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The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 online

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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 65 of 75)
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scend the mountains scarcely ever fail to drink it, for to prevent the conse-
quences of the blows and bruises which they can hardly avoid on this route.
After they have cut these canes they let them dry of themselves, or cure, as
they say ; being dry they are extremely strong, and they make use of them
for joists and rafters ; they also make tables of the planks, and masts for the
Balzas ; they make of them the store-rooms of the vessel double, when they
load them with cacao, to prevent the great heat of this fruit from consuming
the wood. They make of them poles or arras of litters, and divers other like

Note (ii), -page 240.

"In the year 1520, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, a licentiate, being in want of
hands to work in the mines, entered into a resolution, with some associates, to
try if he could steal off a number of savages from the neighboring islands, to
be employed in this business. For this purpose they equipped two ships, and
sailed out of the harbor of Plata, situated on the north side of Hispaniola,
and steered a northwestern course, until they came ' to the most distant of the
Lucayos Islands,* and thence to what was then a part of Florida, in 32° N.
latitude, now called St. Helena. At the sight of these ships making towards
the shore with expanded sails, the amazed natives ran in crowds to view them,

* Lucayos is sometimes written Luocas. It is from the Spanish word Cayo, a rock,
ghoal, or islet in tlie sea. Key is but a corruption of Cayo, as Key West, the Florida
Keys. The Lucayos or Luccas are the Bahama Islands and shoals. The Spaniards,
after depopulating Hispaniola of its aborigines, resorted to the Lucayos to kidnap
their inhabitants to make slaves of them to work in the gold mines. They depop-
ulated the whole coast of Cumana for the same purpose.


conceiving that they must be some monstrous fishes driven upon the coast ;
but as soon as they saw men with beards and covered with clothing land out of
these floating mansions, they fled in a panic. The Spaniards, having stopped
two of them, carried them off" into their ships, where, after having entertained
them with meat and drink, they sent them back again, clothed in the Spanish
habit. The king of the country, admiring the dress, sent fifty of his people
to the ships, with a present of various fruits and provisions ; and, not contented
with doing this, he made a party of his subjects attend the Spaniards in the
many excursions into the,neighboring provinces, with which, at their request,
he gratified their inclinations ; where they were presented with gold, plates of
silver, pearls, etc., and received in the most hospitable manner. The Span-
iards, having made their own observations, as they passed, upon the customs
and manners of the inhabitants, the soil and climate, invited a large number of
the natives (after they had watered their ships and were prepared for departure)
to an entertainment on board their vessels, whece, having plied their guests
well with liquor, they took that wicked opportunity to weigh anchor and sail
away with these unhappy, deluded people towards Hispaniola. Many of the
poor wretches pined to death with vexation and from an obstinate refusal of
food ; the greater part of what remained perished in one of the vessels that
foundered at sea, and some of them, in vain appealing to the violated rights of
hospitality, were hurried into a cruel and hopeless slavery. Vasquez, instead
of the punishment due to so inhuman and hon-ible a proceeding, expected and
obtained of the king the reward appointed for such as discover new lands, to-
gether with the usual immunities they were entitled to."

" In the year 1524 he sent more ships to Florida, and was so elated with the
accounts he had from them, of the fertility of the soil, and the great plenty of
gold, silver, and pearls to be found there, that he hastened thither himself the
.next year with three ships ; but having lost one of them when near the cape
of St. Helen, and two hundred of his people whom he had landed there being
entirely destroyed by the natives, more through their own negligence and
supine security than the bravery of the inhabitants ; disappointed of his wishes,
and broken-hearted, he returned back again to Hispaniola."* ("An Account
of the First Discovery and Natural History of Florida," by William Roberts,
1763 ; taken from Robinson's Early Voyages to America.)

Note (i2), page 243.


