Chapter VI 
WAR WITH THE SURROUNDING TRIBES- SUCCESSES OF THE SPANIARDS-DEATH OF MAXIXCA- ARRIVAL OF REINFORCEMENTS-RETURN IN TRIUMPH TO TLASCALA
THE Spanish commander, reassured by the result of the
deliberations in the Tlascalan senate, now resolved on active
operations, as the best means of dissipating the spirit of faction and
discontent inevitably fostered by a life of idleness. He proposed to
exercise his troops, at first, against some of the neighbouring tribes
who had laid violent hands on such of the Spaniards as, confiding in
their friendly spirit, had passed through their territories. Among
these were the Tepeacans, a people often engaged in hostility with the
Tlascalans, and who, as mentioned in a preceding chapter, had lately
massacred twelve Spaniards in their march to the capital. An
expedition against them would receive the ready support of his allies,
and would assert the dignity of the Spanish name, much dimmed in the
estimation of the natives by the late disasters.
The Tepeacans were a powerful tribe of the same primitive stock as
the Aztecs, to whom they acknowledged allegiance. They had transferred
this to the Spaniards, on their first march into the country,
intimidated by the bloody defeats of their Tlascalan neighbours.
But, since the troubles in the capital, they had again submitted to
the Aztec sceptre. Their capital, now a petty village, was a
flourishing city at the time of the Conquest, situated in the fruitful
plains that stretch far away towards the base of Orizaba. The province
contained, moreover, several towns of considerable size, filled with a
bold and warlike population.
As these Indians had once acknowledged the authority of Castile,
Cortes and his officers regarded their present conduct in the light of
rebellion, and, in a council of war, it was decided that those engaged
in the late massacre had fairly incurred the doom of slavery. Before
proceeding against them, however, the general sent a summons requiring
their submission, and offering full pardon for the past, but, in
case of refusal, menacing them with the severest retribution. To
this the Indians, now in arms, returned a contemptuous answer,
challenging the Spaniards to meet them in fight, as they were in
want of victims for their sacrifices.
Cortes, without further delay, put himself at the head of his
small corps of Spaniards, and a large reinforcement of Tlascalan
warriors. They were led by the young Xicotencatl, who now appeared
willing to bury his recent animosity, and desirous to take a lesson in
war under the chief who had so often foiled him in the field.
The Tepeacans received their enemy on their borders. A bloody
battle followed, in which the Spanish horse were somewhat
embarrassed by the tall maize that covered part of the plain. They
were successful in the end, and the Tepeacans, after holding their
ground like good warriors, were at length routed with great slaughter.
A second engagement, which took place a few days after, was followed
by like decisive results; and the victorious Spaniards with their
allies, marching straightway on the city of Tepeaca, entered it in
triumph. No further resistance was attempted by the enemy, and the
whole province, to avoid further calamities, eagerly tendered its
submission. Cortes, however, inflicted the meditated chastisement on
the places implicated in the massacre. The inhabitants were branded
with a hot iron as slaves, and, after the royal fifth had been
reserved, were distributed between his own men and the allies. The
Spaniards were familiar with the system of repartimientos
established in the islands; but this was the first example of
slavery in New Spain. It was justified, in the opinion of the
general and his military casuists, by the aggravated offences of the
party. The sentence, however, was not countenanced by the crown,
which, as the colonial legislation abundantly shows, was ever at issue
with the craving and mercenary spirit of the colonist.
Satisfied with this display of his vengeance, Cortes now
established his head-quarters at Tepeaca, which, situated in a
cultivated country, afforded easy means for maintaining an army, while
its position on the Mexican frontier made it a good point d'appui
for future operations.
