Inca's Original DeSoto Writings

Garcilaso de la Vega, the "Inca," wrote a History of the Conquest of Florida based on interviews with DeSoto Expedition survivors. This translation was made by Charmion Shelby in 1935 and Published in the DeSoto Chronicles.        (Trails to this Point)

BY STATE: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia,
                   Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas,
Louisiana, Texas, Retreat, Arkansas, Escape to Mexico      



Florida of the Inca

Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca 1539-1616





Our Spaniards finding themselves in the necessity, hardship, and affliction of which we have told, considering that they had no other recourse than their own spirit and courage, recovered it to such an extent that those who were least wounded went at once and with great diligence to the aid of the badly wounded. Some found a sheltered place in which to put them, making use for this purpose of the shelters and large huts that the Indians had built outside the pueblo for lodging the Spaniards. They made roofs from the arbors to fasten to the walls that were left standing. Others busied themselves in cutting open the dead Indians and taking the fat to use as ointment and oil in treating wounds. Others brought straw on which to lay the sick.

Others took the shirts off their dead comrades and took off their own to make bandages and lint from them. The ones that were made of linen were reserved for dressings only for those who were most dangerously wounded, not for all of them. The rest, whose wounds were not dangerous, had them dressed with coarser kinds of lint and bandages made of jackets and the linings of trousers and other such things that could be had.

Others worked at skinning the dead horses and in preparing and keeping the meat from them, to be given to the badly wounded in place of hens and young chickens, because there was nothing else to feed them.

With all the labor that they had to perform, others set themselves to stand guard and sentry duty so that, if the enemy should come, they would not f ind them unprepared, though very few of them were fit to take up arms.

In this manner they helped one another that night, all forcing themselves to endure with a good spirit the hardships that illfortune had inflicted upon them. They remained four days treating the wounds that were considered dangerous, for as they had only one surgeon and as he was not very active, it was not possible to give them more attention. Thirteen Spaniards died during this time from their wounds. Forty-seven fell in battle, eighteen of whom were killed by arrow wounds in the eyes or mouth, for the Indians, knowing that their bodies were armed, shot at their faces.

Besides those who died before being treated and in the battle itself, another twenty-two Christians died afterward from poor treatment and poor doctors. Thus we can say that eighty-two Spaniards died in this battle of Mauvila.

To this loss was added that of forty-five horses that the Indians killed in the battle, which were no less lamented and mourned than their own comrades, because they saw that in them lay the greatest strength of their army.

Among all these losses, though they were so great, none was felt so much as that of Don Carlos Enriquez, for in all the toils and hardships, because of his great virtue and amiable disposition, he was a comfort and a solace to the governor, as good sons are to their fathers. To the captains and soldiers he was a help in their necessities and a protection in their shortcomings and faults, and brought peace and concord to their passions and private quarrels, setting himself to pacify and compose them. He did this not only among the captains and soldiers but also he served as their intercessor and patron with the general, to win his pardon and clemency for them in the derelictions they committed. The governor himself, whenever any trouble arose between important persons in the army, submitted it to Don Carlos so that he might compose and pacify it with his great affability and tact.

In these matters and other similar ones, besides fulfilling completely the duty of a good soldier, this true gentleman employed himself in favoring and assisting with deeds and words those who had need of him. Such acts ought to be held in esteem by those who pride themselves on the name of gentleman and hidalgo, for truly these tides sound false when unaccompanied by such works, because they are the very essence, origin, and principle from which true nobility springs, and upon which it sustains itself, and there can be no nobility where there is no virtue. Among many other strange events that took place in this battle, we shall tell two that were the most notable. One was that in the first assault the Indians made upon the Castilians, when they fell upon them and drove them out of the pueblo with that unexpected and undreamed of fury, sending them retreating across the fields, one Spaniard fled. He was a native of the village of Badajoz, a common man, very uncouth and rustic, whose name has been forgotten. At that time, only he turned his back and fled, and reaching a place out of danger (though to him it did not seem possible to do so), he fell headlong and then got up, but soon thereafter he fell dead, without a wound or any sign of a blow that they might have given him. All the Spaniards said that he had died of fright and of cowardice, because they found no other reason for it.

The other case was just the contrary. A Portuguese soldier named Men Rodriguez, a nobleman from the city of Yelves of the company of Andres Vasconcelos de Silva, a soldier who had served in Africa on the frontiers of the kingdom of Portugal, fought all day on horseback like the very valiant soldier that he was and performed memorable exploits in the battle. That night when the fighting was over, he dismounted and remained like a wooden statue, and without again speaking or eating or drinking or sleeping, after three days he passed from this life, without a wound or the sign of a blow that might have caused his death. It might have been that he was exhausted with much fighting. Thus in contrast to the other, it was said that this good f idalgo had died of valor and courage from having fought and labored excessively.

All that we have said in general and in particular about this great battle of Mauvila, both as to the time that it lasted, which was nine hours, and as to the events that took place in it, Alonso de Carmona tells in his Relation. He mentions the governor's wound and the arrow passing through Nuno Tovar's lance and says that they left it in the form of a cross. He tells of the unfortunate death of Don Carlos Enriquez and of that of Don Diego de Soto, his brother-in-law. Carmona adds that he himself put one knee upon his chest and the other on his forehead and endeavored with both hands to pull out the arrow, which pierced his eye, and says that he could not move it. He also tells of the hardships and fatigues they all suffered in common. Juan Coles tells the same things, though not at such length as Alonso de Carmona, and he refers especially to the number of serious wounds, which we mentioned. Both agree as to the number of Spaniards and horses that died in this battle, which was so much discussed that the memory of its events remained clear to them.



The number of Indians, men and women, who perished in this conflict by the sword and by fire was thought to exceed eleven thousand persons, because more than 2,500 men were left lying round about the pueblo, and among them they found the young Tascaluca, son of the cacique. Inside the pueblo more than three thousand Indians died by the sword, and one could not walk through the streets for the dead bodies. The fire consumed more than 3,500 souls in the houses, for in one house alone a thousand persons were burned, the fire cutting them off from the door and suffocating and burning them inside without their being able to get out. It was pitiful to see how they were left, and most of them were women.

For four leagues round about in the woods, ravines, and streams, the Spaniards on going through the country found nothing but dead and wounded Indians, to the number of two thousand persons who had been unable to reach their houses. It was pitiful to hear them groaning in the woods, entirely helpless.

