Robert Kerr.

A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 04 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a online

. (page 12 of 52)
Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 04 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a → online text (page 12 of 52)
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address his subjects from a terrace, desiring them to desist from their
attacks, assuring them that we would immediately evacuate the city. On
receiving this message, Montezuma burst into tears, exclaiming, "What does
he want with me now? I have been reduced to my present unhappy state on
his account, and I neither wish to see him nor to live any longer?" He
therefore dismissed the messengers with a refusal, and it is reported that
he added, that he desired not to be any more troubled with the false words
and specious promises of Cortes. Father Olmedo and Captain De Oli went to
wait upon him, and used all possible expressions of respect and affection
to induce him to comply with the request of Cortes. To this he replied,
that he did not believe any thing he could now do would be of any avail,
as the Mexicans had elected another sovereign, and were resolved not to
allow a single Spaniard to quit the city alive. He made his appearance
however at the railing of a terraced roof, attended by many of our
soldiers, and made a very affectionate address to the people below,
earnestly entreating a cessation of hostilities, that we might evacuate
Mexico. As soon as Montezuma was perceived, the chiefs and nobles made
their troops to desist from the attack, and commanded silence. Then four
of the principal nobles came forwards, so near as to be able to hold
conversation with Montezuma whom they addressed, lamenting the misfortunes
which had befallen him and his family. They told him that they had raised
_Cuitlahuatzin_[3] to the throne; that the war would soon be ended, as
they had promised to their gods never to desist till they had utterly
destroyed the Spaniards; that they offered up continual prayers for the
safety of Montezuma their beloved sovereign, whom they would venerate and
obey as formerly, as soon as they had rescued him from our hands, and
hoped he would pardon all they had done for the defence of their religion
and independence, and their present disobedience. Just as they concluded
this address, a shower of arrows fell about the place where Montezuma
stood; and though the Spaniards had hitherto protected him by interposing
their shields, they did not expect any assault while he was speaking to
his subjects, and had therefore uncovered him for an instant; in that
unguarded state, three stones and an arrow hit him on the head, the arm,
and the leg, wounding him severely. Montezuma refused every assistance,
and all the endeavours of Father Olmedo could not prevail upon him to
embrace the holy Catholic faith, neither could he be prevailed upon to
have his wounds attended to. When informed of his death, Cortes and our
captains lamented him exceedingly, and all of us soldiers who had been
acquainted with his generosity and other amiable qualities, grieved as for
the loss of a father. He was said to have reigned seventeen years, and to
have been the best of all the sovereigns who had ruled over Mexico; having
fought and conquered in three pitched battles, while subjugating other
states to his dominions.

After the death of Montezuma, Cortes sent two of our prisoners, a nobleman
and a priest, with a message to the new sovereign Cuitlahuatzin, to inform
him of the melancholy event, which had happened by the hands of his own
subjects; to express our grief on the occasion; and our wish that
Montezuma might be interred with that respect which was due to his exalted
character. Cortes likewise informed these messengers, that he did not
acknowledge the right of the sovereign whom the Mexicans had chosen, as
the throne ought to belong to the son of the great Montezuma, or to his
cousin, who was now a prisoner in our quarters. He desired them also to
say, if they would desist from hostilities, we would immediately march out
of their city. He then ordered the body of Montezuma to be carried out by
six nobles, and attended by most of the priests whom we had taken
prisoners, desiring them to deliver the body of their deceased monarch to
the Mexican chiefs, according to his dying injunctions. We could hear the
exclamations of sorrow which were expressed by the people, at the sight of
the body of their late sovereign; but our message was unavailing, as they
recommenced their attack on our quarters with the utmost violence,
threatening that in two days we should all pay with our lives for the
death of their king and the dishonour of their gods, as they had now a
sovereign whom we could not deceive as we had done by the good Montezuma.

