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








The governor rested in Coca for twenty-five days. He set out on Friday, August 20, to look for a province, by name, Tascaluca, taking the cacique of Coca with him. That day he passed through a large town called Tallimuchase, which was without people. He went to sleep a half-league beyond near a stream. Next day he reached a town called Ytaua, subject to Coca. He stayed there for six days because of a river which ran hard by the town, and was swollen at that time. As soon as the river allowed crossing, he set out, and went to sleep at a town called Ullibahali. Ten or twelve of the principal Indians, all with feather plumes, and with bows and arrows, came to him on the road bearing a message on the part of the cacique of that province, to offer themselves to him. The governor, on reaching the town with twelve horse and some foot belonging to his guard, for he had left his men a crossbow flight from town, entered therein and found all the Indians under arms; and judging from their manner, he thought them evilly disposed. It was learned later that they had concerted to take the cacique of Coca out of the governor's possession, if he [the cacique] should request this of them.

The governor ordered all his men to enter the town which was enclosed and near which flowed a small river. The enclosure, like that in other towns seen there afterward, was of thick logs, set solidly close together in the ground, and many long poles as thick as an arm placed crosswise. The height of the enclosure was that of a good lance, and it was plastered within and without and had loopholes. On the other side of the river was a town where the cacique was at the time. The governor ordered him to be summoned and he came immediately. After exchanging some verbal promises with the governor, he gave him the necessary tamemes and thirty Indian women as slaves. A Christian of noble parentage, named Manzano, a native of Salamanca, who wandered away to look for grapes which are abundant and excellent there, was lost in that place. On the day the governor set out thence, he went to sleep at a town subject to the lord of Ullibahali, and next day reached another called Toasi. The Indians gave the governor thirty Indian women and the necessary tamemes [for DeSoto's men to wed then populate his planned settlement at Mobile Bay].

He marched ordinarily five or six leagues daily when going through a peopled region, and as much as he could through a depopulated region, in order to avoid the necessity of a lack of maize.

From Toasi, passing through some towns subject to a cacique, the lord of a province called Talise, he marched for five days. He reached Tallise on September 18th. The town was large and was located near a deep river. On the other side of the river were other towns and many fields of maize. On both sides, it was a land very well supplied with maize in abundance. They [the inhabitants] had abandoned the town. The governor ordered the cacique summoned. He came and an exchange of words of courtesy and of promises took place between them. He gave him [the governor] the service of forty Indians. At that town one of the principal Indians came to the governor in the name of the cacique of Tascaluca and spoke to him as follows: "Very powerful, virtuous, and esteemed Lord: The great cacique of Tascaluca, my lord, orders me to kiss your Lordship's hands and to report to you that he is aware that you deservedly excel all those of the land, because of your perfections and power; that all, wherever your Lordship goes, serve and obey you, which he knows is your due. He desires as he does life to see and serve your Lordship. Therefore, he sends to offer with his person his land and his vassals, in order that whenever your Lordship should please to go through his lands, you may be received in all peace and love, and be served and obeyed; and that as payment of this desire which he has to serve you, you grant him the favor of informing him when you will come, for the earlier you come the greater favor and happiness will he receive."

The governor received and dismissed him graciously, giving him some beads (which were not much regarded among them) and other pieces of cloth to take to his lord; and gave the cacique of Coca permission to return to his lands. The cacique of Tallise gave him the tamemes necessary; and after resting there for twenty days he set out for Tascaluca. The day he left Tallise, he went to sleep at a large town called Casiste, and next day he passed through another town and reached a small town of Tascaluca. The next day he slept in a wood two leagues from the town where the cacique lived and was at that time. He sent the maestro de camp, Luis de Moscoso, with fifteen horse to inform him that he was coming.

The cacique (others called him Chief Tuscalusa) was in his dwelling under a balcony. Outside, in front of his dwelling, on an elevated place, was spread a mat for him and on it two cushions, one above the other, where he came to seat himself. His Indians gathered about him, separated somewhat, so that they formed a courtyard and open space where he was - his most principal Indians being nearest him - and one holding a sort of fan of deerskin which kept the sun from him, round and the size of a shield, quartered with black and white, with a cross made in the middle.

From a distance it looked like taffeta, for the colors were very perfect. It was set on a small and very long staff. This was the device he bore in his wars. He was a man, very tall of body, large limbed, lean, and well built. He was greatly feared by his neighbors and vassals. He was lord of many lands and many people. In his aspect he was very dignified. After the maestro de camp talked with him, he [the maestro de camp] and his men came, galloped their horses in front of him, turning them from one side to the other, and at times toward the cacique. He with great gravity and unconcern from time to time raised his eyes and looked as if in disdain. The governor arrived but he made no movement to arise. The governor took him by the hand and both went to seat themselves on a seat below the balcony. The cacique spoke to him as follows: "Powerful Lord: May the coming of your Lordship be very propitious. At sight of you, I receive as great pleasure and happiness as if you were one of my brothers whom I hold in great affection."

The governor made him happy with pleasing and very brief words. When he set out thence, he determined, for several reasons, to take him [the cacique] with him. After a march of two days he reached a town called Piache. Near it flowed a large river. The governor asked the Indians for canoes. They said that they did not have any, but that they would make rafts of canes and dry wood on which he could cross. Diligently and quickly they made them and steered them; and since the water was quiet, the governor and his men crossed in great safety.

