Hernando de Soto

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Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto - Explorer (1496 - 1542)

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer who was with Francisco Pizarro during his 1532 conquest of Peru. He went on to lead an expedition into the southeast area of the modern day United States of America, and became the first European to cross the Mississippi River.

This page details facts about Hernando de Soto's life and the events that shaped his history.

Hernando de Soto the Explorer - Fun Facts for Kids !
Hernando de Soto Fact   1: Hernando de Soto was born at Badajoz in the Extremadura area of Spain in 1496. His parents were minor nobility in this poor region. Not much more is known of his early life.
Hernando de Soto Fact   2: In 1514, Hernando de Soto left for Seville and managed to join an expedition to the New World led by Pedrarias Davila, the first Governor of Panama.

Hernando de Soto Fact   3: Hernando de Soto proved to be a talented horseman, and soon gained great wealth from his trading and brutal exchanges with the native Americans. By 1530 He had become a slave trader in Nicaragua.
Hernando de Soto Fact   4: In 1531, Hernando de Soto joined Francisco Pizarro on an expedition to Peru. The Spanish met, and defeated, the Incas at Cajamarca. The Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, was captured and a ransom demanded. Despite the huge ransom being collected, Atahualpa was killed.
Hernando de Soto Fact   5:

Pizarro then set off for the capital of the Incan Empire, Cuzco. Hernando de Soto was sent ahead with an advance party that fought and defeated the Incans before Pizarro arrived.

Francisco Pizarro
Hernando de Soto Fact   6:

Cuzco was plundered by the Spanish with large amounts of gold and silver taken. Hernando de Soto became rich from his share of the plunder added to his share of Atahualpa’s ransom.

Hernando de Soto Fact   7:

By 1534 Hernando de Soto was serving as Lieutenant Governor of Cuzco, and in 1536 returned to Spain with his fortune. While there he married Isobel de Bobadilla, the daughter of Pedrarias Davila.


Picture of Francisco Pizarro

Hernando de Soto Fact   8: Having been made Governor of Cuba, Hernando de Soto received a royal commission to colonize North America. He led an expedition from Havana, landing in Tampa Bay in May 1539.
Hernando de Soto Fact   9: Hernando de Soto led the expedition north in search of gold and treasure. Despite conflicts and ambushes along the way, he managed get to Apalachee, just east of modern day Tallahassee. Using natives that they had captured as guides, he then headed north east through Georgia into South Carolina. After heading north in to the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, he continued to search for gold before entering Tennessee.
Hernando de Soto Fact 10: The route that Hernando de Soto followed next is the subject of discussion. There are two routes that have been proposed as being correct. The first route has his expedition following the Tennessee River and entering Alabama from the North. The second, and more generally accepted route, has him heading south through Georgia before heading into Alabama.
Hernando de Soto Fact 11: In late 1540, Hernando de Soto was heading for Mobile Bay, on the Gulf of Mexico, to meet up with some supply ships from Havana. Not far from his destination, he was ambushed by an Indian tribe. The resulting battle was fierce and bloody with the Spaniards killing hundreds of Indians and losing many men themselves.

Hernando de Soto Fact 12:
Following this hollow victory, Hernando de Soto led the remainder of the expedition into Mississippi. In the spring of 1541, he reached the Mississippi River. The expedition crossed the Mississippi and headed west through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas before heading back to the Mississippi River in 1542.

Hernando de Soto Fact 13:
In May 1542, Hernando de Soto contracted a fever and died. It remains unclear whether he died in Arkansas or Louisiana. Following his death, and with none of the anticipated treasures, the remains of the expedition decided to head for Mexico. After a journey fraught with danger from hostile tribes, they finally navigated the Mississippi River and made their way to Mexico.

Hernando de Soto the Explorer (1496 - 1542) Fun Facts Info for Kids !

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