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 43 of 75)
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then thought of repulsing them, and on his return from the fight, he
saw that his wife, not having been able to protect herself from the
fire, had perished in it. Francisco Henriquez, a poor foot-soldier, was
much more fortunate in his affliction. All wasting away as he was,
among the sick, he saved himself from the confiagration. But as he
was fleeing, an Indian shot him wilh an arrow near the groin, and
extended him on the ground, wliere he remained more than two
hours. However, he was fortunately cured of his sickness and his
wound, which was believed mortal. Strange thing that a wretched
man should escape from all his ills whilst so many brave men should
perish I




When they had rendered the last duties to the dead, and given
orders for the wounded, they went upon the field of battle where they
saw a large horse with an arrow that passed through his shoulder
and four inches on the other side. They also found many other
horses with their entrails pierced with arrows, and fifteen pierced in
the middle of their hearts ; of which four had each two arrows
through them. And three days after, in fear of a new attack, be-
cause the enemy had lost but a hundred men, the general ordered
an advance of a league, and commanded the soldiers to go in search
of wood and straw, and to build a town which they called Chicacilla.
They there quickly fitted up a forge with bear-skins and musket-bar-
rels, and made lances, shields, and other arms of which they had
need. It was in this place that the general gave the office of Mos-
coso to Gallego ; for when he had investigated the conduct of the
field officers he knew that Moscoso had badly discharged his duty,
and that he was partly the caT;ise why the Indians had surprised and
almost conquered the Spaniards. In fact, but for a monk and some
privates, who compelled the fugitives to return to the melee, the
barbarians, who fought for the honor and for the liberty of the
country, had gained the victory. Therefore, the Indians, ashamed
of having run away, returned three days after their flight, to attack
us ; determined to conquer or gloriously die. But at two musket
shots from the camp, there fell so heavy a rain that it wet the cords
of their bows and compelled them to retrace their steps. Our men,
informed of this design by an Indian whom tliey took the next morn-
ing, again dreaded the fire, and placed themselves in battle array
outside of the burgh, with sentinels here and there. Notwithstand-
ing, the barbarians did not cease to come every night, by divers
places, to fall upon them with loud cries. They constantly killed
some soldier or wounded some horse. The Spaniards, who stoutly
repulsed them, also did not fail to pierce many of them ; but for all
that the Indians did not lose courage. Soto, who wished to secure
himself from their assaults, sent every morning into the country
parties of cavalry and infantry who slew all the Indians tliey met,
and returned at sunset with the assurance that four leagues around
the camp there would not be found any inhabitants of the country
alive. But what was astonishing, the enemy's battalion, some hours


after, returned to harass us, with loss on both sides. Nevertheless,
during these skirmishes, nothing of more importance happened
than that one night the quarter of Gusman was attacked by a bat-
talion of Indians. This captain, with five cavaliers, immediately
went out to oppose them ; he commanded his infantry to follow him,
and at the same instant that the enemies lighted their torches, our
men charged them. Gusman attacked the standard bearer, made a
violent thrust at him with his lance ; the Indian avoided it, seized
the lance, wrested it from the hands of Gusman, and without aban-
doning his standard, with his left hand pulled him down from his
horse. Our soldiers ran to his assistance, rescued him, and put the
enemj''s battalion to rout; but not without loss. They had two
horses wounded and as many slain, which moderated the joy which
they had of extricating their captain from peril.



Notwithstanding the continual attacks of the Indians, the
Spaniards remained until the end of March at their post. They
suffered much from cold, because they passed the nights under
arms, and the greater part were without shoes, with wretched doub-
lets only, and miserable buckskin pantaloons. Therefore, to all
appearances, they would have died of cold, but for Juan Yego, of
whom I shall here say something before coming to the good services
which he rendered them. Vego passed for a rough soldier, but,
nevertheless. Sometimes agreeable. Therefore they amused them-
selves with making merry with him, and playing him some petty
tricks. Porcallo de Figueroa, especially, loved to ridicule him, for
he had played him such a joke at Havana that, to satisfy him for
it, he gave him a horse, for which they offered him in Florida seven
thousand crowns, to be paid upon the first smelting of gold that
they should make there. But Vego refused this condition, and no
smelting was ever made. This is what he invented for himself and
his companions. As he perceived that thej' all were going to suffer
from cold, and that there was a great deal of very good straw at
the quarters, he set himself to making a mat four inches thick,
and long and wide in proportion ; so that one-half served him for
a mattress and the other for a covering. He knew that this inven-
tion would protect him from the cold, and he speedily made many
other mats on account of the soldiers who assisted him to work,


each one priding himself upon putting his hand to the work; so
that by means of these mats, which they carried to the guard-house
and to the parade, the Spaniards easily resisted the cold. Also,
with the exception of the mischief which the barbarians did them,
they passed the winter without inconvenience ; for they had fruits
and corn in abundance, and needed none of the necessaries of life.





