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Chapter 10

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Spain in America

by
Edward Gaylord Bourne

in the
Barnes & Noble edition,
New York, 1962

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 12

p149 Chapter XI

Exploration of the Interior of North America
(1517‑1541)

The conquest of Cuba, from which proceeded the exploration of the western gulf coast, the conquest of Mexico, and the interior exploration of North America, was undertaken by Diego Colon, the son and heir of the discoverer who was appointed governor of Española in 1508 in recognition of his father's rights. For carrying out so important a work he selected Diego Velasquez, who, after service with credit under Bartholomew Columbus and Ovando, had become the wealthiest and most highly esteemed of the old settlers.1 Kind-hearted and jovial, he had been a most popular local governor, and when he was appointed to settle Cuba his attractive qualities and their own necessities soon brought together some three hundred men ready for the adventure. Among those who participated in the conquest were men of such after-fame and diverse fortunes as Pamfilo de Narvaez, Cortés, and the missionary historian Las Casas. In his campaigns p150Velasquez was accompanied by Las Casas, who zealously baptized all the children he could, and did much by influence and persuasion to soften the severities of the conquest.2

The extent of Cuba and the resources of Velasquez soon raised him to a position of partial independence of Diego Colon, and after the island was pacified he was ready to entertain other projects. The first occasion was offered by some Spaniards who had gone to Darien with Pedrarias Davila, but with his permission came to Cuba. Velasquez received them kindly and promised them the first repartimientos that fell vacant. After vainly waiting about two years they proposed an expedition to explore the waters to the west. Velasquez consented, and with some help from him three vessels were equipped under the command of Hernandez de Cordova, which set sail in February, 1517. Their pilot was Anton Alaminos, who, as a boy, had been with Columbus on his fourth voyage, and he suggested a reconnoissance of the regions to the north of the point where Columbus made land and turned southward.3 His counsel was approved, and after four days of careful sailing beyond the western end of Cuba they made a large island called by the Indians Cozumel.

The inhabitants were clothed, and their handiwork revealed a higher culture than the natives of the Antilles. Evidences to this effect multiplied as they coasted northward and rounded the eastward p151projection of a region they understood the Indians to call Yucatan.4 If the natives marvelled at the ships and boats, at the heavy beards and white faces of the Spaniards, at their clothes, swords, cross-bows, and lances, stroking their beards and feeling of the clothes, not less amazed were the strangers to find stone buildings with carvings, paved streets, temples with sculptured idols, and altars with drops of freshly spilled blood. During the nearly twenty-five years of discoveries and explorations that had passed since the first voyage of Columbus, thousands of miles of coast-line had been followed, the isthmus had been crossed, and the Pacific Ocean discovered; and yet all without once coming in contact with people advanced beyond the traditional state of nature.5

In a battle with the Indians, the commander, Hernandez de Cordova, was wounded, and he died some ten days after his return home, his last hours embittered by Velasquez's selection of Juan de Grijalva to follow up these discoveries with a trading expedition.6 Grijalva started out from Santiago in April, 1518, with four ships, and directed his course to the island of Cozumel; and thence followed the coast of Yucatan and Mexico to a point a little p152beyond Vera Cruz, when the pilot Alaminos advised against proceeding farther lest adverse currents should obstruct their return. Velasquez had strictly enjoined Grijalva not to attempt to plant a colony, but to confine himself to trading; but when reports from Grijalva confirmed those of Cordova, and when later he brought evidence of the abundance of gold in the new land, Velasquez was vexed that his instructions had been followed, and promptly prepared to remedy the shortcoming by securing authority from Spain to make a settlement.7

For the command of this new expedition, which did not await the arrival of the king's consent, Velasquez was induced to select Hernando Cortés, then about thirty-five years of age. Cortés was born in Medellin, in the province of Estremadura, in 1485, the son of a poor country gentleman. After some study of law in the University of Salamanca,8 like many another young Spaniard he came over to Española to seek his fortune. Taking service under Velasquez, he received a repartimiento of Indians and a notary's commission from Ovando. When Velasquez went to Cuba he took Cortés as a private secretary, but the youth was too talkative to be an ideal secretary, nor had he given any indication of the remarkable abilities that he afterwards displayed. Hardly had Cortés taken charge of the p153rapid preparations for the new enterprise when Velasquez began to have misgivings and made a vain attempt to displace him.

