Acknowledgements. ,.... ..... .... ....... ........ .,.. i
Guide to References. .............. ........... ........if
Introduction, Raison de Etre and Dedication: Unit One ..... iii
A Look at John R. Swanton's Florida Historical Quarterly .
SArticles Bearing on the Report; Unit Tw..... ., ....1.
Calling All Authors.................................... 1
A Direct Examination of a Typical Part of the Report;
Unit Three.................... ...... .... ..3.. ... 82
Finishing the Examination of a: Typical Part of
the Report; Unit Four....... .. .... .:............. 42
SRandom Notes ........... ...... ......... .............. /60
DeSoto's Trick Fools Report's Author; Unit Five .... .. .. 1
Random Notes............. ,... .......... .... ............. ... 70
Postscript to Units Two to Five Inclusive: Excerpts Froom,
Some Letters and From the Replies Thereto. ....... 71
After-Word on the Report's "Foreword" and
Wondering About The Cbngress; Unit Six,.. ... ... 77
A Plug For Zamia. ............... .. ........ ..... .
A Sketch of Hernando de Soto's True Route in"
,Present Florida. ......:. .............. .... .... 81
MAPS: .-.. -
De Soto's True Route, Northern Flora. ... Inide front cover.
Sketch, 18th Century Florida Maps, (See p.8 et seq.)........ ... do.
Portion Fordyce's Map, (See p. 47 et seq.. ......... ....... do.
De Soto's True Route, Southeirn Florida........ Inside rear cover.
InAeet of Landing Environs and Events ... ............. ....... do.
Autographed Numbered Copy. $3.50
Numbered Copy (Also at Book Stores) 3.00
Members' Copy Gratis to Members and with
applications for new Supporting Memiberships
with remittance of current Quarterly Dues .$2.50
Two or more copies to Libraries, Educational
Institutions and the Anthropological Profession,
prices upon application direct.
TH DASE AGAINSTT THE
U.NI4 DE SOTO COMMISSION'SNREPORT
ald other De Soto Papers.
By WARREN H. WILKINSON.
For The PRESERVATION Of FLORIDA ANTIQUITIES,
Nonprofit, Educational and Scientific Organization.
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA.
/tAp roximate \ ,
Caton of -
oaWinter Camol 0__.............. ............._ _
or II8to'1 headquarters rW
calculated therefrom.P. 1 s a ath Or 105
f l la has. ver of te Deer. inee River.)
(N.E.o Tallahaee. J ""i Flooded from reit s t. o t se | '
S) cation of Indian village and attle of the Ponds. Older
e a r g Wpwhotw the 'dtnd'yhlich yet today am formidable Hi
to \ e p of coure, at theft s ohwhen awime River is eooded, ai it was then '
SIn Septembr, 319.Near.Luraville. .' '
Gene al location of Indian village, "Many Waters.--
After mdaeing it they came upon very bad swamp. The .
esm>^ ~ woods are t re ye t r it is impractical to clear for e /, B S
farming since~tly become flooded with every heavy /
The b a raisn. Extentoabt 30 miles, ofaabut 3 mile r width natural Re Rver S t
paralleling the Riva r In central southern Suwannee C The immea a erfulg ,-
Indian st was
A A C-UA A c. .
-, t.IL C3toC CO topLebabls ju 0 fr
Slarg population. o
1012 toC =l C4 lo\ #L COSENT "o O"E ,
He sent 8 horseqien back top f a
AM7 toorder main army to *
Rejoin him.(Micanopy.- 0 1
C OT A M LI O1 Nt
IM TAC T D3c3 WACto f. 4tO o lL i 8Caeprat "f v ovf aDiscords.
Sillage o Plenty" Alo.T caBrpr ofthe 3 eaenger
ians had abundance of food rseen after hat gto cross Bledma, Factor of the Eilpedition,
'm g 5ar MoBS h vr (Oklaw River.) V estimated that the Indian village
o site designated as AM3 on this
Fd a 3e n totin t 4 *e eemap, was 20s leagues from the
SS -coast. It scales justover
hat. Also. e estimated the
route of march from about
ehare 1 uls 5.3.IA AMe reward as being 10
tRhy made ,re uofdsae12 leaves fslm tt l
FROM UNALTERED PeATIC PANTS' DATA o LS slantoward "New
(UN Ap OiW MAK'Ui It, 3 4 -
ro tFLORdIDA t. K ic 1 s I E 1 siy, c o o\er Ca .
DE M ARBE 80,e'8kMYT
By WARREN H. WILLINSON. 10 1 1
IMPORTANT DISTANCES GIVEN BY PARTICIPANTS Therosgpl
Thb army's total march, including retraced portion over Marb-River, M4 to M5 or wf the M *
and return, totaling about 4 leagues, was approximately 150 leagues. River (Ktmmee R.) "
The total rie of the 30 messenger horsemen who retraced the army's route from B at AMSwhlh emergs .
M12 to L5 except, of course, at the fitr tossing of the Marsh-Rier (M4) where on the west bank northerly .
they made a ctof designated by small 'x letters, was approximately 146 leagues. o tt Ianmoo\, was
computed by adding togetteojour items below, MI2 to C7+ C7 to L5. used by the pioneer rseback
The beachhead garrison when rc)oining De Soe at M12 inthe autumn, over ost riders delivering the Main my camp fr over
the army'. route, except that they naturally used the cutoff at M4, was stated Io the frontier ort iMyers DA Mi3 weeks f(ltpart of Augevl
to have marched 135 leagues, L5 t C. O L while De Solo led advance \
M2 to C7 107L. CS to C4 -17L C9 to L 11 L. AM -S w L b 0 K contingle nt to AM9 _
I,,- I, C4 to C5 0 5L C9 to AMI 3 L M AI7 coa t to \M9
I C\ C5 to C6 2 -L. LS to AMI 8 L. -- to AM.-> I: L. \
to 2 2A 25 1 L.1 Sacond Croaming of Great Marsh.I N I
C1 to 2 -15 L! CM to CS 13 L. Mi to M-/
C2 to C3 17 L. C8 to C9 -6 L. Mi to AM6 12 L.; AM3 to M4 3 L:J nearby practical cro* plae,-
t*I C a.culaeo b e.tirac M on of idal of aoher daaritdaB from stated subtdtals (8mil nmapof e FrMir g rjal te nt er 7 V
L, ha "nuesng a"s "n. rr M-rau, .rRa. ca rroboru .a.vtes be wlmu es damm.. by sbon ,
-i~A surn sy from me Marsh-Bier was lkn 4 leagues belof schg f ar rh boredern aIbe tlietmmee 0 C, Mk Twtr ulbordere ii53) Smmee 4o b
ar two t9hmee 6yn wbdun t O% % Tc 1. ca59 ob
where a was -asyondarmpite ^esp ^ ^ T 'wedSingS^ -
.-sof- "_ '< R,,- i. a mn, a o w e-- oL .BU I a 1L-.. Am q:e
Scalatd y ttrao tasr dO rle from -d- .1W air-umWa g e-. ba., l,-y
- ^ L ~ ^'^as^.^^^^^iss^ i.^ ^ ^ IL ... na;;ccaid A;r^n Sd -
<. u- -las by
-(0s) q dl I m e a -o' rt o wiloh h aMe \ l, 7 Ba Asss aenger [d n L 1
(* "IA 4 kmarn So geoo arm Mre Nm /g Firsttrosal of Dhe Great abea 6 ik I
AN 7 -Wpralri Partlpat iILmaond Tthey wdsac Mr t, o i umee Itr I Jtraced
OPENING THE CASE AGAINST THE
U. S. DE SOTO COMMISSION'S REPORT.
of the Part in re Present Florida of the
FINAL REPORT OF THE U. S. DE SOTO EXPEDITION COMMISSION
Vicariously Sponsored by the
75th Congress, 1st Session, (House Document No. 71)
WARREN HAGER WILKINSON
As Invited by the Following Words on Its Page 117:
"Neither the antiquity of a theory nor the respectability of its sponsors
CONVERTS IT INTO FACT, and it is only fair to give
the entire question of the landfall (sic*)
A THOROUGHGOING EXAMINATION. "
*Pro landing. (Of De Soto's army.) The Report's author
erred repeatedly, see within text, in the use of this word.
October, 1960. Vol.1, No.1,
Papers of the
ALLIANCE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF FLORIDA ANTIQUITIES.
(Nonprofit, Educational, and Scientific Organization.)
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FLORIDA.
1960, Warren H. Wilkinson.
THIS IS COPY No. A1
OF 500 NUMBERED VOLUMES.
Guide to References ......................................... ii
Introduction, Raison de Etre and Dedication; Unit One.......... iii
A Look at John R. Swanton's Florida Historical Quarterly
Articles Bearing on the Report; Unit Two ............... 1
Calling All Authors.................................. ... .. 31
A Direct Examination of a Typical Part of the Report;
Unit Three .......................................... 32
Finishing the Examination of a Typical Part of
the Report; Unit Four............................... 42
Random Notes............................................... 60
DeSoto's Trick Fools Report's Author; Unit Five .............. 61
Random Notes.................................. .. .... 70
Postscript to Units Two to Five Inclusive: Excerpts From
Some Letters and From the Replies Thereto ............. 71
After-Word on the Report's "Foreword" and
Wonderings About The Congress; Unit Six.............. 77
A Plug For Zamia ....................................... 80
A Sketch of Hernando de Soto's True Route in
Present Florida ................................... 81
De Soto's True Route,- Northern Florida ........ Inside front cover.
Sketch, 18th Century Florida Maps, (See p. 8 et seq. .......... do.
Portion Fordyce's Map, (See p. 47 et seq. ................... do.
De Soto's True Route, Southern Florida......... Inside rear cover.
Inset of Landing Environs and Events ....................... do.
When names or. quotes from the De Soto sources or other Spanish material
were used herein the diacritical marks of that language were anglicized.
The Spanish letter '9' with its cedilla giving it a sibilant value like in
facadee' was rendered by using the letter z (although a few prefer s)- thus:
'Moco9o' was written, Mocozo.
The Spanish '1' with its tilde giving it a simple palatal nasal sound was
replaced by a letter 'n' with an added 'i' or 'y' as: 'Afiasco' = Aniasco, and
'calion' = canyon.
This writer acknowledges sincere feelings of gratitude to so many persons
who over the years have been of assistance in his De Soto research that it seems
unfair to single out just a few for mention. However, that is customary so the
mode is followed.
As may be guessed, the largest share of gratitude must go to my family,
who, over the years have been most patient as spare time and funds often not
of the spare category were spent in that research whereas perhaps both should
have been devoted more to their weal. Also, a real thank you is extended to
Bonita Brunson Lewis, of Fort Myers, Florida, who so loyally labored into many
wee sma' hours translating Garcilaso de la Vega's La Florida, for the first known
rendition (of part on present Florida) direct into English (1936) so that this writer
might have a complete fund of information from all eyewitness narratives.
Coupled with that are thanks to the Jacksonville Public Library for their loan
of a copy of the 1723 edition of his work and subsequent continuous cooperation
by its staff beyond what any library ordinary might be expected to render,
securing photostats, dictionaries and clue material.
Another Fort Myers citizen, Mr. W. Stanley Hanson, Sr., a dear friend of by-
gone days, and a most remarkable man, will ever be remembered for his very
effective recommendation of this writer to the head men of the Seminoles. It was
quite interesting to learn from them direct of many fallacies concerning Indians
which permeate the interesting Art of Ethnology, the leaders of which missed a
golden opportunity by not securing from Mr. Hanson what he knew of the Indians.
He was their white man confidant and advocate. He spoke their languages since
he was reared along with orphans of their tribes cared for by his venerable physi-
cian father, one of pioneer Florida's most kindly, extraordinary gentlemen.
Nor is the heartfelt appreciation due others diminished by late mention, such
as for the cooperation of the Honorable Charles E. Bennett, M.C., in securing
to me the benefits of the Library of Congress, furnishing maps of both American
Continents and prompt correspondence. Credit and thanks are also given for sup-
plies and publishing advice from Messrs. Homer C. Nix, Don R. Ingram, and Ed-
ward A. Koester, Sr.; to Director Edward G. Freehafer of the New York Library
appreciation for excerpts from Ranjel's original Spanish text and helpful remarks
on proper rendition. Kindest thanks are tendered to Dr. Patricia H. Carter, Mr.
Robert N. Dow, Jr., and anthropological friends for patient editing. To Miss
Margaret L. Chapman, Librarian of the P.K.Yonge Historical Library, our
gratitude is extended for many favors.
Last, but very specially, the Officers and Members of the A. P. F.A. are
heartily thanked for through them publication of these Papers is made possible.
Another type of acknowledgment: Mayhap errors crept into these Papers in
spite of our diligent efforts to exclude them. For such, our most humble apology.
Perhaps we should apologize also for temerity of motive, if such it were.
It is true that at times there have been skeptical glances cast askance the way
of this writer as he made card indices, many experimental desk work and try-
out maps and all the note scribblings covering studies of many items of ancient
and modern publication, and, guessing that the casters likely thought similar to
what one frank nephew home from college blurted one day, "Will that make you any
money?" it has sometimes been difficult not to press to explain the motivating
hopes and wishes for the future use of our findings, which utilization in the Art
of History would more than repay for all the time and effort consumed.
Again, thanks to everyone for everything.
w. h. w.
GUIDE TO REFERENCES.
The method of reference herein, for reasons of economy in publication,
will be by giving parenthetically the following abbreviations for the only
admissable testimony as source material, the four narratives of the De Soto
expedition, and the Conquistador's famed letter.
The two volumes by Bourne, Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto,
which contain the Letter and all the narratives except one, will be cited when
referring to vital evidence by using these symbols: For the Gentleman of Elvas
(Portuguese) account, (GE.p.); for Ranjel's, (R.p.J; for the Report, when not
directly cited in the text, (Rpt. p.), the 'p. being the page number. It will
not be necessary to indicate the volume number since the first item occupies
Volume One, the others, Volume Two.
Unfortunately there is no widely available close translation into English
of Garcilaso de la Vega's wonderful La Florida. In 1936 Bonita Brunson Lewis
of Fort Myers, Florida, rendered the portion pertaining to present Florida for
this writer's arrangement of it into English, but very few copies of the type-
script volume are extant, most being in libraries, e.g., State of Florida, Rollins,
University of Florida (Anthropological), Jacksonville, etc. What few references
are herein made to Garcilaso's work will be by giving Part, Book and Chapter in
the original Spanish, viz. (Pt. Bk. Ch.) Regrettably, a fairly recent transla-
tion by the Varners of Texas so severely eclipsed Garcilaso's intriguing style
and nullified its value in research by such free translation that, though it is
good reading, it is confusing and frustrative for a researcher to work by their
In one paragraph Garcilaso repeated the word, cienaga several times in a
description and instead of leaving it to the context to aid in the precise and true
determination of the topography being described, (which indicated a river in a
wide marsh) a pseudo synonym was used each time in the English, such as swamp,
morass and boggy area, so that any accurate evaluation was impossible, specially
when the context stated that horses ridden through it were almost under water.
(Pt. 1, Bk. 2, Ch. 14)
Perhaps this writer has made worse translations, but even some who dip
into the Varner version for entertainment could lift eyebrows when they meet
with vagaries of rendition such as on pages 146-147, e.g. Governor had a
crossbow fired as an indication for his men to act" (start battle) and, the
"Spaniards having heard the shot from the crossbow. .. These expressions
would naturally cause them to wonder if De Soto were nitwit since the twang of
a crossbow cord would scarcely be a practical battle signal because not audible
for but relatively few feet and certainly not a spur to valor.
Or perhaps they would rate Garcilaso colorless when represented to have
used "indication" instead of 'signal' and "to act" rather than the idiomatic
'spring into action.' For the record, in defense of both, decidedly respectively
not nitwit or colorless, let it be said that the erroneous use of the word "cross-
bow" would hardly be made by a freshman Spanish student since the word used
by Garcilaso, "Arcabus" translates into the English 'arquebus' automatically.
There will be no code used for De Soto's Letter nor for Biedma's 'swan song'
since both are so short any datum quoted therefrom can be easily spotted.
RAISON DE ETRE and
In publishing these Papers by Warren Hager Wilkinson, the ALLIANCE for
the PRESERVATION of FLORIDA ANTIQUITIES does so with the hope that the
time must surely be coming when thinking historians and at least the more
progressive professionals will manage to amend somewhat the average scholastic
version of the opening events of U.S.A. history.
That splendid story should begin, not with Plymouth Rock, Jamestown and
such, but with the more dramatic medieval Spanish and French invasions and
explorations in what is now Florida.
Close study reveals that those earliest Florida operations which, in tune
with the times were aggressive instead of beneficient as the white man's
accounts almost tint them, largely influenced later colonial history, imbued
the so-called Indian wars with fierceness and brutality and sowed hatreds with
the Indians which instigated much of their adversely criticised actions in
defence of their homelands. As time continues to soften the effects of the Indian
Wars' unilateral propaganda which yet smudges our history books (the Indians,
lacking the arts of reading and writing, could not retaliate in kind and their side
of it all was unpopular to be heard) the aborigines of continental U. S.A. will be
dealt a better understanding and respect.
Since professional historians are compelled by mass psychological factors
out of self-preservation to cater to the public, this stricture also has operated
to make our history book publishers continue to keep the inclusion of the medieval
age happenings in the then Florida almost to a minimum.
However, when the hoped for recognition of the real beginnings of our National
history becomes a reality (hastened by Florida savants out of loyalty to their
State, it would be expected) there is certain to be a corollary, earnest demand
for the true solution of the past mystery of the actual locales of these events
of Florida's "Knighthood Days" so that many communities can claim their
rightful heritage of hoary traditions.
At that time any work tending to pinpoint those locales will be appreciated.
Presently the truth is seriously clouded by a careless or misdirected
hypothesis published in 1939, titled, "Final Report of the United States De Soto
Expedition Commission. (U. S. G. P. O.) That volume, which is a public
document, and was paid for by the public's tax money, nevertheless because
of that very reason carries an imprimature in the eyes of most people who
take their history vicariously, and even makes it sacrosanct, almost, with some.
Wilkinson has attempted, in the within Papers, to provide future students
of the subject with enough groundwork (Florida area) of cold appraisal of that
publication so that they will not be misled by its clever imitation of 'scientific'
treatment of the data of the original source material.
This named "Report" is an example of how words can be assembled to
impress those wantingto believe, together even with a few archaeologists who
did not weigh and consider its claims, and also, to seem to prove its theory
by making its false points through cunning verbiage handled with a prestidigi-
tator's deception. This combination resulted in a concoction which made any
analytical grasp so difficult that the proffered theory was accepted on a publio-
surrender basis, and not on the establishment in any reader's understanding
of honestly supported facts. The report could probably be nicknamed, "The
Book Nobody Ever Read Completely" for it is self-defensively boresome.
Much could also be written to impeach the Report's claim to any 'scienti-
fic' standing by showing that the motives behind its conception and publication
were commercial. It is an intriguing story how its progenitors' commercial
interests were stymied in the Congress by New York political power, with
the result that the World's Fair of 1939 was held in New York and not in Tampa,
Florida though the Fair promoters of the latter area did come out in the
compromise settlement with a nice fat sop of money to spend about as they
chose I An inspection of the contemporaneous Congressional Record and the
Tampa vicinity newspapers will supply the chapters of that politico- commercial
fracas, out of which the Report survived since it was an earlier initiated move
devised as window dressing for the Tampa Fair promoters' raid on the U. S.
It was not necessary, as will be seen, to go outside the Report's own pages
for nearly all of the material for its complete refutation and the accusing testi-
mony for its indictment as being a staining defilement of the Art of History.
However, its handling or rather, its mishandling of the true facts taken
from the source material is so smoothly accomplished therein that any exposi-
tion of guile employed is complicated and no doubt tiresome to a casual reader,
but Wilkinson's Papers are mainly intended for future students.
For that reason our A.P.F.A. is not deceived into expecting that the within
expose will shake present day illusions in re the De Soto route subject which many
of the public have; nor even stir up much of comment from the professional histo-
rians who are usually almost completely and continuously wrapped up in their
own pet projects, for their's not to battle (and suffer?) for the truth but to let
slow time heal those cankers of History (such as the Report turned out to be)
and even all those cancerous spots long within world history through despots'
inoculations from the days of Yalta, and prior, even to when that art was,
as Caesar, Napoleon et al., in effect labeled it: "History is lies agreed upon. "
To those researchers of the future who may come to enjoy the intense
pleasure of going behind the so-called 'history' composed of questionable
statements oft repeated and printed until folks hypnotically believe every
word, the following sampling revelations of what amounted to, even if not
thus intended by its promoters for quasi-commercial use, an astounding
hoax, are dedicated.
President, A.P.F.A., Inc.
The within Papers are copyrighted. (1960) However, release of same is
given to the public for use in connection with the advancement of knowledge,
provided that none be used removed from pertinent or applicable context.
A LOOK AT JOHN R. SWANTON'S
FLORIDA HISTORICAL QUARTERLY ARTICLES
BEARING ON THE REPORT.
The first objective of this Paper will be to determine an authorship identity
- of a public document as is necessary to award credit or to place obloquy
accordingly as deserved by the government document's content.
Certainly, if earned through study, such action is the prerogative even of
an ordinary citizen in this Land of Freedom of the Press.
Perhaps in the Washington, D. C. political and legislative atmosphere it is
ordinary to submerge actual authorships, and the prevalence of 'ghost writers'
may be either the cause or effect.
However, when it comes to governmental writings about any advances in the
fields of the arts and the sciences, authors should have no motive to dissemble,
or for secrecy or false modesty.
For instance, in the Government's agricultural development publications,
which are in a field somewhat combining both the arts and sciences, the by-line
is very much in evidence, the authors standing forth to receive credit or to
go down in disgrace according to whether the authored contents are meritori-
ous or worthless.
Since it is a document in the art of history it is difficult to grasp why the
author of the "Final Report of the U. S. De Soto Expedition Commission" should
find it so necessary to cover up his identity except to those in the 'know.'
That Report went to some length to create the impression upon the unwary
that it was the product of a "Fact Finding Committee" but in the evident haste of
its preparation even internal proofs crept in that such authorship was fictional.
Most anthropological authorities long ago recognized that John R. Swanton was
its author since it promulgated in the main a theory they had heard expounded
by him which was evolved over many prior years as a sideline to his vocation
as an ethnologist with the Smithsonian Institution.
Their conclusions were fully substantiated at various times by the almost
fierce defense put forward by Dr. Swanton when the Report's farfetched conceits
were challenged by many of them.
Not the least of those last ditch stands was an article in the Florida Historical
Quarterly, (xxx, 4, Apr. '52) wherein the editors published Swanton's defense preced-
ing Ripley P. Bullen's studied article rejecting Swanton's theory as to the landing
area of De Soto but specifically the location of his first headquarters at an Indian
town site on Terra Ceia Island.
In that article Swanton wrote that this rejected item was "one of my conclu-
sions" which could have referred to none other than those making up the Report.
The Quarterly's editor confirmed this in a note on page 311 by these words:
"In this Quarterly (xvi, 3, Jan. '38) Dr. John R. Swanton
told us of his investigations and conclusions on the
Landing Place of De Soto in Florida in 1539. Later,
in the Final Report of the United States De Soto
Expedition Commission, of which he was Chairman,
his conclusions were similar."
Therefore, this writer offers no apology for any implication or charge that all
the misstatements, warpings of fact, errors of arithmetic and tabulation of
data, mistakes of interpretation and misunderstandings of the evidence accounts,
non sequitur statements, illogical conclusions and the rape of almost every tenet
of honest research, all incorporated in the Report (of which just a few will be
considered herein with deserved comment) are Swanton's issue.
Should these words or anything in the following pages appear to be low-rating
anyone or their writings please permit such idea to be categorically denied and
rejected. The astonishing facts will be bared with truthful if not objective report-
ing, and if a contempt be shown for whatever motive or inabilities spawned such
forensic imposition upon the public -using their own tax money it is frankly
acknowledged without apology.
Just as this writer expects for his labors herein, any grade attached to the
Report will not be that given by another person but will be whatever the public
determines for it on the basis of value or lack of it in the alleged research. The
Report predetermined its grade as it was written, and if, on the basis of the
strict factual examination herein that grade is shown to be base then it is that
other writer's responsibility and blame and not that of this one who points it out
for the protection of the Art of History and to save our oncoming generations
the blush for deluded and gulled forebears.
Besides, it is trusted that some day not too far in the future many localities
on the true De Soto route of march will be able to take pride and enjoy real thrills
in pageants re-enacting their ancient historical beginnings instead of using, as
some others do today, fanciful so-called legends. Many locales indeed have the
basis for fine traditions but their true possessions have heretofore been unrealized.
Initially, a check of a sample taken from the Swanton article in the first
mentioned Quarterly will be given partially to show that the style of treatment
of the De Soto subject is essentially the same therein as in the Report.
On page 313 of the Quarterly Swanton purports to support his "Conclusions"
of the Report that he chose the correct location of the De Soto headquarters camp
by elaborating on five "requirements" for its authentic identification. The "Con-
clusions" of the Report (p. 137) on the same subject were not expanded upon or
repeated. It cannot be guessed why except that they were known by then to be invalid
However, if the additional points presented in the Quarterly article were really
worthwhile, why were they held back from inclusion in the Government tax-money-
paid Report in the first place ? It was padded shamelessly with irrelevant matter
as will appear.
Each of those five "requirements" will be separately quoted and investigated.
The first one reads:
"The town of Ucita was in plain view as soon as De Soto's
vessels entered the bay. "
The town of Ucita, to which.he referred, was an Indian village, De Soto's
first objective, used as his beach-head headquarters camp site to which his
army marched after landing a few leagues away.
One method of treatment would be merely to quote each "requirement" and
then condense its indictment in a bald refutation without proofs of evidence. For
instance, in the case of this one it could be made quite short by just averring
that this first "requirement" was a figment of Swanton's imagination -as it was -
and let it go at that.
There is far more than that necessary to convince most people of acumen.
Not until they are a bit acquainted with the events and inferred topography, as
evidenced in the narratives of the eyewitnesses and the one original historian
can they realize how prevailing are sophistry and equivocation in the writings
of Swanton both in the Florida Quarterly articles and the Report. When that
ugly fact is grasped then and then only will thinking persons have their self-
respect stirred by the Report's implied insult to their intelligence and their
resentment so aroused thereby that they will relegate the Swanton theory of
the De Soto route into the waste basket and be receptive to other researcher's
proposals as to the true locales of De Soto's march. There is much to be done
in many States traversed to eradicate farfetched ideas already rooted.
Because this "requirement" seems so simple and to-the-point it will be
almost unbelievable what extended explanations are necessary to fully extinguish
the pseudo 'facts' inferred and stated in this one -and later in the other four.
As an example, presentation of the complete truth for the rebuttal of false
inferences is needed in that "requirement" on "town, "plain view, "entered"
and "bay. "
Swanton infers that his candidate location for the site of the town would be
in plain sight from De Soto's ships as soon as they entered some bay. If one
is at all familiar with Swanton's writings it must be asked, "Which bay?" For
anyone familiar with the De Soto eyewitness accounts would know that in them
only one was mentioned, called by two of them an "ancon" and by others (trans-
lator's choice ?) 'harbor' and 'port.' Swanton's Report, which he was defending,
worked not just one but two bays into his theory.
The eyewitnesses told of two towns dominated by the chief Ucita (phonetically
also, Ocita and Ecita.) Swanton, in places, acknowledged that there were two
(Rpt.p. 134) yet in those defended "conclusions" and on his maps he could
arrange for but one.
As to the phrase "in plain view" it must be flatly asserted that not one eye-
witness either stated or inferred that any Indian town was visible from any water
position in the landing operations area.
Swanton had confused in his mind some evidence he had advanced in another
chapter about the Narvaez expedition (Rpt. p. 109) which said that latter explorer,
from the mouth of a bay they had encountered, had seen habitations at its head.
Later it will be seen that Swanton also in another case mixed up "Havana"
from this same Narvaez practice on the public's credulity.
The word "entered" connotes that there was an opening or entrance. The
witnesses indicated plainly that there was just one. Swanton involved four, all
different entrances; two from the Gulf into lowest Tampa Bay; one into the
small bay today named Terra Ceia and one into the Manatee River. Which of
these four openings was meant in that "requirement?"
While yet on the subject of 'entering a bay' as he infers De Soto's ships did
and the witnesses state that they actually did, let it be remarked but detailed
later, that after deceptively citing old important sounding (or so he made them)
ratings of ships Swanton pretended to have in them data by which to determine
the governing draft of De Soto's ships. As later will be shown, his purported
computation was trickery. Then, after eliminating other likely candidates for
the honor of being the true "ancon" where De Soto disembarked his army and
horses, by stating falsely that they did not have depths sufficient to accommodate
the Report's trumped up draft data, he let the reader infer -as here in this
"requirement" it is inferred that the depths in one of his indicated bays was
deep enough and that the ships entered it.
The bombshell being that by his own words in the Report, carefully inserted
very briefly, his own specified bay would not accommodate the armada and they
could not have entered it to anchor in what was Swanton's erroneous idea of
what was the frontal waterside of the town; which they must surely have done,
to satisfy the evidence, and which some duped readers of the Report have been
led to believe was possible.
It is not convincing to reasonable people to have dogmatic refutations
thusly made. They wish to be told enough of the evidence so that they them-
selves can judge which is probable fact and which the impostor, so that there is
but one way to treat the subject. Inform them of the true events, quoting the
witnesses accurately or briefing their applicable data, and allow logic spiced
with honest deduction to prevail.
It is here opportune to mention that Swanton professed to do just that in the
Report with a very clever format. He rehearsed, in early chapters and when
beginning each area or section of research, the true facts and events. Anyone
could forgive errors in such abstracts of testimony. However, Swanton used
the montebank's trick of saying the truth almost faultlessly in the prefacing
portions and then when he later referred back to them he switched the facts to
what he wanted them to be. That factor of his charlatan-arrived-at "findings"
perforce will emerge as various angles of his fictitious vogue in argument
are spread before the public herein.
The step into the logical treatment will be taken by briefing the events of
the armada's landing approach and the operations up to the disembarkation of
the army and horses.
The armada made a landfall, said by De Soto's secretary, who no doubt was
with him on the flagship, to be a "northern coast" (R.p. 51) and came to anchor
"two leagues from" shore where the depth was "four fathoms or less. They
could not be certain from that far out in the Gulf that they had the exact harbor
they sought and its entrance must have been not visible from the Gulf.
A combinations of conditions, most of which must be deduced from context,
made it necessary for the ships to stay that distance well offshore while De Soto
went close inshore in a smaller scouting sailship to make 100% safe.
"Seeing that night was approaching" De Soto tried to return to the fleet even
before descrying the entire situation. However, a "contrary wind" prevented
the small boat's return so they ceased their hard efforts and went ashore for
the night. During the night's stay ashore they "came upon traces of many
Indians" and a large and other smaller dwellings constituting a village.
Meanwhile the ships "were in sore travail" and by morning had retired
farther out. By then De Soto was satisfied as to the topography and tried hard
again to return to the fleet. He was "far to leeward" of it and though his small
boat tacked and tacked ("labored") seemingly it did not have room for such
working and maneuvering to be successful.
One of the fleet captains went in another small ship to try to aid in the
situation. In the intervening time the channel leading inside to the "puerto" was
"recognized" and De Soto directed boats to station as markers for each side of
its entrance into the harbor and ordered the fleet to enter.
"This they now began to do under sail for they were four or five leagues
off, but this four or five leagues was not the same as the Governor meant
when he said in a letter that the fleet was "decaidos" videe post for meaning)
four or five leagues from his "puerto. "
De Soto said that it took them three days to "enter the mouth of the puerto"
and "because we had no knowledge of the passage an ancon which extends up
a dozen leagues or more from the sea, we were so long delayed" that DeSoto
sent a force under his next in command in the small sailships on ahead "to
take possession of a town at the head of the ancon." He ordered all the horses
and the army landed to decrease the ships' draft due to the increasing shallows
in the channel, the bottom of which was sand outside the opening and mud
inside of it. The sailors remained with the ships because they yet had to
"work" them another four leagues up the ancon to in front of the objective
town at the head of the ancon, which took them 7 or 8 days more.
On this phase of the working of the ships they lightered ashore most of the
immense supplies. The army's march to the town will be detailed later.
From that brief of events a researcher can deduce and be sure of much in
the way of conditions of shore contour they encountered.
Commenting first on the landfall which was made when they sighted the
"northern coast" it will be shown that Swanton used that word "landfall"
erroneously. In one paragraph (Rpt.p. 125) he said that the fleet "sighted
land" and in the next sentence used the word "landfall" in an ambiguous
sense which could be either 'landing' or the true meaning. Yet it will be seen
that on pages 27, 43, 112, 113, 117, 118, etc., he used that word synonymously
with 'landing' in the sense of disembarkation. Thus in a claimed research
involving ancient maritime operations he used a word plagiarized by modern
aviation vocabulary to apply to a plane's landing and one can not be sure if he
knew what a maritime 'landfall' really is. He dodged Ranjel's datum of the
landfall because it could not apply at his chosen location of the De Soto operations.
The next somewhat important item was that the "two leagues from shore"
datum indicates to an experienced sailship mariner that the shore line did not
lie straight. They perforce stayed that distance out for maneuverability for
safety which would not have been necessary at Swanton's choice of anchoring
site out in the Gulf where depths do not conform to theDe Sotoevidence and where
they could safely have come much closer inshore. At his guessed location they
would have been able to tack as well at two leagues out as they would have at
"four or five leagues" out. Psychological percentages would indicate that the
words, 'or less' after Ranjel's four fathoms remark showed he had a bit of fear
that they were not anchoring far enough out the first time, and that they feared
depths dwindled rapidly, or they could see they would be boxed in at closer to
shore distance. A feeling of safety would have brought into use the expression
'four fathoms or more.'
It may seem a small and farfetched matter perhaps but it is important for
a researcher to make himself familiar with the mental attitudes and motives of
olden explorers in order to be able to fill out many a condensed saying in the
testimony material. The word "many" modifying 'Indians' points up the fact
that they had greedily hoped to find "many" Indians and elucidates the 'why'
of such details the witnesses gave of such efforts made very soon after landing
as when the impatient knights sallied forth (with dogs) on their seasick punished
and weakened horses loaded with armor in a futile attempt to capture Indians.
One must understand that to those Spaniards the Indians were just so much
very valuable chattels as slaves, and also remember that De Soto's new next-in-
command came along principally to obtain the surplus of Indians captured, over
and above those needed for portering army supplies, to ship them back to his
Cuban plantations and mines. (GE.p. 14) The Indian prisoners were a sine qua
non of their planned inland march as will develop.
