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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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amassed considerable property, embarked a great part of it in the
proposed enterprise.

On arriving at Ada, Vasco Nunez set to work to prepare the
materials for four brigantines to be launched into the South Sea.
The timbers were felled on the Atlantic seaboard, and were then,
with the anchors and rigging, transported across the lofty ridges of
mountains to the opposite shores of the Isthmus. Several Span-
iards, thirty negroes, and a great number of Indians, were employed
for the purpose. They had no other roads but Indian paths strag-
gling through almost impervious forests, across torrents, and up
rugged defiles, broken by. rocks and precipices. On the summit of
the mountains a house had been provided for their temporary re-
pose. After remaining here a little while to refresh themselves and
gain new strength, they renewed their labors, descending the oppo-
site side of the mountains until they reached the navigable part of

* These sentiments of the Bishop Juan de Qnevedo show the great merits of
Nunez, and the high esteem in wlaioh he was held by those whose superior in-
telligence could perceive and appreciate the extraordinary qualities that dis-
tinguished hira.

t De Soto married with Dona Isabella de Bobadilla, daughter of Pedro Arias
de Avila, Earl of Punno en Rostro.


a river, which they called the Balsas, and which flowed into the
South Sea.

Much time and trouble and manj- lives were expended on this
arduous undertaking before they had transported to the river
sufficient timber for two brigantines. To add to their difficulties,
they had scarcelj^ begun to work upon the timbers before they dis-
covered that it was totally useless, being subject to the ravages of
the worms'*' from having been cut in the vicinity of the sea-water,
they were obliged, therefore, to begin anew, and fell trees on the
border of the river.

Nunez divided his people into three bands ; one was to cut and
saw the wood, another to bring the rigging and iron-work from
Ada, which was twenty-two leagues distant; and the third foraged
the neighboring country for provisions.

Scarcely was the timber felled and shaped for use when the rains
set in, and the river overflowed its banks so suddenly that the
workmen barely escaped witli their lives by climbing trees ; while
the wood on which they had been working was either buried in sand
or mud, or swept away by the raging torrent.

When the river subsided tlie workmen again resumed their labors ;
a number of recruits arrived from Ada, bringing various supplies,
and the business of the enterprise was pressed with redoubled ardor,
until Nunez had the satisfaction to behold two of his brigantines
floating on the river Balsas. As soon as they could be equipped for
sea, he embarked in them with as many Spaniards as they could
carry ; and issuing from the river, launched triumphantly on the
great ocean he had discovered.

The first cruise of Vasco Nunez was to tlie group of Pearl Islands,
on the principal one of which he disembarked the greater part of
his crews, and dispatched the brigantines to the mainland to bring
oflF the remainder. It was his intention to construct the other two
vessels at this island. On the return of his vessels, and while pre-
parations were making for the building of the others, he embarked
with a hundred men and departed on a reconnoitering cruise to the
eastward, towards the region pointed out by the Indians as abound-
ing in riches. Having passed about twenty leagues beyond the
Gulf of San Miguel the mariners were alarmed at beholding a great
number of whales, which resembled a reef of rocks stretching far
into the sea and lashed by breakers. The seamen feared to ap-
proach these fancied dangers in the dark; Vasco Nunez anchored,

* From the mention of salt-water, these worms were prohaMy teredos, a sea-
worm that perforates the timhers of sea- vessels until they become honeycombed
and ruined.


therefore, for the night under a point of land, intending to continue
in the same direction on the following day. When the morning
dawned, however, the wind liad changed and was contrary; where-
upon he altered his course. Steering for the mainland he anchored
on that part of the coast governed by the cacique Ohuchama, who
had massacred Bernardo Morales and his companions when repos-
ing in his village. Here landing his men Nunez came suddenly
upon the dwelling of the cacique. The Indians sallied forth to
defend their homes, but were routed with great loss. Having thus
avenged the death of his countrymen Nunez re-embarked and re-
turned to Isla Rica.