The fleet comprised eleven vessels, carrying about five hundred and fifty Spaniards including the sailors, sixteen horses, two hundred to three hundred Indians, and one negro. It finally took its departure February 10, 1519, pursuing the route followed by Cordova and Grijalva.9 An early piece of good-fortune was the rescue of a Spaniard who had been wrecked on those shores some years before,10 and whose knowledge of the Maya language proved of great utility. A little later, as a result of the first sharp battle with the natives of Tabasco, and Cortés' tactful treatment of two captive caciques, friendly relations were secured with this people. In the peace-offering presented to Cortés were twenty young women, among them a cacique's daughter known after her baptism as the Lady Marina. Her cleverness, fidelity to the Spaniards, and knowledge of the Maya and Nahuatl languages enabled her to render Cortés inestimable services. Through the rescued Spaniard and Doña Marina, Cortés had the immense advantage henceforward of being able to communicate freely with the Mexicans.11

p154 The third stroke of fortune — a singular coincidence of striking consequence — was the widely prevalent tradition in Mexico of the return of the culture hero, the fair god Quetzalcoatl, who in an earlier age had gone off towards the east. The first rumors of the approach of the Spaniards seemed a fulfilment of this looked-for event.12 From the moment when Cortés landed at San Juan and established the little colony of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, with a government of its own, of whose forces he became commander, he was favored by a rare combination of circumstances, which this extraordinary man knew how to take advantage of to the utmost.

A detailed narrative of the conquest of Mexico lies outside the scope of the present volume, which is concerned primarily with the extension of geographical knowledge, and secondarily with Spanish colonial institutions, but certain significant features of that conquest may be briefly indicated.

The Aztec power was a military despotism exercised by three confederated warlike tribes, who lived upon the plunder of their enemies and the tribute of their subjects. War for food and war for victims for the sacrifices was their chief occupation. The lack of domestic animals for suitable food had contributed to the survival of the custom, partly religious and partly utilitarian, of eating the flesh of p155the sacrificial victims.13 The mass of the outlying Indian population were oppressed by their predatory rulers and not disinclined to a change when once the new-comers showed themselves superior.

The Aztec warriors, although destitute of iron, were expert archers and possessed a most formidable weapon in a narrow club set with a double edge of obsidian knives. Their defensive armor was serviceable, and they were desperate fighters. The Spaniards, on the other hand, possessed the immense advantage of fire-arms, steel weapons, armor, and, not least, horses, which seemed to their opponents strange monsters. In addition they had a leader of matchless ability and resource. Yet these superiorities would have all been in vain but for the coincidences mentioned above and the paralyzing perplexity of Montezuma at the situation, which threw the advantages into the hands of Cortés.

The shock between these two civilizations, representing widely separated stages of culture, is one of the most romantic and unique events in history.14 For the history of the conquest we are fortunate in possessing Cortés's own account in his letters to his king, which have been appropriately compared to Caesar's story of his conquest of Gaul; the fascinating memoirs of the old soldier Bernal Diaz, who went p156through it all; the illustrations of the Mexican artists; and the Indian traditions.15

The story of the conquest has been made familiar to modern readers by two of the greatest English historical narrators, Robertson and Prescott: the scuttling of the ships to cut off retreat and enforce the unity of a common fate upon opposing factions among the Spaniards; the winning of the alliance with the Tlascalans; the exemplary punishment of treacherous Cholula;16 the bold but quietly firm summons to Montezuma to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king of Spain; the amazing audacity and equally amazing coolness of nerve that calmly compelled Montezuma to become the unwilling prisoner-guest of the Spanish leader; the instant resolution and dare-devil courage that so completely turned the tables on Pamfilo de Narvaez, and the tact that won over his soldiers; the wealth of resource and tenacity of purpose that finally recovered the city of Mexico and completely broke the Aztec power after such a set-back as the Noche triste — that awful night of retreat — following the rising precipitated by Alvarado's rash attempt to imitate the incident at Cholula; the heroic labors of rebuilding the city and of founding Spanish rule in New Spain and of setting in train the transmission of European culture; and, not least, the efforts to save the population from the fate of the unhappy islanders. In all these p157exigencies Cortés revealed such inflexibility of resolution, never-failing presence of mind, unwavering self-control, such readiness to strike or to conciliate as best fitted the case, such consideration for his own men and for the conquered, such constructive statesmanship, such downright business ability, such scientific and practical interest in geographical exploration that he is easily the greatest of the conquistadores, if not the ablest man that Spain produced in that age.17

