsed
* and driven into the defile of the opposite forest, into
which they could only enter one at a time. This
defile being so narrow, and \valled in by an imper
vious forest, it was easy to blockade the passage
and keep the enemy from sallying forth. Forty
men were ordered to do so, while the remaining
hundred and fifty went to work to cut down trees
and clear a place for the army to encamp.
In this manner they remained all the day, the In
dians in the bosom of the forest shouting and yell
ing, as if to frighten with their noise those whom they
would not engage with their arms ; some of the Span
iards watching, the others felling trees and burning
the fallen timber. When night came, each one re
mained where he chanced to be. Disturbed by the
yells of the Indians, and obliged to maintain a constant
vigilance, the Spaniards passed a sleepless night.
The next morning the troops undertook the pas
sage, and although they met with no opposition from
the enemy, they found many difficulties in the ford,
and, being obliged to pass one by one, were the
whole day in crossing.
By night they were all encamped on the cleared
ground, where, however, they enjoyed but little
156 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
sleep, in consequence of the yells and attacks of the
At break of day they pressed forward through the
defile of the second forest, driving the Indians slowly
before them, who retreated step by step, plying their
bows incessantly, so that every inch of the way
had to be won at the edge of the sword.
At length, after fighting onward in this way for
half a league, they emerged from this dense and
thorny forest into more open woodland. Here,
however, the Indians, foreseeing that there would
be more scope for the horses to come into action,
had taken precautions accordingly.
It was in a part of this very rnorass, though not
in this immediate neighbourhood, that Pamphilo de
Narvaez had been .defeated about ten or eleven
years before ; and the Indians, profiting by the ex
perience then gained, and encouraged by the recol
lection of that triumph, trusted that they would
have like success in the present instance.
To render the much dreaded horses ineffec
tive, they had blocked up and traversed the open
places of the forest with great logs, and branches
tied from tree to tree ; and in the close and matted
parts of the forest, had made narrow passages by
which they might dart forth, make an assault, and
vanish again in an instant.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 157
As soon, therefore, as the Spaniards entered this
more open woodland, they found themselves assail
ed by showers of arrows from every side. The In
dians were scattered about among the thickets, they
sallied forth, rushed among the troops, plied their
bows with intense rapidity, and plunged again into
the forest. The horses were of no avail ; the arque-
busiers and archers seemed no longer a terror ; for
in the time a Spaniard could make one discharge
and reload his musket, or place another bolt in his
cross-bow, an Indian would launch six or seven ar
rows ; scarce had one arrow taken flight before
another was in the bow.
In their hampered situation, the Spaniards found
it impossible to assault the enemy ; their only alter
native was to defend themselves and press forward.
All the while, too, that they were exposed to this
galling fire, they were insulted by the taunts and
threats of the enemy, who reminded them of their
victory over Pamphilo de Narvaez, and menaced
them with a like defeat.
For two long leagues did the Spaniards toil and
fight their way forward through this forest ; irritated
and mortified by these galling attacks, vexatious
taunts, and by the impossibility of retaliating; at
length they emerged into an open and level country.
Here, overjoyed at being freed from this forest pri-
158 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
son, they gave reins to their horses and free vent to
their smothered rage, and scoured the plain, lancing
and cutting down every Indian they encountered,
out of revenge of their own annoyances, and of the
past defeat of Narvaez. But few of the enemy
were taken prisoners ; many were put to the sword ;
and thus did they suffer severely for the presump-
tious confidence inspired by their former triumph
* Garcilaso de la Vega. P. 2. L. 2. c. 2.
Herrera. Hist. Ind. Decad. vi. L. 7. c. 12.
The Indians make a desperate stand at a deep stream.
The Spaniards gain the pass andarrweat the Indian
milage of Anhayea, in the province of Apalachee.
1539. THE Spaniards had now arrived at the
commencement of a fertile region covered with
those villages and fields of grain for which the pro
vince of Apalachee was famous throughout the
country. Wearied with their toilsome march and
incessant fighting, they encamped for the night in
the open plain, near a small village. Still, with all
their weariness, they were deprived the repose so
necessary to them. All night long they were dis
turbed by the yells and howlings of the Indians, by
their repeated assaults, and the flights of arrows
that were discharged into the camp.
