DESOTO'S TRAILS THRU EASTERN ARKANSAS
This second part places Hernando De Soto's Army's campsites on Google Earth using information provided by A Gentleman of Elvas. He accompanied Hernando de Soto until his death, then DeSoto's successor: Luis de Moscoso. Elvas reported the army's movements without calendar dating, as was the habit of Rangel (above).
Elvas described campsites in relation to geographic features, native villages and provincial boundaries (rivers in most cases). His writings, twice supplemented by Garcilaso de la Vega, the "Inca," for clarity, are tabulated in sequence below.
DESOTOS TRAILS IN ARKANSAS... 23 TOTAL days marched to Desoto's Death for 200 miles
TRUE RELATION OF THE HARDSHIPS SUFFERED BY
GOVERNOR HERNANDO DE SOTO &
CERTAIN PORTUGUESE GENTLEMEN
DURING THE DISCOVERY OF THE
PROVINCE OF FLORIDA
by A GENTLEMAN OF ELVAS, 1557
Translated by John E. Worth
HOW THE GOVERNOR WENT FROM AUTIAMQUE...
[ELVAS: pp 130] On Monday, March six of the year 1542, the governor set out from Autiamque to go in search of Nilco, which the Indians said was near the great river, with the intention of reaching the sea and obtaining aid of men and horses; for he now had only three hundred fighting men and forty horses...
From Autiamque, it took the governor ten days to reach a province called Ayays. He reached a town near the river which flowed through Cayas and Autiamque. There he ordered a piragua to be constructed, by which he crossed the river.
After crossing, such weather occurred that he could not march for four days because of the snow. As soon as it stopped snowing, he marched for three days through an unpopulated region and a land so low and with so many swamps and such hard going that one day he marched all day through water that in some places reached to the knees and in others to the stirrups, and some passages were swum over.
He came to a deserted village, without maize called Tutelpinco. Near it
was a lake which emptied into the river and had a strong current and force of water... Reed frames and rafts were made there from reeds and wood from the houses, on which they crossed the lake.
[ELVAS: pp 131] They marched for three days and reached a town of the district of Nilco, called Tianto... The governor sent a captain on ahead to Nilco with horse and foot, so that the Indians might not have any opportunity to carry off the food.
They went through three or four large towns, and in the town where the cacique lived - located two leagues from where the governor remained - they found many Indians with their bows and arrows...
Next day, Wednesday, March 29 [Full Moon], the governor reached Nilco. He lodged with all his men in the cacique's town which was located on a level field, and which was all populated for a quarter of a league; while a league and a half-league distant were other very large towns where there was a quantity of maize, beans, walnuts, and dried plums. This was the most populous region which had been seen in Florida and more abounding in maize, with the exception of Coosa and Apalache.
[ELVAS: pp 132] That river which flowed through Anilco was the same that flowed through Cayas and Autiamque and emptied into the large river which flowed through Pacaha and Aquixo hard by the province of Guachoya.
The lord of the upper part [Guachoya] came in canoes to make war on the lord of Nilco... The governor gave him some trifles and showed him great honor. He questioned him about the settlement down the river. He said that he knew of none other except his own; and that on the other side was a province of a cacique called Quigaltam.
...A few days later, the governor made up his mind to go to Guachoya, in order to ascertain there whether the sea were nearby, or whether there were any settlement nearby where he might subsist himself while brigantines were being built which he intended to send to the land of Christians...
The governor sent a captain and fifty men in six canoes down the river, while he, with the rest of his men, went overland. He reached Guachoya on Sunday, April 17, and lodged himself in the cacique's town, which was surrounded by a stockade, a crossbow flight from the river. There, the river was called Tamaliseu, at Nilco, Tapatu, at Coca, Mico, and at the port, Ri [i.e., River].
[ELVAS: pp 133] As soon as the governor reached Guachoya... (he) asked him [the chief] whether he had any knowledge of the sea. He said he did not, nor of any settlement down the river from that place, except that there was a town of one of his principal Indians subject to him two leagues away, and on the other side three days' journey downstream the province of Quigaltam, who was the greatest lord of that region.
[ELVAS: pp 134] It seemed to the governor that the cacique was lying to him in order to turn him aside from his towns, and he sent Juan de Anasco downstream with eight horse to see what population there was and to ascertain whether there were any knowledge of the sea. He was gone for a week and on his coming (back) said that during that whole time he could not proceed more than fourteen or fifteen leagues because of the great arms leading out of the river, and the canebrakes and thick woods lying along it; and that he found no settlement.
[ELVAS: pp 137] The governor's grief was intense on seeing the small prospect he had for reaching the sea; and worse, according to the way in which his men and horses were diminishing, they could not be maintained in the land without succor. With that thought, he fell sick... (and) appointed Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado as their captain general... Next day, May 21 died the magnanimous, virtuous, and courageous captain, Don Hernando de Soto, governor of Cuba and adelantado of Florida...
