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Florida of the Inca, Part One
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Original Source: Garcilaso Inca de la Vega, "History of the Conquest of Florida." In The History of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the Events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568. E. Barnard Shipp. Philadelphia: Robert M. Lindsay, 828 Walnut Street, 1881.
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I DESIGN to write of the discovery of Florida and the memorable deeds that have been done there. But as Hernando de Soto performed great actions there, and as this relation particularly concerns him, I shall commence his history from the beginning. Soto was one of the twelve conquerors of Peru, and participated in the capture of Atahualpa.* who was the last king of Peru. This prince was the natural son of the inca Huayna Capac, and had usurped the kingdom from the legitimate heir, who was called Huascar. But the cruelties of this usurper caused the people to revolt against him, which facilitated to the Spaniards the conquest of Peru, and procured them great riches. The fifth alone, for the emperor, amounted to nearly two million three hundred thousand ducats, and Hernando de Soto had more than a hundred thousand. This captain received, besides that, many presents from the Indians. and from Atahualpa himself, who gave him magnificent ones, because he was the first Spaniard to whom he had spoken. When Soto had thus enriched himself, he returned to Spain with several others, who had all made fortunes at Caxa Malca. But instead of thinking of the acquisition of some great estate in his own country, the remembrance of the glorious deeds which he had achieved, inspired him with a vast design. Therefore he went to Valladolid to solicit Charles the Fifth to permit him to Undertake the conquest of Florida, and engaged to do it at his own expense, and to do everything for the glory of the empire. What most prompted him to this illustrious enterprise was seeing that he had conquered nothing in his own right; that Hernando Cortes had conquered Mexico; and Pizarro and Almegro, Peru. For, not inferior to them, neither in valor nor in any other quality, he could not endure that fortune should be more propitious to them than to himself. He therefore renounced all his claims upon Peru, and turned all his thoughts upon the conquest of Florida, where he died. It is thus, that great commanders have sacrificed themselves for the interest of their sovereigns. Nevertheless, there are among us, persons who maliciously say, that Spain owes to the rashness of some young fools, the greater part of the countries of the new world. But they do not reflect, that they themselves are the children of Spain, and that this generous mother has not raised those to whom she has given birth, but to conquer America and to carry- the terror of their arms into the rest of the earth.1.


FLORIDA is so-called because it was discovered on Palm Sunday, the 27th of March of the year 1513. But because it is a great country, of which all the parts are neither conquered nor known, it is difficult to describe them accurately. It is not known, in fact, whether Florida is hounded on the north by the sea or by the land. What is certain is, that it has the Gulf of Mexico and file Island of Cuba to the south ; to the east, the ocean which faces Africa ; and to the west, what is now called New Mexico. In this direction is the province of the Seven Towns, which was so called by Vasquez Coronado, who went, in 1539, to discover those regions. But as they could not settle them, Antonio de Mendoca, who had sent him there, lost with regret all that he had expended in this enterprise. 2.


JUAN PONCE DE LEON Was the first who discovered Florida. Ile was a gentleman, born in the kingdom of Leon, and had been governor of the island of Porto Rico. As the Spaniards then thought only of making new discoveries, he equipped two caravels, and endeavored by every means to discover the island of Bimini, on account of the report that there was there a fountain which restored youth to old men. But after having searched in vain for this island, a tempest cast him upon the coast which is opposite the north part of Cuba; and he named this continent Florida, and without considering whether it was an island or the mainland, he proceeded to Spain to ask permission to conquer it, and obtained it. Wherefore, in the year 1513, he equipped three vessels, and landed in the country which he had discovered. The Indians, on his arrival, forcibly repulsed him, and slew nearly all his people, except seven wounded, of which number he was, who fled to Cuba, where they all died of their wounds. Such was the end of Ponce and his expedition. But after him, it seemed, that all attempts upon Florida continued to be fatal to those who made them. Some years after this misfortune, the pilot Mirvelo, who commanded a caravel, going to traffic with the savages, a storm drove him upon the coast of Florida, where he was so favorably received, that he returned very well pleased to the island of Saint Domingo. But he did not profit by this opportunity, like a wise pilot, for he had not the precaution to take the latitude of the places, and this neglect cost him dearly as will be seen.3.

