Inca's Original DeSoto Writings

Garcilaso de la Vega, the "Inca," wrote a History of the Conquest of Florida based on interviews with DeSoto Expedition survivors, among them Captain Gonzalo Silvestre, one of DeSoto's Thirty Lancers. Inca published his findings in 1605. This translation was made by Charmion Shelby in 1935 and published in The DeSoto Chronicles in 1993.
Florida of the Inca
Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca 1539-1616


Ride of the Thirty Lancers - Press for brief on Google Earth
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9, Day 10, Day 11


This report was ALTERED by the 1939 DeSoto Trail Commission.

Chapter VII Original

Start near Marianna
Ending at Charlotte Harbor



While the three exploring captains went out and returned with the reports of what each of them had seen and discovered, Governor Hernando de Soto did not rest or remain idle, but on the other hand, he was considering in his own mind and preparing with all care and vigilance the things most advantageous for his army. Therefore seeing that winter was approaching (it was then October), he thought it best not to continue his discoveries that year but to winter in that province of Apalache where there were plenty of provisions. He planned to send for Captain Pedro Calderon and the other Spaniards who had remained with him in the province of Hirrihigua (Ucita) to come and join him, because they were not doing anything of importance where they were.

To this end he ordered as many supplies collected as possible. He had many houses built besides those in the pueblo so that there would be comfortable lodgings for all his soldiers. He had a site fortified that seemed suitable, for the safety of his men. During this time he did not cease to send messengers to Capafi, the lord of that province, with gifts and friendly messages, begging him to come out peaceably and be his friend. The latter was unwilling to accept any of these terms but instead fortified himself in a very wild forest full of swamps and difficult passes, which he chose for the defense and protection of his person.

The things stated being arranged and provided for, the governor ordered the accountant Juan de Anasco to prepare to return to the province of Hirrihigua, because it seemed to him that this gentleman was the most successful captain and had had better fortune from the beginning of his expedition than any of his others, and that such a man who had also his other good qualities as a soldier was needed to surmount the dangers and difficulties he would encounter. In consideration of these things he ordered him to take twenty-nine other lancers who were ready, he himself making thirty, and return with them to the pueblo of Hirrihigua by the same road that the army had taken, so that Captain Pedro Calderon and the other soldiers who were with him might be advised of what the general ordered them to do.

The task was a very severe one because those [who went] would have to go back over almost 150 leagues of country inhabited by brave and cruel enemies, filled with large rivers, forests, swamps, and difficult passes, a crossing in which the whole army had been in great danger. This would be even greater now that only thirty lancers were going, and they would necessarily find the Indians better prepared than when the governor passed, and because of the injuries received, more angry and desirous of avenging them.

But all this did not suffice to make the thirty gentlemen now prepared refuse to go on the expedition; rather they obeyed readily and with all promptness. Because they were men of such spirit and courage, who went through so many hardships, dangers, and difficulties, as we shall see, it will be fitting to set down their names, and we are including those whose names are remembered. Those who are missing will forgive me and accept my respects, for I would like to have information not only of them but of all those who went to conquer and win the New World, and I wish also that I could attain the historical eloquence of the most illustrious Caesar in order to spend my life recounting and celebrating their great exploits, To the extent that these have been greater than those of the Greeks, the Romans, and other nations, so much more unfortunate have the Spaniards been in lacking someone to write of them, and it is no small misfortune to these gentlemen that [the story of ] their deeds came into the hands of an Indian, whence they will emerge impaired and defaced rather than written as they deserve to be and as they occurred. In having done what I could, however, I have complied with this obligation, though I have a greater fund of good will to serve them than of power or ability.

The gentlemen chosen were the accountant and captain Juan de Anasco, a native of Sevilla; Gomez Arias, a native of Segovia; Juan Cordero and Alvaro Fernandez, natives of Yelves; Antonio Garillo, a native of Yllescas (he was one of the thirteen who revolted in Cuzco with Francisco Hernandez Giron in the year 1553). Francisco de Villalobos and Juan Lopez Cacho, citizens of Sevilla; Gonzalo Silvestre, a native of Herrera de Alcantara [from whom this knowledge was gained by Inca]; Juan de Espinosa, a native of Ubeda; Hernando Athanasio, a native of Badajoz; Juan de Abadia, a Biscayan; Antonio de la Cadena and Francisco Segredo, natives of Medellin; Bartolome de Argote and Pedro Sanchez from Astorga; Juan Garcia Pechudo, a native of Albuquerque; and Pedro Moron, mestizo, a native of the city of Bayamo in the island of Cuba. This soldier had a most unusual gift in that he scented and picked up a trail better than a pointer dog.

