Thursday, July 30, 2009

In the News: De Soto Archaeology & A Burning Ship

A couple of news stories regarding an archaeological dig in northern Tennessee cropped up today. No De Soto artifacts have been found or are likely to for that matter, but it is an an area along Hudson's proposed route and its nice to see the conquistador mentioned.

Nolichucky Conquistadors
Johnson City Press
Conquistadors probably carried the Spanish flag through Northeast Tennessee 400 years ago...

Signs Of Explorer desoto Sought Along Nolichucky
Greeneville Sun
In the summer of 1540, a party of Spanish conquistadors led by Hernando de Soto was exploring what centuries later was to become the ...

In other more spectacular news a replica 17th C. Dutch Ship burned in the Netherlands.

Fire guts replica of 17th-century tall ship
The Associated Press

AMSTERDAM — Fire consumed a replica of the 17th-century flagship of the Dutch East India Company in the northern Netherlands on Thursday...

Check out the photos:

I suppose they would come in handy as reference material to anyone doing a Cortes ship burning or Drake's Fire Ships.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Didn't stay up for Appalachia

Didn't stay up for Appalachia last night. I'll catch it at some other point I'm sure In the news:
Statue of de Luna to be unveiled, dedicated in downtown Pensacola.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Appalachians

I noticed the PBS series The Appalachians a few months ago when "De Soto" and "Charles Hudson" popped up in a couple of news stories. It looks like the series has finally made it to southwest Florida. I'm not expecting much, I recall one review saying that the first episode ran like a filmed Earth Science textbook. Apparently shot on a very low budget, so likely stockfootage conquistadors at best, still I may try to stay up late and check it out.

The Appalachians (WUSF TV : 16.1)
Tuesday, July 28, 2009 12:00 PM
A three-part history of the region begins with the 17th-century immigration of European explorers and traders; the American revolution; and religious revivals in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

One worrisome note, the original series is listed as four parts, and likely they dropped the first episode altogether or recut it without any conquistador stuff.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Luna Papers

After another frustrating research afternoon I bring to your attention Priestly's Luna Papers on Line. Unfortunately, its another PDF scan job, which is better than nothing, for a long out of print book; but oh to have an easy text search.

In any event:

Author: Priestley, Herbert Ingram, 1875-1944.
Publication date: 1928 Collection: Florida Heritage Collection

Author: Priestley, Herbert Ingram, 1875-1944.
Publication date: 1928
Collection: Florida Heritage Collection

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ponce de Leon Clothing Part 2

Okay, so this "trousers" thing is bugging me. It is the 21st centurty, let's try Google Books! I find an online version, in Spanish, of Historia de las Indias By Bartolomé de las Casas c.1875. I try searching unique words and names near the passage in question,"naborías" and "Bobadilla" for example. I find some hits but nothing is matching, even with my limited Spanish skills, something is amiss. I know this section of the book is only a few pages past Book Two in the Collard translation (which is an admittedly abridged version of the original three volume work, but also, as near as I can tell the only published English translation at all!) so I check the table of contents and the mystery is solved, on page one - "Libro Tercio", it is the only the third volume. Further checking reveals that as of this date its also the only volume that Google has scanned and posted. Alas, I'll have to try for interlibrary loan.

Ponce de Leon Era Clothing

I'm currently rereading my copy of History of the Indies looking for items of PdL interest and came across this passage, both describing how a proper Castilian should be dressed and how, in fact they were, on Hispanola in the early 16th C.

“And it was a laughing matter to see the Spaniards’ presumption, vanity and air of authority when they had not even a linen shirt to their names, nor cape, coat or trousers but wore only cotton shirt over another shirt from Castile if they had it; it not, they wore their cotton shirt over bare legs and instead of boots they had sandals and leggings."

p.80 History of the Indies Bartolome de las Casas. Collard, Andrée M. trans. & ed. Harper Torch Books, New York, New York 1971

[trousers?I’d like to read this passage in the original Spanish …I’ve seen criticism of this translator, but it’s the only version I can find-I have a feeling that I may need to find a Spanish copy and try for a literal word for word translation]

Friday, July 24, 2009

De Soto Chronicles On-line

In time for the 450th anniversary of the De Soto expedition most of the known primary source material was translated into English and gathered together into the two volume work entitled The De Soto Chronicles. The National Park Service as an online PDF file available on line:

The De Soto Chronicles:The Expedition of Hernando De Soto to North America 1539-1543

Volume I
Volume II

Which is a wonderful resource excepting that the PDF file consists of scanned pages and is not a readily searchable database. I have though found on-line OCR scans of the major accounts, which will allow one to to find "crossbow" or "axe' for example, easily in the narrative text.