The earliest accounts of the Indians inhabiting the country where the Eng-
lish first made their settlements in Virginia, state that "they were in general
dressed in the skins of deer or other wild animals, which hung before the mid-

* " Of the fifteen men who survived the expedition of Vasquez de Ayllon to Florida,
and joined our army [Cortes], not u single man ia now [1568] remaining." (Bernal
Diaz del Castillo's History of the Conquest of Mexico, vol. ii. p. 395 j translated b;
Jno. Ingram Lookhart, F.It..A.S.^



die ; but all the rest of the body was naked." Besides bows and arrows they
wielded bludgeons, each about three feet long ; and for defence bore shields
made of the bark of trees, and a kind of wicker armor which they make use
of in time of war. They of Secota, one of their provinces, had among them,
besides their king, a degree of nobility who were more elegant in their dresses,
particularly their hair, which they formed in various shapes, and adorned with
the finest feathers they could procure. From their ears hung either large
pearls, the feet of birds, or such other ornaments as the wearers fancied ; and
they painted both their faces and their bodies. Kound their neeks and upon
their arms they wore chains and bracelets of pearls ; to which, after their ac-
quaintance with the English, they preferred bits of brass. And their skins
were so neatly fitted around their middle that the tail of the creature always
hung behind. Such was the dress in which they appeared on solemn occa-
sions ; but when they went to war they painted theniselves in a horrible man-
ner in order to intimidate their enemies.

Their women were naturally well shaped ; their skin coverings were more
elegant than those of the men, and concealed the whole of their bodies. They
cut the forepart of their hair short, and wore a kind of a chaplet around their
temples ; but they took care to disfigure their faces, legs, and arms with punc-
tures and paintings. The better sort wore pearl bracelets, and others of bone
exqiiisitely polished. They took great delight in walking by the sides of
rivers, and in hunting and fishing. Their priests were generally men ad-
vanced in age ; they sufiered the fore-hair of their heads to grow, and kept all
the rest closely cut ; and each wore a cloak that reached from the neck almost
to the knees of the very finest skins their country afforded. In some pro-
vinces the ladies wore long strings of triple or quadruple rows of pearls wound
round their necks, in which they slung their left arm . Their old men were
more comfortably clothed than their youth, for they wore cloaks of skins which
reached from their shoulders almost to their feet, leaving the right arm naked
and at liberty. But the most extraordinary circumstance attending the ancient
Virginians was their having characters. These characters are various, and far
from being inelegant ; but were impressed upon the bare backs of the natives
as so many signatures to denote the province, tribe, or prince, to which they
belonged. The stamp of four arrows denoted sovereignty 5 the figure of one
betokened consanguinity to the prince.

Though the native Virginians knew not the use of iron, yet they had a won-
derful art of felling the bodies of large trees and of excavating them by the
force of fire, which they managed with the most surprising skill by means of
small fans, rendering it fierce or gentle according to the emergency of their
design. They polished the excavation with shells, which they sharpened and
made use of for that purpose till a perfect canoe was made. The chief use to
which they put these canoes when fabricated was to go a fishing. The fish
were dressed upon wooden gridirons. Sometimes they boiled their fish in clay
pots, which were made by their women with so much dexterity as to equal the
art of any European potter ; the round part being as exact as if it had been
turned upon a wheel. . . . They were very moderate in their repasts ; and
to this temperance Hariot ascribes the longevity they enjoyed when the English


first discovered their country. Their ordinary food was maize : which they ate
from a mat, sitting on the ground, the men on one side, the women on the other.

Upon solemn occasions, such as finishing a war, or escaping from great
danger, they express their thanksgiving by seating themselves around a large
fire and beginning a rude concert of vocal and instrumental music, performed
with a hollowed, dried gourd, which they filled with small pebbles, and rattled
with great vehemence. Besides these temporary rejoicings, they have their
anniversary jubilees celebrated by virgins, the particulars of which are so ex-
traordinary that we should not have ventured to transcribe them did they not
rest upon the most unquestionable authority. They marked out a circle in the
midst of a plain ; round which, at a certain distance, they drove posts, each
about a man's height, resembling Roman termini, ending in the head ^f a,
woman carved with a vail hanging from her brow down the sides of her face.
The time for this anniversary celebration being arrived, the inhabitants of all
the neighboring country assembled, each having his rank and quality, and the
name of his country, tribe, and village marked upon his back. The young
ladies, who were the only actors in this exhibition, next ranged themselves at
proper distances round the circle in the most fantastic dresses, and began a
dance with the most extravagant gestures. To qualify the absurdity of these
gambols, three virgins of the most exquisite form and beauty, selected from the
rest, were placed in the middle of the circle, in the very attitudes in which the
ancients represent the three graces, gently embracing one another, and in that
form beating time with their feet to the rude music which was composed of the
excavated shells and pebbles we have already mentioned.

