Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. I., Introcuction.








Far o’er yon azure main thy view extend,
Where seas and skies in blue confusion blend:
Lo, there a mighty realm, by Heaven design’d,
The last retreat for poor, oppress’d mankind;
Form’d with that pomp which marks the hand divine,
And clothes yon vault, where worlds unnumber’d shine.
Here spacious plains in solemn grandeur spread;
Here cloudy forests cast eternal shade;
Rich valleys wind, the sky-tall mountains brave,
And inland seas for commerce spread the wave.
With nobler floods the sea-like rivers roll,
And fairer luster purples round the pole.



Every nation eminent for its refinement, displayed in the cultivation of the arts, had its heroic age; a period when its first physical and moral conquests were achieved, and when rude society, with all its impurities, was fused and refined in the crucible of progress. When civilization first set up its standard as a permanent ensign in the Western hemisphere, northward of the Bahamas and the great Gulf, and the contests for possession began between the wild Aborigines, who thrust no spade into the soil, no sickle into ripe harvests, and those earnest delvers from the Old World, who came with the light of Christianity to plant a new empire and redeem the wilderness by cultivation, then commenced the heroic age of America. It ended when the work of the Revolution, in the eighteenth century, was accomplished; when the bond of vassalage to Great Britain was severed by her colonies, and when the thirteen confederated States ratified a federal Constitution, and upon it laid the broad foundation of our Republic.

Those ancient civilizations, registered by the stylus of history, were mere gleamings of morning compared with the noontide radiance which now lights up the western world; and even the more modern nations of Europe, brilliant as they appear, have so many dark spots upon the disk of their enlightenment, that their true glory is really less than that of the waxing Star in the West. These ancient and modern civilizations, now past or at their culminating points, were the results of the slow progress of centuries; the heroic age of America, meteor-like, was brilliant and rapid in its course, occupying the space of only a century and a half of time from the permanent implanting of a British colony, weak and dependent, to the founding of our government, which, like Pallas Athena, was, at its birth, full panoplied, strong, eminently individual in its character, and full of recuperative energies. The head of Britannia was cleft by the Vulcan of the Revolution, and from its teeming brain leaped the full-grown daughter, sturdy and defiant.

Long anterior to the advent of Europeans in America, a native empire, but little inferior to Old Rome in civilization, flourished in that region of our continent which now forms the southwestern portion of the Republic. The Aztec empire, which reached the acme of its refinement during the reign of Montezuma, and crumbled into fragments when Cortez dethroned and murdered that monarch [1521.], extended over the whole of Central America; and when the Spaniards came it was gradually pushing its conquests northward, where all was yet darkness and gloom. To human apprehension, this people, apparently allied by various ties to the wild nations of North America, appeared to be the most efficient instruments in spreading the light of civilization over the whole continent; yet they were not only denied this glorious privilege, but, by the very race which first attempted to plant the seeds of European refinement in Florida and among the Mobilian tribes, and to shed the illumination of their dim Christianity over the dreary regions of the North, was their own bright light extinguished. The Aztecs and their neighbors were beaten into the dust of debasement by the falchion blows of avarice and bigotry, and they form, apparently, not the most insignificant atom of the chain of events which connects the history of the empires of the Old World with that of our Republic.

It is believed that, two hundred years before the Aztecs subdued the more ancient people of the Mexican valley and founded Tenochtitlan, 1 a handful of rough, half-civilized adventurers from the wintery shores of Iceland and the neighboring main, driven by adverse winds they knew not whither, touched upon the bleak shores of Labrador, and traversed the American continent southward as far as Rhode Island, and, it may be, the capes of Virginia. 2 These supposed first modern discoverers of America were the children of the "mighty sea kings" of the Teutonic romances – the Scandinavian reguli, who, scorning to own Gorm the Old of Norway, and Harold Fairhair of Denmark, their conquerors, as masters, forsook their country and colonized Iceland, Greenland, Shetland, and the Orkney Islands, whence they sent forth piratical expeditions, which became a terror to Western Europe. They traded as well as plundered, and by commerce and conquest became potential. Every coast was visited by their squadrons, either for war or traffic. They swept over Denmark and Germany, and by conquest obtained possession of the best portions of Gaul. 3 They invaded the British Islands, and placed the renowned Canute on the throne of Alfred [1014.]. Long before Christianity had shed its genial rays over their frozen territory of the North, and banished the barbarous rites of Pagan worship, the lamp of learning had been taken from the cloisters of the South and placed within their temples, and upon dreary and desolate Iceland and Norway civilization erected its humanizing altars. Ardent, imaginative, and devotional, they eagerly accepted Christianity, and it became to them really a "Star in the East," leading to where "the infant Jesus laid." It was not to them so much a personal treasure to be valued for its immortal blessings, as a glorious idea full of temporal advantage. It became an intense passion, not a sober belief, and its warmth generated mighty events. Among them the spirit of chivalry had its birth and early nurture; and in those unholy wars against the possessors of the land of Palestine and of the sepulcher of Christ, called the Crusades, which shook the nations during three consecutive centuries, these Northmen furnished the bravest leaders.

From such a people, possessed of every attribute necessary to the successful founding of new empires, having the ocean pathway to a broad and fertile continent made clear before them, what great results might not be expected? But, with the prize just within their grasp, they, too, were denied the honor of first peopling our land; yet their mixed descendants, the Anglo-Saxons, now possess it. It is supposed that they attempted settlements, but failed, and in the lapse of centuries their voyages were forgotten, or only remembered in the songs of their bards or the sagas of their romancers. For more than five hundred years after the voyages of those navigators, America was an unknown region; it had no place upon maps, unless as an imaginary island without a name, nor in the most acute geographical theories of the learned. 4 It was reserved for the son of an humble wool-carder of Genoa to make it known to the world.

During the first half of the fifteenth century, maritime discoveries were prosecuted with untiring zeal by the people inhabiting the great peninsula of Southwestern Europe. The incentives to make these discoveries grew out of the political condition of Europe and the promises of great commercial advantages. The rich commerce of the East centered in Rome, when that empire overshadowed the known world; when it fell into fragments, the Italian cities continued their monopoly of the trade of the Indies. Provinces which had become independent kingdoms became jealous of these cities, so rapidly outstripping them in power and opulence; and Castile and Portugal, in particular, engaged in efforts to open a direct trade with the East. The ocean was the only highway for such commerce toward which they could look with a hope of success. The errors of geographical science interposed their obstacles; the belief that a belt of impassable heat girdled the earth at the equator intimidated mariners, and none were willing to double Cape Bojador, beyond which was the fancied region of fire.