He now applied himself diligently to complete the building of his
brigantines, dispatching men to Ada to bring the necessary stores
and rigging across the mountains. While thus occupied a rumor
reached him that a new governor, named Lope de Sosa, was coming
out from Spain to supersede Pedrarias. Nunez was troubled at
these tidings. A new governor wonld be likely to adopt new
measures or to have favorites. In this perplexity he held a con-
sultation with several of his confidential officers. After some debate
it was agreed that a trusty and intelligent person should be sent to
Ada, under pretence of procuring munitions for the ships. Should
he find Pedrarias in possession of the government, he was to request
re-enforcements and supplies ; but should he find a new governor
arrived, he was to return immediately with the tidings. In the
latter case it was resolved to put to sea before any contrary orders
could arrive.

The person entrusted with this mission to Ada was Andres
Garabito, in whose fidelity and discretion Nunez had implicit con-
fidence ; his confidence, however, was destined to be fatalh- betraj'ed.
Tasco Nunez had continued to have a fondness for the daughter of
the Cacique Careta, whom he had received from her father as a
pledge of amity. In the course of some dispute with Garabito
concerning her, he had expressed himself in severe and galling
language; Garabito was deeply mortified at some of Nunez's expres-
sions, and being of a malignant spirit, he cherished a secret and
vindictive enmity against his commander, and determined on a
dastardly revenge. He wrote privately to Pedrarias, assuring him
that Nunez had no intention of marrying his daughter; being com-
pletely under the influence of an Indian paramour.* This mischiev-

* This Garabito or Garavita had a difficulty of a similar character with Cortes
in Cuba, on which occasion he received a chastisement from the future conqueror
of Mexico.


ous letter Garabito had written immediately after the last departure
of Nunez from Ada.

When Garabito arrived at Acla he found Pedrarias still in pos-
session of the government; for Lope de Sosa had died in the very
.harbor. The conduct and conversation of Garabito were such as
to arouse suspicions ; he was arrested, and his papers and letters
were sent to Pedrarias. When examined he readily suffered himself
to be wrought upon by threats of punishment and promises of par-
don, and revealed all that he knew, and declared still more that he
suspected and surmised of the plans and intentions of Nunez.

Hernando de Arguello wrote to Nunez, informing him of the
critical posture of affairs, and urging him to put to sea without de-
lay ; that he would be protected at all events by the Hieronimite
Fathers at San Domingo, who were at that time all-powerful in the
New World, and who regarded his expedition as calculated to pro-
mote the glory of God as well as the dominion of the king. This
letter fell into the hands of Pedrarias, and convinced him of a dan-
gerous plot against his authority. He immediately ordered Ar-
guello to be arrested ; and now devised means to get Nunez within
his power. Dissembling his suspicions and intentions therefore, he
wrote to him in amicable terms, requesting him to repair immedi-
ately to Acla, as he wished to confer with him about the impending
expedition. The tenor of this letter awakened no suspicion in the
mind of Nunez. Leaving his vessels in command of Francisco
Companon, be immediately departed, unattended by any force, to
meet the governor at Acla. Having crossed the mountains and
drawn near to Acla, he had not proceeded far when he was met by
a band of armed men led b.y Francisco Pizarro, who stepped forward
to arrest his ancient commander. Nunez paused for a moment, and
regarding him with a reproachful look of astonishment, said : " How
is this, Francisco ? Is this the way you have been accustomed to
receive me ?" He suffered himself quietly to be taken prisoner by
his former adherent and conducted in chains to Acla. Here he was
imprisoned, and Bartolome Hurtado, once his favorite officer, was
sent to take command of his vessels.

Pedrarias urged the alcalde mayor, Espinosa, to proceed against
Nunez with the utmost rigor of the law. The charge brought against
him was a treasonable conspiracy to cast off all allegiance to the
crown, and to assume an independent swa3' on the borders of the
South Sea. He was also charged anew with the wrongs inflicted on
Eneiso, and with the death of the unfortunate Nicuessa.*

* Eneiso, as lieutenant of Ojada, had founded Santa Maria de la Antigua del
Darien, and by his stern edicts incurred the displeasure of the people. They


Espinosa at length gave a reluctant verdict against Vasco Nunez,
but recommended him to mercy on account of his great services, or,
that at least he might be permitted to appeal. " No," said Pedrarias ;
" if he has merited death, let him suffer death 1" He accordingly con-
demned him to be beheaded. The same sentence was passed upon
several of his officers who were implicated in his alleged conspiracy,
and also on Hernando de Arguello. As to the perfidious informer,
Garabito, he was pardoned and set at liberty.

