Expedition of H. Cortes. A. D. 1519.
Governor of Cuba was anxious to prosecute the advantages of which the
expedition of Grijalva afforded him so flattering a
prospect. For this purpose he provided ten ships at the
Just at this time Andres de Duero, secretary to the governor, and Amador de Lares, the Contador of his Majesty in Cuba, made a private proposal to a respectable Hidalgo named Hernando Cortes, a native of Medellin in Estremadura, and son of Martin Cortes de Monroy, and of Catalina Pizarro Altamirano, both, though poor, Hidalgos, and of the good lineages of that province. Hernando Cortes possessed a property in the Island of Cuba, had been twice Alcalde there, and had lately from motives of inclination married a lady named Donna Catalina Suarez Pacheco, daughter of Diego Suarez Pacheco of Avila, and of Maria de Mercaida a Biscayan. This marriage brought much trouble upon Cortes, and he was frequently in confinement by the interference of D. Velasquez. Leaving this to be related more fully by others, I will now however proceed in my narrative of what took place between Cortes and
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the Secretary and Contador. These two officers, the particular confidential friends of Velasquez, agreed with Cortes to procure by their interest with the governor his appointment to the command of the armament, on condition of his giving them, each, equal parts with himself, in the treasure which should come to his share; for the commission was to be extended no farther than barter and obtaining gold, and not to colonization. This being agreed amongst them, the Secretary and Contador took such measures, praising and recommending Cortes, and vouching for his fidelity, to Velasquez, who had stood as father to him at his marriage, that they succeeded in obtaining the commission for him, which, it being the office of the secretary to draw it up, was done as the proverb says with very good ink, and fully ratified, according to the wish of Cortes.
As soon as the appointment was made public, to some it gave satisfaction, and others were displeased at it; and one Sunday, the governor going as usual to mass attended by the most respectable persons of the town and neighbourhood, he placed Hernando Cortes by way of distinction on his right hand; upon which occasion one Cervantes, called the mad, a kind of buffoon, ran before them repeating his absurdities such as, “Huzza for my master Diego, what a captain has he chosen! And how soon he will lose his fleet!” With much of that kind, but all having a malicious tendency. Andres de Duero who was present cuffed him, and bid him be silent, saying, he well knew that he repeated what others put in his mouth, but the rogue persevered, adding, that he would quit his old master, and follow the fortunes of Cortes. It was certain that the relations of Velasquez hired him to repeat those things under the colour of folly, and to alarm the governor; but all he said turned out literally true.
Cortes immediately on his appointment proceeded with the greatest activity in making his preparations; he also dressed and appeared in much greater state as to his own person than before; wearing a plume of feathers, and a gold medal in his cap, which ornaments became him
very well. His funds were very inadequate to this expence, for he was much indebted and distressed, although he had a good estate; being very extravagant, both as to himself and the dress and state of his wife; but certain merchants, his friends, named Jaime or Jeronymo Tria, and Pedro de Xeres, perceiving that he was rising in the world, and fortune likely to favor him, advanced him four thousand crowns in money and merchandizes also, upon his property. With this, he caused to be made a standard of gold and velvet, with the royal arms and a cross embroidered thereon, and a latin motto, the meaning of which was, “Brothers follow this holy cross with true faith, for with it we shall conquer.”
proclaimed by beat of drum and sound of trumpet, that all such as entered the
service in the present expedition, should have their shares of what gold was
obtained, and grants of land, as soon as the conquest was effected.
I must observe, that notwithstanding this was
announced to be by his Majesty’s commission and authority, the Chaplain Benito
Martinez had not yet returned from Castille. The proclamation however was no
sooner made, than by general inclination, as well as the private influence of
Cortes, volunteers offered themselves every where. Nothing was to be seen or
spoken of but selling lands to purchase arms and horses, quilting coats of
mail, making bread, and salting pork for sea store. Above three hundred of us
assembled in the town of
The relations of Velasquez Bill continued to be much dissatisfied with him, and envious of the fortune of Cortes upon this occasion; they knew that a bitter enmity had subsisted between the two on account of certain circumstances attending his late marriage, and they omitted nothing that could be done to induce the governor to revoke his com-
mission. Of this Cortes was very well advised, and for that
reason took care always to be in his company, and to appear entirely devoted to
him. Andres de Duero also warned Cortes to use all possible expedition, as he
perceived that Velasquez was already wavering, from the importunities of his
relations. Leaving therefore to his Lady Donna Catalina the care of supplying
him with what was necessary for his voyage, Cortes warned all his captains,
masters, pilots, and soldiers, to be on board at the given time, which having
seen fully complied with, he went, accompanied by his friends the Secretary and
Contador, to take his leave of Velasquez, whom he
parted from with great politeness, and many assurances of service on both
sides. On the ensuing morning he embarked, being accompanied by the governor to
his ship, and setting sail immediately, our fleet arrived in a few days at the
were in the town of
tall of Cortes, Alonzo Hernandez Puertocarrero,
cousin of the Count de Medellin, Gonzalo de Sandoval, Juan Velasquez de Leon a
relation of the governor, Rodrigo Rangel, Gonzalo Lopez de Ximena,
his brother Juan Lopez, and Juan Sedeno also came
from the town of
to go to that expence, and at this time a vessel arriving with a cargo of provisions, the owner immediately waited on Cortes to kiss his hands, and enrolling himself with us, Cortes bought both ship and lading from him upon credit. His name was Sedeno.
