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About Tennessee :: 1540-1799
Contributed by Fred Smoot
During the Summer of 1540 Hernando De Soto, Knight Commander of the Order of St. James of Compostela, Governor of Island of Cuba, Adelantado of Florida, “Child of the Sun,” Spanish Adventurer, with his expedition, by a strong mounted company of Spaniards from Florida, ransacked the Indian villages in the valley of the Tennessee River. Before entering Tennessee, they had followed through what is now Georgia and the Carolinas, believing that somewhere in the vast reaches of the wilderness there would be treasure cities to plunder. From the Tennessee valley the Spaniards moved westward for almost a year. Many of them - including grim, iron-willed De Soto - had looted with Cortez in Mexico or Pizarro in Peru and, as a matter of course, they massacred the Indians and burned their villages when they failed to find gold. They followed bison trails and Indian trade-paths, wandering south at times into Alabama and Mississippi. In April 1541 the remnants of the party planted the flag of Spain on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and made camp near the present site of Memphis. After raiding Chickasaw villages nearby for food and mussel pearls, they crossed the river to continue searching for the will-o’-the-wisp gold they were never to find.