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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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found that fifty-seven of their men were missing, besides the two
whom the Indians had carried off alive, and five whom they had
thrown overboard, who had died of their wounds and extreme
thirst. The battle lasted a little more than half an hour. The spot
where it took place was certainly called Potonchan. The seamen,


however, gave it the name of Bahea de mala Pelea (the bay of bad
battle). None of the Spaniards had escaped without two, thi-ee, or
four wounds. They, therefore, determined to return to Cuba, but,
as most of the sailors were wounded, they had not sufficient hands
to work the sails ; they werp, therefore, forced to set fire to their
smallest vessel, and leave it to the mercy of the waves, after distri-
buting the sailors .who were not wounded equally among the two
other vessels. They had, however, to struggle with another far
greater evil. This was the great want of fresh water.

They now kept as close in to shore as possible, to look out for
some stream or creek where they might take in fresh water. After
thus continuing their course for three days, they espied an inlet, or
the mouth of some river as they thought, and sent a few hands on
shore, in the hopes of meeting with fresh water. But the water in
the inlet was salt, and wherever they dug wells it was equally bad.
They, nevertheless, filled their casks with it, but it was so bitter and
salty as to be unfit for use. The water here swarmed with lizards ;
they, therefore, gave this place the name of Lizard's Bay (now the
Bay of Terrainos). They then weighed anchor, and steered in the
direction of Cuba. In a consultation of the pilots it was decided
that the best way to go there was to get in the latitude of Florida,
that by so doing they would have a better and speedier sail to
Havana. It turned out exactly as they had said.

As soon as they arrived off the coast of Florida, it was deter-
mined that twenty of the men who had almost recovered from their
wounds should go ashore to procure water. Of that number were
Diaz and the pilot Alaminos. They landed in a creek, and the pilot
again recognized this coast, which he had visited ten or twelve
years previously, with Juan Ponce de Leon when he discovered
these countries. They had here fought a battle with the natives,
and lost many of their men.

The Spaniards therefore took every precaution lest the natives
should also fall upon them unawares. They posted two sentinels
at a spot where the stream had a considerable breadth. They then
dug deep wells where they thought fresh water was likely to be
found. The sea was just ebbing, and they were so fortunate as to
find fresh water there. They then washed the bandages of the
wounded men. A good hour's time was spent in this, and as they
were on the point of re-embarking with the casks of water, one of
the men whom they had placed sentinel on the coast, came running
towards them in all haste, crying aloud : " To arms ! to arms ! num-
bers of Indians are approaching, both by land and sea." The
Indians came upon them almost at the same time with the sentinel.


The Indians had immense-sized bows, with sharp arrows, lances,
and spears — among these were some shaped like swords — while
their large powerful bodies were covered with skins of wild beasts.
They made straightway for the Spaniards and let fly their arrows,
and wounded six of the men at the first onset. Diaz was also
slightly wounded in the right arm. The Indians, however, were
received with such well-directed blows that they quitted those who
had been digging the wells, and turned towards the creek to assist
their companions, who, in their canoes, were attacking those left
behind in the boat The latter bad been forced to fight man to
man, and had already lost the boat, which the Indians were towing
off behind their canoes. Four of the sailors had been wounded,
and the pilot Alaminos himself severely in the throat. The Span-
iards, however, courageously faced the enemy and went up to
their waists in the water, and soon compelled them by dint of their
swords to jump out of the boat. Twentj'-two Indians lay dead on
the shore ; three others who were slightly wounded were taken on
board the vessel, but they died soon after.

Having taken the water on board the vessels, they hoisted sail
and stood direct for the Havana. The day and following night
the weather was most beautiful as they passed the Martyr Islands
and sand banks of the same name.* They had only four fathoms
where the water was deepest ; their principal vessel consequently
struck against rocks and became very leaky, so that all hands were
engaged at the pumps without their being able to get the water
under, while they every minute feared the vessel would go down.
They had alternately to work the sails and pumps until they entered
the port of C arena where now the town of Havana stands, the latter
■ being previously called Puerto de Carenas, and not Havana.f

Tlie commander, Francisco Hernandez de Cordova, journeyed
overland to San Espiritu, where he had an Indian commandery ; he,
however, died of his wounds ten days after his arrival there. The
rest of the men became dispersed over the island, and three died of
their wounds at the Havana. The vessels were taken to Santiago
de Cuba, where the governor resided.

