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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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confederates, the secretary and the royal treasurer.

Cortes lefb it to the choice of his soldiers to proceed to Havana
either by sea or by land. Alvarado, with Diaz and fifty other
soldiers and the horses, took the land route, on wliich they were to
recruit their forces. He also sent a vessel, under Juan de Esca-
lonte, in advance to the Havana. He then embarked, and pro-
ceeded with the whole squadron to the same port. When the fleet
arrived off the island of Pinos, the vessel of Cortes during the
night ran aground, while the other vessels, being ignorant of it,
proceeded on their course, and did not perceive that the com-
mander's vessel was missing until the morning, when they had
advanced so far that they continued on to the Havana, where they
were well received by Pedro de Barba, governor under Velasquez.

Five days passed away, and the vesselof Cortes did not appear ;
they, therefore, determined to send out three small vessels in search of
him ; but two more days were spent in making this outfit, and Cor-
tes still did not appear. All manner of artifices were now resorted
to as to whom the command should be given until some certainty
was gained in regard to the fate of Cortes, in which Diego de Or-
daz, as steward over the house of Velasquez and secret observer of
the movements of Cortes, was most active. The arrival of Cortes
put an end to these contests. He had to discharge his vessel, in
order to lighten it sufficiently to put it afloat, and then to replace a
portion of the cargo ; this had been the cause of his delaj-. On
his arrival at the Havana, the soldiers showed more true joy at
the return of their general than has seldom ever been manifested
for another.

The number of the soldiers increased every day ; several of tlie
inhabitants of the Havana enrolled, and among the gentlemen


Francisco de Montejo, who was afterwards Adelantado of Yucatan
and Honduras, and Diego de Soto, of Toro, afterward Cortes's
steward in Mexico.

In the mean tirae Cortes every day made his soldiers exercise, as
well with the arquebuse as with crossbow and pike ; he also made
them practise all the different evolutions ; lie instructed them him-
self. He employed the same diligence in collecting provisions, and
each one looked forward with pleasure to the time of their depart-
ure, when Gaspar de Garnica, of the household of Velasquez, ar-
rived with dispatches from the governor to Barba, imperatively
commanding him to take from Cortes the command of the fleet,
and to send him prisoner to Santiago, under a safeguard. The
governor also commanded Ordaz and Juan Velasquez, of Leon, to
assist Barba in executing what he had commanded.

As soon as Garnica arrived, it was immediately guessed for what
purpose he came. Cortes was even apprised of it by means of the
very bearer himself; for one of the Brethren of Charity, who was
much in company with Velasquez and greatly in favor with him,
had forwarded by this same Garnica a letter to a brother of the
same order, named Bartolome de Olmedo, who had joined the expe-
dition. By means of this letter Cortes was apprised of the whole
l)osture of affairs by those interested with him, Andres de Duero
and Almador de Lares, the roj^al treasurer.

although Cortes was a cavalier of invincible courage he did not
fail to be moved by this new blow, so much the more felt as it was
the least expected; for he was convinced that Velasquez would
have been satisfied with all that his friends had written to him in
regard to the first order sent to the town of Trinidad. But on
seeing arrive another armed with every thing that could mark an
extreme obstinacy in the mind of the governor, he began to con-
sider with more attention and less sangfroid the resolution he
shonld take. On the one side he saw himself exalted and praised
by those who followed him ; and on the other pulled down and con-
demned as a criminal. It was upon these reflections and in this
conjuncture that the spirit of Cortes, justly irritated, took the first
resolution to break with Velasquez. Seeing that it w^as no longer
time to conceal the subjects of his complaint and that policy was
no longer of any use, he resolved to make use of the forces he had
at his command, according to the necessity of the conjuncture in
which he might find himself. With this design he took measures
to send away Ordaz before Barba should decide to publish the
orders which he had received from Velasquez. Cortes was not
ignorant of the efforts which Ordaz had made to have himself made


commander in his absence, and that created in Cortes's mind a sus-
picion of his fidelity. So he ordered Ordnz, who was the gov-
ernor's steward, to embark to go and get provisions (wliich they
had left) at Guaniguanico, a port the other side of Cape Anton,
where Velasquez had an estate, and to await in that place the rest of
the fleet. Then he went to see Velasquez de Leon, whom he easily
drew into his interest.