Our situation was now exceedingly alarming, and on the day after the death
of Montezuma, we made another sally towards that part of the city which
contained many houses built on the firm ground, meaning to do all the
injury we could, and, taking advantage of the causeway, to charge through
the enemy with our cavalry, hoping to intimidate them by severe military
execution, so as to induce them to grant us a free passage; we accordingly
forced our way to that part of the city, where we burnt down about twenty
houses, and very nearly reached the firm land[4]. But the injury we did
the enemy was dearly purchased by the death of twenty of our soldiers, and
we were unable to gain possession of any of the bridges, which were all
partly broken down, and the enemy had constructed barricades or
retrenchments in various places to obstruct the cavalry, wherever they
could have done most essential service. Thus our troubles and perplexities
continually increased, and we were forced again to fight our way back to
our quarters. In this sally, which took place on a Thursday, Sandoval and
others of our cavalry acted with great bravery; but those who came with
Narvaez, not having been accustomed to such service, were timorous in
comparison with our veterans. The number and fury of our enemies increased
daily, while our force was diminished by each successive attack, and from
our wounds we were become less able for resistance. Our powder was almost
entirely expended; provisions and water became scarce; our friend
Montezuma was no more; all our proposals for peace were rejected; the
bridges by which we might have retreated were broken down; and in fine
nothing but death in its direst form of immolation to their horrible idols
appeared before us. In this state almost bordering on despair, it was
resolved by Cortes in a consultation with all his confidential officers
and soldiers, to make an attempt to quit the city during the night, as we
were in expectation to find the enemy less upon their guard than in the
day time. In order to deceive them, a message was sent by one of their
chief priests who had been made prisoner, engaging to give up all the
treasure in our possession, if they would give us permission within eight
days to quit the city. Four days before this, one Botello, who pretended
to be an astrologer, predicted that if we did not leave Mexico on this
very night, that none of us would ever get out of it alive, adding many
other foolish particulars to his prophecy.

