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Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto (October 21, 1496[3]– May 21, 1542) was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who led the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (Florida, Georgia, Alabama and most likely Arkansas), and the first documented European to have crossed the Mississippi River.[4]

A vast undertaking, de Soto's North American expedition ranged throughout the southeastern United States searching for gold, silver and a passage to China. De Soto died in 1542 on the banks of the Mississippi River in what is now Guachoya, Arkansas or Ferriday, Louisiana.

Hernando de Soto was born to parents who were hidalgos of modest means in Extremadura, a region of poverty and hardship from which many young people looked for ways to seek their fortune elsewhere. Three towns—Badajoz, Barcarrota and Jerez de los Caballeros—claim to be his birthplace. He spent time as a child at each place, and he stipulated in his will that his body be interred at Jerez de los Caballeros, where other members of his family were interred.[5] The age of the Conquerors came on the heels of the Spanish reconquest of the Iberian peninsula from Islamic forces. Spain and Portugal were filled with young men seeking a chance for military fame after the Moors were defeated. With discovery of new lands to the west (which they thought at the time to be East Asia), they were attracted to whispers of glory and wealth.

De Soto sailed to the New World with the first Governor of Panama, Pedrarias Dávila. Brave leadership, unwavering loyalty, and ruthless schemes for the extortion of native villages for their captured chiefs became de Soto's hallmarks during the Conquest of Central America. He gained fame as an excellent horseman, fighter, and tactician, but was notorious for the brutal treatment of Native Americans.

During that time, de Soto was influenced by the achievements of Juan Ponce de León, who discovered Florida; Vasco Núñez de Balboa, who discovered the Pacific Ocean (he called it the "South Sea" on the south coast of Panama), and Ferdinand Magellan, who first sailed that ocean to the Orients.


Library of Congress' engraving.
The Spanish caption reads:
"HERNANDO DE SOTO: Extremaduran, one of the discoverers and conquerors of Peru: he travelled across all of Florida and defeated its previously invincible natives, he died on his expedition in the year 1543 at the age of 42".

Conquest of Peru
In 1530, de Soto became a regidor of León, Nicaragua. He led an expedition up the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula searching for a passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean to enable trade with the Orient, the richest market in the world. Failing that, and without means to explore further, de Soto, upon Pedro Arias Dávila's death, left his estates in Nicaragua. Bringing his own men on ships which he hired, de Soto joined Francisco Pizarro at his first base of Tumbes shortly before departure for the interior of present-day Peru.

Spanish colonization of the Americas
Inter caetera
Pacific Northwest
California
Chile
Colombia
Florida
Guatemala
Petén
Aztec Empire
Inca Empire
Yucatán
Conquistadores
Christopher Columbus
Alonso de Ojeda
Diego de Almagro
Pedro de Alvarado
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar
Sebastián de Belalcázar
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Hernán Cortés
Luis de Carabajal y Cueva
Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada
Juan Ponce de León
Francisco de Montejo
Pánfilo de Narváez
Juan de Oñate
Francisco de Orellana
Francisco Pizarro
Hernando de Soto
Pedro de Valdivia
Juan Pardo
Tristán de Luna y Arellano
Vasco Núñez de Balboa
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Pizarro quickly made de Soto one of his captains. When Pizarro and his men first encountered the army of the Inca Atahualpa at Cajamarca, Pizarro sent de Soto with fifteen men to invite Atahualpa to a meeting. When Pizarro's men attacked Atahualpa and his guard the next day (the Battle of Cajamarca), de Soto led one of the three groups of mounted soldiers. The Spanish captured Atahualpa. De Soto was sent to the camp of the Incan army, where he and his men plundered Atahualpa's tents.[6]

During 1533, the Spanish held Atahualpa captive in Cajamarca for months while his subjects paid for his ransom by filling a room with gold and silver objects. During this captivity, de Soto became friendly with Atahualpa and taught him to play chess. By the time the ransom had been completed, the Spanish became alarmed by rumors of an Incan army advancing on Cajamarca. Pizarro sent de Soto with 200 soldiers to scout for the rumored army.[7]

While de Soto was gone, the Spanish in Cajamarca decided to kill Atahualpa to prevent his rescue. De Soto returned to report that he found no signs of an army in the area. After executing Atahualpa, Pizarro and his men headed to Cuzco, the capital of the Incan Empire. As the Spanish force approached Cuzco, Pizarro sent his brother Hernando and de Soto ahead with 40 men. The advance guard fought a pitched battle with Incan troops in front of the city, but the battle had ended before Pizarro arrived with the rest of the Spanish party. The Incan army withdrew during the night. The Spanish plundered Cuzco, where they found much gold and silver. As a mounted soldier, de Soto received a share of the plunder that made him very wealthy; it represented riches from Atahualpa's camp, his ransom, and the plunder from Cuzco.[8]