Next, a bit of study of the "village" De Soto and party "discovered" during
the night ashore reveals that it must have been hidden from the water else it
would be certain that he would not have risked going ashore in its neighborhood
where there might be many Indians ready to defend it because the witness said
that he and his group were unarmed.
However, De Soto was relatively safe for he began to find out that night, what
he reported later, "The Indians, because of some fears of us, have abandoned
all the country" due to warnings, for as another said, smoke signals arose
everywhere as soon as they hove to in sight of land.
Swanton confused this near shore town, which had evidently been overlooked
by a reconnaissance ship's crew the winter prior so it must not have been
visible from the water -with the town at the head of an ancon which had surely
been well reconnoitered that winter.
It will now be noted that De Soto knew that the latter town was there before-
hand and indicated that it was his first objective, among other items, by order-
ing the small sailboats to take troops ahead and secure possession of it. It also
It was so important in their plans that it was usually referred to by Ranjel,
who very likely reflected the leaders' viewpoints, as "THE town"--the caps
being ours to emphasize their use of the definite article instead of some name.
Ranjel, being placed by his position and duties within the circle of the army's
staff, also knew the distance onward, prior to its occupation, to this town (four
leagues) from the position offshore at the disembarkation site. (R.p. 54)
The Portuguese eyewitness, being of a nation then but jealously esteemed
by the hautier Spaniards they were assigned to a separate ship for the voyage -
likely knew only what he saw firsthand and what he heard from camp scuttlebutt
and gossip, so he knew the distance back to the other village which DeSoto had
inadvertently "discovered" (two leagues. GE.p. 22) and they both recorded what
was uppermost in mind.
It was very difficult, surely, to confuse these two towns. Swanton pretended
to assume that the two leagues was to the objective town and then confounded it
with other data (Rpt.pp. 135-137) and, as he usually did when he mixed things
he would announce that one or the other of the witnesses was certainly in error.
Before going into the consideration of "requirement No. 2" it is owed to
the reader to qualify further some of the charges made thus far and to cite
evidence which fully supports them in order not to move too fast at the expense
of complete documentation, with consequent doubt in the minds of a few of the
public. It is desired to account so fully in the investigation of the actual facts
that there will not be even a shadow of a doubt in any reasonable person's mind
as to whether the accusations are entirely substantiated.
Another probable cause of the mistaken idea Swanton voiced in "requirement
No. 1" was that he had written in the Report (p. 129) that the town "was almost
in sight from their supposed anchorage" at the landing site another figment
of his imagination and, during the years following he had forgotten his own
story. A town at his proposed site, which fronts McGill Bay though he preferred
to pretend that it was on Terra. Ceia Bay, could not be seen from the claimed
landing site or from any of his nearer guessed openings let alone from the distant
two at the Gulf entrances. A glance at any even small scale map will confirm that.
One of the more vulnerable of his specious arguments was in connection with
his sleight of hand use of words when trying to put over his selection of Terra
Ceia Bay and the two-bay idea he had in spite of the fact the witnesses spoke
of but one.
In an earlier Florida Historical Quarterly article (xvi, 3, Jan. '38) he included
some of his jumbled arguments in a seeming attempt to justify his general
selection of Tampa Bay. He inserted the other of his two bays, Terra Ceia Bay,
which is too small to deserve the name bay in the same breath as Tampa Bay, as
a specific one at other times. In this instance he employed his habit of expatiating
on and rambling off of what the witnesses said, then ignoring their testimony
to settle on his own already picked site.
Our more available English renditions of the De Soto narratives use the word
'bay' rather indiscriminately for the Spanish 'bahia' and even 'ancon.' This can
be understood when it is remembered that the translators wrote of a locality not
actually identified as authentic but merely assumed from legendary repetition.
This has been quite misleading to past researchers all of whom should, of
course, keep an even keel by studying the Spanish and Portuguese original
chronicles sufficiently so as not to be misled.
This writer takes strong exception to the translation by B. Smith and by
Dr. Robertson of the Spanish 'ancon' into the English word 'bay' since this rendition
together with the usual use of the word 'bay' for 'bahia' and even also 'ensenada'
tend to rob the researcher of some facets of the evidence which will be demonstrated
It must be noticed that "ancon" was used both by De Soto and his secretary,
both of whom no doubt adopted the name from the conversation of the pilots and
the navigators with them on the flagship, who knew what the correct appellation,
maritime-wise, considering shape, should be.
Before the publication of the Report the 1938 Quarterly article supplied a
preview of some of the Report's type of argument. Therein Swanton did not
consult an unauthoritative dictionary as he did in a case later to be detailed,
but dodged the issue of the type of bay involved by just pretending to consult
the Spanish Academy authority and then he discussed it to death and buried its
On page 165 of that Quarterly Swanton 'talked' his way through substitutions
he insisted he had to make to "correct" a Spanish copy of a letter written by
De Soto. He did surprisingly acknowledge that the definition given by the Spanish
Academy's dictionary showed that when the witnesses used the word "ancon"
it could not be that they referred to present Tampa Bay.
As to Swanton's prerogative to assume the role of expert Spanish translator
and, as he did the first time, presume to correct the discussed Spanish, it is
a bit illuminative of his knowledge of Spanish or the reliability of his then
advisory translators (with Government money he hired Spanish translators for
the Report) to note that he gave an erroneous rendition therein of the Spanish
authority's se puede fondear ("which can be sounded") in its definition, yet
his 'line' of argument was unchanged when he corrected it (at the hired helps'
behest?) in the Report wherein the ensuing argument was almost duplicated.
The Report had the phrase correctly translated (p. 133) that an 'ancon' is
a small 'ensenada' in which one may anchor. He had already used the word
'bay' to translate 'ancon' so he managed to confuse the matter by translating
"ensenada" into "bay (orroadstead)" instead of attacking the problem
On the larger scale maps of South America's Spanish coasts it is found that
the bodies of water about contemporaneously with De Soto named 'ensenada' were
usually long and a bit proportionately narrow indentations from the sea at various
angles. It is also found that 'ancon' was applied to similar shapes smaller in
size. The name 'bahia' was then usually applied to large concavities in the
coast line which were more like what today would be described in English as
a huge cove.
The modern Spanish Academy authority substantiates this use by this
"bahia: Entrada de mar en la coste de extension
considerable, que puede servir de abrigo a las
Just one U. S. Navy Chart will completely substantiate this. Chart 1176
of Central and South America, West Coast, 40th ed., 1938, depicts many such
huge cove type bays. Just to name some, skipping Ensenada Pajaros and E.
Rosarios at the top: On Isla Coiba (Quibo), Bahia Damas; B. (abbreviation
for Bahia) Parita, B. Panama, B. San Miguel (with ensenadas off of it), B.
Octavia, B. Cupica, B. Chirichiri, B. Cuevito with Ensenada Catripe off of
it and B. Buenaventura, which brings one down to the line of Ecuador. There
is found the Ensenada San Francisco, and so on and on.
In connection with the name 'Ensenada' there soon will be noted an
interesting item on two maps published in 1765, one of which is in the Hydro-
graphic Office, Madrid, (Rpt.p.14) and another, a sister map, is in the British
Museum. With a copy of the latter map at his elbow in the Library of Congress
Swanton seemingly was not aware of its existence, though it is a valuable De Soto
research item, or he might have taken the cue from it to avoid another gross
muff he made in the Report one of too many to list.
"It (the Madrid copy. whw.) was prepared to show what
Spain believed to be the true boundary between her own
and the English colonies under the peace treaty of 1670
and to indicate the area into which they had, in her
opinion, wrongly intruded. (Rpt.p.14)
Unless this writer is horribly mistaken Spain did not possess present
Florida in 1765 the date of the map Swanton discussed, so his words "her own"
were a serious error. The mentioned treaty of 1670 had been pretty seriously
wiped out by the subsequent treaty of 1763, two years before the date of the map,
in which Spain turned Florida over to England, thus making it absurd for anyone
to think, much less put it of record in a U. S. Government publication, that Spain
was moronic enough to be publishing maps to wrangle over boundaries of an
already lost colony!
A far more likely conjecture, if one had to be made on a subject extraneous
to that of De Soto to pad or dress up the Report to impress, would have been that
these maps fulfilled Spain's to be expected promises given at the conference table
of the 1763 treaty to turn over also all their maritime data on Florida to the new
owner and humanly they had grabbed the chance to rub in on that map all the
arguments they had much earlier made about boundaries previously quarreled over.
Those sister maps are two of many samples of a very interesting and odd phase
of Florida's cartographical history. (See inside front cover.) Swanton seems to
have been nonplused by this depicted feature as well as by the route of De Soto's
march as shown thereon. He passed over the former with a mere remark and of
the latterhe said, "One of the most singular reconstructions of De Soto's route"
was on the Madrid map he somehow knew about.
If a person will but study every angle which comes up in a De Soto research
thoroughly until competent to evaluate material, he will find those maps quite
informative and intriguing and not pass over them with foggy remarks.
The words quoted above, second removed, show that Swanton did sense
that the Madrid map was or should be considered authoritative since it without
doubt was prepared under the authority of the Spanish crown. It would be
expected that such source would have at least as much data from out its musty
files as anyone else concerning the then two and a quarter century old De Soto
story. Swanton derived not a clue from it.
Concerning the odd cartographical feature to which reference was made a
few lines supra, he said, "On this map the geography of the southern part of
Florida is similar to that on the map of De 1'Isle and the landing place of
De Soto is again at the northwestern corner of the Bay of the Holy Spirit."
By those words, skipping clarifications, he inferred misleading ideas.
Two pages earlier he had said of that latter French cartographer's 1718
map, "In it the Bay of the Holy Spirit appears as a widely ramifying inland
sea separating the lower part of Florida from its northern section." Again
this was misleading.
Cartographers' depiction of the remarked southern portion of Florida
was then in 1765 approaching the end of a period in which they had been led
almost unanimously to believe that lower Florida was a sort of archipelago
lying westerly of a long narrow peninsula formed by the east coast dune strip
and delineated it variously schematically as islands separated by straits or
channels, or as one English publisher (H. Moll, 1729) did, use the words,
"Of lakes and broken land" as an overprint on an earlier plate, which as of
today can be rated either as an economy move, lack of time to make a new
plate, or, an obvious device to straddle in view of the variations in the
reports from ships which ventured to Florida.
The probable cause of this misconception must have been that some
usually reliable mariner, early in the 18th century or just before, had reported
that south Florida was not solid land as theretofore believed and thusly mapped.
No doubt he had happened there right after an inundation of exceptional
proportions which can modernly be guessed at by what has been seen even of
late record years, such as the hurricane with rain years of 1926 and 1928 or
the rain flood years such as 1947-1948. In those latter years, even with drainage
canals rapidly to assist, the total time of inundation to the last emergence of all
land in southeast Florida was, over 3,000,000 acres considered, "several
months" all due to a 60 inch excess over the normal 40 inches, for an annual
total of 100 inches. (See "Floods of the Florida Everglades," Edwin W. Eden, Jr.,
Ch. P.& R. Branch, Eng. Div. U. S. Corp of Eng., in June '59 Proceedings of
Amer. Soc. of Civ. Eng.)
That conjectural explorer, astonished by looking at his map showing dry
land in southern Florida and seeing instead before him islands and water whereon
he could sail his exploratory ship, and, assuming that the entire south end of
the peninsula was the same, no doubt made strong protest to the mapmakers
about the inaccuracies of their maps, one of which he had relied upon and had
found 'grossly erroneous.' No doubt he was so sincere and influential, together
with co-witnesses to back him up, that his new report influenced the ideas of
the then cartographical world about south Florida.
Though a bit astray from our main subject, it may be suspected that Spain,
deluded by the misconception, was extra willing to 'stick' England with Florida
in the 1763 treaty deal, for those 1765 maps seem to establish that the Spanish
officials (not those in Cuba) then had swung over to the straits and island theory
of the topography. Yes, "theory" is the correct word because in those times
the mapping of most areas was on a theoretical basis, and until aerial mapping
arrived even parts of present Florida was thusly mapped.
It was one of those inter-island ramifying straits which Swanton seemed to
try to lead the Report's reader to think was a bay.
De 1'Isle, when composing his 1718 map had before him the problem of
rationalizing, if possible, the latest seemingly authentic mariner's report
with his and others' concept of a dry land south Florida on prior maps. He
was likely influenced to accept the new report and to make the change to the
multiple island idea because, as that portion of the New World lay before him
on his master maps, that new conception fitted in well with the very many island
topography of the West Indies, Including the two Antilles, for comparatively
long well defined and authenticated by many navigational readings and maps
from mariners, which latter records were probably lacking as to Florida.
Whatever of accurate data and readings in re the then Florida as had been
sketched by and also held in minds of mariners earlier, had likely been kept
sub rosa because such were of very special value almost solely to the black-
market Indian-slave bootlegger West Indies pilots. These latter no doubt knew
the true answer very well but it was part of their stock-in-trade so naturally
it was not divulged.
Garcilaso, as late as the publication of the first edition of his La Florida in
1605 seemingly expressed the uncertainty of the day, including cartographers,
when he inferred that perhaps Florida was a large island (similar to Cuba maybe?)
and might not be part of a mainland. For some time its name was often started
with the word, 'Island.' With that vagueness rampant it was not difficult to
inculcate the belief in the archipelago formation idea with most map makers
because, as said, it seemed logical as an extension of the West Indies.
Due to De l'Isle's standing he probably tipped the scales for the adoption of
the false new idea in the then geographers' world, and when some future careful
researcher grapples with the determination of the origin and effects of that 18th
century delusion it probably will be found that he, as a leader, fixed it in that
De l'Isle's labelling of the south Florida supposed archipelago by spreading
across over all of it the name, "Baye du S. Esprit" likely was an effort by him
to reduce the new depiction's likely confusion of erstwhile users of the former
maps which had showed dry land and coastal bays there. He of course trusted
that future customers would figure that he had 'late reliable data' to warrant
However, when the users of former maps saw this new archipelago concept
they naturally would yet expect to see, in spite of changed inland topography
layout, some of the coastal names thereon familiar to mariners over a century
and a half and habitually placed far south there.
That "Holy Spirit" name, bestowed by De Soto upon his disembarkation area
coastal body of water, was no doubt famous at least in West Indies maritime
circles, and out of the mess of 'away with the old and on with the new' changes
the cartographer decided to preserve the more celebrated.
On his 1765 maps Martinez used another mode of naming, perhaps a bit
influenced by olden data from the Spanish government documents. He placed
the name, "Ba del Espiritu S ." out in the Gulf, outside the northernmost
mouth of the ramifying straits, and indicated De Soto's landing on the Gulf
coast, as also did Del'Isle. (In spite of Swanton's words indicating differently.)
It should occur to a De Soto researcher that before this archipelago idea
of south Florida intruded, the famous "Bay of the Holy Spirit" just perhaps
had been depicted on the south part of the peninsula which had been delineated
on maps up to the 18th century as dry land. (Vide "Terra Florida" 1514-15,
Leonardo da Vinci; do. 1528-29, Verrazano; and so on.)
In reading a later page herein where Swanton's proclivity is divulged for
the mention of certain maps which showed what he wanted to use to 'prove'
something, to the exclusion of many others which showed what he wished to
avoid mentioning for they countered his ideas, let it be recalled that there were
items on these three discussed maps chalking up demerits against him, namely:
These maps show the De Soto landing site southward of the name Tampa or
Tempe (whether for the Indian chief's principal site or for the bay the site was
on is beside the point, but about that time it was applied to present Charlotte
Harbor) and second, they demonstrate that the two names Tempe and Holy
Spirit were for distinct and separate items originally and that the later maps
which Swanton used to confuse and try to establish that those names were
applicable to one body of water were probably shoddy later map-maker's work.
As usual, Swanton could not report things straight, as witness (Rpt.p. 12)
his words: "The landing place of De Soto is indicated at the northwest inlet of
this ("inland sea") but Tampa is rather inconsistently placed on the coast still
farther north" on the Del'Isle map. Note how in those words he tried to convey
the impression that the name referred either to the present Tampa Bay or even
the City perhaps. Anything was inconsistent which did not support his fixed
notions or what he "battled valiantly" to establish. (This last quote is from
writings of a Harvard scientist team and suggests to this writer a Don Quixote
aspersion in their complete rejection of the Report's Trans-Mississippi pro-
posals!) The truth which Swanton succeeded in avoiding is that -because of
a factor yet to be determined by study (see this writer's conjecture elsewhere
herein) the De Soto landing site is actually shown on the Gulf Coast on these
three maps, and "Tempe" is northward of the landing site, not alone on these
three but on other maps- but everyone was out of step except Swanton.
The 'singular' feature which Swanton passed over with a mere remark really
was a possible clue to the fact that De Soto landed even southward of Tempe's
true domain which was present Charlotte Harbor.
Parenthetically: The comment herein on maps is not to be construed as
showing that this writer considered ancient maps as evidence in his research.
In that day they were in general either based upon incorrect readings and also,
on vague notes of descriptions so that today they needs must be 'interpreted'
or, they were merely pictorial, so that a theory must be evolved as to what
the factual data actually was.
Therefore, their use results eventually in the basing of one theory upon
Many of the olden so-called maps were from hearsay perhaps, mere conjecture
at times, schematic or semi-diagrammatic and maybe oft of memo nature, so that
by the rules of evidence they are not admissable as real evidence in honest.work
except as a source of clues or for corroboration.
This may seem to be a severe restriction but it is only proper. Of course,
it indirectly rules that the De Soto narratives are the only real evidence for
De Soto route research. Even those items must be carefully weighed when
there are conflictions present. But it is the responsibility of the one trying
to reach a true verdict as to what is credible to instruct himself carefully in
every angle of applicable knowledge of that day before presuming to be
sufficiently competent to be a self-appointed judge.
One other item which might well be tackled by researchers who may see
fit to grapple with the origin and effects of the 18th century south Florida map
archipelago delusion is the study of the curve in the initial part of the line on
those three discussed maps which represents De Soto's route.
On these three the line proceeds slightly northward on its way eastward
from the Gulf shore landing site and then curves back south to a point on the
northernmost strait's north shore.
Remembering that the evidence of the eyewitnesses said the headquarters
Indian town site was at the head of an ancon, it is prima facie that the map
makers were trying to rationalize something by that curved route delineation
which, judging from the maps they produced, was uncalled for unless they
were trying to conform to the testimony that De Soto went around creeks, or,
it just might be that they were attempting to retain a feature from off some
original authentic map of which they had direct or indirect knowledge.
Needless to say, this writer considers the correct answer to be that when
the many-island fallacy gained foothold it was necessary in making maps from
those of the former conception, to cut off in central Florida the original and
authentic location of De Soto's route on the dry land maps and head it to the
new southernmost believed dry land north of the archipelago since it was well
known that the Conquistador did not land on an island.
While noticing maps, it is novel to notice that the dubious distinction of
being the first bluff 'pulled' by Swanton was in the 9th line of the Report's
Foreword. In the conditioning of the prospective reader for future impositions
it was there stated that the Report's De Soto route "determinations" must be
based upon, "four narratives, one early map, and a few minor documents ."
On page 11 it is found that the early map given that high datum rating was
what, in the historical world, had been generally dubbed the "De Soto Map"
for seemingly no good reason except lack of better identification, because
that sketch had on it some of the names mentioned by De Soto witnesses, how-
ever, with strange spellings. There was little variation in the phonetic spel-
lings in the witness narratives considering difference of languages and the
positions of the narrators in the affairs of the expedition. The Report's index
lists but one reference in the text to this map and calls it merely a "mention. "
By listing it, as quoted, parallel with the four narratives Swanton awarded
it equal importance with them as evidence it would seem, yet he gave only
one "mention" of it of under ten lines and that was padded.
This map is of "doubtful" authorship since its maker has been but guessed;
its date can likewise only be surmised; the source of its data is unknown and
its nomenclature of De Soto items quite defective. Yet Swanton used these
words, "Its evident purpose was to illustrate the De Soto expedition. This
in spite of the fact that none of the dozen or so of Indian chiefs visited by the
army in 1539 is shown thereon; few of the 1540 visits are, and besides, there
are on it coastal names of unstated connections.
These latter were cast aside by Swanton (Rpt.p. 58) when he tried to
decipher the assumed De Soto names in order to make a list of them.
Swanton even had the temerity to publish this map as his No. 1 illustration
even though he and Dr. Robertson together could not read or unravel what all
of the names thereon represented. They changed letters in places and yet
such as "Finar" could not be solved. "Neter" was guessed to be "Olitifar"
and that is a bit farfetched- as an assumption. "Mala" they said might be
"Aquixo" and "Epavaquianqui (was) perhaps intended for Tatalicoya."
The fact was that instead of being, as stated by Swanton, a basis for any
"determinations" that map by its very nature could not be used as De Soto
evidence -and it thusly was not used as far as the index indicates! Its mention
was pure bluff. Swanton seemed to enjoy working in farfetched pseudo material.
Swanton was, as said, quite adept in choosing whatever supported the findings
he desired, to the exclusion of countering evidence, and the cases are too numer-
ous to list and offset. Just to consider one because it is connected with the
On the Report's pages 127-132 he managed to manipulate some old records
(and such were nearly always so contradictory that one could prove almost
anything desired by searching out what was supporting evidence and neglecting
to see what supported the opposite!) so as to make it appear that the ancient
Bay of Tocobaga (an Indian chief) was identic with present Tampa Bay. He
very conveniently failed to mention such items of evidence, of which there are
quite a few, as Herrera's map of 1601 which very definitely supports the loca-
tion of "b. de toca baga" as north of "b.de tampa. Though the map is some
schematic, as were many of the day, the island in the latter bay whereon some
reports said Tempe's town was located, is shown. (It is this writer's studied
opinion that the huge Indian mound in the northwest part of Pine Island, pitifully
vandalized, was the site of Tempe's main village. In it have been found many
European articles such as gold and silver crosses, beads made of metal coins,
etc. The mound itself, of course, probably being the main burial place.)
To detail the item which it was said earlier would be mentioned: On the
photostat of the British Museum copy of the 1765 Martinez map discussed above,
now before this writer, at the cape named "Cabo Canaberal" there is shown an
opening from the Atlantic just about at the point where this writer understands
a reopening was made by the U. S. Government in connection with space age
developments in that area.
The ancient opening the map shows no doubt went into the present so-called
Banana River. The Spanish named this opening and its body of water connecting
"Ensenada de las Tortolas" (Ensenada of the Turtle Doves) so that all one need
to do to gain real knowledge of what an 'ensenada' was like and what a smaller
edition, an 'ancon' would be, is to examine any ubiquitous Florida road map
and supply the said opening to the ocean on it. Why would it not be, appropriate
for the U. S. to name the new opening by the name it originally bore ?
Further examining that Florida road map for similar topography, also a
bit influenced by what is learned from South American Spanish coastal waters'
nomenclature, it will be gathered that such water bodies as Charlotte Harbor
would have been labeled an ensenada, and that the portion of the Caloosahatchee
the U. S. officially terms a sound, would be an ancon. Also, the huge cove
type water formation outside these to the south, for long retained its original
name as a bay but not without a bit of corruption by cartographers both in its
name and location. It was first named "Calos Bay" but was later changed by
the Spaniards to "Carlos Bay," then to the present San Carlos Bay.
Perhaps the strongest refutation of most of Swanton's false claims as to
the locales of De Soto events comes from the simple fact that those events could
not have taken place as related by the witnesses at his guessed sites, the topog-
raphy of his supposed locales and all conditions considered.
To make his guessed sites 'fit' Swanton met all this by impeaching almost
completely the important testimony of the witnesses by divers and devious
For instance, let it be considered how he was able entirely to avoid
noticing -purposely or through lack of care makes no difference -De Soto's
secretary's datum that the armada, in its Gulf anchorages, was windward of
De Soto's small sailboat when he went to look for the opening into their objective
harbor. De Soto had prior intelligence of what the opening was like (notice the
words soon to be quoted which Swanton used acknowledging it had been "selected"
by a reconnaissance ship) but Swanton dodged facing all the facts the Governor's
particular maneuver indicated as to topography involved. The true opening
evidently could not be seen from the Gulf. At his choice of locale the two
openings he picked were certainly visible from the Gulf.
Ranjel definitely stated that the De Soto small ship (R. p. 52) was "far to
leeward" of the fleet, yet this definite testimony was warped around to confuse
the Report's reader and finally to settle on a 'fact' absolutely not based upon
This pseudo 'fact' was worded in the 1938 Quarterly(p.152),"the contrary
wind, evidently blowing from the south or southwest..." and in the Report,
to addle the true testimony, he produced a most extraordinary purported
'argument' spun around an important word, "decaidos" which De Soto employed
in his famed letter. The Report said:
"His letter yields the important information that the
fleet sighted land south of the port which Aniasco
selected. The word decaidos which is translated
'fallen below' also means 'to leeward' and it
might be argued that, if the wind was from the
south, the landfall was north of the port. But from
the above letter and the Ranjel narrative we learn
that De Soto, Aniasco, and the pilot having gone
off in a pinnance (sic) to locate the harbor, were
unable to return to the vessels that night on account
of the contrary wind. If the wind had been south,
however, and the fleet north of the entrance, it
would not have been against them on their return.
On the other hand, if the wind had been north, the
lee side would have been south of the port. As to
the distance of the landfall from the port, De Soto
and Ranjel agree that it was four or five leagues
but Ranjel and Elvas differ as to the distance of
their anchorage from shore, the former estimat-
ing two leagues, the latter one. (p. 125)
In those words it appears that Swanton made a bid to some Hall of Fame
with his near pioneer introduction into the world of Arts -research in this
case of a classic sample of what is said to have been endemic in Washington,
D. C., evidently contracted by him there, and to which Sylvia Porter has
given the name "bafflegab. "
The formula is: State your 'proven facts' first. Then introduce a subject
which sounds related. If there is none suitably pseudo relevant, make up one.
Then keep flowing with words. When the hypnotic effect is judged attained,
suddenly change the subject even if you have proven absolutely nothing -
selecting an extremely tangent subject which sounds related, further to
dizzy the reader.
Note the proficiency Swanton showed for he ended up, not with just one,
but with two fast subject switches which reverberated fairly well in tune but
were far off the predication and deceptively occupied the spot where a reason-
able person might expect a summation of what had been 'argued. '
The rabbit which he pulled out of the hat before the rigmarole started was,
"His letter yields the important information that the fleet sighted land south
of the port Aniasco selected." (He brought in vaguely the Quarterly assumption
"The contrary wind, evidently blowing from the south or southwest.")
Overlooking the confusion in the reader's mind caused by the use early of
the words, "sighted land" and then the use of its synonym "landfall"
whereas the latter word was usually erroneously used as a synonym for
'disembarkation' together with the later talk about "the distance of the
landfall from the port" which datum would not be given in most any case
unless 'landfall' was intended therein for 'landing' permit these remarks
to be made as well as stressing the point that Swanton was barking up a tree
of argument to the complete neglect of Ranjel's lone and specific mention of
a landfall datum.
It is possible, of course, that the land sighted first was north of the 'port;,'
since it could be situated and in this writer's opinion was located so as to be
seen before the 'port' locale was in view. But, if the fleet was north or south
of the 'port' when the landfall was made how can such a point indicate any one
locale? It might apply to several landing spots. However, if the Report's
hypothesis as to the voyage were correct they positively would have sighted
land indeed many leagues to the southward not near Tampa Bay.
Besides, just what is meant by the word "port" in that quote? Landing site?
Harbor body of water, or what? De Soto, in his letter, according to the Report's
reproduction of the Spanish, used 'puerto' for the landing site and 'ancon' for the
harbor. Was the confusion in that quote carelessly or purposely allowed?
"Sighted land south of the port" might be a warped, false deduction from
Ranjel's words (R. p.51) who gave the only landfall item, which was that their
landfall was a "northern coast." As already known, Swanton palpably did not
know the proper definition and use of the word 'landfall' and it is a complete
mystery how one could hook together a landfall with the lee or windward situa-
tion of the wind whereas it was De Soto's small boat's position with reference
to the fleet which was mentioned in that connection of wind direction.
Again, in the words, "the landfall (landing?) was north of the port" it is
difficult to unravel what was intended in view of the actual fact that Swanton's
guessed landing locations were the reverse. His guessed landing'site is inside
on a river emptying into his guessed harbor and far southward in it, not north-
ward. Ranjel's words cannot possibly be strained to show what the fleet did
after sighting land. Did they just veer toward it, or even swing backward or
were they on course a ship's landfall may be anywhere in relation to their
objective course or port.
But all this discussion is in a way waste, because the meat, the key to
Swanton's "bafflegab" purportedly on the word "decaidos" from De Soto's
letter has such a surprise ending that it should be promptly considered, and
shall be after just a few lines in which a look is taken at the Report's Map
No. 3, entitled "Tampa Bay to illustrate the landing of De Soto's army as
indicated in the present report." (sic) (p.344) That map is found to be on
such a small scale, what with both the dots and dashes, representing respec-
tively 'the course of the vessels' and 'route of the army' proportionately so
heavy against the light lines of the map, that one must look carefully to
However, the point is that even a youngster with but a modicum of sailing
experience can look at that map and see that if the fleet had been anchored
the first evening out in the Gulf as far as Ranjel stated (two leagues the
map shows a course about one-half league out too close for an onshore wind
condition which prevailed) De Soto's small sailboat could easily have tacked
back to them from near the alleged port entrances if the wind had been from
the south or southwest, which Swanton, in his lack of comprehension denied
could be accomplished.
So that, piled upon the fact that he erred in his deduction is superimposed
the fact that it did not matter because the points he attempted to make were
incompetent as evidence, and besides, served to prove that Swanton's guessed
locales were incorrect. The nonsensical factor is that he would "battle val-
iantly" for such a determination whereas he could not even settle his mind as
to which of two entrances the "arguments" applied the map shows the vessels'
course through both Gulf entrances.
It cannot too often be stressed that if the fleet was running by day, as it was,
and was out at depths where they would have been safe with an onshore wind
blowing (some leagues more than the map shows) yet they would have made
their landfall, that is, sighted land for the first time, many, many leagues,
at least 50 miles, southward of Tampa Bay.
Now to get to the meat of the matter let the alleged basis of the Swanton
'argument,'that is, the Spanish verb form,"decaidos" be examined.
It will be well to investigate how the second sentence of that quoted para-
graph will read when both the portion Swanton omitted as indicated by the
three asterisks is reinserted and also his cleverly offered "to leeward"
definition is duly utilized. (The U.S. G.P.O. used three asterisks as
ellipsis signs instead of three spaced periods.)
With that claimed correction of both B. Smith's and Robertson's renditions,
the completed phrase would read, "Having fallen four or five leagues to lee-
ward below the port. "
Perhaps a moment of perusal of the real portent of those words will suggest
why Swanton himself did not chose to insert the completedphrase inhis Report.
Those words just could not appear in his volume intended to support Tampa
Bay as the locale of the De Soto landing area and headquarters camp because
the astounding fact is that such a statement, created by Swanton's invalid "to
leeward," is exactly opposite and contrary to Ranjel's testimony as cited in
Swanton's 'bafflegab' which he called argument.
Anyone would know with a moment of thought, that though "to leeward"
looks like the infinitive form of a verb, actually it does not in any manner
conform to the definition of a verb. The dictionaries which print this absurd
definition are only a couple seemingly intended for rough scholastic work and
made to sell at a comparatively low price.
If the "correction" were valid the "important information" purportedly
deduced from the welter of words above quoted, i.e. that the wind was from
the south or southwest, and its companion idea that the fleet "sighted land
south of the port" all is directly adverse to what was the basis of the argument.
For the ships offshore in the Gulf to have been as this Swanton aborted
rendition would say if he had dared print it in full, that is, leeward of the
port entrances at Swanton's guessed locale, the wifid necessarily would
have been from the east or thereabouts. Could it be that Swanton toned
down and partially obscured the words of the 1938 Quarterly ("wind was
from the south etc. ") intentionally?
That paragraph is but a sample of many 'arguments' found in the Report.
A case will be cited later where the reader was given nearly the diametric
opposite to what Swanton's "conclusion" stated.
Now permit this writer really to correct the definition of "decaidos" but
by using the Spanish authority, the Spanish Academy dictionary. Swanton strove
valiantly to find a convenient erroneous translation elsewhere for his use. On
page 133 he pretended to consult the Academy authority on the word "ancon"
then covered the truth with verbiage. In this case he did not even pretend only
to dodge but dug out the elementary dictionaries scarcely suitable for lower
school work. Of course, such volumes would miss out when they tried to
render into English the long definition of the Academy authority's idiomatic,
obsolete, maritime meaning of the word "decaidos" which, like the English
idiom 'stranded,' like in, "I was stranded in Mexico City" needs, not just two
words, but a long explanation to fully elucidate.
If one harks back to ancient days of sailing ships long before auxiliary
power was used, it will be found that often when a ship sailed to certain
harbors they encountered narrow or channel areas in the case of many, and
it was then impossible to use the sails as in open water to get to their desired
wharf or landing site, or perhaps to their anchorage offshore inside the harbor.
The crew then had to 'work' the ship along to where they wanted to go by
various methods. Perhaps a bit of wind momentarily helped, or the long
sweeps, pushing by poles, and maybe tidal current twice a day (in daylight)
assisted. Just as like as not they resorted to what was known among English
speaking sailors as "kedging" which meant that they took ahead in rowboats
small anchors called kedges and kedged (windlassed) the ship along. (Ventur-
ing into a field strange to this writer, it is wondered if the Icelandic origin of
this latter word was perhaps in their naming of a 'machine' they named because
they used it usually on "vindilass" days?)
As the "decaidos" ship neared shore windlass ropes to wharf or trees also
accomplished their working of the ship along. In our language that was called
"winching" as distinguished from kedging. There was no such thing as power
tugs in those days!
The olden mariners needed a word to express this situation in their talk
and logs. So the Spanish corrupted a past participle to indicate the state of
affairs described and said a ship was "decaidos" when in such a fix. It is
easily understood why De Soto considered the unwelcome prospect of much
slow 'working' of his ships along as grounds for a reprimand to be given to
Aniasco, the skipper of the scout ship which selected the harbor the winter
Indeed, Ranjel, who seemed to pride himself in covering up personal
quarrels among his friends, saw fit to record (p. 53) that De Soto and Aniasco
had "hard words" the day when De Soto grasped that this onerous, delaying
and morale consuming 'working' was necessary to get the armada into the
harbor to the sought port.
The reason for the verbal battle, and also the cause of De Soto's setting
forth in his letter of the delays in the landing operations, has been blind to
historians with the heretofore faulty translation of "decaidos." It was almost
impossible to gather why De Soto chose to mention such a heretofore seemingly
inconsequential item as that they had "fallen four to five leagues below the
port." It had not been clear what his motive was for the remark and motive
ever has been and ever will be the compelling force with men of his caliber.