As it was determined to endeavour to force our way from the city, a
portable bridge of very strong timber was prepared for enabling us to pass
over the canals or passages in the causeway, where the enemy had broken
down the bridges; and one hundred and fifty of our soldiers, with four
hundred Tlascalan allies, were appointed for conveying, guarding, and
placing this bridge. The advanced guard of an hundred of our youngest and
most active men, was commanded by Sandoval, assisted by Azevedo, De Lugo,
De Ordas, and De Tapia, with eight of the captains that came with Narvaez.
The rear guard of an hundred men, mostly those of Narvaez, and the greater
part of our cavalry, was confided to Alvarado and Velasquez de Leon. Donna
Marina and Donna Luisa, with the Mexican chiefs who were prisoners, were
placed under an escort of thirty Spanish soldiers and three hundred
Tlascalans: Our general, with Avila, Oli, and other officers, and fifty
soldiers, formed a body of reserve to act where they might be most needed.
The rest of our soldiers and allies, with the baggage, formed a main body
along with which the prisoners and their especial escort was to move,
under protection of the van and rear guards. By the time that all these
arrangements were completed, it drew towards night, and Cortes caused all
the gold, which had hitherto been kept in his apartment, to be brought
into the great hall of our quarters, when he desired Avila and Mexia, the
kings officers, to take charge of what belonged to his majesty, assigning
them eight wounded horses and above fourscore Mexicans for its conveyance.
When these were loaded with all the gold they were able to carry, a great
deal more remained heaped up in the saloon. Cortes then desired his
secretary Hernandez and other notaries to bear witness that he could no
longer be responsible for this gold; and desired the soldiers to take as
much as they pleased, saying it were better for them to have it, than to
leave it to their Mexican enemies. Upon this many of the soldiers of
Narvaez, and some even of our veterans, loaded themselves with treasure. I
was never avaricious, and was now more intent on saving my life than on
the possession of riches: I took the opportunity, however, of carrying off
four calchihuis from a casket, though Cortes had ordered his major-domo to
take especial care of this casket and its contents, and these jewels were
of infinite use to me afterwards, as a resource against famine, as they
are highly prized by the Indians. The memorable night of our leaving
Mexico, was dark, with much mist and some rain. Just before midnight, the
detachment having charge of the portable bridge moved off from our
quarters, followed in regular succession by the other divisions of our
army. On coming to the first aperture in the causeway of Tacuba or
Tlacopan, by which we retreated as being the shortest, the bridge was laid
across, and was passed by the vanguard, the baggage, artillery, part of
the cavalry, the Tlascalans with the gold. Just as Sandoval and his party
had passed, and Cortes with his body of reserve, the trumpets of the enemy
were heard, and the alarm was given on every side, the Mexicans shouting
out, "_Tlaltelulco! Tlaltelulco_[5]! out with your canoes! the teules are
marching off, assail them at the bridges!" In an instant the enemy
assailed us on every side, some on the land and others in their canoes,
which swarmed on the lake and the canals on both sides of our road, and so
numerous were they and so determined that they entirely intercepted our
line of march, especially at the broken bridges, and from this moment
nothing but confusion and dismay prevailed among our troops. It rained so
heavily that some of the horses became restive and plunged into the water
with their riders; and to add to our distress our portable bridge was
broken down at this first gap, and it was no longer serviceable. The enemy
attacked us with redoubled fury, and as our soldiers made a brave
resistance, the aperture became soon choked up with the dead and dying men
and horses, intermixed with artillery, packs and bales of baggage, and
those who carried them, all heaped up in the water. Many of our companions
were drowned at this place, and many were forced into canoes and hurried
away to be sacrificed. It was horrible to hear the cries of these
unfortunate captives, calling upon us for aid which we were unable to give,
and invoking the blessed Virgin and all the saints in vain for deliverance.
Others of our companions escaped across those gaps in the causeway, by
clambering over the confused mass of dead bodies and luggage by which they
were filled, and were calling out for assistance to help them up on the
other side; while many of them, thinking themselves in safety when they
got to the firm ground, were there seized by the Mexicans, or killed with
war clubs. All the regularity which had hitherto guided our march was now
utterly lost and abandoned. Cortes and all the mounted officers and
soldiers galloped off along the causeway, providing for their own
immediate safety, and leaving all the rest to save ourselves as we best
might: Nor can I blame them for this procedure, as the cavalry could do
nothing against the enemy, who threw themselves into the water on both
sides of the causeway when attacked, while others, by continual flights of
arrows from the houses, or with long lances from the canoes on each side,
killed and wounded the men and horses. Our powder was all expended, so
that we were unable to do any injury to the Mexicans in the canoes. In
this situation of utter confusion and derout, the only thing we could do
was by uniting together in bands of thirty or forty, to endeavour to force
our way to the land: When the Indians closed upon us, we exerted our
utmost efforts to drive them off with our swords, and then hurried our
march to get over the causeway as soon as possible. Had we waited for each
other, or had our retreat been in the day, we had all been inevitably
destroyed. The escape of such as made their way to land, was due to the
mercy of God who gave us strength to force our way; for the multitudes
that surrounded us, and the melancholy sight of our companions hurried
away in the canoes to instant sacrifice, was horrible in the extreme.
About fifty of us, mostly soldiers of Cortes, with a few of those who came
with Narvaez, stuck together in a body, and made our way along the
causeway through infinite difficulty and danger. Every now and then strong
parties of Indians assailed us, calling us _luilones_, their severest term
of reproach, and using their utmost endeavours to seize us. As soon as we
thought them within reach, we faced about and repelled them with a few
thrusts of our swords, and then resumed our march. We thus proceeded,
until at last we reached the firm ground near Tacuba, where Cortes,
Sandoval, De Oli, Salcedo, Dominguez, Lares, and others of the cavalry,
and such of the infantry as had got across the bridge before it was broken
down, had already arrived[6].

