Account of Fidalgo de Elvas. dated February 10th, 1557. True Relation of the Vicissitudes That Attended the Governor Don Hernando De Soto and Some Nobles of Portugal in the Discovery of the Province of Florida Now Just Given by a Fidalgo of Elvas Viewed by the Lord Inquisitor. Vol. 1. pp. 3-223 (in) Narratives of the Careeer of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida, as Told by a Knight of Elvas and in a Relation by Luys Hernandez de Biedma, Factor of the Expedition. Translated by B. Smith. Together With an Accouhnt of de Soto’s Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Ranjel, His Private Secretary Translated from Oviedo’s Historica General y Natural de las Indias. 2 vols. Edited by E.G. Bourne. New York: Allerton Book, 1922.
[Description of the city of Santiago on the island of Cuba in the Antilles] The fig tree bears fruit as big as the first, yellow within and of little flavour; another tree with a delicious fruit, called anane, is of the shape and size of a small pine-apple, the skin of which being taken off, the pulp appears like a piece of curd … Another tree yields a fruit called mamei, the size of a peach, by the islanders more esteemed than any other in the country. The guayaba is in the form of a filbert, and is the size of a fig. There is a tree, which is a stalk without any branch, the height of a lance, each leaf the length of a javelin, the fruit of the size and form of a cucumber, the bunch having twenty or thirty of them, with which the tree goes on bending down more and more as they grow: they are called plantanos in that country, are of good flavour, and will ripen after they are gathered, although they are better when they mature on the tree. The stalks yield fruit but once, when they are cut down, and others, which spring up at the butt, bear in the coming year. There is another fruit called batata, the subsistence of a multitude of people, principally slaves, and now grows in the Island of Terceira, belonging to this kingdom of Portugal. It is produced in the earth, and looks like the ynhame, with nearly the taste of chestnut. The bread of the country is made from a root that looks like the batata, the stalk of which is like alder. The ground for planting is prepared in hillocks; into each are laid four or five stalks, and a year and a half after they have been set the crop is fit to be dug. Should any one, mistaking the root for batata, eat any of it, he is in imminent danger; as experience has shown, in the case of a soldier, who died instantly from swallowing a very little. The roots being peeled and crushed, they are squeezed in a sort of press; the juice that flows has an offensive smell; the bread is of little taste and less nourishment. The fruit from Spain are figs and oranges, which are produced the year round, the soil being very rich and fertile (Vol. 1. pp. 13-14).
There are numerous cattle and horses in the country…From the many wild cows and hogs, the inhabitants everywhere are abundantly supplied with meat. Out of the towns are many fruits wild over the country; and, as it sometimes happens, when a Christian misses his way and is lost for fifteen or twenty days, because of the many paths through the thick woods made by the herds traversing to and fro, he will live on fruit and on wild cabbage, there being many and large palm-trees everywhere which yield nothing else available beside (Vol. 1. pp. 14-15).
The island of Cuba is three hundred leagues long from east to southeast, and in places thirty, in others forty leagues from north to south…Although the earth contains much gold, there are few slaves to seek it, many having destroyed themselves because of the hard usage they receive from the Christians in the mines (Vol. 1. p. 25).
In all the country there are no wolves, foxes, bears, lions, nor tigers; there are dogs in the woods, which have run wild from the houses, that feed upon the swine; there are snakes (Vol. 1. p. 17).
[Describing a trip overland across Cuba] The victual they carried was the caçabe bread I have spoken of, the nature of which is such that it directly dissolves from moisture; whence it happened that some ate meat and no bread for many days. They took dogs with them, and a man of the country, who hunted as they journeyed, and who killed the hogs at night found further necessary for provision where they stopped; so that they had abundant supply, both of beef and pork … They came to Sancti Spiritus, a town of thirty houses, near which passes a little river. The grounds are very fertile and pleasant, abundant in good oranges, citrons, and native fruit … There is a hospital for the poor, the only one in the island (Vol. 1. pp. 18-19).
[Departure from Cuba for Florida] On Sunday, the 18th day of May, in the year 1539, the Adelantado sailed from Havana with a fleet of nine vessels, five of them ships, two caravels, two pinnaces; and he ran seven days with favourable weather. On the 25th of the month …. land was seen, and anchor cast a league from shore…On Friday, the 30th, the army landed in Florida, two leagues from the town of an Indian Chief named Ucita. Two hundred and thirteen horses were set on shore … the Captain-General, Vasco Porcallo …. beat up the country half a league about and discovered six Indians … the horsemen killed two, and the four others escaped … on the first of June … Trinity Sunday … they arrived at the town of Ucita, where the Governor [de Soto] tarried (Vol. 1. pp. 21-23).
