Barnard Shipp.

The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 online

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Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 10 of 75)
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of the United States.

The Spaniards of Cuba, following in the wake of Ponce de Leon,
soon found their way to Florida, and made expeditions, of which
one object soon became the iniquitous practice of carrying off the
Indians as slaves. A considerable time elapsed before attempts
began to be made for the actual conquest and occupation of Florida.

While the nations both of the north and the south of Europe had
made vigorous efforts for the exploration of America, the French flag
had not yet appeared in the western seas. A monarch' of such
spirit as Francis the First, however, could not be contented to see
his rival Charles the Fifth carrying off the brilliant prizes offered
by the New World. He, however, found himself under the same
necessity of Charles the Fifth, of Spain, and Henry the Seventh, of
England, to employ foreign science and skill to guide his fleets into
those distant seas.*

Juan Verazzani, a Florentine who had distinguished himself by
successful cruises against the Spaniai'ds, was sent, with a vessel
called the Dauphin, to the American coast.

In the narrative of his voyage, Verazzani sets out from the little
island or rock near Madeira, called the Desertas. About midway
across the Atlantic, he encountered one of those disasters to which
the navigators of that age, in consequence of their small vessels,
were so liable. His little bark had nearly perished. It survived,
however, and, happily completing the rest of his voyage, arrived
on a coast, which, according to him, was never seen by any either of

* Christopher Columbus, John Cahot, Americus Vespucius, and Juan Veraz-
zani were all Italians. And Marco Polo, who in the year 1291 conducted a fleet
from Pekln to Ormus, on the Persian Gulf, was also an Italian.


the ancients or moderns, and which appears to have been some part
either of Carolina or Florida.*

The following extract contains Verazzani's accountt of the new
country, which he reached on the 20th of March, 1523 : —

"At first it appeared to be very low, but on approaching it to
within a quarter of a league from the shore, we perceived by the
great fires near the coast that it was inhabited. We perceived that
it stretched to the south, and coasted along in that direction in
search of some port, in which we might come to anchor, and examine
into the nature of the country, but for fifty leagues we could dis-
cover none in which we could be secure. Seeing the coast still
stretching to the south, we resolved to change our course and stand
to the northward, and as we still had the same difficulty, we drew
in with the land, and sent a boat on shore. Many people, who were
seen coming to the seaside, fled at our approach, but occasionally
stopping, they looked back upon us with astonishment, and some at
length were induced by various friendly signs to come to us. These
showed the greatest delight in beholding us, wondering at our dress,
countenance, and complexion. They then showed us by signs where
we could more conveniently secure our boat, and offered us some of
their provisions. Of their manners and customs, I will relate as
brieflj' as possible what we saw.

"They go entirely naked, except that about the loins they wear
skins of small animals like martens, fastened by a girdle of plaited
grass, to which they tie all round the body the tails of other animals,
hanging down to the knees ; all other parts of the body and head are
naked. Some wear garlands similar to bird's feathers.

" The complexion of these people is black, not much different
from that of the Ethiopians. Tiieir hair is black and thick, and not
very long ; it is worn tied back upon the head in the form of a little
tail. In person, they are of good proportions, of middle statue, a
little above our own, broad across the breast, strong in the arms,
and well formed in the legs and other parts of the body ; the only

exception to their good looks is, that they have broad faces, but


* " Historipal Acoount of Discovery and Travels in North America," by Hugh
Murray, P.R.S.E.

f " The North American Review for October, 1837, contains an account of
the researches of George W. Green, Esq., the American consul at Rome. He
found at Florence a manuscript of Verazzani's letter of the 8th of July, 1524,
to the king of France. Mr, Green having furnished tlie Historical Society of
Jfew York » copy of this manuscript, a translation of it from the'ltalian was
made by Joseph G. Cogswell, Esq., a member of that society, and published in
1841, in the second series of the society's collection." — " Early Voyagers to
America," by Conway Robinson.


