Friday, August 6, 2010
Hernando de Soto - Explorer or Greedy Grave Robber?
Hernando de Soto
Explorer or Greedy Grave Robber?
by Angela L MSSPI
Hernando de Soto was born between 1496 and 1500 in the mountainous area of Jerez de los Caballeros in Badajoz Spain. At the age of 14, de Soto sailed for the Isthmus of Panama with the aging governor of Darien, Pedro Arias Davila. He had seen many shipments of products and goods from the Indies as a child. Gold, sugar, herbs, cotton, hides, and wood inspired many stories of the possibilities for riches and promise across the Atlantic.
Some sources claim that In 1537 de Soto married Ines de Bobadilla ,the youngest daughter of Pedro Arias Davila. The Southern Frontier by John Anthony Carusso (1969) however, claims that her name was Dona' Isabel.
On the Wikipedia link for Davila, Ines de Bobodilla is listed as the wife of Davila and Isabel is listed as the daughter. So there is some confusion as to her actual name.
Many a tale had been told by the Indians in Mexico (New Spain) about seven cities to the north where precious jewels might be found in abundance and gold in such quantities that ordinary tools were made from it. King Charles V of Spain ( pictured right) also heard of the reported wealth waiting to be discovered.
As a result, he gave de Soto a grant to lead an expedition to Florida to conquer, and subdue the population and bring back the riches. He was given the rights to take what he wanted and enslave the native people if necessary, to aquire it.
But these same pigs may have left a terrifying invisible legacy. In their book, “The Hernando de Soto Expedition,” Ann Romenofsky and Patricia Galloway suggest that millions of Native people died because they lacked previous exposure to swine borne diseases, This previous exposure was critical in building their immune systems against the deadly diseases. These diseases include brucellosis, anthrax, leptospirosis, tuberculosis, trichinosis, cysticercosis and various strains of flu. Considering the fact that many swine diseases can be transmitted to deer and even turkeys, the two most important food animals used by southeastern Indians, the likelihood that this occurred becomes even greater.
Moving up thru Tennessee and back down the Alabama River to the province of the Mobile Indians, de Soto met Chief Tuscaloosa
While the Chief made a show of trying to obtain 400 carriers for the Spaniards expedition, he secretly sent word to summon his warriors and inform them of his detainment. Tuscaloosa's plan was to entice deSoto to the village of Mabilia which was fortified.
Unknowingly, de Soto would led his people into the arms of a savage confrontation. Tuscaloosa told de Soto and his expedition to leave in peace, or he and his allies would force him to leave.
When de Soto sent men into the house to retrieve the chief, it was discovered the house was full of armed warriors prepared to protect their chief. De Soto then asked the Chief of Mabila to demand the porters promised by Tuscaloosa, and the Spaniards would leave. The man refused, and a Spaniard grabbed him; in the ensuing scuffle, the chief had his arm cut off by the Spaniards sword. With this, the Mabilians attacked the Spanish, who immediately ran for the gate and their horses.
De Soto learned that his army was less than a week's travel from the coast, where his supply ships lay at anchor. However, fearing mass desertion and unwilling to abandon his enterprise, the Governor suppressed the news and instead led his battered, ill-equipped company northward into Mississippi, where they endured another cruel winter.
The expedition wandered through modern-day Arkansas and Louisiana for nearly a year until finally it became clear to everyone, including the Governor, that no fortunes would be found. Resigned, exhausted and ailing, de Soto proposed that his army return to the Mississippi, build boats and float down the river, then send a barge to Cuba for help.
However, before he could effect this plan, de Soto died on May 21, 1542 of a fever. His body was wrapped in skins weighted with sand and dumped into the Mississippi River, in order to prevent the desecration of his body by the Indians, whom he had intimidated and ill-used . There is a cross marker commemorating the explorer and his discovery on the banks of the Mississippi, in the city of Memphis TN.
The county of Desoto in North Western Mississippi is named for the explorer and beautiful murals, depicting his expedition, grace the ceilings of the Desoto County Courthouse in Hernando Mississippi.
The Southern Frontier ( 1969) by John Anthony Carusso, Professor of History West Virginian University.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition . Copyright 2008 Columbia University Press
SMITH tr., Narrative of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Discovery of Florida, by a Knight of Elvas (New York, 1866);
SHIPP, History of Hernando de Soto (Philadelphia, 1881)
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Hernando de Soto in Florida, 16th-century engraving by Theodor de Bry
Hernando De Soto. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. New Advent: hhttp://www.tuscaloosa-alabama.com/history.html
http://www.tcf.ua.edu/tcfgallery/d/857-2/image025.jpg Chief Tuscaloosa plaque
http://www.archives.alabama.gov/brnzdrs/1.html Desoto & Tuscaloosa