March of the
Spaniards to besiege Mexico, December 28th.
1520. Investment of
that city, and final conquest August 16th. 1521.
day after the feast of the nativity, we set forward towards Tezcuco with our
full force, and accompanied by ten thousand of our Tlascalan allies. On the
same night we halted in a part of the
observed signals made by smoke in the different places towards
the inclination of Cortes, who was not able to restrain them. We halted for
this night at a town in the
On the next morning we again set forward on our march for Tezcuco, which was distant about two leagues; but we had proceeded a very short distance, before one of our patroles came to us with intelligence that ten Indians were on the road, with signs of peace. The whole of the country also through which we marched exhibited every sign of most perfect tranquillity. When these Indians arrived, we found that they composed an embassy, consisting of seven chieftains, of Tezcuco. A golden banner borne upon a long lance was carried before them, and when they came near us the banner was lowered, and they bowed their bodies. Addressing Cortes in the name of their lord Cocoivacin, the prince of Tezcuco, they then requested to be received under our protection, inviting us to their city, and presenting to us, as a token of peace, their golden banner. They utterly denied having any part in the attacks with which we had been threatened, and requested that no injury might be done to their city by us or our allies. Three of these embassadors were personally known to most of us, for they were relations of the good Montezuma, and captains of his guards. Cortes earnestly requested the Tlascalan chiefs to prevent their people from pillaging, and his wishes were strictly attended to, excepting only in the article of provisions.
It clearly appeared that this embassy was a mere pretence; nevertheless the embassadors were allured that every protection should be afforded to the country, but were at the same time told, that it could not
be unknown to them, how, above forty of the Spaniards and two hundred of
our allies were put to death within their territories, when we retreated from
upon him; Anthonio de Villaroel married to the handsome Isabel de Ojeda, a
batchellor named Escobar captain of Tezcuco, and Pedro Sanches Farfan, a good
soldier, married to the worthy and honorable lady Maria de Estrada. Cortes then
required of him a number of Indian labourers to open the canals, in order to
bring his vessels to the lake. He also explained to him his plan of attacking
Our captains were at this time assigned their different posts, in case of a sudden attack upon our quarters, the reigning prince in Mexico frequently sending out his troops upon the lake, in expectation of taking us unprepared. Some neighbouring people, whose district is called Guatinchan, and who had been guilty of offences in the murders of our countrymen, now petitioned for, and obtained pardon. The work upon the canals went on most rapidly, as we never had less than from seven to eight thousand Indians employed.
late upon the throne of
moment, we should have been all drowned; for the enemy had cut the banks of the canals, and also a causeway, whereby the place was laid under water as it were instantaneously. As it happened two of our allies only, lost their lives, but all our powder was destroyed, and we were glad to escape with a good wetting. We passed the night badly enough, being supperless, and very cold; but what provoked us most was the laughter and mockings of the Indians upon the lake. Worse than this however happened to us, for large bodies from the garrison of Mexico, who knew of the plan, crossed the water and fell on us at day break with such violence that it was with difficulty we could sustain their attacks. They killed two soldiers and one of our horses, and wounded a great many. Our allies also suffered a considerable loss on this occasion. The enemy being at length beaten off we returned to Tezcuco, in very bad humour, having acquired little fame or advantage by our expedition.
after our return from our last expedition, the people of three neighbouring
districts, viz Tepetezcuco, Obtumba, and another which I do not recollect, sent
to sollicit pardon for the offences they had committed, excusing themselves, by
alledging the commands of Coadlavaca. Cortes making a merit of necessity gave
them a free pardon, knowing very well that he was not in a situation to do
otherwise. The people also of that place called
Intelligence was soon received, that large bodies of Mexican troops had fallen upon the districts in alliance with us, the inhabitants of which being afraid to remain at home, were flying to the woods or to our quarters for protection. Cortes ordered out twenty cavalry and two hundred infantry, twenty three musqueteers and crossbow-men included, and taking Alvarado and De Oli with him, proceeded to the towns of Guatinchan, and Huaxutlan. The reports appeared to have foundation,
but the real cause of contention was, the crop of Indian corn on the borders of the lake, which was now fit to reap, and from which the people of Tezcuco and the others supplied our provisions; but the Mexicans also laid claim to it, and it appeared that the produce of these fields went to the priests of Mexico. Cortes told them to inform him when they thought it necessary to cut the corn, and accordingly, at that time, a body of one hundred or upwards of our soldiers, attended by the allies went out to cover the reapers. I was twice on that duty, ands had one smart skirmish. The Mexicans crossed over in upwards of a thousand canoes, and attacked us in the maize, fields, but we and, our allies, drove them back to their boats, with the loss of one soldier of ours killed, and many wounded. They fought like men, and left behind them, twenty dead, and we also took five prisoners. At this time other neighbouring districts solicited our alliance.
There were two places, named Chalco and Talmalanco, of some consequence, as being between our army and Tlascala. They were now possessed by the Mexican troops, and though Cortes had several petitions for protection, he thought it necessary above all things, immediately to dislodge these Mexicans, that such of his allies as wished it might return home, and also in order to obtain his ship timber from Tlascala. He therefore sent a force for this purpose under Sandoval and De Lugo, consisting of fifteen cavalry and two hundred infantry, and he gave these officers orders to break completely the Mexican force, whereby we should obtain a clear communication with Villa Rica. Our allies of Chalco were secretly informed of our intention, in order that they should be ready to support us. Sandoval had put ten of his party in the rear as a guard, and to protect the allies who were returning home with his detachment, and who were loaded with plunder. The Mexicans sell upon them on their march with considerable impression, owing to the weakness of the rear guard, of which they killed two, and wounded the rest; and although Sandoval instantly flew to their relief, the Mexicans contrived to reach the lake. Sandoval censured the people in the rear for this, throwing the whole blame on them; he then put the
Tlascalans in security, and having sent the letters with which he was intrusted to the commandant of Villa Rica, in which Cortes ordered him to send what reinforcements he could to Tlascala, there to wait until it should be ascertained that the route from thence to Tezcuco was clear, he dismissed the allies to their province, and returned to Chalco, which district he had reason to apprehend was filled with the troops of the Mexicans.
On his road he was attacked in a plain covered with maize and maguey, by a body of the enemy who wounded several of his party; the cavalry drove then to a distance, after which he pursued his route to Chalco. Having informed the principal people of this place of his intention to march to Tezcuco on the ensuing day, they informed him of their determination to go with him, and for the following reason. Their lord was lately dead of the small pox. He had on his death-bed recommended his sons to the protection of Cortes, being convinced that we were those of whom their ancestors had prophesied, when they said that men with beards should come to govern them; and he therefore enjoined his sons to receive their dominions from the hands of our chief. Sandoval accordingly marched for our head quarters, bringing with him the young lords of Chalco, who experienced a most gracious reception from Cortes, and they presented him with ornaments of gold amounting in value to about two hundred thousand crowns. Cortes divided the district between them, giving Chalco and the larger part to the elder brother, and Talmalanco, Ayocingo, and Chimalcan, with other places, to the younger. By some Mexican prisoners Cortes sent a message to the reigning prince in that city, couched in the most inviting and amicable terms, in order to induce him to come to an accommodation; but Guatimotzin would not hear them, and persisted in the most active hostility against us. Frequent complaints came to us at this time of the incursions made by the enemy upon our allies of Guatinchan and Huaxutlan, in the neighbourhood of the lake, upon the old cause of the fields sown for the service of the Mexican temples; in consequence of which, Cortes being determined to put a stop to these
inroads, and marching with a strong party for that purpose, came up with the enemy at the distance of about two leagues from Tezcuco, and so completely broke and defeated them, though with no very considerable loss on their side, that they did not show themselves there again.
As it was resolved to lose no time in the grand object of our enterprise, Sandoval attended by twenty of the principal people of Tezcuco, marched with a detachment of two hundred soldiers of the infantry, twenty musqueteers and crossbow-men included, and fifteen cavalry, from Tezcuco, in order to bring the timber to construct our ships on the lake of Mexico. Before they set out, Cortes effected a reconciliation between the Tlascalans and the Indians of Chalco, who had long been hostile. He gave directions to Sandoval, after he had left the chieftains of Chalco in their own town, to proceed by a place named by us Puebla Moresca, the inhabitants of which had robbed and put to death upwards of forty of our soldiers, who were on their march from Vera Cruz to Mexico, when we went to the relief of Alvarado. Sandoval had orders to inflict an exemplary punishment on them, not that their guilt was more than that of the people of Tezcuco, who were the leaders of the business, but because they could be punished with less inconvenience. The place was put under military execution. Some few of the inhabitants were made prisoners, and when Sandoval enquired of them in what manner they had destroyed the Spaniards, they informed him that they were fallen on by the troops of Mexico and Tezcuco, by surprize, in a narrow pass where they could only go in single file, and that it was done in revenge for the death of Cacamatzin. Not more than three or four of these people lost their lives, as Sandoval had pity on them. In the temples were found many traces of the blood of our countrymen upon the walls, their idols were besmeared with it, and we found the skins of two of their faces with their beards, dressed like leather, and hung upon the altars, as were also the shoes of four horses, together with their skins very well dressed. The following words were found written upon a piece of marble fixed in the wall of one of the houses. “Here was taken the unfortunate Juan Juste, with many
others of his companions.” This Juste was a gentleman who came with Narvaez, and served in the cavalry. These sad remains filled the minds of Sandoval and his party with rage and grief, but there was no possibility of obeying the dictates of their feelings, for the men were all fled, and the women and children bewailed their fate in the most affecting terms. Sandoval therefore sent them to their husbands and fathers, whom they induced to come in and submit. In answer to the questions put to them relative to the gold, they declared that it had all been claimed by the Mexicans. Sandoval now continued his march to Tlascala, and when he came near the capital of that country, he fell in with a vast body of Indians employed in transporting the timber, and concluded by Chichimecatecle, and our shipwright Martin Lopez. The order these people came in was as follows. Eight thousand men carried the timber ready shaped for every part of the thirteen vessels, eight thousand more followed as a guard with their ensigns and arms, and a third body of two thousand, as a relief, and with provisions for the whole. Several Spaniards joined us with this escort, and also two great Tlascalan chiefs named Teuleticle, and Teatical. The enemy appeared only in small bodies at a distance, but it was thought necessary to use much precaution, considering the extent of the line of march, and the danger of a surprise. Sandoval sent some of his troops in front, and posted others on the flanks, while he remained at the rear guard with the Tlascalans, to whom he assigned that post. This arrangement gave their chief, Chichimecatecle, great offence, but when he was informed that it was there the Mexicans were most likely to attack, his pride became pacified. In two days more the whole body arrived at Tezcuco, in great triumph and pomp, the allies wearing their finest habits and great plumes of feathers, with drums, horns, and trumpets, sounding. Thus they continued marching into our quarters, without breaking a file, for the space of full half the day, shouting out, “Castilla! Castilla! Tlascala! Tlascala! live his Majesty the Emperor.”
Our timber being all now laid ready at the docks, in a very short time, by the great exertions of Lopez, the hulls were completely finish-
ed; but we were obliged to keep the strictest guard, as the Mexicans sent three parties to endeavour to set them on fire.
The Tlascalans were anxious to be sent on some enterprise, and Cortes indulged them by declaring his intention to march on the ensuing day to Saltocan, a town which had neglected our summons to a submission. For this purpose he ordered two hundred and fifty infantry and thirty cavalry, the whole of the Tlascalans, and a body of the warriors of Tezcuco. He appointed the captains Alvarado and De Oli to act under him, and having left the post of Tezcuco, where it was always necessary “to have the beard upon the shoulders,” under the care of Sandoval, and ordered Lopez to have the vessels ready to launch within the space of fifteen days, he set out with the above force upon his expedition. When he approached Saltocan, he was met by large bodies of the Mexican troops, whom the cavalry drove to the woods. The troops halted for the night in some villages, in a country thickly inhabited. They were kept very alert, for it was known that the enemy had a considerable force in Saltocan; and a body of Mexicans had been sent thither in large boats, and was at this time concealed in the deep canals of the neighbourhood.
On the ensuing day, at the commencement of the march, our troops were assailed by the enemy, and several were wounded, without our cavalry having it in their power to retaliate, on account of the number of canals. The only causeway which led to the town on the land side, they had completely inundated, and our musquetry was of no effect against the enemy in their canoes, being so well guarded by strong screens of timber. All this contributed to give our people a disgust to the expedition. Some Indians of Tezcuco who had joined our army at this time pointed out a pass to one of our soldiers; upon which, our people put themselves into march, and under the direction of their guide crossed the canals and waters, and at length reached the road which led to the town, Cortes with the cavalry remaining on the other side. Our troops advanced against the town, and made a considerable slaughter of
the Mexicans, driving the remainder, and the natives of the place, to their boats. They then returned to Cortes, with a considerable booty of slaves, mantles, salt, and gold. We lost one soldier by this expedition.
