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 12 of 75)
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And tlius was begun one of the most hazardous voyages that ever
was undertaken by men; but necessity which obliged them to it has
no law. They voyaged westwardly,;(" and after seven days' sailing
arrived at au island that lies near the land, where some of the com-
pany lauded, and got some little recruits at the houses of the Indians
upon the same ; they saw some of those people too in their canoes,
but they would not stay till the Spaniards came up to them, but
made ofl" and left the canoes at their disposal. These canoes the
Spaniards attached to their boats, and thus were enabled to make
themselves somewhat less incommoded. They then proceeded on
their voyage, and after sailing two leagues passed a strait, between
tlie island and the raainland, to which they gave the name St. Miguel.
They sailed along the coast for about thirty days without finding
any secure haven or opportunity of refresliment, being still in the
same perplexity that they were at first setting out, as to the knowl-
edge of the country and their right way home. Hunger and thirst
prevailed grievously amongst them all this while, and they liad no
sight of any people, but sometimes a few Indian fishers, a poor and
miserable sort' of wretches that were not able to I'elieve them, nor
would come near them. Some of their men died with drinking large

* In Spain the common league is 4.216, and the legal 2.635 (nearly two and
two-thirds) statute miles. The latter is th« league alluded to.

t What is remarkable here is, that they should have sailed westwardly for
Panueo, instead of endeavoring to reach the island of Cuba. ■ It perhaps may
have been their dread of crossing the Florida Channel, while to reach Panueo
they had only to follow the coast westwardly, having no dangerous channels to
cross. They certainly could not have been ignorant of the great difference in
the distances of these two places.


draughts of salt water, which they .could not forego, the thirst that
possessed them was so great. Their sufferings were aggravated by
a severe storm, which continued for six days; at the end of which,
and when they were almost at the point of giving up all for lost,
when weathering a point of land, they discovered a fine and secure
bay with a considerable village where there appeared to be safe and
easj' landing, and several canoes of Indians came out to see them. -
Hut the barbarians having just looked upon them went away again;
however the Spaniards followed them ashore to their houses, before
the entrance to which they found great quantities of fish, and pots
of fresh water. The cazique had more civilitj' than his subjects,
and offered all this fish and water to Narvaez and his companions,
and more than that, invited them to his house. The Spaniards were
not ungrateful to these people for their hospitable treatment, but
presented them some trifles which they had brought. The cazique's
house was neatly made of mats, and he was covered with a mantle
made of marten sable which smelt like musk or rather like amber-
gris ; some others had fur mantles too, but none like the chiefs.
Mutual presents were exchanged, and such a cordial intercourse
eslablislied that Narvaez agreed to spend the night in the ho,use of
the chief. At midnight the village was attacked by a hostile tribe
of Indians; the cazique fled with all his people, and the Spaniards
were left to maintain alone a desperate fight. The governor him-
self and all his people were wounded more or less severely before
the enemy could be beaten off. Three times during the night they
attacked tlie troop left to guard the boat. They now had no choice
left but to embark.

After three days' sailing they met with more Indians in a canoe,
and ajiiplied to them for fresh water. Tlie Indians promised to give
them fresh water enough if they would give them vessels to bring it
in. A Spaniard and a negro went ashore with them to get water,
and two Indians stayed in their place. At night the Indians brought
back the vessels, but not a drop of water in them ; but they did not
bring back the two men that went with them, nor would they give
any account of what had become of them.

But instead of that, the next day came a considerable number of
them in their canoes, together with five or six of their caciques
dressed in their mantles of martens' furs ; and they were so impudent
as to demand their two men left for pledges, though those of the
other side were still detained (perhaps sacrificed) by them.^ These
caciques would fain have had the Spaniards go ashore with them,
but they saw too much of their treachery already to venture them-
selves any further among them ; besides, the canoes still coming in


thick and threefold upon them, tliey had reason to suspect some
villanous design was then in hand. When the Indians saw they
could do no good, and the Spaniards peremptorily refused to restore
tlieir two men, they tlirew off the mask, and appeared witla the bare
face of enmity ; they began to sling great stones at them, and would
have done more mischief but that a fresh gale of wind Mowing at
that time made them keep off, and invited the others to go on with
their voyage.