From the port of Espiritu Santo to Palache - a distance of about one hundred leagues - the governor marched from east to west; from Apalache to Cutifachiqui - a distance of about four hundred and thirty leagues - from southwest to northeast; from Cutifachiqui to Xualla - a distance of about two hundred and fifty leagues - from south to north; and from Xualla to Tascaluca - a distance of about two hundred and fifty leagues also he marched one hundred and ninety from east to west, namely, to the province of Coca, and sixty from Coca to Tascaluca from north to south.

After crossing the river of Piache, a Christian left the ranks there and went to look for an Indian woman who had escaped from him, and the Indians captured or killed him. The governor urged the cacique to inform him of the man and threatened him that if he did not appear, he would never let him [the cacique] go. The cacique sent an Indian from that place to Mavilla, whither they were marching - a town of one of the principal Indians, his vassal - saying that he was sending him [the messenger] to advise him [his vassal] to have provisions prepared and Indians for carrying; but as it afterward appeared he ordered him to assemble there all the warriors whom he had in his land. The governor marched for three days, the third day through a continuously peopled region.


He reached Mavilla on Monday, the eighteenth of October, he going in the vanguard with fifteen horse and thirty foot. A Christian, whom he had sent with a message to the chief three or four days before, in order that the latter might not go away, and also in order to see the disposition of the Indians, came out of the town. He told him [the governor] that it appeared to him [the messenger] that they [the Indians] were evilly disposed, because when he was there many men and many arms had entered the town and they had made great haste to strengthen the stockade. Luis de Moscoso told the governor that it would be well to camp in the open field since the Indians were so disposed. The governor answered that he would lodge in the town, and that he was tired out with sleeping in the open field.

On his arrival near the town, the cacique came out to welcome him with many Indians playing music and singing, and after tendering his services to him, gave him three blankets of marten skin. The governor, with the caciques and with seven or eight men from his guard, and three or four horse, who dismounted in order to accompany him, entered the town and seated himself under a balcony.

The cacique of Tascaluca asked him to let him stay in that town and not to give him more trouble of marching; and seeing by his talk that he did not grant him permission, changed his purpose and, dissembling, pretended that he wished to talk with some of the principal Indians. He rose from the place where he was with the governor, and entered a house where were many Indians with their bows and arrows.

When the governor saw that he did not come, he called him, but he said that he would not come out of there and that he would not leave that town and that if he [the governor] wished to go in peace he should go immediately and should not insist on trying to take him out of his lands and dominion by force.



The governor, on seeing the determination and furious reply of the cacique, endeavored to soothe him with pleasant words. To them he made no reply but, on the contrary, he withdrew very haughtily and disdainfully to a place where the governor could not see or talk with him. As one of the principal Indians was passing that place, the governor called him in order to send him to tell him [the cacique] that he could stay and welcome in his land, but that he should consider it well to have a guide and Indians for carrying sent him, in order to see whether he could pacify him [the cacique] with soft words. The Indian with great haughtiness said that he would not do it. Baltasar de Gallegos, who was there, seized him roughly by a cloak of marten skin which he wore as a covering, but he slipped it off over his head and left it in his [Gallegos's] hands. And because all the Indians straightway rose in revolt, Baltasar de Gallegos gave him a slash which opened up his back. Immediately, all the Indians came out from the houses shouting loudly and discharging their arrows.

The governor, seeing that he could not escape if he stayed there, and that if he should order his men who were outside the town to enter, the Indians could kill the horses for him from inside the houses and do much damage, went out running; but before getting out of the town, he fell two or three times, and those who were with him helped him to rise. He and those with him were severely wounded. In the town five Christians were immediately slain. The governor went out from the town shouting for all his men to go outside, for they were doing him much damage from the stockade. The Indians, seeing that the Christians were withdrawing but some or most of them nevertheless at a walk, with great boldness continued to shoot at them and to bring down those they could overtake.

The Indians, whom the Christians were bringing in chains, had set down their loads near the stockade, and as soon as the governor and his men became separated, those of Mavilla put the loads on their backs and took them [the Indians] within the town and immediately freed them from their chains and gave them bows and arrows with which to fight. In this way they got possession of all the clothing and pearls, and everything the Christians had and which their Indians were carrying for them. And inasmuch as the Indians had been peaceful thitherto, some [of the Christians] were bringing their weapons in the packs and were left without arms. From others of those who had entered with the governor, they [the Indians] took away their swords and halberds and fought therewith. When the governor found himself in the open field, he asked for a horse, and with some men who accompanied him, turned about and struck two or three Indians through with a lance.

Most of the Indians withdrew into the town and continued to shoot their arrows from the stockade. Those who dared would insolently go out to fight for the distance of a stone's throw; and from there would again retire from time to time when the Christians turned on them. At the time when the return [of the Christians] began, there were a friar and a secular priest in the town, as well as a servant of the governor with a slave woman, and they did not have time to go outside but shut themselves in their house. Thus they remained inside the town after the Indians got control of it. They closed the door with a grating; and they had one sword among them, which the governor's servant owned.

He stationed himself behind the door with it, thrusting at the Indians who tried to effect an entrance; with the friar and the secular priest, on the other side, each with a club in his hands to strike down whomever might first enter. The Indians, seeing that they could not enter through the door, began to uncover the house at the top. At this time, all the horse and foot who came marching behind, happened to reach Mavilla. They were of different opinions there as to whether they should attack the Indians in order to enter into the town or whether this should be avoided as the entrance was doubtful, but at last, it was decided to attack them.



