All stories begin with once upon a time and I think that true stories should begin this way too. Long, long ago there was a Spanish conquistador named Hernando de Soto who started a three-year journey for gold. This journey took him halfway across the United States. When he died it was upon the banks of the Mississippi River in what today is the state of Louisiana. This is where things get a bit strange. The men who took this journey with Soto were afraid that the Native Indians would find out about his death and due to this, they thought the Indians would disprove Soto’s claims of divinity. Therefore the men decided it was best that the Indians wouldn’t find out about Soto’s death and took his body and buried him in the Mississippi River.
It was late May of 1539 when Soto landed on the west coast of Florida with 600 troops, servants and staff, 200 horses and bloodhounds. Soon all of them did all they could to pacify the Native Indians, grab any valuables they found and started getting the region ready for Spanish colonization. Looking for gold and silver they traveled through Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, across the Appalachian Mountains and back to Alabama. Unfortunately, they didn’t find what they were looking for but did find a valuable collection of pearls at Cofitachequi in what today is the state of Georgia.
Soto was not an easy man to get along with and he treated the Indians badly and enslaved them. Indian warriors wound up being intimidated by the Spanish horsemen. Finally, in October 1540 a confederation of Indians attacked the Spaniards at the Indian town of Mabila in what today is Mobile, Alabama. The fighting was hot and heavy and all of the Indians were killed, along with 20 of Soto’s men and several hundred Spaniards were wounded. To make things worse the Indian conscripts who were hired to carry the Spaniards’ supplies took off with them.
Soto chose to continue taking his expedition north-westward to continue looking for riches. The Spaniards reached and crossed the Mississippi in May 1541 and supposedly were the very first Europeans to do this. They continued their journey through Arkansas and Louisiana. It was when they turned back to the Mississippi that Soto died of a fever right on the banks of the river on May 21, 1542. Luis de Moscoso took command of the Spaniards and headed to northern Texas. By the time they returned to the Mississippi almost half of the original expedition was dead so the Spaniards built rafts to travel down the river to the sea. They made their way along the Texas coast to New Spain and reached Veracruz, Mexico in late 1543.