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The Renaissance

Hernando DeSoto
The Renaissance
Hernando DeSoto

What did he do?

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Hernando DeSoto discovered the Mississippi River, of course.  Well, he did that and some other things.  His name literally means 'Hernando of the grove.'  As a man who played a role during The Renaissance, Hernando DeSoto was born around 1500 in Barcarotta, Spain.  He began his life as an adventurous young boy who was always exploring his environment.  At about 14 years of age, DeSoto traveled from Spain to Panama with Pedro Arias de Avila with just a sword and a shield as the only things that he owned.  Two years later, he led a calvary unit through his journey to Honduras and Nicaragua to colonize the villages.  Hernando DeSoto became famous not only because of his skills in battle, but of how he fought against the people of Central America.  He was ruthless against the armies and refused to give up, showing brutality in the ways he fought.

Hernando DeSoto

DeSoto wanted to find a waterway between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, so he searched the Yukatan Penninsula in 1528.  He ventured to Peru with Francisco Pizarro, eventually stumbling upon the Incans, being the first European to talk to them after separating from Pizarro. He returned back to Spain in 1536 with 100,000 pesos for conquesting the Incan Empire.  In Spain he had suspected that there were great resources in Florida as there were in Peru. Charles V made him the governor of Cuba after DeSoto declared the lands.  De Soto sold all the extra items that he owned and began his journey into the unknown lands of the west.
 
It was May in the year 1539 when he came to Florida with between 600 and 700 men.  He expected Florida to be full of great resources, but instead he found the brutal temperatures along with the mosquitos and the swampland.  He was very brutal with the indian tribes that he had come upon, as he captured them and used them for working and helping explore the land.  DeSoto made it through many parts of Georgia and the South and North Carolinas.  At one point through the expedition, the Spaniards were attacked by the Choctaw tribe, where a total of fourty or so Spaniards died, several were wounded, and between 2,000 and 6,000 Choctaw died.  This battle left many of the Spaniards weak and most of the equipment was gone.
 

DeSoto.... Now Get your Mouse off me They went north where they met the Chickasaw tribe and DeSoto demanded 200 men from them.  They refused, and when the Spaniards went to bed that night, they were attacked and lost the rest of their equipment.  But on May 8, 1541, DeSoto and his troops had reached the Mississippi River. DeSoto was the first man who had a claim to seeing the river, as nobody else had documented seeing it.  Finding this river was more hurt that good to him though, because as you know, the Mississippi River is a huge river, and DeSoto had to find a way to get himself and 400 men across it.  He finally contructed many little boats to get his soldiers across the river. 
 

Discovery of the Mississippi

It was May 21, 1542 that Hernando DeSoto met his end.  It was said that he had a fever that may have been caused by infection in his wounds from a battle with a Native American tribe called the Tula.  DeSoto had convinced the indians that Christians were immortal, so his troops made sure they didnt know about his death. 
 
So what did he get out of it?  What was so important about the expeditions of Hernando DeSoto?  He came to Florida to find that not only did it not contain the great resources like Peru did, but the climate and lands were rough too.  DeSoto met many indian tribes along his journey, and to them he and all European people appeared to be fierce and arrogant people.  But on the other hand, his expeditions did help with the mapping of North America, along with his descriptions of the tribes that he encountered. Thanks to him, many people knew what was in the west, so it motivated explorers to explore the United States.