As soon as the battle line and rear guard reached Mavilla, the governor ordered all those who were best armed to dismount and made four companies of foot. The Indians, on seeing how the governor was drawing up his men, urged the cacique to leave, telling him, as was later learned from some Indian women who were captured there, that he was only one man and could fight for one only; that there were many principal men of the Indians there, very daring and skillful in matters of war, any of whom could direct all the other men; that since matters of war and victory were a hazard of fortune and there was no certainty as to which of the sides would be victorious, he should endeavor to place his person in safety, so that if they should end their lives there, as they had resolved to do rather than allow themselves to be vanquished, he would be left to govern the land. However, he refused to go, but so much did they urge him that he went out of the town with twenty or thirty of his Indians.

From the clothing of the Christians he took a scarlet cloak and some other pieces - all that he could carry and which pleased him most. The governor was advised that the Indians were going out of the town, and he ordered those who were mounted to surround it. In each foot company, he ordered a soldier with a firebrand to set fire to the houses so that the Indians would have no shelter. Having arranged all his men in order, he ordered an arquebus fired. At the signal, all four companies, each in its own position, attacked with great fury and doing great damage entered the town from one side and the other. The friar and the secular priest and those who were with them in the house were rescued, which cost the life of two men of ability and courage who went thither to help them.

The Indians fought with so great spirit that they drove us outside again and again. It took them so long to get back that many of the Christians, tired out and suffering great thirst, went to get a drink at a pond located near the stockade, but it was tinged with the blood of the dead and they returned to the fight. The governor, seeing this, with those who accompanied him entered the town on horseback together with the returning foot. This gave an opportunity for the Christians to succeed in setting fire to the houses and overthrow and defeat the Indians. As the latter fled outside the town from those on foot, those on horse again drove them within the gates, where, having lost hopes of escape, they fought courageously; and after the Christians had come among them cutting with the sword, seeing that they were assailed beyond repair, many fled into the burning houses, where, piled up one on top of the other, they were suffocated and burned to death.

In all, those who were killed there numbered two thousand five hundred or thereabout. Of the Christians eighteen were killed there, one of whom was Don Carlos, the governor's brother-in-law, another, his nephew, another, Juan Gamez, [and others including] Mem Rodriquez, a Portuguese, and Juan Vazquez of Villanova de Barcarota - all men of honor and pride. The others [killed] were foot soldiers. Besides those killed, one hundred and fifty Christians were wounded, receiving seven hundred arrow wounds. It was God's will that they were healed shortly of very dangerous wounds. Twelve horses were also killed and seventy wounded. All the clothing carried by the Christians, the ornaments for saying mass, and the pearls were all burned there. The Christians set fire to them; for they considered as more annoying the hurt which the Indians could do them from within the houses where everything was gathered together. The governor learned there that Francisco Maldonado was awaiting him in the port of Ochuse and that it [Ochuse] was six days' journey from there.

He arranged with Juan Ortiz that he should keep still about it, so that the men might not oppose his determination, and because the pearls which he desired to send to Cuba as samples had been burned; for if the news [of the ship] were noised about the men might desire to go to that land [Cuba]. And fearing that if news were heard of him, unless they saw gold or silver, or anything of value, it [Florida] would acquire such a reputation that no man would desire to go thither when people might be needed; consequently, he determined not to give news of himself so long as he did not find a rich land.




From the time the governor entered Florida until leaving Mavilla, one hundred and two Christians had died, some of their illnesses and others being killed by the Indians. He remained in Mavilla for twenty-eight days because of the wounded, during which he was always in the open field. It was a very populous and fertile land. There were some large enclosed towns and a considerable population scattered about over the field, the houses being separated from one another one or two crossbow flights.

On Sunday, November 18, now that it was learned that our wounded men were getting well, the governor set out from Mavilla, all the men having provided themselves with maize for two days. They marched for five days through an unpeopled region, and arrived at a province called Pafallaya and a town called Talicpataua. Thence, they went to another town by name Cabusto, near which flowed a large river. The Indians on the other side of it gave loud cries, telling the Christians that if they crossed over the river to them they would have to kill them. The governor ordered a piragua built inside the town, so that the Indians might not perceive it. It was made in four days.

When it was finished, he ordered it to be transported one night a half league up stream. In the morning, thirty well-armed men entered it. The Indians perceived what was being planned and those who were nearest ran up to forbid the crossing. They resisted it as well as they could until the Christians were near them; and seeing that the piragua was about to land fled through some canebrakes. The Christians mounted their horses and went upstream to assure a crossing where the governor, with all those who remained with him, crossed over. Along the river were some towns well provided with maize and beans.

From that place to Chicasa, the governor marched for five days through an unpopulated region. He reached a river where some Indians on the other side tried to forbid him crossing. In two days another piragua was made. When it was finished, the governor ordered an Indian to announce to the cacique that he should desire his friendship and should await him peacefully. But the Indians on the other side of the river killed him in his [the governor's] sight, and immediately went away uttering loud cries.


Having crossed the river next day, December 17 (1540), the governor reached Chicasa, a small town of twenty houses. After they were in Chicasa they suffered great hardships and cold, for it was already winter, and most of the men were lodged in the open field in the snow before having any place where they could build houses. This land was very well peopled, the population being spread out as was that of Mavilla. It was fertile and abounding in maize, most of this being still in the fields. The amount necessary for passing the winter was gathered. Certain Indians were captured, among whom was one who was greatly esteemed by the cacique. By means of an Indian the governor sent word to the cacique that he desired to see him and wished his friendship. The cacique came to offer himself to him, together with his person, land, and vassals. He said that he would cause two caciques to come in peace.

