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 74 of 75)
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the name of Meschasipi to the river as they descended it, and thus a tributary
of the great river gave its name to a portion of that great river which should
have been called by a single name from its mouth to its source.

The name of Meschasipi was afterwards written Missisipi, and finally Mis-
sissippi. There is probably no river that has had so many names as this great
river. The Indians, according to their different localities and different lan-
guages, had different names for it. Soto first knew it by the name Chucagua.
The French several times changed its name, calling it St. Louis, Cobert, etc.

The Mississippi, as now known, might, according to its characteristics, be
called upper, middle, and lower. The first, all that portion above the mouth
of the Missouri ; the second, aU between the mouth of the Missouri and that
of the Ohio ; and the third, all below the mouth of the Ohio, or rather from
the terminus of the limestone cliffs on the Mississippi, twenty-eight miles
above the mouth of the Ohio, where, two hundred and eighty-five feet above
the level of the sea, begins the great fluvial deposit that Extends five hundred
miles, to the Gulf of Mexico, and has an area of forty thousand square miles.

Through this immense plain the lower Mississippi winds its way, in a south-
erly direction, twelve hundred and six miles to the Gulf of Mexico, flowing
first from the Ohio to Memphis, along its eastern margin, near the bluffs that
bound it on that side, and at some half' dozen points present themselves on
the borders of the river ; then, from Memphis to the mouth of the St.
Francis River, it crosses this plain, and then flows along its western margin
from the St. Francis to Lake Providence. From Lake Providence it again
crosses the plain, reaching the eastern side at Vicksburg, and then continuing
along the eastern side and very near the bluffs that present themselves on the
banks of the river at five or six points, it reaches the hills of Fort Adams,
twelve miles above the mouth of the Red River, by some considered the head
of the delta : but the river Mississippi still continues along the eastern margin
of its plain to Baton Rouge, the highlands appearing at three or four points.
At Baton Rouge the highlands diverge eastward (in regard to side) from the
river, and terminate on Bayou Manchac, about fifteen miles, by land, below,


where the delta stretches eastward to Lake Pontchartraln ; and the Mississippi
flows southeastwardly two hundred and twenty-six miles to the Gulf.

From what has been said it will be perceived that the Mississippi crosses its
plain twice, and in each instance diagonally ; firstly, from Memphis to the
mouth of the St. Francis, a distance of eighty miles, while the width of the
plain at Memphis, and at Helena, about eight miles, by land, below the St.
Francis, is thirty-five miles ; secondly, from Lake Providence to Vicksburg, a
distance of seventy-six miles, while the width of the plain at Vicksburg is
thirty-five miles ; and at Natchez, seventy miles, by the river, below, it is
thirty miles. The plain of the Mississippi, from Manchac or from Red River
to the Ohio is thus divided into three sections ; the first extending from the
Ohio to Memphis, the second from Memphis to Vicksburg, and the third from
Vicksburg to the Red River, or to Manchac. The middle section is one hundred
and eighty-four miles long and sixty-eight miles wide, on the east side of the
Mississippi ; if to this be added the greatest width on the west side, the great-
est width of this section of the plain would be about one hundred miles.

The computed length of the Mississippi from the mouth of the Ohio to the
Gulf of Mexico, is one thousand one hundred and seventy-eight miles. The
width varies from two thousand one hundred and, seventy, and two thousand
four hundred and twenty-five, to five thousand six hundred and thirteen and
five thousand nine hundred feet. The average width, from Cape Giradeau to
eleven miles below New Orleans, is three thousand two hundred and thirty-six
feet. The depth at the high water of 1850 was, below the Ohio, from
seventy-one' to one hundred and thirty-five feet. From Vicksburg to New
Orleans the average depth in mid-channel, at high water, may be fairly as-
sumed to be one hundred and fifteen feet, though there are many points where
the depth exceeds one hundred and eighty feet, and others where the extreme
does not exceed seventy feet. Under the blufis at Grand Gulf, the lead
reached two hundred feet. The average descent, at high water, is three and
one-fourth inches per mile. The average surface velocity in the centre of the
river, at high water, is about seven feet per second, or nearly five miles per

Along the Mississippi and near it are found lakes in the shape of a horse-
shoe, having the ordinary width of the Mississippi River. These lakes were
once deep bends of the river, and have been formed by the river washing
through the narrow neck which connected the peninsula with the mainland.
About a dozen of these lakes have been formed within the last forty years.
They vary in length from ten to thirty miles. Besides this action of the
river, the sand-bar points opposite the bends increase and encroach upon the
bed of the river, until forced out of its original channel, the river forms for
itself a new one in the opposite bend. Where, about twenty-five years ago, a
.depth of two hundred feet was found in the Mississippi, the river no longer
flows, and for about three miles extending above that point the Mississippi has
gradually left its old bed, and now flows parallel to it.