On the ensuing day Cortes marched against a large town called Culvatitlan, through a very populous country. We found the place to which we marched totally deserted, and here we halted for the night. On the ensuing day we proceeded to another large town called Tenayuco, but which we named the town of the serpents, on account of the enormous figures of these animals which we found in their temples, and which they worshipped as gods. This place we also found deserted, and we proceeded a league farther to that which we called the town of the gold-smiths. This place was also deserted, and our troops marched half a league farther, to Tacuba, our soldiers being obliged to cut their way through considerable numbers of the natives. In this town our troops halted for the night, and on the next day they were assailed by bodies of the enemy, who had settled a plan to retreat by their causeways, in order to draw us into an ambuscade. This in part succeeded; Cortes and our troops pursued them across a bridge, and were immediately surrounded by vast numbers on land and in the water. The ensign was thrown over the bridge, and the Mexicans were dragging him to their canoes, yet he escaped from them with his colours in his hand. In this attack they killed five of our soldiers, and wounded many. Cortes perceived his imprudence, and ordered a retreat, which was effected with regularity, our people fronting the enemy, and only giving ground inch by inch. Juan Volante, the ensign who fell into the lake, had a jealousy with one of our soldiers, Pedro de Ircio, about a certain woman. The latter in order to affront him used some abusive language, which Volante did not deserve, being a very valiant gentleman, as he had shown on that and many other occasions. Cortes halted here for five days, and then returned to Tezcuco, the Mexicans harrassing his march; but having been once defeated in an ambuscade which Cortes laid for them, they desisted. When our troops arrived at head quarters, the
Tlascalans, who had enriched themselves by plunder, were anxious to go home, which Cortes readily gave them permission to do.
four days after this expedition, the Indians of several neighbouring districts
came in with presents and declarations of submission. Cortes received all in
good part, although he knew very well that they had been concerned in murders,
dismissing them with promises of protection. Other applications of a more
embarrassing nature were also made at this time, for the nations in our
alliance came with painted representations of the outrages committed on them by
the Mexicans, and requesting succour. Cortes was hardly able to grant them
assistance, from the state of our army, which, exclusive of our loss by killed
and wounded was grown very unhealthy. He however promised them his support, but
told them to rely more on their own exertions, and that they should be assisted
by the neighbouring people of our alliance. For this purpose he gave them
letters of summons to the respective districts, to assemble against the common
enemy. The different districts having assembled their forces, met the Mexicans
in the field, and had an action with them, in which they exerted themselves
with success. The
twelfth day of March, one thousand five hundred and twenty one, after hearing
mass, Sandoval set out, and arrived in the district of Chalco. On the ensuing
morning he reached Talmanalco where he received information that the Mexican
force was posted at a large town called Guaztepeque. The warriors of Chalco
accompanied our troops, who halted for the night at the town of
enemy in the broken ground, and forming the cavalry into small divisions of three in front, directed them to charge as soon as the firing had made any impression; those who were armed with sword and buckler he formed in a compact body as a reserve. Advancing in this order, he shortly perceived the Mexicans in three large battalians or columns, and sounding their warlike music. As soon as Sandoval perceived their disposition he thought proper to give up his original plan, and to break the enemy by a charge of cavalry. Putting himself therefore at the head of this body of troops, he attacked them, crying out “St. Jago for us! comrades fall on!” The main body of the Mexicans was partly broken by the charge, but they immediately closed and fronted again. The ground was much in their favor, so that Sandoval saw it was absolutely necessary to drive them from this post, into the open ground in their rear. For this purpose he ordered the musqueteers and crossbow-men to engage them in the front, and the troops armed with sword and target to turn their flanks, and he gave directions, that at the proper time, the cavalry should fall on the enemy by a signal. He also now ordered our allies to come forward to the attack. Our troops at last forced them to retreat; they fell back however no farther than to a second strong position, nor could Sandoval with his cavalry do any considerable execution among them. Here we lost Gonzalo Dominguez, whose horse fell with him, whereby he died in a few days. He was much regretted, for we esteemed him to be as brave a soldier as De Oli or Sandoval. Our army having broken the enemy again, pursued them to the town, where they were suddenly attacked by at least fifteen thousand fresh warriors, who attempted to surround them; but our troops falling on both their flanks, the whole faced about and fled, endeavoring to rally behind some works which they had constructed. They were however so closely followed that they had not time to do so, and were driven compleatly withinside the town. Sandoval then thought it necessary to give his soldiers some repose, and as a considerable spoil of provisions had fallen in the way of the troops, they began to prepare their dinners, during which time the patroles came galloping in, crying “To arms! the enemy are coming!” There was hardly a moments interval until they
were prepared, and advancing against the enemy, they met them in an open space, and had a severe skirmish, after which the enemy fell back behind their works; but Sandoval attacked them with such impetuosity that he drove them completely away, forcing them to evacuate the town.
In this place was a very magnificent and extensive garden, in which Sandoval took his quarters for the night, and certainly it was a beautiful one to behold; it contained a number of large and handsome buildings, and such varieties that it was truly admirable, and fit for the residence of a great prince; nor had our soldiers time to see the whole of it, for it was above a quarter of a league in length. I was not in this action, being very ill by the wound of a lance, which I received in my throat at the affair of Iztapalapa, the marks of which I carry to this day; but I saw the garden about twenty days afterwards, when I accompanied Cortes. Not having been on this expedition for the reason I have before assigned, as I was then almost at death’s door, I do not in my narrative say we, and us, but they, and them; but notwithstanding that, all is true to the letter as I have related it, for the transactions of an expedition are immediately known in quarters, nor is there any opportunity of adding to, or diminishing the truth, as is sometimes the case elsewhere.
Sandoval thought it a good time to summon all the neighbouring districts to submission, which he accordingly did, but with very little effect, those of Acapistlan, especially, answering by a defiance. This made our allies of Chalco uneasy, as well knowing that they and the Mexicans were only waiting until the return of the Spaniards, in order to fall upon them. For several reasons it was necessary therefore to humble these people, but a great difference of opinion existed on the subject. Sandoval was adverse to any new expedition on account of the number of his wounded, and the soldiers of Narvaez were adverse, because they disliked risques of any kind; but our allies were for it, and Captain Luis Marin, a wise and valiant officer, strongly supported them. As
the distance was but two leagues Sandoval acquiesced. When he advanced, the enemy attacked him with their missile weapons, and after wounding some of his men, returned to their strong port in the town. Our allies did not exhibit much alacrity in going to the attack, in which the Spaniards were obliged to shew them the way, and dismounting some of the cavalry, and leaving the rest in the plain to guard the rear, they advanced against the place, which they entered, having a number wounded in the ascent, and amongst others Sandoval himself. But if the Indians were tardy before, they made up for it now; the Spaniards not having the trouble of putting the enemy to death, it being entirely saved them by their allies. Indeed our countrymen thought their time employed to much better purpose in searching for gold, or making good female prisoners, than in cutting to pieces a parcel of poor wretches who did not any longer defend themselves. They frequently blamed the cruelty of their allies, and saved many Indians from them. Gomara says that the Spaniards suffered thirst here because the water was not to be drank, on account of the quantity of blood with which it was discoloured; the fait is, that many of the wounded Mexicans did come from the rocks and ridges down to the water in making their escape, and it was discoloured the length of time that it would take to say an Ave Maria, but as to our people suffering thirst on that account, that must be untrue, for there were several fountains of the finest water, in the town.
this success Sandoval returned to Tezcuco, with a number of slaves and
considerable spoils. Guatimotzin the reigning prince of
Sandoval, thinking that he had been the cause of this misfortune; and thus, without hearing him out, when he came to wait upon him, he commanded his instant return. This gave Sandoval pain, thinking that he was unworthily treated by Cortes. However he was obliged to return to Chalco. On his arrival he found the business entirely over, for the people of that province had summoned their allies, and repulsed the Mexicans, so that our countrymen returned with the prisoners to head quarters. Cortes was delighted when he heard the event, but Sandoval would not speak to him. The general made every apology, and protested that the whole was owing to a mistake, however, it is unnecessary to say any more upon the subject, as they shortly after became as good friends as ever.
At this time, according to a general proclamation, the Indian slaves were brought together in order to be marked. The reader is already acquainted with the transactions at Tepeaca. It was if possible worse now at Tezcuco. First there was a fifth for his Majesty, then another fifth for Cortes, and then the shares of the captains. What was worst, most of the good female slaves had disappeared during the night! it had been promised that they should be rated, and the proprietor charged according to the value; but the royal officers or commissaries valued them as they thought proper, so that the poor soldier fell from bad to worse. The consequence of this was, that in future, to avoid losing them, thus, the soldiers concealed their slaves or passed them as servants and not prisoners of war, and those who were in favor with Cortes brought them to be marked privately and paid the value to him. Those slaves who fell to the lot of such masters as treated them ill, or had the name of doing so, immediately deserted and were no more to be found; but the owners always remained debtors for so much upon their value in his Majesty’s books, so that many were in debt more than their share of prisage of gold could pay off.
At this time arrived a ship, with arms and gunpowder, from Old Castille, in which came Julian de Alderete treasurer for the crown; he
was from Tordesillas, as was also Orduna the elder, who, after the
conquest, brought over sive daughters whom he married very honorably. A brother
of the order of St. Francis also came; he was named Fra Pedro Malgarejo de
Urrea. He brought with him a number of bulls of our lord St. Peter, in order to
compose our consciences if we had any thing to lay to our charge on account of
the wars. The reverend father made a fortune in a few months, and returned to
Castille. Anthonio Carajaval who now lives in Mexico, though very old, Geronymo
Ruiz de la Mora, one Briones, who was about four years afterwards hanged in
Guatimala for sedition, Alonzo Diaz de la Reguera now living in Valladolid, and
many others came by this vessel. We now learned that the Bishop of Burgos had
no longer any power, his Majesty having been displeased with his conduct ever
since he knew of our eminent services. Another message arrived at this moment from
Chalco for assistance against the Mexicans, upon which Cortes gave his promise
that he would immediately march thither, although the brigantines were now
ready to launch, and the soldiers were anxious to begin the siege of
leaving the town of Tezcuco to the care of Sandoval, set out after mass, upon
his expedition, to clear the district of Chalco, and reconnoitre the country
adjacent to the lake, on friday the fifth of April, one thousand five hundred
and twenty one, at the head of three hundred infantry, twenty crossbow-men and
fifteen musqueteers included, and thirty cavalry, with a large body of the
auxiliaries of Tezcuco and Tlascala. The general was accompanied by the
treasurer Alderete, Fray Pedro Melgarejo, the captains Alvarado, De Oli, and
Tapia, and in this expedition I also went. The first night we halted at
Talmanalco, and on the next day reached Chalco, whither Cortes summoned all the
chiefs, and informed them of his intention immediately to attack
I never had seen so many of our allies in one body. They were those of Chalco,
Guaxocingo, Tlascala, Tezcuco, and other places, and they certainly were
attracted by the hope of spoil, and a voracious appetite for human flesh, just
as the scald crows and other birds of prey follow our armies in
We here received intelligence, that the Mexican forces and their allies of that neighbourhood, were ready and in the field. Cortes therefore warned us to be alert, and early the next morning after mass, as we proceeded on our march, our route being between two ridges of rocks the summits of which were fortified and garrisoned, the enemy endeavored by outcries and reproaches to draw us to an attack; but we pursued our march, by a large town named Guaztepeque, which we found abandoned, and passing through, we arrived at a plain where were some very scanty fountains of water, and hard by was a great rock with a fortress on the summit. We observed it to be filled with troops, who saluted us on our approach with shouts, showers of stones, and arrows, by the first discharge of which they wounded three of our soldiers. Cortes then ordered us to halt, and observing that the Mexicans seemed to despise us for not attacking them, he sent a party of cavalry to examine the rock. On their return they told the general, that no part seemed to them so accessible as that where we then were. Cortes then ordered us to ascend, Ensign Christoval del Corral with the colours leading us, and Cortes with the cavalry remaining in the plain to protect the rear.
began to ascend the mountain, the Indians threw down large masses of rock, and
it was dreadful to see them roll among us, and a wonder how any of us escaped,
as they bounded over us. The order was a very inconsiderate one, and very
unlike a wise captain. One soldier though he wore a helmet was killed at my
foot; he never uttered a word; his name was Martin Valenciano. As we continued
to ascend, the stones still came rolling down upon us, and two more soldiers,
one named Gaspar Sanches, nephew to the treasurer of
named Bravo, were the next who lost their lives, and immediately after, Alonzo Rodriguez was killed, and two more knocked down. Most of the rest received wounds, but still we ascended. I was at that time an alive young man, and followed close to our ensign, taking advantage of the concavities that we found from time to time in the rock. Corral was wounded in the head, his face covered with blood, and the colours tattered to pieces. “Oh signor Bernal Diaz del Castillo” said he to me, “here is no advancing; remain under cover, for it is as much as I can do to keep my hold, and preserve myself from falling.” Looking downward I at this time perceived Pedro Barba captain of the crossbow-men, with two soldiers, climbing up as we had done under the cover of the projections in the face of the rock. I called to him not to advance, for that it was impossible to climb much farther. He replied in lofty terms, that I should desist from talking, and proceed on. I was a little piqued at this, and exerting my utmost activity, mounted to a considerable distance higher, telling him I should see how he would do. At this moment a shower of large rocks came down, and crushed one of the soldiers who were with Barba to death; after having seen which he did not stir a step. Corral called out to those below desiring them to report to the general the impossibility of proceeding, and that even the descent was full of danger. When Cortes was informed of this, for he could not see us on account of the inequalities of the rocks, and understood that most of us were wounded and many killed, a circumstance which he could the readier believe from having had three of the cavalry killed on the plain by the rolling down of the masses of rocks, seven also being wounded in the same manner, he gave signals for us to descend, which we accordingly did, in a very bloody and bruised condition, leaving eight of our party dead.