A few days afterward they came with him accompanied by their Indians, one being named Alimamu and the other Nicalasa. They presented the governor with one hundred and fifty rabbits and some clothing of their land, namely blankets and skins. The cacique of Chicasa came to visit him frequently and sometimes the governor ordered him summoned and sent him a horse to go and come. He [the cacique] made complaint to him [the governor], that one of his vassals had risen against him, withholding his tribute, and asked that he protect him against him, saying that he was about to go to seek him in his land and punish him as he deserved all pretense, for it was planned that while the governor went with him and the camp was divided into two parts, some would attack the governor and others those who remained in Chicasa.

He [the cacique] went to the town where he lived and came with two hundred Indians with their bows and arrows. The governor took thirty horse and eighty foot and went to Saquechuma, as the province of the principal man was called, who he [the cacique] told him [the governor] had rebelled against him. They found an enclosed town which had been abandoned by the Indians, and those who were with the cacique set fire to the houses in order to conceal their treachery. But since the men taken by the governor were very watchful and prudent, as well as those who remained in Chicasa, on that occasion they did not dare attack us.

The governor invited the cacique and certain of the principal Indians [to visit him] and gave them some pork to eat. And although they were not accustomed to it, they lusted after it so much that Indians would come nightly to certain houses a crossbow shot away from the camp where the hogs were sleeping and kill and carry off as many as they could. Three Indians were seized in the act, two of whom the governor ordered to be shot with arrows and the hands of the other cut off. In that condition he sent him to the cacique, who expressed regret that they had troubled the governor and was glad that justice had been executed on them. He [the cacique) was in an open plain a half league from where the Christians were.

Four of the horsemen went thither without orders, namely, Francisco Osorio, a servant of the Marquis de Astorga, named Reynoso, and two servants of the governor, one his page, named Ribera, and the other his chamberlain, named Fuentes. They seized some skins and blankets from the Indians, at which the latter were greatly offended and abandoned their houses. The governor learned of it and ordered them [the four horsemen] seized. Francisco Osorio and the chamberlain he sentenced to death, as being the principals, and all to the loss of their possessions.

The friars and secular priests and other principal persons importuned him to leave Francisco Osorio alive, and to moderate the sentence, which he refused to do for anyone. And while he was already giving the order to take them to the public place to behead them, certain Indians came who had been sent by the cacique to make complaint against them. Juan Ortiz, at the request of Baltasar de Gallegos and other persons, changed their words, telling the governor that the cacique said that he had learned that his Lordship had seized those Christians on his account; that they were not guilty nor had they done any wrong to him; that if he [De Soto] would do him a favor, he should let them go free. To the Indians, he [Ortiz] was to say that the governor said that he had seized them and would give them such punishment that it would be an example to others. The governor ordered the prisoners released.

As soon as March was come, he determined to leave Chicasa and asked the cacique for two hundred tamemes. The latter replied to him that he would talk it over with his principal men. On Tuesday, the eighth of March, the governor went to where the cacique was to ask him for the tamemes. He said he would send them next day. As soon as the governor came to Chicasa, he told Luis de Moscoso, the maestre de camp, that the Indians looked ill-disposed to him, and that night he should keep careful watch, which the latter heeded but slightly.

The Indians came at the quarter of the modorra [second or sleepy watch] in four companies, each company coming from a different direction. As soon as they were perceived, they beat a drum and with loud cries rushed forward, and so rapidly that they arrived at the same time as the spies who had carelessly gone out a distance from the camp; and when they were perceived by those who were within the town, half the houses were burning from the fire which they kindled.

That night, three horsemen were by chance at watch, two of whom were of low degree, the most worthless of the camp, and the other was the governor's nephew, who until then had been considered a good man. There he proved himself as cowardly as each one of them [i.e., the other two], for they all fled, and the Indians not finding any resistance came and set fire to the town and awaited the Christians outside behind the doors, who came out of the houses without having time to arm themselves; and as they rose, maddened by the noise and blinded by the smoke and flame of the fire, they did not know where they were going nor did they succeed in getting their arms or in putting saddle on horse; neither did they see the Indians who were shooting at them. Many of the horses were burned in their stables, and those which could break their halters freed themselves.

The confusion and rout were of such a nature that each one fled wherever it seemed safest, without any one resisting the Indians. But God who punishes His own as is His pleasure, and in the greatest needs and dangers holds them in His hand, blinded the Indians so that they might not see what they had done, and they thought that the horses which were running about loose were the horsemen gathering together to assault them. The governor alone, and with a soldier called Tapia, got mounted and attacked the Indians, and giving the first one he met a thrust with his lance, went down and his saddle with him; for in the haste he had badly fastened the girth and fell from his horse.

All the men who were afoot and were in flight through a wood outside the town, sought protection there. And as it was night and the Indians thought the horses, as above said, were mounted men who were attacking them, they fled away and only one remained there dead, namely, the one the governor had struck with his lance. The town was consumed by fire. A woman was burned there who had gone there with her husband. Both of them going outside the house, she returned for some pearls which they had forgotten; and when she tried to get out, already the fire was at the door and she could not, and her husband could not help her.

Three other Christians got away from their houses so badly hurt by the fire that one of them died three days later, and each of the other two was carried for many days in his bed upon some poles which the Indians carried on their shoulders, for they could not have journeyed in any other way. In that turn of fortune eleven Christians and fifty horses died. Of the swine, one hundred were left, and four hundred were burned. If, perchance, any one still had had any clothing left from the fire at Mavilla, it was now all burned up in that place [Chicasa]; and many were naked as they had no time to snatch their jerkins. There they endured great suffering from the cold, for which they got relief in large fires. The whole night was passed turning from one side to the other without sleeping, for if they were warmed on one side they froze on the other.