Prince Henry of Portugal, son of John the First and Philippa of Lancaster (sister of Henry the Fourth of England), having accompanied his father into Africa, in an expedition against the Moors, received much information concerning the mineral riches and fertility of Guinea and other portions of the coast. The idea of making discoveries along the African shores filled his mind, and on his return to Portugal he abandoned the court, and drawing around him the most eminent scientific men in the kingdom, pursued geographical and nautical inquiries with untiring zeal. He became convinced that Africa was circumnavigable, and that the Indies might be reached by doubling its most southerly headlands. Expeditions were fitted out; the Cape de Verd and the Azore Islands were discovered; Cape Bojador was passed; the tropical region was penetrated, and divested of its terrors; and at length the lofty promontory which terminates Africa on the south, was descried [1486.]. It was hailed as a harbinger of the coveted passage to the Indian Seas, and on that account King John gave it the appellation of the Cape of Good Hope.


The Spaniards were also making maritime discoveries at the same time, but Lisbon was the point of great attraction to the learned, the curious, and the adventurous, who were desirous to engage in the expeditions then continually fitting out there. Among them came Christopher Columbus, or Colombo, a native of Genoa, then in the vigor of maturity. 6 Already he had made many a perilous voyage upon the ocean, having engaged in the life of a mariner at the age of fourteen years. The bent of his mind for such pursuits was early discovered by his father, and in the University of Pavia he was allowed, by a short course of study, to obtain sufficient elementary knowledge of geometry, astronomy, geography, and navigation, and of the Latin language, to enable him to make those sciences afterward subservient to his genius. From the commencement of his nautical career to his landing in Portugal, his history is very obscure.

In person, Columbus was tall and commanding; in manners, exceedingly winning and graceful for one unaccustomed to the polish of courts or the higher orders in society. He was a strict observer of the rituals of his religion. His piety was not a mere form, but an elevated and solemn enthusiasm, born of a deep conviction of the vital truths of Christianity. While in Lisbon, he never omitted religious duties in the sanctuary. At the chapel of the Convent of All Saints, where he was accustomed to worship, he became acquainted with a young lady of rank named Donna Felipa, the daughter of Moñis de Palestrello, an Italian cavalier, who had been one of the most distinguished navigators in the service of Prince Henry. They loved, and were married. His wife’s sister was married to Pedro Correo, a navigator of note. In the family of his mother-in-law he learned all the incidents of the voyages of her husband; and the charts, journals, and other manuscripts of that navigator she delivered to Columbus. These possessions awakened new aspirations in his mind. He had made himself familiar, by study and large experience, with all the nautical knowledge of the day, and, in common with the most enlightened men of his time, he was disposed to credit the narratives of Plato and other ancient writers respecting the existence of a continent beyond a glorious island called Atlantis, 7 in the waste of waters westward of Europe. Such a continent was necessary to make his own geographical theory perfect. The gorgeous pictures of Zipango or Cipangi and Cathay, on the eastern shore of Asia, drawn by Marco Polo and Mandeville, also excited his warm imagination; and the alleged apparitions of land seen to the westward by the people of the Canary Isles were treasured in his mind as great realities. 8 His comprehensive genius constructed a new and magnificent theory, and his bold spirit stood ready to act in unison with his genius. He based his whole theory upon the fundamental principle that the earth was a terraqueous globe, which might be traveled round from east to west, and that men stood foot to foot at opposite points. This was seventy years before Copernicus announced his theory of the form and motion of the planets [1543.], and one hundred and sixty years before Galileo was obliged, before the court of the Inquisition at Rome, to renounce his belief in the diurnal revolution of the earth [1633.].

Columbus divided the circumference of the earth at the equator, according to Ptolemy’s system, into twenty-four hours of fifteen degrees each, making three hundred and sixty degrees. Of these he imagined that fifteen hours had been known to the ancients, extending from the Fortunate or Canary Islands to the city of Thinœ in Asia, the western and eastern boundaries of the known world. By the discovery of the Cape de Verd and the Azore Islands, the Portuguese had advanced the western frontier one hour, leaving about one eight of the circumference of the globe yet to be explored. The extent of the eastern region of Asia was yet unknown, although the travels of Polo in the fourteenth century had extended far beyond the Oriental boundary of Ptolemy’s map. Columbus imagined that the unexplored part of Asia might occupy a large portion of the yet undefined circumference of the earth, and that its eastern headlands might approach quite near to those of Western Europe and Africa. He therefore concluded that a navigator, pursuing a direct course from east to west, must arrive at the extremity of Asia by a far easier and shorter route than following the coast of Africa around the Cape of Good Hope. Fortunately, he adopted the opinions of Aristotle, Pliny, and other writers, who considered the ocean as but of moderate breadth, so that it might be crossed from Europe in the space of a few days. A knowledge or suspicion of its actual extent would have deterred even the bold enterprise of Columbus from attempting an exploration of its waters in the small ships of that day. Reports of strange trees, reeds of immense size, curiously-carved pieces of wood, and the bodies of two men – unlike, in color and visage, any of the known races extant – having drifted ashore upon the Canary and Azore Islands by westerly winds, confirmed him in his belief, and a desire and determination to undertake a demonstration of his theory by an exploring voyage absorbed his whole attention. "He never spoke in doubt or hesitation," says Irving, "but with as much certainty as if his eyes had beheld the Promised Land. A deep religious sentiment mingled with his thoughts, and gave them at times a tinge of superstition, but of a sublime and lofty kind. He looked upon himself as standing in the hand of Heaven, chosen from among men for the accomplishment of its high purpose. He read, as he supposed, his contemplated discovery foretold in Holy Writ, and shadowed forth darkly in the prophecies. The ends of the earth were to be brought together, and all nations, and tongues, and languages united under the banner of the Redeemer." 9 The prophetic passage in Pulei’s "Morgante Maggiore" was to him full of promise:

"Know that this theory is false; his bark
The daring mariner shall urge far o’er
The Western wave, a smooth and level plain,
Albeit the earth is fashion’d like a wheel.
Man was in ancient days of grosser mold,
And Hercules might blush to learn how far
Beyond the limits he had vainly set 10
The dullest sea-boat soon shall wing her way.
Men shall descry another hemisphere,
Since to one common center all things tend.
So earth, by curious mystery diving
Well balanced, hangs amid the starry spheres.
At our antipodes are cities, states,
And thronged empires, ne’er divined of yore.
But see, the sun speeds on his western path
To glad the nations with expected light."


While maturing his plans, Columbus extended the bounds of his observation and study by a voyage to Thule, or Iceland, from which remote point he says he advanced one hundred leagues northward, penetrated the polar circle, and convinced himself of the fallacy of the popular belief that the frozen zone was uninhabitable. 11 Whether he saw, in Iceland, written accounts of the voyages of the Northmen to America, or heard of them as related by tradition or chanted in songs, we have no means of determining. If he did, it is singular, as Prescott remarks, that they were not cited by him in support of his hypothesis, while earnestly pressing his suit for aid before the courts of Portugal and Spain; and it is equally surprising that he did not, in his first voyage to America, pursue the route traversed by those early navigators. He probably heard little more than vague rumors of their voyages, such as presented insufficient data even for a plausible opinion. His magnificent idea was all his own, sustained by the opinions of a few learned men, and confirmed by his observations while on this northern voyage.

