THE FIRST WINTER IN FLORIDA
 RETURNING with his captive to Anhayca, the Apalachee capital, the governor made preparations, the
last week in October, 1539, for settling down there for the winter; but not to a life of
inaction. While he had been in pursuit of Capafi, two of his captains, Tinoco and
Vasconceles, were scouring the country for gold and supplies, and shortly after his return
another, Juan de Anasco, was sent southward on a most important mission. This was to
discover, if possible, a route to the sea, which, the Indians told De Soto, was not many
Taking with him ninety horse and foot, Anasco, who was the contador, or auditor, of the
expedition, and a man who could be trusted implicitly, started on his perilous trip to the
sea-coast. It must be
remem-  bered that De Soto had no maps or charts upon which he could rely for guidance, and
depended entirely upon information given him by the Indians, who were not always
understood by the interpreter. On this occasion it happened that the governor had been
correctly informed, and Anasco found the object of his search, though only after enduring
He took along as guide an Apalachee prisoner, who was soon accused of treachery, because
he attempted (the soldiers said) to lose them in a vast morass. Several times he brought
them within sound of the sea waves on a distant shore, and then started in a different
direction, which invariably led into the wilderness. At last their suspicions became so
strong that an iron collar was put on his neck, to which was attached a chain, held by a
soldier, who was charged to keep strict watch, lest he should escape.
One night, as his enemies were asleep, he snatched a glowing brand from the camp-fire and
beat the soldier with it over the head, at the same time trampling upon him as he lay
helpless on the ground. This so exasperated Captain Anasco, who was already greatly
incensed, that he thrust the
 recreant guide through with a lance, then loosed his hound, who quickly tore him to
pieces. The Spaniards thus gratified their desire for revenge; but they had deprived
themselves of the only man who knew the way out of the wilderness, and for fifteen days
they wandered aimlessly about, finally reaching the coast nearly exhausted and on the
verge of starvation.
Here they found, not only abundant supplies of fish, but a large and excellent bay, and
came upon gruesome relics of the ill-starred expedition of Narvaez. That this bay was the
one from which the remnants of his command had set sail was shown by the stumps of trees
which had been felled for the construction of the brigantines, a forge for the making of
bolts and nails, and finally by the skulls of horses which had been killed.
This bay was undoubtedly that of the present St. Marks, and is distant but a few leagues,
in a direct line southward, from Anhayca, which was probably on or near the site of
Tallahassee. It was called Aute by the natives, who had picked up a few Spanish words from
the former visitors, and who conducted Masco and his men to scenes
identi-  fied with its discovery. With this valuable information, after going out in a canoe and
sounding the harbor, Anasco returned to Anhayca, whence he was soon despatched by De Soto
to Tampa, with orders for Captain Calderon to abandon his encampment there and join him in
The intrepid Anasco, in command of thirty lancers, like himself men of valor and
endurance, set out on November 20th for Tampa, or Espiritu Santo, which he reached at the
end of ten days. As De Soto did not take part in this desperate dash through a country
swarming with Indians already roused to fury by the outrages committed upon them by the
Spaniards, we feel constrained to omit it from our narrative. But it was one of the most
venturesome episodes of the expedition, and replete with exciting incident. Anasco took
Calderon orders to proceed northward by land, while he himself was to sail along the coast
to the harbor of Aute, and march thence to Apalachee. To a worthy companion of his, Gomez
Arias, was given the enviable commission of bearing to Dona Isabel tidings from her liege
lord in Apalachee, and he soon set sail with two caravels for Havana, carrying with him
 twenty Indian women and some pearls of the country as presents.
The garrison at Tampa had planted gardens, which were fruitful and flourishing at the time
Anasco returned, and they were loath to leave them, especially when they learned that no
gold had been discovered. This was their first demand: "Have you found any gold?" The
welfare of their commander and comrades seemed to concern them no whit; but in refreshing
contrast to their indifference was the lively interest of the good cacique, Mocoso, who
inquired earnestly after his friends in distant Apalachee.
It is a pleasure to record that he was richly rewarded for his loyalty to the Spaniards,
for to him and his people they gave all their surplus stores, helmets, armor, lances,
pikes, etc., of which a mountain-heap remained after the retiring soldiers had taken all
they could carry. It took Mocoso's people nearly a week to remove these articles to their
town, though every man, woman, and child was impressed into service; and thereafter they
were living examples of Spanish beneficiaries.