When they brought forth the treasures and curiosities they had

* The islands of Cape Florida were at that time called Martyr Islands, or
rather by the Spanish word that so signifies, on account of the vessels that
were shipwreoked.on them, and thereby the loss of so many lives.

t So called because Sebastian de Ooampo here careened his yessels when he
was making a circumnavigation of the island of Cuba, in the year 1507, to de-
termine whether it was an island or not.


collected on their voyage and related what they had discovered,
these, became the topics of common conversation throughout the
islands of St. Domingo and Cuba ; indeed, the fame thereof even
reached Spain. There it was said that none of the countries which
had hitherto been discovered were as rich as this, and in none had
there been found houses built of stone. The earthen gods which
they brought from these countries, it was said, were the remains of
the ancient heathen times ; others again went so far as to aflBrm
that the inhabitants of these countries were descendants of the
Jews, whom Titus and Vespasian had driven from Jerusalem, who
had been shipwrecked off this coast. Peru was then unknown and
not discovered until the year 1527, and in so far the countries dis-
covered were justly considered of the greatest importance.*




Captain Diego Velasquez was then governing the island of Cuba.
He had gone there as the lieutenant of Diego Columbus, second
admiral of the Indies, the conquest of this island was regarded
as the work of his valor, and the colonies that were established
there as the effect of his cares. This island being the most western
of all those that had been discovered, and the nearest to the conti- .
nent of America, the lands of this continent were better known
there ; nevertheless they still doubted whether it was an island or a
continent ; but they spoke of its riches with as much certainty as
if they had been assured of them by ocular witnesses.

The knowledge and fame of this country were much increased
at this time by the reports of the soldiers who had accompanied
Cordova in the discovery of Yucatan. Velasquez, seeing the minds
of the people prepossessed with the idea of the great advantages
that the conquest of Yucatan promised to him who should accom-
plish it, formed the design of raising himself to the rank of gover-
nor in chief; for although his dependence on the admiral Diego
Columbus rested upon nothing more than a mere title, of which the

* Bernal Diaz del Castillo's Discovery and Conquest of Mexico.


admiral made not any use, nevertheless Velasquez found himself
incommoded even by that, because a subaltern rank did not suffi-
ciently sustain, in his opinion, the liigh hopes which he had con-
ceived, and rendered his happiness imperfect. With this view he
resolved to prosecute the conquest of Yucatan.*

For this purpose he selected four vessels, two of which had
accompanied Cordova on his recent voyage to Yucatan. Velasquez
gave the chief command to Juan de Grijalva. There were two hun-
dred men, and the same three pilots that had accompanied the
former voyage, and a fourth. Each pilot Iiad charge of one of
the vessels; but the first in command as chief pilot was Anton de

The instructions which the commanders received from Velasquez
were, that they should barter for as much gold and silver as they
could get, and if they deemed it advisable, settle a colony, but left
this entirely to their judgment.

The place of rendezvous was the harbor of Matanzasf on the
north coast of Cuba, not far from the old Havana; the present
town of this name at tliat time was not built. Here the vessels
were provided with provisions. On the 5th of April, 1518, the
squadron left the harbor and, after passing Cape Guaniguanico or
San Anton, the western extremity of Cuba, they continued on their
voyage until they came in sight of the island of Cozumel. The
currents this time had carried the vessels further south than in the
preceding voyage of Cordova. The consequence was that they now
landed on the south coast of the island, where they found a good
anchorage perfectly free from all rocks. They found that the
inhabitants of the island spoke the same language as those of
Yucatan, from which country it was distant only four hours' sail.