Concerning Tascalurca, who was responsible for all this calamity, it was not known what had become of him, because some Indians said that he had escaped by flight and others that he had been burned up. The latter seems more probable and was more in accordance with what he deserved, for as was learned later, from the first day that the Castilians knew that they would come to his country he had resolved to kill them there. With this determination he had sent his son to the pueblo of Talise to receive the governor (as was told above), in order that he and those who went with him under pretext of serving the governor and his army could act as spies and note the military organization that the Spaniards maintained by day and by night, so that in accordance with their watchfulness or carelessness he could plan the treason that he intended to carry out in order to kill them. It was also learned that when the Indians of the pueblo of Talise (who we said were disobedient to their curaca) complained to Tascaluca that their lord had ordered them to give the Spaniards a certain number of Indian men and women for whom the governor had asked, telling him of their resentment at their cacique who, without regard for the good of his own people, would give them up to foreigners and unknown persons to be taken away as slaves, Tascaluca had said to them: "Do not be troubled at giving up the Indian men and women whom your cacique orders you to send, for I shall return to you very soon not only your own but also those whom the Spaniards are bringing as captives and prisoners from other places. I shall give you even the Spaniards themselves to be your slaves and to serve you in cultivating and tilling your fields and gardens, digging and delving all the days of their lives."

The Indian women who remained in the hands of the Castilians after this battle of Mauvila also confirmed this statement of Tascaluca and declared openly the treason that he had plotted against the Christians, because they said that most of them were not natives of that pueblo nor of that province, but of various other neighboring ones, and that the Indians who had assembled for that battle at the summons and persuasion of Tascaluca he had attracted by the glowing promises that he had made them. Some he had promised to give scarlet capes, and others clothing of silk, satin, and velvet with which they could dress themselves for their dances and festivals. He had sworn with solemn oaths to give others horses, and that as a sign of their victory and triumph they should ride them before the Spaniards. Other women came away saying, "Well, he promised the Spaniards themselves for our servants and slaves," and each one stated the number of captives that had been offered to them to be taken to their houses.

Thus they confessed that many other promises had been made to them of linen, cloth, and other things from Spain. They also declared that many women who were married had come in obedience to their husbands, who had commanded them to do so. Others, who were single, said that they had come at the importunity of their relatives and brothers who had promised to bring them so that they might see some solemn festivals and great celebrations that they would observe and hold after the death and destruction of the Castilians, in rendering thanks to their great god the Sun for the victory that he would give them.

Many other women confessed that they had come at the request and petition of their gallants and sweethearts who wished to marry them, and who begged and persuaded them to come and see the valiant deeds and exploits they expected to perform against the Spaniards in their service and presence. These statements proved conclusively the length of time that this curaca had been plotting the treason that he perpetrated against our men. He and his vassals and allies were well punished for this, though at the cost of such injury to the Castilians as has been seen.

Their loss did not consist alone in the lack of the horses that were killed and in the comrades who were lost, but also in other things that concerned them more as a result of the uses to which they were dedicated. These were a little wheat flour, amounting to about three fanegas, and four arrobas of wine, for this was all they had when they reached Mauvila. For many days before they had kept this flour and wine very carefully and reverently for celebrating mass, and so that it might be carried more carefully and be better protected, the governor brought it in his own equipage. All this was burned, along with the chalices, altars, and ornaments they were carrying for divine worship. Thenceforth it was impossible for them to hear mass because they did not have the material of bread and wine for the consecration of the Eucharist, though the questions in theology were raised among the religious and secular priests as to whether or not they could consecrate bread made of maize. It was agreed by common consent that the most certain [decision] and above all that which the holy Roman church, our Mother and Lady, in her holy councils and sacred canons orders and teaches us, is that the bread shall be of wheat and the wine from the grape. Thus these Spanish Catholics concluded that they would not adopt doubtful remedies for fear of finding themselves thereby disobedient to their mother the Roman Catholic church, and also they omitted [celebrating mass] because even if they had the means for consecrating the Eucharist, they would lack chalices and altars for celebrating it.



Since everything they were carrying for saying mass was burned in the battle of Mauvila, from that time on, by order of the priests, an altar was set up and adorned to be venerated on Sundays and feast days, whenever there was an opportunity to do so. A priest robed himself with ornaments that they made from deerskin, in imitation of the first garments that there were in the world, which were made of the skins of animals. Taking his stand at the altar he read the Confession and the Introit of the mass, and the Prayer [the Orison], the Epistle and the Gospel and all the rest to the end of the mass, without the consecration, and these Castilians called it the "dry mass." The one who celebrated it, or another of the priests, announced the text and upon it gave his discourse or sermon, and with this sort of ceremony that they conducted in the place of mass they consoled themselves in the affliction they felt at being unable to adore Jesus Christ our Lord and Redeemer in the sacramental elements. This lasted for three years, until they left La Florida for Christian lands.

Our Spaniards remained eight days in the rude huts that they erected within Mauvila, and when they were able to leave them they went to those the Indians had built for their lodgings, where they were better accommodated. They stayed there fifteen days longer treating the wounded, which included almost all of them. Those whose wounds were less serious went out to scour the country in search of food in the pueblos that were in the vicinity. There were many of these, though they were small, where they found enough food.

In all the pueblos in the surrounding four leagues the Spaniards found many wounded Indians who had escaped from the battle, but they did not f ind a single Indian, man or woman, who was caring for them. They understood that they came at night to bring them provisions and in the daytime went back to the woods. The Castilians gave aid to such wounded Indians and divided with them the food that they found, rather than mistreating them. Not a single Indian appeared in the open country, and after a diligent search by the mounted men they captured fifteen or twenty from whom to obtain information. Having asked them whether there was any body of Indians being assembled in any place to come against the Spaniards, they replied that inasmuch as the bravest, noblest, and richest men of that province had perished in the recent battle, no one remained in it who could take up arms. This seemed to be the truth because in all the time that our men were in that camp no Indians appeared by day or by night except to make sallies and raise alarms, which simply by disturbing them did them much harm and injury, such was their weakened condition after the battle.

