Thursday, June 18, 2009

Juan Pardo & the Road to Mexico (Part 3)

This is part 3 of a 3 part blog on the Juan Pardo expeditions. Scroll down to see parts 1 and 2.

Conquistador and scribe Francisco Martinez recorded the start of the 1566 expedition. “From the city of Santa Elena Captain Juan Pardo started on the first day of November in the year 1566, to penetrate into the interior to make it known and conquer it from here to Mexico . . .” The day that Martinez recorded as the start of the expedition was a month too early. The day Juan Pardo and his 150 conquistadors and unknown numbers of Native American porters set off from Fort San Felipe on Parris Island was on or near St. Andrews Day which is usually celebrated on the Sunday nearest November 30th. Martinez certainly meant December 1, 1566 when he recorded the first day of November.

Nonetheless, 150 Spanish trekked into the Carolina wilderness. A 1578 report from Santa Elena indicates that ordinary soldiers in La Florida carried not only swords, daggers, and crossbows but early guns known as harquebuses with powder flasks and bullets. They wore quilted linen tunics known as escaupiles. These garments only marginally protected soldiers from arrows. The main reason they were chosen was because they were not as bulky or as uncomfortable to wear in hot weather as Spanish armor. No doubt, the men on Pardo’s expeditions were fitted in these garments and carried with them various armaments. In addition to extra boots and shoes, Pardo’s men also took along fiber sandals for comfort and practicality. Accompanying the Spaniards were large war dogs. These dogs had been trained to attack humans and were meant to be an intimidating presence to Native Americans who encountered them. Trade goods including beads, textiles, and axes were also carried along by the expedition. Although little could be spared, Pardo’s men carried small provisions of wine, cheese, and biscuits from Fort San Felipe’s dwindling stores.

Map from Walter Edgar's South Carolina: A History
It must have been an odd site to the Native Americans as the Spaniards made their way from the coast in the bright sunshine and cool air of the winter of 1566. Loud and colorful with the red on white flags of the Burgundy Cross before them and their drums beating, they entered the unmapped frontier. On the second expedition in 1567 the scribe Bandera is told by Pardo that there is nothing to record of the villages forty leagues from Santa Elena because "the land is rough and full of swamps and Indians already subject and obedient" to the Spanish. However, we can follow the 1569 Bandera chronicle by the same scribe, whose notes from the 1566 expedition were reworked into a chronicle several years after this march, for the trip northward from Santa Elena. Their first stop, based on the assumption that Pardo followed the same trail on both his first and second expeditions (and we have no reason to think he did not) was the village of Uscamacu. Uscamacu sat on an island surrounded by rivers. It was “a sandy place of very good clay for cooking pots and tiles and other things that might be necessary.” Historian Charles Hudson who has extensively studied the routes of the Pardo expeditions believes that this village may have been located at the northern tip of St. Helena Island.

The march continued from here. Pardo proceeded north by northwest following a Native American trail near the Coosawhatchie River. He went in this direction rather than west toward New Spain because native guides probably told Pardo he could find sizable villages and supplies of food for his men. The next stop was the village of Ahoya. On his second expedition in 1567, Pardo would make an auto de fe or a Spanish act of faith in Ahoya. This was possibly a religious speech to the natives. It was noted that Ahoya was an island surrounded by rivers and suitable corn, grapes, and stocks. This village was probably located near Pocataligo or Yemassee. Next, Pardo’s men came upon a small village subject to Ahoya named Ahoyabe. It is placed by Hudson near today’s Cummings or even further north near Hampton. The trail now closely followed the black, oily flow of the Coosawhatchie River.