At the same time seven of the richest men of Saint Domingo formed a company, and sent two vessels to the islands of Florida, in order to bring from them Indians to work in the mines which they possessed in common. These vessels landed at the cape which was named Saint Helena ; because they arrived there on the anniversary of that saint. They passed thence to a river which they called the Jourdain from the name of him who discovered it. The Spaniards landed at this place, and the inhabitants of the country, who had not yet seen ships, were led to consider them as supernatural things. They were also astonished at the fashion of the attire of the strangers, and at seeing men with beards. But that did not prevent them from receiving them kindly ; for they gave them marten skins, some silver, and some seed pearls. The Spaniards made them presents in return, and induced them, byo their caresses, to visit the vessels. The Indians, who trusted to these appearances of friendship, to the number of one hundred and thirty, entered the ships. Our people immediately weighed anchor, and went, with all sail, to Saint Domingo But only one of the two vessels arrived at port, and also they did not profit by their prize. These poor savages, in despair at having been deceived, abandoned themselves to grief, and starved themselves to death. This news having spread in Saint Domingo, Vasquez Lucas d'Aillon went to Spain to ask permission to conquer Chicorie, one of the provinces of Florida, and the administration of the country which he should subdue. The emperor granted to him what he desired, still in addition to this favor, conferred upon him the order of San Iago. Aillon, on his return to Saint Domingo, equipped three vessels in 1524, and took Mirvelo to conduct him to the land where this pilot had been ; because it was believed to be the most fertile of all that had been discovered to that time. But because Mirvelo no longer remembered the place where he had first landed, he tried in vain to reach it, and he was so sensibly, affected by it that he lost both his reason and his life. Aillon did not cease to go on, and even after the admiral ship was lost in the Jourdaiu, he continued his voyage with his two remaining vessels, and anchored near to Chicorie, on a very pleasant coast, where,at first, he was very well received. So that, as he imagined it would be very easy for him to conquer the country, he sent two hundred men to reconnoitre it. The Indians, who concealed their evil designs, conducted them into the interior of the country; and after having. manifested much friendship for them, they recalled the treachery of the other Spaniards to them, and fell upon them and cut them in pieces. Then they came with fury upon Aillon and his comrades, who lead remained upon the vessels; they slew and wounded many of them, and forced the rest to return quickly to Saint Domingo. The most important of those who escaped were Aillon and a gentleman of Badajos, by whom I have heard narrated the defeat which I have just related.(II)4.

This misfortune (lid not deter Pamphile de Narbaez. He went to Florida in 1529,* and took with him the young Mirvelo, the nephew of hint of whom I have spoken. But, though he had some knowledge of the country, leaving been instructed by his uncle, he was not, however, more fortunate than he. Narbaez himself, in this voyage, perished with his people, excepting Alvar Nugnez, Cabeca de Vaca, and four of his companions, who returned to Spain, where they obtained some public offices. But that did not succeed ; for they died very miserably, and Alvar returned, a prisoner; to Valladolid, where he ended his days. After those of whom I have just spoken, Hernando de Soto undertook to invade Florida. He arrived there in 1539, but finally he lost his fortune and his life there. His death being known in Spain, many asked the government of Florida, and permission to continue the discovery of it. But Charles the Fifth would listen to no one upon the subject. However, in 1549, he sent there Cancel Balbastro, a Dominican monk, as the superior of those of his order, who should go to preach the, gospel to the inhabitants of Florida. This father, arrived in these countries, began to catechise the natives; but instead of listening to him, the Indians, who remembered the injuries they had received from the Spaniards, slew him, and two of his companions. the others, completely frightened, regained the vessels, and returned in haste to Spain, and said, as an excuse for their quick return, that the barbarians lead hardened hearts, and took no pleasure in hearing the word of God. Thirteen years afterwards the government of Florida was promised to one of the sons of Aillonif he would conquer it. But as he solicited his departure, and they put off from one (lay to another the execution of his enterprise, he died of grief. Pedro Menendez and several others went afterwards to Florida. Nevertheless, as I have not sufficient knowledge of what they did there, I shall Dot speak of it.5.


THE people of Florida are idolaters, and have the sun and moon for divinities, which they adore without offering them either prayers or sacrifices. However, they have temples, but they make use of them only to inter those who die, and to shut till there their treastises. They erect also at the entrance of these temples, in the form of a trophy, the spoils of their enemies.6.

These Indians espouse ordinarily but one wife, who is obliged to remain faithful to her husband, under penalty of being punished with a shameful chastisement, or sometimes with a cruel death. But, by a privilege of the country, the great have permission to have is many wives as they please. However, they have but one legitimate wife. the others are but as concubines, so that the children that spring from these last do not share equally the estate of the father with the children of his wife.7.

This custom is also observed in Peru, for, except the incas and the caciques, who, in the quality of princes and lords, have as many wives as they desire, or as they can support, it is not permitted to the others to have more than one. These persons of rank say that they are obliged to fight, and that it is necessary that they should have many wives, in order to leave many children who may share their labors ; that the greater part of the nobles dying in battles, it is necessary that they should have a great number of them ; and that, as the multitude have no share in public affairs and are not exposed to perils, there are always enough people to labor and bear the expenses of the government.8.