It often happened in the island of Cuba that when he and others went out to hunt for rebellious or runaway Indians he could follow their trails to the underbrush or hollow trees or eaves where they were hidden. He also could detect fire from the odor more than a league away, and many times in this exploration of La Florida, without flame or smoke having been seen, he said to his companions, "Look out, there is a fire near us," and they would find it half a league or a league away. He was a most expert swimmer, as we have said already. With him went his comrade and compatriot, Diego de Oliva, a mestizo and a native of the island of Cuba.

Day 1 across the Apalachicola River



These twenty horsemen and ten others whose names are lacking to make up the number of thirty, left the pueblo of Apalache on October 20 of the year 1539 to go to the province of Hirrihigua where Pedro de Calderon was. They carried orders that will be told later as to what they were to do on sea and on land.

All traveled very lightly, with only helmets and coats of mail over their clothing, their lances in their hands, and a pair of knapsacks on their saddles containing some horseshoes and nails and the food that they could put into them for horses and riders. They left the camp a good while before daylight, and so that the news of their coming should not precede them and the Indians thus be warned to go out and take the passes, they traveled at a good speed, running where it was possible to do so. That day they speared two Indians whom they met on the road, killing them so that they might not give an alarm and warn those who were scattered about the country. They always traveled with this precaution against the news [of their coming} going ahead of them. Thus on that day they marched the eleven leagues between Apalache and the swamp, which they crossed without opposition from the enemy; no small advantage, because however few Indians might have come they would have been enough to shoot arrows at the horses in such a narrow road as that through the woods and the water.

The Spaniards slept on the plain entirely beyond the woods, having traveled and marched that day more than thirteen leagues. While resting they kept watch by thirds, in groups of ten, as we have told above.

Day 2 to Tallahassee

They continued their march before daybreak and covered the twelve leagues of uninhabited country that lies between the swamp of Apalache and the pueblo of Osachile. They went with the fear that the Indians would know of their approach and would come out to oppose their passage, so they advanced slowly, waiting for nightfall, and about midnight they passed through the pueblo, going at a canter. A league beyond the pueblo they left the road and rested the remainder of the night, a third of them keeping watch, as we have said. That day they traveled more than thirteen leagues farther.

Day 3 thru Napituca to Hampton Springs

At dawn they continued their journey, going at a canter because there were people in the fields. They always did this when they were passing through inhabited country so that the news of their coming should not go ahead of them, which was what they most feared. Thus they traveled the five leagues from the place where they slept to the Rio de Osachile at the expense of the horses, and they were so good that they endured everything. On approaching the river, Gonzalo Silvestre, who, because he had urged his horse more than the others, was riding ahead, went to look at it with much misgiving, fearing to find it higher than when the army had crossed it, but God willed that it now carried less water than before. In his satisfaction at seeing it thus he plunged into it and swam across and came out on the plain on the opposite side. When his companions saw him on the farther bank they were very pleased because all of them had had the same fear of finding the river swollen; they crossed without any mishaps and by way of celebration and rejoicing for having crossed the river they ate lunch. Then they traveled at a moderate pace the four leagues from this Rio de Osachile to the pueblo of Vitachuco [which the other Chroniclers called Napituca], the scene of the cacique Vitachuco's temerity.

The Castilians proceeded with the uneasy expectation of finding the pueblo of Vitachuco as they had left it, and they feared that they would have to fight with its inhabitants and gain passage by force, where it might happen that they [the Indians] would kill or wound some man or horse, a misfortune that would double the labors and difficulties of the road. They therefore agreed among themselves that none of them would remain to fight, but all would endeavor to pass on without stopping. With this determination they came to the pueblo, where they lost all their anxiety because they found it entirely burned and destroyed and the walls leveled to the ground; and the bodies of the Indians who died on the day of the battle and those whom they killed on the day that the cacique Vitachuco struck the governor were all heaped together in the fields, no one having desired to bury them. The Indians said later that they abandoned and destroyed the pueblo because it was founded on an unlucky and unfortunate site; and the dead Indians, as illfated men who had not carried out their pretensions, they left unburied as food for birds and wild beasts, for among them this was a very infamous punishment and was given to those who were unlucky and unfortunate in arms, as to people who were accursed and excommunicated, after their heathen custom. They so regarded this pueblo and those who died in it because it seemed to them that the disaster that happened there had been caused more by the unluckiness of the place and the ill-fortune of the dead than by the strength and bravery of the Spaniards, for their numbers were so small against so many and such brave Indians.


