Saturday, October 30, 2010

Demonic Possession

Last year I posted a period ghost story about Columbus' colony of La Isabella.

This Halloween I have one on demonic possession courtesy Garcilasco de la Vega, the least reliable and most most readable chronicler of the De Soto expedition.

from Garcilaso's Florida of the Inca:

"THE night before the Spaniards left for Cofaciqui, their guide, who was one of the Indians they had taken in Apalache, and whom they named Pedro, without, however, having baptized him, began to cry for help, and that they were killing him. The troops immediately seized their arms in the fear of some treason, and put themselves in order of battle. But not seeing anything, and having inquired the cause of alarm, they learned that it was their guide, whom they found quite frightened, and almost half dead. When the general demanded of him what had made him utter such loud cries, he replied that the devil, with a frightful visage, accompanied by many little demons, had appeared to him ; that he had threatened to kill him if fee led the Christians to Cofaciqui; that, thereupon, he had trodden upon his belly; had dragged him through the room, and had given him so many blows that he could not move ; that if he lead not been succored by two Spaniards the devil would have killed him ; but that the moment he perceived them he fled away with all his attendants; that, therefore, since the demons feared the Christians, he begged that they would baptize him immediately, it) order that the devil might not come any more to maltreat him. The general and his officers, who judged of the truth of the adventure by the wounds, sent for the, priests ; who, after leaving interrogated this poor Indian, baptized him, and (lid not abandon him the rest of the night nor the following day. He was in such a pitiable condition that it was necessary to restore him, and the army could not decamp until the next day; yet it was necessary that this Indian should mount on horseback."

I should note that, Garliasco's relation, earlier in the expedition soldiers explain the escape of an Indian Chief on a demon:

"The Indians immediately entered the forest with this order. In the mean time, the Spaniards placed sentinels everywhere; they reposed during the night, satisfied with the conduct of Capasi, and in the expectation of returning with honor to the camp. But when the day appeared they experienced that the most flattering hope is often disappointed. They no longer found the cacique nor one of the savages who had accompanied him. Surprised at this extraordinary event, they inquired of each other how the thing lead happened ; and, as they replied that it was impossible that be had fled, because the sentinels asserted that they had watched all the night, they believed that Capasi had implored the succor of some demon, and that he had been carried away by him. What is certain is, that the Spaniards being fatigued fell asleep, and that the savage, who saw a good opportunity to escape, dragged himself, without noise, on all fours ; that whilst he fled, he found in ambush some of his subjects who carried him off. Heaven, without doubt, favored on this occasion the Spaniards; for if, at the time they slept, the Indians had come to attack them, they would have slaughtered them. But, all transported with joy, they thought only of putting their chief in safety. As they concealed him very well, the Spaniards searched in vain for him all the day. Besides the Indians contented themselves with ridiculing the Spaniards and insulting them. So that they returned to the camp, without jeopardy, but in the greatest confusion in the world for having let their prisoner escape. They excused themselves, because in the night in which he had escaped they had heard in extraordinary noise; and that, leaving been guarded with so much care, the devil must have carried him off.
The general, who saw that the error was irreparable, would blame no one. He feigned to give faith to all that they told him ; that the Indians were great sorcerers, and that they did very wonderful things. Nevertheless, however good a face he put upon it, he was sensibly touched at the negligence of his officers."

Conquistador Clothing

As sometimes happens, a recent query leads to a serendipitous finding. In dispelling the ubiquitous image of the conquistador as arrayed in a combed morion helmet, peascod breastplate, a ruff , pumpkin pants and thigh-high boots there is a distinct lack of contemporary images to prove the point. Even most of the Aztec and Mayan codices about the conquest date from the second half of the sixteenth century.

David Rickman directed me to this page:

Of fragments of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala at the university of Texas, Austin. I'd seen this image before, though only in black and white, its used in the endpapers of Hammond Innes' The Conquistadors. Interestingly enough the Cortés figure in the codex is dressed very similar to that of Cortés in the Christoph Weidtiz image of him in the Trachetenbuch c.1529

Years ago I can across one of the few European images of conquistadors done in the first half of the 16th C. of the Welser entrada [Long story short: German bankers financed an expedition from Spain to S. America c. 1534], in John Hemming's The Search for El Dorado p.57.