Filled with his noble resolutions and lofty anticipations, Columbus submitted the theory on which rested his belief in a practicable western route to Asia, to King John the Second of Portugal. That monarch’s sagacity perceived the promised advantages to be derived from such an enterprise, and he eagerly sought the counsel of his ministers and wise men. But his court and the college of scientific sages could not comprehend the sublime project; and after a long and fruitless negotiation, during which the Portuguese meanly attempted to avail themselves clandestinely of his information, Columbus quitted Lisbon in disgust, determined to submit his proposals to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Spanish sovereigns, whose wisdom and liberal views were the admiration of men of science and learning. His wife was dead; his feelings had no hold upon Portugal, and he quitted it forever.

It was toward the close of 1484 when Columbus appeared at the Spanish court. 12 It was an unpropitious hour, for the whole resources of the nation were then employed in prosecuting a war with the Moors. For a long time he awaited the decision of the sovereigns, employing his leisure in the alternate pursuits of science, and engagements in some of the military campaigns. He was treated with great deference, and, after much delay, a council of learned men were convened at Salamanca to consider his plans and propositions. After mature deliberation, they pronounced his scheme "vain, impracticable, and resting on grounds too weak to merit the support of the government." A minority of the council were far from acquiescing in this decision, and, with the Cardinal Mendoza and other officers of government, Fray Juan Perez de Marchena, guardian of the ancient monastery of La Rabida, they induced the sovereigns to soften the decision of the council by a promise to give the proposition a fair audience when their pressing state engagements should be ended. Columbus, wearied by procrastination, at length lost all hope of effecting any thing with the Spanish court. He turned from it with disgust, and made application to two wealthy and enlightened Southern dukes, who had ample means at command. He was unsuccessful, and with a heavy heart he left Spain, to carry his proposals to the King of France.


Isabella of Castile and Leon, sister of the profligate Henry the Fourth, was the successor of that monarch to the throne. She married Ferdinand [October 19, 1469.], the son of old John the Second of Aragon, and, associating him with herself in the government, united the two monarchies into one great kingdom, the renowned modern Spain. Isabella was eminently virtuous, and her piety and daily goodness were the fruit of a deep religious feeling. Ferdinand was ambitious, and, in the midst of his perplexity with the Moors, he felt a strong desire to advance the interests and glory of the new kingdom, by maritime discoveries; yet he could not comprehend the vast plans of Columbus, and he looked coldly upon the project. To the pious sentiments of the queen, Father Perez, a former confessor of Isabella and a friend of Columbus, appealed with success; and before the navigator had entered the dominions of France, he was summoned back to the court, then in the camp at Santa Fé. He arrived in time to witness the surrender of Grenada. Joy and exultation pervaded all classes. Columbus took advantage of this state of things, and while he excited the acquisitiveness of the nobles by reciting wonderful tales of the riches of Cipangi and Cathay, he eloquently portrayed to the queen the glorious prospect of extending the influence of the Gospel over benighted heathens, promising to devote the profits of the enterprise to the recovery of the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem from the hands of the Paynim. His eloquence was seconded by that of Louis de St. Angel, a favorite officer of the crown. The religious zeal of Isabella was fired, and, notwithstanding the extravagant demands of Columbus, 14 she resolved, in opposition to the wishes of Ferdinand, to aid him in fitting out an expedition. These demands almost frustrated his designs, and Columbus had again turned his back upon the Spanish court, when, through the wise counsels of friends, the queen’s objections were overcome, and the warmest impulses of her nature aroused. "I will assume the undertaking," she said, when opposed by her husband and his counselors, "for my own crown of Castile, and am ready to pawn my jewels to defray the expense of it, if the funds in the treasury shall appear inadequate."


All preliminaries being arranged, the queen lost no time in fitting out two vessels, 15 and Columbus, aided chiefly by the wealthy and enterprising family of the Pinzons, equipped a third. With this feeble squadron, manned with timid mariners, Columbus left the little port of Palos,


upon the Tinto River, in Andalusia, on Friday, the third of August, 1492, and, spreading his sails to an easterly breeze, turned his prow toward the waste of waters in the direction of the setting sun. He had no reliable chart for his guidance, no director in his course but the sun and stars, and the imperfect mariner’s compass, then used only by a few in navigating the pleasant seas of the Old World. After various delays at the Canary Islands, they passed and lost sight of Ferro, the most westerly one of the group, on Sunday, the ninth of September. Now Europe was left behind, and the broad Atlantic, mysterious and unknown, was before them. As the space widened between them and their homes, the hearts of the mariners failed; and when, on the thirteenth [September, 1492.], the commander and his pilots discovered the variations of the magnetic needle, misgivings arose in the stout hearts of the explorer and his friends, the Pinzons. They were now six hundred miles westward of the Canaries, in an unknown sea. It was a phenomenon unknown to the world of science, and Columbus tried in vain to satisfy himself respecting the cause. He could not long conceal the fact from his seamen. It filled them with consternation and awe; for they believed they were entering another world, subject to the influence of laws unknown and dreadful. Columbus quieted their apprehensions by telling them that the needle did not point to the north star, but to an invisible point around which that star revolved daily. Thus he explained a phenomenon now well known; and his companions, relying upon his astronomical knowledge, received his theory as truth, and their alarm subsided.

For several days after this event they were wafted pleasantly by the trade winds, which blow continually from east to west. The air was balmy, and soon vast fields of sea-weeds, and an occasional petrel upon the wing, heralded an approach to land; but head winds and days of profound calm deferred the joyful consummation of their hopes; and the seamen, wearied and home-sick, resolved to retrace their path, and seek the shores of Spain. Even the little land birds that came upon the spars, and sung merrily their welcome to the New World, and then left at evening for their distant perches in the orange groves, failed to inspire the mariners with confidence in the truth of their commander’s reasonings, and open mutiny manifested itself. With gentle words, promises of rewards, and threats of punishment against the most refractory, Columbus kept them from actual violence for several days. One evening [September 25.], just at sunset, Martin Alonzo Pinzon, mounted on the stern of the Pinta, shouted, "Land! land! Señor, I claim the reward!" 17 Along the southwestern horizon was stretched an apparent island. Columbus, throwing himself upon his knees, with all the crews, chanted Gloria in Excelsis! In the morning the island had vanished, for it was nothing but a cloud. For a fortnight longer they floated upon an almost unruffled sea, when land birds came singing again, and green herbage floated by; but days passed on, and the sun, each evening, set in the waves. Again the seamen mutinied, and Columbus was in open defiance with his crew; for he told them that the expedition had been sent by their sovereigns, and, come what might, he was determined to accomplish his purpose. They were on the point of casting him into the sea, when, just at sunset, a coast-fish glided by; a branch of thorn, with berries upon it, floated near; and a staff, artificially carved, came upon the waters to tell them of human habitations not far off. The vesper hymn to the Virgin was now sung, and Columbus, after recounting the blessings of God thus far manifested on the voyage, assured the crews that he confidently expected to see land in the morning. On the high poop of his vessel he sat watching until near midnight, when he saw the glimmer of moving lights upon the verge of the horizon. Fearing his hopes might have deceived his vision, he called Pedro Gutierrez, gentleman of the king’s bed-chamber, and also Rodrigo Sanchez, of Segovia, to confirm his discovery. They also saw the gleams of a torch. All night the overjoyed Columbus watched. At dawn, beautiful wooded shores were in full view; the perfumes of flowers came upon the light land breeze; and birds in gorgeous plumage hovered around the vessels, caroling morning hymns, which seemed like the voices of angels to the late despairing seamen. In small boats they landed [October 12, 1492.],


