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 31 of 75)
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sounding the bugles and beating the drums to astonish the Indians.
In fact, many of them, wholly frightened at a noise so unexpected,
left their dwellings in the hopes of saving themselves, and fell into
the hands of the Spaniards, who after having made some prisoners,
attacked the dwelling of the cacique. It was a very fine house,
which had properly but one hall, one hundred and twenty paces
long, by forty wide, with four doors, one at each corner, and many
chambers round about, which were entered through the hall. (14)

The cacique, who had enemies to deal with, was in this housp with
his warriors ; to whom were quickly joined the greater part of his


vassals, when they saw the Spaniards masters of their town. Im-
mediately they all took their arms and put themselves in a state to
defend themselves, but in vain. The Spaniards had already gained
the enti'ances, and endeavored to oblige them to surrender, some-
times by threatening to burn them, and sometimes by promising
them kind treatment. Nevertheless, the cacique remained firm,
until they brought to him several of his subjects, who had been
made prisoners. They assured him that there were so many
Spaniards that he ought no longer to think of resisting them. That
so far they had not maltreated any one, and that he would be acting
prudently in trusting himself to their promises. The cacique suf-
fered himself to be prevailed upon^ and was kindly received by Soto;
who retained him and set at liberty all the other Indians. But
when he saw, on the other side of the town, a valley filled with
many houses', well inhabited and at some distance from one another,
he believed that there would be no security for him to pass the night
at Ochile; because, if these savages of the country should come and
join themselves to their neighbors, they could easily take from him
the cacique. He therefore returned, with haste, to join his troops,
which were three leagues from there, and uneasy at not seeing him.
But their soitow was changed to jOy when they saw him returning
bringing with him Ochile, accompanied by his domestics and many
Indian warriors, who voluntarily followed his fortunes.



The day after that on which Soto bad joined his troops they
entered in battle array the country of Ochile, the drums and trum-
pets at their head ; which made the whole neighborhood echo with
their noise. The army lodged, the general begged Ochile to send
to his brothers to induce tliem to peace. The cacique then made
known to his brothers that the Christians had entered upon their
lands ; that they had for their object only the friendship of the
people ; that if they should receive them they would make no
devastation, and would content themselves with taking only pro-
visions for their subsistence; if not, they would ruin, burn, and
slaughter all; that therefore he begged them to ally themselves
with them.

The second brother replied that he thanked Ochile for his advice;


tliat ho desired to see and know the Spaniards; that, however, he
would not go to their camp until about three days, because he wished
to put himself in a condition to be seen ;.but that he could always
assure them of his obedience, and accept, on his part, the friendship
which they ofi'ered him. In fact, three days after, this cacique came
to the army, accompanied by the finest and most distinguished of
his subjects. He politely saluted Soto, and entertained the officers
with so much wit that they would have said that he had been a long
time among them. The Spaniards, on their part, received him with
great manifestations of friendship ; they neglected nothing that
might gain the friendship of the caciques who sought their alliance;
they supported, strongly, their interests, and would not suffer that
there should he committed the least disorder upon their.lands.

Vitachuco, who was the third brother, made no reply; and re-
tained those whom they had sent to him. His two brothers, at the
suggestion of Soto, dispatched to him other persons, who entreated
him to receive the peace which the Spaniards offered him. That he
should not imagine that he could contend with them. That they
drew their origin from heaven, and were tlie veritable sons of the
Sun and Moon. That, in one word, they rode certain beasts, so
swift that they could not escape them. That they besought him to
open his eyes upon the misfortunes -which threatened him, and
prevent the desolation of his country and the ruin of his subjects.
Vitachuco answered so proudly that never bombast approached the
haughtiness of his words. But as they were not able to remember
them, I will relate only the response which he made to his brothers.
He ordered tlieir envoys to tell them that their conduct was that of
young men, who had neither judgment nor experience. That thej'
gave to their enemies fictitious birth and virtues. That the Span-
iards were neither the children of tlie sun nor so valiant as they
imagined. That his brothers were cowards to put themselves into
their power. That since they preferred servitude to liberty they
spoke as slaves, and praised the men for whom they should have
only contempt. That they did not consider that those, of whose
merit they boasted, would not act less cruelly than the others of*
the same nation, whom they had seen in the country. That they
were all traitors, murderers, robbers ; in short the children of the
devil. Tliat they carried off women, plundered their property,
seized upon the habitable country, and basely maintained them-
selves by the labor of others. That if they had as much virtue as
they said, they would not have abandoned their country ; but they
would have cultivated it, and would not have drawn upon them-
selves, by their brigandage, the hatred of all men. That they might


say to them, on bis part, that they should not enter his lands ; that,
otherwise they should never leave them ; that they should all perish
there, and that he would have them cruelly burnt.