The Aztec government, since it had learned the issue of its
negotiations at Tlascala, had been diligent in fortifying its frontier
in that quarter. The garrisons usually maintained there were
strengthened, and large bodies of men were marched in the same
direction, with orders to occupy the strong positions on the
borders. The conduct of these troops was in their usual style of
arrogance and extortion, and greatly disgusted the inhabitants of
Among the places thus garrisoned by the Aztecs was Quauhquechollan
a city containing thirty thousand inhabitants, according to the
historians, and lying to the south-west twelve leagues or more from
the Spanish quarters. It stood at the extremity of a deep valley,
resting against a bold range of hills, or rather mountains, and
flanked by two rivers with exceedingly high and precipitous banks. The
only avenue by which the town could be easily approached, was
protected by a stone wall more than twenty feet high, and of great
thickness. Into this place, thus strongly defended by art as well as
by nature, the Aztec emperor had thrown a garrison of several thousand
warriors, while a much more formidable force occupied the heights
commanding the city.
The cacique of this strong post, impatient of the Mexican yoke,
sent to Cortes, inviting him to march to his relief, and promising a
co-operation of the citizens in an assault on the Aztec quarters.
The general eagerly embraced the proposal, and arranged with the
cacique that, on the appearance of the Spaniards, the inhabitants
should rise on the garrison. Everything succeeded as he had planned.
No sooner had the Christian battalions defiled on the plain before the
town, than the inhabitants attacked the garrison with the utmost fury.
The latter, abandoning the outer defences of the place, retreated to
their own quarters in the principal teocalli, where they maintained
a hard struggle with their adversaries. In the heat of it, Cortes,
at the head of his little body of horse, rode into the place, and
directed the assault in person. The Aztecs made a fierce defence.
But fresh troops constantly arriving to support the assailants, the
works were stormed, and every one of the garrison was put to the
The Mexican forces, meanwhile, stationed on the neighbouring
eminences, had marched down to the support of their countrymen in
the town, and formed in order of battle in the suburbs, where they
were encountered by the Tlascalan levies. "They mustered," says
Cortes, speaking of the enemy, "at least thirty thousand men, and it
was a brave sight for the eye to look on,- such a beautiful array of
warriors glistening with gold and jewels and variegated feather-work!"
The action was well contested between the two Indian armies. The
suburbs were set on fire, and, in the midst of the flames, Cortes
and his squadrons, rushing on the enemy, at length broke their
array, and compelled them to fall back in disorder into the narrow
gorge of the mountain, from which they had lately descended. The
pass was rough and precipitous. Spaniards and Tlascalans followed
close in the rear, and the light troops, scaling the high wall of
the valley, poured down on the enemy's flanks. The heat was intense,
and both parties were so much exhausted by their efforts, that it
was with difficulty, says the chronicler, that the one could pursue,
or the other fly. They were not too weary, however, to slay. The
Mexicans were routed with terrible slaughter. They found no pity
from their Indian foes, who had a long account of injuries to settle
with them. Some few sought refuge by flying higher up into the
fastnesses of the sierra. They were followed by their indefatigable
enemy, until, on the bald summit of the ridge, they reached the
Mexican encampment. It covered a wide tract of ground. Various
utensils, ornamented dresses, and articles of luxury, were scattered
round, and the number of slaves in attendance showed the barbaric pomp
with which the nobles of Mexico went to their campaigns. It was a rich
booty for the victors, who spread over the deserted camp, and loaded
themselves with the spoil, until the gathering darkness warned them to
Cortes followed up the blow by assaulting the strong town of
Itzocan, held also by a Mexican garrison, and situated in the depths
of a green valley watered by artificial canals, and smiling in all the
rich abundance of this fruitful region of the plateau. The place,
though stoutly defended, was stormed and carried; the Aztecs were
driven across a river which ran below the town, and, although the
light bridges that traversed it were broken down in the flight,
whether by design or accident, the Spaniards, fording and swimming the
stream as they could, found their way to the opposite bank,
following up the chase with the eagerness of bloodhounds. Here, too,
the booty was great; and the Indian auxiliaries flocked by thousands
to the banners of the chief who so surely led them on to victory and
Soon afterwards, Cortes returned to his head-quarters at
Tepeaca. Thence he detached his officers on expeditions which were
usually successful. Sandoval, in particular, marched against a large
body of the enemy lying between the camp and Vera Cruz; defeated
them in two decisive battles, and thus restored the communications
with the port.