On our approach, we heard the voices of Sandoval, De Oli, and Morla,
calling on Cortes to return to the assistance of those who were still on
the causeway, who loudly complained of being abandoned. Cortes replied,
that it was a miracle any should have escaped, and that all who returned
to the bridges would assuredly be slain: Yet he actually did return with
ten or twelve of the cavalry and such of the infantry as had escaped
unhurt, and proceeded along the causeway to attempt the succour of such as
might be still engaged. He had not gone far when he met Alvarado badly
wounded, accompanied by three of our soldiers, four of those belonging to
Narvaez, and eight Tlascalans, all severely wounded and covered with blood.
These Alvarado assured him were all that remained of the rear-guard,
Velasquez de Leon and about twenty of the cavalry, and above an hundred of
the infantry, who had belonged to his division, being all slain, or made
prisoners and carried away to be sacrificed. He said farther, that after
all the horses were slain, about eighty had assembled in a body and passed
the first gap on the heaps of luggage and dead bodies; that at the other
bridge the few who now accompanied him were saved by the mercy of God. I
do not now perfectly recollect in what manner he passed that last aperture,
as we were all more attentive to what he related of the death of Velasquez
and above two hundred of our unhappy companions. As to that last fatal
bridge, which is still called _Salto de Alvarado_, or the Leap of Alvarado,
we were too much occupied in saving our own lives to examine whether he
leaped much or little. He must, however, have got over on the baggage and
dead bodies; for the water was too deep for him to have reached the bottom
with his lance, and the aperture was too wide and the sides too high for
him to have leaped over, had he been the most active man in the world. In
about a year after, when we besieged Mexico, I was engaged with the enemy
at that very bridge which was called Alvarados Leap, where the enemy had
constructed breastworks and barricades, and we all agreed that the leap
was impossible. One Ocampo, a soldier who came with Garay, who used to
amuse himself with lampoons, made one on this supposed feat of Alvarado,
saying, "That fear made him give that prodigious leap, leaving Velasquez
and two hundred more to their fate as he leaped for his life." As Cortes
found, by the information of Alvarado, that the causeway was entirely
filled by the enemy, who must have intercepted all the rest of our
companions, he returned to Tacuba, where all who had escaped were now
collected. Messengers had been already sent from Mexico, ordering all the
people of Tacuba, Ezcapuzalco, Tenajocan, and other neighbouring cities on
that side of the lake, to collect and attack us; and they now began to
surround us in the inclosed courts of Popotla where we had taken shelter,
harassing us with stones and arrows, and even attacking us with lances,
many of which were headed with the swords which we lost during our retreat.
We defended ourselves against this attack as well as we could, and made
several sallies to drive them off. But, as the enemy continually increased
in number, it was determined to endeavour to reach Tlascala, for which
purpose we set out under the direction of six or seven of our allies who
were well acquainted with the country. After a fatiguing march by an
indirect road, during which we were much harassed by the enemy, who plied
us with stones and arrows, we reached some houses on a hill near a temple,
where we defended ourselves, and took such care as we could of our wounds;
but could get no provisions. After the conquest of Mexico, a church was
built on the site of this temple, and dedicated to _Nuestra Senora de los
Remedios_, our Lady of Succour, to which many ladies and other inhabitants
of Mexico, now go in procession to pay nine days devotion[7].

Our wounds had become extremely painful from cold, and want of proper
dressings, and we now bound them up as well as we could. We had to deplore
the loss of great numbers of our valiant companions, most of the soldiers
of Narvaez having lost their lives by being overloaded with gold. Poor
Botello the astrologer was killed among the rest. The sons of Montezuma,
Cacamatzin who had been prince of Tezcuco, and all the other prisoners,
among whom were some Mexican princes, lost their lives on this fatal night
of our retreat from Mexico. All our artillery were lost. We had only
twenty-three horses remaining, and very few crossbows; and our situation
was melancholy and desperate in the extreme, having no other resource but
to endeavour to reach Tlascala, and even there our reception was
exceedingly uncertain[8]. After dressing our wounds, and making arrows for
our crossbows, during which employment we were incessantly harassed in our
present post, we proceeded at midnight on our march, under the direction
of our faithful Tlascalans. Some of those who were badly wounded had to
walk with the aid of crutches; others were assisted on each side by some
of their companions; and those who were utterly unable to support
themselves were placed upon lame horses. Thus, making head against the
enemy with as many of the infantry as could bear arms, and having the
cavalry who were able to act in front and on our flanks, with the wounded
Spaniards and allies in the centre, we marched on continually harassed by
the enemy, who reviled us, saying that we should soon meet our destruction;
words that we did not then understand. I have forgot to mention the
satisfaction we all enjoyed at finding Donna Marina and Donna Luisa had
been saved in our retreat from Mexico. Having crossed among the first,
they had been brought safe to Popotla by the exertions of two brothers of
Donna Luisa, all the rest of the female Indians having been lost in the

