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SPANIARDS IN MISSISSIPPI.
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, 1. iv. c. iii. I never rely on Nuttall's Travels in Arkansas, p. Vega alone.
248. “ The lowest Chickasaw 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 Arkansas Vega, l. 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 the Portunal, p. 125. “Thirty-four degrees guese gentleman. The two are by and ten minutes." Martin's Lou- no means identical. Vega deisiana, v. i. p. 12. “A little be- serves to have excited scepticism.
SPANIARDS IN ARKANSAS AND MISSOURI.
natives were too weak to transport horses; almost a CHAP. month expired, before boats, large enough to hold three horsemen each, were constructed for crossing 1541. the river. At length the Spaniards embarked upon
May. the Mississippi ; and Europeans were borne to its western bank.
The Kaskaskias Indians, at that time, occupied a province southwest of the Missouri ; Soto had heard June. its praises; he believed in its vicinity to mineral wealth; and he determined to visit its towns. ascending the Mississippi, the party was often obliged to wade through morasses; at length, they came, as it would seem, upon the district of Little Prairie, and the dry and elevated lands, which extend towards New-Madrid. The wild fruits of that region were abundant; the pecan nut, the mulberry, and the two kinds of wild plums, furnished the natives with articles of food. At Pacaha, the northernmost point, June
19, which Soto reached near the Mississippi, he re
July mained forty days. The spot cannot be identified ; but the accounts of the amusements of the Spaniards contain ample confirmation of the truth of the narrative. Fish were taken, such as are now found in the fresh waters of that region; one of them, the spade fish, the strangest and most whimsical production of the muddy streams of the west, so rare, that, even now, it is hardly to be found in any museum, is accurately described by the best historian of the expedition.
i Charlevoix, Journal Historique, let. xxviii. Nuttal's Arkansas, p. 82, 250 and 251. McCulloh disagrees; p. 526_528.
2 Platirostra Edentula.
3 Portuguese Relation, c. xxiv. “ There was another fish, called a peele fish; it had a snout of a
An exploring party, which was sent to examine the regions to the north, reported that it was almost a desert. The country, still nearer the Missouri, was said by the Indians to be thinly inhabited; the bison abounded there so much, that no maize could be cultivated ; and the few inhabitants were hunters. Soto turned, therefore, to the west and northwest; and plunged still more deeply into the interior of the continent. The highlands of White river, more than two hundred miles from the Mississippi, were probably the limit of his ramble in this direction. The mountains offered neither gems nor gold; and the disappointed adventurers marched to the south." They passed through a succession of towns, of which the position cannot be fixed; till, at length, we find them among the Tunicas, near the hot springs and saline tributaries of the Washita.3 It was at Autiamque, a town on the same river, that they passed the winter ; they had arrived at the settlement through the country of the Kappaws.
The native tribes, every where on the route, were found in a state of civilization beyond that of nomadic tribes. They had fixed places of abode ; and subsisted upon the produce of the fields, more than upon the chase. Ignorant of the arts of life,
cubit long, and at the end of the 2 Charlevoix, Journal Historiupper lip, it was made like a peele. que, let. xxxi. It had no scales.” Compare Flint's 3 Portuguese Narrative, c. xxvi. Geography of the Mississippi Val- Nuttall's Arkansas, p. 215, 216, ley, v. i. p. 85, second edition, and 257. Journal of Philadelphia Academy 4 The river of Autiamque, Cayof Nat. Science, v. i. part ii. p. 227 as, the saline regions, and after-229. Nuttal's Arkansas, p. 254. wards of Nilco, was the same.
i Portuguese Relation, c. XXV.- Portuguese Relation, c. xxviii. p. xxvii. p. 522–527.
CONDITION OF THE NATIVE TRIBES.
they could offer no resistance to their unwelcome CHAP. visiters; the bow and arrow were the most effective weapons, with which they were acquainted. They 1541.
, seem not to have been turbulent or quarrelsome; but as the population was moderate, and the earth fruitful, the tribes were not accustomed to contend with each other for the possession of territories. They were an agricultural people. Their dress was, in part, mats, wrought of ivy and bulrushes, of the bark and lint of trees; in cold weather, they wore mantles, woven of feathers. The settlements were by tribes; each tribe occupied what the Spaniards called a province; their villages were generally near together ; but were composed of few habitations. The Spaniards treated them with no other forbearance, than their own selfishness demanded, and enslaved such as offended, employing them as porters and guides. On a slight suspicion, they would cut off the hands of numbers of the natives, for punishment or intimidation. The guide, who was unsuccessful, or who purposely led them away from the settlements of his tribe, would be seized and thrown to the hounds. Sometimes a native was condemned to the flames. Any trifling
1 Inter alia sævitiæ exempla ab duodecim dierum iter peregerant, eo edita hoc unum insigne est. nec ullum auri vestigium aut inQuindecim Cacicos captos jain in dicium exstabat. Itaque elusus potestate babebat; nisi locum unde Gubernator et multum indignatus, aurum sumerent, indicarent, min- truncatos manibus dimittit. atur se omnes crematurum: mis- Calveto from Benzo, Hist. Novi eri illi metu mortis oblato conster- Orbis Nov. l. ii. c. xiii. in de Bry, nati, securi de facilitate credentis, part iv. p. 47. Something similar nec quid dicerent satis scientes, to this may have occurred, but I promittunt se intra octiduum in have not ventured to insert the stoeum locum deducturos unde au- ry. De Bry illustrates the action, rum magna copia sumeret. Jam real or imaginary, with a picture.