Americanist History, George Bancroft’s “History of the United States”
Chapter 2: The Spaniards in Florida and On the Pacific Coast
I HAVE traced the course of events which established France in Acadia and Canada. The same power extended its claims indefinitely towards the south; but the right to Florida, on the ground of discovery, belonged to the Spanish, and was successfully asserted.
No sooner had the New World revealed itself to Castile and Aragon than the Spanish chivalry of the ocean despised the range of Europe as too narrow, and offering to their extravagant ambition nothing beyond mediocrity. Blending avarice and religious zeal, they sailed to the west, as if they had been bound on a new crusade, for which infinite wealth was to reward their piety. America was the region of romance, where the heated imagination could indulge in the boldest delusions; where the simple natives ignorantly wore the most precious ornaments; and, by the side of the clear runnels of water, the sands sparkled with gold. To carve out provinces with the sword; to plunder the accumulated treasures of some ancient Indian dynasty; to return from a roving expedition with a crowd of enslaved captives and a profusion of spoils—became their ordinary dreams. Ease, fortune, life—all were squandered in the pursuit where, if the issue was uncertain, success was sometimes obtained, greater than the boldest desires had dared to anticipate. Is it strange that these adventurers were often superstitious? Or that they indulged the hope that the laws of Nature themselves would yield to men so fortunate and so brave?
The youth of Juan Ponce de Leon had been passed in military service in Spain; and, during the wars in Granada, he shared in the wild exploits of predatory valor. He was a fellow-voyager of Columbus on his second embarkation. In the wars of Hispaniola he proved himself a gallant soldier; and Ovando rewarded him with the superintendence of the eastern province of that island. From the hills in his jurisdiction he could behold Porto Rico. A visit to the island stimulated his cupidity; and in 1509 he obtained the appointment to its government. His new authority was used to oppress the natives and to amass wealth. But his commission conflicted with the claims of the family of Columbus; and it was revoked.
Yet age had not tempered his passions: he longed to advance his fortunes by the conquest of a kingdom, and to retrieve a reputation which was not without a blemish. Besides, the veteran soldier had heard, and like many in Spain believed, that the forests of the new world concealed a fountain which had virtue to renovate life.
On the third of March, 1513, according to our present rule for beginning the year, Ponce embarked at Porto Rico, with a squadron of three ships, fitted out at his own expense, for his voyage to the fabled land. He touched at Guanahani; he sailed among the Bahamas. On Easter Sunday, which the Spaniards call Pascua Florida, and which in that year fell on the twenty-seventh of March, land was seen. It was supposed to be an island, and received the name of Florida from the day on which it was descried, and from the aspect of the forests which at that season were brilliant with bloom. After delay from bad weather, the aged soldier was able to go on shore, in the latitude of thirty degrees and eight minutes; some miles, therefore, to the north of St. Augustine. The territory was claimed for Spain. Ponce remained for many weeks to investigate the coast. He doubled Cape Florida; he sailed among the group which he named Tortugas; and, despairing of entire success, he returned to Porto Rico, leaving a trusty follower to continue the search, which was extended toward the bay of Appalachee. The Indians had everywhere displayed determined hostility. Ponce de Leon remained an old man; but Spanish commerce acquired a new channel through the Gulf of Florida, and Spain a province, which imagination could esteem immeasurably rich, since its interior was unknown.
The government of Florida was the reward which Ponce received from the king of Spain; but the dignity was accompanied with the onerous condition that he should colonize the country. Preparations in Spain, and an expedition against the Caribbee Indians, delayed his return. When, in 1521, after a long interval, he proceeded with two ships to select a site for a colony, his company was attacked by the Indians with implacable fury. Many Spaniards were killed; the survivors were forced to hurry to their ships; Ponce de Leon himself, wounded by an arrow, returned to Cuba to die. So ended the adventurer, who had gone in quest of immeasurable wealth and perpetual youth.
The expedition of Francisco Fernandez, of Cordova, leaving the port of Havana, and sailing west by south, discovered in 1517 the province of Yucatan and the bay of Campeachy. He then turned his prow to the north; but, at a place where he had landed for supplies of water, his company was suddenly assailed, and he himself mortally wounded.