From the town of Ucita the Governor sent the Chief Castellan, Baltasar de Gallegos, into the country, with forty horsemen and eighty footmen, to procure an Indian if possible … [these Indians] are exceedingly ready with their weapons … warlike and nimble … they never remain quiet, but are continually running, traversing from place to place … before a Christian can make a single shot with either [crossbow or arquebuse] an Indian will discharge three or four arrows; and he seldom misses of his object (Vol. 1. pp. 25-26).
[Ships are sent back to Cuba; the troops march inland] From the port of Espiritu Santo [the governor, de Soto] sent the chief Castellian with fifty cavalry and thirty or forty infantry to the province of Paracoxi, to observe the character of the country … The principal object in coming to Florida had been to get slaves for [the] plantation and mines [of Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa] … he returned to Cuba because [it was to hard to capture people because of dense forest] … Baltasar de Gallegos… arrived at Paracoxi… passed through a small town named Acela, and came to another called Tocaste … provisions were short … He came to Cale and found the town abandoned; he seized three spies … the country [was] very thin of maize … some watercresses could be found, which they who arrived first would gather, and, cooking them in water with salt, ate them without other thing; and they who could get none, would seize the stalks of maize and eat them, the ear, being young, as yet containing no grain. Having come to the river, which the Governor had passed, they got cabbage from the low palmetto growing there, like that of Andalusia (Vol. 1. pp. 34-37).
One of two Indians who were made prisoners stated that seven days’ journey distant was a large Province, abounding in maize, called Apalache …. Up to that time, no one had been able to get servants who should make his bread [bread for de Soto]; and the method being to beat out the maize in log mortars with a one-handled pestle of wood, some also sifting the flour afterward through their shirts of mail, the process was found too laborious, that many, rather than crush the grain, preferred to eat it parched and sodden. The mass was baked in clay dishes, set over fire, in the manner that I have described as done in Cuba (Vol. 1. p. 38).
On the eleventh day of August, in the year 1539, the Governor left Cale …arrived at Ytara …then Potano …then Utinama …then Malapaz …from this town the people went to sleep at Cholupaha, which, for its abundance of maize, received the name of Villafarta … On the seventeenth day of August they arrived at Caliquen, where they heard of the Province of Apalache … we marched five days passing through some small towns, and arrived at Napetaca on the fifteenth day of September … (Vol. 1. pp. 38-41).
On the twenty-third day of September the Governor left Napetaca … two Indians brought him a deer from the Cicique of Uzachil … In the town was found food, much maize, beans, and pumpkins, on which the Christians lived. The maize is like coarse millet; the pumpkins are better and more savoury than those of Spain (Vol. 1. p. 45).
The Governor … reached Uitachuco … Sunday, the twenty-fifth of October, he arrived at the town of Uzela, and on Monday at Anhayca Apalache, where the lord of all that country and Province resided … There were other towns which had much maize, pumpkins, beans, and dried plums of the country … These ameixas are better than those of Spain, and come from trees that grow in the fields without being planted (Vol. 1. p. 47).
On Wednesday, the third of March, in the year 1540, the Governor left Anhayca Apalache to seek Yupaha … then to Capachiqui…then Toalli … [the houses there] were roofed with cane, after the fashion of tile…Maize is kept in barbacoa, which is a house with wooden sides, like a room, raised aloft on four posts, and has a floor of cane…[then to] Achese … [on to] Altamaca … [then] Ocute … The Cicique [Native American Chief] sent him a present, by two thousand Indians, of many conies and partridges, maize bread, many dogs, and two turkeys. On account of the scarcity of meat, the dogs were as much esteemed by the Christians as though they had been fat sheep. There was such want of salt also, that oftentimes, in many places, a sick man having nothing for his nourishment, and was wasting away to bone, of some ail that elsewhere might have found a remedy, when sinking under pure debility he would say: “Now if I had but a slice of meat or only a few lumps of salt, I should not thus die” (Vol. 1. pp. 51-57).
The Indians never lacked meat. With arrows they get abundance of deer, turkeys, conies, and other wild animals, being very skilful in killing game, which the Christians were not … Such was the craving for meat, that when the six hundred men who followed Soto arrived in a town, and found there twenty or thirty dogs, he who could get sight of one and kill him, thought he had done no little; and he who proved himself so active, if his Captain knew of it, and he forgot to send him a quarter, would show his displeasure, and make him feel it in the watches, or in any matter of labour that came along (Vol. 1. p. 57).