The place where the Governor's ships had to quit open water style sailing
and resort to these 'working' measures was where they became decaidos and
though it is seemingly a minor datum, instead, it is extremely important in
the identification of the landing operations area together with other data.
De Soto's letter (Bourne, Vol. 2, p. 160) said the fleet was decaidos four
to five leagues from his "puerto" and that it took them three days to "enter
the mouth" of the "puerto" and with the real meaning of his word understood
all is much clarified which formerly was of hazy or no significance.
At the locales shown on the Swanton map mentioned it would have been
impossible for the fleet to have been "decaidos" outside the entrances to
the Gulf indeed, they would not have been thusly until they were entering
the mouth of the Manatee River quite close to the port of disembarkation
guessed by Swanton. Our afore mentioned youngster-tyro-sailor could captain
most any ship the size De Soto had through the openings and proceed by sail
entirely to the mouth of the Manatee River in three hours, not three days,
and it could be done in three-quarters of an hour.
One last fling at the quoted paragraph is inspired by Swanton's inability to
project himself into the times and happenings of the De Soto narratives. For
instance, he wastes words in the bold but feeble deviations he appended to his
"bafflegab" to dodge presenting any conclusions, when he said that Ranjel
and the anonymous Gentleman of Elvas (Portuguese) differed "as to the distance
of the anchorage from the shore, the former estimating two leagues, the latter
Passing over the indication that Swanton missed the fact that there were
two anchorage spots, one in the P.M. and one farther out during the night, it
seems he just could not, as any researcher should, understand why these two
witnesses might differ. Instead, he inferred it was conflicting testimony.
False judgment such as that will lead any research astray.
Ranjel was on a larger ship of "800 tons." The Portuguese were on a
"500" ton ship. (Garcilaso, 1st Bk.) The smaller one could safely go closer
to shore. Also, sailing ships dared not group too closely, especially in an
onshore wind such as they battled. They must allow for maneuvering. If
anchors were dragging or threatening to do so, they must tack back out to a
safe margin of depth.
However, Swanton's failure to instruct himself sufficiently so as to grasp
such a point is minor to the fact that he could not even grasp what his own words
sometimes conveyed as the instance just prior exposed, wherein he as good
as argued that the wind was blowing two ways at once, toward shore where the
eyewitness Ranjel held up his wet finger, and off shore, or at least off the port
openings (correction: He was mistaken also about the real opening to his picked
port!) where Swanton some 400 years later used something like pretended
psychic scrutiny or a word wind tee.
Returning to the thread of events when the armada, because it was decaidos,
was striving in the methods of the ancient maritime world to get to their sought
objective village: The witness stated that when "two ships" (the two larger,
naturally) touched bottom outside the opening, they were not harmed because
it was sand; but when "ships" touched within it, the bottom was mud. (R.p. 53-54)
That illuminating item allows the deduction that outside the opening the bot-
tom was wave and storm agitated and washed, whereas the bottom within may
have been the more or less unwashed mucky deposit from a river emptying into
the ancon. Witnesses mentioned a river as being near the headquarters town.
Swanton ignored all these items.
Naturally, any shoal in the ancon was there because it was not eroded out
by a strong enough channel current, so that the presence of shoals connotes
deeper places, which, in turn, to a person digging for facts means that the
shore line was not too regular or the current would not have been intermittent
in force and would have cut a more constant depth channel.
The topography outside the opening, as mentioned, must have been a large
cove type layout into which the ships dared not intrude too far or they would
have risked being blown aground toward a shore because their tacking abilities
would have been nullified the latter predicament being what happened to De
Soto's even small scout ship as has been brought out earlier by bordering
dwindling depths due to the lie of the shores on either side of the 'expanded U'
cove shaped bay they must have been in.
The foregoing discussion has familiarized the reader with the general lay-
out both of what actually was required by the true evidence as against what the
Report sometimes farcically claimed in text and maps, and also what Swanton
claimed in his shorter Quarterly articles. It is opportune, therefore, to
examine in the light of the true data, more of his claims and particularly
those illustrated in the Map No. 3. (Rpt. p. 344)
That map, as brought out, shows the same as Swanton stated in words,
(p. 128) that the armada may have used either of two openings from the Gulf.
The one they sought was not discernible from the Gulf, as witness context
showed, yet he pretended as he did elsewhere that he would not be too "dog-
matic" so that he would not chose between the two. On page 186 he confessed
he was that in other cases and on page 117 he charged another researcher of it.
A thorough researcher would firmly decide between the two openings if on
no other basis than such as this: They would have used the first navigable open-
ing they came to, for they were on no pleasure boat ride. Their most valuable
combat, scouting and guarding assets, the horses, were dying in the foul holds
from the effects of the voyage thus far. They lost almost a score coming just
Why weakly concede that they might have made a silly detour the long way
needlessly? (Which reminds of another ridiculous detour of 12 leagues foolishly
concocted in a case later to be detailed.)
Swanton repeatedly acknowledged, when the true fact suited his arguments
of the moment, that Aniasco had done a thorough job of reconnaissance of the
harbor area the winter before (pp. 86,101,117,120) yet he had the audacity or
something to repudiate all this (p. 135) when he must warp matters to fit his
That Map No. 3 shows that after negotiating the entrances and crossing
Tampa Bay by sail, unless they idiotically hugged the shore the armada
proceeded to enter the Manatee River according to Swanton's ideas.
Since they had knowledge of the actual marine neighborhood through Aniasco's
prior winter's scouting, their plans if they were sane, would have been to chose
the shore nearest their objective town on which to disembark their horses and
Just a couple miles (not leagues) farther up the River than Shaw Point,
Swanton's guessed disembarkation site, on the other, nearer to the town,
north shore was a much more suitable place to unload them, much more
convenient to their objective town. What would such a small distance have
amounted to for Aniasco's scout boat, charged with the weighty responsibility
of planning the safe, most practical and convenient moves for a huge (for those
days) body of men and horses? They could have seen it from in front of Shaw
Point if they had really been there and would have investigated.
If the army and horses were landed at Shaw Point as alleged in Swanton's
conclusions, he contradicts his own statements as just cited that Aniasco made
a thorough reconnaissance, or he equivocated when he said, (p. 135), "They
did, indeed, commit themselves to a long detour round the deep water in the
lower course of the Manatee River but they did not necessarily know this. "
In considering "Requirement No. 3" below, it will be seen that he computed,
in spite of inferences to the contrary from both De Soto and Ranjel, that it took
them two days to march from the landing site to their objective town by the
route which he formulated, but he neglected to include the fact that they would
have had to build at least one bridge on that false route.
On pages 105, 106 and 107, in a pretended consideration of the matter of
how far De Soto's army marched in one day, he compared that ancient, rather
disorganized body of men, trudging through primeval wilds and jungle paths
with the travel of modern troops in good condition over today's roads! He
brought in many quotes from the De Soto witnesses as to the daily marches
under many different conditions, missing entirely the point that these cited
distances and rates of march reported by the participants were almost entire-
ly exceptions to their daily routine, and they always gave the reasons or
causes for the delays or hurryings. It would have been ridiculous for the
chroniclers to have interspersed snatches of such data if such were but the
regular marches. Besides they made it clear that their daily budget of march
was 4 to 5 leagues, depending upon the water supply for man and beast and,
in places, upon the firewood supply. But let it be stated that these latter
essentials for their choice of a camp site were not detailed it was left to
the common sense of their readers to know that it could not be else than that!
After wandering over the subject Swanton wound up by referring to Appendix
B where a table averaged a wild range of "rates of travel" along "assumed
route" at 10+ miles per day. (See RANDOM NOTES, page 70, for other details.)
It goes without saying to a common sense person that no general could avoid
almost daily hassles if it were allowed to be an open question as to how far they
should march each day. It has been customary for ages for military commanders
to travel set stages on long routes. Secondly, it will be seen in all the argument
by any student of logic that Swanton did just what he warned against on page 106:
"But we must be on our guard here lest we argue in a circle. He ignored,
in the main, distances given by the witnesses who marched them; he assumed
"points" and then he computed the rate of march from the distances he had
determined by his assumed "points. "
It will be noticed that on page 106 Swanton says, "We have no hint in any
of the documents that 'it had been the duty of one man to measure and count
his steps' in order that the army might keep a record of the distances cover-
ed" as was specifically mentioned by a chronicler of Coronado's expedition.
Swanton might as well infer that because they did not mention it specifically
they did not stop for camp only where there was water and firewood. He might
as well also infer that because it was not mentioned they did not take along
any compasses. It would be no more farfetched. Such essentials of all expedi-
tions were so taken for granted that any reader of that far gone day would
have considered a narrator silly even to mention it. How else did they meas-
ure all the distances they gave in the evidence? (Except in cases of estimation
over water, of course.) This lack of mention was not negative evidence as he
hinted; instead, it was an outcrop of his defense to cover up his mishandling
of distance data supplied by participants to fit the figures forcibly to his
In those days, on down to much later measured roads, there were quite a
few who were very proficient in this art, and even today, as in the personal
experience of the writer, civil engineering colleges train their students to
pace off, always by natural steps, very accurate distance. It would have
been absurd for the De Soto narrators to have consumed scarce paper and
costly space (in those earlier days of printing) to list the customary and
necessary equipment and the common practices of such an expedition,
which were very commonly known to people of that time. Keeping a record
of directions and distances marched was one of the first order.
Swanton's second "requirement" was:
"An extensive shoal lay in front of the town. "
Did he mean by those words, "in front of the town" that the shoal was,
in maritime parlance, on their course (route) in a channel to in front of the
town from earlier navigated points? If so, it tallys with the evidence to
make the inference. Passing over the truth, that the witnesses did not mention
just a single shoal but spoke of "increasing shoals" let it be firmly stated
that he could not have meant that statement without guile because his guessed
site of the objective town has no channel in front of it in McGill Bay nor back
of it in Terra Ceia Bay and it is impossible to believe that he did not
know this fact.
It did have an "extensive" (to use his word the witnesses did not use
it) shoal situated in his chosen Terra Ceia Bay because at that spot there were
and are, the dwindling depths of the headwaters of that small bay. Those
depths do not, or did hot have shoals in the sense used by witnesses, as being
impediments in a channel or elsewhere in navigable waters, because as Swanton
himself acknowledged, the De Soto fleet did not navigate there nor could it!
The catch-phrase style of this "requirement" infers to an unwary reader
that the armada could enter to 'in front of' the town and encounter shoals. This
is a deception and the Report's Map No. 3 supports the chicanery by falsifying
the "course of the vessels" to the "Indian town. "
All along, the Report used wordy arguments which inferred, as does this
item, that at his picked site the armada entered the 'bay' to proceed to anchor
in front of the town as the testimony directly and indirectly established they did.
Perhaps not a reader noticed that the Report tucked in very unobtrusively
a few words which acknowledged that only the smallest of De Soto's boats
could have for certain entered Terra Ceia Bay! (p. 135)
All this in face of the fact that other probable sites of the landing operations
had been eliminated (p. 120) by stating factitiously that they could not qualify
due to his professed formula for the Spanish ships' governing draft (concerning
which vide post) which he claimed made the depths in them too little. Yet the
depths in the disqualified bodies of water were greater than in Terra Ceia Bay!
This elimination of other inlets and their connecting waters was started on
"We now have to enquire how much water ships of
this size (De Soto's) drew. Unfortunately illustrative
figures are few and unsatisfactory. "
However, Swanton made those unsatisfactory few eminently perfect for his
methods and purposes.
Briefed, he cited, without complete reference to sources, the following:
"Columbus' flagship, the 'Santa Maria', was of about 100 tons burden and drew
10 1/2 feet of water. Another estimate gives 165 tons and a depth in hold of
12 feet. To show how utterly unreliable those figures were thus far it is
necessary only to subtract the given draft from the given depth in hold and one
has a figure for the freeboard, or distance from water to top of side, or deck,
of only one and one-half feet! It sure would be thrilling to cross the great
Atlantic behind a boat rail riding only 18 inches above the onrushing waters -
or would they be inrushing! Anyone who has ever seen pictures of Columbus'
ships cannot help remembering how high above the water they rode.
He continued with this reference: "Drake's flagship" was estimated at
"100 tons and had a depth in hold of 9 to 10 feet. Then he cited an impressive
title by page and author and said that this authority in 1587 stated that a 400 ton
ship should have a depth (side or in hold? whw.) of 21 feet.
Note the next words: "But in all these last (sic) cases the important
point for us, the location of the water line, is omitted. Therefore they were
completely worthless and anyone not trying for deception would not have given
them in the first place. Yet they were satisfactory for Swanton as will be seen.
Continuing the abstract of his words: It was said that the carack Madre de
Dios, 1592, "by far the largest vessel up to that time" was 1, 600 tons, "draught
26 feet. Then Swanton, the maritime-expert prestidigitator researcher, making
much of these nothings, said, "If these figures are at all reliable, it would
seem as though De Soto's larger:ships, at least when laden for the passage
to Florida, must have drawn 12 to 15 feet. "
With that pseudo data he eliminated, as above stated, two candidates as
locales for the landing operations of De Soto's armada, San Carlos Bay, and
Charlotte Harbor. (Rpt.p. 120)
Suppose that it be assumed, just to bring out facts, that he had honest data
instead of near hocum, and even had lots of draft data on many contemporaneous
ships. He yet would not have had enough 'figures' to make a bona fide deduction
on the draft of De Soto's ships because of the following reasons.
Two of the highest U. S. authorities on the "admeasurement" of ships,
which in maritime vocabulary means the determination of tonnage, draft, etc.,
Mr. Walter C. Ford, Deputy Maritime Administrator says: (letter to the
Hon. Charles E. Bennett, M.C., Jan. 25, 1957) "It is not possible to derive
the draft of a ship by a mere comparison of it with ships contemporary with it
or of somewhat equal size. "
Then on top of that statement which alone vitiates the Report's pretended
deduction, he adds the following stunner, "It is not possible to derive the draft
of a ship if the shape of its bottom is not known. "
That merely means that a racing yacht with keel, and a barge may be both of
the same tonnage yet their drafts are at the two extremes of max and min respec-
tively. Tons mean nothing whatsoever relative to draft which is confirmed by
Administrator Ford's specific words, "There is no uniformity between relative
draft and size expressed in tons. "
As a clincher, note the words of another maritime expert, the Commissioner
of the Bureau of Customs, where the tonnage laws are administered, and who
"is intimately conversant" with tonnage admeasurement "as developed in
Europe, Hon. Ralph Kelly, who wrote, (letter to same M.C., Jan. 11, 1957)
"The Bureau knows of no way in which draft maybe determined from the
net tonnage. "
To apply that statement accurately one must understand "net tonnage. Mr.
Kelly explained, in effect, that the older tons "burden" and the modern term
'net tonnage' are synonymous almost, and that the more strict 'net tonnage' is
derived from 'gross tonnage' by subtracting from the latter the space used for
propelling and operating machinery, fuel, fuel storage, generators, maintenance
of machinery, etc., together with the items always in use since the very first
ship, such as crews' quarters, galley, stores, repairs, etc.
A glance back at the alleged 'figures' given by the Report will recall that
this writer underlined the word "burden" and now it can be explained.
The ships compared were on the basis of "tons" with some and "tons bur-
den" of others. In other words, the weight of the ship was considered in one
case and its carrying capacity in another! That was but a typical sample of
the shallowness of knowledge displayed throughout the Report in its pretentious
'learned' verbosity. One is entitled to wonder just what the motive was which
prevented the author from consulting his fellow governmental employees who
were experts in the subject before employing such fabrications in words and
method to fool the public into accepting the Tampa Bay bosh.
Let it be remarked not that it now matters much but the data of the
cited authors was probably not in error but that the Report's author, landlubber-
like, inserted that word 'burden' because it sounded knowing. If that conviction
must be defended here it is:
In the paragraph before the alleged "comparison" Swanton started off with
these words: "In the first place, we must consider the limitations imposed by
the size and tonnage of De Soto's ships." That sentence should be enough to
demonstrate that he inserted words without knowing just what they meant, but
used them because they sounded 'good.' Here is why.
Size of a ship is composed of dimensions, such as beam, length, and so on,
plus, of course, the tonnage factors. If one stipulates merely size for discus-
sion he includes the many items of that category. If he says, as did the Report,
"size and tonnage" he means to include a lot more than the Report talked about,
which was mainly depth in hold in relation to draft and draft in relation to ton-
nage which latter relation is fictitious as has been seen. At no time in the
given figures was beam or length or the like mentioned.
Now to further show how little he was informed on tonnage of which he so
knowingly wrote, permit the subject to be examined a bit.
In the earliest days all ships were rated by tons only overlooking sail
spread and other factors of speed or safety of cargo. On the average the ton
figure showed reasonably well how large a ship was, relative to carrying capac-
ity, since most all, by the nature of matters, allowed proportionately the same
space for spare sails, carpenters' and sail repair spaces, quarters, drinking
water storage, galley, stores, etc.
However, when steam machinery was introduced a ship's gross tonnage
could be stated and it might give no true idea whatever of its real value to the
prospective charterer, that is, its carrying capacity, because space require-
ments for machinery, fuel, non-ocean water for steam, etc., could vary
As an example, a sailing ship could be converted to steam and have either
very little cruising range due to short fuel supply area (as on a coastal ship)
but have a fair cargo capacity. On the other hand it could have a long cruis-
ing range but little cargo space remaining after the big steam water and fuel
storage areas were taken in addition to the normal machinery requirements.
Then, since 'necessity is the etc.,' the invention of rating by 'tons burden'
or 'net tons' was introduced to enable one to know the true cargo ability of the
vessel he would charter.
Swanton just could not project himself and his research back beyond the
modern intelligently to understand the centuries old evidence as will be noted
on page 97. There he listed Garcilaso's figures correctly (and with no usual
charges of unreliability!) for the De Soto ships. Since 'net tons' had not been
invented in his day, (publication date, 1st edition, 1605) Garcilaso gave merely
"800 tons" each for the larger. On page 119 Swanton as usual belittled poor
Garcilaso and then proceeded to change the figures for the two ships to the
category of net tons by saying "800 tons burden." The reader is assured
that there is really a vast difference in size between a ship of 800 tons, as
De Soto's flagship was rated, and Swanton's changeling, a ship able to carry
a cargo of 800 tons. Yet that was the Report from stem to stern.
As an aside, this writer would like to interpolate in defense of Garcilaso,
that, like most of us, Garcilaso had his faults as the original historian, but
that anyone of intelligence with a breadth of sympathetic understanding could
salvage real values from the data which he fortunately for modern history -
preserved to us.
Garcilaso wrote much in the style of a present day "feature writer" and
when one uses a little imagination in order to winnow off the chaff, and a
semblance of acumen to recognize the valuable grains of the factual, basic
data, then indeed is Garcilaso appreciated and his values recognized.
It may be remembered that supra it was suggested that some of the
Report's 'arguments' were, among other unworthy characteristics, farcical.
The words of the examined "Requirement No. 2" from the Quarterly might be
considered amusing because of the trivial import of their meaning, if it were
not an insult to the public for such to be foisted upon them.
For instance, how would it distinguish a locale as a De Soto site if it did
have an "extensive shoal" in front of it? Even if De Soto witnesses had men-
tioned such a condition which they did not in the sense inferred the find-
ing of a place where "extensive shoals" existed would not connect it with the
De Soto used locale because if there is one there are literally dozens of sites
which qualify to that ridiculous so-called 'requirement' along the Gulf coast.
Swanton's "Requirement No. 3" was no fact either. It read:
"The town of Ucita was: It was two leagues -
roughly 5. 2 miles from a convenient landing
place where the greater part of the army was
First, to get a perhaps minor point straight, it was all the army which was
landed. The sailors remained on board, the witness said, for they yet had to
work the decaidos ships to in front of the objective town site, which took them
another 7 or 8 days. This true data was mishandled in the Report as has
already appeared supra.
The entire words of Swanton are quoted because they prove he was confused.
Earlier it was stated that he confused the two towns, the one De Soto inadvert-
ently discovered the night he went ashore when marooned by the contrary wind,
and the objective town at the head of the ancon. It will now become clear why
it was said that it must have been difficult for him to accomplish this, but his
predicament was serious. For some reasons, probably imposed by his com-
mercial quasi-sponsors, he seemed compelled to establish in time for the
"Great De Soto Pan-American Exposition" that the landing place of the Conquis-
tador was in Tampa Bay.
It must have been the fixation of the Tampa area exposition promoters that
they just could not properly celebrate his landing if it happened any other place
than in Tampa Bay, even if not too far away, and it appears that he tried to
oblige. But his choice for the landing of a site in that part of Tampa Bay
called the Manatee River (or is it a part?) which was so far from the openings
from the Gulf, a distance of 6.2 scaled miles by water, may be partly attrib-
uted to this two town mix-up he managed.
Here are the basic items again: The village which De Soto 'discovered'
was quite near the real opening from the Gulf according to the context evidence
but Swanton did not dare acknowledge that though he barely dodged it. (See
The evidence said also that the landing place was two leagues from that
said town, and as Swanton also acknowledged, able to be marched to from their
later camp site, by land, and it was "on the same side of the bay as the port. "
By his use of the name 'port' in this instance he referred to the objective town,
it would seem, of course.
All this did not fit his proposed locales, so what to do? Just mix up vocab-
ulary, call all three, a town, a landing site and a harbor, by the same word
'port' and pretend to believe that the two leagues mentioned in the "Require-
ment" quoted from the evidence, was given for the objective town, not the
one near the opening.
Notice in the next "Requirements" Nos. 3 & 4, how he jumbles the two
distances given by the witnesses, and finally completely discards the distance
given in this "requirement No. 3." It is difficult to grasp the audacity of
such a move.
After presenting this datum, not roughly, as he said, but to the tenths of
a mile, as one of the five "facts" which "are the requirements for locating
Ucita," it will be seen that he adroitly discards it and substitutes another
datum and so cleverly was it done through his magician's patter that as far
as is known not a reader of the Quarterly, nor its editors either, for that
matter, perceived the pea switch to the other shell.
How would he account for the fact that Ranjel stated it was four leagues
on up the ancon by water to the objective town from their landing place? Since
that would not fithis Tampa Bay-Terra Ceia Bay ideas either, and in spite of
the fact that it would put the entire De Soto outfit in the class of morons, by
making it appear they landed at his picked "convenient" spot only to labor
for a claimed two days uselessly for 30 miles over streams of which one and
maybe two really required bridging for their use (which latter he skipped) to
get to their objective town with all this facing him evidently he chose the
solution to jumble the two towns' data and confuse the unwary reader so as to
get all his inanity accepted. It appears that some such motive must have
produced this "requirement" and those coming up.
The pioneer U. S. hydrographic chart made before dredging, in 1874,
indicates that McKay's Point was the better landing site for them, not alone
because it was within about 8 miles of the town on as good as dry land, but
also it is only about 1 1/2 miles farther up the Manatee River. But perhaps
it would not have suited his Fair promoting friends, so he did not dare propose
that the army landed that far up since it would not be near enough Tampa Bay
to enable them to use the fiction that the landing was in that bay?
Then there was Hunter's point a half mile farther, equally convenient to
their objective and which also involved no extended detour inland. Pioneers
used McKay's Point by preference, mostly for cattle loading, so the annointed
Shaws Point must not have been so "convenient" after all, everything considered.
Moving on to "Requirement No. 4," as just stated another of Swanton's oft
employed subterfuges is encountered in it, to wit: Substitution to eliminate un-
wanted data, even after it is made prominent by discussion. The "5. 2 miles"
of No. 3 was untenable as a datum, as can be gathered from just a couple of
the points brought out against it in the foregoing paragraphs. It was a 'hot
potato' and so it had to be ditched.
In "requirement No. 4" he temporarily supplants that figure with "21 to
31 miles" only to practically supplant that figure with another immediately.
No. 4 reads:
"In order to reach Ucita by land, however,
the army required two days and this was made
necessary because they had to march around
'great creeks which run up from the bay.' Two
days would mean that the distance covered was from
from 8 to 12 leagues or 21 to 31 miles (Ranjel
mentions 12 leagues and is the only one who
mentions any distance). "
To show the complete absurdity and fabrication of the words, "made
necessary" and the fallacy of other statements connected, will consume
a page or two but must be done to ward off forever any further defense
of the Report as Swanton attempted in the Quarterly.
After again stressing the fact that in No. 3 he flatly gave the distance as
"5.2 miles" but in No. 4 with bold affrontery stated that the town was "21 to
31 miles" and then in almost the same breath he again switched to "12 leagues"
which, if a true datum, obviated the necessity of bringing in the assumed "two
days march" and "21 to 31 miles," we will now review the witness testimony
a bit in order to supply the true facts of the events of the army's march from
the landing to the objective headquarters town. The manipulations employed
will then be in prominent relief.
The participants said the army camped on the disembarkation shore 'of a
bay which runs up to the town.' As a sidelight, let it be noted how covetous,
and at that moment confidently so, the Spaniards were for the Indians to use
them as slaves as army supplies porters. Seemingly while the disembarkation
was yet in progress the somewhat elderly, wealthy Cuban who had but lately
been made second in command by dint of generous gifts to De Soto of food and
animals, recruited some of the younger Caballeros with pent energy and made
a raid in an attempt to capture some of the natives. They were ignominiously
repulsed and later when he tried again, his tired horse bogged its front feet
in a deep mucky place into which his rider had pressed him, which ended with
the latter being catapulted over the horse's head. The Lieutenant General
nearly suffocated before his men extricated him with his armor well packed
with gooey black muck. Later, as told, he quit in a huff and shipped back to
the comforts of slave-run (by Indians, mainly, no doubt) plantations, fresh
meat and fancy foods.
The army was divided into three squadrons, "the vanguard, battalion, and
rearward." (GE.p. 22) A study of the various narratives of this portion of
the landing-site-to-town operations shows that the Portuguese witness gave the
only few details of the army's march.
De Soto's secretary related but one incident. He will be quoted entirely
concerning it since it is crucial and it will show how the Report messed data;
whether by necessity, as above implied, or through inability, is for the public
However, first listen to the Portuguese (p. 22) again and permit a point to
be made: "So soon as the people were come to land the camp was pitched" on
the shore of the bay "which goes up close to the town." This latter evidence
could not possibly apply to Swanton's Shaw Point location, because if they camp-
ed at any landing site there they would not have been on the Terra Ceia "bay"
shore but far away on the south shore of the Manatee River.
The claim in the above "requirement" that the army needed two days for
the march on an inland "long detour" because "they had to march around
'great creeks which run up from the bay' will be exposed for what it is by
first giving the witness text completelyto show the deception.
Immediately following the word, 'rearward' supra, the witness continued,
"and thus they marched that day and the next, compassing great (wide,whw.)
creeks which run up from the bay. Next he gave dates of arrival. He then
described the town's native huts a bit, how the army made its camp in the town,
how the surrounding area was cleared, including a rough idea of the nature of
the place in merely the words, fennyy, dense thickets, high trees" which, of
course, might have covered any point in coastal Florida of that day, it can be
imagined. But not one word was said which even inferred that they took two
days because that long was needed to go around the creeks. That angle was
just another trumped up idea conjured by pressure of Swanton's necessity to
fit some testimony to his guessed locations.
A look at his own maps shows the absurdity of the idea that if the army had
marched as he proposed they would have gone around any creeks whatsoever
because the only time they were near Terra Ceia Bay (up from which the
creeks were supposed to extend) was when they ended up headed directly
toward it from his phantastically proposed inland detour, in which case
such a direction of march would not have accomplished the 'encompassing'
of a creek if one had been there.
At the true site which De Soto used, those creeks will be found. Creek,
in the translation of the Portuguese, was a word selected by the translator
as the only available one to describe the peculiar, tidal drainage streamlets,
relatively short in the flat coastal terrain, which have a "V" shape with muck
bottoms, and maybe a bit of winding in the not far away, brooksize medium
upper reaches. At high tide they are formidable near the coast, and at low
tide they are equally impossible due to the slimy bottoms. Even if Braden
River, which was on the Swanton proposed "long detour" were to be called
such a creek, (it did not flow into any bay but into a river) Swanton should
have been more careful not to change the U.S. base map, from which his own
was made, so that its wide part was cut relatively short. The base map shows
the Braden's wide part penetrates about four miles inland. Swanton's map
appears to have made it a mile about so they could 'encompass' it? Besides,
there was the Manatee River to be crossed on that 'long detour.'
The changeling figure "12 leagues" will now be examined. Ranjel said that
the army marched on Trinity Sunday. De Soto's letter supported him. Swanton
preferred the testimony of the Portuguese who brought in the two days though
the others corrected his data. It was a slight mix-up in testimony and the devi-
ation inthis casewas on an item which would not, in reasonable circles, and
actually did not assist to qualify any site or identify it as part of the De Soto
However, in the immediate case of the Report this datum was brought in
to try to make it appear that the "12 leagues" was used with full justification,
whereas, as will now appear, it was not at all applicable to the march of the
entire army, instead, only to a contingent which became lost for a while.
Ranjel said about the march:
"On Trinity Sunday, June 1, 1539, this army marched
by land toward the village taking as guides four Indians
that Juan de Aniasco had captured in search (prior win-
ter whw.) of the harbor; and they lost their bearings
somewhat either because the Christians failed to under-
stand the Indians or because the latter did not tell the
truth. Thereupon the Governor went ahead with some
horsemen, but since they were unfamiliar with the
land they wearied the horses following deer (paths whw.)
and floundering in the streams and swamps for twelve
leagues till they found themselves opposite the village
on the other side of the (ancon) roadstead of the harbor,
which they could not pass around. "
Ranjel then displayed his disgust over this by remarking how that separated
the army so that they were "not at all in order for war (combat)." Let it be
noted that his next words were about the ships needing to 'work' for a week to
get "in front of the town." Nothing more about the army's march.
It may logically be assumed that he did not know what the main army body
did, until later, after he returned from the advance with De Soto andthe horse-
men, or it was unimportant either at the moment for diary notes or in his
Before dipping deeper into the misuse by Swanton of the datum "12 leagues"
for a distance marched by the army, instead of rightly, as Ranjel plainly
stated, for only the advance group of horsemen, permit a few digressive
words concerning the relationships between the Spaniards and the Indians
(however, not bringing in the female angle) based upon the inherent psycho-
logical and temperamental natures of each.
Most people know the general repute of many white men of that time; a
mixture of honor, chivalry, high ideals and religious adherence with additives
of cruelty, promiscuity, intense self-aggrandizement at anyone's expense and
The red man's characteristics and attributes before the white man intruded
can only be surmised. But this is known, it having trickled through the iron
curtain of human suppression of what is unfavorable to our own people in his-
tory; the natives welcomed the first white men as guests and immediately, or
as soon as they could be forcibly kidnapped or made drunk to mental numbness,
they were literally taken for boat rides into slavery.
A volume could be written of hidden history, of surreptitious events prior
to the Thespian performance by Ponce de Leon of the 'spectacular' production
"Discovery of Florida" about the cruel raids by the West Indies whites to cap-
ture red men for slaves that is if a lifetime of research was spent digging
out the ancient suppressed facts.
The cruelties charged to the red man by the unilateral propaganda of the
encroaching whites was taught to them by the first invaders, mainly those
slave hunters, viciously seconded by the "conquering" expeditions. To the
Indians, these invaders were the most abominable of vile rapist enemies;
the battle to repulse them was a war of dire survival; they fought fire with
fire by adopting the horrible cruelties and by returning the savage tortures
in child-mind revenge for those of the same type earlier inflicted upon their
own people taken prisoners, to make them divulge the hiding place of their
compatriots. And this must be acknowledged, the Indian did not in full
measure as received adopt the rapist tactics.
A generous amount of data for research in all this could no doubt be found
in the musty files at the Vatican since, as historians know, fervid protests
were registered there on behalf of the Indians by humanitarians of that day,
probably with supporting evidence, and there should have been documents
accumulated due to quite some diplomatic action which followed.
However, one trait of the Indian was acknowledged even by his enemies,
his inextinguishable loyalty to his people even unto death.
It was their code: Never lie to a friend, but always, if under compul-
sion to talk, lie to an enemy in deed, word or sign language. It followed
that if one lied to you they indicated thereby that they either thought you
simple-minded enough to be taken in, or, the one lying to you was your
enemy. Either way, kill as a matter of honor or self-preservation.
De Soto was a bit naive, to say the least, when he expected the four cap-
tured Indians to be his faithful guides considering the nature of that job. Very
likely these men while in Cuba had been fed and treated better than prisoners
or slaves and had been allowed much unchained action with all others of many
earlier captured Indians around them held as abject slaves, which to an Indian
was far more insufferable than to other races, perhaps. For the Spaniards
had their motives.
The Indians probably sensed that they were being thus treated so as later
to be used against their own people mayhap they encouraged the idea as their
one hope of being returned to their homeland where they might escape.
When, after the army landed, they were given to understand that De Soto's
intention was for them to lead his forces to their chief's town, seemingly
they had the acumen to pretend to conform to the 'request' but meanwhile,
under a cloak of feigned dumbness and misunderstanding do everything in
their power to delay so that all their tribe could escape beforehand. To
succeed in this they had to dissemble cleverly and one can see from his
words that even Ranjel was deceived by them.
Remembering what has been before alluded to, that the Portuguese were
considered at the time De Soto was organizing his expedition which every-
one was confident would make all who participated richer as what we today
would name 'gate-crashers' and their presence just might spread the expected
wealth a bit thin at the partitioning naturally they were a bit snubbed by the
Spaniards of the rank and even some by the file.
Therefore, the Portuguese witness was likely, with his compatriots, at
first assigned to the army and less glamourous chores. Equallylikely was it
that De Soto's secretary, his right hand man, was in the troop of horsemen
who went ahead and wandered 12 leagues mentioned plus some leagues return
which was not mentioned.
Because of this we have two accounts from different viewpoints of the
separate sections which might be summarized from the above quotes in these
words: After an unknown distance of march in a body (of three more or less
separated units) the Spaniards were wise enough to suspect that they were being
made ninnies, and were being led astray. From all scout intelligence they
likely knew that it certainly was not far by land to their objective town since
it was only four leagues on up the ancon by water, nor was there too much
jungle growth between them and it on the land.
Thus it can be seen why it was, at the moment when he and staff decided
they were being led astray, that De Soto impetuously took a few with the better
horses on ahead to expedite their arrival.
Anyone of today can use their hindsight and sympathize with Ranjel' s bit-
terness for those cavaliers, knights and cavalry were led through some no
doubt real rough going to a first class impasse, for when they came out of
the jungles, haggard from following deer trails, with repeated wettings while
fording streams on horses nearly spent even before they started, what with
bad water and little decent fodder aboard the vessels for a week and more,
they could not rejoin the army that night and slept apart from it as remarked
by Ranjel. (R.p. 55 and see inside back cover for suggested route.) They
had gone 12 leagues one way alone, probably circling as people are prone to
do in a strange forest, around Robin Hood's barn and were opposite their
objective town across the 'ancon' from it, as Ranjel named the body of water.