In Mauvila the governor had word of the ships that Captains Gomez Arias and Diego Maldonado were bringing, exploring the coast and learning what was going on there. He received this report before the battle and afterward he verified it by the Indians who were captured, from whom he learned that the province of Achusi, which the Spaniards were going in search of, and the seacoast, were a little less than thirty leagues from Mauvila.

The governor was very pleased with this news, [which indicated] the conclusion and end of such a long peregrination, and the beginning and commencement of the new settlement that he intended to make in that province. His purpose, as we have said above, was to found a pueblo at the port of Achusi to rece ive and safeguard the ships that would come to it from all parts, and to found another pueblo twenty leagues inland from which to begin and to direct the conversion of the Indians to the faith of the holy Roman church, and to the service and augmentation of the Crown of Spain.

As a celebration of this good news and because he was assured that the roads were safe from Mauvila to Achusi, the governor set free the curaca whom Captain Diego Maldonado had brought as a prisoner from the port of Achusi. The adelantado had brought him with him, treating him well, and had not sent him back to his own country previously because of the long distance and the danger that the other Indians would kill or capture him on the road. Since the governor now knew that his country was close by and that he would be safe until reaching it, he gave him permission to go to his house, charging him strictly to preserve his friendship for the Spaniards, as he would very soon have them as guests in his country. The cacique took leave, gratified by the favor that the governor showed him, and said that he would be much pleased to see him in his country in order to return the favors that he owed his lordship.

All these desires that the adelantado had to settle the country and the method and plans that he had worked out for it in his own mind were destroyed and frustrated by discord, as it always ruins and throws down armies, republics, kings, and empires, where they allow it to enter. The door by which it found ours was that, since there were in this army some of the personages who had taken part in the conquest of El Peru and the imprisonment of Atahuallpa, and who saw the great riches there in gold and silver, and had told those who were going on this expedition about it, and since on the contrary there had not been seen in La Florida silver or gold, though the fertility and the other good qualities of the land were such as have been seen, they would not consent to settle or make an establishment in that kingdom.

To this disappointment was added the incredible ferocity of the battle of Mauvila, which had frightened and disturbed them extraordinarily, making them wish to leave the land and go away from it as soon as they could. For they said that it was impossible to rule such bellicose people or to subjugate such bold men. From what they had seen up to that time it seemed to them that neither by force nor by persuasion could they be brought under the authority and dominion of the Spaniards; that they would allow themselves to be killed first. There was no reason for going about expending their forces a little at a time in that country; rather they ought to go to others already won, and rich, such as El Peru and Mexico, where they could enrich themselves without so much work. Therefore it would be well as soon as they should reach the coast to leave that bad country and go to New Spain.

A few of the persons whom we have mentioned whispered and discussed these things and other similar ones among themselves, but they could not keep them so secret that some of those who had come with the governor from Spain, and were his loyal friends and companions, did not hear them. These persons told him what was going on in his army, and how they were speaking resolutely of leaving the country as soon as they should reach a place where there were ships or any vessels at all.



In such a serious matter the governor did not wish to give entire credit to those who had told him of it without first verifying it for himself. With this in mind he made the rounds at night as thoroughly as he could, in disguise, so as not to be recognized. Going about thus, one night he heard the treasurer, Juan Gaytan, and others who were in the hut with him saying that when they reached the port of Achusi where they expected to find the ships they intended to go to Mexico or El Peru, or to return to Spain, because they could not endure such a hard life to win and conquer such a poor and miserable country.

This hurt the governor exceedingly, for he understood from those words that his army was disintegrating and that his men, in finding a place to go, would all desert him as they did at the beginning of the discovery and conquest of El Peru in the case of the governor and marques Don Francisco Pizarro, who finally was left with only thirteen men on the island of Gorgona. And he knew that, if those whom he then had should leave him, there would be no possibility of raising a new army, and he would be stripped of his grandeur, authority, and reputation, his money spent in vain, and the excessive hardships they had endured hitherto in the discovery of that country would be lost.


These things, considered by a man so zealous of his honor as was the governor, produced in him hasty and desperate resolutions. Though he dissembled his wrath at that time, reserving punishment for another occasion, he was unwilling to endure or to see and experience the bad actions that he feared from those whose spirits were weak and cowardly. Thus as rapidly as he could, without revealing anything of his anger, he gave orders that they would again go inland and withdraw from the coast, so as to deprive the illdisposed of the occasion for disgracing themselves and stirring up all his men to rebellion.

This was the first beginning and the chief cause of this gentleman and all his army being lost. From that day, as a disillusioned man whose own people have betrayed his hopes and cut off the road to his ambition and destroyed the plan that he had made for settling and holding the land, he never again succeeded in doing anything profitable to him, nor was it thought that he attempted to do so. On the contrary, actuated only by indifference, he went about thereafter wasting his time and his life without any gain, always traveling from one place to another without order or purpose, like a man tired of life and desirous of ending it, until he died, as we shall see below. His contentment and hopes lost, and lost also to his successors and descendants the labors that he had undergone in that conquest and the wealth that he had consumed in it, he was the cause of all those who had gone with him to win that land being lost as well. He failed likewise to lay the foundations for a most glorious and beautiful kingdom for the Crown of Spain, and for the increase of the holy Catholic faith, which is what is to be most regretted.

Therefore it would have been very fitting for him, in such a serious business, to have asked and received counsel from the friends that he had, on whom he could depend, so as to act prudently and with their approval for the common good. This captain could have put down that mutiny by punishing its leaders, with which the others in the conspiracy, who were few in number, would have been frightened, and he would not have lost himself and injured all his men by being governed only by his own passionate feeling, which caused his own destruction. Though he was so discreet as we have seen, in his own cause and with his passions aroused he could not control and govern himself with the clear reasoning and unbiased judgment that serious matters demand. Thus he who refuses to ask and take advice invites disaster.

In fear of the mutiny, the governor wished to leave that camp quickly and go back into the interior through other provinces that they had not seen, so that his men would not suspect his purpose and guess his intentions, [as they might] if he should return by the road that they had followed previously. Thus with a dissembling spirit foreign to that which he had shown hitherto, he encouraged his soldiers, telling them to recover quickly in order to get out of that bad country where they had received so much injury, and he ordered a decree to be issued for the march to begin on a certain day in the future.



