This work examines the survivors of Hernando de
Soto's expedition to Florida. Their story began in the year 1538, when
many were enticed to embark from Sevilla in search of golden cities
previously described by Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, one of the
four stragglers who endured an incredible trek from Florida to the city
of Mexico. These men, and others recruited in Cuba, explored a territory
that extends over ten of the present-day southeastern states. The
remnants of the de Soto expedition continued to the port of
Pánuco on the Mexican gulf coast and disbanded upon reaching
Mexico City. Several remained there or went back to Spain or Cuba, while
others continued to Peru and other parts of the Spanish Empire.
Two important works have been central to this study.
One is a list of survivors attached to the account written by the
chronicler of de Soto's Florida expedition, Luis Hernandez de Biedma.
Although written in a different hand, it is found within the same folder
in the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, and will be cited here as
the Hernandez de Biedma list. It seems to be a post-factum document, not
complete and sometimes inaccurate, but still invaluable. A translation
of this list appears in the 1866, New York edition of Buckingham Smith's
Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of
Florida, without citing its location in the Archivo General de
Indias. To this list I refer often. The other work of importance is the
register of the passengers who embarked from Seville for Florida,
preserved as well in the Archivo de Indias. This last source was
transcribed by Antonio de Solar and José de Rujula in 1929, and
by Cristóbal Bermúdez Plata in 1939. I have used both
transcriptions, although that of Bermúdez Plata appears more
accurate. However, the annotations included here are in Solar and
Rujula's El Adelantado Hernando de Soto. Although excluding the names of
some of the most important persons of the Florida expedition, like de
Soto, his wife, and their entourage, this is still quite a comprehensive
roster. Its limitation is that it includes only the persons who left
Spain, and not those that finally embarked from Havana for Florida.
During the year that it took for this expedition to be readied in Cuba,
many of the original recruits were lost and others added.
There are four known chronicles of de Soto's
adventure, written by Luis Hernandez de Biedma, Rodrigo Rangel, the
Gentleman of Elvas, and by Garcilaso de la Vega, all considered here.
However, since John R. Swanton in his Final Report of the United
States De Soto Expedition Commission, has already identified and
annotated the men mentioned by all these chroniclers, I am using
Swanton's work as a reference for all those sources.
Much of the information for this study comes from the
superb collection of unpublished documents gathered from various Spanish
archives and preserved on microfilm and photostats at the P. K. Yonge
Library of Florida History at the University of Florida. The holdings of
Jeannette Thurber Connor papers, the Woodbury Lowery transcripts, the
Buckingham Smith papers, the John B. Stetson collection, and the
recently acquired Counts of Revillagigedo archives, have been
complemented in the past years with copies of additional Florida
documents from the Archivo General de Indias in Spain. To date there are
few sixteenth century Florida documents contained in the Archivo General
de Indias that are not found in the P. K. Yonge Library. These materials
allowed an increase of John R. Swanton's list of 194 survivors to 257,
and to add previously unknown details about their lives. Using these
sources I have listed the known survivors of Hernando de Soto's
expedition and included their biographical data.
This work also briefly analyzes the prosopographical
characteristics of the survivors. Their places of origin, ages and
education are compared with the findings in Mario Góngora's
brilliant work, Los Grupos de conquistadores en Tierra Firme
(1509-1930), and with the more recent study of James Lockhart,
The Men of Cajamarca. However, further comparisons may yield
interesting conclusions about the Spanish conquerors active in different
parts of the Americas. This study could be expanded to include research
in Mexican and Peruvian archives where many of the Florida survivors
appear to have spent their last years. Further research in the Archivo
Municipal de Jerez de los Caballeros, in the Archivo de Protocolos de
Sevilla, and in selected private archives in Spain may yield additional
information on the background of some of de Soto's men, and on their
post-Florida activities. A study of these activities could complement
Ida Altman's, Emigrants and Society (Berkeley, 1989).
This study could not have been accomplished without
the kind help of Ms. Elizabeth Alexander, librarian, Mr. Bruce S.
Chappell, archivist, and their able assistants, all efficient members of
the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida.
Ms. Melissa Davis, secretary for Special Collections at the University
of Florida Libraries, greatly assisted the editing of this work. To
them, my sincerest appreciation. To Ippolita Gatti, my wife, to my
daughters Mónica and Silvana, and to my son Ignacio
Hipólito, this work is dedicated.