Who is Hernando de Soto?

THE hideous story of the disastrous adventures of Narvaez and his companions in Florida seems sufficient to have deterred others from undertaking further enterprises among the fierce Apalachians, either for gold or dominion. But the effect was otherwise. Spanish chivalry had been stimulated, and thirst for glory had been intensified by the valorous exploits of the discoverers and conquerors in America, and the more hazardous the performance the greater was the renown. The very difficulties in the way seemed to sharpen desire; and when Hernando de Soto, who, as one of the conquerors of Peru under Pizarro, had returned to Spain with great wealth and reputation, proposed an expedition for the conquest of Florida, hundreds of young men, the flower of the Spanish and Portuguese nobility, flocked to his standard.

De Soto longed to rival Cortez and Pizarro in the brilliancy of his deeds. He had appeared at the court of Charles the Fifth in great splendor, as one of the richest men in Spain, and had been favorably received. He had lately married Isabella de Bobadilla, a scion of one of the most renowned of the Castilian families, and his influence at court was thereby strengthened; and when he offered to undertake the conquest of Florida at his own expense, the permission of his sovereign was readily given. Charles also commissioned him governor of Cuba, from which island he would sail for Florida, and made him captain-general of the provinces which he might secure by conquest on the main.

De Soto was of gentle birth; of known pre-eminence as a soldier; wise in council; prudent in action; brave to rashness in conflict, and his reputation was without blemish. In person, he was elegant; in deportment, courtly; as a horseman, expert; and in age, thirty-seven--the prime of young manhood. With these qualities and his generous offer to aid young cavaliers who needed assistance in equipping themselves in accordance with their rank and position, he soon gathered a band of six hundred brilliant adventurers. Some of the wealthier came in gorgeous suits of armor, rich dresses and trains of servants. Many of them had sold houses, lands and vineyards to enable them to embark in the enterprise, for De Soto believed there was more gold in Florida than in Mexico and Peru together, and had said so.

With this brilliant armament, and accompanied by his beautiful young wife and other noble ladies, De Soto embarked at San Lucar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the Guadalquiver, early in April, 1538, a little less than eleven years after Narvaez sailed on his unfortunate expedition from the same port. His armament consisted of seven large and three smaller vessels; and the flag-ship was the San Christoval, of eight hundred tons burthen. Their departure was cheered by the braying of trumpets and the shouts of a great multitude; and the fleet was followed by twenty-six merchant vessels bound for Mexico.

So bountifully had De Soto furnished his ships with stores, that every man was supplied with double rations; and in their enjoyment of plenty and wastefulness, they almost adored their munificent leader. Gayety and festivity--music, dancing and feasting--prevailed on board the San Christoval during that sunny voyage, in which richly-dressed ladies were conspicuous, with handsome young pages to do their bidding, especially on mild and brilliant moonlit evenings within the tropic of Cancer. All were joyous, for they thought they were on the way to an earthly paradise. At near the close of May the ships all entered Cuban waters. The bright sea-pageant vanished, for then the real business of the expedition was begun in earnest. There De Soto occupied a whole year in arranging affairs of government and preparing for the great enterprise in view.

Towards the middle of May, 1539, De Soto sailed from Havana with a fleet of nine vessels, large and small, and about a thousand followers with many horses, cattle, mules, and a herd of swine. He left public affairs in Cuba in the hands of his wife and the lieutenant-governor, where, for several days, he had given feasts and entertainments such as might be appropriate after a great conquest. A vessel had been sent to Florida to find a safe harbor and to kidnap some Indians to act as guides and interpreters. So prepared, De Soto bade Isabella de Bobadilla farewell, on board his ship, with the full expectation of returning speedily with the rich fruits of a glorious conquest. Alas! clouds soon gathered in the firmament of his hopes, and his brilliant dream was never realized. His voyage was pleasant; and when the armament anchored in Tampa Bay, near where Narvaez had landed, delicious perfumes came from the shores, for all Florida was in bloom. It was the 30th of May.

Had De Soto been wiser than the other conquerors, and conciliated the Indians by friendly acts, all might have been well. But he was no wiser than they. He sent armed men to capture natives, that he might obtain knowledge of the country, and so he imitated his predecessors. The Indians had learned to be cautious from their contact with Narvaez, and they were too wily in their movements, and too expert with the bow and arrow, to be taken.