Since leaving the coast Pardo’s party had encountered only small villages and few natives. But the next village encountered was Cozoa. This village was close to the headwaters of the Coosawhatchie River and was probably near Brunson or Fairfax. Cozoa is also probably the namesake for the Coosawhatchie River. Here the waters of the river become more palatable as they flowed swiftly over the Aiken Plateau. It was also here that small pebbles were first encountered instead of the more sandy ground of the South Carolina coastal plain. The chief of this large village had much land. There were many plots of land, “where can be cultivated corn, wheat, barley, vineyards, fruit orchards” by “the rivers and sweet water brooks.” It was a “land good for everything.” Pardo continued to follow the Coosawhatchie River to its headwaters and then he turned northeast. On the way he encountered a tributary town of Cozao that was unnamed. This town was probably on the Little Salkehatchie River near today’s Ulmers in Allendale County. At a point nearly forty leagues from Santa Elena, the Spanish scribe Guiomez would write that, “The road that he followed, was somewhat difficult, but land that can be cultimvated the same as Cozao and even better. There are some large and shallow swamps but this is caused by the flatness of the land.”

Painting from National Geographic, March 1988

Eventually Pardo continued to march east and then turned north and west. He would in time make his way to the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. Along the way, following his orders for establishing the road to New Spain, he hastily built some forts and left small garrisons of men in each. At this point he received orders from Santa Elena to return immediately to help defend Fort San Felipe against the French. French corsairs had been sighted off the coast. So he retraced his route and in four months time he was right back where he had started on March 7, 1567. The French threat never materialized. Martinez, the Spanish soldier who recorded the first expedition wrote of the lands that he encountered that, “It is good in itself for bread and wine and all kinds of cattle raising because it is flat country with many rivers of fresh water and many groves where there are nuts and blackberries and medlars (persimmons) and liquid amber and many other kinds of groves. It is also a land for much hunting not only deer but hare and rabbit and birds and bear and lions (panthers).”

Pardo, known as the “valiant Captain from Asturias” set out with 120 men on his second expedition on September 1, 1567. He was to resupply and relieve the garrisons in the backcountry, and continue his quest for a path to New Spain. He followed the same path into the interior and then back as the first expedition. This time Pardo was ordered to have each chief he encountered to swear obedience to the Spanish king Phillip II and to Menendez in the presence of a notary and to agree to play tribute to the Spanish. Each major town had to build a storehouse to be stocked with maize, salt, and deer meat to supply the Spaniards on the coast. He distributed presents to Native American leaders along the way hoping to further bring them into amity with the Spaniards.

Pardo supplied the small forts in the backcountry. The forts are never mentioned again. They probably became the casualty of attacks by Native Americans who destroyed them sometime very soon after Pardo’s last foray into this region. Pardo began to realize that the distance to New Spain was considerably more than anyone until that time had imagined. Realizing this, Pardo then began his trek home collecting as much foodstuffs as he could. He and his men foreswore corn and meat for other exotic Native American foods. They saved the corn for the men at Santa Elena and sent it ahead of them as they retraced their path to the coast. They ate deer meat, acorns, and roots supplied to them by the Indians. The Native Americans ate wild roots call batatas by the Spanish. It is known today as the American Groundnut and it is distinct but very similar to today’s sweet potatoes. At the large village of Cozoa, in accordance to Spanish wishes, the Native Americans had built a corncrib on posts high above the ground to protect it from pests and other animals. Pardo arrived there on February 16th and picked up 60 additional bushels of corn that were loaded into baskets and deerskins to be toted to the coast. Pardo and his men arrived back in Santa Elena on March 2, 1568. Only one man was lost in the two daring expeditions. The forts in the backcountry would disappear but it seems that Pardo’s leadership in unknown territory on the march was focused on the care of his men. To have only lost one man on these marches into unknown territory was a great achievement for this leader.

Painting from National Geographic, March 1988

Pardo returned to soldiering in the settlement of Santa Elena. In its heyday Santa Elena was a small farming community larger than St. Augustine. Corn, wheat, oats, pumpkins, chickpeans, beans, sugarcane and peaches were finally cultivated there with better agricultural practices. Cows, horses, pigs, sheep, and goats were raised. In 1576, however, Fort San Felipe was attacked by angry Native Americans and burned. It seems they had enough of Spanish conquistadors lording it over them. Although a subsequent fort was build, relations continued to be shaky with the Native Americans and the growth of the Spanish enclave at St. Augustine led Menendez and the Spanish to abandon Santa Elena in August 1587. The Spanish claims to the region would remain however until the 1670 settlement of the Carolina colony in a place that would become known as Charles Town. After that the frontier would tip into the hands of the English and for many the Spanish age would be forgotten.