In all these particulars there was a gi'eat resemblance between the manners
of the Virginians and the Floridians. The like was observed in the construc-
tion of their villages. The spot on which they were built was sometimes a
circle, the circumference of which consists of strong palisades, but not so strong
as those of the Floridians. Of the few buildings this circle contained, one was
always a temple covered with fine mats on the top, and admitting of no light
but by the door ; opposite to that stood the dwelling of the head man of the
village. All their houses were built of slender poles driven into the ground,
and covered with mats so as to admit, according to the season of the year, just
as much air and light as the inhabitants chose to enjoy. Near their village
they always took care to dig a pond which supplied it with water. But some
of their towns, that of Secota in particular, were not inclosed within these
palisades. In them the houses were laid out so as to form a main street ; and
they had, behind them, gardens, fields, and paddocks, in which they raised
tobacco, Indian corn, and other vegetables ; besides feeding deer and game of
all kinds. Of these improvements they were so careful that they had watch-
houses for their fields, where a man was placed to deter the birds from devour-
ing the corn. In the same township they had the places of devotion as welt as
feasting. The idol they worshipped, called Kiwasa, was carved out of wood,
about four feet high, and seemed to be copied from the Floridian idols. The
head was of a flesh-color, the breast white, and all the rest of the body black.
It was placed at Secota in the sepulchre of the deceased princes, but we do not
find that the natives were originally impressed with any great degree of devo-
tion towards it ; for it remained in the tomb as an object of terror rather than



of worship. In other repositories, two, and sometimes four or more, of these
idols were placed for the same purpose, but all of them in the darkest part of
the building, to give them the more tremendous appearance. As to the temple
or sepulchre, it was no other than a scaffolding raised upon poles some ten feet
from the ground ; covered with mattings upon which they laid the bodies after
they had been carefully embowelled, and the skin and flesh scraped from the
bones. The flesh, with the bowels, they wrapped up in mats, and placed at
^he feet of the skeletons : but they had an art of covering the skeletons with
skins so artfully stufi"ed that it retained the appearance of the complete body.
Below the scaffolding the priests had their habitations upon the skins of wild
beasts, and they were employed in mumbling prayers and in guarding the
sepulchre. The above are all the particulars which we have 'thought fit to
insert, from the oldest and most authentic accounts of this mother colony."
(An abridged note of the "Universal History," vol. xxxv. Hariot apud de

Note (13), page 244.


"Captain Soto was the son of a squire of Xeres of Badajos. He went into
the Spanish Indies when Pedro Arias de Avila was governor of the West In-
dies. And there he was without anything else of his own save his sword and
target ; and for his good qualities and valor Pedro Arias made him captain of
a troop of horsemen, and by his command he went with Fernando Pizarro to
the conquest of Peru,* where (as many persons of credit reported which were
there present), as well at the taking of Atabalipa, Lord of Peru, as at the
assault of the city of Cuzco, and in all other places where they found resist-
ance, wheresoever he was present he excelled all other captains and principal
persons. Por which cause, besides his part of the treasure of Atabalipa, he
had a good share ; whereby, in time, he gathered a hundred and eighty thou-
sand ducats, together with that which fell to his share, which he brought to
Spain ; whereof the emperor borrowed a certain part, which he paid again
with sixty thousand reals of plate, in the rent of the silks of Grenada, and all
the rest was delivered him in the contratacion-house of Seville. He took ser-
vants, to wit, a steward, a gentleman usher, pages, a gentleman of the horse,
a chamberlain, lackeys, and all other oflicers that the house of a noble may
require. From Seville he went to the court, and in the court there accompa-
nied him Juan Danusco of Seville, Luis Moscoso de Alvarado, Nufio de
Touar, and Juan Rodriguez Lobillo. Except Juan Danusco, all the rest came
with him from Peru, and each brought fourteen or fifteen thousand ducats ; all
of them went well and costly apparalled. And, although Soto of his own
nature was not liberal, yet, because that was the first time that he .was to show
himself at the court, he spent frankly. He married with Donna Isabella de

* Fernando Pizarro was second in rank to Francisco Pizarro, De Soto was third.
Fernando commanded the cavalry, and Soto belonged to that body, but did not accom-
pany Fern.ando Pizarro to Peru. He went from Nicaragua to Peru, and joined the
Pizarros at the island of Puna.