Bodies of the Mexicans were watching us during this time, concealed in different places, in order to fall upon us when we were engaged in the attack, for it was a concerted plan. They now shewed themselves, and advanced against us; we attacked them in the plain and drove them to some other ridges of rocks, and advancing through nar-
row passes like roads between them, we found another very strong fortress similar to that we had just been repulsed from. We now desisted for the present, and returned to our former position, in order to procure water, the men and horses not having drank during the whole day. We found some springs at the foot of the rock, but the numbers of the. enemy had drained them, and left nothing but mud. We then proceeded to the other fortress which we had observed; there was a distance of about a league and a half between the two. Here, in a grove of mulberry trees we found a fountain, but very scanty of water, and under these trees we halted for some time. At the foot of the rock whereon the fort was, stood a small village. The people above began at our approach to shoot at us, and appeared in much more considerable numbers than in the former place, and their situation was such that no shot from us could take effect upon them. For some distance from the level ground, there was an appearance of paths up the rock, but it altogether presented extreme difficulties.
On the ensuing day we attacked, our principal body climbing the rock very slowly and with great fatigue, nor could we have ever ascended to the works, for they were wounding and destroying us by rolling down mates of rock on our heads, but that fortunately for us there was within shot of the post another rock which commanded it, and to this all our fire arms and crossbow-men were detached; and although they were rather too far off to have much effect, yet having killed several of the enemy over their ramparts, it threw them off their defence, and they offered to submit. Cortes called for five of their chiefs to descend, and reprehending them for having been the aggressors, he told them that he would pardon them on condition that they induced those who were in the other fortress to give themselves up, which they undertook to do, Cortes then ordered the two captains Juan Xaramillo and Pedro de Ircio, and the ensign, Corral, to ascend to the fort which had been surrendered, bidding me accompany them, and he at the same time warned us not to touch a single grain of main. This expression I considered as implying that we should do ourselves what good we had in our power. We
found it to consist of an extensive plain on the summit of a perpendicular rock; the entrance was by an aperture not much larger than twice the size of the mouth of an oven. It was completely filled with men, women, and children, but they had not a single drop of water, and about twenty of their warriors were killed, and many wounded. Their property was all packed up in bales, and here was also a considerable tribute, collected in order to be sent to Mexico. I had brought four of my Indian servants with me, and began to load them, and also four of the natives; upon which Captain De Ircio came and told me to lay down the packs immediately, or he would report me to the general, asking if I had not heard his orders not to touch a grain of maize. I replied that I had heard the orders that the maize should not be taken, and that was the reason why I took the packages; but he would not suffer any of it to go, and on our return reported me to Cortes, expecting that I should receive blame; but Cortes was not so disposed, saying on the contrary, that he was sorry I had not got the spoil, and that the dogs should keep their property, and laugh at us, after all the mischief which they had done. De Ircio on this wished to return thither; but Cortes told him that the time did not then admit of it. By this, the chiefs had arrived from the first fortress, the garrison of which agreed to submit, and we returned, being compelled by want of water, to the town of Guaztepeque, where was the noble garden I have before mentioned. In this garden our whole force lodged for the night; I certainly never had teen one of such magnificence, and Cortes and the treasurer Alderete, after they had walked through and examined it, declared that it was admirable, and equal to any that they had ever seen in Castille.
On the ensuing day we marched for Cuernabaca. The Mexicans who were in that town came out and attacked us, but we defeated and drove them to a town named Tepuztlan, which we took by surprise, making a great booty of Indian women, and other spoils. Cortes summoned the chiefs three or four times, to submit, and an their refusal to come in, and in order to strike terror into others, set fire to about one half of the houses. At this time the chiefs of a district named Yauh-
tepeque came to wait on Cortes and make their submission. On the next day we arrived at the large town of Cuernabaca, or Coadlavaca, in a very strong situation, on account of a deep ravine caused by a rivulet which runs at the depth of at least forty feet, although there is not much water, and which precluded all access to the town except by two bridges, which the inhabitants had broken upon our approach. Cortes however being informed that about half a league higher up was a passage practicable for the cavalry, went thither with them, and we all searched for passes, and at length discovered a very dangerous one, over some trees which hung across from the two opposite sides of the ravine. About thirty of us, and many Tlascalans, made our way over, by the help of those trees, with great difficulty, three fell into the water, and one broke his leg. It was indeed a truly frightful attempt; I for a time entirely lost my sight, from the depth and danger. We who got over, falling on the flank and rear of the enemy unexpectedly, and being just then joined by part of our cavalry who had crossed a bridge which was not entirely destroyed, now drove the enemy from this post, to the neighbouring woods and rocks. In the town we found considerable property, and here we were again lodged in a large garden, belonging to the lord of the district. A deputation of twenty of the principal Indians waited on Cortes, apologizing for the hostilities committed, the blame of which they threw on the Mexicans, offering to submit themselves and observing, as I recollect, that their gods had been permitted by ours to punish them.
Suchimileco, the object of our march, is a large city on the fresh water lake, in which most of the houses are built. As it was late when we set out from Coadlavaca, and the weather excessively sultry, our troops suffered dreadfully from the want of water, not a drop whereof was to be met with on our route. Our allies fainted on the road in numbers; one of them died, and also one of our soldiers. Cortes seeing the distresses of the army, halted under some pine trees, and sent a party forward to seek for relief. When I saw them about to set off, my friend Christoval de Oli being one of them, I brought three of my Indian ser-
vants with me, and followed the party, which they observing, halted in order to make me return, but I was resolved, and De Oli at last assented, telling me I must expect to fight my way. About half a league in front were some villages on the side of a ridge. The cavalry went thither and found water in the houses, and one of my servants brought me from thence a large jar, which they use in that country, full of water. I then determined to return, for the inhabitants of the village had begun to take the alarm. I found Cortes just setting forward on his march, and gave him and the captains a hearty draught each out of the jar, which my servants carried very well concealed, for thirst considers itself before any one. We arrived at the villages and found water, though not much; the sun was then near setting, and our cavalry came in and reported that the whole country was in movement against us; we therefore halted here. I was on the night guard, and recoiled, that it was very windy and rainy. Several of our soldiers were taken ill with inflamations in the mouth and throat, from eating a species of thistle or artichoke, to quench their thirst.
Early the next morning we pursued our route, and about eight o’clock arrived at Suchimileco. I can give no idea of the number of the enemies troops which were gathered here, they were in such vast bodies. They had broken down the bridge which was in front, and fortified themselves with parapets and pallisades; their leaders were armed with swords which they had taken from us in the fatal night of Mexico, and which they had polished and made very bright. The attack laded for half an hour at the bridge. Some of our people passed the water by swimming, and some lost their lives in it. What was worst, several bodies fell on our flanks and rear. When our cavalry had got on firm ground, with the loss of two more of our soldiers killed, we drove them before us, but a reinforcement of at least ten thousand Mexicans just then arrived, and received the charge of our cavalry, four of whom they wounded. Here the good chesnut horse which our Cortes rode tired under him amongst a croud of the enemy, who pulled or knocked the general down, with the intention of taking him alive; more crouds now gathered
gathered about him, and were hurrying him off, but a body of our Tlascalan allies headed by the brave Christoval de Olea came to his rescue, and remounted him, though he was severely wounded in the head. Olea also received three desperate wounds from the swords of the enemy.
As all the streets of the town were full of Mexican troops, we were obliged to divide into bodies and fight separately; but those who were nearest, knowing by the outcry and noise that it was very serious in that part where Cortes commanded, hurried thither, and found him with about fifteen of the cavalry in a very embarrassed situation, among the canals and parapets. We then forced the enemy to give ground, and brought off our Cortes and Olea. On first passing the bridge, Cortes had ordered the cavalry in two divisions, to clear our flanks. At this time they returned to us, every one of them wounded, and reported that the numbers were such that their efforts were unavailing.
We were in an enclosed court, dressing our wounds with burnt oil, and tearing cloth to bind them, when the cavalry came in; and in a short time after, such a volley of arrows came among us that very few escaped unhurt. We now, together with the cavalry, sallied out among the enemy, and used our swords to such effect that they left a considerable number behind them on the ground; our loss being, one man and two horses killed. Having now a little breathing time, for the enemy desisted from their attempt to storm our post, Cortes brought his troops to the large enclosures where were the temples of the Indians, and some of our party going to the top, which commanded Mexico and the whole lake, perceived above two thousand canoes coming from the thy against us full of troops. A body of ten thousand men also marched on the land side, to attack us on that night, and another body of ten thousand was in readiness as a relief. All this we learned from five of the chiefs whom we made prisoners. We posted strong guards at those places where the enemy were to disembark, the cavalry were in readiness to at upon the roads and firm ground, and constant patroles were kept
going during the night. I and ten more soldiers were posted as a guard upon a wall of lime and stone, which commanded one of the landing places. While we were on the watch, we heard a noise which we knew to be occasioned by the approach of a party of the enemy. We were prepared, and beat them off, sending one of our soldiers to make a report to Cortes. The enemy returned in a very short time, and attacking us again, knocked down two of our party, and then drew off to attempt a landing at another place, which was a small gate upon a deep canal. The night was very dark, and as these people are not accustomed to fight during that season, it appeared that their two armies fell into confusion, and contrary to the orders they received, formed in one body, making at least fifteen thousand men.
I must now speak of myself, not meaning it however in the way of boast. When our report reached Cortes, he came to us with ten of the cavalry, and as he approached without speaking, I challenged, “who goes there?” and getting no answer, I and my comrade, one Gonzalo Sanchez a Portuguese of Algarve, sent three or four shots at them. Cortes knowing our voices observed to those with him, that this post required no visiting, for we were two of his veterans. He then remarked to us that our station was a dangerous one, and turning about without saying any more, he continued his rounds. I afterwards heard that one of Narvaez’s soldiers was whipped for negligence on this night.
Our powder being all exhausted, Cortes ordered us to prepare a good store of arrows, which we were employed during the night in heading and feathering, under the directions of Pedro Barba the captain of the crossbow-men. At day break the enemy attacked us, but without much success; for we killed several of their leaders, and took many of them prisoners, with the loss of but one Spaniard killed. Our cavalry who had advanced, fell in with the Mexicans, and not being strong enough to attack them, sent back for assistance; on which the whole of our force sallied out. We charged and defeated the enemy,
and made several prisoners, who informed us of the plan of the Mexicans to wear us out by incessant attacks. We therefore determined to quit that place on the ensuing day. In the interim, our troops and allies having intelligence of the wealth which was in the town, got some of the prisoners to point out to them the houses that contained it, the approach to which was by a causeway with small bridges over the canals, for they stood on the fresh water lake. From these they returned loaded with cotton cloths and other valuables, and this example induced others to follow it. Unfortunately, while thus employed, a body of Mexicans in canoes came upon them, and wounding many, seized four soldiers of the company of Captain De Monjaraz, alive, and hurrying them into their vessels, carried them to Mexico in triumph. From these men Guatimotzin the King of Mexico was informed of the smallness of our numbers, and our great loss in killed and wounded. After having questioned them as much as he thought proper, he commanded their hands and feet to be cut off, and in this lamentable condition sent them through many districts of the neighbourhood, as a sample of what he expected to do by us all, and after having thus exhibited them through the country they were put to death. The ensuing morning afforded opportunity for fresh attacks upon us, as had been regularly the case for the four days during which we staid in Suchimelco.
Previous to our march, Cortes drew his troops to an open place a little out of the town, where the market was held. Here he formed us, and then made a speech, wherein he dwelt upon the dangers we had to go through in our retreat, and the great bodies of the enemy that waited us on the road; for which reason, he strongly insisted on the necessity of leaving all the luggage behind; but we replied that we were men able to defend our properties, our persons, and his also; and that it would be very paltry in us to abandon what we had acquired. When he saw our determination, he put us in order for the march, the baggage in the center, and the cavalry forming the advanced and rear guard; and it was protected also by our crossbow-men, for as to our musquetry it was useless from want of powder. The enemy attacked us upon our
retreat, pursuing us as far as Cuyocan. There were in this, neighbourhood clusters of towns, each of considerable magnitude, built in the water, at the distance of two leagues from Mexico, and about a league and an half from each other. They amounted to above ten in number. It was the inhabitants of all those who had joined together at this time to attack us; their names were Suchimelco, Cuyoacan, Chohuilobusco, Iztapalapa, Coadlavaca, Mesquique, and others. We halted for two days at Cuyoacan, which we found abandoned, attending the wounded, and making arrows for our crossbows. On the third morning we set out upon our march for Tacuba, and were attacked as usual, but our cavalry drove the enemy to their ditches and canals.