[which Inca would mistakenly call Rio de Ocali, five paragraphs below]

Wondering at what they had seen, the Spaniards passed through the pueblo and had scarcely left it when they found two Indian nobles who, armed with their bows and arrows, were hunting, not expecting to see Christians that day; but when they saw them appear they took refuge under a very large walnut tree that was close by. One of them, not trusting much in the safety of his position, ran away from the tree and went to take shelter in the woods that were on one side of the road. Two of the Castilians, much against their captain's wishes, went to head him off, and before the Indian reached the woods they overtook him, a small enough accomplishment for two horsemen. The other Indian, who had more courage and waited under the tree, was luckier, because fortune favors the daring, as people who deserve it. Putting an arrow in his bow, he faced all the Spaniards - who came up at a canter, one after another - and made a gesture of shooting it if they should come nearer to him. Some of them, angered by the Indian's audacity and boldness, or envious at seeing a spirit and courage so unusual and strange, wished to dismount and attack him on foot with their lances in their hands. But Juan de Anasco would not consent to it, saying that it was not valor or prudence to kill a rash and desperate man with the risk that the Indian would kill or wound one of them or one of their horses at a time when they needed them so much, and where they were so ill prepared for treating the wounded.

Saying these words, as he was leading the rest, he made a wide circle, going away from the Indian and from the road that passed near the tree where he was so that the enemy might not shoot at them in passing and wound a horse, which was what he most feared. As the Spaniard went by, the Indian, with an arrow in his bow, pointed it at his face, threatening to shoot him. The first one having passed, and likewise the second and third and all the rest, as they went by in their order, the Indian remained in the same attitude until all had passed, and when he saw that they had not attacked him, but rather had left and fled from him, he began to shout insulting words at them, saying: "Cowards, bastards, cravens; thirty of you on horseback have not dared attack one on foot!" With these boasts he remained under his tree with more honor than all these famous [soldiers] had gained; so said the Castilians in their excessive envy of him, as they passed on shamed by the shouts that he sent after them. At this point they heard a great outcry and alarm that the Indians who were in the fields on either side gave, calling to one another to block their road.

The Spaniards escaped this danger and other similar ones by the swiftness of their horses, always hastening and leaving the enemy behind. On this day, which was the third of their march, well after dark, they reached a fine plain (near Hampton Springs) clear of timber where they rested, having traveled and marched seventeen leagues that day, the last eight through the province of Vitachuco.

Day 4 to Cross City

On the fourth day they marched eighteen more leagues, all through the province of Vitachuco. Its natives being injured and offended from the past battle, and seeing them [the Spaniards] now marching through their country, and that they were few in number, wished to take revenge by killing them. Therefore they made up relays in order to pass the word on from one to another to give the news of the Spaniards' coming and assemble men to occupy some difficult pass and cut them off. Surmising the Indians' intention, our men followed them so closely that none who attempted to carry the message escaped them, and thus on that day they speared seven Indians. At nightfall they reached a plain having no timber, where they thought they might rest because they heard no sounds of Indians in the surrounding country.

Day 5 across the Suwannee River

A little after midnight they left their beds, and by sunrise they had marched five leagues, reaching the Rio de Ocali (the Suwannee River) where we said the Indians had shot the hound Bruto. [Bruto had been killed at the next river, the Withlacoochee, which they would cross the following day.] The Castilians went with some hope of finding the river with less water than when they had crossed it [before], as they had found the Osachile [River of the Deer], but the contrary was true, because for some time before they came to it they saw the banks, which as we said were two pike-lengths high [referring, again, to the next river they would come to], entirely covered with water that overflowed beyond them on the plain. The river ran so rapidly, turbidly and strongly, with so many whirlpools in every part of it, that simply looking at it inspired fear, much less having to swim across it. To this difficulty and danger was added another, greater one, which was the alarm and outcry that the Indians raised on both sides of the river when they saw the Christians appear, shouting to one another to kill them as they crossed.

The Spaniards, seeing that the safety of their lives lay in their good spirit, strength, and speed, immediately discussed what they ought to do in that danger, and as if by prearrangement - and as if all of them were captains - calling one another by their names, they ordered that twelve of them who were the best swimmers, wearing only their helmets and coats of mail over their shirts (without any other clothing, so as not to hinder the horses in swimming), and carrying lances in their hands, go into the river to gain the other bank before the Indians should reach it. As there were more of them on that side and as the whole pueblo could assemble there, it was more dangerous and it was necessary to keep it unobstructed and free, so that as the Spaniards swam across the Indians might not shoot arrows at them at their pleasure. The twelve men appointed, then, seeing the imminent danger in which they were, all said with one accord, reassuring one another, that whoever might get out or whoever might die it was impossible for them to do otherwise. They ordered also that fourteen of them cut as quickly as possible five or six thick timbers from the dead trees that had fallen on the riverbank and make a raft from them in which they could take over the saddles, clothing and knapsacks, and the Spaniards who did not know how to swim. The four remaining men were to endeavor to hold back the Indians who were coming at full speed from upstream and down on this side to prevent their crossing.

