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 19 of 75)
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thence dispatch one of the ships to Cortes, with an account of the
discovery, and all the information Cristobal Olid might have ac-
quired concerning the country, and also the occurrences of the ex-
pedition.*

* Cortes.



HERNANDO CORTES IN HONDURAS, 165

To this armament were also appointed two priests, and they were
to induce the Indians to abolish their human sacrifices, with other
abominations practised by them. Every place the troops visited
they were to look out for those diabolical cages in which the Indians
shut up those they intended for victims for their sacrifices ; these
they were ordered to release, and the cages were to be destroyed.*

After Cortes had strongly impressed all this on Olid's mind, he
bid him and all his troops an affectionate farewell. When Olid
arrived at Vera Cruz, he found everything in readiness, so that he
was enabled to embark immediately with his troops, and had a very
favorable passage to Havana, where he found the horses, with the
provisions and other things, in readiness. Here Diego Velasquez,
governor of Cuba, the mortal enemy of Cortes, visited Olid on
board the vessels, urged him in the strongest terms to refuse all
further obedience to Cortes ; and they came to a secret agreement
between themselves, jointly to subdue the Higueras and Honduras
in the emperor's name. Olid was to take upon himself the active
part, and Velasquez, on his side, was to procure him everj^ necessary,
and support him with his money.

The armament being now fully equipped. Olid sailed from the
Havana, and, after a very prosperous voyage, arrived, on the 3d of
May, about sixty miles on the other side of Puerto Caballo, and
disembarked his men in a small bay, where he immediately began
to lay the foundations of a town, to which he gave the name of
Triunfo de la Cruz.

It was not until eight months afterwards that Cortes received
intelligence of this revolt of Olid. When, therefore, he learned that
Olid had made common cause with Diego Velasquez, and had
determined to act independent of him, he resolved to send against
him Francisco de las Casas, a relation of his on whom he could

* Diaz, to avoid the tediousness of constantly mentioning these cages, in his
account of the various places through which he passed on his way to the city
of Mexico, gives the reader to understand they were in every town. Not only
were there teooalis in towns, but like heathen temples of antiquity, also on islands
and in secluded places, and they were their temples and their altars on which
the Indian priests immol ated their victims to their hideous idols. The unfor-
tunate Valdivia and several of his companions, being cast upon the shores of
Yucatan, were seized by the Indians, confined in cages, and, when sufficiently
fattened, sacrificed by the Indians to their deities, and then devoured. The
first structure of stone and mortar that Columbus discovered on the continent
was on the coast of Honduras, and was probably a teocali, of which, perhaps,
he knew not the use, as his son only mentions the fact: " The first place in
the Indies where they saw any sign of a structure which was a great mass or
imagery, that seemed to be of' lime and mortar."



166 HERNANDO CORTES IN HONDURAS.

place implicit reliance, as he had previously declared to the emperor.
For this purpose he fitted out five vessels, well provided with
cannon and other ammunition. On board this fleet he embarked
one hundred men.

Francisco de las Casas received full^ power from Cortes to seize
Olid and put him in chains. He sailed from Vera Cruz with very-
favorable weather, and arrived in a short time in the bay of Triunfo
de la Cruz, where in front of the town lay at anchor the vessels of
Olid. As Las Casas on entering the bay had hoisted a white flag,
Olid scarcely knew what to think at flrst, but thought, at all events,
it was better to be upon his guard, and ran out two of hlS smallest
vessels, well armed with a strong body of men, in order to prevent
Las Casas from entering the harbor and landing his troops, though
he was as yet quite ignorant who the new-comers were. Las Casas,
who was a man of great courage and determination, immediately
lowered his boat, on board of which he placed one of the falconets,
and the most active of his men well armed with muskets and cross-
bows, being resolved he said to land his troops somehow or other.
A severe conflict now ensued, in which Las Casas bored one of
Olid's vessels into the ground, killed four of his men and wounded
several others.