Cortes at this time determined to lay an ambuscade, and accordingly set out with ten of the cavalry and four servants. He soon fell in with a party of Mexicans who fled before him, and imprudently pressing them too far, a large body of their warriors started out upon him, and in their first attack wounded all the horses, and getting two of the attendants of Cortes in their hands, carried them to Mexico to be sacrificed, the rest having a most narrow escape. Our main body reached the head quarters at Tacuba with the baggage in safety, and not hearing any thing of Cortes or his party of cavalry, we suspected some misfortune. Alvarado, De Oli, Tapia, I, and some more therefore went in search of him, towards that part whither we saw them go, and we soon met two of his servants, who informed us of what had happened. In a short time Cortes came up to us; he was very sad, and weeping.
When we arrived at our quarters at Tacuba it rained heavily, and we remained under it for two hours in some large enclosed courts. The general, with his captains, the treasurer, our reverend father, and many others of us, mounted to the top of the temple which commanded all the lake, and afforded a most surprising and pleasing spectacle, from the multitude of cities rising as it were out of the water, and the innumerable quantity of boats employed in fishing, or rapidly passing to and
fro. All of us agreed in giving glory to God, for making us the instruments of rendering such services: the reverend father also consoled Cortes, who was very sad on account of his late loss. When we contemplated the scenes of what had happened to us in Mexico, and which we could well trace from where we stood, it made Cortes much more sad than before. It was on this that the romance was written which begins,
“In Tacuba was Cortes, with many a gallant chief,
He thought upon his losses, and bowed his head with grief.”
One of our soldiers, the bachelor Alonzo Perez, who was afterwards fiscal near Mexico, in order to console him, observed, that those things were the common fortune of war, and that they could not at present compare him to Nero viewing Rome on fire. Cortes answered that he was only sad from the reflection of the dangers and fatigues that we should have to go through, but that he would shortly put his hand to the business. Our captains and soldiers now consulted, whether it would not be eligible to take a view of the causeway, but it was thought not prudent, and we continued our march by Escapuzalco, which was abandoned, to Tenayuca, where, in the great temple, they worshipped three serpents. From this place, which was also abandoned, we proceeded to Guatitlan, and during the whole days march it never ceased raining; whereby, together with the weight of our arms, we came in, dreadfully fatigued.
The enemy gave us some alarms in the night, during which it rained heavily, no watch being kept by us on account of the severity of the weather, as I can testify, my post not having been visited either by rounds or corporal. Marching through four or five towns which were abandoned, by a road deep in mud, we arrived in two days more at Aculman in the district of Tezcuco, where we found that a reinforcement to our army had newly arrived from Castille. On the next day
we proceeded to Tezcuco, and arrived fatigued, worn out, and diminished in numbers.
A conspiracy against the life of Cortes was at this time formed, by an adherent of the governor of Cuba, one Anthonio de Villafana, native of Zamora or of Toro, and some of the other soldiers of Narvaez, whose names I will not mention. The assassination was to have been executed in the following manner. A vessel having lately arrived from Castille, a letter was to be brought to the general, as from his father, and as if it had come by that opportunity; which letter was to be delivered as he sat at table with his officers and soldiers, and when he had opened, and was in the act of reading it, the conspirators were to fall on and assassinate him with their poinards, together with all of us who were in his company. When every thing was arranged, the conspirators communicated their intentions to two principal persons whom I will not name, but who had been on the expedition with us, one of whom on the death of Cortes they meant to have appointed captain general. The offices of alguazil major, ensign, alcaldes, regidor, contador, treasurer, veedor, and others of this kind were to have been filled up from among the soldiers of Narvaez, and they had divided amongst them our properties and horses. The business was discovered two days after our arrival at Tezcuco, by God’s mercy, who did not chuse that New Spain should have been so lost; for if we had been put to death, all would have fallen into confusion and faction.
It seems a faithful soldier made the discovery to Cortes, who immediately took proper steps to prevent the mischief from spreading, for he understood it to be conducted by persons of quality. As soon as it was made clear to him, he gave large rewards for the information. Ile then communicated it to all our captains, namely, alvarado, De Lugo, De Oli, Sandoval, and Tapia, also to me, and to the two Alcaldes of that year, Luis Marin, and Pedro de Ircio; in short to all of his party. As soon as we knew of it we prepared ourselves, and attended Cortes to the quarters of Villafana, where we found him and many
others of the conspirators. The four alguazils seized Villafana; the others attempted to escape by flight, but Cortes ordered them to be detained, and sore of them he committed to prison. Cortes then took from the bosom of Villafana a paper, with the signatures of those who were concerned with him, in consideration for whom however, he caused the report to be circulated, that it had been swallowed by Villafana, without his having seen it. He was immediately put upon his trial, buy voluntarily made a confession, according to which, and to the testimony of many witnesses, he was condemned by his judges, the two alcaldes, conjointly with Cortes, and De Oli who sat by virtue of his office. Shortly after his condemnation, having confessed himself to the reverend Father Juan Diaz, he was hanged from a window of the apartment.
Of the several others who were arrested, no more were proceeded against; enough having been done for example and intimidation. Cortes however to prevent such attempts in future thought it prudent to appoint a guard for his person, composed of valiant and faithful soldiers. They were selected from those who had been with him from the first, and were commanded by a gentleman named Anthonio de Quinones. Henceforward, although he showed great attention to those who had been in the conspiracy, and treated them in the best manner, he took care to be on his guard with them.
At this time came out an order for all the prisoners to be brought to an appointed place, in order to be marked. Not to take up time with repetitions of the story I will sum up all in one observation which is, that if what was ill done the first time, was worse done the second, this third was worst of all; for after the royal fifth had been drawn out, Cortes took his own, and then came no less than thirty successive drafts for the captains. Besides, those handsome and good female prisoners which we put in to be marked were stolen out of the crowd, and were kept concealed until it was no longer inconvenient to produce them.
The brigantines were now finished, and the canal brought to a sufficient width and depth to float them to the lake. Cortes therefore issued a circular notice to all the districts of our alliance in the neighbourhood of Tezcuco, to send him each within the space of the next eight days, eight thousand arrow heads made of copper; also an equal number of shafts, of a particular wood. By the expiration of the given time the whole number was brought, executed to a degree of perfection which exceeded the pattern. Captain P. Barba who commanded the crossbow-men ordered each of his soldiers to provide themselves with two cords and nuts, and to prove the range of their bows, for one of the last ships which came from Castille had brought out a supply of the materials to make cords, and also of powder. Cortes ordered the cavalry to have their lances well pointed, and to use their horses to daily exercise; and he at this time sent an express to Xicotenga the elder, other-wise Don Lorenzo de Vargas, for twenty thousand of the warriors of his nation, and those of Guaxocingo and Cholula; and he sent similar notices to Chalco and Talmalanco, summoning them to a general rendezvous, on the day after the feast of the Holy Ghost, at which time Don Hernando our ally of Tezcuco was also to join us with all his forces.
On the day after the festival of the Holy Ghost, Cortes inspected his army in the large quadrangles of Tezcuco. They amounted to eighty four cavalry, six hundred and fifty infantry with sword and buckler or lances, and one hundred and ninety four musqueteers and crossbowmen. Out of this number he took for the service of his fleet twelve of the musqueteers or crossbow-men, and twelve of the other infantry for rowers, under the command of a captain, to each vessel; he also distributed twenty cannoniers through the whole fleet, which he armed with what guns fit for this service we had in our stores.
Having thus distributed his force, Cortes gave the following orders. First, no person to utter any blasphemy against our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Virgin his mother, the Holy Apostles, nor any other
of the saints, under heavy penalties. Second, no soldier to ill treat our allies in their persons or properties. Third, no soldier to absent himself from his quarters on any pretence. Fourth, every soldier to be fully provided with arms offensive and defensive. Fifth, no soldier to stake his horse or arms at gaming. Sixth, no soldier to sleep out of armour, or without his weapons beside him, except in case of wounds or sickness. Lastly, penalty of death for sleeping on, or absence from a centinels post, absence from quarters without leave, quitting the ranks in the field, or flight in battle.
Although a number of our people had served as sailors before, there was a great averseness on the present occasion among them to act as rowers. The general was therefore obliged to make enquiry, and considering all those who belonged to, or were natives of Palos, Moguer, Triano, El Puerto, or any other seaport, or who had been known to have been employed in fishing, as being of the profession, he ordered them. to the oars, and although many of these brought their gentility as an objection, he would not hear of it, but enforced his orders; by which he obtained one hundred and fifty, who were, as it will appear in the sequel, better situated than any of us who had to bear the weight and dangers of the field. The crews being embarked, each brigantine hoisted a royal standard, and also its peculiar one. The general then appointed the captains as follows: Garci Holguin, Pedro Barba, Juan de Limpias Carvajal the deaf, Juan Xaremillo, Geronymo Ruiz de la Mora, Carvajal his companion who is now very old and lives in the street of St. Francis, one Portillo, a good soldier with an handsome wife, Zamora, master of a ship, now living in Guaxaca, Colmenero a mariner and brave soldier, Lerma, Gines Nortes, Briones native of Salamanca, another whose name I have forgotten, and Miguel diaz de Auz. To these he gave instructions how they were to act, and with what officers of the land forces they were to cooperate.
At this time arrived the army of our allies of Tlascala under the command of the younger Xicotenga. He brought with him his two
In this army also came some of the warriors of
Our general made his disposition for the attack upon the city of Mexico as follows.
Pedro de Alvarado, with one hundred and fifty infantry, thirty cavalry, eighteen musqueteers and crossbow-men, and eight thousand Tlascalans was to take post at Tacuba, having to assist him Jorge de Alvarado his brother, Gutierre de Badajos, and Andres de Monjaras, each of whom was captain of a company, consisting of fifty infantry, and a third of the crossbow-men and musqueteers, the cavalry being commanded by Alvarado in person. To this detachment I was appointed.
Christoval de Oli, having under him the captains Andres de Tapia, Francisco Verdugo, Francisco de Lugo, thirty cavalry, one hundred, and seventy five infantry, twenty musqueteers and crossbow-men, and eight thousand Indians was to take post at Cuyoacan, and Gonzalo de Sandoval, with captains. Luis Marin and P. de Ircio, at the head of twenty four cavalry, one hundred and fifty infantry, fourteen musqueteers and crossbow-men, and upwards of eight thousand Indians was to take his post at Iztapalapa. The two first named divisions were to march by the right, the third in the opposite direction. Sandovals
party had also orders not to march, until Cortes who commanded the flotilla in person should launch out upon the lake.
I must now advert to another affair which happened at this time. The divisions of the two captains in chief Alvarado and De Oli being prepared to set out, in order not to be incumbered with our Indian allies on the march, we sent them off one day before us, with orders to halt and wait for our arrival when they came upon the Mexican territory. The Tlascalans pursuing their march, Chichimacatecle remarked the absence of the younger Xicotenga, the commander in chief. On enquiring it was found that he had secretly gone away on the preceding night to Tlascala, there to seize and possess himself of the property and territory of Chichimacatecle, thinking this a good opportunity, in the absence of that chief and of the other warriors of his nation; and fearing no opposition since the death of Maxicatzin. His disinclination to the expedition had also been apparent from the first. Chichimacatecle, on discovering the design against him, immediately returned to Tezcuco to inform Cortes, who on hearing it dispatched five of the chiefs of Tezcuco and two of Tlascala after Xicotenga, with a message from him to request his return. His answer was, that if Maxicatzin and his old father had believed him, they would not be now ridden by Cortes in the manner they were, and he absolutely refuted to return. This answer being sent back to Cortes, he commanded an alguazil attended by four of the cavalry and five chiefs of Tezcuco, to set out immediately, giving them orders, wherever they found Xicotenga, to seize and hang him without ceremony. Alvarado interceded strongly for him, but ultimately to no purpose, for although Cortes appeared to listen to him, the party which arrested Xicotenga in a town subject to Tezcuco, there hung him under private orders of Cortes not to let him go from them alive, and as some say with the approbation of his father.
This affair detained us one day, and on the next, the two detachments of Alvarado and De Oli marched by the same route, and halted
for the night, in a place subject to Tezcuco named Aculma. Here a disagreeable affair had like to have taken place. It appeared that De Oli had sent forward to take quarters, and had appropriated every house in the town to his own company, marking them by putting green branches on the terraces, so that when Alvarado’s detachment arrived, we had not a place to lodge in. Our soldiers immediately stood to their arms to fight those of De Oli, and the two captains had already challenged each other, but several of the more moderate officers interfering, they were pacified for the present, An express was immediately sent to Cortes, who wrote to every one of any influence amongst our detachments, condemning the Reps which had been taken, and earnestly recommending a reconciliation. After this Alvarado and De Oli never were friends.
We continued our march for two days more, by Mexican cities which were abandoned, the last of which was Guatitlan; and on the third, passing the towns of Tenayuca and Escapuzalco where we found our allies* waiting for us, we proceeded to Tacuba.