Cortés landed in Mexico in the spring of 1519, and entered the city in November; in May, 1520, Narvaez was captured and Alvarado massacred the Aztec nobles; on June 30 occurred the disastrous retreat of the Noche triste. A little over a year later the city again fell into Cortés's hands, after a prolonged siege, August 13, 1521. Then followed the razing of the old town and the building of a new city. To the restoration of the country to peaceful prosperity Cortés devoted every energy. European plants and animals were brought in, the conversion of the natives was set on foot, and the exploration of the land undertaken.

Mexico now in turn succeeded the islands as the starting-point of new colonizing and exploring expeditions. Hardly had Cortés occupied the city of Mexico when he sent four Spaniards, two by one route and two by another, to the South Sea;18 p158a little later Alvarado was despatched to conquer a sea-coast province, and no sooner was word received of his success than Cortés despatched forty Spaniards, ship-carpenters and smiths, thither to build two caravels and two brigantines to explore the South Sea.19 Alvarado, meantime, pushed on to the south and began the conquest of Guatemala, keeping in mind the discovery of a strait.20 The same search was one of the purposes of Cristoval de Olid, who coasted along the gulf shores to Honduras; and rumors that Olid was setting up an independent rule led Cortés into one of the most arduous undertakings of his life — the overland march to Honduras.21 In 1527 the first expedition to the Philippines from Mexico was despatched under Alvaro de Saavedra. The voyage was safely made by only one of the three ships that started, and it was unable to return.22 In addition may be mentioned the discovery of Lower California in 1533, Cortés's own expedition thither in 1534, and the more complete exploration of the Gulf of California by Ulloa in 1539.23

The subsequent development of coast and interior exploration is from this point much affected by the results of an expedition begun twelve years earlier. p159Pamfilo de Narvaez, after a long and, on the whole, successful career in the colonies, checkered, to be sure, by the fiasco of an attempt to arrest the progress of Cortés, secured from the king the grant of all the gulf coast from Mexico to the Cape of Florida. Narvaez set out in June, 1527, with five ships and six hundred people, including friars, negroes, and the wives of some of the company.24 Desertions and storms in the West Indies delayed his final start for his new dominions until April, 1528. Effecting a landing just beyond Tampa Bay on Good Friday, Narvaez found only a deserted Indian village. Later, communication with the Indians by signs seemed to indicate that farther to the west was a richer country, and Narvaez landed, but directed his ships to follow the shore towards Panuco (Mexico) and to await him at a harbor the pilots professed to know of. Cabeça de Vaca, the treasurer of the expedition and its historian, opposed this step, but in vain.25 The fleet did not find ports where the pilots expected to await Narvaez, turned back, discovered Tampa Bay, then resumed the search for Narvaez. After a year of futile effort the ships sailed for New Spain.26

Meanwhile, Narvaez, with three hundred men, set out May 1 to follow the coast by land. Two months were consumed in tediously pushing their course on short rations through forests and swamps p160until they reached the Indian town of Apalache, not far from Tallahassee.27 Here they tarried twenty-five days, harassed by the Indians. Their failure turned them south to the coast near St. Marks, where, under extraordinary difficulties from lack of tools and materials, they contrived to put together five boats, in which the party (now reduced to two hundred and forty-two) embarked late in September. Ignorant of navigation, with overloaded and unseaworthy craft, they had no choice but to thread their way painfully along the shore, sheltered here and there by the low-lying islands. Perhaps half the distance to Mexico had been covered when the approach of winter intensified their sufferings and multiplied their perils. One after another the frail vessels succumbed, till in November about eighty destitute and enfeebled Spaniards found themselves on one of the long, narrow islands off the coast of Texas, perhaps Matagorda Island.28 Narvaez himself, while spending the night on his boat anchored near the shore, was blown out to sea and never seen again.29 His crew, wandering along the shore, gradually perished from cold and hunger, and a winter of misery reduced the number of the survivors to fifteen.30

