This series has eight easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: The Conquistadors’ Journey Into the Mountain Fastness.
Of the Spanish Conquistadors, Francisco Pizzaro is one of those historical persons who was both good and bad. These people lived large. They had large egos, large ambitions, and large intelligence. When this kind of people were doing good deeds, those were very good deeds. And when these people turned bad, they were very bad.
When the “South Sea,” as the Spaniards called the Pacific Ocean, had been discovered by Balboa, and the first conquests on the mainland secured, another Spanish soldier, Francisco Pizarro, who had accompanied Balboa, settled in the new city of Panama. While living there in repose, he longed to perform further and greater services for the Spanish sovereign. He therefore obtained permission from the colonial governor to explore the Pacific coast toward the south. After an unsuccessful voyage in 1524-1526, he set out again in the latter year, and sailed for Peru, reaching that country through many hardships, the surmounting of which places him fairly among the great discoverers.
Having collected much information concerning the empire of the Incas, Pizarro went to Spain and received authority to conquer Peru. Returning to Panama, he sailed from there in December, 1531, with three ships, one hundred eighty-three men, and thirty-seven horses. He first landed at the island of Puna, where he was joined by Hernando de Soto, and then, crossing to Tumbez, marched inland and reached Cajamarca, the city of the Incas, in November, 1532.
The circumstantial account of what followed, written by Hernando Pizarro, half-brother and companion of Francisco, is fitly supplemented by the narrative of Prescott, whose story of the last of the Incas is so widely known.
The selections are from:
- a letter in Reports on the Discovery of Peru by Hernando Pizarro published in dictated to his brother..
- The Conquest of Peru by William H. Prescott published in 1847.
For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. There’s 5 installments by Hernando Pizarro and 3 installments by William H. Prescott.
We begin with Hernando Pizarro (-1578). He was Francisco’s brother who accompanied him on the expedition and reported on it to the Spanish Court. This is his report.
Place: Cajamarca, Peru
To the Magnificent Lords, the Judges of the Royal Audience of his Majesty, who reside in the city of Santo Domingo.
MAGNIFICENT LORDS: I arrived in this port of Yaguana on my way to Spain, by order of the governor Francisco Pizarro, to inform his majesty of what has happened in that government of Peru, to give an account of the country and of its present condition; and, as I believe that those who come to this city give your worships inconsistent accounts, it has seemed well to me to write a summary of what has taken place, that you may be informed of the truth.
The Governor, in the name of his majesty, founded a town near the sea-coast, which was called San Miguel. It is twenty-five leagues from that point of Tumbez. Having left citizens there, and assigned the Indians in the district to them, he set out, with sixty horse and ninety foot, in search of the town of Cajamarca, at which place he was informed that Atahualpa then was brother of him who is now lord of that land. Between the two brothers there had been a very fierce war, and this Atahualpa had conquered the land as far as he then was, which, from the point whence he started, was a hundred fifty leagues. After seven or eight marches, a captain of Atahualpa came to the Governor and said that his lord had heard of his arrival and rejoiced greatly at it, having a strong desire to see the Christians; and when he had been two days with the Governor he said that he wished to go forward and tell the news to his lord, and that another would soon be on the road with a present as a token of peace.
The Governor continued his march until he came to a town called La Ramada. Up to that point all the land was flat, while all beyond was very rugged and obstructed by very difficult passes. When he saw that the messenger from Atahualpa did not return, he wished to obtain intelligence from some Indians who had come from Cajamarca; so they were tortured, and they then said that they had heard that Atahualpa was waiting for the Governor in the mountains to give him battle. The Governor then ordered the troops to advance, leaving the rear-guard in the plain. The rest ascended, and the road was so bad that, in truth, if they had been waiting for us, either in this pass or in another that we came to on the road to Cajamarca, they could very easily have stopped us; for, even by exerting all our skill, we could not have taken our horses by the roads; and neither horse nor foot can cross those mountains except by the roads. The distance across them to Cajamarca is full twenty leagues. When we were half-way, messengers arrived from Atahualpa and brought provisions to the Governor. They said that Atahualpa was waiting for him at Cajamarca, wishing to be his friend; and that he wished the Governor to know that his captains had taken his brother prisoner, that they would reach Cajamarca within two days, and that all the territory of his father now belonged to him. The Governor sent back to say that he rejoiced greatly at this news, and that, if there was any lord who refused to submit, he would give assistance and subjugate him. Two days afterward the Governor came in sight of Cajamarca, and he met Indians with food. He put the troops in order and marched to the town. Atahualpa was not there, but was encamped on the plain, at a distance of a league, with all his people in tents. When the Governor saw that Atahualpa did not come, he sent a captain, with fifteen horsemen, to speak to Atahualpa, saying that he would not assign quarters to the Christians until he knew where it was the pleasure of Atahualpa that they should lodge, and he desired him to come that they might be friends. Just then I went to speak to the Governor, touching the orders in case the Indians made a night attack. He told me that he had sent men to seek an interview with Atahualpa. I told him that, out of the sixty cavalry we had, there might be some men who were not dexterous on horseback, and some unsound horses, and that it seemed a mistake to pick out fifteen of the best; for, if Atahualpa should attack them, their numbers were insufficient for defense, and any reverse might lead to a great disaster. He therefore ordered me to follow with other twenty horsemen, and to act according to circumstances.
When I arrived I found the other horsemen near the camp of Atahualpa, and that their officer had gone to speak with him. I left my men there also, and advanced with two horsemen to the lodging of Atahualpa, and the captain announced my approach and who I was. I then told Atahualpa that the Governor had sent me to visit him and to ask him to come, that they might be friends. He replied that a cacique of the town of San Miguel had sent to tell him that we were bad people and not good for war, and that he himself had killed some of us, both men and horses. I answered that those people of San Miguel were like women, and that one horse was enough for the whole of them; that, when he saw us fight, he would know what we were like; that the Governor had a great regard for him; that if he had any enemy he had only to say so, and that the Governor would send to conquer him. He said that, four marches from that spot, there were some very rebellious Indians who would not submit to him, and that the Christians might go there to help his troops. I said that the Governor would send ten horsemen, who would suffice for the whole country, and that his Indians were unnecessary, except to search for those who concealed themselves. He smiled like a man who did not think so much of us
William H. Prescott begins here.
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