The execution took place in the public square of Ada, and the
historian Oviedo, who was in the colony at that time, assures us
that the cruel Pedrarias was a secret witness of the bloody specta-
cle, which he contemplated from between the reeds of the wall of a
house about twelve paces from the scaffold. Vasco Nunez was the
first to suffer death. He ascended the scaffold with a firm step and
calm and manly demeanor. Three of his officers were in a like
manner brought one by one to the block. One victim still remained.
It was Arguello, who had been condemned as an accomplice, for
having written the intercepted letter. The populace entreated Pe-
drarias that this man might be spared. The daylight, they said,
was at an end, and it seemed as if God had hastened the night to
prevent the execution. " No," said Pedrarias, " I would sooner die
myself than spare one of them." The unfortunate Arguello was
Jed to the block.*

The vengeance of Pedrarias was not satisfied with the death of
his victim ; he confiscated his property, and dishonored his remains,

refused to acknowledge his authority. Nunez took advantage of this discon-
tent to form a party to depose Enciso, who was summoned to trial, found guilty
of usurpation, and imprisoned. By the intercession of his friends he was re-
leased, and permitted to return to Spain.

* The cruel and malicious spirit of Pedrarias is in strong contrast with the
genius of Cortes.

Some Spanish soldiers, partisans of Velasquez, governor of Cuha, secretly
agreed to take the life of Cortes, Alvarado, Sandoval, and Tapia, and of all
those who appeared most attached to the party of Cortes. And this they
planned, when Cortes was on the eve of besieging the city of Mexico. The con-
spirators not only determined the time and manner of securely executing the
blow, but elected also those on whom the vacant posts of general, judge, and
captains were to be conferred ; when one of the accomplices, having repented
of the deed, seasonably revealed the treason to Cortes. This general immedi-
ately had the chief conspirator seized, committed his examination to a. judge,
and he, having freely confessed his crime, was hanged from a window of the
quarters. With respect to his accomplices, Cortes prudently dissembled, affect-
ing not to believe them culpable, and ascribing the infamy imputed to tliem by
the confession, to be the malice of the convict. — Clavioeeo.


causing his head to be placed upon a pole, and exposed for several
days in the public square. Thus perished, in his forty-second year,
in the prime and vigor of his life and the full career of his glory,
Vasco Nunez de Balboa, one of the most illustrious and deserving
of Spanish discoverers ; a victim to the basest and most perfidious

The Fathers of St. Jerome, who possessed then a great authority
in the Indies, manifested a strong resentment against Pedrarias;
they wrote to him in a manner to let hira know what was the opinion
of all America of his conduct; they added that he had forgotten
the orders of the king, which obliged him to do nothing without the
participation of the Council of his province ; but these warnings
came too late, the unfortunate Nunez was no more. Las Oasas re-
preaches Pedrarias with having devastated all the country from
Darien to the lake Nicaragua. He accuses him also of having
exercised against the Indians cruelties which made humanity shud-
der. A man of his character could but with impatience see himself
subject to several governors ; he wished to shake oflf the yoke which
■wounded his ambition ; he had Santa Maria del Darien destroyed ;
charged Diego d'Espinosa, in 1518, to repair to Panama, and build
a town there. He wrote at the same time to the king, that the
place where Santa Maria del Darien had been founded was not fit
for a settlement, and that it was the interest of his majesty to trans-
fer the Episcopal seat to Panama. Having received a favorable
reply the following year, he sent orders to Oviedo, who then com-
manded at Darien as his lieutenant, to transport to Panama all the
inhabitants of Darien. Other settlements were not slow in being
formed in so rich a country."]"

Vasco Nunez de Balboa '' having been executed, Pedrarais set out
for the Pearl Islands with the troops that were at Ada. The ships
were there [at Pearl Islands], with the people who had remained on
the South Sea. Thence he went in the ships to Panama, where
he founded the present city [old Panama], the rest of the people
going round by land with the licentiate Espinosa."

" Panama was founded in the j'ear 1519, and at the end of that
year Diego Alvites founded Nombre de Dios, by order of Pedrarias.
Having founded Panama in this year, the governor sent the licen-
tiate Espinosa in command of the ships, with as many men as they
could hold, to the westward. The licentiate arrived at the province
of Bnrica, on the coast of Nicaragua."

