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Tallahassee in Leon County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539~1540

 
 
De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539-1540 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, December 6, 2014
1. De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539-1540 Marker
Inscription. In 1539, a Spanish expeditionary force led by Hernando de Soto landed in the Tampa Bay area. Nearly 600 heavily armed adventurers traveled more than 4000 miles from Florida to Mexico intending to explore and control the Southeast of North America. The route of de Soto has always been uncertain, including the location of the village of Anhaica, the first winter encampment. The place was thought to be in the vicinity of present day Tallahassee, but no physical evidence had ever been found. Calvin Jones’ chance discovery of 16th century Spanish artifacts in 1987 settled the argument. Jones, a state archaeologist, led a team of amateurs and professionals in an excavation which recovered more than 40,000 artifacts. The evidence includes links of chain mail armor, copper coins, the iron tip of a crossbow bolt, Spanish olive jar shards, and glass trade beads. The team also found the jaw bone of a pig. Pigs were not native to the New World and historical documents confirm that the expedition brought swine. These finds provided the physical evidence of the 1539-40 winter encampment, the first confirmed de Soto site in North America. From this location, the de Soto expedition traveled northward and westward making the first European contact with many native societies. Within two centuries, most of the southeastern native cultures were greatly diminished
De Soto's Christmas in Tallahassee Panel image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, December 6, 2014
2. De Soto's Christmas in Tallahassee Panel
See the 'Additional Comments' for this panel's text.
by the effects of European contact and settlement.
Florida Heritage Landmark

 
Erected 1998 by the Florida Department of State. (Marker Number F-395.)
 
Location. 30° 26.169′ N, 84° 16.12′ W. Marker is in Tallahassee, Florida, in Leon County. Marker is on Desoto Park Drive 0.1 miles south of East Lafayette Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1001 Desoto Park Drive, Tallahassee FL 32301, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Governor John W. Martin House (a few steps from this marker); Old Fort Park (approx. half a mile away); John Gilmore Riley House (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Union Bank of Florida (approx. 0.7 miles away); Leon High School (approx. 0.7 miles away); Capt. John Parkhill (approx. ¾ mile away); The Knott House (approx. ¾ mile away); Leon County Civil War Monument (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tallahassee.
 
Regarding De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539~1540. Marker is part of the Florida de Soto Site Historic State Park, located in Tallahassee, Florida. It consists of 5 acres of land near Apalachee Parkway including the residence
Attack on an Indian Village with Flaming Arrows image. Click for full size.
By Jacques LeMoyne, ca. 1564
3. Attack on an Indian Village with Flaming Arrows
This image of the original painting is in the public domain. It is shown in the "De Soto's Christmas in Tallahassee" panel in photo #2.
of former Governor John W. Martin. The site is intended to initiate research and education on nearly four centuries of recorded history beginning with Hernando de Soto's use of the site as a winter encampment in 1539.
 
Also see . . .
1. Hernando de Soto 1539–1540 Winter Encampment at Anhaica Apalachee. From Florida Division of Historical Resources (Submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.) 

2. DeSoto Winter Encampment - Tallahassee, Florida. From Explore Southern History (Submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. De Soto's First Christmas in Tallahassee
The following is the text of the panel shown in photo #2

De Soto’s Christmas in Tallahassee
While camping in the Apalachee village of Anhaica (in present day Tallahassee) during the winter of 1539-1540, De Soto and his more than 600 camp followers celebrated what was likely the first Christmas in what would become the United States. The clergymen that accompanied the expedition would have presided over mass and Christmas traditions. De Soto and his men likely did not have a merry Christmas. Having occupied the capital of the Apalachee chiefdom, the Spanish force was under constant attack.

Account of the expedition failed to mention Christmas celebrations. Historical records
Wide view of marker and nearby Governor John W. Martin House image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, December 6, 2014
4. Wide view of marker and nearby Governor John W. Martin House
primarily detailed Apalachee raids and Spanish military activities. The Apalachee fought valiantly to expel the invaders from their capital, twice burning the encampment, and attacking any Spaniards who dared to leave the camp. Simple tasks, such as collecting firewood, were dangerous. De Soto and his men responded violently, killing and capturing many Apalachee. De Soto was concerned with these raids and reorganizing his expedition for a push inland to search for treasure. To further these goals, De Soto sent expeditions to the coast to consolidate his forces and establish new supply routes.

Christmas Feasts
The three priests who accompanied the De Soto expedition would have ensured that Christmas traditions were upheld. Late 17th century Mission period documents note that during Christmas people were expected to abstain from work and attend Mass. They were also obliged to fast on the Vigil of Christmas (Christmas Eve). Celebrants then attended a midnight Mass. Christmas day would have been a day for feasting.
DeSotos’s Christmas feast was likely a mix of Spanish and Apalachee foods. De Soto brought a herd of pigs along on the expedition. He restricted eating the pigs because he hoped to use the pigs in establishing colonies. A Christmas feast may have provided his men a rare opportunity to eat pork. The discovery of pigs skeletal material at the site suggests that
Hernando de Soto image. Click for full size.
By Public domain
5. Hernando de Soto
Lived from October 21, 1496 to May 21, 1542 and was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who led the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (Florida, Georgia, Alabama and most likely Arkansas), and the first documented European to have crossed the Mississippi River.
some pig may have been consumed during DeSoto’s stay in Anhaica. The Spanish relied heavily on stolen food and used native captives as cooks. Apalachee foods, such as maize (corn), beans, and wild game were also likely eaten during Christmas feasts.

The First Christmas and the De Soto Site
Public recognition of Tallahassee as the site of what was likely America’s first Christmas grew with the discovery of the De Soto site by Calvin Jones in 1987. This recognition drew public attention to the site and contributed to successful conservation efforts.

Captions:
DeSoto’s first Christmas has long sparked public interest. This photograph from 1959 shows reenactors depicting DeSoto’s first Christmas in what would become the United States (RC01714).

Illustration of DeSoto’s army marching in the words. The expedition included clergymen (seen in the lower right corner). The expedition took Indian captives as hostiges and slaves. They were often held in chains to prevent escape.

A drawing depicting what was likely the first Christmas Mass in what would become the United States (RC11395).

The Apalachee twice burned the occupied town of Anhaica. This picture is an adaptation of a lithograph by Theodore de Bry after a Jacques LeMoyne painting depicting native warfare.

Archaeologist B. Calvin Jones in front of the Martin House during
De Soto Expeditions & Trails image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, December 6, 2014
6. De Soto Expeditions & Trails
a 1988 commemoration of DeSoto’s 1539 Christmas. Note To Editor only visible by Contributor and editor    
    — Submitted September 2, 2017, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.

 
Categories. ExplorationLandmarksNative AmericansSettlements & Settlers
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 5, 2017. This page originally submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 323 times since then and 82 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.   3. submitted on September 2, 2017, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   4, 5, 6. submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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