To return to the inhabitants of Florida. They have no cattle and support no flocks. They eat instead of bread, corn; and instead of meat, fish and vegetables. However, as they are accustomed to hunt, they often have game, for they kill with their arrows harts, roebucks, and deer, which they have in abundance, and larger than those of Spain. They also catch many kinds of birds, which they eat, and of which the plumage of different colors serves them to deck their heads, and to distinguish during peace the nobles from the people, and during war the soldiers from those who do not bear arms. They drink only water; they eat their meat well cooked, their fruit nearly ripe, their fish well roasted, and ridicule the Spaniards, who use them otherwise.- So I cannot give faith to those who report that these people eat human flesh. At least, I dare say that it has not happened in the provinces which Soto discovered; and that, on the contrary, they have an extreme horror of this inhumanity; for, some Spaniards residing in a quarter where they died of hunger, and their companions eating them as they expired, there was but the last who escaped it, at which the Indians were so offended that they wished to go and slay the Spaniards who were in another place.9.

The people of Florida go almost naked ; they wear only a kind of chamois or buckskin drawers. These drawers are of diverse colors, and serve to cover what decency requires them to conceal. 'their cloak is a kind of cover which hangs from the neck to the middle of the leg; it is ordinarily- of fine marten skins, and smells of a very agreeable musk odor. They sometimes have them also of cat's, deer, stag's, bear's, lion's, and even of cow's skills, which they prepare so well that they can use it as cloth. As for their hair, they wear it long, and tied on their heads. Their cap is a colored network, which they attach to their forehead in such a manner that the ends hang as far as below the ears. Their women are also clothed with the skins of deer or roebucks, and have all the body covered in a decent and modest manner.10.

The Indians make use of all sorts of arms except the crossbow and the musket. They believe that the bow and arrow give them a particular grace, and for that reason they always carry them to the chase and to the war. But as they have a very convenient height, their bows are very long and large in proportion. They are of oak ordinarily, or of some other wood of this sort; it is for this reason that they are difficult to bend, and there is no Spaniard who can draw the cord to his face, wherens the Indians draw it even behind the ear, and make astonishing allots. The cord of their bow is of the skin of the stag, and this is how they make it: from the skin of the stag they cut from the tail to the head a thong two fingers in breadth. Then they take the hair from this thong, soak it, twist it, and attach one end of it to the branch of a tree, and the other to a weight of one hundred or one hundred and twenty pounds, and leave this skin until it becomes in the form of a large catgut. Finally, in order not to wound the left arm with the cord when it is discharged, they make use of a half armlet of large feathers, which covers it from the wrist to the elbow. and which is secured with a leather strap, with which they make several turns around the arm, and thus they discharge the cord with a force altogether remarkable.11.

These, in brief, are the customs of the inhabitants of Florida. But as I have spoken also concisely of those who discovered it, an(I as the enterprise of Soto upon this country is more illustrious than that of the others, I shall now relate at more length the things which he did in these countries. I shall describe the provinces which he discovered there, and tell the deeds of his soldiers to the time when they left Florida and retired to Mexico.12.


SOTO obtained permission to conquer Florida and to erect a Inarquisate, thirty leagues long by fifteen wide, in the country which he should conquer. The emperor, who granted him this favor, gave him also the government of St. Iago de Cuba, in,order to take in this island what should be necessary for his design, and appointed him to be governor-general of Florida when he should conquer it.13.

This news spread through Spain, it was believed that Soto was going to annex to the crown new kingdoms. As he was one of those who had conquered Peru, and as he employed in this last enterprise all his fortune, they believed that it would greatly exceed the first, and that they would enrich themselves in following his fortunes. This was the reason why persons of every degree were attracted to this enterprise; and in the hope of acquiring from it great wealth, they abandoned what was most dear to them, and all presented themselves to accompany Soto. There joined him, at the same time, seven gentlemen who had returned from the conquest of Peru, and who had in view only the acquisition of riches. As they were not contented with what they had, and the desire to accumulate increased in them, they believed that they would better satisfy their avarice in Florida than in Peru.14.

Soto, therefore, in virtue of his power, began to give his orders for his vessels, and for everything which he needed. He chose persons upon whom he could relieve himself of some of his cares; he raised troops and made captains and other officers. In the mean time, they executed with so much despatch what he had commanded, that, in less than fifteen or sixteen months,, everything was ready and conducted to San Lucar de Barramede, so that the soldiers repaired there with great quantities of cordage, mattocks, panniers, and other things necessary for their enterprise, and in that manner they embarked.(rg)15.


THERE assembled for Florida, at San Lucar, more than nine hundred Spaniards, all in the prime of life, because strength was required to support the fatigues of war, and to overcome the obstacles that are met with in enterprises upon the countries of the new world. However, as vigor alone did not suffice, the general ordered money to be distributed to the troops, having regard to the equipage and birth of those to whom it was given. Several officers who were not equipped, received this favor ; others, who considered the great expense which Soto was obliged to make, refused it, in the belief that it would be more generous to employ their means for his service, than to be a burden to him.16.

