HISTORY OF ALABAMA
AND INCIDENTALLY OF GEORGIA AND MISSISSIPPI
In submitting my first book to the public, I refrain from making apologies in its behalf, and shall only briefly allude to my labors, in order to show how strenuously I have endeavored to insure its authenticity. I have sought materials for a correct history of my country, wherever they were to be procured, whether in Europe or America, and without regard to cost or trouble. All the Atlantic States have Historical Societies, and books and manuscripts relating to those States have been col- lected. In addition to this, agents have been sent to Europe by different Legislatures, who have transcribed the colonial records which relate to their history. I have had none of these aids. I have been compelled to hunt up and buy books and manuscripts connected with the history of Alabama, and to collect oral infor- mation in all directions. I rejoice, however, to know that a Historical Society has recently been formed at Tuscaloosa by some literary gentlemen, and it gives me pleasure to reflect that the authors who may appear after my day, will not he subjected to the labor which it has been my lot to undergo. Believing that the historian ought to be the most conscientious of men, writing, as he does, not only for the present age but for posterity, I have endeavored to divest myself of all prejudices, and to speak the truth in all cases. If it should be found, by the most scrutiniz- ing reader, that any of my statements are incorrect, let me say in advance, that when I penned those statements I believed them to be true. So anxious have I been to record each incident as it really occurred, that upon several occasions I have traveled over four hundred miles to learn merely a few facts.
About four years since, feeling impressed with the fact that it was the duty of every man to make himself, in some way, use- ful to his race, I looked around in search of some object, in the pursuit of which I could benefit my fellow-citizens ; for, although much interested in agriculture, that did not occupy one-fourth of my time. Having no taste for politics, and never having studied a profession, I determined to write a History. I thought it would serve to amuse my leisure hours, but it has been the hard- est work of my life. While exhausted by the labor of reconcil- ing the statements of old authors, toiling over old French and Spanish manuscripts, traveling through Florida, Alabama and Mississippi for information, and corresponding with persons in Europe and elsewhere for facts, I have sometimes almost re- solved to abandon the attempt to prepare a History of my State.
In reference to that portion of the work which relates to the Indians, I will state that my father removed from Anson county, North Carolina, and carried me to the wilds of the “Alabama Territory,” in 1818, when I was a boy but eight years of age. He established a trading-house in connection with his plantation, in the present county of Autauga. During my youthful days, I was accustomed to be much with the Creek Indians— hundreds of whom came almost daily to the trading-house. For twenty years I frequently visited the Creek nation. Their green coin dances, ball plays, war ceremonies, and manners and customs, are all fresh in my recollection. In my intercourse with them I was thrown into the company of many old white men, called “Indian countrymen,” who had for years conducted a commerce with them. Some of these men had come to the Creek nation before the revolutionary war, and others being tories, had fled to it during the war, and after it, to escape from whig persecution. They were unquestionably the shrewdest and most interesting men with whom I ever conversed. Generally of Scotch descent, many of them were men of some education. All of them were married to Indian wives, and some of them had intelligent and handsome children. From these Indian countrymen I learned much concerning the manners and customs of the Creeks, with whom they had been so long associated, and more particularly with regard to the commerce which they carried on with them. In addition to this, I often conversed with the Chiefs while they were seated in the shades of the spreading mulberry and walnut, upon the banks of the beautiful Tallapoosa. As they leisurely smoked their pipes, some of them related to me the traditions of their country. I occasionally saw Choctaw and Cherokee trad- ers, and learned much from them. I had no particular object in view at that time, except the gratification of a curiosity, which led me for my own satisfaction alone, to learn something of the early history of Alabama.
In relation to the invasion of Alabama by De Soto, which is related in the first chapter of this work, I have derived much information in regard to the route of that earliest discoverer from statements of General McGillivray, a Creek of mixed blood, who ruled this country with eminent ability from 1776 to 1793. I have perused the manuscript history of the Creeks by Stiggins, a half-breed, who also received some particulars of the route of De Soto during his boyhood from the lips of the oldest Indians. My library contains many old Spanish and French maps, with the towns through which De Soto passed correctly laid down. The sites of many of these are familiar to the present population. Besides all these, I have procured from England and France three journals of De Soto’s expedition.
