Finding a 1540 de Soto Crossing
In 1539, Hernando de Soto began the first European deep expedition of what is now the United States. In his ten ships were 700 Spanish and Portuguese men. Among them were three men who would chronicle the expedition making this the beginning of recorded history in the area of today's United States of America. Luys Hernandez de Biedma was sent by the King of Spain to record the expedition. Biedma's work was 10,000 words long. An unnamed Portuguese man from Elvas kept the second account (called Elvas) which was 50,000 words long. The private secretary of de Soto, Rodrigo Rangel, wrote a 20,000 word Spanish account. The expedition encountered many hardships. Some of them involved physical obstacles. Our modern day research focuses on one particular type of obstacle. Crossing a wide river was a big problem for de Soto, his men, their equipment, and hundreds of horses and livestock. The chroniclers described these crossings with interesting details which allow us, today, to make a good guess at what rivers and locations they were crossing. Our project will use the work of experts, most notably, anthropologist Dr. Charles M. Hudson (1932-2013) who spent many years studying the de Soto chronicles. Dr. Hudson has provided us with several possible locations to study.
The idea for this project began in 2008 with the South Carolina Historic Crossings Project which documents hundreds of historic river crossings in South Carolina. This de Soto project was officially started in 2015 after several discoveries were made which provided the foundation for a meaningful study of the possible sites for de Soto's river crossing near today's Columbia, South Carolina.