||Oviedo y Valdés, Gonzalo Fernández de, 1478-1557
||Narrative of De Soto¿s Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Ranjel, His Private Secretary
||Bourne, Edward Gaylord (editor) and Buckingham Smith (translator). Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida as Told by a Knight of Elvas and in a Relation by Luys Hernandez de Beidma, Factor of the Expedition. Together with an Account of de Soto's Expedition Based on the Diary of Rodrigo Ranjel, His Private Secretary Translated from Oviedo's Historia General y Natural de las Indias. (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1904). Volume 2, pages 41-157.
||118 / 0
Rodrigo Ranjel was personal secretary to Hernando de Soto
throughout his expedition. No other information about his
birthplace, life, or death are available.
Soto Expedition to Florida, the American South and Texas,
The King of Spain gave Soto the funds and resources to conquer
and colonize the American continent. Not knowing the size of North
America, the King gave Soto four years to conquer America and locate
riches that would entice Spanish settlers and investors to follow.
Six-hundred-forty volunteers joined the expedition that left Cuba
in 1539. Among them were expert tradesmen that might help settle
a new land. Carpenters, merchants, engineers, blacksmiths, priests,
and farmers were among Soto’s “army.” They carried with them all
manner of military equipment, as well as seeds, nails, horses, dogs,
and pigs. The massive entourage spent four years walking four-thousand
miles through the interior of North America but did not establish
a settlement. The Soto expedition began in Cuba and moved on to
cover territory in what today are the states of Florida, Georgia,
North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas,
Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas. For its exact route during the four-year
journey, see the reference map accessible from this document’s home
From his campaigns against the Inca in Peru, Soto had earned
a reputation for killing Indians as sport, and his North
American expedition was among the most savage on record. Soto’s
army brutalized and enslaved Indians they encountered all across
the southeast, killing thousands and spreading disease
throughout the native populations. Many nations first observed
on this trip were decimated by diseases introduced during their
first contact with Europeans.
Overcome with fever in the third year of the trip, Soto died
in May 1542 on the banks of the Mississippi River. Before dying,
he conferred command of the expedition to Luys de Moscoso.
Moscoso hid Soto’s death from the local Indians because Soto had
told them that he was immortal, but when Indian servants became
curious about a fresh grave, Moscoso had unearthed the
explorer’s body, wrapped it in cloth, weighted it with sand, and
sunk it in the river.
Once in control of the expedition, Moscoso tried to discover the
fastest route home. Indian guides, however, led the Spanish into
the wastes of east Texas in the hope that they would be lost and
then starve. Moscoso managed to find his way back to the Mississippi
where the expedition built seven small ships in six months. The
remaining Spaniards and their animals then set sail downriver. As
they progressed, groups of Indians in large canoes attacked them.
When the Spanish sent boats with soldiers to repulse these attacks,
the Indians ditched the Spaniards’ boats, beat them with wooden
clubs, and then drowned the armor-clad soldiers. The Indians then
followed a bowshot behind the ships and patiently shot the Spaniards
with arrows. Up to fifty canoes followed the Spaniards, attacking
them day and night. The Spanish finally reached the mouth of the
Mississippi River and headed west. They sailed into the Rio Panico,
Mexico, on September 10, 1543, with only 300 men remaining from
the original 640.
The account of Rodrigo Ranjel survives only partially in a summary
history of the Soto expedition by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y
Valdés. Soto scholar Edward Gaylord Bourne identified the Ranjel
narrative embedded in Oviedo’s account and published it in English
for the first time in his Narratives of the Career of Hernando
de Soto in 1904.
Other Internet and Reference Sources
A useful timeline of the years 1527-1547 that shows the relationships
between the travels of Narváez, Núñez Cabeza
da Vaca, Soto, Ulloa, and Coronado is available form the University
of Arizona at
More information can also be found at