not all, however, as we saw many that had sharp ones, with large
black eyes and a fixed expression. They are not very strong in
body, but acute in mind, active and swift of foot, as far as we could
judge by observation. In these two particulars they resemble the
people of the east, especially those the most remote. We could not
learn a great many particulars of their usages on account of onr
short stay among them, and the distance of our ship from the
shore. We found not far from this people another whose mode of
life we judged to be similar.*

" The whole shore is covered with fine sand, about fifteen feet thick,
rising in the form of little liills about fifty paces broad. Ascending
[northeastwardly] farther we found several arms of the sea whicli
made in through inlets, washing the shores on both sides as tlie
coast runs. An outstretched country appears at a little distance,
rising somewhat above the sandy shore in beautiful fields and broad
plains, covered with immense forests of trees more or less dense,
too various in colors, and too delightful and charming in appear-
ance to be described. Adorned with palms, laurels, cypress, and
other varieties unknown in Europe, that send forth the sweetest
fragrance to the greatest distance ; but which we could not examine
more closely for the reasons before given, and not on account of
any difficulty in traversing the woods, which, on the contrary, are
easily penetrated.

"As the 'East' stretches around this country, I think it cannot be
devoid of some medicinal and aromatic drugs, and various riches
of gold and the like, as is denoted by the color of the ground. It
abounds also in animals, as deer, stags, hares, and many other simi-
lar, and with a great variety of birds. It is plentifully supplied
with lakes and ponds of running water, and being in the latitude of
34°f the air is salubrious, pure, and temperate, and free from the
extremes of both heat and cold. There are no violent winds in
these regions; the most prevalent are the northwest and west. In
summer, the season in which we were there, the sky is clear, with
but little rain ; if fogs and mists are at any time driven in by the
south wind, tiiey are instantaneously dissipated, and at once it be-
comes serene and bright again. The sea is calm, not boisterous,
and its waves are gentle. Altiiough the wliole coast is low and
without harbors, it is not dangerous for navigation, being free from

* This is the first account of the Indians of this part of the Atlantic coast,
and is nmch the same as that given by later voyagers.

t Probably east of Cape Pear River, and between that river and Cape Look-
out. Tile description of the coast and depth of water appear to suit that locality.


rocks, and bold, so that within four or five fathoms from the shore
there are twenty-four feet of water at all times of tide, and this
depth constantly increases in an uniform proportion. The holding
ground is so good that no ship can part her eable, however violent
the wind, as we proved by experience ; for while riding at anchor on
the coast we were overtaken by a gale in the beginning of March,
when the winds are high, as is usual in all countries ; we found our
anchor broken before it started from its hold, or moved at all.

" We sailed from this place, continuing to coast along the shore,
which we found stretching out to the '■east;' the inhabitants being
numerous, we saw every where a multitude of fires. While at anchor
on this coast, there being no harbor to enter, we sent the boat on
shore with twenty-five men to obtain water, but it was not possible
to land without endangering the boat, on account of the immense
high surf thrown up by the sea, as it was an open roadstead. Many
of the natives came to the beach, indicating by various friendly signs
that we might trust ourselves on shore. One of their noble deeds
deserves to be made known. A young sailor was attempting to swim
ashore through tlie surf to carry tliem some Itnick-knacks, as little
bells, looking-glasses, and other like trifles ; when he came near three
or four of them, he tossed the things to them, and turned about to
get back to the boat, but he was thrown over by the waves, and so
dashed by them that lie lay as it were dead upon the beach. When
these people saw him in this situation they ran and took him up by the
head, legs, and arms, and carried him to a distance from the surf; the
young man, finding himself borne oflf in this way, uttered very loud
shrieks in fear and dismay, while they answered as they could in their
language, showing him that he had no cause for fear. Afterwards
they laid him down at the foot of a little hill, when they took off his
shirt and trowsers, and examined him, expressing the greatest as-
tonishment at the whiteness of his skin. Our sailors in the boat,
seeing a great fire made up, and their companion placed very near
it, full of fear, as is usual in all eases of novelty, imagined that the
natives were about to roast him for food. But as soon as he had
recovered his strength after a short stay with them, showing by
signs that he wished to return aboard, they hugged him with great
affection, and accompanied him to the shore ; tlien leaving him that
he might feel more secure, they withdrew to a little hill, from which
they watched him until he was safe in the boat. This young mail
remarked that these people were black, like the others ; that they had
shining skins, middle stature, and sharper faces, and very delicate
bodies and limbs, and that they were inferior in strength, but quick
in their minds.