They had no sooner made this plan than they put it into operation. The twelve men named to cross the river, taking off their clothes, at once plunged into the water, and eleven of them succeeded in coming out on the opposite bank at a large gap in the bluff. The twelfth, who was Juan Lopez Cacho, was unable to make the shore because his horse went a little downstream from the opening, and being unable to resist the velocity of the water to come out at this landing, he went on down the river to see if there were another opening by which he could come out. Although he attempted many times to ascend the bluff in order to land, he could not do so, for the bluff was as steep as a wall and the horse could not get a foothold [as it is today 100 yards downstream of Lower Clay Landing on the Suwannee River]. Therefore he had to go back to the other bank, and as the horse had been swimming for so long without resting, he was much fatigued. Juan Lopez asked for help from his companions who were cutting the timber for the raft, and four of them who were expert swimmers, seeing his danger, jumped into the water and brought him and his horse safely to shore, which was no small feat because they were fatigued from their labors.



Returning to the thirty horsemen whom we left laboring to cross the swollen Rio de Ocali, we said that those who were engaged in cutting logs in a short time had made the raft, because they had come prepared for such necessities with axes and ropes. They launched it on the water with two long ropes with which they drew it back and forth from one side of the river to the other, two good swimmers carrying one of the ropes to the opposite bank. The Spaniards had done all this when the Indians of Ocali approached the river with a great rush and clamor, with the desire and intention of killing the Christians.

The eleven horsemen who had gained the opposite bank of the river advanced to the encounter and engaged them with such determination and courage, spearing the first ones whom they met, that the Indians did not dare wait for them, because the land was free of both small and large timber and the horsemen were masters of the field. They therefore withdrew, retiring slowly and contenting themselves with shooting many arrows at them from a distance.

The four horsemen who were on this side of the river, where there were fewer enemies, divided in pairs, two going upstream and two down, for there were Indians coming from both directions, detaining them with their assaults so that they would not come to the place where the raft was. It made five voyages while the riders defended it on either side of the stream. On the first it carried the cloaks of the eleven horsemen who were on the other side of the river, who shouted to ask for them because a north wind had come up, striking them while they were damp and had no other clothing except their shirts with coats of mail over them, and they were chilled with the cold.

In four other voyages they took over the saddles, bridles, and knapsacks, and the men who did not know how to swim, who were few in number. Those who could, swam across in order not to lose time by making more voyages with the raft than were absolutely necessary. As they crossed they went out on the plain to assist those who were making a stand against the enemy there, whose numbers increased hourly. Finally, only two Spaniards remained to unload the raft and receive what was brought in it.

For the last voyage there remained on this side of the river only two men, one being Hernando Athanasio and the other Gonzalo Silvestre. The latter, while his companion drove his horse into the water and boarded the raft, went out to detain the enemy, and having driven them back with a good charge on horseback, he returned at full speed to get aboard the raft where his companion was awaiting him. Without removing the saddle or bridle from the horse, he drove him into the water and got on the raft, having unfastened the rope by which it was tied to the shore.

For all the speed with which the Indians came to discharge arrows at the Castilians, the latter were already in midstream, out of danger, because of the great diligence with which their companions on the other side had applied themselves to pulling the raft across. As the horses plunged into the water they crossed very willingly without anyone driving or guiding them, for they seemed to sense the harm that the enemy wished to do them, and, as if they were rational beings, they promptly obeyed what they told them to do, not refusing to enter and come out at the places their masters wished. For the Spaniards this was no small relief, and they even took an example from them for setting to work more promptly, seeing that the beasts did not refuse to do so.



With the difficulties and hardships we have told, and many more that have been omitted because it is impossible to recount all of those that are experienced on such expeditions, the thirty brave and courageous horsemen crossed the Rio de Ocali [the name Inca had used for the next big village south of this one when Desoto came up the trail and had NOT named its river, which the others had called The River of Discords, on the way up the trail.] God, our Lord, having favored them so mercifully that none of them or none of their horses were wounded. It was two o'clock in the afternoon when they finished crossing the river. They went to the pueblo because it was necessary to stop there, because Juan Lopez Cacho, as a result of his struggle in the water and with the intense cold that came, had frozen and remained like a wooden statue, unable to move hand or foot.

Seeing the Spaniards coming to their pueblo, the Indians stationed themselves to oppose their passage in order to detain them while their women and children fled to the woods, and not to hinder their entrance and the stay they might wish to make in the pueblo. When they thought that their people would have reached safety they withdrew and abandoned the place. The Castilians entered it and camped in the middle of the plaza, not daring to go into the houses because the enemy, finding them divided, might surround them and take them while they were inside.