These operations of the Mississippi have been in action from the time when
it created the immense plain through which it flows, and it is probable that,
in the lapse of ages, it has occupied every portion of its plain, and even ex-
tended its area by its encroachments on the bluff barriers that bound it on


either side. But notwithstanding all these changes, the length of the lower
Mississippi for one hundred and eighty years has varied but very little.

During the three hundred and forty years that have elapsed since Soto,
in 1541, crossed the Mississippi, about the latitude of Helena, such great
changes have taken place in that river, that, in all probability, scarcely a ves-
tige now remains of the channel through which it then flowed. It therefore is
not on the borders of the present channel of the Mississippi that must be sought
the theatre of the exploits of De Soto. It is not there that must be expected
traces of his route, if any such remain, but on the borders of the old lakes and
of the old beds of the Mississippi, now probably hid in the dense forests of its
fertile plain.

Note (29), page 487.

A large artificial mound near the eastern shore of the eastern branch of Tampa
Bay* marks the starting-point in Florida whence De Soto set out to explore the
country. It was here that he encamped, after landing his horses and soldiers on
the shores of the bay near its entrance, and sending his sailors and vessels up
the bay to anchor near the great mound.

De Soto took with him, on his expedition, a number of hogs. Hernando
Cortes did the like on his expedition to Honduras, and Gonzales Pizarro also
took swine with him on his expedition to the Napo. These animals travel
from twelve to fifteen miles a day, and this was the rate at which De Soto
travelled through populated countries, for the Elvas Narrative says they trav-
elled five or six leagues a day through populous countries, and as fast as they
could through countries not populated. A Spanish league is five thousand varas,
or two and one-third English miles, which would make five or six leagues twelve
or fourteen English miles. When they travelled as fast as they could they
made eight leagues a day, as when they passed through a wilderness on their
way from Patofa to Cofachique, and eight leagues would be about eighteen
miles. But the character of the country made a great difference in their rate
of travel ; and what has been said in regard to their speed must be understood
of their travel in general, and under favorable circumstances ; through marshes,
canebreaks, and thickets, it must have been less, especially where there was no
path. But it is probable that De Soto followed the Indian trails through the
country, except where he was misled by his guides.

The troops first marched to Hurripacuxi, who lived about twelve leagues
from the coast. They marched at the distance of ten or twelve leagues from the
coast to Apalache, which was a hundred and ten leagues from Tampa Bay.
The sea was nine leagues from Apalache, says Biedma — the Elvas Narrative
says ten — that would be twenty-three miles ; and that six leagues on the way
was a town named Ochete (Ante). "Apalache has a great number of habita-
tions, many villages of fifty and sixty houses each ; there are many ponds, and
they fish there all the year. To the north the land is fertile, and there are neither
•woods nor marshes. To the south [that is, towards the sea] there is nothing

* It is thus I find it on the map in the " Conquest of Florida," by Theodore Irvin.


but forests and marshes." Sueh is the description given of Ap'alache, taken
from the different accounts of De Soto's expedition. Garcilasso makes it thirty
leagues from the sea ; but the other two almost agree, one giving nine and the
other ten leagues to the sea from Apalache. Apalache, probably, was some-
where in the neighborhood of Tallahassee.