The result of these operations was the reduction of that
populous and cultivated territory which lies between the great volcan,
on the west, and the mighty skirts of Orizaba, on the east. Many
places, also, in the neighbouring province of Mixtecapan, acknowledged
the authority of the Spaniards, and others from the remote region of
Oaxaca sent to claim their protection. The conduct of Cortes towards
his allies had gained him great credit for disinterestedness and
equity. The Indian cities in the adjacent territory appealed to him,
as their umpire, in their differences with one another, and cases of
disputed succession in their governments were referred to his
arbitration. By his discreet and moderate policy, he insensibly
acquired an ascendency over their counsels, which had been denied to
the ferocious Aztec. His authority extended wider and wider every day;
and a new empire grew up in the very heart of the land, forming a
counterpoise to the colossal power which had so long overshadowed it.
Cortes now felt himself strong enough to put in execution the
plans for recovering the capital, over which he had been brooding ever
since the hour of his expulsion. He had greatly undervalued the
resources of the Aztec monarchy. He was now aware, from bitter
experience, that, to vanquish it, his own forces, and all he could
hope to muster, would be incompetent, without a very extensive support
from the Indians themselves. A large army, would, moreover, require
large supplies for its maintenance, and these could not be regularly
obtained, during a protracted siege, without the friendly co-operation
of the natives. On such support he might now safely calculate from
Tlascala, and the other Indian territories, whose warriors were so
eager to serve under his banners. His past acquaintance with them
had instructed him in their national character and system of war;
while the natives who had fought under his command, if they had caught
little of the Spanish tactics, had learned to act in concert with
the white men, and to obey him implicitly as their commander. This was
a considerable improvement in such wild and disorderly levies, and
greatly augmented the strength derived from numbers.
Experience showed, that in a future conflict with the capital it
would not do to trust to the causeways, but that to succeed, he must
command the lake. He proposed, therefore, to build a number of
vessels, like those constructed under his orders in Montezuma's
time, and afterwards destroyed by the inhabitants. For this he had
still the services of the same experienced ship-builder, Martin Lopez,
who, as we have seen, had fortunately escaped the slaughter of the
"Melancholy Night." Cortes now sent this man to Tlascala, with
orders to build thirteen brigantines, which might be taken to pieces
and carried on the shoulders of the Indians to be launched on the
waters of Lake Tezcuco. The sails, rigging, and iron-work, were to
be brought from Vera Cruz, where they had been stored since their
removal from the dismantled ships. It was a bold conception, that of
constructing a fleet to be transported across forest and mountain
before it was launched on its destined waters! But it suited the
daring genius of Cortes, who, with the co-operation of his staunch
Tlascalan confederates, did not doubt his ability to carry it into
It was with no little regret, that the general learned at this
time the death of his good friend Maxixca, the old lord of Tlascala,
who had stood by him so steadily in the hour of adversity. He had
fallen a victim to that terrible epidemic, the small-pox, which was
now sweeping over the land like fire over the prairies, smiting down
prince and peasant, and adding another to the long train of woes
that followed the march of the white men. It was imported into the
country, it is said, by a Negro slave, in the fleet of Narvaez. It
first broke out in Cempoalla. The poor natives, ignorant of the best
mode of treating the loathsome disorder, sought relief in their
usual practice of bathing in cold water, which greatly aggravated
their trouble. From Cempoalla it spread rapidly over the
neighbouring country, and, penetrating through Tlascala, reached the
Aztec capital, where Montezuma's successor, Cuitlahua, fell one of its
first victims. Thence it swept down towards the borders of the
Pacific, leaving its path strewn with the dead bodies of the
natives, who, in the strong language of a contemporary, perished in
heaps like cattle stricken with the murrain. It does not seem to
have been fatal to the Spaniards, many of whom, probably, had
already had the disorder.