[They left the Cicique of Ocute] passed through … Cofaqui … Patofa … In the town of Patofa, the youth, whom the Governor brought with him for guide and interpreter, began to froth at the mouth, and threw himself on the ground as if he were possessed of the Devil. An exorcism being said over him, the fit went off … [the troops then suffered hunger] … The governor had brought thirteen sows to Florida, which had increased to three hundred swine; and the maize having failed for three or four days, he ordered to be killed daily, for each man, half a pound of pork, on which small allowance, and some boiled herbs, the people with much difficulty lived. There being no food to give to the Indians of Patofa, they were dismissed … On Monday the twenty-sixth of April, the Governor set out for Aymay, a town to which the Christians gave the name of Socorro … a barbacoa was found full of parched meal and some maize, which were distributed by allowance … Four Indians were taken, not one of whom would say any thing else than that he knew of no other town. The Governor ordered one of them to be burned [at the stake?] and thereupon another said, that two days’ journey from there was a province called Cutifachiqui (Vol. 1. pp. 57-64).
[Discussions were held with a nobel woman who sent de Soto] many turkeys] The country [here] was delightful and fertile, having good interval lands upon the streams; the forest was open, with abundance of walnut and mulberry trees (Vol. 1. pp. 65-66).
On the third of May the Governor set out from Cutifachiqui [in quest of Coça] …. In seven days the Governor arrived at the Province of Chelaque, the country poorest off for maize of any that was seen in Florida, where the inhabitants subsisted on the roots of plants that they dig in the wilds, and on the animals they destroy with their arrows … Turkeys were abundant … From Ocute to Cutifachiqui are one hundred and thirty leagues, of which eighty are desert; from Cuitifa to Xualla are two hundred and fifty of mountainous country; thence to Guaxule … at the end of five days the Governor arrived at Guaxule … The Christians being seen to go after dogs, for their flesh, which the Indians do not eat, they gave them three hundred of those animals. Little maize was found there, or anywhere upon that route … He left Guaxule and after two days’ travel arrived at Canasagua, where twenty men came out from the town on the road, each laden with a basket of mulberries. This fruit is abundant and good … as are the walnut and the amiexa; the trees growing about over the country, without planting or pruning, of the size and luxuriance they would have were they cultivated in orchards, by hoeing and irrigation. Leaving Canasagua, he marched five days through a desert … On the fifth day of July, the Governor entered Chiaha … There was abundance of lard in calabashes, drawn like olive oil, which the inhabitants said was the fat of bear. There was likewise found much oil of walnuts, which, like the lard, was clear and of good taste; and also a honey-comb, which the Christians had never seen before [in Florida], nor saw afterwards, nor honey, nor bees, in all the country (Vol. 1. pp. 69-74).
The Governor … with thirty mounted men and as many footmen, went in search of the people. Passing by the towns of some of the chiefs who had gone off, he cut down and destroyed the great maize-fields; and … he sent word to them. .. that they should put away all their fears [and] return to their abodes … The Indians judged it well to come and make their excuses to him, so they all went back to the town…(Vol. 1. p. 76).
The Christians left Coste the ninth day of July and slept that night at Tali … They travelled six days … until they arrived at Coça, on Friday, the sixteenth of July … In the barbacoas was a great quantity of maize and beans … In the woods were many ameixas, as well those of Spain as of the country; and wild grapes on vines growing up into the trees near the streams; likewise a kind that grew on low vines elsewhere, but [the] berry being large and sweet, but, for want of hoeing and dressing, had large stones (Vol. 1. pp. 80-82).
The Governor rested in Coça twenty-five days … he set out [for] Tastaluca … through Tallimuchase … to Ytaua … Ullibahali … [and resting at a defensive location] Mancano, a native of Salamanca, of noble ancestry, having strayed off in search of the grapes, which are good here, and plenty, was lost … [then onward to] Toasi … to Tallise … Casiste … Tastaluca… [to] Piache (Vol. 1. pp. 84-89).
[From Quizquiz to the great river] There was little maize in the place, and the Governor moved to another town, half a league from the great river [Mississippi] … [Indians gave them] great quantity of fish, and loaves like bricks, made of the pulp of ameixas (Vol. 1. pp. 112-114).
The [Mississippi] being crossed, the Governor marched a league and a half, to a large town of Aquixo … this land is higher, dried, and more level than any other along the river … in the fields were many walnut trees, bearing tender-shelled nuts in the shape of acorns, many being found stored in the houses. The tree did not differ in any thing from that of Spain, nor from the one seen before, except the leaf was smaller. There were many mulberry-trees and trees of ameixas, having fruit of vermillion hue, like one of Spain, while others were gray, differing, but far better … the Chief sent [the soldiers] a present of skins, shawls, and fish … and the inhabitants awaited him in peace, offering him skins, shawls, and fish (Vol. 1. pp. 116-118).