After having taken these precautions he showed himself to the
soldiers, to wliom he declared the new persecutions which threat-
ened him. They all offered themselves to him, equally resolved to
assist him ; but the soldiers appeared so exasperated that the emo-
tion which showed itself in their discourse, and their acclamations
gave uneasiness to Cortes, although they wei-e made in liis interest.
Pedro de Barba, knowing that it would be too late to attempt to
appease this spirit when it had reached its climax, sought Cortes,
and, with him appearing in public, calmed everything in a moment
bj' saying aloud that he had no intention of executing the orders of
the governor, and that he should never participate in so gr«at an
injustice. Thus the menaces were turned into applause, and Barba
wishing to show the sincerity of his intentions, publicly dispatched
Oarnica with a letter to tlie governor, in which he informed him
that it was no time to think of arresting Cortes, followed by too
great a number of soldiers who, would not suffer any wrong to
Cortes. He very adroitly exaggerated the commotion wliich his
order had caused amung tiie soldiers, and concluded by advisino-
Velasquez to retain Cortes by placing confidence in iiim, and by
adding new favors to tliose whicli he had already conferred on him,
and that at all events it was better to hope from his gratitude what
he could not obtain byjjersuasion nor force.

Cortes, having made this dispatch, thought only of hastening
his departure, which was necessary to appease the minds of the
soldiers, who, not being entirely recovered from their irritation,
showed new restlessness upon the report that was spread, that
Velasquez was coming in person to insult their genenil. In fact,
some authors say that he liad taken this resolution. Cortes finally
left the port of the Havana the lOtli of February, 1519.

When he arrived at Coznmel he reviewed his forces, .and found
that lie had five hundred and eight soldiers, and sixteen horses,
eleven vessels of different tonnage, one hundred and nine sailors, and
some heavj' guns and four falconets. Tiie number of crossbow-men
was about thirty-three, and of musketeers thirteen. There were also
two cliaplains, viz., Juan Diaz and Bartolome de Olmedo, wiio accom-
panied tiie general to tiie end of the conquest of Mexico.


On the 4th of March, 1519, the fleet left Cozurael, and on the
12th arrived at the mouth of the riveF Tabasco. On Holy Thurs-
day of the year 1519 the whole fleet arrived in the harbor of San
Juan de TJlua, where ended the voyage. On the 8th of November,
1519, Cortes for the first time entered the city of Mexico.

Before Cortes set out from Yera Cruz to march to the city of
Mexico he had forwarded, July 16th, 1519, to the emperor Charles
Y. letters giving a complete account of everj'thing that happened
since his departure from Cuba, all the gold they had bartered
for, and " the presents received from Montezuma. The agents
chosen to be dispatched with these to Spain were Alonzo Puerto-
carrero and Francisco de Montejo. The best vessel of the squad-
ron, manned with fifteen sailors, was selected to convej' them.
The charge of the vessel was given to two pilots, one of whom was
Anton de Alaminos, from his being well acquainted with the
passage through , the Bahama. Channel, and the first who had
ventured that route. On the 16th of July, 1519,* they sailed from
San Juan de Ulua, and arrived soon at the Havana. There
Montejo, who had a settlement along the coast, persuaded Alaminos
to sail close in shore, where he pretended he could take in a fresh
supply of bread and bacon. This was done, and the night follow-
ing a sailor secretly swam ashore and forwarded to Yelasquez
letters from his adherents, giving him an account of all that had

When Yelasquez received these letters he immediately fitted out
two small but very swift-sailing vessels well manned and armed,
and gave the command of them to Gabriel de Rojas and Guzman,
who were ordered to repair to the Havana, and to capture the
vessels which conveyed the agents and the gold. Both vessels
arrived, after two days' sail, in the Bahama roads, but upon inquiry ^
learning that the wind had been constantly favorable and that the
vessel must have passed, they cruised, about, and discovering no
trace of her, returned to Cuba.

* Diaz says 26th, Cortes, 16th.