After this reply, "Vitachuco sent many of his subjects to the camp
of the Spaniards. There came sometimes two and sometimes four
of them, who sounded the trumpet and made new manaces, more
terrible than the first. For this barbarian thought to astonish our
people by the different sorts of punishments with which he threat-
ened them. He sometimes informed them, that when they should
enter into his province, he would command the earth to open and
engulf them; the mountains between which they should march to
close and crush them ; the winds to tear up the forests through
which they should pass and overturn them upon them ; the birds to
take poison in their beaks, and drop it upon his enemies, in order
to consume them. At other times he would have the waters, the
grass, the herbs, the trees, and even the air, poisoned in such a
manner, that neither the men nor the horses would ever be able to
protect themselves from deatii ; and that thus the Spaniards would
serve as an example to those who should hereafter think of entering
his lands without his consent. These reveries, which sufiBciently
show the character of Vitachuco, made the Christians laugh at him.
However, they did not neglect to stop eight days in the country of
the two brothers ; who regaled them with emulation, and showed
them the disposition which they had to serve them. But as those
whom they had sent to their eldest brother could not persuade him,
they resolved to go there themselves. They communicated this
design to the general, who approved it, and who gave to them many
presents for Yitachuco. This barbarian, moved by the presence of
his brotliers, who told him that the troops were advancing toward
liis country, and that they would be able to ravage it entirely, be-
lieved that he ought to conceal his hate ; that some da}- he would
find occasion to manifest it openly ; and that, the Spaniards relying
upon the alliance he would swear to them, he would exterminate
them all, without incurring any danger to his person. For this
reason, he said to his brothers, that up to that hour he had not been
able to imagine that the Spaniards had so much valor, and so much
merit ; that finally, since he was convinced of it, he would receive
their alliance with joy; but, beforehand, he wished to know how
long they would remain upon his lands, and how much provisions
would be necessary- for them when they should leave it. The two
brothers dispatched promptly to the camp to make known this re-
ply. So soon as the general knew it, he begged them to assure their


oldest brother that the troops would not remain in his country, and
that he might furnish as much provisions as he chose ; for the Span-
iards desired onlj' the honor of his friendship, with which they ex-
pected to have everything in abundance.



"ViTACHUco was contented with the reply of the general ; so that,
in order to conceal more adroitly his design, he asserted that he
felt increasing in him a desire to see the Spaniards. He then com-
manded the principal persons of his province to hold themselves
ready to go to the camp, to collect provisions and the things neces-
sary, and to bring them to the capital, in order to give there the
Christians an honorable reception. Afterwards he left, accompa-
nied by his brother and five hundred men well armed, and in very
good order. But after marchiug two leagues, he met Soto, who had
advanced to receive him, and he rendered him his civilities with
great marks of amity. He also begged him to pardon what passion
had made him say against the Spaniards ; that he had been mis-
informed of their conduct ; that for the future, he would render
them the honor which was their due ; that, in one word, to repair
the offence which he had committed, he would recognize the general
as his lord, and that his subjects were ready to implicitly obey him.
At these words, Soto embraced him, and replied that he would for-
get all that had passed ; that he would remember only the favor
which he liad done him of loving him ; and that, in recognition of
this favor, he wisiied to render him every service. The colonel of
cavalry, and the captain, came afterward to salute him, and to re-
joice at his arrival ; and after some compliments on both sides, the
troops entered, in good order, into the capital, which was called
Yitachuco. It had some two hundred large houses, very strong,
and some others, smaller, which composed the fauxbourgs. The
army lodged in the strongest houses. The caciques, and the
general with his guard and his retinue, took for themselves the
dwelling of the cacique, wliere, when they had remained three days
together and lived high, the two brothers demanded permission to
return home. Soto granted it, and made them some presents, so
that they left well satisfied. Vitachuco was still four days en-
tertaining the Spaniards, in order to keep them less upon their
guard, and that he migiit the better succeed in what he meditated


against them. This design so prepossessed him that he was daz-
zled with it ; so that, instead of taking counsel of his faithful friends,
he avoided them, and communicated his idea only to those who flat-
tered him. Such is the behavior of persons who trust too much to
themselves ; and who also seldom fail to draw upon themselves the
trouble which their imprudence merits.