The enemy gave notice by their noises that they were about us in great numbers, and our two detachments, it was settled, should on the ensuing day go to cut the aqueduct of Chapultepeque. At the time appointed, we set out with our allies, and though the enemy attacked us in our march, we succeeded, destroying the pipes, so that from that day, no more fresh water came to Mexico. It was now determined to try our fortune against the city, and see if we could not at least get possession of a bridge upon the causeway of Tacuba. When we arrived there, the immense number of boats, and of their troops on the land, was a subject of astonishment. By the first volley of their arrows they killed three and wounded thirty of our soldiers; nevertheless we advanced to the bridge, the enemy, as it were by stratagem, receding, and now we were upon a causeway twenty feet wide, exposed as a butt to the arrows of those on the water on both our flanks. Our musquetry and crossbows had no effect whatever on their canoes they were so well protected; as to
* The whole number of whom amounted to seventy thousand.
to the cavalry their hones were all wounded, and if they pursued the enemy a little distance on the causeway, they were stopped by the parapets which they had built across it, and which they defended with long lances; and when our infantry advanced against them in front, the enemy threw themselves into the water. Thus we were fighting them for upwards of an hour, their numbers increasing from every part of the lake, and our allies only encumbering the causeway. Being utterly unable to resist the enemy who were on the water we determined to retire, which we did, leaving eight dead and having above fifty wounded, the enemy pursuing us closely.
On the ensuing day, Captain De Oli proceeded with his detachment for Cuyoacan; he talked in terms of disapprobation of the preceding expedition, laying the blame on the rashness of Alvarado. We all were solicitous that the two captains should remain together, and certainly their separation was very imprudent, for had the enemy known the smallness of our number, they would have fallen on and destroyed either detachment, during the four or five days that we were separated, and before the arrival of Cortes with the flotilla. In these two positions our detachments remained for the above period, without venturing to pay another visit to the Mexican causeways. During this time the enemy frequently sent bodies of their troops to the main land, and annoyed us with attacks in our quarters.
Sandoval with his detachment left Tezcuco on the fourth day after the feast of Corpus Christi, and marching through a friendly country, arrived in front of the town of Iztapalapa. On his arrival he immediately attacked the enemy in that place, and burned many of the houses which were built on the firm ground; but fresh bodies of Mexicans came both by land and water to their relief, and while thus occupied, our troops observed a smoke to rise from the top of a hill above the town, which was answered in the same manner at other points round the lake, and this we found to be a signal for the information of the enemy, that our flotilla was launched; a circumstance which occasioned them to
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relax in their hostilities against Sandoval. He now remained unmolested in his insulated situation, in a part of the town of Iztapalapa, between which and Cuyoacan there were no means of communication but by a causeway which crosses the lake, and the passage of which was impracticable in the face of the enemy.
Cortes when he brought his flotilla upon the lake, first went to attack a rock which forms a small island just by Mexico, and on which many of the natives as well of that neighbourhood as of other parts had taken refuge. As soon as the enemy discovered his intention, their whole force from every part of the lake proceeded against him. When our general perceived the immense number of large boats full of fighting men, for it exceeded four thousand, he drew his flotilla into an open part of the lake, and ordered his captains to wait patiently for a breeze of wind which was just then begining to spring up. The enemy thinking this was owing to fear, began to close round him with great triumph, and just at this moment the wind rising in his favor, the whole fleet set sail, plying their oars at the same time; bearing down upon the Mexican canoes in this manner, they sunk a number of them, and compelled the rest to take shelter in the recesses on the sides of the lake.
After this Cortes sailed for Cuyoacan. Here he had another attack by the Mexicans, who assailed his vessels from the temples on the land, as well as with their canoes; but he brought four guns to bear upon them, and did considerable execution; although, by some mismanagement of the gunners, his powder magazine blew up, wounding many of his people. This misfortune obliged him to detach his lightest vessel to Sandoval for a supply. At Cuyoacan he remained with the flotilla for two days, and here I will leave him to relate what passed in the detachment of Alvarado. When we perceived that the flotilla was upon the lake, we marched out upon the causeway as far as the bridge, where we passed our time in a repetition of engagements with the enemy, but to little effect, farther than repairing the passes in our rear as
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we advanced, nor did we now suffer the cavalry to come to the causeway.
Sandoval had found that in his preterit position he could not sufficiently annoy the enemy, who were established in the houses built in the water; he therefore advanced by a causeway to a place which commanded them better. This being perceived from Mexico, a large detachment was sent in canoes, with directions to cut the causeway behind our troops. Cortes observing this set sail with his vessels for their relief, ordering De Oli to go thither with a body of troops by the causeway. Having relieved Sandoval, the general ordered this detachment to a place named Tepeaquilla, where is now built the church of Nuestra Senora de Guadelupe, in which many wonderful miracles have been, and are, performed.
As it was impossible for our troops to advance upon the, causeways without their flanks being secured on the water, the flotilla was formed into three divisions, and one of them attached to each of the three corps of our army; that is to say, four ships to Alvarado, six to De Oli, and two to Sandoval, making in all twelve, for the thirteenth, named “Busca Ruido, or follow the noise,” being found to be too small, was ordered to be laid up, and her crew divided among the rest, as we had twenty very badly wounded already on board the drips. Alvarado now ordered us out upon the causeway, and placing two of the ships on each side, he thereby protected the flanks. We drove the enemy from several bridges and barricades, but after fighting during the whole day, we were obliged at night to retreat to. our quarters, almost every man of us wounded by the showers of arrows and stones, which exceeded imagination; for we were attacked constantly by fresh troops bearing different devices, by land, while from the terraces of the houses, the enemy commanded our ships. As we could not leave a party to secure what we got in the day, at night the enemy repossessed themselves of the bridges, and put better defences on them. They deepened the water in force places, and in the shallow part they dug pits, and placed canoes
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in ambuscade, which they secured from the attacks of our vessels by pallisades under the water. This was the manner in which they opposed us every day. The cavalry as I before observed could do nothing; the enemy had built parapets across the causeways which they defended with long lances, and even had an attack been practicable, the soldiers would not risk their horses, which at this time cost eight hundred crowns, and some more than one thousand; nor indeed were they to be had at any price.
When we arrived at night, we were employed in curing our wounds, and a soldier named Juan Catalan also healed them by charms, and prayers, which, with the mercy of our Lord Jesus, recovered us very fast. But wounded or not, we were obliged to go against the enemy every day, as otherwise our companies would not have been twenty men strong. When our allies saw that the before mentioned soldier cured us by charms and prayers, all their wounded came to him, so that he had more business on his hands than he knew what to do with. Every day our ensign was disabled, not having it in his power to carry the colours, and defend himself. Corn we had sufficiency of, but we wanted refreshments for the wounded. What preserved us was the plant called “quilites,” cherries while in season, and “tunas” or Indian figs. The situation of our other parties round the lake was similar to what I have here described.
The enemy in the city ruffled out on the signal being made from the top of the great temple of Taltelulco; and these attacks were made every day, and repeated by fresh troops, who were formed and marched out in succession. Finding that we gained so little and lost so much, we resolved to change our plan of operations. There was on our causeway a small open place, where were some buildings for religious worship; here we established a post, and lodged ourselves, though very badly, as every shower of rain came in upon us, leaving our cavalry and Indian allies to secure our rear in Tacuba, from which place we were supplied with bread. From this time, as we advanced, we filled the water cuts
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which intersected the causeway, and prostrated the houses which were on each side of it; for it was exceeding difficult to let them on fire, nor could the flames communicate from one to another, on account of the water which was between them, and if we threw ourselves into the water to swim to a house, the enemy destroyed us from their terrasses. We guarded every pass day and night as we gained it, and our method of keeping guard was as follows.
The company which was first for duty took it from sun set to with forty men; the second company with the same number came on at midnight, and remained until two hours before day break, the first guard not quitting the post, but sleeping on the ground; this second guard watched the hours of lethargy, and after them came on the third company for the two hours until day, at which time, as those who were relieved did not quit the post, there were an hundred and twenty men at the guard. Sometimes our whole detachment remained under arms during the night, for our prisoners had informed us that it was the intention of the Mexicans, by a great effort, to force our post, as they knew that by so doing they would entirely disconcert the plans of the other two; and it was intended that the nine towns in and about the lake, including ours of Tacuba, together with Ezcapuzalco and Tenayuca, should make a joint effort, and attack us in the rear while the Mexicans attacked us in front. It was at the same time intended to carry off our luggage and bakery in Tacuba. This intelligence we immediately communicated to our cavalry, warning them and our allies to be well on their guard.
As we had been informed, so it happened; we were attacked for several nights in succession, from to the break of day. The enemy sometimes came on with great noise, at others stole upon us in silence, but during the night their attacks were never made with so much resolution as in the day. We were however harrassed to death with wounds, fatigues, wind, rain, and cold. The place where we were posted was now mud and water, and our miserable food of maize, and
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herbs withall! but, as our officers said, such is the fortune of war! with all our sufferings nothing effectual was gained: the parapets we threw down, or the ditches we filled up during the day, the enemy replaced in the ensuing night. What use was our cutting off their water, or closing their causeways against them, when they were supplied by canoes with whatever they wanted from the neighbouring towns on the lake? In order to prevent this, it was determined that two of our vessels should cruise during the night, to intercept them. This was found to answer in a considerable degree, but still some escaped into the city.
The Mexicans had the boldness at this time to form a plan for the surprise of these vessels. For this purpose they prepared thirty of their largest piraguas, and concealed them among reeds, sending two or three canoes along the lake, as if conveying provisions, by way of a bait for our vessels. The Mexicans had also fixed piles of large timber below the water, in the direction which our ships were to be drawn in. The canoes being perceived by our people, two vessels sallied out upon them; the others appeared to take fright, and rowed towards the ambuscade, followed by our vessels, which as soon as they arrived near enough, were surrounded by the thirty piraguas. By the first discharge they wounded every officer, soldier, and rower, on board; and the vessels could not stir on account of the piles of timber. The enemy continuing their attacks, killed a captain named Portilla; he was a gentleman who had served in Italy. Captain Pedro Barba also of the crossbowmen died of his wounds, and the vessels fell into their hands. These belonged to the principal division, which Cortes commanded; he was much exasperated, but in the course of a short time repayed them well in their own way.
Cortes as also our other chiefs, by his order, pursued their plan of advancing against the city. As they gained ground, they threw down the houses, and with the materials filled up the ditches or canals which crossed the causeways; and our brave Tlascalan allies rendered us the greatest services, during the whole war. The Mexicans opposed our
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progress by breaking a bridge in the rear of their parapets and barricades; where the water was very deep, leaving one obvious pass as a decoy, and in other parts, pit falls under the water; they also made parapets on both sides of the breach, they placed palisades in the deep water where our vessels could approach, and they had canoes manned ready to sally out upon the signal given. When they had made these preparations they advanced against us in three bodies, one by the side of Tacuba, the other by the ruins of the houses which had been destroyed, and the third by the causeway, where they had made the works. Alvarado had brought part of his cavalry to our post, since the houses were destroyed. We repulsed the enemy on all sides, and one party of us having forced them from the work I have mentioned, crossed the water, up to our necks, at the pass they had left open, and followed them, until we came to a place where were large temples and towers of idols. Here we were assailed by fresh troops from the houses and roofs, and those whom we pursued faced about and came against us. We were obliged to retreat, which we did with regularity, but when we came to the water, we found that the enemy in their canoes had got possession of the pass where we had crossed. We were therefore obliged to look for other places, but as they came pressing on us, we were at length compelled to throw ourselves into the lake and get over as we could. Those who were not able to swim fell into the pits; the enemy closed in upon them, wounded most, and took five of our soldiers alive. The vessels which came to our relief could not approach, being embarrassed among the palisades, and here they lost two soldiers. It was a wonder that we were not all destroyed in the pit falls; a number of the enemy laid hands on me, but our Lord Jesus Christ gave me force to disengage my arm, and by dint of a good sword, I got free from them, though wounded, and arrived on the dry ground, where I fainted away, and remained senseless for a time. This was owing to my great exertions, and loss of blood. When this mob had their claws on me, I recommended myself to our Lord and his blessed mother, and they heard my prayer, glorified be they for all their mercies! one of our cavalry crossed the water with us this day; he and his horse were killed. Fortu-
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nately, the rest were with Alvarado in Tacuba; had they been with us they must have been all destroyed from the tops of the buildings, for the action took place as it were within the very city. After this success the enemy kept us constantly employed during the day and night, by attacks upon our posts. Cortes was much dissatisfied at hearing of our defeat, which he considered as owing to our neglect of his directions that the cuts across the causeways should be filled with timber and sods as we advanced.
In the space of four days, and with the loss of six soldiers, we completely filled up this great aperture, and here we established our advanced post, the enemy having one opposite to us. Their method of keeping guard was this; they made a great fire in their front, which concealed them from our view, except when they came to renew the fire, as it was sometimes extinguished by the rains, which were at that season frequent and heavy. They kept profound silence on guard, nor was it ever interrupted except by their signals, which were given by a whistle. Our shot did no execution among them, for they fortified their post by a parapet and a new ditch. Having described the manner in which guard was kept on each side, I will now give an account of our daily employment. In the morning we marched against the enemy; after engaging them during the whole day we retreated, towards evening, covered with wounds, first clearing the causeway of our allies whole numbers embarrassed us, a circumstance the enemy were watchful to take advantage of; after which we fell back step by step, firing at the enemy as they advanced, and being flanked by the armed vessels, until we reached our post. When we arrived in our quarters we sat down to our misery of maize cakes, herbs, and tunas, curing our wounds with oil, and remaining all night subject to constant alarms.
