Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

ATTEMPTS AT SETTLEMENT.

21

IV.

posed of young noblemen and amateur colonists, failed, as CHAP. might have been expected. In the second attempt they went to the other extreme,-the colonists were criminals, 1542. drawn from the prisons of France.

During the winter Cartier hung one of them for theft ; put some in irons ; and whipped others, men and women, for minor faults. In the spring, just as Roberval himself arrived with a reinforcement, he slipped off to France, heartily disgusted with his winter's occupation. Roberval remained about a year, and then returned home, perfectly willing to resign the viceroyalty of Norimbega, and retire to his estates in Picardy. After a lapse of fifty years, a successful attempt was made by the French to colonize the game territory.

CHAPTER V.

DE SOTO AND THE MISSISSIPPI.

CHAP. The name Florida was given by the Spaniards to the

entire southern portion of the United States. Their at1539. tempts to conquer this territory had hitherto failed. For

some unexplained reason, the most exaggerated stories were told of the richness of the country; there was no evidence of their truth, yet they were implicitly believed.

The success of Cortez in conquering Mexico, and of Pizarro in conquering Peru, excited the emulation of Ferdinand de Soto. He had been a companion of Pizarro ; had gained honor by his valor, and, in accordance with the morals of the times, had accumulated an immense amount of wealth by various means of extortion. Still it must be said in his favor, that he was, by far, the most humane of any of the Spanish officers who pillaged Mexico and Peru. Foreseeing the endless quarrels and jealousies of the Spaniards in Peru, he prudently retired to Spain with his ill-gotten gains.

Ambition did not permit him to remain long in retirement. He panted for a name, for military glory, to surpass the two conquerors of the New World. He asked permission to conquer Florida, at his own expense. The request was graciously granted by the Emperor, Charles V. He also received an honor much more grateful to his ambition ; he was appointed Governor of Cuba, and of all the countries he should conquer.

THE LANDING AT TAMPA BAY.

23

V.

The announcement that he was about to embark on CHAP. this enterprise, excited in Spain the highest hopes,-hopes of military glory and of unbounded wealth. Enthusiastic 1539. men said these hopes must be realized ; there were cities in the interior of Florida as rich, if not richer than those of Mexico or Peru ; temples equally splendid, to be plundered of their golden ornaments. Volunteers offered in crowds, many of noble birth, and all proud to be led by so renowned a chief. From these numerous applicants De Soto chose six hundred men, in the bloom of life." The enthusiasm was so great, that it appeared more like a holiday excursion than a military expedition.

He sailed for Cuba, where he was received with great distinction. Leaving his wife to govern the island, he sailed for Florida, and landed at Espiritu Santo, now Tampa bay. He never harbored the thought that his enterprise could fail. He sent his ships back to Cuba ; thus, in imitation of Cortez, he deprived his followers of the means to return. Volunteers in Cuba had increased his army to nearly one thousand men, of whom three hundred were horsemen, all well armed. Every thing was provided that De Soto's foresight and experience could suggest; ample stores of provisions, and for future supplies, a drove of swine, for which Indian corn and the fruits of the forest would furnish an abundance of food. The company was provided with cards, that they might spend their “ leisure time in gaming ;" a dozen of priests, that the “festivals of the church might be kept,” and her ceremonies rigidly performed ; chains for the captive Indians, and bloodhounds, to track and tear them in pieces, should they attempt to escape ;-incongruities of which the adventurers seemed unconscious.

They now commenced their march through pathless forests. The Indian guides, who had been kidnapped on former invasions, soon learned that they were in search of gold. Anxious to lead them as far as possible from the

V.

CHAP. neighborhood of their own tribes, they humored their fan

cies, and told them of regions far away, where the precious 1540. metal was abundant. In one instance they pointed to the

north-east, where they said the people understood the art of refining it, and sent them away over the rivers and plains of Georgia. It is possible they may have referred to the gold region of North Carolina.

When one of the guides honestly confessed that he knew of no such country, De Soto ordered him to be burned for telling an untruth. From this time onward the guides continued to allure the Spaniards on in search of a golden region,—a region they were ever approaching, but never reached.

At length the men grew weary of wandering through forests and swamps ; they looked for cities, rich and splendid, they found only Indian towns, small and poor, whose finest buildings were wigwams. They wished to return; but De Soto was determined to proceed, and his faithful followers submitted. They pillaged the Indians of their provisions, thus rendered them hostile, and many conflicts ensued. They treated their captives with great barbarity ; wantonly cut off their hands, burned them at the stake, suffered them to be torn in pieces by the bloodhounds, or chained them together with iron collars, and compelled them to carry their baggage.

They moved toward the south-west, and came into the neighborhood of a large walled town, named Mavilla, since Mobile. It was a rude town, but it afforded a better shelter than the forests and the open plains, and they wished to occupy it. The Indians resisted, and a fierce battle ensued. The Spanish cavalry gained a victory,—a victory dearly bought; the town was burned, and with it nearly all their baggage.

Meantime, according to appointment, ships from Cuba had arrived at Pensacola. De Soto would not confess that he had thus far failed; he would send no news until he

DISCOVERY OF THE MISSISSIPPI.

25

V.

had rivalled Cortez in military renown. They now directed CHAP. their course to the north-west, and spent the following winter in the northern part of the State of Mississippi. From 1540. the Indian corn in the fields they obtained food, and made their winter quarters in a deserted town. When spring returned, a demand was made of the Chickasaw chief to furnish men to carry their baggage. The indignant chief refused. The hostile Indians deceived the sentinels, and in the night set fire to the village and attacked the Spaniards, but after a severe contest they were repulsed. It was another dear victory to the invaders ; the little they had saved from the flames at Mobile was now consumed. This company, once so “brilliant in silks and glittering armor;” were now scantily clothed in skins, and mats made of ivy.

Again they commenced their weary wanderings, and before many days found themselves on the banks of the Mississippi. De Soto expressed no feelings of pleasure or of admiration at the discovery of the magnificent river, with its ever-flowing stream of turbid waters. Ambition and avarice consume the finer feelings of the soul; they destroy the appreciation of what is noble in man and beautiful in nature. De Soto was only anxious to cross the river, and press on in search of cities and of gold. A 1541, month elapsed before boats could be built to transport the horses. At length they were ready, and white men, for the first time, launched forth upon the Father of Waters.

The natives on the west bank received the strangers kindly, and gave them presents. The Indians of southern Missouri supposed them to be superior beings—children of the sun-and they brought them their blind to be restored tc sight. De Soto answered them, “The Lord made the heavens and the earth : pray to Him only for whatsoever ye need.” Here they remained forty days; sent out explorers further north, who reported that buffaloes were so numerous in that region that corn could not be raised ;

« PředchozíPokračovat »