Luys Hernandez de Biedma was the "factor" or Royal official on the expedition. His is the shortest account and can be called the report of Soto's entrada. Here its presented in Spanish and English side by side.


Rodrigo Ranjel was Hernando de Soto's secretary and seems to have kept a diary, though towards the end of the four year long march entries become sparse.


The Gentlemen of Elvas, as the unnamed Portuguese adventuer has become known, wrote an account of the expedition.


The above three accounts are the primary accounts that have survived the centuries. Garcilaso's Florida of the Inca is technically considered a secondary work as Garcilaso was not a member of the expedition and his narrative is based largely on the memories of an aging conquistador he knew in Peru. It is by far the largest (Its Vol. II of the Chronicles - Vol I, is Biedma, Ranjel,Elvas, and other material) and most readable of the relations, however its the most embelished in terms of numbers and least reliable in dates and place names.

Florida of the Inca

Another resource I should mention is the work of Buckingham Smith, a nineteenth century translator who includes in an appendix some of the testimonies (usually as part of a request for a royal pension) of some of the ordinary participants on the expedition. No one seems to have gathered together and published this kind of information as the Flint's have done with the Coronado expedition. Among these testimonies is the only mention of Ana Mendez an eleven year old servant girl who accompanied the expedition,
Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida By Buckingham Smith

starting around page 289 on Google Books. Likewise you can also download a zip file of

Avellaneda's Los Sobrevivientes de la Florida: The Survivors of the De Soto Expedition

where in one finds that Soto's tent began to mildew and rot out within a month of landing in Florida. but it doesn't contain the information in a raw translated form.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

De Soto Takes a Time Out

De Soto Takes a Time Out and other photos from the 2008 landing reenactment at De National Memorial.

Florida Living History

FLH a new Living History/reenactment umbrella group has been assembling over the past year and just put out its first press release to wit:

Florida Living History, Inc.

1960 US Hwy 1 South PMB 193

St. Augustine, FL 32086

877-FLA-HIST (877-352-4478)


Web site:



ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – July 22, 2009 – Florida Living History, Inc. (FLH) is a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to support living history activities, events, and portrayals related to the history of Florida.

The purpose of FLH is to:

  • foster an understanding of Florida’s history through programs, events, demonstrations, portrayals, media relations, and publications;
  • encourage the study of Florida’s colonial and territorial history from the time of Don Juan Ponce de León’s first landing in 1513 to the time of Florida’s statehood in 1845;
  • develop living history programs that interpret, portray, and demonstrate the Native American, European, Black, and military and civilian aspects of that history;
  • present such programs to students and members of the general public;
  • operate exclusively for educational and charitable purposes.

Formed in January 2009, FLH is dedicated to providing an organizational umbrella for living history groups committed to the historically accurate, research-based interpretation of Florida’s history. FLH will, as a non-profit, provide logistic, administrative, advisory, and insurance-related support for these groups, enabling them to function smoothly and enjoy success and security in their endeavors. FLH is comprised of member groups, such as the Company of Juan Ponce de León, Calderon’s Company, the St. Augustine Garrison, and the St. Augustine Textile Arts Guild, that embrace and support its aims. Its success will be ensured by the long-demonstrated commitment of such member groups to living history and its potential to provide educational enlightenment, entertainment, and an understanding of Florida’s past for the general public.

For more information on Florida Living History, Inc., please contact us at or phone us, toll-free, at 877-FLA-HIST (877-352-4478). You may also visit the Florida Living History, Inc. Web site at .

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Conquistadors in the Carolinas

Thanks to Sheila for bringing this to my attention

This month's Archaeology magazine - - July/Aug 2009 - - includes the article "Spain's Appalachian Outpost" - 'Conquistadors in the Carolinas' by Marion P. Blackburn- - The Spanish story of the Native American town of Joara (the Berry site, NC)-- visited by De Soto, First and Second Pardo expeditions. There is an abstract of Spain's Appalachian Outpost online .

Monday, July 20, 2009


Hernando de Soto is generally credited with introducing pigs into North America. The descendants of these swine are considered a nuisance species throughout the Southeastern United States and regularly hunted.