The genei'al and his captains, after four months' sojourn 'in the
province of Chicaca, left it with joy at the beginning of April,
of the year 1541, and made, the first day of their march, four
leagues through a country with many villages of fifteen to twenty
houses each. They camped at a quarter of a league from these
habitations, in the expectation of finally taking a little repose,
but it happened otherwise ; for, after the scouts whom they had
sent out to explore had reported that quite near the camp there
was a fort where there appeared about four thousand men, the
general, with fifty horse, went immediately to reconnoitre them,
and at his return he told his captains that it was necessary to drive
away these barbarians before night. That it was provoking be-
yond measure that they should pursue and brave tiiem with so much
presumption; that, therefore, they were in honor bound to chastise
them, and teach them at the cost of their lives, the valor of the
Spaniards ; that, in one word, they ought to bear themselves with so
much the more courage to cut off' their retreat, as they would harass
the troops all the night with continual skirmishes. All the officers
approved tiie opinion of their general, who left a part of the army
to guard the camp, and marched with the others against the fort,
which was called Alibamo.(24) This fort formed a square with
four lines of palisades, each four hundred paces long, and two others



within. The first of all had three gates, so low that a cavalier could
not enter; one in the middle, and the others at the angles; and
Only opposite to these entrances they had, in each line of palisades,
three others, so that if the first were won, they defended themselves
in the next. The gates of the last palisades faced a small river, with
wretched bridges, which in certain places was very deep, with bor-
ders so high that one could hardly cross on horseback. The In-
dians thus had built the fort in this place in this manner, in order
to secure themselves against the horses, and oblige tiie Spaniards
to fight on foot ; for they did not fear our infantry.* When they
approached this place, the general ordered a hundred of the best
armed cavaliers to dismount; and, after having formed three bat-
talions of them, he commanded the attack, and ordered the infantry
to support them. Gusman marched straight to the first gate, Car-
deniosa to the second, and Silvestre to the third, each at the head
of his men. The besieged immediately made through each gate a
sortie of a hundred men, with great plumes upon their heads, and,
in order to give more fright, their faces and their arms painted
with streaks of divers colors. Thej' vigorously attacked the Span- .
iards, and wounded first Diego de Castro and Pedro de Torres,
who were at the side of Silvestre, whom Peinoso seconded very
promptly. Louis de Bravo, at the head of another battalion with
Gusman, was also struck with an arrow in the lower part of the
thigh Cardenioso saw fall near him Francisco de Figueroa
wounded in the same place as Bravo. The Indians generally aimed,
from the thigh downward, because elsewhere the Spaniards had
wlierewith to protect themselves from their shots. Nevertheless,
because they fired upon our men with arrows armed with flint, and
as these arrows did much more injury than the others, Cardenioso
and his companions pursued them so closely that they prevented
them, from making use' of their arrows, and drove them before
them as far as the gates. Thereupon the general attacked with
fifty cavalry, and received upon the front of his helmet so violent a
blow that the arrow bounded at least to the height of a pike. How-
ever, without being disconcerted, he drove the Indians so briskly
that lie compelled them to quickly throw themselves into the fort.
But, as the gates were so narrow that but two at a time could
pass, they made great slaughter of them, and they also entered
pell-mell with them. The Spaniards then, reanimated by the re-
membrance of the injury they had done them, charged them with

* In equal numbers on foot, the Indians had the advantage of them.hy water
and hy land. — Elvas.


ardor, and put a gj-eat. number to death. The enemy, in disorder,
abandoned the fort. Some leaped from the top of the palisades,
anil fell into the power of the cavaliers who had not dismounted,
and who pierced them with their lances ; others passed upon the
bridges, but they crowded each other to such a degree that they
fell into the water. Many who could not gain the bridge because
they pushed them so closely, leaped into the river, crossed it by
swimming, and ranged themselves in order of battle upon the
bank. And immediately one of these Indians came out of the
battalion and challenged the bravest of the Spanish crossbow-men
to fight with him. Juan de Salinas boldly accepted the challenge,
left the main body that was behind trees, under shelter from the
arrows, and went and posted himself upon the edge of the river
opposite his enemy, who, as he, was unprotected by any shield.
They made ready for the battle, and fired. The Spaniard struck
the Indian in the breast, and the Indian, the Spaniard a little lower
-than the ear, and pierced his neck in such a manner that the arrow
projected as much from one side as from tlie other. The Indians,
who saw that their man staggered, ran to him, and carried him off.
In tlie mean time, the general, annoyed by their resistance, crossed
the river at a ford above tlie fort, assembled the cavalry, rushed
upon them, and pursued them until night. So that counting those
who perished in the fort, tiiere were slain on the side of the enemy
more than two thousand men, but on that of the Spaniards only
three soldiers, Castro, Torres, an<l Figueroa, for whom they had
much sorrow, and moreover there died of their wounds a few after
the battle. But there were so many wounded, that at the return
from the pursuit of the barbarians they were obliged to remain four
days in the fort to treat them.



