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The following Table contains the names of the captives, the time of
their being taken, and the duration of their captivity, where the dates
Time retained. ¡Page
July, 1746 Ashby, Mass. To close of war 139
OF THE CAPTIVITY OF JOHN ORTIZ, A SPANIARD, WHO WAS
ELEVEN YEARS A PRISONER AMONG THE INDIANS OF FLORIDA.
In the year 1528 Pamphilo de Narvaez, with a commission, constituting him governor of Florida, or “all the lands lying from the river of Palms to the cape of Florida,” sailed for that country with 400 foot and 20 horse, in five ships. With this expedition went a Spaniard, named John Ortiz, a native of Seville, whose connections were among the nobility of Castile. Although we have no account of what part Ortiz acted in Narvaez's expedition, or how he escaped its disastrous issue, yet it may not be deemed out of place to notice briefly here that issue.
This Narvaez had acquired some notoriety by the manner in which he had executed a commission against Cortez. He had been ordered by the governor of Cuba to seize the destroyer of Mexico, but was himself overthrown and deserted by his men. On falling into the hands of Cortez, his arrogance did not forsake him, and he addressed him thus: “Esteem it good fortune that you have taken me prisoner.” “Nay,” replied Cortez, “ it is the least of the things I have done in Mexico." To return to the expedition of which we have promised to speak.
Narvaez landed in Florida not very far from, or perhaps at the bay-of Apalachee, in the month of April, and marched into the country with his men. They knew no other direction but that pointed out by the Indians, whom they compelled to act as guides. Their first disappointment was on their arrival at the village of Apalachee, where, instead of a splendid town, filled with immense treasure, as they had anticipated, they found only about 40 Indian wigwams. When they visited one Indian town its inhabitants would get rid of them by telling them of another, where their wants would be gratified. Such was the manner in which Narvaez and his companions rambled over 800 miles of country, in about six months' time, at a vast expense of men and necessaries which they carried with them; for the Indians annoyed them at every pass, not only cutting off many of the men, but seizing on their baggage upon every occasion which offered. Being now arrived upon the coast, in a wretched condition, they constructed some miserable barks corresponding with their means, in which none but men in such extremities would embark. In these they coasted toward New Spain. When they came near the mouths of the Mississippi they were cast away in a storm, and all but 15 of their number perished. Out of these 15, 4 only lived to reach Mexico, and these after 8 years wholly spent in wanderings from place to place, enduring incredible hardships and mise.. ries.
The next year after the end of Narvaez's expedition, the intelligence of his disaster having reached his wife, whom he left in Cuba, she fitted out a small company, consisting of 20 or 30 men, who sailed in a brigantine to search after him, hoping some fortuitous circumstance might have prolonged his existence upon the coast, and that he might be found. Of this number was John Ortiz, the subject of this narrative.
On their arrival there, they sought an opportunity to have an interview with the first Indians they should meet. Opportunity immediately offered, and as soon as Indians were discovered, the Spaniards advanced towards them in their boats, while the Indians came down to the shore. These wily people practised a stratagem upon this occasion, which to this day seems a mysterious one, and we have no means of explaining it.
Three or four Indians came near the shore, and setting a stick in the ground, placed in a cleft in its top a letter, and withdrawing a little distance, made signs to the Spaniards to come and take it. All the company, except John Ortiz and one more, refused to go out for the letter, rightly judging it to be used only to ensnare them ; but Ortiz, presuming it was from Narvaez, and containing some account of himself, would not be persuaded from venturing on shore to bring it, although all the rest but the one who accompanied him strenuously argued against it.
Now there was an Indian village very near this place, and
no sooner had Ortiz and his companion advanced to the place where the letter was displayed, than a multitude came running from it, and surrounding them, seized eagerly upon them. The number of the Indians was so great, that the Spaniards in the vessels did not dare to attempt to rescue them, and saw them carried forcibly away. In this first onset the man who accompanied Ortiz was killed, he having made resistance when he was seized.
Not far from the place where they were made prisoners, was another Indian town, or village, consisting of about 8 or 10 houses or wigwams. These houses were made of wood, and covered with palm-leaves. At one end of this village there was a building, which the captive called a temple, but of what dimensions it was he makes no mention. Over the door of entrance into this temple there was placed the figure of a bird, carved out in wood, and it was especially surprising that this bird had gilded eyes. No attempt is made by Ortiz even to conjecture how or by whom the art of gilding was practised, in this wild and distant region, nor does he mention meeting with any other specimen of that art during his captivity. At , the opposite extremity of this village stood the house of the
chief, or cazique, as he was often called, upon an eminence, raised, as it was supposed, for a fortification. These things remained the same ten years afterwards, and are mentioned by the historian of Fernando De Soto's Invasion of Florida. The name of the chief of this village was Ucita, before whom was presented the captive, Ortiz, who was condemned to suffer immediate death.
The manner of his death was by torture, which was to be effected in this wise. The executioners set four stakes in the ground, and to these they fastened four poles; the captive was then taken, and with his arms and legs extended, was by them bound to these poles, at such a distance from the ground, that a fire, made directly under him, would be a long time in consuming him. Never did a poor victim look with greater certainty to death for relief, than did John Ortiz at this time. The fire had already begun to rage, when a most remarkable circumstance happened to save his life-a daughter of the stern Ucita arose and plead for him. Among other things she said these to her father : “My kind father, why kill this poor stranger ? he can do you nor any of us any injury, seeing he is but one and alone. It is better that you should keep him confined; for even in that condition he may sometime be of great service to you.” The chief was silent for a short time, but finally ordered him to be released from his place of torture. They had no sooner taken the thongs from his wrists and