“…and they took with them a large drove of pigs which had been brought over in the fleet to meet any emergency.”—Ranjel’s account

“The Governor had brought thirteen sows to Florida, which had increased to three hundred swine;”-- Elvas relation

“When they were returning they met with a sow which they had lost in going, and which had brought forth thirteen pigs, all differently marked in the ears. Hence, we may believe that the Indians had divided these animals among themselves, and that they are now reared in Florida.—Garcilaso de La Vega

At the 17th C. Searles event in St. Augustine members of the incredibly cool
Bartholomew Bramble's Schoole of Defence AKA Bramblers who had just completed a period boar hunt. Not only did they help feed the camp with fresh pork but they also greatly entertained all the soldiers, buccaneers and distaff with their tales of the hunt, ‘tripod’ pigs, and weapon wound analysis.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Spot Capt. William

I just came across this picture; can you spot Capt. William of Drake's men?

De Soto Burns Mabila

It looks like my photo of Will during the Hernando de Soto in America shoot was used for some photo-shopping.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Taking Possession

With the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s ‘discovery’ of Florida coming up its likely that we handful of conquistador living history types will find ourselves asked to recreate Ponce’s landing and taking possession of La Florida. The surviving account of the 1513 voyage is pretty brief and the taking of the land even more so.

From the Herrera account- April 2, 1513

“Thinking the land was an island they named it La Florida, because it had a very beautiful view of the many fresh woodlands and it was even and uniform. And because they discovered it in the time of Easter, the Feast of Flowers, Juan Ponce wished to conform in the name with these two reasons. He went ashore to obtain information and take possession.[1]

Not much to go on there I’m afraid. Looking a couple of decades earlier for the first instance of claiming the land for Spain in the New World:

Letter of Columbus San Salvador - Friday, 12th of October 1492

“The Admiral took the royal standard, and the captains went with two banners of the green cross, which the Admiral took in all the ships as a sign with an F and a Y and a crown over each letter, one on one side of the cross and the other on the other. Having landed they saw trees very green, and much water, and fruits of diverse kinds. The Admiral called to the two captains, and to the others who leaped on shore, and to Rodrigo Escovedo, secretary of the whole fleet, and to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, and said that they should bear faithful testimony that he, in presence of all, had taken, as he now took, possession of the said island for the King and for the Queen his Lords, making the declarations that are required, as is now largely set forth in the testimonies which were then made in writing.”[2]

And in the Admiral of the Ocean Seas own words:

First Voyage of Columbus- 1492

“And there I found very many islands filled with people innumerable, and of them all I have taken possession for there highnesses, by proclamation made and with the royal standard unfurled, and no opposition was offered to me.”[3]

In particular interest for PdL reenactment is Columbus’ second voyage which according to Las Casas , Ponce was a member of that expedition, although there isn’t any other evidence to that effect, he presumably would have seen how its done.

Second Voyage of Columbus - 1493

“There the admiral, with royal standard in his hands, landed, and many men with him, and there took possession for there highnesses in form of law.”[4]

Looking to some later La Florida expeditions one can fill in a little more detail as to how take possession of a new land.

Panfilo de Narvaez - 1528

“The next day the Governor hoisted flags in behalf of Your Majesty and took possession of the country in Your Royal name, exhibited his credentials, and was acknowledged as Governor according to Your Majesty's commands. We likewise presented our titles to him, and he complied as they required.”[5]

Hernando de Soto -1539

“Tuesday, June 3, the Governor took possession of the country in the name of their Majesties, with all the formalities that are required, and dispatched one of the Indians to persuade and allure the neighbouring chiefs with peace.”[6]

And according to Garcilaso grapes were the motivating factor in claiming La Florida:

“The general received the fruit with pleasure, because they were like the grapes of Spain, and because they had not found any either in Mexico or in Peru, so that, judging from this, of the excellence of the soil of Florida, he commanded three hundred men to go and take possession of it in the name of the emperor.”[7]

Pedro Menendez - 1565

“On Saturday, the 8th, the general landed with many banners spread, to the sound of trumpets and salutes of artillery. As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn Te Deum laudamus. The general marched up to the cross, followed by all who accompanied him, and there they kneeled and embraced the cross. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all they saw done. The same day the general took formal possession of the country in the name of his Majesty, and all the captains took the oath of allegiance to him, as their general and governor of the country. When this ceremony was ended, he offered to do everything in his power for them,..”[8]

[1] Juan Ponce de León, King Ferdinand and the Fountain of Youth. Devereux, Anthony Q. The reprint Company, Publishers, Spartanburg, South Carolina 1993. pp.114-115

[2] Journal
An Electronic Edition

Christopher Columbus 1451-1506 Bartolome de Las Casas c.1490-1558

Original Source: Christopher Columbus, "Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus," in Julius E. Olson and Edward Gaylord Bourne, eds., The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, 985-1503, Original Narratives of Early American History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906. P.50

[3] The Four Voyages of Columbus: A History in Eight Documents, Including Five by Christopher Columbus, in the Original Spanish, with English Translations