Olid, seeing that matters were growing very serious, thought it
advisable, on his part, to stay hostilities in order to gain time to
assemble all his troops about him; for he had a few days previous
dispatched two companies to the river Pechin against Gil Gonzales
de Avila, who had begun to subdue the country there. He, there-
fore, sent word to Las Casas that he was desirous of making terras
of peace with him; to which Las Casas so far consented that he
staid hostilities for the present, and lay out at sea with his vessels
for the night, in order to effect a landing in some other bay. Fortu-
nately for Olid and unfortunately for Las Casas, a furious north
wind, which is the most dangerous of all on this coast, arose during
the night, and the whole of his vessels were wrecked; thirty of his
men were drowned, and all the ammunition and stores went to the
bottom. Las Casas and the rest of his men, after wandering about
the countrj' for two days, benumbed with wet and cold, without a
morsel of food to eat, were all taken prisoners by Olid's troops.

Olid, it may be imagined, was excessively rejoiced that things
had tlius terminated so unexpectedly in his favor, and he exulted
greatly in having the person of Las Casas in his power. He imme-
diately took the latter's troops into his service, and compelled
them to take a solemn oath never to desert him, but to oppose



HERNANDO COETES IN HONDURAS. 161

Cortes if he should come with an army against him. Las Casas
alone he kept a prisoner.

Shortly upon this the detachment returned which he had sent
against Gil Gonzales de Ayila. This man had arrived in the country
with the appointment of governor of Golfo Dulce, and he had already
founded, at about four miles distance from the bay of the same name,
a town which he called San Gill de Buena Vista. The countrj -
bounding on the river Chipin was at that time inhabited by a very
warlike people; and as by far the greater part of Gil Gonzales's
troops were suffering from ill health, the latter had only been able
to throw a feeble garrison into tiie town of Buena Vista. Olid had
been duly apprised of this and ordered the town to be attacked ; but
his troops could not so easily get possession of the place as they
expected. Gil Gonzales's small body of men defended themselves
most vigorously, and eight of the soldiers with a cousin of his were
killed. Olid was both rejoiced and proud to have taken prisoners
the chief commanders of two separate armaments ; and as it was of
importance to him that the success of his arms should be made
known through the islands,* he immediately sent information of his
good fortune to Velasquez, governor of Cuba.

After this victory Olid, taking his prisoners with him, marched
his troops towards the interior of the country, to a large township
named Naco, which lay in a very populous district. It was upon
this occasion that Naco was completely destroyed and the whole of
the surrounding country laid waste, and this Diaz relates from eye-
witness, as he subsequently visited those parts himself. ■\

From Naco, Olid sent out a strong detachment to forage the
country, under the command of Briones. Some time after Briones
had been sent out by Olid to a distant part of the country, with a
considerable body of his troops, he received intelligence that he had
deserted with the whole of the men under his command, and was
marching in the direction of New Spain ; this news was indeed found
to be perfectly correct. This circumstance. Las Casas and Gil
Gonzales thought, presented to them a most favorable opportunity
to rid themselves of Olid, who still continued to treat both of them
as prisoners of war, though they were allowed to go at large. The
whole of the adherents of Cortes secretly joined Las Casas and
Gonzales, and they agreed, upon a certain signal, to fall upon Olid
and stab him to death. Everything had been arranged in the best
possible manner for this purpose.

* Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Porto Eioo.

f Diaz's own words, as translated into English, except the italics.



168 HERNANDO COBTES IN HONDURAS.

One evening Las Casas, Gonzales, Juan Nunez de Mereado, and
other soldiers of Cortes's parly, were invited to sup with Olid. The
first two, as prisoners of war, were not allowed to carry arms, but
had concealed on their persons large knives, which were ground
very sharp. The whole of tiie company had already laid aside
their cloaks to seat themselves at the table, and stood around Olid
discoursing on Cortes's good fortune. As Olid was thus quite ofT
his guard, not in the least suspecting there was any design upon
his life, Las Casas on a sudden seized him forcibly by the beard,
and stabbed him in the neck with his knife. Upon this, the other
conspirators fell in a body upon him and gave him so many stabs
that he fell to the ground, and w^as left as dead ; but, as he was a
man of enormous muscular power, he regained his consciousness
while the conspirators were sitting at the table enjoying their sup-
pers, and assembling all his strength he started up from the floor,
with the cry, '■'■My friends, assist your captain!" and then ran out
to hide himself in the woods until his adherents should have rallied
around him. And, indeed, a great part of his troops instantly
assembled for this purpose ; but Las Casas cried out to them : " In
the name of the emperor and of Cortes, I command you to fall upon
the tyrant ; his tyranny is no longer to be borne!"