On the road to Cuzco, Manco Inca Yupanqui, a brother of Atahualpa, had joined Pizarro. Manco had been hiding from Atahualpa in fear of his life, and was happy to gain Pizarro's protection. Pizarro arranged for Manco to be installed as the Inca leader. De Soto joined Manco in a campaign to eliminate the Incan armies who had been loyal to Atahualpa. By 1534, de Soto was serving as lieutenant governor of Cuzco while Pizarro was building his new capital (which later became known as Lima) on the coast. In 1535 King Charles awarded Diego de Almagro, Francisco Pizarro's former business partner, the governorship of the southern portion of the Incan Empire. Pizarro and de Almagro quarreled over which governorship Cuzco was in. When de Almagro made plans to explore and conquer the southern part of the Incan empire (Chile), de Soto applied to be his second-in-command, offering a large payment for the position, but de Almagro turned him down. De Soto packed up his treasure and returned to Spain in 1539

Return to Spain[edit]
De Soto returned to Spain with an enormous share of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. He was admitted into the prestigious Order of Santiago. His share was awarded to him by the King of Spain, and he received 724 marks of gold, 17,740 pesos.[9] He married Isabel de Bobadilla, daughter of Pedrarias Dávila and a relative of a confidante of Queen Isabella.

De Soto petitioned King Charles for the government of Guatemala with "permission to make discovery in the South Sea," but was granted the governorship of Cuba instead. De Soto was expected to colonize the North American continent for Spain within four years, for which his family would be given a sizable piece of land.

Fascinated by the stories of Cabeza de Vaca, who had survived in North America after becoming a castaway and just returned to Spain, de Soto selected 620 eager Spanish and Portuguese volunteers, including some of African descent, for the governing of Cuba and conquest of North America. Averaging 24 years of age, the men embarked from Havana on seven of the King's ships and two caravels of de Soto's. With tons of heavy armour and equipment, they also carried more than 500 livestock, including 237 horses and 200 pigs, for their planned four-year continental expedition

Return to Spain
De Soto returned to Spain with an enormous share of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. He was admitted into the prestigious Order of Santiago. His share was awarded to him by the King of Spain, and he received 724 marks of gold, 17,740 pesos.[9] He married Isabel de Bobadilla, daughter of Pedrarias Dávila and a relative of a confidante of Queen Isabella.

De Soto petitioned King Charles for the government of Guatemala with "permission to make discovery in the South Sea," but was granted the governorship of Cuba instead. De Soto was expected to colonize the North American continent for Spain within four years, for which his family would be given a sizable piece of land.

Fascinated by the stories of Cabeza de Vaca, who had survived in North America after becoming a castaway and just returned to Spain, de Soto selected 620 eager Spanish and Portuguese volunteers, including some of African descent, for the governing of Cuba and conquest of North America. Averaging 24 years of age, the men embarked from Havana on seven of the King's ships and two caravels of de Soto's. With tons of heavy armour and equipment, they also carried more than 500 livestock, including 237 horses and 200 pigs, for their planned four-year continental expedition.

Historians have worked to trace the route of de Soto's expedition in North America, a controversial process over the years. Local politicians vied to have their localities associated with the expedition. The most widely used version of "De Soto's Trail" comes from a study commissioned by the Congress of the United States. A committee chaired by the anthropologist John R. Swanton published The Final Report of the United States De Soto Expedition Commission in 1939. Among other locations, Manatee County, Florida, claims an approximate landing site for de Soto and has a national memorial recognizing that event.[11] The first part of the expedition's course, until de Soto's battle at Mabila (a small fortress town in present-day central Alabama.[12]), is disputed only in minor details today. His route beyond Mabila is contested. Swanton reported the de Soto trail ran from there through Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.

Historians have more recently considered archeological reconstructions and the oral history of the various Native American peoples who recount the expedition. Most historical places have been overbuilt. More than 450 years have passed between the events and current history tellers (but some oral histories have been found to be highly accurate about historic events).

The Governor Martin Site at the former Apalachee village of Anhaica, located about a mile east of the present Florida capital in Tallahassee has been documented as definitively associated with de Soto's expedition. The Governor Martin Site was discovered by the archaeologist B. Calvin Jones in March 1987.

As of 2014, two sites on the shore of Orange Lake near Evinston, Florida, the White Ranch Site (8MR03538) in Marion County and the Richardson site (8AL100) in Alachua County, have been put forward as the site of the town of Potano visited by the de Soto expedition, and of the later mission of San Buenaventura de Potano.[13][14][15][16][17]

Many archaeologists believe the Parkin Site in Northeast Arkansas was the main town for the province of Casqui, which de Soto had recorded. They base this on similarities between descriptions from the journals of the de Soto expedition and artifacts of European origin discovered at the site in the 1960s.[18][19]

Theories of de Soto's route are based on the accounts of four chroniclers of the expedition.