the naked natives, who stood upon the beach in wonder, fleeing to the deep shadows of the forest in alarm. Columbus, dressed in gold-embroidered scarlet, bearing the royal standard,


first stepped upon the shore. He was followed by the Pinzons, each bearing the banner of the enterprise. 19 On reaching the land, they all fell upon their knees, kissed the earth, and, with tears of joy in their eyes, chanted the Te Deum Laudamus. Rising from the ground, Columbus displayed the royal standard, drew his sword, and took possession of the land in the name of the Spanish sovereigns, giving the island the title of San Salvador. 20 With the most extravagant demonstrations of joy, his followers crowded around him. The most insolent in the mutinous displays were the most abject in making vows of service and faithfulness. All present took an oath of obedience to him as admiral and viceroy, and representative of Ferdinand and Isabella. The triumph of Columbus was complete.

The natives had beheld the approaching ships at dawn with fear and awe, regarding them as monsters of the deep. By degrees their alarm subsided, and they approached the Europeans. Each party was a wonder to the other. The glittering armor, shining lace, and many-colored dresses of the Spaniards filled the natives with admiration and delight; while they, entirely naked, with skins of a dark copper hue, painted with a variety of colors and devices, without beards and with straight hair, were objects of great curiosity to the Spaniards. They were unlike any people of whom they had knowledge. Not doubting that he was upon an island near the coast of Farther India, Columbus called these wild inhabitants Indians, a name which all the native tribes of America still retain.

It is not within the scope of my design to relate, in detail, the subsequent career of Columbus in the path of discovery, nor of those navigators who succeeded him, and share with him the honor of making known our continent to the Old World. He was the bold pioneer who led the way to the New World, and as such, deserves the first and highest reward; yet he was not truly the first discoverer of the continent of North America. Eager in his search for Cathay, he coasted almost every island composing the groups now known as the West Indies, during his several voyages, but he never saw the shores of the Northern Continent. He did, indeed, touch the soil of South America [August, 1498.], near the mouth of the Oronoco, but he supposed it to be an island, and died in the belief that the lands he discovered were portions of Farther India. 21

Intelligence of the great discovery of Columbus, though kept concealed as much as possible by the Spanish court, for reasons of state policy, nevertheless went abroad, and aroused the ambition of other maritime powers. The story that Columbus had found vast and populous gold-producing regions in the Western Ocean excited the cupidity of individuals, and many adventurers offered their services to sovereigns and men of wealth. Almost simultaneously, John Cabot, a Venetian by birth, and Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine, sailed for the lands discovered by Columbus; the former under the auspices of Henry the Seventh of England, and the latter in the employment of Spanish merchants, with the sanction of Ferdinand. Although Cabot was an Italian, he had been long a resident of Bristol, then the chief commercial mart of England. The Northwestern seas were often traversed as far as Iceland by the Bristol mariners, and they had probably extended their voyages westward to Greenland in their fishing enterprises. Cabot seems to have been familiar with those seas, and the English merchants had great confidence in his abilities. He obtained a commission from Henry the Seventh, similar, in its general outline, to that given to Columbus by Ferdinand and Isabella. It empowered him and his three sons, their heirs or deputies, to discover and settle unknown lands in the Eastern, Northern, or Western seas, such lands to be taken possession of in the name of the King of England. He fitted out two vessels at his own expense, which were freighted by merchants of London and Bristol; and it was stipulated that, in lieu of all customs and imposts, Cabot was to pay the King one fifth part of all the gains.


With his son Sebastian, a talented young man of only twenty years, and about three hundred men, John Cabot sailed from Bristol in May, 1497. He directed his course to the northwest, until he reached the fifty-eighth degree of north latitude, when floating ice and intense cold induced him to steer to the southwest. Fair winds produced a rapid voyage, and he discovered land on the twenty-fourth of June, which he called PRIMA VISTA, because it was his first view of a new region. The exact point of this first discovery is not certainly known; some supposing it to have been on the coast of Labrador, and others the Island of Newfoundland or the peninsula of Nova Scotia. He touched at other points, but did not attempt a settlement; the climate seemed to rigorous, the people too fierce, and he returned to Bristol.

Cabot was authorized to make a second voyage [February, 1498.]. He did not go in person, but fitted out vessels for the purpose. His son, Sebastian, was placed at the head of the expedition, and in May, 1498, the month in which De Gama reached Calicut, in the East Indies, by way of the Cape of Good Hope, he sailed for the New World with several ships. He visited the region first discovered by his father and himself, and called it NEWFOUNDLAND. It was not rich in gold and spices, but its shoals abounded with vast schools of codfish; and within a few years after his return to England a permanent fishery was established there. Cabot sailed along the whole coast of the present United States, beginning at latitude fifty-six degrees, and terminating at about thirty-six degrees, or Albemarle Sound. His provisions failing, he returned to England. He made another voyage in 1517, as far south as the Brazils; but failing to discover a western passage to the East Indies, he again returned to England. 22


In the same month when John Cabot sailed from Bristol, Amerigo Vespucci departed from Cadiz on his first voyage to the New World [May, 1497.]. In that voyage he appears to have held a subordinate station. The expedition, under Ojeda, which Amerigo calls his second voyage, was not undertaken until 1499. Whether any vessel in that expedition was under his command is questionable. Spanish writers assert to the contrary, and say that he was first a captain when in the service of Emanuel of Portugal; but it is not my province to inquire into this disputed matter. Spanish historians, jealous of the fame of Columbus, charge Vespucci with falsehood and fraud; but early Spanish authors were not always scrupulous in regard to truth when national pride demanded prevarication, or even absolute falsehood. It was natural that they should be tender of the reputation of Columbus, although he was not a Spaniard, for his discoveries reflected great luster upon the Spanish crown. For this reason they have ever disputed the claims of Vespucci, and denounced him as a liar and a charlatan. These denunciations, however, prove nothing, and the fame of Columbus loses none of its brightness by admitting the claims of the Florentine; claims, it must be acknowledged, that have sound logic and fair inferences as a basis. Amerigo seems to have been the first who published an account of the discoveries in the New World, and for this priority the narrow and selfish policy of the Spanish government is responsible. His first announcement was made in a letter to Lorenzo de Medici [1504.], and soon afterward he published a volume giving an account of his four voyages, which he dedicated to the Duke of Lorraine [1507.]. In these he claims the merit of discovering the continent, having landed upon the coast of Paria [1497.], in Colombia, South America, and traversed the shores, according to his own account, as far northward as the Gulf of Mexico. If this statement is true, he visited the continent nearly a year previous to the landing of Columbus at the mouth of the Oronoco, in the same district as Paria. From the circumstances of Amerigo making the first publication on the subject, and claiming to be the discoverer of the continent, the New World was called AMERICA, and the Florentine bears the honor of the name; but to neither Columbus nor Vespucci does the honor of first discoverer of America properly belong, but to John Cabot, for he and his crew first saw its soil and inhabitants. He alone, of all those voyagers in the fifteenth century, beheld North America. Whether to Columbus, Vespucci, or Cabot, truth should award the palm, Italy bears the imperishable and undisputed honor of giving birth to all three.

