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 50 of 75)
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cross in these baskets only persons and small animals ; the large
are too heavy. Besides, tlie places where these baskets are are not
the passages of the highways ; and, moreover, they do not cross
rivers in this manner except in Peru ; for in Florida, where are
found very large trees, the inhabitants make very fine boats and
easily cross the rivers.



I RETURN to the fleet of the enemy. The size of some of these
vessels surprised the Spaniards ; for they saw some of them with
twenty-five oars to the bench, which had each about thirty soldiers,


without counting many rowers, armed with arrows ; so that, in some
of the boats, there might be as many as seventy-flve or eighty
warriors ; but in the others there were not so many people, because
they always diminish in size. The least had fourteen oars to the
bench, and all, whfether great or small, were of a single piece. Their
oars appeared very suitably made ; they were about a fathom long,
the most of which entered the water, and when one of these vessels
went with all its force, a horse urged at full speed would hardly
have overtaken it. But that which is somewhat remarkable, the
enemy sang divers songs, which, according to the nature of the air,
sad or gay, made them row together in very good order, slowly
or swiftly', as at the time it was necessary. These songs contained
tlie heroic actions of their ancestors ; so tltat, animated by the
remembrance of tliese things, they bore themselves courageously to
battle, and thought only of winning the, victory. And that which
also deserves to be considered, the boats of the fleet were painted
within and without, yellow, blue, white, green, i-ed, or some other color,
according to the fancy of him to whom the vessel belonged. Even
the oars, and the plumes which the soldiers wore upon their heads,
their caps, as well as their bows and arrows, were of the color of
the vessel ; so that, the river being very wide, the enemy could
easily extend themselves, and tliere was nothing more beautiful to
see than this fleet, because of the diversity of the colors of the
boats and tlie order in which the Indians rowed. On the second
day, about noon, they appeared in this state in the rear of the
Spaniards, to show the power and the beauty of their army ; and
with their songs they encouraged themselves to battle. It was
known, by the means of interpreters, that in these songs they called
our men cowards, telling them that thej' fled in vain ; that, since on
land they had not been the prey of dogs, on water th*ey should
not fail to be devoured by sea monsters ; that, finall3-, the people of
the country would very soon be delivered from a troop of brigands,
and such things ; and at the end of the song they gave loud yells
that made the whole neighborhood re-echo.



When the enemy had been some time following us in order to
reconnoitre, they separated their fleet into three divisions. The
troops of Quigaltanqui put themselves at the head, but they could


not really learn whether he commancled them himself, although they
often heard him mentioned in the songs of the barbarians. After-
wards, all the vessels of the fleet advanced to the right towards the
bank of the river, and got the lead. Those of the first division im-
mediately attacked our caravels, in crossing to the other side of the
river, and covered them with arrows, so that there were several
Spaniards wounded. The first division was no sooner on the left
than it recrossed and came and recovered its place ; nevertheless,
always advancing beyond the brigantines. The second division,
which crossed after having attacked with fnry, returned to the right
and placed itself at the head of the first. The third passed in the
same manner, and having showered a quantity of arrows upon the
soldiers, they rejoined those of their party and came and posted
themselves in front of the second division. In the mean time, as
our caravels did not cease rowing, they arrived at the position of
the barbarians who had first attacked them, and who began to attack
them in the same manner as before. The others also attacked, each
in their order and their accustomed manner, and harassed the Span-
iards all the day. Even during the night they tormented them, but
not with so much persistency, for they made but two attacks, the
first a little before sunset, and the other before daybreak. Oiir
men, on their part, defended themselves very well on this occasion.
They first placed soldiers in tiie boats where the horses were, in
order that if the.bai'barians approached them, they might be able
to repulse them and prevent the horses from being killed. But as
the Indians fired from a distance, and as the Spaniards who were in
these boats found themselves incommoded, they regained the car-
avels and abandoned the horses, which were under a shelter of
wretched hides and some shields. Therefore, during ten days and
ten nights of fighting, all these horses perished, except eight. And
our men were all wounded, notwitiistanding their shields and all the
resistance they could make. They had then for arms to fight at a
distance only crossbows ; for of their muskets they had made nails.
Besides they had not even the ability to make use of them, and
since the battle of Mauvila, they lacked powder.