I was looking for a clearer and color version of this image to illustrate my point. No luck finding this one but I did find another that appears to be from the same artist depicting the same event.

Welser entrada mustering at San Lucar de Barrameda, Spain:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Historians still search for mysterious Mabila

In the News: Historians still search for mysterious Mabila

Historians still search for mysterious Mabila
Montgomery Advertiser
The Spanish conquistador's 1540 exploration began to unravel at a south Alabama village where his well-armed troops had the advantage and slaughtered ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Columbus Day

Columbus Day, October 12, the "real" Columbus Day, on the anniversary of landfall during his 1492 voyage, not the Monday observed holiday. Though other than no mail and the banks being closed I didn't see much observance. I seem to recall that we got the day off school when I was growing up. My daughter's school was in session yesterday and the subject of Columbus did up in her second grade classroom. Quizzing her on the ride home from school the three ships were the Nina (she doesn't remember visiting the Nina replica when she was a toddler - does remember being chased by a turkey at Yorktown Victory Center-go figure), the Pinta and "something else." She did learn were the term "Indians" came from and the story of Columbus fall off a ship, finding a paddle and "swimming six miles to shore"-though her timeline is mixed up thinking that it happened during the first voyage of discovery and not much earlier in his career.

In my lifetime the reputation of Christopher Columbus has gone from the visionary explorer and Admiral of the Ocean Sea as he titled himself to that of a slave trading , genocidal manic in some of the most extreme diatribes that I've read. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. He was a man of his time, where slavery was an excepted practice. He was clearly a master navigator, if a bit obsessive, and if he'd stuck to exploration, I dare say his reputation would would have remained intact. Alas, he was an incompetent colonial administrator, and both unable to control his settlements, nor able to fulfill his over-reaching promises to his sovereigns. He is also as far as I can tell, and neglected as the originator of the mystery meat phrase, "it tastes like chicken."

"While going around on of the lagoons I saw a serpent which we killed with lances, and I am bringing Your Highness the skin. When it saw us, it went into the lagoon, and we followed it in because the water is not very deep. This serpent is about 6 feet long. I think there are many such serpents in these lagoons. The people here eat them and the meat is white and tastes like chicken."

-Christopher Columbus

The Log of Christopher Columbus, Trans. by Robert H. Fuson (International Marine Publishing Co., Camden Maine, 1987) p.89.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bill Boston at the Fort King Festival

I see that Calderon's Company's Caballero, Bill Boston was at Ocala's Fort King festival as noted in a couple of blogs:

Ocala Daily Photo:

Sustainable Madness blog:

Scroll down a bit for the photos and description:

Sustainable Madness: Fort King Festival
By Amber
This is a Spanish Conquistador. His horse's name is Dixie, I forgot his name... He was incredibly knowledgeable in the history of the different conquistadors and what kinds and numbers of horses they brought with them. Dixie is a decendant of the Florida Cracker horses, which are believed to be decendants of the Conquistador's horses that were left here in Florida.
The blog also mentions The Old Florida Festival in Naples. Which I'm informed has been moved from November 2010 to March 19-20. It always one of my favorite time-line type events. And how could I not like the publicity photos?

Me in my helmet:

and Larry May firing off the large breech-loading bombarda:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Breech Loading Cannon Replicas

I recently got word that there was shown a few years ago a documentary from the UK (probably the BBC) on the reconstruction and firing of a large wrought iron breech loading cannon based on the one recovered from the Mary Rose wreck.

I seem to recall coming across a website detailing the reconstruction but can't seem to find it as yet - much less said documentary; but I did find online a similar reconstructed gun in Sweden.