time that we quitted the
Cortes who was well aware of these proceedings, exerted himself to such effect, that by promises and other ways, he contrived to bring over all those upon whom Velasquez relied, and especially Diego de Ordas, to his own interest, which the latter supported most effectually with the Alcalde Verdugo by his persuasions and arguments, representing to him the danger that would result from any violent measures. Such was the talent of Cortes in making friends, that the very messengers sent by Velasquez with the orders, came over to him, one of them Pedro Lasso enrolling himself under his command. By the other Cortes wrote to the governor, expressing his attachment to him in the strongest terms, his surprise at the step that he had been induced to take, and his request to him, not to let himself be deceived by the misrepre-
sentations of his enemies, and of the old madman Juan Millan. Thus Cortes continued in his command. The twelve ensuing days were passed in preparations; all the smiths of the city were employed in making arrow heads for the cross-bows, and also engaged to join the expedition.
Cortes perceiving that nothing more was to be done at the town of Trinidad, gave orders for the fleet to sail for the Havannah, and also, that all such as chase to proceed thither by land should go under the command of Pedro de Alvarado, who was to receive the volunteers who expected us in some settlements upon our road. I and about fifty more marched with Alvarado; and Cortes, having dispatched one vessel to the Havannah under the command of his friend Juan de Escalante by a northern route, embarked, and set sail with his whole fleet for that port, by the South. All the ships except that on board of which Cortes was, arrived at the Havannah without any accident, and our land party having also reached that town, we were there for the space of seven days, that we could not by any means account for his absence. We were very apprehensive that the ship was lost in some shoals called Los Jardines, and it was determined to sail with three vessels in search of it, but as there was no one to command, the time was spent in disputes, and faction began to exist as to the choice of a substitute for Cortes, until we should know what was become of him. The person who was most particularly busy on this occasion was Diego de Ordas. At length these intrigues were put a stop to by the appearance of Cortes himself. The ship which he was on board of had struck upon a shoal, but being near the land they had got her off, by lightening her of a part of the cargo.
As soon as Cortes arrived, he took his quarters at the house of Pedro Barba, the Lieutenant of Velasquez, where he planted his standard before the door, and beat up for volunteers. He was accordingly soon joined by Francisco de Montejo, Diego de Soto, one Angulo, Garci Caro, Sebastian Rodriquez, Pacheco, Gutierrez, and Rojas, (not Rojas the
wealthy) also by a lad named Santa Clara, two brothers named Los Martinez de Frexenal, and Juan de Najara, (not the deaf man of the tennis court in Mexico,) all persons of quality, besides many other soldiers, whose names I do not recollect.
judged it necessary to send Diego de Ordas to the
estate of the governor at Guaniguanico, for more
provisions of bread and bacon, and with directions to wait there for further
orders. This he did, knowing that during his absence De Ordas
had shewn himself by no means attached to his
interest. Cortes now brought his artillery which consisted of ten brass guns
and some falconets, on shore, and gave them in charge to four cannoniers named
Cortes now began to assume state in his establishment, and to appear in a high character. His steward of the household was one Guzman, (not he whom Guatimotzin took prisoner,) his chamberlain was one Rodrigo Rangel, and his Major domo Juan de Caceres. He ordered mangers to be fitted up in all the ships, and stores of maize and hay to be put on board for the horses, of which I will now describe such as passed over with us.
Captain General Cortes, had a chesnut horse which died in St. Juan de Ulua: Pedro de Alvarado, and H. Lopez de Avila, (in partnership) an excellent chesnut mare, for exercise, or service; after our arrival in new Spain Alvarado took her entirely to himself, either by purchase or by force: Alonzo Hernandez Puertocarrero, a grey mare of good speed, bought for him by Cortes: J. Velasquez de Leon, a very powerful grey mare called La Rabona, (docked tail) well dressed, and of great speed: Christoval de Oli, a dark chesnut horse, tolerably good:
Francisco de Montejo, Alonzo de Avila, (between them) a dark chesnut, not fit for service: Francisco de Morla, a dark chesnut horse, of great speed and well dressed: Juan de Escalante, a light chesnut horse, not good for service: Diego de Ordas, a tolerable grey mare, but of no speed: Gonzalo Dominguez, an excellent horseman, a dark chesnut horse, very good, and of great speed: Pedro Gonzales Truxillo, a good chesnut horse, and speedy; Moron of Vaimo, a dappled grey, well on his haunches: Vaena of La Trinidad, a dapple, somewhat black; this horse did not turn out well: Lares the good horseman, a very good horse, bright chesnut, of great speed: Ortiz the musician and Bartholome Garcia who had gold mines, a horse called El Harriero, one of the best that came over with us: Juan Sedeno of the Havannah, a chesnut mare which foaled in the ship. Sedeno was the richest man in our army, possessing also a ship, a negro, bread, and bacon; some of which articles were indications of great wealth at that time, for horses and negroes were hardly to be procured for any money.