In one of their little excursions the Spaniards were startled as they were charging upon a band of Indians, by the voice of a man crying out in the Castilian tongue: "I am a Christian! I am a Christian! Slay me not!" The stout trooper stayed his lance, lifted the supplicant to his horse, and carried him to the main encampment. The Castilian in Indian guise proved to be Jean Ortiz, a native of Seville, who had been a captive among the Indians for several years. He had heard of the landing of the Spaniards, and had hastened to meet them; and he was a godsend to De Soto because he was a valuable interpreter. The governor furnished Ortiz with clothes and a horse, and attached him to his personal staff.

De Soto was now ready to enter upon the conquest of Florida. His troops were clad in coats of steel to repel arrows, and bore breast-plates and helmets of the same metal. They had strong shields, swords, lances, arquebuses (a kind of rude short guns), cross-bows and one cannon. The cavaliers were mounted on one hundred and thirteen horses. Indian blood-hounds from Cuba were the allies of the Spaniards, and the Castilians were plentifully supplied with iron neck-collars, handcuffs and chains for their captives. With these instruments of cruelty, a drove of swine, many cattle and mules, and accompanied by mechanics, priests, inferior clergy and monks with sacerdotal robes, holy relics, images of the Virgin and sacramental bread and wine wherewith to make Christians of the conquered pagans, De Soto began his march in June, 1539. From the outset he was met by the most vigorous opposition. In narrow defiles and other exposed places, he and his followers were assailed by clouds of arrows from the hands of a multitude of natives who had been made intensely revengeful because of the cruelties of Narvaez and his men. They had resolved to fight the invaders until not one should be left upon the soil. Cruelty was met by cruelty. When a Spaniard was captured, he was mercilessly slaughtered. The captive Indians were loaded with chains and made beasts of burden, without regard to age or sex. The antagonism of the races was fearful. When De Soto, hoping to conciliate Acuera, a powerful Muscogee or Creek chief, whose territory he had entered, and invited the cacique to a friendly interview, he received this haughty reply:

"Others of your accursed race have, in years past, disturbed our peaceful shores. They have taught me what you are. What is your employment? To wander about like vagabonds from land to land; to rob the poor; to betray the confiding; to murder the defenseless in cold blood. No! with such a people I want neither peace nor friendship. War--never-ending, exterminating war--is all I ask. You boast yourselves to be valiant--and so you may be; but my faithful warriors are not less brave; and of this you shall one day have proof, for I have sworn to maintain an unsparing conflict while one white man remains in my borders; not openly in the battle-field, though even thus we fear not to meet you, but by stratagem, ambush, and midnight surprisal."

In reply to a demand that he should yield obedience to the emperor, Acuera as haughtily said: "I am king in my own land, and will never become the vassal of a mortal like myself. Vile and pusillanimous is he who submits to the yoke of another when he may be free! As for me and my people we prefer death to the loss of liberty, and the subjugation of our country!" De Soto pressed his suit for a friendly interview, but was always answered by the cacique that he had given him all the reply he had to make.

De Soto remained twenty days in the dominions of Acuera, continually suffering from the enmity of that cacique. A Spaniard could not go a hundred paces from his camp without danger of being shot, and his severed head carried in triumph on a pike to the presence of the chief. In that way fourteen Castilians perished, and many were wounded. "Keep on! robbers and traitors!" said Acuera. "In my province and in Apalachee you will be treated as you deserve. We will quarter and hang up every captive on the highest tree!" And they did so. In open fight the Spaniards were always victors, but in ambush and skulking, the Indians were expert and fearfully dangerous.