When the weather was favorable for navigation, the troops embarked upon ten vessels, of which seven were large, and three small. The general, with all his family, embarked upon the St. Christopher, well provided with soldiers and materials. Nunez Touar, heutenant-general, with Carlos Henriquez, embarked upon the Madelaine. Louis de Moscoso, colonel of cavalry, commanded the ship Conception, which was of more than five hundred tons. Andrez Vasconcelos was captain of the galleon Bonne Fortune, and had a company of Portuguese gentlemen, some of whom had served in Spain. Diego Garcia commanded the ship Saint Jean, and Arias Tinoco that of Sainte Barbe. Alonzo Romo de Cardenioso was upon the galleon St. Antoine, and had with him Diego Arias Tinoco, ensign colonel of the army. Pedro Calderon commanded a very fine caravel, and had in his company Misser Espindola, captain of sixty halberdiers of the general's guard. There were, besides these, two brigantines, which were used for tenders, because they were lighter than the ships. There also embarked upon these vessels, priests, and some monks,* all men of exemplary probity. To this army- was joined, also, the fleet destined for Mexico, which consisted of twenty ships. Soto was commander of it as far as the island of Cuba (cohere it was necessary for this fleet to separate, in order to go to Vera Cruz), and then he was to leave the command of it to Goncalo de Salazar, the first Christian born in the town of Granada, after the Moors bad abandoned it (in 1492). Therefore, in consideration of this quality, the Catholic sovereigns who conquered that place, granted great privileges to this gentleman, and overwhelmed him with their favors. These two fleets left San Lucar the sixth day of April, of the year fifteen hundred and thirty-eight, with everything necessary, but especially there was nothing wanting to the troops that were going to Florida.17.


THE day that the fleet set sail, Soto, a little before night, ordered Silvestre, in whom he confided, to visit the sentinels, with orders to the captain of artillery- to have the cannon ready, in order that should any ship fail of its duty to fire thereupon. This was immediately executed; and about midnight a great confusion happened. The sailors of Salazar's ship, wishing to show the speed of their vessel, or to go at the head of the fleet with that of the general, or rather having allowed themselves to be overcome by sleep, and the pilot who then steered the vessel not having a sufficient knowledge of the rules which are observed in in armada, the vessel went off a cannon-shot from the fleet, and gained the advance of Soto's ship, which was at the head. But as Silvestre, to whom the general had given his orders, was on the alert, and as he saw the ship of Salazar, he awoke the captain of artillery, and asked him if that vessel belonged to the fleet, and upon his reply that it had not the appearance of it, because the sailors who should thus advance would deserve death, caused the ship to be fired upon. the first shot broke the sails ; another carried away the gunnel, and they heard those who were in the ship ask for quarter, crying out that they belonged to the fleet. In the mean time the other ships took to arms at the report of the cannon, and got ready to fire upon this vessel, which, drifting with the wind because its sails were torn, fell afoul of the admiral,* which was giving chase to it. This misfortune was more vexatious than the other; some, if) the fear and the disorder in which they were, thought more of excusing their fault than of managing their vessel; others, on the contrary, under the belief that the action of the people of Salazar was a mark of contempt, breathed only vengeance, and did not mind any method, nor how they sailed. Finally, however, when they perceived that the two vessels were going to injure each other, they made use of poles and pikes, and broke more than three hundred of them to arrest the violence of the shock and save themselves from danger. But they could not prevent the ships from entangling their rigging and running the risk of being sunk. Not a vessel succored diem in this confusion. The pilot, affrighted, despaired of extricating himself from the danger; the night prevented them from knowing what was necessary to be clone; the air resounded with cries, and as the noise hindered. them from hearing, neither the soldiers could obey, nor the captain command. This was the condition to which the two vessels were reduced, when God inspired them to cut the rigging of Salazar's vessel, which had caused all the accident; for immediately they found themselves out of danger, and Soto's ship, favored by the wind, separated from the other. However, this general, enraged either at having seen himself in peril, or believing that his misfortune was the effect of contempt that Salazar showed hint, reproached him, and lacked but little to have had his head ent off. But Salazar apologized with respect, and supported with so much address his reasons, that Soto received his excuses, and generously forgot everything. Salazar did not act exactly in the same way; for in Mexico, when he sometimes spoke of this adventure, he manifested bitterness against Soto, and ardently wished to find an occasion to challenge him, in order to avenge himself of the outrage which this general had done him. But to return to the fleet. After the sailors of Salazar had repaired the rigging, the fleet came to anchor at Gomera,* where it recruited. In the meantime the general found so many charms in the natural daughter of the lord of this island, that he demanded her of him, promising to marry her richly in the country which he was going to conquer. This lord, who believed the words of Soto, confided to him his daughter, who was then but sixteen years of age. But he put her, in the first puce, in the hands of Isabella de Bovadilla, the wife of the general, and besought her to have, in the future, for this young person, the sentiments of a mother. Afterwards Soto left Gomera, and, favored by the wind, he perceived, at the end of May, the island of Cuba. Then Salazar obtained permission to separate from the fleet, and he conducted the army of Mexico to Vera Cruz. The general, rejoiced to have safely finished his voyage, thought only of repairing to the port. As he was ready to enter it, the troops saw a horseman coming at full speed, who cried out with all his strength to the admiral ship, " starboard." This horseman had been sent from the town of San lago, to cause the ship of the general to perish among the shoals and rocks which are encountered in file places which he designated. And in fact, the sailors, who were not well acquainted with the entrance of the port, brought the bow in that direction. But is soon as the horseman discovered that it was a friendly vessel. he changed, to cry to them °'larboard ;" and, dismounting, he ran and made signs to diem to pass to file other side, or that they would go to destruction. The admiral, who comprehended file thoughts of this man, took immediately to the left. However, notwithstanding what diligence he made, he ran against a rock; so that the sailors, who believed that the vessel had sprung a leak, had recourse to the pumps; but, instead of water, they drew wine, vinegar, oil, and honey, because many casks that were full of them lead been staved, This accident increased to such a degree their fear, that losing nearly all hope of escaping from danger, they lowered the boat, into which entered the wife of the general, find the ladies of tier suite, and several young men who were the first to escape. Soto was very- much self-possessed on this occasion; four, notwithstanding the entreaties of his people, he remained firm at his post; he encouraged some, by his example, to work, and controlled the others. He finally gave orders for everything, and made diem descend into the hold of the ship, where they found nothing was broken but the casks. The army felt much joy at this, and there were only those who lead escaped with the ladies, who had some mortification, having manifested so little firmness in danger.18.