Before going further it is proper to relate that at the time that
the Spaniards entered Tuscaluca, they lost many of their com-
panions for want of salt. At first a malignant fever seized those
who had most need of it, and putrefied their entrails, so that at
the end of three or four days they were so offensive, that at fifty
paces one could not endure the stench; thus, after languishing some
time, this disease got the better of them beyond remedy. The
greater part of the others, astonished at so strange an occurrence,


fortunately had recourse to the preservatives of 4the Indians which
saved them from this putrefaction by means of a certain herb whicli
they burnt, and mingled the ashes of it among the things which
served to nourish them. But as for the other Spaniards who con-
temned this receipt, and who fancied that it was a disgrace to them
to employ for their preservation the same remedies as the barba-
rians, they unfortunately' died, for although during their illness
they gave them this preservative, it was of no benefit to them
because it was only fit to prevent the corruption and not to expel
it ; and in the course of a year that they lacked salt, there perished
more than sixty of these vain persons.

It also seems necessary to say here that they spoke a language
entirely diflFerent from all the other countries of Florida, and that
Soto had, besides Ortis, thirteen or fourteen interpreters in order to
communicate with the caciques. These interpretevs, when there was
business with these lords, placed themselves in a row according as
they understood one another, and the word went from one to the
other to Ortis, who was at the end and who reported everything to
the general.* Thus our men had much trouble to inquire about
the particulars of these provinces through which they passed. The
Indians, on the contrary, had not any to understand the language of
the troops, for after two months of frequent visiting they conceived
what was said to them, and partly explained themselves upon subjects
the most ordinary, but when they had remained five or six months
along with the army, they served as interpreters. They understood
the Spanish and expressed themselves in it with facility, which
greatly aided the general to inquire about ever3'thing, and that
showed that the inhabitants of Florida had a reasonable amount of



I RETURN to where I was in my history. The Spaniards, on leav-
ing Alibamo, marched through a wilderness always towards the
north, in order to go away, more and more from the sea, and at the
end of three days they saw the capital of Cliisca, which bears the
name of its province and of its chief. This town is situated near a
river wliich the Indians call Chucagua ; the largest of all those
which our men had seen in Florida. The inhabitants of Chisca, who

* This was in Tula, west of the Arkansas. The Alibamos were somewhere
between the Yallobusha and the Mississippi.


were not informed of the coming of the troops because of the war
which they had with their neighbors, were surprised. The Span-
iards pillaged them and made man^^ of them prisoners. The rest
fled ; some into the woods between the town and the river, and
others to the house of the cacique, built upon an eminence whence
it commanded all the place. This chief was old and then sick in
bed, almost without strength, of so small a size, and so poor an ap-
pearance, that they had not yet seen any such in the country.
Nevertheless, at the noise of the alarm and upon the report that
they pillaged and seized his subjects, he arose, left the room with a
battle-axe in his hand, and threatened to slay all those who had en-
tered upon his lands without his orders. But as he was going to
leave his house to oppose himself to the Spaniards, his wives, aided
by some of his subjects who fled to him, retained him. They
represented to him, with tears in their eyes, that he was weak,
without troops, his vassals in disorder and not in a condition to
fight ; and those with whom thej' had to do, vigorous, in good order,
in great numbers, and the greater part mounted upon animals so
swift that they could never escape them. That it was therefore
necessary for him to await a favorable opportunity to avenge him-
self, and in the mean time to deceive his enemies by fair appearances
of friendship in order to prevent his ruin and that of his subjects.
These considerations arrested Chisca, but he was so much irritated
at the injury the Spaniards had done him, that without deigning
to listen to the envoys of the general who demanded peace of him,
he declared war upon them, adding that he hoped in a short time
to kill their captain and all those who accompanied him. Soto,
nevertheless, without being surprised at this, dispatched other per-
sons to him, who apologized forthe disorder they hadmade at first and
continued to demand peace of him, for he saw that the troops were
disheartened by continual fighting, and embarrassed with sick men
and horses ; that in less than three hours there had joined the cacique
about four thousand men very well armed ; that probably he would
assemble a still greater number of them; besides, that the situation
of the place was very favorable for the Indians and very inconven-
ient for the Spaniards, because of the woods which was around the
town, and which prevented them from making use of their horses ;
that finally, instead of progressing by wai', they were daily ruining
themselves. Such were the considerations which led the general
to make peace. But the greater part of the Indians who had assem-
bled to deliberate upon this subject had views quite to the contrary.
Some desired war, in the belief that they had no other means to re-
cover their goods, and to deliver their companions from the power
of the Spaniards ; that such people were not to be feared ; that the