Velasquez, having now learned the substantial evidences of the
wealth of tlie newly discovered country, the existence of the great
city of Mexico, and the empire of Montezuma, regretted more than
ever liis failure tb arrest Cortes, and was stimulated with renewed
energy to put forth all his power to accomplish this purpose. With
this view he gave orders to fit out every ship in the island, and to
enlist ofDcers and men ; indeed, he spared no trouble ; he travelled
himself from one settlement to another, and invited all his friends
to join the armament. In this ^ay he succeeded, after ten or twelve
months, in collecting and equipping a powerful army and a great
number of vessels.

In the mean time he received letters from his chaplain, Benito
Martinez, with the rank of adelantado in the name of the king, not
only of the island of Cuba, but of all the lands discovered, or that
should be conquered, under his directions. His chaplain also in-
formed him of the zeal with which Fonseca defended and embraced
his interest, and the incivility with which he received the envoys of
Cortes ; but at the same time, he also told him of the favor which
the emperor had shown these envoys in giving them an audience at
Tordesillas, of the noise the wealth they had brought had made in
Spain, and of the high opinion there conceived of the newly discov-
ered country, which they valued far above all others.* The new dig-
nity elevated the ideas of Velasquez, and tie favor which he had
received from the president Fonseca augmented his presumption.
The praises- that had been given Cortes affected him, and although
he was not sorry to see this conquest so far advanced, yet he could
not endure that another should rob him of the credit of it, which he
regarded as his own : putting so high a value upon the part that he
had had in- the projecting of this expedition, that he assumed the
name of Conqueror without any other foundation, and believing

* Peru was not then known, being discovered in 1527. The city of Mexico
was taken August 13th, 1521, and the war ended.


himself so absolutely master of tliis' enterprise tliat he regarded all
the exploits achieved to that time as if he had done them himself.

The monks of St. Jerome,* who presided at the royal audiencia
of St. Domingo,(i) were informed of these movements and pre-
parations of Velasquez by the licentiate Zuazo, their agent in
Cuba. As they had supreme jurisdiction over the other islands,
and as they wislied to prevent the inconveniences which would re-
sult from so dangerous a collision, they sent the licentiate Lucas
Vasquez d'Aillon, judge of the royal audiencia, to endeavor to
bring the governor to reasonable terms; and incase gentle means
did not succeed, the licentiate was to show him the orders he bore,
and to command him, under the heaviest penalties, to disarm tlie
soldiers and the fleet, and not to bring trouble or embarrassment to
the conquest in whicii Cortes was engaged, under color that it be-
longed to him, or under any other pretext whatsoever.

This minister, having arrived in Cuba, and found there the fleet
ready to leave, and Velasquez very eager to embark the troops,
endeavored to control liim in exposing to him as a friend all the rea-
sons which presented tliemselves to his mind, in order to calm that
of the governor, and to give him confidence. But as he saw that
Velasquez was no longer capable of receiving good advice, because
everj'tiiing that did not tend to the ruin of Cortes appeared to him
impracticable, he produced his orders, and had them read to him,
by a clerk whom he had Ijrought with him, which he accompanied
with divers requests and protestations, but all that could not cause
Velasquez to change his resolution. The title of adelantado sounded
so grand in his imagination, that it appeared he would not recognize
a superior in his government ; and his disobedience became a kind
of revolt. Aillon let pass some transports of Velasquez, without
wounding his feelings, in order not to push him too far upon the
precipice; and when he saw him determined to hasten the embarka-
tion, Aillon showed some desire to see a country so famous, and
offered to make the voyage through pure curiosity. Velasquez gave
him permission to do so, in order that they might not know too
soon at St. Domingo the insolence of his replies, and the licentiate
embarked with the approbation of the whole army.

Andres de Duero, who, as secretary of Velasquez, had rendered
such kind service to Cortes, embarked in the same fleet. Some say
that he undertook this voyage in order to take his share of the
riches of his friend, in virtue of the services which he had rendered

* Luis de Figueroa, Alonzo de Santo Domuigo, and Benardino de Manoa-

(i) For this series of references, see Appendix.


him. Others maintain that the design of tlie secretary was to render
himself mediator between the two commanders, and to prevent as
much as he could the ruin of Cortes.