The death of Maxixca was deeply regretted by the troops, who
lost in him a true and most efficient ally. With his last breath, he
commended them to his son and successor, as the great beings whose
coming into the country had been so long predicted by the oracles.
He expressed a desire to die in the profession of the Christian faith.
Cortes no sooner learned his condition than he despatched Father
Olmedo to Tlascala. The friar found that Maxixca had already caused
a crucifix to be placed before his sick couch, as the object of his
adoration. After explaining, as intelligibly as he could, the truths
of revelation, he baptised the dying chieftain; and the Spaniards
had the satisfaction to believe that the soul of their benefactor
was exempted from the doom of eternal perdition that hung over the
unfortunate Indian who perished in his unbelief.
Their late brilliant successes seem to have reconciled most of the
disaffected soldiers to the prosecution of the war. There were still a
few among them, the secretary Duero, Bermudez the treasurer, and
others high in office, or wealthy hidalgos, who looked with disgust on
another campaign, and now loudly reiterated their demand of a free
passage to Cuba. To this Cortes, satisfied with the support on which
he could safely count, made no further objection. Having once given
his consent, he did all in his power to facilitate their departure,
and provide for their comfort. He ordered the best ship at Vera Cruz
to be placed at their disposal, to be well supplied with provisions
and everything necessary for the voyage, and sent Alvarado to the
coast to superintend the embarkation. He took the most courteous leave
of them, with assurances of his own unalterable regard. But, as the
event proved, those who could part from him at this crisis had
little sympathy with his fortunes; and we find Duero not long
afterwards in Spain, supporting the claims of Velasquez before the
emperor, in opposition to those of his former friend and commander.
The loss of these few men was amply compensated by the arrival
of others, whom fortune most unexpectedly threw in his way. The
first of these came in a small vessel sent from Cuba by the
governor, Velasquez, with stores for the colony at Vera Cruz. He was
not aware of the late transactions in the country, and of the
discomfiture of his officer. In the vessel came despatches, it is
said, from Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos, instructing Narvaez to send
Cortes, if he had not already done so, for trial to Spain. The alcalde
of Vera Cruz, agreeably to the general's instructions, allowed the
captain of the bark to land, who had no doubt that the country was
in the hands of Narvaez. He was undeceived by being seized, together
with his men, so soon as they had set foot on shore. The vessel was
then secured; and the commander and his crew, finding out their error,
were persuaded without much difficulty to join their countrymen in
A second vessel, sent soon after by Velasquez, shared the same
fate, and those on board consented also to take their chance in the
expedition under Cortes.
About the same time, Garay, the governor of Jamaica, fitted out
three ships with an armed force to plant a colony on the Panuco, a
river which pours into the Gulf a few degrees north of Villa Rica.
Garay persisted in establishing this settlement, in contempt of the
claims of Cortes, who had already entered into a friendly
communication with the inhabitants of that region. But the crews
experienced such a rough reception from the natives on landing, and
lost so many men, that they were glad to take to their vessels
again. One of these foundered in a storm. The others put into the port
of Vera Cruz to restore the men, much weakened by hunger and
disease. Here they were kindly received, their wants supplied, their
wounds healed; when they were induced, by the liberal promises of
Cortes, to abandon the disastrous service of their employer, and
enlist under his own prosperous banner. The reinforcements obtained
from these sources amounted to full a hundred and fifty men, well
provided with arms and ammunition, together with twenty horses. By
this strange concurrence of circumstances, Cortes saw himself in
possession of the supplies he most needed; that, too, from the hands
of his enemies, whose costly preparations were thus turned to the
benefit of the very man whom they were designed to ruin.