Finally, Vitachuco, who could no longer resist his passion to de-
stroy the troops, assembled, five daj's after tlie departure of his
brothers, four Indians who served as interpreters to the general.
He revealed to them that he had determined to massacre the Span-
iards. That it was very easy for him to succeed in it. ' That they
relied upon his friendship, and did not suspect anything. That he
had assembled more than ten thousand of his subjects, all bold and
enterprising men. That he had ordered them to conceal their arms
in the neighboring forests ; to enter the town loaded with wood and
provisions, and to leave it under pretext of rendering service to their
enemies, so that, not doubting anything, they might not be upon
their guard lie added that, in a great plain, he would put all his
subjects in battle array ; that he would entreat tlie general to come
and see them ; that afterwards he would order twelve of the
strongest and bravest of the Indians to accompany tliis commander,
under pretext of doing him honor, and to kill him in the midst of
the battalion, when they should see a favorable opportunity tor it;
that, in the mean time, the others should fall upon the Spaniards,
who, surprised at an action so bold, would not have lime eitiier to
recover themselves, or to put themselves in a state of defence.
Thereupon, as if his design had already succeeded, he continued, he
would make those who fell into his hands suffer all the punishments
with which he had threatened them, and that he would make use of
fire, poison, and tortures. Finally, that there should not be any
kind of death of which he would not think in order to torture tliem.
After Vitachuco had spoken in this manner, he commanded the in-
terpreters to tell him their opinion, and forbid them to discover his
secret. And he promised them that, when he should have satisfied
his vengeance, he would give them important olBces, and very rich
wives if they should wish to dwell upon his lauds. That if not, he
would have them escorted as far as their own country, and would
load them with favors ; that they should consider that the Span-
iards held them as slaves; that they would drag tliem into regions
so far that they would lose all hopes of ever seeing their country;
that they would injure, not only them, but all the country; that
their only aim was to deprive them of their liberty, their wealth,
wives,' and children, and to load them every day with some new


burden ; that it was, therefore, necessary to bravely oppose their
tyranny. That finally, since his designs regarded only the glorj'
and the interests of the people, he besought them by all that they
held most dear to aid him with their counsel.

The interpreters replied that bis enterprise was lofty and worthy
of a great soul ; that his measures appeared well taken ; that cer-
tainly he would not be deceived in his hopes ; that the country would
owe to him its preservation, and the people their honor, their for-
tunes, and their lives ; that, with this view, they would swear to
him not to divulge his secret, and to implicitly execute his orders;
that, in one word, as they could contribute. but their vows, for the
success of an action so glorious, they would pray the Sun and Moon
to favor it.



ViTACHUCO and the intei'preters separated with much joj*. The
latter hoped to be very soon free, elevated to honors, and married
to very rich wives ; and Vitachuco imagined that he had gloriousli'
accomplished the object of his designs ; that his neighbors would
adore him, and tliat all the people of the country would recognize
him as their liberator. He even thought that he heard then the
praises which thej' ought to give him for an action so illustrious,
and saw the women, with their cliildren, dancing and singing before
him, according to the custom of the country, songs which pro-
claimed his valor, and the fortunate success of his enterprise.
Puffed up with these vain imaginations he sent for his captains, not
to take their advice concerning what should be done, but to make
them execute his orders. He told them that he was going to be
crowned with an immortal fame ; that he even enjoyed it already, in
advance ; but that it depended upon their courage to cover liim with
glory ; that, therefore, he entreated them to attack the Christians
vigorously, and to make such a slaughter of them as he had imag-
ined. His captains replied that they had so much respect for him
that he had only to command, and they would obey him like brave
jnen. The cacique, satisfied with their reply, dismissed them with
a promise to inform them, in a short time, what they should have to
do. In tlie mean time the interpreters, to whom Vitachuco had
disclosed himself, considering tliat his enterprise could not succeed,
because of the courage of the Spaniards, and of the vigilance of
Soto, and besides, the fear of the dangers to which it would expose


them, prevailing over tlie hopes of being recompensed, they believed
that their individual interest obliged them to violate their faitli.
Tliey, therefore, went to Ortis and declared to him the treason, with
orders to give notice of it to the general, who immediately assem-
bled his council. It was decided that it was necessary to dissemble,
and secretly to warn their people to hold themselves upon their
guard with an apparent negligence, in order that the barbarians
might not suspect anything. They believed that, to secure Vita-
chuco, they should even employ the means of which he had resolved
to make use in order to take the general. Therefore, they ordered
twelve of the most robust soldiers to keep near the general, when,
at the request of Vitachuco, he should go to view the Indians in
battle array ; and that they should always be on the alert to observe
closely all the movements of the barbarian.

The day arrived when everything was to be executed, the cacique
invited Soto to come and see his subjects in the country where they
awaited him in battle array. That his presence would oblige them
to act well. That he would see their numbers and their skill, and
whether they understood warfare. As Soto dissembled and feigned
not to give himself a guard, he replied, he would view, with much
pleasure, the Indians under arras ; and that, to render the review
more beautiful and contribute to their satisfaction, he would send
out, in order of battle, the Spanish cavalry and infantry, that both
might exercise and skirmish for amusement. Vitachuco did not
wish that they should do him so much honor ; but his passion so
much prepossessed him that he consented to everything. He relied
upon the valor of his subjects ; and believed that, without difficulty,
he would succeed in his enterprise.