TEN days before the general arrived at the port of Cuba, Diego Perez arrived there with a ship fully equipped. Perez was of Seville, and went to trafficking among the islands of the new world. It is not so well known what was his rank; it is known only that in all his actions he acted with so much honor that, from his conduct only, it might be judged that he bad a noble soul. He had been in this port but three days when there arrived there a French corsair, who had a very good ship and was a very brave man. But as the Spaniards also had much valor, they had no sooner recognized that they were national enemies than they attacked each other and fought until night separated them, after which they sent their compliments to each other, with presents of wine and fruits, and promised each other that during the night there should be a truce,and even that cannon should not be fired on either side. They said there was neither courage nor honor to fight with cannon ; that it was more glorious to owe their victory only to their courage and their sword; and that, besides, they would be enriched with the spoils of the vanquished and with an excellent ship. They kept their word ; and yet, for fear of some surprise, they (lid not neglectto post sentinels (during the night. The next day, at break of (lay, they renewed the conflict with so much obstinacy that it was onlyfatigue and hunger that separated them. But when they had recovered their strength, they fought again until evening. Afterward they visited each other, made presents, and offered to each other remedies for the wounded.19.

During that night Perez wrote to the inhabitants of San Iago that it was necessary to purge their sea of a corsair as formidable as he whom he was trying to sink; that, in consideration of the efforts that he was making to oblige diem, he requested them to promise him that, if he should fail, they would render to him or to his heirs the value of his ship ; that if they would assure him of this favor, he would (lie, or triumph over his enemy; that he demanded of them this favor because he was worth nothing but his ship; and that, if he possessed other riches, he would hazard with all his heart what he had upon the sea, for their service. The town of San lago received very ungraciously the proposition of Perez; for, very far from according him anything, they replied that he might do whathe pleased ; that they would not guarantee him anything. This captain, piqued at their ingratitude, placed his hopes in his own courage, and resolved to fight alike for his honor and his fortune. With this view, as soon as the third day appeared, Perez prepared for the combat, and attacked his enemy with as much vigor as before. The Frenchman, on his part, received the Spaniard with confidence, resolved to conquer or die. .It was, in reality, rather honor than profit which animated these captains, for except their ships, which were worth something, the rest which they possessed was inconsiderable. However, they attacked each other, fighting like lions, and did not separate except to take breath. They afterward renewed the combat, irritated at not having been able to gain any advantage over each other. Night finally separated them; each retired with his wounded and his dead, and they sent to each other in the accustomed manner. A conduct so extraordinary astonished the town ; to see two persons who were seeking fortune contend with so much courage, with the intention to take each other's life, without having been obliged to it by duty, nor by the hope of being recompensed by their kings, since neither of these brave men fought by the order of his prince.20.

