CHAPTER 13: Treachery in the Night Ashore

IT WAS the will of God, Who often shows His favor in the hour of total despair, that as we doubled a point of land at sunset we found ourselves sheltered in calm waters [apparently near Pensacola]; and many canoes of big, well-built Indians - unarmed - came out to speak, then paddled back ahead of us.

We followed them to their houses at the water's edge close by, and stepped ashore. In front of the dwellings stood many clay jars of water and a great quantity of cooked fish, all of which the cacique of this land offered our Governor before leading us to his "palace." Their dwellings were made of mats and, so far as we could tell, were not movable. When we [officers] entered the cacique's palace, he regaled us with fish. We gave him some of the corn we had brought, which his people ate in our presence and asked for more. We gave them more. The Governor also presented the cacique some trinkets.

In the middle of the night, the Indians fell on us without warning - not only the Governor's party in the cacique's lodge, but also our sick men strewn on the beach. [The Joint Report says three men were killed]. The Governor got hit in the face with a rock. Some of us grabbed the cacique, but a group of Indians retrieved him, leaving us holding his robe of civet-marten skins.

(These are the finest skins in the world, I believe. Their fragrance seems like amber and musk and can be smelled a long way off. We saw other robes there, but none to match this one.)

Those of us in the vicinniity where the Governor got hurt managed to put him in his barge and to hasten all but fifty of our force aboard theirs. The fifty stood guard high up on the beach. Three times that night the Indians attacked, with such ferocity as to force us back more than a stone's throw each time.

Not one of us escaped injury. I was wounded in the face. If the Indians had had more than their few arrows, they undoubtedly would have done us serious harm. At their third onset, Captains Dorantes, Peñalosa, and Téllez with fifteen men ambushed their rear, at which the aggressors broke and fled.