• The first account of the expedition to be published was by the Gentleman of Elvas, an otherwise unidentified Portuguese knight who was a member of the expedition. His chronicle was first published in 1557. An English translation by Richard Hackluyt was published in 1609.[20]

• The King's factor (the agent responsible for the royal property) with the expedition, Luys Hernández de Biedma, wrote a report which still exists. The report was filed in the royal archives in Spain in 1544, and translated into English by Buckingham Smith and published in 1851.[21]

• De Soto's secretary, Rodrigo Ranjel, kept a diary, which has been lost, but apparently was used by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in writing his La historia general y natural de las Indias. Oviedo died in 1557, but the part of his work containing Ranjel's diary was not published until 1851. An English translation of Ranjel's report was published in 1904.

• The fourth chronicle is by Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca. Garcilaso de la Vega was not a participant in the expedition. He wrote his account, La Florida, known in English as The Florida of the Inca, decades after the expedition, based on interviews with some survivors of the expedition. The book was first published in 1605. Historians have identified problems with using La Florida as a historical account. Milanich and Hudson warn against relying on Garcilaso, noting serious problems with the sequence and location of towns and events in his narrative, and add, "some historians regard Garcilaso's La Florida to be more a work of literature than a work of history."[22] Lankford characterizes Garcilaso's La Florida as a collection of "legend narratives", derived from a much-retold oral tradition of the survivors of the expedition.[23]

Milanich and Hudson warn that older translations of the chronicles are often "relatively free translations in which the translators took considerable liberty with the Spanish and Portuguese text."[24]

The chronicles describe de Soto's trail in relation to Havana, from which they sailed; the Gulf of Mexico, which they skirted inland then turned back to later; the Atlantic Ocean, which they approached during their second year; high mountains, which they traversed immediately thereafter; and dozens of other geographic features along their way, such as large rivers and swamps, at recorded intervals. Given that the natural geography has not changed much since de Soto's time, scholars have analyzed those journals with modern topographic intelligence, to render a more precise De Soto Trail

1539 to early 1540 in Florida[edit]

Library of Congress' engraving.
The Spanish caption reads:
"HERNANDO DE SOTO: Extremaduran, one of the discoverers and conquerors of Peru: he travelled across all of Florida and defeated its previously invincible natives, he died on his expedition in the year 1543 at the age of 42".
In May 1539, de Soto landed nine ships with over 620 men and 220 horses in south Tampa Bay. He named it Espíritu Santo after the Holy Spirit. The ships brought priests, craftsmen, engineers, farmers, and merchants; some with their families, some from Cuba, most from Europe and Africa. Few had traveled before outside of Spain, or even their home villages.

Near de Soto's port, the party found Juan Ortiz, a Spaniard, living with the Mocoso. Ortiz had been captured by the Uzita while searching for the lost Narváez expedition, and had later escaped to Mocoso. Ortiz knew the Timucua language and served de Soto as an interpreter as he traversed the Timucuan-speaking areas on his way to Apalachee.[26]

He established a unique method for guiding the expedition and communicating with various tribal dialects. He recruited guides from each tribe along the route. A chain of communication was established whereby a guide who had lived in close proximity to another tribal area was able to pass his information and language on to a guide from a neighboring area. Because Ortiz refused to dress as an hidalgo Spaniard, other officers questioned his motives. De Soto remained loyal to Ortiz, allowing him the freedom to dress and live among his friends. Another important guide was the seventeen-year-old boy Perico, or Pedro, from modern-day Georgia. He spoke several of the local tribes' languages and could communicate with Ortiz. Perico was taken as a guide in 1540 and treated better than the rest of the slaves,[clarification needed] due to his value to the Spaniards.

The expedition traveled north, exploring Florida's West Coast, encountering native ambushes and conflicts along the way. De Soto's first winter encampment was at Anhaica, the capital of the Apalachee. It is one of the few places on the route where archaeologists have found physical traces of the expedition. It was described as being near the "Bay of Horses". The bay was named for where the starving members of the preceding Narváez expedition killed and ate their horses while building boats for escape.

1540 – In Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi[edit]
From their winter location in the western panhandle of Florida, having heard of gold being mined "toward the sun's rising," the expedition turned north-east through what is now the modern state of Georgia. Recently archaeological finds were made at a remote, privately owned site near the Ocmulgee River in Telfair County. These included nine glass trade beads, some of which bear a chevron pattern believed to be indicative of the de Soto expedition. Six metal objects were also found, including a silver pendant and some iron tools.[27][28] The expedition continued on to present-day South Carolina. The expedition was received by a female chief (Cofitachequi), who turned over her tribe's pearls, food and other goods to the Spanish soldiers. The expedition found no gold, however, other than pieces from an earlier coastal expedition (presumably that of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón.)

Continued info and source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernando_de_Soto

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