From the island of Cozumel, Grijalva continued his voyage the
same route that Cordova had taken, and after eight days' sail
arrived off the coast of Champoton. The next place he came to
was the Boca de Terminos, the western limit of Cordoba's voyage.
Sailing along the coast by day and lying to by night, on account of
the shallows and rocks, and occasionally landing, Grijalva arrived
at an island about two miles from the continent, where they found

* History of the Conquest of Mexico, by Anton de Solis.

t A vessel bound from the island of St. Domingo to the Luccas (Bahamas)
was, during a storm, wrecked near this river and harbor. There were tliirty
Spaniards and two Spanish ladies. The Indians, in carrying them across the
river, treacherously upset their canoes and drowned them all except three men
and one woman ; hence the name Matanzas (Massacre).


a temple* on which stood the great and abominable-looking god
Tetzeatlipuca, surrounded by four Indian priests dressed in wide
blaclt cloaks, and with flying hair, who had that ver}' day sacrificed
two boys whose bleeding hearts they had offered to the horrible
idol. Upon inquiry they learned that this sacrifice had been
ordered by the people of Ciilua, but as it was difficult for the
Indian interpreter to pronounce this word he kept constantly saying
" Olua, 01ua."t From the fact of the commander's Christian name
being Juan, and it happening to be the feast of San Juan (St.
John), they gave this small island the name of San Juan de TJlua.J
Grijalva had disembarked on the continent near this island, and
had constructed huts there, from which point he had visited this

As they had now been so long at sea, and had convinced them-
selves that the country they had discovered "was not an island but a
continent, and as their provisions were scant and damaged, and
moreover their numbers too small to make a settlement here, they
determined to forward to Velasquez an account of the state of their
affairs, and desire him to send them succors. Pedro de Alvarado
was selected to go on this mission with the ship San Sebastian that
had become very leaky ; this vessel could be refitted there and
return with succor and provisions. He also took with him all the
gold they had bartered for, the cotton stuffs presented to them by
the Indians, and their sick.

After Alvarado had set sail for Cuba, G-rijalva and his officers
held a consultation with his pilots, when it was determined that
they should continue their voyage along the coast and push their
discoveries as far as possible. They therefore weighed anchor and
continued their course along the coast until they arrived at a wide
projecting cape, which, on account of the strong currents, they
found so difficult to double that they considered their further
course now impeded. The chief pilot, Alaminos, here told the com-
mander that it was no longer advisable to sail on at a venture. This
matter being duly considered in council, it was unanimously agreed
that tliey should return to Cuba, where they arrived at the port of
St. lago de Cuba, the 15th of September, 1518.

Velasquez was highly delighted with the additional gold that Gri-

* What Diaz here calls a temple was a truncated pyramidal structure, called
by the Mexicans, Teocalli, which word means house of God : Teo, God ; oalli,

f Culua — Culnans, subjects of Montecziama.

t It still retains the name and forms the harbor of Vera Cruz, Mexico.


jalva brought. Altogether it was well worth 4000 pesos (dollars);
so that, with the 16,000 brought by Alvarado, the whole amounted
to 20,000 pesos. Some make the sum greater, others less.




After the arrival of Alvarado with the gold which had been re-
ceived in the newly discovered country, Velasquez began to fear
some one at court, who might liave received private information of
all this, would anticipate him in forwarding to the emperor (Charles
V.) the first news of this important discovery, and so rob him of
the reward. He, therefore, dispatched one of his chaplains, named
Benito Martinez, to Spain, with letters and a few valuable presents
to Don Juan Rodriguez Fonseca. He wrote at the same time to the
licentiate Louis Zapata, and the secretary Lope Conchillos, who
at that time had the control of all Indian affairs under Fonseca.
Velasquez was quite devoted to these persons, and had presented
them with considerable Indian villages in Cuba, with the inhabi-
tants of which they worked their gold mines. But he took particu-
lar care to provide for the archbishop (Fonseca), troubling himself
very little about the emperor, who was at that time in Flanders.
He moreover sent his patrons a great portion of the gold trinkets
which Alvarado had brought with him, for everything that was de-
termined in the imperial council of India depended upon these men.
Velasquez, therefore, sought by means of his chaplain to obtain un-
limited permission to fit out armaments at any time he might think
proper, to make voyages of discovery, and to found colonies in the
new countries, as well as in those that might hereafter be discov-
ered. In the accounts he transmitted to Spain, he spoke of the
many thousands of gold pesos he had already spent in like under-
takings ; thereby giving such a favorable dii-ection to the negotia-
tions of his chaplain, Benito Martinez, that his expectations were
more than fulfilled, for his chaplain even obtained for him the addi-
tional title of Adelantado of Cuba. This latter appointment, Iiow-
ever, did not arrive until the new expedition under Cortes had left.