[ELVAS: pp 139] Having obtained information of the population all thereabout, he [Moscoso] learned that there was a more populous land toward the west and that the river below Quigaltam was uninhabited and had little food. He asked each to express his opinion in writing and to sign his opinion with his name, so that having the opinions of them all, he might make up his mind whether to descend the river or to penetrate inland. It seemed advisable to all to take the road overland toward the west, for New Spain lay in that direction; and they considered as more dangerous and of greater risk the voyage by sea; for no ship could be built strong enough to weather a storm, and they had no master or pilot, and no compass or sailing chart, and they did not know how far away the sea was, nor had they any information of it; nor whether the river made some great bend through the land or whether it fell over any rocks where they would perish.
[ELVAS: pp 140] ...On Monday, June 5, he left Guachoya. The cacique gave him a guide to Chaguate and remained in his village. They passed through a province called Catalte and after passing through anuninhabited region for six days...
DESOTO'S ARMY TRAILS THRU LOUISIANA
DESOTO'S ARMY TRAILS IN LOUISIANA... 19 days marched for 210 miles from Desoto's Death
[ELVAS: pp 140] ...They reached Chaguete on the twentieth of the month. The cacique of that province had gone to visit the governor, Don Hernando de Soto, at Autiamque where he brought him gifts of skins, blankets, and salt.
[ELVAS: pp 141] ...They passed through a small town where there was a lake where the Indians made salt. The Christians made some on a day they rested there from some briny water which rose near the town in pools like springs.
The governor (now Luis de Moscoso) stayed six days in Chaguete. There he got information of the people to the west. They told him that three days' journey from there was a province called Aguacay...
[ELVAS: pp 141] On behalf of the cacique of Aguacay, before reaching that province, fifteen Indians came to meet him on the way with a present of skins and fish and roasted venison. The governor reached his town (Minden) on Wednesday, July 4. He found the town abandoned and lodged therein. He stayed there for some time, during which he made several inroads...
[ELVAS: pp 142] On the day the governor left Aguacay, he went to sleep near a small town subject to the lord of that province. The camp was pitched quite near to a salt marsh, and on that evening some salt (Potassium nitrate, the oxidizing agent of gun powder) was made there (as it is today; its called the Lousiana Ordnance Plant). Next day he went to sleep between two ridges (they're still there, too - Radio/TV transmission towers and all) in a forest of open trees. Next day he reached a small town called Pato (today's Bossier City). The fourth day after he left Aguacay, he reached the first settlement of a province called Amaye (Shreveport, having walked across the Red River log jam). An Indian was captured there who said that it was a day and a half journey thence to Naguatex (Texas), all of which lay through an inhabited region.
[ELVAS: pp 142-3] Having left the village of Amaye [Shreveport], on Saturday, July 20, camp was made at midday beside a brook in a luxuriant grove between Amaye and Naguatex. That night he slept there and next day reached the village of Naguatex which was very extensive. He asked where the town of the cacique was and they told him it was on the other side of a river [the Sabine] which ran through that district...
He marched toward it and on reaching it saw many Indians on the other side waiting for him, so posted as to forbid his passage. Since he did not know whether it [the river] was fordable, nor where it could be crossed, and since several Christians and horses were wounded, in order that they might have time to recover in the town where he was, he made up his mind to rest for a few days.
Because of the great heat, he made camp near the village, a quarter of a league from the [Sabine] river, in an open forest of luxuriant and lofty trees near a brook. Several Indians were captured there. He asked them whether the river was fordable. They said it was at times in certain places. Ten days later he sent two captains, each with fifteen horse up and down the river with Indians to show them where they could cross, to see what population lay on the other side of the river. The Indians opposed the crossing of them both as strongly as possible, but they crossed in spite of them. On the other side they saw a large village and many provisions; and returned to camp with this news.
[ELVAS: pp 144] Four days later he departed thence, but on reaching the river could not cross, as it had swollen greatly... The governor returned to the place where he had been during the preceding days.
DESOTO'S ARMY TRAILS THRU TEXAS
DESOTO'S ARMY TRAILS INTO TEXAS... 21 TOTAL days marched for 260 miles
[ELVAS: pp 145] A week later, hearing that the river could be crossed, he passed to the other side and found a [Naugatex] village without any people...
A few days later... He left Naguatex and after marching three days reached a town of four or five houses, belonging to the cacique of that miserable province, called Nisohone. It was a poorly populated region and had little maize.
Two days later, the guides who were guiding the governor, if they had to go toward the west, guided them toward the east, and sometimes they went through dense forests, wandering off the road. The governor ordered them hanged from a tree, and an Indian woman, who had been captured at Nisohone, guided him, and he went back to look for the road.
Two days later, he reached another wretched land called Lacane. There he captured an Indian who said that the land of Nondacao was a very populous region and the houses scattered about one from another as is customary in mountains, and that there was abundance of maize.
He [of Nondacao] made him a gift of a great quantity of fish and offered to do as he should order. He took his leave of him and gave him a guide to the province of Soacatino.