As soon as these names were mentioned, no one durst stir a finger
■ in Olid's defence ; on the contrary, every one quietly submitted,
and immediately obeyed Las Casas's commands by hurrying off in
search of Olid, to bring him in prisoner. He then made known that
any one who knew of Olid's concealment, and neglected to give
information of it, should suffer death. By this means it was soon
discovered where Olid lay concealed, and, after he had been brought
in a prisoner, a criminal suit was commenced against him in due
form, and, sentence of death being passed on him, he was decapi-
tated by order of these two officers. Las Casas and Gonzales, on the
market-place of Naco.

As soon as Las Casas and Gonzales had got rid of their common
enemy, they assembled all the troops ; they divided the command
equally between them, and continued on the best terms with eacii
other. Las Casas soon after founded the town of Truxillo, and
Gonzales dispatched a small body of troops to the town which he
had previously founded, called Buena Vista, in order to see what
condition the colony was in. The command of this small detach-
ment he gave to an officer named Armenta, with orders not to make
any change there if, at least, he found everything in the same con-
dition as when he left it, but to await his return from New Spain,
whither he would immediately repair to beg Cortes for a fresh



HERNANDO CORTES IN HONDURAS. 169

supply of troops. Las Casas likewise determined to proceed with
Gonzales to the city of Mexico, in order tliat they might jointly
give Cortes an account of every circumstance that had transpired.*

Several months liaving elapsed after the departure of Las Casas
with the armament, and Cortes still without any tidings from him,
he began to fear that some misfortune had befallen him. The more
he thought of the many dangers to which vessels are exposed, the
more he regretted, notwithstanding all tiie confidence he placed in
Las Casas, that lie had not gone to Honduras by land at the head
of his army ; he therefore determined to march thither in person.

Cortes left the city of Mexico at the head of his army [in Octo-
ber, 1524], and took the road leading to Guacasualco, where he
staid altogether six days. [From Guacasualco Cortes continued
his march to Honduras, and having arrived at Coliste, the Indians],
on being questioned by Dona Marina about the town where the
Spaniards had settled, they answered that it lay on the sea-coast
about five days' journey from there. On this information Cortes
dispatched Sandoval, with six men on foot, to the sea-coast in the
direction the Indian had pointed out, in order to learn, if possible,
what number of Spanish troops Olidf had under his command ; for
at that time Cortes was still ignorant of what had taken place
there.

Sandoval took three Indian guides with him from Oculizti, and
set out on his journey. When he had arrived on the north coast
[of the gulf of Honduras], and was marching along the beach, he
espied a canoe making for the land, with sails and paddles. He
therefore hid himself behind a rising ground until the vessel should
have run ashore. This canoe belonged to some Indian merchants,
was laded with salt and maize, and was destined for the large river
which flows into the Golfo Dulee.

In the night time Sandoval sallied forth from his hiding place,
captured all the crew, then stepped into the canoe, with two of his
companions and the three guides, and desired the Indian merchants
to row him along the coast, while the four other Spiiniards followed
by land. Sandoval was sure the great river could not be far dis-

* Cortes at that time was probably on his expedition to Honduras, as he left
the city of Mexico October, 1524, and on Easter, 1525, he was at a place between
Lake Peten and the head of the Gulf of Honduras.

t In Cortes's letters, this name is Christoval D'Oli. Bernal Diaz has it Olid,
and so Clavigero has it. There was in Cortes's army a. Christoval de Olea,
who, on two occasions in battle, saved the life of Cortes. These two names, Oli
and Olea, are enough alike to be mistaken one for the other.



170 HERNANDO COETES IN HONDURAS.

tant, and in this he was not deceived, for he entered it soon after,
and he iiad the good fortune to come up with four Spaniards of the
new town [Buena Vista], founded by Gil Gonzales de Avila. These
men had just arrived, in a canoe, from an excursion in search of pro-
visions, of which there was an uncommon scarcity in the colony, as
the inhabitants were at enmity with the Indians, who had already
killed ten of their number since Gonzales's departure for Mexico.