Cutting his way through hostile tribes, De Soto reached the fertile region of Tallahassee, where he wintered. An expedition which sailed westward in his ships, to explore the coasts, returned in February with a report that the skeletons of the men and horses of Narvaez's party, who had perished at St. Marks, the place of that adventurer's last embarkation, had been discovered; also the sheltered bay of Pensacola. The commander of the vessels was ordered to return to Cuba immediately, and thence convey provisions and other supplies to Pensacola, whilst De Soto should march across the country to the same point. For this purpose the governor broke up his winter encampment in March, but being told that gold abounded in the north, he first went in that direction as far as Silver Bluff, on the Savannah River. On the opposite side of the stream (in Barnwell District, S. C.) lived an Indian. "queen," young, beautiful and a maiden, who ruled over a large extent of country. In a richly wrought canoe filled with shawls and skins, and other presents, the dusky cacica glided across the river, and with kind words welcomed the governor and offered him her services. Presents were exchanged. A magnificent string of pearls was upon her neck. This she drew over her head and hung it around the neck of De Soto as a token of her regard. Then she invited him and his followers to cross over to her village. In canoes and on log-rafts they passed the stream, and encamping in the shadows of mulberry trees, they soon received a bountiful supply of turkeys and venison. There they remained until early in May, when they departed, De Soto requiting the hospitality of the royal maiden with treachery. He carried her away a prisoner, and kept her near his person as a hostage for the good behavior of her people towards the Spaniards. She finally escaped and returned to her home, a bitter enemy of the perfidious white people.

The Spaniards marched to the headwaters of the Savannah, in Habersham county, when they turned their faces westward, and crossing northern Georgia, through the picturesque Cherokee country, went over the Oostanaula near its confluence with the Etowah, and entered the large village of Chiaha, on the site of modern Rome. There they were received with the kindest hospitality by the young chief, who gave the intruders plenty of food and to their leader a string of pearls two yards in length, each pearl as large as a filbert. The streams in that region then abounded in the pearl-bearing mussel.

For thirty days the Spaniards remained at Chiaha. Then marching eastward, they entered northeastern Alabama, and were soon in the beautiful and fertile Coosa country. They were everywhere kindly received and bountifully fed by the inhabitants. Cultivated fields stretched out on every side, and granaries were filled with corn. Plum trees abounded, resembling those of Spain, and grapes hung in delicious clusters from vines that climbed the tall trees. It was now late in July, 1540. When the army came in sight of the capital of Coosa, the chief, a young man less than thirty years of age, borne upon a cushioned chair on the shoulders of four men, met him in the remote out-skirts of the town, followed by a thousand warriors, tall, active and well-proportioned, with scanty garments and plumed heads. The cacique was clad in a mantle of marten skins thrown gracefully over his shoulder, and on his head was a diadem of brilliant feathers. Musicians attended him, singing songs and playing flutes; and the whole procession was almost as gorgeous as that of the Spaniards in their glittering armor. The cacique received De Soto with joy, set apart the royal house for his accommodation, and dined with the governor every day. Finally, he besought De Soto to found a Spanish colony anywhere in his dominions. The governor, charmed with the delicious climate, would have done so but for the avaricious desire to find the great gold region which, he believed, was not far off. He declined the generous offer, with polite thanks, at the same time holding the chief as a hostage for the double purpose of securing the friendly offices of his people and extorting provisions and slaves. The natives were enraged at the indignity offered their sovereign, and fleeing to the woods prepared for war. The Spaniards pursued them, and returned with men and women in chains, many of whom they carried off as slaves when they departed in August. So, at every step, hospitality was repaid by injustice and cruelty. The Spaniards by their conduct justly earned the fate which finally overtook them.

De Soto continued his march through the beautiful regions of Alabama, taking with him the cacique of Coosa, as far as the great town of Tallase, where he was dismissed. Pushing southward, the Spaniards approached the temporary residence of Tuscaloosa, the renowned chief known as the Black Warrior, who was gigantic in stature, and the head of the Mobilian Indians. They found him seated on a commanding eminence upon a cushioned seat with beautiful mats under his feet and surrounded by numerous attendants. He was forty years of age, a head taller than any of his warriors, with a handsome face of grave and severe aspect. Lord of many tribes, he was feared by his neighbors and subjects; and his influence was widely spread over the region of the Alabama River to that of the Mississippi. He received De Soto with haughty courtesy; and when the governor ordered one of his largest pack-horses to be brought for the use of the giant chief-tain, the latter mounted with sullenness and evident reluctance. He and De Soto rode side by side, and it was soon evident to Tuscaloosa that he was a prisoner of the Spaniards after the manner of other caciques who had been held as hostages. They crossed the Alabama a short distance below Selma, and passed down the right bank of that stream in the direction of the sea. De Soto now discovered signs which made him uneasy. The deference which had been paid to him since he left the Apalachee country had assured him that the conquest of Florida would be an easy matter. Indeed, he had regarded it as already accomplished. But the demeanor of Tuscaloosa caused him to doubt. The chief was in close and continual consultation with his principal followers, and was constantly sending runners to his capital, with messages, telling the Spaniards that he was preparing for their honorable reception. De Soto did not believe him, and took precautions against treachery. Side by side he and Tuscaloosa rode into the Mobilian capital, a large palisaded and walled town on a high plain by the side of a broad river, and called Manbila. The most acute students of the Spanish narratives believe that Choctaw Bluff, in Clarke county, about twenty-five miles above the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigby rivers, was its site.