I must now revert to the proceedings of Velasquez, who was more determined than ever to deprive Cortes of the command. He was enraged when he found that Verdugo had neglected his orders, and reproached his Secretary and the Contador with having deceived him. He now therefore sent a confidential person named Garnica to his Lieut. Pedro Barba at the Havannah, with orders to him, and letters to his friends De Ordas and Velasquez de Leon, earnestly soliciting them by no means to suffer the fleet to proceed, but to arrest Cortes, and send him a close prisoner to St. Jago. The messenger was no sooner arrived than Cortes knew his business, for he brought with him letters from a friar who was about the governor, to our Chaplain Fray Bartholome de Olmedo, whereby the Secretary and Contador conveyed intelligence of all the schemes of Velasquez. Diego de Ordas it has been already mentioned had been sent out of the way; the other person, Velasquez de Leon, Cortes had now brought over completely to his side, for he was displeased with the governor for not having taken, as he thought, proper care of him. As to the Alvarados, Puertocarrero, Montejo, De Oli,
Escalante, the two Monjarazes, and all the rest of us, the Lieut. Governor not excepted, we would with pleasure have laid down our lives for him; so that if the orders of Velasquez were concealed in La Trinidad, they were completely suppressed in the Havannah, for Pedre Barba wrote an answer telling him that he dare not put them in execution, such was the popularity of Cortes; and that he was sure if he were to attempt it, the town would be sacked, and Cortes would carry away all the inhabitants with him. Cortes also wrote to Velasquez professing his eternal devotion to his interest, and informing him that it was his intention to sail on the ensuing day.
fleet sailed for the
to each of the three natives he presented a shirt. The people were so satisfied with this treatment, that on the ensuing day the chief of the place and all the inhabitants returned, and mixed with us in so easy and amicable a manner, that it would have been supposed we had passed our whole lives together.
Cortes now began to take the command upon him in earnest, and our Lord was pleased to give him grace, that whatever he undertook he succeeded in.
three days which we passed here, Cortes ordered a review of his troops, which
amounted to five hundred and eight, the mariners not included. The number of
these was one hundred and nine. We had sixteen cavalry, eleven ships large and
small, including a brigantine belonging to one Gines Nortes, thirteen musketeers, ten brass field pieces, four
falconets, and (as well as I recollect) thirty-two cross-bows with plenty of
ammunition. He also ordered the artillery-men to put their guns in order, and
appointed one Francisco de Orozca, who had been a
good soldier in
now sent for me and a Biscayan named Martin Ramos, in order to question us as
to our opinions of the meaning of the word “Castillan,”
so frequently repeated by the Indians of Cotoche,
when we came with Captain Hernandez de Cordova; adding that he was convinced
that it must allude to some Spaniards in that country: for which reason, he
questioned the native chiefs upon the subject. They all answered in the
affirmative, and certain indian
merchants then in
for this service two light vessels, with twenty crossbow-men and musketeers under the command of Diego de Ordas. One ship was to remain at the point of Cotoche for eight days, while the messengers went and returned, and the second was to bring the report to Cortes how the business proceeded.
places where the Spaniards were said to reside, were distant from the point of Cotoche only about four leagues. The letter which Cortes
sent was as follows, “Gentlemen and brothers; here in
them with him; but he could not be induced to quit his home. When Aguilar saw that it was impossible to move him, he came with the Indian messengers to the part of the coast where the ships had been stationed; but they had already sailed, for the eight days to which De Ordas considered himself limited, and one more, were expired; and De Ordas despairing of the return of his messengers, had gone back to Cozumel, so that Aguilar was forced to return with great sorrow to his Indian master. Cortes was exceedingly displeased at De Ordas, for returning without the Spaniards, or even those whom he sent in quest of them.
Certain sailors named the Penyates of Gibraleon, were at this time accused of stealing bacon from one Berrio a soldier, and a general examination and questions upon oath taking place, they denied it, but upon a search, proofs were brought home to them, and notwithstanding much intercession was made, Cortes ordered seven of them to be severely whipped.
souls; with many other good and holy reasons, which he expressed very well. The priests and chiefs replied, that they worshipped these gods as their ancestors had done, because they were kind to them; and that if we attempted to molest them, the gods would convince us of their power, by destroying us in the sea. Cortes then ordered them to be prostrated, which we immediately did, rolling them down some steps. He next sent for lime of which there was abundance in the place, and Indian masons, by whom, under our direction, a very handsome altar was constructed, whereon we placed an image of the Holy Virgin, and the carpenters having made a crucifix which was erected in a small chapel close to the altar, mass was said by the Rev. Father Juan Diaz, and listened to by the priests, chiefs, and the rest of the natives, with great attention.
