1513 Ponce de Leon (Ponce is first to Pounce)
In 1513, Ponce de Leon, a veteran of Columbus’s second voyage, set off for a land rumored to be north of the Caribbean islands already in Spanish hands. He reached a wooded shore at Easter time, a season celebrated in Spain as the “Feast of the Flowers.” Because of the date and the beauty of the land he called the place Florida.
In a return trip to colonize Florida, Leon was struck by an arrow and died. Now lots of people go to Florida to stay until they die.
1528-1536 Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (Cabeza goes to the head of expedition on death of Narvaez)
Landing near present day Tampa in the spring of 1528, from five ships with three hundred men and forty-two horses, Panfilo de Narvaez sent away his ships and a quarter of his men to search for a harbor. The men and horses slogged through swamps and forests to the site of present-day Tallahassee, where they were attacked by Indian archers. The Spanish fled to the coast where they hoped to be picked up again by their own ships, but the ships not having found them sailed away without them.
Abandoned on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the expedition fastened spurs into nails, horse tails into rigging, and shirts into sails, and made to carry the exhausted army of 242 survivors to the west. Coming to the outflow of the Mississippi River the rafts were pushed out to sea. De Vaca begged Narvaez to tie the rafts together, but Narvaez said it was no longer time for one man to rule another. Narvaez veered away with his raft and was never seen again.
A fierce storm blew Cabeza de Vaca’s to the coast near present-day New Orleans, and a great wave cast the boat out of the water as far as a horseshoe can be tossed. The Spanish tried to relaunch the raft, only to be capsized with the loss of several more men and all of their gear. The survivors were naked as babies and had lost every possession.
The natives who found the Spanish in so depressed a condition took the survivors in to their fires to warm them. Then taking in the men’s utter destitution the Indians began to cry for them. Several rafts and eighty men landed on today’s Galveston Island, what Cabeza de Vaca called the Isle of Doom. Many of the Spaniards died from hunger and a stomach ailment over the winter. The later also killed half of their hosts. The Indians thought the Spanish were the cause of the deaths and determined to kill the last fifteen Spaniards remaining.
The men were spared at the last moment, but denied food unless they healed the sick. Native practices included blowing on sufferers “where the pain is.” Lacking even the knowledge of medicine then practiced in Europe, the Spaniards combined native ritual with Catholic theater. Cabeza de Vaca wrote, “We did our healing by making the sign of the cross on the sick person, breathing on them, saying the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary.”
The sick recovered and the Indians provided food and clothed the Spaniards. The Spanish were put to work picking berries and pulling cane from the water. Cabeza de Vaca fled to another tribe on the mainland. He soon became a successful trader carrying goods between the coastal Indians and their enemies in the interior. This he continued for more than four years.
Convincing another Spaniard to go west with him, Cabaza de Vaca and another Spaniard journeyed a short way before they found the land ahead barren. They other man turned back to his adopted Indian family while De Vaca proceeded alone. De Vaca found three more survivors of Navaez’s three hundred man force. The two Spaniards and a black Arab who had come to La Florida as a slave ran away from a tribe of Indians so poor they spiders and worms.
As Cabeza de Vaca continued west, the fame of his healing among the Indians went ahead of him. Gradually several thousand Indians began trailing the four men. Undoubtedly the growth of the party accelerated as they consumed the food of the villages as they traveled. Eventually the group entered a land where the villages were burned, fields abandoned, and natives living on tree bark. Finally on a scouting trip they came upon “four Christians on horseback.” The journey had lasted eight years and several thousand miles of wandering. The best guess is that they walked across Texas and into northern Mexico before reaching the Gulf of California.
Dual Pronged Armed Invasion of America
1540 Coronado Clearly Cuts his Course from California gulf to Kansas
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Leads Armed Invasion of America. Coronado began his march at Santo Domingo, the capital of the Mexican state of Sonora. He passed through Culiacan as he followed the Mexican coast as he traipsed up the Gulf of California to Hermosillo, a regional commercial and administrative center now. Coronado’s trail continues through Ures, the border crossing at Naco, chichilticale, Clifton, Eager, Cibola to Gallup in New Mexico. Naco was coined from ArizoNA and MexiCO. Cibola was the city of the Zuni Indians. At Cibola, Coronado’s soldiers’ dreams of gold quietly died away.
After a spring and summer of 1540 at Cibola, Coronado left headed east. He passed El Morro, Acoma Pueblo, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Ciquique, crossing the continental divide along the way. Crossing the border into Texas near Tucumcari, New Mexico, Coronado left Earth on his right and continued east to Floydada, Texas, and turned north to escape up the Texas panhandle going as far north as Coronado Heights (Lindsborg), Kansas.
1539 De Soto Descends upon Florida coast and Doing Dixie Discovers the Mississippi.
Hernando De Soto was a self-made conquistador. He arrived in the New World at the age of fourteen and picked up a fortune in prizes under Pizarro in Peru. With his millions he won a charter to conquer and colonize Florida and financed his own expedition.
Bradenton, near Tampa, claims to be the honor of being De Soto’s landing place. An annual De Soto weekend is the city’s top social event. Soon after landing De Soto had a remarkable bit of luck. An Spaniard who had been captured by the natives when he was on an expedition eleven years earlier was found and set free. This was Juan Ortiz who had been laid on a grill and about to be set fire when the daughter of the chief begged for him to be spared. This foreshadowed the rescue of John Smith by Pocohantas some eighty years later. Ortiz familiarity with the language of the Florida Indians made him invaluable to De Soto as and interpreter and intermediary.
In contrast to Southwest and the Plains where the natives lived as nomads or in widely dispersed pueblos, the population of the South was concentrated in large city-states. De Soto headed straight for these power centers hoping to find gold and silver. Failing the wealth he sought, he seized food, clothing, and porters for his journey. Natives who traveled with De Soto’s army eventually went home carrying the diseases of the Europeans.
Sites that have been found and excavated show bones that have been severed by heavy sword strokes. Among the scattered trade goods, there is no sign that the village was further inhabited.
The treatment of the natives is fairly well covered in the histories. So here is a summary of the path explored by De Soto: From Bradenton,near present-day Tampa her marched north and veered left into the Florida panhandle to Anhaica, present-day Tallahassee. There he turned north through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Near Charlotte he turned west again and crossing the Smoky Mountains entered Tennessee near Knoxville. From there he turned south following the Alabama River to Montgomery and Selma. Turning west again he entered Mississippi and continued toward Memphis, Tennessee, and crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas exploring toward Missouri and headed toward Oklahoma looping around Little Rock. De Soto died near Arkansas City in 1542 at the age of 42. His successor, Luis De Moscoso, explored parts of Louisiana, Texas, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.