Bobadilla, daughter of Pedro Arias de Avila, Earl of Punno in Rostro. The
emperor made him the governor of the isle of Cuba, and adelantado of Florida,
■with a title of marquis of certain part of the land that he should conquer.

When Soto had obtained the government, there came a gentleman from the
Indies to the court, named Cabega de Vaca, who had been with the governor
Panifilo de Narvaez, who had died in Florida, who reported that Narvaez was
cast away at sea with all the company that went with him ; and how he, with
four (three) more, escaped and arrived in New Spain. Also he brought an
account in writing of that which he had seen in Florida, which said, in some
places : In such a place I have seen this, and the rest which I here saw I leave
to confer of between his majesty and myself. Generally he reported the misery
of the country, and the troubles which he passed ; and he told some of his kins-
folk, who were desirous to go into the Indies, and urged him very much to tell
them whether he had seen any rich country in Florida, that he might not tell
them, because he and another, whose name was Orantes — who remained in
New Spain,* with purpose to return to Florida, for which intent he came to
Spain to beg the government thereof of the emperor — had sworn not to discover
some of these things which they had seen, because no man should prevent them
in begging the same. And he informed them that it was the richest country of
the world. Soto was very desirous to have him with him, and made him a
favorable offer ; and after they had agreed, because Soto gave him not a sum of
money which he demanded to buy a ship, they broke off again. Baltasar de
Gallegos and Christopher de Spindola, the kinsmen of CabeQa de Vaca, told
him, that for that which he had imparted to them they were resolved to pass
with Soto into Florida, and therefore they prayed him to advise them what
they had best to do. Cabega told them the cause why he went not with Sotp
was because he hoped to beg another government, and he was loath to go under
the command of another ; and that he came to beg the conquest of Florida, but
seeing that Soto had gotten it already, for his oath's sake he might tell them
nothing of that which they, would know ; but he counselled them to sell their
goods and go with him, and that in so doing they should do well. As soon as
he had opportunity to speak with the emperor, he related to him whatso-
ever he had passed through, and seen, and learned. Of this relation, made
orally to the emperor, the Marquis of Astorga had notice, and forthwith deter-
mined to send with Soto his brother, Don Antonio Osorlo : and with him two
kinsmen of his prepared themselves, to wit, Francisco Osorio and Garcia Oso-
rio. Don Antonio dispossessed himself of sixty thousand reals of rent which
he held by the church ; and Francisco Osorio, of a town of vassals which he
had in the country of Campos. And they made their rendezvous, with the
adelantado, at Seville. The like did Nunez de Touar, and Luis de Moscoso,
and Juan Rodriguez Lobillo. Luis de Moscoso carried with him two brethren ;
there went also Don Carlos, who had married the governor's niece, and took
her with him. From Badajos there went Pedro Calderon, and three kinsmen
of the adelanlado,f to wit. Arias Tinoco, Alfonso Romo, and Diego Tinoco.

* He sailed for Old Spain or for Cuba at the same time that Alvaro left Vera Cruz,
f The titles of De Soto, ia the accounts of his expedition to Florida, were general,
adelantado, and governor.