" Departing hence, and always following the shore, which stretched
to the north, we came in tiie space of fifty leagues to another land,
which appeared very beautiful and full of the largest- forests. We
approached it, and going ashore with twenty men, we went back
from the coast about two leagues, and found that the people had
fled and hid themselves in the woods for fear. By searching around,
we discovered in the grass a very old woman and a girl of about
eighteen or twenty, who had concealed themselves for the same
reason. The old woman carried two infants on her shoulders, and
behind her neck a little boy eight 3-ears of age; when we came up
to them they began to shriek, and made signs to the men who had
fled to the woods. We gave them a part of our provisions, which
thejf accepted with delight, but the girl would not touch any ; ever^'-
thing we offered her being thrown down in great anger. We took
the little boy from the old woman to carry with us to Prance, and
would have taken the girl also, who was very beautiful and very
tall, but it was impossible because of the loud shrieks she uttered
as we attempted to lead her away ; having to i)ass some woods, and
being far from the ship, we determined to leave her and take the boy
only. We found them fairer than the others, and wearing a covering
made of certain plants [probably moss] which hung down from the
branches of the trees, tying them together with threads of wild
hemp; their heads'were without covering, and of the same shape as
the others. Their food is a kind of pulse, which there abounds,
different iu color and size from ours, and of a very delicious flavor
Besides, they take birds and fish for food, using snares and bows
made of hard wood, with reeds for arrows, in tlie ends of which
they put the bones offish and other animals. The animals in these
regions are wilder than in Europe, from being continually molested
by the hunters. We saw manj' of their boats, twenty feet long and
four feet broad, made out of one tree without the aid of stone or
iron or other kind of metal. In the whole country, for the space
of two hundred leagues, which we visited, we saw no stone of any
sort. To hollow out their boats, they burn out as much of a log as
is requisite, and also from the prow and stern, to make them float
well on the sea. The land, in situation, fertility, and beauty, is like
the other, abounding also in forests filled with various kinds of
trees, but not of such fragrance, as it is more nortliern and colder.

" We saw in this country many vines growing naturally, which
entwine about the trees and run up upon them as they do in the
plains of Lombardy. We have often seen the grapes which they
produce very sweet and pleasant, and not unlike our own. They
must be held in estimation by them, as they carefuUj' remove


the shrubbery from around them wherever they grow, to allow the
fruit to ripen better. We found also wild roses, violets, lilies, and
many sorts of plants and fragrant flowers different from our own.
We cannot describe their habitations, as they are in the interior of
the country, but from various indications we conclude they must be
formed of trees and shrubs.