In 1518 the pilot whom Fernandez had employed conducted another squadron to the same shores; and Grijalva, the commander of the fleet, explored the coast from Yucatan toward Panuco. The masses of gold which he brought back, the rumors of the empire of Montezuma, its magnificence and its extent heedlessly confirmed by the costly presents of the unsuspecting natives, excited the ardent genius of Cortes. The voyage did not reach beyond the bounds of Mexico.
At that time Francisco de Garay, a companion of Columbus on his second voyage, and now famed for his opulence, was the governor of Jamaica. In the year 1519, after having heard of the richness and beauty of Yucatan, he at his own charge sent out four ships well equipped, and with good pilots, under the command of Alvarez Alonso de Pineda. His professed object was the search for some strait, west of Florida, which was not yet certainly known to form a part of the continent. The strait having been sought for in vain, his ships turned toward the west, attentively examining the ports, rivers, inhabitants, and everything else that seemed worthy of remark; and especially noticing the vast volume of water brought down by one very large stream. At last they came upon the track of Cortes near Vera Cruz. Between that harbor and Tampico they set up a pillar as the landmark of the discoveries of Garay. More than eight months were employed in thus exploring three hundred leagues of the coast, and taking possession of the country for the crown of Castile. The carefully drawn map of the pilots showed distinctly the Mississippi, which, in this earliest authentic trace of its outlet, bears the name of the Espiritu Santo. The account of the expedition having been laid before Charles V, a royal edict in 1521 granted to Garay the privilege of colonizing at his own cost the region which he had made known, from a point south of Tampico to the limit of Ponce de Leon, near the coast of Alabama. But Garay thought not of the Mississippi and its valley: he coveted access to the wealth of Mexico; and, in 1523, lost fortune and life ingloriously in a dispute with Cortes for the government of the country on the river Panuco.
A voyage for slaves brought the Spaniards in 1520 still farther to the north. A company of seven, of whom the most distinguished was Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, fitted out two slave ships from St. Domingo, in quest of laborers for their plantations and mines. From the Bahama islands they passed to the coast of South Carolina, which was called Chicora. The Combahee river received the name of the Jordan; the name of St. Helena, whose day is the eighteenth of August, was given to a cape, but now belongs to the sound. Gifts were interchanged with the natives, and the strangers received with confidence and hospitality. When at length the natives returned the visit of their guests, and covered the decks with cheerful throngs, the ships were got under way and steered for San Domingo. The crime was unprofitable: in one of them, many of the captives sickened and died; the other foundered at sea.
Repairing to Spain, Vasquez boasted of his expeditions, as a title to reward; and the emperor, Charles V, acknowledged his claim. In those days the Spanish monarch conferred a kind of appointment which had its parallel in Roman history. Countries were distributed to be subdued; and Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, after long entreaty, was appointed to the conquest of Chicora.
For this bolder enterprise the undertaker wasted his fortune in preparations; in 1525 his largest ship was stranded in the river Jordan; many of his men were killed by the natives; and he himself escaped only to suffer from the consciousness of having done nothing worthy of honor. Yet it may be that ships, sailing under his authority, made the discovery of the Chesapeake and named it the bay of St. Mary; and perhaps even entered the bay of Delaware, which, in Spanish geography, was called St. Christopher’s.
In 1524, when Cortes was able to pause from his success in Mexico, he proposed to solve the problem of a north-west passage, of which he deemed the existence unquestionable. But his project of simultaneous voyages along the Pacific and the Atlantic coast was never executed.