They managed to make some mats out of dry grass woven together, and placed one mat below and the other above. Many laughed at this contrivance, but afterward necessity forced them to do likewise. The Christians were become so demoralized, together with the lack of saddles and weapons, which had been burned, that if the Indians had returned the second night, they would have routed them with little trouble. They moved thence to the village where the cacique usually lived as it was a site in the open field. A week later they had made many saddles and lances. There were some ash trees there from which they were made as good as those of Vizcaya.



On Wednesday, the 15th of March (1541), after the governor had been for a week in a level field, a half league from the place where he had lodged during the winter, having already set up a forge and having tempered the swords which had been burned in Chicasa and having made many shields, saddles, and lances, on Tuesday night, at the hour of dawn, many Indians came to attack the camp, formed into three companies, each company coming from a different direction. Those who were on watch sounded the alarm. The governor, with great quickness, drew up his men in order in three other companies, with some men staying behind to guard the camp, and hastened to the attack. The Indians were thrown into confusion and took to flight. The land was flat and suitable for the Christians to profit thereby.

Already the dawn had come bright and clear, but there was some confusion, which was the reason why they did not kill thirty or forty more Indians, namely, a friar in the camp raised a loud cry "To the camp! To the camp!" without any reason for so crying out. On that account, the governor and all the men ran to the rescue, and the Indians had time to get away safely. Some Indians were captured, from whom the governor got information relative to the land beyond.

On April 25 (1541), he left Chicasa and went to sleep at a small village called Alimamu. It had very little maize and it was necessary after leaving there to commit themselves to an unpopulated region for seven days' journey. Next day, the governor sent three captains with horse and foot-each one taking a different direction-to search out provisions in order to cross the unpopulated region.

Juan de Anasco, the accountant, went with fifteen horse and forty foot along the road where the governor was to go, and found a strong stockade where the Indians were waiting. On top of it were many armed men daubed over with red ochre and with their bodies, legs, and arms painted black, white, yellow, and red, in the manner of stripes which made them look as though they were in breeches and doublet. Some had feather plumes on their heads and others horns, with their faces black and the eyes ringed round in red in order to look more ferocious. As soon as they saw the Christians approach, with loud cries and beating two drums, they came out in great fury to meet them. It seemed best to Juan de Anasco and those with him to keep away from them and to inform the governor.

They withdrew over a level ground for the distance of a crossbow flight from the stockade and in sight of it. The men of foot, the crossbowmen, and those having shields placed themselves before the horsemen so that the horses might not be wounded. The Indians came out by sevens and eights to shoot their arrows and then to retire. In sight of the Christians, they made a fire and seized an Indian-one by the feet and others by the head and pretended they were going to throw him into the fire, first giving him many blows on the head, signifying that so they would do to the Christians. Juan de Anasco sent three horse to inform the governor.

The latter [De Soto] came immediately, and since he thought he should drive them thence, saying that if he did not do so, they would become emboldened to attack him at a time when they could do him more hurt, he ordered the horsemen to dismount and having divided them into four companies gave the signal and they attacked the Indians. The latter resisted until the Christians reached the stockade; and as soon as they saw that they could not defend themselves they fled along a way where a stream flowed near the stockade, and from the other shore shot some arrows.

And inasmuch as no crossing was found for the horses for the time being, they [the Indians] had time to get away. Three Indians were killed there, and many Christians were wounded, fifteen of whom died on the march a few days later. It seemed to all that the governor was much to blame in not having had an examination made of the disposition of the land which lay on the other side of the stream and of ascertaining the crossing before attacking them; for with their hope of escaping by flight in that direction whenever they might not be seen by his men, they fought until they were routed; and they were thus enabled to defend themselves until then and to offend the Christians with safety.



Three days having passed since they had looked for some maize (and it was little that was found in proportion to what was needed), and for this reason, even though rest was needed because of the wounded, on account of the great need of finding a place where there was maize, the governor was obliged to set out immediately for Quizquiz [above the Cumberland River]. He marched seven days through an unpopulated region of many swamps and thick woods, but all passable on horseback except several marshes or swamps which were crossed by swimming.


He reached the town of Quizquiz without being perceived. He seized all the people of the town before they got out of their houses. The cacique's mother was captured there, and then he [the governor] sent to him [the cacique] one of the Indians who had been seized there, bidding him come to see him and [saying] that he would give him his mother and all the other people who had been taken there. For reply, he [the cacique] said that his Lordship should order them released and sent [to him] and that he would come to visit and serve him.

Inasmuch as his men were ill and weary for lack of maize and the horses were also weak, he [De Soto] determined to pleasure him, in order to see whether he could have peace with him. So he ordered the mother and all the others released and dispatched them and sent them [to the cacique] with words of kindness. Next day when the governor was awaiting the cacique, many Indians came with their bows and arrows with the intention of attacking the Christians.

The governor ordered all the horsemen to be armed and mounted and all in readiness. When the Indians saw that they were on guard, they stopped a crossbow flight from the spot where the governor was, near a stream, and after they had stayed there for a half hour, six of the principal Indians came to the camp and said that they were come to see what people they were and that they had learned from their ancestors that a white race would inevitably subdue them; and that they were about to return to the cacique to tell him to come immediately to render obedience and service to the governor.

And after offering him six or seven skins and blankets which they brought they took leave of him and, together with the others who were waiting on the shore, returned. The cacique did not again come, nor did he send another message.

Inasmuch as there was little maize in the town where the governor was, he moved to another town located a half league from the large river [the Ohio River], where maize was found in abundance.

