Hernando de Soto Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1496 - 1542 *** Full Name: Hernando de Soto *** Occupation: Spanish Explorer and Conquistador *** Date of Birth: Hernando de Soto was born on October 27th 1496 *** Place of Birth: Hernando de Soto was born in Jerez de los Caballeros, Badajoz, Extremadura, Spain *** Family background: There is no information regarding his family, his early life or childhood or what education he may have received ***
Hernando de Soto Fact 1: Hernando de Soto was born on October 27th 1496 and during the 15th century period in history when Portugal and Spain were exploring the oceans of the world and colonizing new lands.
Hernando de Soto Fact 2: Hernando de Soto would become the first European to explore the southern area of the United States, around Florida, Alabama Arkansas and Georgia.
Hernando de Soto Fact 3: He would also become the first European to cross the Mississippi River.
Hernando de Soto Fact 4: Very little is known of his family background but it is believed his parents were hidalgos meaning of Portuguese or Spanish nobility although the region he was from was not a prosperous one and many sought their fortunes elsewhere.
Hernando de Soto Fact 5: During 1530 while in Nicaragua he would become a regidor of Leon which was a member of the council for municipalities.
Hernando de Soto Fact 6: He was also called upon to lead an expedition which would travel up the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in search of a passage that would lead between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This would enable trade with richer world markets in the Orient.
Hernando de Soto Fact 7: Hiring ships Hernando de Soto took his own men and joined Francisco Pizarro at Tumbes just prior to their departure for what is today Peru.
Hernando de Soto Fact 8: Having reached Peru Pizarro sent de Soto to meet with the Inca Emperor Atahualpa and invite him to a meeting. The Spaniards then captured Atahualpa and held him for ransom.
Hernando de Soto Fact 9: While they held Atahualpa de Soto befriended him and taught him how to play the game of chess.
Hernando de Soto Fact 10: De Soto left Cajamarca as rumors began to circulate that a large Incan army was making its way to them to release their Emperor and he was sent to scout their location.
Hernando de Soto Fact 11: In his absence, having found no signs of an advancing army, the Spanish decided to kill Atahualpa to prevent his being rescued. The remaining forces headed for Cuzco and attacked the Incan Empire. Hernando de Soto Fact 17: The decision was made not to meet the ships for fear news of their massively costly victory would reach Spain and they would be ridiculed. Instead they head towards Mississippi and settled in there for the winter.
Hernando de Soto Fact 12: Pizarro had made contact with Manco the brother of Atahualpa and come to an arrangement whereby Manco was placed as Emperor of the Incan Empire which suited all requirements.
Hernando de Soto Fact 13: In 1536 de Soto made his return to Spain with a considerable share of the Incan bounty.
Hernando de Soto Fact 14: By May of 1539 de Soto together with of six hundred men, in excess of two hundred horses on nine ships landed at South Tampa Bay where they encountered Juan Ortiz, a member of a previous expedition that had been captured by the local natives. He had learned the native language and was used as a translator. Along the way they would enlist further natives who in turn knew the languages of neighbouring tribes and thus a line of communication between tribes was established.
Hernando de Soto Fact 15: The expedition continued northwards into what is now Georgia and on towards modern day South Carolina and continue north into North Carolina before entering Tennessee. Eventually the returned to the South heading for the Gulf of Mexico in order to rendezvous with ships carrying fresh supplies.
Hernando de Soto Fact 16: While on their way to meet the ships they were attached by the Mobilian tribe and the ensuing death toll would make this encounter one of the bloodiest on record. Two hundred Spaniards were killed, one and fifty were seriously wounded and over the next few weeks approximately twenty more died of their wounds or sickness. It was estimated between two and six thousand native warriors lost their lives.
Hernando de Soto Fact 18: Having encountered further hostile natives they managed to continue their journey along the river. They built boats and were able to cross the river and travelled further West through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas before wintering along the Arkansas River. The winter had been harsh, Ortiz had died leaving them without means of communications with the local native people and so finding food supplies proved difficult.
Hernando de Soto Fact 19: Eventually they made their return to the Mississippi River having escaped one of the most viciously skilled native tribes they had encountered and were lucky to escape with their lives.
Hernando de Soto Fact 20: In May of 1542 de Soto contracted a fever and on the 21st of May Hernando de Soto died of the fever. His body was laid to rest in the local area.
Influence & Legacy: His expedition in the eyes of his King was not a success, no treasure was found and no new colonies were formed. The Spanish also inflicted many illnesses and diseased on the native people because they had not encountered these infections before and they suffered devastating losses among their populations.