Hernando de Soto is most famous for his expeditions to the Americas, particularly his exploration of what is now the southeastern United States in the early 16th century.
He was one of the first Europeans to visit this region and established substantial contact with numerous Native American groups, including the Apalachee, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, and the Natchez. He was also one of the first Europeans to discover the Mississippi River.
His journeys were important not only because they led to the discovery and colonization of new lands by Europeans, but also because of the profound effect they had on the Native American communities he came into contact with along the way.
In addition to his wealth and successful economic endeavors, De Soto is famous for the cruel way he treated the indigenous people of the Americas. In general, de Soto is a contentious historical figure, and scholars and historians continue to argue the significance of his legacy.
Hernando de Soto Facts
1. Hernando de Soto came from a wealthy family
In the year 1496, Hernando de Soto was born in the Spanish province of Extremadura. Both of his parents came from well-to-do families; his father was a minor aristocrat, while his mother was from a wealthy family.
After receiving a solid education throughout his childhood, De Soto went on to become a soldier and take part in the conquests of Central America and Peru. Later in life, he led his own exploration trip into what is now the southeastern region of the United States.
2. The first expedition of Hernando de Soto was to the New World
The first expedition of Hernando de Soto was to the New World, although not to the West Indies. In 1514, he went to Central America with the Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila, where he took part in the conquest of Panama.
De Soto distinguished himself in battle and was awarded with land and cash, which he utilized to build a profitable business and invest in. He later joined Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru before returning to Spain in 1530.
When his return to Spain, King Charles V gave him permission to lead an expedition to explore and establish what is now the southeastern United States.
3. Hernando de Soto led an expedition to explore the southeastern region of what is now the United States.
In 1531, Hernando de Soto led an expedition to explore the southeastern region of what is now the United States.
The expedition was authorized by King Charles V of Spain, and de Soto was tasked with exploring and colonizing the region, which was believed to be rich in gold and other valuable resources.
4. Hernando de Soto returned to Spain in 1530
After his successful economic activities in Central America, Hernando de Soto returned to Spain in 1530 and was nominated second in command to Francisco Pizarro for his mission to capture Peru.
De Soto was a talented and experienced soldier and explorer at the age of 32, and he played an important role in the conquest of the Inca Empire. He excelled in combat and was rewarded with large territory and tremendous wealth.
His success in Peru contributed to his reputation as one of the most accomplished and ambitious conquistadors of his day, paving the groundwork for his subsequent missions to the southeastern United States.
5. Some claim his parents wanted him to become a lawyer
There is no conclusive proof that Hernando de Soto’s parents wanted him to be a lawyer. Yet, it is known that de Soto obtained a high education, most likely at a Jesuit school, and that he briefly studied law before opting to become a soldier.
His parents may have urged him to seek a career in law because it was a recognized profession in 16th-century Spain, but there is no clear evidence to support this allegation.
6. He has may places named after him
Hernando de Soto is a well-known historical person, and numerous locations have been named after him to honor his life and achievements.
Many cities, counties, and other geographic features in the United States are named after de Soto, primarily in the southeastern section of the country that he explored and colonized.
DeSoto counties, for example, can be found in Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, as well as various towns and cities with similar names.
De Soto is also the name of various parks, monuments, and other places, including the DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi and the DeSoto Caverns in Alabama.
Outside of the United States, various sites in Central and South America are named after de Soto, particularly in areas he explored and conquered during his missions.
7. He encountered various Native American tribes
Hernando de Soto and his soldiers encountered various Native American tribes on their journey across the southeastern United States, including the Apalachee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez.
De Soto and his soldiers were the first Europeans to establish contact with several of these tribes, and they frequently clashed with the natives.
The expedition caused great suffering and death among the indigenous peoples, as they were subjected to forced labor, disease, and warfare.
Despite this, de Soto and his soldiers continued to explore the region and build colonies, opening the stage for later Spanish colonization of the Americas.
8. Hernando de Soto was well regarded by his fellow conquistadors
Notwithstanding his atrocities against Native Americans, Hernando de Soto was well regarded by his fellow conquistadors for his bravery and leadership.
De Soto was a great soldier and experienced explorer who led his men over some of the most difficult and perilous terrain in the Americas. He was also a successful entrepreneur and investor who made a fortune from his different business enterprises.
Notwithstanding his severe and frequently violent treatment of Native Americans, his contemporaries regarded him as a hero and exemplar of Spanish conquest and colonization.
De Soto’s history is now seen more critically, and his actions are considered as part of a larger pattern of brutality and exploitation that typified European colonization of the Americas.
9. He was a successful entrepreneur and investor
Hernando de Soto was a successful entrepreneur and investor in addition to his function as an explorer and conquistador, and he was able to build a large wealth through his numerous business endeavors.
He made significant investments in the Spanish slave trade, as well as the mining and agriculture businesses in the Americas. He also built a number of trading posts and colonies in the southeastern United States, which contributed to the expansion of Spanish dominance in the region.
De Soto’s money and economic success had a significant role in his standing and power inside the Spanish colonial administration.
It’s worth noting, however, that most of his money was built on the exploitation and forced labor of indigenous peoples, who were subjected to cruel treatment and severe working conditions under his leadership.
10. He died on May 21, 1542, in what is now Arkansas
Hernando de Soto died of a fever while leading another expedition in what is now the southwestern United States in 1542. De Soto had been looking for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold in the region, but his expedition was hampered by disease, starvation, and confrontation with Native American groups.
De Soto contracted a fever and died on May 21, 1542, in what is now Arkansas. His body was reputedly buried in the Mississippi River to avoid Native American opponents from desecrating it.
De Soto’s death ended his ambitious and often ruthless career as an explorer and conquistador, and it also contributed to the collapse of Spanish interest in the territory he had helped to explore and colonize.