Though its dated from 1566 it looks very similar to the large one recovered from the Molasses Reef wreck of the early 16th C.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"I like the people who dress like de Soto. "

A fun blog, at least for anybody who has experienced memorable visitors at a history park, from an interpreter at Parkin Archaeological State Park in Arkansas. Parkin is thought to be the Casqui visited by Soto in 1541. My favorite quote, "I like the people who dress like de Soto." It's been ( and I'm begining to realize just how long I've been at this conquistador thing) ten years since I last visited Parkin - for MVEP 's De Soto 2000 event.

What? No Dinosaurs? « Arkansas State Parks Blog

Friday, September 17, 2010

445th Anniversary of the 'First Muster'

The Florida National Guard celebrated the 445th Anniversary of the 'First Muster' of a colonial militia in Florida. FLH's Company of Santiago was invited to participate in the festivities. Unlike some of the colonial militias of Virginia and New England there isn't quite the unbroken chain of history as Florida was ceded to the British for a few years in the 18th century and eventually to the United States in the 19th. Nonetheless, I'm glad to see the acknowledgement of citizen soldiers the goes back to well before the founding of the republic. Plus ther are simply some photos and video that are just cool and fun. Check it out.



In the news from the St. Augustine Record

In the news: Tracing de Soto's Path

A news story on the continuing archaeological digs at a likely De Soto contact site in Georgia.

Tracing de Soto's Path — Georgia State University
In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto went through what would become ... field at the “Glass Site” outside of Jacksonville, Ga., where archaeologists, ...

The Fernbank Museum in Atlanta has put some of the artifacts recovered during previous digs on display:

Exhibition Showcases De Soto Artifacts
Discovered through Fernbank Archaeology Expedition

Five years after Fernbank Museum of Natural History launched an archaeological expedition to investigate the history of early contact between Native American Indians and Europeans in Georgia, a new exhibition will showcase some of the rare artifacts that tell of those encounters and will reveal the significance of the findings.

De Soto’s Footsteps: New Archaeological Evidence from Georgia will open at Fernbank Museum on May 22, 2010 and includes metal and glass artifacts that led Fernbank’s lead archaeologist, Dennis Blanton, to conclude Hernando de Soto’s footsteps could be traced to an unexpected location in Georgia. Until now, many scholars believed De Soto and his small army took a different route through the region as he looked for food, information and riches after departing from today’s Tallahassee, Fla. in 1540.

Fernbank’s archaeological findings have surprised the world and challenged modern history with discoveries that place these early European explorers along the lower Ocmulgee River in Telfair County. While the excavations are still ongoing, they have produced the largest collection of early sixteenth-century Spanish artifacts in the Southeast outside of Florida.

Among the objects on display are Native American artifacts such as pottery, pipes and stone tools, as well as artifacts carried by the Spanish, highlighted by four distinctive types of glass beads, and objects of iron, brass, and silver. None of the objects has ever been on public display. The findings to date have generated intense interest from archaeologists, scholars, historians and the National Geographic Society, which recently announced a grant to help fund further research.

The exhibition is designed to draw visitors into the excitement of discovery by highlighting the archaeological process through video footage shot on-location during the excavations, archaeological journal entries and the story of a sharp-eyed high school student who uncovered the first glass bead on the dig site. That bead was the first big clue that Hernando de Soto may have visited the site more than 450 years earlier.

Illustrations by Fernbank artists give a glimpse of the scene when De Soto’s small army arrived upon the Native American settlement, as well as a view of the interior of the council house structure reserved for special ceremonies and meetings, where the Spanish objects were excavated.

De Soto’s Footsteps compares the previously accepted route of De Soto to a newly proposed path that merges the location of Fernbank’s artifact discoveries with written records of De Soto’s exploration. The reconstruction of the path and the world he explored offer a never-before-seen glimpse of conditions in the Southeast before Europeans arrived in the area.

Contact with Spanish expeditions affected many Native American cultures, but there is more to learn about the causes and the changes they brought about. As Fernbank’s excavations and lab work continue, archaeologists will continue to consider De Soto’s route while studying the effects the Spanish arrival had on Native peoples.

De Soto’s Footsteps: New Archaeological Evidence from Georgiawill open in Fernbank’s Naturalist Center on May 22, 2010 and remain on view through March 1, 2011. The display is included with Museum admission, which is $15 for adults, $14 for students/seniors, $13 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for Museum Members and children ages 2 and younger.

