A Gentleman of Elvas Account

A Gentleman of Elvas, a Portugese officer with Hernando de Soto, wrote about DeSoto's Expedition. Published in Volume I of the University of Alabama's The DeSoto Chronicles.
A different translation of Elvas, by Buckingham Smith

INDEXED BY STATE: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee,
Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Escape








On the eleventh day of August, in the year 1539, the governor left Cale and went to sleep at a small town called Ytara, the next day at another called Potano, and the third at Utinama. He arrived at another town to which they gave the name of Mala Paz [i.e., Bad Peace] because an Indian came in peace saying that he was the cacique, that he wished to serve the governor with his people, [and asking] that he [the governor] should order twenty-eight Indian men and women, who had been seized from him the night before, to be set free; that he would order provisions taken to him and would give him a guide for the onward journey. The governor ordered the Indians freed and a guard put over him [the supposed cacique]. On the morning of the next day many Indians came and took position about the town near the forest. The Indian asked to be taken near them as he wished to speak to them and assure them, and that they would do whatever he ordered them. As soon as he found himself near them, he attacked the Christians stoutly and escaped and no one was able to overtake him; and all the Indians went fleeing through the woods. The governor ordered loosed a hound which he brought along, previously glutted on them, which passing by many other Indians went to seize the pretended cacique who had fled from the Christians and held him until the latter came to seize him.

From there, the governor went to sleep at a town called Cholupaha; and as it had maize in abundance, they gave it the name Villafarta [Well-fed Town]. In front was a river over which a bridge of wood was built, and he went for two days through an abandoned region. On August 17, he arrived at Caliquen and got information of the province of Apalache. They told him that Narvaez had arrived there and that he had taken to boats there because he found no road on beyond; that there was no other village, but that it was all water in every direction.

All were saddened at this news and advised the governor to return to the port and leave the land of Florida; so that he might not get lost as had Narvaez; that, if he went on, when he might wish to return he could not; that the Indians would end by seizing the little maize that was to be found. To this the governor answered that he would not turn back until seeing with his own eyes what they said, which he could not believe, and that we should be ready saddled.

He ordered Luis de Moscoso to set out immediately from Cale and [said] that he was awaiting him there [in Caliquen]. It appeared to Luis de Moscoso and to many others that they must turn back from Apalache and they buried iron and other things in Cale. They reached Caliquen after great hardship for the land over which the governor had passed was destroyed and bare of maize. After all the men had gathered there, he ordered a bridge built over a river which flowed near the town. He left Caliquen on September ten, taking the cacique with him.


After a march of three days, Indians came in peace saying that they came to see their lord; and every day they came to the road playing on flutes, which is their sign by which they make known that they come in peace. They said that farther on a cacique called Uzachil, a relative of the cacique of Caliquen, their lord, was waiting with great gifts. They asked the governor to free the cacique, but he refused to free him, for he feared lest they revolt and refuse to give him guides and from day to day he dismissed them with good words.

He marched for five days, passing through several small towns, and reached a town, Napetucas by name, on September 15. There fourteen or fifteen Indians came and asked the governor to set the cacique of Caliquen, their lord, free. He answered them saying that he did not hold him captive, but that he wished to keep him with him as far as Uzachil. The governor learned from Juan Ortiz that an Indian had revealed to him that they [the Indians] had decided to assemble and to come against him in order to give him battle and to take from him the cacique whom he was holding.

On the day agreed upon, the governor ordered his men to be ready, and the horsemen armed and mounted, each one to be within his lodging, so that the Indians might not see them and would accordingly come to the town without fear. Four hundred Indians came within sight of the camp with their bows and arrows and posted themselves in a wood. Then they sent two Indians to tell the governor to give up the cacique to them. The governor with six men of foot, taking the cacique by the hand and talking with him, in order to assure the Indians, went toward the place where they were and seeing the time ready ordered a blast of the trumpet to be given. Immediately those who were in the houses in the town, both foot and horse, attacked the Indians, who were so surprised that their greatest thought was where they could escape.

They killed two horses, one of which was that of the governor, who was immediately provided with another. Thirty or forty Indians were lanced. The rest fled toward two very large shallow lakes which were separated one from the other. There they went swimming about, while the Christians round about - arquebusiers and crossbowmen - shot at them from the outside. But as they were far away and they [the Spaniards] shot at them from a long distance they did no hurt to them. That night the governor ordered one of the two lakes to be surrounded; for, because of their large size, his men were insufficient to surround both of them. Being surrounded, the Indians, upon the approach of night, having made up their minds to take to flight, would come swimming very softly to the edge, and so that they might not be seen, would place water-lily leaves on their heads. When the horsemen saw the leaves moving they would dash in until the water was up to the breasts of the horses and the Indians would return in flight within the lake.

In that way they passed that night without the Indians or the Christians having any rest. Juan Ortiz told them that since they could not escape, they would better surrender to the governor, which, forced by necessity and the coldness of the water, they did; and one by one as soon as the suffering from the cold conquered them, they would cry out to Juan Ortiz saying that they should not be killed for now they were going to put themselves in the hands of the governor. At dawn they had all surrendered except twelve of the principal men who, being more honored and valiant, resolved to perish rather than come into his power.

The Indians of Paracoxi who were now going about unchained, went in swimming after them and pulled them out by their hair. They were all put in chains and on the day following were allotted among the Christians for their service. While captive there they resolved to revolt and charged an Indian interpreter whom they held as a valiant man that as soon as the governor came to talk with him, he should seize him about the neck with his hands and choke him. As soon as he saw an opportunity he seized hold of the governor, and before he got his hands about his neck, struck him so hard on the nose that it was all covered with blood. Immediately they all rose in revolt. He who could get weapons in his hand or the pestle for crushing maize tried with all his might to kill his master or the first man he met.