In the same year, Stephen Gomez, an able Portuguese seafarer, who had deserted Magellan in the very gate of the Pacific to return to Spain by way of Africa, solicited the council of the Indies to send him in search of a strait at the north, between the land of the Bacallaos and Florida. Peter Martyr said at once that that region had been sufficiently explored, and derided his imaginings as frivolous and vain; but a majority of the suffrages directed the search. In January, 1525, as we now reckon, Gomez sailed from Corunna with a single ship, fitted out at the cost of Charles V, under instructions to seek out the northern passage to Cathay. On the southern side of the Bacallaos he came upon a continent, trending to the west. He carefully examined some of the bays of New England; on an old Spanish map, that portion of our territory is marked as the Land of Gomez. He discovered the Hudson, probably on the thirteenth of June, for that is the day of Saint Antony, whose name he gave to the river. When he became convinced that the land was continuous, he freighted his caravel in part with furs, in part with Indians for the slave-market; and brought it back within ten months from his embarkation, having found neither the promised strait nor Cathay. In November he repaired to Toledo, where he rendered his report to the youthful emperor-king. The document is lost, but we know from the Summary of Oviedo, which was published in the second February after his return, that his examination of the coast reached but a little to the south of forty degrees of latitude. If this limit is to be interpreted strictly, he could not have entered the bay of the Chesapeake, or the Delaware. The Spaniards scorned to repeat their voyages to the frozen north; in the south, and in the south only, they looked for “great and exceeding riches.”
But neither the fondness of the Spanish monarch for extending his domains, nor the desire of the nobility for new governments, nor the passion of adventurers to go in search of wealth, would suffer the abandonment of Florida; and, in 1526, Pamphilo de Narvaez, a man of no great virtue or reputation, obtained from Charles V the contract to explore and reduce all the territory from the Atlantic to the river Palmas. This is he who had been sent by the jealous governor of Cuba to take Cortes prisoner, and had himself been easily defeated, losing an eye, and deserted by his own troops. “Esteem it great good fortune that you have taken me captive,” said he to the man whom he had declared an outlaw; and Cortes replied: “It is the least of the things I have done in Mexico.”
Narvaez, who was both rich and covetous, hazarded all his treasure on the conquest of his province; and sons of Spanish nobles and men of good condition flocked to his standard. In June, 1527, his expedition, in which Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca held the second place as treasurer, left the Guadalquivir, touched at the island of San Domingo, and during the following winter, amid storms and losses, passed from port to port on the southern side of Cuba where the experienced Miruelo was engaged as his pilot. In the spring of 1528 he doubled Cape San Antonio, and was standing in for Havana, when a strong south wind drove his fleet upon the American coast, and on the fourteenth of April, the day before Good Friday, he anchored in or near the outlet of the bay of the Cross, now Tampa bay.
On the day before Easter the governor landed, and in the name of Spain took possession of Florida. The natives kept aloof, or, if they drew near, marked by signs their impatience for his departure. But they had shown him samples of gold, which, if their gestures were rightly interpreted, came from the north. Disregarding, therefore, the most earnest advice of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, he directed the ships to meet him at a harbor with which the pilot pretended acquaintance; and on the first of May, mustering three hundred men, of whom forty were mounted, he struck into the interior of the country. Then for the first time the floating peninsula, whose low sands, impregnated with lime, just lift themselves above the ocean on foundations laid by the coral worms, a country notched with bays and drenched by morasses, without hills, yet gushing with transparent fountains and watered by unfailing rivers, was traversed by white men.
The wanderers, as they passed along, gazed on trees astonishingly high, some riven from the top by lightning: the pine; the cypress; the sweet gum; the slender, gracefully tall palmetto; the humbler herbaceous palm, with its chaplet of crenated leaves; the majestic magnolia, glittering in the light; live oaks of such growth that, now when they are vanishing under the axe, men hardly believe the tales of their greatness; multitudes of birds of untold varieties; and quadrupeds of many kinds, among them the opossum, wondered at for its pocket to house and to carry its young; the bear; more than one kind of deer; the panther, which was mistaken for the lion; but they found no rich town, nor a high hill, nor gold. When, on rafts and by swimming, they had painfully crossed the strong current of the Withlochoochee, they were so worn away by famine as to give infinite thanks to God for lighting upon a field of unripe maize. Just after the middle of June they encountered the Suwanee, whose wide, deep, and rapid stream delayed them till they could build a large canoe. Wading through swamps, made more terrible by immense trunks of fallen trees, that lay rotting in the water and sheltered the few but skilful native archers, on the day after Saint John’s they approached Appalachee, where they had pictured to themselves a populous town, and food, and treasure, and found only a hamlet of forty wretched cabins.
