The Hernando de Soto Expedition: Exploration and Tragedy

- Fritze, Ronald
Hernando de Soto’s expedition (1539-1543) was the first to explore extensively the interior of the eastern part of North America. It spent a substantial amount of time in what is now Alabama, where there are many places associated with De Soto’s expedition. The Southeast on the eve of European contact contained the most culturally sophisticated Native American societies in Northern America. During the 16th century, the Spanish called the region La Florida. Prior to De Soto’s expedition, Florida’s coast had been explored by various people, most famously Ponce de Leon. In 1528, Panfilo de Narvaez attempted to explore Florida, but his expedition ended in disaster. Cabeza de Vaca’s epic account of his survival in 1536 rekindled interest in the exploration of North America, including De Soto’s expedition. Hernando de Soto had been a conquistador with Francisco Pizarro in Peru and made a fortune. Although a celebrity in Spain , he thirsted for more adventure. His expedition explored most of the Southeast following a much-debated route. It experienced problems with the Native Americans, spread devastating diseases, and failed to find treasure. De Soto died in 1542 during the course of the expedition, which Luis de Moscoso brought back to Mexico during 1543.

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