When Sandoval was approaching in the canoe, he found these
Spaniards busily occupied in gathering cocoanuts. Two of them
who had climbed up the tree were the first to observe the strange
vessel, and they immediately called out to their companions below.
The whole of them were so astonished and alarmed that they scarcely
knew whether they should run away or stay where they were, but on
Sandoval coming up and addressing them in a friendly manner, they
took courage, and related to him the whole history of the foundation
of the colony, and then gave him a full description of the miserable
condition of the colony, adding that the commandant [Armenta] had
obstinately refused to allow them to return to Cuba, for which reason,
and because he had scourged a Spanish priest who had caused an
insurrection in the town, the inhabitants rebelled against him, hung
him, and appointed Antonio Nieto commandant in his stead. They
also informed him that two miles further on there was a harbor, in
which a vessel was being fitted out to convey the colonists to Cuba.
Sandoval considered it best to take these men along with him to
Cortes, in order that his approach to the colony might not be made
known to it.

When arrived in the presence of Cortes, the colonists, related to
him all that they had told Sandoval. Cortes now marched with all
his troops in the direction of the sea-coast, the distance to which
was full twenty-four miles. At length he arrived at the broad river
of Golfo Dulee. Here the two canoes — one which Sandoval had
captured on the coast, and the other belonging to the colonists. — -
were fastened together, in which Cortes, with six men and a few of
his servants, embarked, and was ferried across the water. Upon
this a few of the horses were swam across, the grooms holding the
animals hy the bridles, which were kept as short as possible for fear
of the horses upsetting the canoes. The passage across this rapid
stream was excessively dangerous. Cortes left strict commands
that none should cross the river until further orders, which he would
send in writing.

The town of Buena Vista, which Gil Gonzales had founded in
this neighborhood, lay about eight miles from the broad river of the
Golfo Dulce, near the sea-shore, whither Cortes immediately re-



HERNANDO CORTES IN HONDURAS. 171

paired with his small body of men, after crossing the river. When
he entered the town, the arrival of strangers on horse))ack, and others
on foot, in the first moment spread a great consternation among
the inhabitants, but, as soon as they learned that it was Cortes,
they were almost overcome with joy. All the inhabitants waited
on him, and he received them in the kindest manner ; and then
ordered the commandant, Nieto, to load the two boats belonging to
the town, and all the canoes he could get, witli cassava bread, and
dispatch them to Sandoval. Nieto immediately set about to fulfil
these commands, but was unable to collect more than fifty pounds
of this bread, as the colonists had had no other food than the fruits
which they gathered from the trees, some vegetables, and what fisli
they could catch. Even this small quantity of cassava bread had
been set apart for their voyage to Cuba. With these provisions
the two boats, manned with eight sailors, left for the place where
Sandoval was encamped with the troops.

The population of the town of Buena Vista consisted of forty
Spaniards, four Spanish ladies, and two mulattoes. The whole of
these people were suffering from ill health, and had a yellow, sickly
appearance. They had no provisions, and suffered as much from
hunger as the men of Cortes, nor could any one tell where to go in
search of maize. Cortes therefore saw that there was not a moment
to be lost, and he dispatched Luis Marin with the eightj' men of
Guacasualco, into the countr\-. They all set out on foot for some
townships which lay thirty-two miles further up the country. When
they reached these they found that they contained great abundance
of maize, beans, and other vegetables ; besides tiiat, the whole
neighborhood was literally sown with cocoanut trees.

When Cortes learned that Marin and his men had arrived in so
fertile a neighborhood, and was told that the road to Naeo led
through that township, he ordered Sandoval to follow them with
tlie greater part of the remaining troops, and not to leave this
township until he should receive further instructions.

Sandoval, on arriving at Marin's camp, immediately dispatched
thirty bushels of maize to Cortes, who distributed it among the
colonists, who ate so ravenously of it that the greater part fell sick
in consequence of it, and seven of them died.

During this great distress for want of provisions, a vessel from
Cuba ran into the harbor, having on board seven passengers, seven
horses, forty hogs, eight barrels of pickled meat, and a large
quantity of cassava bread. The cargo belonged to Antonio de
Comargo, and Cortes purchased the whole of it upon credit, dis-
tributing a great part of the provisions. among the colonists ; but



172 HERNANDO COETES IN HONDURAS.

the consequences again proved fatal to many of these unfortunate
persons, for this very nourishing food brought on dysentery, and
ten more of them died.