Juan Pardo’s two expeditions had failed to forge a route to Mexico. However, these expeditions had accomplished many other things. They expanded the geographical knowledge of Europeans about North America. They also, through oaths, trade goods, and intimidation of the Native Americans solidified Spain’s claims to this region for many years to come. They relieved immediate pressure of starvation for the settlement at Santa Elena and established friendly relations with some Native Americans who lived in the interior. They also left for us a tantalizing, if incomplete record about the Native Americans and Spanish explorers interacting in the area that would one day be known as South Carolina.

Andy Thomas

Works I consulted to write this blog:

Charles Hudson: The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568

Rowland, Moore, and Rogers: The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina: 1514-1861

Lawrence S. Rowland: Window on the Atlantic: The Rise and Fall of Santa Elena, South Carolina's Spanish City

Walter Edgar: South Carolina: A History

DePratter, Hudson, and Smith: Juan Pardo's Explorations in the Interior Southeast,1566-1568. The Florida Historical Quarterly 62:125-158, 1983

Paul Hoffman: A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient: The American Southeast During the Sixteenth Century

Juan Pardo & the Road to Mexico (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a 3 part blog on the Juan Pardo Expeditions. (Scroll down to see part 1)

In the summer of 1566 two Spanish men of war, the San Salvadore and the Zebeita, dropped their anchors in Port Royal Sound. Captain Juan Pardo and two hundred and fifty soldiers and another fifty hopeful settlers were on board these vessels. They disembarked on a small sub tropical island known today as Parris Island. This island had overarching live oaks grown thick with gray moss, exotic palmetto trees, and expansive saltwater marshes. Animals such as the white-tailed deer, the opossum, the raccoon, and the alligator roamed the island and the surrounding mainland. Native American peoples lived in the dark, mysterious forests on the horizon. An earthen fort had been built on the island’s southern end overlooking the usually untroubled waters of the great sound. This fort was surrounded by a rough wooden palisade of stakes and defended by several small bronze cannons. The Spanish had named this bastion Fort San Felipe. Twenty-seven hardened soldiers who awaited a suspected counterattack of French corsairs manned the fort. They were all that remained of Menendez’s original complement of one hundred and ten men that he had sent to build and maintain this outpost. Munity and numerous desertions had taken their toll. These twenty seven men had, no doubt, fought off heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and starvation. The new arrivals were welcomed along with their food and other needed supplies. They had been sent north by Menendez from his newly established settlement at St. Augustine. Fears over inadequate provisions at St. Augustine and freshly arrived soldiers and settlers from Spain prompted Menendez to disperse his forces. In addition, the need to reinforce the fledgling outpost at Santa Elena had necessitated this move. Menendez had imperial dreams for Santa Elena.

Food shortages continued to plague those early Spanish colonizers. The men first deployed at Santa Elena had failed to produce sufficient crops for the outpost in the low, sandy soil that surrounded the fort. Tidal inundations and wild animals had further diminished these crops. Resupply by Spanish ships sailing along the coast was haphazard and inadequate to meet the need. Short of their own supplies they had relied on trade and benevolence of neighboring Native Americans for their food. By the fall of 1566 this situation had once again grown serious as the provisions brought by the new arrivals that summer were quickly consumed. In order to relieve this problem and for other personal and nationalistic reasons Menendez, who arrived at Santa Elena that fall, decided to dispatch Captain Juan Pardo and a large force of his soldiers to the interior. These conquistadors were to obtain food on the march. In addition to feeding themselves, they were instructed to gather and send provisions to Fort San Felipe. Presumably they would do both by hunting, gathering, and forging in New World forests and trading, soliciting oaths of loyalty, and intimidating Native Americans they encountered on their march. These oaths of loyalty to Phillip II and Menendez were to be cemented by token gifts given to Native American leaders on the Spanish side and large supplies of food given to the Spanish on the Native American side. The Spanish still subscribed to the hierarchal and reciprocal system of feudalism that had dominated the Middle Ages in Spain and Europe and they hoped to use it to their advantage in dealing with Native Americans in the New World.

