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Gallery: DeSoto Turns Back

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Narrator: "As the snow melted into the Arkansas earth, the army headed back east toward the Mississippi River, where DeSoto intended to build two ships."

Narrator: "His plan was this: he and most of his army would wait near the river bank while some of his men would sail the ships down river to the gulf."

Narrator: "One ship would then proceed to Havana, Cuba, the other to Panaco, Mexico -- the northernmost Spanish settlement -- in hopes of leading reinforcements back to those who waited by the Mississippi."

Actor: "DeSoto's plan was not to be, for on this last leg of the march he had contracted a deadly fever. Our leader confessed his sins, wrote a will, and named his long-time friend and confident Luis de Moscoso as his successor. Then, on the 21st of May 1542, Hernando DeSoto died."

Narrator: "In an effort to conceal DeSoto's death from the Indians, we quietly buried him beneath the waters of the great river."

Narrator: "Hernando DeSoto's plans to continue the quest for gold died with him. In fact many of his men rejoiced at his death, and now had only one goal: to leave this new country as quickly as possible."

Narrator: "Fearing a long sea journey back to Cuba or Mexico in small boats, they decided to try an overland route to Panaco in northern Mexico"

Narrator: "It was a decision that would cost more lives and another half year of torturous marching, all for nothing. After four months, Moscoso realized the entire expedition would soon die in the harsh deserts that lay between them and Mexico."

Narrator: "As their fourth winter approached, he decided to retrace their path back to the Mississippi River."

A winter scene.

A winter scene.

Narrator: "After spending another harsh winter along the banks of the great river, enduring more Indian attacks and a raging flood, the band set about building boats."

Narrator: "They realized that the only way out was down the river. They loaded vessels with fresh water, most of the local corn crop, their last 22 good horses, and a hundred Indian slaves."

Narrator: "The rest of the captives were abandoned in an unknown land where the local tribes were hostile towards them."

Actor: "The final leg of our long journey soon became a desperate, violent race to the sea."

Actor: "Indians from villages we passed swarmed after us in canoes, raining arrows down on our heads."

Actor: "Ten more of our men, and many of the slaves, were killed."

Actor: "In order to speed our journey, we killed our last horses, which lightened our load and provided us enough dried meat for the last weeks of the expedition."

An engraving by depicts the murder of a European.

An engraving depicts Native American archers.

An engraving depicts Europeans on a boat.

An engraving depicts Europeans in distress.

An engraving depicts Europeans sailing down river through hostile Indian territory.

Actor: "After seventeen grueling days on the mighty river we finally reached the Gulf. And on the 10th of September, 1543, the good Lord took pity on us and delivered us into salvation. We finally reached the Spanish settlement at the Panaco River."


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