Make your own free website on

Back Home Up Next

Hernando De Soto

Hernando De Soto

b. 1500 Barcarrota, Spain d. 1542 Louisiana


At the age of 19, De Soto sailed to the New World with Paedrarias Da'vila, the governor of Darie'n (now Panama). After 13 years of ruthless soldiering and successful horsemanship, he joined forces with Francisco Pizarro in the campaign to conquer the Incas. A generous share of the gold taken from Peru made him rich, and he went home to Spain and married Da'vila's daughter.
De Soto talked the king of Spain into making  him governor of Cuba and Florida. He recruited an army of between 600 and 1,000 men and paid for their equipment out of his own fortune, feeling that this was a good investment.  Captured Indians in Peru had told of lands to the north richer than any in South America. The expedition left Havana in May, 1539, and landed midway up the west coast of Florida at Tampa Bay. For three fruitless months De Soto and his men marched into the new land, swimming across rivers, slogging through swamps, and fighting with Indians. They then headed northeast in the direction of a great city, said to be built of gold bricks and ruled by an empress through whose very veins gold flowed. Finding neither her nor her city of gold, they made their way up into present-day Georgia and the Carolinas (meaning both North and South Carolina), then down through Alabama and on into Mississippi.
When their supplies ran low, De Soto rallied his men by reminding them of the riches that surely lay just ahead. All along the route, they exported supplies from the Indians and tortured them to learn the location of the "gold mines." In 1541, they reached the area where Memphis lies today and first saw the Mississippi River. They built barges and crossed into what is now Arkansas, and within sight of the Neosho River in northeastern Oklahoma. There they stopped to take bitter stock - there was no gold, their whole trip had been for nothing.
De Soto led his group south, but near the junction of the Mississippi and the Red River he fell ill with fever and died. His 300 leaderless men wandered about for a year before deciding to sail from the mouth of the Mississippi down the coast to Tampico, Mexico, where, they were "Welcomed by the Christians."



Below are links and sites for more information on Hernando De Soto.



Hernando De Soto

Hernando De Soto Links

De Soto's Trails Through North America

Hernando De Soto: The New World

The Hernando De Soto Expedition

Hernando De Soto, Spanish Explorer




This site was last updated 08/04/2004 08:08 PM -0400