It was at about eight o'clock on a bright October morning, when De Soto and Tuscaloosa rode into Manbila together, and were received in the great square with songs, the music of flutes, and the dancing of Indian girls. They alighted, and were seated under a canopy of state, when Tuscaloosa requested not to be held as a hostage any longer. The governor hesitated. The angered cacique sprang to his feet and with a proud and haughty step walked into a house close by. Ortiz, the interpreter, followed, and invited him to breakfast with De Soto. Tuscaloosa refused to return, saying: "If your chief knows that is best for him, he will immediately take his troops out of my country." The suspicions of the Spanish leader were confirmed, and he had scarcely recovered from his surprise when one of his spies came with information that ten thousand warriors, followers of Tuscaloosa and neighboring chiefs, were in the houses; that a vast amount of weapons and missiles, such as bows and arrows, javelins, clubs and stones, had been gathered in the town; that the old women and children had been sent to the forests, and that the Indians were then debating as to the proper hour to fall upon the Spaniards. It was a startling announcement for De Soto, for a greater part of his army was then lagging behind in fancied security, many of them scattered and hunting in the woods. The governor, anxious to postpone an attack until his army should come up, by regaining the person of Tuscaloosa, approached the cacique with smiles and gracious words. The haughty chief turned scornfully away, and mingled with his warriors. At that moment a chief rushed out, and with a loud voice denounced the Spaniards as robbers, thieves and assassins who should no longer impose upon their leader by depriving him of his liberty. Balthazar Gallegos, the greatest soldier of the expedition next to De Soto, angered by this insolence, cleft the chief, with his sword, from his head to his loins. That act let loose the fury of the people. Like bees from a hive the Indians swarmed out of the houses by hundreds and thousands, and gradually pushed the invaders out of the ponderous gates into the plain. The Manbilans seized the Indian slaves of De Soto, together with all his baggage. The latter was stored within the walls, and the former, having their manacles knocked off, were armed and made to fight their late masters. In that first encounter, five Spaniards were killed and many were wounded, among them De Soto.

Unmindful of his wound, the governor, at the head of his cavalry, charged upon the mass of Indians, and drove them back into the town with fearful slaughter. The Indians rushed to their wall towers and loop-holes, and from these sent clouds of arrows and tempests of stones which drove the Spaniards back. As they receded, the Indian dropped from the walls and rushed out of the gates with huge clubs, beating the intruders and seizing their keen swords and deadly spears. The hand-to-hand conflicts were fierce and fatal, especially to the Indians. For three hours the battle lasted, victory surging from side to side like the ebbing and flowing of the tides of the sea. The lagging army hearing the noise of battle had hastened forward, and were now coming up to the aid of their comrades. The daring of De Soto, who was everywhere in the battle, had already compelled the Indians to take a permanent position within the walls of Manbila; and the priests, who on their knees had uttered copious prayers for victory for the Castilians, now sang the joyous Te Deum.

Having all of his forces in hand, De Soto now formed the foot soldiers in four divisions, who, armed with bucklers and battle-axes, charged upon the walls and portals. The Indians had closed and barricaded the gates and again fought from the towers and loop-holes. But the siege was not a long one. The gates were forced, and through these and over the walls the assailants made their way into the town. A dreadful carnage ensued. The cavalry remained outside to catch and slay any who might attempt to escape whilst the butchery was going on within. The Indians fought with all the gallantry and desperation of patriots defending their country. Although the ground was covered with the dead, not one of the survivors asked for quarter. Young women, in large numbers, fought side by side with the warriors, with equal bravery and skill, and their blood flowed as freely. At length De Soto, at the head of his cavalry, made a furious charge into the town, with a shout of "Our Lady and Santiago!" and made fearful lanes through the ranks of fighting men and women. As he arose to hurl his lance at a powerful Indian warrior, a heavy arrow pierced deeply into his thigh. Unable to pull it out or sit in his saddle, he continued to fight, standing in his stirrups. At length the houses were fired and the combatants were shrouded in the blinding smoke. As the sun went down, the sights and sounds of slaughter and groans of the dying were awful. When the twilight deepened into night, the contest was over. It had lasted nine hours. Manbila was a smoking ruin, and its inhabitants had perished.