In the evening a point of land was seen, and on the otlier side of
it a very large river. The bark of Alvaro Nunez was the first to
reach the rivel', and cast anchor near an island at its mouth. The
governor entered a bay a little way off, where Alvaro went to join
hiin, and they took in fresh water where the river entered the sea.
Here a north wind s|)ringing up, drove the vessels to sea, and they
were soon separated. Afterwards Alvaro saw two of the barks, one
of which was that of the governor and the other that of Captains
PeSalosa and Telles. Alvaro called ont to the governor, and asked
orders how he was to proceed. Narvaez replied that the time was
past for giving or receiving orders, and that it rested with every
man to save ills life as best he could ; he then pushed on and soon
was out of sight.

Alvaro, with another of the barks, continued the voyage for four
days, but having only half a handful of corn da,\\y for each, and
encountering severe weather, they were reduced almost to the last
extremity. On the evening of the fourth day the crew sunk en-
tirely and fell down half-dead over eaeli other. Alvaro alone being
capable of any exertion, the pilot called to him that he must take
the helm. Alvaro took the post, but after a few hours' rest the
pilot resumed it. Towards morning of the 6th of November they
heard the sound of breakers, and found the vessel in six fathoms of
water, which led them to hope that they were near land. Daylight
confirmed this hope, and after a severe shock in crossing tlie
breakers the boat was stranded, and the exhausted crew crept
ashore upon their hands and feet. Here thej' kindled a fire, cooked
the corn that they slill had left, and began to feel their strength
and spirits revive.

Alvaro desired Lope de Oviedo, the most vigorous of the com-
pany, to climb a tree and see what kind of laud it was on wliich
they had been thrown. Oviedo reported that it was an island, and
so well cultivated that it appeared almost a Christian land.* He
was then desired to advance cautiously a little into the country.

* Probably Galveston Island.


He soon found a village, -witli only women and! cfaildi'en in it ; but
there soon appeared some Indians, who foltowed Oviedo quicklj' to
the shore and formed a circle of about a hundred around the Span-
iards. The Indians were well armed and tall. Alvaro, who had
not six men that eowld rise from the gronnd, saw clearly tliat he
had nothing to hope from resistance, and that his only course was
to jiropitiate the Indians. This he sought to- do by eoortesy, and
by jjresenting them some toys. He met a most gracious return;
the Indians presented him with an-ows — t&eir swrest pledge of
friendship— and told him by signs that they would retmm in the
morning and bring some psovision* with tbem. And they were as
good as their word, coming at the time/ appointed with 6sb and
roots, and they repeated their visits thus constantly for two or
tliree days. When the Spaniards thought they were well provided
with provisions they resolved to continue their voyage, a;nd for that
pni'pose it was a great labor in tbeir weak state to loosen the boat
ont of the sand in wJiich it was fixed and drag it afloat, in doing
whicl) it was necessary to strip themselves and throw their clothes
into the boat ; bnt in putting it afloat a violent wave overset the-
boat, which sank with all their clothes, carrying down with it three
Spaniards. The rest with difiBculty reached the sJBore arsd threw
Tlierhselves naked on the sand.