What became of all these things, especially of such as were in their nature imperishable,
 like the helmets and the armor, no one in recent times has been able to discover. It would
seem likely that some relics of this expedition, which wound its way through the forests
and over the prairies for years, scattering hundreds of objects in iron and steel along
its route, might be found; but few, if any, have been recovered. Mocoso and his subjects
have disappeared, along with the objects with which the Spaniards enriched them, and so,
also, have all the tribes encountered, except a few in the northern region traversed by De
Gomez Arias sailed southward with two caravels, and safely reached Havana, with news which
cheered the heart of Dona Isabel and at the same time saddened it. While the message from
De Soto was affectionate, nevertheless it conveyed to her his stern resolve never to
return without accomplishing the objects sought. Thus far there had been no indications
either of a golden region or an extensive empire (as he frankly stated), but he should
still persist in his search for both. His sorrowing consort knew him well enough to be
convinced that, if neither existed, she might never see him again, for his proud nature
 not permit him to return to Cuba impoverished.
She had already divined the situation, it is said, and had sent a letter to Tampa, which
Captain Calderon bore to his commander, begging him to abandon the enterprise and resume
his captain-generalcy in Cuba, which was an island already ripe for development. After
entering a plea for the Indians of Florida, she continues: "I hope, my dearest husband,
that no considerations of worldly advantage will make you neglectful of the precepts of
humanity and of the duties of religion. Be persuaded to return to me at once, for you can
gain nothing in Florida which can compensate me for the sorrow and anxiety I feel in your
absence. If you have gained nothing, I shall be better satisfied, because there may be the
less cause for repentance. Whatever may have been your want of success or your losses, I
implore you to come to me without delay; for any reverse of fortune is far better than the
suspense and misery I now endure."
It would seem that the daughter of Pedrarias was paying the penalty of her father's sins,
for surely few women have had to suffer more mental anguish than she
 endured during those long months of waiting, which stretched into still longer years that
finally ebbed away into eternity. She was never to see her lover and husband again, yet
she remained hopeful and faithful, sending several missions in search of him, all of which
were fruitless in their quest.
While Juan de Afiasco sailed northward, taking with him in the brigantines his thirty
lancers, sturdy Pedro Calderon, with one hundred and twenty horse and foot, made his way
to Apalachee by land. He had literally to carve a path anew through the forests and
swamps, for, though thrice opened, it had closed behind the previous cavaliers, like the
waves parted by a vessel's keel. Almost every mile of his route was contested by the
enemy, and he arrived at Apalachee, the last of December, with his little force reduced by
many killed and wounded.
Afiasco arrived shortly before Captain Calderon, and De Soto received them both with
rejoicings. The original band of adventurers was now reunited, and, as the soldiers looked
upon their governor with feelings akin to reverence, there was no dissension in camp, but
all dwelled together as brothers. The interior of Florida had been
 opened up by the various marches through it, and the west coast had been explored as far
north as St. Marks. Westward from this bay both the coast and interior country were still
unknown, and De Soto sent Diego Maldonado, in the brigantines Afiasco had brought, with a
company of soldiers and sailors, to investigate. He sailed away westward, and about
seventy leagues from Aute found what his commander wanted—a magnificent harbor large
enough for world-commerce and advantageously situated, with its splendid country adjacent,
for a colony. The fleets of all Europe might safely ride at anchor there, Maldonado
reported to De Soto, and, moreover, it was land-locked, with shores so "steep-to" that
vessels might sail right up to the bluffs.
This information rejoiced the governor exceedingly, and he took energetic measures, by
despatching Maldonado to Havana for a fleet well freighted with supplies, towards making
this bay of Ochuse, as the natives called it, a nucleus for the great empire which he
hoped to create in Florida. This fine harbor is known to-day as Pensacola, and is worthy
of all the encomiums that the early navigators lavished upon it.
Instruct-  ing Maldonado to sail for Havana with all speed and rendezvous at Ochuse the following
October, De Soto, with tireless energy, made preparations for an extended exploration of
the interior country, intending to meet his lieutenant at the time appointed. He had kept
the road to Aute open by marching and countermarching over it several companies of
horsemen, so the various operations were conducted and communication was maintained
between the port and Apalachee without any considerable losses by the Spaniards. Yet they
were continually in warfare with the savages, who assailed them by night and by day,
attacking not only their outposts, but the headquarters as well, with all the fury of
their first assaults.
