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Full text of "History of the conquest of Mexico, with a preliminary view of the ancient Mexican civilization, and the life of the conqueror, Hernando Cortés"

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F 3-230 
v. 2 



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Cortes crosses the Valley . 
Reinforced at Cholula . . 
Falls in with his Envoy . 
Unites with Sandoval . . 
He reviews his Troops . . 
Embassy from Narvaez . . 
His Letter to the General . 
Cortes' Tenure of Authority 
Negotiates with Narvaez 
Spaniards resume their March 
Prepare for the Assaidt . . 
Cortes harangues the Soldiers 
Their Enthusiasm in his Cause 















He divides his Eorces . . 
Quarters of Narvaez at Cempo 


Cortes crosses the Rio de Ca 


Surprises Narvaez by Night 
Tumult in his Camp ... 
Narvaez wounded and taken 
The Sanctuary in Elames 
The Garrison surrender . . 
Cortes gives Audience to his 

Captives 20 

Reflections on the Enterprise . 21 



Discontent of the Troops of 

Narvaez ....... 24 

Policy of Cortes 25 

He displeases his Veterans . . 25 

He divides his Eorces ... 26 
News of an Insurrection in the 

Capital 27 

Cortes prepares to return . . 28 

Arrives at Tlascala .... 29 

Beautiful Landscape .... 30 

Disposition of the Natives . . 31 
News from the Spaniards in 

Mexico 31 

Cortes marches to the Capital . 32 

Signs of Alienation in the Aztecs 32 

Spaniards reenter the Capital . 33 





Cause of the Insurrection . 

. 33 

Cortes releases Montezuma's 

Massacre by Alvarado . . 

. 34 

. . 41 

His Apology for the Deed . 

. 35 

He heads the Aztecs . . 

. . 41 

His probable Motives 

. 36 

The City hi Arms . . . 

. . 41 

Rising of the Aztecs . . 

. 37 

. . 42 

Assault the Garrison . . 

. 37 

His Life and Writings . 

. . 43 

Cortes reprimands Iris Officer . 39 

Camargo's History . . 

. . 45 

His Coldness to Montezuma 

. 40 





Quarters of the Spaniards . . 49 

Desperate Assault of the Aztecs 50 

Cannonade of the Besieged . . 51 

Indians fire the Outworks . . 52 

Eury of the Mexicans ... 5 3 

Appearance of their Forces . . 54 

Sally of the Spaniards ... 55 
Aztecs shower Missiles from the 

Azoteas 56 

Their Dwellings in Flames . . 57 

Spaniards sound the Retreat . 
Gallantry of Cortes . . . . 
Resolute Bearing of the Aztecs 
Cortes requests Montezuma to 


He ascends the Turret . 
Addresses his Subjects . 
Is dangerously wounded . 
His Grief and Humiliation 






The Aztecs hold the Great Tem- 

It is stormed by the Spaniards 
Spirited Resistance . . . 
Bloody Combat on the Area 
Heroism of Cortes . . . 
Spaniards victorious . . . 
Conflagration of the Temple 
Cortes invites a Parley . . 
He addresses the Aztecs 
Spirit of the Aztecs . . . 
The Spaniards dismayed 
Distresses of the Garrison . 


Military Machine of Cortes . 76 

Impeded by the Canals . . . 77 

Sharp Combats in the City . . 78 

Bold bearing of Cortes . . . 79 
Apparition of St. James . . .81 

Attempt to convert Montezuma 82 

Its Failure 82 

Last Hours of Montezuma . . 83 

His Character 85 

His Posterity 88 

Effect of his Death on the Spa- 
niards 89 

Interment of Montezuma . . 90 







Council of War 91 

Predictions of the Astrologer . 92 
Their Effect on Cortes ... 92 
He decides to abandon the Ca- 
pital 93 

Arranges his Order of March . 94 
Spaniards leave the City . . 95 
Noche Triste, or the " Melan- 
choly Night " 95 

The Capital is roused ... 96 
Spaniards assailed on the Cause- 
way 97 

The Bridge wedged in the 

Stones 97 

Despair of the Spaniards . . 98 

Eearful Carnage 98 

Wreck of Bodies and Treasure. 99 
Spaniards arrive at the third 

Breach 100 

The Cavaliers return to the 

Rescue 100 

Condition of the Rear . . . 101 

Alvarado's Leap 102 

Sad Spectacle of the Survivors. 103 
Feelings of Cortes .... 103 
Spaniards defile through Tacuba 101 
Storm the Temple .... 105 
Halt for the Night .... 106 
Reflections of the General . .106 
The Loss of the Spaniards . . 107 



p. 111. 

Quiet of the Mexicans . . . Ill 

The Spaniards resume their Re- 
treat 112 

Distresses of the Army . . . 113 

Their Heroic Fortitude . . . Ill 

Pyramids of Teotihuacan . .116 

Account of them 117 

Their probable Destination . . 118 

The Micoatl, or Path of the Dead 119 

The Paces who reared them . 119 

Indian Host in the Valley of 
Otumba 120 

Sensations of the Spaniards . 121 

Instructions of Cortes . . .122 
He leads the Attack .... 122 

Great Battle of Otumba . . .123 

Gallantry of the Spaniards . .121 

Their Forces in Disorder . . 121 

Desperate Effort of Cortes . .125 

The Aztec Chief is slain . . .126 

The Barbarians put to Plight .126 

Rich Spoil for the Victors . .127 

Reflections on the Battle . . 128 




MEXICO, p. 129. 