He went to see the river and found there was an abundance of timber near it from which piraguas could be constructed and an excellently situated land for establishing the camp. He immediately moved thither, houses were built, and the camp was established on a level place, a crossbow flight from the river. All the maize of all the towns behind was collected there, and the men set to work immediately to cut timber and square the planks for canoes. Immediately the Indians came down the river [from Evansville, Indiana], landed, and told the governor that they were vassals of a great lord called Aquixo, who was lord of many towns and people on the other side of the river. On his behalf they informed him [the governor] that he [the cacique] would come the next day with all his men to see what his Lordship would command him.

Then next day, the cacique came with two hundred canoes full of Indians with their bows and arrows, painted with red ocher and having great plumes of white and many colored feathers on either side [of the canoes] and holding shields in their hands with which they covered the paddlers, while the warriors were standing from prow to stern with their bows and arrows in their hands. The canoe in which the cacique came had an awning spread in the stern and he [the cacique] was seated under the canopy. Also other canoes came bearing other Indian notables. The chief [of each canoe] from his position under the canopy, controlled and gave orders to the other men.

All the canoes were together and came to within a stone's throw from the bluff [its still there, at Audobon State Park]. From there, the cacique told the governor, who was walking along the river with others whom he had brought with him, that he had come to visit him and to serve and obey him, for he had heard that he was the greatest and most powerful lord of all the earth and that he should bethink him in what to command him. The governor thanked him and asked him to land so that they might better be able to talk, but without answering this, he [the cacique] ordered three canoes to come up in which he brought a quantity of fish and loaves made of the pulp of plums in the shape of bricks. All having been received, he [the governor] thanked him and again asked him to land. But since his intent was to see whether he might do some damage by means of that pretense, upon seeing that the governor and his men were on their guard, they began to withdraw from land. With loud cries, the crossbowmen who were ready, shot at them and struck five or six. They withdrew in splendid order; no one abandoned his paddle even though the one near him fell.

Flaunting themselves, they retired. Afterward they came frequently and landed, and when they [the Christians] went toward them, they would return to their canoes. Those canoes were very pleasing to see, for they were very large and well built; and together with the awnings, the plumes of feathers, the shields, and banners, and the many men in them, they had the appearance of a beautiful fleet of galleys. During the thirty days the governor was there, they made four piraguas, in three of which, one early morning three hours before it became light, he ordered a dozen horse to enter, four to each one-men whom he was confident would succeed in gaining the land in spite of the Indians and assure the crossing or die in doing it - and with them some of foot-crossbowmen and rowers - to place them on the other side.

In the other piragua, he ordered Juan de Guzmin to cross with men of foot, he having become captain in place of Francisco Maldonado. And because the current was strong, they went up stream along the shore for a quarter of a league and in crossing they were carried down with the current of the river and went to land opposite the place where the camp was. At a distance of two stones' throw before reaching shore, the men of horse went from the piraguas on horseback to a sandy place of hard sand and clear ground where all the men landed without any accident. As soon as those who crossed first were on the other side, the piraguas returned immediately to where the governor was and, in two hours after the sun was up, all the men finished crossing.

It [the crossing] was nearly a half league wide, and if a man stood still on the other side, one could not tell whether he were a man or something else. It [the river] was of great depth and of very strong current. Its water was always turgid and continually many trees and wood came down it borne along by the force of the water and current. It had abundance of fish of various kinds, and most of them different from those of the fresh waters of Spain as will be told hereafter.




Having got across the great river, the governor marched a league and a half and reached a large town of Aquixo, which was abandoned before his arrival. Over a plain they saw thirty Indians coming whom the cacique had sent to learn what the Christians were intending to do, but as soon as the latter had sight of them they fled. Those of horse pursued them killing ten and capturing fifteen. And since the town whither the governor was marching, was near the river, he sent a captain with the men he deemed sufficient to take the piraguas up stream. And because by land they frequently turned away from the river in order to get around arms which thrust out of the river, the Indians had opportunity to attack those in the piraguas and put us in great danger. For because of the strong current of the river, they did not dare to go any distance from land and they [the Indians] shot arrows at them from the bluff. As soon as the governor reached the town, he immediately sent some crossbowmen down stream who were to come as his rear guard.

When the piraguas reached the town he [the governor] ordered them taken apart and the nails kept for other piraguas when they might be needed. He slept there one night and next day marched in search of a province called Pacaha, which he was informed lay near Chisca where the Indians said there was gold. He marched through large towns in Aquixo which had been abandoned for fear of the Christians. From some Indians who were captured, he learned that a great cacique lived three days' journey thence, called Casqui. He reached a small river where a bridge was made on which he crossed.

On that day, they walked continually through water until sunset, which in places reached to the middle and in places to the knee. When they came to dry land, they were very glad, for it seemed to them that they would be walking about lost through the water all night. At noon they arrived at the first town of Casqui. They found the Indians off guard for they had not heard of them [the Christians]. Many Indians, both men and women, were seized, besides a quantity of clothing-blankets and skins-both in the first town and in another which was within sight of it [the first town] in an open field a half half league from it, whither the horsemen had galloped. That land is more high, dry, and level than the land of the river behind which they had thus far seen.

In the open field were many walnut trees with soft nuts shaped like acorns; and in the houses were found many which the Indians had stored away. The walnut trees did not differ in any other way from those of Spain, or from those seen before except only in having a smaller leaf. There were many mulberry trees and plum trees having red plums like those of Spain, and others gray, differing, but much better, and all the trees as verdant all year as if set out in gardens and in a clear grove. For two days the governor marched through the land of Casqui before arriving at the town where the cacique was, and most of the way continually through land of open field, very well peopled with large towns, two or three of which were to be seen from one town.

