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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As to tlie cacique, when he had entered the house where his coun-
cil awaited him, he said to his captains tiiat they had no time to lose,
and that they must promptly decide whether they should kill the
Spaniards who were in the town or wait until they were all assem-
bled. That he did not doubt of the success of the enterprise, what-
ever resolution they might take, because they had to do with but
a small number of cowards and inexperts. But as to them, that
besides being eight to one, they were valiant and experienced. That
they might tlierefore boldly declare what they found proper to do,
and that he awaited but that to destroy his enemies.



The opinions of the council of Tuscaluca were divided. Some
maintained that they ought not to wait to attack the Spaniards
until they should be united, because their defeat would be more
difDcult. Others, that it would be cowardly to attack them when
tiiey were so few ; that they ought to defer the attack until they all
should be in Mauvila, and that then they would have more glory in
conquering them. To that, the first replied that thej' ought to
hazard nothing; that the Spaniards being united, would defend
themselves with more vigor, and might be able to slay some Indians.
That the death of their enemies would be bought too dear if it cost
them the loss of any of their men ; that therefore it was important
to attack them without further deliberation. This opinion prevailed,
and it was decided that they should seek a pretext for a quarrel,
and that in case they did not find one, they should not defer It,
inasmuch as they had always a right to destroy their enemies.

While these things were passing, the valet of the general who had
prepared the dinner, informed him that they were going to serve it,
and he commanded them to tell Tuscaluca, who had always eaten
with him, that he awaited him in order to dine. OrLis, who
had received this order, went to the lodge of the cacique to invite
him to dinner, but was refused admittance, and they told him that
Tuscaluca was going to leave. He returned a second time and had


the same answer, and the third time he said that Tusealnca miglit
come if he pleased, that the dinner was upon the table. Then an
Indian who had the appearance of an officer, replied that he was
astonished that brigands dared to utter the name of his lord with so
little respect, and to call him Tusealnca without giving him the
titles which were due to him. He swore by the Sun that the indo-
lence of these scoundrels should cost them their lives, and that it
was necessary to begin from that day to chastise them. Hardlj'
had this Indian spoken, when there came another who gave him a
bow and arrows to begin tiie battle. The barbarian immediately
threw back the borders of his mantle over his shoulders, made ready
his bow, and put himself in position to shoot upon a troop of Span-
iards in the street. Gallego, who by chance met him at the side of
the door through which he had gone out, seeing this treachery,
struck the barbarian with the edge of his sword, such a blow upon
his shoulder, covered only with his mantle, that he clove him even
to the entrails, and he fell dead npon the spot, as he was going to
discharge the arrow. This captain just slain, had, on going out,
commanded the Indians to charge the Spaniards. Therefore the
Indians rushed from all sides upon our men, and attacked with so
much fury that they drove them more than a hundred paces out of
town. Nevertheless, not a Spaniard turned his back; all fought
and retired like brave soldiers.

Among the barbarians who attacked the first, was a young man of
distinction, eighteen years of age, who casting his eyes upon Gal-
lego, discharged six or seven arrows at him, but in vain ; so that
tlirough rage at having neither wounded nor killed him he closed
with him, and discharged with his bow, three or four blows with so
much force upon his head that the blood flowed from it. Gallego,
who anticipated the second attack, pierced him with two thrusts of
his sword, and laid him dead at his feet.

They were convinced that the person killed was the son of the
Indian captain who had lost his life; and that the strong desire to
avenge the death of his father had irresistibly impelled him to
Gallego. But it was not only this j'oung man who fought courage-
ously, the others attacked with the same ardor, for the sole aim of
them all was to exterminate the Spaniards.

The cavaliers who had sent their horses out of Mauvila, ran im-
mediately to recover them. The swiftest mounted, the others had
not time, and cut their halters that they might escape the ftuy of
the barbarians ; but the last, who could neither mount nor set them
at liberty, saw them severely wounded with arrows, for the Indians
who had formed two battalions, attacked vigorously : one battalion.


the Spaniards, the other the horses and baggage that was there.
Afterwards they carried the booty into their houses, and the Span-
iards had only their lives left, which they defended like brave men.
They in fact did on. this occasion, all that brave soldiers could do.