After ten days of fighting the enemj^ fell away from the caravels
a little more than half a league. In the mean while the Spaniards
continued to row, and discovered, at some three hundred paces from

468 HiSTOEY or tlokida.

the river, a village of about eighty houses. As then they believed
that they had made two hundred leagues, and because the river
turned to neither side, that therefore they were near the sea, they
resolved that it was necessary to land and send to the village for
provisions. The general therefore made a hundred men land under
the conduct of Silvestre ; and ordered them to go and fetch corn
froin the village, and to lead there 'the horses to recruit them in
order to fight in case of necessity. These soldiers immediately
landed, but no sooner did the inhabitants perceive them than they
took to flight, scattered through the country, and, making every-
thing echo with their cries, demanded assistance on all sides. In the
mean time the party arrived at the village where tliey found a quan-
titj' of corn, dried fruits, many deer-skins diversely painted, cloaks
of different skins very well prepared, and one piece of marten's skin
about eight ells long by three wide. This piece was double, alike
on both sides, and decorated in places. with clusters of seed pearls.
They believed that it was used as a standard by the Indians in their
festivals ; for according to appearances it could not be destined to
any other use. Silvestre, who admired it, took it for himself, and
his companions all loaded themselves, some with corn and fruits,
and others with deer-skins. Then they returned speedily to the
caravels, where the trumpets were calling them, because a part of
the Indians of the fleet, attracted bj- the cries of the inhabitants of
the village, had landed, joined them, and were all advancing with
fury, together, to give battle. But whatever haste our men could
make to regain the brigantines, they were obliged to abandon tlieir "
horses, for the peril in whicli they saw themselves prevented them
from embarking them. And without doubt, not a soldier of the
party would have been able to save himself if the Indians had been
advanced only a hundred paces farther. Therefore, all furious to
see our men escape, they turned their rage against the horses.
They pulled off their halters, unsaddled them, made them run
through the field, and fired upon them until they had slain them all.
Thus perished the remnant of three hundred and fifty horses which
. had entered Florida. The Spaniards were so much the more grieved
at it as they saw them miserably perish. But considering that they
could not protect them from the fury of the barbarians, and that
Silvestre and his companions had fortunately escaped, they continued
their voyage with all sail.




The Indians, despairing of succeeding in their design, because
the Spaniards rowed in good order, had recourse to stratagem.
They, therefore, stopped and pretended to abandon the pursuit of
the caravels. They believed that when our men no longer saw them
in their rear, the vessels would fall away from one another ; and
that then they would fall upon them and put them to flight. The
event happened in part as they had imagined. One of the caravels left
the ranks, and remained some time behind the others. The Indians
immediately advanced with fury, attacked this caravel, and endeav-
ored to capture it. The other vessels which discovered the danger
in which it was, ascended by rowing against the current to succor
it. They found their people hard pressed, defending themselves
with their swords, and that they had not been able to prevent some
barbarians from leaping into the caravel. Many of the enemy were
even already seizing it ; but upon the arrival of help they retired,
after losing thirty of their men, and carried off a boat in which were
five hogs, which were reserved to breed from in case a settlement
was made. The Spaniards thanked God that they had lost but this
boat, which was at the stern of the brigantine; and afterwards they
took care to go in very good order. In the mean time the Indians
did not cease to follow them, always hoping that there would be some
of them who would abandon their ranks. They were not disap-
pointed in their expectations. Esteban Agnez, who had the ap-
pearance and strength of a coarse peasant, and who had fought in
all the battles without having, through good luck for him, been
wounded, wished, as he was rash, to undertake something that might
make him conspicuous ; for until then he had executed nothing of
importance. He, therefore, descended from his caravel into a boat,
which was at the stern, under pretext of going to speak to the gene-
ral, who was proceeding at the head. Agnez was accompanied by
five young Spaniards, wiiom he had won byJihe hope of acquiring
glory by some bold deed. The natural son of Don Carlos Henri-
quez was of this number. He was about twenty j^ears of age, very
handsome, and very well formed ; besides, so brave and so virtuous
that one might easily have judged from whom he was sprung.
When this cavalier and his companions were in the boat, they fell