Cortes and his party were employed in the same manner, and his loss in killed and wounded was by this time become very considerable. He constantly sent out vessels at night to scour the lake, and one night they brought in to him some prisoners of consequence; from them he
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learned that the enemy had formed an ambuscade similar to their farmer one, of forty piraguas and the fame number of canoes. Cortes then prepared six vessels, and sent them during the night, and with muffled oars, to a place of concealment within a quarter of a leagues distance of that of the enemy. It must be observed that the bushes and tall reeds, and the water cuts at the edges of the lake, favored those deceptions. Early in the morning one of our vessels was sent as if in search of the Mexican canoes which went with provisions to the city, the prisoners being put on board it in order to point out the place where their flotilla was concealed. The enemy also played off the deception of loaded canoes to draw us thither, and these canoes pretending to endeavor to escape, rowed towards the ambuscade laid by their party; our vessel pursued them very near it, and then brought to, as if from apprehension. The enemy’s flotilla perceiving that she did not advance, tallied out on her, those on board of her rowing towards that part where our ships were concealed. When they found that the enemy were brought to that point where we wished them to be, the crew fired two shots as a signal to our ambuscade, immediately on which the vessels pushed out, and falling on the enemy ran down several, and dispersed the rest, making a number of prisoners. This gave them enough of ambuscades, nor did they from that time run across to Mexico so openly as before.
The people of the cities in the lake growing tired of this warfare, waited on Cortes at this time in order to make submission, declaring that they had been forced into hostility by the Mexicans. Cortes received them with affability, gave them assurances of protection according to their behaviour, and at the same time told them that he expected their assistance in the supply of boats and provisions, and in erecting barracks for the troops. This they promised readily, but performed very badly. Cortes had huts built for his detachment, but the rest remained exposed to the weather, a very severe duty in itself in that climate, where during the months of June, July, and August, it rains continually.
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Our detachment persevered in filling up every ditch and canal as we proceeded with the materials of the houses which we destroyed; and constantly gained temples, bridges, or houses which stood separate from each other, and were accessible by draw-bridges only. To prevent jealousy, the companies took the working and covering parties alternately, and towards evening, when we drew off, the whole stood to their arms, and retreated, sending our Indian allies before us. The latter rendered us most important assistance in the working duty, both in pulling down the houses, and filling the apertures. Sandoval during this time was obliged to sustain constant attacks, and Cortes on his side attacked one of the out posts of the city, where the canal which crossed the causeway was too deep to be forded. The enemy had fortified it strongly, and defended it both by land and water. Cortes commanded the attack in person, and with success; but at night he was obliged to retire without filling the ditch, and with the loss of four Spaniards killed and above thirty wounded, for the pass was commanded from the terraces, and the pallisades made in the water prevented the approach of the vessels.
now determined to wear us out by continual efforts. Accordingly, on the twenty
first of June, the anniversary of the day of our entry into
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our soldiers were killed in this attack, and Alvarado was wounded; but we ultimately beat the enemy off, and also made four of their chiefs prisoners. I fear to tire my readers with this repetition of battles. For ninety three days together were we employed in the siege of this great and strong city, and every day and every night we were engaged with the enemy. Of course they must pardon what my duty as an historian compels me to relate; still were I to extend my narrative to include every action which took place, it would be almost endless, and my history would resemble that of Amadis, and the other books of chivalry.
Cortes growing weary of delay, called a council of war, relative to a general assault upon the city. His plan was, to march by the three causeways, and to endeavour to gain the great square, where, uniting our whole force, we should command all the streets leading to it. Upon this proposal there was a great difference of opinion, for many thought our present method of proceeding by filling the canals as we advanced, destroying the houses, and making a road with the materials, was preferable to that recommended by Cortes, whereby, in going into the heart of the city, we should become the besieged instead of being the besiegers, and fall exactly into the situation in which we were when obliged to fly from Mexico. We should also they said be involved in greater difficulties than formerly, for the enemy would now bring their whole power by land and water upon us, so that we should have to contend with them in the city, on the lake, and all round it, without the possibility of retreat, which they could preclude by cutting the causeways. When Cortes had heard the opinions of all, and the good reasons upon which they were founded, the result was, that he gave orders for our whole force, together with our allies, to attack the city on the ensuing day, and to get possession of the great square.
On the next morning therefore, having heard mass, and recommending ourselves to God, our three detachments marched against the enemy’s pods in their front. Those commanded by Cortes and Sando-
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val met with less violent opposition than that which fell to the lot of the division of Alvarado, to which I belonged. In our attack upon the first dike, most of the Spaniards received wounds, one was killed, and above one thousand of our allies killed or wounded. Cortes at first bore down all before him, and having driven the enemy from a post where the water was very deep and the causeway very narrow, he was induced to pursue them in their retreat to the city, his Indian allies crouding close after the Spaniards. The enemy induced him by frequent halts and feigned attacks to continue the pursuit, and the causeway had been narrowed, to answer their design. It was the will of our Lord that Cortes and his captains should be so negligent as to omit filling the ditch, which they had passed. The causeway was also in some parts covered with water, and deep in mud. When the enemy saw our Cortes thus run into the trap which they had laid, multitudes in canoes sallied out against him and took him on his flanks and rear, his own vessels not being able to approach on account of the pallisadoes. It became now necessary for the troops to retreat, which they did at first with great regularity, but when they came to the narrow pass I have before mentioned, the difficulty of the ground, with the fury of the attack, from a retreat turned it into a race, our people flying before the enemy without attempting to defend themselves. Our Cortes used every exertion to rally them but in vain; he received a wound in the leg from the enemy on board the canoes at the pass, where they killed six of our horses, and carried off seventy two Spaniards alive. Six chiefs seized upon Cortes, but it was the will of God that he should escape, for that valiant soldier Christoval de Olea, seeing his general’s danger, flew to his assistance, as did another brave man named Lerma. Olea with his own hand killed four of the six Mexican chiefs, gallantly losing his own life in defence of his general, and Lerma escaped with the greatest difficulty. Other soldiers now arrived to the assistance of our Cortes; amongst the number was Quinones captain of his guards. They took him out of the water in their arms, and placing him on a horse, hurried him off from the crowd of enemies, and shortly after, his major domo named Christoval de Guzman brought one of his own horses for him. The
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enemy followed up their attack with ardour, and the unfortunate Guzman being seized by them was carried alive to Mexico. Cortes and the shattered remains of his troops, pursued to the last, arrived with great difficulty at their quarters, where I will leave them for the present, to relate what happened in the division commanded by Alvarado.
After our first attack, wherein we defeated the enemy, as we were advancing, we were met by fresh troops in great parade, bearing plumes of feathers, and devices on their standards. When we came near them they threw down before us five bleeding heads, crying out to us that they were those of Cortes and his officers, and that we should meet the same fate with our companions; they then marched up, and fighting us foot to foot, compelled us to retreat. We as usual called to our allies to clear the way for us, but in the present case there was no occasion; the sight of the bloody heads had done it effectually, nor did one of them remain on the causeway to impede our retreat. Before we arrived at our quarters, and while the enemy were pursuing us, we heard their shrill timbals, and the dismal sound of the great drum, from the top of the principal temple of the god of war, which overlooked the whole city. Its mournful noise was such as may be imagined the music of the infernal gods, and it might be heard at the distance of almost three leagues. They were then sacrificing the hearts of ten of our companions to their idols. Shortly after this the king of Mexico’s horn was blown, giving notice to his captains that they were then to take their enemies prisoners, or die in the attempt. It is impossible to describe the fury with which they closed upon us when they heard this signal. Though all is as perfect to my recollection as if passing before my eyes, it is utterly beyond my power to describe; all I can say is, it was God’s will that we should escape from their hands, and get back in safety to our post. Praised be he for his mercies, now, and at all other times!
Our cavalry made several charges this day, but our great support was in two guns which raked the causeway, and were commanded by a gentleman named Pedro Moreno de Medrano, who always bore a
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high reputation as an officer, but whole services on this day were most important, for the whole causeway was crouded with the enemy. We were as yet ignorant of the sate of our other detachments. Sandoval was above half a league distant, and Cortes still farther. The melancholy fight of the remains of our countrymen, and the loss of one of our vessels, three of the soldiers of which the enemy had killed, impressed our minds with despair, and we thought this the last hour of our lives. The vessel, was afterwards recovered by that commanded by Captain Juan Xaramillo. Captain Juan de Limpias Caravajal, who now lives in La Puebla, a most gallant officer, had the honor of being the first who with his vessel broke through the enemies pallisades, totally losing his hearing, from this day, by excess of courage.
Cortes, most of whose soldiers had been killed, and what remained alive, wounded, was attacked in his quarters by a great body of the enemy, who threw over to him the heads of four of our companions, alledging them to, be those of Alvarado, Sandoval, and others, in order to impress the soldiers of Cortes and our allies with the idea, that they had been equally successful against the other detachments. When Cortes beheld the horrid spectacle his heart sunk within him, but he kept up appearances, and ordering all to stand to their arms, made a front to the enemy. He then sent Andres de Tapia with three more mounted men to our quarters, in order to ascertain what the state of affairs was. In their way thither they were attacked by many bodies of the enemy, whom the king of Mexico had placed upon a plan of intercepting our communications. On their arrival they found us engaged with the Mexican forces. They at that time concealed the loss of Cortes, stating it at no more than five and twenty.
It is now necessary to, advert to Sandoval, who had gone on victorious until the defeat of Cortes; after which the enemy turned on him, and in their first attack killed two soldiers and wounded all the rest, giving Sandoval himself three wounds, one of which was in the head. As they had done elsewhere, they threw before his troops six heads of
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their companions, recently taken off, threatening them with the like fate. Sandoval was not to be terrified; he warned his soldiers to preserve a good countenance, and seeing no hopes of success brought his division back to their quarters, with many wounds it is true, but Witt the lots of only two of their number. Sandoval then, wounded as he was, leaving the command of his post to Captain Luis Marin, set out on horseback to have an interview with Cortes. As he went he was assailed by the enemy, but he arrived at the general’s quarters, and addressing him in terms of surprise and condolance, asked him how this ill success had happened. “Son Sandoval” said Cortes, with tears in his eyes, “it is for my sins that this misfortune has befallen me; but the fault is with the treasurer Alderete, who was ordered by me to fill up the bad pass where the enemy threw us into confusion.” The treasurer then exclaimed, that it was with Cortes himself the fault lay, he having never given any such orders, but hurrying on his men after the enemy in their feigned retreat, crying, “forward! gentlemen forward!” Cortes was also very much blamed for not having sent his allies out of the way early enough; however I will omit to detail any more of the conversation which passed at this time between Cortes and the treasurer, as it happened in the heat of anger and disappointment. Cortes was agreeably surprised by the arrival of two of his vessels which he had given up for lost, although he did not express himself so. Cortes desired Sandoval to go to our quarters at Tacuba, as he apprehended that the weight of the enemy’s attack would fall upon this post, and recommended that he should pay attention to our affairs, as he himself was at present unable to do so. Sandoval setting out, arrived at Tacuba about the hour of vespers. He also found us as Tapia had done, occupied in repelling the enemy, some of whom were attacking us by the causeway, others by that of the ruined houses. I was at this time together with others of our soldiers up to my waist in the water defending a vessel which was aground, and engaged with the enemy who were endeavouring to get possession of her. Just as Sandoval arrived however, by a great effort we got the vessel afloat, but with the loss of two of the crew killed, and every man on board wounded. The enemy
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now attacked us with more violence. Sandoval received a blow on the face with a stone, and called to us loudly to retreat; we not falling back as, fast as he wished, he called again to us, asking if we wanted to have all the cavalry destroyed. We then retreated until we reached our post, during the time of which, our two guns, under the direction of Medrano, though they frequently swept the causeway, could not prevent the enemy from following us closely.
Here we were for a time at rest, and engaged in relating the events which had happened at each post, when on a sudden our ears were struck by the horrific sound of the great drum, the timbals, horns, and trumpets, in the temple of the war god. We all directed our eyes thither, and shocking to relate! saw our unfortunate countrymen driven by force, cuffs, and bastinades, to the place where they were to be sacrificed, which bloody ceremony was accompanied by the mournful sound of all the instruments of the temple. We perceived that when they had brought the unfortunate victims to the flat summit of the body of the temple, where were the adoratories, they put plumes upon their heads, and with a kind of fan in the hand of each, made them dance before their accursed idols. When they had done this, they laid them upon their backs, on the stone used for the purpose, where they cut out their hearts, alive, and having presented them, yet palpitating, to their gods, they drew the bodies down the steps by the feet, where they were taken by others of their priests. Let the reader think what were our sensations on this occasion. Oh heavenly God! said we to ourselves, do not suffer us to be sacrificed by these wretches! do not suffer us to die so cruel a death! and then how shocking a reflection, that we were unable to relieve our poor friends who were thus murdered before our eyes! at this moment the enemy assailed our post in great force, reviling us and saying their gods had promised us all to them. Our Indian allies sunk under the dreadful ideas they expressed, when they threw among them also some of the mangled remains of their horrid feasts, other parts being sent round all the neighbouring districts, as a triumphant me-
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morial. We still however maintained possession of our post, one half of our cavalry being on the causeway and the other half in the town.