The governor departed from Nondacao (at Mission Tejas, having crossed the Netchez River) for Soacatino and after he had marched for five days arrived at the province called Aays... Some horses and Christians were wounded, but not so badly that it presented any obstacle to their march, for no one had a dangerous wound. Great damage was done the Indians.
...they came to a province called Auche Its lord came out to receive them very cordially and entertained them with many signs of affection. He said that it gave him much satisfaction to see them in his country, but as we shall see later all this was false and assumed.
The Spaniards rested in that pueblo of Auche for two days, it being the principal one of the province. On informing themselves about the things that would be helpful on their journey, they learned that two days' march from the pueblo there was a great uninhabited region that was four days' journey in extent. The cacique Auche gave them Indians laden with maize for six days, and an old Indian to guide them through the uninhabited country until he brought them out to the settlements...
Thus prepared, our people left Auche, and in two days' march they reached the uninhabited country, through which they traveled four more days...
[ELVAS: pp 146] That Indian led him [the governor] off the road for two days... and another one guided him to Soacatino, whither he arrived the next day. It [Soacatino Province] was a very poor land and there was great lack of maize there.
He asked the Indians whether they knew of other Christians. They said they had heard it said that they were traveling about near there to the southward...
On reaching a province called Guasco, they found maize...
Thence they went to another village called Naquiscoga.
The governor reached Nacacahoz in two days... (then) returned to Guasco.
[INCA writes] ...(the) poor settlements ceased, and they saw that there were large mountain ranges and forests to the west and learned that they were uninhabited.
The governor and his captains, warned by the experiences of hunger and hardship they had passed through in the deserts that were behind them, wished to go no farther than was necessary to find a road that would bring them out into an inhabited country...
Therefore they ordered that three mounted companies (including the governor's mounted scouts, mentioned above), each with twenty-four horses, should all go toward the west by three routes to find out what there was in that direction.
[ELVAS: pp 147-8] There the Indians told them that ten days' journey thence toward the west was a river called Daycao where they sometimes went to hunt in the mountains and to kill deer; and that on the other side of it they had seen people, but did not know what village it was. There the Christians [the scouts] took what maize they found and could carry and after marching for ten days through an unpeopled region reached the river of which the Indians had spoken.
Ten of horse, whom the governor had sent on ahead, crossed over to the other side (of the Colorado River), and went along the road (northwestward) leading to the (Llano) river. They came upon an encampment of Indians who were living in very small huts. As soon as they saw them [the scouts], they took to flight, abandoning their possessions, all of which were wretchedness and poverty. The land was so poor that, among them all, they did not find half an "alqueire" of maize.
Those of horse captured two Indians and returned with them to the (Colorado) river (at Austin) where the governor was awaiting them. They continued to question them in order to learn from them the population to the westward, but there was no Indian in the camp who understood their language.
The governor ordered the captains and principal persons summoned, in order to plan what he should do after hearing their opinions. Most of them said that in their opinion they should return to the great river of Guachoya (in Arkansas), for there was plenty of maize at Anilco and thereabout. They said that during the winter they would make brigantines and the following summer they would descend the river in them to look for the sea, and once having reached the sea, they would coast along it to New Spain which, although it seemed a difficult thing, because of what they had already said, yet it was their last resort because they could not travel by land for lack of an interpreter.
They maintained that that land beyond the river of Daycao, where they were, was the land which Cabeza de Vaca said in his relation he had traversed, and was of Indians who wandered about like Arabs without having a settled abode anywhere, subsisting on prickly pears, the roots of plants, and the game they killed. And if that were so, if they entered it and found no food in order to pass the winter, they could not help but perish, for it was already the beginning of October; and if they stayed longer, they could not turn back because of the waters and snows, nor could they feed themselves in such a poor land.
The governor, who was desirous now of being in a place where he could sleep out his full sleep, rather than to govern and conquer a land where so many hardships presented themselves to him, at once turned back to the place whence they had come.
[BIEDMA, the King's Agent, says] "Having... found nothing to eat, that we were now lacking the corn that we had carried on our backs, and that it was impossible for so many people to traverse so miserable a land, we decided to return to the town where Governor Soto had died, because there it seemed to us that it was possible to fashion vessels to leave the land. We returned along that same road that we had followed."
[INCA writes of that road...] "...they (first) marched in an arc toward the south (on Texas map above), always obtaining information of the road ahead in order not to get into some desert that they could not get out of."
DESOTO'S ARMY FLOATS DOWN AMERICA'S GREAT RIVER
THEN SAILS ALONG THE GULF OF MEXICO INTO MEXICO
[ELVAS: XXXVII] "They left Aminoya (Pine Bluff on the Arkansas River) on the second day of July, 1543..."
DESOTO'S ARMY FLOATS DOWN THE GREAT RIVER... 15 days for 660 miles
[ELVAS: XXXIX] "On July 18, they put out to sea and undertook their voyage amid calm and fair weather..."
DESOTO'S ARMY SAILS THE GULF OF MEXICO... 29 days sailed for 925 miles into Mexico