away from their caravel, and rowed directly at the Indians, attacked
them, calling out "let us fight, they fly." The general, who saw
this rashness, made haste to sound the retreat, and to recall them
with loud cries. But Agnez became more and more headstrong,
and made signs that they might go on. Moscoso, irritated at this
disobedience, commanded forty Spaniards to take boats and bring
to him this foolhardy fellow. He had determined to hang him as
soon as he should have him; but it had been much better not to
have sent, any person after him, and to have left him miserably to
perish. As soon as the general had given these orders, forty Span-
iards leaped into three boats, under the direction of Gusman, who
was followed by Juan de Yega, brother of another of the same name,
who commanded a caravel. These boats immediately rowed with
all their might after that of Agnez. In the mean time, the Indians,
who saw them advancing towards them in the rear of that of Agnez,
retired slowly in order to draw them away from the caravels.
Agnez, who saw the enemy recede, was encouraged, approached,
and cried louder than before, " Let us attack, they flee." The otiier
boats which heard him, hastened more and more to reach him, and
to hinder him from destroying himself, or to succor Mm in case of
necessity. When the Indians saw them near them they opened in
the form of a crescent, and retired gradually to induce them to ad-
vance farther. And when they knew that these boats were suffi-
ciently involved, they attacked them with fury, taking them in tlie
flank and upsetting them all in the water; so that of the flfty-two
Spaniards who were in them, there escaped but Moron, Nieto, Coles,
and Terron ; all the others were either drowned or knocked in the
head with oars. Moron, who was a great swimmer, and very adroit
in managing a vessel, fortunately regained his boat. Nearly at the
same time he drew into it Nieto, who alone bravely defended it
against the barbarians whilst Moron endeavored to direct it. But
these brave soldiers, notwithstanding their valor and their skill,
would have finally succumbed to the eflbrts of the enemy if the
caravel of Grusman, which had advanced at the head of the others
which came with assistance, had not snatched them from the rage
of the barbarians. This same caravel saved Terron; but he was no
sooner out of peril than he expired in the arras of those who had
drawn him into the vessel. "He had in his head, face, neck, and
shoulders more than fifty arrows. Coles, from whom I have taken
a part of this account, says that he escaped after having received
two arrows ; and that the Spaniards who perished on this occasion
were, for the most part, gentlemen, and the most valiant of the


troops. Moscoso was also very sensibly grieved at it. Neverthe-
less, without desponding, he quickly reassembled his caravels and
continued his voyage in very good order.



The Indians, after this defeat, harassed the Spaniards the rest of
the day and all the following night, and at sunrise, after having
uttered loud cries and made everything echo with the noise of their
instruments to thank the sun for the victory they had won, they
abandoned the pursuit of the caravels and retired, full of joy, to
their own country, for they were very far from it, and had followed
our men four hundred leagues without giving them, day or night, a
single moment of repose. During this long journey they always
nanaed Qiiigaltanqui in their songs, and did not speak of any other,,
their design being to make known to our men that it was this prince
who made war upon them. Therefore when the Spaniards had
arrived at Mexico, andMendo9a, who was viceroy of it, had learned
the evils that Quigaltanqui had done them, he derided them for it,
and praised this cacique with an air that showed that it was to joke