That conflict was disastrous to both races. Eighty-two Europeans perished, among whom were some of the brightest flowers of Spanish chivalry. It was estimated that eleven thousand native Alabamians fell in the battle or were burned in the houses. It is believed that Tuscaloosa remained in his house and perished in the flames. Forty-five horses were slain. All the camp equipage and baggage were consumed in the place where the Indians had stored them; all the clothes, medicines, books, pearls, relics and robes of the priests with their flour and wine used in the eucharist or sacrament of the Lord's Supper; instruments, and much of the armor with many other things which could not be obtained in the wilderness, were utterly destroyed. Among the ghastly ruins and piles of the dead, the Spaniards passed the night after the battle. Many of them were wounded and dying. Only one surgeon was left. Seventeen hundred severe wounds called for his care, but his instruments had perished in the flames. De Soto, though badly wounded, bestowed all his care upon his suffering companions. For eight days they remained in the town, and then went out to the Indian huts on the plain. Foraging parties were sent out who found villages abounding in provisions. They brought in beautiful captive maidens from whom they learned that Tuscaloosa had formed a plan for the destruction of the Spaniards weeks before. When the Talases complained to him that their chief had given their people to De Soto for slaves, he said: "Fear nothing; I shall shortly send the Spaniards back from my country to Talase in chains, led by your people, whom they have enslaved. The whole land will be rid of the robbers." De Soto also learned from these captive maidens that his squadron was in the bay of Pensacola.

The fire at Manbila deprived the Spaniards of two widely differing sources of consolation, namely, wheat flour and wine for the eucharist, and playing-cards. Gambling was the besetting sin and most exciting pleasure of all; and they often staked their money, horses, jewels and even feminine slaves, at play. The priests went through all the religious forms excepting consecration, and the unusual ceremony was called Dry Mass. Cards were made of parchment and lent from one company to another, and deep gambling was resumed.

The news of his ships that were doubtless laden with clothing and provisions gave De Soto joy; but his spirits were soon clouded by a conspiracy which had been formed among some of his followers, to abandon him and sail in the ships from Pensacola to Spain or Peru. This discovery changed his plans. He resolved to turn his back upon his ships and go deeper into the wilderness. This determination was announced on the 18th of November, 1540. The order to march northward fell upon the ears of the discontented ones like a clap of thunder. It was made potential by a threat to put to death the first man who should speak of the ships.

Northward the Spaniards marched, and on reaching the waters of the Black Warrior River, they were met by a large force of Indians in battle array, who longed to avenge the destruction of their friends at Manbila. The news of that tragedy had spread over a vast region, and kindled the fiercest hatred of the Spaniards in the hearts of the natives. Hundreds of opposing warriors were swelled to thousands, and De Soto was compelled to fight his way inch by inch through the land of the Choctaws. At length, after passing over the uplands of Mississippi--a beautiful, fertile and populous region--he reached the upper tributaries of the Yazoo River in Yalobusha county, and encamped in front of the town of Chickasa, the capital of the Chickasa nation. It was now December. Ice and even snow appeared and chilled the troops, and De Soto resolved to pass the winter there in a sheltered camp. The chief of the Chickasas feigned friendship for the Spaniards. It might have been real had the latter been wise and just. But they were not. Cruelty and wrong, as before, marked their dealings with the natives. When March came and De Soto thought of marching forward, he demanded of the Chickasa chief two hundred men as burden-bearers. The cacique answered the demand by a furious attack upon the Spanish camp on a dark night, during a wild gale from the north. The assailants came in four columns, with horrid yells and the hideous sounds of wooden drums and blasts on conch-shells. Before the sleeping Spaniards were fairly roused from their slumbers, their huts, made of cane and straw, were in flames, fired by arrows bearing torches. Blinded by the smoke, they ran out of the houses half-dressed, some leaving their weapons behind them. Horses in stables perished, and many swine, in roofed pens, were burned to death. The conflict that ensued was terrible. The Spaniards fought valiantly as best they might, and finally drove their dusky assailants into the forests. But the disaster to the Europeans was greater than that which befell them at Manbila. They had lost forty of their diminished number. The only Spanish woman in the camp--the wife of a soldier--was burned to ashes. Fifty horses had perished, and most of the men saved nothing excepting what they had on their backs or in their hands.