He who could get a lance or sword in his hand so handled himself with it as if he had used it all his life. An Indian with a sword surrounded by fifteen or twenty men on foot in the public place, uttered [a] challenge like a bull, until some halberdiers of the governor came up, who killed him. Another one with a lance climbed up on a cane floor which they made to hold their maize (which they call barbacoa) and there he made a noise as if ten men were inside; and while defending the door he was struck down by a javelin. In all, there were about two hundred Indians, all of whom were subdued. The governor gave some of the youngest boys to those who had good chains and cautioned them not to let them escape from them. All the rest he ordered to be punished by being fastened to a stake in the middle of the plaza and the Indians of Paracoxi shot them with arrows.



On September the 23rd, 1539, the governor left Napetaca [sic] and went to sleep at a river where two Indians brought him a stag on the part of the cacique of Uzachil. Next day he passed through a large town called Hapaluya and went to sleep at Uzachil. He found no people there, for because of the news which the Indians had of the massacre of Napetaca they dared not remain. In the town he found an abundance of maize, beans, and pumpkins, of which their food consists, and on which the Christians lived there. Maize is like coarse millet and the pumpkins are better and more savory than those of Spain.

From there the governor sent two captains, each one in a different direction, in search of the Indians. They captured a hundred head, among Indian men and women. Of the latter, there, as well as in any other part where forays were made, the captain selected one or two for the governor and the others were divided among themselves and those who went with them. These Indians they took along in chains with collars about their necks and they were used for carrying the baggage and grinding the maize and for other services which so fastened in this manner they could perform. Sometimes it happened that when they went with them for firewood or maize they would kill the Christian who was leading them and would escape with the chain. Others at night would file the chain off with a bit of stone which they have in place of iron tools, and with which they cut it. Those who were caught at it paid for themselves and for those others, so that on another day they might not dare do likewise. As soon as the women and young children were a hundred leagues from their land, having become unmindful, they were taken along unbound, and served in that way, and in a very short time learned the language of the Christians.

The governor left Uzachil for Apalache and, in a march of two days, reached a town called Axille. And because the Indians had not heard of the Christians, they were careless, [but] most of them escaped because the town was surrounded by a forest. On the morning of the next day, October first, the governor left there and ordered a bridge to be built over a river where he had to cross. It was necessary to swim for a stone's throw where the bridge was built, and beyond that a crossbow-shot's distance the water came up to the waist. And there was a very high, thick wood through which the Indians would come to see if they could prevent the passage and those who were building the bridge. The crossbowmen came to their aid and made the Indians take to flight. Some timbers were put in over which some men passed which assured the crossing.

The governor crossed over on Wednesday, the day of St. Francis. He went to sleep at a town called Vitachuco which was subject to Palache. He found it burning, for the Indians had set fire to it. Beyond that place, the land was very populous and maize abounded. He passed through many open districts like villages. On Sunday, October 5, he arrived at a town called Uzela, and on Monday, at Anhaica Apalache where the lord of all that land and province lived. In that town, the maestre de campo, whose office it is to allot and provide lodgings, lodged them all. Within a league and a half league about that town were other towns where there was abundance of maize, pumpkins, beans, and dried plums native to the land, which are better than those of Spain and grow wild in the fields without being planted. Food which seemed sufficient to last over the winter was gathered together from those towns on into Anhaica Apalache.

The governor was informed that the sea was ten leagues from there. He immediately sent a captain and some horse and foot, and after going six leagues the captain found a town called Ochete. He reached the sea and found a large tree which had been cut down and made into troughs fixed with some posts which were used as mangers and saw skulls of horses. With this message he came and what they said of Narvaez was considered true, namely, that he had there built the boats with which he left that land and in which he was lost at sea.

The governor immediately sent Juan de Anasco with thirty horse to the port of Espiritu Santo, where Calderon was, ordering them to abandon that port and all to go to Apalache. He [Anasco] set out [as one of The Thirty Lancers] on Friday, November 17th. In Uzachil and at other towns on the way, he [Anasco] found many people already careless. He would not capture Indians in order not to be detained, for it did not suit him to give the Indians time to assemble. He passed through the towns at night and rested for three or four hours at a distance from habitation. In ten days he reached the port, brought twenty Indian women whom he captured in Utara and Potano near Cale, sent them to Dona Isabel in two caravels which he sent from the port to Cuba, and brought all the men of foot in the brigantines, coasting along toward Palache. Calderon with the men of horse and some foot crossbowmen went by land. In some places, the Indians attacked him and wounded some of his men.

As soon as they reached Apalache, the governor immediately ordered planks hewn and spikes taken to the sea, with which was built a piragua large enough to hold thirty well-armed men who went by way of the bay to the sea and coasted about waiting for the brigantines. Several times they fought with Indians who were going along the keys in canoes. On Saturday, November 29, an Indian came through the sentinels without being seen and set fire to the town; and because of the high wind blowing, two-thirds of it were quickly burned.

On Sunday, the 28th of December, Juan de Anasco arrived with the brigantines. The governor sent Francisco Maldonado, captain of the foot soldiers, with fifty men to coast along toward the west and look for a port, for he had decided to go by land in order to explore in that direction. On that day, eight horse, by order of the governor, went out into the open country for two leagues about the town to look for Indians; for now the latter had become so daring that they would come within two crossbow-shots of the camp to kill the men. They found two Indians and one Indian woman gathering beans. Although the men could have escaped, in order not to abandon the Indian woman who was the wife of one of them, they resolved to die fighting. Before being killed they wounded three horses, one of which died a few days afterward.