Wlien our men observed that the Indians were no longer in their
rear, they the more readily believed that they were approaching the
sea as the Chueagua began to be about fifteen leagues wide, so that
tliey could not discover land on either side. They saw, towards the
borders of this river, only a number of reeds so high that it seemed
that tliey might have been trees ; and perhaps tlieir vision did not
deceive them. But they would no farther enlighten tliemselves on
the subject for fear lest, quitting the current, they might strike upon
some sand-bank ; and besides, no one yet knew whether they were
at sea, or really upon tlie Chueagua. In this uncertainty our men
rowed three days, very successfully ; and the fourth, in the morn-
ing, they plainly descried the sea, and saw to their left a multitude
of trees heaped up one upon the other, which the river, at high
water, bore to the sea. And this mass of wood appeared a great
island. A half a league from there, there was a desert island like
those which great rivers make at their mouth. Therefore the Span-
iards no longer doubted they were upon the sea. But because they
did not know how far they might be from Mexico, they resolved,


before going farther, to inspect tlieir brigantines. Wiien they saw
that they had no need of calking nor of repairing, they killed ten
hogs which they had remaining, and were three days recruiting them-
selves, for they were overcome by fatigue and loss of sleep on account
of the continual alarms which the barbarians had given them every
night. For this same reason also they did not know exactly the
number of leagues the Spaniards had made in nineteen entire days
and nights of navigation on the Cliucagua until their arrival at the
sea. In fact, when the}- conversed about it at Mexico, with persons
capable of judging of it, some said that the Christians had made,
in one daj'^ and night, twenty leagues; others, thirty, and several,
forty, and some, more. But finally they agreed upon twenty-five
leagues, both day and night ; for the brigantinSs had had favorable
winds, and went with sails and oars. Upon this basis they found
that from their embarkment to the sea there were about five hundred
leagues. Coles counts some seven hundred of them, but his opinion
is sinole.



The Spaniards penetrated into Florida as far as to the fountains
where the Chucagua takes its, source.* This river, to ascend from
Aminoia, where was made the first embarkment, as far as these
fountains, is three hundred leagues ; and from this province to tlie
sea five hundred. So that there extends altogether the distance of
eiglit hundred leagues which our men travelled. (28)

During the three days that'tlie Spaniards recruited themselves,
they saw on the last day about noon, coming from a place full of
reeds, seven boats which advanced towards them. There was, in
the first, a very large and very black Indian of an asplect very
different from those who inhabit the interior of the country. The
barbarians of the coast are black in this manner, because the sun is
there warmer than elsewhere, and because they are continually in the
water, whicli is salt. For the land being dry and sterile they are
obliged to tish in order to subsist. When the Indian had approached
the caravel near enough, he placedhimself on the prow of his vessel,
and in a voice full of haughtiness told the Spaniards, according to

* The Chucagua is the Mississippi Eiver ; the Spaniards crossed it about one
hundred miles, by the river, below Memphis.


what the interpreter asserted, that they were robbers; what did
they come to seek upon the coast ; and that they should leave it in
haste, by one of the mouths of the Chucagua; otlierwise he would
burn their brigantines and put them all to a miserable death. This
barbarian, without waiting for an answer, returned to whence he had
come. In the mean while, the Spaniards, reflecting upon -the threats
of tliis Indian, and why they sent every little while boats to recon-
noitre them, resolved to attack him, for fear that, by favor of the
night, he might come to attack them and set fire to the caravels, in
which he would more easily have succeeded than by day, because
of the advantage which he had of being better acquainted with the
sea than our men. Therefore a hundred men entered into five
boats, under the condiict of Nieto and Silvestre, and went to seek
the barbarians. They found a great number of them posted behind
reeds, with good boats equipped with everything. Nevertheless, with-
out being surprised, tliey surrounded them, fell upon them, wounded
many, slew ten or twelve, and put the rest to flight. But the most
of the Spaniards were maltreated, especially Nieto and Silvestre.
There was also a soldier who had his thigh pierced through and
through by a dart about one fathom long, which the Indians threw
with so much force that the}^ pierced through a man armed with a
coat of mail. The Spanish soldier died of the stroke which he had
received, because they made too great an incision to draw out the
point of the dart, and he had nearly as much to complain of our
men who dressed liis wound as of the barbarians who had wounded



