How Natives Conducted Their Warfare Near Tampa

virginia-area-natives

This eyewitness account from one of the first expeditions into the Southeastern U.S. shows the Spanish were definitely impressed by the military tactics of the Native inhabits of Florida. -Editor

From A Narrative of the Expedition of Hernando de Soto Into Florida, by a Gentleman of Elvas

The Governor sent the chief constable, Baltasar de Gallegos, from the town of Ucita with forty horse and eight foot into the interior to see whether any Indian could be captured; and in another direction, Captain Juan Rodriguez Lobillo, with fifty foot, most of them armed with swords and shields. Others were arquebusiers and crossbowmen. They went over a swampy land where the horsemen could not go. A half league from camp they came upon some Indian huts near the river; [but] the people who were inside them plunged into the river. They captured four Indian women, and twenty Indians came at us and attacked us so stoutly that we had to retreat to the camp, because of their being (as they are) so skillful with their weapons.

Those people are so warlike and so quick that they make no account of foot soldiers; for if these go for them, they flee, and when their adversaries turn their backs they are immediately on them. The farthest they flee is the distance of an arrow shot. They are never quiet but always running and crossing from one side to another so that the crossbows or the arquebuses can not be aimed at them; and before a crossbowman can fire a shot, an Indian can shoot three or four arrows, and very seldom does he miss what he shoots at. If the arrow does not find armor, it penetrates as deeply as a crossbow. The bows are very long and the arrows are made of certain reeds like canes, very heavy and so tough that a sharpened cane passes through a shield. Some are pointed with a fish bone, as sharp as an awl, and others with a certain stone like a diamond point. Generally when these strike against armor, they break off at the place where they are fastened on. Those of cane split and enter through the links of mail and are more hurtful.

 

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