Because we promised above to tell some of the customs, at least the most notable ones, that the Indians of La Florida have, before we leave Mauvila it will be well to say here that in the province of Coca, which we have left behind, and in that of Tascaluca where our Spaniards are at present, the Indians have and enforce a law for the punishment of the adulterous women who are found among them. Thus it was that throughout all that great province of Coca it was the law that under penalty of death and of sinning gravely against their religion, any Indian who knew of an adulterous woman in his neighborhood, not as an actual witness of criminal acts, but because of suspicious signs, which signs were set forth in the law both as to their nature and their number, was obliged, after having verified his suspicion, to give notice of it to the lord of the province or in his absence to the judges of the pueblo. They would take secret testimony from three or four witnesses, and having found the woman guilty through circumstantial evidence, they would arrest her. On the first feast day that came among those that they observe in their heathenism, they would order by public proclamation that all the people in the pueblo come out after dinner to such and such a place in the country near the pueblo, and of the people who came out they formed a long or short lane, according to their number.

Two judges stationed themselves at one end of the lane and two more at the other. One of them ordered the adulteress before him, and summoning the husband, said to him: "This woman in accordance with our law is convicted (on the testimony] of witnesses to be bad and an adulteress; therefore do with her what that same law commands you." The husband immediately stripped off her clothes, leaving her as naked as when she was born, and with a flint knife (for in all the New World the Indians have not achieved the invention of scissors) he clipped off her hair (a most ignominious punishment, used generally among all the nations of this New World), and thus shorn and naked the husband left her in the hands of the judges and went away, carrying her clothing as a sign of divorce and repudiation.

The judges ordered the woman to go immediately, just as she was, through the lane formed by the people to the other judges and give them an account of her crime.

The woman went all the way down the lane and, standing before the judges, said to them: "I come sentenced by your associates to the punishment the law imposes upon adulterous women, because I have been such. They sent me to you so that you could order in this case whatever you regard as conducive to the public welfare." The judges replied to her: "Return to those who sent you here to us and tell them on our part that it is very fitting that the laws of our country, which our ancestors formed regarding chastity, be observed, complied with, and carried out against wrongdoers. Therefore we approve what they ordered you [to do] in accordance with the law, and we order you not to transgress it at any time."

The woman went back to the first judges with this reply, and this going and coming they ordered her to do in carrying the messages between the lane formed of people served no other purpose except to insult and shame her, forcing her to appear before all her people in disgrace and infamy, shorn, naked, and [convicted of ] such a crime, for the punishment of such shame is a public one.

While the poor woman came and went between the two sets of judges, all the people of the pueblo, by way of insult and contempt, threw at her clods, pebbles, sticks, straw, handfuls of earth, old rags, fragments of hides, pieces of mats, and other such things, according to what each one of them happened to bring to throw at her in punishment of her crime. The law so commanded, making it understood that the woman had become a loathsome outcast.

Then the judges condemned her to perpetual exile from the pueblo and from the whole province, which was the penalty prescribed by law, and they turned her over to her relatives, admonishing them under the same penalty not to give her protection or assistance in re-entering any part of the state, openly or secretly. The relatives received her, and covering her with a mantle, they took her away where she would never again appear in the pueblo or in the province. The judges gave the husband permission to marry. The Indians of the province of Coda observed this law and custom.

In that of Tascaluca they observed another, more rigorous one in punishing adulterous women. It was that the Indian who should notice bad signs (such as to see a man entering or leaving another's house in a suspicious manner) that would lead him to suspect that the woman was an adulteress, after having verified his suspicion by seeing the man enter or leave three times, was obligated by their fallacious religion under penalty of a curse to tell the husband of his suspicion and of the woman's action. He had to produce two or three other witnesses who may have seen a part of what the accuser told or some other similar indication. The husband questioned each one of them separately, calling down terrible curses upon him if he should lie to him and great blessings if he should tell him the truth. On finding that the woman had incurred this suspicion by the bad signs that she had given, he took,her into the country near the pueblo and fastened her to a tree, or if there were none to a post he planted in the ground, and shot at her with his bow and arrows until he killed her.

This done, he went to the lord of the pueblo or in his absence to the magistrate and said., 'Sir, I left my wife dead in such and such a place, because certain of my neighbors said that she was an adulteress. Order them to be summoned, and if what they told me should be true, set me free, and if not impose the penalty upon me that our laws prescribe and order.

The penalty was that the woman's relatives shoot the surrendered with arrows until he died, and leave him unburied in the fields as he had done the woman, whom as an innocent person the law ordered to be buried with all pomp and ceremony. But if the judge found that the witnesses confirmed one another and that the signs and suspicions proved true, the husband was set free and given permission to marry. They ordered a proclamation issued to the effect that under penalty of death no person, whether relative, friend, or acquaintance of the dead woman, should dare bury her or even to pull a single arrow out of her body, but were to leave it to be eaten by the birds and the dogs as a punishment and example for her wrongdoing.

These two particular laws are observed in the province of Coca and Tascaluca, and throughout the kingdom in general adultery is punished very severely. Though I endeavored to learn what penalty they imposed upon the accomplice and the adulterous husband, he who gave me the account could not tell me anything except that he had heard no discussion of the men who were adulterers, but only of the women. It may have been because among all nations these laws are always more severe against women and favorable to the men, for as a woman of this bishopric whom I knew said, the men make them, being fearful of the offense, and not the women; if the women had the making of them, things would be arranged differently.



Taking up the thread of our History, then, after the Spaniards had spent twenty-three or twenty-four days in camp at Mauvila recovering from their wounds, and had regained some strength for continuing their discovery, they left the province of Tascaluca, and at the end of the three days' journey that they made through some pleasant though uninhabited country, they entered another, called Chicasa. The first pueblo of this province that our men reached was not the principal one, but one of the others in its jurisdiction. It was situated on the edge of a large and deep river having very high banks. The pueblo was on the side of the river from which the Spaniards approached.

The Indians were unwilling to receive the governor peacefully but from the very beginning showed themselves to be hostile, replying to the messengers that he had sent them that they desired war with fire and sword. When our men came in sight of the pueblo they saw in front of it a squadron of more than fifteen hundred warriors, who came out to meet the Castilians as soon as they appeared. They skirmished with them, and having made some show of defense they withdrew to the river, abandoning the pueblo, from which they had taken their property, women, and children. They had decided not to fight a pitched battle with the Spaniards but to oppose their crossing the river, which because it carried a great deal of water, was very deep, and had high and steep banks they thought would obstruct their road and force them to take another route.