As tliis vessel had brought a few soldiers, and had eight sailors
on board, Cortes determined to embark in her and sail up the river,
to visit the townships- along its banks, and to explore the interior
of the country. He also ordered one of the brigantines of Gil
Gonzales to be repaired, and a boat to be constructed in the shape
of those used for unloading vessels ; also four canoes to be securely
fastened together. On board these vessels Cortes embarked with
thirty soldiers, the eight sailors, and twenty Mexicans. He may
have sailed up the river to the distance of about forty miles, when
he came to a large lake which was apparently about twenty-four
miles in breadth, and its banks -were quite uninhabited, as the whole
surrounding country was subject to frequent inundations. Further
up, the river continuallj'^ became more rapid, until the vessels ar-
rived at some cataracts which none of them were able to pass.
Cortes therefore landed his men here, and, after leaving six Span-
iards in charge of the vessels, he commenced his march up the
countr3', along a very»narrow path. First he arrived at some town-
ships which were deserted by the inhabitants, and then to a few
maize plantations, in which he captured three Indians, whom he
took along with him as guides. These people conducted him to
several small villages where there was abundance of maize and
fowls. The inhabitants here also kept pheasants, tame partridges,
and pigeons. This breeding of partridges as domestic birds, Diaz
never observed in any other part of the country but in the town-
ships on the Golfo Dulce. From this place Cortes took new guides,
and next arrived at some townships where the whole surrounding
neighborhood was covered with maize, cacao, and cotton planta-
tions. When Cortes liad approached within a short distance, he
heard the sound of drums, trumpets, and a noise as if the Indians
■were in the midst of some festive orgie. He then concealed him-
self, with his men, .on a rising ground, in order to watch for an op-
portunity of falling upon these Bacchanalians. This he accords
ingly did before they were in the least aware of it, and captured
ten men and fifteen women. The rest of the Indians fled to their
town, armed themselves, and commenced discharging their arrows
at the Spaniards Cortes immediately fell upon them, and very
soon cut down eight of their chiefs ; they then dispatched four old
men, of whom two were papas [priests], to Cortes, with a trifling
present in gold, and begged hard that the prisoners might be re-
stored to them. Cortes gave them to understand that they should



HERNANDO CORTES IN HONDUBAS. 173

send maize, fowls, salt, and a large supply of other provisions to
bis vessels. If they complied with this, he would immediately re-
store the prisoners to their families. They accordingly set their
canoes afloat, which lay in a hollow communicating with the river,
and loaded them with the required provisions ; but as he did not
release all the prisoners at once, and detained three men with their
wives to bake some bread, the whole of the inhabitants again flew
to arms, and showered forth their arrows, stones, and darts, upon
the Spaniards, wounding twelve meu, and Cortes himself, in the
face.

Cortes was twenty-six days on this expedition, from which he
returned to Buena Vista with a greater supply of provisions than
it had ever before had.

As Cortes considered the site of Buena Vista every way unfavor-
able for a colony, he embarked the whole of the inhabitants in two
vessels and the brigantine, and sailed for the bay of Puerto de
Caballos, where he arrived in the space of eight days. Finding
that there was an excellent harbor in this bay, he determined to
found a colony in this place, to which he gave the name of Natividad,
and appointed Diego de Godoy commandant of the town. He then
made an excursion into the interior of the country to visit tlie
several townships. The inhabitants assured him that there were
several other townships in the neighborhood, and that Naco was
not far off". He well stocked the new town, and wrote to Sandoval,
whom he imagined had already reached Naco, to send him ten of
the men of Guacasualco. From this place [Puerto Caballos], he
added, it was his intention to repair to the Bay of Honduras, in
order to visit the new town of Truxillo. Sandoval received this
letter in the township where he had fli^t halted, for he had not yet
broken up his quarters for Naco. He would gladly, that instant,
have set out for Naco, if he had not dispatched a great part of his
troops into the surrounding townships in search of provisions and
fodder for the horses. He was, therefore, compelled to await ihe
return of these troops.

When the troops returned, he marched further on to some town-



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 19 of 75)