Here they remained for five-and-twenty days, scouring the country round in quest of silver and gold, till, perishing with hunger and weakened by fierce attacks, they abandoned all hope but of an escape from a region so remote and malign. Amid increasing dangers, they went onward through deep lagoons and the ruinous forest in search of the sea, till in August they came upon a bay, which they called Baia de Caballos, and which now forms the harbor of St. Mark’s. No trace could be found of their ships; sustaining life, therefore, by the flesh of their horses and by six or seven hundred bushels of maize plundered from the Indians, they beat their stirrups, spurs, cross-bows, and other implements of iron into saws, axes, and nails; and in sixteen days finished five boats, each of twenty-two cubits, or more than thirty feet in length. In calking their frail craft, films of the palmetto served for oakum, and they payed the seams with pitch from the nearest pines. For rigging, they twisted ropes out of horse-hair and the fibrous bark of the palmetto; their shirts were pieced together for sails, and oars were shaped out of savins; skins flayed from horses served for water-bottles; it was difficult in the deep sand to find large stones for anchors and ballast. Thus equipped, on the twenty-second of September about two hundred and fifty men, all of the party whom famine, autumnal fevers, fatigue, and the arrows of the savage bowmen had spared, embarked for the river Palmas. Former navigators had traced the outline of the coast; but among the voyagers there was not a single expert mariner. One shallop was commanded by Alonso de Castillo and Andres Dorantes, another by Cabeza de Vaca. The gunwales of the crowded vessels rose but a hand-breadth above the water, till, after creeping for seven days through shallow sounds, Cabeza seized five canoes of the natives, out of which the Spaniards made guard-boards for their five boats. During thirty days more they kept on their way, suffering from hunger and thirst, imperilled by a storm, now closely following the shore, now avoiding savage enemies by venturing upon the sea. On the thirtieth of October, at the hour of vespers, Cabeza de Vaca, who happened to lead the van, discovered one of the mouths of the river now known as the Mississippi, and the little fleet was snugly moored among islands at a league from the stream, which brought down such a flood that even at that distance the water was sweet. They would have entered the “very great river” in search of fuel to parch their corn, but were baffled by the force of the current and a rising north wind. A mile and a half from land they sounded, and with a line of thirty fathoms could find no bottom. In the night following a second day’s fruitless struggle to go up the stream, the boats were separated; but the next afternoon Cabeza, overtaking and passing Narvaez, who chose to hug the land, struck boldly out to sea in the wake of Castillo, whom he descried ahead. They had no longer an adverse current, and in that region the prevailing wind is from the east. For four days the half-famished adventurers kept prosperously toward the west, borne along by their rude sails and their labor at the oar. All the fifth of November an easterly storm drove them forward; and, on the morning of the sixth, the boat of Cabeza was thrown by the surf on the sands of an island, which he called the isle of Malhado—that is, of Misfortune. Except as to its length, his description applies to Galveston; his men believed themselves not far from the Panuco. The Indians of the place expressed sympathy for their shipwreck by howls, and gave them food and shelter. Castillo was cast away a little farther to the east; but he and his company were saved alive. Of the other boats, an uncertain story reached Cabeza; that one foundered in the gulf; that the crews of the two others gained the shore; that Narvaez was afterward driven out to sea; that the stranded men began wandering toward the west; and that all of them but one perished from hunger.
Those who were with Cabeza and Castillo gradually wasted away from cold and want and despair; but Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, Castillo, and Estevanico, a blackamoor from Barbary, bore up against every ill, and, though scattered among various tribes, took thought for each other’s welfare.