The discoveries of the Cabots turned attention to the regions north of the West India Islands. Emanuel of Portugal dispatched an expedition, under the command of Gaspar Cortereal, in 1501, to follow in the track of the Cabots. Cortereal sailed between two and three hundred leagues along the North American coast, but his voyage was fruitless of good results, either to science or humanity. He made few discoveries of land, carried on no traffic, planted no settlements, but kidnapped and carried to Portugal several friendly natives, to be sold as slaves! Perfidy and cruelty marked the first intercourse of the whites with the tribes of our continent; is it to be wondered that the bitter fruits of suspicion and hostility should have flourished among them?

Ponce de Leon, one of the companions of Columbus, and first governor of Porto Rico, a small island sixty miles east of Haiti, sailed on a voyage of discovery among the Bahamas, in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth [1512.]. It was generally believed in Porto Rico, and the story had great credence in Old Spain, that the waters of a clear spring, bubbling up in the midst of a vast forest, upon an island among the Bahamas, possessed the singular property of restoring age and ugliness to youth and beauty, and perpetuating the lives of those who should bathe in its stream. De Leon was an old man, and, impressed with the truth of this legend, he sought that wonderful fountain. After cruising for a while among the Bahamas, he landed upon the peninsula of Florida, in the harbor of St. Augustine. It was on Palm Sunday when he debarked. That day is called by the Spaniards Pasqua de Flores, and, partly from that circumstance, and partly on account of the great profusion of flowers which, at that early season of the year, were blooming on every side, Ponce de Leon gave the country (which he supposed to be a large island like Cuba) the name of FLORIDA. He took formal possession in the name of the Spanish monarch; but, feeling unauthorized to proceed to making conquests without a royal commission, he sailed for Spain to obtain one, after failing in his search after the Fountain of Youth.

He had plunged into every stream, however turbid, with the vain expectation of rising from it young and blooming; but, according to Oviedo, instead of returning to vigorous youth, he arrived at a second childhood within a few years. He was afterward appointed Governor of Florida, and was killed while on an expedition against the natives.

While Ponce de Leon was in Europe, where he remained several years, some wealthy gentlemen of Haiti fitted out two vessels to explore the Bahamas [1520.]. The squadron was commanded by Lucas Vasquez d’Aillon or Allyon, a Spanish navigator. Their vessels were driven northward by a hurricane, and came near being stranded upon the low coasts. They finally made land in St. Helen’s Sound, near the mouth of the Combahee River, in South Carolina, about half way between Charleston and Savannah. D’Aillon called the river Jordan, and the country Chicora. He carried off several natives, whom he enticed on board his ships, with the intention of selling them as slaves in Haiti. A storm destroyed one of the vessels, and the captured Indians in the other voluntarily starved themselves to death, so the avaricious whites were disappointed in their expectations of gain. D’Aillon afterward returned, with three ships, to conquer the whole of Chicora. The natives feigned friendship, decoyed the whites on shore, and then, with poisoned arrows, massacred nearly the whole of them, in revenge for their former perfidy. But few returned with D’Aillon to Haiti. This was the first discovery of the Carolina coast.

While these events were in progress, Cortez, at the head of an expedition fitted out by Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, was destroying the empire of Montezuma, in Mexico, then recently discovered. The success of Cortez excited the jealousy of Velasquez, for he feared a renunciation of his authority by that bold leader. He sent Pamphilo de Narvaez, with a strong force, to arrest and supersede Cortez; but he was defeated, and most of his troops joined his enemy. Narvaez afterward obtained from the Spanish court a commission as adelantado or Governor of Florida, a territory quite indefinite in extent, reaching from the southern capes of the peninsula to the Panuco River in Mexico. With a force of three hundred men, eighty of whom were well mounted, Narvaez landed in Florida [April 22, 1528.], where he raised the royal standard, and took possession of the country for the crown of Spain. With the hope of finding some wealthy region like Mexico or Peru, he penetrated the vast swamps and everglades in the interior of the flat country along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico. His men suffered greatly from the almost daily attacks of the natives and the nightly assaults of the deadly malaria of the fens. They reached the fertile regions of the Appalachians [June, 1528.]; but the capital of the tribe, instead of being a gorgeous city like Mexico or Cuzco, was a mean village of two hundred huts and wigwams. Disappointed, and one third of his number dead, Narvaez turned southward, reached the Gulf near the present site of St. Mark’s, on the Appalachie Bay, constructed five frail barks, and launched upon the waters. Nearly all his men, with himself, perished during a storm. Four of the crew, who were saved, wandered for years through the wild regions of Louisiana and Texas, and finally reached a Spanish settlement in Northern Mexico [1536.]. These men gave the first intelligence of the fate of the expedition.


Two years after the return of these members of the expedition of Narvaez [1538.], Fernando de Soto planned an expedition to explore the interior of Florida, as all North America was then called, in search of a populous and wealthy region supposed to exist there. By permission of the Spanish monarch, he undertook the exploration and conquest of Florida at his own risk and expense. He was commissioned governor-general of that country and of Cuba for life. Leaving his wife to govern Cuba in his absence, he sailed in June, 1539, and landed at Tampa Bay [June 25, 1539.] with a force of six hundred men in complete armor. There he established a small garrison, and then sent most of the vessels of his fleet back to Cuba. He found a Spaniard, one of Narvaez’s men, who had learned the native language. Taking him with him as interpreter, De Soto marched with his force into the interior. For five months they wandered among the swamps and everglades, fighting their way against the natives, when they reached the fertile region of the Flint River, in the western part of Georgia. There they passed the winter, within a few leagues of the Gulf, making, through exploring parties, some new discoveries, among which was the harbor of Pensacola. Early in May [1540.] they broke up their encampment, and, marching northeasterly, reached the head-waters of the Savannah River. After a brief tarry there, they turned their faces westward, and, on the twenty-eighth of October, came upon a fortified town, near the junction of the Alabama and Tombeckbee Rivers. A severe battle of nine hours’ duration ensued. Several thousands of the half-naked Indians were slain, and their village reduced to ashes. Several of the mailed Spaniards were killed, and the victory availed De Soto nothing. All his baggage was consumed, and much provision was destroyed.

