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De Narvaez, Panfilo

A History of Florida


Failure to Overcome Cortez. Cortez had won great honor and riches in the conquest of Mexico. When Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, who had planned the expedition, learned this, he became jealous of Cortez's success, and sent Panfilo De Narvaez to take the honors away from him. But Cortez was not to be so easily overcome. One stormy night, with about three hundred men, he surprised De Narvaez's force of nine hundred Spaniards and one thousand Cuban Indians, on the coast of Mexico, and took De Narvaez himself prisoner. The Spanish court favored Cortez in the matter, and the complaints of De Narvaez aroused no sympathy. Disappointed in getting the command in Mexico, he asked for permission to conquer and colonize Florida. Emperor Charles V. granted this, and gave him the title for life of Adelantado of all the lands he should discover and conquer.

What became of Ponce de Leon? By whom and on what expedition was De Narvaez sent from Cuba? Why? With what result? What commission was next granted him? By whom?

Lands near Tampa Bay. He sailed from Spain with five vessels and six hundred men, but when he reached the West Indies, nearly one fourth of his men refused to go any farther. Then two of the vessels with seventy men on board were lost in a hurricane. On account of these misfortunes, he could not go on with his voyage until he could get more vessels and more men. Next spring he again set sail, and on April 15, 1528, he entered a bay just north of what is now Tampa Bay.

He had not looked for any great resistance from the natives, but, like De Leon, he soon found that they were very different from the gentler natives of the West Indies. Some were on the shore when he landed and, though they did not attack him, they made signs that he must go back to his boats and sail away.

De Narvaez decided that he would march with the greater number of his men along the coast until he should reach the large bay Miruelo had discovered, and there the ships with one hundred men on board were to meet him. But De Narvaez and the men with him never saw the ships again. The ships reached the bay, anchored, and waited in vain for the leader and his forces. Then, after cruising and searching along the coast for a year, they sailed to Mexico.

Search for Gold. A few days after landing, De Narvaez began his march to the north. He met some Indians wearing gold ornaments. He asked where the gold came from, and the Indians pointed to the north, saying "Apalachee!" They made signs and the Spaniards supposed that a great deal of gold was to be found. The Indians probably meant the gold region of Georgia near the head waters of the Apalachee, but the Spaniards thought they meant a much nearer village of the Apalachee Indians, on Lake Aliccosukee, not far from where Tallahassee now stands, and there they directed the march.

Give the size of the expedition. What two misfortunes befell it? How long was it delayed? Describe place and time of landing. Reception by the Indians. Arrangement with the ships. What did the vessels do? Tell of De Narvaez's march.

Indian Hostility. It was a long, hard march, and when the end was reached Apalachee was found to be only a very small Indian village, with no gold or splendor of any kind. Other villages were not far away, and De Narvaez made his headquarters at one of the largest, Anhayea, about the present site of Tallahassee. There he remained several weeks, the Indians all the while trying to get rid of him. First a kind of irregular war was made upon the invaders; then the Indians tried the more successful plan of saying that their land was poor and not worth having, but that nine days' journey to the sea was a town called Aute, where plenty of provisions could be gotten. Since no gold could be found, provisions were not to be despised, so De Narvaez could think of nothing better to do than to go to Aute. This must have been near the bay of Apalachicola. Here was another disappointment, for Aute was reached only to find that the natives had burned the village and fled.

Suffering and Death. De Narvaez was now sick at heart, and longed to escape from a land where he had met with such great misfortunes. Many of his men had died of disease, many had been killed by the Indians, and starvation threatened the rest. They decided to wait no longer for the boats, but to go to work at once and make boats in which to sail to Mexico or Cuba.

Name and locate on the map each of the three Indian villages visited by De Narvaez, and tell his purpose in going to each. Tell the means of which the Indians endeavored to get rid of their unwelcome visitors. Three causes of death among the Spaniards.

Boat building under Difficulties. This was no easy thing to do, for none were experienced in the work and suitable materials could not be procured. But the men felt driven by necessity, and one and all set to work. Deer were killed and bellows made from the skins. Fortunately there was a blacksmith in the party who forged bolts and nails from the swords and other arms. Cordage was made from palmetto fiber and horses' tails and manes. The men gave of their clothing for sails.

Fate of the Expedition. So hard did all work that in a few weeks the vessels were finished, and in the latter part of September the party embarked, hoping to reach Mexico. But misfortunes greater than anything they had yet met with were in store for them. One boat was wrecked near Pensacola, two were lost at Santa Rosa, while the boat that carried De Narvaez, after reaching the Perdido, was blown out to sea and never heard of again. The last boat sailed as far as Pass Christian, where the men went on shore, were attacked by the natives, and all but a few were killed.

The few survivors were taken prisoners and suffered great hardships. They escaped and after several years of adventure and wandering reached their countrymen in Mexico.

So the white man disappeared again from the coast of Florida, and the waves dashing upon the beach washed away his footprints. For ten years longer the red man rested under the shade of magnolias and oaks, hunted his game, and kept his feasts with no white brother to dispute his claim.

How did they decide to escape? Tell of the difficulties in building boats. How many boats did they sail in and what became of each?

Excerpt from Part One, Chapter Two, "Panfilo De Narvaez" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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