If, as Swanton claimed at one point (Rpt.p. 133) when his necessities for
warping required it, that ancon was "evidently only a part of the bay (which
one?whw.) a pocket in the side of it" why was it impossible for them to get
around it? In addition, why do not his maps show that sort of a pocket in
front of the town site he picked?
The details of this wandering by the horsemen likely were known later to the
Portuguese witness but he told of what happened to the body of the army he was
in, which was almost nothing, except that they did 'compass great creeks which
run up from the bay.'
It may be deduced from context inferences and his mention of the army
being divided into three sections, that due to the natural lack of organization
accompanying the unaccustomed and likely drawn out disembarkation (they
had to do it physically, not with giant cranes and machinery) some did not
get started immediately after the vanguard. The rearward section may
have arrived at the village just as likely the next day after those of the vanguard.
There would not have been a motive for breaking the army into three parts un-
less they were to march somewhat separated. Thus, it might be said that the
army marched two days and yet actually it was but a one day trip for any one
unit or individual.
The essential point is that the evidence did not state what Swanton claimed
as fact in this requirement and there was plenty of circumstantial evidence
detailed and able to be inferred contrariwise to make it absolutely reckless
for any researcher to call what Swanton forwarded "facts."
Finally, it is positively not known at what point it was after the army left
the landing site where De Soto and the horsemen went on ahead. So where did
the 12 leagues Swanton used begin? Unknown! Only is it known in general
where it ended for the day, and even then no one can be certain how far that
terminal point was from the objective across the ancon.
It was not only true that Swanton had no grounds in the facts for switching
that 12 leagues datum to entire army march distance, but it was ridiculous
and an affront to the public to manipulate it that way, even in a Society publication.
But did he really believe all his own talk that the army marched exactly two days ?
(It would have to be exact to justify using the march of an average day, as he
claimed it, for his computation.)
Take a look with suspicious care at "Requirement No. 5." Note how he there-
in seems to camouflage the fact that the advance party of horsemen was lost
and how he made his words confusing seemingly to give the understanding
that they were on their desired route.
"Requirement No. 5" reads:
"When an advance party of cavalry under De Soto came
in sight of Ucita they found a body of water in between
which Ranjel calls the roadsteadd of the harbor.' How-
ever, we know that all got to Ucita next day whether
by finding a fording place or in boats. They set out
from the landing place either on May 31 or June 1 and
were in Ucita June 3."
Note the 'bafflegab' again! Risking an anticlimax permit it to be said that
Ranjel did not say, roadsteadd etc." He said one word, "ancon" and the trans-
lator introduced the wordy version. Also, how do we know that all got to
Ucita next day" may well be asked. As the youngsters say, 'Swanton made it
up' he imagined it! Then too, note well that he did not know just when they
started it could have been one or the other of two days by his own words -
yet he was positive how many days they marched. The words, "all got to"
lead an unwary reader to think that 'all' the army arrived 'next day' whichever
it was. If one does not know when they started just which is 'next day?' By
his own -reckoning it could have been June 2 or June 3.
Ranjel said the army marched on Trinity Sunday. Allowing the next day
for the group of horsemen to manage to rejoin the main army perhaps one may
reasonable say that the 'army marched two days' before they all were in Ucita.
Be that as it may, a date of political importance was given so it was correct
without doubt. It fits in with the latter idea. The "take possession" ceremony
was held June 3. De Soto, worried at the time, merely wrote that they marched
Trinity Sunday, corroborating Ranjel. (The cause of De Soto's troubles will be
taken up in a later Paper.)
The Portuguese gave this log: Friday, May 30, the army landed. "The
next day" May 31, the army was "set in order" and they marched "that day
and the next" (May 31 and June 1) and then he said,"and on the first of June,
being Trinity Sunday, they arrived at the town of Ucita." (The one at the
head of the ancon, not the one he had near the harbor opening.)
The benefit in rehearsing this testimony is to bring out how uncertain the
exact facts were as to the marching time consumed. Yet Swanton used the data
to pretend to determine a distance but he promptly discarded it in favor of a
datum which did not apply, as has been seen.
In the light of the true facts just brought out, how pitifully absurd now seems
his No. 3 wherein he solemnly stated the distance was 5.2 miles I
CALLING ALL AUTHORS.
As far as this writer is aware there have been but few historical
novels written based upon the De Soto annals. If this is because authors
have passed up his saga, thinking that the background was lacking in glamor,
romance and the contrasts of personal and physical conflicts plus tragedy upon
which to build, then indeed have they sadly cheated themselves of an opportunity.
The first white woman known to have lived and died in this land of ours was
with the De Soto expedition. In her person alone as she went through adventures
astounding, through hardships near unbelievable, through battles and over rivers
which a modern marine ... as he flexed his advertised muscles and recalled deeds
of 'manly' brawn would term 'rough' ... all of that amidst soul stirring scenes of
primeval nature and crude prehistoric Indian culture indeed, in her alone a gifted
writer would find enough to bustle his Muse and produce a best seller's chapters.
And what better ending could be desired that the true one! One which would stir
every feminine pride, gain all women's ingrained sympathy and squeeze a few enjoy-
able tears from their ready reservoir, as the clever writer with a flair brought out
that she met her death just as she was ready to give birth to her child. Francisca
Hinestrosa, the heroine, rushed back into a burning Indian hut in a fatal effort to
retrieve some pearls earlier given her by other Indians the Spaniards had been
lured by friendly advances into an ambush in an Indian village. Of course, our
writer would bring out that she sacrificed herself on the altar of devotion to her
unborn child's welfare, having planned in her daydreams of the child's future that
the modest wealth of the pearls held for it an education and a better social position.
Then too there is the almost unbelievable historiette of Juan Ortiz who was
captured through a clever ruse by Indians off a ship searching for a trace of the
expedition prior to that of De Soto. His eleven year's gamut of tortures, slavery,
then rescue through the aid of the villain chief's own women folk, winding up on
a more pleasant tone of a life of service, even if restricted, to a friendly chief,
would furnish most writers all they could wish for but in the bargain it involves
lots of human and love interest nor is the world satiated with love stories of
a gallant white boy with Indian maidens of high degree. (There are those who say
John Smith used the whole cloth of Juan's drama to cast Pocohontas, well school-
ed in her part, in a concocted gimmick story to promote his Virginia realty.)
With the true locales of the De Soto events now known (in Florida) sufficiently
close to furnish authentic location there awaits also the story of the first Martyr-
doms of the Church for some devoted and worthy author.
Once out in magazine serials and then in book these and other stories are
pregnant with artistic possibilities as well as the more mundane likelihood of
being followed by really fat 'movie rights' checks.
A DIRECT EXAMINATION OF
A TYPICAL PART OF THE REPORT.
Thus far in these writings the Report has been given a "thoroughgoing
examination" only insofar as it contained "conclusions" which were involved
in the defense put forward by Swanton in the Quarterly in his habitual style.
Earlier it was stated that the Quarterly articles were to be used partly to
demonstrate that there was a sameness, a pattern in Swanton's writings it
is hastened to add that this refers only to his De Soto material. Let others
judge his ethnological writings.
It has been seen that this pattern is actually a tangle of emptiness of argu-
ment, misapplication of data, impeachment of witnesses, a display of a lack
of the basic knowledge required for a worthwhile approach to the subject, and,
what will be named (not "because of my respect for scientific detachment" to
use his words in the 1952 Quarterly on page 316 in reverse, but because of the
respect of direct truth) pure inability or misdirecting motive.
Perhaps it has been boresome to see page after page of the exposition of
his habitual confusing words and the twirling-of the true data until everything
spun to drop where Swanton 'argued' it belonged, not where the testimony prima
facie placed it; using as his guage by which to judge the witness narratives his
self-assumed perfect ability "to establish an almost perfect itinerary" (Rpt.p.
104) and "well nigh perfect" (ibid.p; 136) landing operation locales without
using scarcely any of their no doubt reliable eyewitness asserverations, but
in place of the latter often bringing in "independent evidence" usually not
stating the source when he used those words.
It may be startling for the following to be stated, but in this subsequent
direct examination of the Report it will be seen that there is to be found an
added noisome component of the so-called pattern, and whether it be gross
carelessness or unadulterated fabrication it ill becomes one who claimed to
possess "scientific detachment." In the Quarterly articles there was found
plenty of cause for the most harsh adverse criticism, but at most, not
On the Report's pages 137-138 is found a list titled, "CONCLUSIONS" to
which, of course, Swanton was in part referring when he spoke of "my con-
The first section of five items appears under the heading:
"The landing place of De Soto was in Tampa Bay,
as proved by:"
and then these so-called proofs he thereafter called "facts." Let us see what
a 'thoroughgoing examination' reveals them in truth to be.
No. 1 reads:
"A comparison of the descriptions of the landing
place with the geography of the country, especially
that about the three principal inlets on the west
coast of Florida -Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor,
and San Carlos Bay;"
To preclude the possibility of a quibble being advanced that the term,
"landing place" may refer to either the general landing operations area
or just to the site of the disembarkation, let it be stated that the main
refutation of this "proof" is in the fact that there were no actual descrip-
tions given, either of the site or the locality. Some researchers might be
misled by the Smith translation of the Portuguese account when he chose to
employ the word, "seaside" (p. 22) whereas it should have read, 'shore'
as Robertson rendered it. Perhaps that word sounded to some like a sort
of description of location, when the English said they camped, upon disem-
barkation, "on the seaside, nigh the bay, which goes up close to the town."
Of the surroundings of the town to which they thence marched, the same
witness the only one who gave even the slightest description other than
minor inferences said (p. 23) that it was "very fenny, encumbered with
dense thicket and high trees." These words, as anyone can imagine olden
Florida to have been, would apply to hundreds of locations along the Gulf coast.
Perhaps Swanton ventured the bluff of this "proof" to offset future attacks
in the category of geography and scenery, but if so, it did not succeed. It is
scarcely necessary to adduce more rebuttal and exposure of the emptiness of
this "conclusion" than to refer to Mr. Ripley P. Bullen's article, "The Terra
Ceia Site, Manatee County, Florida," (No. 3, Publications of the Florida
Anthropological Society) and another in the 1952 Florida Quarterly wherein
Ripley used these words: "Any Indian site to qualify as De Soto's Ucita must
possess geographical attributes which agree with those assignable to that
site by close reading of the De Soto narratives."
Arguments pro and con can best be resolved by quoting the climax of
Mr. Bullen's latter article: "We have.discussed every reference to De Soto's
first headquarters found in the original narratives. Apparently none apply
when referred to the Terra Ceia site on the eastern side of McGill Bay." If
that does not completely and finally refute all Swanton's brass about geography
and all its facets, thenitjust cannot be done. Note that Bullen was not a bit
intimidated into following Swanton's 'line' about the town's site being on Terra
Ceia Bay, either, as the Report represented on maps and in text.
"Proof" No. 2 affords a variation of the twaddle. It reads:
"The fact that of the above inlets it (Tampa Bay) is
the one most nearly in a line north of Havana in
agreement with Ranjel's statement."
Here again, it is not that Swanton was stating what the witness did not say,
so much as it was confusion. Again he was mixing up data from his extremely
farfetched Narvaez chapter, already mentioned.
Another version of this "proof" is found in a "GENERAL SUMMARY" on
page 281 of the Report, to wit:". .. The position of Tampa Bay almost directly
north of the Dry Tortugas as Ranjel says was the case of the Bay of the Holy
Spirit." One time it is 'Havana' and another time it is the 'Dry Tortugas.' As
a matter of exact fact it was neither!
Turning back to page 118 from which this 'proof' was supposed to have been
'concluded' these words are found, "Tampa Bay is very slightly east of the
meridian passing through Dry Tortugas, while Charlotte Harbor and Caloosa-
hatchee River are rather to the northeast."
This writer confesses that he is not mariner or geographer of sufficiently
miraculous attainments to be able to measure "northeast" of a meridian!
What Ranjel actually said was neither Dry Tortugas nor Havana. His words
instead were they landed north of the 'mouth of the Bahama Channel' and
specifically, north of an island in its center. (R.p. 54)
Transposed into modern geographical names, very little changed since
Ranjel's day, he stated that they landed due north of Boca Grande Island in the
Boca Grande (main mouth) of the Florida Straits which is just west of our Key
West of today. (Key West is corrupted from the Spanish "Cayo Hueso" or
It would be elementary for any, even a tyro researcher, if he were as
close to the Library of Congress as Swanton was, and had them at his beck and
call due to his Commission's Congressional status, to establish the latter
As said, Swanton seemingly concocted this travesty so as to try to make
matters seem to fit Tampa Bay out of some of his 'spoof' (p. 112) in Chapter
12, titled, "The Landing Place and Route of Narvaez" which material was
foreign to De Soto research but which he seems to have included in the Report
in order to get his ideas published at Government expense.
Therein, using 7+ pages he "established perfectly" the sites (in Florida)
named in his title. This he did by "battling valiantly" against a super difficul-
ty, for he had no real evidence for the Narvaez landing site or route as was
firmly stated by such an authority as Hodges, of the Amer. Bur. of Ethnology,
editor of the Cabeza de Vaca (Alvar Nuniez, Narvaez narrative) section of
"Spanish explorers in the Southern U. S." whose words will expose the total
flimflammery of that Report chapter, to wit: "There are few Spanish narra-
tives that are more unsatisfactory to deal with by reason of the lack of direc-
tion, and other details, than that of Cabeza de Vaca."
Ultra thin as it was even as worthless as the ship draft figures, if in
another way yet it was sufficient for Swanton to establish a Narvaez route
theory that was perfect, so much so (in his own estimation) that he raped
reason by using that fakir's theory of his to prove his own De Soto theory!
Unbelievable? See pages 121,130, 131, 150, 153, "We know that Narvaez
crossed ." (Underscore ours. whw.) etc.
"Proof "No. 3 said:
"The fact that the Calusa Indians whose home was
about Charlotte Harbor and San Carlos Bay, are
never mentioned by any of the De Soto chroniclers."
Acknowledging that he is not an ethnologist, this writer has the temerity
to say that any real ethnologist would have read and studied the testimony of
a contemporary Spaniard who was held captive by the Calos (Swanton calls
them Calusa, which was a later corruption) Indians near a score of years
and whose reliability has never been questioned.
This man was Escalente Fontaneda, whose "Memoirs" clearly estab-
lished that the Calos domain extended over to present Lake Okeechobee.
Among others, he gave the name in his phonetic form, of a certain chief
who lived near that large lake and who was definitely one of the "Calusa"
tribe. That again challenges Swanton's knowledge, this time in his own
field of ethnology, for these people were not alone around Charlotte Harbor
and San Carlos Bay as he pretends.
That "Calusa" chief's name was also given by Ranjel in his phonetic
spelling (Guazoco, R.p. 64) as being near a large lake by context, and it
was said that the De Soto army trod through (and denuded, likely) his people's
fields of corn on the prairie of his domain this item of evidence, the prairie,
Swanton dodged completely because it did not 'fit' his picked route!
Corroborating, in a way, Fontaneda, the French, who established Fort
Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River, and who used their efforts
to obtain an intelligent picture of the Indian population on the eastern half
of the Florida peninsula mainly, up the St. Johns River to its headwaters and
southward, mapped several names given phonetically as they heard them,
which also appear in the De Soto narratives. Nor can it be claimed with any
basis that the names on these maps, though the latter be schematic represen-
tations rather than from exploratory surveys, were plagiarized from the De
Soto accounts since there is not a shred, even of circumstantial evidence of
that. If that were involved, there would have been a very strong motive to
have used more names rather than stop with those shown.
On the map by "Jacobo de Moyne, Floridae Americae Provinciae, 1591"
(Lowery Collection, No. 73, Library of Congress) all grouped near the upper
waters of the St. Johns River are: At the southerly part, Mocoso; west a bit,
Etocale; some closer to the River and northerly, Utina; much farther north
and westerly, Potanou.
On the representation by, "Mercator, Atlas sine cosmographicas, 1607,
Plate 143, (between pages 349 & 350)" the names are skewed a little more
but the River is plainly depicted and positions are relatively about the same.
On it, among others, are Aquera, Mocosso, Utina and Potano.
These names also appear in the De Soto narratives, with prefixes and suf-
fixes, as Acuera, Mocozo, Uriutina, Utinima, Utinamocharra, Etocale,
Ocali, Aguacaleyuen and Potano.
The Report's Map No. 10 places these De Soto narrative names in the
northwestern quarter of the Florida peninsula, contradicting its text, (p. 153)
which stated that the French "learned that" Potano "lay west and northwest
of the Utina whose lands were on both sides of the St. Johns along its middle
course and extended into the lake regions of Clay and Putnam counties." That
map shows that position reversed, i.e. Potano is south of the Utina and both
are near the Santa Fe River (a branch of the Suwannee River) far away from
the St. Johns River.
The crucial point to the above is: All clues and circumstantial evidence
show that the above named chiefs were located inland, from about Lake Okeecho-
bee and northward, principally on the headwaters and on the main part of the
St. Johns River and its drainage, not as the Report tried to establish it.
(The French representation, in the modest opinion of this writer, indicates
that the chief Utina was located on the peninsula extending into Lake Kerr,
which latter is similar in shape and position to the one shown on the map; also,
it is supported by the importance of the site as shown by amateur archaeological
excavation of the burial mound just westerly on a small island.)
Incidentally, the "Edelano" site appearing on both maps mentioned should
not be difficult to place modernly since that name persisted and is found in
earliest realty and litigation records in St. Johns County, Florida.
Since Indian names more frequently persisted when they were of streams,
- the Aucilla (River) name was first mentioned in phonetic form by the De Soto
chroniclers a fairly good clue as to the location of the groups of Indians
whose chiefs employed various forms of names based on the root form 'caley'
or 'cale' is found in the seriously corrupted name 'O-cala-waha' which is nowa-
days slurred over as Oklawaha. By rights, the modern late dropping of the
letter "c" from the first syllable was not quite cricket. From Ocklawaha
it would have resembled the historic form nearer if it were, 'Oclawaha.
To brief the next so-called "Proof" No. 4, permit it to be stated that
Swanton said that 73 years after the De Soto landing some Indians told some
Spaniards making an excursion into southwest Florida (among hostile tribes)
that "De Soto landed in Tampa Bay." The data the Spaniards gave as to the
spot where they were when the Indians told them this alleged information,
had to be 'corrected' (Rpt.p. 122) by Swanton to make the answer come
out "Tampa Bay!"
Also, it must be considered that these unfriendly Indians probably mainly
used the sign language with the whites. The dialects of the hundreds of tribes
over the Continent made it necessary for the prehistoric Indians to develop
this ingenious method of intercommunication, and some of the whites (explor-
ers and traders) adopted it as a very useful invention for them also. (See
Boy Scout Manual for one version.)
One sign was two fingers held up close together. That meant 'brothers'
(also a sign of peace) and if they pointed to the whites or another at the same
time, that meant 'your people.' They likely pointed to swords, articles of
equipment and arms worn by the white men (the latter likely did not have on
much metal armor 73 years after De Soto) to indicate that they were referring
to the same race of white men.
Then they likely gave the sign for walking, and with motions and signs con-
veyed the thought itwas out of huge canoes out in the water their sign language
encompassed only the most simple life of men, items like of nature, activities
Now will someone in the class please inform this writer how those hostile
Indians would have said "De Soto" in the sign language?
It is probable that those Indians met in the indefinite spot never heard the
name for in their tribe's oral handing down of events which happened to their
forebears, it would have been but human to omit such a detail even if they ever
knew it, together with the fact that they certainly would try to forget the hated
name of a loathed enemy in the 73 years.
Watching and interpreting the signs, the Spaniards of course jumped to the
natural conclusion, one might guess by acclamation, that the reference was to
none other than the celebrated De Soto expedition, since that huge undertaking
was yet a topic in many a Spanish home bereaved through it, and the events of
the disastrous trek likely yet were fireside chatter. Garcilaso's first edition,
lately published, was probably a good seller then among the literate.
The more or less vague story of the earlier and smaller and more cata-
strophic Narvaez expedition had long been superceded if human percentages
The simple fact is, that since the Indians could not speak in calendar
years, they referred to some other expedition than De Soto's and there was
no means of positively identifying their communication as positively having
De Soto connection, no matter what the later written report of the Spaniards
included to pad and dress up. (Their mission was ill accomplished.)
Swanton had to strain a lot to make it appear to his satisfaction that it all
happened in Tampa Bay, as will be discovered in the following and other dis-
cussions herein about Florida maps and bays.
"Proof" No. 5 said:
"The testimony of Lopez de Velasco as to the
identity of the Bay of the Holy Spirit."
It will be seen that this Velasco, recording much later than De Soto, did
not clearly define matters so as to establish that the name one of several -
which he used had not been applied to other bays on other maps and perhaps
on one of his own. That factor would need to be established to make his so-
called 'testimony' admissable as authentic and free from contradiction.
Swanton himself (Rpt.p. 117) acknowledged that the names of bays were
quite unsettled on ancient maps, and the reader, recalling how the southern
portion of the Florida peninsula was for a long while not considered dry land,
which upset cartography, can easily appreciate how coastal bodies of water
were seriously confused as to identification and names.
On page 132 he indicates that confusion was rampant and aided by each of
many maps giving a different name seemingly to the same body of water.
Quoting, "In the description (Swanton assumed was whw.) of Tampa Bay
by Lopez de Velasco given above, Tocobaga, Espiritu Santo and Miruelo all
appear as synonymous terms applying to Tampa." (Underscore ours.)
As has been seen to be the rule, mere appearances were enough for Swanton
if they suited his needs. In this case, he selected the one of the three names
satisfactory for his ideas and purposes. Overlooking the fact that Swanton
completely ignored the testimony of his own witness which placed the Bay of
the Holy Spirit "twenty or thirty leagues from the Bay of Tocobaga to the west"
except to quench it and vindicate the witness by a lot of confusing words, he also
tried to cover up the fact that the witness data "29 1/2 degrees N. Lat." placed
the discussed bay up around the mouth of the Suwannee River, another gross
error or unreliability of the witness he got around by talk and another wit-
ness gave the reading as 27 1/30 passing over all this, why did not Swanton
notice in his study of his witness' words that the depths he gave for the two
entrances Swanton said were used by De Soto were only about half what was
needed for his ships by Swanton's 'computation' using the pseudo data?
Those depths were given, for the one next the mainland "no more than a
fathom" and that "at flood tide" and the other one "may have a fathom and a
half." According to Swanton's claimed computations De Soto's ships had a
governing draft of two to two and a half fathoms. He skipped such Velasco
data as that for his own convenience.
Then there is another name also used for present Tampa Bay if one is to
swallow all Swanton's arguments without question, the name given by the Span-
iards who reported that "De Soto" landed there. They said it was the Bay of
Pooy. (Rpt.p. 122) (The class will please allow the writer credit for restraint
in that he does not make a pun about 'Phooey!) These are the words by which
he tried to establish that these men were on Tampa Bay, instead of Sarasota
Bay, where their data indicates. (But that does not mean this writer judges
it was there, either.)
"In spite of slight errors in reckoning and the fact that
the name by which we now know Tampa Bay is here
applied as by Lopez de Velasco, to Charlotte Harbor,
there is no difficulty in recognizing in the Bay of Pooy
the present Tampa, in Tampa, as just remarked,
Charlotte Harbor, and the third river, of course,
San Carlos Bay." (Underscore ours.whw.)
It was not difficult for Swanton to recognize what he wished to see. It
reminds of his use of the words, referring to the De Soto personnel, and
their foibles, "Interpretation ever flies with the wish." (p.165) It will be
recalled that, supra, when he "proved" that Velasco meant Tampa Bay by
all his array of names, it did not prove that it included "Pooy."
Now that it is seen how questionable an identification his ideas were no
more nor less than a theory Swanton had as a basis for "Proof" No. 5,
permit the momentary return to the subject of the Cartaya item in No. 4.
This writer was in Fort Myers, Florida, in 1934, pinpointing in that
section the locales of the landing events of the De Soto expedition by thoroughly
studying every feature of the topography in order to see if the true evidence fitted.
(Not only did it all fit but when the narratives were matched to the proper locales,
much that formerly was hidden between the lines was made apparent.)
Swanton knew of this writer's presence there and knew about what his mission
was. It was yet then our feeling that Swanton was just a mistaken man and it was
our high hope that it would be possible to demonstrate some of his mistakes to
him. (The Report was yet four years in the future.)
When we had parted some time before that for the last time of many when
the writer called to discuss items, we had had a bit of verbal hassle and in
response to his insistence that this writer was "all wet" or words to that effect,
when the latter defended the witness data, this remark was made to him, "When
the nearly correct De Soto route is found the witness evidence will fall 99% into
place on it."
His rather wroth rejoinder was, in general, that such could not be possible
because the witnesses were "ignorant, illiterate" and so on. It was pointed out
to him that the best of witnesses, according to judicial experts, were often low
in education; that the De Soto narrators had no motives whatever to include any
fiction; that they could without doubt have filled many more volumes than the
small ones they did, with all their thrilling, true experiences, and likely might
have done so but book production in their day was far above the average man.
It must have been in 1934 when Swanton happened upon the Ensign Cartaya
material with its ill-identified Bay of Pooy. It was a surprise to this writer
when he received a letter from Swanton in early autumn elaborating on this
material with the air that this writer might just as well 'give up' because it
was a clincher to his ideas.
He was enthusiastic over this indirect hearsay from the Indians in the face
of these facts: It was all based upon his own guess or theory as to the true
locale involved; there was a possibility of confusion due to the unknown landing
spots of two, or even three expeditions not too far apart in time.
The recollection came to this writer of how, when it did not suit his pet
ideas, he had years earlier fiercely rejected his Smithsonian confrere, James
Mooney's well authenticated information from the Cherokee Indians as to where
De Soto had traversed the Blue Ridge, in which case there was no possible chance
of confusion as to what body of white men was involved. (Rpt. pp. 34, 50,199)
Besides, Mooney did not need to use the sign language, nor were his informants
unfriendly to him indeed, Mooney is yet remembered and revered by what
few old-timers among them are living today.
In Mooney's case Swanton ruled that the information from the Cherokee
could not at all be relied upon; they were not to be trusted; they were not
in command of English. It all was a repeat of his attitude in the matter of
the 12 leagues "long detour" he concocted. But note what he said on page 132
where it appeared in another student's theory that there would be a small detour
involved. Another person's small detour was tagged a "cardinal absurdity"
but his own .much greater 12 league detour was perfectly all right. Likewise,
in this Cartaya item, since it suited him and he could warp it to fit, it was
supremely valid testimony and incontrovertible.
After some analysis of his arguments in the letter as to the item's su-
preme importance (much as later given in the Report but much stronger)
the reply was worded to him that insofar as it could be judged by this writer
the introduction of De Soto's name in the Cartaya later written report might
have been gratuitous by the Spaniards; that it was just possible that it might
have been some other Spanish expedition which had landed wherever it was,
to whom the Indians tried to refer, probably in sign language, which just might
have been the Narvaez army, and that the data was, in our opinion, weak as
testimony until completely removed from the category of part theory, and
was unacceptable except as a clue either to the Narvaez history or to the De
Soto story and then only if research developed its value.
His reply, on the letterhead of the Smithsonian, Bureau of American
Ethnology, dated, September 18, 1934, now before this writer, shows that
even that far back Swanton was easily confused, since his reply brought in,
not that either one or the other of some two expeditions had landed at the
place Cartaya had tried to indicate, but that the two mentioned had landed at
the same spot!
Quoting all (underlines and parentheses ours) which was relative to the
"In order to assume that the Indians of Tampa Bay
meant Narvaez instead of De Soto you have to assume
that they (saw two and) kept more vividly in mind
the lesser expedition rather than the greater, the
more remote in time rather than the later, the one
which remained in their neighborhood for not more
than a couple weeks instead of the one which maintained
a post on the Florida coast for about five months,
and finally that Cartaya misunderstood them. It
seems hardly probable."
It appeared it would take a volume of a letter in a futile attempt to cause
him to grasp that it was not this writer who had assumed that both expeditions
had landed among the "Tampa Bay" Indians, but that it was certain, from what
I then knew, that it was not De Soto; that it had not been said that "Cartaya
misunderstood" since 'assumed gratuitously' did not mean that; that he him-
self usually argued that they landed far apart, at least separated by many
natural barriers, but that in the letter he spoke of the "Indians of Tampa Bay"
as sort of a unified or homogenous group with assumed tribal history-traditions
The last paragraph of that Swanton letter will be quoted also, in order to
call attention to whatever credit is due to the man whose Alabama De Soto
route theory was mainly adopted, seemingly, by Swanton with sparse credit.
On page 216 of the Report Swanton mourned that he was confronted with
"the most disappointing section of our work." He confessed he had not been
able to locate the site of the "battle of Mabila."
In the letter he had said, "We do not know the exact location of Mauville,
but I agree with Mr. J. Y. Brame that it was probably either in the northern
part of Clarke Co., Ala., or else the southern part of Marango. The location
of Piache (sic) is equally unknown but it seems to have been on the Alabama
River between Silver Creek and Barlow Bend. I will refer your notes to Mr.
Stirling." (By the latter he meant Dr. Matthew W. Stirling, chief of the Bureau.)
There was a fairytale believing time in this writer's younger days when the
almost infallibility of Washington, D C., was quite trustingly accepted, even
to fully swallowing the inferences in those gold leaf signs on the bank windows
over the Nation which read, "U. S. Government Inspected and Supervised"
until the entire lot of them was closed to most people's sorrow and discomfi-
ture. In that long ago day when it was also naively not suspicioned that it was
possible, indeed when it was thought unbelievable for Swanton to be so highly
placed in a quasi-governmental position and be wrong in his ideas, it is here
acknowledged that this writer was faithfully in his orbit and had swallowed
most of his say-so as the last word in De Soto research even, seemingly,
as Dr. Robertson also.
However, after our break with him and with him knowing that this writer
completely disagreed with his Tampa Bay area theory, it is unable to be under-
stood why he decided to introduce our name in the Report (p. 174) with refer-
ence to a location arrived at much earlier under his false leadership, using
as datum points others of his guessed locations, which by the time of the
Report were known to be quite erroneous and he knew that the writer so consid-
ered them. To top it off, his information of the statement attributed to me was
through second hand.
He even knew the objective of our Fort Myers' residence (to refute his
Florida route ideas) as is somewhat evidenced by his addressing his letter
about Cartaya there to head me off, so to speak, and his postscript, "I should
add that I do not know that I have any material to aid you in your researches
not available to you."
His use of my name in the Report was without my prior knowledge and any
inference in its use was entirely counterfeit.
Concerning Mabila and Piachi, on page 216 Swanton made a remark, which,
to this writer, indicates a complete lack of basic knowledge of the Indian's
temperament and mental level (as of the 16th and 17th centuries) and it would
be a marvel if even an amateur did not know better.
"In spite of the fact that on the lowest estimate given
us 18 Spaniards and 2,500 Indians were killed, and
quantities of broken weapons and equipment no doubt
left scattered about, we do not know the location of
this town ." (where the battle of Mabila was waged.)
The inference was, of course, that with all the thorough search made over
the years the debris mentioned was never found in situ. Of course not! As to
the number of killed, the bones of the Indians, if left on the surface, would
long ago have gone to dust, so why mention them. Such articles as could be
used at all would have been immediately salvaged by the Spaniards even
down to iron scraps (for nails and spikes from their forges) for they were
down to an extremely low point in all materiel of any sort.
Second; The Indians were what could be called 'child minded' and any
broken pieces remaining after the semi-victorious Spaniards departed, would
have been picked up soon or by later generations of Indians as personal adorn-
ment, souvenirs, property and/or trade goods. If Swanton had known Indians
he would have expected to find this debris buried with its final owner in burial
mounds far and wide.
Permit the somewhat facetious remark with apology that if future
researchers in the Alabama area wish to find the mystery locations of Mabila
(this writer prefers the Ranjel spelling) and Piachi, they might use one formula
by which Swanton "located" Cofitacheque on the Savannah River, to wit: Throw
out the findings of all really competent historians whose research placed it else-
where; discuss to death and discard clues of olden records; but be certain to
note well local legend of the owners of the land in the area that is preferred.
(Rpt.p. 183) Then, if you have Government money with which to publish your
'findings' even bring in real estate subdivisions of modern times which were
named after De Soto. (Rpt.p. 130)
More seriously, some of the difficulties of the search for Piachi may have
stemmed from such perhaps excusable errors as appearedon the Report's page
321, where Ranjel is erroneously credited with placing the army for some days
in Piachi whereas the secretary stated (R. pp. 114,115) they were elsewhere on
the dates mentioned.
It is apparent from his quotations that Swanton was taking his Ranjel
evidence from Bourne's volume, so the secretary's words will be given
in full therefrom:
"From this village of Ulibahali the Spaniards and their
Governor departed on Thursday, September 2, and they
passed the night at a small village near the river, and
there they waited a day for Lobillo, who had gone back
without permission to look for his negro. On his return
the Governor rated him soundly. Sunday they went on
and spent the night in the open country, and the next day,
Monday, they came to Tuasi, where they were given
carriers and thirty-two Indian women." (Time covered,
September 2 to September 6.)
Not a sign of the name Piachi!
But Swanton's "Itinerary" gave the following brief, credited to Ranjel,
with parentheses indicating the Report's fill-in, not Ranjel data.
"(Wednesday, Sept. 1, at Ulibahali). Thursday, Sept. 2,
camp at a'small village near a river. Friday, (Sept. 3),
at Piachi near a river. (Saturday, Sept.4), wait a day
at Piachi for Lobillo who went back for an escaped negro
slave. Sunday, (Sept. 5), go on and spend night in
open country. Monday, (Sept. 6), come to Tuasi."
Naturally, in the parallel columns of the "Itinerary" the other witnesses
do not mention Piachi at this time.
It is impossible to guess how this false Piachi was inserted and even more
difficult to understand how field work could be expended in this section without
discovering the gross error. It is astonishing to see in a Government financed
project not that it matters now that the present case has been exposed, but
if done here it was done often in the volume where the ill effect was to mislead
the public in many locales not only to see uncalled-for, unwarranted assump-
tions unscientifically made, but to see misstatements fluently result.
It was not until October 13 when the De Soto army reached the real Piachi,
as Ranjel and the Portuguese agree. The Report has this event listed correctly.
It was typical of Swanton to intimate broadly that quite some field work was
done in the area (pp.210, 216 and others) and he was able to account for both
of the Piachi towns without blinking. He tagged the true Piachi, "second Piachi"
and did not hesitate to state, "The approximate positions of the places men-
tioned between Ulibahali and the second Piachi are not difficult to establish"
(p.216) which would include the "first Piachi" a purely erroneous place
yet he was with facility able to claim he knew about its location, with his
habitual words of untrustworthy assurance, due to one of two reasons in the
light of the above, inability or questionable motive.