When, on both sides, the troops were under arms, the Spanish
cavalry and infantry left in order of battle, and the general marched
on foot with the cacique. There was, near the town, a great plain,
which abutted one side upon a forest and the other upon two
marshes. The first of these marshes was a kind of pond, of which
the bottom was very good, but the water so deep, that, at four paces
from the shore, it was overhead ; the second was three-quarters of
a league wide, and the length greater than tlie eye could view. The
Indians came and camped between this forest and these marshes ;


they had these waters on their right and the forest on their left.
There were nearly ten thousand, all men of the elite, and very
active, with plumes disposed in such a fashion upon their heads
that they appeared larger than ordinary. Being camped, they con-
cealed their arms, to make it appear that they had no evil design,
and formed a very beautiful battalion in the form of a crescent.
There they awaited their chief and the general, who came with the
resolution to seize each other; accompanied, each, by twelve persons.
The Spanish infantry marched on the side of the forest, and the
cavalry in the middle of the plain, to the right of the general, who
had no sooner arrived where Vitachuco was to have had him seized,
than he anticipated him, and had a musket fired, which was tiie
signal. The twelve Spaniards immediately seized the cacique, the
Indians endeavoring to rescue him ; but their efforts did not succeed.

The general, who was armed under his di-ess, had ordered that
they should keep ready for him two of his best horses ; so that,
after seizing the barbarian, he mounted the horse named Azei-
tuno and attacked the battalion of Indians. It was bis custom to
encourage others by his example, and to go first, headlong, into
danger: for he would not have found his victory glorious if he had
not gained it at the peril of his life. He also passed for one of the
four bravest captains who had gone to the West Indies ; but he did
not take sufficient care of himself. The Indians, who had then taken
arms, received him courageously, and prevented him from breaking
their battalion. At the same time that he put the first line in dis-
order, they fired upon him, and pierced Azeituno with eight arrows.
This horse fell dead ; for it was at this that they had principally
aimed, and even in all the other combats, they took more care to
kill the horses than to kill the men ; imagining that the death of
the one was more important to them than that of the other.

The signal being given our men charged upon the Indians, and
the cavalry followed so closely the general that it succored him
before he could be wounded. But Viota, who was one of his pages,
seeing his master's horse was slain, dismounted and gave him his
own. The general immediately rushed upon the barbarians ; who,
without pikes, could not resist three hundred cavalry, and all took
to flight ; they who had boasted of exterminating all the Spaniards.

As the battalion was broken, the Indians, about ten o'clock in
the morning, fled; some into the woods and others into the pond.
Those of the rear-guard scattered over the plain ; which was the
reason why they slew more than three hundred of them and made
many prisoners. Nevertheless, those of the advance-guard, who
were the most valiant, were still worse treated : for, flying after


having sustained the first shock and the fury of the cavalry, they
could gain neither the wood nor the marsh, which were the best
retreats; so that more than nine hundred threw themselves into the
pond. In the mean time the Spaniards pursued the others as far as
the forest ; but to no purpose, and they retraced their steps to the
pond to harass, the remainder of the day, the barbarians who had
escaped there. They fired upon them, sometimes arrows and some-
times musket shots, merely to compel them to surrender; for since
they could not escape our people did not wish to injure them. The
Indians, on their side, defended themselves valiantly, and exhausted
upon the Spaniards all their arrows. But as they had no footing,
there were many of them who swam three or four abreast; pressing
one against the other, and who carried upon their backs one of their
comrades who fired until he had no more arrows.* They fought in
this manner, all the day, without any of them being willing to sur-
render. The night come, our men invested the pond ; the cavaliers
placed themselves two and two at intervals, and the foot soldiers
six and six at very short distances from each other ; for fear lest,
by favor of the darkness, they should escape from them. And when
they heard them approach the shore, besides promising them every
kind of good treatment, they would menace them and fire upon
them to make them retire ; and fatiguing them by dint of swimming
they soon constrained them to surrender.



They were the greater part of the night harassing the Indians,
who, without any hope of succor, showed they would rather die
than surrender. However, by the persuasion of Ortis, the most
fatigued began to leave the pond, one after another, but so slowly
that at break of day there wei'e not yet fifty out. The others, who
saw that their companions were treated well, surrendered in greater
numbers. They came, however, so reluctantly, that the greater
part, being upon the shore, leaped again into the water and did not
leave it until the lastextreniitj'^ ; so that there were many of them who
swam twenty-four hours. And the next day, when the day was already
a little advanced, about two hundred surrendered ; but so swollen
by the water which they had swallowed, and so overcome by hunger,

* GarcUasso's imagination.


fatigue, and drowsiness, tliat they were half dead. Finally, the
others left it, with the exception of seven, whom nothing could
move, and w^ho would have died in tiie water, if before evening the
general had not commanded them to be drawn out of it. Twelve

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 31 of 75)