Fernbank Museum is located at 767 Clifton Road, NE in Atlanta. For tickets and information visit or call 404.929.6300.

Interestingly enough the archaeologists in the field have maintained a blog of their efforts, one of the most recent finding is that of a Nueva Cadiz similar to those found at other pre-1550 contact sites.

Fernbank Expedition Journal: Archaeologist's Report

Ponce de Leon Commemoration

I caught this otherwise boring news article:

Port votes to push major projects
Florida Today
... the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon's landing in Florida. Many historians say that landing occurred in south Brevard County. ...

Interesting development in Brevard County/Port Canaveral - the money quote [literally]:

"Funding for the development of an exhibition center beyond the shell, as well as an associated observation tower, would fall to a local nonprofit organization called the 1513 Foundation Inc., which was formed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon's landing in Florida. Many historians say that landing occurred in south Brevard County."We're talking about raising tens of millions of dollars," said Robyn Fern Perlman, a principal with Miami-based CoreStrategies for Non Profits Inc., the company working with the 1513 Foundation to raise donations."

Its encouraging to see that someone else is looking to do something for the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida. The are several proposed official government commissions on the Federal, State, and local levels at various stages of authorization, appointment, and funding. Thought thus far none seem to have gotten to the actually doing anything stage. Other than FLH's Company of Ponce de Leon I haven't seen any other side of private interest in the subject.

One hopes that Florida can at least get some Museum exhibits like :

“The Threads of Memory: Spain and the United States” Exhibit

Note in particular:
Juan Ponce de León’s letter reporting his discovery of the “island of Florida.” A statement which puzzled me, and give me hope for a short while, that perhaps a new primary source on the 1513 voyage had been found. In brief, almost everything that's known about Ponce's 1513 discovery and naming of La Florida is based on the account of Herrera which was published almost a century after the fact. There are only five known letters from Ponce that have survived; a 1511 letter that went up for auction a few years ago and sold for over $500,000.

I think we've got an overenthusiastic/inaccurate press release and its likely that the letter in question is the letter Ponce wrote before the ill fated 1521 settlement voyage [page 57 of the PDF]
"Among my services I discovered, at my own cost and charge, the Island of Florida,..."

See also:

Searle's Sack & Drake's Raid reenactments

Dates and the initial flyers for the two big battle events in St. Augustine are out.

The 17th C. Searle's Sack of St. Augustine - Saturday, March 5, 2011

The 25th Annual reenactment of Francis Drake’s Raid on old San Agustin
Saturday June 4, 2011

Mas Menendez

Busy week, now that I've started to try to blog regularly again. As I mentioned in a previous post there were a lot of photographers at the Menendez Landing, two weeks ago in St. Augustine. The latest, and best I might add, pictures that I've seen posted on-line can be found here:

The annual Founding Day heritage Event, commemorating the 445th anniversary of the founding of the city of St. Augustine, was held on September 4, 2010, in St. Augustine, FL. The Event was hosted by Mission Nombre de Dios ( ), in partnership with the living history group, La Compañía de Santiago (The Company of St. James), a member unit of Florida Living History, Inc.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Menendez Landing & Casket Crawl

After a long reenactment absence over the summer I'm back. With the exception of a day at the Tampa Bay History center for Hermann Trappman's Obscured by Time: The Magic of Florida exhibit opening, I've done nothing outside of research, and armor repair since April. So I finally, after many tribulations not limited to expensive vehicle repairs and a dead gerbil, I got a daddy's day off and went to St. Augustine for the annual Menendez Landing reenactment last Saturday.
It has never been my favorite event, as it is a long drive (4+ hours) for me and until the past few years it was little more than the landing, mass and tailgate party. The sermon seemed endless (I recall one time when a gentlemen asked me to shot the Monsignor) and other than posing for photos the ceremony was over in about ninety minutes. Simply not worth the drive. of late, however, -I think largely in preparation for upcoming St. Augstine 450th anniversary - the Fountain of Youth has opened up the ground to reenactors . Giving us an opportunity to to do a weekend of living history, and me the chance to do more than dirty my musket with a couple of blackpowder salutes.

