Historic Markers Across Alabama

Hernando De Soto in Alabama

Marker ID:  
Location: I-20, WB, mile post 1, Cleburne Welcome Center, AL
County: Cleburne
Coordinates: N 33° 40.154    W 085° 22.272
  33.66923333    -85.3712
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMV4C3


Hernando De Soto In Alabama

Hernando de Soto brought his 700-man army to Alabama in the fall of 1540. This was the first major European expedition to the interior of the southeastern United States. The De Soto expedition had landed at Tampa Bay, Florida, in the spring of 1539—47 years after Columbus discovered America. They traveled through parts of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas before abandoning their goals of finding riches and leaving for Mexico in 1543. Archaeologists believe that they know the general route that De Soto followed and are trying to locate the specific towns he visited in order to verify their theories.The expedition spent several month in Alabama, entering the state in the Northeast near Piedmont and traveling down the Coosa River Valley to Montgomery and then west and north to leave the state by crossing the Tombigbee River near Columbus, Mississippi. In Alabama, at a site probably near the present day city of Montgomery, De Soto met the great Indian chief, Tascalusa. The chief, resentful of the harsh Spanish treatment of the Indians, promised De Soto supplies and bearers at one of his small towns, Mabila. But there on October 18, 1540, De Soto and his advance party were ambushed by Tascalusa after they entered the town. De Soto called up the main boy of his troops and fought an all-day battle. More than 20 Spaniards and 2,500 Indians were killed in what has been called the greatest Indian battle ever fought in America.

Although the Spaniards prevailed, this battle was the turning point for the expedition, De Soto discovered no gold or silver, and an unsuccessful exploration had now turned into a near-defeat with major casualties. The expedition continued slowly on toward Mississippi. The next three years would see the discovery of the Mississippi River, the death of De Soto from fever, and the eventual retreat of some 300 survivor to Mexico.

The De Soto expedition was of great historical importance. The four principal accounts of the expedition give us some of our best insights into the way of life and the customs of the Indians of the Southeast before the impact of European civilization.

End of Hernando De Soto in Alabama