De Soto’s Expeditions (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: The first European penetration into the interior of North America, with severe consequences for Native Americans.
Summary of Event
Hernando de Soto was a veteran of early Spanish campaigns in the New World, having served in Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru. As Francisco Pizarro’s lieutenant, de Soto helped to topple the Incas’ empire, acquiring a share of their treasure, which made him a wealthy man. He returned to Spain in 1537, where his drive for more riches led to his appointment as governor of Cuba and adelantado of Florida. This gave him Spanish permission to conquer coastal territories from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Canada.
On May 28, 1539, de Soto landed near Tampa Bay with 622 soldiers, more than two hundred horses, and many slaves. They encountered the native town of Ucita, a well-organized compound with the chief’s house on an earthen mound at one end and a temple guarded by a gilded-eyed bird at the other. They destroyed these and made camp.
On June 8, a Spanish patrol found Juan Ortiz, a shipwrecked survivor of the ill-fated Pánfilo de Narváez expedition. Ortiz had escaped death at the hands of Chief Hirrihugua of Ucita when the chief’s daughter Ulele interceded on his behalf. Many believe that Captain John Smith was inspired to invent his own salvation from Powhatan by Pocahontas (which he did not report until some twenty years after the...
(The entire section is 1482 words.)
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