Hernando De Soto in Clarkesville, Georgia.
It was the year 1540. King Henry VIII of England had just married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. It was the age of exploration.
Hernando De Soto had been born in Spain in 1496. He was destined to become one of history’s famous explorers and Conquistadors. Conquistadors or conquerors were soldiers and explorers who served the empires of Portugal and Spain. They colonized a large part of the world during the 15th,16th & 17th centuries. Their goals were to conquer territories and open trade routes.
Fortunately for De Soto, he had acquired a large fortune from his part in the Spanish Conquest of the Inca Empire in South America. He was famous as a negotiator, soldier and horseman but was also unfortunately known for his brutality.
The fortune he made in South America financed his explorations of the southeastern states of North America. However the planned trip cost him heavily and he was highly motivated to recoup his losses by discovering gold in “La Florida”. He was given the governorship of Cuba by the King of Spain and was expected in return to colonize North America for Spain.
When his party left Havana, Cuba, De Soto had recruited 620 volunteers for the planned four year exploration. They loaded no less than nine ships with armor and heavy equipment, large quantities of livestock, including 237 horses and 200 pigs.
The entourage arrived at Charlotte Harbor, Florida and proceeded northwards. De Soto’s travels were well documented for the time. There are several different recorded eye witness accounts of his explorations.
Hernando de Soto
The records of his travels are fascinating and his group travelled through Florida, up through Georgia, North & South Carolina, Tennessee and further west.
De Soto was definitely in Georgia, but did he pass through Clarkesville, Georgia? There is a marker near the Courthouse in Clarkesville that states.
WITH 500 SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE SOLDIERS
WITH 200 CHEROKEE BURDEN BEARERS
ABOUT MAY 30TH 1540
TWENTY SIX YEARS BEFORE
THE FOUNDING OF
De Soto died in the Spring of 1542 from a fever. He was, however, the first European to cross the Mississippi River. No gold was ever discovered on the expedition but the legacy of the accounts of his travels are documented and stored online as a living history for generations to come.