The brave Cabeza de Vaca, as self-possessed a hero as ever graced a fiction, fruitful in resources and never wasting time in complaints of fate or fortune, studied the habits and the languages of the Indians; accustomed himself to their modes of life; peddled little articles of commerce from tribe to tribe in the interior and along the coast for forty or fifty leagues; and won fame in the wilderness as a medicine man of wonderful gifts. In September, 1534, after nearly six years’ captivity, the great forerunner among the pathfinders across the continent inspired the three others with his own marvellous fortitude, and, naked and ignorant of the way, without so much as a single bit of iron, they planned their escape. Cabeza has left an artless account of his recollections of the journey; but his memory sometimes called up incidents out of their place, so that his narrative is confused. He pointed his course far inland, partly because the nations away from the sea were more numerous and more mild; partly that, if he should again come among Christians, he might describe the land and its inhabitants. Continuing his pilgrimage through more than twenty months, sheltered from cold first by deerskins, then by buffalo robes, he and his companions passed through Texas as far north as the Canadian river, then along Indian paths crossed the water-shed to the valley of the Rio Grande del Norte; and, borne up by cheerful courage against hunger, want of water on the plains, cold and weariness, perils from beasts and perils from red men, the voyagers went from town to town in New Mexico, westward and still to the west, till in May, 1536, they drew near the Pacific Ocean at the village of San Miguel in Sonora. From that place they were escorted by Spanish soldiers to Compostella; and all the way to the city of Mexico they were entertained as public guests.
In 1530 an Indian slave had told wonders of the seven cities of Cibola, the Land of Buffaloes, that lay at the north between the oceans and beyond the desert, and abounded in silver and gold. The rumor had stimulated Nuno de Guzman, when president of New Spain, to advance colonization as far as Compostella and Guadalaxara: but the Indian story-teller died; Guzman was superseded; and the seven rich cities remained hid.
To the government of New Galicia, Mendoza, the new viceroy of Mexico, had named Francisco Vasquez Coronado. On the arrival of the four pioneers, he hastened to Culiacan, taking with him Estevanico and Franciscan friars, one of whom was Marcus de Niza; and on the seventh of March, 1539, he despatched them under special instructions from Mendoza to find Cibola. The negro, having rapidly hurried on before the party, provoked the natives by insolent demands, and was killed. On the twenty-second of the following September, Niza was again at Mexico, where he boasted that he had been as far as Cibola, though he had not dared to enter within its walls; that, with its terraced stone houses of many stories, it was larger and richer than Mexico; that his Indian guides gave him accounts of still more opulent towns. The priests promulgated in their sermons his dazzling report; the Spaniards in New Spain, trusting implicitly in its truth, burned to subdue the vaunted provinces; the wise and prudent Coronado, parting from his lovely young wife and vast possessions, took command of the explorers; more young men of the proudest families in Spain rallied under his banner than had ever acted together in America; and the viceroy himself, sending Pedro de Alarcon up the coast with two ships and a tender to aid the land party, early in 1540 went in person to Compostella to review the expedition before its departure; to distinguish the officers by his cheering attention; and to make the troops swear, on a missal containing the gospels, to maintain implicit obedience and never to abandon their chief. The army of three hundred Spaniards, part of whom were mounted, beginning its march with flying colors and boundless expectations, which the more trusty information collected by Melchior Diaz could not repress, was escorted by the viceroy for two days on its way. Never had so chivalrous adventurers gone forth to hunt the wilderness for kingdoms; every one of the officers seemed fitted to lead wherever danger threatened or hope allured. From Culiacan, the general, accompanied by fifty horsemen, a few foot soldiers, and his nearest friends, went in advance to Sonora, and so to the north.
No sooner had the main body, with lance on the shoulder, carrying provisions, and using the chargers for pack-horses, followed Coronado from Sonora, than Melchior Diaz, selecting five-and-twenty men from the garrison left at that place, set off toward the west to meet Alarcon, who in the mean time had discovered the Colorado of the west, or as he named it, the river of “Our Lady of Good Guidance.” Its rapid stream could with difficulty be stemmed; but hauled by ropes, or favored by southerly winds, he ascended the river twice in boats before the end of September; the second time for a distance of four degrees, or eighty-five leagues, nearly a hundred miles, therefore, above the present boundary of the United States. His course was impeded by sand-bars; once, at least, it lay between rocky cliffs. His movements were watched by hundreds of natives, who were an exceedingly tall race, almost naked, the men bearing banners and armed with bows and arrows, the women cinctured with a woof of painted feathers or a deerskin apron; having for their food pumpkins, beans, flat cakes of maize baked in ashes, and bread made of the pods of the mezquite-tree. Ornaments hung from their ears and pierced noses; and the warriors, smeared with bright colors, wore crests cut out of deerskin. Alarcon, who called himself the messenger of the sun, distributed among them crosses; took formal possession of the country for Charles V; collected stories of remoter tribes that were said to speak more than twenty different languages; but, hearing nothing of Coronado, he sailed back to New Spain, having ascertained that lower California is not an island, and having in part explored the great river of the west. Fifteen leagues above its mouth, Melchior Diaz found a letter which Alarcon had deposited under a tree, announcing his discoveries and his return. Failing of a junction, Dias went up the stream for five or six days, then crossed it on rafts, and examined the country that stretched toward the Pacific. An accidental wound cost him his life; his party returned to Sonora.