They were now in a miserable condition, whatever they had being
Jost, and themselves quite naked ; besides it was tlie winter season,
and the weather extremely cold, and a long course of hard living
had taken aw^y all the covering of flesh from their bones, so that
they apjjeared like so many frightful images of deatii. But it was
tiieir good luck, by searching about, to find some of the brands
which they had jnst made a fire with before they embarked, and, as
Providence would have it, those brands not qroite extinguished ; so
that here they quickly blew ap a fire, which, in some measure, com-
forted them under the piercing blasts of the north wind.* Thev
were in this forlorn state not expecting to live, when the Indians
(who knew nothing of their misfortune) came as tbey wei^ wont, to
bring them more snpplies, bnt when they saw a parcel of naked
skeletons standing about a fire, believing them to be some very hor-
rible tliing-s, they took to their heels, and ran as fast as they could.
Bnt Alvaro made after tiiein, and stopped them at last with many
fair words and persuasions, and told them tlie story of their sad ad-

* It is probalble that this aocide-nt happened on the coast of Texas, and this
cold wind was one of those severe north winds so noted in that climate.


venture,* which they believed when they came back and saw one or
two dead bodies upon the shore. At the hearing of this they fell a
weeping and lamenting after their manner, bewailing the Spaniards
in very moving terms upon the score of their misfortunes, and ex-
pressed a great deal of tenderness and humanity. This encouraged
Alvaro to desire them to take tiiem into their houses for shelter,
which they readily consented to ; and because their habitations were
a good way off, they made several great fires by the way, at which
they stopped to rub and chafe the benumbed limbs of these poor
men, and carried them all the way upon their backs, not suffering
any one of them to touch the ground with his feet. They also made
good fires for them when they brought them home ; gave them food
and a warm lodging, and sung and danced all night for their arrival.
Some of the men who had been in Mexico were verj^ averse to going,
believing that the Indians would sacrifice them to their gods, and
when thej' heard the Indians singing and rejoicing during the night,
they believed that it was preparatory to sacrificing them in the morn-
ing. These people (like most of the rest they had hitherto seen)
were of strong, well compact bodies, and of good courage. The men
had one of their paps pierced from one side to the other, and in the
hole a little cane was thrust across, about two or three spans long,
and two fingers thick ; some had both their paps served thus. The
like they did to the under lip, in which they carried a piece of cane
about a half a finger thick. They made this island their habitation
from October to the end of February, feeding mostly all that time
upon fish, and a sort of root which they dig out from under the
water with much labor and trouble. When that time is expired
they move into the continent to seek other food, for those roots do
then but begin to grow, and are not in tlieir perfection till Novem-
ber and December. Their houses are made of mats, and they have
the hides of beasts for beds and couches to sleep on ; their weapons
are bows and arrows. They are the fondest lovers of their chil-
dren in the world, and use them with much tenderness ; if one dies,
not only the family and kindred, but the whole village laments the
loss, and they keep up their mourning for a whole year, performing
the ceremony of lamentation three times a day, before sun rising, at
noon, and at sunset; first the parents, and then all the rest of the
people. When the year is up, and the last funeral rites accomplished,
they wash themselves, and shift all their mourning apparel, and ap-
pear in their wonted garb, Old age they never bewail in this man-

* Alvaro must have done this with signs ; for, having j ust arrived among these
Indians, he could certainly not have understood tlieir language.


ner, for they don't pay any great reverence to it, as many, yea, most
Other Indians do. They say the old ones are good for notliing but
to consume the maintenance that the children should have; and that
since they have lived their time, it is fit that they should die to
make room. They bury all the other dead except their physicians,
whom they burn, and turn their bones into powder, which (at the
year's end, when the funeral rites are consummated) they give to
their kindred to drink up in a draught of water ; the design of this,
it is to be supposed, is to turn them into doctors too, for a supply
of the other's mortality. These physicians have wonderful privi-
leges above all other people, for they may marry two or three wives,
whereas all the rest are allowed but one. They have farther this
advantage, that those whom they cure do esteem them so much as
many times to give them all tjiey are worth in the world, and to
procure their friends to make them presents besides. Their methods
of practice are only to cut and gash the parts affected, let it ail what
it will, and then to apply their mouth and suck out tlie distemper ;
then instead of a plaster, thej' sear it with a hot iron ; and for the
conclusion of all, blow upon the place, to blow away all the remain-
ders of the grief that would not come out by suction. And they
are so much for propagating the faculty of phj-sick, that they would
needs have the Spaniards their guests turn doctors too, and pretend
to cure by blowing and sucking as they did. Neither would they
admit of their excuse, that they had no such skill or virtue to carry
off a distemper after that unaccountable manner. For (say they) all
manner of stones and plants that grow in the field liave a virtue and
a goodness in them that are profitable for some distemper or other,
and is not man a more excellent creature than a stone, or a plant,
and so has more healing and restoring virtues in liim than they?
However, Alvaro says they did not go that way to work that the
Indian doctors did, but rather by spiritual methods of prayer and
invocation to recover the sick that way ; their plasters and cordials
were Pater Nosters and Ave Marias, benedictions and doxologies,
which he reports, did wonderful cures, and gained them a mighty
reputation in the country. Yet he confesses they were forced to
comply with tlie Indian practice so far as to blow over the patient
like them.

