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CHAP. consideration of safety would induce the governor to
set fire to a hamlet. He did not delight in cruelty ; 1541. but the happiness, the life, and the rights of the
Indians, were held of no account. The approach of the Spaniards was heard with dismay; and their departure hastened by the suggestion of wealthier
lands at a great distance. 1542.
In the spring of the following year, Soto determined to descend the Washita to its junction, and to get tidings of the sea. As he advanced, he was soon lost amidst the bayous and marshes, which are found along the Red river and its tributaries. Near the Mississippi, he came upon the country of Nilco, which was well peopled. The river was there larger
than the Gaudalquiver at Seville. At last, he arrived April at the province, where the Washita, already united
with the Red river, enters the Mississippi. The province was called Guachoya. Soto anxiously inquired the distance to the sea; the chieftain of Guachoya could not tell. Were there settlements extending along the river to its mouth ?' It was answered, that its lower banks were an uninhabited waste. Unwilling to believe so disheartening a tale, Soto sent one of his men with eight horsemen, to descend the banks of the Mississippi, and explore the country. They travelled eight days, and were able
. to advance not much more than thirty miles ; they were so delayed by the frequent bayous, the impassa
1 McCulloh places Guachoya during the night-time; p. 529– near the Arkansas river. He does 531. I do not think there is room not make sufficient allowance for for a doubt. Nuttall, Martin, and an exaggeration of distances, and many others, agree with the statefor the delays on the Mississippi ment, which is given in the text.
DEATH AND BURIAL OF FERDINAND DE SOTO.
ble cane-brakes, and the dense woods. The gov- CHAP. ernor received the intelligence with concern; he an
; suffered from anxiety and gloom. His horses and 1542. men were dying around him. A tribe of Indians near Natchez sent him a defiance; and he was no longer able to punish their temerity. His stubborn pride was changed by long disappointments into a wasting melancholy; and his health sunk rapidly and entirely under a conflict of emotions. A mortal sickness ensued, during which he had little comfort, and was neither visited nor attended as he should have been. Believing his death near at hand, he yielded to the wishes of his companions, and named a successor. On the next day he died. perished the governor of Cuba, and the successful associate of Pizarro. His miserable end was the more observed, from the greatness of his former prosperity. His soldiers pronounced his eulogy, by grieving for their loss; the priests chanted over his body the first requiems that were ever heard on the waters of the Mississippi. To conceal his death, his body was wrapped in a mantle, and, in the stillness of midnight, was silently sunk in the middle of the stream. The discoverer of the Mississippi slept beneath its waters. He had crossed a large part of the continent in search of gold, and found nothing so remarkable as his burial-place.?
No longer guided by the energy and pride of Soto, the company resolved on reaching New-Spain with- June.
1 Portuguese Account, c. xxix. c. vii. and viïi. Vega embellish
2 Portuguese Relation, c. xxx. es as usual. Herrera, d. vii. I. p. 531, 532. Vega, 1. v. part i. vii. c. ii.
CHAP. out delay. Should they embark in such miserable
boats, as they could construct, and descend the river ? 1542. Or should they seek a path to Mexico through the
forests? They were unanimous in the opinion, that
forgotten in the midst of victory and spoils. Again July. they penetrated the western wilderness; in July, they
found themselves in the country of the Natchitoches ;'
might sleep his full sleep."2
leagues above the mouth of Red river; often wading
i Vega introduces the Natchi- and xxxiii. p. 534, 535. Compare toches too soon. L. v. part i. c. i. Nuttall's Arkansas, p. 264. See Portuguese Account, c. xxxii. 2 Portuguese Relation, c. xxxiv.
SPANIARDS DESERT THE UNITED STATES.
through deep waters; and grateful to God if, at CHAP. night, they could find a dry resting-place. The Indians, whom they had enslaved, died in great numbers; in Minoya, many Christians died; and most of them were attacked by a dangerous epidemic.
Nor was the labor yet at an end; it was no easy 1543. task for men in their condition to build brigantines. Erecting a forge, they struck off the fetters from the July. slaves; and, gathering every scrap of iron in the camp, they wrought it into nails. Timber was sawed by hand with a large saw, which they had always carried with them. They caulked their vessels with a weed like hemp; barrels, capable of holding water, were with difficulty made; to obtain supplies of provision, all the hogs and even the horses were killed, and their flesh preserved by drying; and the neighboring townships of Indians were so plundered of their food, that the miserable inhabitants would come about the Spaniards begging for a few kernels of their own maize, and often died from weakness and want of food. The rising of the Mississippi assisted the launching of the seven brigantines; they were frail barks, which had no decks; and, as from the want of iron the nails were of necessity short, they were constructed of very thin planks, so that the least shock would have broken them in pieces. Thus provided, in seventeen days the fugitives reached the July gulf of Mexico; the distance seemed to them two hundred and fifty leagues, and was not much less than
CHAP. five hundred miles. They were the first to observe, w that for some distance from the mouth of the Mis1543. sissippi the sea is not salt, so great is the volume of
fresh water which the river discharges. Following,
for the most part, the coast, it was more than fifty Sept. days before the men, who finally escaped, now no
more than three hundred and eleven in number, entered the river Panuco.
Such is the history of the first visit of Europeans to the Mississippi; the honor of the discovery
belongs, without a doubt, to the Spaniards. There 1544. were not wanting adventurers, who desired to make
one more attempt to possess the country by force of arms; their request was refused. Religious zeal
1 On Soto's expedition, by far and Charlevoix, N. Fr. tom. i. p. the best account is that of the 24, and v. iii. p. 408, offer no new Portuguese Eye-witness, first pub- views. Du Pratz is unnecessarily lished in 1557, and by Hakluyt, in sceptical. The French translator English, in 1609. It may be found of Vega has not a word of valuain Hakluyt, v. v. p. 477–550. ble criticism. Of English authors, There is an imperfect abridgement neither Purchas nor Harris have of it in Purchas, v. iv. p. 1528— furnished any useful illustrations. 1556; and a still more imperfect Of books, published in America, one in Roberts’ Florida, p. 33—79. Belknap, in Am. Biog. v. i. p. 185 This narrative is remarkably good, -195, comments with his usual and contains internal evidence of care. McCulloh, in his Researchits credibility. Nuttall erroneous- es, Appendix, iii. p. 523—531, ly attributes it to Vega. The makes an earnest attempt to trace work of Vega is an extravagant the route of Soto. So Nuttall, in romance, yet founded upon facts. his Travels in Arkansas, AppenNumbers and distances are mag. dix, p. 247—267. Nuttall had nified; and every thing embellish- himself roved through the same ed with great boldness. His his regions, and his opinions are justly tory is not without its value, but entitled to much deference. Flint must be consulted with extreme only glances at the subject. Stodcaution. Herrera, d. vi. l. vii
. c. dard, in his Sketches, p. 4, is vague ix.—xii., and d. vii
. l. vii. c. i.—xi. and without detail. I have comis not an original authority, and pared all these authors; the achis statements furnish merely cu- count in Hakluyt, with good modmulative evidence. The Ensayo ern maps, can lead to firm concluCronologico contains nothing of sions. moment on the subject.
2 Ensayo Cronologico, Año, Lescarbot, N. Fř. tom. i. p. 36, MDXLIV.