"After having remained here three days, riding at anchor on the
coast, as we could find no harbor, we determined to depart and
coast along the sliore to the northeast, keeping sail on the vessel
only by day, and coming to anchor by night. After proceeding one
hundred leagues we found a very pleasant situation among some
steep hills, through which a very large river, deep at its mouth,
forced its way to the sea ; from the sea to the estuary of the river,
any ship heavily laded might pass with the help of the tide, which
rises eight feet. But as we were riding at anchor in a good berth,
we would not venture up in our vessel, without a knowledge of its
mouth ; tlierefore we took the boat, and entering the river, we found
the country on its banks well peopled, the inhabitants not differing
much from the otiiers, being dressed out with the feathers of birds
of various colors They came towards us with evident delight,
raising loud shouts of admiration, and showing us where we could
most securely land with our boat. We passed up this river, about half
a league, when we found it formed a most beautiful lake three leagues
in circuit [diameter?], upon which they were rowing thirty or more
of their small boats, from one shore to the otlier, filled with multi-
tudes who came to see us. All of a sudden, as is wont to happen
to navigators, a violent contrary wind blew in from the sea, and
forced us to return to our ship, greatly regretting to leave this re-
gion which seemed so commodious and delightful, and which we
supposed must also contain great riches, as the hills showed many
indications of minerals.* Weighing anchor we sailed fifty leagues
towards the east, as tlie coast stretched in that direction, and alwaj-s
in sight of it ; at length we discovered an island of a triangular
form, about ten leagues from the main land, in size about equal
to the island of Rhodes, having many bills covered with trees,f
and well peopled, judging from the great number of fires we saw
around its shores. We did not land there, as the weather was un-
favorable, but proceeded to another place, fifteen leagues distant
from the island, where we found a very excellent harbor.| Before
entering it we saw about twenty small boats full of people, who came
about our ship, uttering many cries of astonishment, but they would

* New York Harbor. f Block Island. { Newport.


not approach nearer than within fifty paces ; stopping, they looked
at the structure of our ship, our persons and dress, afterwards they
all raised a loud shout together, signifying that the}"^ were all pleased.
B3' imitating their signs, we inspired them in some measure with
confidence, so that they came near enough for us to toss them some
little bells and glasses, and many toys, which they took and looked
at, laugiiing, and then came on board without fear. Among them
were two kings more beautiful in form and stature than can possi-
bly be described ; one was about forty years old, the other about
twenty-four. The oldest had a deerskin around his body, artifi-
cially wrought in damask figures; his head was without covering;
his hair was tied back in various knots ; around liis. neck he wore a
large chain ornamented with many stones of different colors. The
young man was similar in his general appearance. This is the finest
looking tribe, and the handsomest in their costumes, that we have
found in our voyage. They exceed us in size, and they are of a very
fair complexion ; some of them incline more to a white, and others
to a tawny color ; their faces are sharp, their hair long and black,
upon the adorning of which they bestow great pains ; their eyes are
black and sharp, their expression mild and pleasant, greatly resem-
bling the antique- The other parts of their body are all in good
proportion, and such as belong to well-formed men. Tlieir women
are of the same form and beauty, very graceful, of fine countenances,
and pleasing appearance in manners and modesty ; they wear no
clothing except a deerskin ornamented like those worn by the men ;
some wear very rich lynx skins upon their arms, and various orna-
ments upon their heads, composed of braids of hair, which also hang
down upon their breasts on each side. Others wear different orna-
ments, such as the women of Egypt and Syria use. The older and
the married people, both men and women, wear many ornaments in
their ears, hanging down in the oriental manner. We saw upon
them several pieces of wrought copper,* which is more esteemed by
them than gold, as this is not valued on account of its color, but is
considered by them as the most ordinary of metals, — yellow being
the color especially disliked by them; azure and red are those in
the highest estimation with them. Of those things which we gave
them, they prized most highly the bells, azure crystals, and other
toys, to hang in their ears and about their necks ; they do not value
or care to have silk or gold stuffs, or other kinds of cloth, nor im-
plements of steel or iron. When we showed them our arms, they

* Copper ornaments were not uncommon among Indians, in certain localities
in America, before the introduction of European trinkets and utensils.