Therefore, as the Spaniards fell upon the Indians furiously, they threw themselves into the water and crossed the river, some of them in canoes, as they had many and very good ones, and some of them swimming, urged on by their fear.

They had the main body of their army on the other side of the river facing the pueblo, where there were eight thousand warriors, whose purpose was to defend the crossing of the river. Their encampment extended for two leagues along its banks, so that the Castilians could not cross in all that distance.

Besides this opposition that the Indians gave the Christians at the river, they harried them at night with the sudden attacks and alarms that they gave, bands of them crossing the river in their canoes at various points and then joining together, thus molesting our men greatly. In order to defend themselves the latter made use of a very clever stratagem. This was that in three landing places along the river in that space the Indians had occupied, where they came to disembark, they dug pits at night in which crossbowmen and harquebusiers could take shelter. When they saw the Indians they allowed them to land and leave their canoes, and then they fell upon them and did them much damage with their swords, because the enemy had nowhere to run. They mistreated them thus three times, whereupon the Indians, chastised for their boldness, did not dare cross the river again. They only waited with much care and alertness to oppose our men's crossing. The governor and his captains, seeing that it was impossible to cross the river where they were because of the strong opposition that the enemy was making, and that they would lose time in awaiting a moment of carelessness on their part, ordered that a hundred of the most diligent men who knew something of the art should build two large barks, which they also call pirogues. They are almost flat and will hold many people. In order that the Indians might not f ind out what they were doing, they went into a forest that was a league and a half up the river and a league back from the riverbank.

The hundred Spaniards assigned to this task worked so quickly that they finished the pirogues in the space of twelve days. In order to carry them to the river they made two carts of appropriate size, and by means of pack animals and horses that pulled them, and the Castilians themselves who pushed the carts and at difficult places carried the barks on their shoulders, they got them to the river one morning before dawn at a very spacious landing place that was there. There was also a good landing on the other side.

The governor was present when the barks were launched on the river because he had ordered that he be advised of it beforehand. He directed that ten cavalrymen and forty infantry who were expert marksmen embark in each of the boats as quickly as possible before the Indians should come to oppose their passage. The foot soldiers were to row, and the cavalrymen rode their horses into the boats so as not to be delayed in mounting when they reached the other side.

However silently the Spaniards attempted to launch the barks in the river and go aboard them, they could not avoid being heard by five hundred Indians who were patrolling the opposite bank of the river. They ran to the crossing and, seeing the barks and the Spaniards who were attempting to pass over, they raised a loud alarm, warning their men and asking for help, and then went to the landing to oppose their passage.

Fearing that still more enemies would come, the Spaniards embarked as hastily as possible. The governor wished to cross on the first trip, but his men prevented him because of the great danger there was on that first voyage, until the landing place should be cleared of enemies. Our men thus hastily applied themselves to the oars, and all of them reached the other bank wounded because the Indians shot arrows at them from the bluff entirely at their pleasure.

One of the barks struck the landing squarely and the other fell downstream from it, and because of the high bluffs along the river, the men could not land. Thus they were forced to row hard to get up to the landing.

Those in the first bark jumped ashore, and the first one to come out was Diego Garcia, the son of the alcalde of Villanueva de Barcarrota, a brave soldier and very resolute in all feats of arms, wherefore all his companions called him Diego Garcia de Paredes, not because he was related to him, though he was a nobleman, but because he resembled him in spirit, courage, and valor. The second mounted man who went ashore was Gonzalo Silvestre. These two fell upon the Indians and drove them more than two hundred paces back from the landing place, and came back at a run to their own side because of the great danger they were in, being two alone among so many of the enemy. Thus they attacked the Indians and fell back four times without receiving any help from their companions, because they got in one another's way and could not manage to get the horses ashore. The fifth time they attacked the enemy there were six mounted men, which put more fear into the Indians and prevented their coming so furiously to oppose the crossing. As soon as the infantry who were in the first boat came ashore, they went into a small pueblo that was on the very brink of the river, and did not dare leave it because they were few and all of them were wounded, as they had received most of the arrows. Those in the second pirogue, as they found the landing place free of the enemy, came ashore more easily and without any danger and ran to help their companions who were fighting on the plain.

The governor went across on the second trip with seventy or eighty other Spaniards, and as the Indians saw that their enemies were numerous and that they could not resist them, they retreated to some woods that were not far from the pueblo, and from there they went to the place where their people were encamped. The latter had heard the shout and alarm that their scouts had given and ran quickly to defend the crossing, but on meeting the scouts and learning from them that many Spaniards had already crossed the river, they went back to their army where they prepared to defend themselves.

The Christians went after them, intending to fight, but the Indians remained quiet, fortifying themselves with wooden palisades and with the same shelters that they had built for their lodgings. Some of them came out very boldly to skirmish, but they paid for their daring because they were killed with lances, as their swiftness could not equal that of the cavalry. That whole day was spent in this manner, and the following night the Indians left and did not reappear. Meanwhile the whole Spanish army had crossed the river.




Our Spaniards overcame the difficulty of crossing the first river of the province of Chicasa with the labor and danger of which we have told, and as they found themselves free of the enemy, they dismantled the pirogues and kept the nails for making others whenever it might be necessary. Having done this, they went on with their discovery, and in four daily journeys they made through a level country, well populated, though the pueblos were scattered and had few houses, they reached the principal pueblo, called Chicasa, from which the whole province takes its name. It was situated on a level elevation extending from north to south between two streams having little water but much timber, consisting of walnuts, oaks, and live oaks, at the foot of which was the fruit of two or three years. The Indians let it go to waste because they had no cattle to eat it and they themselves did not use it, having other, better and more delicate fruits to eat.

The general and his captains reached the pueblo Chicasa at the beginning of December of the year 1540 and found it abandoned. Since it was now winter, it seemed to them that it would be well to winter there. Having decided to do so, they collected all the necessary provisions and brought from the outlying small pueblos much wood and straw from which to make houses, because those of the principal pueblo, though they numbered two hundred, were not enough.

Our men were in these lodgings almost two months, enjoying some degree of quiet and rest. They did nothing except ride through the country every day, and they took a few Indians, most of whom the governor sent with gifts and messages to the curaca, offering him peace and friendship. He replied, giving great hopes of his coming, making up excuses for his delay, and repeating his messages day after day to keep up the governor's expectations. In return for his gifts he sent him some fruit, fish, and venison.