They built four large fires in the form of a square and put Juan Lopez in the heat between them, well wrapped in all his companions' cloaks; one of them gave him a clean shirt that he was bringing for himself. It seemed to them a miracle that at such a time there should be found among them any shirts other than the ones they were wearing. It was the best present that could have been given him.

They remained in the pueblo all the rest of that day with great anxiety and fear about Juan Lopez, wondering whether he would be able to travel that night or whether he would detain them so long that the Indians would send word to one another and join together to stop them and cut off the road. But whatever might happen, they determined to place the welfare of their companion above all the evils and dangers that could befall them. With this determination they gave the horses plenty of maize as preparation for their watch, fifteen of them eating while the others made the rounds; they dried the saddles and clothing that were wet, filled their saddlebags with food they found in the pueblo; and although there was an abundance of raisins, dried plums, and other fruits and vegetables, they did not attempt to carry anything except Indian corn because the first care that these Spaniards took was to see that they would not lack maize for the horses, and it also furnished subsistence for the riders.

When night came they stationed mounted sentries in pairs with orders to make the rounds on the outskirts of the pueblo, apart and at some distance from it, so that there would be time and opportunity to give warning if the enemy should come.

About midnight two of those who were thus making the rounds heard a murmuring as of people who were approaching. One of them went to warn their companions and the other remained to better identify and ascertain what it was. The night being clear, he saw a large and dark group of people who were coming toward the pueblo with a fierce and hoarse murmuring; looking again, he ascertained that it was an organized squadron of the enemy. He carried this news immediately to the other Spaniards, who, seeing Juan Lopez somewhat improved, put him on his horse well wrapped up and tied him in the saddle, because he could not hold himself up. He was like the Cid Ruy Diaz when he went out of Valencia dead and won that famous battle.

Day 6 beyond the Withlacoochee River

One of his companions took the reins of his horse to guide him because Juan Lopez was unable to do even this. In this manner, as secretly as possible, the thirty Spaniards left the pueblo of Ocali [Inca had called that place Ochile on the way up the trail] before the enemy reached it and marched at such a good pace that at daylight they found themselves six leagues from the pueblo.

They continued their journey always with this same swiftness, traveling with all speed through the inhabited country so that the news of their coming would not precede them; and they speared the Indians whom they encountered near the roads so that they might not give warning of them. Through the uninhabited country, where there were no Indians, they slowed their pace to allow the horses to rest and take breath in order to be ready to run where it might be necessary. Thus this day passed, which was the sixth of their journey, they having traveled and marched almost twenty leagues, part of them through the province of Acuera, a country inhabited by most warlike people.

[Inca did not mention the Thirty Lancers crossing a bridge into the province of Acuera (at the Withlacoochee River), which others had called the "River of Discords," where DeSoto's dog Bruto had been killed on the way up. It is more likely that they crossed that river downstream of where DeSoto bridged it between heavily populated villages. The hard and level downstream terrain allowed the Lancers easy fording which accounts for the Lancers not mentioning it. From there south, west of the populated regions DeSoto had raided, to the great swamp their trail would have been safer. Cabeza de Vaca with Narvaez had probably used that trail northbound from the Great Swamp, given that there was no mention by natives of his forces along that part of DeSoto's trail.]

Day 7 to the Hillsborough River

On the seventh day after they had left the camp, one of the men, named Pedro de Atienza, became ill, and a few hours after he felt the illness, while they were on the march, he died on his horse. His companions buried him with much grief at such a death, for in order not to lose time on the road, they had not paid attention to the complaints that he made of his sudden illness. They made the grave with axes they carried for cutting firewood, which served even for this purpose. They passed on with regret that at such a time and from so small a number one should be missing.

At sunset they reached the crossing of the great swamp, having traveled and marched that day, as on the previous one, another twenty leagues. It is impossible for those who have not taken part in the conquest of the New World or in the civil wars of El Peru to believe that there are horses or men who can make such long daily journeys. But on the word of an hidalgo we affirm truthfully that in seven days these Castilians traveled the 107 leagues, more or less, of the route by which they went from the principal pueblo of Apalache to the great swamp. They found that it had become a sea of water with many branches that entered and flowed out of it, so rapid and swift that any one of them would be enough to impede their passage, much less all of them, and particularly the main stream. The reason the horses are able to withstand the excessive labor they have undergone and now undergo in the conquests in the New World, I believe - and I have the confirmation of all the Spaniards of the Indies whom I have heard speak about this matter - to be chiefly the good nourishment they have from the maize that they eat, because it has a great deal of substance and is much liked by them and by all animals. A proof of this is that the Indians of El Peru feed maize to the sheep [i.e., llamas] that serve them as beasts of burden, so that they can endure the excessive load that they ordinarily carry, which is equal to the weight of a man; the rest, although they carry burdens according to their ability, they sustain only by the pasturage that is found in the fields.