Jane, Cecil trans. & ed. Dover, Mineola, New York 1988 p.3

[4] Jane, p.24

[5] The Journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza De Vaca(1542) Translated by Fanny Bandelier (1905)


[7] Florida of the Inca
An Electronic Edition

Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca 1539-1616

Original Source: Garcilaso Inca de la Vega, "History of the Conquest of Florida." In The History of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the Events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568. E. Barnard Shipp. Philadelphia: Robert M. Lindsay, 828 Walnut Street, 1881

[8] Founding of St. Augustine
An Electronic Edition

Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales 16th Century

Original Source: "The Founding of St. Augustine." In Old South Leaflets Volume IV. Boston: Directors of the Old South work. Old South Meeting House.

Warriors: Cortés

I caught a rebroadcast of Warriors: Cortés on the Military Channel a few days ago. It seems to be a retitling of the 2007 BBC series entitled "Heroes and Villains" and one the episodes is of Hernan Cortes conqueror of Mexico. It's been posted on You Tube.

1/6 com/watch? v=_YzZaLPxsig
2/6 com/watch? v=opqP8o_ uGR0
3/6 com/watch? v=5ghWuFdgkHI
4/6 com/watch? v=cQpWUnVCv18
5/6 com/watch? v=2r1RbCS5jpg
6/6 com/watch? v=DhGRS4oWoWw

I've got my quibbles with some of the details, but the armor, weapons
and costuming are far above average. For example, although some of the
foot soldiers wear combed morions; for a change - none of the principles
are so equipped. This is the best example of Conquistadors vs. Indios
combat that I've seen, with pretty good CGI to fill out numbers in long

Video quality on You Tube isn't the best, but with real actors, its far better that past examples that use head nodding reenactors while the serious 'voice' narrates the action. heaven knows, I've been a part of a number of those productions, and probably will be again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Debunking Donald Sheppard

Donald Sheppard's Where Conquistadors went in North America Is the most extensive De Soto site on the web, with its many pages, and mirror site servers (at least 4 that I’ve detected), which tend to fill search engines crowding out other sites. Also, while it does give an excellent account of the four year-four thousand mile journey of the expedition its route re-construction is not at all accepted by most scholars and seems to have established itself in the explorer's Wikipedia entry as well. Charles Hudson’s route is controversial enough, this site ignores Hudson’s and compares itself to Swanton's 1939 reconstruction. Though I am quite skeptical about Shepard's conclusions, I've also been content to let the academics argue this one out. However I have noticed an unfortunate number of grade school sites using this site almost exclusively, and tending to mimic its claims.

Probably because of this quote
'One internet link site proprietor sarcastically classified the Sheppard pages as "Alternate History", but at this point we move into the realm of outright fantasy.' ; the first site I found debunking Sheppard's theories was William Saunders'


Another, more recent site along the same lines, but not quite as humorous is here.

Debunking Donald Sheppard's Hernando de Soto Trail Hypothesis: Errors Revealed

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ranks and Organization

I was recently queried about ranks in conquistador armies. From reading the chronicles of various expeditions, in particular those of the Hernando de Soto expedition
one gets the impression that the was the Adelantado or Governor general, the Camp Master, a few royal officials, and a bunch of 'Captains'. In Europe the Spanish Tercio system had been well developed by the mid-sixteenth century. Many of the conquistadors were veterans of the Italian campaigns and its probably safe to assume that at least some of this organization and ranks carried over into the New World.

The best overview that I've come across is here:

Organisation of the Spanish army

As even the largest conquistador expeditions were tiny compared to armies in Europe the Company breakdown is probably closest to what might expect here in La Florida.

"All the companies have the same staff: 1 captain and his page,
1 alférez (lieutenant),
1 sergeant,
1 abanderado (ensign),
3 musicians,
1 clerk,
1 chaplain and 1 barber, in total 11 officers

Each Spanish company was divided in "escuadra " or group of a maximum of 25 men commanded by a "cabo". A 250 men company had 10 cabos and a 300 men company had 12 cabos. The Spanish had also an unofficial structure of half dozen of men called las camaradas, it was not a combat structure but a group of men from the same company sharing the food, the bed, the training, the friend ship. The camaradas were important to maintain the moral and the famous esprit de corps of the Spanish soldiers."

I have one small quibble the size of the camarada seems large compared to that which of come across. Hernando de Soto was a member of a three person group and the gentleman of Elvas states "...a mess of every three or four built a small house in which they were lodged."

Entrada Reboot

After a long hiatus I've decided to restart my Entrada blog, though back then I called it an electronic newsletter.

a more recent version, yet years old, Google cached here: