by Donald E. Sheppard|
ABOUT THE NATIVES
MAPPED BY STATE
CABEZA DE VACA'S OWN NARRATION
Acknowledgements and References
This Site describes the fifteen-year Conquest of Native America. Hernando de Soto, Spain's foremost American explorer, spent years searching for a seaway to China, the finest market in the world, to trade New World Gold. He used trails that are highways today. Native villages along those trails were described at places which are cities again today. DeSoto's Trails through fourteen states are established, described and illustrated here using the latest Geographic Intelligence of North America.
NEW: CONQUEST TRAILS ON GOOGLE EARTH and CONQUEST CALENDARS
America's climate was much cooler then (table at right) so summers were milder but winters were colder than they are now.
Cabeza de Vaca, who had spent eight years in America from 1527 on, set the stage for DeSoto and Coronado to lead armies deep into America in 1539: Coronado from Mexico City, DeSoto from Havana, Spain's New World Port. Vaca was the first European to describe this continent's Gulf of Mexico shoreline and west to Arizona. DeSoto, at age 39, was rich from Incan gold. He wanted to own a good piece of America.
Intelligent Indians had told Vaca of a Northern Sea which DeSoto believed was the South Sea (the Pacific Ocean), the sea Balboa discovered beyond Panama, DeSoto's boyhood home. Magellan had sailed that sea to the Orient when DeSoto was 21 but lost his life on that long voyage. DeSoto wanted to build a port on that sea (at today's Chicago), then sail what he believed to be a short distance across it to China. He planned to protect his colony from Mobile Bay, Alabama, which Vaca had visited and DeSoto planned to use as his port in North America, home for his settlers and beacon for New World settlement.
Back in Spain, Vaca refused to join DeSoto's search for enough gold to lure additional settlers to his new American colony, but DeSoto's venture was well recorded by others who plundered this continent from Florida to Lake Michigan, then, for escape, to Mexico City, Spain's North American stronghold. In the meantime Coronado explored America's West. He had received information directly from Vaca in Mexico City just before DeSoto met him on his return to Spain.
Scenes from their ventures were highly publicized in Europe but were discredited over the years by the fact that pioneers never found the large Indian cities which DeSoto's people reported in their journals. Scientists, however, believe a number of those cities existed at various sites around the country. Carbon-dating indicates clever Indian habitation at many places up to the time Conquistadors arrived, but conventional wisdom holds that DeSoto came here only to search for gold, discovering America's Great River, the Mississippi, along his way. Historians, misled by erroneous notions, have failed to track DeSoto.
All of their trails were located using geographic data published in Spain during the 1500's. The landmarks described therein were found using Spanish measures and directions from Havana to Mexico City, two places established before them and occupied ever since. America's harbors, rivers, lakes, swamps, plains and mountains passes have not moved since Vaca and DeSoto were here. Their trails were refined by following directions between landmarks using modern maps and aerial photography. DeSoto's search for what he believed was the South Sea became apparent by tracking him to Lake Michigan. Coronado's Trail, known for years, ended near DeSoto's turning point - north of Houston, Texas - the place where Vaca had heard there were vast riches and an ocean to northward.
These articles serve as a guide through America before its Indian cities were destroyed by foreign diseases. Today's names of cities and landmarks are Indexed with the names which Vaca and DeSoto's people reported. By using the various Indian names listed for a village, province or river, anyone may consult Cabeza de Vaca's or DeSoto's Chronicles, available on the Internet, public libraries or book stores, to find a wealth of information about that place as it existed nearly five centuries ago.