That night they slept, or rather they kept watch, on the borders of the swamp in the extreme cold that came with the rising north wind, which in all that region is most frigid. They built great fires and with their heat were able to endure the cold, though with the fear that the Indians would be attracted by the light of the fire; and if twenty of them should come, it would be enough to block their way and even to kill them all, because from their canoes in the water the Indians could attack the Spaniards entirely at their pleasure, and the latter could not make use of their horses to oppose the enemy, nor did they have harquebuses or crossbows with which to keep them at a distance. With this uneasiness and fear they kept watch and rested by thirds, preparing for the labors of the next day.



Our Spaniards rested only a few hours when a sudden surprise occurred, though it was not caused by the enemy but by the excessive hardships they had suffered on the road. This was that about midnight, one of them, named Juan de Soto, who was a comrade of Pedro Atienza, whom we left behind in his grave, died almost as suddenly. One man in the party fled from them, running at full speed and shouting: "I swear that a pestilence has fallen upon us, because two Spaniards have died in such a short time and so suddenly." Gomez Arias, who was a sensible and prudent man, said to the one who was fleeing: "You are carrying enough pestilence in your flight, from which you cannot escape, however you may try. If you run from us, where do you think you will go? You are not on the sandy soil of Sevilla nor in its Ajarafe." Whereupon the fugitive came back and assisted in reciting the prayers that were said for the dead, but he did not dare attend the burial of the body, still insisting that he had died of the plague.

Day 8 across the Hillsborough River

With such assistance in their hardships the night passed. When daylight came they made plans for crossing the swamp, which they saw had less water than on the previous day, no small relief in view of the labor that they expected to undergo. Eight Spaniards who did not know how to swim repaired the balustrade of the bridge across the deepest part of the swamp, which had been made of fallen trees, and carried over it the saddles of the horses and the clothing of all their companions. The other twenty Spaniards, naked as the day they were born, labored to get the horses into the water, but because the water was so cold the horses would not enter the deepest part where they had to swim. The Castilians fastened long ropes to the halters, and four or five of them would swim out to the middle of the current to pull the horses, and others would beat them with long rods to drive them in, but the horses planted their feet together and refused to move, and would allow themselves to be beaten almost to death rather than go into the water. Some of the horses thus driven and forced went in and swam for a little, but unable to endure the cold they fled back to land, dragging along the swimmers, who could not hold them; nor could those on the bank stop them, and though we said that they were on land, they were walking in water breast-deep.

Thus these twenty Spaniards continued to labor for more than three hours by the clock, and despite all their efforts they were unable to get a single horse to cross to the other side, though they changed them around, taking one and leaving the others, to see if any of them would go across.

At the end of three hours, as the result of many efforts two horses passed over, one belonging to Juan de Anasco and the other to Gonzalo Silvestre, and though these crossed, the others refused to do so because of their fear of the cold water. The masters who did not know how to swim saddled their horses and mounted them to be ready to do what they could if the enemy should appear.

Gomez Arias was the commander of the nineteen men who were swimming in the water, and it was he who labored hardest of all of them. These men, having been in the water for more than four hours enduring the cold the horses could not suffer, were numbed with the cold and their bodies were so livid that they looked like Negroes. As they saw that all the efforts they were making and the hardships they were enduring (each one may imagine what they would be) were not gaining them anything in getting the horses to the other side, they were ready to give up their lives in despair. At this moment Juan de Anasco arrived, who as we said had his horse saddled, and he went through the part of the water that could be forded, up to the deep part of the channel. Vexed because no more horses had been taken across-not considering that this had not been due to lack of effort on the part of those who were working in the water, disregarding their sad condition, and urged on by a choler he possessed that occasioned a loss of the respect that should have been accorded this gentleman as commander-he said in a loud voice: "Gomez Arias, why don't you finish crossing those horses, confound you?" Seeing the state in which he and his companions were, who looked more like dead men than living, and already could not support the torment they felt, both of mind and body, and seeing that their captain rewarded so poorly the unendurable hardships that he and his companions were suffering-for certainly it would be impossible to exaggerate or tell fully what these twenty-eight companions passed through that day, especially those who were in the water; exasperated by the ingratitude Juan de Anasco showed for all his toil, Gomez Arias replied to him; saying: "Confound you and the evil bitch that gave birth to you! You are on your horse, fully dressed and wrapped in your coat, and you don't consider that we have been in the water for more than four hours, stiff with cold and doing all we can. Get down and come in, and we shall see if you can do better." To these words he added others no more polite, for wrath when it is ignited does not know when to stop.