At daybreak the Spaniards resumed their march
through extensive fields of maize, beans, pompions,
and other vegetables, extending on each side of the
road as far as the eye could reach, interspersed
with small cabins, showing a numerous, but scattered
160 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
The inhabitants justified their ferocious and war
like reputation, for they kept up incessant attacks,
sallying forth from their dwellings, or starting up
from their corn fields where they had lain in am
bush ; and though the Spaniards wreaked upon
them a bloody revenge, slaughtering them without
mercy, yet nothing could check the fury of the sur-
After contending for two leagues through the
fields of corn, the Spaniards came to a deep stream
bordered by deep forests ;* where the Indians had
erected palisades and barriers, to impede the pass
ing of the horse, as well as to protect themselves.
As this was one of the strongest and most import
ant passes, and in a manner their last hope, they
had prepared themselves to defend it vigorously.
Having reconnoitered the pass, the Spaniards
made arrangements accordingly. The best armed
horsemen alighted, and buckling on their shields,
advanced with swords and hatchets in hand, gained
the pass, and broke down the palisades and barriers.
The Indians fought desperately to defend them ; se
veral Spaniards were killed and many wounded,
but they succeeded in forcing their way with less
difficulty than they had apprehended.
* Mr. McCulloch supposes this to be the river Ucho.
CONQUEST OF FLORIDA. 161
The stream forded, they marched two more
leagues without opposition, through the same kind of
fertile and cultivated country ; then choosing a place
clear from forests, encamped for the night. After four
days and three nights of watching, toiling, and fight
ing, they needed repose, and had hoped, in this open
place, where the horses had free career, that they
should be able to enjoy it without molestation. The
darkness of the night, however, encouraged the as
saults of their restless and daring foes, and obliged
them to keep up a constant vigil with their weapons
in their hands.
Even the Indians who were captured evinced the
implacable and unconquerable spirit for which the
Apalachian tribe was famous. Though in the power
of their enemies, they continued to carry an air of
haughtiness and defiance ; boasting of their origin,
vaunting the valour of their nation, and telling the
Spaniards that they would soon arrive at the village
of their Cacique, where he and a host of warriors
were waiting to destroy them. The name of this
Cacique was Capafi ; the first they had heard of,
whose name differed from that of his village. Learn
ing that this formidable village was actually but
about two leagues distant, Hernando de Soto, on
the following morning, which was the fifth since
crossing the morass, put himself in the advance,
162 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
with two hundred horse and a hundred foot. On
their way they put all the Indians they met with to
On reaching the village they found it recently de
serted by the Cacique and his men. They pursued
them for some distance, killed some of the Indians,
captured others, but the Cacique made his escape.
They then took up their quarters in the village,
which was named Anhayea,* and contained two
hundred and fifty large and commodious houses:
the Adelantado took possession of the dwelling of
the Cacique, which stood at one end of the village,
and was superior to the rest.
In addition to this principal village, they under
stood that there were many others in the province,
containing from fifty to a hundred houses more or
less, besides a multitude of dwellings scattered about
the country. The province throughout was reputed
to be pleasant, the soil fertile, producing maize, cu
cumbers, beans, and wild plums ; the rivers abound
ing in fish, which the natives caught in vast quanti
ties throughout the year, and dried for use.f
* Portuguese Narrative, c. 12.
t Garcilaso de la Vega. P. 2. L. 2. c. 4. Portuguese Narra
tive c. 12.
Juan de Anasco sets out in search of the Ocean
the adventures he met with by the way.
1539. THE army remained quiet in the village of
Anhayea for several days, recruiting from its past
toils, although the enemy did not fail to continue
their attacks by night and day. The Governor now
sent out bands of horse and foot to explore the sur
rounding country for fifteen or twenty leagues.
Two captains, the one named Arias Tinoco, the
other, Andreas de Vasconcelos, were sent in differ
ent directions to the northward. They returned,
the one in eight, and the other in nine days, having
met with no adventures worthy of relation. Both
reported that they had found many populous vil
lages, and that the country was fertile and free from
morasses or extensive forests. A third captain had
been sent about the same time to the southward :
this was Juan de Anasco, the Contador of the army.
He was one whom De Soto often chose for un
dertakings that required a stout heart and active
spirit, though he was sometimes prone to be a little
164 CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
hasty in temper and positive in command. He had
under his command forty horse and fifty foot, and
was accompanied by Gonzalo Silvestre and Gomez
Arias. The latter was a relation of the Governor s
wife, and a hardy soldier, seasoned in all kinds of
perils and vicissitudes by land and water, as most
Spanish adventurers were in those days. He had
seen rough times in Moorish warfare ; had been a
slave in Barbary ; and, to his adventurous valour,
added sage experience in council.
Thus accompanied, Juan de Afiasco set off to
wards the south in quest of the ocean, which was
said to be less than thirty leagues distant from An-