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Gallery: DeSoto Crosses the Appalachians

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Actor: "Juan Ortiz learned from one of the captives that a rich land called Cofitachequi lay to the northeast. Gold, that is what drives this army onward. Yet it is always just beyond our reach."

An actor portraying Juan Ortiz asks questions of two Native Americans.

An actor portraying Juan Ortiz uses his hands to illustrate a point.

Narrator: "In March of 1540, DeSoto and his regrouped army headed northeast through present day Georgia and South Carolina, this time with very few Indian porters."

Narrator: "To DeSoto's surprise, the chief of Cofitachequi turned out to be a woman."

An actor portraying Hernando DeSoto addresses the chief of the Cofitachequi

Narrator: "She wore a cape of feathers and pearls which she offered to the Spaniards as a gift."

Narrator: "DeSoto's men were so taken by the land, the people, the wide rivers in the area and their minor treasure trove of pearls that they wanted to stay and establish a colony."

Narrator: "But DeSoto refused, he was still driven by his quest for gold."

Narrator: "Exploiting the friendship of the chief, he forced her and her people into service as guides and porters."

Narrator: "This time heading west into present-day North Carolina, they crossed the Appalachian mountains on trails that had never before seen horses, pigs, or war dogs."

Actors portraying Spanish soldiers march through what is now the Appalachian mountains.

Narrator: "As usual, there was no gold, and they were left stranded when the female chief escaped."

Narrator: "Hoping to meet his ships coming north from Havana with supplies and reinforcements, DeSoto decided to head south towards the Gulf."

Narrator: "After passing through the vast chiefdom of Cusa, they entered the territory of Toscalusa, a native leader more imposing than any leader DeSoto had previously encountered. Toscalusa put on a friendly appearance and offered the Spaniards the porters they had requested."

Narrator: "The expedition progressed southward to the stockaded village of Mobila, the namesake of Mobile, Alabama." Actor: "At Mobila we were invited inside the palace gates. There, we were ambushed by Toscalusa allies."

An engraving depicting a Native American being felled with an axe.

Actor: "But our army rallied and we quickly overthrew the village, burning it to the ground."

Actor: "It was the largest battle we have encountered to date. More than forty horses were killed, 22 of our men were dead, and more than 150 wounded including DeSoto himself."

Actor: "Indian casualties were much higher. Probably as much as 25 dead. But much of our food and supplies, along with our meager treasure of pearls, have been destroyed in the fires."


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