The remainder of the inclement season was passed by the Spaniards in great wretchedness. Cold and hunger, and grievous wounds tortured them; and the Indians fell upon them night after night like fierce tigers. At length, the warm sun of April alleviated their sufferings, and De Soto moved on in a northwesterly direction, in search of the land of gold about which he had dreamed so long. The exasperated Indians assailed him everywhere, and at a town called Alibamo, he had another desperate encounter with them. Then he moved on, and in May he stood upon the banks of the Mississippi River, in Tunica county, near the lower Chickasa Bluffs, above the mouth of the St. Francis River. The mighty Mississippi, then full to the brim, filled De Soto with admiration. He had not found gold, but he was the first European who found the great river upon whose bosom floats, annually, wealth a thousandfold greater than the mines of Mexico or Peru ever yielded. He was not the conqueror of a country teeming with a weak people; but he had achieved a conquest far more glorious than Cortez or Pizarro had done, and had secured immortality for his name and deeds.

Still thirsting for gold, and expecting to find the Pacific Ocean not far off, De Soto crossed the Mississippi River; traversed the lagoons of Arkansas; climbed over the great Ozark hills, and penetrated the country west-ward almost to the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. For a year he wandered in those wild regions; wintered far up the Arkansas River, and in the month of May, 1542, returned to the Mississippi at a point a little north of the mouth of the Arkansas. He now gave up gold-seeking; and on the eastern bank of the great river, in Bolivar county, Mississippi, he selected a site for a colony among a tribe of Indian sun-worshippers. They showed intense hostility to the Spaniards; and when De Soto, in an address to them demanding their submission to his arms, called himself a child of the Sun, they ridiculed him. "If you are a child of the Sun," they haughtily replied, "return to him, dry up the Mississippi, and we will submit to you."

De Soto was now utterly discouraged, and he began the construction of two brigantines wherewith to communicate with Cuba. Exhausted in body and mind, he was soon prostrated by a malignant fever. Satisfied that he could not live, he ordered his attendants to carry him out of his hut into the balmy air under a wide-spreading live-oak, where he received the holy ministrations of the priests. Then he appointed Moscoso, his lieutenant, to be his successor in office and commander of the ragged remnant of his troops who gathered around him in silent grief. One bore a broken helmet, another a battered cuirass, a third a splintered lance, and a fourth a jagged sword. Some were dressed in skins, and some were half-naked. All, in person and equipment, were only shadows of the brilliant retinue who had gathered under his banner at San Lucar about five years before. He exhorted them to keep together, bade them farewell, and then died! To conceal the fact of his death, and to protect his body from desecration by the Indians, his followers placed it in a trough made of live-oak; and at midnight, when darkness was intense, they sunk it to the bottom of the river. So perished the discover of the Mississippi, in the beautiful month of May, 1542, at the early age of forty-two years.

But little more need be said about this wonderful expedition. Moscoso led the Spaniards into the wilderness west of the Mississippi again, hoping to find Mexico. For a year they wandered there and then returned to the Mississippi, where they built brigantines and floated in them upon its bosom toward the sea. The once splendid army of one thousand men was now reduced to three hundred and twenty. Taking with them the beautiful young women whom they had captured at Manbila, and several of the best, horses that survived, they sailed out into the Gulf of Mexico, crossed it, and after enduring untold miseries, they reached Panuco, a Spanish settlement on the coast of Mexico, in September. They went to the City of Mexico, where they were entertained by the viceroy; and the elegant Castilian ladies at that petty court were enraptured by the beauty of the dusky Mobilian girls, whom they caressed, and feasted, and dressed in Spanish costume.

Maldinado, the commander of De Soto's ships, had waited long for him at Pensacola. He had made several voyages in search of him, and finally, in the spring of 1543, while he was at Vera Cruz, he had heard of De Soto's death on the Mississippi, and that only three hundred of his followers lived to reach Mexico. This sad news cast a gloom over Havana; and poor Dona Isabel, the wife of the great leader, who had so long anxiously awaited his return, died of a broken heart.

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