Calderon with his men marched along the seacoast. From a wood close to the sea some Indians came out to attack him and forced him to leave the road, and many of those with him to abandon some necessary food they were carrying. Three or four days after the time limit set by the governor to Maldonado for going and coming (although he had planned and determined not to await him longer if he did not come within a week from that time), he [Maldonado] came and brought an Indian from a province called Ochuse (Mobile Bay), sixty leagues from Apalache, where he had found a port of good depth and sheltered. And because he hoped to find farther on a good land, the governor was very happy and sent Maldonado to Havana for provisions with orders to wait at the port of Ochuse which he [Maldonado] had discovered; and that he [the governor] would go overland in search of it; and that if he [the governor] were delayed and should not go [to that port] that summer he [Maldonado] should return to the Havana, and the next summer return to wait at the port, for he [the governor] would do nothing else than go in search of Ochuse.

Francisco Maldonado went and Juan de Guzman remained in his stead as captain of the foot soldiers of his company. From among the Indians captured at Napetuca, the treasurer, Juan Gaytin, brought along a youth (later he called him Perico, Pedro by Inca, Indian boy by Rangel) who said that he was not of that land, but that he was from another very distant one lying in the direction of the sunrise, and that some time ago he had come in order to visit [other} lands; that his land was called Yupaha and a woman ruled it; that the town where she lived was of wonderful size; and that the chieftainess collected tribute from many of her neighboring chiefs, some of whom gave her clothing and others gold in abundance. He told how it was taken from the mines, melted, and refined, just as if he had seen it done, or else the devil taught him; so that all who knew anything of this said it was impossible to give so good an account of it unless one had seen it; and all when they saw the signs he made believed whatever he said to be true.




On Wednesday, the 3rd of March, 1540, the governor left Anhaica Apalache in search of Yupaha. He ordered all his men to provide themselves with maize for a journey of sixty leagues through uninhabited land. Those of horse carried the maize on their horses, and those of foot on their backs; for most of the Indians whom they had to serve them, being naked and in chains, died because of the hard life they suffered during that winter.

After a march of four days, they came to a deep river, where a piragua was made and, because of the strong current, a chain cable was made and fastened on each side of the river. The piragua crossed over alongside it and the horses crossed swimming by means of ropes and tackle which were pulled along by them. After crossing the river, in a day and a half they reached a town called Capachiqui. On Friday, March 11, they saw the Indians had risen [and gone into the woods]. Next day, five Christians went to look for mortars which the Indians use for crushing their maize. They went to certain houses contiguous to the camp surrounded by a wood. Within the wood many Indians were walking about who came to spy on us. Five of them separated from the others and attacked our men. One of the Christians came running to the camp, shouting "To arms." Those who were most ready attended to the alarm. They found one Christian dead and three badly wounded. The Indians fled through a swamp with a very dense wood where the horses could not enter.

The governor left Capachiqui and crossed over an abandoned region. On Wednesday, the 21st of the month, he came to a town called Toalli. Beyond that place, a difference was seen in the houses, for those behind were covered with hay and those of Toallits were covered with canes in the manner of tiles. Those houses are very clean and some have their walls plastered and appear to be made of mud. Throughout the cold lands each of the Indians has his house for the winter plastered inside and out. They shut the very small door at night and build a fire inside the house so that it gets as hot as an oven, and stays so all night long so that there is no need of clothing. Besides those houses they have others for summer with kitchens nearby where they build their fires and bake their bread.

They have barbacoas in which they keep their maize. This is a house raised up on four posts, timbered like a loft and the floor of cane. The difference which the houses of the lords or principal men have from those of the others is that besides being larger they have large balconies in front and below seats resembling benches made of canes;* and round about many large barbacoas in which they gather together the tribute paid them by their Indians, which consists of maize and deerskins and native blankets resembling shawls, some being made of the inner bark of trees and some from a plant like daffodils which when pounded remains like flax. The Indian women cover themselves with these blankets, draping one around themselves from the waist down and another over the shoulder with the right arm uncovered in the manner and custom of Gypsies. The Indian men wear only one over the shoulders in the same way and have their privies covered with a truss of deerskin resembling the breech clouts formerly worn in Spain. The skins are well tanned and are given the color that is desired; and so perfectly that if the color is vermillion, it seems to be very fine grained cloth, and that colored black is splendid. And of this same they make shoes. They give the same colors to the blankets.

The governor left Toalli on March 24. At supper time on Thursday he came to a little stream where a footbridge was made on which the men crossed. Benito Fernandez, a Portuguese, fell off it and was drowned. As soon as the governor had crossed the stream, he found a village called Achese a short distance on. Although the Indians had never heard of Christians they plunged into a river. A few Indians, men and women, were seized, among whom was found one who understood the youth who was guiding the governor to Yupaha. On that account, the governor was more certain of what the latter said, for they had passed through lands having different languages, some of which he did not understand.

The governor sent one of the Indians captured there to call the cacique who was on the other side of the river. He came and spoke as follows: "Very exalted and very mighty and very excellent Lord: Things which seldom happen cause wonder. Therefore, what must the sight of your Lordship and your men, whom we have never seen, be to me and mine; and the entrance into my land with so great haste and fury, and on animals so fierce as are your horses, without me having known of your coming. It was a thing so new and caused such terror and fear in our minds that it was not in our power to await and welcome your Lordship with the ceremony due so exalted and distinguished a prince as is your Lordship. Confiding in your greatness and singular virtues, not only do I hope to be held free of guilt but to receive rewards. The first thing I beg of your Lordship is that with my person and land and vassals, you do as with a thing (of) your own; and secondly, that you tell me who you are, whence you come, whither you go, and what you seek, so that I may better serve you."