The knowledge which Velasquez had now acquired of the vast


extent and great wealth of the newly discovered country, deter-
mined him to fit out a powerful armament for its conquest and col-
onization. He lost not a moment in search of the means to achieve
this conquest, to which the name of New Spain gave a high reputa-
tion. He communicated his design to the monks of St. Jerome, at
St. Domingo, in a manner which seemed to seek their approbation.

Velasquez had already purchased some vessels and planned the
preparative of a new fleet, when Grijalva had anchored in the port
of San lago de Cuba. He caused to be promptly refitted the ves-
sels which had been used in the voyage of Grijalva, which, with
those which he had purchased, comprised a fleet of ten vessels of
eighty to a hundred tons. He used the same diligence in arming
and equipping them ; but he hesitated in the choice of the person
whom he should appoint to command them. He was some days in
deciding. The public sentiment was in favor of Grijalva, whose
competitors were Anton and Bernardino Velasquez, near relatives
of tlie governor, Baltazar Berraudez, and Vaseo Porcallo,* a cap-
tain of great renown and related to the Earl of Feria. Tliis man,
however, did not suit Velasquez. He feared his daring spirit, and
was apprehensive that, once in command of the armament, he
would declare himself independent of him.

Velasquez knew not upon which to decide. He esteemed their
merit, but he feared that such an ofiBce would beget in them ideas of
independence. In this uncertainty he consulted his two confidants,
Andres de Dnero, secretary of the governor, and Almador de
Lares, the royal treasurer. These two men, who had the entire con-
fidence of the governor, and who knew him thoroughly, proposed
to him Hernando Cortes, who was their intimate friend. They
spoke of him in terms very reserved, in order that their counsel
might not appear interested, and to make the governor believe that
their friendship had not the least part in it. The proposition was
well received, and they contented themselves for the present with
this favorable inclination of Velasquez, leaving time and reflection
to do the rest, hoping with this assistance to entirely convince him
in another conversation.

When they returned to Velasquez, armed with new reasons to
convince him, they found him wholly declared in favor of their
friend, and so strongly prepossessed that Cortes was the only one

* These names De Solis gives. Diaz gives Vasoo Porcallo, Augustin Bermudez,
Antonio Velasquez Borrego, and Bernardino Velasquez. The three last, he
says, were relatives of the governor. Vasoo Porcallo accompanied De Soto to
Florida, but very soon returned to Cuba, not having gone beyond Tampa Bay.


to whom he could confide the care of this expedition, that they dis-
covered they had nothing more to do than applaud his choice.
They agreed with him that it was important to declare promptly
this choice, in order to free himself from the importunities of the
aspirants to this office ; and Duero, on whom devolved the duty, in
all haste drew up the commission. It was conceived in these terms :
That Diego Velasquez, as governor of the Island of Cuba, and pro-
moter of the discoveries of Yucatan and New Spain, appoints Her-
nando Cortes captain-general of the fleet, and of the countries
discovered, or which shall be discovered in the future. The friend-
ship of Duero for Cortes obliged him to add to it all the most hon-
orable and favorable clauses that he could imagine, in order to
extend his powers under pretext of conforming to the ordinary for-
malities in such instruments.