Juan de Anasco made no answer because of what the others who came up to Gomez Arias told him, and also because he saw that he had been wrong in what he had said, and that his [Gomez Arias's] desperate condition had caused that outburst and its attendant disrespect for his person.

On many other occasions in this journey and in others that he made, the same thing happened, and because he did not consider first what he ought to say in such cases, he was often confused and his reputation suffered. Thus all men, and especially those who are appointed for commanders and superior officers in war, ought to note that at all times it is well for them to be gentle and affable toward their men, and that their orders to them in their work ought to be given rather by example than by words, and when they make use of the latter they should be good ones. It is difficult to say how much these gain and how much hard words lose, one being no more costly than the other.



As soon as the dispute was calmed the Spaniards went back to their work, and as it was now nearly noon, with the benefit of the sun's heat that tempered somewhat the coldness of the water, the horses began to cross over more easily than before, but not so rapidly as necessary, for it was more than three o'clock in the afternoon when they finished crossing.

It was a great shame and a pity to see how the Spaniards came out of the water, fatigued and exhausted by the long labor they performed, consumed by the cold they had suffered almost all day, and so broken and weary that they could scarcely stand. And with all this it is to be remembered that they had practically no comforts for restoring themselves in such an unfortunate situation; but they considered the time well spent in having crossed that bad swamp they so feared. They gave thanks to God that the enemy had not come up to oppose their passage; which was a particular Divine mercy, because if to the hardships we have said they endured there had been added the necessity of fighting and defending themselves from even fifty Indians, what would have happened to them? The reason the Indians did not come might have been because that swamp was some distance from the inhabited country and it was now winter, when, because they wore no clothing, the Indians were accustomed to leave their houses very little.

The Spaniards decided to spend the night on a large plain that was beyond the swamp, because they and their horses left it in such condition that they were unable to travel a step. They kindled great fires to warm themselves, consoled by the fact that from there on as far as Hirrihigua, where they were going, there were no bad crossings to pass over.

Day 9 to Bradley Junction

When night came they slept with the same precautions as formerly, and before dawn they were on their way. They speared five Indians whom they met so that they might not carry news of their coming ahead of them. The horses of the men who died traveled loose, saddled and bridled, following the others; often they went ahead, for they did not need their masters to guide them. That day they marched thirteen leagues. They halted on a fine plain where they slept that night in the usual way.

Day 10 to Upper Lake Myakka

At daylight they were traveling, and a little after sunrise they passed by the pueblo of Urribarracuxi, leaving it to one side, for they did not wish to enter it, in order not to have any quarrel with its inhabitants. On this day, which was the tenth of their journey, they marched fifteen leagues and stopped for the night three leagues before reaching the pueblo of Mucoco.

Day 11 to Charlotte Harbor

A little after midnight they left their beds, and having marched two leagues, they saw a fire in some woods near the road. The mestizo Pedro Moron had given warning of it more than a league back, saying, "Watch out, I can tell that there is a fire not far from where we are going." A league farther on he said again, "We are now very near the fire," and after they had gone a little distance they discovered it.

Wondering at such a strange thing, his companions went up to the fire and found many Indians with their wives and children, who were roasting skates for their breakfast. The Spaniards decided to capture as many as they could, although they might be vassals of Mucoco, until learning whether he had maintained peace with Pedro Calderon; because if he had not done so, they would try to send those that they took to La Havana, in order that they might be included among the other proofs and trophies of their victories. With this intention they advanced upon the fire. The young men among the Indians, terrified by the noise and trampling of the horses, fled into the woods beyond. Of the women and children they seized about eighteen or twenty persons whom they were able to stop, many others escaping because of the darkness of the night and the undergrowth in the woods. The prisoners clamored and wept in loud voices, calling the name of Ortiz and saying no other word except that, repeated many times, as if they were trying to recall to the Spaniards' memory the kindness their cacique and they themselves had done him. It did nothing toward freeing them from their captivity and restraint, for very few people remember to acknowledge favors already received. The Spaniards, still on horseback, breakfasted on the skates just as they were, and though the commotion of the Indians and the horses had filled them with sand they did not bother to get it off, for they said that it was like sugar and cinnamon to them because of their ravenous hunger.

