Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562

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Author: Unknown  | Date: 1542

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Death of De Soto

THE Governor fell into dumps to see how hard it was to get to the sea; and worse, because his men and horses every day diminished, being without succor to sustain themselves in the country: and with that thought he fell sick. But before he took his bed he sent an Indian to the Cacique of Quigalta to tell him that he was the child of the sun, and that all the way that he came all men obeyed and served him, that he requested him to accept of his friendship and come unto him, for he would be very glad to see him; and in sign of love and obedience to bring something with him of that which in his country was most esteemed. The cacique answered by the same Indian:

"That whereas he said he was the child of the sun, if he would dry up the river he would believe him; and touching the rest, that he was wont to visit none; but rather that all those of whom he had notice did visit him, served, obeyed, and paid him tributes willingly or perforce; therefore, if he desired to see him, it were best he should come thither; that if he came in peace, he would receive him with special good will; and if in war, in like manner he would attend him in the town where he was, and that for him or any other he would not shrink one foot back."

By that time the Indian returned with this answer, the Governor had betaken himself to bed, being evil handled with fevers, and was much aggrieved that he was not in case to pass presently the river and to seek him, to see if he could abate that pride of his, considering the river went now very strongly in those parts; for it was near half a league broad, and sixteen fathoms deep, and very furious, and ran with a great current; and on both sides there were many Indians, and his power was not now so great, but that he had need to help himself rather by slights than by force.

The Governor felt in himself that the hour approached wherein he was to leave this present life, and called for the king’s officers, captains, and principal persons, to whom he made a speech, saying:—

"That now he was to go to give an account before the presence of God of all his life past: and since it pleased him to take him in such a time, and that the time was come that he knew his death, that he his most unworthy servant did yield him many thanks therefor; and desired all that were present and absent (whom he confessed himself to be much beholding unto for their singular virtues, love and loyalty, which himself had well tried in the travels which they had suffered, which always in his mind he did hope to satisfy and reward, when it should please God to give him rest, with more prosperity of his estate?, that they would pray to God for him, that for his mercy he would forgive him his sins, and receive his soul into eternal glory: and that they would quit and free him of the charge which he had over them, and ought unto them all, and that they would pardon him for some wrongs which they might have received of him. And to avoid some division, which upon his death might fall out upon the choice of his successor, he requested them to elect a principal person, and able to govern, of whom all should like well; and when he was elected, they should swear before him to obey him: and that he would thank them very much in so doing; because the grief that he had would somewhat be assuaged, and the pain that he felt, because he left them in so great confusion, to wit, in leaving them in a strange country, where they knew not where they were."

Baltasar de Gallegos answered in the name of all the rest. And first of all comforting him, he set before his eyes how short the life of this world was, and with how many troubles and miseries it is accompanied, and how God showed him a singular favor which soonest left it: telling him many other things fit for such a time. And for the last point, that since it pleased God to take him to himself, although his death did justly grieve them much, yet as well he, as all the rest, ought of necessity to conform themselves to the will of God. And touching the Governor which he commanded they should elect, he besought him, that it would please his lordship to name him which he thought fit, and him they would obey. And presently he named Luys de Moscoso de Alvarado, his captain-general. And presently he was sworn by all that were present, and elected for governor.

The next day being the 21st of May, 1542, departed out of this life, the valorous, virtuous, and valiant captain, Don Fernando de Soto, Governor of Cuba, and Adelantado of Florida: whom fortune advanced, as it useth to do others, that he might have the higher fall. He departed in such a place, and at such a time, as in his sickness he had but little comfort: and the danger wherein all his people were of perishing in that country, which appeared before their eyes, was cause sufficient why every one of them had need of comfort, and why they did not visit nor accompany him as they ought to have done. Luys de Moscoso determined to conceal his death from the Indians, because Ferdinando de Soto had made them believe that the Christians were immortal; and also because they took him to be hardy, wise, and valiant: and if they should know that he was dead, they would be bold to set upon the Christians, though they lived peaceably by them….

As soon as he was dead, Luys de Moscoso commanded to put him secretly in the house, where he remained three days; and moving him from thence, commanded him to be buried in the night at one of the gates of the town within the wall. And as the Indians had seen him sick, and missed him, so did they suspect what might be. And passing by the place where he was buried, seeing the earth moved, they looked and spake one to another. Luys de Moscoso understanding of it, commanded him to be taken up by night, and to cast a great deal of sand into the mantles, wherein he was wound up, wherein he was carried in a canoe, and thrown into the midst of the river. The Cacique of Guachoya inquired for him, demanding what was become of his brother and lord, the Governor. Luys de Moscoso told him that he was gone to heaven, as many other times he did: and because he was to stay there certain days he had left him in his place. The cacique thought with himself that he was dead; and commanded two young and well-proportioned Indians to be brought thither; and said, that the use of that country was, when any lord died, to kill Indians to wait upon him, and serve him by the way, and for that purpose by his commandment were those come thither: and prayed Luys de Moscoso to command them to be beheaded, that they might attend and serve his lord and brother. Luys de Moscoso told him, that the Governor was not dead, but gone to heaven, and that of his own Christian soldiers he had taken such as he needed to serve him, and prayed him to command those Indians to be loosed, and not to use any such bad custom from thenceforth: straightway he commanded them to be loosed, and to get them home to their houses. And one of them would not go; saying, that he would not serve him, that without desert had judged him to death, but that he would serve him as long as he lived, which had saved his life….

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Chicago: Unknown, "Death of De Soto," Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562 in America, Vol.1, Pp.279-284 Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2021, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=MSURH6Z5HURDKB5.

MLA: Unknown. "Death of De Soto." Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562, in America, Vol.1, Pp.279-284, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2021. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=MSURH6Z5HURDKB5.

Harvard: Unknown, 'Death of De Soto' in Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562. cited in , America, Vol.1, Pp.279-284. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2021, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=MSURH6Z5HURDKB5.