Today’s installment concludes Pizarro Conquers the Incan Empire,
the name of our combined selection from Hernando Pizarro and William H. Prescott. The concluding installment, by William H. Prescott from The Conquest of Peru, was published in 1847. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed eight thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in Pizarro Conquers the Incan Empire.
Place: Cajamarca, Peru
The eyes of the Indian monarch flashed fire and his dark brow grew darker as he replied: “I will be no man’s tributary! I am greater than any prince upon earth. Your Emperor may be a great prince; I do not doubt it when I see that he has sent his subjects so far across the waters; and I am willing to hold him as a brother. As for the Pope of whom you speak, he must be crazy to talk of giving away countries which do not belong to him. For my faith,” he continued, “I will not change it. Your own God, as you say, was put to death by the very men whom he created. But mine,” he concluded, pointing to his deity — then, alas! sinking in glory behind the mountains — “my God still lives in the heavens and looks down on his children.”
He then demanded of Valverde by what authority he had said these things. The friar pointed to the book which he held as his authority. Atahualpa, taking it, turned over the pages a moment; then, as the insult he had received probably flashed across his mind, he threw it down with vehemence and exclaimed: “Tell your comrades that they shall give me an account of their doings in my land. I will not go from here till they have made me full satisfaction for all the wrongs they have committed.”
The friar, greatly scandalized by the indignity offered to the sacred volume, stayed only to pick it up, and, hastening to Pizarro, informed him of what had been done, exclaiming at the same time: “Do you not see that, while we stand here wasting our breath in talking with this dog, full of pride as he is, the fields are filling with Indians? Set on at once! I absolve you.” Pizarro saw that the hour had come. He waved a white scarf in the air, the appointed signal. The fatal gun was fired from the fortress. Then, springing into the square, the Spanish captain and his followers shouted the old war-cry of “St. Iago and at them!”
It was answered by the battle-cry of every Spaniard in the city, as, rushing from the avenues of the great halls in which they were concealed, they poured into the plaza, horse and foot, each in his own dark column, and threw themselves into the midst of the Indian crowd. The latter, taken by surprise, stunned by the report of artillery and muskets, the echoes of which reverberated like thunder from the surrounding buildings, and blinded by the smoke which rolled in sulphurous volumes along the square, were seized with a panic. They knew not whither to fly for refuge from the coming ruin. Nobles and commoners, all were trampled down under the fierce charge of the cavalry, who dealt their blows right and left without sparing; while their swords, flashing through the thick gloom, carried dismay into the hearts of the wretched natives, who now, for the first time, saw the horse and his rider in all their terrors.
They made no resistance, as, indeed, they had no weapons with which to make it. Every avenue to escape was closed, for the entrance to the square was choked up with the dead bodies of men who had perished in vain efforts to fly; and such was the agony of the survivors under the terrible pressure of their assailants that a large body of Indians, by their convulsive struggles, burst through the wall of stone and dried clay which formed part of the boundary of the plaza! It fell, leaving an opening of more than a hundred paces, through which multitudes now found their way into the country, still hotly pursued by the cavalry, who, leaping the fallen rubbish, hung on the rear of the fugitives, striking them down in all directions.
Meanwhile the fight, or rather massacre, continued hot around the Inca, whose person was the great object of the assault. His faithful nobles, rallying about him, threw themselves in the way of the assailants, and strove, by tearing them from their saddles, or, at least, by offering their own bosoms as a mark for their vengeance, to shield their beloved master. It is said by some authorities that they carried weapons concealed under their clothes. If so, it availed them little, as it is not pretended that they used them. But the most timid animal will defend itself when at bay. That they did not so in the present instance is proof that they had no weapons to use. Yet they still continued to force back the cavaliers, clinging to their horses with dying grasp, and, as one was cut down, another taking the place of his fallen comrade with a loyalty truly affecting.
The Indian monarch, stunned and bewildered, saw his faithful subjects falling round him without hardly comprehending his situation. The litter on which he rode heaved to and fro as the mighty press swayed backward and forward; and he gazed on the overwhelming ruin, like some forlorn mariner, who, tossed about in his bark by the furious elements, sees the lightning’s flash and hears the thunder bursting around him, with the consciousness that he can do nothing to avert his fate. At length, weary with the work of destruction, the Spaniards, as the shades of evening grew deeper, felt afraid that the royal prize might, after all, elude them; and some of the cavaliers made a desperate effort to end the affray at once by taking Atahualpa’s life. But Pizarro, who was nearest his person, called out with stentorian voice, “Let no one who values his life strike at the Inca”; and, stretching out his arm to shield him, received a wound on the hand from one of his own men — the only wound received by a Spaniard in the action.
The struggle now became fiercer than ever round the royal litter. It reeled more and more, and at length, several of the nobles who supported it having been slain, it was overturned, and the Indian prince would have come with violence to the ground, had not his fall been broken by the efforts of Pizarro and some other of the cavaliers, who caught him in their arms. The imperial borla was instantly snatched from his temples by a soldier named Estete, and the unhappy monarch, strongly secured, was removed to a neighboring building, where he was carefully guarded.
All attempt at resistance now ceased. The fate of the Inca soon spread over town and country. The charm which might have held the Peruvians together was dissolved. Every man thought only of his own safety. Even the soldiery encamped on the adjacent fields took alarm, and, learning the fatal tidings, were seen flying in every direction before their pursuers, who, in the heat of triumph, showed no touch of mercy. At length night, more pitiful than man, threw her friendly mantle over the fugitives, and the scattered troops of Pizarro rallied once more to the sound of the trumpet in the bloody square of Cajamarca.
This ends our selections on Pizarro Conquers Incas by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- 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.
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