Meanwhile his Indians did not cease disturbing our Spaniards with sudden assaults and alarms that they made two or three times every night. They did not stay to fight, for when the Christians came out against them they ran away. They did all this purposely as experienced warriors to keep the Spaniards awake with their unexpected attacks and make them careless with their show of cowardice, so that they would think that they would always do thus and would relax their military discipline, at which time they would fall upon them in earnest.

The Indians did not follow these cowardly tactics very long. On the other hand is seemed that, ashamed of having used them, they wished to contradict them and show that their past flights had been made purposely in order to reveal a greater spirit and courage in due time, which they did, as we shall soon see.

One night toward the end of January of the year 1541, having realized that the north wind, which was blowing furiously, was favorable to them, at one o'clock the Indians came in three squadrons, and as silently as possible, they advanced to within a hundred paces of the Spanish sentries.

The curaca, who was coming as captain of the middle squadron, which was the principal one, sent to find out where the other two were on either side, and having learned that they were in the same position as his own, he ordered the signal to be given. They did so with many drums, fifes, shells, and other rude instruments they brought along for making more noise. All the Indians together raised a great shout to strike terror and fright into the Spaniards. In order to set fire to the pueblo and to be able to see the enemy, they brought faggots made of a certain herb that grows in that country, which, when made into a rope or thin cord and lighted, smolders like the match-cord of a harquebus, and when waved through the air it bursts into f lame that burned steadily like a wax taper with four wicks and gave as much light. They had twists made of the same herb on the points of their arrows so as to shoot them while burning and set fire to the houses from a distance.

In this order and with these preparations the Indians came and attacked the pueblo, waving the torches and shooting many burning arrows into the houses. As the latter were made of straw, they caught fire immediately in the hard wind that was blowing.

The Spaniards, though attacked so suddenly and with such a fierce assault, did not fail to come out with all promptness to defend their lives. The governor, who in order to be prepared for such surprises always slept in his breeches and doublet, went out against the enemy on horseback ahead of all the rest of his gentlemen. Because of the enemy's swiftness, he had been unable to take up any defensive armor except a helmet and a jacket, which they considered as armor, made of quilted cotton three finger-breadths in thickness. Our men had found no better defense against arrows. The governor went out alone with these arms and his lance and shield against such a multitude of enemies, for he never learned to fear them. Ten or twelve other horsemen went after him, but not immediately.

The rest of the Spaniards, captains as well as soldiers, hurried with their accustomed courage to resist the ferocity and boldness of the Indians, but they could not fight with them because they brought in front of them in their favor and defense fire, flame, and smoke. The hard wind that was blowing turned all this against the Spaniards, hindering them seriously. But with all this our men came out of their quarters as well as they could to fight with the enemy, some crawling on all fours under the flames so that they would not overtake them, others running from house to house fleeing from the fire, and some of them thus reaching the open country, and others running to the infirmary to rescue the sufferers, for they had the sick by themselves in a separate house. Hearing the fire and the enemy, those who were able took refuge in flight, and those who were not burned to death before help reached them.

The mounted men came out as well as they could, hastened by the fire and the enemy's fury, but since the attack was so sudden they had no time to arm and saddle the horses. Some they led out by the bridles, escaping with them so that the fire would not burn them; others they set loose, there being no other defense against the fire except flight. A few went out to help the governor, who had been fighting the enemy for a long time with the handful of men who had gone out at the beginning of the battle, and he was the first to kill an Indian that night because he always prided himself on being among the first in everything. The Indians of the two squadrons on either side entered the pueblo, and aided by the fire, which was in their favor, they did a great deal of damage. They killed many horses and Spaniards who had no time to escape.



From the eastern quarter of the pueblo where the fire and the impact of the enemy were greatest and most furious, forty or fifty Spaniards came out running at full speed (a shameful thing such as had not been seen up to that time in the whole expedition to La Florida). Nuno Tovar came after them with a naked sword in his hand, wearing a coat of mail all unclasped, for the enemy's haste had not given him time for more.

This gentleman went shouting loudly to his men, "Come back, soldiers, come back! Where are you going? There is no Cordoba or Sevilla to receive you. Remember that the safety of your lives lies in your stout spirit and strong arms, and not in flight." At this moment there came out to meet those who were fleeing thirty soldiers from the southern quarter of the pueblo, which the fire had not yet reached. Captain Juan de Guzman from Talavera de la Reyna was lodged there, and the soldiers were from his company. Censuring those who were running away for their shameful action, they stopped them, and all of them together went around the pueblo because they could not pass through the fire that was between them and the enemy, and came out on the field on the east side to fight with them.

At the same time that these infantrymen came out, Captain Andres de Vasconcelos, who was lodged in the same quarter, arrived, bringing twenty-four gentlemen fidalgos of his company, all Portuguese and chosen men, most of whom had been horsemen on the African frontiers. These gentlemen came out on the west side, and Nuiio Tovar went with them on foot, just as he was. When they encountered the enemy, these two parties, one on one side and one on the other, closed with them and forced the center squadron, which was the principal one, to retire. There the battle was fiercest, and the governor and the few men who were with him had hitherto been fighting desperately and at great risk to their lives, because they were few and the enemy was numerous.

But when they saw help coming they fell upon them with new energy, and the general, with the desire to kill an Indian who had been distinguishing himself in the fight, closed with him, and having managed to wound him with his lance, in order to give the finishing stroke he bore down upon it and upon the right stirrup. With the weight and the force that he exerted, the saddle turned under him and he fell with it in the midst of the enemy. Seeing their captain-general in that danger, the Spaniards, both cavalry and infantry, ran to his rescue so promptly and fought so bravely that they prevented the Indians from killing him. His horse being saddled, he mounted and went back again to fight.

The governor had fallen because his servants, in the confusion of the sudden and furious assault by the Indians and perturbed by the threat of imminent death, had saddled the horse without fastening the girth. Thus the Spaniards who came to his aid found it doubled back over the saddle where they always put it when they unsaddle a horse, so that the governor had fought more than an hour with the girth unfastened when he fell, having availed himself of his great skill in horsemanship.

