Author: Donald E. Sheppard|
Cabeza de Vaca
Indian Place Names
States and Site Search
This Site describes the fifteen-year Conquest of Native America. Hernando de Soto, Spain's first inland North American explorer, spent years, starting in 1539, searching for a seaway to China, the finest market in the world to trade his New World Gold. The King granted DeSoto a 500 mile-wide land swath, of his choosing, if he could settle in it within four years. He and his 1500 volunteers, with their horses, pigs and dogs, followed native trails which became our highways, camping at native villages which became our cities. Their trails through fourteen states are traced here using their writings and the latest geographic intelligence.
CONQUEST TRAILS ON GOOGLE EARTH and DESOTO CONQUEST CALENDARS
Our climate was cooler then (table at right). Summers were milder and winters were longer and colder than they are now.
Cabeza de Vaca, who had spent nine years in America from 1528 on, set the stage for DeSoto and Coronado to lead armies deep into America in 1539: Coronado from Mexico City, DeSoto from Havana, Spain's New World Port Terminal. Vaca was the first European to describe this continent's Gulf of Mexico shoreline then west to Arizona. DeSoto, at age 39, was rich from Incan gold and wanted to own a good part of today's America.
Intelligent Indians had told Vaca of a Northern Sea which DeSoto believed was the South Sea (the Pacific Ocean), the sea Balboa discovered beyond Panama, DeSoto's boyhood home. Magellan had sailed that sea to the Orient when DeSoto was 21 but lost his life on that long voyage. DeSoto wanted to build a port on that sea, then sail what he believed to be a short distance across it to China. He planned to protect his colony from Mobile Bay, Alabama, which Vaca had visited and DeSoto planned to use as his port in North America, home for his settlers and beacon for New World settlement.
Back in Spain, Vaca refused to join DeSoto's search for enough gold to lure additional settlers to his new American colony, but DeSoto's venture was well recorded by others who plundered this continent from Florida to Lake Michigan, then, for escape, to Mexico City, Spain's North American stronghold. In the meantime Coronado explored America's West. He had received information directly from Vaca in Mexico City just before DeSoto met him on his return to Spain.
Scenes from their ventures were highly publicized in Europe but were discredited over the years by the fact that pioneers never found the large Indian cities which DeSoto's people reported in their journals. Scientists, however, believe a number of those cities existed at various sites around the country. Carbon-dating indicates clever Indian habitation at many places up to the time Conquistadors arrived, but conventional wisdom holds that DeSoto came here only to search for gold, discovering America's Great River, the Mississippi, along his way. Historians, misled by erroneous notions, have failed to track DeSoto.
Cabeza de Vaca and DeSoto's trails were located using geographic data published in Spain by expedition survivors. The landmarks described therein were found using Spanish measures and directions from Havana to Mexico City, two places established before Vaca and DeSoto and occupied ever since. America's harbors, rivers, lakes, swamps, plains and mountains passes have not moved since they were here. Their trails were refined by following directions between landmarks using modern maps and aerial/satellite photography. DeSoto's search for what he believed was the South Sea became apparent by tracking him to Lake Michigan. Coronado's Trail, known for years, ended west of DeSoto's final turning point north of Houston, Texas, the place where Vaca had heard about vast riches and an ocean sea to northward.
These articles serve as a guide through America before its Indian cities were destroyed by diseases. Today's place names are Indexed here with the names which DeSoto's people used for them. Links lead to information about those places as they are encountered along DeSoto's trail.