While they made their abode with the Indians of this island,
which they called Malhado, Alvaro saw some European articles in
the hands of one of the Indians, and asked him where he procured
them; he rejjlied that he received them from men like him, who were
not far from there. Alvaro then sent to visit them two Spaniards
with two Indians to guide them. But in going they met coming


Captains Andrez Dorantes and Alonzo Castillo vpith some of the
people of their bark. They related that on the 5th of November
their bark had run aground about a league and a half from there.

And being all together they determined to bring up that boat and
as many of them as were strong and well to go in it, and endeavor
to find some way to cOme where Christians lived, and the rest should
stay there till they were recovered, and their friends could remove
them also. But just as they were putting this project into execu-
tion their boat failed them ; it was no sooner launched than it went to
the bottom. However, four of them who were the best swimmers,
with an Indian as their guide, undertook to pass over to the main
land, and so travel to Panuco.

Alvaro and his company suffered very great hardships and
miseries npon the island. The weather proved bad and unseason-
able, and they were ready to starve for want of provisions; there
was a sad mortality among them, too, and of eighty men which
there were in all, there were left remaining no more than fifteen.
Five who were lodged near the shore are said to have devoured one
another until only one survived, no person being there to devour
him. The Indians were greatly shocked at this, and ever after had
a very unfavorable opinion of all the Spaniards. And which was
worse still, a sickness hai:)pened among the Indians, which swept
away a great number of them ; their superstitious fancy persuaded
them that the Spaniards were the cause of that mortality', and
now, instead of physicians, they made necromancers and murderers
of them. In short, this fancy prevailed so far that they began to
consult about' the sacrificing of them, and tiiis they had certainly
done, had not one wiser than the rest argued his companions
into a belief of the innocency of the Spaniards, from this conside-
ration : That if they had a power to take awa^' men's lives, they
might be as reasonably supposed to have a power to preserve them,
which if they had, they certainly would not have suffered so many
of their own men to die as had done before their faces. This reason
saved their lives, but they lived an uneasy life here afterwards ;
both the Indians and they too suffered great extremities for want
of provisions, and made a very hard shift to avoid starving. Upon
this some of the Indians removed over to the mainland, where
they could have a better subsistence, and carried some of the Span-
iards along with them, and having lived there some time, they re-
turned to another island, about two leagues from the mainland,
for the convenience of the fresh water that was there. Alvaro was
also transported over to the mainland by some other of the In-
dians, who went, probably, upon the same account, of supplying