The regulation of our fleet was now made by Cortes, and the captains appointed. The first or admiral’s ship was commanded by Cortes in person, and the rest as follows: The St. Sebastion by P. de Alvarado, the third ship in size by Alonzo H. Puertocarrero, the fourth by F. de Montejo, the fifth by Christoval de Oli, the sixth by Diego de Ordas, the seventh by J. Velasquez de Leon, the eighth by J. de Escalante, the ninth by F. de Morla, the tenth by Escobar, and the eleventh by Gines Nortes. Pilots were appointed, the night signals given, and each captain received his instructions.
In the beginning of the month of March, we set sail, after having taken a friendly leave of the natives, who promised to take care of the holy altar and crucifix; and they presented Cortes on his departure with some fowls and honey. We had sailed but a few hours when a signal gun and cry of alarm informed us that the vessel of Juan de Escalante which contained the bread for the fleet was in danger, having sprung a leak. This forced us to put back to the place from whence we had laded. On our return there, we were visited by the friendly Indians, and the cause of it being made known to them, they immediately brought their canoes to assist us in taking the lading out of the vessel,
and we had also the further satisfaction of perceiving on entering the temple, that so far from having done any injury to the holy altar and crucifix, they had taken care of, and placed incense before them.
Indian messengers and Aguilar hearing of our return,
joyfully hired a boat and crossed the gulf to join us. Intelligence of the
arrival of a large canoe was given to Cortes, by some soldiers who had gone out
to hunt wild twine, whereupon he ordered Andres de Tapia and two others to go
and see who and what these Indians were, who came to us thus without
apprehension. Aguilar was not in his appearance to be distinguished from a
native, and he had hardly the pronunciation of his own language; his only words
at first were, “Dios,
questioned concerning himself he informed us that he was a native of Ecija, and had been ordained in the church. That eight years before, he was wrecked with fifteen men and
two women, going from
mained with him ever since; and of the whole number there were now in existence, only himself, and Guerrero. As to his knowledge of the country it was very confined, for he was only employed in procuring wood and water, and digging in the maize fields, and had never been farther from the coast than about four leagues; but he understood that it was very populous. He described Guerrero as exactly resembling an Indian, adding that he was considered by the natives as a very brave man, insomuch that when above a year before, three ships came upon the coati at the point of Cotoche, (this was the expedition of H. de Cordova,) he planned the attack upon those who landed, and led the Indians in person. Upon hearing this, Cortes regretted much his not being able to get him into his hands.
Aguilar was well treated by the natives of Cozumel, who supplied him plentifully with provisions; he in return earnestly exhorted them to continue faithful to our holy religion, the good effects, of which they should soon perceive; and he also advised them to apply to Cortes for a letter of protet1ion, which would be of service to them in case of the arrival of other Spaniards on their coast. This was immediately granted them; and such is the true narrative in regard to Aguilar.
On the fourth of March the fleet again put to sea, and was during the night separated by a gale of wind, but on the next day all the ships joined company except that of Velasquez de Leon, which not appearing on the ensuing day, Cortes made sail for a certain bay on the coast, where, according to the surmise of the pilot, they found the ship, which had put in during the storm, and was detained there wind bound. Here several of our companions went on shore, and found in the town hard by, four temples, the idols in which represented human female figures of large size, for which reason we named this place, Punta de las Mugeres.
Aguilar said that he had once been sent so far with a load, and that the town where he resided was about four leagues distant; he also told
us that the residence of Guerrero was not far off, and that the country contained gold though in very small quantity, offering to serve as a guide, if Cortes thought proper to send a party on shore; to which the general replied that he did not come for such trifles, but to serve God and his sovereign effectually. Cortes now ordered Capt. de Escobar to examine the bay called Boca de Terminos; and to leave signs on the coast of his having been there, or cruize off the bay, till the arrival of the fleet, for by the description given of the harbour, and the abundance of game, he was inclined to think it an advantageous situation to colonize.
proceeded thither, and on his landing found the grey-hound which had been left
behind by Grijalva waiting for him on the shore, and
testifying his joy at the sight of our people; he was taken on board, and the
vessel then cruized, waiting for the arrival of the
fleet; but a strong gale of wind from the South came on, and forced her
considerably out to sea, so that when we arrived there, Escobar’s ship was no
where to be seen. On sending on chore however, a letter was found, wherein he
told Cortes of the state of the harbour, and country,
both of which he represented in a favorable light. We then stood out, and in
the ensuing day his vessel joined us. At this time we were near the point of Pontonchan, the natives of which Cortes and many of us were
well inclined to punish for their conduct on former occasions, but it was
opposed by the pilots on account of the shallowness of the coast, and, height
of the tides, whereby vessels are compelled to ride at least two leagues out at
sea. We therefore continued our voyage for the
thirteenth day of March 1519, we arrived with the whole armament at the
covered by mangroves, were filled with canoes containing armed Indians, and above twelve thousand warriors had assembled in the town of Tabasco which was at that time possessed of an extensive domination over the neighbouring districts. This afforded matter of surprise to us who had been at this place before, and the reason of their present hostility we afterwards found to be, that the neighbouring nations of Pontonchan and Lazarus, (as we named the place,) had reproached them for their dastardly timidity, as they considered it, in treating amicably with us, instead of attacking us at our landing as the others had done. For this reason they were determined to take the present opportunity of retrieving their character with their neighbours.