The wild tribes, for many leagues around, were aroused by this event. De Soto went into winter quarters in a deserted Indian village on the Yazoo. There he was attacked by the swarming natives, bent on revenge. The town was burned, all the clothing of the Spaniards, together with many horses and nearly all the swine which they bought from Cuba, were destroyed or carried away, and several of the whites were killed. Early in the spring the shorn invaders pushed westward, and discovered the Mississippi. They crossed it at the Chickasaw Bluffs, and traversed the country in its western shore up to the thirty-seventh degree, nearly opposite the mouth of the Ohio. They penetrated the wilderness almost three hundred miles west of the Mississippi during the summer, and wintered upon the Washita, in Arkansas. They passed down the Red River to the Mississippi in the spring, where De Soto sickened and died [May 31, 1542.]. He had appointed a successor, who now attempted to lead the remnant of the expedition to Spanish settlements in Mexico. For several months they wandered in the wilderness, but returned in December [1543.], to winter upon the Mississippi, a short distance above the mouth of the Red River. There they constructed seven large boats, and in July following embarked in them. On reaching the Gulf of Mexico, they crawled cautiously along its sinuous coast, until the twentieth of September, when, half naked and almost famished, they reached a white settlement near the mouth of the Panuco River, about thirty miles north of Tampico.


While the Spaniards were making these useless discoveries of the southern regions of our Republic along the Gulf of Mexico, the French fitted out several expeditions to explore the coast between the peninsula of Florida and the banks of Newfoundland. John Verrazzani, a celebrated Florentine navigator, proceeded to America with a squadron of four ships, under the auspices of Francis the First of France, in 1523. Three of his vessels were so damaged by a storm that they were sent back; in the fourth, he proceeded on his voyage. Weathering a terrible tempest, he reached our coast near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, in North Carolina. He explored the whole coast from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia, and taking formal possession of the country in the name of the French king, he called it NEW FRANCE, the title held by Canada while it remained in possession of the French. Verrazzani was followed, the next year, by Cartier (also in the service of the French king), who discovered the Gulf and River St. Lawrence, 24 and soon afterward by the Lord of Roberval, a wealthy nobleman, who proposed to plant a colony in the New World. Roberval failed in his undertaking, and returned to France. He sailed on another voyage, and was never heard of afterward. Other efforts at settlement along the southern coasts were made by the French, but were unsuccessful. A Protestant French colony, planted in Florida, was destroyed by the Spaniards in 1564, and over the dead bodies of the Huguenots the murderers placed the inscription, "We do this not as unto Frenchmen, but as unto Heretics." In 1567, De Gourgues, a Gascon soldier, fitted out an expedition at his own expense, to avenge this outrage. He surprised the Spanish forts erected near St. Augustine, and hung the soldiers of the garrison upon the trees. Over them he placed the inscription, "I do this not as unto Spaniards or mariners, but as unto traitors, robbers, and murderers." Thus whites were exterminated by whites, and Indians again possessed the land.

The history of the early discoveries in North America forms a wonderful chapter in the great chronicle of human progress and achievements, and in its details there are narratives of adventure, prowess, love, and all the elements of romance, more startling and attractive than the most brilliant conceptions of the imagination ever evolved. The story of the progress of settlements which followed is equally marvelous and attractive. These tempt the pen on every side, but as they are connected only incidentally with my subject, I pass them by with brevity of notice. In the preceding pages I have taken a very brief survey of events in the progress of discovery which opened the way to settlements in the New World; a brief survey of the progress of settlements will be found interwoven with the records upon the pages which follow. They are all united by the often invisible threads of God’s providence; and each apparently insignificant event in the wondrous history of our continent is a link as important in the great chain of human deeds, directed by divine intelligence, as those which arrest the attention and command the admiration of the world. Never was this truth oftener and more strikingly illustrated that in our history of the war for independence; and the student of that history, desirous of understanding its true philosophy, should make himself familiar with the antecedents which have a visible relation thereto.



1 This city was founded about the year 1210, and was afterward called Mexico, which signifies the place of Mexitli, the Aztec god of war. The present capital of Mexico is upon the site of that ancient city. The Aztecs, at that time, were settled in Lower California. They were divided into six tribes. The Mexican tribe wandered off southward, subdued the Toltecs, and founded the city around which the whole Aztec nation subsequently gathered. The Toltecs were far more refined than their conquerers, and from members of that dispersed nation the Aztecs were first made acquainted with painting, sculpture, astronomy, and many of the useful arts, such as working in metals, building bridges and aqueducts, agriculture, &c.

2 See note on page 633.

3 Charles III., called the Simple, the eighth of the Carlovingian kings of France, ceded to Rolf or Rollo, one of the Northern chiefs, the large province called by them Normandy. This event occurred in the year 918. Rollo and his subjects embraced Christianity, and became the guardians of France against further invasion from the Northmen.

4 "The [Atlantic] Ocean," observes Xerif al Edrisi, an eminent Arabian writer, quoted by Irving, "encircles the ultimate bounds of the inhabited earth, and all beyond is unknown. No one has been able to verify any thing concerning it, on account of its difficult and perilous navigation, its great obscurity, its profound depth, and frequent tempests; through fear of its mighty fishes and its haughty winds; yet there are many islands in it, some of which are peopled and others uninhabited. There is no mariner who dares to enter into its deep waters; or, if any have done so, they have merely kept along its coasts, fearful of departing from them. The waves of this ocean, although they roll as high as mountains, yet maintain themselves without breaking, for if they broke, it would be impossible for a ship to plow through them."

5 This peculiar signature of Columbus is attached to various documents written by him subsequent to his first voyage. It was customary, in his time, to precede a signature with the initials (and sometimes with the words in full) of some pious ejaculation. We accordingly find the signature of Columbus with initial prefixes, thus:





The interpretation is supposed to be "Sancta! Sancta, Ave, Sancta! Christo, Maria, Yoseph;" id est, Christ, Mary, Joseph. The cro are Greek letters; the word FERENS Roman capitals. c, or a cross, is the sign for Christo or Christ, and cro is an abbreviation of criotos, anointed, and expressed the first and chief portion of the Christian name of Columbus. The Latin word ferens (bearing, carrying, or enduring) expressed not only the latter portion of his name, but also his character, according to his own lofty conceptions of his mission. He believed himself to be Christo ferens, Christ-bearer or Gospel-bearer, to the heathen inhabitants of an unknown world. It may be added, that Colombo (Columbus), a dove or pigeon, was doubtless associated, in his imagination, with the carrier-bird, and had its due weight, not only in his conceptions of his destiny, but in forming his sign-manual. The signature to his will is EL ALMIRANTE (the Admiral), with the above letters, instead of cro FERENS.