On Wednesday, the nineteenth day of June, the Governor entered Pacaha … From the [Mississippi] to the lake was a canal, through which the fish came into it, and where the Chief kept them for his eating and pastime … In the many other lakes about were also many fish, though the flesh was soft, and none of it so good as that which came from the river. The greater number differ from those in the fresh water of Spain. There was a fish called bagre [i.e. catfish] the third part of which was head, with gills from end to end, and along the sides were great spines, like very sharp awls … in the river were some that weighed from one hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds. Many were taken with the hook. There was one in the shape of barbel; another like bream, with head of a hake, having a colour between red and brown, and was the most esteemed. There was likewise a kind called peel-fish, the snout a cubit in length, the upper lip being shaped like a shovel. Another fish was like a shad … There was one, called pereo, the Indians sometimes brought, the size of a hog, and had rows of teeth above and below (Vol. 1. pp. 123-123).
The Governor rested in Pacaha forty days … [then] the Governor travelled towards Aquiguate … the largest [town] seen in Florida: one-half of it was occupied by the Governor and his people; and, after a few days, discovering that the Indians were dealing in falsehoods, he ordered the other part to be burned, that it might not afford them cover should they attack him at night (Vol. 1. pp. 129-130).
The country of Aquiguate … was level and fertile, having rich river margines, on which the Indians made extensive fields. From Tascaluça to the River Grande [Mississippi] may be three hundred leagues; from Pacha to Quigaute there may be one hundred and ten leagues … an Indian guided them through an immense pathless thicket of desert for seven days, where they slept continually in ponds and shallow puddles. Fish were so plentiful in them that they were killed with blows of cudgels (Vol. 1. pp. 132-133).
About forty leagues from Quiguate stood Coligoa, at the foot of a mountain, in the vale of a river of medium size …The soil was rich, yielding maize in such profusion that the old was thrown out of store to make room for the new grain. Beans and pumpkins were likewise in great plenty: both were larger and better than those of Spain: the pumpkins, when roasted, have nearly the taste of chestnuts (Vol. 1. pp. 133-134).
The Governor tarried a month in the Province of Cayas … the lands on the shores of the river were fields, and maize was in plenty (Vol. 1. pp. 135-136).
The Christians stayed three months in Autiamque, enjoying the greatest plenty of maize, beans, walnuts, and dried ameixas; also conies, which they had never had ingenuity enough to ensnare until the Indians there taught them … The animal is of two sorts; one of them like that of Spain, the other of the colour, form, and size of the great hare, though longer even, and having bigger loins (Vol. 1. pp. 145-146).
On Monday the sixth day of March, of the year 1542 … the Governor set out from Autiamque to seek Nilco, which the Indians sad was [near] the River Grande [Mississippi] … Juan Ortiz [the interpreter] died in Autiamque … The Governor went to a province called Ayas … and he came to Tutelpinco, a town [unoccupied] and found to be without maize .. the Governor arrived at Nilco, making his quarters, and those of his people, in the town of the Cacique, which was in an open field, that for a quarter of a league over was all inhabited; and at the distance of from half a league to a league off were many other large towns, in which was a good quantity of maize, beans, walnuts, and dried ameixas. This was the most populous of any country that was seen in Florida, and the most abundant in maize, excepting Coça and Apalache (Vol. 1. pp. 146-149).
As the Governor arrived in Guachoya, he ordered Juan de Añasco, with as many people as could go in the canoes, to ascend the river … and [they] brought back the boats laden with maize, beans, dried ameixas, and the pulp of them made into many loaves (Vol. 1. p. 152).
The Governor sank into a deep despondency at sight of the difficulties that presented themselves to his reaching the sea…The Governor was already low, being very ill of fevers … the twenty-first of May , departed this life the magnanimous, the virtuous, the intrepid Captain, Don Hernando de Soto, Governor of Cuba and Adelantado of Florida … he died in a land, and at a time, that could afford him little comfort in his illness … So soon as the death had taken place, Luys de Moscoso [de Alvarado] directed the body to be put secretly into a house, where it remained three days; and thence it was taken at night, by his order, to a gate of the town, and buried within. The Indians, who had seen him ill, finding him no longer, suspected the reason; and passing by where he lay, they observed the ground loose, and, looking about, talked among themselves. This coming to the knowledge of Luys de Moscoso, he ordered the corpse to be taken up at night, and among the shawls that enshrouded it having cast abundance of sand, it was taken out in a canoe and committed to the middle of the stream … Luys de Moscoso ordered the property of the Governor to be sold at public outcry. It consisted of two male and three female slaves, three horses, and seven hundred swine … From that time forward most of the people owned and raised hogs; they lived on pork, observed Fridays and Saturdays, and the vespers of holidays, which they had not done before; for, at times, they had passed two or three months without tasting any meat, and on the day they got any, it had been their custom to eat it (Vol. 1. pp. 154-164).