De Soto, after spending at Apalache the winter tliat began in 1539, departed
the 3d of Mareh, 1540, to go to Yupaha,* the country in which was Cofa-
eique, a town on the east side of the Savannah Kiver, not far from where Au-
gusta now is. He marched northward five days and came to a large and raj)id
river, which he crossed in boats. Elvas says almost the same. Here was a
town called Capachiqui (in this they agree). This river, probably, was the
Ocmulgee. He then came to a small river; here was Achese, a town. He
then came to Ocute, where he travelled up a river very well inhabited. He
travelled and passed two rivers, which were waded ; each was two crossbow-
shots over (eight or ten hundred yards) ; the water came to the stirrups, and
had so great a current that it was needful for the horsemen to stand one before
another that the footmen might pass over above them, leaning unto them. He
came to another river of great current and largeness, which was passed with
more trouble, because the horses did swim, at the coming out, about a lance's
length. Having passed this river he came to a grove of pine trees. They had
now travelled sixty-three or seventy-two leagues from Patofa, according to
Elvas. Here they were at a loss, but Danusco discovered a town downf the
river at a distance of twelve or thirteen leagues. They went thither, and
thence, in two days' journey, came to Cofacique, which was on the east side of
a river they had to cross in boats, and in which river some of their horses were
drowned in crossing. Biedma says from Chisi [Achese] they went to a province
called Attapaha. ' ' Here they found a river which flowed towards the south, like
those we had already passed (crossed), and emptied into the sea, where Vasquez
de Ayllon had landed' ' (conjecture) . He says from Cofa they travelled in an east-
erly direction. He gives nearly the same distance from the hamlet, that Danusco
discovered, to Cofacique. Biedma mentions four large rivers that they crossed
between Apalache, and the river on which was Cafitacique or Cofacique. The
first river appears to have been larger than the two rivers they crossed by
wading, which were wide and shallow ; the next the horses had to swim a spear's
length. But when they reach the river on which was Cofacique, so' deep and
violent was the river that four of their horses were drowned, according to Gar-
cilasso. The Savannah Kiver is five hundred yards wide at Augusta.

Cofacique was two days' journey from the sea, according to Elvas Narrative.
But Biedma says : " The Indians told us that the sea was only about thirty
leagues distant." From Cofacique to Chiaha was twelve days' journey,
that is from Augusta to Rome. Soto, on leaving Apalache, travelled five
days to the first river ; he travelled nine days from Patofa and two days from
the village that Danusco discovered to reach Cofacique ; all this, without count-

* The Elvas Narrative makes Tupaha the country of Cofaoiqoe, but he does not
mention Yupaha after Soto leaves Apalache. Biedma mentions Attapaha — whioh
sounds very much like Altamaha — where there was a river which emptied into the sea.
Garcilasso puts the first town of the province of Altapaha three days' journey from Apa-
lache, and Achalaque next after Altapaha ; this name is still more like Altamaha.

f Glaroilasso says up the river, and probably is right.


ing distances that have not been given, amounts to sixteen days' travel. The
distance from Patofa to Cofacique was equal to the distance from Cofacique to
Chiaha, according to this, but he was fifteen days travelling from Cofacique to
Chiaha. They left Cofacique the 3d of May, 1540, to go to Chiaha, which was
twelve days' journey thence ; they marched in a northerly direction eight or ten
days through a mountainous country and reached Xualla; from Xualla to Gua-
choule they crossed very rough, high hills. Guachoule was situated ■ among
many streams which passed on both sides of the town, and came from the
mountains which are around it. The dwelling of the chief was upon a mound,
with a terrace around it, where six men could walk abreast.

I believe that this mound will be recognized in the following by M. F. Ste-
phenson : ' ' Two miles below Cartersville, in Bartow County, Georgia, on the
Chattahoochee River, are the remains of a magnificent temple, eighty-seven feet
high, with an escarpment on the east of near twenty feet high and twenty feet
wide, where a granite idol was plowed up by the Indians fifty-two years ago,
and sold to an Englishman, who sold it to the Salisbury collection in England ;
and in 1871 the goddess was plowed up at the same place, and is now in the
possession of Capt. Lyon, who loaned it to the Smithsonian Institute, at Wash-
ington, to take casts and electrotypes from." This temple is surroundecl by a
ditch thirty feet deep from river to river, in a bend of fifty acres, on which are
four watch-towers (mounds).