The governor answered him saying that he thanked him heartily for his offer and for his good will, as if he had welcomed him and offered him a great treasure; that he [the governor] was a son of the sun and came from where it dwelt and that he was going through that land and seeking the greatest lord and the richest province in it. The cacique said that a great lord lived on ahead; that his domain was called Ocute. He gave him a guide and interpreter for that province. The governor ordered his [the cacique's] Indians to be set free and departed from his town on the first day of April, marching through his land up along a river with many villages. He left a wooden cross raised very high in the middle of the public place. And as time did not allow more, he only declared that that cross was a memorial of that on which Christ suffered, who was God and man and created the heavens and the earth and suffered to save us and, therefore, they should reverence it. They signified that they would do so.

On April 4, the governor passed through a town, by name, Altamaca, and on the tenth day of the month reached Ocute. The cacique sent him two thousand Indians bearing gifts, namely, many rabbits, partridges, maize bread, two hens, and many dogs, which are esteemed among the Christians as if they were fat sheep because there was a great lack of meat and salt. Of this there was so much need and lack in many places and on many occasions that if a man fell sick, there was nothing with which to make him well; and he would waste away of an illness which could have been easily cured in any other place, until nothing but his bones were left and he would die from pure weakness, some saying: "If I had a bit of meat or some lumps of salt, I should not die." The Indians do not lack meat; for they kill many deer, hens, rabbits, and other game with their arrows. In this they have great skill, which the Christians do not have; and even if they had it, they had no time for it, for most of the time they were on the march, and they did not dare to turn aside from the paths.

And because they lacked meat so badly, when the six hundred men with De Soto arrived at any town and found twenty or thirty dogs, he who could get one and who killed it thought he was not a little agile. And if he who killed one did not send his captain a quarter, the latter, if he learned of it, upbraided him and gave him to understand it in the watches or in any other matter of worth that arose with which he could annoy him.

On Monday, April 12, the governor left Ocute, the cacique having given him four hundred tamemes, that is, Indians for carrying. He passed through a town, whose lord was called Cofaqui; and reached a province of an Indian lord called Patofa, who, since he was at peace with the lord of Ocute and the other lords round about, had heard of the governor some days before and desired to see him. He came to visit him and spoke as follows: "Powerful Lord: Now with reason I will beg fortune to pay me some slight adversity for so great happiness; and I call myself happy for I have obtained what I desired in this life-that of seeing your Lordship and being able to render you some service. Although speech is the image of what is in the heart and what my heart feels with this happiness it cannot conceal, yet my tongue is not sufficient to enable me to express that happiness entirely. From whence did this your land, which I am governing, merit the visit of so sovereign and so excellent a prince to whom all people in the world owe service and obedience? And from whence has come so great a good fortune to those who inhabit this land, they being so insignificant, unless to recall to their memory some great misfortune which might happen in accordance with the arrangement of fortune? Therefore, now and forever, if we are worthy of your Lordship holding us as yours, we can not cease to be favored and maintained in true justice and reason and called men; for those who lack reason and justice can be compared to brute beasts. In my heart with the respect due to such a prince as your Lordship, I offer myself, and beg you that in payment of this true good will, you may wish to be served by my person, land, and vassals." The governor answered him saying that his offers and good will exhibited by deeds would greatly please him; that he would always remember to honor and protect him as a brother.

This land, from that of the first peaceful cacique to the province of Patofa, a distance of fifty leagues, is a rich land, beautiful, fertile, well watered, and with fine fields along the rivers. From thence to the port of Espiritu Santo, where we first reached the land of Florida-a distance of about three hundred and fifty leagues or so-it is a lean land, and most of it covered with rough pine groves, low and very swampy, and in places having lofty dense forests, where the hostile Indians wandered so that no one could find them nor could the horses enter there-which was annoying to the Christians because of the provisions which had been carried off and the trouble experienced by them in looking for the Indians to guide them.



In the town of Patofa, the youth whom the governor brought as interpreter and guide began to foam at the mouth and to throw himself to the ground as if possessed by the devil. They prayed the evangel over him and that fit left him. He said that four days' journey thence toward the rising sun was the province of which he spoke. The Indians of Patofa said that they knew of no settlement in that direction, but that toward the northwest they knew a province called Coga, a well provisioned land and of very large villages. The cacique told the governor that if he wished to go thither, he would furnish him service of a guide and Indians to carry; and if in the direction indicated by the youth he would also give him all those he needed; and with mutual words of affection and promises they said farewell to each other. He (the chief) gave him (De Soto) seven hundred tamemes. He took maize for four days and marched for six days along a path which gradually grew narrower until it was all lost.

DeSoto into Northern Georgia


He (DeSoto) marched in the direction where the youth guided him and crossed two rivers by fording, each of which was two crossbow-shots wide. The water came to their stirrups and had a swift current, so that it was necessary for the men on horseback to form a line one in front of the other in order that those on foot might cross above them by virtue of their support. He came to another river with a more powerful current and wider which was crossed with greater difficulty, for the horses swam as they got out for the length of a lance.

That river being crossed, the governor came out to a pine grove and threatened the youth and made as if he would throw him to the dogs because he had deceived him, saying that it was a march of four days, and for nine days he had marched making seven or eight leagues on each day; and now the men and horses were become weak because of the great economy which had been practiced with regard to the maize. The youth said that he did not know where he was. That there was no other whom Juan Ortiz understood availed in preventing him from being thrown to the dogs. The governor with them [the youth and Ortiz] and with some horse and foot, leaving the camp established in a pine grove, marched five or six leagues that day looking for a road, and at night returned greatly disheartened without having found any signs of habitation.

Next day different opinions were expressed as to whether he should turn back or what he should do. Inasmuch as the land behind through which they had come was left very desolate and lacking in maize, and the maize they brought was finished, and the men very weak, as well as the horses, they were in great doubt as to whether they could reach a place where they might be aided.