[On the diversities and peculiarities of Florida; and the fruit, birds, and beasts of the country] The bread that is eaten all through Florida is made of maize, which is like coarse millet; and in all the islands and Indias belonging to Castilla, beginning with the Antillas, grow this grain. There are in the country many walnuts likewise, and ameixas, mulberries, and grapes. The maize is planted and picked in, each person having his own field; fruit is common for all, because it grows abundantly in the woods, without any necessity of setting out trees or pruning them. Where there are mountains the chestnut is found, the fruit of which is somewhat smaller than the one of Spain. Westward of the Rio Grande [Mississippi] the walnut differs from that which is found before coming there, being of tenderer shell, and in form like an acorn; while that behind, from the river back to the port of Espiritu Santo, is generally rather hard, the tree and the nut being in their appearance like those of Spain. There is everywhere in the country a fruit, the produce of a plant like ligoacam, that is propagated by the Indians, having the appearance of the royal pear, with an agreeable smell and taste; and likewise another plant, to be seen in the fields, bearing a fruit like strawberry, near to the ground, and is very agreeable. The ameixas are of two sorts, vermilion and gray, of the form and size of walnuts, having three or four stones in them. They are better than any plums that are raised in Spain, and make much better prunes. The grapes appear only to need dressing; for, although large, they have great stones; the other fruits are all in great perfection, and are less unhealthy than those of Spain (Vol. 1. pp. 221-222).
There are many lions and bears in Florida, wolves, deer, jackals, cats, and conies; numerous wild fowl, as large as pea-fowl; small partridges, like those of Africa, and cranes, ducks, pigeons, thrushes, and sparrows. There are blackbirds larger than sparrows and smaller than stares; hawks, goss-hawks, falcons, and all the birds of rapine to be found in Spain (Vol. 1. p. 222).
The Indians are well proportioned: those of the level country are taller and better shaped of form than those of the mountains; those of the interior enjoy a greater abundance of maize and clothing than those of the coast, where the land is poor and thin, and the people along it more warlike (Vol. 1. p. 223).
Account of Luys Hernandez de Biedma. Dated 1544. Relation of the Conquest of Florida Presented by Luys Hernandez de Biedmain the Year 1544 to the King of Spain in Council. Translated by B. Smith. Vol. 2. pp. 3-40 (in) Narratives of the Careeer of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida, as Told by a Knight of Elvas and in a Relation by Luys Hernandez de Biedma, Factor of the Expedition. Translated by B. Smith. Together With an Accouhnt of de Soto’s Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Ranjel, His Private Secretary Translated from Oviedo’s Historica General y Natural de las Indias. 2 vols. Edited by E.G. Bourne. New York: Allerton Book, 1922.
We arrived at the port of Baya Honda where we landed 620 men and 223 horses … twelve years had passed since the Christians [first] had come among the Indians … we left Baya Honda…took our way west … northwest … [we arrived at] Etocale. We got some maize, beans, and little dogs, which were no small relief to people who came perishing with hunger … in four or five days’ march we … came [to] Aguacalecuen …we remained six or seven days … we crossed another river, in a Province called Veachile … we set out for another town, named Aguile which is on the confines of Apalache …w e [reached] Ivitachuco … we went to another town, called Iniahico … we [marched to the sea] … [we sailed westward] … we took our way again northward … we reached … a province called Acapachiqui, very abundant in the food to which the Indians are accustomed … we continued on … [we] arrived at another Province, called Otoa … [we reached] this Province, called Chisi, where we were well supplied by the Indians … we came to the Province of Altapaha … we went eastward and thus travelled three days … the road had given out, and the Governor [de Soto] went around to regain it, but, failing to find it, he came back to us desperate. He directed that the people should return some half a league to a great river, and there he began to give out rations of fresh pork from the hogs we drive with us, a pound to each man, which we ate boiled, without salt or other seasoning (Vol. 2. pp. 3-12),
The Governor sent [men] in two directions to find a path, or any mark indicating inhabitants … He that went to the south and southeastward…had come upon a little town … we directly set out … we tarried [there] for or five days, until all had come together. About fifty hanegas [i.e. bushels] of maize were found in the place, and some parched meal; there were many mulberry-trees loaded with fruit, and likewise some other small fruits (Vol. 2. pp. 12-13).
We set out for the town of Cofitachique … we took the direction … north and for eight days we travelled through a poor country, scarce of food, until arriving at one [village] called Xuala … We went on to a town called Guasuli, where the inhabitants gave us a number of dogs, and some maize, of which they had but little. From there we marched four days, and arrived at a town called Chiha, which is very plentiful in food … It is secluded on an island of this river of Espiritu Santo … In this province [there are] towns set about with fence[s], the Indians get a large quantity of oil from walnuts … [we stayed] 26-27 days to refresh the horses (Vol. 2. pp. 13-15).