As soon as Cortes perceived what kind of reception he was to expect, he directed Aguilar to address himself to some of the natives who appeared to be chiefs, and who were in a canoe which was then palling very near us, and ask them the reason of these hostile appearances when we came to them as friends and brothers, adding, that if they were so rash as to recur to hostilities they should certainly have cause to repent it. This, and more to the same purpose being explained to them, only teemed to render them more violent against us, and they replied by threatening us all with instant death if we ventured to approach their town, which they had fortified with parapets and palisades. Aguilar then requested permission to procure wood and water, and an interview with their caciques, to whom our general had matters of the greatest importance and of a holy nature to communicate, but to this they only replied in the same manner as before.
Cortes hereupon ordered three guns to be placed in each vessel, and also divided the musketeers and cross-bowmen through them. It was recollected by us who had been there before, that a harrow road went from the point of Palmares, by some brooks and marches, to the town of Tabasco. Cortes ordered three soldiers to watch the motions of the enemy, and report to him if they retired to their town; which they shortly did.
next morning, after mass, our general detached Captain Alonzo de.
Cortes observing this, ordered a halt, and that the firing should not commence, for he wished to proceed in a strictly justifiable manner. He therefore ordered Diego de Godoy a royal notary, formally to require them to permit us to supply ourselves with wood and water, and speak to them as we were in duty bound upon what concerned the service of our God and King, warning them, that in case of violence they were answerable for all the mischief that resulted. All this, being duly explained to them produced no effect, they seemed as determined to oppose us as they were before. They made with their drums the signals for a general attack, and to close upon us, and these were immediately followed by discharges of arrows. Their canoes then proceeded to surround us, and we were compelled to fight them up to our middles in water. We were detained a considerable time here, partly owing to the attacks of the enemy with their lances and arrows, partly to the depth of the mud on the shore, from which we could not extricate ourselves but with great difficulty; and Cortes in particular, was obliged to leave one of his buskins behind him in it, and come to land barefooted. We were just at that time in very great difficulty, but as soon as we got to the dry land, with our general at our head, calling upon St. Jago, we fell upon the enemy, and forced them to give a little ground. They then fell back behind Tome circular works constructed of large timber, until we also drove them from thence, and entered by certain small gateways into
into the town. We then drove them before us up the street to a second barricade, behind which they posted themselves, fronting us valiantly whistling, and shouting, “Al calachioni,” or “kill the captain.” While we were thus engaged, the party commanded by Captain De Avila and which had marched from the point of Palmares arrived, and joined us most opportunely. He had been retarded on his route, in crossing marshes and breaking down barricades, whereby he arrived at the moil convenient moment, for we had been detained longer than we expelled in making the summons which I have related. We now drove the enemy before us, though they fought manfully and never could lx made to turn their backs, until they arrived at a great enclosed court, where were some large apartments and halls, and three houses containing idols. Here they had collected all their effects, but as they were forced to evacuate this last post, our general ordered a halt, and that they should be pursued no farther.
Cortes took possession of the country for his Majesty and in his royal name in the following manner. Drawing his sword, he gave three cuts with it into a great ceiba tree which stood in the area of this enclosure, and said, that against any who denied his Majesty’s claim, he was ready to defend and maintain it, with the sword and shield which he then held. This Rep was generally approved of, and it was formally witnessed by a royal notary. It gave cause for secret murmurs however amongst the party of Velasquez. In these actions fourteen of our soldiers were wounded; I received a flight one, and eighteen of the enemy were left dead upon the field. Here we posted strong guards, and halted for the night.