It must be quite a convenient talent to a researcher to be so clever as to
be able to spot where even nonexistent towns were located centuries ago!
Most researchers of less miraculous powers would have caught the error
before they got that far. Is this a sample of how much the Report's claims
that field work was done in this and other areas can be believed?
FINISHING THE EXAMINATION OF
A TYPICAL PART OF THE REPORT.
For those who may wonder why it is considered essential that a certain
portion of the Report should be specially impugned permit these details.
For the treatment of each area or division of the De Soto route, the Report
gave a summary of conclusions supposedly deduced from material forwarded
in a section titled, "Discussion of the Route." This logically followed another
section titled, "Story of the Expedition."
These titles did not fit the chapter on "The Landing Place of De Soto" so
instead of it having a "Summary" its counterpart was named, "CONCLUSIONS. "
Let us see how Swanton rated these terminal summations. On the Report's
page 3 the following paragraph is found:
"We recommend that those who wish to learn the findings
of the Committee without taking time to follow the detail-
ed argument consult the summaries at the end of each
sectional discussion and the 'General Summary' at
the conclusion of the entire report (sic)."
Whatever feeble motive dictated the inclusion of such a recommendation is
not worthy of comment. It was likelynot sinister. However, it points up the
selection of these particular portions for the within invalidation.
There is not enough space available properly to dissect and expose all the
seven "Facts" listed secondly under the heading, "Conclusions" the items
under the first section of it having been our subject in the preceding Unit.
In this second section, seven "Facts" were advanced with the claim that
they indicated, or proved a combination of ideas as stated in the subhead
"He probably landed on the southeast side of Tampa Bay
and established himself in a native town on Terra Ceia
Island, as is indicated by the following facts: "
How any fact could prove such two divergent ideas is difficult to grasp -
it is possible, perhaps, but certainly was not in this case as will be seen.
The No.1 "fact" read:
"The fleet entered from the south."
Do those words mean that the armada came from a southerly direction or
that the opening they entered was negotiated when moving northward ? Be that
as it may be, the words are empty. Of course the fleet came from the south -
from Havana, as everyone knows but such a stipulation could not possibly assist
in the authentication of any site whatever. Enough will have been said for
perspicacious folks merely to point out that the only basis in the Report's
text which might seem to justify those inept words being tagged a proof of
either of the two ideas stated, was in the incantation which produced the
miracle "finding" that the wind blew two ways at one and the same time!
It would be an approach to insult to the reader to waste more words on such a
lot of gullery wrapped up in but six words but forbearance is asked to add the
query: If the fleet came in from the south how did they strike the claimed in-
side southeast part of Tampa Bay except by entering from the west through
the openings ? Or is that the way the landing spot was calculated by
semantic mechanics i.e., from the south to the east combines to produce
'southeast ? '
Quite apologetically, but when we kids used to want to find a lost penny or
other valued small article in the weeds, we would 'spit' in the palm of our
hand and hit it sharply with the other forefinger. Whichever way the liquid
squirted showed us the magic direction we must take to hunt. Is it remotely
possible that Swanton arrived at some of his locations (maybe the "first
Piachi?") also by some such type of directive in his research, say, when he
and his Commission members were joy riding (although the Report infers it
was part of their duties, page vi) around Tampa Bay in a "launch" under the
auspices of officials of the Tampa area and of the "De Soto Pan-American Expo-
sition, (which was) sponsored and held in conjunction with the Florida Fair
and Gasparilla Association" local activities?
The No. 2 "fact" read:
"The chief of the town in which the Spaniards settled
had a second village close to the sea and on the south
side which cannot have been far away from the first."
Although as "proof" of anything whatsoever, except that the chief liked the
cooling breezes of a resort seaside town, these words are mere*fustian, yet
it is true that the witnesses indicated such a situation and it is nice to see
that Swanton finally owned up to the existence of the seaside village which De
Soto accidentally "discovered" after the Report had dodged it so much in the
text so as divert the data referring to it to the other town, as detailed supra.
But is it not possible that every coastal chief on the west coast of Florida
also had such a shore village? (There was good oyster, clam and other sea
food available there, of course, so all may have adopted the idea.)
No mention was found in the Report of a known trace of a town near the two
entrances from the Gulf he claimed were used by De Soto. Even if such ever
were found, there is no way of proving, of course, that such a trace and the
one on Terra Ceia were coexistent in 1539 because the Art of Archaeology
cannot yet establish the dates of use of even excavated and studied sites except
in terms of many, many years and then only as a theory.
Note the words, "on the south side." South side of what? Openings, or
bay or island? Whichever was meant, why did not Swanton produce proof
that there was a village on the "southside" of something his statement is
just something that ends in thin air somewhere. None such is known on the
south side of Terra Ceia Island as far as this writer is aware.
If the "second village" was near the first and yet was "close to the sea"
(Gulf) then Swanton's own words mock him with the refutation. He said a
De Soto contingent marched by land from the first town to the second village,
evidently making the entire round trip in one day (Rpt. p. 136) whereas at his
guessed locales there are miles of water between the two locations he proposed.
"Facts" Nos. 3 to 6 inclusive also are just too baseless and farfetched to
make it 'fun' to refute them. To use the slang of today, they are all "phonies."
Consequently the privilege will be taken of skipping to No. 7 and let the most
stupendous fraud of them all be exposed by the use of direct reference to, and
the quotes themselves, from the Report's text purportedly alluded to when the
alleged 'fact' was authored.
One item in "Facts" Nos. 5 and 6 will necessarily be mentioned, however,
to avoid further confusion than the Report provides.
"Fact" No. 7 said:
"The east, or southeast, arm of the bay is selected by
Monette, Burr, Brevoort, Shipp, Westcott, and Fairbanks;
and Buckingham Smith, one of the ablest students of the
De Soto expedition, fixed upon a site for the landing
identical with the one here suggested."
The words in that quote, "The east, or southeast arm" which refer to
Tampa Bay even though it is not specified by name, and which may not at the
first blush be thought by the informed reader because there is no such topo-
graphical feature like that appended to Tampa Bay, bring up the point that in
"Facts" Nos. 5 and 6, skipped over, the Report respectively used the words,
"Southeast side of Tampa Bay" and "southeast arm." Consequently, it seems
necessary to clear the vocabulary in order that a sane discussion may ensue.
As no doubt known to all, U. S. base maps show no east or southeast arm
to Tampa Bay in the usual sense of 'arm.' That large body of almost enclosed
water, as in modern English the word 'bay' is used to indicate, secured its
name through confusions in the geographical and cartographic arts as has been
touched upon, not too early in the white man's exploration of the Continent.
Also mentioned elsewhere was that its present phonetic name was derived
from the original phonetic Tempe by corruption, and that the latter name
first applied to our present Charlotte Harbor, as all historians agree.
Ignoring a small arm, Boca Ciega Bay west of Pinellas Peninsula, which
does not enter our study, Tampa Bay as a whole may be pictured in words by
explaining that it is comprised of three sections: Old Tampa Bay, Hillsborough
Bay and Tampa Bay. The latter is the main body of water to the south. The
first two are true arms projecting upwardly on the map from the main body.
(Herein Hillsborough will be contracted to Hillsboro except in quotes which
used the former spelling.)
Old Tampa Bay trends northwesterly somewhat from the western top of
the main body, and Hillsboro Bay takes off near the middle of the northeast
corner of the main body and makes a turn by swinging first to the northeast
then to the north.
These last two arms therefore, are the only ones, and may be correctly
termed, the 'northwest arm' and the 'northeast arm' of the Bay, respectively.
Particularly this should be noted: From the lower east side of the. north-
east arm, Hillsboro Bay, the shoreline of the main body trends almost due
from northeast to southwest with very minor indentations, until it ends in a
strictly southern tip. Consequently, there is definitely only a 'southeast
side' of Tampa Bay proper, no "east or southeast arm" as Swanton wrote.
Such small sounds as Bishop's Harbor and McGill's Bay may be passed
over in that statement since because of their small openings or inlets they
have no actual effect on Tampa Bay's main shape.
At the extreme southern tip of Tampa Bay entire, formed by this south-
east side and the slightly west of north trending islands and/or keys forming
its mouth openings, are the half to three-quarter mile wide entrances which
open west to easterly into Terra Ceia Bay (east and back of McGill's Bay)
and the Manatee River. Incidentally, joining at this southern tip is the
coastal sound named Sarasota Bay.
The appearance of Tampa Bay reminds this writer of being like the
eastern half of a boy's spinning top with its slanting side, with a baby thumb
of a peninsula jabbed down into its top and a 'spike' at its bottom.
With this picture in mind the reader can readily check the confusion intro-
duced by Swanton's switching of nomenclature. But perhaps all this
clarification is superfluous since, once our evidence material is spread out
in our investigation, only the true northeast arm of Tampa Bay enters the
astonishing denouement; but when the words "east side" are used therein
it will be grasped that just perhaps the northern portion of the southeast
(northeast-southwest trending) shore is meant.
The seven names mentioned in"fact" 7 obviously were taken from the
Report's Chapter 2, which refers to Map No. 2 beneath its title, "Previous
Attempts to Locate the Route of De Soto and Moscoso" the latter being De Soto's
successor. Those "Attempts" number more than a score in that chapter from
which Swanton selected the seven on what basis is not given nor understood.
Everyone, of course, realizes that any such attempts, if honest, from the
beginning of research effort on the subject, had to rely upon the stories relat-
ed by survivors of the De Soto debacle, together with that of the original histo-
rian who wrote from information gathered from men who had been on the
To be able to judge the worth of these attempts let us examine what Swanton
himself said of those narratives.
In his Report's chapter on "Authorities" he brings out that the last uncov-
ered of these, Ranjel's account, was rated "as basal" (p. 10), "superior even
to Elvas (Portuguese) for an understanding of the sequence of events and an
accurate placing of the route" (p. 9), and, "only those who began their work in
1900 had (all) four narratives at their disposal." (p. 1)
On pages 1 and 2 Swanton said, "The new light shed by Ranjel at once made
obsolete many of the earlier theories and added numerous corrections to the
rest." As a matter of truth he was conservative in that statement.
It will be noted below, however, that of the theories of the seven students
cited in "fact" 7, all except one were formulated much prior to 1900 and in
the case of the one dated 1901 Swanton almost dismissed that theory on page
33 by styling it a "suggestion" and allowed it merely, in his own words,
"the brief compass" of one paragraph!
His further evaluation of the olden theories of such as the seven men he
set up as authorities for his purpose, was, (p. 1), "The discovery of the fourth
of these (narratives) that by Rodrigo Ranjel, did, indeed mark an epoch in the
study" and thus it is seen that he rated the work of six of his seven cited students
as of dubious value and "obsolete" since the "authorities" proposing their
respective theories lacked the 'supreme source material.'
All that, to most people, likely would seem to add up as sufficient alone
for the complete refutation of any 'fact' based upon such faulty material as
their theories were tagged, but next the dreadful truth will be given which
will show that according to his own text Swanton used words in that 'fact' 7
which were positively untrue, when he said that those seven students gave,
"The east, or southeast, arm of the bay" (Tampa Bay) as their "site for
the landing" of De Soto's army.
In order to simplify, the salient items composing each of the seven
references will be grouped for consideration under these classifications:
A= The pages of the Report where the theory of the men
B= The dates attributed to each man's work by Swanton.
C =The words of Swanton's text as to where each student
said the landing site was, together with corrobora-
tion by the Report's Map No. 2, if shown.
In order of mention:
A= Pages of text: 21,24, 27, 30, 31, 31,27.
B=Date of work: 1848, 1839, 1865, 1881, 1888, 1901,
C=Words of text, plus map data, if any:
1. Monette; "Most probably on the shore of that portion of the
Bay of Espiritu Santo known as Hillsborough Bay." Mapped
well to NORTHEAST.
2. Burr; "East shore of Hillsboro Bay." Map shows it well to
3. Brevoort; "Entrance (of DeSoto) into Tampa Bay is indicated
along NORTH SHORE and his landing at head of Hillsboro." Mapped
to NORTH. Landing, NORTHEAST, in text.
4. Shipp; (Quote of Swanton's quote of Shipp), "A large artificial
mound near the EASTERN shore of the EASTERN branch (NORTH-
EAST arm, whw.) of Tampa Bay marks the starting place in Florida
where De Soto set out it was here that he camped after landing
his horses and soldiers on the shores of the bay to anchor near
the great mound." NORTHEASTERLY, not mapped.
5. Westcott; This 'authority' did not even mention 'landing site,'
only the location of the headquarters town which he said was at
"Indian Hill" on EAST side just south of Hillsboro Bay. NORTH-
EASTERLY, not mapped.
6. Fairbanks; "Landed in Tampa Bay and that the Indian town
which he used as his headquarters was on the site of the present
city of Tampa." (Which is mainly at the head of Hillsboro Bay.)
NORTHEAST, not mapped.
7. Smith; The Report had no quote of Smith, only Swanton's words
as to where B. Smith located the landing site. Not mapped.
Swanton stated that on the map published in Smith's early works,
in 1854, (before Ranjel, of course) "The landfalls (pro landings)
of both De Soto and Narvaez are placed more accurately than on
any other contemporary map." Naturally, the 'perfect standard'
used for that judgment was his own theories! Could it be that he
had adopted Smith's ideas for his own? Swanton branded the errors,
as he named them, in the map in Bourne's publication of Smith's
works as being due to Brevoort. (1904-1905). If Brevoort was
in error in one place in the Report, how would it be possible
for him to be an 'authority' in this cited place, of such standing
that he is used as a support for proof? Also, if Swanton misquoted
six men, can his word be taken for the seventh?
However, this latter comment is an anticlimax to the expose of Swanton's
untruthfulness all those students able to be checked and which were cited
by him gave almost the complete opposite in direction of location of the sites
to what Swanton claimed in the "fact" that they said!
Swanton's guess as to the landing site was the bank of a river off of, and
easterly of the extreme south tip of Tampa Bay whereas they of the seven men
cited who said anything said that in their opinion the landing site and/or the
headquarters village were far up northeasterly. Were one, two, or the like,
incorrectly quoted by him it could be considered errors. But when all are mis-
quoted it justifies the within charge.
While on the subject of that Chapter 2, let it be noted that Swanton included
(Rpt. p. 43), one of the Committee who purportedly coauthored the Report, as
making a "previous attempt" and thereby hangs, what to this writer seems
an amusing tale.
It goes without saying that Swanton picked the members of the Commission,
perhaps excluding only the Tampa member, Carl D. Brorein, who was appoint-
ed to succeed W. G. Brorein, deceased. In his own words, Carl was "Presi-
dent, Florida Fair and Gasparilla Association, which sponsored exposition."
"Through an appropriation by the Federal Government the De Soto Pan-Amer-
ican Exposition was held in Tampa in conjunction with the Florida Fair and par-
ticipation by the Federal Government and Pan American Countries made this an
outstanding Exposition." (The Florida Fair was local, not State.) This informa-
tion is herein published with the thought that it might just thusly become of
'historical' record since most citizens of our Country, including the majority
of those in Florida, never heard of the affair, and perhaps they would like to
be informed as to where some of their hard earned tax money disappeared.
Another Commission member was an old 'friend' of Swanton who liked to
be called, "Colonel." John R. Fordyce, the subject of our tale, of Arkansas,
had delved into the problems of the De Soto route in the trans-Mississippi south-
west, and, evidently desiring to secure promulgation of, publicity for, as well
as preservation of his ideas, decided to publish a map showing the Conquista-
dor's entire route.
He leaned upon Swanton and another 'student' of De Soto's trek east of the
Mississippi, James Y.Brame, Jr., who had thrashed out his ideas of the
Alabama De Soto route with the theories of others of the Alabama Anthropo-
logical Society (Montgomery) 1916-1928, and seemingly Fordyce refereed
in Brame's favor.
These two evidently furnished part of the route east of Ole Man River
according to the 1934 copy of Fordyce's published map now before this writer.
With the interjected remark that the following case is not the first time in
mere scattered quotes from the Report that an illustration has been given of
Swanton's astounding use of the word "landfall" for 'landing' (disembarkation)
the Report's words in re the Fordyce map are given: "On this map the landfall
Of De Soto and the town where he made his headquarters is (sic) placed near the
entrance of Tampa Bay on the south side."
Glancing at the map it can be said that pictorially it is a pleasing piece of
work, embellished with LeMoyne type sketches. The titleplate is quite large
and ornate in the manner of ancient times and, therein, after listing the four
narratives of the De Soto adventures together with modern items as sources,
adds credit for "field investigations" to Swanton, Brame, plus Fordyce, and
the date, 1934.
Colonel Fordyce, it must be recalled, was appointed Vice-chairman of
the Commission and was alleged to be coauthor of the Report as a member
of the so-called "Fact Finding Committee" along with Swanton as Chair-
man, and a Miss Caroline Dormon who once wrote to a friend of this writer
that Swanton got her the appointment to the Commission and asked, "Please
observe the correct spelling of my name I was not surprised when it
was written incorrectly on my appointment."
Relative to the De Soto route she said, "There are certain mysteries
which all our studies have not solved to our entire satisfaction." The
"mysteries" of the Report's findings (Fordyce's?) in the Trans-Mississippi
region were so great that a team of prominent anthropologists rejected the
Report's findings "as unproved hypothesis" and "no other identification
proposed by the Commission within this portion of the Survey Area can be
safely regarded as established." (Quoted by John Wallace Griffin, former
Florida State Archaeologist, to writer, from book by Philip Phillips, James
A. Ford, and James B. Griffin, "Archaeological Survey in the Lower
Mississippi Valley, 1940-1947," Papers of the Peabody Museum of Amer-
ican Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1951.)
To return to the Colonel: Being one of the alleged authors of the Report,
one would assume that he checked it over fairly well before its publication.
Especially would it be expected that he would observe what was stated
therein as to his own work on De Soto.
However, it seems also that Swanton, in writing the Report, in the case of
the Colonel (and in many other dubious cases also) relied upon his memory
rather than go to the trouble to get the Fordyce map out of the files if, indeed,
it was there. He likely recalled that years before he had told the Colonel that
the landing site was on the "south side of Tampa Bay, together with the town
which was his headquarters." His theory involving the Manatee River and the
almost unnavigable Terra Ceia Bay had not then 'jelled.'
Judging from what is read there (p. 43) the teamwork between the two co-
authors was not too good to say the least since, somewhere between the time
when Swanton furnished the said data to the Colonel, and when the map was
published Fordyce seems to have had a bright idea, based upon the fact that
he knew there was a lot of controversy around the landing and headquarters
town sites and, just maybe, it was not as Swanton claimed, in Tampa Bay!
"Why," it would seem he thought, "cut sales and/or the authenticity of his map
by taking one side or the other? Why not be shrewd and sit on the fence?"
Consequently, the artist of his map pictured the Spaniards landing in Florida
from the Gulf in a quite symbolic way. There was shown on the map no Gulf
coast whatsoever from away south at the Thousand Islands on up almost two-
thirds of the coast to the Tallahassee section. No Tampa Bay of course! No
others of any possible candidates for the historical honors of the landing site!
Many armored soldiers afoot and cavaliers on their horses were shown
heading for dry land in the direction of the center of the Peninsula, greeted
by one lone aborigine striding toward the soldiers as though in welcome,
somewhere west-southwest of Lake Okeechobee. (It is impossible to report
for history whether this well figured native was male or female though nude,
because in the approved Comstock mode the left leg is well forward, as is
also the left arm so that it covers the bosom or hairy breast nearly the
right arm is modestly folded over what of the breast or chest might have
disclosed sex. It seems that the Colonel also sat on the fence in the matter
of whether it was a male or female Indian who first greeted De Soto's men -
or he did not know that not even one naked Indian greeted them?)
Where did Swanton say the Fordyce map showed the two sites? For the
reader's convenience the words are repeated: "On this map the landfall (pro
landing) of De Soto and the town where he made his headquarters is (sic)
placed near the entrance of Tampa Bay on the south side."
Another scrutiny of the map reveals: Due south of the feet of some horses
and due north of some soldiers' casques is discerned a dot accompanied by a
symbol. Reference to the 'Legend' on the map informs that the dot in danger
of being trampled into the Florida sand represents an Indian town.
That town site, as likely it was intended, can be interpreted as being near
almost any bay on the Gulf coast 'when interpretation flies with the wish.'
The "landfall" site? It is not on the map, of course.
As our available space dwindles it becomes difficult to choose from the
many cases of hocus-pocus of like nature to expose to the reader. When one
gets into the subject of the inland route there are indeed many items of some
sort of swindle or other to uncover, but then again, it would require a lot of
explanation of the true testimony to enable the public to judge for themselves
that the new indictments were supported fully, and space disallows that.
One thing is certain and should be remembered: For the total of every
warping of evidence and misstatement of fact, the Report was driven to
create an equal and opposite total error to counterbalance the first, by a
There never has been any valid doubt as to where De Soto wintered in
1539-1540. (Rpt.p. 149) It was somewhere near our Tallahassee of today.
All the "previous attempts" depicted on the Report's Map No.2 have
each hypothetical route converging there at that point. Any other proposed
location for that section of the route would automatically clash with the edict
of experts and the offered entire route proposal would be ignored since that
one error would show that it was the product of a lack of the ability and study
necessary. The historical facts establishing and authenticating that accepted
spot are too bulky to be treated herein.
Swanton positively and necessarily had to meet that hard and fast require-
ment his route must converge there also, and did. As said, for every and
all deviations off the true route he must create counterbalancing errors to
average up to make his hypothetical route hit that known locale when he man-
aged to maneuver the Spaniards there for their 1539-1540 winter camp.
How he did this was almost amusing at times if one could overlook the
implied insult to the intelligence of the public for such stuff to be handed out
to them from a governmental source and perhaps it might be more politic
not to mention it, but there were plenty of those who 'bit' and even some (not
in Florida!) of the upper crust of the archaeological world who swallowed
hook, line and sinker.
Following the within method of presenting the events as told by eyewitnesses
first, a brief of the early movements of the army on its march inland will be
For reasons of semi-mutiny, touched upon in a later Paper, DeSoto did not
get his men started on the inland march until July 15. The first night they
came to a stream, the boundary between two chiefs; thus, they called it after
the name of the second, "River of Mocozo" and it was a headache for Swanton
because there was no river at the proper distance on his guessed route. Again
he warped the testimony around or erred pitifully in understanding it. After
De Soto in person with parties had twice traveled the trail which led over this
"river" and other troops of horsemen had done so several times, and, it being
not far from their base camp, the stream was likely known like a book to them
from its mouth back since they were in its neighborhood a month and a half,
yet not once in all the relation of those events prior to the army's crossing it
had any mention been made of any stream, so it just must have been minor.
But Swanton allowed himself to misconstrue the secretary's words or something.
The army had been again enthused to venture forth on a march for riches
through a weird trick performed by De Soto and after almost a month and a half
sojourn in camp as good as resting, they were no doubt feeling fairly kittenish
and spry when they stopped at this stream the first night. (R.p. 63)
Ranjel related he was the only witness to mention a "river" (translator's
choice of English word; the word stream could also have been used) at that
stop in spite of the fact that at later important streams all the narrators
mentioned them "They made two bridges where the army crossed the river. "
Swanton intimated and assumed that the two bridges were end to end.
A fair researcher would study all the expedition's later bridge building
practice to determine exactly what meaning "two bridges" conveyed. Such
inspection would show that they often built very long sectional bridges, the
one at the flooded "River of the Deer" (Suwannee) being "three great pine
trees in length"(R.p. 77) and yet all such were spoken of as one bridge.
For there to have been two bridges end to end there would have had to be
an island in the river (as the word 'island'is usedin English, not Spanish)
and none was hinted as being there. There is none at Swanton's guessed site
- he must have thought they fastened the central parts of the bridges up with
sky-hooks? Swanton's interpretation ("Interpretation ever flies with the wish"
Rpt. p. 165) that the stream was large enough for two bridges was entirely in
error. As a matter of human equation the truth was, by all appearances, that
just to let off steam (and show off to the lady present?) they felled trees on
the bank so as to fall across and in a spirit of rivalry such as would be natural
to expect under the circumstances, they built two side by side or at least
nearby each other. There was little, if any, delay this first night. At all
later times when it was necessary for a bridge to be built, there was a delay
of one, two, or three days. There is also additional evidence to prove
Swanton's assumption in error but all this is not important to our expose,
no matter if so to researchers, but it labels his habits.
The next night they camped at a small lake, too minor to be dignified by
the name of a religious event or personage. Early the third morning, about
eight leagues on the way, they passed near the town of the friendly chief,
Mocozo. They had 'their daily marches set' De Soto told him, so they
could not stop to visit.
They were on their way, following by some days an advance contingent,
to another, seemingly sort of area over-chief according to information,
25 leagues from their headquarters camp, and, as any researcher can
readily delve out, to the east and then the northeast, inland.
The third night they camped by a lake which they honored with the name,
St. John, and the next morning they emerged upon a dry prairie in a mighty
hot sun. (One of the Governor's stewards died of dehydration "thirst"
mind, not from heat to sully Florida's clean record at its start!)
In a few days they met the advance party at the overchief's town and went
on soon. They had been forewarned by the advance party by messengers, of
a marsh three leagues onward from the latter town, with a river in its center
(bordered by prairie for many a league) but they were not intimidated for
they came prepared and forded it in one day, after which they went one half
league beyond it to camp for four days.
Then began a series of contretemps De Soto met well, of which some
details will be given later. However, at the moment it is our concern to
illustrate how Swanton, pushed by necessity, or, either to create counter-
balancing errors or through sheer inability, succeeded in making that first
crossing of the marsh-river disappear! Remember this item which he
'killed' the army crossed the marsh-river completely a first time of two.
On page 142, of the prefacing "Story of the Expedition" wherein he
usually stuck fairly well to a truthful recital of the witness testimony,
he told about all this as just briefed, and of how De Soto and a troop of about
a dozen horsemen (R. P. 65) almost immediately recrossed back over the
marsh-river and up along its side, searching for another second crossing
place ostensibly sought to lead them out on higher ground than at the first
crossing. The singular fact that they went 12 leagues before finding their
objective would shout that it was an extraordinary river of some sort. The
entire scene of these latter operations was prairie. Swanton ignored both items.
Skipping a lot of intriguing details, such as how Ranjel related that he was
sent on a messenger job none too considerate of his safety, we find that, as said,
12 leagues onward above that first crossing which Swanton mentioned only to
dissolve it to nothing with his words they located another, and those few
horsemenwent over the marsh-river a second time, went on a farther distance
of six leagues where they woundup at another small village 20 leagues almost
due north of the over-chief's town site. There is a lot of drama all along at
this juncture in the narratives and it takes great self-control not to break
loose and tell about it in spite of expense.
The army, after four days in camp beyond the first crossing (Rpt.pp.307-
308) also crossed back over it in compliance with orders brought to them by
two messengers sent by the advanced General. These men went through a
veritable rain of arrows at the lower crossing to reach the army to get them
to follow after the Governor as he ordered.
After Swanton concluded the "Story of the Expedition" just about as above
briefed, he followed with a "Discussion of the Route" and it was in this latter
section where he habitually introduced errors, plus and minus.
All witnesses said, for instance, that Mocozo's town was eight leagues on
the way. Right off in this "Discussion" he made that distance fithis first
night's river because he found one about that far along on his guessed route.
At this period in his Report Swanton interjects (p. 149) for the information
of his reader, the fact about the known area, even though his treatment of the
subject is a long way yet to go before reaching that known site at Tallahassee's
neighborhood, the next winter's camp locale! Could it be a betrayal that his
sights, as he thus early discussed the "route" were set so early in his study
on hitting that 'must' target?
After a lot of discussion of rather confusing nature, it was said (p. 152),
"In brief, the evidence at hand indicates that the main town of Urriparacoxi
(the over-chief.whw.) lay 15-16 leagues south of the Withlacoochee crossing, "
and "a total distance of about 40 leagues (25 +15) is thus indicated between
the port of the Holy Spirit and the Big Swamp (the Withlacoochee) and if we
accept Terra Ceia as the site of the Port (sic) this falls only slightly short of
the actual distance, about 110 miles." (Parantheses his except where initialled.)
The irony of it is that those words were sort of a magician's mummery to
cover the truth that all the distances discussed were actually given by the
witness accounts. Note that he chose to adopt the word "swamp" in spite of
the fact that all context of the Spanish word "cienega" which was used, showed
it was a marsh with a river central of its very wide, somewhat uniform
breadth for 12 and even more leagues length.
Also, he had reduced the crossings from the plural to the singular.
That manufacture of the singular in place of the truth, the plural, began
at the top of page 150. In one sentence he jumped the army to that four day
camp site situated a half league over the first crossing without mentioning
that first crossing then in the next he leaped De Soto up over the second
crossing, completely ignoring the fact that the data he was applying was partly
of an advance group of a few horsemen and partly covering the straggling army
Then he made it appear that the second crossing was the first time the marsh-
river had been crossed. He used sort of a magician's patter to delude the read-
er who might just happen to recall from the "story" that there were two cross-
ings: "As the narratives tell us that before reaching this spot (second crossing,
whw.) they had been marching along the border of swamps which they had been
endeavoring to cross."
His word "marching" of course connotes that it was the army, but it was
not 'they" who had done this searching for the second crossing it was a
small group of horsemen. He conveyed that it was the first crossing which
was scouted for "along its border of swamps."
Lower on the same page he hid the first crossing with a different dodge,
to wit: "But we have been informed that the army had gone astray in the
swamp a distance of a league and a half which had to be retraced."
Again on page 152 it was another version:"It would be interesting to locate
the point where De Soto attempted to cross to the east of the Withlacoochee and
was turned back." That made three different disposals of the first crossing -
one for each member of the so-called "Fact Finding Committee I" That-might
be stretched into evidence that just perhaps that Committee did have something
to do with the authoring. Also supporting, it seems just impossible that one
person could forget his own story on pages that close together.
But here is another 'bonus' version! On page 152 Swanton assumes that
there was a certain trail, absolutely without any inference in the narratives.
Then he said, "The unfriendly relations of our explorers with the Indians of
Urriparacoxi were probably responsible for their failure to find it and en-
forced return after having gotten part of the way across the swamp." That
was a bold one! He imagined there was a trail and then imagined they could
not find it. It would take a committee to mess up simple facts that much -
a lone person really could scarcely be expected to accomplish it.
In the face of all that, the original historian, not once, but twice stated
that the distance between the two crossings was 12 leagues. It seems that
whenever '12 leagues' was mentioned Swanton went into what the youngsters
of today name "a spin" because it has been seen that he misused an earlier
datum of that distance. In this case he 'pulled' an unbelievable twist in
research by "determining" a forward point (of course in anybody's research
such a determination would be a theory, not an established fact) first, and
always, in any ordinary person's research all available data would be used
to 'determine' that forward point all the more accurately but then he used
data, so-called, he had held back from some of the evidence, and offered this
daisy of "reckoning" for posterity's wonderment: "This point being deter-
mined, we are now in a position to reckon back from it to the province of
To digress momentarily, Swanton's use of the word "province" in a sense
indicating a political subdivision, was unworthy of a professed Indian special-
ist, because it stemmed from a questionable use by translators in a too free
rendition of the Spanish word, provincial and they might have avoided mis-
leading the 'foremost' American Indian ethnologist if they had used the English
'realm' or 'region' and the like. Of course, the Indians had no such definite
or political subdivision as inferred.
There was no point whatsoever to be gained from such a claimed "reck-
oning" and actually he never used his dubious result, but the startler is that
there was no necessity for the fake "reckoning" since the witness account
plainly gave the distance he computed in his first steps and he entirely over-
looked or skipped the 12 league datum already mentioned.
His computation was even more startling. Pretending to follow Garcilaso's
account (2nd Bk. 1st Pt. Ch. 14) of the return to the army of the two messengers
above mentioned, he added together overlapping fractions of their night's ride
like this: For the first 4 or 5 leagues they had no difficulties of terrain; when
they had gone about 10 leagues, having had no sleep or much food for three
days or more, one messenger wanted to take a short sleep. Swanton added
together those figures, "4 or 5+10" and then he added in a figure "1" the
origin of which is impossible to be guessed and also obscured is what it
represented. If it was the remainder distance of the ride, he imagined it.
The only item which witnesses said measured one league was the width of
the marsh-river, yet he could not be referring to that since he would need
to use it doubled, as over and back, since the town he was measuring to
allegedly was on the same side of- the marsh-river the messengers were on.
To his peculiar result ("4 or 5+10+1") he now added the three leagues
the witness said was the distance of the town to which he was "reckoning"
from the first crossing!
It was almost a miracle but the actual data the witness gave, to wit:
12 + 3, total 15 leagues, was almost hit by Swanton by then manipulating
into his weird arithmetic a subtraction, using the above words to justify
the use of the subtracted figure: "We have been informed that the army
had gone astray in the swamp a league and a half retraced. So he
subtracted that fictitious 3 leagues to make a total doubly fictitious, if such
were possible give him credit, by his moves he attained it.
The fictitious total which he "reckoned" of "15 or 16 leagues to the cross-
ing place on the Withlacoochee" (note singular number) was arrived at by
adding a side distance to the first crossing-in a trick computation from the
second crossing complicated is it not? Otherwise he ignored the first
crossing which he had swished into oblivion. One would think that somewhere
along that tenuous line reviewed that he would have discovered if he wished
to do so that he had dropped one crossing. On his guessed route two of the
crossings were completely impossible tobe accounted for, so he was forced to
use the chicanery. Whether motive or accident is for the future to decide,
and certainly many a scholar will arrive at a verdict at least in their own
While speaking of arithmetic, it will be noted on a page nearby the latter
references (p. 151) that a "table" is given. Skipping the details of what the
"Days and Distances Covered" therein tabulated refer to, notice that for the
ninth day it says, "to a distance within a short distance of Urriparacoxi"
was 13 leagues. Then in the first three lines of the last paragraph on the
same page it is said they camped that "ninth day 13 leagues short (i. e. north)
of the town of Urriparacoxi" and for the benefit of future students it is pointed
out that the true fact was the first stated. (Speaking of 'phonies' which was
done, that word "south" in the first line of the tabulation is just that!) But
more such errors or whatever they are must be excluded from the within
Inpassing, it will be noted that Swanton could not consider that there were
two coasts of Florida for it did not fit his ideas, so he had to warp a datum
given by the Factor of the expedition.
When that official gave his rambling report to the Spanish Crown he said
that the town of the over-chief lately discussed was 20 leagues from the coast.