We left…and came to another province, called Costehe … [then] went to Coça, one of the finest countries we discovered in Florida … We found plums like those here in Castile, and great quantities of vines, on which were very good grapes…we went to the west and southwest, passing through the towns … until we came to another province, called Italisi … From this point we went south … and passed through several towns, before coming to another province, called Taszaluza … [after a while] we arrived at Mavila, a small town very strongly stockaded, situated on a plain … [we fought with Indians] … we entered the town and set it on fire, whereby a number of Indians were burned, and all that we had was consumed, so that there remained not a thing. We fought that day until nightfall, without a single Indian having surrendered to us — they fighting bravely on like lions. We killed them all, either with fire or the sword … The last Indian, not to surrender, climbed a tree that was in the fence, and taking the cord from his bow, tied it about his neck, and from a limb hanged himself … This day the Indians slew more than twenty of our men, and those of us who escaped only hurt were 250, bearing upon our bodies 760 injuries from their shafts [arrows]. At night we dressed our wounds with the fat of the dead Indians, as there was no medicine left … We [rested] 27-28 days to take care of ourselves, and God be praised that we were all relieved (Vol. 2. p. 21).
We [went] northward and travelled 10-12 days, suffering greatly from the cold and rain … until arriving at a fertile province, plentiful in provisions … Having reached the Province of Chicaza … the Cacique [Chief] … gave us some deer-skins and little dogs. The people returned, and every day Indians came and went, bringing us many hares, and whatever else the country supplied … [we were attacked by Indians] … The Indians did us very great injury, killing 57 horses, more than 300 hogs, and 13-14 men … Directly we moved…[five days later] the Indians … attacked. We remained here perhaps two months … then [went] northwest, toward a Province called Alibamo (Vol. 2. pp. 21-24).
We killed some Indians…we looked about for food … we came upon a town called Quizquiz … we took more than 300 women, and the few skins and shawls they had in their houses. There we first found a little walnut of the country, which is much better than that here in Spain … The town was near the banks of the River Espiritu Santo … we left [and camped] by the riverside [we were attacked by Indians] … we crossed the river … we found some good towns on the other side; and once more following up the stream, on the way to that Province of Pacaha, we came first to the province of another lord, called Icasqui … the [Indian Chief] knew Governor [de Soto] to be a man from the sky … we took our course for Pacaha [up-river] … we travelled two days, and then discovered [a] town on a plain, well fenced about, and surrounded by a water-ditch made by hand … [we learned about a] Province, called Caluç, [it] had a people who care little to plant, finding support in meat and fish (Vol. 2. pp. 24-30).
We returned to Pacaha … [we went] southwest, to another Province called Quiquate. This was the largest town we found in Florida, and was on an arm of the Rio Grande [Mississippi] … We [stayed] 8-9 days, to find guides and interpreters, still with the intention of coming out, if possible, on the other sea; for the Indians told us that 11 day’s travel thence was a province where [the people] subsisted on certain cattle [buffalo], and there we could find interpreters for the whole distance to that sea (Vol. 2. pp. 30-31).
We departed … for the Province called Coligua … going at night to the swamps, where we drank from the hand [our hands] and found abundance of fish … We went over much even country and other of broken hills … The land is very plentiful of subsistence, and we found a large quantity of dressed cows’ tails, and others already cured … we [found] some scattered settlements called Tatil Coya. Here we found a copious river, which we afterwards discovered empties into the Rio Grande [Mississippi], and we were told that up the stream was a great Province, called Cayas … We went thither … It is very rough country of hills … Before coming to the Province of Tula, we passed over some rough hills, and arrived at the town before the inhabitants had any notice of us. In attempting to seize some Indians, they began to yell and show us battle … we killed some 30-40 of them … The next morning … at daybreak, three very large squadrons of Indians came upon us … we met them and beat them … we returned southeast and went to a Province that is called Quipana, at the base of some very steep ridges; whence we journeyed in a direction to the east, and, having crossed those mountains, went down upon some plains, where we found a population suited to our purpose, for there was a town [near] in which was much food … The Province was called Viranque … We stopped in it to pass the winter … [our interpreter died] … we left in the beginning of March … we followed down the course of this river, whereon we found other provinces well peopled, having a quantity of food, to a Province called Anicoyanque, which appeared to us to be one of the best we had found in all the country … [town called Guachoyanque] … the Governor … sickened and died. He left us recommending Luis de Moscoso to be our Governor (Vol. 2. pp. 31-35).