Seeing the force in which the Spaniards were gathering from all sides, and that many horses were coming out, the Indians abated the fury with which they had fought hitherto, but they still persisted in giving battle, sometimes attacking very spiritedly and again retreating in very good order, until at length they could no longer resist the force of the Spaniards and they called to one another to retire and abandon the fight. Turning their backs, they fled at full speed.

The governor and the mounted men followed at their heels, pursuing the enemy as far as they could by the light of the fire that was burning in the pueblo. After this sudden and furious battle, which lasted more than two hours, had ended, the general, who had followed in the pursuit, ordered the assembly sounded and went back to see the damage that the Indians had done. He found it to be greater than he expected, because forty Spaniards were killed and fifty horses. Alonso de Carmona says that eighty horses were killed and wounded, more than twenty of them having been burned to death or shot with arrows in the very stables where they were tied, because their masters, having found them very mettlesome as the result of the plentiful food that they had in that camp, in order to keep them more securely had made halters of heavy chains with which they fastened them. In their haste in the presence of the fire and the enemy, they had been unable to loosen them, and thus they abandoned the horses to the fire and to the enemy. Being tied, as they were, the latter shot them with arrows.

Besides the grief our Spaniards felt at the loss of their companions and the death of the horses, which were the strength of their army, they were saddened by a particular incident that happened that night. This was that among them there was just one Spanish woman, who was named Francisca de Hinestrosa, who was married to a good soldier called Hernando Bautista, and who was to give birth to a child within a few days. Since the enemy's attack came so suddenly, the husband went out to fight, and when the battle was over and he came back to see where his wife was he found her burned to a cinder, because she had been unable to run from the fire.

The contrary happened to a little soldier named Francisco Enriquez, who was worthless, though he bore a good name. He was a pusillanimous wretch, more of a buffoon than a soldier, at whom the Spaniards laughed a great deal. He was sick in the infirmary and for days they had carried him on their shoulders. But when he heard the fire and the enemy's onslaught he ran out of the infirmary and, after going only a few steps in the street, he met an Indian who wounded him in the groin, the arrow almost coming out on the other side, and left him stretched on the ground for dead, where he remained more than two hours.

After daylight they treated him, and in a short time he recovered from the wound, which had been thought mortal; and also from the illness, which had been very long and troublesome. Thus those who were accustomed to joke with him were making fun of him afterward and said: "You can thank that grievous misfortune that gave you, who aren't worth two pins, your health and life, and caused the death of so many gentlemen and principal soldiers as have died in these two last battles." Enriquez took it all and said other, worse things to them.

We have told above how the governor took swine to La Florida for breeding and had had them tended with much care for their feeding and increase. So as to keep them more safely at night in this camp of Chicasa, they had made a wooden pen inside the pueblo by setting stakes in the ground and making a covering of straw. Inasmuch as the fire on the night of the battle was so great, it overtook them also and burned all of them. Only the sucking pigs escaped, they being able to get out between the stakes of the pen. They were so fat with the abundance of food that they found in that country that the lard from the burned pigs ran out for more than two hundred paces. This loss was felt no less than the others, because our Castilians suffered for lack of meat and kept this to give to the sick.

Juan Coles and Alonso de Carmona agree with the account of this battle throughout, and both tell of the destruction of the swine by fire. They praise the governor's horsemanship highly and tell of his fall and of his having fought more than an hour without a saddle-girth. Alonso de Carmona adds that each Indian had three cords tied around his wrist, one for leading a Castilian, one for a horse, and the other for a pig, and that our men were highly incensed when they learned of it.



As soon as they had buried the dead and tended the wounded, many Spaniards went out to the battlefield to see and examine the arrow wounds the Indians had given the horses that they killed. They opened them, as was their custom, both in order to see to what part the arrows had penetrated and in order to keep the meat for eating. They found that almost all of them had been pierced by arrows through the entrails and lungs or near the heart. They found in particular eleven or twelve horses shot through the center of the heart, and as we have said before, when these Indians could shoot them through the knees they would not shoot them elsewhere.

They also found four horses, each one of which had two arrows through the heart, that had happened to be shot at the same time, one from one side and one from the other. This is a marvelous thing and hard to believe, though it is certain that it happened, and because it was such an unusual thing, all the Spaniards who were walking through the field came up to see it.

They found another extraordinarily powerful shot. This took place when the horse of a trumpeter named Juan Diaz, a native of Granada, was killed by an arrow that had passed through the broadest part of the back and stuck out three finger-breadths on the opposite side. Since this shot had come from such a strong and powerful arm, because the horse was one of the broadest and heaviest in the whole army, the governor ordered that a record be made of it in writing and that a royal notary certify and attest to the shot. This was done, and immediately a notary came named Baltasar Hernandez (whom I met afterward in El Peru), a native of Badajoz and an hidalgo, very upright and religious, which it is fitting and requisite that all should be who exercise this office, for to them is confided the property, life, and honor of the commonwealth. This hidalgo in blood and in virtue set down in writing and attested to what he saw with regard to that arrow, which was what we have said.

Three days after the battle our Castilians decided to move their camp to another place a league away from where they were, for it seemed to them a better site for the horses, and they did so very quickly and diligently. They brought wood and straw from the other neighboring pueblos and made ready as best they could a pueblo that Alonso de Carmona calls Chicacilla. He states that here they very hastily made saddles, lances, and shields, because he says that all these were destroyed in the fire, and that they were going about like Gypsies, some without jackets and some without breeches; all these are his own words.

In that pueblo they passed very laboriously what remained of the winter, which was extremely severe with cold and ice. The recent battle had left the Spaniards destitute of clothing with which to resist the cold, because nothing escaped the fire except what they happened to be wearing.

Four days after the battle the governor removed Luis de Moscoso from his office and gave it to Baltasar de Gallegos, because he learned from a secret investigation that the field officers had been negligent and careless in making the rounds and guarding the army, and that for this reason the enemy had come up without being heard and had done the damage they did. Besides the loss of the horses and the death of the men, the Spaniards admitted that they would have been defeated that night by the Indians if it had not been that the fidelity of certain individuals and common necessity had brought them to themselves and caused them to win the victory, which they already considered lost. They won it, however, at great cost to themselves and little damage to the Indians, because only five hundred of them died in that battle.