The cavaliers, who had mounted their horses, being joined by
those who had arrived in file, opposed themselves to the fury of the
barbarians, and advanced to succor the infantry, which was hard
pressed. The enemy graduall}' giving way, our men assembled
and formed two bodies, one of infantry, the other of cavalry. Then
they fell upon the Indians with so much order and courage, that
they drove them back even into their fortifications, where they
would have entered pell-mell, if those who were within had not
showered upon them, from all sides, arrows and stones. Therefore
our men retired, and the Indians sallied so quickly that manj^ leaped
down from the walls and approached the Spaniards so near, that-
some of them seized the lances of the cavaliers. However, they did
not gain any advantage. Our soldiers, who fought in good order,
having adroitly drawn them more than two hundred paces from the
town, redoubled their efforts, and briskly drove them back. But
as the barbarians incommoded our men from the tops of the ter-
races, the Spaniards had. recourse to ruses to induce them to sally,
and give the cavaliers an opportunity to pierce them. They there-
fore made many feints to draw them out, and as they succeeded,
they repulsed them many times, but not without loss on both sides ;
for they vigorously opposed and attacked our men.

Captain Gallego, in the skirmishes, was followed by a Dominican,
his brother, well mounted, who begged him to accept his horse ; but
the captain, who was foremost in the fight, and who was passion-
ately fond of fame, would never quit his rank. Meanwhile his
brother, who Was spurring on with another after him, was shot by
an Indian, who wounded him slightly in the shoulder, because he
had on two hoods, with a large felt hat that flapped above.

In these attacks there were a number killed and wounded.
Among others, died Don Carlos Henriquez, who had espoused the
niece of the general, and was loved by all the arraj'. This cavalier,
among many excellent qualities, was generous toward everybody,
and personally very brave. Nothing touched the Spaniards more


than his death, which happened in this manner. His horse, in the
last attack, had an arrow-shot in his breast, and immediately Hen-
riquez stooped to draw it out ; but as he turned his head a little to
his left shoulder, he exposed his throat, and received in tliat place
an arrow armed with flint. He fell to the ground, and died the
next da}'.

Thus' the Spaniards and Indians fought ; but there perished more
on the side of the barbarians, because they had no defensive armor.
Therefore, after the}' discovered that the horses prevented them
from conquering, they retired into the town, of which they shut the
gates, all resolved to die upon the ramparts with arms in their
hands. The general at the same time commanded tlie cavaliers to
dismount, because they were better armed than the foot soldiers,
and ordered them to take bucklers and axes, and rush headlong to
crush in the gates of Mauvila, which they bravely did, but not
without suffering. Then they entered this town, and in the mean
time the foot soldiers, who were in the environs, ran there in a great
crowd. But as they all could not pass through the. gates because they
were narrow, and moreover, as they would not lose the opportunity of
distinguishing themselves in the battle, they struck down, with the
sturdj' strokes of their axes, a part of the palisades, and, sword in
hand, entered the town to the assistance of their comrades. Then
the Indians, who saw their enemies masters of the town, fought
with desperation in the middle of the streets and from the ram-
parts, whence they incommoded our men very much; so that, to
prevent the barbarians from taking them in the rear, and from re-
gaining the houses which we had seized, we set fire to them, and
as they were only straw, there was in a moment seen nothing but
flame and smoke, which served to increase still more the number of
the dead and wonnded.

As soon as the Indians had retired into the town, many of them
ran to pillage the lodge of the general; but they found there per-
sons who repulsed them — three crossbow-men, a well armed Indian
friend of the Spaniards, two priests, as many slaves, and five of Soto's
guards. Whilst the priests prayed, the others fought courageously,
so that the enemy, not being able to gain the door of the house,
endeavored to enter by the roof, and made openings there in three
or four places ; but the crossbow-men shot all who presented them-
selves. In the mean time the general and his men arrived. They
fell upon the barbarians who were besieging the house, put them to
flight, and delivered those who were within.

