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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter IV. — Spain Explores Florida. Narvaez Invades the Indian Territory, and Brings the Appalachian, or Floridian, Group of Tribes to Our Notice.

We are informed that the northern coasts of the Mexican gulf had been explored as early as 1516. Cordova discovered Yucatan in 1517, and, the following year, Grizalba commenced an exploration of the Mexican coasts. During the year which witnessed the fall of the Mexican empire, (1521), Garay received a royal patent to colonize the coasts of the Mexican gulf, stretching north of Panuco. [34]

Pamphilio de Narvaez had been defeated, in 1520, by Cortez, at Zempoala, in an attempt to arrest him in his unauthorized career. After seven years' attendance at the court of Spain, expended in vain efforts to obtain redress for a gross civil and military wrong, he returned to Cuba, with the appointment of Adalantado of Florida, and the grant of full powers to conquer and govern the country. It is affirmed by De Vaca, that he left Spain in July, 1527, with six hundred men, well officered by cavaliers and gentlemen. Owing to incidental delays, at St. Domingo and Cuba, it was not until the 13th of April, 1528, that he landed at Tampico Bay, in Florida. His force had then been reduced to four hundred men, and forty-two horses. [35] With this small army he entered a country, the geographical features of which opposed great obstacles to a direct march. It was covered with alternate thickets, lagoons, and swamps, and was soon found to be unable to yield an adequate subsistence for either the men, or the horses. Beside this, Narvaez had no interpreter through whom he could communicate with the Indians. This was the more to be regretted, because he was of a haughty and imperious temper, and aimed to strike terror into the natives by acts of tyranny and cruelty. He was thus continually exposed to be misunderstood and misapprehended. To ferret the Indians out of their impenetrable jungles and fastnesses, he carried bloodhounds along with him. He did not appear to know that the Indians, inured to the severest vicissitudes from infancy, and fortified by savage maxims, from age to age, are not possessed of very vivid sensibilities; and that acts of harshness, cruelty, and injustice, only served to infuriate and embitter their minds. Within a few leagues of his point of departure from the coast, he came to the village of a chief,

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named Hirrihagua, whom, for some non-performance, it would seem, of a former agreement, he mutilated by cutting off his nose, and also caused his mother to be torn in pieces by bloodhounds. The prestige of this act, spreading among the natives, caused the name of Spaniard to be hated.

Caba de Vaca represents the toil, and privations endured on this march, to be beyond all precedent in civilized warfare. When the soldier had journeyed through blind paths all day, he had nothing to refresh him at night; and, at every defile, he was subject to be harassed by a concealed foe, who fled when attacked, and no body of whom could be encountered together. The army was forty-seven days in marching to the Sawanee river.

But toilsome marches were the least of the difficulties Narvaez encountered. It does not seem possible for a commander to have evinced less knowledge of the geography and resources of the country. He had parted from Caba de Yaca, who did not like him, and had, after the first fifteen days, absolutely no commissariat. He was buoyed up with the prospect of soon arriving at some populous town, where he might find resources; but in this he was deceived by rumors and by the guides, whom he took, and compelled to serve him, beyond the Sawanee. The Indian name of one town after another was constantly used, as some catchword to inspire hope. At length expectation was centred on the name of "Apalache." For this point the army marched with renewed exertions, and thither it eventually arrived. It appears to have been an Indian village, on the waters of the Appalachicola river, [36] called by Narvaez "Madalena." It consisted of forty humble Indian abodes, covered with cane or thatch. A dense forest of high trees, and several large bodies of water, surrounded it. The adventurers found fields of maize fit for plucking. There was also some ripe as well as dried maize, and stone mortars wherein to pound it. There were dressed deer skins in the lodges, and some woven mantalets of thread, made from a species of hemp. At first, the men had fled precipitately, leaving the women and children; but, opening negotiations, they returned to beg leave to carry off their families. Narvaez granted this, but detained the chief, to serve as a hostage for their good conduct. Next day they made a fierce attack on his camp, but he repulsed them, killing one man.

At Apalache he remained twenty-five days, recruiting the strength of his men, and of his horses. During this time, he procured some information respecting the country. The Indians represented it as abounding in great lakes and solitudes; that its population was small and scattered, there being no place at all equal to Apalache, where they then were. They stated that it was but nine days' march south, to the sea, and that there was a wealthy town in that direction, called "Aute."

