Page images


CHAP. three hundred in number, were disembarked; and the ~~ men of the expedition stood upon the soil which they 1539. had so eagerly desired to tread. Soto would listen to

no augury but that of success; and, like Cortes, he refused to retain his ships, lest they should afford a temptation to retreat. Most of them were sent to Havana. The aged Porcallo, a leading man in the enterprise, soon grew alarmed, and began to remember his establishments in Cuba. It had been a principal object with him to obtain slaves for his estates and mines; despairing of success, and terrified with the marshes and thick forests, he also sailed for the island, where he could enjoy his wealth in security. Soto was indignant at the desertion, but concealed his anger.?

And now began the nomadic march of the adven turers; a numerous body of horsemen, besides infantry, completely armed; a force exceeding in numbers and equipments the famous expeditions against the empires of Mexico and Peru. Every thing was provided that experience in former invasions and the cruelty of avarice could suggest; chains for captives, and the instruments of a forge ; arms of all kinds then in use, and bloodhounds as auxiliaries against the feeble natives ;4 ample stores of food, and, as a last resort, a drove of hogs, which would soon swarm in the favoring climate, where the forests and the Indian maize furnished abundant sustenance. It was a roving expedition of gallant freebooters in quest of fortune. It was a romantic stroll of men whom avarice rendered ferocious, through unexplored regions, over unknown paths ; wherever rumor might point to the residence of some chieftain with more than Peruvian wealth, or the ill

1 Portuguese Relation, c. X.

2 Portuguese Relation, c. x.; Vega, 1. ii. part i. c. xi. and xii.

3 Port. Rel. c. xi. and xii.
4 Port. Rel. c. xi. and elsewhere.



interpreted signs of the ignorant natives might seem to CHAP. promise a harvest of gold. The passion for cards now am first raged among the groves of the south; and often 1539. at the resting-places groups of listless adventurers clustered together to enjoy the excitement of desperate gaming. Religious zeal was also united with avarice: there were not only cavalry and foot-soldiers, with all that belongs to warlike array; twelve priests, besides other ecclesiastics, accompanied the expedition. Florida was to become Catholic during scenes of robbery and carnage. Ornaments, such as are used at the service of mass,' were carefully provided; every festival was to be kept; every religious practice to be observed. As the troop marched through the wilderness, the solemn processions, which the usages of the church enjoined, were scrupulously instituted.?

The wanderings of the first season brought the com- 1539. pany from the Bay of Spiritu Santo to the country

of the Appalachians, east of the Flint River, and not far Oct from the head of the Bay of Appalachee. The names of the intermediate places cannot be identified. The march was tedious and full of dangers. The Indians were always hostile; the two captives of the former expedition escaped ; a Spaniard, who had been kept in slavery from the time of Narvaez, could give no accounts of

any country where there was silver or gold. The guides would purposely lead the Castilians astray, and involve them in morasses; even though death, under the fangs of the bloodhounds, was the certain punishment. The whole company grew dispirited, and

June to


1 Portuguese Relation, c. xix. Herrera confirms the statement.

2 Portuguese Relation, c. xx., and 3 Portuguese Relation, c. xii.; in various places, speaks of the Vega, l. ii. part ii. c. iv.; McCulfriars and priests. Vega, l. i. c. loh's Researches, 524. vi. 3; l. iv. c. vi. and elsewhere. 4 Port. Relation, c. ix.




Mar. 3.

CHAP. desired the governor to return, since the country opened an no brilliant prospects. “I will not turn back," said 1539. Soto, “ till I have seen the poverty of the country with

my own eyes."1 The hostile Indians, who were taken prisoners, were in part put to death, in part enslaved. These were led in chains, with iron collars about their necks; their service was, to grind the maize and to carry the baggage. An exploring party discovered Ochus, the harbor of Pensacola; and a message was sent to Cuba, desiring that in the ensuing year supplies

for the expedition might be sent to that place.3 1540. Early in the spring of the following year, the wan