Moreover, they considered that if they went on like defeated men, if any Indians dared to attack them, they could not escape either because of hunger or war. The governor determined to send horsemen thence in all directions to look for habitation. On the next day he sent four captains in different directions, each one with eight horsemen. They returned at night some leading their horses by the bridle and others driving them before them with a stick, for they could not carry them they were so tired out, and without finding any road or sign of habitation. Next day, the governor sent four others [i.e., captains] each with eight horse, men who could swim, in order to cross the mud and streams which they might come to, and chosen horses, the best in the camp. The captains were Baltasar de Gallegos, who went upstream; Juan de Anasco, who went down; Alonso Romo and Juan Rodriguez Lobillo, who went inland.

The governor had taken thirteen sows to Florida and was now driving three hundred pigs. He ordered half a pound of flesh to be given to each man daily, it having been three or four days since maize was lacking. With that small amount of meat and with some herbs boiled with considerable trouble, the men were sustained. The governor sent the Indians of Patofa back since he had nothing to give them to eat. They, upon ceasing to accompany and serve the Christians in their need, and manifesting great sorrow to him at returning without leaving them in a village, returned to their own land.

Juan de Anasco came on Sunday afternoon and gave news of finding a small town twelve or thirteen leagues away. He brought an Indian woman and a boy whom he captured. With his coming and with the news, the governor and all were so glad that it seemed to them that they had then come back from greedy death. On Monday, the 26th of April, the governor set out for the town which was called Aymay, to which the Christians gave the name of the town of Socorro [i.e., Relief]. At the place where the camp was established he left a letter buried at the foot of a pine tree and on the pine some words cut on the bark with a machete, as follows: "Dig at the foot of this pine tree and you will find a letter," doing this so that when the captains came, who had gone to look for a village, they might see the letter and might learn what the governor had done and where he had gone. There was no other way to the town than marks left cut on the trees by Juan de Anasco.

The governor, with some of those who had the best horses, reached the town on Monday; and all striving to reach it as soon as possible slept, some at a distance of two, and others at three or four, leagues from the town, each one according as he could march and his strength aided him. In the town was found a barbacoa full of parched maize meal and some maize which was given out by rationing. There four Indians were captured, and no one of them would say anything else than that they did not know of any other village. The governor ordered one of them to be burned. Thereupon, another said that two days' journey thence was a province called Cutifachiqui.

On Wednesday arrived the captains, Baltasar de Gallegos, Alonso Romo, and Juan Rodriquez Lobillo, who had found the letter and followed to the town whither the governor had gone. Two men belonging to the company of Juan Rodriquez were lost because of their tired horses. The governor chided him severely for having left them and sent him to look for them, and as soon as they came set out for Cutifachiqui. On the way three Indians were captured who declared that the chieftainess of that land had already heard of the Christians and was awaiting them in one of her towns. The governor sent to her by one of them an offer of his friendship and the information that he was coming thither.

The governor arrived and immediately four canoes came to him in one of which was a sistert of the cacica. Coming to the governor, she said these words: "Excellent Lord: My sister orders me to kiss your Lordship's hands and say to you that the reason why she has not come in person is that she thought she could better serve you by remaining as she is doing to give orders that all her canoes should be made ready quickly so that your Lordship might cross and so that you might rest, for you will be served immediately."

The governor thanked her and she returned to the other side of the river. Shortly thereafter, the cacica came from the town in a carrying chair in which certain principal Indians carried her to the river. She entered a canoe with an awning at the stern and on the bottom of which was already spread a mat for her and above it two cushions one on top of the other, on which she seated herself. With her principal men and other canoes filled with Indians who accompanied her, she went to the place where the governor was; and on her arrival spoke as follows: "0, Excellent Lord: May your Lordship's coming to these your lands be of very good augury, although my possibility does not equal my wishes and my services are not equal to what I desire and to the merits of so powerful a prince as your Lordship; for good will is more worthy of acceptance than all the treasures of the world which may be offered without it. With very sincere and open good will I offer you my person, my lands, my vassals, and this poor service." And she presented him a quantity of clothing of the country which she brought in the other canoes, namely, blankets and skins. And from her neck she drew a long string of pearl beads and threw it about the neck of the governor, exchanging with him many gracious words of affection and courtesy. She ordered canoes to go thither in which the governor and his men crossed. As soon as he was lodged in the town, another gift of many hens was made him.

That land was very pleasing and fertile, and had excellent fields along the rivers, the forest being clear and having many walnuts and mulberries. They said that the sea was two days' journey away. About the town within the compass of a league and a half league were large uninhabited towns, choked with vegetation, which looked as though no people had inhabited them for some time. The Indians said that two years ago there had been a plague in that land and they had moved to other towns. In the barbacoas of the towns there was considerable amount of clothing-blankets made of thread from the bark of trees and feather mantles (white, gray, vermillion, and yellow), made according to their custom, elegant and suitable for winter.

There were also many deerskins, well tanned and colored, with designs drawn on them and made into pantaloons, hose, and shoes. The cacica, observing that the Christians esteemed pearls, told the governor that he might order certain graves in that town to be examined, for he would find many, and that if he wished to send to the uninhabited towns, they could load all their horses. The graves of that town were examined and fourteen arrobasts of pearls were found, babies and birds being made of them.

The people were dark, well set up and proportioned, and more civilized than any who had been seen in all the land of Florida; and all were shod and clothed. The youth told the governor that he was now beginning to enter that land of which he had spoken to him. And since it was such a land and he understood the language of the Indians, some credence was given him. He requested that he be baptized, for he wished to become a Christian. He was made a Christian and was called Pedro. The governor ordered him to be loosed from the chain in which he had gone until then.