Then the general, who had already fought four hours on foot,
left the town and mounted his horse, in order to increase the fright


of the Indians and the courage of the soldiers. Then he re-entered
Mauvila accompanied by Tovar, and crying " San lago," they cut
througli the enemy, put them in disorder, and pierced them with
many thrusts of their lances.

In the melee, as Soto raised himself in his stirrups to pierce an
Indian, he was shot behind. The arrow broke his coat of mail and
entered quite deep into his buttock. Nevertheless, for fear that the
wound might abate the courage of his men, and elevate that of
the barbarians, he concealed the wound that he had received and
did not extract the arrow, so that he could not sit down. But he
did not cease to fight valiantly until the end of the combat, which
lasted five hours. Certainly this action alone marks sufficiently his
courage and his horsemanship.

Tovar, also, had an arrow-shot which pierced through his lance
above the handle. But because the wood was good, the arrow made
only its hole, so that the cavalier made use of his lance as usual,
after the arrow was cut. This shot is of little importance; however,
I related it because tlie like of it seldom happens.

In the mean time, the fire which they had set to the houses in-
creased more and more, and incommoded the barbarians even upon
the ramparts, whence the. greater part fought; therefore they were
constrained to abandon them. The fire, which the3' set to the doors
of the lodge, each of which had but one, also did great mischief.
Those who were within, not being able to get out, were miserably
burned up. Many Indian women who were shut up in the houses
where the fire was at the doors, all perished there in this manner.
The fire excited not less disorder in the streets than in other places.
Sometimes the wind drove the flame with the smoke upon the In-
dians, and favored the Spaniards; and sometimes the contrary, so
that the enemy regained what they had lost, and there were many
persons slain on both sides.

The battle so disastrous and so stubbornly contested during seven
hours lasted until four in the afternoon. Then, when tli^ barbarians
saw the number of people they had lost by fire and sword, and that
their forces began to grow weaker and those of the enemy to in-
crease, they implored the assistance of the women, and induced
them to avenge the death of many brave Indians or all nobly perish.

When they called the women to assist, some of them were already
fighting by the sides of their husbands, but as soon as they were
commanded they ran in a crowd, some with bows and arrows, others
with swords, halberts, and lances, which the Spaniards had dropped
in the street, which they skilfully used. They all put themselves
at the head of the Indians, and full of anger and hate, braved the


peril and showed a courage above their sex. But when the Span-
iards saw that tliey were no longer fighting except merely against
women, and that these brave Indian women meant rather to die
than to conquer, they spared them to such a degree that they did
not wound one of them.

In the mean while the rear guard, which was advancing and
amusing itself on the march, heard the noise of the drums and
the sound of the trumpets, and, conjecturing what had happened,
marched rapidly and in good order ; so that they arrived even in time
to give assistance. But no sooner had they arrived and Diego de Soto,
nephew of the general, learned the death of Don Carlos, his cousin,
whom he dearly loved, than he wished to avenge him. He leaped
from his horse, took a shield, drew liis sword, and entered the town
in the height of the melee. He was there immediately struck by
an arrow which passed through his eye to the back of his head. He
fell to the ground, and languished till the next day, when he died
without they being able to extract the arrow. This misfortune was
distressing to the whole army, and above all to the general; Diego
de Soto was a cavalier truly worthy of being his nephew.

The battle was not less sanguinary in the country than in the
town. As soon as the Indians discovered that their numbers
impeded them in such a small place as Mauvila because their
skill was almost useless, many of them glided down the ramparts
and gained the country, where they fought like brave men. Never-
theless, they had not more good fortune there than in the town.
The advantage which they gained over the foot-soldiers the cavaliers
had over them, and pierced them easily with the thrusts of their,
lances because the barbarians had no pikes. They also broke thera
many times ; and then when the i"ear guard joined Soto, they finally
put them to rout, and very few escaped.