His good fortune did not stop here. A ship from the Canaries
touched at Cuba, freighted with arms and military stores for the
adventurers in the New World. Their commander heard there of the
recent discoveries in Mexico, and, thinking it would afford a
favourable market for him, directed his course to Vera Cruz. He was
not mistaken. The alcalde, by the general's orders, purchased both
ship and cargo; and the crews, catching the spirit of adventure,
followed their countrymen into the interior. There seemed to be a
magic in the name of Cortes, which drew all who came within hearing of
it under his standard.
Having now completed the arrangements for settling his new
conquests, there seemed to be no further reason for postponing his
departure to Tlascala. He was first solicited by the citizens of
Tepeaca to leave a garrison with them, to protect them from the
vengeance of the Aztecs. Cortes acceded to the request, and,
considering the central position of the town favourable for
maintaining his conquests, resolved to plant a colony there. For
this object he selected sixty of his soldiers, most of whom were
disabled by wounds or infirmity. He appointed the alcaldes, regidores,
and other functionaries of a civic magistracy. The place be called
Segura de la Frontera or Security of the Frontier. It received
valuable privileges as a city, a few years later, from the emperor
Charles the Fifth; and rose to some consideration in the age of the
Conquest. But its consequence soon after declined. Even its
Castilian name, with the same caprice which has decided the fate of
more than one name in our own country, was gradually supplanted by its
ancient one, and the little village of Tepeaca is all that now
commemorates the once flourishing Indian capital, and the second
Spanish colony in Mexico.
While at Segura, Cortes wrote that celebrated letter to the
emperor,- the second in the series,- so often cited in the preceding
pages. It takes up the narrative with the departure from Vera Cruz,
and exhibits in a brief and comprehensive form the occurrences up to
the time at which we are now arrived. In the concluding page, the
general, after noticing the embarrassments under which he labours,
says, in his usual manly spirit, that he holds danger and fatigue
light in comparison with the attainment of his object; and that he
is confident a short time will restore the Spaniards to their former
position, and repair all their losses.
He notices the resemblance of Mexico, in many of its features
and productions, to the mother country, and requests that it may
henceforth be called, "New Spain of the Ocean Sea." He finally
requests that a commission may be sent out at once, to investigate his
conduct, and to verify the accuracy of his statements.
This letter, which was printed at Seville the year after its
reception, has been since reprinted and translated more than once.
It excited a great sensation at the court, and among the friends of
science generally. The previous discoveries of the New World had
disappointed the expectations which had been formed after. the
solution of the grand problem of its existence. They had brought to
light only rude tribes, which, however gentle and inoffensive in their
manners, were still in the primitive stages of barbarism. Here was
an authentic account of a vast nation, potent and populous, exhibiting
an elaborate social polity, well advanced in the arts of civilisation,
occupying a soil that teemed with mineral treasures and with a
boundless variety of vegetable products, stores of wealth, both
natural and artificial, that seemed, for the first time, to realise
the golden dreams in which the great discoverer of the New World had
so fondly, and in his own day so fallaciously, indulged. Well might
the scholar of that age exult in the revelation of these wonders,
which so many had long, but in vain, desired to see.
With this letter went another to the emperor, signed, as it
would seem, by nearly every officer and soldier in the camp. It
expatiated on the obstacles thrown in the way of the expedition by
Velasquez and Narvaez, and the great prejudice this had caused to
the royal interests. It then set forth the services of Cortes, and
besought the emperor to confirm him in his authority, and not to allow
any interference with one who, from his personal character, his
intimate knowledge of the land and its people, and the attachment of
his soldiers, was the man best qualified in all the world to achieve
the conquest of the country.