De Soto departed from Guachoule, and in two days came to Canasaqua, and
thence journeyed five days through a desert to Chiaha. The Elvas Narrative
says : ' ' The town was on an island between two arms of a river, and was
seated nigh one of them. The river divideth itself into these two branches,
two crossbow-shots above the town, and meeteth again a league below the same.
The plain between the two branches is sometimes a crossbow-shot, sometimes .
two crossbow-shots over. The branches are very broad, and both of them
may be waded over."*

Garcilasso places Guachoule and Chiaha on the same river, and says : " For
to go there (to Chiaha) he descended along many streams which pass by Gua-
choula, unite at some distance from there, and make a river so powerful, that
in the province of Iciaha (Chiaha), distant thirty leagues from the other, it is
larger than the Guadalquivir at Seville."

Biedma calls Chiaha, Chisca. The description he gives of Chisca suits
Chiaha, as described by the Elvas Narrative, which places Chisca in the gold
region of Georgia. There were two Christians sent from Chiaha to Chisca,
according to Elvas.

From Chiaha De Soto travelled down the river to Coste, and in seven days
arrived there, "where the viljages were likewise built on the islands of the
river" (Biedma). Garcilasso says: "The troops marched along the island
(river?), and at five leagues from Iciaha, where unites the river of this coun-
try with that where they were entering, they came to the capital of Acoste."
The junction of the two rivers here mentioned is that of the two which form
the Coga River.

* An Indian bow will send an arrow four hundred yards. De Soto was at Chiaha
in the month of June, a season when the river, probably, was very low.


Coste was in the province of CoQa, which was the richest country in Florida.
After travelling some days, probably along down the CoQa River, Soto di-
verged to the. southeast and came to Ytaua where he was detained six days on
account of a river there that was very high at that time. This river was, in all
probability, the Tallapoosa. He there crossed the river and proceeded through
a populous country, and came, on the 18th of September, to Talisse, a great
town situated near unto a main river (Tallapoosa).

From Talisse De Soto proceeded until he came to the Alabama River, prob-
ably not far from the mouth of the Tallapoosa. He crossed the Alabama River
and went to Mauvila. The Elvas Narrative says that after crossing he trav-
elled three days, and the third day he passed all day through a peopled country,
and came to Mauvila, Monday, 18th October, 1540, and that " Here the gov-,
ernor understood that Francisco Maldonado waited for him at the Port of
Ochuse (or Achusse) ; and that it was six days (seventy- two miles) journey
thence." Biedma says : " We came to a large river which empties into the
bay called Chuse (Ochuse, or Achusse). The Indians informed us that
Narvaez's vessels had touched there for water, and left a Christian named
Teodoro, who was still living among the Indians. They showed us a poniard
which had belonged to him." Garcilasso places Mauvila two leagues — about
five miles — from the river at the place where they crossed ; and what Elvas
says above of the three days' travel, Garcilasso makes that the distance from
Talisse to the capital of Tascaluca. "This town was very strong, because it
was in the midst of a peninsula formed by the river that passes by Talisse, which
is much larger and more rapid at Tascaluca than at that town." It was the
Alabama, not the Tallapoosa. Garcilasso says they learned from prisoners that
the sea at Achusse was thirty leagues (seventy miles) from Mauvila. Biedma
says the Indians told them that Mauvila was more than forty leagues from the

De Soto left Mauvila Sunday, the 18th of November, 1540, and marched
northward, and came to a town called Cabusto, near a great river, which he
crossed in a barge. He then travelled five days through a desert, and came to
another river, which he also crossed in a barge. In both these instances the
barge was built by the Spaniards, Having crossed this river, the next day,
the 17th of December, he came to Chicaca. This country was very well peo-
pled. Biedma says that from Mauvila they marched north ten or twelve days,
"The Indians defended the rivers we crossed." Garcilasso mentions but one
river which "was great, deep,'and had high banks." He describes Chicaca
thus: "This town has two hundred houses, situated upon a hill, which ex-
tends north and south, and is watered by many small streams." There are but
two rivers that answer the description here given ; they are the Tuscaloosa,
now changed to Black Warrior, and the Tombigbee, and these probably are
the two rivers they crossed in boats. De Soto passed at Chicaca the winter
that began in 1540.