On this day we reached a large town named Gualtitlan[9]. From that place
we continued our march, still harassed at every step by the enemy, whose
numbers and boldness increased as we advanced, insomuch that they killed
two of our lame soldiers and one of our horses at a difficult pass,
wounding many both of our horses and ourselves. Having repulsed them, we
reached some villages, where we halted for the night, making our supper of
the slain horse[10]. We began our march very early next morning, and had
only proceeded about a league, believing ourselves now almost in safety,
when three of our videts came in with a report that the whole extent of a
plain through which we must necessarily pass was covered over by an
innumerable army. This intelligence was truly terrifying to our small
numbers, worn out with fatigue and privations, and covered with wounds;
yet we resolved to conquer or die, as we had indeed no other alternative.
We were immediately halted and formed in order of battle, the infantry
being directed to use their swords only in thrusts, by which we exposed
ourselves less to the weapons of the enemy, and the cavalry were ordered
to charge clear through at half speed, with their lances levelled at the
faces of the enemy, never stopping to make thrusts. While recommending
ourselves to God and his Holy Mother, and invoking the aid of St Jago, the
enemy began to close around us, and we resolved to sell our lives dearly,
or force our way through. The infantry being drawn up in a solid column,
and our cavalry formed in bodies of five, we proceeded to the attack. It
is impossible to describe the tremendous battle which ensued: How we
closed hand to hand, and with what fury the enemy attacked us, wounding us
with their clubs and lances and two-handed swords; while our cavalry,
favoured by the even surface of the plain, rode through them at will with
couched lances, bearing down the enemy wherever they came, and fighting
most manfully though they and their horses were all wounded. We too of the
infantry did our best, regardless of our former wounds and of those we now
received, closing up with the enemy, and using every effort to bear them
down with our swords. Cortes, Alvarado, and De Oli, though all wounded,
continued to make lanes through the throng of the enemy, calling out to us
to strike especially at the chiefs, who were easily distinguished by their
plumes of feathers, golden ornaments, rich arms, and curious devices. The
valiant Sandoval encouraged us by his example and exhortations, exclaiming,
"Now is the day of victory! Trust in God, who will still preserve us to do
him service." We were all resolute to conquer or die, and were assuredly
assisted by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Virgin, and St Jago; as was
afterwards certified by a chief belonging to Guatimotzin, who was present
in this battle. Though some were killed and many wounded, we continued to
maintain our ground, yet the enemy never relaxed in their efforts. At
length it was the will of God, that Cortes, accompanied by Sandoval, De
Oli, Alvarado, Avila, and other captains, came up to that part of the
enemy in which their commander-in-chief was posted, who was distinguished
from all the rest by his rich golden arms, and highly adorned plume of
feathers, and the grand standard of the army[11]. Immediately on Cortes
perceiving this chief, who was surrounded by many nobles wearing plumes of
feathers, he exclaimed to his companions, "Now, gentlemen, let us charge
these men, and if we succeed the day is our own." Then, recommending
themselves to God, they charged upon them, and Cortes struck the Mexican
chief and threw down his standard, he and the other cavaliers effectually
breaking and dispersing this numerous body. The Mexican chief, however,
was making his escape, but was pursued and slain by Juan de Salamanca, who
seized his rich plume of feathers and presented it to Cortes, saying, that
as he had first struck the Mexican general and overthrown the standard,
the trophy of the conquest was his undoubted right.

It pleased God, that the enemy should relax in their efforts immediately
on learning the death of their general and of the numerous chiefs who
surrounded him. On perceiving that they began to retreat, we forgot our
hunger, thirst, fatigue, and wounds, and thought of nothing but victory
and pursuit. Our scanty cavalry followed them up close, dealing
destruction around them on every side; and our faithful allies fought like
lions, mowing down all before them with the arms which the enemy threw
away to facilitate their flight. On the return of our cavalry from the
pursuit, we gave humble thanks to God for our unexpected victory and
miraculous preservation. Never had the Mexican empire collected together

Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 04 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a → online text (page 12 of 52)