It added not a little to the perplexities of Cortes, that he was
still in entire ignorance of the light in which his conduct was
regarded in Spain. He had not even heard whether his despatches,
sent the year preceding from Vera Cruz, had been received. Mexico
was as far removed from all intercourse with the civilised world, as
if it had been placed at the antipodes. Few vessels had entered, and
none had been allowed to leave its ports. The governor of Cuba, an
island distant but a few days' sail, was yet ignorant, as we have
seen, of the fate of his armament. On the arrival of every new
vessel or fleet on these shores, Cortes might well doubt whether it
brought aid to his undertaking, or a royal commission to supersede
him. His sanguine spirit relied on the former; though the latter was
much the more probable, considering the intimacy of his enemy, the
governor, with Bishop Fonseca. It was the policy of Cortes, therefore,
to lose no time; to push forward his preparations, lest another should
be permitted to snatch the laurel now almost within his grasp. Could
he but reduce the Aztec capital, he felt that he should be safe; and
that, in whatever light his irregular proceedings might now be viewed,
his services in that event would far more than counterbalance them
in the eyes both of the crown and of the country.
The general wrote, also, to the Royal Audience at St. Domingo,
in order to interest them in his cause. He sent four vessels to the
same island, to obtain a further supply of arms and ammunition; and,
the better to stimulate the cupidity of adventurers, and allure them
to the expedition, he added specimens of the beautiful fabrics of
the country, and of its precious metals. The funds for procuring these
important supplies were probably derived from the plunder gathered
in the late battles, and the gold which, as already remarked, had been
saved from the general wreck by the Castilian convoy.
It was the middle of December, when Cortes, having completed all
his arrangements, set out on his return to Tlascala, ten or twelve
leagues distant. He marched in the van of the army, and took the way
of Cholula. How different was his condition from that in which he
had left the republican capital not five months before! His march
was a triumphal procession, displaying the various banners and
military ensigns taken from the enemy, long files of captives, and all
the rich spoils of conquest gleaned from many a hard-fought field.
As the army passed through the towns and villages, the inhabitants
poured out to greet them, and, as they drew near to Tlascala, the
whole population, men, women, and children, came forth celebrating
their return with songs, dancing, and music. Arches decorated with
flowers were thrown across the streets through which they passed,
and a Tlascalan orator addressed the general, on his entrance into the
city, in a lofty panegyric on his late achievements, proclaiming him
the "avenger of the nation." Amidst this pomp and triumphal show,
Cortes and his principal officers were seen clad in deep mourning in
honour of their friend Maxixca. And this tribute of respect to the
memory of their venerated ruler touched the Tlascalans more sensibly
than all the proud display of military trophies.
The general's first act was to confirm the son of his deceased
friend in the succession, which had been contested by an
illegitimate brother. The youth was but twelve years of age; and
Cortes prevailed on him without difficulty to follow his father's
example, and receive baptism. He afterwards knighted him with his
own hand; the first instance, probably, of the order of chivalry being
conferred on an American Indian. The elder Xicotencatl was also
persuaded to embrace Christianity; and the example of their rulers had
its obvious effect in preparing the minds of the people for the
reception of the truth. Cortes, whether from the suggestions of
Olmedo, or from the engrossing nature of his own affairs, did not
press the work of conversion further at this time, but wisely left the
good seed, already sown, to ripen in secret, till time should bring
forth the harvest.
The Spanish commander, during his short stay in Tlascala, urged
forward the preparations for the campaign. He endeavoured to drill the
Tlascalans, and give them some idea of European discipline and
tactics. He caused new arms to be made, and the old ones to be put
in order. Powder was manufactured with the aid of sulphur obtained
by some adventurous cavaliers from the smoking throat of Popocatepetl.
The construction of the brigantines went forward prosperously under
the direction of Lopez, with the aid of the Tlascalans. Timber was cut
in the forests, and pitch, an article unknown to the Indians, was
obtained from the pines on the neighbouring Sierra de Malinche. The
rigging and other appurtenances were transported by the Indian tamanes
from Villa Rica; and by Christmas, the work was so far advanced,
that it was no longer necessary for Cortes to delay the march to
1. The Indian name of the capital,--the same as that of the province,-- Tepejacac, was corrupted by the Spaniards into Tepeaca. It must be admitted to have gained by the corruption.
2. "Y como aquello vió Cortés, comunicólo con todos nuestros Capitanes, y soldados: y fué acordado, que se hiziesse vn auto por ante Escriuano, que diesse fe de todo lo passado, y que se diessen por esclauos." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 130.