The 25th of April, 1541, De Soto departed from Chicaca, and marched
northwest until he reached the province of Alibamo, which was probably on
the waters of the Tallahatche. From Alibamo to Quizquiz or Chisea, on the
Mississippi River, " he travelled seven days through a desert of many marshes


and thick woods;" that is, through the swamps of the Mississippi River

Near Chisca De Soto crossed the Mississippi River, there called the Chu-
cagua. After crossing, he ascended the river a league and a half, and came
to a great town of Aquixo, the name of the province. He there learned that
three days' journey from thence was a great cacique named Casquin. H e
came to a small river [St. Francis], where a bridge was made,* on which
they crossed. That day, till sunset, they travelled in water which came to
the knees, and in some places to the waist. They arrived at Casquin, and
found the country higher, drier, and more champaign than any part, bordering
near the river, that until then they had seen.f Garcilasso says this river was
as large as the Guadalquivir at Cordova. According to him they travelled
three days up this river.

From Casquin De Soto went to Pacaha, on the Mississippi River, two days'
journey from Casqui. Pacaha, or Capaha as Garcilasso calls it, was the highest
point on the Mississippi that De Soto reached. From Pacaha De Soto sent a
detachment northwest, which travelled eight days through swamps, and came
to a place called Calusi. When this detachment returned, De Soto returned
to Casqui, and thence went southwest to Quiguate, the largest village in all
Florida. It was situated on one of the branches of a great river. From Pacaha
to Quiguate may be a hundred league's. Garcilasso says he [Soto] refreshed
himself five days at Casqui, and then marched four down along the river through
fertile and populous places, and arrived at the province of Quiguate ; he then
continued his journey five days, descending along the river through places
abounding in provisions, and the fifth arrived at the capital, called Quiguate.
From this and from what the Elvas Narrative says of De Soto's travel when
he left Quiguate, it is quite evident that it was on the Mississippi River.

From Quiguate Soto went to Coligoa ; this < place was forty leagues north-
west of Quiguate, and situated among the mountains or hills of Arkansa, on a
small river.

From Coligoa Soto went southwest over mountains five days, and came
to Tatel Coya on the Arkansa River. From thence he went four days up the
river to the province of Cayas, where he stopped at a town called Tanico, near
a river. In the province of Cayas the Spaniards made salt, and in it was a
lake of hot brackish water. Soto had crossed the Arkansa either at Tatel
Coya, or in going from there to Cayas.

From Tanico Soto went to TuUa, a day and a halfs journey south from
there ; but to reach it he had to cross high mountains.

From TuUa he went southeast "ten days" or " eighty leagues" to Auti-
amque. He first went five days over rough mountains to Quipana, at the foot
of high mountains. From thence he turned east, and, crossing these moun-
tains, descended into a plain where was Autiamque, on the banks of the
Arkansa. Here he went into winter quarters, and spent the winter that began
in 1541.

On Monday, the 6th of March, 1542, Soto departed from Autiamque to seek

* These bridges were floating beams with their ends fastened together, so as to ex-
tend from one bank to the other.

t Since then earthquakes have produced great changes in that region.


Nilco, which the Indians said was near the great river. He spent ten days in
travelling from Autiamque to a province called Ayays, and came to a town
that stood near the river that passes by Cayas and Autiamque [Arkansa River].
There he crossed the river, and then descending along it he came to Nilco the
29th of March. So he was nineteen days travelling from Autiamque to Nilco,
for there were four days that it snowed so that he could not travel; but his
route was through swampy inundated country much of the way, so he could
not travel far in a day ; besides he was delayed a whole day at a lake in trying
to cross it.

Nilco was on the Arkansa Kiver near and above its mouth. He left it the
1 7th of April, and went to Guachoya, which was on the west side of the Missis-
sippi, and just below the mouth of the Arkansa. Guachoya was above Minoia
or Aminoia, and Minoia was nine leagues from Nilco, which was nine leagues
from the high land. Fernando de Soto died at Guachoya the 21st of May,


This narrative gives nearly every name mentioned by the other accounts, and
many more names in addition. The names are generally written differently in
the different accounts of the same place, but they are easily recognized by the
sound and orthography, and by the location ; for instance, Hurripacuxi and
Paracossi are intended for the same place and person ; the former has a prefix,
the other has not. Paracuxi is intended for Paracossi. Etocale in Biedma is
Gale in the Elvas Narrative ; and Biedma's Chaviti is Chaguate in the Elvas

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 74 of 75)