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FLORIDA-FERDINAND DE SOTO.
and the wildest fictions. The knowledge of the bays CHAP. and rivers of Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico, was not essentially increased; the strange tales of miraculous 1536. cures, of natural prodigies and of the resuscitation of the dead, were harmless falsehoods; the wanderers, on their return, persevered in the far more fatal assertion, that Florida was the richest country in the world.”
The assertion was readily believed, even by those to whom the wealth of Mexico and Peru was familiarly known. To no one was credulity more disastrous than to Ferdinand de Soto, a native of Xeres, and now an ambitious courtier. He had himself gained fame and 1537. fortune by military service in the New World. He had been the favorite companion of Pizarro in the conquest of Peru, where he had distinguished himself for conduct and valor. At the storming of Cusco, he had surpassed his companions in arms. He assisted in arresting the unhappy Atahualpa ; and he shared in the immense ransom with which the credulous inca purchased the promise of freedom. Perceiving the angry divisions which were threatened by the jealousy of the Spaniards in Peru, Soto had seasonably withdrawn, with his share of the spoils, and now appeared in Spain to enjoy his reputation, to display his opulence, and to solicit ad
1 On Narvaez, the original work 206, is praiseworthy. Compare, is, Naufragios de Alvar Nuñez Ca- also, Roberts's Florida, 28/32, and beça de Vaca, en la Florida; in a note in Holmes's Annals, i. 59; Barcia, ii. 1–43. There is an Ensayo Cronologico, 10; Vega, l. Italian version in Ramusio, iii. fol. ii
. p. ii. c. vi. Hints may also be 310—330. The English version, in found scattered through Vega's HisPurchas, iv. 1499—1528, is from the toria de la Florida, and in the PorItalian. Compare Gomara, c. xlvi.; tuguese account in Hakluyt. HumHerrera, d. iv. l. iv. c. iv-vii., and boldt, Nouv. Esp. ii. 435. d. iv. I. v. c. v.; Purchas, i. 957,958 2 Virginia Va ed; the Portu-962. Examen Apologetico, in guese Account; Dedication in Barcia, i. at the end, does not con- Hakluyt, v. 479; Herrera, d. iii. l. fer authority on Nuñez. The skep- viii. c. viii.; Hakluyt, v. 484; ticism of Benzo, in Calveto's Nova Vega, 1. i. c. v. Novi Orbis Historiæ, 1. ii. c. xiii. VOL. I.
FLORIDA-FERDINAND DE SOTO.
CHAP. vancement. His reception was triumphant; success
II. w of all kinds awaited him. The daughter of the distin1537. guished nobleman, under whom he had first served as
a poor adventurer, became his wife ;' and the special favor of Charles V. invited his ambition to prefer a large request. It had ever been believed, that the depths of the continent at the north concealed cities as magnificent, and temples as richly endowed, as any which had yet been plundered within the limits of the tropics. Soto desired to rival Cortes in glory, and surpass Pizarro in wealth. Blinded by avarice and the love of power, he repaired to Valladolid, and demanded permission to conquer Florida at his own cost; and Charles V. readily conceded to so renowned a commander the government of the Isle of Cuba, with absolute power over the immense territory, to which the name of Florida was still vaguely applied.
No sooner was the design of the new expedition published in Spain, than the wildest hopes were indulged. How brilliant must be the prospect, since even the conqueror of Peru was willing to hazard his fortune and the greatness of his name! Adventurers assembled as volunteers ; many of them, people of noble birth and good estates. Houses and vineyards, lands for tillage, and rows of olive-trees in the Ajarrafe
of Seville, were sold, as in the times of the crusades, to 1538. obtain the means of military equipments. The port of
San Lucar of Barrameda was crowded with those who hastened to solicit permission to share in the enterprise. Even soldiers of Portugal desired to be enrolled for the service. A muster was held; the Portuguese appeared
1 Portuguese Relation, c. i.; in Vega, 1. i. c. i.; Herrera, d. iv. I. I Hakluyt, v. 483.
2 Portuguese Relation, c. i. 483;
SOTO EMBARKS FOR CUBA AND FLORIDA.
in the glittering array of burnished armor; and the chap. Castilians, brilliant with hopes, were “very gallant with silk upon silk.” Soto gave directions directions as to the arma
1538. ment; from the numerous aspirants, he selected for his companions six hundred men in the bloom of life, the flower of the peninsula ; many persons of good account, who had sold estates for their equipments, were obliged to remain behind.
The fleet sailed as gayly as if it had been but a holiday excursion of a bridal party. In Cuba, the precaution was used to send vessels to Florida to explore a harbor ; and two Indians, brought as captives to Havana, invented such falsehoods as they perceived would be acceptable. They conversed by signs; and the signs were interpreted as affirming that Florida abounded in gold. The news spread great contentment; Soto and his troops were restless with longing for the hour of their departure to the conquest of “ the richest country which had yet been discovered.” 2 The infection spread in Cuba; and Vasco Porcallo, an aged and a wealthy man, lavished his fortune in magnificent equipments. Soto had been welcomed in Cuba by long and bril- 1539
May. liant festivals and rejoicings. At length, all preparations were completed ; leaving his wife to govern the island, he and his company, full of unbounded expectations, embarked for Florida ; and, in about a fortnight, his fleet anchored in the Bay of Spiritu Santo. The soldiers went on shore; the horses, between two and
i Port. Rel. c. ii. and iii.; Vega, the accounts of eye-witnesses, 1. 1. C. v. and vi. When the author whom he examined; he was not ities vary, I follow that which is himself an eye-witness. least highly colored, and give the 2 Portuguese Relation, c. i. smaller number. Vega says there 3 Vega, 1. i. c. xii. were a thousand men, and he stren- 4 Portuguese Relation, c. vil; uously vindicates his own integrity Vega, l. i. part i. c. i. 23. and love of truth. He wrote from