We could find no way to the sea … we agreed to [go] west [in the belief that] we might come out by land to Mexico … We travelled 17 days, until we came to the Province of Chavite, where the Indians made much salt … thence we went to another province, called Aguacay …s till going directly westward … [we went southwest by south and came to a] Province called Nisione, and to another called Nondacao, and another, Came; and at each … we went through lands that became more sterile and afforded less subsistence … [we were led to a] Province called Hais, where, in seasons, some cattle are wont to herd; and as the Indians saw us entering their country, they began to cry out: “Kill the cows — they are coming;” when they sallied and shot their arrows as us, doing us some injury (Vol. 2. pp. 35-37).
We went from this place and came to the Province of Xacatan, which was among some close forests, and was scant of food…the Indians guided us eastward to other small towns, poorly off for food … we turned to go southward, with the resolution of either reaching New Spain, or dying. We travelled about six days in a direction south and southwest, when we stopped … We sent ten men, on swift horses, to travel in eight or nine days as far as possible, and see if any town could be found where we might re-supply ourselves with maize, to enable us to pursue our journey. They went as far as they could go, and came upon some poor people without houses, having wretched huts, into which they withdrew; and they neither planted nor gathered anything, but lived entirely upon flesh and fish … we determined to return to the town where the Governor Soto died … we returned by the same road … [we reached] two towns very much to our purpose, standing upon the Rio Grande [Mississippi], and which were fenced around, having also a large quantity of maize. Here we stopped, and with great labor built seven brigantines, which were finished at about the end of six months … Going down the river [we were attacked] … We came out by the mouth of the river, and entering into a very large bay made by it, which was so extensive that we passed along it three days and three nights, with fair weather, in all the time not seeing land, so that it appeared to us we were at sea, although we found the water still so fresh that it could well be drunk, like that of the river. Some small islets were seen westward, to which we went: thenceforward we kept close along the coast, where we took shell-fish, and looked for other things to eat, until we entered the River of Pánuco, where we came and were well received by the Christians (Vol. 2. pp. 37-40).
Account by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdés. Dated after 1546. A Narrative of de Soto’s Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Ranjel His Private Secretary. Translated by E.G. Bourne. Vol. 2 pp. 49-149 (in) Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida, as Told by a Knight of Elvas and in a Relation by Luys Hernandez de Biedma, Factor of the Expedition. Translated by B. Smith. Together With an Accouhnt of de Soto’s Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Ranjel, His Private Secretary Translated from Oviedo’s Historica General y Natural de las Indias. 2 vols. Edited by E.G. Bourne. New York: Allerton Book, 1922.
On Friday, May 30th, they began to put the horses ashore. The place where they disembarked was due north of the Island of Tortuga, which is in the mouth of the Bahama channel. The chief of this land was named Oçita, and it is ten leagues west of the Bay of Johan Ponce [i.e. Tampa Bay] … there were in that expedition 243 horses. Of these 19 or 20 died on the sea, but all the rest were put ashore (pp. 54-55).
This Governor [de Soto] was much given to the sport of slaying Indians, from the time that he went on military expeditions with the Governor Pedrarias Dávila in the provinces of Castilla del Oro and of Nicaragua; and likewise he was in Peru and present at the capture of that great Prince Atabalipa, where he was enriched. He [de Soto] was one of the richest that returned to Spain (Vol. 2. p. 59).
He [de Soto] ordered General Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa to go to Oçita … and this captain having gone there, he found the people departed and he burned the village and threw an Indian which he had for a guide, to the dogs. The reader is to understand that [the word] aperrear [to throw to the dogs], is to have the dogs eat him, or kill him, tearing the Indian in pieces, since the Conquistadores in the Indies have always used to carry Irish greyhounds and very bold, savage dogs (Vol. 2. pp. 59-60).
The Governor … set out from the village and harbor of Spiritu Sancto … This departure took place on Tuesday, July 15, 1539, and that night they bivouacked on the river of Mocoço, and they took with them a large drove of pigs which had been brought over in the fleet to meet any emergency (Vol. 2. p. 63).
[After Potano and after Utinamocharra and after Mala-Paz] the Christians arrived at a fair-sized village where they found much food and many small chestnuts dried and very delicious, wild chestnuts; but the trees that bear them are only two palms high and they grow in prickly burrs. There are other chestnuts in the land which the Spaniards saw and ate, which are like those of Spain, and grow on as tall chestnut trees; and the trees themselves are big and with the same leaf and burrs or pods, and the nuts are rich and of very good flavor. This army went from there to a stream which they named Discords … The next day … they arrived at Aguacaleyquen (Vol. 2. pp. 70-71).