On the next day Cortes detached Captain P. de Alvarado with one hundred men, to march through and reconnoitre the country for the distance of two leagues round our post. On this occasion the interpreter Melchorejo being ordered to attend, it was found that he had deserted on the preceding night, leaving his clothes behind him. This vexed Cortes much, as it was to be apprehended that he could convey
to his countrymen intelligence very injurious to us. Our general detached a second party of equal strength and upon the same duty under Captain Francisco de Lugo. This last mentioned detachment had not marched far, when it fell in with several large bodies of the enemy’s warriors, who attacked our people on all sides, insomuch that all the valour of De Lugo and his soldiers could not repulse them and he was obliged to fall back, which he however did with great regularity, to our quarters, sending before him a swift Indian of Cuba to call for succour. Alvarado with his detachment had advanced somewhat farther, to the distance of above a league from the town, when his progress was intercepted by an arm of the sea, or river. Being obliged thereby to march in another direction, it was the will of God that he should come within hearing of the musketry, and the instruments and shouts of the Indians with whom De Lugo was engaged. He immediately flew to his relief, and the two bodies joining repelled the enemy and retreated towards the town, in which we who occupied it had at the same time been attacked by great bodies of the enemy, whom however we soon made retreat by the effect of our musketry and cross-bows, and our good swords. As soon as Cortes received intelligence that his detachments were engaged, he sallied out at the head of all of us who could carry arms, and we met our companions in their retreat, at about half a leagues distance. They had lost in the engagement two soldiers of the company of Captain de Lugo, and had in all eleven wounded. We returned with them to the town, bringing with us three prisoners, one of whom appeared to be a chief. We were informed by them that Melchorejo had advised them to attack us by day and by night, whereby they would, he said, destroy us, being so few. The native who told us this we released and lent to his countrymen with an amicable message, but he never returned, and Aguilar was informed by the others, that we were to expel to be attacked by the whole force of the warriors of that country.
When Cortes understood the formidable preparations which were making against us, he ordered the horses to be landed, and all the
wounded men who were able to march to turn out. The horses when first brought to land were very dull and torpid, but in the course of a day they recovered their spirit. Several of our best and most alert young men were at this time taken so ill and weak by an ailment in the reins, that they could not stand on their feet, or help themselves: we could only account for it from their good living in Cuba, and the heat of the weather, and weight of their arms. Cortes ordered them to be put on board the ships, and assigning the horses to the best horsemen, he furnished each with a breastplate with bells hanging to it, and gave his cavalry general instructions not to halt, or make thrusts with the lance, until the enemy were put to flight, but in their attack to point at their faces. He selected the following officers and soldiers to serve in the cavalry. Christoval de Oli, P. de Alvarado, A. H. Puertocarrero, J. de Escalante, F. de Montejo, Alonzo de Avila, J. V. de Leon, Francisco de Morla, Lares (called by way of distinction the good horseman,) Gonzalo Dominguez another excellent horseman, Moron del Bayamo, and P. Gonzales de Truxillo. This body was commanded by Cortes in person. The artillery he put under the command of Mesa, the infantry under that of Diego de Ordas, and the colours were borne by Anthonio de Villaroel. Being thus arranged and appointed, our whole force took the field early on the morning of the day of our lady in the month of March, after hearing mass, and proceeded to the plain of Cintia, our cavalry making a circuit in order to avoid some marshy ground.
Having marched about a league we saw the enemy in the plain in our front, advancing against us, founding their trumpets, horns, and drums, with plumes of feathers on their heads, their faces painted black, red, and white, all of them bearing defensive armour of quilted cotton, and shields, and their offensive arms consisting of large bows and arrows, lances, two handed swords, darts, and slings. Their numbers covered the whole plain, and they fell upon us furiously, wounding above seventy of our soldiers by the first discharge of their missile weapons. One soldier fell instantly dead by an arrow which pierced his ear: his name was Saldana. The enemy then closed upon and
fought with us foot to foot, while we with our cannon, musketry, cross-bows, and swords, maintained our ground firmly. When they had pretty well experienced the sharpness of our swords, they drew off a little, but it was only to shoot at us with more advantage; our artillery now however made great havoc amongst them from the manner in which they were crowded together, and they were at that distance which enabled us to fire at them with the greatest advantage; but all could not make them give way.
I advised Captain de Ordas to close with them, because they seemed to be shy of our swords, and had the advantage of their missile weapons when at a little distance; but he objected to this, observing that they were three hundred for every one of us. However we did advance upon them, and as they were unwilling to come within the reach of our swords they yielded ground, and inclined towards a marsh. During all this time we were anxiously looking out for Cortes, and very apprehensive that he had met with some disaster.
I recollect that in this battle, every time that the cannon were fired, the Indians shouted, whistled, and sounded their instruments, throwing up straw and dust in the air, and crying, “Ala, lala;” this they did to prevent our perceiving the mischief done by our artillery in their crowded bodies. While we were engaged as I have now described, we were rejoiced at the sight of Cortes approaching to our support. As the cavalry came round by the rear of the Indians, who were entirely occupied in their attacks upon us, the latter did not perceive them until they made their charge. The ground being very level, most of the horses active, and the men expert, they now rode through the bodies of the enemy as they chose, and we, encouraged by this support, reiterated our efforts on our side. The Indians struck with surprise thought that the horse and his rider were one; they were terrified at the sight, and in an instant fled to the adjacent woods and marshes, leaving the field and victory to us.