He sent word to the cacique through an Indian that he was coming to where he was for the purpose of procuring his friendship and of considering him as a brother. To which he [the cacique] answered that he [the governor] would be welcome, that he would receive him with special pleasure, and that he would do everything his Lordship ordered. He sent his offerings to him on the road, namely, skins and blankets and fish. After these gifts, the governor found all the towns through which he passed inhabited, in which the Indians were awaiting him peacefully and offered him blankets and skins and fish.

The cacique, accompanied by many Indians, came out of the town where he was living for a half league on the road to welcome the governor, and meeting him spoke as follows: "Very lofty, powerful, and illustrious Lord: May the coming of Your Lordship be very propitious. As soon as I had notice of your Lordship, of your power and perfections, although you entered my land killing and making captive the inhabitants of it and my vassals, I resolved to conform my will to yours, and as yours to consider as good all that your Lordship might do; believing that it is proper that it might be so for some just consideration, in order to provide for some future event, revealed to your Lordship, but concealed from me; for, indeed, one evil may be permitted in order to avoid another greater evil, and therefrom good may result, which I believe will be so; for from so excellent a prince it is not right to presume that the nobility of your heart and the effect of your good will would allow you to permit an injustice. My capacity to serve you as your Lordship merits is so slight that if my good will should abundantly and humbly offer every kind of service, you would acquire no honor [thereby]. In your Lordship's presence, I merit very little. But if it is proper that that capacity may be esteemed, may you receive it, and me and my land and vassals as your own, and of me and them make use according to your pleasure; for if I were lord of all the world, your Lordship would be received, served, and obeyed with the same good will."

The governor replied to him fittingly and in few words made him happy. For a while after that, they both went on exchanging words generous in offers and of great courtesy, and he [the cacique] begging that he [the governor] should lodge in his houses. The governor, in order to preserve peace better, excused himself, by saying that he preferred to lodge in the open field; and because the heat was very great, the camp was established a quarter league from the town among some trees. The cacique went to his town and returned with many Indians singing. As soon as they came to the governor, they all bowed themselves to the ground. Among them were two blind Indians. The cacique made a speech which, in order not to be wordy, I will relate in a few words only the substance of the matter. He said that since he [the governor] was the son of the sun and a great lord, he begged him to do him the favor of giving health to those blind Indians. The blind men immediately rose and with great earnestness begged this of the governor.

He replied saying that in the lofty heaven was He who had power to give them health and everything they might ask of Him, whose servant he [the governor] was; and that that Lord made the heavens and the earth and man in His likeness; that he suffered on the tree of the true cross to save the human race, and rose again on the third day; that inasmuch as He was man He died, and inasmuch as He was divinity, He is immortal; that He ascended to heaven where He was with open arms in order to receive all those who wished to be converted to Him.

He [the governor] immediately ordered him [the chief] to make a very high wooden cross which was set up in the highest part of the town, [the governor] declaring to him that the Christians adored it in conformity to, and in memory of, that on which Christ suffered. The governor and his men knelt before it and the Indians did the same. The governor told him [the cacique] that thenceforth they should adore and beg the Lord, of whom he had told them and who was in heaven, for everything of which they had need.

He asked him [the cacique] how far it was from there to Pacaha. He said it was a day's journey and that on the edge of his land was a marsh like an estuary which gave into the large river; that he would send men to build in advance a bridge by which he might cross. The day on which the governor left, he went to sleep at a town of Casqui; and the next day he passed in sight of the other towns and reached the swamp, which was half a crossbow flight in width and very deep and flowing. When he reached it, the Indians had just finished building the bridge, which was constructed of wood in the manner of beams extending from tree to tree, and at one of the sides a line of wood higher than the bridge in order to support those who should cross.

The cacique of Casqui went to the governor and took his men with him. The governor sent word by an Indian to the cacique of Pacaha that although he [the cacique of Pacaha] was hostile to the cacique of Casqui and the latter should be there, he would make no quarrel with him or do him no harm if he waited peacefully and wished his friendship, but that he would treat him as a brother. The Indian whom the governor had sent came and said that the cacique gave no heed to what he had told him but that he had gone away in flight with all his people out of the other side of the town. The governor immediately entered and together with the men of horse charged ahead where the Indians were fleeing; and at another town situated a quarter of a league from that place captured many Indians.

And as the horsemen captured them, they delivered them over to the Indians of Casqui, who, being their enemies, carefully and with great pleasure took them to the town where the Christians were; and the greatest sorrow they had was in not having permission to kill them. Many blankets, deer, lion, and bear skins, and many cat skins were found in town. Many [of the men] were still poorly clad and there clothed themselves. From the blankets were made loose coats and cassocks; and some made gowns and lined them with the catskins, as well as the cassocks. From the deerskins were also made some jerkins, shirts, stockings and shoes and from the bear skins very good cloaks, for water would not go through them. They found there shields made of raw cowhide with which the horses were provided with armor.



On Wednesday, June 19 (1541), the governor entered Pacaha. He lodged in the town where the cacique lived, which was very large, enclosed, and furnished with towers; and in the towers and stockade many loopholes. In the town was abundance of old maize and new maize in the maize fields in great quantity. Located at a league and half a league were large towns, all enclosed. Where the governor was lodged, there was a large marsh which came near to the enclosure, and entered through a ditch round about the town so that but little of the town remained to enclose.