Here's the account of the original landing:

Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales:

The Founding of St. Augustine , 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, especially for Captain Patino..."

HFM's Men of Menendez provided said artillery support from the FOY grounds.
Nice shot of said artillery:

Whilst FLH's newly formed Company of Santiago did the reenactment on the mission side:

I don't know if Davis was singing the Te Deum but flags and banners were flying. We had an Indian but there were plenty of spectators in attendance.

The "casket crawl" mentioned in the title was a one off for this day. Menendez's casket (his bones are interned in Spain) had been in the Mission gift shop and was moved with great ceremony to as the center piece in the new museum on the Mission grounds. I'd been honored with a position as part of the casket detail, and wisely, asked, "how heavy and how far?" and got assigned as a flag bearer instead. At dinner that evening there was much good natured moaning and groaning about lengthened arms and neurological damage. After the pagentry and museum opening I got a chance to spend the rest of the day at FOY and joyfully getting some much need arquebus practice in.

Here are some new stories on the event:
Cannon fire Indian drums and pageantry at Mission

St. Augustine Thanksgiving a bit different

Menendez coffin moved

At times it seemed that the number of credentialed photographers outnumbered the participants, some that I've found on-line thus far:

My Gallery

Mission Nombre de Dios Museum

Landing Reenactment & Mass

Don Pedro Menendez Landing

Men of Menendez Commemorate St. Augustine 445th

Sunday, July 18, 2010

La Sociedad de la Entrada 1598

A few weeks ago I got an email from Dave Poulin in New Mexico asking to include Calderon's Company in his links. The least I can do refer back to the Sociedad de la Entrada. There are few enough of us of like mind out there, and I'm always glad correspond with them.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"De Soto's Footsteps: New Archaeological Evidence from Georgia" at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

I've been following the progress of the recent De Soto excavations in Georgia for some time now and I came across this news item, the other day:

"De Soto's Footsteps: New Archaeological Evidence from Georgia" at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

In a photo at the beginning of this modest-sized but fascinating exhibit, Ellen Vaughn, then a high school senior, holds a tiny glass bead in the palm of her hand. Her 2006 unearthing of the red, white and blue orb, in South Georgia's Telfair County, was the first clear evidence that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto may have taken a different route through the region starting in 1540 than history has recorded.

Or so Fernbank's lead archaeologist, Dennis Blanton, concluded, as the earth yielded more trade beads -- plus pottery, pipes and stone tools -- during that summer's dig and subsequent ones.

"Each time we come, new questions are raised, and we feel an obligation to come back and try and answer those," Blanton says in a five-minute video that's one of the exhibit highlights.

Beyond tracking the conquistador and his small army -- which was searching for food, information and riches -- the exhibit provides a intriguing glimpse at the archaeological process. There's information here appropriate for students age 6 through high school.

Getting the chance to study seven of the glass beads and other discoveries in a viewfinder doubtlessly will make some of the younger visitors take trowels and brushes to their back yards as soon as they get home.

Through March 1. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. $15 adults, $14 students/seniors, $13 ages 3-12, free members and ages 2 and under. 767 Clifton Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-929-6300,

I'm glad to see the artifacts going on exhibition. I don't know if I'll get up to ATL anytime soon, so if anyone does let me know how it is. The Museum's website shows a photo of beads, mostly faceted chevrons, but the article mentions metal objects.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Drake's Raid 2010 Video

Not the best quality either in terms of video,(w- no sound), or combat as its a rather ragged volley. But still where else can you see reenactors shooting down the middle of the street?

Sir Francis Drake's Raid 2010 - Musket volley

Monday, June 7, 2010

Drake's Raid 2010

Long time, no blog.

I missed the mayhem again this year, but there are news stories and photos on the event.

In the News: Drake Takes City Once Again

Re-enactment of Sir Francis Drake's Raid on St. Augustine

Drake's Raid 2010