Cabeça de Vaca and his immediate companions were forced by the Indians to become medicine-men. Unexpected success attended their breathing p161upon the sick and repetition of prayers, and the strangers became too valuable to lose. Five long years were passed among these Indians as healers, traders, or slaves, according as savage whims suggested. In 1534 Cabeça de Vaca, with three others of those still surviving — Dorantes, Castillo, and a negro slave Estevanico — managed to escape to another tribe whose good-will was won by apparently miraculous cures. After eight months' sojourn with this tribe they pushed on to the west. Their reputation as medicine-men spread, and soon a most extraordinary procession, living on the plunder of villages, was wending its way slowly towards the setting sun. "Frequently we were accompanied by three or four thousand persons, and as we had to breathe upon and sanctify the food and drink for each, and give them permission to do many things they would come and ask, it may be seen how great to us were the trouble and annoyance."31 The journey from the Texas coast to the Pacific took ten months. Their route is now thought to have been westward through Texas to the Rio Grande near where the river Pecos joins it, along the Rio Grande to a point near the mouth of the Conchos, then across Mexico in a southwesterly direction to the west coast, somewhat below the middle of the Gulf of California.32 Finally, in July, 1536, they reached the city of Mexico.

p162 A year later Cabeça de Vaca arrived in Spain, where his expectation to secure the governorship of Florida was disappointed, for it had already been granted to De Soto. After an unfortunate experience in the river Platte region he spent the rest of his life in Spain. The credibility of his narrative has been questioned, and it certainly is not free from exaggerations, yet in substance it is accepted as trustworthy. It is less easy, however, to acquit him of the charge of utterly misleading his hearers in conversation and of rousing false hopes in the breasts of the later explorers, De Soto and Coronado, by mysterious allusions and assertions, such as "that Florida was the richest country of the world."33

Hernando De Soto was born in Xerez de Badajos about the year 1500, and upon reaching manhood had gone to the isthmus to seek his fortune. Starting with nothing but his sword and shield, he displayed such qualities that he was sent to Peru with Pizarro, where he greatly distinguished himself. He returned to Spain with a fortune of over one hundred thousand pesos of gold34 — roughly equivalent to three hundred thousand dollars — and was rewarded by the emperor with the office of governor of Cuba and adelantado of Florida, and commissioned to conquer and settle at his own expense the whole region now included in the southern part of the p163United States.35 Among those who joined De Soto were several Portuguese from Elvas. To one of these we owe the best account of the expedition that has come down to us.

A prosperous voyage across the Atlantic, an inspection of his new province of Cuba, and the replenishing of his stores occupied the months from April, 1538, to May, 1539, when De Soto left Havana with nine vessels, over six hundred and twenty men, and two hundred and twenty-three horses.36 On May 30 a landing was effected in Tampa Bay. By a strange coincidence they soon picked up a survivor of Narvaez's force, one Juan Ortiz, who had been living among the Indians twelve years. Ortiz at one time was on the point of being put to death, when his life was saved by the cacique's daughter in a way which may have suggested to Captain John Smith the romantic incident of his rescue by Pocahontas.37

During the first summer various short reconnoissances were made, and the main force marched up the west coast of Florida to that same region of Apalache where Narvaez gave up his march and turned seaward. There De Soto wintered. A large number of the Indian carriers died during the p164winter from exposure and lack of food.38 In the spring De Soto resumed the march towards the northeast across the present State of Georgia, in search of the land which the Indians told him was on another sea.39 Reaching the Savannah River, he turned northwestward, passed through the Blue Mountains40 nearly to the border of Tennessee, then went nearly southwest through Georgia and Alabama to a large Indian village, Mauvilla, a little above the head of Mobile Bay, where he arrived in the middle of October.

We are not to think of this expedition as being always on the march. From time to time longer or shorter stops were made to recruit the strength of the men and to fatten the horses.41 The severest battle with the Indians occurred at Mauvilla, in which a large number of Indians were killed, eighteen Spaniards lost their lives, and one hundred and fifty were wounded. A less resolute and heroic spirit would have yielded at this point, for De Soto knew that his lieutenant, Maldonado, was waiting for him at Ochuse, some six days' journey distant, but he did not reveal this opportunity of escape to his men, and "determined to send no newes of himself until hee had found some rich country."42 That p165in the year and a half that he had spent in the southern forests he had lost only one hundred and two men from sickness or attacks by the Indians is a brilliant proof of De Soto's abilities as a leader and explorer.

Turning his back again on the world outside, De Soto marched northwest for a month until he came to the Indian village of Chicasa, in northern Mississippi, where he set up winter quarters December 17. Here in March, 1542, the worst disaster thus far experienced fell upon him. The Indians attacked the village suddenly about midnight and set it on fire. In this calamity eleven Spaniards were killed and most of the survivors lost their clothes, substitutes for which must now be devised from skins. Fifty horses and several hundred of the great drove of pigs, which accompanied the expedition to serve in emergencies for provisions, were burned.43

Resuming the march, De Soto proceeded in a northwesterly direction until, on May 8, 1541, they "saw the great river."44 "The River was almost halfe a league broad. If a man stood still on the other side, it could not be discerned whether he were a man or no. The River was of great depth, and of a strong current; the water was alwaies muddie; there came downe the River continually many trees and p166timber."45 Such are the words of the earliest description of the Mississippi by a companion of its discoverer.

A month was spent in building barges to make a crossing, which was finally effected some distance south of Memphis, June 8.46 The identification of De Soto's route west of the Mississippi is very uncertain, but apparently his marches were within the bounds of the present State of Arkansas. They came upon the nomadic Indians of the plains, heard of the buffalo, and procured buffalo-robes, but did not see the animals, and they gathered from the Indians that to the west they could find guides to "the other sea."47 A long march in that direction was made, but in vain. They then turned back to the southeast and went into winter quarters early in November.48

Such was the indomitable spirit of De Soto that he was still ready after an exploration of two years and a half to send word to Cuba and to New Spain for new supplies with which to prosecute discovery and conquest, for he had not yet got as far west as Cabeça de Vaca.49 The losses among the Spaniards now numbered two hundred and fifty men. A winter of great severity followed, and the deep snow kept them housed most of the time. In the p167spring De Soto started towards the south to reach the gulf in pursuance of his plan, but the way was arduous and the men and horses had been weakened by the winter; De Soto became much depressed at the outlook, "his men and horses every day diminished, being without succor to sustain themselves in the country, and with that thought he fell sick."50

The end was near, and the great explorer knew it. In a dignified and pathetic speech he bade farewell to his followers, and named Luis de Moscoso to succeeded him in command. "The next day, being the 21st of May, 1542, departed out of this life, the valorous, virtuous, and valiant Captain, Don Fernando de Soto, Governour of Cuba, and Adelantado of Florida, whom fortune advanced, as it useth to doe others, that he might have the higher fal."51 He was first buried, and then at Moscoso's order his body was taken up, wrapped in mantles with much sand, "wherein he was carried in a canoe, and thrown into the middest of the River."52

The new leader and his followers were ready to return to civilization, but thought it best to go overland to Mexico, and they proceeded southwesterly into Texas, perhaps as far as the Trinity River;53 but the scarcity of provisions and the hostility of the Indians compelled them after some months to seek the Mississippi again. Early in 1543 they began p168to construct seven brigantines, which with great difficulty were built and equipped. All the pigs and all but twenty-two of the horses were killed and their flesh dried for provisions.54 Some five hundred Indian slaves, men and women, were liberated, and about one hundred others carried along, but these were subsequently emancipated by royal orders.55

The Spaniards embarked July 2, 1543, and floated down the river, with many perils from the stream and from Indians, for they no longer had fire-arms. In sixteen days they reached the sea, and then coasted along the gulf shore towards Mexico for fifty-two days, arriving at the river Panuco, September 10, 1543, four years, three months, and eleven days from the landing in Tampa Bay. Out of the six hundred and twenty people who started, three hundred and eleven survived, a favorable result, if one remember that half of the one hundred colonists at Jamestown died the first winter, and over four hundred out of five hundred died in the winter of 1609‑1610.56 Thus ended the most remarkable exploring expedition in the history of North America. Its only parallel is the contemporary enterprise of Coronado, which did for the southwest what De Soto did for the eastern and central belt.

p169 If Cabeça de Vaca's reports of the riches of Florida spurred on De Soto and his followers in Spain they were not less exciting in Mexico. There the ground had been in a measure prepared by the fusing of an Indian folk tale of seven caves with the old geographical myth of the Seven Cities; and the whole was made vivid by the stories told by an Indian of a visit when a child to these seven towns, which he compared to the city of Mexico.57

It seemed advisable to Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain, to explore the region, and he chose a Franciscan, Friar Marcos, of Nizza, or Nice, who had been in Peru with Pizarro, and in Mexico had had some missionary experience on the frontier,58 to make a reconnoissance. He was now instructed to make careful observations of the country, its products and people, and to report them in detail to Mendoza.59 The negro Stephen, who had come with De Vaca, was given to him to serve as a guide, and he was also attended by some Christianized Pima Indians. Friar Marcos left Culiacan in the western frontier of Sinaloa a few weeks before De Soto landed in Florida. Following the coast as far as the Yaqui, he then went nearly due north, veering later towards the east, until he came within sight of the Zuñi villages in western New Mexico. The negro Stephen had gone on ahead with a retinue of p170Indians, and Friar Marcos now learned that he had been killed by the Indians of Cibola, the first of the seven cities (which are now usually identified with the Zuñi pueblos). From a distant point of view, the pueblo seemed to the friar in that magnifying atmosphere as large as the city of Mexico.60

The magic of the association with the legend of the "Seven Cities" reinforced the impression made by the narrative of the friar, some of whose exaggerated reports may have arisen from imperfectly understanding his informants; and elaborate preparations were at once made to invade the new land of wonder, and to repeat, if possible, the history of the conquest of Mexico. The enterprise was placed in the charge of Francisco de Coronado, the recently appointed governor of New Galicia, the northern frontier province of New Spain, and a personal friend of Mendoza.61 The vigor and energy of Mendoza's government as well as the resources of New Spain at that early date are strikingly displayed in the preparations for what is perhaps the most elaborate single enterprise of exploration in North American history. The land force under Coronado numbered three hundred Spaniards and eight hundred Indians, and was accompanied by a large number of extra horses and droves of sheep and pigs. There was in addition a sea force of two ships under p171Hernando de Alarcon to co‑operate with Coronado by following the coast of the Gulf of California and keeping in communication with the army and carrying some of its baggage.62 Alarcon discovered the mouth of the Colorado River, and August 26, 1540, started to explore it with boats. In the second of his two separate trips he apparently got as far as the lower end of the cañon, about two hundred miles up, as he estimated it.63

Coronado himself set out in February, 1540, marching up the west coast of Mexico. At Culiacan he left the main force and went ahead with about fifty horsemen, some foot-soldiers, and most of the Indian allies.64 Passing across the southwestern section of Arizona they verged to the eastward till they came to Cibola, which was captured. Here they were profoundly disappointed. However plausible Friar Marcos's comparison of the distant view of the pueblo with the city of Mexico may be made to seem in our time, there is no doubt that it completely misled the men of that day who knew Mexico.65

Coronado now sent back Melchior Diaz to order up the main force. Diaz did so, and then set out to explore the region at the head of the Gulf of California. He crossed the Colorado River and penetrated the country to the west.66 Another important p172side expedition during this summer was that of Pedro de Tovar to the province of Tusayan, northwest of Cibola, which led to the discovery of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado by De Cardenas.67 As they looked into its depths it seemed as "if the water was six feet across, although the Indians said it was half a league wide." They tried to get down to the stream, but in vain. "Those who stayed above had estimated that some huge rocks on the sides of the cliffs seemed to be about as tall as a man, but those who went down swore that when they reached these rocks they were bigger than the great tower of Seville."68

When the main army reached Cibola, Coronado moved with it to about the middle of New Mexico, where he went into winter quarters at Tiguex, on the Rio Grande. Here the burden of requisitions and individual acts of outrage against the Indians of Tiguex provoked them to an attack on the Spaniards, which was successfully repelled. The cruelty of the reprisals inflicted on the Indian prisoners exceeded anything done by De Soto, and constitutes a dark stain on the expedition.69

In the spring of 1541 Coronado set out to reach Quivira, a town of which an Indian prisoner had given a glowing description. It seems probable that the thirty-seven days' march took them northeasterly, p173but constantly verging to the right, across the plains until they reached the borders of the present Oklahoma Territory. A further advance with the main force now seemed inadvisable; but to verify, if possible, the stories about Quivira, Coronado went on early in June with thirty horsemen to the northeast. After a ride of about six weeks the was reached, and proved to be nothing more than a village of semi-nomadic Indians in the centre of the present state of Kansas.70 A few hundred miles to the southeast De Soto at this same time was exploring Arkansas. An Indian woman who had run away from Coronado's army fell in with De Soto's nine days later.71

Fertile as was the soil of the western prairies, the region had nothing at that time adequate to reward settlement so far inland;72 and Coronado in the following spring returned to New Spain with all his force save two missionaries and a few others.73 The expedition, like De Soto's, failed of its immediate object, but it revealed the character of a large part of the southwest and of the trans-Mississippi plains; and the branch expeditions had proved that Lower California was a peninsula and not an island. In the summer of 1542 the Pacific coast of California was explored by Cabrillo as far p174as Cape Mendocino, named in honor of the Viceroy Mendoza.

These great expeditions of De Soto and Coronado, undertaken for the exploration of the interior of the present United States a century and a half before La Salle, and over two centuries and a half before Lewis and Clark, were the natural outflow of the marvellous experiences of Cortés and of Pizarro in Mexico and Peru, and mark the highest reach of Spanish energy in our own country; nor have they ever been surpassed as exhibitions of skilful leadership and enduring labor by any similar enterprise by the French or English in North America. Their results were keenly disappointing at the time, but in the record of the exploration of the globe they occupy a high and honorable place among the great enterprises of history.


The Author's Notes:

1 Las Casas, Historia, III, 57, 462, 463.

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2 Las Casas, Historia, IV, 19.

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3 Ibid.IV, 350.

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4 Las Casas, Historia, IV, 350‑357; Bernal Diaz, Historia Verdadera, chaps. II, III.

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5 The Indians that Columbus saw in a boat on his fourth voyage, see above, p79, might be regarded a single exception.

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6 Las Casas, Historia, IV, 361, 362, based on Cordova's letters; Bernal Diaz, Historia Verdadera, chap. IV.

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7 Las Casas, Historia, IV, 422 ff., 440, 445, information derived from Grijalva in 1523.

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8 Ibid., 11. Las Casas knew Cortés's father.

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9 Las Casas, Historia, IV, 457; Bernal Diaz, Historia Verdadera, chaps. XXIII, XXIV.

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10 Bernal Diaz, Historia Verdadera, chaps. XXVII, XXIX.

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11 Ibid., chaps. XXXIV‑XXXVII.

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12 Cf. Fiske, Discovery of America, II, 229‑238; H. H. Bancroft, Mexico, I, 101‑108; Payne, History of America, I, 588 ff.

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13 Cf. Fiske's summary of Bandelier's analysis of Mexican society, Discovery of America, I, 103 ff.; Payne, History of America, II, 499‑501.

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14 Cf. Fiske, Discovery of America, II, 261.

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15 Collected by Sahagun, Torquemada, and others.

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16 Cf. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 258 ff.

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17 On the various aspects of Cortés's abilities and character, cf. Helps, Spanish Conquest, III, 4‑8; H. H. Bancroft, Mexico, II, 484‑487; Aleman, Disertaciones, Nos. 5 and 6.

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18 Folsom, Despatches of Cortés, 338.