For this location Narvaez therefore directed his course, but it soon appeared that the Indians' estimate of a day's march was widely different from his. After travelling

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fifteen days, he arrived at "Aute;" but his journey thither was obstructed by large bodies of water, in the passage through which, the Indians attacked the Spaniards with arrows, killing and wounding some of the men and horses. These Indians were men of fine stature, great activity, and expert and accurate bow-men. In these skirmishes two of the natives were killed. The town was found to have been abandoned, but the neighboring fields yielded an abundant supply of maize, beans, and pumpkins.

By this time, enough was ascertained to convince Narvaez that a part of his followers were engaged in a conspiracy. Nothing had transpired as had been expected. There were neither rich towns, nor mines, nor evidences of any high or respectable art, or civilization. They had found hostile tribes, separated by impassable fastnesses, and a country destitute of resources. Narvaez was unwell himself, his men dispirited, his horses reduced to skeletons, and everything presenting the worst aspect. In this exigency he resolved to find the sea, by journeying along the banks of the river, and, having done this without finding his fleet, he encamped at its mouth, designing to build boats with which to explore the coast towards the west. But how was this to be done without means, or tools? While pondering over his difficulties, a soldier came to him, and said, he could make pipes of wood, and convert them into bellows by the aid of deer skins. The idea was instantly acted on. It was only necessary to construct a blacksmith's forge, and immediately stirrups, spurs, cross-bows, &c., were converted into nails, saws, and axes. The pine yielded pitch. A kind of oakum was obtained from the palmetto. Hair from the tails of horses was twisted into ropes, and the shirts of the men supplied sails. The horses were killed, and their flesh used for food. The men searched the bays for oysters, while others were sent on perilous trips to forage for Indian corn. All worked so diligently that, in sixteen days, they had constructed five boats, each of which was twenty cubits long, and capable of containing fifty-six men; the remnant of the army comprising two hundred and eighty-one men. [37]

Narvaez had now proceeded about two hundred and eighty miles along the gulf coast, from his point of debarkation. He had reason to believe that his ships could be found in the vicinity of the coast, and that, by putting his troops into boats, he could continue the exploration, which he had found it impossible to complete by land. The energy manifested in the construction and equipment of his flotilla, without artisans, or materials suitable to the work, manifests a capacity for conquest which no other part of his conduct so well sustained. No sooner were the boats completed than the adventurers eagerly embarked. The season had now so far advanced that the high winds began to prevail, added to which the gunwales of his boats were too low to sustain the shock of the seas. He proceeded, therefore, with embarrassment, the men often wading through sands and shallow bays, to avoid the heavy waves. This close and careful

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hugging of the shore was continued for seven days, before they put out to sea. The capture of five Indian canoes enabled them to lighten the boats, which were also protected by waste boards. They suffered greatly from the failure of both water and provisions, and were compelled to coast along the shores and islands, as the best position for obtaining supplies. All this time they had, in the Indians, a fierce enemy to contend against on shore, who never omitted an opportunity to annoy them with arrows.

Agreeably to Caba de Vaca, for thirty days they proceeded by slow stages, down the gulf coast, toward the Mississippi. But nothing was seen of the vessels. The miseries of the men were every day augmented, and, meantime, the winds increased in severity. Some of the soldiers became delirious from drinking sea water, and four of their number died. One night they were attacked by Indians, while sleeping in camp, or on an island; but the assailants, having but few arrows, were repulsed. In the contest, Narvaez received a severe blow in the face from a stone. Tortured with hunger, and parched by thirst, they continued their course until the 1st of November, when the boats separated in a storm. One of them soon foundered. The last that was seen of the boat of Narvaez was in the vicinity of the Perdido. The storm was blowing off the coast, and during its continuance the whole flotilla perished. The next morning nothing was seen of it. The boat in which Caba de Vaca embarked was cast on the shore of a little island, where the survivors were kindly treated by the natives; for, when they saw that their enemies had not the power to inflict further injury, their enmity was at an end, and they treated with humanity the few castaways whom the tempest had spared.

The expedition of Narvaez is important, as embracing the materials of Indian history, inasmuch as it gives us the first view, however unpremeditatively, of the Appalachian group of tribes, [38] who may be regarded as the extreme southern outcrop (to use a geological term) of the wide-spread Vesperic class.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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