expressed no admiration, and only asked liow they were made ; tiie
same was tlie case witli tlie loolsing-glasses, which they returned to
us, smiling, as soon as they had looked at them. Tliey are very
generous, giving away wiiatever ttiey have. We formed a great
friendship with them, and one day we entered into the port with
our ship, having before rode at the distance of a league from shore,
as the weather was adverse. The}"^ came off to the ship with a
number of their little boats, with their faces painted in divers colors,
showing us real signs of joy, bringing us of their provisions, and
signifying to us where we could best ride in safety with our ship,
and keeping with us until we had east anchor. We remained among
them fifteen days, to provide ourselves with many things of which
we were in want, during which time they came every day to see our
ship, bringing with them their wives, of whom they were very care-
ful ; for although they came on board tiiemselves, and remained a
long while, they made their wives stay in the boats ; nor could we
ever get them on board by any entreaties, or any presents we could
make them. One of the two kings often came with his queen and
many attendants, to see us for his amusement ; but he always stopped
at the distance of about two hundred paces, and sent a boat to in-
form us of his intended visit, saying he would come and see our
ship — this was done for safety, and as soon as they had an answer
from us they came off, and remained awhile to look around ; but on
hearing the annoying cries of the sailors, the king sent the queen
with her attendants in a very light boat, to wait near an island a
quarter of a league distant from us, while he remained a long time
on board, talking with us by signs, and expressing his fanciful
notions about everything in the ship, and asking the use of all.
After imitating our modes of salutation, and tasting our food, he
courteouslj' took leave of us. Sometimes, when our men stayed two
or three days on a small island near the ship, he came with seven
or eight of his attendants, to inquire about our movements, often
asking if we intended to remain there long, and offering us every-
thing at his command, and then he would shoot with his bow, and
run up and down with his people, making great sport for us. We
often went five or six leagues into the interior, and found the coun-
try as pleasant as is possible to conceive, adapted to cultivation of
every kind, whether of corn, wine, or oil;* there are open plains
twenty-five or thirty leagues in extent, entirely free from trees or any
hinderances, and of so great fertility, that whatever is sown there will
yield an excellent crop. On entering the woods, we observed they
might all be traversed by an army ever so numerous; the trees

* As much as to say the olive tree would grow there.


of which they were composed were onks, cypresses, and others
unknown in Europe. We found also apples, plums, filberts, and
many other fruits, but all of a different kind from ours. The ani-
mals, which are in great numbers, as stags, deer, lynxes, and many
other species, are taken by snares, and by bows, tlie latter being
their chief implement ; their arrows are wrought with great beauty,
and for Ihe heads of them they use emery, jasper, hard marble, and
other sharp stones, in the place of iron. They also use the same
kind of sharp stones in cutting down trees, and with them they
construct their boats of single logs, hollowed out with admirtible
skill, and sufHciently commodious to contain ten or twelve persons.
Their oars are short, and broad at the end, and are managed in row-
ing by force of the arms alone, witii perfect securitj-, and as nimble
as they choose. We saw their dwellings, which are of a circular
form, of about ten or twelve paces in circumference,* made of logs
split in halves, without any regularity of architecture, and covered
with roofs of straw, nicely put on, wliich protects them from wind
and rain. Thej' change their habitations from place to place, "as
circumstances of situation and seasons may require. This is easily
done, as they have only to take with them their mats, and they
have other houses prepared at once. The father and the whole
familjr dwell together in one house in great numbers. In some we
saw twenty-five or thirty persons. Their food is pulse, as with
other tribes, which is here better than elsewhere, and more carefully
cultivated. In the time of sowing, they are governed by the moon,
the sprouting of grain, and many other ancient usages. They live
by hunting and fishing, and they are^long lived. If thej' fall sick
they cure themselves without medicine, by the heat of fire, and their
death at last comes from extreme old age. We judge them to be
very affectionate and charitable towards their relatives — making
loud lamentations in their adversity, and in their misery calling to
mind all their good fortune. At their departure out of life, their rela-
tions mutually join in weeping, mingled with singing for a longtime.
"This region is situated in the parallel of Rome, being 41*^ 40' of
north latitude, but much colder from accidental circumstances, and
not by nature. I shall confine mj'self at present to the description
of its local situation. It looks towards the south, on which side
the harbor is half a league broad ; afterwards, upon entering it,
the extent between the coast and north is twelve leagues, and then,
enlarging itself, it forms a very large bay, twenty leagues in cir-

* Protiably twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter. Twenty-five or thirty per-
sons would hardly be stowed in a room eight or ten feet in diameter.


cnmference, in which are five small islands of great fertility and

Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 10 of 75)