At the time the sun was about to set and the cries and noise of
those who fought in Mauvila increased, there entered there a party
of cavaliers. Until then no person except Soto and Tovar had
entered there on horseback to fight, for they could not there con-
veniently manage their horses. Therefore, as soon as these cavaliers
were there, they divided into many small squads and raced through
all the streets, where they slew many Indians. Twelve of these cav-
aliers spurred through the main street where there was a battalion
of men and women whom despair had forced to fight. These cava-
liers took them in the rear, and when they had broken them they
briskly drove them, at the same time overthrowing, pell-mell, some of
our men who were fighting on foot, and killing these brave Indians,
nearly all of whom died with arms in their hands, preferring death


to servitude. It was by this last battle, which took place the day
of St. Luke in the year one thousand five hundred and forty,* that
the Spaniards, after having fought nine entire hours, without ceas-
ing, succeeded in completely conquering their enemies.



When the Indians attacked our men so courageously that they
drove them from Mauvila, a Spaniard, of very little importance,
took to flight ; and when he had escaped from danger, he fell on the
ground and arose immediately. However, because lie did not be-
lieve that he was entirely safe, he began again to flee, and fell.
What appeared surprising, tliey found him dead without the vestige
of a bruise or wound ; they believed he was' frightened to death.
That is one of the events which happened during the battle, and
this is what happened immediately after : Men-Rodriguez, a Portu-
guese cavalier, who had served well in Africa and on the frontiers
of Portugal, fought nearly all tlie day and did very noble deeds;
but after the battle, when he had dismounted, he remained immov-
able, without the power to speak or to eat, and died in this con-
dition at the end of three days, although he had received neither
wound nor bruise. They believed that the extraordinary efforts
which he had made against the barbarians had caused this accident to
him, and tliey said that he died of excess of courage. Finally, after
the battle, there was found in Mauvila an Indian, who had charged
the Spaniards with so much fury that, during the heat of the battle,
he had not perceived the carnage they had made of his companions ;
but when the rage with which he fought had passed, and he dis-
covered the peril in which he was and the misfortune of his party,
he gained in haste the ramparts to endeavor to escape to the
country. However, seeing the Spanish cavalry and infantry spread
here and there, he lost all hope of escape. He took the cord from
his bow, attached one end of it to a branch of a tree which they had
left between the pieces of wood of the rampart, the other to his
neck, dropped from tlie top of the rampart, and strangled himself.
Some soldiers ran to his . assistance, bnt when they arrived he was
dead. This action shows the courage and desperation of the Indians,
since the only o^ie who had survived tlie battle preferred destroyino-
himself to falling into the hands of his enemies.

* Monday, the 18th of October, 1540, is the date the Elvas Narrative gives.




The day of the battle, the general rendered the last duties to the
dead, and the next day he took care to have all the wounded at-
tended to, but there died many of them beforehand ; for they found
seventeen hundred and seventy dangerous wounds, some in the
breast, others in the head, witliout speaking of the sliglit wounds,
the number of which they could not tell. There was scarcely any
soldier who was not wounded, and, sometimes with ten or twelve
hits. Therefore, many surgeons were needed ; nevertheless, there
was but one, very slow and very unskilful. Besides, everything was
wanting — oil, bandages, lint, clothes — because the Indians had car-
ried off the baggage and the fire had consumed everything; also,
there were neither huts to cover them during the night nor pro-
visions to refresh them. The soldiers themselves could not go in
search of them because of the darkness and their wounds ; so that,
not hoping any solace from men, they implored the aid of Heaven,
and discovered that by prayers their strength and courage gradually
increased. Thus they gloriously extricated themselves from the de-
plorable condition to which the fortunes of war had reduced them.
The least wounded first took care of those whose wounds were mortal.
Some brought straw ; others, boughs of the huts which the Indians
had made outside of the town, and made lodges of them, which they
rested against the ramparts, and under which they placed the sick.
Several opened the bodies of the dead barbarians, from which they
drew the fat and made an unguent for the wounds. Some
took the shirts of their dead companions, and even stripped them-
selves of their own, to make of them bandages and lint, and kept
those of flax for the dangerous wounds ; for the slight wounds were
dressed with coarse linen and the linings of pantaloons. Others
skinned the horses which had been killed, and gave their flesh to
the most feeble ; and the rest were under arms to oppose the enemy
in case he should appear. .^^ Thus the Spaniards rendered every
service to one another during the four days that they attended the
mortally wounded, and yet they lost twenty-two of their comrades
for want of their being well treated ; so that, with thirteen who
expired immediately after the battle and forty-seven who were