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19 Folsom, Despatches of Cortés, 349, 351.

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20 Cf. ibid., 417, on Cortés's interest in discovering a strait.

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21 Cf. his Sixth Letter, Gayangos, Cartas de Cortés, 395; H. H. Bancroft, Central America, I, 522‑583.

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22 H. H. Bancroft, Mexico, II, 258.

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23 Winsor, Narr. and Crit. Hist., II, 441, 442; H. H. Bancroft, North Mexican States, I, opening chaps.; Mexico, II, 421.

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24 Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 172‑174.

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25 B. Smith, Cabeça de Vaca (ed. 1851), 21.

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26 Ibid., 122.

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27 Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 185.

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28 Ibid., 191, n.

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29 B. Smith, Cabeça de Vaca, 59.

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30 Ibid., 48.

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31 B. Smith, Cabeça de Vaca, 95.

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32 On Cabeça de Vaca's route, see Bandelier, Contributions to the History of Southwestern Portion of the United States, 28‑67; Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 206‑209.

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33 "The Gentleman of Elvas," in Hakluyt, Voyages, XIII, 548.

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34 Ibid., 544, 545; Oviedo, Historia General, I, 544.

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35 B. Smith, Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de la Florida, 140‑146; Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 215, 216.

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36 Biedma, in Rye, Discovery of Florida, 173; B. Smith, Col. de Docs., 47.

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37 Hakluyt's first publication of the narrative of "The Gentleman of Elvas" was in 1609.

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38 "The Gentleman of Elvas," in Hakluyt, Voyages, XIII, 572.

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39 Biedma, in Rye, Discovery of Florida, 177.

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40 "The Gentleman of Elvas," in Hakluyt, Voyages, XIII, 583. The identifications of De Soto's route are based on Lowery's text and notes.

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41 Hakluyt, Voyages, XIII, 585.

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42 Ibid., 599.

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43 Hakluyt, Voyages, XIII, 603; Oviedo, Historia General, I, 571.

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44 Ibid.I, 573. Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 237, 238, inadvertently says March.

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45 "The Gentleman of Elvas," in Hakluyt, Voyages, XIII, 608.

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46 Cf. Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 237, for a discussion of the place.

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47 Biedma, in Rye, Discovery of Florida, 193.

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48 Oviedo, Historia General, I, 577.

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49 Hakluyt, Voyages, XIV, 12.

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50 Hakluyt, Voyages, XIV, 19.

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51 Ibid., 23.

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52 Ibid., 24.

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53 Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 249.

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54 Hakluyt, Voyages, XIV, 39‑41.

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55 Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 249.

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56 Eggleston, Beginners of a Nation, 31, 40.

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57 Bandelier, Contributions, 6‑12; Winship, Journey of Coronado, I, 1.

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58 Bandelier, Contributions, 107.

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59 Ibid., 109‑112.

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60 Bandelier, Contributions, 112‑178, 264‑282; Fray Marcos de Nizza, Relacion, in Docs. Ined, de Indias, III, 329‑350.

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61 Winship, Journey of Coronado, 10.

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62 Winship, The Coronado Expedition (Bureau of Ethnology, Fourteenth Annual Report), 385.

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63 Ibid., 404‑406.

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64 Castañeda, in Winship, Journey of Coronado, 20.

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65 Ibid., 23.

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66 Ibid., 26‑28.

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67 The Tusayan Indians are identified as the Moquis. The cañon was twenty days' journey farther west.

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68 Castañeda, in Winship, Journey of Coronado, 36.

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69 Ibid., 51.

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70 Coronado to the king, Winship, Journey of Coronado, 214‑219; Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 223‑251.

Thayer's Note: See also Herbert E. Bolton's telling of the expedition to Quivira, in The Spanish Borderlands, pp95‑105, also placing it in Kansas. For a paper seeking to prove its location in Nebraska — a minority view — see "The Lost Province of Quivira" (Catholic Historical Review, II.3‑18).
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71 Castañeda, in Winship, Journey of Coronado, 77.

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72 Cf. Coronado's report, ibid., 220.

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73 Jaramillo, ibid., 238‑240; Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 409.


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