Before coming to the details of the voj'age of the Spaniards, it
is necessary to tell the manner in which the Indians right their
boats when they are capsized either in fishing or in battle. When
these barbarians, who are vevy robust and very excellent swimmers,
see one of their vessels upside down, they put ten or twelve, more
or less, about righting it. But because it is full of water, they all
together give it thi-ec or four jerks so adroitly, that at the last they
entirely empty- it and re-enter it. The Spaniards admired this
promptitude of the Indians in getting the water out of their boats,
and endeavored in vain to imitate them.

When our men who had been to attack the enemy had rejoined
the caravels, they embarked for fear of some misfortune, and went


with all speed to the desert island which they had seen in the
vicinity of the mouth of the Chucagua. When they reached it they
landed, wallted everywhere, and found nothing remarkable. After-
wards they retired to their caravels, where they passed the night,
and the next day at daybreak they raised anchor. A cable broke,
and the anchor was lost because it had no buoy ; but in the neces-
sity they had for this anchor, their best swimmers leaped into the
water, where, notwithstanding whatever trouble they took, they did
not find it until about three o'clock in the afternoon. Then they
set sail, without daring to go into the open sea, for they knew
neither the place wliere they were, nor even their course. Con-
vinced, however, that if they kept along the coast towards the west
they would safely arrive at Mexico, they sailed the remainder of the
da^-, the following night, and the next day until about evening, and
found during this journey the water fresh, being astonished that
the Chucagua should go so far into the sea. Then Aniasco took,
the latitude; but because he had neither compass nor marine
charts, he made a compass of a ruler and a marine chart of parch-
ment, and tliey governed themselves by these as well as they could.
The sailors, who knew that Aniasco had no great knowledge of. sea
affairs, ridiculed him, and through spite he threw the chart and
compass into the sea. The brigantine which followed recovered
them ; they sailed still seven or eight days, until a storm forced
them to gain a little cove. Afterwards, when the weather changed,
our men sailed fifteen days, and supplied themselves with water
five or six times, inasmuch as thej^ had but small pitchers to put
the water in.* On account of that also, and because they had
not the things necessary for the navigation, they dared not cut
across to the islands, nor go far from land. Besides, every three
days they had to refresh themselves ; and, as very oflen they
found neitlier fountain nor river, they dug two feet into the earth,
at ten or twelve steps from the sea, and found plenty of fresh water.
Finally, at the end of tliese fifteen days, they arrived at five or six
small islands, nearly filled with innumerable sea-birds, which made
their nests on land. Tliey loaded themselves with tliese birds and
with their eggs, and returned to the caravels. But these birds were
so fat, and tasted so of the sea, that they could not eat them. The
next day they anchored at a strand, which was verj' pleasant on
account of the great number of large trees at a distance from one

* The Elvas Narrative relates that a cooper "made for every brigantine two
half hogshearis, which the mariners call quai'terets, because four of them hold
a pipe of water."


another, which made a very beautiful forest. At the same time
some soldiers, landed to go a fishing along the shore, and found
many lumps of pitch which the sea had dri\*en ashore,* and which
weighed, some eight; others ten, and some from thirteen to fourteen
pounds. The Spaniards rejoiced to find this pitch, because their
caravels leaked ; they repaired them all. Each day, by main force,
they drew one of them on land, calked it, and replaced it in the
sea in the evening. But in order that the pitch might flow more
freely, they mixed it with hog's grease, preferring to employ it in
this use to eating it, because their lives depended upon their

During eight days that the Spaniards recruited themselves on
this shore, they were three times visited by Indians armed with

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 50 of 75)