That land, according to the statement of the Indian, had been very populous and was reputed to be a good land. According to appearances, the youth whom the governor had taken as guide had heard of it, and what he learned from hearsay he asserted to have seen, and enlarged at will what he saw. In that town were found a dagger and some beads of Christians, whom the Indians said had been in the port two days' journey thence, and that it was now many years since Governor Licentiate Ayllion had arrived there in order to make a conquest of that land; that on arriving at the port, he died; and there ensued a division, quarrels, and deaths among several of the principal persons who had accompanied him as to who should have the command; and without learning anything of the land they returned to Spain from that port.

All the men were of the opinion that they should settle in that land as it was an excellent region; that if it were settled, all the ships from New Spain, and those from Peru, Santa Marta, and Tierra Firme, on their way to Spain, would come to take advantage of the stop there, for their route passes by there; and as it is a good land and suitable for making profits.

Since the governor's purpose was to seek another treasure like that of Atabalipa, the lord of Peru, he had no wish to content himself with good land or with pearls, even though many of them were worth their weight in gold and, if the land were to be allotted in repartimiento, those pearls which the Indians would get afterward would be worth more; for those they have, inasmuch as they are bored by fire, lose their color thereby. The governor replied to those who urged him to settle that there was not food in that whole land for the support of his men for a single month; that it was necessary to hasten to the port of Ochus where Maldonado was to wait; that if another richer land were not found they could always return to that one whenever they wished; that meanwhile the Indians would plant their fields and it would be better provided with maize.

He asked the Indians whether they had heard of any great lord farther on. They said that twelve days' journey thence was a province called Chiaha which was subject to the lord of Coosa. Thereupon, the governor determined to go in search of that land; and as he was a man, hard and dry of word, and although he was glad to listen to and learn the opinion of all, after he had voiced his own opinion he did not like to be contradicted and always did what seemed best to him. Accordingly, all conformed to his will, and although it seemed a mistake to leave that land, for another land might have been found round about where the men might maintain themselves until the planting might be done there and the maize harvested, no one had anything to say to him after his determination was learned.



On May 3, the governor set out from Cutifachiqui, and because the Indians had already risen, and it was learned that the cacica was minded to go away if she could without giving guides or tamemes for carrying because of offenses committed against the Indians by the Christians-for among many men there is never lacking some person of little quality who for very little advantage to himself places the others in danger of losing their livesthe governor ordered a guard to be placed over her and took her along with him; not giving her such good treatment as she deserved for the good will she had shown him and the welcome she had given him. He made true the old proverb which says "For well doing," etc. And so he took her along on foot with her slave women, so that they [the Indians] might show respect because of her.

In all the towns through which the governor passed, the cacica ordered the Indians to come and carry the loads from one town to the other. We traversed her lands for a hundred leagues, in which, as we saw, she was very well obeyed, for all the Indians did with great efficiency and diligence what she ordered of them. Perico, the youth who was guiding us, said that she was not the ruler but that she was the ruler's niece' and that she had come to that town to execute justice on certain of the principal men under command of the ruler who had rebelled against her and kept the tribute. No credit was given to him because of the lies in which he had been found; but everything was endured in him because of the need of him to tell what the Indians said.

In seven days, the governor reached a province, by name Chalaque (Cherokee), the poorest land in maize seen in Florida. The Indians live on roots of herbs which they seek in the open field and on game killed with their arrows. The people are very domestic, go quite naked, and are very weak. There was a lord who brought the governor two deerskins as a great act of service. In that land are many wild hens. In one town they performed a service for him, presenting him seven hundred of them, and likewise in others they brought those they had and could get.


It took five days to go from this province to another one called Xualla (Tryon, North Carolina). They found little maize, and for that reason, although the men were tired and their horses very weak, the governor did not stop over two days. From Ocute (Sandersville, Georgia) to Cufitachiqui (Columbia, South Carolina) it was about one hundred and thirty leagues, eighty of which were without inhabitants. From Cutifachiqui (Columbia) to Xualla (Tryon) it was two hundred and fifty leagues, over mountainous country. The governor set out from Xualla for Guaxule (Asheville), crossing over very rough and lofty mountains.

Along that way, the cacica of Cutifachiqui (Columbia's Woman Chief), whom the governor brought as above said for the purpose of taking her to Guaxule (Asheville) for her lands reached that far-going one day with her slave women who were carrying her, stepped aside from the road and went into a wood saying that she had to attend to her necessities. Thus she deceived them and hid herself in the woods; and although they sought her she could not be found. She took with her a box of canes made like a coffer which they call "petaca," filled with unbored pearls. Some who had most knowledge of them said they were very valuable. An Indian woman was carrying them for her whom she took with her.

The governor, in order not to cause her unhappiness in everything, left them, intending to ask them from her at Guaxule (Asheville), when he should give her leave to return. She took it and went to stop at Xualla (Tryon, on the South Carolina side of the mountains) with three slaves who bad escaped from the camp and with a horseman who remained behind, for being sick with fever he wandered from the road and was lost. This man, named Alimamos tried to have the slaves abandon their evil intention and go with him to the Christians - which two of them did. Alimamos and they overtook the governor fifty leagues from there in a province called Chiaha (in Western North Carolina). They related how the cacica had remained in Xualla (Tryon) with a slave of Andre de Vasconcellos who refused to come with them; and it was very certain that they held communication as husband and wife, and that both had made up their minds to go to Cutifachiqui (Columbia, South Carolina).

In five days, the governor arrived at Guaxulle (Asheville). The Indians there made him service of three hundred dogs, for they observed that the Christians liked them and sought them to eat; but they are not eaten among them [the Indians]. In Guaxulle and along that road there was very little maize. The governor sent an Indian thence with a message to the cacique of Chiaha (well west of Asheville, as we shall see), asking him to order some maize brought them, so that they might rest several days in Chiaha. The governor left Guaxulle and after a march of two days reached a town called Canasagua (west of Asheville near Canton). Twenty Indians came out to meet him each carrying his basket of mulberries which grow in abundance and good from Cutifachiqui (Columbia, South Carolina) thither and also on into other provinces, as well as walnuts and plums.