slain (of whom eighteen died of arrow-shots in the head), there died
eighty-two of them, without counting forty-flve horses, which they
regretted as the principal force of the army.



The Indians lost nearly eleven thousand persons in the hattle.
There were slain, in the environs of Mauvila, more than two thou-
sand five hundred, among whom was the son of the cacique ; and in
the town more than three thousand, besides a like number who were
burnt ; for in a single house there were a thousand woxnen stifled
by the fire, which drew the compassion of everybody. At four
leagues around the town, among the woods, in the streams, and other
like places, the soldiers, who went out in parties, found more than
two thousand barbarians, some dead and others wounded, who made
every place echo with their cries.* But they could not learn what
had become of the cacique. Some asserted that he had cowardly
fled, and others that he had burnt himself, as he well deserved the
fire because he had caused all the misfortunes that had happened on
both sides. In fact, as soon as he learned that the Spaniards were
to pass over his lands, he determined to exterminate them there.
Therefore, before they entered them, he sent his son, accompanied
by some of his subjects, to the general, in order that, under pretext
of peace, they might observe the practice of the Spaniards in war,
and that, upon their report, he might take measures to accomplish
his designs. They learned also that one day, when the inhabitants
of Talisse complained to him that their cacique compelled them to
give to the Spaniards men and women for slaves, he told them that
they, might obey him without reluctance, for that very soon he
would send their people back to them, and even the Spaniards them-
selves, of whom they might make use to cultivate the land. The
Indians whom our men captured in battle confirmed the same
things: that, by the persuasion of Tuscaluca, the inhabitants had
assembled with the view of killing the Christians. As for them,
the greater part, under great promises only, had been drawn from
the neighboring provinces ; that to some they were to make presents
of scarlet capes, and of satin and velvet aprons, in order to appear
at the public dances and feasts ; and to others they had agreed to
give the horses to ride before the Spaniards. Some said that they

* Indians killed, in the town, were about 2500; Christians, 18 died, 150
wounded ; horses, 12 tilled, 70 wounded. — Elvas.


had promised them several soldiers for slaves, and all declared the
number they were to have ; that, as many of them had their hus-
bands, they had come by their orders, and others at the solicitations
of their parents, who caused them to hope that they would have
great rejoicings, in order to render thanks to the Sun for the defeat
of their enemies. Finally, some avowed that they were at the
battle at the request of their lovers, who ardently wished that they
should be witnesses of their valor, which sufHciently showed that
Tuscaluca had a long time meditated his treachery. But it was
fatal to him, as well as to the Spaniards, who, without counting the
things I have mentioned, lost many chalices, many altar decorations,
chasubles, and other ornaments, the wine, and some measures of
flour which they kept for mass ; so that, not being able to hear
it, the clergy and the monks who served the army assembled to
learn if they could consecrate it with corn-bread. But all agreed
that bread of pure wheat, and real wine were necessary. As, there-
fore, they could no longer consecrate it, they erected, every Sunday
and every festival, an altar ; and then a priest dressed in a kind of
chasuble of buckskin said the Introite, with other prayers of the
mass, without consecration, and the Spaniards called that a dry

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 41 of 75)