These Apalachees, in fact, were unconquerable, and, even though their capital was in the
hands of the enemy, they never ceased their efforts until the Spaniards had departed from
their province. De Soto had thought to restrain them somewhat by keeping their chief, the
fat cacique, in custody; but this individual was as crafty as he was skilled in warfare,
and one day he effected his escape by playing upon the credulity of his captors. His
warriors continued to
 molest the Spaniards at every opportunity; and when the governor remonstrated, telling him
that he thought it very ungrateful in his subjects to do so, when their chief was
receiving from him every kindness and attention, he agreed and expressed great grief at
"But," he said, "they do not know that I am well treated. They think of me as imprisoned
in a dungeon and with fetters on my limbs. Let me but show myself to them unfettered, and
doubtless they will cease their ravages at once."
De Soto agreed that this seemed reasonable, and asked him how he should proceed.
"My chief men are encamped in a forest, five or six leagues from here," answered the
cacique. "Send me to them, guarded by a small company of soldiers, and I will soon bring
them to terms. But do not put irons upon me, for that would enrage them."
As the obese cacique could not walk without assistance, much less run away, the governor
assented to this proposition, and, closely guarded by a company of picked soldiers, he was
sent to interview his warriors. Setting out at daylight one morning, they
 marched till near sunset, when the forest was reached in which the warriors were said to
be concealed. The soldiers were weary from their march, and, though they took every
precaution, by posting sentinels and surrounding the cacique with a very strong guard,
they all fell asleep in the night.
Their prisoner was not weary, as he had been carried all the way, and he was very
wide-awake, for, watching his opportunity, about midnight he crawled off into the thickets
on his hands and knees; and that was the last the Spaniards ever saw of the fat cacique.
When his absence became known, next morning, the sentinels swore, by all the saints they
could remember and name, that they had not slept a wink, so it was agreed among the
company that the fat cacique must have been a necromancer, and, by conjuring a demon to
his aid, had got himself spirited away. At least, this was the story they told the
governor on their return, and he, wise and forbearing man that he was, said in reply
(though with something approaching a twinkle in his eyes): "It is very possible, my sons,
for I really believe these Indians are capable of more wonderful feats than merely
 conjuring off a fat cacique. Still, would I had been there to behold the feat!"
Relieved of anxiety respecting their chief, the Apalachee warriors redoubled their efforts
to drive the invaders away. Whenever the Spaniards went to the forest for wood or to the
streams for water, they were quickly surrounded by hosts of savages, who massacred and
scalped the white men and broke the chains of their slaves, whom they took with them to
their haunts. Though some few were captured, most of the Apalachees encountered fought to
the death, and they were so regardless of pain that, says the Portuguese chronicler, "if
their hands and noses were cut off, they made no more account of it than if each of them
had been a Mucius Scavola of Rome. Not one of them, for fear of death, would deny that he
belonged to Apalachee."
Two young cavaliers, Diego de Soto, a nephew of the governor, and Diego Velasquez, were
making their rounds one day, when they espied an Indian stealing across a field surrounded
by a forest.
"At him!" shouted Diego de Soto, rising in his stirrups and shaking his lance. Finding
himself unable to regain the forest, the
 Indian placed his back against an isolated tree in the cornfield, fixed an arrow in his
bow, and calmly awaited his enemy. As he pranced up to the tree, Diego de Soto made a pass
at the Indian with his lance, which the latter dodged, and then let loose an arrow. It
struck the horse in a vital spot, and he fell dead in less than twenty paces.
Then Diego Valasquez took a hand in the affray, but met with no better luck than his
companion. He missed the savage with his lance, and an arrow was buried in the body of his
horse, just back of the saddle-girth, and the noble beast stumbled headlong to his death.
Enraged beyond expression at the loss of their gallant steeds, the two cavaliers sprang
for the Indian with their lances; but he was more than their equal afoot, and fled to the
forest, keeping just beyond reach of their weapons and jeering them all the way.
The two Diegos walked ruefully back to camp, where they had to endure the gibes of their
comrades also. But they were far more fortunate than two other horsemen, Simon Rodriguez
and Roque de Yelves, who rode out one afternoon to gather wild grapes at the edge of the
 their horses at the foot of a tree, they climbed up into the branches, where the vines
were thick with fruit.
Some savages discovered them there, and shot them with barbed arrows. As they fell to the
ground, their horses broke loose and fled wildly to the camp, pursued by bow-shots from
the Indians. One of them had a few drops of blood on his thigh, but nothing was thought of
it at the time. Next morning he was dead, and when opened an arrow was found in his
entrails, which had entered his thigh at the spot where the drops of blood were seen.