The fleet consisted of nineteen sail, carrying fourteen hundred
soldiers and sailors, eighty horses, and forty pieces of artillery, with
an abundance of provisions, arms, and munitions. There were
twelve large ships, and seven a little larger than brigantines. There
were ninety crossbow-men and seventy musketeers.*

Velasquez appointed to the command of this fleet a cavalier named
Pamfllo de Narvaez,"}" a man of high stature and great bodily strength,
with a voice amazingly powerful, and an imperious look in his
countenance ; he was a native of Valladolid, a city of Spain ; a man
of reputed ability, and of great wealth and distinction in Cuba. He
was a man of merit, highl}' esteemed, but attached to his opinions,
which he sustained with some asperitJ^ Velasquez gave him the
rank of lieutenant-governor, reserving to himself that of governor,
at least of New Spain.

Narvaez also received secret instructions from the governor, who
especially commanded him to seize Cortes and send him under a

* Diaz gives in one place 18 sail, in another 19 ; he gives in one place 1300
soldiers and sailors, in another 1400 ; and he gives 40 pieces of artillery, but
also says that Narvaez had 18 pieces of artillery in front of his camp. To
explain these apparent discrepancies, it must be considered that one ship was
lost, on which there may have been one hundred soldiers and sailors, which
would reduce the number of men (at first 1400) to 1300, and the number of
vessels (at first 19) to 18. In regard to the artillery, there may have been, in
addition to the 18 field pieces, 22 pieces on the vessels, including those in the
vessel that was lost. Cortes says there were 10 or 12 pieces at Narvaez's
quarters. Cortes's expedition consisted of 61-7 soldiers and.sailors, 16 horses,
and 11 vessels of different tonnage — from 80 to 100 tons. Diaz does not give the
number of cannon.

t In November, 1509, when Ojeda was about to leave the port of St. Domingo,
to make a, settlement on the Gulf of Uraba (Darien), he threatened Juan de
Esquivel that, if ever he found him on the island of Jamaica, he would cut off
his head. Notwithstanding this bravado, Esquivel proceeded to Jamaica and
took possession of that island as governor for Diego Columbus, by whom he had
been appointed. When Ojeda, returning from his settlement-in 1510, was ship-
wrecked off the coast of Cuba, Diego Ordaz, one of his companions in misfortune,
went in a canoe from Cape de la Cruz, in Cuba, to the island of Jamaica, to
inform the governor of that island of their misfortune. When Esquivel had
heard his story, he immediately dispatched Captain Pamfilo de Narvaez with a
vessel to bring the unfortunate men to Jamaica. Narvaez received Ojeda with
all honor, and conducted him to Esquivel, who, notwithstanding Ojeda's foi-mer
threat, received him kindly and furnished him with transportation to St.
Domingo. This is the first mention I find made of Narvaez, who probably went
from Jamaica to Cuba when Velasquez conquered this island in the year 1511.


secime escort to hira, in order that he might receive at his hands
the punishment he deserved; that he should treat in the same
manner the principal officers who served this, rebel, unless they
should abandon him ; that he should take possession in his name
of all that thej' had conquered, and annex it to his government.

Narvaez sailed with a favorable gale in the month of April, 1520.
When the flotilla arrived off the mountains of San Martin, a north
wind arose, which is always dangerous on these coasts. One of the
vessels, commanded by a cavalier named Christobal do Morante, of
Medina del Campo, was wrecked during night-time off the coast,
and the greater part of the men perished. The other vessels, how-
ever, arrived safe in the harbor of San Juan de TJlua.

This armament was, first of all, seen by some soldiers whom
Cortes had sent out in search of gold mines. Three of these — Cer-
vantes, Esealona, and Carretero — deserted, and did not hesitate a
moment to go on board the commander's ship, and are said, as soon
as they stepped on board, to have praised the Almighty for having
rescued them out of the hands of Cortes and the great city of
Mexico, where death stood daily before their eyes.

Narvaez ordered meat and drink to be set before them, and, as
their glasses were abundantly filled, Cervantes, one of them, who
was a low buffoon, addressed Narvaez, exclaiming, "0 Narvaez!
Narvaez! what a fortunate man you are, that you arrive just at the
moment when tlie traitor Cortes has heaped together more than
100,000 pesos, and the whole of his men are so enraged at him for
his having cheated them out of the greater part of the gold, that
many even disdained to accept their share." They expatiated on
the general disaffection of the soldiers under Cortes, misrepresented
facts, and flattered thehopes of Narvaez, who believed every syllable
of tlieir false relation. They informed Narvaez that, thirty-two
miles further on, he would come to a town called Villa Rica de la
Vera Cruz, built by the Spaniards, which had a garrison of sixty
men, all invalids, under an officer named Sandoval.