[At Napituca] Indians that were taken … were carried and put in a wigwam with their hands tied behind their backs; and the Gernoror went among them to recognize the chiefs, encouraging them in order to induce them to peace and harmony; and he had them [chiefs] released that they might be treated better than the common Indians. One of those chiefs, as they untied him, while the Governor was standing by, threw back his arm and gave the Governor such a tremendous blow that he bathed his teeth in blood and made him spit up much [de Soto lost two teeth by this blow]. For this reason they bound him and the others to stakes and shot them with arrows (Vol. 2. p. 76).
[At Agile or Axille] some women were captured … one woman took a young fellow named Herrera, who staid alone with her and behind his companions, and seized him by his private parts and had him worn out and at her mercy; and perhaps, if other Christians had not come by who rescued him the Indian woman would have killed him … she wanted to get free and run away (Vol. 2. p. 78).
The Province of Apalache is very fertile and abundantly provided with supplies with much corn, kidney beans, pumpkins, various fruits, much venison, many varieties of birds and excellent fishing near the sea (Vol. 2. p. 82).
They arrived at the settlement of Chisi [Achese] and they crossed a branch of a big river … And they came to a village, which was on an island in this river, where they captured some people and found some provisions … they breakfasted on some fowl of the country, which are called guanaxas [turkeys] and some strips of venison … And though it was Holy Thursday there was no one so strict a Christian that he scrupled to eat flesh (Vol. 2. pp. 85-86).
Monday, March 29th, they went … to Ichisi [Achese] … This day Indian men and women came forth to receive them, and the women were clothed in white and made a fine appearance; and they gave the Christians corn cakes and some bunches of young onions just like those of Castile, as big as the end of the thumb and larger. And from now on, this food was of great assistance to them and they ate the onions with the cakes roasted and boiled and raw, and they were a great refreshment, for they are very good. The white clothing, with which the Indian women were clothed, were mantles, apparently of homespun linen and some of them were very thin. They make the thread of them from the bark of the mulberry tree, not the outside, but the intermediate layers … The mulberry trees are quite like those of Spain, just as tall and larger, but the leaf is softer and better for silk, and the mulberries are better eating and larger than those of Spain, and they were very frequently of great advantage to the Spaniards for food (Vol. 2. pp. 87-88).
The Governor sent Johan Ruiz Lobilla with four horsemen to the north, with ten day’s rations, and he ordered that some of the grown pigs in the army should be slaughtered, and they gave as rations to each man a scant pound of flesh and with it herbs and blite [wild spinach] that they gathered (Vol. 2. p. 95).
The Governor, with some of the horse[s] although a few, reached the village which was called Hymahi [Aymay]; and the army remained two leagues behind, the horses exhausted. There was found in the village a barbacoa covered with corn and more than thirty bushels of pinol prepared, which is parched corn. And the next day the main force arrived and rations of corn and pinol were distributed. And there was no end of mulberries, because there were many trees and it was their season; and this was a great help. And likewise there were found in the plains some berries such as in Italy grow on vines close to the ground and are like madroños [strawberries] very savoury, palatable, and fragrant and they also grow abundantly in Galicia. In the Kingdom of the Naples this fruit is called fraoles [strawberries] and it is a finer delicate fruit and highly thought of. And besides those, they found there along the trails countless roses growing wild like those in Spain…this village they named Succour (Vol. 2. pp. 96-97.
[Near Cofitachequi — Silver Bluff on the Savannah River, 25 miles south of Augusta] The army received … skins well tanned and blankets, all very good; and countless strips of venison and dry wafers, and an abundance of very good salt (Vol. 2. p. 99).
They came to Guaquili, and Indians came forth in peace and gave them corn, although little, and many fowls roasted on a barbacoa, and a few little dogs which were good eating. These are dogs of a small size that do not bark; and they breed them in their homes for food [were they dogs or opossums?] (Vol. 2. p. 103).
They entered Chiaha [northern Georgia] … and they were given an abundance of corn, of which there was plenty of good quality, and they were also given an abundance of maçamorras [corn cakes] and no end of oil from walnuts and acorns, which they knew how to extract very well, which was very good and contributed much to their diet. Yet some say that the oil from nuts produces flatulence. However, it is very delicious. The Indians spent fifteen days with the Christians in peace … In [this] land … the Spaniards first found fenced villages (Vol. 2. pp. 107-108).
There in Coste they found in the trunk of a tree as good honey and even better than could be had in Spain. In that river were found some mussels that they gathered to eat, and some pearls (Vol. 2. pp. 110-111).
There were in Coça many plums like the early ones of Seville, very good; both they and the trees were like those of Spain. There were also some wild apples like those called canavales in Extremadura [region of western Spain], small in size. They remained there in Coça some days (Vol. 2. p. 112).