The practical necessity for such an expedition was heightened by Menendez’s sense of duty and his own political and economic ambitions. Santa Elena was to provide not only protection for the Spanish treasure fleets but was to be a base for future Spanish settlement and expansion in North America. Menendez had declared Santa Elena as the capitol of the province of La Florida in August 1566. He expected this outpost to grow considerably in the years to follow because of what he perceived as its strategic and economic position. Menendez, like other Spanish conquistadors, dreamed of New World riches and empires. He instructed Captain Pardo as he went along to keep an eye out for gold, silver, and other sources of mineral wealth that he may encounter. But more importantly, he instructed Pardo to establish an overland route to New Spain (Mexico).

Mule caravans burdened with silver from the rich Zacatecas and San Martin mines in central New Spain plodded many dusty miles overland to the port of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, the newly mined bars of silver were loaded on galleons that sailed north to Cuba and then onward to Spain. Menendez and other high ranking Spaniards believed this was a drawn out process and that it could be shortened and made safer. The mule caravans could be driven to Santa Elena to meet the treasure galleons. The galleons would then miss many of the deadly seasonal hurricanes in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, entirely bypass the haunts of numerous pirates, and be reasonably secured from the attacks of other countries whose navies lurked in the Caribbean. Menendez hoped that the settlement at Santa Elena would become rich and powerful controlling the outward flow of New World Spanish silver.

Captain Pardo’s orders included establishing forts along the way to New Spain and using them to keep this new overland route open. Trade goods, oaths of loyalty, and intimidation were to be employed to secure future provisions for the fort at Santa Elena and any Spanish soldiers who may be posted along the new route. Menendez ordered Pardo, “to see that they (Native Americans) became subject to His Holiness and His Majesty.” Pardo’s expeditions were to lay claim to a vast interior colony in the name of the kingdom of Spain, for the care of the Catholic Church, and for the honor and glory of his supporter: Menendez. Of course, Europeans at this time did not have a firm grasp of geographical knowledge about the North American continent and did not know how far it was to New Spain. Menendez thought New Spain was only 790 to 910 miles away. He expected that Pardo would make a trip there and back in only six months. Both Pardo expeditions discovered that the geographic reality was many more hundreds of miles away. In light of that, the expeditions led by Pardo, traveled no further west than the gentle, blue ridges of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Andy Thomas

Bibliographic references of works used to prepare this blog will be presented in the last part of this blog.

Juan Pardo & the Road to Mexico (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a 3 part blog on the Juan Pardo Expeditions.

In 1569, writing several years after the fact, the Spaniard Joan de la Vandera recorded the names of Native American villages and the potential bounty of agricultural lands he had encountered on Juan Pardo’s expeditions through what is today known as South Carolina’s Low Country. In his travels through the area that is Allendale and Hampton counties he would later note places like the village of Ahoya. Here, he wrote that, “land suitable for corn and also many grape stocks and many shoots” was found. At the larger village of Cozao he wrote that the land was suitable to cultivate, “corn, wheat, barley, vineyards, and all kinds of fruit and orchards, because there are rivers and sweet water brooks and land good for everything.”

The two Spanish expeditions led by Juan Pardo between 1566-67 and 1567-68 explored, documented, and reaffirmed Spain’s claims to this “land good for everything.” Not as large or as celebrated as the earlier Hernando De Soto expedition, Pardo’s expeditions succeeded in the practical but failed in the visionary. Beyond that, Pardo’s marches helped the Spanish to fill in missing geographical knowledge about the North American continent and solidified their claims to the region they called La Florida. The Vandera document and others kept about the expeditions provide some of the earliest accounts of the New World. They give us a colorful snapshot of what South Carolina was like during the European exploration and discovery period, how Native Americans lived, and how the first Europeans perceived the land and interacted with the natives. They also remind us about the area’s rich and diverse history. English settlers are usually associated with the early history of the region. However, the more ancient Native American and Spanish claims to this area were to remain in place until the English, with the founding of the Carolina colony in 1670, usurped them. Essentially, the area encompassing today’s present South Carolina, for a period of about one hundred and fifty years, was claimed as part of the kingdom of Spain.