As it was not probable that Sandoval, the governor of the settle-
ment, would attempt, in the present desperate situation of aflFairs,
to oppose so powerful an armament, Narvaez sent one Guevara, a
clergyman, to receive his submission. When the priest Guevara
and his companions arrived in the town, they walked straightway
into the church to pray, and then repaired to Sandoval's house.

After the first greetings had passed between them, the priest
began his discourse by stating to Sandoval what large sums of
money Velasquez had expended on the armament which went out


under the command of Cortes, who, with the whole of the men, had
turned traitors to the governor ; and concluded by saying that he
had come to summon him, in the name of Narvaez, whom Velasquez
bad appointed captain-general, to deliver up the town to him.

When Sandoval heard this, and the expression which reflected
dishonor on Cortes, he could scarcely speak from downright vexa-
tion ; at length he replied : '' Venerable sir, you are wrong to term
traitors men who have proven themselves better servants to our
emperor than Velasquez has, or your commander ; and that I do
not this instant punish you for this affront, is merely owing to your
being a priest. Go, tiierefore, in the name of God, to Mexico ; there
you will find Cortes, who is captain-general and chief justice of New
Spain. He will answer you himself; here you had better not lose
another word."

At this moment the priest, with much bravado, ordered the secre-
tary, Vergara, to produce the appointment of Narvaez, and read it
to Sandoval and the others present. Sandoval, however, desired
the secretary to leave his papers quietly where they were, as it was
impossible for him to say whether the appointment was a lawful one
or not. But as tiie secretary still persisted in producing his
papers, Sandoval cried out to him : " Mind what j'ou are about,
Vergara ! I have already told j'ou to keep your papers in your
pocket ; go with them to Mexico ! I .promise you, the moment you
proceed to read a single syllable from them, one hundred good
lashes on the spot. How can I tell whether you are a royal secre-
tary or not ? First show me your appointment, and if I find you
are, I will listen to your papers. But even then, who can prove to
me whether your papers are true or false ?"

The priest, who was a very haughty man, then cried out, " Why
do you stand upon any ceremony with these traitors ? Pull out
j'our papers and read their contents to them."

To which Sandoval answered, " You lie, you infamous priest !"
and ordered his men immediately to seize the priest and his party,
and carry them off to Mexico.

He had hardlj' spoken when they were seized by a number of
Indians eimployed at the fortifications, bound hand and foot, and
thrown upon the backs of porters.* In this way they were trans-
ported to Mexico, where they arrived in the space of four days, the
Indian porters being constantly relieved by others on the road.

* This must not be taken literally. They were placed in a kind of palan-
quinj each borne on the shoulders of four Indians, who were relieved at regu-
lar stages.


Sandoval sent, by an expi-ess courier, to Cortes a letter informing
him of everything that was going on at the coast, and of the name
of the captein who commanded the flotilla. This letter arrived in
Mexico before the prisoners, so that Cortes was apprised of their
approach when they were still at some distance from the town. He
immediately dispatched some men with a quantitj' of the best pro-
visions, with three horses for the most distinguished of the prisoners,
with orders that they should be immediately released from their

The priest and his companions had not been more than a couple
of days with Cortes before he succeeded so well in taming them by
kind words, fair promises, jewels, and bars of gold, that they who had
come like furious lions, now returned to Narvaez as harmless as
lambs, and offered to render Cortes ?very assistance in their power.

Cortes now dispatched by an Indian courier, to Narvaez, a letter
written in the most affectionate tone, with offers of his service to
him, informing him how both he and all his men were rejoiced at
his arrival in New Spain, and particularly himself, as they were old
friends. To make a good finish to the letter he begged to say that
Narvaez was at liberty to dispose of his person and his purse, and
he would wait his commands.

Cortes at the same time wrote to Andres de Duero and Vasqupz
de Aillon, and accompanied these letters with some gold for them-
selves and his other friends. Aillon, besides this, privately received

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 3 of 75)