* Washington Irving's Columbus. His authoritieB quoted are Herrera, Peter
Martyr, and Oviedo. The latter was an oiEoer under Pedrarias.
t Richer.


" In the year 1511, Gil Gonzales de Avila arrived at Darien, with
a certain capitulation which he had made with his majesty, accom-
panied by carpenters and laborei-s to build ships, and all the neces-
sary fittings for them to be put together in the Rio de la Balsa,
and their futtock timbers were brought ready made from Spain.
They disembarked at Ada, and Gil Gonzales went to Darien to
secure tiie support of the governor for tlie enterprise."

"The ships, having been built on the Balsa, were sent down to
the sea, passed the Island of Pearls ; and, Panama having been
peopled in 1519, the flotilla was brought there. This Gil Gonzales
had to discover a certain number of leagues to the westward, con-
cerning which the capitulation had been made ; and thus he coasted
along, and arrived at the gulf of San Lucar, which had already
been discovered by [Espiiiosa, under the orders of] Pedrarias. It
is at the commencement of the land of Nicaragua. Having passed
the place where Leon and Granada now stand, he disembarked, and
came to a village where he found one hundred thousand pesos of
gold. As soon as his arrival was known in the land, a large force
of warlike Indians came against him, and obliged him to fall back
and embark again, as he had not sufficient force to resist them He
returned to Panama with the gold, and went thence to Spain ; but
returned to San Domingo, and equipped an expedition to settle in
Nicaragua, going by the way of Honduras."

In the mean time Pedrarias sent Francisco Hernandez de Cor-
dova in command of a force to subdue and settle Nicaragua; and
he entered that land, subduing and conquering, and fighting in many
skirmishes and battles. He founded the cities of Leon and Granada,
and built fortresses in them for defence.

Gil Gonzales, who set out from San Domingo in search of Nicara-
gua, via Honduras, encountered, in a province called Manalea, Cap-
tain Soto whom Hernandez had sent to that part. Soto resisted the
passage of Gonzales through the district, and Gonzales stopped and
cunningly treated for peace. Soto, finding himself more powerful in
numbers than his adversary, did not fear him, and, though the one
force was very near to the other, he did not set a guard on his camp.
So, one night, Gonzales took him unawares, made him prisoner, and
secured his arms. Of the troops which came out to resist, two men
wei'c killed with two arquebuses. But Gonzales did not deem it
prudent to keep these persons in his company, so he released them,
and, seeing that there was no way to enter Nicaragua, he returned to
Puerto de Cavallos, where was Christoval de Olid, a captain whom
Cortes had sent to conquer and settle Honduras, but who, having
revolted, Las Casas was sent to capture him, but was himself taken


bj': Olid, and kept as a prisoner with Gonzales ; but these, having
conspired, a short time afterwards slew Olid. About this time
Cortes arrived in Honduras, and soon Herna,ndez, desiring to revolt
from Pedrarias, sent to invite him to come and receive the province
[of Nicaragua] from him.

Hernandez, finding himself powerful in the number of his fol-
lowers, meditated a project to rise and throw off obedience to
Pedrarias, or any one he might send. With this view, he assembled
the principal people of the two settlements [Leon and Granada] to
induce them to write to his majesty, praying that he might be
appointed their governor. But the captains Francisco Campanon
and Soto not only refused their assent, but condemned the pro-
ceedings. Fearing these captains and their followers (for there
were ten or twelve who took counsel to resist this act), he seized
upon Soto and put him in the fortress of Granada. Campanon,
however, with nine of his friends, marched to Granada and took
Soto out of prison. The whole party then took the field, well armed
and mounted. Hernandez, as soon as he knew this, came to Granada
with sixty men, and found his opponents in tiie field ; but he would
not attack them, because he knew that they would try to kill him
before any one else. The dissentients then took their way to
Panama, and, after many hardships and dangers, and having aban-
doned their horses because they could not pass that way, they
arrived barefooted. They had passed the villages of the Indians at
night, and taken provisions from them. Thus they had reached
the province of Chiriqui, which is between Burica and Nisca, where
there was a settlement called the city of Fonseea, which, by the
order of Pedrarias, had been made by Captain Benito Hurtado.
Here they were refreshed, and Hurtado gave them a canoe, in which
they came as far as Nata. Having reported to Pedrarias what had
taken place, the governor assembled ships and men to go to Nica-
ragua, where, having captured Hernandez, he cut off his head

It is probable that De Soto remained in Nicaragua till the death
of Pedrarias, which happened at Leon in the year 1530. He went
from there, in 1532, to Peru.