6 There is some obscurity and doubt respecting the precise year in which Columbus was born. Muñoz, in his History of the New World, places it in 1446. Mr. Irving, relying upon the authority of Bernaldez, who says that "he died in 1506, in a good old age, at the age of seventy, a little more or less," places it in 1436, which would make him about forty-eight when he landed in Portugal.

7 Ancient writers speak of an island which existed at a very early period in the Atlantic Ocean, and said to have been eventually sunk beneath its waves. Plato, who gave the first account of it, says he obtained his information from the priests of Egypt. The island was represented to be larger that Asia and Africa, as they were then known, and beyond it was a large continent. Nine thousand years before Plato’s time, this island was thickly inhabited and very powerful, its sway extending over all Africa, including Egypt, and also a large portion of Europe. A violent earthquake, which lasted for the space of a day and a night, and was accompanied by inundations of the sea, caused the island to sink, and, for a long period subsequent to this, the sea in this quarter was impassable by reason of slime and shoals. Learned men of modern times have been disposed to believe in the ancient existence of such an island, and suppose the West India Islands to be the higher portions of the sunken land. If this belief is correct, then the continent beyond was America.

According to the account given to Plato, Atlantis was the most productive region upon the earth. It produced wine, grain, and delicious fruits in abundance. It had wide-spread forests, extensive pasture-grounds, mines of gold and silver, hot springs, and every luxury for human enjoyment. It was divided into ten kingdoms, governed by as many kings, all descendants of Neptune, and living in perfect harmony with each other. It had splendid cities, rich and populous villages, vast fortifications, arsenals, and equipments dedicated to Neptune. It was ornamented with gold, silver, orichalcium, and ivory. It contained a golden statue of Neptune, representing the god as standing in his chariot, and holding the reins of his winged steeds. Such was the ancient vision.

8 So confident were the people of the Canaries that land lay to the westward of them, that they sought and obtained permission from the King of Portugal to fit out various expeditions in search of it. A belief was so prevalent that a Scottish priest named Brandon discovered an island westward of the Canaries, in the sixth century, that maps, in the time of Columbus, had the Island of St. Brandon upon them. It was placed under the equator.

9 Life and Voyages of Columbus.

10 Calpe and Abila, or Gibraltar, on the Spanish, and Cape Serra, on the African shore of the Straits of Gibraltar, were called the Pillars of Hercules; it being said, in ancient fable, that Hercules placed them there as monuments of his progress westward, and beyond which no mortal could pass.

11 In the age of Columbus, Greenland was laid down upon the maps as a continuation or projection westward of Scandinavia. Columbus discovered this error in his northern voyage, which discovery was a new fact in support of his theory of a continent lying westward from Europe, or at least a proximity of the eastern coast of Asia. At that time the climate of Iceland and Greenland was far more genial than at present, and there is reason to believe that those portions of the latter country which for two or three hundred years have been ice-bound and uninhabitable, were then tillable. Philosophers of our day, who have studied the phenomena of terrestrial magnetism with care, have advanced a plausible theory whereby to explain this fact.

12 It is asserted, but without positive proof, that Columbus, before going to Spain, made application to the authorities of his native city, Genoa, for aid in his enterprise; but failing in this he went to Venice, and also sent his brother Bartholomew to England, to lay his plans before Henry the Seventh. If these statements are true, they exhibit his perseverance in a still stronger light than truthful history presents it.

13 Isabella was of middle size, and well formed, with a fair complexion, auburn hair, and clear, blue eyes. There was a mingled gravity and sweetness in her countenance, and a singular modesty, gracing, as it did, great firmness of purpose and earnestness of spirit. Though strongly attached to her husband, and studious of his fame, yet she always maintained her distinct rights as an allied prince. She exceeded him in beauty, personal dignity, acuteness of genius, and grandeur of soul. Combining the active and resolute qualities of man with the softer charities of woman, she mingled in the warlike councils of her husband, and, being inspired with a truer idea of glory, infused a more lofty and generous temper into his subtile and calculating policy. – Washington Irving.

14 Columbus, in the demands set forth in his proposition, stipulated for himself and heirs the title and authority of admiral and viceroy over all lands discovered by him. This demand was inadmissible, yet the navigator persisted in it, though it appeared an effectual bar to any arrangement with the queen. His stipulations were finally acceded to, and Columbus always regarded the queen with feelings of the liveliest gratitude. "In the midst of the general incredulity," he said in a letter, "the Almighty infused into the queen, my lady, the spirit of intelligence and energy, and while every one else, in his ignorance, was expatiating only on the inconvenience and cost, her highness approved it, on the contrary, and gave it all the support in her power."

15 The vessels furnished by Isabella were only caravels, light coasting ships, without decks, and furnished with oars like the ancient galleys. The picture here given is from a low relief sculpture, on the tomb of Fernando Columbus, a son of the navigator, in the Cathedral of Seville. Such a vessel would be considered quite inadequate to perform a coasting voyage of the present day. The larger vessel, with a deck, fitted out by Columbus and his friends, was called the Santa Maria; the caravels were named respectively Pinta and Miña. Martin Alonzo Pinzon commanded the Pinta, and Vincent Yanez Pinzon the Miña. Garcia Fernandez, the physician of Palos, accompanied the expedition as steward. The whole number of persons that embarked was one hundred and twenty. The whole expenditure of the queen in fitting out the caravels amounted to only seventeen thousand florins, or between eight and nine thousand dollars.* These were small preparations for an exploring expedition of such vast extent and importance.


The descendants of the Pinzons are still quite numerous in the vicinity of Palos. When Mr. Irving visited that town in 1828, he saw the ruins of a family mansion which belonged to one of the two Pinzons who sailed with Columbus on his first voyage. Mr. Irving was accompanied in his visit to Palos, the monastery of Ribida, and other localities in the vicinity, by Juan Fernandez Pinzon, a descendant of one of the companions of Columbus.

* This is the amount given by Muñoz, one of the most reliable of Spanish authors. Others have named a much higher sum. Dr. Robertson rates the amount at £4000 sterling, or about $20,000, but does not give his authority.

16 The pile of buildings in this view, standing upon the bluff, is the ancient Church of St. George. For some misdemeanor, the people of Palos were obliged to serve the crown for one year with two armed caravels. They were under this penalty when Columbus made his arrangement with Isabella, and they were ordered to fit out the two caravels for the expedition. In the porch of the old Church of St. George, Columbus first proclaimed this order to the inhabitants of Palos. Mr. Irving, who visited Palos in 1828, says of this edifice, "It has lately been thoroughly repaired, and, being of solid mason-work, promises to stand for ages, a monument to the discoverers. It stands outside of the village, on the brow of a hill, looking along a little valley to the river. The remains of a Moorish arch prove it to have been a mosque in former times. Just above it, on the crest of the hill, is the ruin of a Moorish castle."

17 Columbus agreed to give a silk waistcoat, besides the royal pension of thirty dollars, to the person who first discovered land. – Muñoz.

18 This is copied, by permission of the author, from Irving’s Life of Columbus. It is a fac-simile of a sketch supposed to have been made by Columbus, in a letter written by him to Don Raphael Xansis, treasurer of the King of Spain.