The trees grow wild in the fields without being planted or manured and are as large and as vigorous as if they were cultivated and irrigated in gardens. After the governor left Canasagua (Canton), he marched five days through an uninhabited region. Two leagues before reaching Chiaha, fifteen Indians, bearing maize, whom the cacique sent, met him and told him in behalf of the cacique that the latter was awaiting him with twenty barbacoas full, and [that] he with all the rest, including his person, land, and vassals, were all at his service.

On July 5, 1540, the governor entered Chiaha (at the base of Chiaha Mountain, on an island in the Little Tennessee River, under today's Fontana Reservoir). The cacique moved out of his houses in which he was lodging and welcomed him very hospitably, with the following words: "Powerful and excellent lord: I consider myself so fortunate in that your Lordship is pleased to use my services that no greater happiness could come to me nor any that I could esteem as much. Your Lordship ordered me from Guaxulle to have maize for you in this town for two months. I have here for you twenty barbacoas full of choice maize, and the best that can be found in all the land. If your Lordship was not received by me in accordance with what is due to so great a prince, have consideration for my few years which acquit me of guilt, and receive the good will which, with great, true, and sincere loyalty, I shall always have for what concerns your service."

The governor answered him saying that his service and offer pleased him greatly and that he would always consider him as a brother. In that town, there was an abundance of butter in gourds, in melted form like olive oil. They said it was bear's grease. There was also found considerable walnut oil which like the butter was clean and of a good taste, and a pot of bee's honey; which before or after was not seen in all the land-neither honey nor bees.

The town was isolated between two arms of a river (the Little Tennessee River) and was settled near one of them. At a distance of two crossbow shots above the town, the river divided into those two arms which were reunited a league below. The field between the one arm and the other was in places about the width of one crossbow-shot, and in places of two. They were of great width and both were fordable. Very excellent fields lay along them and many maize fields. Inasmuch as the Indians were in their town, only the governor was lodged in the houses of the cacique, and his men in the open field. (with the pastured horses in Stecoah Valley, a large natural corral surrounded by steep mountains). Wherever there were any trees each one took his own. In this way the camp was established with some widely separated from the others and without any order. The governor overlooked this since the Indians were peaceable and the weather was quiet and the men would have suffered great discomfort if they had not done this.

The horses reached there so weak that they were unable to carry their owners through weakness, because of having come from Cutifachiqui (Columbia, South Carolina) all the way with but little maize. They [the horses] had suffered hunger and fatigue all the way from the unpopulated region of Ocute (Sandersville, Georgia). Since most of the men were not fit to fight on them even if it should be necessary, they put the horses out to pasture at night a quarter of a league from the camp.

The Christians were in great danger, for if at that time, the Indians had attacked them, they were in a poor position for defending themselves. There the governor rested for thirty days, during which time the horses grew fat because of the luxuriance of the land. At the time of his departure, because of the importunity of some who wished more than was proper, he asked the cacique for thirty Indian women as slaves. The cacique answered that he would talk with his principal men; but one night, before returning an answer, all the Indians left the town with their wives and children and went away. Next day, when the governor had made up his mind to go to look for them, the cacique came, and on arriving spoke as follows to the governor: "Powerful Lord: I am ashamed and fearful of your Lordship, because my Indians, against my will, decided to go away. I fled without your permission; and having perceived the mistake I committed, I have come as a loyal vassal to deliver myself into your Lordship's power so that you may do what you please with my person, for my people do not obey me nor do anything except what an uncle of mine orders, who is governing these lands for me until I am of proper age. If your Lordship wishes to follow them and execute on them what they deserve for their disobedience, I will be your guide, for my fortune refuses at present to let me do more."

The governor immediately went in search of the Indians with thirty horse and a like number of foot. Passing through some towns of the principal Indians who had gone off, he cut down and destroyed their large maize fields; and went to hold the river above where the Indians were on an islet, whither the men of horse could not go. He sent word to them there by an Indian that they should return to their town and should have no fear and that they should furnish him tamemes for carrying as had been done by all the Indians before; that he did not wish any Indian women since it cost them so dearly to give them to him.

The Indians considered it well and came to the governor and made their excuses to him; and so they all returned to the town. A cacique from a province called Acoste (Tennessee) came there to visit the governor. After offering himself to him and exchanging words of politeness and courtesy with him, the governor asked him whether he knew of any rich land. He said he did; that there was a province to the north called Chisca (Knoxville, Tennessee), and that there was a foundry for copper and other metal of that color, except that it was finer and of much more perfect color and much better in appearance; and that they did not make so much use of it as it was softer. The same thing had been told the governor in Cutifachiqui (Columbia, South Carolina) where we saw some copper hatchets which they said had a mixture of gold. However, the land was thinly populated as far as that region and they said that there were mountain ridges (The Great Smoky Mountains) which the horses could not cross.

On that account, the governor did not wish to go thither by direct road from Cutifachiqui (Columbia), and thought that if he went through a populated region while the men and horses were in better condition and he more certain of the truth of what there was, he could turn hither through ridges and better populated land where he could travel better. He sent two Christians from Chiaha with Indians who knew the land of Chisca (Knoxville) and its language, in order that they might examine it, with orders that they should go to report what they found at the place where he said he would await them.