derers renewed their march, with an Indian guide, who promised to lead the way to a country, governed, it was said, by a woman, and where gold so abounded, that the art of melting and refining it was understood. He described the process so well, that the credulous Spaniards took heart, and exclaimed, “ He must have seen it, or the devil has been his teacher!” The Indian appears to have pointed towards the Gold Region of North Carolina. The adventurers, therefore, eagerly hastened to the north-east; they passed the Alatamaha ; they admired the fertile valleys of Georgia, rich, productive, and full of good rivers. They passed a northern tributary of the Alatamaha, and a southern

branch of the Ogechee; and, at length, came upon the April. Ogechee itself, which, in April, flowed with a full

channel and a strong current. Much of the time, the Spaniards were in wild solitudes; they suffered for want of salt and of meat. Their Indian guide affected madness; but “they said a gospel over him, and the

Portuguese Relation, c. xi. 2 lbid, c. xii.

3 Portuguese Relation, c. vii. xii. Vega, 1. ii. part i. and ii.

4 Silliman's Journal, xxiii. 8, 9.




fit left him.” Again he involved them in pathless CHAP wilds; and then he would have been torn in pieces by the dogs, if he had not still been needed to assist the 1540 interpreter. Of four Indian captives, who were questioned, one bluntly answered, he knew no country such as they described; the governor ordered him to be burnt, for what was esteemed his falsehood. The sight of the execution quickened the invention of his companions; and the Spaniards made their way to the small Indian settlement of Cutifa-Chiqui. A dagger and a rosary were found here ; the story of the Indians traced them to the expedition of Vasquez de Ayllon; and a two days' journey would reach, it was believed, the harbor of St. Helena. The soldiers thought of home, and desired either to make a settlement on the fruitful soil around them, or to return. was “a stern man, and of few words.” Willingly hearing the opinions of others, he was inflexible, when he had once declared his own mind; and all his followers, "condescending to his will,” continued to indulge delusive hopes.?

The direction of the march was now to the north; May to the comparatively sterile country of the Cherokees,” and in part through a district in which gold is now found. The inhabitants were poor, but gentle; they liberally offered such presents as their habits of life permitted-deer skins and wild hens. Soto could hardly have crossed the mountains, so as to enter the basin of the Tennessee River ;3 it seems, rather, that he passed from the head-waters of the Savannah, or the Chattahouchee, to the head-waters of the Coosa. The name

The governor


1 Portuguese Relation, c. xiii. 2 Nuttall's Arkansas, 124; Mcand xiv.; Vega, l. iii. c. ii.-xvii. Culloh's Researches, 524. Compare Belknap, i. 188. I cannot 3 Martin's Louisiana, i. 11. follow McCulloh, 524.





CHAP. of Canasauga, a village at which he halted, is still

given to a branch of the latter stream. For several 1540. months, the Spaniards were in the valleys which send

their waters to the Bay of Mobile. Chiaha was an island distant about a hundred miles from Canasauga. An exploring party which was sent to the north, were appalled by the aspect of the Appalachian chain, and pronounced the mountains impassable. They had looked for mines of copper and gold; and their only

plunder was a buffalo robe. July In the latter part of July, the Spaniards were at

Coosa. In the course of the season, they had occasion to praise the wild grape of the country, the same, perhaps, which has since been thought worthy of culture, and to admire the luxuriant growth of maize, which was springing from the fertile plains of Alabama. A southerly direction led the train to Tuscaloosa; nor was it long before the wanderers reached a considerable town on the Alabama, above the junction of the Tombecbee, and about one hundred miles, or six days' journey, from Pensacola. The village was called Mavilla, or Mobile, a name which is still preserved, and applied, not to the bay only, but to the river, after the union of its numerous tributaries. The Spaniards, tired of lodging in the fields, desired to occupy the cabins; the Indians rose to resist the invaders, whom they distrusted and feared. A battle ensued; the terrors of their cavalry gave the victory to the Spaniards. I know not if a more bloody Indian fight ever occurred on the soil of the United States: the town was set on fire; and a witness of the scene, doubtless greatly exaggerating the loss, relates that two thousand five hundred Indians were slain, suffocated, or burned. They had

Oct. 18.

« PreviousContinue »