ca. 1496/97

Hernando de Soto was born in Extramadura, Spain.


Pedro Arias Dávila left Spain for his expedition of Panama. Hernando de Soto most likely accompanied him along with the initial volunteers, but there is no surviving record available to determine exactly when he arrived in the New World.


Hernando de Soto formed a business partnership with Hernán Ponce de León and Francisco Compñón.


De Soto began accompanying various conquistadors on conquests of Panama.


De Soto served as a battalion commander on the conquest of Nicaragua led by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba. He later led his own expedition to El Salvador and Honduras.


De Soto was elected mayor of León, Nicaragua. He also gained access to a gold mine that he shares with his business partners.


Francisco Compñón, one of de Soto’s business partners, died of a fever.


De Soto and his surviving partner, Hernán Ponce de León, experienced continued success. By this time, they owned a gold mine, participated in the slave trade, and owned both ships and a shipping company. They became two of the wealthiest men in Central America.


De Soto and his partner used their company to build ships for a potential expedition to Peru Francisco Pizarra and the Spanish monarchy were discussing.


De Soto and his partner signed a contract with Francisco Pizarro in which they agreed to supply ships and aid in the conquest of Peru.


De Soto arrived in Peru with men to reinforce Pizarro. He was named Chief Lieutenant of the expedition.


De Soto explored the territory of Peru. He led the expedition to the Inca capital of Cajamarca and was the first European to enter. When Pizarro arrived, the combined Spanish forces launched an attack on the Inca and captured their leader, Atahualpa. They held him ransom for payment in silver and gold.


While de Soto was gone from Cajamarca on orders to investigate rumors of a possible attack from the Inca, the Spaniards murdered Atahualpa after accepting the ransom payment. The expedition proceeded to Cuzco and captured the city.


Pizarro named de Soto Lieutenant Governor of Cuzco, where he ruled in Pizarro’s absence and supervised the distribution of land and riches. De Soto kept a substantial amount of silver and gold for himself.


After Pizarro established Lima as the Spanish capital of Peru, he dismissed de Soto from his duties as Lieutenant Governor of Cuzco. De Soto then returned to Spain for the first time in approximately thirty years.


De Soto arrived home to Seville, Spain and married Isabel de Bobadilla.


The King of Spain granted de Soto the rights to explore and settle La Florida, naming him adelantado of the region. De Soto was also appointed governor of Cuba.


De Soto and approximately 600 volunteers departed Spain for the conquest of La Florida. They arrived in Cuba that June, where de Soto remained to take care of his responsibilities as governor. He continued his preparations for the expedition to La Florida and sent scouts to find the best landing site.


The entrada set sail for La Florida in May and arrived near modern-day Tampa Bay at the end of the month. They spent the remainder of the year traveling through the modern-day state of Florida and set up a winter camp in Anhayca, capital city of the Apalachee kingdom (located in modern-day Tallahassee).


De soto and his men left their winter camp in March. They traveled through the modern states of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. Along the way, they had several confrontations with natives, the most significant of which was a battle against the Atahachi tribe. The expedition lost over twenty men, and the natives destroyed the majority of their supplies by setting a fire. The entrada proceeded on their journey and set up a winter camp within the current borders of Mississippi.


After leaving their winter camp, the expedition had another conflict with natives – the Chicasa tribe. Here, they lost more men in battle and nearly the rest of their equipment in another fire. De Soto reached and crossed the Mississippi River in May. He was the first European to accomplish this. After crossing the river, he and his men traveled across Arkansas looking for gold. They set up a winter camp on the Arkansas River in the village of Autiamque, located near modern Jacksonport.


De Soto and his men marched south after leaving their winter camp and had more skirmishes with the natives they encountered. He fell ill with a fever in May at Guachoya, a native town located on the banks of the Mississippi River in what is now Arkansas. He named Luis de Moscoso Alvarado as the new leader of the expedition after he realized that he would not make it. Hernando de Soto died on May 21. Members of the expedition buried him in the Mississippi River. Luis de Moscoso Alvarado then attempted to lead the survivors back to Mexico. They marched through modern-day Texas, but they turned around after encountering the dry terrain that comprises the middle of the state. They set up a winter camp on the banks of the Mississippi near Guachoya.


Luis de Moscoso Alvarado and the expedition built boats, which they used to sail down the Mississippi River. After reaching the Gulf of Mexico, they continued towards Mexico and journeyed inland by way of the Pánuco River. De Alvarado and approximately 300 survivors made it back to Mexico City.

Continue to Early Spanish Exploration in N. America