They took an oblique route far from the pueblo of Mucoco, and having marched five leagues that morning, Juan Lopez Cacho's horse gave out. We have forgotten him since they brought him out of the pueblo of Ocali [actually Ochile] bound [on his horse]; well, with the great excitement that they had that night from the coming of the enemy, and because of the vigor of his robust age, which was a little more than twenty years, he regained consciousness, became warm, and recovered from the illness that had overcome him because of that day's excessive cold and hardship, and all along the way thereafter he worked as well as any of his companions. As a result of laboring so hard to cross the Rio de Ocali [actually Ochile], his horse gave out so close to the pueblo where they were going to stop that they had only six more leagues to march. In spite of all their efforts it was impossible to get him to go farther, so they left him in a fine meadow with plenty of grass for him to eat [where the army had spent their first night out of port on their way up that trail], taking off the bridle and saddle and putting it in a tree so that any Indian who wished to use him could take him with all his equipment. They feared, however, and were grieved to think that as soon as they found him they would shoot him with arrows.

Thus regretful, they marched nearly five leagues, until in the expectation of another, greater trouble they forgot that one. This was that as they came within a little more than a league of the pueblo of Hirrihigua where Captain Pedro Calderon had remained with the forty cavalry and eighty infantry, they examined the ground as they went, hoping to see some sign of the horses, for since they were so near the pueblo and the country was clear of timber, it seemed to them that it would be strange if they had not been riding and passing back and forth up to that point or even beyond. Inasmuch as they were unable to find footprints or any other signs of horses, they were much grieved and saddened, fearing lest the Indians had killed them [the other Spaniards] or they had left the country in the brigantines and the caravel that remained there, for they said that, if they were still there, it was impossible that there should be no signs of horses so near the pueblo.

With this suspicion and in their confusion as to what they would do if one thing or the other occurred, they decided on their future actions. They found themselves isolated in such a manner that in order to leave the country and go by sea they had no vessel nor any means for building one, and to return to where the governor had remained [at first] seemed to them impossible, in view of what they had experienced in coming from there. From these fears and misgivings, all of them came unanimously to the same opinion and decision, and said that, if they did not find their companions in Hirrihigua, they would go into some secret place in the woods that were close by where they would find grass for the horses, and while the latter were resting, they would kill the extra one and prepare dried meat from it for the journey. Having allowed the horses to rest for three or four days, they would attempt to go back to where the governor was; if they [the Indians] killed them on the road, they would have met death like good soldiers, performing the duty that their captain-general had entrusted to them; and if they came out safely, they would have done what he commanded them to do. All the twenty-eight Spaniards agreed to this as their final decision of what they would do in the future if they did not find Pedro Calderon in Hirrihigua.



Having made this heroic decision, they continued their march, and the farther they went the more they were confirmed in the suspicion and fear that they felt, because they found no sign whatsoever of horses or any other indication by which they could ascertain that Spaniards had passed that way.

Thus they marched until they came to a small lake that was less than half a league from the pueblo of Hirrihigua, where they found fresh tracks of horses and signs that lye had been made and clothes washed there.

The Spaniards rejoiced greatly at these indications, and their horses, scenting the tracks of the others, were animated and took on new mettle in such manner that it seemed as if they were just going out of their stables after a twenty days' rest. With the satisfaction that can be imagined and with the new spirit of the horses, they traveled more rapidly. The horses went spurning the dust, with leaps and bounds their masters could not restrain; they were so good that, when it was thought they were too tired to stand, they could do this. They came in sight of the pueblo of Hirrihigua at sunset, having traveled that day, without hurrying, eleven leagues, and it was the shortest day's journey that they made on that whole trip. The mounted patrol was coming out from the pueblo two by two, with their lances and leather shields, to watch and guard their dwelling.

Juan de Anasco and his companions also formed in twos; and as if it were the opening of a tournament with reed spears, running their horses, with loud shouts and cries and much merriment and rejoicing, they came full speed toward the pueblo in such good order that when the first ones were coming to a stop the second were in the middle of the course and the third were leaving the post. Thus they all came in, making a fine show in the order they maintained; it was a glad and joyous festival, the end of a journey so laborious as we have seen.

At the shout given by the riders, Captain Pedro Calderon came out with all his men, and they were much pleased to see the fine entrance made by those who were arriving. They received them with many embraces and common rejoicing by all, and it was to be noted that in the first words spoken by those who were there - without having inquired after the welfare of the army or of the governor or of any particular friend they asked almost with one voice, very anxious to know about it, whether there was much gold in that country. The hunger and craving for this metal often alienates and denies relatives and friends.

After passing through many more hardships and dangers than we have told, these twenty-eight horsemen ended their journey, though it did not see the end of their labors, for they were on the point of undertaking other, greater and more protracted toils, as we shall see below. They had spent eleven days on the road; one of these they spent in crossing the Rio de Ocali [Ochile, NOT Ocali, see above], and the great swamp took another, so that in nine days they traveled 150 leagues or a little more, the distance from Apalache to the bay they call Espiritu Santo and the pueblo of Hirrihigua.


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