One who studies the De Soto chronicles will recognize that this man had a
sort of characteristic that might be named a quirk of interests. In the later
marches he twice gave the distance from where the army was to the coast
onward, but not marched, due to change of direction of march. He did this
when they were in what is now the Carolinas. He did it when they neared the
Gulf above present Mobile Bay upon their change of direction of march to the
northerly away from the Gulf.
He did it in Florida when he told, as said, that it was 20 leagues from the
coast. About there they turned northerly from the general direction they had
taken to reach that point.
It is remarkable how the Spaniards could have ascertained that information
so accurately. It does not seem possible that they could have pumped the Indians
with means at hand, however, perhaps Juan Ortiz was able to do it with those
who lived so near where he had lived as a captive. But that does not explain
the Factor's data given in the other two locations. One can almost imagine
they had an accurate map of the coastlines.
Another example of extreme feinting by Swanton is interesting to note.
On maps or descriptions of trails in olden days in Florida the words, "pine
barrens" were often used to warn the traveler that the designated area was all
a pine forest andtherefore apoor overnight stop or camping locale since there
would be no grazing available for their stock. They always rode horses, of
course, sometimes drove a wagon and perhaps cattle.
These areas were often what were also called "flatwoods" and botanists
will explain that, due to shade and some to the pine oil content of the thickly
accumulated pine needles on the forest's floor, the ground seemed to be some-
what too sterile for most other plants' growth. As one De Soto narrator
remarked, there was no undergrowth between the primeval pine trees and
they could charge their horses around almost as though it were in a park.
Partly because of the expense and delay in clearing away forest, and since
the agriculture of the first whites consisted largely of stock grazing, certain
rather marshy areas where some green pasture and water were commonly
available, were rather highly prized.
Such an area, familiar to early and later natives of Florida, in Alachua
County, is now named Payne's Prairie but was formerly known as Alachua Lake
as will be brought out elsewhere in these Papers. It is the rather level marsh
bottom of that lake now drained by a "sink hole" which is an opening through
the limestone formation or strata underlying that section.
Many times, even in the memory of the present generation such "prairies"
in Florida have returned (temporarily) to lake status when the sink stopped up,
and elsewhere lake bottoms have become new marshy prairie when some other
lake developed a "sink." These so-called 'prairies' should be and are consid-
ered a different topographical feature from the true prairie terrain of Southern
Florida. The name stemmed from the Spanish customary naming of them.
Now that the proper understanding is given for those not already informed
of the two terms, 'flatwoods' and 'prairie' it will be amusing to see one of
Swanton's more ingenuous, fish-out-of-water "interpretations" showing his
lack of knowledge of Florida topography. (Rpt.p. 153)
His words were: "De Soto passed through what was clearly a rich farming
region with plenty of towns and a considerable population."
In his next sentence he used the words "former" and "latter" referring
to some nouns or other in that quote. Trying to grasp his vocabulary and
syntax, it is assumed that the word "former" would refer to, "farming
region with plenty of towns" and that the word "latter" would refer to,
"and a considerable population." Yet "farming" is seldom, as therein, link-
ed to "plenty of towns" and the term, "plenty of towns" connotes large
Be all that as it may be, for it matters little in the end result, note the two
words in the next sentence, "Evidently the former was in the flatwoods and
the latter on the Alachua Prairie."
It is utterly preposterous that anyone would say that there were "rich
farms" and/or "considerable population" on terrain which becomes flooded
with every decent rain, and just as nonsensical was it to advance the idea
that there could be farms in the semi-sterile ground of the shady flatwoods.
How it could be that Swanton, a professed ethnologist of many years,
would not know that ancient surveys often showed "old fields" where the
Indians originally 'farmed' in Florida for the most part, (later pre-empted
by the earliest whites) except for gardens spotted near their villages, is
beyond this writer.
If he had perused Garcilaso's account as a De Soto researcher should, he
would have learned of certain "great fields" (Pt. 1, Bk. 2, Ch.xxx) on De Soto's
route and it would have assisted him to find at least one point correctly (but it
did not fit his necessities) because these particular fields were known and
mapped down to British possession days. (See Map of Road, Pensacola to
St. Augustine, by Joseph Purcell, 1778.)
Before leaving this item of the grazing wet prairies, permit this writer
to felicitate the citizens of Alachua County, Florida, for having leaders who
tackled the problem when Orange Lake developed a 'sink hole' in recent years.
The sink was sealed off and the beautiful lake asset to the community is now
safe for some time. Also are they to be congratulated that there is a 'long
range movement' on foot to restore Alachua Lake by the same method. It
is easy to see where the latter lake would add greatly to the economic welfare
of the section over what the present wet prairie affords.
To use Swanton's phrase, page 149, when he wished to insert at some
place any irrelevant material and to make remarks more important sounding,
"Before going farther (sic) it may be as well" to show how, according to
him, the De Soto army built a bridge over a wet weather stream's dry bed to
cross it though they did not need it because the stream did not fill up until
much later when the army was far away, due to a very hard rain. Perhaps
that sounds like 'baloney' (forgive the slang) yet it is absolutely straight.
Swanton advanced that in the Report and up to now it has not been challenged.
In the prefacing Chapter 8 the Report briefed accurately at least for
present Florida the "The Weather During the Expedition." Three items
only was all the data the narratives afforded for the summer of 1539.
In July, besides the heat which contributed to the steward's dehydration
earlier noted, it rained once at a daybreak, briefly but plentiful; the date is
not mentioned there but on page 307 it is found that it was on July 27; the
referring back to page 93 it is found that the only weather datum other than
those two, was of a very heavy rain which stalled the march on September
13-14, just inside the summer by about a week.
Preparing the 'subject' (his reader) to believe that the army bridged a
certain stream to which he had maneuvered them (instead of the actual river
site) in his guesses, he said, (p. 156)
"It is true that Olustee Creek is often nearly dry and
bridge building quite superfluous but the summer of
1539, as we will note again in a minute, was very wet
and soon after crossing (the Olustee) the army was
held in camp two days at a place which they named
Many Waters on account of the incessant precipita-
For mediocrity of weight of "argument" for a point it would seem that
his promise or threat to repeat the false assertion, "in a moment" takes
the 'fur-lined bathtub' as the wags said not long since.
On the next page, as he forewarned, he repeated the fabrication: "But
the fact must be again stressed that the year 1539 had a very rainy summer."
Then an echo was given on page 159, "although it was a rainy summer."
That effective psychology, repetition of the untruth, probably caused the
casual reader to believe the statement as 'fact' as he labeled it.
Swanton repeatedly, if not always, spoke of Indian towns by definite names.
If an explorer said that a certain place "was Ucita's town" even if it were
also stated that he had another spoken of in the same way, the "town of Ucita"
- Swanton immediately tagged it with the definite appellation, "Ucita" as we
of today speak of New York, Boston, and so on geographical names.
This writer charges unequivocally and categorically that ethnologist Swan-
ton failed to grasp the Indians' principal and actual nomenclature customs.
He followed the lead of the early, usually rather uneducated white explorers,
who, when they questioned some chance met Indian (sign language?) who looked
upon the questioner as an enemy, perhaps, so was in no mood to say much,
assumed that the place had to have a name of the sort necessary in the white
man's world in order to make 'writings' (maps or notes); and when the Indian
answered with a name, say, "Chiaha," meaning only that it was 'Chiaha's town'
in the sense that their chief by that name administered it to those earliest
white listeners and to many later ones, that Indian speaker meant it was the
record designation sort of name, per se, of the place. Definitely, with the ex-
ception of special cases, it was the name of their leader. When the leader died,
or otherwise a new one was acknowledged, the name in the reply later given to
a similar question was different, of course, according to the new leader's name.
It just might have been that the explorers knew better, or at least that some
did, but the problem of promulgating and inculcating the true state of affairs to
their listeners at home, and the work of keeping map sketches up-to-date was
too laborious, and unnecessary as far as they were concerned. Also, they may
have. considered the knowledge their private matter since most explorers then
ventured afar as a means of livelihood. So, the cancer of pseudo nomenclature
was introduced, remained and grew.
Later ethnologists never adjusted although it was indicated by the true facts,
for they were dealing in the subject of a people having no written language (the
later Cherokee marvel should have set off the point!) and consequently no use
or need for geographical names, per se, until the white man forced it on them -
for their large or small gregarious groupings, as does our literate and organized
highly civilized world. Full treatment of this subject would require volumes.
It was demonstrated often that Swanton, as a professed ethnologist, never
seemed to grasp the initial confusion, and instead of trying to straighten it out
he even added to it certain of his writings are based upon his following of the
misunderstanding and therefore are more than worthless. Any ethnologist,
worth his salt, would spend his lifetime, had he been in Swanton's job, trying
at least to minimize the spread of the error popularly, and would have sought
to direct his art and confreres into the correct channel. By today, with proper
early leadership in the halls of the ethnological mighty, all data and such as
maps of Indian towns and village locations would be more authentic and of
greater reliability in research, by having therein, associatedwiththe record
of any purported 'name' the date when the explorer expediently in his exigency
applied that label except for such locations, as would also be explained,
which had purely place names, descriptive names and those by words in the
Indian dialects which meant such as, "Place of the Annual Tribal Gathering"
to which almost universal event the white man often gave the name, "corn
dance" and also often scoffed at the ceremonies. (These yearly gatherings
were a combination of thanksgiving perhaps copied by the colonists in part
- ceremonies for the dead, dispensing of justice and passing of laws, matri-
monial publications, social enjoyments including the opportunities afforded
for courting more distant neighbors, and, of course, the ceremonial and
social dancing much of the time by others than the busy principal men. One
Seminole pleaded in defense that in the main these gatherings were more
orderly and less raucous that the white man's 'conventions' where he selected
his future presidents an office of supposedly high dignity filled by noisy
proceedings having little dignity, as he had heard them over the radio.)
(A name of intertribal use, according to a Seminole friend of this writer,
little understood judging from ethnological books seen, was the much corrupt-
ed name for "canoe carrying place" or portage, found in the De Soto narra-
tives as Canasoga and Canasagua, phonetically spelled (according to the Semi-
nole) "canoosaugwa" though its phonetic and corrupted forms seem to range
from "canadasga" of New York to "Kenesaw" of the lesser mountains of
However interesting or not, this digression from the "thoroughgoing
examination" of the Report must be cut short which requires that a decision
be made as to which of the many 'atrocities' within that volume will be chosen
fittingly to close this partial autopsy upon it.
Perhaps it can be squeezed in about a cute game of passing the credit which
took place with the cronies, Swanton and Robertson, as participants. It began
in the 1938 Florida Historical Quarterly (p. 164 et seq.) where Swanton, with
no hesitation that time, or warrant from any so-called expert's support, pro-
ceeded to institute some substitutions as "corrections" of the Spanish of the
copy of De Soto's letter earlier mentioned. Subsequent to his erroneous trans-
lation of the Spanish from the Academy dictionary, evidently he was told of
the error and though he corrected it he found it quite unnecessary to change
any deduction, but incorporated the gist of his 'argument' in the later Report
with but subtle changes.
In the Quarterly it is apparent that he used B. Smith's translation of the
letter (Bourne's Vol.2) then in the Report he credited Robertson's translation
which had been published in the mentioned Quarterly.
When he repeated his "substitution" routine in the Report later (p. 133)
seemingly to return the 'compliment' as will be mentioned in a few lines, he
said, "Dr. Robertson thinks that the text we have is corrupt." Showing little
knowledge of the Spanish verbs of action with the word, "en" and refusing to
recognize any meanings for the Spanish words "ancon" and "ensenada" -
which have no exact equivalent in English other than 'bay' or roadsteadd'
he advanced 'argument' which probably was unintelligible to many laymen,
and to most Spanish folks too, in his striving to authenticate Tampa Bay as
the correct choice.
Turning to that Robertson translation in the 1938 Quarterly, accompanying
Swanton's article wherein he used Smith's rendition, it is found that when Dr.
Robertson came to the words which Swanton previously had "corrected" by
his conjectural "substitutions" Robertson supplied a footnote essentially giving
back to Swanton the responsibility for the charge of corruption by telling his
reader to "See the conjecture of John R. Swanton in his article in this issue
of the Quarterly a conjecture which should have the thoughtful considera-
tion of the reader. These are matters to which Dr. Swanton has given much
thought. Indeed, there is no greater authority on this expedition and on this
letter than he. J.A.R." (On expedition? See within! On letter? See p. 61!)
The situation then, in 1938, was this: Using Robertson's version, it was
Swanton's "conjecture" that the De Soto letter's Spanish was corrupt. Swanton
returned the compliment in the 1939 Report by using Robertson's translation
of the letter and he added the bonus of giving back to Robertson the credit for
the charge that the Spanish was corrupt.
The two gentlemen were shuttling back and forth, whether they knew it or
not, what cursory study would have divulged. Bourne published in his Vol. 2,
pp. 164-165, the surmise made by B. Smith decades before that the copy was
defective not corrupt.
(The dictionary defines 'conjecture' as, "Divination; supposition; inference
from defective or presumptive evidence." Which one did Robertson mean?)
The Report itself is evidence that its author succeeded, by stretching out
verbose arguments and also by padding, in creating a formidable booklength
presentation for the taxpayers to foot the bill, and he "battled valiantly" to
use the words with a Don Quixote tinge first used in the Harvard publication,
to put on a good show.
However, his stuffing of one item bordered upon a mockery unless he
thought that nobody except indifferent minded people would read his effusions.
Let it be named, "The Grand Bluff at Erudition."
The Report contained a chapter (No. 10) titled, "From San Lucar to
Havana" which was three pages of briefed witness data of happenings in Cuba
in 1538, including some marching the army did, Santiago to Havana. Names
of towns visited were given, some yet existing, together with the distances
between them in leagues.
Anyone professing to be an expert researcher competent to author the
expensive Report (expense accounts for the Commission included, of course)
when he studied this portion of the narratives would see that this was the place
to compute with reliability which of the Spanish leagues was used by the De Soto
It would be elementary to scale the distance between these towns on any
good map in miles and divide it by the narrative's distance in leagues. The
result would closely approximate 2.63 miles to the league.
The Report arrived at that figure (to another decimal, thousandths!) in
typical fashion. (p. 104) Consulting some encyclopedia, as is obvious, the
author padded by giving mile equivalents for the "Flanders" (Flemish, whw.)
leagues, several French and English leagues, all of which countries had
nothing whatsoever to do with the De Soto ventures or research.
Then was puffed in the miles for certain Portuguese and some Spanish
leagues. The last one mentioned was, ". the Spanish judicial league,
2. 634 statute miles. This last has been the one usually assumed by the most
competent students of the movements of Spanish explorers in the New World."
Since Swanton assumed, was he by those words taking a bow, or was a comma
omitted after the word "most?"
This writer has acknowledged in prior publications that he has often been
tempted to attack the problem of finding the true De Soto route in the southeast
U. S. The work intrigues like no other avocation could. It is somewhat like
putting together a jigsaw puzzle and is entrancing. The men who 'make their
living' doing such research are envied. However, in this Paper restraint has
been exercised to confine remarks mainly to that part of the Report covering
modern Florida, yet these minor comments will be included.
In reading the narratives it will be noted that Ranjel (p. 85) tells of how,
when the army was somewhere in our present southern Georgia the next
spring, the General and a body of horsemen went off secretly on a scouting
ride, described as being of "12 leagues" in part.
Perhaps an earlier remark herein that Swanton seemed to "flip" at the men-
tion of that figure seemed too extremely jocose, but here is another case of it.
Present and future researchers in the area of Georgia and the Carolinas
should note that at the juncture remarked again Swanton's "almost perfect itin-
erary" must certainly have had to be juggled elsewhere in these States due to
the fact that again he erroneously used Ranjel's datum of the scouting troop
as part of a distance the entire army marched. (Rpt.pp. 174et seq.,p. 314)
He demurred that this section "of the journey" was "somewhat difficult
to trace owing to obscurities in the original narratives." One obscurity that
he himself introduced was this erroneous application of this 12 leagues and his
'correction' of it in spite of all context to the contrary, that the group contain-
ed infantry, and, he ignored the fact that they retraced some of their route.
In addition, there is no hint that De Soto did not do as he did in all other
similar advance scouting trips he must have sent messengers back to the
waiting army to order it to advance to meet him. Thus it would seem that the
horsemen were met by the army catching up at the end of their scouting ride
of which 12 leagues was only a part at that.
In this case there is circumstantial evidence to reconstruct and supply the
prima facie ellipsis of events in the accounts, to allow the assumption that
these horsemen followed two legs of a triangle on their route and the army
came up on another leg to join them at some point.
A careful analysis as to which narrators, if any, were with the advance
horsemen, and which were with the awaiting and later joining army, should aid
somewhat to solve the problems of interpretation.
Garcilaso's informant by this time was evidently removed from the intimate
contacts that he seemed to have had when he was a lancer on a fine horse. There
is a hint that until he lost his horse by an arrow, in late 1539, (after which he
probably was afoot, of course) he was sort of a satellite to Aniasco. So the
entire nature of the Inca's account is changed from the Tallahassee neighbor-
Swanton had another 'must' in these States'region, but it was self-imposed
in this instance.
He was convinced erroneously that the location of the Indian Cofitacheque
site was on the Savannah River in spite of the determinations of other far more
competent research historians (not ethnologists) that it was somewhere near
the junction of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. This latter location was
supported, among others, by the authoritative Spanish maps of 1765 and by
Del'Isle's of 1718, elsewhere herein discussed.
Thus again he had the necessity of making all sorts of changes in order to
warp the witness testimony to make it fit his preconceived erroneous notions.
As he did in the Florida section, he was compelled to shorten witness data
distances, overlook some, or even manufacture detours to absorb the trouble-
some overages. Not the least of his efforts, seemingly, was to omit a scale
on his Map No. 10 depicting his "perfect route" so that it would be difficult
to discover the fact that his text figures and the map distances do not at all
He began all the corrections, so-called, by changing the witness statement
that they went "northward" from the winter camp (p.9, Bourne's Vol. 2) to
northwestward and thus created the first large detour to accommodate his errors.
(Our justification for attributing to Swanton the use of the word "corrections"
by quote marks, can be found throughout the Report, even to page 312.)
It is to be hoped that very soon researchers will straighten out the latter
mentioned section of the De Soto route before more millions of dollars are
spent on archaeological excavations only to be possibly misinterpreted through
reliance upon the erroneous ratings of Swanton as to the locations of the
Indian sites visited and described by De Soto chroniclers.
I .. ..... ..... ..... .... ... .....
A letter, dated May 9, 1940, from an estimable professor with a medium
size Florida university, speaking for himself and two colleagues, said that one
of the "weak points" of our De Soto theory was that we said the statement
attributed to Biedma (Bourne, Vol. 2, p. 5) that the army started their invasion
by going "west and northwest" which would have taken them into the Gulf -
could be explained, due to an oddity of olden Spanish, to have been intended to
read, "east and northeast."
Although their comment showed that they had not studied the article on our
theory as carefully as inferred, since the route evolved therein was primarily
workedout entirely independent of the idea discussed, and, our words were in the
nature of an opinion based upon our route research results which both limelighted
and illuminated the said peculiarity of the Spanish, nevertheless they opined
that our statement flawed our theory.
Common Spanish-English dictionaries of today render our east into their
'este' and oriented and our west into 'oeste' and 'occidente' and so on, but in
earlier days the letter 'u' also often entered the situation. The Spanish Academy
Dictionary establishes, among others, that northeast was 'nordeste' and our
northwest was 'noroeste' and 'norueste' and our southeast could be 'sureste'
or 'sudeste;' our southwest was 'sudueste,' 'sudoeste' and 'suroeste.'
Anyone with half a try could script-tease 'nordeste' (northeast) when writing
roughly into either form of the words for northwest, to wit, 'noroeste' or 'norueste'
by cutting down on the upper part of the letter 'd' to create an 'o' and by cutting
down that upper part plus opening the bottom parts which would make a letter 'u.'
Similar mistakes of manuscript reading by an old time type setter could have
happened. How easy also it would have been to read either 'noroeste' or 'norueste'
(northwest) as 'nordeste' (northeast) if the second upward stroke of the 'o' or 'u'
was accidentally carried up too far in careless writing.
How else explain obvious errors in olden Spanish (and Portuguese) such as
occur in B. Smith's translation of the Portuguese narrative (Bourne, Vol. 1, p. 15)
"Cuba is 300 leagues long east to southeast" whereas what was intended was,
"west to southeast?" Also on the next page it was said, "Havana is in ...
eastern end of Island." On page 12 (Vol.2, ibid.) the word "northeast" was used
(line 21) but other De Soto evidence gave the direction as "northwest" which latter
fitted the situation being described very much more reasonably the 'northeast'
version making it necessary to assume the very unlikely fact that a river spoken
of had a right angle bend in it! The ancient Spanish and Portuguese languages
were very similar, both using 'este' for 'east and 'oeste' for 'west' and so on.
Researchers can be really foiled by such errors as on page 31, line 4, ibidd.)
where the rendition is "southwest" yet the original Spanish seen by this writer
used the word, "sudeste" which is 'southeast.'
DE SOTO'S TRICK
FOOLS REPORT'S AUTHOR.
Although the Report alleged that it was authored by a Committee, it has
been fairly well established that Swanton authored its body. Yet it cannot be
certain what individual composed the peroration style ending chapter to what,
it is inevitable, in future days will be a volume notorious for its cunning
Any politico or other type orator needing to crib some well rounded
phrases for a speech in re De Soto's time and career would be smart to do so
from the Report's "Concluding Remarks." (pp. 293 et seq.) Whoever the
author was of that flowery closing section and it just might have been Swan-
ton seems not to have been a perspicacious student.
To establish that point it will be necessary to relate a portion of the begin-
nings of the De Soto trek into the primeval wilds by giving a digest of the testi-
mony by the actual witnesses Swanton so self-delusively discredited, but their
stories should be almost fully accepted until a far better 'student' than he,
impeaches them with better contemporaneous admissible evidence.
Biographers of De Soto should, by rights, expand upon the following item
of 'his-story' when evaluating his career.
De Soto sailed from Havana with his men in fine fettle, full of high hopes
and expectations, his armada crammed with cassava bread, salted meats,
other provisions, spare accouterment, supplies and 'scads' of materiel -
indeed, everything likely to be needed and in amounts which must have thor-
oughly influenced his men to believe that their joint venture would be entirely
free from hardships. They did not then in their sanguine anticipations likely
entertain even a suspicion that there might be hitches or ifs possible.
Porters galore they would need to avoid their own backs' torture on the
march. Very well, they would catch Indians for that problem of logistics.
Slaves they might not make of them because of Royal and Papal inter-
diction, but by naming their expedition a "conquest" or "war" as they did,
they could observe those bans by using them as 'prisoners of war.'
They could travel in comfort and get rich besides or so it then seemed!
Soon after disembarkation and the establishment of the base camp, an al-
most miracle happened. De Soto came into possession of a Spaniard, captured
by the Indians off a ship some 11 years prior, who consequently by then knew
the Indian dialect of the neighborhood, at least.
At first blush he appeared to be a godsend in the way of an interpreter.
Instead, he became a jinx and problem for De Soto without a doubt. When
immediately questioned as to where they might find gold and jewels he quickly
and thoroughly convinced them that there was none around anywhere to be had.
Naturally, when the rank and file of the volunteer army heard that jolting
news it set off a reaction in them from their erstwhile stimulated high spirits
which plunged them into an abyss of disappointment causing them to lay back,
relax completely and become lazily content to live off the huge supplies while
they bemoaned, blasted and cursed their lack of luck around the camp fires.
This "no gold or jewels" bursted bubble came on top of what they, by then,
knew only too well at first hand.
Every effort.which the army raiders had made, whether by stealth with dogs
or in force, had failed to capture any Indians for use as porters, except a few
women and small children.
De Soto's new Lieutenant General, a rich Cuban, given the post in return
for generous supplies donated, defected about this time mainly so it was
openly acknowledged or pretended because of his disappointment in his main
objective which was to secure the fully expected surplus of Indians, after they
had captured all they needed for army porters, for his Cuban plantations and
mine slave gangs, no doubt to replace those slain by cruel overseers.
However, it may have quickened his decision to remember that he himself
was the leader in most of the bootless forays. He went back to Cuba fuming
at everything and, of course, the Indians who had outwitted him and also others
who had not been able either to capture the valuable and indispensable Indian
prisoners, the army's idea of a sina qua non.
They were stunned. Who would have thought, their musings must have
been, as they lolled around resisting a start of the inland march which they
now firmly considered a wild goose chase, that a 'civilized' army of many
hundreds of trained men would not be able to grab hordes, more than they
wanted, of unarmored, infidel Indians, armed only with bows and arrows!
One thing they had probably assumed hopefully would make such captures
inevitable was the then modern arquebuses which some of them carried, and
several flame and ball belching small cannon, the new firearms which had
enabled their compatriots to crush the Italians at Biocca and Pavia less
than two decades prior.
However, even by then they had sadly discovered that the Indians could
jump around, discharging accurately sent arrows at every hop, so that the
slow fusing 'modern' weapons were useless against them. It was all unbeliev-
able indeed! They probably glanced with chagrin at the piles of iron neck
collars connected to each other in groups with chains, which they had so very
confidently unloaded in quantity from the armada's holds.
De Soto's position can be imagined. For over a month his headquarters
camp had become no more than a sort of summer vacation resort for the
recalcitrant army. He risked not only mutiny if he began to use force on his
volunteers, but also a rush for the ships anchored in the ancon with him
in the brig in chains in the bargain if he survived.
The men even rejected the idea, casually brought up by some, that since
they had brought everything necessary along in anticipation of such a project,
they could establish a settlement there. NO! What for? The soil was infer-
tile thin sand as they all could see and which they even knew, learned from
others, before they came.
De Soto could not help but see himself blocked while they consumed his
wealth rapidly feeding up toward a thousand people was costly. But he
realized that his command to break camp for the march would be the beginning
of the end.
In his desperation he made a move which was reported only by his secre-
tary and which has, as far as is known, heretofore escaped comment by his
biographers. It was a rash last ditch idea and would have violent repercus-
sions and boomerang as any hind sight could see. It resulted in later near
mutinies, tumult and strife, and some more sitdownn' camps little noticed
The rescued Spaniard told them of an important chief, inland 25 leagues,
who was some sort of an overchief or head-of-staff to others in war; as we
of today can guess, he was a leader of a loose confederation as later observed
with Indians of several large regions, organized to resist the whites.
De Soto went into the act of seeming to draw upon his experience gained in
Peru and of trying the formula so successful there and even hinted in his
Monarch's Florida concession to him. By capturing the biggest chief avail-
able and holding him for ransom he could thereby secure any gold or jewels
the Indians might possess, and besides, make them furnish porters (and
women) and compel them to make their subjects behave (which consisted in
the said subjects bringing in their stores of food to feed the army) or risk
their beloved chief's life.
He sent one of his captains with a fairly strong force of both horsemen and
footsoldiers inland to that chief's town or what appeared to the Spaniards to
be his 'capital' to see what could be accomplished.
However, De Soto had a secret design behind the apparent front idea. The
Captain was told to send to De Soto synthetic very favorable news but let the
secretary tell it note the key words, "to encourage the men." (R.pp. 62 et
seq.) "The governor had ordered Baltasar de Gallegos even
though he found no good land, that he should write good
news to encourage the men; and, although it was not his
nature to lie since he was a man of truth, yet to obey the
order of his superior and not to dismay the men, he always
wrote two letters of different tenor, one truthful, and the
other of falsehoods, yet falsehoods so skilfully framed with
equivocal words that they could be understood one way or
the other because they required it; and in regards to this,
he said that the true letter would have more force to excul-
pate himself than the false one evil to harm him. And so
the Governor did not show the true letters, but announced
beforehand that what he did not show was very secret infor-
mation which later on would be made clear for the great
advantage of all. The ambiguous and deceptive letters he
showed and made such declarations as seemed best to him.
"Those letters, although they promised no particular
thing, gave hopes and hints that stirred their desires to
go forward and emerge from doubts to certainty; wherefore
as the sins of mankind are the reason that falsehood some-
times finds reception and credit, all became united and of
one mind and requested the invasion of the land, which was
just what the Governor was contriving; and those that were
ordered to stay behind with Captain Calderon were heavy
in spirit, and there were of them forty horse and sixty foot
left in guard of the village and the stuff and the harbour
and of the brigantines and boats that were left, for all
the ships had been despatched to Havana."
Passing over the temptation to comment on the discipline of the army -
volunteers, true, but who had to be tricked to "request" orders to do what
they had come to do it must be told that the newfound enthusiasm must have
been indeed high because it seemingly was not lessened by the return just about
the time of the receipt of all this false news and the working up of the renewed
enthusiasm, of strong forces under the new Cuban Lieutenant General and
another under a foremost Captain, which had been sent to a nearby island,
the latter by boat and the former with horsemen to occupy the mainland
adjacent to the island, to capture "some thousand Indians" said to have
congregated there. As usual the raid had failed miserably, but its com-
plete lack of success did not faze the newly engendered mob-enthusiasm.
The Cuban Lt. General and De Soto then had a violent hassle and at this
crucial moment the Cuban, as mentioned, decided to go home. It is to be
wondered if, in his high officership, he either heard about or knew of De Soto's
trickery and wanted no part of it?
It was at this interval that De Soto ordered the ships to Havana to be sold,
no doubt also to burn bridges and thwart any lurking ideas later that there was
a chance to throw up the sponge and go home on them even if by force.
This juncture was also made memorable by the General writing a letter,
(Bourne, Vol. 2, p. 159 et seq., and Fla. Hist. Quarterly, XVI, 3, Jan. '38,
pp. 174-178) the first to be datelined from this land, which, if weighed with
all the convergent happenings in mind can probably be deemed a jewel of the
art of sharp practice and crafty persuasion.
When one recalls Ranjel's considered phrase regarding the fact that the
Governor divulged only the false letters to the men, saying that head "made
such declarations as seemed best to him" one cannot help but be inclined to
suspect that De Soto was quite circumspect in his double talk to the army con-
cerning the 'good news' and equally cryptic about what the "secret information"
was in the letters he withheld, and then used this letter to let them entrap them-
selves by supplying themselves their own liberal assumptions. That way he
could later defend himself and surely he knew he needs must have to do so
at the reckoning time by saying that he did not say anything like what they did
believe by jumping to their own conclusions.
Letters being of a private nature, as it must be supposed he pretended this
one was, whatever of information they covertly found out from it, by any code,
they were bounden not to mention their source in any recriminations back and
So in it De Soto could safely even expand upon the fake inducements "skil-
fully framed" in the decoying letters and then if he took special care to see
that the ubiquitous grapevine and scuttlebutt channels supposedly surrepti-
tiously got wind of the extravagant outlook he pictured by cautious words
voiced in this document, the army mob might even leap to the rabid idea
that what he stated he would hold back, but which he also said "later on
would be made clear for the greater advantage of all" was even a far more
Utopian prospect than what he had hinted out of the letters he publicized to
them. Certainly, they would assure themselves over and over, he had no
motive to mislead the folks at home, so what he said in this letter to others,
which they through their acumen had knowledge of on the sly, unknown to him,
was fully reliable and dependable.
Let that letter be carefully inspected with some of that in mind as a
First of all, a pondering person would ask himself why, at a time when he
was harried by the problems of. insubordination, defection of his next-in-com-
mand, failure of all Indian-porter capturing raids all on top of the removal
of all hopes for readily found riches would he compose such a long letter in
those amanuensis days, seemingly as calmly as though no troubles beset him,
and why would he so strive to build up falsely without profit to him the home
folks' opinion of his fortunes in his adventure?
His letter had a backdrop of enough of the commonplace gossip to lull any
suspicions of an ulterior motive whether that was the purpose or not of its
inclusion. It had enough of the invocational religious tone (which fooled the
Report's author; see below) to stir the men into a spirit of "dedication" as he
claimed he did for himself, and it all ended up with what well could have been
pure camouflage, a mere 'request' from him, as Governor of Cuba, for a
minor matter of construction in Havana, just to lend an additional cloak of
lamb innocence to it. A governor usually would direct in polite but firm and
definite orders. (Suffice it tosay that the Havana authorities vetoed and ignored
the 'request.' Were they 'put wise' by some of the men on the returned ships ?)
To the men of the army the sending of that letter, what with the return of
the ships, probably appeared but a natural thing to do, no doubt. But one would
think that they would have wondered why De Soto never whispered a word in it
of greetings to his wife or seemed to know that she existed perhaps in their
then frame of mind they were not in a thinking mood, only a 'let's go' zeal. Or,
they might not have had details sufficient for such an observation, but to the
meticulous student of the letter today that angle cannot escape consideration.
No matter how careful the study there can be found but the one motive for
the writing of that letter. As one goes deeper into its content the inescapable
conclusion must be that the letter was just one more item of propaganda climax-
ing all the false synthetic allurements which De Soto had handed out to his men
in verbal honeyed, exciting phrases so that they were "so blinded by a greed
so uncertain" through "such vain discourses as Hernando De Soto was able to
utter to those deluded soldiers" (R.p. 92) that, for the moment they were as
putty in his hands.
On that memorable July 9, 1539, in that letter De Soto wrote, he related
first such prosaic things as of the landing complications and delays on arrival,
of the establishment of the camp, and then of the rescue of the Spaniard, Juan
Ortiz, whom the Indians had held captive. It is seemingly significant that he
refrained from mentioning that Juan insisted there was no gold around, instead,
referred to him as an asset.
He told of the important chief and of how he had sent Baltasar there. Then
he began to tell of the exceedingly fine items of "good news" which, of course,
had come from no other source than Baltasar's false letters to start with,
which were ordered by De Soto himself to be formulated and sent back to him.
A few of these fabrications were, "He has found fields of maize, beans and
pumpkins, with other fruits, and provisions in such quantity as would suffice
a very large army without its knowing a want." So when they did start, their
lack of porters did not bother them much for they carried little food!
He told how the advance group had 'captured' 17 Indians, whereas the
truth was that they had been made prisoners when they had come in to parley,
while their cautious chief remained hidden. He explained how among these 17
there were "old men of authority" who were the alleged 'authority' for more
fancy statements such as two large towns to be reached by just a few days of
march through maize fields galore, one of them said to be so large "that I
dare not repeat all that is said."
In those words was the hint of as many Indian porters as they could wish,
so they took along what they could manage without labor of those slave iron
There was to be found, he went on, not alone the foods mentioned, but a
"multitude of turkeys, kept in pens, and herds of tame deer that are tended."
That was cutely put in, no doubt, because the Spaniards were already red meat
As though that were not enough 'persuasion' and what a seventh-heaven
it held out for men who were women-frustrated as well as cruel and Indian
slayers (to feed the dogs, lots of times) he said that the Indians there
ahead of the advance force had "many trades" and "much intercourse, an
abundance of gold and silver and many pearls. May it please God that this
may be so; for of what these Indians say I believe nothing but what I see;
although they know and have it for a saying, that if they lie to me it will cost
them their lives." Now just why should he be making such a remark to the
folks at home? Braggadocio? Scarcely, but how handy the statement would
come in later when he came to the accounting with the men. One can almost
hear him quoting those last words, that he himself never did believe the tales,
inferring if not saying they were fools to do so, when the trouble started when
the army found out that they had been hoaxed.