3. The chroniclers estimate his army at 50,000 warriors; one half, according to Horibio, of the disposable military force of the republic. "De la cual, (Tlascala,) como ya tengo dicho, solian salir cien mil hombres de pelea." Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 16.
4. "That night," says the credulous Herrera, speaking of the carouse that followed one of their victories, "the Indian allies had a grand supper of legs and arms; for, besides an incredible number of roasts on wooden spits, they had fifty thousand pots of stewed human flesh!!" (Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 15.) Such a banquet would not have smelt savory in the nostrils of Cortés.
5. "Y allé hiziéron hazer el hierro con que se auian de herrar los que se tomauan por esclauos, que era una G., que quiere decir guerra." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 130.
6. Solís, Conquista, lib. 5, cap. 3.
7. Called by the Spaniards Huacachula, and spelt with every conceivable diversity by the old writers, who may be excused for stumbling over such a confusion of consonants.
8. "Y toda la Ciudad está cercada de muy fuerte Muro de cal y canto, tan alto, como quatro estados por de fuera de la Ciudad: é por de dentro está casi igual con el suelo. Y por toda la Muralla va su petril, tan alto, como medio estado, para pelear, tiene quatro entradas, tan anchas, como uno puede entrar á Caballo." Rel. Seg., p. 162.
9. This cavalier's name is usually spelt Olid by the Chroniclers. In a copy of his own signature, I find it written Oli.
10. "I should have been very glad to have taken some alive," says Cortés, "who could have informed me of what was going on in the great city, and who had been lord there since the death of Montezuma. But I succeeded in saving only one,--and he was more dead than alive." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 159.
11. "Y á ver que cosa era aquella, los quales eran mas de treinta mil Hombres, y la mas lúcida Gente, que hemos visto, porque trahi an muchas Joyas de Oro, y Plata y Plumajes." Ibid., p 160.
12. "Alcanzando muchos por una Cuesta arriba muy agra; y tal, que quando acabámos de encumbrar la Sierra, ni los Enemigos, ni nosotros podiamos ir atras, ni adelante: é assí caiéron muchos de ellos muertos, y ahogados de la calor, sin herida ninguna." Ibid., p. 160.
13. "Porque demas de la Gente de Guerra, tenian mucho aparato de Servidores, y fornecimiento para su Real." Ibid., p. 160.
14. The story of the capture of this strong post is told very differently by Captain Diaz. According to him, Olid, when he had fallen back on Cholula, in consequence of the refusal of his men to advance, under the strong suspicion which they entertained of some foul practice from their allies, received such a stinging rebuke from Cortés, that he compelled his troops to resume their march, and, attacking the enemy, "with the fury of a tiger," totally routed them. (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 132.) But this version of the affair is not endorsed, so far as I am aware, by any contemporary. Cortés is so compendious in his report, that it is often necessary to supply the omissions with the details of other writers. But where he is positive in his statements,--unless there be some reason to suspect a bias,--his practice of writing on the spot, and the peculiar facilities for information afforded by his position, make him decidedly the best authority.
15. Cortés, with an eye less sensible to the picturesque than his great predecessor in the track of discovery, Columbus, was fully as quick in detecting the capabilities of the soil. "Tiene un Valle redondo muy fertil de Frutas, y Algodon, que en ninguna parte de los Puertos arriba se hace por la gran frialdad: y allí es Tierra caliente, y caúsalo, que está muy abrigada de Sierras; todo este Valle se riega por muy buenas Azequias, que tienen muy bien sacadas, y concertadas." Ibid., pp. 164, 165.
16. So numerous, according to Cortés, that they covered hill and dale, as far as the eye could reach, mustering more than a hundred and twenty thousand strong! (Ibid., p. 162.) When the Conquerors attempt any thing like a precise numeration, it will be as safe to substitute "a multitude," "a great force," &c., trusting the amount to the reader's own imagination.