peace which they demanded with so much eagerness was a sure
mark of their lack of courage ; that it was therefore necessary to
teach them by a battle, the courage of tiiose whom they came to
attack, in order that no foreigner should, for the future, have the
boldness to enter upon their lands. But the others maintained that
peace was the only means to repossess their goods and to recovei' the
prisoners ; that if they came to blows, they would have to apprehend
a greater misfortune than the first ; fire, the loss of their corn which
was still standing, the entire ruin of the provincCj and the death of
many of their people ; that since these enemies had come so far to
them, through so many difficult perils and brave people, they could
not reasonably doubt their valor ; that therefore, without having
other proofs of it, it was necessary to declare for peace ; and that if
it was not beneficial, they could then break it much more advanta-
geously than they could now make war. This opinion was the
strongest, and the cacique, concealing his resentment, demanded of
the envoys of the general what they expected in consideration of
the peace for which they had manifested so much desire. They re-
plied, their lodgings in the town and provisions to proceed. Chisca
consented to everything on condition that they should set at liberty
those of his subjects whom they had taken; that they should restore
all the plunder,- and should not enter into his house ; that otherwise
they would have but to prepare to fight to the last extremity. The
Spaniards accepted the peace upon these conditions. They released
the subjects of Chisca because they did not lack Indian servants;
and restored all the booty, which was poor buckskin and some man-
tles of very little value. Then the inhabitants abandoned the town
and what provisions they had, and the Spaniards remained there
six days to treat their sick. The last day Soto obtained permission
of Chisca to visit him in his house, where, after having thanked him
for the favors which he had done to the troops, he retired and con-
tinued, the next day, his discovery.



On leaving the province of Chisca the troops again marched up
the river* They made, in four days, only twelve leagues on account
of the sick, and arrived at a place where they could cross the river,
because it was easy to approach it ; and elsewhere, on both sides,

* The Chuoagua, now the Mississippi.


the river was bordered with a very tliick forest, and the banks so
steep that they could neither ascend nor descend them. They re-
mained to make boats at this place, • where, at their arrival, there
appeared on the other side of the river about six thousand Indians,
well armed, and with many boats, to dispute the passage of it. But
the next day, four of the most eminent of the troop came on the
part of the cacique to visit the general ; and after the customarj^
ceremonies they complimented him upon his arrival, and demanded
of him peace and his friendship. Soto received them with joy, and
sent them back well satisfied. Therefore, during twenty days that
the Spaniards were upon the borders of the river, these four Indians
served them with all the forces that were with the cacique. Never-
theless, it was impossible to induce him to come to the camp, and he
always excused himself in one way or another. So they believed
that he had sent to the general only through fear, and to prevent
the devastation of his province ; for as the time of the harvest, which
looked remarkably flncj was near at hand, that caused him much

The Spaniards finished two large boats in fifteen days, because
everybody worked at them. And they guarded them night and day
for fear lest the Indians should burn them, for they came from all
quarters, in boats, to range themselves against our men ; then they ad-
vanced against them with loud cries and showered upon them arrows.
But they were repulsed with musket shots from the entrenchments
which were upon the bank of the river. So that, in spite of all
their efl!brts, the Spaniards launched four boats, which could hold
one hundred and fifty soldiers and thirty cavaliers, and rowed in the
presence of the enemy, who, despairing of hindering them, retired
each into his burgh ; so that our men safely crossed the river in
these boats and in the pirogues which they had taken from the
enemy. Then, after having detached the iron works from their boats,
because it was indispensable to them, they continued their route, and
at the end of four days of travel through unpeopled places, they
discovered, on the fifth, from the top of an eminence, a town of
about four hundred houses, upon the banks of a river larger than
the Guadalquivir which passes by Cordova.* They also saw that
the lands about it were covered with corn and a number of fruit
trees. The inhabitants of this place, who were informed of their
coming, went out to meet them, and offered to the general their
property and their persons, and put themselves under his protection.
Some time after, there came to him on the part of the cacique, two

* St. Francis River, about eighty miles below Memphis. The hills border the
old bed of the Mississippi from Helena, and then continue up the St. Francis.


of the principal persons of the country, who confirmed what the
others had eaid. Soto received them with all the tokens of great
kindness, and sent them back to him well pleased.

The capital, the province, and the cacique were called Casqnin.
The Spaniards stopped six days in the town, because of the pro-
visions which they found there. And after two days of marching
they arrived at some small villages where the lord of the country
held his court, and which were distant four leagues from the capital
in ascending the river. The cacique left these villages, accompanied

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 43 of 75)