Continuing, he said, "This interpreter puts new life into us, in affording
the means of our understanding these people" and thereby he made the men
feel that Juan (who was with the advance contingent) insured there were no
misunderstandings, about those miraculous good things ahead.
Finally came the good, the grandstand show of hypocricy, the inclusion of
phrases which would stimulate the men's almost ingrained religious fanaticism,
"Glory be to God, who by His goodness has directed all, so that it appears as
if He had taken this enterprise in His especial keeping, that it may be for His
service, as I have supplicated, and do dedicate to Him." Are not those words
based upon those wonderful good things in prospect? Would he say it that way
unless he considered something fine was in sight? So the men may have thought.
With that he tapered off into mundane matters again and began to close his
letter. But it must be remarked that earlier he had indicated they would
winter at one of the two huge towns, "at the Ocale" which it was said the
Indians said was a mere five days march onward from where Baltasar was
There at that town "so large, and they so extol it, that I dare not repeat
all that is said," they would, "if what is said be true have nothing to
desire." Does it not seem that there must have been a motive to be telling
the home people about his wintering plans when it was yet only July?
Before relating how De Soto's slick trick stratagem ended up, this is the
time to examine what the author of the Report's "Concluding Remarks" de-
duced from the spate of "supplication" and "praise" phrases, "May it
please God that this is so Glory be to God, who has directed all He
has taken this enterprise in His especial keeping all of which can be
seen to have been sheer dissimulation and a snare in addition to its hypoo-
ricy, because at the writing of those devotional words De Soto knew well
that all the alleged godgiven dispensations were imaginary and deceit.
As said, a thorough study of the letter shows absolutely no other impor-
tant motive for its composition and sending than the one suggested, that it
was to climax the "encouragement."
It was all a desperate move but what man would not be despairing with al-
most his entire fortune invested in that expedition and, to use slang, it was
not peanuts and it was his only gamble to march inland beyond where Juan,
the erstwhile captive, was acquainted to find gold or some other profitable
return or death.
This equivocation De Soto was practicing was completely undetected by the
the author of the last chapter of the Report, who, in writing of the motives
of the army personnel, gauchely sermonized, "We cannot, therefore, deny
in toto the presence in De Soto and many of his followers of an element of
knightly honor and religious devotion in prompting an expedition which, in
other respects, seems so sordid. It is impossible to believe that De Soto
was merely a self-conscious hypocrite when he wrote 'Glory be to God,
who by His goodness has directed all .'. "
The author of that last chapter thus demonstrates that he also was 'taken
in' by the De Soto letter, not grasping that De Soto, not God, had furnished
the artificial bait to lead the men forward on their cruel invasion.
That author spoke of "knightly honor" which item of their unwritten code
did show up frequently in the De Soto narratives. In the consequences which
beset De Soto as a penalty for his deceit it played a prominent part in one way
which is painful to the researcher of today.
It was against their code, for instance, to "tattle" on each other. Perhaps
the one who stepped out of bounds in many ways the most, Ranjel, was quite
spotty in his tattling. He rated himself as a gentleman (R.p. 71) and was care-
ful to specify that he was a cavalier (one translator rendered it weakly,
"equestrian") and not of the cavalry.
He came near the falling off place several times, especially when he took
pains to criticize his Governor adversely, or to supply sex interest for his
readers indeed, it was done even that long ago! such as the case where
he told (R.p. 78) of the lad Herrera (not a cavalier, so not to him honor
bound?) who, during a later march was given one of newly captured Indian
women as his slave and he "staid alone with her and behind his companions"
and she was "of such stuff" that she seized "him by his private parts and
had him worn out and at her mercy; and perhaps, if other Christians had not
come by who rescued him the Indian woman would have killed him." (It could
fleetingly occur to some, "What were the other Christians doing even farther
behind than the lad Herrera who was behind? And, if she had him at her
mercy she did not need to kill him to escape only!)
Ranjel then made a statement in the next sentence obviously catering to
his 'knightly honor' but it would seem that it was poor balm for the harm al-
ready dealt. He purred, "He had not wanted to have to do with her in a carnal
way, but she wanted to get free and run away." Perhaps those naive words
would absolve the lad in some simple minds and thus "Knight" Ranjel would
be observing his code?
The point of this honor discussion is to bring out that there was, probably
because of knightly honor prohibiting tattling, a blackout of news covering the
turmoil which was undoubtedly precipitated at the important chief's town when
the army caught up to the advance contingent whose captain had sent the dual
One can imagine the goggling of eyes and the bulging of veins when men of
the rejoining army rushed up to their buddies of the advance contingent to
exchange gloatings and congratulations over all the fine prospects and, maybe
just a bit dubiously ask where it was, how far ahead, only to have the advance
group's men stare amazed for a moment then explode in real belly guffaws at
the 'practical joke' as we would term it today that someone had played
upon the army!
One can but give a wry smile at the mite of foreboding which must have
plagued Baltasar as one reads Ranjel's only wisp of disclosure when he said
the Captain let his men stay at the overchief's town but he himself hurried
back to meet the oncoming De Soto before the two army bodies reunited. They
just had to get their stories dovetailed?
If it were not for the several sets of distances given by Garcilaso de la Vega
in his La Florida which cross check each other it might be difficult indeed to
reconstruct the army's day to day movements during that upheaval.
However, this much is certain: The messengers sent back by the Captain
had warned that there was a league wide marsh with a river central in it,
three leagues beyond the big chief in the direction of the fictional large city
population, so they had come prepared and crossed it in one day, then pro-
ceeded only a half league and camped on a nice part of the prairie.
But evidently the air was so uncomfortable for De Soto that he had to do
something, and besides, if they went farther in their taken direction they
would soon find that even the huge population places were fakes.
It was said that he announced the terrain was too wet ahead of them to
advance farther in that direction and he skipped out to find an 'out.'
Almost immediately he crossed back over the marsh-river with only about
a dozen horsemen and little food. He went up along the west bank scouting for
another crossing place and to lure the army along, which had ensconced
itself in the new camp.
Three days later and 12 leagues up the marsh-river he found his desired
second crossing place. Again he luckily saved the day because he found a
small village six leagues farther beyond the second crossing amidst quite a
few small patches of corn, which was in the young ear stage but having as
many as two or three ears to the stalk.
Having sent back for the army, which was in dire need of food, they
straggled after him in a completely undisciplined manner to the small village
site and immediately went into another 'sit-down' camp.
Again De Soto went ahead very shortly. Nearly four weeks later he again
lured his army to where he had penetrated by sending word of a large popula-
tion and this time it is supposed that the eight messengers he sent back
verified to their comrades that it was a fact, but even yet many were not at
all satisfied to continue the invasion.
He had been plagued with near mutinies even in the force he had picked to
go with him on the advance and one river they crossed was dubbed the "River
of Discords" due to a verbal fracas there but that was all that Ranjel would
tell. But it must have been a real rumpus, very many in that contingent also
wanting to turn around and retrace their steps homeward.
The composite of testimony covering the large region from the town six
leagues beyond the second crossing, back to about ten leagues before they
came to the overchief's town, affords a final test of the accuracy and authen-
ticity of any De Soto route theory proposed as being the true one trod by the
doughty Conquistador. Swanton was compelled to ignore most of the data
given for that region and he butchered what he did pick out, since, of course,
it did not at all fit his notion of the route's location.
The specifications are remarkably complete for this part of the route as
to topography, directions and distances supplied the researcher, excepting
only the blackout on personal relations when the forces reunited the first
time and onward.
Besides it being all prairie for at least the 30 odd leagues they traveled,
there flowed through its easterly portion an extraordinary river, central of
marshes, almost a league wide, (this width being corroborated for that day
by present day vegetation and soil conditions) with mucky banks and such
channel conditions that it could not be crossed with reasonable efforts except
at very few places at large distances apart in De Soto's experience, 12
leagues. (Gar. Pt. 1, Bk. 2, chs. 13, 14, 15, and Pt. 2, Bk. 2, chs. 8, 9, 12, 13,
As a deduction, anyone knowing the nature of rivers through level land
such as prairies, would know that the impeding conditions against crossings
would be 'dead' channels, and mucky, vegetable growth clogged islands
The composite mentioned is, briefly: No closer than 12 leagues apart
in our particular type of marsh-river must be found two practical crossing
places, the upper one being a rare, if not the only case of a 'twin' crossing
place for it was told that at this second crossing they found another practical
one at a distance of "three shot lengths of an arquebus" above it. (Gar. Pt. 1,
Bk. 2, chap. 13. This writer is informed through the Head Curator of the A. F.
Hist. Dept., Smithsonian Institution, that Mr. Harold Peterson, "of the National
Park Service, a noted authority" says the average range of this gun "was about
100 yards." The distance between the twin crossings, therefore, should figure
around 1,000 feet or thereabout. See additional arquebus data on page 86.)
Those specifications can fit but one place in all of Florida, and when a route
is proposed which dodges, as did Swanton's in the Report, all these items of
factual data, then it is not an authentic route reconstruction.
Such an assembly furnishes a really intriguing opportunity for a dedicated
researcher, and perhaps the reader will bear with us if we explain that point.
To anyone who really knows all of Florida's topography, the mention of a
prairie of that size given as a minimum indicates, inevitably, one certain
section. Passing over that prima facie clue for the moment, notice the follow-
ing semi-schematic 'map' of a section of the route which can be derived from
the data specified.
Beginning with a base line, north and south 20 leagues long, a crossmark
scaled down from the top by 6 leagues will denote the approximate location of
De Soto's second crossing; from that as a center and with a radius of 12 leagues
an arc should be drawn to the southward; also, from the south end of the 20
league base line as a center, an arc should be scribed with a radius of three
leagues to the easterly until it intersects the first arc. That intersection point
is about where the first, or downstream crossing of the marsh-river was made.
As can be grasped from the operation thus far, the marsh-river's general
course was from the west of north to the east of south.
Then there was another item given which is quite definitive: When proceed-
ing northerly along the west bank of the marsh-river on the 12 leagues leg of
the triangle formed, there must be found in the actual terrain of the map's
actual locales, some sort of a topographical feature about two thirds of the
way up which would dictate to those traveling northward that they swing a
bit away from the marsh-river and "come back to it." The De Soto forces did
this, directed by an Indian guide, which could have been required either by
wet ground conditions near the marsh-river, or even a slight change of course
of the latter. (Gar. Pt. 1, Bk. 2, ch. 13)
It is entirely possible, it is true, that this swinging away and back was a
device of their Indian guide to lead the invaders around an Indian village on
the marsh-river's west bank. It is this writer's conclusion from rough
field work that it was probably both.
The angle formed by the radii of the two arcs struck is somewhat checked
by another datum, when it was stated (Gar. Pt. 2, Bk. 2, ch. 15) that a contin-
gent of lancer messengers who traveled that following autumn back over the
route of the army to command the garrison at the beachhead camp site to
destroy or abandon all stores and march to rejoin the Governor, made 13
leagues in one day's ride from the upper crossing place to a point just north-
erly of the overchief's town. They were on a cutoff past the first crossing
which was to the eastward, and perhaps bypassed the chief's town. The
distance was not great because they started their ride at daybreak and passed
it at sunrise.
There are some other examples also of interesting conditions, too lengthy
to be included herein in our allowed space, able to be deduced from the evidence
given by the De Soto chroniclers, which fit the true route followed by the
Governor and which will not fit any other proposal.
Therefore, speaking only for his travels through what is now Florida, it
is indeed possible to reconstruct authentically and very closely in spots the
path which De Soto and his motley array trod from the available data.
..........' ... ..... .'. .......... .'............ .. ..
These observations are offered as a caution signal to De Soto researchers in
present Florida, (Tallahassee section northward,) Georgia and the Carolinas'
areas. The Report is seldom able to be cross checked since, it evidently being
conceived in confusion, cross checking is automatically excluded. The following
items present one case where statements on various pages can be examined
against each other.
On line six in "Appendix B" (p. 302) of a Table titled, "Rates of Travel of
Spanish Army along Assumed Route (1539-1542)" this data is given: "Westlake
(Ga.) to Silver Bluff, S.C., Miles (apart) 136; days (army traveled between) 9;
miles (averaged) per day, 15+." (Parentheses ours.whw.)
On pages 178 et seq., and on page 185 (last 8 lines) the Westlake, Ga.,
locality is equated with the chiefs Cofaqui and Patofi and the Silver Bluff place
is identified as the Cofitachequi of the Indians.
On page 105, lines 23 et seq., for the exactly same portion of the march the
statement was, "The rate (of march. whw) in the latter case is perhaps indicated
by the fact that in passing through the wilderness before coming to Cofitachequi
he (the Portuguese) states that they traveled 9 days of 7 or 8 leagues each (18 to
21 miles per day.)"
Yet on pages 315-316 in an abstract of testimony it is found that it is said that
the participants say variously that it took from 9 to 13 days to negotiate the distance
(and the last two days of the 9 to 10 days datum was not by the entire army but for
De Soto with a troop of cavalry.) Ranjel said (p. 91) that it was "9 or 10 days march.
As best as it can be deciphered the Report's own abstract gives it at 10 days, not the
9 days of the Table.
While examining this Table it should be noted that the totals claimed (the maps
do not tally!) of days marched and distance to the Tallahassee region are: 314 miles;
27. 5 days of march net of stops. The average rate per day figures 11.75 miles, the
range being from 10. 5 to 13. 5 miles in the Table the lattermost rate being given
for a section part of which the witness said was traveled slowly to favor the wounded!
Added to such errors and divergence of statements is the fact that the figure for
days marched in the second line is for an advance force, not the main army. The
time taken by the army for that distance was not given but is able to be computed.
On pages 307-310 incl., it is indicated that the army marched as a body: 9
days to the first Marsh-River crossing; 4 to 5 days to next camp, (a disorganized
march,) thence 9 days (calculated, whw) again to rejoin an advance group; thence
10 days to winter camp (Tallahassee region): Total of march in Florida (next
spring's march northward not included) 32 to 33 days.
Thus, by jumbling the days marched by advance contingents in with days of
army marches the Report was able to reduce (as was its necessity to offset
errors) this 32 to 33 days datum to 27. 5 days in the Table.
Postscript to Units Two to Five incl.
EXCERPTS FROM SOME LETTERS AND
FROM THE REPLIES THERETO.
As might be supposed, this writer had for long consulted with friends as to
how to approach the matter of treatment in his within expose of the Report. As
the within Papers neared publication some letters were received, as requested,
from friends who had kindly agreed to assist with editing and the privilege was
asked of including the following, which may be somewhat a prolepsis.
Some letters supported the forcible style employed for the disclosures while
others were not so certain that it was for the best.
Altogether, some valuable and greatly appreciated comment was offered, for
which we wish to thank each of them sincerely whether quoted here or not.
One close friend wrote, in part, "I think I know precisely how you feel .
I know that Swanton made many errors and I know that some of them were wilful
in that he was told better but insisted on having his own way. In all fairness I
would point out that your criticisms must be handled in a very coldly objective
manner or they will not be read. "
Another wrote, "I have received the De Soto material which you sent .
Naturally, I am familiar with most of the conclusions and arguments and I think
you know my basic agreement with your approach. I really can't find anything on
the factual level to make any comments on.
However, Wilkie, I do feel that it doesn't help the strength of your argument
to make too much of an argumentative approach to the problem. Swanton's errors
are not windmills or a dead issue, let me make that clear. But I feel that your
work will get better acceptance when it is less polemic. Now believe me, I know
this is hard to do. I've been engaged in a few minor things of the sort myself,
and the typewriter seems to want to go ahead and tear into the opposition. But
while aggressive criticism does not in itself cloud the correct interpretation,
it does often create a hurdle to overcome in the mind of the reader. It raises
the question, 'Is he overstating his own case?' In your case this is not true,
but I believe more people will pay attention to a somewhat (not completely) dis-
passionate approach ."
With the explanation that the above excerpts were written by very fine and
knowledgeable professional anthropologists, I dare say that their remarks were
from their own standpoint as such, and they almost solely considered their own
class of scholars and did not take into consideration the practical 'popular'
angles. But as often expressed, one of the writer's ambitions has been the
possibly non-scientific move of making possible the return to the true locales
of De Soto events their legitimate ancient historical beginnings of over four
To accomplish this the local interests and newspapers, where, in the past
it has wrongfully been made to appear the events happened, will no doubt need
to be, not just informed of the true facts, but battled back as they strike at the
one who, they will not fail to assume, is inimical to their interests in the matter.
However, that can all be brought out by giving what the reply was, in part,
to the question another asked, "Why are you so rough on Swanton? He was a
respected scholar and did his best."
If, (I wrote, in effect) by "rough" is meant 'severe' the term is accepted
with explanations allowed; however, if there is any intimation that any of
my writings have been ungentlemanly then in that case there is an onus, the
inference of a charge. If such be there, the privilege is taken of denying it
categorically with the companion right of showing that such was not the case
even in the slightest way.
If Justice deals roughly at times it is but a custom under our government
by law. First offenders are often 'made examples of' and terrific punishment
meted. The sentence is indeed so "rough" as to excite your sympathy and
kindle public pity. In many cases where the law proved unpopular later culprits
who were guilty in the same or worse degree have been let go scot free even
yet while the first offenders were serving their sentence! That vagary of life
may be involved in our present subject.
Another angle may also enter. Not too long ago a "respected scholar" -
one of many supposedly 'better' citizens involved was allotted pitiless scorn
nationally when it was disclosed that the TV Quiz shows in which he was a "big
winner" were deceitful and that he was privy to the fact.
He was removed from his collegiate job which represented his life's security
and his lifetime continued 'respectability' which to me, were I his age, would be
Would it be argued that because others in that mess of deceiving the public,
even as I claim the Report attempted to do, who were as deep as he was (except
financially) were all passed over and were not punished with scorn and disgust,
escaping by the device of hiding through keeping mighty mum, would it be
judged that he was flayed too cruelly?
Not but a short time ago the chairman of a National Commission which ruled
over a phase of public business assigned by law to its handling, was exposed as
guilty of a 'crime' almost, and he needs must "quit under fire." What was his
so-called dastardly offense ? He was seen accepting the hospitality of a tycoon
in the business his Commission regulated. (Parenthetically, is it the sense of
the democratic world that no one who accepts public office is to be considered
above corruption? That he may have no friends whatever in the business he
helps regulate because he is considered too venal else he would not have
accepted public service?)
The members of the De Soto Commission probably more than just once
accepted favors from the crowd that they knew was behind the creation of
their body. None of them was naive enough not to realize that their Report
would be used as a tool to impress the Congress and the public so as to secure
backing for the then much ballyhooed exposition which was to be Tampa's.
Often they were given strong hints that their Report had to be manufactured
by a certain psychological time in that ballyhoo for use in its scheme. Was there
a bit of parallel between theirs and the above cases?
The human element is not confined to certain persons or classes. If public
opinion was so rough in other cases, why a plea for others that they may escape
entirely any penalty of scorn if indicated deserved; or even rigid examination
and if the least deceit be found their complete pitiless exposure for the
In the case of the TV Quiz impositions upon the credulity of the public, some
person 'in the know' had to appoint himself to expose the matter, to start the
relentless tearing off of the phony masks of erudition the latter sham, as is
shown in the following Papers, being also put on by the Report and, it is proper
to ask, was this person a blackguard or even ungentlemanly to initiate the expose?
Perhaps some will say that he would have been if he had ulterior motives such
as revenge or personal gain. I shudder at the latter thought because there
might be those who would assign a selfish motive to me but I recover my
aplomb immediately when I realize that such are not in the world I know.
Swanton divested himself of any claims to a cloak of immunity to rigid
public appraisal such as a "respected scholar" might possess when he
withdrew from the latter class and became a holder of public office, appointed
through political maneuverings, and began using and spending the public's
tax money. There was no neutral position, in his case, tenable where there
would not be a conflict of interests between scholarship and commercialism.
He demonstrated that he was without the pale of the scholars' code when
he took on the job undoubtedly with the understanding and plan to give to the
exposition crowd his Report in time for them to use it at the said psychological
moment to influence public opinion and the Congress, which a true scholar
would not do, and that, in addition, he knew that he had, by the enabling Act,
only to the next session of the Congress to file that Report an unconscionable
short time for work all scholars would know would require almost the lifetime
of an expert researcher.
It goes without saying that.in view of those unscholarly objectives and the
wickedly short time available, that he had some personally motivated scheme
to meet those unscholarly deadlines and constraining handicaps.
If this design was nothing more than to assemble figureheads, almost stooges,
on the Commission, then manipulate by parliamentary process the so- called
Fact Finding Committee into being as pretended author, of course keeping him-
self in the driver's seat of it all, the autocrat of the Report, so as to be able
to wangle into it the whimsical theories he had evolved over the years along
with a couple other supplements, so he could produce a Report to satisfy the
exposition project's backers, it all amounted to a low grade politician's
sublety and not the achievement of a scholar.
True, in the matter of the time stricture, even it might be argued that
he took longer than originally allottedto him. Yes, when the backers had lost
out to the New York cohorts, and the Report's usefulness as originally intended
had vanished through the interim superascendancy of the 1939 New York Expo-
sition, the backers did secure for him extensions of time for both the Report
and his appropriations.
In public office his performance and work were and are subject to public
approval, or disapproval, censure and even condemnation and repudiation by
any citizen or body, not just by the politicos and commercial interests who
were backing the Tampa "Celebration" and his Commission.
That Report was and is a public document, pure and simple, not a sacrosanct
work of a scholar in an Art. It was not even 'scientific' as is shown in the
No one can say that the entire Commission was a bunch of stooges for
Swanton. No one can prove that all the members' names first were nominated
by him, though in such cases it is customary and always conducted thusly. It
is prima facie that the Tampa Exposition crowd had their representative on it.
But can anyone who studies the subject deny that what was put forth by the
tritely named Fact Finding Committee was the pet theory of Swanton plus a
few local theories generated in the western areas? Was his reason for unschol-
arly hiding his, the principal authorship "scientific detachment" or did he sub-
merge himself to author under that pseudonym (which scholars do not do!) of
a Committee for reasons possibly of modesty (though Swanton always did like
public print!) or was it because of the pressure of his sponsors' suggestions
that it would be just too rash for him to engineer the Report through for them
in his own name, since that might detract from its power to stimulate publicity
and Exposition propaganda to be used by the latter's lobbyists?
And, let it be stressed, the Report was intended for just that non-scholarly,
quasi-commercial use instead of as a bible on De Soto history because that
enabling Act resolution openly indicated that a "celebration" was to be the
main objective "recommendation" of the Commission, not National beginnings
Swanton had been nurtured almost all his adult life by the Arts. When he
used his standing and efforts to serve the double-headed master, commerce
and arts, he betrayed his true self and loyalties.
That, therefore, was and is the status of Swanton before the Nation which
had more or less directly supported him through life.
The answer, therefore, as to just what words are proper to be used in
describing faults of and the affronts against the public perpetrated by this
Governmental Report possibly may be with the one who files the 'information'
or the complainant.
Perhaps this writer is to be chided for the seeming attitude that he has
taken in his adverse criticism. Was it improper for him to seem to set him-
self up as a public prosecutor presenting the sordid evidence against the accused,
as though to a grand jury in order to obtain an indictment by laying sufficient of
the evidence lucidly before them so that it could be passed on to the final jury,
the public, if warranted, for that body to adjudicate it?
If so, I apologize to you and will by appropriate means to the public.
But is it not customary for the D.A. to be excused from observing the basic
right of even the sorriest criminal, to wit, to be considered innocent until ad-
judged guilty? Most of the impassioned arraignments, given after fierce and
relentless presentation of the evidence, by the Prosecutors to the juries on
which this writer has served, certainly let there be no doubt that they and the
law were confident as to the guilt of the defendant.
Perhaps there are those who will advance the idea that in the case of the
Report that there has been no harm done to the public!
It must be assumed that they who support that stand (forgetting all about the
ending huge amount of money that was and is being spent to perpetuate a false
history and to establish and support a misplaced National Historical Memorial,
so offensively advertising that imposition, all because of local pressure which
used the Report's ridiculous content) omitting niention of several other angles,
the proponents of that idea must consider it is wrong to teach our children
untruths in morals, arithmetic and such, yet it is perfectly proper to teach
them untruths in history i.e., fake history
True, to the mythical-man on the street it matters not what the truth may
be in history. He gets as much raw enjoyment out of the pretty girl decorated
De Soto pageant celebrating the landing of that historical figure whether paraded
one place or another, the true locale or any trumped up site. It does not faze
him in the least in his daily push for bread.
But are we to have coming generations point to their forebears as "suckers"
(the modern youth has a new name for them) or even as hypocrites? Or as fools
if we thought they would never catch up with the untruths we labeled 'history'
and admonished and forced them to study well for such would guide them unerringly
in life? Or as nitwits if we caused them to pore over and learn statements which
were easily capable of exposure as gross errors if our generation had been but
a bit less on the dupe side?
Though seemingly farfetched, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that
when the coming generation learns the truth and finds that our Government
imprimatured the publication of the Report and vicariously sponsored its
sorry text and paid out the peoples' tax money for it, in addition to the annual
drain caused by the setting up of "Memorials" to perpetuate its false history
sites, that it will sow the seeds of disrespect for such a system of democracy
and government which could possibly bear distasteful fruit later.
Mayhap it might be said that I should merely have tagged all the stuff in the
Report as errors, corrected them and mildly have written finis. Or I could have
written pages of apologia for the "Feeble Fact Finding Committee" and inferred
that a scholar would not have done so sadly (None on it was a 'pro' historian!)
Others may say that it would have been enough had I merely forwarded
another theory to supplant the Report's wretched version.
I protest that I am not so naive as to accept any of that watery food for
consideration in the light of my life's experience one item in particular.
It has been well said that one must never fight a newspaper unless one owns
a newspaper. This writer does not yet own one and knows from sharp experience
what is likely to happen again.
To 'save face' the Tampa area newspapers would shout to their public (their
bread and butter which they are bounden to defend and uphold at all hazards!) in
headlines bold that the Report was issued by a Governmental authority; that the
Congress freely paid money out for it; that it is theirs, the Tampa area public's,
and, so to speak, the bible of De Soto history their history; and that they and
it were being maligned by some traitor to and interloper in their affairs a
scoundrel and thereupon this writer could do just what he had 'to do the other
time it happened back in the mid-30s.
I was at Fort Myers at the time, enthusiastic with the developing results of
years of research which were culminating in unquestionable revelations. Maybe
I did mildly gloat a bit publicly as occasion offered, thinking that the citizens
there would be also delighted to know of their medieval historical beginnings.
But I had been so introvert and wrapped up in my hobby that I had not heard
a whisper of any grand regional support being drummed up by the Tampa area
newspapers for a claimed huge exposition to be held in 1939 with De Soto's landing
in Tampa Bay as a theme for did not legend say that it was there it happened?
Suddenly, one day I was informed that I had been attacked in Tampa newspapers!
I had been labeled more or less odious names and terms, and it was insinuated
that I was 'hired' by those who would sabotage or abort the Tampa area promotion
of the glorious exposition then conceived!
To say that I was astonished is the understatement of the era.
Carefully I read the editorial or article, and, of course, boiled. I wrote
demanding a retraction poor, simple me, to do such a thing!
They used my letter to herd and stampede the implications in another direc-
tion, claiming even that I was trying to make their words say what they had not
said, and such arguments. I then did have judgment enough to keep quiet there-
after. (Unfortunately for little me, the Fort Myers folks, led by their then news-
paper editor, who supposedly conducted himself to keep the friendship of his
likely-to-tyrannize big city competitors, thought it great fun and cast their smiles
upon me as just a poor butt of the affair. Though it was partly what they should
have had pride to possess, since it was their own local ancient history being
filched, they let the storm beat over my head without a mite of interest from a
local pride standpoint. But I hasten to add that in those days Fort Myers was
far behind the present metropolitan City.)
With that all behind but yet in retrospect, I claim that the only procedure
open to me in the within Paper was to mince no words, but to inform the public
of the sordid facts and let them know that it is they, not this writer, who are
in the lists. If again the newspapers try to uphold their nonsensical De Soto
assumed history and again assume their former ignorant, selfish attitude, I
would like to have enough of the incontrovertible evidence available for all
fairminded people to enable them to repudiate such a base stand by any paper.
Returning to earlier thoughts, just how, with what words does a gentleman
say what kind of a person Swanton was, after representing in the Report that
the latter volume was solely a product of the cliche named "Fact Finding
Committee" and quietly allow it thenceforward to find its own true level in the
literature of the world of Arts, when its 'findings' were impeached, rejected
and impugned, for him to pipe up and demonstrate that the claimed authorship
was a politico type hoax, that it was not the action of a scholar but that it was
his own pet? From his fierce impotent defense of it one could say that it was
not done gentlemanly to exculpate the other two members of the Committee.
He treated the attacks almost as a personal matter.
Just how would a writer gentlemanly phrase the ugly truth that if all which
has been exposed in the within Papers was the result, not of guile, but of inabil-
ity, that the pitiful fact is that the thusly inferred classification of the mental
rating which produced the stuff would be pathetically low?
There are many persons indeed who would rather prefer to be accused of
incapacity than of thimblerigging and of a poor job at that!
Either way, I suppose, the accusation is an insult however much a truth,
so just what approach is a gentleman expected to take?
One thing is certain. I do greatly appreciate such friends as you are, who
did speak out directly to me. The future will disclose to me just how many
friends I do have and how many clear thinking champions of the right, whether
in the world of Arts or out of it, there may be by the reception of my Papers.
If there be one who differs as to my expose of the Report he will be all the
better friend if he will but do so openly, and express reasons lucidly for the
public's and my benefit.
Again, thanks for your expressions.
w. h. w.
AFTER-WORD ON THE REPORT'S "FOREWORD"
AND WONDERINGS ABOUT THE CONGRESS.
This writer once asked a very estimable Member of the Congress what
reaction might be generated in that not-too-sensitive body if the "Final Report
of the United States De Soto Expedition Commission" created and financed by
it, was demonstrated to be fraudulent to the extent that it was a hoax upon the
public, and consequently either the Congress was gulled or was accomplice or
accessory before and after the fact.
Although this M. C. is a fine lay historian in his own right he wisely availed
himself of the assistance of the Library of Congress which is, of course, the
established agency to inform the Congressmen in all categories upon application.
The Library advisor handling the matter for him, instead of reporting that
any reliable analysis or evaluation of the authenticity of claims made by the
Report would take years to compile (requiring, mayhap, another ubiquitous
investigating committee!) and the matter was not that important to the weal
of the U.S.A. no matter what its impact might be upon history and other anthro-
pological branches, adroitly formulated a very plausible reply the gist of which
was that the Report could not be held for fraud per se because of what was
said in its "Foreword."
He quoted therefrom to establish that the Report did not claim to be a
strictly accurate "final" determination of the route traversed by De Soto
and his successor, or words to that effect.
He dodged completely the broadside of the subject, namely, was even the
itinerary presented therein arrived at by dishonorable means, constituting a
He gave a long excerpt from the Foreword in his reply to the M.C., requot-
ed to this writer, who freely acknowledges that not until then, because he had
skipped the Foreword to get at the meat of the alleged research, had he realized
what a gem of a suspicion annihilator its cleverly composed words actually were,
excepting only to one who through study was aware of what followed them.
It is not to the discredit of the Library employee that he chose to avail him-
self of his forensic stratagem instead of meeting the question head-on. Or was
he also a convinced victim? Was he lulled and hypnotized by the dulcet pseudo
compromising phrases voiced therein that the "final" route would not ever be
found, but, like others, conditioned so that upon reading subsequent pages he
would, under the influence of those earlier suggestions, passively assent with
the later asseverations that the "almost perfect itinerary" (p. 104) and the
"well nigh perfect" landing site locale (p. 136) were determined in the
Since his basic job in the matter was to give his quasi boss, the M. C., a
reasonable if superficial out, to get a voter off the M. C.'s back, naturally he
was not going to fall over backward analyzing the words he wished to use as a
reference in his letter of opinion and reply, let alone checking the text of the
Report to detect possible duplicity. Without even a scintilla of a doubt, also
perhaps like many others, with only cursory interest he thumbed over the
Foreword without recognizing the warning signals which might cause those
who (following Bacon's advice) having read "to weigh and consider" would
stop short when they saw certain implications in the early words.
"This Final Report of the Fact Finding Committee does
not profess finality in the sense that the exact line of
march pursued by De Soto and Moscoso has now been
established for all time and no future effort need be
expended in this direction."
Those are fair, reassuring and tranquilizing phrases indeed. However, a
few words later that author began the impeachment of the only eyewitnesses by
saying that they "erred constantly" and were "untrustworthy" as well as
finding other faults with their testimony.
By what measure of true known facts were they guaged to be untrustworthy
and constantly erroneous ?
Only by the mere say-so of that author based upon his own conceit of the
itinerary, formulated through the use of inadmissable inaccurate items such
as other theories advanced by that same author, and with possibly a mite of
'inspiration' from the pressure of the quasi commercial sponsors who had
wangled his financing for him out of the Congress.
In a sane world that would not pass as sufficient in qualifications to allow
his conceptions to attain that high rating the final and "almost perfect" guage
by which all contemporary witnesses, who had only the best of motives in giving
their accounts, should be impeached as perjurers almost, or at the least as
incompetents, and instead of their honest testimony we should accept the mere
ideas of a person who, some 400 years later, conjured up his conjectures.
The world is sane enough and the foregoing pages of this Paper have inform-
ed savants and thinkers sufficiently so that they can 'go on' from these writings.
Little would one glancing over those opening lines suspect that within the
first dozen lines the author would perpetrate atrick bluff (the first of many)
about "one early map" being one item of evidence upon which "our determina-
tions must be based" for the "facts" whereas the truth was that the text later
did not, and by the very nature of that map could not possibly use it as such!
Indeed, in a short paragraph (p. 11) which the Report's own index describes
as merely a "mention" of that map it was acknowledged that its date was
problematical, its origin a mere guess, and elsewhere in the making of a list
of them what De Soto names were on it were shown to be so corrupted and so
different from all other authentic forms that they were often farfetched versions
and in addition, many of the DeSoto names were missing The casual reader
of the Report could not be aware that in the very beginning he was beguiled by
words into being a trusting dolt if he accepted those quoted words and the
following text without deep investigation.