The fourth day, when Perez and the corsair had saluted each other with a few volleys of cannon, they continued the combat, and did not quit it but to give orders for their wounded. They fought afterwards with so much ardor that night alone separated them. Then they sent to pay their compliments to each other, and entertained each other with divers presents. But as Perez had remarked feebleness iii his enemy-, be requested him that the combat might be continued the first opportunity until one or the other gained the victory; and, to pledge him to it, he challenged him according to the rules of war, adding that, lamer the courage he had shown to him whom he had fought, he hoped that he would willingly accept the challenge. The French captain replied that he accepted it with all his heart, and that at the day appointed he would conquer or die. He even besought Perez to take all the night to renew his strength for the next (lay, and not to deceive him with a false challenge, because he wished to show in his own person the valor of the French nation. Nevertheless, when he knew that the time was favorable to escape he secretly weighed anchor and set sail. The Spanish sentinels heard some noise, but in the belief that their enemy was preparing for the battle they did not give the alarm, and when day appeared they were surprised to see that he had escaped. Perez, afflicted at this fight, because he believed the victory was assured to him, took at San Iago what he needed and pursued the corsair. But he was already afar, and, after all, he (lid well not to try- any longer the fortunes of battle, since the success of it was uncertain for him.21.

Certainly the proceeding of these captains was worthy of remark, They- attacked cacti other as real enemies, and, nevertheless, it seemed that after the combat they loved each other as brothers. They had for each other only respect and kindness, and they gave noble proofs that their civility did not yield to their courage, and that, whether in peace or in war, they were equally generous.22.


WHEN the inhabitants of San Iago, stilt wholly frightened at the combat, saw the vessels of the general appear, they feared lest it should be the corsair, who was returning with others to sack their town ; which induced them. as has been said, to cause Hernando de Soto to wreck himself if it were possible. But when they recognized him they changed their design, and he safely landed. The people ran to meet him, and promised to obey him, and testified their affection by frequent cries of joy. They afterwards asked his pardon for their mistake, caused by the battle of which they had been the spectators. However, as they (lid Hot speak to him of their conduct to Perez, and as the general was secretly informed of it, he blamed them for their ingratitude. He represented to them that the captain had risked himself for their service; that the victory leaving balanced four days between him and his enemy, it had been easy for them, with a boat of thirty men, to have rendered him master of this corsair; that the fear which had hindered them from declaring themselves was badly founded; because, if the Frenchman had been victorious, he would not have had regard for all the indifference they had manifested for a mail who had fought for their interests ; and that, finally, they could not too soon, nor with too much ardor, succor those of his party-, nor too readily get rid of his enemies.23.

The inhabitants, touched with these words, promised that for the future their conduct should be wiser and more generous, and that they should continue to please him. But that which increased their joy was the arrival of their bishop, Ferdinand de Moca, who came near being drowned in the port. As he attempted to pass from the vesselinto the boat, he fell into the sea, because the boat was too far from the ship. However, the greatest danger that happened was, that in coming to the surface he struck his head against the boat; but the sailors leaped into the sea and saved him. The loss of this prelate would have been very grievous. Ile was considered, in the order of Saint Dominique, to which he belonged, as a man of extraordinary merit; so that the people of Cuba esteemed themselves fortunate, to have for bishop, a great personage, and for governor a renowned captain. There were, for several days, through all the town, nothing but sports, balls, feasts, and masquerades. There were even cunnings at the ring, where were seen a number of horses of every color and size ; the most beautiful in the world. We may add that finally, in order to render the rejoicing more celebrated, there were distributed divers prizes to those who most distinguished themselves. They gave to some rings; to others, silk stuffs; and On the contrary they railed at those who had neither the skill nor the courage to render themselves worthy of esteem. These honorable rewards induced several cavaliers of the army, who were adroit, to mingle with them, which augmented the beauty of the festival, and gave to all the town a special pleasure.24.


THE soldiers, living in peace with the people of the town of San Iago, and try lug to render kind offices to one another, made their rejoicing last nearly three months. In the mean tinne the governor visited all the posts of the island. He established there judges, to whom he gave the rank of heutenant, and purchased horses for his enterprise. The principal officers did the same thing; so that this obliged him to distribute money among them, and induced the inhabitants of the island to make him a present of some horses; for they raised diem with great care, and sold them in Peru and Mexico. There were, in fact, some private persons of Cuba who had twenty and others so many as fifty and sixty; because the island was then rich, fertile, and full of Indians. But the greater part hung themselves soon after the arrival of De Soto. This is the cause of their desperation. As the people of Cuba are naturally lazy, and as the land of the country yields much, they did not take great pains to cultivate it. They raised only a little corn, which they gathered each year for the necessaries of life. So that these poor Indians limited themselves to what nature demanded for its subsistence; and as gold was not necessary for life, they did not esteem it, and could not endure that the Spaniards should compel them to draw it from the places where it was found. Therefore, in order to he no longer obliged to do a thing to which they had so great an aversion, they nearly all hung themselves; and there were found in the morning in a single village, fifty families which had made way with themselves in this manner. The Spaniards, frightened at the horror of this spectacle, tried to divert the rest of the barbarians from a resolution so cruel ; but it was useless, for the greater part of the island, and nearly all their neighbors, ended their lives by the same kind of death. Hence it comes that now they pay very dearly for the negroes whom they take to the mines.25.