When the governor made up his mind to go from Chiaha (above Fontana Dam, North Carolina) to Acoste (Tennessee), he ordered the cacique to come to him, and took leave of him with courteous words, and gave him some pieces of cloth with which he was very happy. He reached Acoste in seven days. On the second of July, he ordered the camp made in the open field two crossbow flights from the town and with eight men of his guard he went toward the town where he found the cacique, who apparently received him with great friendliness. While he was talking with him, some of the foot soldiers went to the town from the camp to look for maize, and not being satisfied with it, went rummaging around and searching the houses and seized what they found. Annoyed at this the Indians began to get excited and to seize their arms. Some of them with clubs in their hands went to five or six Christians who angered them and with blows served them to their liking.

The governor seeing them all excited and himself among them with so few Christians, in order to escape out of their hands, practiced a stratagem quite contrary to his usual disposition which was very direct and open; and although it grieved him greatly that any Indian should dare, either with or without reason, to show contempt for the Christians, he seized a club and went to their aid against his own men, which was done for the purpose of assuring them [the Indians].

Straightway he secretly sent a message to camp through a man for armed men to come to him. He took the cacique by the hand while conversing with him very courteously and with some of the principal Indians who were with him drew him from the town to a level road, and within sight of the camp whence the Christians began gradually to come, under an innocent guise, and to take position round about. Thus the governor led the cacique and his principal men until he got into the camp with them. When near his tent, he ordered them to be placed under guard and told them that they could not go until giving him a guide and Indians for carrying and until some sick Christians should come from Chiaha whom he had ordered to come down the river in canoes, and those also whom he had sent to the province of Chisca, who had not yet come. He feared lest the Indians had killed both parties.

Three days afterward they came. Those from Chisca said that the Indians had taken them through a land so poor in maize and so rough and with such lofty mountains that it was impossible for the camp to march through it; and seeing that the road was getting long and they were greatly delayed, they considered it advisable to return from a small, poor village where they saw nothing that might be of use. They brought a cowskin which the Indians gave them, as soft as the skin of a kid, with hair like that of the soft wool of a sheep between that of the common and that of the merino. The cacique furnished a guide and tamemes, and with the governor's permission went away.

The governor set forth from Coste on July 9th and went to sleep at a town called Tali. The cacique came out to meet him on the road and spoke as follows: "Excellent lord Prince, worthy of being served and obeyed by all the princes of the world. Just as one can judge in greater part of the inner virtue by the face, and since who you are and your power have been known to me before now, I do not wish to bear the consequence of how small I am in your presence by expecting that my poor service will be pleasing and acceptable, for where the strength fails, it is not unbecoming for the good will to be praised and received. On this account I dare to beg your Lordship only to consider and observe, in this your land in which you command, how I may serve you."

The governor answered him saying that he thanked him as much for his good will and tenders as if he had offered him all the riches of the world, and that he would always be protected and esteemed by him as a true brother. The cacique ordered brought thither the provisions needed for the two days the governor should be there; and at the time of his leaving he made him service of four Indian women and two Indian men who were needed as carriers.

DeSoto in Western Tennessee


The governor marched for six days, passing through many towns subject to the cacique of Coca, and as he entered his lands, many Indians daily came to him on the way on the part of the cacique with messages, some going, others coming. He reached Coca on Friday, July 16th. The cacique came out to welcome him two crossbow flights from the town in a carrying chair borne on the shoulders of his principal men, seated on a cushion, and covered with a robe of marten skins of the form and size of a woman's shawl. He wore a crown of feathers on his head; and around about him were many Indians playing and singing.

As soon as he came to the governor, he saluted him and addressed the following words to him: "Excellent and powerful Lord, superior to all those of the earth: Although now I come to welcome you, long ago I have welcomed you in my heart, namely, from the day on which I heard of your Lordship. With so great a desire, joy, and happiness to serve you, what I show is nothing compared to what I feel, nor could it have any comparison. You may consider it as true that to receive dominion over the world would not gladden me so much as does the sight of you; nor should I consider it as great happiness. Do not expect me to offer you what is yours, namely, my person, lands, and vassals. I wish only to occupy myself in commanding my people to welcome you with all diligence and due reverence from this place to the town with music and singing, where your Lordship will be lodged and served by me and by them; and you will do with all I possess as though it were your own for, if your Lordship so do, I shall be favored."

The governor thanked him, and both talking together very joyfully, they went on to the town. He ordered his Indians to move out of their dwellings, in which the governor and his men were lodged. In the barbacoas and fields there was a great quantity of maize and beans. The land was very populous and had many large towns and planted fields which reached from one town to the other. It was a charming and fertile land, with good cultivated fields stretching along the rivers. In the open fields were many plums, both those of Spain and those of the land, and grapes along the rivers on vines climbing up into the trees. Beyond the streams were the low stocks of large, sweet grapes, but because they were not cultivated or well taken care of they had large seeds.

The governor was accustomed to place a guard over the caciques so that they might not go away, and took them along with him until leaving their land; for by taking them, the people would await in their towns and they would give a guide and Indians as carriers. Before departing from their lands, he would give them leave to return to their homes - as well as the tamemes - as soon as he reached another dominion where others were given to him.

Those of Coca, seeing their lord detained, thought ill of it and revolted and went away to hide themselves in the woods-both those of their lord's town and those of other chief towns, who were his vassals. The governor sent four captains, each in a different direction, to look for them. They seized many Indians, men and women, who were put in chains. Upon seeing the harm they received and how little they gained in absenting themselves, they came, saying that they wished to serve in whatever might be commanded them. Some of the principal men among those imprisoned were set free on petition of the cacique. Of the rest, each man took away as slaves those he had in chains, without allowing them to go to their lands. Nor did many of them return except some whose good fortune and assiduous industry aided them, who managed to file off their chains at night; or some, who were able, while on the march, to wander away from the road upon observing any lack of care in their guard, who went off with their chains and with their loads and the clothes they were carrying.

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