Our new allies on the lake had suffered considerably by the enemy, having lost half their canoes, but they continued firm to us, from animosity to them, or contented themselves with being mere lookers on, and did not molest us. Cortes in consequence of our losses. ordered a cessation of attacks, which lasted for the space of four days, during which we did not quit our posts, having lost near eighty men, and seven horses, in the last engagement. The enemy also gained ground on us, and made new ditches and water cuts, but we had a very deep and defensible one in front of our quarters. Sandoval and Tapia on their return to the general, reported to him the valiant manner in which our soldiers were behaving when they arrived at our post; Sandoval also mentioned me particularly, and said those things, in my commendation, which, exclusive of the facts being known to our whole army, would not be proper to repeat of myself.
During this cessation, our whole force of infantry kept guard on, the causeway at night, flanked by the brigantines, one half of the cavalry patroling in Tacuba, the other half on the causeway. In the morning we prepared to receive the enemy, who every day continued sacrificing our poor companions, and when they attacked, reviled us saying, that our flesh was too bitter to be eaten, and truly it seems that such a miracle was wrought. For five days together the enemy continued their assaults, being promised, as they said, our destruction, by their gods, within the space of eight days; but their gods as it appears to me, were perverse and treacherous to them, not permitting them to think of peace, and thus leading them to ruin. This language however, and the last menace in particular, had such an effect upon our allies, together with the bad appearance of our affairs, that they almost entirely deserted us in the course of a night. The only one who remained with Cortes, was, Suchel, otherwise Don Carlos, brother of Fernando lord of Tezcuco. He was a man of great bravery. His friends who staid
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by him amounted to about forty. With Sandoval remained the chief of Guaxocingo, with about fifty, and in ours the brae Chichimecatecle, the two sons of our friend D. Lorenzo de Vargas, and about eighty Tlascalans. Being questioned as to the flight of their countrymen they said, that the gods of the Mexicans had predicted our destruction; that they saw us all wounded, and many killed, that their own loss was above one thousand two hundred killed, and that the younger Xicotenga had from the first foretold that we should be all put to death) and therefore, considering us as lost, their countrymen had quitted us. Cortes though he thought what they said much too true, put on a chearful appearance, ridiculed the predictions of the enemy, and assured them that all would do well. He thereby was fortunate enough to induce the few who yet remained to stay with us to the last. The Indian Don Carlos, a brave and wife man now represented to Cortes the erroneous system on which he had acted, and also that which the situation of the enemy pointed out, advising him not to suffer his troops to fight. “Cut off” said he “their provisions and water; there are in Mexico so many Xiquipils of warriors, how can they subsist? their provisions must at some time be expended, the water which they get from the wells is salt, and they have no resource but from the frequent rains; fight them by hunger and thirst, and do not throw away your own force.” Cortes embraced D. Carlos for his advice; not that the same had not occurred to many of us before, but we were too impatient.
Cortes began upon his new system, by sending orders to all the detachments to remain in their quarters for the next three days. As the enemy were so strong upon the lake, we always sent out two vessels in company; they had now acquired the method of breaking through the pallisadoes by the force of oars and sails, when there was a good wind. Thus we were masters of the lake, and also of all the houses which were at any little distance from the city. This slackened the triumphs of the Mexicans. As our vessels broke through the enemy’s pallifadoes, they could flank us while we carried on our work, filling
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the ditches in our front. This we effected at all our posts in the space of four days, Cortes himself carrying the beams and earth.
During each night of this period the enemy continued beating their accursed drum in the great temple; nothing can equal the dismal impression its sound conveyed. They were then in the execution of their infernal ceremonies; the whole place was illuminated, and their shrieks at certain intervals pierced the air. For ten nights together were they thus employed in putting to death our unfortunate companions; Christoval de Guzman was the last sacrificed; he was in their hands eighteen days; this we were informed by same of our prisoners, and for every sacrifice, we were told that their war god renewed to them the promise of victory. The enemy at times during the foregoing period brought our own crossbows against us, and made the unfortunate prisoners shoot them; but our post derived its safety from the excellent management of the two guns under P. M. Medrano, and we still advanced, gaining every day a bridge or a parapet. Our vessels also continually intercepted their canoes loaded with provision and water, also those which were employed in procuring that nutritive substance which when dry resembles cheese, and is found at the bottom of the lake. In this manner of proceeding twelve or thirteen days had now passed, our lives, therefore exceeded the date allowed them by the prediction of the Mexican priests. This gave our allies courage, and in compliance with the requisition of our steady friend Suchel, two thousand warriors from Tezcuco returned to us. There came with them Captain Pedro Sanchez Farfan, and Anthonio de Villaroel, afterwards married to La Ojeda, who had been left behind in Tezcuco. Many bodies also of our Tlascalan and other allies arrived about the same time. Cortes having summoned their chiefs, made them a speech, partly of reprimand and partly of hopes and promises, concluding it with an admonition to them not to put to death any of the Mexicans, as it was his wish to negociate for peace.
The heavy rains at this season of the year were much in out favor, the enemy always relaxing in their exertions when they came on. We
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had now advanced considerably into the city at each of the three attacks; we had also reached the fountains of brackish water, which we totally destroyed, and the cavalry could act through the whole space which we had gained, as it was our care to make it level for them.
Our general thought the present a good juncture to offer peace to the Mexicans; he therefore proposed to three of his principal prisoners to go with his message to their king, Guatimotzin, but they declined it, alledging that he would certainly put them to death. At length however he prevailed with them to carry his proposal, which was to this purport. That from the affection he bore to all the family of the great Montezuma, in order also to prevent the destruction of that great city, and the loss of lives, he was willing to treat of peace, calling to the recollection of Guatimotzin, that his troops and people were cut off from provisions and water, and that all those nations which had formerly been the vassals of Mexico were now the allies of the Spaniards; with many more strong arguments to the same purpose, which the embassadors very well understood. Previous to their going they desired that the general would provide them with a letter, under which authority they waited on the monarch, sobbing and wailing bitterly, as knowing the danger which attended their business. At first Guatimotzin and his chiefs appeared enraged, but the moderation of his disposition prevailed, and he resolved to call a council composed of the princes, chiefs, and priests of the city. Guatimotzin opened the business by expressing his own inclination to come into terms, exposing the inefficacy of their resistance, the desertion of their allies, and the distresses of the people. The priests took the opposite opinion. They represented the conduct of the Spaniards from the first, their treatment of his uncle the great Montezuma, of Cacamatzin, and of various other princes as soon as they had got them in their power; also the death of the two sons of Montezuma, which they laid to their charge, the destruction and waste of the wealth of Mexico, and the marks of slavery with which they had branded other nations. They reminded him of his own martial fame and conduct, of the insidiousness of Cortes and his offers, and the
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promises of victory they had obtained from their gods. Guatimotzin then expressed his determination to fight to the last man and gave orders to spare the provisions as much as possible, to sink wells in various places, and to endeavour to obtain supplies by night.
Our army remained at their posts for two days quietly, expecting the answer from Mexico. We were then attacked at all points by great bodies of the enemy, who fell on us like lions, closing upon and endeavouring to seize us in their hands, whenever the horn of Guatimotzin was sounded. For seven days were we thus engaged, watching in a body during the night, at day break going into action, fighting during the day, and in the evening retiring to console ourselves with our misery of maize cakes, agi or pepper, tunas, and herbs. Our offer of peace only served for new matter for the enemy to revile us on, reproaching us as cowards, and saying, that peace was for women and arms for men.
It has been mentioned that the wretched remains of our countrymen were sent round to different provinces, to summon and encourage them to come to the aid of the Mexicans. In consequence, a force assembled from Matalzingo, Malinalco, and other places at the distance of eight leagues from Mexico, to fall on our rear, while the enemy from the city attacked us in front. When they had assembled as above mentioned, they began to commit outrages upon the country between them and us, seizing the children in order to sacrifice. Complaints of this coming to Cortes, he detached Andres de Tapia with twenty cavalry and one hundred infantry against the enemy. This officer executed his mission completely, driving them back to their own country with loss.
Cortes then sent Sandoval to assist the people of the district called by us Cuernabaca, who were attacked in the same manner. There is much to say in respect to this expedition; too much indeed to be able to do justice to it without going into the details; suffice it that it was
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more peaceable than warlike, and of the happiest effect for us, Sandoval returning accompanied by two chiefs of the nation he had marched against. His return was very sudden, in order to protect our posts, which were in a most perilous way; for this draft had dismantled them, as he had with him every man really fit for duty, being twenty cavalry and eighty infantry. However he by his expedition saved both our allies and us.
Cortes now again sent an embassy to Guatimotzin, saying he had his Monarch’s orders to save if possible that fine city; he reminded Guatimotzin of the distress of the wretched people, and to convince him that he had no hope from his allies, he sent the message by the two chiefs who accompanied Sandoval. The Mexican monarch returned no answer, except ordering the ambassadors immediately to quit the city. The enemy now increased every day the fury of their attacks; their expressions were, “Tenitoz re de Castilla! Tenitoz Axaca?” which means, “what says the king of Castille? what does he now?” We still continued advancing towards the heart of the city, and observed that notwithstanding the rage with which they assailed us, for it seemed as if they wished to meet their deaths, there was not so much movement among them as formerly, nor did they so busily employ themselves in opening the ditches. We also had cause for reflection of a less pleasant nature which was, that our powder was almost reduced to nothing. At this moment most fortunately, arrived at the port of Villa Rica, a vessel with soldiers and ordnance stores, one of an armament fitted out by the Licentiate Lucas Vasquez de Aillon, which had been destroyed or dispersed near the Islands of Florida. The relief and reinforcement were immediately forwarded to Cortes, by his lieutenant, Rangel. It was now determined by Cortes and all the army to push for the great place or Taltelulco of the city, on account of the principal temples and strong buildings being there. Each of our detachments therefore advanced for the purpose. Cortes got possession of a small square at which were some temples; in those temples were beams whereon were placed the heads of many of our soldiers; their hair and beards had much
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grown; I could not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes in three days after, when our party had advanced near enough to get a view of them, after having filled two canals. I recognised the features of three of our friends, and the tears came into my eyes at the sight. In twelve days they were all buried by us in that which is now named the church of the martyrs.
The detachment of Alvarado continued to advance, and after an engagement of two hours forced the enemy from their barricades in the great square. The cavalry now rendered good service in the open space, and the enemy were driven before us into the temple of the war god Alvarado divided his forces into three bodies, and while he occupied the attention of the enemy with two, he ordered the third, commanded by Gutierre de Badajoz, to drive them from, and take possession of the great temple. The enemy, headed by their priests, occupied the adoratories or sanctuaries of their idols, and repulsed our troops, driving them down the steps; which being observed by Alvarado, he then sent us to support them, and on our arrival, having ascended to the top, we completely drove the enemy from that post; having done which, we set fire to the images of their false gods, and planted our standard on the summit of the temple. The view of this signal of victory rejoiced Cortes, who would fain have joined us, but he had it not in his power. He was then distant a quarter of a league, and had many ditches to fill as he advanced. In four days from this time, both he and Sandoval had worked their way to us, and the communications to the three posts were opened through the centre of the city of Mexico. This attack upon the temple was truly perilous; the edifice was very lofty, and the enemy numerous; and they continued to engage us on the flat ground at the summit, from the time that we had set fire to the idols and their adoratories, until night. The royal palaces were now levelled to the ground, Guatimotzin and his troops having retired to a quarter of the city more distant from the centre, and towards the lake.
Still they attacked us in the day, and at night pursued us to our
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quarters, and thus time passed over, and no proposition was made concerning peace. Our chiefs then proposed a plan of laying ambuscades. Thirty cavalry and one hundred infantry of the prime of our army, together with one thousand Tlascalans were posted in concealment, in some large houses which had belonged to a nobleman of the city. This was done during the night. Cortes with the rest of his troops, in the morning went to attack a post at a bridge, which Guatimotzin had ordered to be supported by a large force. Cortes after his first attack retreated, drawing the enemy after him, by the buildings where the troops were placed in concealment. At the proper moment he fired two shots close together as a signal to us; we sallied out, and the enemy being enclosed between us, our allies, and the party of Cortes which faced about, a dreadful havoc was made of them, and from that time they no more annoyed us in our retreat. Another trap was also laid for them by Alvarado, but not with the same success; I was not present at it, being ordered by Cortes to do duty for that time with his party.
From our quarters we had to march above half a league to meet the enemy; we now therefore quitted that post altogether, and lodged ourselves in the great square or Taltelulco. Here we were for three days without doing any thing worth mentioning: we also abstained from destroying any more of the city, in the hopes of peace.