To return to Soto; after he had sent troops by sea, under the conduct of one of his captains, in order to rebuild the town of Havana, which the Trench corsairs had sacked. he provided what was necessary for the conquest of Florida, and was seconded in this enterprise by Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa, of whom I have just spoken. Porcallo was a gentleman who had, from his birth, wealth and courage. He had a long time borne arms, and suffered great hardships, both in Europe and America. So that being old and disgusted with war, he retired to Trinidad, a town of the island of Cuba. But upon the information that Soto lead arrived at San lago with an army, he paid hill] -1 visit. He stayed there several days, and when he saw the brave troops and magnificent preparations for Florida, he was tempted, in spite of his age, to again take up arms. He then offered himself and all his wealth to the general, who received him with joy, and praised his resolution. So that, to acknowledge with honor, the offer which this captain had made him of his wealth and his person, he made him his heutenant-general in place of Nunez Touar, who, without his consent, had married the daughter of the lord of Gomera. Thus the troops were augmented with all the retinue of Porcallo; and that helped exceedingly, for he lead a great number of Spaniards, negroes, Indians, many domestics, and more than eighty horses, thirty for his individual service, and fifty which he gave to the cavaliers of the army. He also caused to be made provisions of bread, salt meat, and other things ; andencouraged, by his example, many Spaniards who lived in the island to follow the general, who, after having put his affairs in order, departed in haste for Havana.26.


ABOUT the end of August of the year 1538 the general left San Iago, accompanied by fifty horsemen, to go to Havana; and commanded the rest of the cavalry, which was three hundred men, to follow him, and divide themselves into small companies of fifty men each, and set out at intervals of eight days from one another, in order that being in small numbers they might the better find what they should need. But he resolved that the infantry and his household should go along the coast to Havana, where, as soon as he had arrived and seen the desolation of the town, he made donations to the inhabitants to repair their houses and their churches which the pirates had destroyed. He afterward ordered Juan d'Aniasco, who was very skilful in navigation, to arm two brigantines and to go and discover the coast of Florida, and observe its rivers and inhabitants. Aniasco obeyed, and after having sailed, during two months, along many parts of the coast, he returned with an exact account of the things which he had seen, and brought with him two men of the country. Soto, satisfied with his diligence, sent him back with orders to see where an army could land. Aniasco again set out to visit the coast and notice the places where they could land. But in this second voyage, from which he returned with two other Indian men, it happened that he and his companions, leaving wandered from each other in a desert island, were two months before they could join each other; during which time they feed upon only the birds which they killed with large shells. Afterward they incurred such great perils at sea, that when they landed it Havana, they went from the vessel to the church upon their knees; where, after having thanked God for delivering them from danger, the army received them with so much the more joy as they believed that- they all had been shipwrecked.27.

In the mean time, the general, who applied himself wholly to his enterprise, had information that Mendoca, viceroy of Mexico, levied troops for the conquest of Florida. But as he feared their meeting might cause differences, lee resolved to communicate to him the commissions which he had from the emperor. He, therefore, despatched to Mendoca to beseech him not to make any levy which might interrupt him in the conquest which he meditated. And the viceroy- replied that Soto could with every assurance continue his voyage; that he would send his troops to places different from those where he wished to take his fleet: that Florida was a vast country; that each would find there wherewith to satisfy his ambition; that very far from having an idea of injuring Soto he wished that fortune would give him an opportunity to serve him ; and that he would not spare, for that end, either his wealth or the power which his character of viceroy gave him. The general, contented with this reply, thanked Mendoca for his good-will.28.

By this time the cavaliers, who lead orders to leave San lago for Havana, arrived there and had travelled a little more than two hundred leagues, which is the distance from one of these towns to the other. Soto then, seeing that his cavalry and infantry- were united, and that the season for putting to sea was drawing near, left for commander in his absence Isabella de Bovadilla, his wife, and gave her, for counsellor, Juan de Rochas. He also established in the town of San lago, Francisco Guzman: for these two gentleman commanded in the country before he arrived; and upon the report which was made to him, of their good conduct, he confirmed diem in their charge. He purchased, at the same time, a fine ship that had landed at Havana, and had served as the admiral ship, when Cuniga made the discovery of the Rio de la Plata. This vessel was called Santa Anna, and was so large that it carried eighty horses to Florida.29.