Beginning in the 1520’s the Spanish attempted to explore, establish outposts, and settle lands that had primarily been scouted from the masthead of Spanish ships as they made their way along the south Atlantic American coast. This region of discovery, which presently encompassed the state of Florida and much of today’s Southeast was eventually named La Florida by Ponce de Leon during his ill-fated attempt to found a settlement there in 1521. A prominent headland was later spotted along this coast during a reconnoitering expedition in 1525. This headland was north of Ponce de Leon’s landfall and it became a mariner’s landmark known as La Punta de Santa Elena (The Point of Santa Elena) because its discovery was made on the feast day of Saint Helena: May 18th. The landmark, whose identification is not clear today, was probably Tybee Island that sits at the mouth of the Savannah River. La Punta de Santa Elena provided a geographical reference point for early European explorers and led to the subsequent discovery of the large, majestic sound to the north of it that is today known by its French name as Port Royal Sound. This sound is the deepest and most attractive anchorage along the south Atlantic coast. During the 1500’s and 1600’s the Spanish called the sound and surrounding lands Santa Elena after the nearby headland.

Santa Elena acquired strategic importance as the rivalry between the Spanish and the French grew to encompass the New World. The Spanish had grown wealthy on their exploitation of the Americas. Spanish treasure galleons loaded with gold and silver from Mexico and Peru gathered together in great fleets and sailed north from the Caribbean to catch the trade winds off the south Atlantic coast. These winds, acquired somewhere between Jacksonville, Florida and Wilmington, North Carolina, provided a quick and sure route back to Spain. Therefore, alarms were raised in 1563 when news arrived at the Spanish court that Protestant French Huguenots led by Jean Ribaut had built a small fort on an island in Port Royal Sound. Although this outpost proved a failure and was abandoned and burned within several months time, the French then moved south to build another fort on the Saint Mary’s River near present-day Jacksonville, Florida. This occupation of lands claimed by Spain in an area sensitive to Spanish interests set in motion a plan to protect and settle La Florida. It was hoped this would prevent unwelcome enemy fortifications there and discourage pirates and marauders who could use these coasts as basses to harass and pillage the Spanish treasure fleets. In addition, Protestant settlers in the New World who might recruit Native American allies were anathema to Catholic Spain in an age of religious strife. Immediate plans were made to eliminate this serious threat to Spanish economic security and to uphold the interests of the Catholic Church.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles was the man chosen by the Spanish monarch, Phillip II, to evict the French and lay a more strenuous claim to these lands. Menendez was a nobleman, a veteran sea captain, and a bit of a pirate. He had fought French corsairs in the Mediterranean and escorted treasure caravans home as captain-general of the Indies fleet. He was also a privateer who plundered French vessels that sailed along the coast of his native Asturias in northern Spain. Phillip II, however, entrusted the rakish Menendez with the settlement and security of La Florida. Menendez, although expected to bare an equal share of cost for colonization, readily accepted this honor. He believed it to be a lucrative opportunity. He had lost his son and a fortune in riches to an Atlantic hurricane in 1563. The king offered him a means to recoup his loses, search for his son, serve his king, country, and church against the Protestant French invaders, and fulfill his own imperial ambitions. Menendez quickly moved to murderously evict the French from the coast of La Florida. This act was to carry the violence of the Reformation in Europe to the New World. Menendez cruelly slaughtered the French Huguenots that he found along the La Florida coast without remorse and as a warming to other European interlopers. He established a fort and settlement nearby at present day St. Augustine and then erected a small fort on or near the abandoned ruins of the French fort in Port Royal Sound. Over one hundred and ten Spanish soldiers and settlers were sent to build and man this lonely island outpost at Santa Elena. It was at Santa Elena, on the Atlantic edge of the North American continent where Menendez decided to focus his efforts, both public and private. And it was at Santa Elena that the Juan Pardo expeditions were born out of necessity, duty, and Menendez’s ambition.

Andy Thomas

Bibliographic references of works used to prepare this blog will be presented in the last part of this blog..