One of these journals was written by a cavalier of the expe- dition, who was a native of Elvas, in Portugal. He finished his narrative on the 10th February, 1557, in the city of Evora, and it was printed in the house of Andrew de Burgos, printer and gentleman of the Lord Cardinal and the Infanta. It was trans- lated into English by Richard Hakluyt in 1609. and is to be found in the supplementary volume of his voyages and discov- eries ; London, 1812. It is also published at length in the His- torical Collections of Peter Force, of Washington City.
Another journal of the expedition was written by the Inca Garcellasso de la Vega, a Peruvian by birth and a native of the city of Cuzco. His father was a Spaniard of noble blood, and his mother the sister of Capac, one of the Indian sovereigns of Peru. Garcellasso was a distinguished writer of that age. He had heard of the remarkable invasion of Florida by De Soto, *ind he applied himself diligently to obtain the facts. He found out an intelligent cavalier of that expedition, with whom he had minute conversations of all the particulars of lt^.. In addition to this, journals were placed in his hands written in the camp of De Soto — one by Alonzo de Carmona, a native of the town of Priego, and the other by Juan Coles, a native of Zafra. Garcellasso pub- lished his work at an early period in Spanish. It has been trans- lated into French, but never into English. The copy in our hands is entitled “Histoire de la Conquete de la Floride ou rela- tion, de ce qui s’est passe dans la decouverte de ce pais, par Fer- dinand De Soto, Composee en Espagnol, par L’Inca Garcellasso de la Vega, et traduite en Francois, par Sr. Pierre Richelet, en deux tomes; A. Leide : 1731.”
I have still another journal, and the last one, of the expedi- tion of De Soto. It was written by Biedma, who accompanied De Soto as his commissary. The journal is entitled, ” Relation de ce qui arriva pendant le voyage du Captaine Soto, et details sur la nature du pas qu’il parcourut ; par Luis Hernandez de Biedma,” contained in a volume entitled « Recuil de Pieces sur la, Floride,” one of a series of ” Voyages et memoires originaux pour servir a L’Histoire de la decouverte de L’Amerique publies pour la premier fois en Francois ; par H. Ternaux-Compans. Paris : 1841.”
In Biedma there is an interesting letter written by De Soto, while he was at Tampa Bay, in Florida, which was addressed to some town authorities in Cuba. The journal of Biedma is much less in detail than those of the Portuguese Gentleman and Gar- cellasso, but agrees with them in the relation of the most im- portant occurrences.
Our own accomplished writer and earliest pioneer in Ala-bama history — Alexander B. Meek, of Mobile — has furnished a condensed, but well written and graphic account of De Soto’s expedition, contained in a monthly magazine, entitled “The Southron,” Tuscaloosa, 1839. He is correct as to the direction assumed by the Spaniards over our soil, as well as to the char- acter of that extraordinary conquest.
Theodore Irving, M. A., of New York, has recently issued a revised edition of his Conquest of Florida. Its style is easy and flowing, when the author journalizes in regard to marches through the country, and is exceedingly graphic, when he gives us a description of De Soto’s battles. As I have closely examined the sources from which Mr. Irving has collated his work, I am prepared to state that he has related all things as they are said to have occurred. For the complimentary terms which Mr. Irving has employed in the preface, and also in many of the notes of his late edition, in relation to my humble efforts in en- deavoring to throw new light upon the expedition of De Soto, I beg him to accept my profound acknowledgments.
There are many gentlemen of talents and distinction, who have unselfishly, nobly and generously interested themselves in my behalf, while engaged in the arduous labors which are now brought to a close. I will name John A. Campbell and George N. Stewart, of Mobile ; Alfred Hennen and J. D. B. DeBow, of New Orleans ; the Rev. Francis Hawks, of New York ; William H. Prescott and Jared Sparks, of Massachusetts ; the Rev. William Bacon Stevens, of Philadelphia; W. Gilrnore Simms, of South Carolina; and particularly, John H. F. Claiborne, of Missis- sippi, who placed in my hands the manuscript papers of his father, Gen. F. L. Claiborne, who commanded the southern wing of the army, during the Creek war of 1813 and 1814. The son has requested me to present the manuscript papers of his father as a contribution from him to the Historical Society of Alabama. I shall comply with his request upon the first suitable occasion. There are many other persons who have manifested an interest in my behalf, to enumerate all of whom, would be extending this preface to an unreasonable length. While I omit the mention of their names, I shall ever cherish the memory of their atten- tions with the most grateful recollections.
THE AUTHOR. May, 1851.