19 This was a white banner, emblazoned with a green cross, having on each side the letters F. and Y., the Spanish initials of Ferdinand and Ysabel, surrounded by golden crowns.

20 The island on which Columbus first set his foot in the New World is one of the Lucayas or Bahama group, and was called by the natives Guanahana. The Spaniards and others still call it San Salvador; the English have given it the vulgar name of Cat Island. It lies between the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth degrees of north latitude, and the second and third degrees of longitude east of the meridian of Washington city, eighty or ninety miles northeast of Havana, Cuba. Muñoz, a learned Spanish writer, thinks Watling’s Island, and not the one called San Salvador on our maps, was the first landing-place.

21 Columbus returned to Europe in March, 1493. Ferdinand and Isabella bestowed upon him every mark of honor and distinction, and the nobles were obsequious in their attentions to the favorite of royalty. On the 25th of September, 1493, he left Cadiz, on a second voyage of discovery. He had three large ships and fourteen caravels under his command. His discoveries were principally among the West India Islands, where he founded settlements. He returned to Spain in June, 1496. Misfortunes had attended him, yet the sovereigns treated him with distinguished favor. On the 30th of May, 1498, Columbus sailed from San Lucar de Barrameda, with a squadron of six vessels, on a third voyage of discovery. He found the settlements which had been planted in great confusion, and civil war among the Spaniards and natives was rife in Hispaniola. In the mean while, intrigues against him were having due weight in the Spanish court. It was alleged that Columbus designed to found an empire in the New World, cast off all allegiance to Spain, and assume the title and pomp of king. He had already offended the conscientious Isabella by persisting in making slaves of the natives, and she readily gave her consent to send out a commissioner to investigate the conduct of the navigator. Bobadilla, a tool of Columbus’s enemies, was intrusted with that momentous duty; and, as might have been expected, he found Columbus guilty of every charge made against him. Bobadilla seized Columbus, and sent him in chains to Spain. His appearance excited the indignation of the sovereigns, and they declared to the world that Bobadilla had exceeded his instructions; yet justice was withheld, through the influence of Ferdinand, and Columbus was not reinstated as viceroy of Hispaniola.

While these events were occurring, Vasco de Gama, a Portuguese navigator, had reached Calicut, in the East Indies, by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, and traversing the Indian Ocean. But Columbus still persevered in his determination to reach Asia by a western route. He induced Isabella to fit out a fourth expedition for him, and on the 9th of May, 1502, he sailed for Hispaniola. After many troubles and hardships, he returned to Spain in 1504. His patron and best friend, the queen, died that same year. Old age had made its deep furrows, and, in the midst of disappointment and neglect, the great discoverer died on the 20th of May, 1506, at the age of seventy. He never realized his grand idea of reaching India by a western route. The honor of that achievement was reserved for the expedition of Magellan, fourteen years after the death of Columbus. That navigator passed through the straits which bear his name, at the southern extremity of our continent, and launched boldly out upon the broad Pacific. He died on the ocean, but his vessels reached the Philippine Islands, near the coast of India, in safety. Magellan gave the name PACIFIC to the pleasant ocean over which he was sailing.

22 After his second voyage, Sebastian Cabot was invited to Spain, and sailed on a voyage of discovery, in the service of the Spanish monarch, in 1525. He visited Brazil, and, coasting southward to the thirty-fifth degree, he entered a large river, which he called Rio de la Plata. Up this river he sailed one hundred and twenty leagues. After an absence of six years, he returned to Spain, but seems not have been well received by the sovereign. He made other, but less conspicuous voyages, and in his old age retired to Bristol, where he died about the year 1557, at the age of eighty years. He received a pension from Edward the Sixth, and was appointed governor of a company of merchants associated for the purpose of making discoveries.

23 The name of the Florentine is variously spelled, Amerigo Vespucci, Americus Vespucius, Amerigo Vespuche. The latter orthography is according to the entry in an account-book containing the expenditure of the treasurer of the royal mercantile house of Seville, quoted by Muñoz, tome i., page xix of the Introduction. It appears by that account, that on the 24th of February, 1512, was paid to Manuel Catano, executor of the will of Amerigo, "10937 and a half maravedis," which was due to him for services as chief steersman to his majesty. Amerigo was appointed to that office in March, 1508, with a salary of 50,000 maravedis a year.

Whether he ever commanded an expedition in the Spanish service is a disputed question. He made several voyages to the New World between 1497 and 1512, the year of his death. With an expedition under the command of Ojeda, in 1499, he visited the Antilles and the coast of Guiana and Venezuela. On his return, Emanuel, king of Portugal, invited him to his capital, and gave him the command of three ships for a voyage of discovery. He left Lisbon May 10th, 1501, visited Brazil, and traversed the coast of South America as far as Patagonia, but failed to discover the straits through which Magellan passed at a later day. He returned to Lisbon in 1502. He made a fourth voyage, and returned to Portugal in 1504. Soon after this he wrote an account of his voyage. The book was dedicated to Rene II., duke of Lorraine. He again entered the service of the King of Spain, who appointed him to draw sea-charts, and gave him the title and salary of chief steersman or pilot, which commission he held until his death. According to some accounts, he died in the Island of Terceria, one of the Azores, in 1514; others affirm that his death occurred at Seville.

The portrait of the navigator, here given, was copied, by permission, from the original picture by Bronzino, now in possession of C. Edwards Lester, Esq., late United States consul at Genoa. It was committed to his care by the Vespucci family, to be placed in the possession of our government. No arrangement for its purchase has yet been made, I believe.

An Italian woman named Elena Vespucci, bearing proofs of her lineal descent from the famous navigator, came to America a few years ago, and made application to our Congress for a grant of land, on account of her relationship to the Florentine from whom our continent derived its name. Subsequently, her brother and two sisters, Amerigo, Eliza, and Teresa Vespucci, made a similar petition to Congress. They mention the fact that Elena, "possessing a disposition somewhat indocile and unmanageable, absented herself from her father’s house, and proceeded to London. Hence she crossed the ocean, and landed upon the shores of Brazil, at Rio Janeiro. From that city she proceeded to Washington, the capital of the United States." Elena Vespucci was treated with respect. Possessed of youth and beauty, she attracted much attention at the metropolis, but the prayer in the petition of both herself and her family was denied. She was living at Ogdensburgh, New York, when I visited that place in 1848.

24 See page 178, vol. i.



Transcription and html prepared by Bill Carr, last updated 10/02/2001.

Please provide me with any feedback you may have concerning errors in the transcription or any supplementary information concerning the contents. wcarr1@nycap.rr.com

Copyright Notice: Copyright 2001. All files on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may be linked to but may not be reproduced on another site without the specific permission of their creator. Although public information is not in and of itself copyrightable, the format in which it is presented, the notes and comments, etc., are. It is, however, quite permissible to print or save the files to a personal computer for personal use ONLY.