* Andagoya.





When Cortes had rebuilt and repeopled the city of Mexico, and had
founded the towns of Guanaca, Zacatula, Colima, Yera Cruz [Villa
Rica], Panuco, and Guacasualco, he also determined to subdue the
thickly populated province of Guatemala, the inhabitants of which
were very warlike. He therefore resolved to dispatch Pedro de
Alvarado thither to subdue the country and to found colonies in it.
For this important campaign he selected above three hundred foot,
of which one hundred and twenty were musketeers and crossbow-men,
one hundred and fifty-three horse, and four field-pieces, to which
were added three hundred auxiliary troops, composed of Tlascalans,
Cholulans, and Mexicans.*

As soon as these troops were in marching order, Alvarado took
leave of Cortes, and left the city of Mexico on the ISthf of December,
1523. After various encounters with the Indians on his route, the
most dangerous of which was that with the tribes of TJtatlan, he
finally arrived in Guatemala, where the inhabitants gave him a kind
and hospitable reception. Father Olmedo, who had accompanied
Alvarado, did everything in his power to convert the Indians to
Christianity; he ordered an altar with a cross to be erected, in
front of which he regularly performed mass, and the inhabitants on
these occasions imitated the Spaniards in all their religious cere-
monies. Father Olmedo also placed on the altar an image of the
Virgin Mary, which had been presented to him by Garay in his
dying moments. This image was of such extreme beauty that the
Indians became quite enamored of it. By degrees, every township
of the surrounding neighborhood sent ambassadors to Alvarado,
and declared themselves vassals of the emperor.J

At the same time that Cortes sent Alvarado to Guatemala, he
fitted out a naval armament under the command of Cristobal
D'Olid, to coast along the North Sea [Caribbean] and establish a

* These are tlie numbers Diaz gives, but Cortes makes tbem somewhat more,
t Cortes says 6th. t Diaz.


colony at the Cape of Hibneras [Honduras], sixty leagues from
the Bay of Ascension, which is to the windward of what they call
Yucatan, and on the coast above Terra Firma towards Darien. The
object of this expedition was to obtain information about the
country, and also in reference to the opinion [then] entertained by
many pilots, that through this bay a passage might be found to the
other sea ; the thing that of all others in the world Cortes most
desired to meet with. Cortes considered it certain, according to
the information he had concerning the country and its configui-ation,
that Pedro de Alvarado and Cristobal D'Olid would meet, unless
the strait divided them.

The armament committed to Olid consisted of five large ships
and a brigantine, and four hundred men, provided with artillery,
munitions, arms, victuals, and everything else necessary for them.
Cortes also sent two agents to the island of Cuba, with eight thou-
sand pesos of gold, to purchase horses and provisions, botli for
the first voyage, and to be in readiness for loading the ships on
their return from the expedition. Thus the expedition departed
from the port of San Juan de Chalehiqueca [present Vera Cruz], on
the 11th of January, 1524, having to touch at the Havana, the
place on the island of Cuba where they were to obtain the supplies
that were wanting, especially horses, and for the ships to ren-
dezvous in order to proceed together thence to the place of their
destination. On reaching the first port in the country to which the
expedition was sent, they were to disembark men, horses, pro-
visions, and everything else, and seek the most favorable site that
offered to be fortified with artillery (of which they took a great
deal of the best kind), and for the settlement of a colony. They
were then to dispatch, at once, three of the larger ships to the port
of Trinidad, in the island of Cuba, as most convenientlj'^ situated
on their route, and where an agent was to be left to get ready a
cargo of such things as they required, for which the captain should
send. The smaller ships and brigantine, with the principal pilot, a
cousin of Cortes, named Diego Hurtado, for captain, were to run
along the coast of the Bay of Ascension, in quest of the strait that
was believed to be there, arid to remain until they had explored
every part of it ; and in case they discovered the strait, they should
return to the place where captain Cristobal Olid was, and from

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 18 of 75)