Examination of but a small part of that Report's text rendered in the here-
in Papers earlier disclosed what only a studied perusal would show, to wit: It
was the habit of the author to state one thing early, usually fairly truthfully,
and later dodge it part way or entirely by means which were actually insulting
to the intelligence of the public since it was so audaciously continued as though
nearly with intended affront.
It was such purling phrases of the Report which were used by local promot-
ers to inveigle Government officials to recommend to the Congress the spending
of tax payers' money to construct and expensively forever maintain the De Soto
"NATIONAL MEMORIAL" on the bank of the Manatee River in Florida. The
local instigators of that 'monument' destined henceforth to prove to the Con-
gress that theirs is a legislative body, and if they 'make' history it should be
present or future, not the ancient variety, and at least they are not a history
research assemblage most certainly used the Report's fictitious
"Conclusions" and falsely derived "facts" as earlier exposed in this Paper,
to bedevil the U. S. authorities into constructing that memorial which can here-
after only be a reminder, not alone of a glorious ancient history euchered from
its rightful locale owners, but of the gullibility of those politicians who often
strain for votes regardless.
A resume will be given of just a few of the many crucial items of sordid
deception which permeate the Report; only a very few of the many which
were documented within.
The Report's reader was led to believe that at its chosen location for De
Soto's headquarters Indian village the Spanish armada could enter the "small"
bay and anchor in front of that site as the said fleet really did do at the actual
location. Overlooking that the chosen site did not front the small bay as was
represented, it was covertly acknowledged, almost buried to readers, that such
a move of the fleet was impossible at that chosen site!
The names of seven 'students' of the De Soto route were cited as supporting
the Report's choice of the site of that Indian village and the landing place of
the army whereas the solemn truth was that the Report elsewhere derogated
the findings of those seven men together with others of far gone days saying
that they could not be trustworthy results since they lacked the one most
important of the four main testimonies.
That disparagement of their theories might have been offset except for the
stark fact that in the text's briefing of their work not one of the cited men
named the landing spot as being where the Report claimed it and in the case
of many the Report's own map corroborated the Report's words as fabrications.
Instead, the text showed that all considered De Soto's landing took place at
the far opposite corner of the main Tampa Bay expanse, except one, and in
that case the 'student's findings' were not given other than the mere word of
the Report's author. It is natural to hesitate to accept the word of one who
falsified in six cases as to what the truth was in the seventh item.
The Report actually faked in the determination of the controlling draft of
the De Soto ships. This, however, was one case where the reader who was
fooled could scarcely claim a foul since anyone of ordinary intelligence who
would read what was presented as "data" and then accept the alleged deduction
was culpable of gross credulity, and, as the modern saying is, "had it com-
ing." Complete substantiation of this charge was given earlier also proofs
of the following cases which therefore will not be repeated.
In one flury of words which attained sort of a superlative to the usual and
average run of inconsistency and sophism, the Report's words analize to mean
actually that during the ships' landing moves the wind blew two directions at
one and same time!
Swanton's Report placed the De Soto army during the inland march at a point
where there was no stream which needed bridging. However, the eyewitnesses
stated that on the date given and at the place where they actually were they
needed a bridge to cross a stream they encountered. Although on earlier
pages the Report established by true evidence that it had been a dry summer
season, it then stultified itself and repeatedly insisted that it had been a rainy
summer therefore it alleged that the army built a bridge over the dry bed of
a wet weather stream and forwarded as further justification of the claimed
act the evidence that showed it did indeed rain very hard almost a week later
- when the army was far away at another place on their march!
The Report completely vitiated its "findings" by prima facie errors
amounting to as many as dozens of miles. Since the Report recognized, in
order for any theory of the De Soto route to meet with any success in
plausibility among anthropologists, it had to work to manage to have the
Conquistador arrive for the next winter's camp at a spot known and accepted
by savants for years as authentic, it needs must manipulate the true evidence
and data to neutralize its 'minus' errors with 'plus' errors and vice versa
in order to meet that 'must' locale.
To accomplish this the Report was forced to forward really stupid inter-
pretations of, and intentional or negligent failures to utilize the real witness
data, and both were intermixed with brazen disregard of the true facts even
after stating them honestly as supporting testimony data in preliminary
This and far more was established in the foregoing pages.
In the light of all this it is, wondered, and many intelligent persons will be
interested and watching to see what reaction, if any, will ever be shown by the
Congress in view of the manifest truth that a horrible hoax upon the public,
upon the art of history and its anthropological associates and upon future
generations has been perpetrated or abetted, wittingly or not, by that
august and honorable legislative body.
A PLUG FOR ZAMIA.
One of the privileges granted the A. P. F.A. by corporate charter is to concern
itself with plants or trees having historical connections or of interest as antiqui-
ties.. It has been voted to spread knowledge of and popularize the growing of Zamia
(commonly coontie, compete, etc.) the 'white bread plant' of the Florida Indians.
Being one of very few plants which have survived from the Mesozoic Era, a
companion then to flying reptiles and dinosaurs, on earth before conifers, grasses,
hardwoods and palms, (found in coal measures) it certainly rates as an antiquity
in one sense. It is dioecious, with pretty fernlike evergreen fronds; its root is a
large ball or turnip of starch of highest rated value for invalids and babies. On
the tables of pioneers was always found a jelly made of it cooked with honey.
The Indians provided the white man with many wonderful plants, perhaps the
best known being corn (maize) of high food and economic value. Our taken-for-
granted potato was very slowly accepted by the whites, almost not making it.
Because of a set of historical and political complications.., though it has
possibilities for Florida approaching either of the named foods... zamia was not
only not widely adopted but almost met its doom through the white man who could
profit most from it. Once widespread over Florida, the Indians' staff of life,
through ruthless Seminole War destruction, woods burnings and greedy mass reap-
ing without sowing, it is very scarce. It is a joy to landscape gardeners for deep
shade spots; florists yet buy its coontiee fern' leaves at 2 to 3 each.
It is just too wonderful a plant not to have a champion even as the whooping
crane and other hardpressed nature's items. So the A. P. F.A. has adopted it with
high hopes that the ball can be started rolling to popularize it and promote its
spread and use. (Its seeds may have interesting medicinal properties.)
Members and friends! Enjoy helping in this! Beautify your yard, ranch,
garden, farm and/or estate with some of it and eat of its marvelous root once in
a while. It is indeed a 'conversation piece' plant, grows without cultivation and
what is told above is only a beginning. Write for more interesting information.
The Alliance for the Preservation of Florida Antiquities,
Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
A SKETCH OF HERNANDO DE SOTO'S
TRUE ROUTE IN PRESENT FLORIDA.
Spotting Accurately Determined Key Spots.
The exposition of the research system by which the true route of Hernando
De Soto in present Florida was initially roughhewn from over-all distance and
topographical evidence, mainly to corroborate the already suspected landing
operations locale, was published in the American Eagle. (Vol. 42, No. 29 through
Vol.43, No. 5, 1947-1948. The issues are out of print due to burning of the
The mode of procedure accurately to pinpoint many sites on that ground-
work has been a routine familiar to most historians, and since such details
are interesting to few excepting them the findings only will be reflected herein.
It is earnestly hoped that local enthusiasts will attack the work of filling in
their own locales' portion of the route with diligence and accuracy.
Upon leaving Havana, Cuba, (Sunday, May 18, 1539) De Soto' s armada
proceeded northward through the Boca Grande of the "Bahama Channel" the
latter being our Florida Straits and its "mouth" (Boca) being westward of
our Key West.
It was stated that the fleet landed the army due north of this mouth; specif-
ically, the reference bearing being taken from an island in that Boca (mouth).
Since it has been a maritime reference point from ancient days, it is deduced
that the island to which the Spaniards referred is our Boca Grande Island. The
northernmost of the Marquesas group of keys was also given that name for a time.
Due to continental shelf shallows extending far out from the southern Florida
mainland the fleet could not navigate very close in order to 'coast' the land.
Their northerly course would have given them a landfall of a "north shore"
at Sanibel Island, the southern easterly-westerly trending shore of which appears
to be a north shore from out in the Gulf.
Upon making this landfall the fleet likely swung in and the flagship made
their first anchorage in a "deep good bay" (San Carlos Bay) "two leagues"
from shore where the depth was "four fathoms or less." It is the same today.
This latter quoted observation expressed concern about the vessels coming
in even that close because an onshore wind was blowing and it would seem to
have been known or thought that the bay they were entering would not allow
room for tacking out again to the open sea. (May 25, 1539)
The entire marine and some of the land topography confronting them had
been well scouted the winter before this expedition set sail through the work
of a reconnaissance vessel under the command of a very able captain, Juan de
Aniasco, proficient in the navigation and survey of that day.
After selecting the harbor as a result of his examination of the coast, he
also chose a site for the beachhead supply dump and camp. For this he picked
the site of an Indian village.
Because this place was to be their headquarters camp site it loomed of
great importance to them and it was the crux and final objective of all the
Due to this importance it was always spoken of by the officers as "The
village" and other important witnesses also thusly referred to it, just as
though that were sufficient name considering its being the only one entering
their plans until another village was accidentally found by De Soto later.
This reference mode also may have been superinduced by the name of the
chief, in whose domain it was, being rather difficult to spell phonetically, or
pronounce and/or remember, if indeed the reconnaissance force had ascer-
This objective, "the village" because not designated by Ranjel, the secretary,
otherwise, has in the past been confused by De Soto writers with another village
within the landing operations area dominated by the same chief, which, as said,
was "discovered" by the General and will be further mentioned soon.
Viewed from the position of their first anchorage the chosen harbor's opening
leading in from the bay seemingly was not discernible, what with such factors
as the primeval vegetation being likely profuse, and from their position the
mariners looked rather across and not directly toward the opening.
Since, no matter how unlikely, if there had been a mistake made in the
identification of this strange land, and they had sailed into an expanded "U"
shaped bay only to find that they had come in at the wrong spot and there was
no opening into which to proceed onward, it meant complete catastrophe, for
with the fleet dragging anchors in an onshore wind which was blowing they
would have been blown aground because they could not tack back out to sea.
De Soto and his pilot went in a small ship to make 100% sure.
When dusk threatened (no mariner, no matter if ever so competent, was
able safely to operate a ship in those days in unknown waters except by day-
light) the Governor wished to return to his flagship, mainly because he and
his small boat crew were reported as "unarmed."
A 'contrary' wind prevented this return though his vessel "labored" to do
so which meant that much tacking was done in the attempt.
If the shoreline had been straight and not in a bay shape that ship's return
would have been possible no matter from what point of the compass the wind
This alone corroborates the designated locale as the authentic one. (Had
these witness described events happened at the place postulated by the Report
at the "openings" therein "concluded" to have been used, the small vessel
most certainly could have returned to the fleet's anchorage spot.) All this
and other witness specified detail fits completely with every circumstance of
feature of San Carlos Bay and the channel starting within it into the Caloosa-
De Soto was marooned over night. He made a landing off his small vessel
which would have been at Punta Rasa where the ships of the 19th century took
on their cargoes of cattle destined for Cuba and other West Indies points. The
good depth near shore was quite satisfactory for this.
Meanwhile, for reasonable safety the armada moved farther out off shore
for the night. When morning came they were "four to five leagues" out at
this second anchorage.
By this time De Soto and the pilot had recognized the harbor opening and
its channel, and in walking about he had "discovered" another Indian village,
later found to be in the domain of a chief Ucita (also phonetically in the
testimony as Ocita and Ecita).
This newly found village must not have been visible from the water or the
scout crew of the previous winter's reconnaissance vessel would have seen
it, and there is little reason, when the evidence is carefully read, for confus-
ing it with their objective town but it has been done by former De Soto writers.
This newly found village was said to be two leagues from the site where
the later landing of the army was accomplished.
De Soto ordered the fleet to come from the second anchorage and enter the
channel into the harbor. His secretary significantly said, "This they began to
to do under sail." They began with sail but did not finish thusly. De Soto
stationed the small vessels on each side of the channel entrance as markers
for the ships' guidance.
When the ships became what De Soto called "decaidos" that is, when
they had proceeded as far as they could by sail, with the remainder of their
way to their "port, four or five leagues" farther necessary to be negotiated
either by tidal current, kedging (see supra) or by any available means (except
power tugs, of course!) the delay was great and De Soto fumed.
Their port was in an "ancon" (no exact English equivalent, as is also true
with "decaidos") which extended about "a dozen leagues" (2.634 miles each)
"inland," no doubt estimated by channel rather than beeline.
One witness said that this working of the ships along to port took three days
and another said five days, the seeming discrepancy being resolvable, no doubt,
when the datum point or idiom of each is understood. A close study of the narra-
tives in their original languages will determine the exact fact, if worth while.
Just possibly sickened by unsanitary water containers, some of the horses
aboard were dying. Men went ashore to get forage for them so what they had
may have been exhausted or spoiled by salt water. Horses were to that army
as tanks would be to a present day military. Nearly a score died'enroute.
The horses and the men of the army were landed Friday, May 30, and as
usually done in those times, it would be at some point where the depth was
good close to shore, almost a sine qua non for a disembarkation of that size
in a strange land.
This condition of depth near the beach existed just northeasterly of Iona,
Florida, where the Caloosahatchee jogs sharply southwardly and straightens
out to the westerly. A wharf was located very near this historic spot for
It is suggested that the method of landing was to moor the smallest vessels
near shore, then lay alongside and outside of them a larger one or two, and so
on in turn to the largest. The smaller ones would provide, using gang planks,
a sort of bridge to wading depth.
This landing site was on the beach just southerly of Palmetto Point and as
stipulated by witness, it was four leagues by water from "the village" their
objective; it was inferred by one witness that it was five leagues by land; and
finally, as noted, it was two leagues from Ucita's seaside village discovered
by De Soto.
To reach "the village" the army's march had to "compass great creeks"
one of which, as will be seen from any good map, was immediately to the
eastward of the landing site.
These so-called creeks are familiar to Florida residents, being wide at
their mucky banked and bottomed mouth, and narrowing quickly back therefrom
into hightide touched marshes, with perhaps some mangrove in that latitude.
It is much more practical to encompass them than to cross them, of course.
Convenience would have required a detour also around the second main
creek, better known as Whiskey Creek, by way of the trail northerly of the
low ground which is the due north head of Hendry Creek (not Six Mile Cypress)
which flows south into Estero Bay.
The last creek met, Billy's Branch, or Creek, could only partly be avoided
since its wide portion is dog-legged to its easterly source streamlet, so it was
no doubt crossed at a narrow wading place whereupon a cut was made sharply
in the direction of the beach of the Caloosahatchee where East Fort Myers is
now situated. There were traces of a destroyed Indian mound there at this
site in the 30s mainly banked up against trees among the residences, the roots
of which were evidently thus protected from being too much uncovered to
prevent killing them. There were also indications of a second mound. The
mound at the railroad may also be involved.
Original surveys and deeds show that the natural growth and topography at
this location tally with the testimony of eyewitnesses as to what was found at
the headquarters camp, though little was given.
Every witness mention of any natural feature is present in the locality at
the distance stated (if any) such as:
On the trail of the route of the army a later returning contingent said there
was "a small marsh less than half a league from the village" where the garri-
son had come to "boil water containing ashes to wash clothing." This would
have been the headwaters portion of Billy's Creek. The earliest eastward
trail thence was southerly of the pioneers' unimproved road from Fort Myers
to the east.
One set of distances given almost alone establishes the authenticity of this
When the army marched inland (July 15, 1539) their camp the first night
was made on a stream which, since their set daily stint or budget of march
was up to four or five leagues depending upon water for man and beast and
also wood for cooking, would have been somewhere near that distance away.
Using the indicated trail they reached that stream at less than four leagues
it being the present Orange River, known to the pioneers as Twelve Mile Creek,
named thusly because of its distance from the original Fort itself, probably.
To go from "the village" to another Indian town eight leagues away to the
eastward, to which the army came opposite early the third morning of their
march, there was another more northerly located route or trail to the same
village which was used by the Indians via a fallen tree bridge distant only
"two leagues from the village."
These specifications are all satisfied because of the trend of the Orange
River relative to the direction of the traveled trails, and together with the
complete fitting of all other definite subordinate data proves that there is
no chance for the within theory to be in error.
The "decaidos" ships were worked by the sailors aboard until they
arrived an an anchorage opposite "the village" which took them a week more,
being lightered of most of their immense cargoes of supplies during that maneu-
vering as the shallows in the channel increased.
During the army's stay of almost a month and a half at "the village" beach-
head camp an island was mentioned (with an inference of it being not one of a
group) whereon Indians were reported to have congregated. Attempts were
made to capture them, including stationing "of horsemen" at the "mainland
at the place where they were likely to come away." This fits Beautiful Island
very well. Swanton was compelled to ignore this datum since it was inappli-
cable at his incorrect route locales.
When the army started from the landing spot toward "the village" captive
Indians were used as guides. Either through intent or misunderstandings by
the guides the army went "astray." Whereupon, with some horsemen the
Governor went on ahead but "since they were unfamiliar with the land they
wearied the horses following deer (trails) and floundering in the streams and
swamps for twelve leagues till they found themselves opposite the village on
the other side of the (ancon) roadstead of the harbor, which they could not
pass around." Although that is not an exact datum, due to its unknown
beginning point, it is mentioned since it can well fit at our designated
locality. The phrase, "unfamiliar with the land" strongly infers that
this advance group of horsemen did not take a guide with them. If the trip
fatigued the horses would not the plight of any footsoldiers accompanying, if any,
have been sad indeed and so much worse that it would have been mentioned?
Undoubtedly. This 12 leagues positively was not marched by the army as was
erroneously assumed by Swanton in one of his beginning and worst of blunders,
as has been pointed out by scientists, corroborating this writer's first
disclosure of it. Swanton's words covered up his inability to explain, in his
false postulation, how the army ever did get around the ancon in spite of the
witness statement that they could not do so the night of arrival there. Also,
their trip around it to get to the village would necessarily need to be added to
or subtracted from the 12 league supposed datum.
But returning to the army's march, when they started their inland invasion,
Tuesday July 15, and stopped at the Orange River for the first night, seemingly
with huge pine trees abounding they felled some across the stream to make two
bridges, indicated as side by side, which hints that the banks were a bit miry,
a little steep or rough.
The men had been as good as resting for nearly a month and a half and had
a resurge of their initial high spirits, rekindled by De Soto in a trick disclosed
elsewhere in these Papers, and very likely these bridges were made in the
ardor of boyish rivalry.
This bridging was quite unimportant since it was mentioned by one eyewitness
only whereas all important bridging later was mentioned by all the original histo-
Thence the route went almost easterly for a day, avoiding the head marshes
of Hickey's Creek, and camp the second night was pitched on the north side of a
large pond just about where the trail turned northeasterly after rounding the
headwater marsh-swamps of Bedman's Creek. The drainage conditions are
much different today than when the medieval army plodded their way through
The motley array of armored lancers, foot soldiers bearing halberds,
shields, crossbows, a few discomfited arquebusiers (who had found that their
weapons so confidently brought along were useless against the Indians because
of their slow matchlock ignition) interspersed for protection by servants, slaves,
burdened animals and for certain, at least one white woman, to say nothing
of the presence of every Indian woman the Spaniards could capture and retain -
even a drove of brood sows and piglets carefully reserved for emergency, then
passed near an Indian chief early the third morning, eight leagues from theirbase
camp, who was very much an heroic figure in the De Soto annals.
He came out from his town to meet them, his village seemingly being
situated between the trail and the Caloosahatchee, (which is a true river at
that point) since it was told that years earlier, a Spaniard, Juan Ortiz, during
flight from his captivity under another chief at "the village" to this place, had
found himself near the bank of a river just before arriving at this chief's town.
His escape route was by the northern of the foot trails via fallen tree bridge
over the wider portion of the Orange River which would be dangerous and delay-
ing for armored men, and besides, the southerly placed trail would have been
over a narrower portion of the stream and was scarcely any greater distance.
There are or, at least, were many Indian mounds found in this locality
most of which have been vandalized and many destroyed by road building crews
and others for fill material. Local civic minded historians should move fast to
pinpoint this chief's true site before the last vestige of clues to his ancient
location are unfortunately destroyed robbing our children and their children
of the thrills of allowing their imaginations to reconstruct the very long ago
beginnings of the white man's history in that land.
The army headed for the "Falls of the Caloosahatchee" easterly of LaBelle
(about at Ft. Thompson, dynamited out circa 1880-1890) which were known to
every pioneer since several trails converged there.
Nearby they camped on the westerly bank of the then beautiful, now drained
Lake Flirt, said to be named after the first U. S. A. gunboat to have navigated
up the Caloosahatchee to it. The canal through it, cut during the latter part of
the last century to help drain the land and lower and control Lake Okeechobee,
changed adjacent natural conditions considerably and the topography somewhat.
Crossing almost dryfooted on the rock ledges of these "Falls" the next A. M.
their fourth day enroute, they emerged upon a vast prairie on their way to rejoin
an advance force at the town of a rather important chief located 25 leagues away
from the village or supply dump camp to the easterly and then northeasterly of
it which would be a location somewhat near our Brighton of today. (A hundred
men, foot and horse, had disappointedly remained there with orders to guard
the huge supplies left behind at the base camp.)
This important chief's town or at least one of them was three leagues
from our Kissimmee River and its marshes, and about "twenty leagues from
the coast"(Atlantic) as one narrator stated.
They had been forewarned of this condition, so came prepared and crossed
it in one day near where Ft. Bassenger later stood, and camped, as one witness
said, neighboring a "great lake" (Lake Okeechobee) on a good prairie site one-
half league beyond their crossing place.
The General, with but around a dozen horsemen almost at once retraced his
way back over that crossing place, went up along the west bank for three days,
and again crossed the Kissimmee and went on six leagues to another village to
camp. At his orders, four days later the army straggled after him.
The distance between the crossing places, lower and upper, was given as
12 leagues. The second found upper crossing was extremely exceptional in
that it was not just a single practical crossing place but a witness told that
"three arquebus shots above" the one where the personnel crossed using
fallen lodged trees in part, there was another negotiable ford where the horses
were swam over, which move was likely necessary to avoid the animals being
fouled in bush and branches of the trees which were so helpful to the people.
Incidentally, two books from the library of gun expert Leland Brewsaugh,
of Arlington, Florida, The Age of Firearms by Robert Held, and The Fireside
Book of Guns by Larry Koller, supply the information that the rough arquebus
of De Soto's time ranged from .68 to.72 calibre for the size likely carried on
long marches. If its cylindrical bore was anyways near accurately finished so
that a tightly fitting bullet would not get stuck yet would receive the full force
of the primitive powder of that day, it was possible to kill a boar at 80 yards
(if he remained stationary long enough!) and a deer just beyond 100 yards. The
heavier ones between .70 and .80 calibre could do somewhat better but the
handicap with them was the necessity to keep the aim on target while the match-
lock system of firing accomplished the discharge if and when it did!
It should be noted that these forces could not cross where there might be
old dead channels of the river "coming in and out" because impedient growth
on the former banks and in the abandoned channels would prohibit the use of
such places, and other submerged conditions would be dangerous. Crossing
places, preferably with as little shore muck as possible, open all the way
across for the men and horses to wade part way, and the latter to swim the
deeper channel which the men rafted over, was a prime requisite. (It is quite
illuminative and entertaining for the student of Garcilaso's account to analyze
his attempt to convey to his readers the description of these conditions, from
stale notes likely, if, indeed, he fully understood them when they were describ-
ed to him. Bk.2, Pt.1, Ch.13)
The large scale aerial maps made a few years ago by the U.S.A. Corp Eng.,
and the immediately following topographical maps by the C. & G. Sur., enabled
this writer finally to locate the upper crossing about four and a fraction miles
above the Highland County north boundary and the south boundaries of Polk and
Osceola Counties where there are two practical crossings at what would be
"three arquebus shots" apart. Since such a spot, described by the witness is
not duplicated these twin crossings are without doubt the ones used by De Soto's
army. Every distance given by the witnesses ties in perfectly with them.
This writer was informed by pioneers yet living in the 30s that it was at
these crossings where the earliest post riders swam their horses over when
going from the railhead at Kissimmee to the outpost Fort Myers. It was called
the "Rattlesnake Hammock Crossing Place."
The direction of the route northerly of the second crossing was well fixed
by testimony, including the fact that the new camp was six leagues above it and
on a north-south line twenty leagues from the site near Brighton mentioned as
being three leagues from the first crossing of the Kissimmee River.
The distances, directions and topography as specified by the witness accounts
almost precisely pinpoint the Kissimmee valley sites and it is not too farfetched
to state that there is not another place in the world where the given evidence will
accurately apply. This is specially true if it is recalled that the route was stat-
ed to be on prairie terrain until past the second crossing after first emerging
upon it at the "Falls."
It is parenthetically remarked that, though the Governmental cartographers
and surveyors omitted giving any elevation datum figures which could have been
supplied distinguishing the mound and village higher ground it was possible to
spot them on their maps and proceed directly to within rods of them in our
more recent field work.
Another factor governing the placement of the northwardly portion of the
route thence, was the fact that it was stated that it was 40 leagues from this
second crossing place to another river which had steep, high banks, which
earlier over-all research had shown was about at Moss Bluff on the Oklawaha
River. One witness said that from this camp six leagues north of the second
crossing, they went northward, about 10 to 12 leagues from the coast (Atlantic)
and turned toward New Spain (Mexico) which would lead them over ancient
trails through the Orlando-Winter Park vicinity, then near Apopka and Umatilla
and thence to the ford on the Oklawaha used by the Indians even before the white
man took it over.
From there the route was toward present Micanopy, the testimony saying
that it was 16 leagues from the latter Oklawaha crossing, probabilities being
that it passed near the Seminole War post, Fort King, and Ocala, and our
best guess is that the trails used bent westward just after passing Boardman
at about the middle of the westward end of Orange Lake, into the area north
of Levy Lake which was always a favorite section for the Redmen.
The mention of Orange Lake opens a subject of great moment to this
For some years just passed Orange Lake was changing in the way lakes
will disappear in the limestone underlaid country of Florida. A 'sink' formed
or mayhap it was earlier formed and then stopped up temporarily by nature
and the opening washed clear again.
Governmental authorities and private interests worked earnestly to save
Orange Lake by constructing a dam around the sink which was making a wet
prairie out of the beautiful body of water. It has since been reported that the
Lake is filled again, which is fine because a lake is worth more to Florida
than such a small asset as a duplicate of the large wet expanse known as
Payne's Prairie, very close nearby, once known as Alachua Lake.
This former Alachua Lake was drained by a sink in its northerly side to
the east of center and this happened, seemingly, since De Soto went through
the section. The ground elevation of the wet marshy surface remaining, and
of its water surface after rains, was modernly mapped at just below 60 feet;
(as was also the other nearby savannas or prairies of size, as these bottoms,
i.e. Hogtown, Kanapaha and smaller ones like Grass are called.)
The level of Levy Lake was mapped at about 65 feet as was also Wauberg
Lake. Although no geologist it seems apparent to this writer that at the time
of De Soto's visit Levy Lake and Alachua Lake were joined, more or less accord-
ing to seasonal changes, where there is an extreme narrowing of the neck of
land between them at the western end of it. Olden maps show a vestige of a
stream at that location, which slough probably was the partway stage as the
Alachua Lake sink developed and swallowed the Lake. It even may be that the
present Ledwith Lake and Kanapaha Prairie were once joined with Alachua
An almost perfect counterpart of the described situation exists immediately
to the southeast. There Lake Lochloosa and Orange Lake are joined across a
neck of land by a stream which is bridged for the road traversing the neck.
These two Lakes are kept at about the same level by this stream, but if
Orange Lake had been abandoned to the fate which overtook Alachua Lake that
stream would have become merely a wet weather affair and finally it too would
have gone through the slough stage and have been filled by natural causes.
The geologic remarks just made lead up to the statement that the stream
and slough joining the Alachua and Levy Lakes at De Soto's time was bridged
by his army for their passage, but that it must not have been too formidable'a
stream because two contingents later passed through the place without mention-
ing any water crossing at this point. This lack of report might well have been
due to the bridge, probably being of logs, yet being in place, or the narrator
or his reporter could have passed the item. For the stream theorized, and
judging partly by the counterpart to the southeast remarked, the stream would
not be subject to flooding even by quite heavy rains so the bridge perhaps was
not washed out, and the later contingents did not consider it of sufficient news
value to inspire them to record the fact.
However, it is quite reasonable to deduce that the stream-slough envisioned
which has changed during the centuries to our present vestige, was what was
encountered and bridged by De Soto's men.
There is a lot of most intriguing research awaiting to be done by the Ocala
and Gainesville area residents and particularly in the western section of the
Arredondo Sheet of the U. S. Geologic Survey, which this writer studied in his
research along with other maps.
Although the Portuguese eyewitness seems to betray in his narrative that
he was one of the advance force which first arrived at this Caliquen area his
words have puzzled this writer.
He said that there at Caliquen (this chief's site was variously named
phonetically but this version is an easy one) "they heard of the province
(region) of Apalache, of Narvaez having been there and embarked, because no
road was to be found over which to go forward, and of there being no other
town, and that water was on all sides. Every mind was depressed at this
information, and all counselled the Governor to go back to the port, that they
might not be lost, as Narvaez had been."
It must have been a terrific argument, no doubt a renewal of the one waged
at the "River of Discords" but it did not faze DeSoto for he said go on.
The Portuguese's words contain several seeming anomalies with the facts
as we of today understand them. For instance the inference that it was the first
time that they had heard of Apalache does not square with the facts. Other testi-
mony (R.p. 69) was that DeSoto's objective 50 leagues earlier, when he set out
on the advance with this contingent, was Apalache.
Also, without doubt they had known through common report since the principal
Narvaez survivor was at the time the day's sensation in Spain, of how, some 11
years earlier, Narvaez was badly defeated by the Indians in what likely was San
Pedro Bay (a vast swamp region which is a somewhat smaller edition of Okee-
fenokee, but equally redoubtable!) and of how he had built makeshift boats and
embarked only to be wiped out practically. One of the survivors had been asked,
even almost importuned by De Soto to join him, but he wanted to play for lone
There may have been some exaggeration to the alarums which these men
poured on for greater effect and the Narvaez information could only have come
through hearsay since no account had then yet been put into print. But these
remarks by the Portuguese do not fit the Narvaez situation too well and it is
this writer's guess that the latter probably was forced to give up his exploration
try by the very circumstance which then faced De Soto by rebellious men. Of
course, the survivor would hide any such fact as a matter of self interest.
The phrase which mainly intrigues is "that water was on all sides" which
seems to have described De Soto's situation instead of Narvaez' final position.
There is a peculiar quirk to those words.
How could all this Narvaez 'information' have been secured from the Indians
as inferred? After all, they were now far away from the home of the Indian
dialect their interpreter, Juan Ortiz, knew and details such as were hinted as
given are almost impossible to be transmitted by the sign language they used,
which is not at all as glib a medium as some of our litter of western type of
TV shows pretend, by a long shot!
Mix-ups in the original narratives are not uncommon and interpolated parts,
paragraphs and words always pose a threat to confuse researchers, but are
usually apparent and may be temporarily side-stepped. For one instance, the
Portuguese account as translated had the Indians of Cale waging war on the
Indians of Cale. (GE.p. 35, 36)
Be all that as it may be, the within placing of the De Soto route fits with
each specification given and all exact data of topography; it also allows a tie-
in with what is but speculation and deduction as to personnel and topography.
After crossing this bridge which they made, the army kept a bit closer to
the west side of Alachua Lake than does the modern road, thence angled north-
westerly through the 1,000 acre D. L. Clinch (within the Arredondo) Grant,
thence went more northerly and passed just west of olden Fort Clarke's later
position (which was in the northeast center of Section 5, Range 19 East, Town-
ship 10 South, according to the 1846 Court ordered Arredondo Grant survey)
and thence over the Natural Bridge of the Santa Fe River near the old Spanish
grants. This writer had an amusing incident occur which will bring out that
our remarks must not be interpreted as saying that the witnesses mentioned
these items of detail, such as that they crossed the Natural Bridge.
A certain anthropologist, who, in the estimation of many mayhap including
himself, is an eminent archaeologist, during a discussion of the De Soto true
route was forcibly supporting his rather dogmatic dictum that the itinerary
was unable to be located.
That his stand not only was unscientific but not within the bounds of justice
and common sense was demonstrated by a remark he made which also showed
he had formulated his opinion without the one or two hours reading of the orig-
inal De Soto narratives which is usual and necessary to familiarize one's self
with the available evidence, sufficiently to warrant anyone giving a verdict.
And he let there be no doubt that his verdict was final and above appeal.
When this writer said that it was certain almost that De Soto's men had
crossed over the Natural Bridge of the Santa Fe River he exclaimed, "Have you
ever been there?" When an affirmative answer was given that our field work
had led us there several times, he continued, "Well, tell me then! How could
they have known that they were crossing that Natural Bridge? There is no
indication whatever to one going over it that a river is beneath them! His
obvious meaning being, it would seem, that one of the participants had stated
the fact of the crossing and that he was being quoted by this writer. Naturally,
with any familiarity with the narratives such a remark would not have been made.
That tangent of the discussion divulged that the eminent one was committing
what to this writer is a grave fault, to wit, anyone who knew so little first hand
of the evidence as to make such a raw false assumption had little grounds to
argue his poorly studied ideas boldly and vociferously with another who, as he knew,
had applied years to the subject's research, and would better have kept an open
and judicial mind until he had all the evidence in hand. (The distinguished
gentleman in question will know, if he ever sees this, just why this writer a bit
abruptly terminated the conversation without apology because he was aston-
ished 'out of his boots!' The due apology for the abruptness is hereby tendered.)
It is trusted that the reader will not erroneously confuse the data supplied by
the participants in the march with the details supplied herein which have been
delved out from all the available admissable evidence as did the eminent
It is wondered if scientists by excavation or others by accident will ever
find the remains of the postholes of the uprights with which the fabulous great
lodge was built which the eyewitnesses described in marveling words and said
they found here in this neighborhood somewhere? It must truly have been an
impressive sight there in that vast wilderness that was primitive Florida!
De Soto's secretary was moved to mention it, saying it was "a very large cabin
with a large open court in the middle." The translator missed his cue to name
it a huge 'patio.'
Garcilaso gave these specifications and description as he had them from
his informant: ". the chieftan's lodging place was most beautiful. It
was all one large structure of more than a hundred paces (250 feet! WHW.) in
length and 40 in width. It had four doors toward the four principal winds, and
surrounding it, united to it like cubicles off of it were the lodging places on
the outside which were entered from the inside. "
According to the writer's theory the village site containing this wonder was
located to the southeast of the Natural Bridge over the Santa Fe River (a bit north-
easterly of High Springs) near the edge of the terrain which is flooded in high water
periods when the subterranean channel will not accommodate all the waters.
It is reported that the ancient trail from the Natural Bridge to Wilmarth
was shown only in spots by the original I. S. surveys which are called Town-