And as Luis de Moscoso passed through El vas, Andrew de Vasconcelos spake
•with him, and requested him to speak to Soto concerning him, and delivered
to him certain warrants which he had received from the Marquis of Villa Real,
wherein he gave him the captainship of Ceuta in Barbary, that he might show
them to him. And the adelantado saw them, and was informed who he was,
and wrote to him that he would favor him in all things and by all means, and
would give him a charge of men in Florida. And from Elvas went Andrew
Vasconcelos, Fernan Pegado, Antonio Martinez Segurado, Men Eoiz Pereira,
Juan Cordero, Stephen Pegado, Benedict Fernandez, and Alvaro Fernandez.
And out of Salamanca, Jaen, Valencia, Albuquerque, and other parts of Spain
many people of noble birth' assembled at Seville ; insomuch that in San Lucar
many men of good account, who had sold their goods, remained behind for want
of shipping ; whereas, for other known and rich countries they are wont to
need men ; and this fell out by occasion of that which CabeQa de Vaca told the
emperor, and informed such persons besides as he had conference with touch-
ing the state of that country. Soto made him great offers, but he went for gov-
ernor to the river of Plate. His kinsmen, Christopher de Spindola and Balta-
sar de Gallegos, went with Soto. Gallegos sold houses, vineyards, rent-corn, and
ninety ranks of olive-trees in the Xarafe of Seville.* He had the office of
alcalde mayor, and took his wife with him. And there went also many other
persons of account with the adelantado, and had the following offices by great
friendship, because they were offices desired by many, to wit, Antonio de
Biedma was factor,f Juan Danusco was auditor, and Juan Gaytan, nephew of
the cardinal of Ciguenza, had the office of treasurer.

The Portuguese departed from Elvas the 15th of January (1538), and came
to Seville the 19th of the same month, and went to the lodging of the governor,
and entered into a court over which were certain galleries where he was, who
came down and received them at the stairs whereby they went up to the gal-
leries. When he had ascended he commanded chairs to be given them to sit
on. And Andrew de Vasconcelos told him who he and the other Portuguese
were, and how they all had come to accompany him, and serve- him in his
voyage. Soto thanked him, and manifested great pleasure for his coming and
offer. And the table being already laid, he invited them to dinner. And
being at dinner he commanded his steward to seek a lodging for them near
unto his own, where they might be lodged. The adelantado departed from

* Alvaro Nunez Cabe^a de Vnca must have been a man of education and high
position in society to have held the office he had in the expedition of Narvaez, and to
have obtained the government he did after his return to Spain. Doubtless he dis-
covered and appreciated the immense mineral wealth, in gold and silver, of the coun-
tries through which he passed in his wanderings during seven or eight years through
New Mexico, Arizona, and Northern Mexico. The list of distinguished persons who
enlisted in the enterprise of De Soto is evidence of the high estimation in which he was
held, and of his qualification for the distinguished position in which he was placed. The
trials through which be passed, and the command and control which he held over such
a body of men during three years of privation and suffering, suCBciently prove that he
was endowed with extraordinary abilities. And his achievement, though fruitless,
entitles 'him to rank with the most distinguished commanders of his time.

t He is mistaken in the name ; it was not Antonio, but Luis Fernandez de Biedma.


Seville for San Lucar with all the people wlio were to go with him, and
commanded a muster to be made, at which the Portuguese appeared armed in
very bright armor, aud the Castilians very gallant with silk upon silk, with
many pinkings and cuts. The adelantado, because these braveries in such an
action did not please him, commanded that they should muster another day,
and every one should come forth with his armor ; at the .which the Portu-
guese came as at the first, armed with very good armor. The governor placed
them in order near unto the standard which the ensign bearer carried. The
Castilians for the most part did wear very bad armor, and rusty shirts of mail,
and all of them had head-pieces and steel caps, and very bad lances. Some
of them sought to come among the Portuguese. So those passed and were
counted and enrolled whom Soto liked and accepted, and they accompanied
him to Florida ; they were in all six hundred men. He had already bought
seven ships, and had all necessary provisions aboard them. He appointed
captains, and delivered to each his ship, and gave him a list of the men he
should carry with him.

In the year of our Lord 1538, in the month of April, the adelantado de-
livered his ships to the captains which were to go in them, and took for him-
self a new ship, and good of sail, and gave another to Vasconcelos, in which
the Portuguese went. He went over the bar of San Lucar on Sunday morn-
ing, being St. Lazarus's day, in the month and year aforesaid, with great joy,
commanding the trumpets to be sounded, and many shots of the ordnance to
be discharged. He sailed four days with a prosperous wind, and suddenly it

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 65 of 75)