Nearly at the same time the Colorado was discovered at a point much farther to the north. The movements of the general and his companions were rapid and daring. Disappointment first awaited them at Chichilti-Calli, the village on the border of the desert, which was found to consist of one solitary house, built of red earth, without a roof and in ruins. Having in fifteen days toiled through the barren waste, they came upon a rivulet, which, from the reddish color of its turbid waters, they named Vermilion; and the next morning, about the eleventh of May, they reached the town of Cibola, which the natives called Zuni. A single glance at the little village, built upon a rocky table, that rose precipitously over the sandy soil, revealed its poverty and the utter falsehood of the Franciscan’s report. The place, to which there was no access except by a narrow winding road, contained two hundred warriors; but in less than an hour it yielded to the impetuosity of the Spaniards. They found there provisions which were much wanted, but neither gold, nor precious stones, nor rich stuffs; and Niza, trembling for his life, stole back to New Spain with the first messenger to the viceroy.
As the other cities of Cibola were scarcely more considerable than Zuni, Coronado despatched Pedro de Tobar with a party of horse to visit the province of Tusayan—that is, the seven towns of Moqui; and he soon returned with the account that they were feeble villages of poor Indians, who sought peace by presents of skins, mantles of cotton, and maize. On his return, Garci Lopez de Cardenas, with twelve others, was sent on the bolder enterprise of exploring the course of the rivers. It was the season of summer as they passed the Moqui villages, struck across the desert, and, winding for twenty days through volcanic ruins and arid wastes, dotted only with dwarf pines, reached an upland plain, through which the waters of the Colorado have cleft an abyss for their course. As they gazed down its interminable side, they computed it to outmeasure the loftiest mountain; the broad, surging torrent below appeared not more than a fathom wide. Two men attempted to descend into the terrible chasm, but, after toiling through a third of the way to the bottom, they climbed back, saying that a block, which from the summit seemed no taller than a man, was higher than the tower of the cathedral at Seville. The party, in returning to Zuni, saw where the little Colorado at two leaps clears a vertical wall of a hundred and twenty feet.
Thus far, the streams found by the Spaniards flowed to the Gulf of California. In the summer of 1540, before the return of Cardenas, Indians appeared at Zuni from a province called Cicuye, seventy leagues toward the east, in the country of cattle whose hair was soft and curling like wool. A party under Hernando Alvarado went with the returning Indians. In five days they reached Acoma, which was built on a high cliff, to be reached only by steps cut in the rock, having on its top land enough to grow maize, and cisterns to catch the rain and snow. Here the Spaniards received gifts of game, deerskins, bread, and maize.
Three other days brought Alvarado to Tiguex, in the valley of the Rio del Norte, just below Albuquerque, perhaps not far from Isletta; and in five days more he reached Cicuye, on the river Pecos. But he found there nothing of note, except an Indian who told of Quivira, a country to the northeast, the real land of the buffalo, abounding in gold and silver, and watered by tributaries of a river which was two leagues wide.
The Spanish camp for the winter was established near Tiguex; there Alvarado brought the Indian who professed to know the way to Quivira; there Coronado himself appeared, after a tour among eight more southern villages; and there his army, which had reached Zuni without loss, arrived in December, suffering on its march from cold and storms of snow.
