...led the first Europeans deep into America in 1540. At age 39, DeSoto was rich from Incan gold and wanted to colonize North America. To do so he planned to open a passage to trade Spain's New World fortunes with China, the finest market in the world. Cabeza de Vaca had reported a northern sea to DeSoto, who thought it was the Pacific Ocean.
DeSoto's three year search for that sea, and enough gold to lure settlers to his planned American colony, was well recorded by his volunteers between Florida and Lake Michigan (the northern sea), then on to his death in Arkansas. His army fled across Texas toward Mexico, Spain's nearest outpost, but returned. They finally escaped down the Mississippi River.