themselves with the necessaries of life. And thus all were released
from the prison of Malhado island, but still it was but a remove
from one prison to another, and thej"^ were as far as ever, in
their own opinions, from getting away from these heathenish
people. While Alvaro was here, his companions, at the island
lately mentioned, had notice of the place of his abode, and got an
opportunity to come over to him. The number that came was
twelve, and two, Hieronirao de Alanez and Lope de Oviedo, were
left sick behind on tlie island. Alonzo Castillo and the rest who
came over about the 30th of April, resolved to travel along the
coast homeward, but Alvaro being weak, could not pretend to bear
them company in sucli a journey, so they went on and he stayed.
After thei"^ were gone, he observed his time when the Indians were
out of the way, and got over to the island where his two country-
men were left, and stayed there a year at least, till he recovered his
health a little better. But then he resolved to bid farewell to them
too, for they used him ill and put him to the painful drudgery of
digging under water for the roots they lived on. This design he
executed, and conveyed himself over to the mainland again, among
the Indians of Carruco.* There he had a much easier life in all
respects, for he pretended himself a merchant, which was a sort of
vocation very grateful to them, and procured him both good usage
and liberty too. For now his business was to travel up and down
from one place to another with wares; he went vvliere he pleased,
and returned when he would, and the people everywhere made
much of him and desired his company. The merchandise he car-
ried was shells, hides, red ochre, canes to make the bodies of arrows,
and flints to make heads, and such like trifles. But tliat which
was the greatest advantage to him by this course of life was that
by this means he had an opportunity of viewing the country, and
contriving his escape, for he travelled at least forty or fifty leagues
along the coast.

Alter this manner he spent six years among these Indians of
Carruco, and went naked all the while as they do; but the seventh
and last year of his apprenticeship coming on, he found a way to
give his Indian masters the slip, and come to. another people on the
same coast.

The Indians in this part of the country (particularly the Mariames
and Fagavans, among whom tlic Spaniards conversed) were a peo-
ple of sordid life and brutish and barbarous customs. Their lips

* This word "Carruco" might uidioate, to one familiar with the languages
of the Indian tribes of Texas, the locality where Alvaro then was.


and paps were pierced like those of the island of Malhado; their
food roots and every sort of animal almost that they can catch ;
frogs, worms, lizards, serpents, go down like good savory victuals
with them. They neither reverence old age nor love their children
as the other Indians do. They don't take any wives among them-
selves, nor any husbands for their daughters, so that what women
thej' have in that way are eitiier taken from tiieir enernies in war,
or bought of some of the neigiiboring people, and the price they
generally give for a woman is either a good bow and a couple of
arrows, or else a large net. The women spend the greater part of
the night in heating their ovens and drying the roots they eat, and
then, as soon as the day begins to appear, they go to drawing water
and fetching wood into their houses. Their houses are made of
mats, and are so contrived that they can remove them to an}-
place where the conveniency of food calls them. As to their tem-
per and moral qualities, the Spaniards give but an ill account of
them ; they say that the}' practise unnatural lusts one with another,
are very sottish, will lie and dissemble monstrously ; tbeive and
steal, not onl}' from their neighbors, but even fathers and children
from one another. Thej' neither till the land nor sow any sort of
seeds, but leave all to the care and bounty of nature; yet, notwith-
standing their poverty and uncertainty of food, they live meriy
and jocund, and never cease their sports and dancing. They are
so vtry swift of foot and every way so well made for running, that
they will follow a deer from moniing to evening, till they have
quite run him down, and made him so weary as to be taken alive.
Tlie best of all their living is when they go to eat tune^ for
then they do nothing but eat almost all day and night too, and
spend their time in dancing and revelling, while that fruit lasts.
When they have done eating the times in the country where they
grow, they take some and open and dry them, to eat by tlie waj' as
they return home. In short, tliis tune time is a festival of the
same quality and great expectation among them that Christnias it-
self is among Europeans. As for flesh, the most they have of that
is venison and beef, for there are some deer about the eountr}-, and
oxen too in some places. These- cattle are of the bigness of the
Spanish oxen, have little horns like those of Barbary, and very
long hair, and thicker than usual in some parts. Of their hides
they make garments to defend them from the cold of their climate,
shoes also, and targets for war. The greatest plague in this country
is the multitude of flies that breed here ; and to defend themselves
from which the natives very frequently go with a flaming brand in
their hands, and sometimes burn down the trees where they are,


that the flies being deprived of their shelter may be forced to go
away. And indeed, Alvaro said that they were so miserably vexed
and tormented with them that it may be compared with the most
troublesome thing in the world. The country contains a great
deal of excellent pasture land [prairies] which would maintain

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 12 of 75)