Being thus masters of the field, after taking breath Cortes related to us how he had been retarded in his march by bad ground, and the attacks of some bodies of the enemy who had wounded five of his men and eight horses. The cavalry then dismounted, and under a grove of trees on the field of battle, we gave thanks to God and our Lady his blessed mother with uplifted hands, for the victory which they had given to us; in consequence whereof, and on account of the day on which the battle was fought, a town was afterwards founded on that spot named Santa Maria de La Vitoria. We next proceeded to take care of our wounds, which we bound up, and those of the horses we dressed with the fat of the Indians whom we found dead thereabout. We then walked over the field to examine the lots of the enemy, which we found to amount to upwards of eight hundred, dead or dying of their wounds by cannon shots, and those of our small arms or swords; also where the cavalry had charged we found them to lie very thick. For the first hour of this battle we could not force the enemy to yield us an inch of ground, nor did they until they saw the cavalry coming on them.
We made five Indians prisoners, two of whom appeared to be chiefs; the day was growing late, and we were fatigued; we therefore retreated to our quarters, first burying two of our soldiers, who were killed, one by a wound in the ear, and the other by one in the throat, and then, after dressing our wounds with the fat of Indians, and having placed good guards round our post, we eat our suppers, and went to our repose.
In his account of this action Gomara says, that previous to the arrival of the main body of the cavalry under Cortes, Francisco de Morla appeared in the field upon a grey dappled horse, and that it was one of the holy apostles, St. Peter or St. Jago, disguised under his person. I say, that all our works and victories are guided by the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that in this battle, them were so many enemies to every one of us, that they could have buried us under the dust they could have held in their hands, but that the great mercy of God aided
us throughout. What Gomara asserts might be the case, and I, sinner as I am, was not worthy to be permitted to see it. What I did see was, Francisco de Morla riding in company with Cortes and the rest upon a chesnut horse, and that circumstance, and all the others of that day appear to me at this moment that I am writing, as if actually passing in the view of those sinful eyes. But although I, unworthy sinner that I am, was unfit to behold either of those holy apostles, upwards of four hundred of us were present, let their testimony be taken. Let enquiry also be made how it happened, that when the town was founded on that spot, it was not named after one or other of those holy apostles, and called St. Jago de la Vitoria, or St. Pedro de la Vitoria, as it was Santa Maria, and a church erected and dedicated to one of those holy saints. Fiery bad christians were we indeed, according to the account of Gomara, who when God sent us his apostles to fight at our head, did not every day after acknowledge and return thanks for so great a mercy! Would to heaven that it were so, but until I read the chronicle of Gomara I never heard of it, nor was it ever mentioned amongst the conquerors who were then present.
I have related how we made two chiefs prisoners in the late battle; having been kindly treated by Cortes, and exhorted to induce their countrymen to come into amicable terms, they were dismissed for that purpose, after having been presented with a number of beads, and artificial diamonds. These Indians faithfully executed their mission; and to such an effect, that the chiefs of the province immediately sent fifteen, of their slaves with their faces besmeared with black, and in wretched habits, in sign of contrition for what had passed, and bearing fowls, roasted fish, and maize, as a present. Cortes received them with kindness, but the interpreter speaking somewhat angrily to them said, that it was with chiefs, and not with slaves that we were to treat.
On the ensuing day thirty Indians of rank came in good dresses with another present, and to request permission to inter their dead that they should not be eaten by lions and tygers. This being granted
them, they proceeded to bum and inter the bodies. They also informed us that on the next day we should receive an embassy to treat conclusively of peace. Accordingly, at the time mentioned, ten chiefs richly dressed arrived with much ceremony, and saluted Cortes and the rest of us; they brought with them vessels of incense which they offered to us, demanding pardon for the past, and declaring their good intentions in future. Cortes assuming a grave countenance told them they deserved death for their neglect of our former offers of peace; but that our great Monarch Don Carlos had enjoined us to favour them so far as they should deserve it, and in case of their adopting a bad line of conduct, they should again feel the effect of our vengeance. He then caused a cannon to be fired, the noise of which terrified them, whole imaginations were under the impression of its being a living creature; and the noise of the ball in the neighbouring woods confirmed them in their way of thinking. One of the most spirited of the horses was then brought into the apartment, and it being so contrived that he should chow himself to the greatest advantage, his apparent fierceness, and his action, struck the natives with awe. Shortly after this twenty Indians of burthen arrived bearing provisions for our use. Cortes conversed a long time with the chiefs, who at length took their leave, highly contented with the result of their visit.
On the ensuing day we were visited by many chiefs of the neighbouring districts, who brought with them presents of gold wrought into various forms, some resembling the human face, others of animals, birds, and beasts, such as lizards, dogs, and ducks. Also three diadems, and two pieces in form like the sole of a sandal, with some other articles of little value, nor do I recollect the amount of the whole. They also brought some mantles of very large size, but that part of the present which we held in the highest estimation was twenty women, among whom was the excellent Donna Marina, for so she was called after her baptism. Cortes thanked the chiefs for their visit, but caused it to be intimated to them, that the certain indication of peace was, the return of the inhabitants to their town, which by their authority he expected to see done within two days, and this was accordingly com-
plied with in the time prescribed. They also on being called on to renounce their idolatrous worship, declared a ready assent upon that point. Cortes explained to them the mysteries of our true faith, and those parts of it which are represented in the crucifix, and the image of our Holy Virgin. To this the caciques replied that they admired the “Tecleciguata,” which in their language signifies a great princess.