17. For the hostilities with the Indian tribes, noticed in the preceeding pages, see, in addition to the Letter of Cortés, so often cited, Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15,--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 15, 16,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 90,--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 130, 132, 134,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 114-117,--P. Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6,--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.
18. "La primera fué de viruela, y comenzó de esta manera. Siendo Capitan y Governador Hernando Cortés al tiempo que el Capitan Pánfilo de Narvaez desembarcó en esta tierra, en uno de sus navíos vino un negro herido de viruelas, la cual enfermedad nunca en esta tierra se habia visto, y esta sazon estaba esta nueva España en estremo muy llena de gente." Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS, Parte 1, cap. 1.
19. "Morian como chinches montones." (Ibid., ubi supra.) "Eran tantos los difuntos que morian de aquella enfermedad, que no habia quien los enterrase, por lo cual en México los echaban en las azequias, porque entónces habia muy grande copia de aguas y era muy grande hedor el que salia de los cuerpos muertos." Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 8, cap. 1.
20. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.
21. Ibid., ubi supra.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 39.
22. Bernal Diaz, Ibid., cap. 131.
23. Ibid., cap. 131, 133, 136.--Herrera, Hist. General, ubi supra.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 154, 167.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 16.
24. Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 156.
25. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. 3, p. 153.
26. "É creo, como ya á Vuestra Magestad he dicho, que en muy breve tomará al estado, en que antes yo la tenia, é se restaurarán las pérdidas pasadas." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 167.
27. "Me pareció, que el mas conveniente nombre para esta dicha Tierra, era llamarse la Nueva España del Mar Océano: y assí en nombre de Vuestra Magestad se le puso aqueste nombre; humildemente suplico á Vuestra Alteza lo tenga por bien, y mande, que se nombre assí." (Ibid., p. 169.) The name of "New Spain," without other addition, had been before given by Grijalva to Yucatan. Ante, Book 2, Chapter 1.
28. It was dated, "De la Villa Segura de la Frontera de esta Nueva España, á treinta de Octubre de mil quinientos veinte años." But, in consequence of the loss of the ship intended to bear it, the letter was not sent till the spring of the following year; leaving the nation still in ignorance of the fate of the gallant adventurers in Mexico, and the magnitude of their discoveries.
29. The state of feeling occasioned by these discoveries may be seen in the correspondence of Peter Martyr, then residing at the court of Castile. See, in particular, his epistle, dated March, 1521, to his noble pupil, the Marques de Mondejar, in which he dwells with unbounded satisfaction on all the rich stores of science which the expedition of Cortés had thrown open to the world. Opus Epistolarum, ep. 771.
30. This memorial is in that part of my collection made by the former President of the Spanish Academy, Vargas Ponçe. It is signed by four hundred and forty-four names; and it is remarkable that this roll, which includes every other familiar name in the army, should not contain that of Bernal Diaz del Castillo. It can only be accounted for by his illness; as he tells us he was confined to his bed by a fever about this time. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 134.
31. Rel. Terc. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 179.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 18.
Alonso de Avila went as the bearer of despatches to St. Domingo. Bernal Diaz, who is not averse, now and then, to a fling at his commander, says, that Cortés was willing to get rid of this gallant cavalier, because he was too independent and plain-spoken. Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.
32. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 136.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19
33. Ibid., ubi supra.
"Híçolo," says Herrera, "i armóle caballero, al vso de Castilla: i porque lo fuese de Jesu-Christo, le hiço bautiçar, i se llamó D. Lorenço Maxiscatzin."
34. For an account of the manner in which this article was procured by Montaño and his doughty companions, see Ante, p. 285.
35. "Ansí se hiciéron trece bergantines en el barrio de Atempa, junto á una hermita que se llama San Buenaventura, los quales hizo y otro Martin Lopez uno de los primeros conquistadores, y le ayudó Neguez Gomez." Hist. de Tlascala, MS.
BACK | FORWARD