WHILE the general awaited a favorable wind to set sail, Ferdinand Police, who was at sea, strove four or five days to avoid patting in at the port of Havana; but the storm forced him there. He did not wish to enter the port, because, when Soto left Peru for Spain, they agreed to share their good and their ball fortunes. The resolution of Soto, when he left Peru, was to return there to enjoy the recompense which his services in the conquest of that kingdom bad merited. As afterwards he changed that resolution, Police obtained from Pizarro, by order of the emperor, a country where he accumulated much gold, silver, and precious stones. He also caused to be paid him some debts which Soto had left to him to collect; and, after having enriched himself, he left for Spain. But, upon information which he received at Nombre de Dios, that Soto was preparing for the conquest of Florida, he endeavored to pass by; for fear of being compelled to divide with him; and that under pretext of his expedition, Soto might seize upon his riches, or at least a part of them.30.

As soon as Ponce was in port, the general sent to pay his compliments to him, and to offer him what he could. he went afterward to induce him to come and refresh himself on shore; and after being entertained with much politeness, Police told him that he was so unwell from the effects of the storm, that he had not strength to leave his vessel ; and that as soon as he should be it little strengthened, he would 9o and thank him for the kind offer which he had made him. Soto, through politeness, did not urge him; but as he suspected something, he resolved to try him. In the mean time Police, who consulted only his avarice, and who also did not trust in the faith of the general, imprudently thought only how he might conceal from him the knowledge of the riches which he brought from Peru. He therefore ordered that about midnight they should take front his vessel the gold, pearls, all(] precious stones, which were valued at more than forty thousand crowns, and carry them to the house of one of his friends, or inter them near the shore in order to recover diem when he should find it convenient, without Soto knowing it. However, they did not succeed ; for those who watt-lied the people of Police, perceiving a vessel approach, quickly concealed themselves without noise. But when they saw that the treasure was landed, and those who lead charge of it were advancing, they pounced upon them, put them to flight, captured the booty and carried it to the general, who ordered them to say nothing until it was seen in what manner Police, whom he suspected, would conduct himself.31.

The next day Ponce, who concealed the sadness which he felt for the loss of his treasure, visited the dwelling of the general, where they lead a. long conversation concerning things past and present; but when the conversation tell upon the misfortune which happened on the night preceding, Soto complained to Ponce of his want of confidence in him; and to show the justice of his complaints, he caused to he brought the precious stones, and delivered diem to him, assuring him at the same time that if there was any one missing, he would have it restored to him, in order that he might know that, concerning the effects of the partnership, his conduct was very different from his own. Besides, that the expense which he lead made to obtain the permission to conquer Florida, was with the view of sharing with him all the wealth that might result to him from it; that he had made his declaration of it in the presence of men of honor; Old that, nevertheless, it depended upon him whether he would embark for Florida ; and that if he wished it, he would even renounce the claims which were allowed him ; and that he would be obliged to him if he would inform him of the things which he should find proper to do for their common interest; that, in one word, he would find in him all the fidelity that should be expected from a generous person.32.

Ponce, full of confusion at the course he lead taken, and still more surprised at the manner in which he had just been spoken to, begged the general to pardon his fault, and to continue his friendship. Ile also entreated him to consent that each of them should pursue his voyage, and to renew their partnership, putting, for that purpose, into the hands of Isabella de Bovadilla tell thousand crowns of gold and silver, of which the general could make use for the benefit of the company. This way of acting seemed so fair, that what he requested was granted. Afterward, when the time appealed favorable for navigation, Soto lead the munitions and two hundred and fifty horses embarked in the vessels, which, without counting the sailors, carried a thousand men, all well made and well equipped. So that there had not been seen, up to that time, all armament for the Indies so large and so fine. He put to sea the12t1­ clay of May, 1539. But whilst they sail at the will of the winds, I shall relate what Ponce did in port. This captain, under pretext of recruiting himself, and awaiting a favorable time to return to Spain, remained at Havana after the departure of the general; and eight days after, he presented a petition to Rochas, who was judge of the place, in which he alleged that, without owing Soto anything, and only through fear lest he should seize upon all that he bad brought from Peru, he had given to his wife ten thousand crowns in gold and silver, and demanded that they should restore this sum to him, or, he declared, that he would complain ofit to the emperor. This lady replied that the petition declared that there were accounts to be settled between Police and her husband, according to the contract of the partnership into which they lead entered. That Ponce owed more than fifty thousand ducats, and that she prayed that they would arrest him until they had examined the accounts, which she offered to produce as soon as possible. Ponce, who, in fact, was debtor to a large amount to the firm, surprised at this reply, set sail, so that they could not arrest him. And as he had thus embarrassed himself very improperly, he acted prudently in not urging the affair. See how avarice blinds men, and brings them nothing but trouble and confusion.33.

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