Cortes at this time sent to Guatimotzin requesting him to surrender, under the strongest assurances of enjoying the plentitude of power and honors. He accompanied this embassy with as handsome a present as his situation permitted, of provisions, bread, fowls, fruit, and game. Guatimotzin as he was advised to do by those whom he consulted, dissimulated, and seemed inclined to a pacification. He sent four of his principal nobility, with a promise to come to an interview with Cortes in three days. But this was all feigned; he employed the time in fortifying his quarter of the town, and making preparations to attack us. He also endeavoured to amuse us by a second embassy, but we were now advised of his schemes. In fact, from what he was told by those
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about him, and from the example of his uncle Montezuma, he was afraid to trust himself in our hands. But the mask was soon thrown off; we were attacked by great bodies of the enemy, with such violence that it appeared as if all was beginning anew. Having been rather taken by surprise, they did us at first some mischief, killed one soldier, and two horses; but in the end we sent them back with very little to boast of. Cortes ordered his troops now to proceed against that part of the city where the quarters of Guatimotzin were; accordingly we began upon our former system, and gained ground as we had before done elsewhere. When the king perceived this, he, desired an interview with Cortes, on the side of a large canal which was to separate them. To this Cortes readily assented, and it was to take place on the ensuing morning. Cortes attended, but Guatimotzin never appeared; instead of which he sent several of his principal nobility, who said that the king, did not think proper to come, from an apprehension that we might shoot him during the parley. Cortes then engaged by the most solemn oaths not to do him any injury whatever, but it was of no effect. A ridiculous farce was played here: two of the nobility who attended on the part of Guatimotzin, took out of a sack, bread, a fowl, and cherries, which they began to eat, in order to impress the Spaniards with an idea that they were not in want. Cortes seeing the manner in which he was treated, sent back an hostile message and retired; after this we were left unmolested for the space of four or five days. During this time numbers of wretched Indians, reduced by famine, surrounded our quarters every night. Cortes pitied their miserable situation, and hoping that it might induce the enemy to come into terms of accommodation, ordered the cessation of hostilities to be strictly adhered to; but no overture of the kind was made.
There was in the army of Cortes a soldier who boasted of having served in Italy, and of the great battles which he had seen there. His name was Sotelo, and he was a native of Seville. This man was eternally talking of the wonderful military machines which he knew the art of constructing, and how he could make a stone engine which
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should in two days destroy that whole quarter of the city where Guatimotzin had retreated. He told Cortes so many fine things of this kind, that he persuaded him into a trial of his experiments, lime, stone, and timber being brought, according to his desire; the carpenters were also set to work, two prong cables were made, and stones the size of a bushel were prepared. The machinery was now all ready, the stone which was to be ejected was put in its place, and the whole apparatus was played off* against the quarters of Guatimotzin. But behold! instead of taking that direction, the stone flew up vertically into the air, and returned exactly into the place from whence it had been launched. Cortes was enraged and ashamed: he reproached the soldier, and ordered the machinery to be taken down; but still it continued the joke of the army.
Cortes now gave orders to Sandoval, to go with the flotilla against that part or nook of the city whither Guatimotzin had retired, cautioning him at the same time not to kill or injure any Mexican, unless he was attacked, nor even then to do more than was absolutely necessary for his own defence; but to level all the houses, and the many advanced works which the enemy had made in the lake. Cortes ascended then into the great temple, with several of his officers and soldiers, to observe the movements of his fleet. When Sandoval approached the quarters of Guatimotzin, that prince, who had great apprehensions of being made prisoner, availed himself of the preparations which he had made for his escape, and embarking himself, his family, his courtiers, and. officers, with their most valuable effect, on board fifty large piraguas, the whole body set off for the main land, as did all his nobility and chiefs in various directions. Sandoval who was at this time occupied in making his way by tearing down the houses, received immediate notice of the flight of Guatimotzin. He instantly set out in the pursuit, giving strict orders that no injury or insult should be offered, but that each should keep a steady eye upon the royal vessel, and do his utmost to get possession of it. He particularly directed however Garci Holguin, his intimate friend, and captain of the quickest sailer of the fleet, to
* From the platform of a theatre.
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make for that part of the shore whither Guatimotzin was most likely to go. Accordingly this officer followed his instructions, and falling in with the vessels, from certain particulars in its appearance, structure, and awning, he ascertained that which the king was on board of. He made signs to the people in it to bring to, but without effect; he then ordered his crossbow-men and musqueteers to present, upon which Guatimotzin called out to them not to shoot, and approaching the vessel, acknowledged himself for what he was, declaring his readiness to submit, and go with them to their general, but requesting that his queen, his children, and attendants should be suffered to remain unmolested. Holguin received him with the greatest respect, together with his queen, and twenty of his nobility. He seated them on the poop of his ship, and provided refreshments for them, commanding, that the piraguas which carried the kings effects, should follow untouched.
Sandoval at this moment made a signal for the flotilla to close up to him, and perceived that Guatimotzin was prisoner to Holguin, who was taking him to Cortes. Upon this he ordered his rowers to exert their utmost to bring him up to Holguin’s vessel, and having arrived by the side of it, he demanded Guatimotzin to be delivered to him as general of the whole force; but Holguin refused, alledging that he had no claim whatever. A vessel which went to carry the intelligence of the great event, brought also to Cortes who was then on the summit of the great temple in the Taltelulco, very near the part, of the lake where Guatimotzin was captured, an account of the dispute between his officers. Cortes instantly dispatched Captain Luis Malin and Francisco de Lugo, to bring the whole party together to his quarters, and thus to stop all litigation; but he enjoined them not to omit treating Guatimotzin and his queen with the greatest respect. During the interval, he employed himself in arranging a state, as well as he could, with cloths and mantles. He also prepared a table with refreshments, to receive his prisoners. As soon as they appeared, he went forward to meet them, and embracing Guatimotzin, treated him and all his attendants with, every mark of respect. The unfortunate monarch, with tears in his eyes,
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and sinking under affliction, then addressed him in the following words. “Malintzin! I have done that which was my duty in the defence of my kingdom and people; my efforts have failed, and being now brought by force a prisoner in your hands, draw that poinard from your side, and stab me to the heart.” Cortes embraced, and used every expression to comfort him, by assurances that he held him in high estimation for the valour and firmness he had shewn, and that he had required a submission from him and the people at the time that they could no longer reasonably hope for success, in order to prevent further destruction; but that was all past, and no more to be thought of; he should continue to reign over the people, as he had done before. Cortes then enquired after his queen, to which Guatimotzin replied, that in consequence of the compliance of Sandoval with his request, she and her women remained in the piraguas, until Cortes should decide as to their fate. The general then caused them to be sent for, and treated them in the best manlier his situation afforded. The evening was drawing on, and it appeared likely to rain; he therefore sent the whole royal family to Cuyoacan, under the care of Sandoval. The rest of the troops then returned to their former quarters; we to ours of Tacuba, and Cortes, proceeding to Cuyoacan, took the command there, fending Sandoval to resume his station at Tepeaquilla. Thus was the siege of Mexico brought to a conclusion by the capture of Guatimotzin and his chiefs, on the thirteenth of August, at the hour of vespers, being the day of St. Hyppolitus, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and twenty one. Glorified be our Lord Jesus Christ, and our lady the Holy Virgin Mary his blessed mother, amen!
In the night after Guatimotzin was made prisoner, there was the greatest tempest of rain, thunder, and lightening, especially about midnight, that ever was known; but all the soldiers were as deaf as if they had been for an hour in a steeple, with the bells ringing about their ears. This was owing to the continual noise of the enemy for ninety three days; some preparing their troops and bringing them on, shouting, calling, and whistling, as signals to attack us on the causeway;
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others in the canoes coming to attack our vessels; some again at work upon their pallisadoes, or opening the ditches and water cuts, and making stone parapets, or preparing their magazines of darts and arms, and the women supplying the slingers with their ammunition. Then front the temples and adoratories of their accursed idols, the timbals and horns, and the mournful sound of their great drum, and other dismal noises, were incessantly assailing our ears, so that day or night we could hardly hear each other speak. But these dins immediately ceased on the capture of Guatimotzin, for which reason as I have observed, we felt like so many men just escaped from a steeple where all the bells were ringing about our ears.
Guatimotzin was of a noble appearance both in person and countenance; his features were rather large, and chearful, with lively eyes. His age was about twenty three or four years, and his complexion very fair for an Indian. His queen the niece of Montezuma, was young, and very handsome.
In regard to the dispute between Sandoval and Holguin, Cortez related to them the circumstance from the Roman history, of the capture of Jugurtha, and the dispute of Marius and Sylla, about which of them should have the honor of it, and that this dispute was productive of most fatal civil wars; but said that he would lay the whole affair before his Majesty, by whole arbitration it should be decided, which of the two should have the action emblazoned in his arms. In two years from this time the Emperor’s orders upon the subject arrived; they were to this purpose; that Cortes should bear in his arms the seven kings, representing Montezuma, Guatimotzin, and the princes of Tezcuco, Iztapalapa, Cuyoacan, Tacuba, and Matalzingo.
What I am going to mention is truth, and I swear and say amen to it. I have read of the destruction of Jerusalem, but I cannot conceive that the mortality there exceeded this of Mexico; for all the people from the distant provinces which belonged to this empire had concentrated
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themselves here, where they mostly died. The streets, the squares, the houses, and the courts of the Taltelulco were covered with dead bodies; we could not step without treading on them; the lake and canals were filled with them, and the stench was intolerable. For this reason, our troops immediately after the capture of the royal family retired to their former quarters. Cortes himself was for some time ill from the effect of it.
The vessels were now the best situation, those on board carrying away all the plunder, for they had access to houses in the water which were not in our reach. They also found what the Mexicans had concealed in the reeds, and on the borders of the lake, and intercepted that which was carried out of our reach by water. We on land gained nothing but honor and wounds. The wealth our navy got was much more than we could guess at; Guatimotzin and all his chiefs declaring, when enquiry was made as to the public treasure, that it had mostly fallen into their hands.
To return to the state of
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of their having preyed on each other; and certainly never existed since the creation a people which suffered so much from hunger, thirst, and warfare.
After having returned thanks to God, Cortes determined to celebrate his success by a festival in Cuyoacan; a vessel had arrived at Villa Rica with a cargo of wine, and hogs had been provided from the Island of Cuba. To this entertainment he invited all the officers of his army, and also the soldiers of estimation, and all things being prepared, on the day appointed, we waited on our general. When we came to sit down to dinner there were not tables for one half of us; this brought on great confusion among the company, and indeed for many reasons it would have been much better let alone. The plant of Noah was the cause of many fooleries and worse things; it made some leap over the tables who afterwards could not go out at the doors, and many rolled down the steps. The private soldiers swore they would buy horses with golden harness; the crossbow-men would use none but golden arrows; all were to have their fortunes made. When the tables were taken away the soldiers danced in their armour, with the ladies, as many of them as there were, but the disproportion in numbers was very great. This scene was truly ridiculous. I will not mention the names, suffice it to say a fair field was opened for satire. Fray De Olmedo thought what he observed at the feast, and in the dances too scandalous, and complained to Sandoval; and the latter directly told Cortes how the reverend father was scolding and grumbling. Cortes, discreet in all his actions, then came to him and affecting to disapprove the whole, requested that he would order a solemn mass and thanksgiving, and preach a sermon to the soldiers on the moral and religious duties. Fra Bartholome was highly pleased at this, thinking it had originated spontaneously from Cortes, and not knowing that the hint had been given him by Sandoval. Accordingly, the crucifixes and the image of our Lady were borne in solemn procession, with drums and standards; the litany was sung during the ceremony, Fra Bartholome preached and administered the sacrament, and we returned thanks to God for our victory.
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now took leave of his allies, the Tlascalan chiefs, and also of Suchel
otherwise Don Carlos, a very brave man, as was another, a captain of some city
near the lake the name of which I forget; but he did wonders. Many others who
had rendered us most important services departed at the same time. Cortes
dismissed them all to their homes with many embraces, thanks, and compliments,
promising that he would soon make them rich, and great lords, and give them
lands and vassals, so that they took their departure in high spirits. They had however secured something more substantial than
promises, for they were well loaden with the plunder of
Now that I am past these furious combats, through which, praised be God he was pleased to conduct me safe, I have to mention a certain particularity relative to myself, and it is this. When I saw the sacrifice of our seventy two countrymen, and their hearts taken out and offered to the war god of the Mexicans, I had a sensation of fear. Some may consider this as want of firmness; but if they weigh it duly, they will find that it was in truth the result of too much courage, which caused me to run into extreme and uncommon dangers; for in that day I considered myself a most valiant soldier, and was so esteemed by all; and was used to do that which was attempted by the boldest, and I was always under the eye of my captain. As I have before observed, when I saw my companions sacrificed, their hearts taken out palpitating, and their legs and arms cut off and eaten, I feared it might one day or other be my own lot, for they had me in their hands twice, but it was God’s will that I should escape; but I remembered, and thought on what I had seen, and from this time I feared that cruel death; and this I mention, because before I went into battle, I felt a great depression and uneasiness about my heart, and then recommending myself to God and his blessed mother our Lady, the instant I was engaged with the enemy it left me. Still I am surprised that it came upon me when I should have felt more valiant than ever, on account of the many battles in which I
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had been engaged. But I declare I never knew what fear was, until I saw the massacre of the seventy two soldiers. Let those cavaliers who have been in desperate battles and mortal dangers now decide what was the cause of my fears; I say that it was excess of courage; and for this reason; that I knew the greatness of the danger into which I was determined to go, and knowingly, and voluntarily, encountered it. Many engagements are related in my history besides those I was at; but if my body were of iron, I could not have been at all; and I was much oftener wounded than whole.
I must observe, that the Mexicans did not kill our soldiers, but wounded, and carried them off, to sacrifice alive, to their gods.