When these people were questioned as to their hostilities against us they excused themselves by saying, that they had been instigated thereto by the cacique of Champoton, and also by our Indian interpreter who deserted from us. This man Cortes was very anxious to lay hands on, but to his enquiries concerning him the answer was, that he had fled: it came to our knowledge however afterwards, that he had been sacrificed. Being questioned as to the place where they obtained their gold they replied, that it was on the west, and they frequently repeated, “Culchua,” and “Mexico,” words, the signification of which was at this time unknown to us. We had here an interpreter named Francisco, who had also been with Grijalva; he did not understand the language of Tabasco in the least, but knew perfectly what they meant by the word Culchua, which country, he endeavoured to explain to Cortes, lay far within the land.
ensuing day, an altar being built and the crucifix erected, the town of
promised faithfully to perform, and these were the first of the natives of this country who became vassals to the Spanish monarchy.
On the next day, (Palm Sunday) with the assistance of the natives a cross was made in a large ceiba tree on the spot where the battle was fought, in order to afford a long memorial thereof, for this tree has’ the quality of reproducing its bark. The natives attended at the adoration of the holy image and cross, which we went in procession to pay our devotions to, on this festival. They then at our requisition assisted us to make our preparations to re-embark, our pilots wishing to get far off that coast, which the wind at this time blew strongly upon; and all things being prepared, and Cortes having taken leave of the natives, in the evening of this day the troops went on board, and on the ensuing morning sailed for St. Juan de Ulua.
As we proceeded along the coast, those of us who had been there before with Grijalva pointed out to Cortes the different places we saw on the land, saying, here Sir is La Rambla, and there Tonala or St. Anton: more forward we shewed him the great river of Guacacualco, the lofty mountains covered with snow, those of St. Martin, and Roca Partida. We then shewed him the rivers of Alvarado, and Vanderas, Isla Blanca, and Isla Verde, and close to the land Isla de Los Sacrificios, and early in the evening of holy Thursday we thus arrived at the port of St. Juan de Ulua. I recollect that while we were pointing out, these places to Cortes, a cavalier named Puertocarrero came up to him and said, “It seems to me Sir as if these gentlemen who have been here before are making their exhibition, as it were, here you see Montesinos of France, and here you see the great city of Paris, and here the waters of the Duero where they run to the sea. But I say see the rich lands, and look to your measures!” Cortes very well understood the purport to which this was spoken, and replied, “God give us fortune in arms like the Paladin Roldan, and for the rest, having you gentlemen for soldiers, I shall know very well how to act to good effect.”
The young native who was baptized by the name of Donna Marina, and who rendered such essential services in the sequel, was the daughter of the chief or Prince of Painala, a powerful lord who had several districts subject to him, eight leagues from Guacacualco. He dying while this lady was an infant, his widow married another chief, a young man, by whom she had a son whom they determined to place in succession after them. They therefore gave this girl to certain Indians of Xicalango to carry off secretly, and caused it to be rumoured that she was dead; which report they corroborated by taking the advantage of the death of a child about her age, the daughter of a slave. The people of Xicalango gave her to those of Tabasco, and the latter to Cortes, by whom the was presented to a cavalier named Alonzo Hernandez Puertocarrero: when he went to Old Castille, Cortes took her to himself, and had by her a son who was named Don Martin Cortes, and who was a commander of the order of St. Jago. She afterwards on our expedition to Higueras married a cavalier named Juan Xaramillo.
Donna Marina had by her birth an universal influence and consequence through these countries; the was of a fine figure, frank manners, prompt genius, and intrepid spirit; an excellent linguist, and of most essential service to Cortes whom she always accompanied. I was acquainted with her mother, and her half brother, who was at the time I knew him grown up; they governed their territory conjointly, the second husband being also dead. They were afterwards baptized, the mother by the name of Marta, the son by the name of Lazarus; this I know, for in the expedition to Higueras, when Cortes passed through Guacacualco, he summoned all the neighbouring chiefs to meet him in that settlement; and amongst many others came the mother, and half brother of this lady. She had told me before that she was of that province, and in troth she much resembled her mother who immediately recognised her. Both the old lady and her son were terrified, thinking that they were sent for to be put to death, and cried bitterly, but Donna Marina dried their tears, saying, that she forgave them, that at the time they sent her from them they were ignorant of what they did; and
that she thanked God, who had taken her from the worship of
idols to the true church, and was happier in having a son by her lord and
master Cortes, and in being married to a cavalier like her husband, than if the
had been sovereign of all the provinces of