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CHAP. enter the basin of the Tennessee river ;' it seems,
rather, that he passed from the head-waters of the 1540. Savannah, or the Chattahouchee, to the head-waters
of the Coosa. The name of Canasauga, a village, at which he halted, is still given to a branch of the latter stream. For several months, the Spaniards were in the valleys, which send their waters to the bay of Mobile ; Chiaha was an island, distant about a hundred miles from Canasauga. An exploring party, which was sent to the north, were appalled by the aspect of the Apalachian chain, and pronounced the mountains impassable. They had looked for mines of copper and gold ; and their only
plunder was a buffalo robe.? July In the latter part of July, the Spaniards were at
Coosa. In the course of the season, they had occasion to praise the wild grape of the country, the same probably which has since been thought worthy of culture. A southerly direction led the train to
Tuscaloosa ; nor was it long before the wanderers Oct. reached a considerable town on the Alabama, above
the junction of the Tombecbee; and about one hundred miles, or six days' journey, from Pensacola. The town was called Mavilla, or Mobile, a name, which is still preserved, and applied, not to the bay only, but to the river, after the union of its numerous tributaries. The Spaniards, tired of lodging in the fields, desired to occupy the town; the Indians rose to resist the invaders, whom they distrusted and
1 Martin's Louisiana, v. i. p. 11. 504–506; Vega, I. iii. c. xvii.2 Portuguese Relation, c. xv. p. xxii. p. 134–141.
feared. A battle ensued; the terrors of their cavalry CHAP. gave the victory to the Spaniards. I know not if a more bloody Indian fight ever occurred on the soil of 1540. the United States; the town was set on fire; and two thousand five hundred Indians are said to have been slain, suffocated, or burned. They had fought with desperate courage; and, but for the flames, which consumed their light and dense settlements, they would have effectually repulsed the invaders. “Of the Christians, eighteen died;" one hundred and fifty were wounded with arrows; twelve horses were slain and seventy hurt. The flames had not spared the baggage of the Spaniards; it was within the town, and was entirely consumed.'
Meanwhile, ships from Cuba had arrived at Ochus, now Pensacola. Soto was too proud to confess his failure. He had made no important discoveries; he had gathered no stores of silver and gold, which he might send to tempt new adventurers; the fires of Mobile had consumed the curious collections which he had made. It marks the resolute cupidity and stubborn pride, with which the expedition was conducted that he determined to send no news of himself, until, like Cortes, he had found some rich country.”
But the region above the mouth of the Mobile was populous and hostile ; and yet too poor to promise plunder. Soto retreated towards the north; Nov. his troops already reduced, by sickness and warfare,
1 Port. Rel. c. xvii.- xix. p. 508 compare Belknap, v. i. p. 189, 190, -512. Vega is very extravagant and McCulloh, p. 525. in his account of the battle. L. 2 Portuguese Relation, c. xix. p. iii. c. xxvii.—xxxi. On localities, 512, 513.
CHAP. to five hundred men. A month passed away, before
he reached winter quarters at Chicaça, a small town Dec. in the country of the Chickasaws, in the upper part
of the state of Mississippi ; probably on the western bank of the Yazoo. The weather was severe, and
snow fell; but maize was yet standing in the open 1541. fields. The Spaniards were able to gather a supply
of food, and the deserted town, with such rude cabins as they added, afforded them shelter through the winter. Yet no mines of Peru were discovered ; no ornaments of gold adorned the rude savages; their wealth was the harvest of corn, and wigwams were
their only palaces; they were poor and independent ; Mar. they were hardy and loved freedom. When spring?
opened, Soto, as he had usually done with other tribes, demanded of the chieftain of the Chickasaws two hundred men to carry the burdens of his company. The Indians hesitated. Human nature is the same in every age and in every climate. Like the inhabitants of Athens in the days of Themistocles, or those of Moscow of a recent day, the Chickasaws, unwilling to see strangers and enemies
оссиру their homes, in the dead of night, deceiving the sentinels, set fire to their own village, in which the Castilians were encamped. On a sudden, half the houses were in flames; and the loudest notes of the war-whoop rung through the air. The Indians, could they have acted with calm bravery, might have gained an easy and entire victory; but they trembled
1 Vega says January. L. ii. c. xxxvi. p. 106.
2 Vega, l. iii.c.xxxvi., xxxvii. and Xxxviii. Port. Account, c. XX. xxi.
at their own success; and feared the unequal battle CHAP. against weapons of steel. Many of the horses had broken loose; these, terrified and without riders, 1541. roamed through the forest, of which the burning village illuminated the shades, and seemed to the ignorant natives the gathering of hostile squadrons. Others of the horses perished in the stables; most of the swine were consumed; eleven of the Christians were burned, or lost their lives in the tumult. The clothes which had been saved from the fires of Mobile, were destroyed, and the Spaniards, now as naked as the natives, suffered from the cold. Weapons and equipments were consumed or spoiled. Had the Indians made a resolute onset on this night or the next, the Spaniards would have been unable to resist. But in a respite of a week, forges were erected, swords newly tempered, and good ashen lances were made, equal to the best of Biscay. When the Indians attacked the camp, they 15. found “the Christians” prepared.
All the disasters which had been encountered, far from diminishing the boldness of the governor, served only to confirm his obstinacy by wounding his pride. Should he, who had promised greater booty than Mexico or Peru had yielded, now return as a defeated fugitive, so naked, that his troops were clad only in skins and mats of ivy? The search for some April. wealthy region was renewed; the caravan marched still further to the west. For seven days, it struggled through a wilderness of forests and marshes; and, at length, came to Indian settlements in the
CHAP. vicinity of the Mississippi. Soto was himself the
first of Europeans to behold the magnificent river, 1541. which rolled its immense current of waters through
the splendid vegetation of a wide, alluvial soil. The lapse of nearly three centuries has not changed the character of the stream; it was then described as more than a mile broad; flowing with a strong current, and forcing, by the weight of its waters, a channel of great depth. The water was always muddy; trees and timber were continually floating down the stream.
The Spaniards were guided to the Mississippi by natives; and were directed to one of the usual crossing places, probably at the lowest Chickasaw bluff, not far from the thirty-fifth parallel of latitude. The Indians from the opposite shore brought gifts of fish, and loaves, made of the fruit of the persimmon. They showed a desire to offer resistance; but soon becoming convinced of the superior power of the strangers, the feeble nations acknowledged their weakness, and, ceasing to defy an enemy, who could not be resisted, they suffered injury without attempting open retaliation. The canoes of the
1 Portuguese Account, c. xxii. low the lowest Chickasaw bluff.” Vega, I. iv. c. iii. I never rely on Niittall's Travels in Arkansas, p. Vega alone.
248. “ The lowest Chickasa w 2 Portuguese Account, c. xxxii. bluff.” McCulloh's Researches, p. and xxxiii. taken in connexion 526. “Twenty or thirty miles bewith the more diffuse account of low the mouth of the Arkausas Vega, I. iv. c. v.
river.” Mr. Nuttall, p. 248, and 3 Belknap's Am. Biog. v. i. p. elsewhere, gives to Vega, the 192. , “ Within the thirty-fourth praise which is due to the more degree.” Andrew Elliot's Jour
accurate account of the Portunal, p. 125. “ Thirty-four degrees guese gentleman. The two are by and ten minutes." Martin's Lou- no means identical, Vega de isiana, v. i. p. 12. “ A little be- serves to have excited scepticism.