The people who had thus far been discovered had a civilization intermediate between that of the Mexicans and the tribes of hunters. They dwelt in fixed places of abode, built, for security against roving hordes of savages, on tables of land that spread out upon steep natural castles of sandstone. Each house was large enough to contain three or four hundred persons, and consisted of one compact parallelogram, raised of mud, hardened in the sun, or of stones, cemented by a mixture of ashes, earth, and charcoal for lime; usually three or four stories high, with terraces, inner balconies, and a court, having no entrance on the ground floor; accessible from without only by ladders, which in case of alarm might be drawn inside. There was no king or chief exercising supreme authority, no caste of nobles or priests, no human sacrifices, no cruel rites of superstition, no serfs or class of laborers or slaves; they were not governed much; and that little government was in the hands of a council of old men. A subterranean heated room was the council-chamber. They had no hieroglyphics like the Mexicans, nor calendar, nor astronomical knowledge. Bows and arrows, clubs and stones, were their weapons of defence; they were not sanguinary, and they never feasted on their captives. Their women were chaste and modest; adultery was rare; polygamy unknown. Maize, beans, pumpkins, and, it would seem, a species of native cotton, were cultivated; the mezquite-tree furnished bread. The dress was of skins or cotton mantles. They possessed nothing which could gratify avarice; the promised turquoises were valueless blue stones.
Unwilling to give up the hope of discovering an opulent country, on the twenty-third of April, 1541, Coronado, with the false Indian as the pilot of his detachment, began a march to the north-east. Crossing the track of Cabeza de Vaca, in the valley of the Canadian river, they came in nine days upon plains which seemed to have no end, and where countless prairie dogs peered on them from their burrows. Many pools of water were found impregnated with salt, and bitter to the taste. The wanderings of the general, extending over three hundred leagues, brought him among the Querechos, hunters of the bison, which gave them food and clothing, strings to their bows, and coverings to their lodges. They had dogs to carry their tents when they moved; they knew of no wealth but the products of the chase, and they migrated with the wild herds. The Spaniards came once upon a prairie that was broken neither by rocks nor hills, nor trees nor shrubs, nor anything which could arrest the eye as it followed the sea of grass to the horizon. In the hollow ravines there were trees, which could be seen only by approaching the steep bank; the path for descending to the water was marked by the tracks of the bison. Here some of the Teyas nation from the valley of the Rio Grande del Norte were found hunting. The governor, sending back the most of his men, with a chosen band journeyed on for forty-two days longer, having no food but the meat of buffaloes, and no fuel but their dung. At last he reached the province, which, apparently from some confusion of names, he was led to call Quivira, and which lay in forty degrees north latitude, unless he may have erred one or two degrees in his observations. It was well watered by brooks and rivers, which flowed to what the Spaniards then called the Espiritu Santo; the soil was the best strong, black mould, and bore plums like those of Spain, nuts, grapes, and excellent mulberries. The inhabitants were savages, having no culture but of maize; no metal but copper; no lodges but of straw or of bison skins; no clothing but buffalo robes. Here, on the bank of a great tributary of the Mississippi, a cross was raised with this inscription: “Thus far came the general, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.”
After a still further search for rich kingdoms, and after the Rio Grande del Norte had been explored by parties from the army for twenty leagues above its tributary, the Jemez, and for an uncertain distance below El Paso, the general, returning to Tiguex, on the twentieth of October, 1541, reported to Charles V that, poor as were the villages on the great river of the North, nothing better had been found, and that the region was not fit to be colonized. Persuaded that no discoveries could be made of lands rich in gold, or thickly enough settled to be worth dividing as estates, Coronado, in 1542, with the hearty concurrence of his officers, returned to New Spain. His failure to find a Northern Peru threw him out of favor; yet what could have more deserved applause than the courage and skill of the men who thoroughly examined and accurately portrayed the country north of Sonora, from what is now Kansas on the one side to the chasm of the Colorado on the other?
In the year of the return of Coronado, a Spanish expedition sailed from Acapulco under the command of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese. In January, 1543, Cabrillo died in the harbor of San Diego; but his pilot, Bartolome Ferrelo, continued the exploration, and traced the coast of the American continent on the Pacific to within two and a half degrees of the mouth of Columbia river.