All that we have said about this sudden nocturnal battle of Chicasa, Alonso de Carmona tells at length in his Relation, having a great deal to say about the danger the Spaniards ran that night from the unexpected and furious assault that the Indians made, and he says that most of the Christians ran out in their shirts because the fire was so close behind them. In short, he says that they fled and were defeated, and that the persuasion of a friar caused them to turn back and miraculously win the victory that they had lost; and that the governor fought alone on horseback against the enemy for a long time until they came to his assistance, and that he had no saddle-girth. Juan Coles agrees with him in most of this and says particularly that the governor fought alone, like a good captain.

Besides what Alonso de Carmona says of this battle that confirms our account, he adds the following words:


We were there three days, and at the end of them the Indians decided to come against us again and die or conquer. And certainly I do not doubt that, if determination could have accomplished it, they would have carried us all away in their claws, because of our lack of weapons and saddles. When they were a quarter of a league from the pueblo on their way to attack us, God was pleased to send a great downpour of water from the sky, which wet the cords of their bows, and they could do nothing, and so they went back. On going through the country the next morning, the Spaniards found their trail and captured an Indian who told and warned us of all that the Indians were going to do, and said that they had sworn by their gods to die in the attempt. Thus when the governor heard this he decided to leave there and go to Chicacilla. There we very hurriedly made shields, lances, and saddles, because in such times necessity makes everyone a master workman. We made bellows from two bearskins and we set up our forge with the two cannons that we had brought along, tempering our weapons and preparing as best we could.


All these are Carmona's words, copied literally.

Inasmuch as the enemy had realized and learned for certain the damage and ravages that they had made against the Castilians, regaining their spirit and boldness with the recent victory, they set about worrying them every night with sudden attacks and alarms, and not in a desultory manner, for they came in three or four squadrons from different directions, and with a great shouting and alarm they all attacked together at one time, so as to cause greater fear and confusion among the enemy.

So that they might not burn them in the camp as they had done in Chicasa, the Spaniards went outside the pueblo every night, formed in four squadrons on the four sides of it, with their guards stationed and everyone on watch. There was not an hour when they could sleep safely, for the Indians came two or three times every night, and there were many nights when they came four times. Besides the continual uneasiness they gave with these attacks, though most of them were light, they never failed to wound or kill some man or horse. The Indians also had many killed, but they did not take warning from this.

To make sure that the enemy would not come on the following night, the governor would send every morning to frighten them away four or five bands of fourteen or fifteen cavalry, which would scour the country around the pueblo. They did not leave a single Indian alive, whether they were spies or not, but speared them all and went back to their camp at sunset or later with the true report that for four leagues around the pueblo no Indian remained alive. But within four hours, or five at the latest, the Indian squadrons would again be facing those of the Castilians, a thing that excited the latter's wonder, that in such a brief time they could have assembled and come to harry them.

Though there were always deaths and wounds on both sides in these nightly skirmishes, nothing of particular note occurred to be told unless it was that one night, when a squadron of Indians went to attack the place where Captain Juan de Guzman was with his company, he went out against them on horseback with five other riders, and the infantry also advanced. When the enemy waved their torches and made a light, because they were very near, our men - both foot soldiers and cavalry - could go against them together. Juan de Guzman, who was a gentleman of great spirit, though slight of body, assailed the standard-bearer who was carrying a standard and was in the front line, throwing a lance at him. Avoiding the throw, the Indian seized the lance with his right hand and ran his hand along it until it touched that of Juan de Guzman. Then he dropped the lance and seized him by the collar, and giving a hard jerk, dragged him from the saddle and jumped on him with both feet without letting go of the standard, which he carried in his left hand. It was all done so quickly that it was scarcely possible to see how it had happened.

When the soldiers saw their captain in such a predicament they assailed the Indian before he could do him further injury, and cut him to pieces, dispersed his squadron, and rescued Juan de Guzman from that danger. But they did not escape without damage, because the Indians left two horses dead and wounded two others of the six that had gone against them. The Spaniards regretted the loss of the horses no less than that of their companions, and the Indians were more pleased at killing one horse than four horsemen, because they believed that it was only by means of the horses that their enemies had an advantage over them.



Our Castilians remained in that camp until the end of March enduring these nocturnal battles, which being so numerous and so continuous caused them intolerable hardship and vexation. Besides the persecution and fatigues that the Indians gave them there, they suffered from the severe cold, which was most rigorous in that region. As they passed all the nights formed in squadrons and had such little clothing to wear for the best equipped among them had only breeches and jackets of deerskin, and almost all were barefooted, without shoes or sandals - the cold that they suffered was unbelievable, and it was a miracle of God that they did not all perish.

In this necessity [for protection] against the cold, they made use of the invention of a man named Juan Vego, a homely enough rustic from Segura de la Sierra. In the island of Cuba at the beginning of this expedition there took place between him and Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa a friendly contest, though rather severe for the latter, which we do not include here because it was done in jest and facetiousness, except to say that Juan Vego, though crude and rough, was always friendly. He joked with everyone, jesting and talking nonsense with them, after the manner of the surroundings from which he had come. Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa, who also liked a jest, played a practical joke on him in satisfaction for which he gave him in La Havana, where this jesting took place, a sorrel horse. Afterward in La Florida, because the horse turned out to be so good, he several times offered him 7,000 or 8,000 pesos for him, for [use in] the first settlement that might be made, because the hopes our Castilians held at the beginning and in the midst of the discovery were as rich and magnificent as this. But Juan Vego would never consent to sell the horse, and he was right, for there was no settlement, but death and loss for all of them, as the History will tell.

This Juan Vego busied himself in making a grass mat (for the grass there is very good, being long, soft, and pliable) to protect himself from the cold at night. He made it four finger-breadths thick, and long and wide, putting half of it underneath for a mattress and the other half on top in the place of a blanket. As he found it to be very comfortable, he made many others for his companions, with their assistance, for everyone sets to work in a common necessity.

With these beds, which they took to the guardrooms and parade ground, where they were stationed in squadrons every night, they resisted that winter's cold, and they themselves admitted that they would have perished if it had not been for Juan Vego's help. The plentiful supply of maize and dried fruit that was available in the vicinity also aided them in resisting the severe weather, for although the Spaniards suffered from the rigors of cold and the molestation of the enemy, who did not allow them to sleep at night, they were not hungry but rather had an abundance of food.



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