Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
					Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

Florida's First Gold Rush

Florida's First Gold Rush

MAY 1, 1528 - JUNE 17, 1528

 

The Story of Estevanico

 

	Panfilo de Narvaez:
I am the governor of Florida, by appointment of our King.
	We take possession of this land for the story of all Spain.
Our soldiers go forth boldly, for they conquer as they go,
	To seek out any treasures that are worthy of acclaim.

The friars will follow closely, their crosses in their hands.
	Our Faith will carry forward as we build a Christian nation.
The natives will be thankful as they seek a better life,
	For any opposition will become elimination.

	Cabeza de Vaca:
Our King may have his troubles but he certainly is not stupid.
	He made me Treasurer of this band and loyal will I be.
If treasures are discovered, if gold is ever found,
	Royal coffers will receive their share e'er it crosses o'er the sea.

	Soldiers' Chorus:
We are soldiers of His Majesty, we stand united for the Crown.
	Where our courageous leaders take us, we will toil.
We will pillage, we will plunder, as we march across the land,
	And each will steal his small percentage of the spoil.

	The Friars:
We follow them in poverty to teach the Holy Scriptures.
	We'll teach our pure theology to heathens we may find.
We bring our love and charity to those who come to listen
	And condemn to burn in Hades those of a different mind.

	Estevanico:
Listen to them chatter! Listen to their lies!
	Each talks of kingly virtue but with thievery in his heart.
They will rush out in confusion, they know not what they face.
	Their ignorance is appalling but they cannot wait to start.

The leaders ride out in splendor with flags and banners flying.
	The swords will rattle, chains will jingle, lances glimmer in the sun.
Gentlemen must have their fancy costumes, fine leather, silver buttons,
	To some a glorious pilgrimage, though weird troubles have begun.

Foot soldiers will follow meekly, caring not what lies ahead.
	They dream of treasures without limit, gold and silver they may find.
The padres plod along in quiet, silent prayers upon their lips.
	Their dreams are heathens and conversions, pious thoughts on every mind.

Servants and slaves? Alas, we'll always be there in the rear.
	We dare not question or complain, just take orders every day.
The expedition will march off, not knowing what it's doing,
	It matters little where we go, we'll walk barefoot all the way.

May 1, 1528
The expedition began its fatal march into the unknown. Two hundred and sixty men on foot, forty horsemen, five friars and assorted slaves and servants who weren't counted set out northward around the shallows of old Tampa Bay.**

It had not been a unanimous decision. A couple of minor excursions on the mainland had met with opposition. True, a few small pieces of gold had been found in an Indian village. That was enough for Narvaez. Over the objections of the military men, who favored establishing a settlement and awaiting supplies, he ordered the expedition to move out. Cabeza de Vaca had been appointed Provost Marshal as well as Treasurer by Charles V but had to submit to his unreasonable commander.

The Florida to be explored was not accurately defined. There was no northern boundary for no one knew where it was to be. The southern boundary was the Gulf Coast from the Keys to the River de las Palmas, a hundred miles above Tampico, Mexico.

May 15, 1528
They arrived at the Withlacoochee river. It had been a frightening two weeks. Swarms of flying insects were a constant menace, flies, bees, mosquitoes and gnats surrounding them in huge clouds. Both men and horses suffered. Sun and heat kept the swamps steaming. There was never enough food.

After spending the day getting everything across the river, they were surrounded by menacing Indians. A short fight resulted in the capture of six who led the expedition to their village, a mile away. They told Narvaez of a rich city, Apalachen, far to the north and offered to act as guides.

June 17, 1528
The Suwannee river was reached where again a day was spent in getting everything across. One horseman rode into the river where both horse and rider were drowned.***

Estevanico:

	This whole state of Florida is a harsh and worthless land.
I have walked each useless mile and know it all first hand.
	They search for gold and silver or any worthy treasure,
But death and futile suffering will be the final measure.

	Rattlesnakes, alligators, armadillos, bats,
Sand fleas, blow flies, mosquitoes and gnats,
	Saw grass, palmetto, sink holes and jungle.
In this golden paradise we can only bungle.

**Historical note: This was the first overland expedition to explore the present United States. Were these the first horses on our soil?

***Historical note: This is the first recorded drowning of a white man on U.S. territory.

 

	Juan Valasquez was impatient, his dreaming was unsound.
He rode into Suwannee, both horse and rider drowned.
	The sad and somber funeral filled all with great remorse,
But then a few hours later, we gladly ate his horse.

Please send comments or questions to:

LWF PUBLICATIONS
P.O. Box 26148
Trotwood, Ohio 45426-0148
E-mail: lwf@coax.net


Back to Lest We Forget Home Page


 

Coax-Net Homepage

This site developed and maintained with assistance from COAX-NET Internet Services
Please send comments or questions to:
netmgr@coax.net

Category: General History | Subcategory: The Story of Estevanico | Tags: Florida
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1528, DE, Florida, Indians, Mexico, Ohio, Oran, Tampa, Tampa (Florida), Territory,