A channel had been made from the marsh to the large river through which the fish entered the former. This the cacique had there for his recreation and pleasure. As many fish as they wished were caught with nets which were found in the town; and however many of them were drawn out, there was never lack of them found. In many other swamps thereabout, there were also many fish, but they were soft and not so good as those which came from the river, and most of them were different from those of the fresh water of Spain. There was a fish called "bagre," a third of which was head; and it had large spines like a sharp shoemaker's awl at either side of its throat and along the sides. Those of them which were in the water were as large as a "pico." In the river there were some of one hundred and one hundred and fifty pounds. Many of them were caught with the hook.

Another fish resembled the "barbel" [barbo]; and others were like the "choupa," with a head like that of the "besugo" and between russet and brown. This was the one that was most relished. There was another fish called the "pexe palla." Its snout was a cubit in length and the tip of its upper lip was shaped like a shovel. There was another fish which resembled a shad [savel]. All had scales except the "bagres" and the "pexe palla." There was another fish which the Indians brought sometimes, of the size of a hog, called "pexe pereo." It had rows of teeth below and above.

The cacique of Casqui frequently sent gifts of fish in abundance, and blankets, and skins. He told the governor that he would give the cacique of Pacaha into his hands. He went to Casqui, ordered many canoes brought up the river, while he went overland with many of his people. The governor, with forty of horse and sixty of foot, took him [the cacique] with him up the river. His Indians who were in the canoes discovered where the cacique of Pacaha was on an islet between two arms of the river. Five Christians embarked in a canoe, among whom went Don Antonio Osorio, going ahead to see what people the cacique had with himself.

There were five or six thousand souls on the islet. As soon as they saw them, thinking that the Indians in the canoes were Christians also, the cacique and those who belonged to three canoes they had there, fled in great haste to the other side of the river. The rest, in great fear and confusion, betook themselves hastily to the water swimming, where many people were drowned, principally women and children. Then the governor, who was on land, not knowing what was happening to Don Antonio and those who went with him, ordered Christians and Indians to enter with great haste in the canoes of the Indians of Casqui; and they immediately went to Don Antonio on the islet where they captured many Indians - men and women - and a quantity of clothing, from the abundance of clothing which the Indians [of Pacaha] had in hurdles and on wooden rafts in order to take it across from the other side.

It went floating down stream; and the Indians of Casqui filled their canoes with it. And fearing lest the Christians would seize it, the cacique and his men went down stream with them to his land without taking leave of the governor. On that account the governor was indignant at him.

Immediately returning to Pacaha, two leagues away, along the road from Casqui, he made a raid, on which he seized twenty or thirty of his [the cacique's] Indians. And because the horses were tired and there was no time to go farther that day, he returned to Pacaha, planning to attack Casqui from there three or four days later. He immediately released one of the Indians of Pacaha, and sent him to tell the cacique that if he wished for his friendship he should come to him and that they would go to make war on Casqui. Immediately many of the Indians of Pacaha came and brought an Indian under the name of cacique, which was revealed by a brother of the cacique who was a prisoner.

The governor told the Indians that their lord should come, for he knew well that that one was not he, and that they could do nothing that he did not know before they thought of it. Next day came the cacique accompanied by many Indians bringing a gift of many fish, skins, and blankets. He made a talk which all were glad to hear and concluded by saying that even though his lordship had wrought damage to his land and vassals without him having deserved it, nevertheless he would not cease to be his, and would always be at his service.

The governor ordered his brother and some others of the principal Indians whom he had captured to be released. That day came an Indian on the part of the cacique of Casqui and said that his lord would come immediately next day in order to beg pardon for the error he had committed in having gone away without the governor's permission. The governor told him [the Indian messenger] to tell him [the cacique of Casqui] that if he did not come in his own proper person he would go to get him and give him the punishment he deserved. Immediately next day came the cacique of Casqui, and made the governor a gift of many blankets, skins, and fish.

He gave him one of his daughters, saying that his greatest desire was to unite his blood with that of so great a lord as he was. On that account he brought his daughter and begged him to take her as his wife. He made a long and discreet argument, praising him highly, and concluded by asking that he pardon him, by the love of that cross which he had left him, for having gone off without his permission; that he had gone away for shame of what his people had done without his consent.

The governor answered him saying that he had taken a good protector and that if he had not come to beg pardon, he had planned to go to get him and burn his towns for him and kill him and his people and ravage his land for him. He replied to him saying "Lord, I and mine are your Lordship's, and my land is yours. Therefore, if you should go, you would destroy your own land and kill your own people. All that comes to me from your hand, I shall receive as from my lord, both punishment and favor. Know that what you did for me in leaving me that cross, I consider a very notable thing and greater than I have ever deserved. For you will know that the maize fields of my lands were lost because of the great drouth; but as soon as I and my people knelt down before the cross and begged it for waters, our need was alleviated."

The governor made him and the cacique of Pacaha friends and placed them at table with him so that they might eat with him. In regard to the seats, the caciques had a quarrel as to who was to sit at his right hand. The governor made peace between them by saying that among Christians one side was accounted as the other, and that so they should consider it. Since they were his guests no one would pay any attention to them; and each should seat himself in the first seat he should find.


Hence he sent thirty men of horse and fifty of foot to the province of Caluca to see whether they could bend back toward Chisca by that way where the Indians said there was a foundry for gold and copper. They went for seven days through an uninhabited region and returned after much hardship, eating green plums and maize stalks which they found in a poor town of six or seven houses. From there on toward the north, the Indians said that the land was very poorly inhabited because it was very cold, and that there were so many cattle that no field could be protected because of them, and that the Indians sustained themselves on their flesh.


The governor, seeing that in that direction the land was so poor in maize that they could not sustain themselves, asked the Indians where the most populous district lay. They said that they had heard of a large province and of a very well provided land called Quiguate and it was toward the south.

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