Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas
A sweeping, epic biography about a man and his times, Hernando de Soto begins shortly after Columbus's first voyage to the Americas. Born around 1500, Soto left home at fourteen for Central America, where he rose through the ranks of the conquistadors to become a feared and effective captain, slave trader, and political operative. In 1531, he joined forces with Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of the Incas, leading the vanguard to Cuzco as Pizarro's second-in-command. Five years later, Soto returned to Spain with a thousand pounds of plundered treasure. In 1539, Hernando de Soto touched down in the country he called La Florida, leading a glittering, armored Renaissance-era army of 600 men on the first major exploration of North America. Obsessed with finding a second Inca empire, Soto instead encountered the Mississippians, a sophisticated culture of mound and city builders, warriors, artisans, and diplomats whose society collapsed after Soto's destructive march through their territory. Unable to find his golden country, Soto pushed his men deeper into a literal and psychological wilderness, ravaged by exhaustion, starvation, and incessant warfare with the Mississippians. He died claiming to be a god to the local Indians, and was secretly buried in the Mississippi River, which he is credited (wrongly) with discovering.