This news was very soon published, and received with as much joy
by those who wished to see this irresolution ended as it caused morti-
fication to others who were intriguing for this office. The two re-
lations of Velasquez were the boldest in declaring their discontent.
They made great eflfbrts to create suspicion in the mind of the gov-
ernor. They said to him that it was very hazardous to grant so
much confidence to a man whom he had so little obliged ; that if he
would examine the conduct of Cortes he would find in it but little
security, because his promises rarely conformed with the results ;
that his agreeable and flattering manners, and his liberality, were
but artifices which ought to make him suspected by those who did
not allow themselves to be won by only the appearances of virtue ;
that he showed too much eagerness to win the afiections of the sol-
diers, and that friends of this sort, wlien they are numerous, they
easily make partisans of; that he remembered the mortification
which his imprisonment had caused him;* that they could never
make real confidants of persons to whom he had given such sub-
jects of complaint, because the wounds of the mind, as those of the
body, left impressions which awakened the remembrance of the
offence when the injured saw themselves in power to avenge them-
selves for it. They added other reasons, more specious than sub-
stantial, to the prejudice of good faith, because they disguised
under a show of zeal what was but pure jealousy.

Nevertheless Velasquez sustained with vigor the honor of his
judgment in the choice which he had made, and Cortes thought
only of hastening his departure. He hoisted his standard, which

* Velasquez had on one occasion imprisoned Cortes.


bore the figure of the cross, with these words : " Let us follow the
Cross; we shall conquer in virtue of this sign."

The reputation of this enterprise and that of the general made
such a noise that in a few days there were enrolled three hundred
soldiers, among which were Diego de Ordaz, chief confidant of the
governor, Bernal Diaz, who wrote a history of the conquest of
Mexico, and others.

The time of departure having arrived, orders were given to as-
semble the soldiers, who embarked at noon. At night, Cortes, ac-
companied by his friends, went to take leave of the governor, who
embraced him and gave him many other caresses. The morning
having arrived, Velasquez conducted him to the port and saw him
on board his vessel.

The fleet left the port of Santiago de Cuba the 18th of Novem-
ber, 1518, and coasting westwardly the island of Cuba, arrived in a
few days at the town of Trinidad, where Cortes had some friends,
who here, joined him. About this time there also arrived in the
port of Trinidad a vessel, belonging to a certain Juan Sedeno, of
the Havana, laded with cassava bread and salt meat, which were
destined for the mines of Santiago. Cortes purchased the provi-
sions and vessel, so that now there were eleven vessels in all.

The fleet had scarcely left the port of San lago de Cuba, when
those who were envious of Cortes made new efforts to awaken the
suspicions of Velasquez, who finally took the resolution to break
with Cortes, in taking from him the command of the fleet. He im-
mediately dispatched two couriers to the town of .Trinidad, with
letters for all his confidants, and an express order to Francisco
A^erdugo, his cousin and judge royal of that city, to judicially dis-
possess Hernando Cortes of the office of captain-general, since his
appointment had been revoked and given to Vasco Porcallo.

As soon as Cortes got information of this, he had a secret inter-
view with Ordaz and all those officers and inhabitants of Trinidad
who, he thought, might feel inclined to obey the orders of Velas-
quez. To these he spoke so feelingly, and in such kind terms, ac-
companied by such great promises, that they were all soon gained
over to his side. Diegode Ordaz even undertook to advise Ver-
dugo not to put his commands in immediate execution, and to keep
• them secret. He assured him that it would be impossible to de-
prive Cortes of the command of the squadron, in which he had so
many friends among the cavaliers, and Velasquez so many enemies.
Besides, Cortes could je\y upon most of the soldiers, and thus it
would be useless to attempt anything against him. By these argu-
ments Ordaz prevented all violent measures.


Verdiigo, being sufficiently convinced that they did a wrong to
Cortes, and feeling a great repugnance to become the instrument of
such violence, offered not only to suspend the execution of the
orders of Velasquez, but even to write to him in order to oblige
him to change his resolution, which could not be executed without
causing all the soldiers of the army to mutiny. Ordaz and the
other officers of the army, confidants of Velasquez, offered to do
the same offices to Cortes, and wrote immediately Cortes also
wrote, complaining of the distrust which Velasquez had manifested
for him, and expressed his utter astonishment at the resolution he
had taken, particularly as he had no other design than to serve
God, the emperor, and the governor. He earnestly advised him
not to listen any further to his cousin Velasquez. Cortes at the
same time wrote to his other friends, and in particular to his two

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 2 of 75)