Spaniards arrive at Tlascala . 129 

Friendly Reception . . . .130 

Feelings of the Tlascalans . . 131 
Spaniards recruit their Strength 132 

Their further Misfortunes . .133 

Tidings from Villa Rica . . .131 

Indomitable Spirit of Cortes . 131 

Discontents of the Army . . 131 

Their Remonstrance . . . .135 

The General's resolute Reply 
Jealousy of the Tlascalaus 
Cortes strives to allay it 
Events in Mexico . . . 
Preparations for Defence 
Aztec Embassy to Tlascala 
Stormy Debate in the Senate 
Mexican Alliance rejected . 







War with the surrounding Tribes 144 
Battle with the Tepeacans . . 145 
They are branded as Slaves . 146 
Hostilities with the Aztecs re- 
newed 147 

Suspicious of the Allies . . .148 
Cortes heads his Forces . . . 148 
Capture of Quauhquechollan . 149 

Mexicans routed 149 

Spaniards follow up the Blow . 150 
Cortes' Treatment of his Allies. 151 
State of his Resources . . . 152 


Building of the Brigantines . 152 

Death of Maxixca 153 

The Small-pox in Mexico . .153 
The disaffected soldiers leave 

the Army 154 

Arrival of Reinforcements . .155 
Further good fortune of Cortes 156 
His Letter to the Emperor .157 
Memorial of the Army . . . 159 
The PoHcy of Cortes .... 159 
Returns in Triumph to Tlascala 160 
Prepares for the final Campaign 161 





The Aztec Monarch dies . . 163 
The Electors appoint another . 163 
Prayer of the High-priest . .164 
Guatemozin elected Emperor . 165 

Prepares for War 166 

Amount of the Spanish Eorce . 167 
Cortes reviews his Troops . . 167 
His animated Address . . . 167 
Number of the Indian Allies . 168 
Their brilliant Array .... 168 
Military Code of Cortes . . .169 

Its Purpose 169 

Its salutary Provisions . . . 170 
The Troops begin their March . 172 

Designs of Cortes 173 

He selects his Route . . . .173 

Crosses the Sierra .... 174 
Magnificent View of the Valley 175 
Energy of Cortes . . . . . 175 
Affairs in Tezcuco .... 177 
Spaniards arrive there . . . 179 
Overtures of the Tezcucans . 179 
Spanish Quarters in Tezcuco . 179 
The Inhabitants leave the Town ISO 
Prince Ixtlilxochitl .... 181 
His youthful Excesses . . .182 
Disputes the Succession . . 183 
Becomes the fast Friend of the 

Spaniards 184 

Life and Writings of Gomara . 184 
Of Bemal Diaz 185 




Head-quarters at Tezcuco . . 191 I Negotiates with the Aztecs . 193 
Cortes distrusts the Natives . 192 I City of Iztapalapan .... 193 



Spaniards march upon it . . 194 
Sack the Town . . . . . .195 

Natives break down the Dikes. 190 
Spaniards struggle in the Hood 196 
Regain their Quarters in. Tez- 

cuco '•• .197 

Indian Cities tender Allegiance. 198 
Some ask for Protection . . . 198 
Cortes detaches Sandoval to 

their aid . . . . . . .198 

Difficult Situation of Cortes . 199 
His sagacious Policy .... 201 


Makes overtures to Guatemozin 202 

Spirit of the Indian Emperor . 203 

The Brigantines are completed . 204 
Sandoval detached to transport 

them 204 

Signs of the Massacre at Zolte- 

pec . 205 

Peaches Tlascala 

Transportation of the Brigan- 
tines . . 206 

Joy at their Arrival .... 207 

Reflections 208 




Cortes reconnnoitres the Capital 209 
Action of Xaltocan .... 210 
Spaniards ford the Lake . . . 211 
Towns deserted as they advance 211 
Beautiful Environs of Mexico . 212 
Cortes occupies Tacuba . . . 213 
The Allies fire the Town . . 213 
Ambuscade of the Aztecs . . 214 
Parley with the Enemy . . .215 

Single Combats 216 

Position of the Parties . . .217 
Spaniards return to Tezcuco . 218 

Embassy from Chalco ■ . . 218 
Sandoval is detached to defend 

it 219 

Takes Huaxtepec 219 

Storms Jacapichtla .... 220 
Puts the Garrison to the Sword 221 
Countermarch on Chalco . . 222 
Cortes' Coolness with Sandoval 222 
His Reconciliation . . . .223 
Arrival of Reinforcements . .224 
The Dominican Priar . . . 225 





Second reconnoitring Expedi- 
tion 226 

Preparations for the March . 226 
Spaniards enter the Sierra . .227 
Engagements in the Passes . 227 
Rocks rolled down by the Az- 
tecs 228 

Enemy routed 229 

Spaniards bivouac in the Mul- 
berry Grove 229 

Storm the Cliffs . .... 230 
March through the Mountains . 231 
Arrive at Cuernavaca . . . 231 
Scenery in its Environs . . . 232 
Bold Passage of the Ravine . 233 
Capture of the City .... 234 

Cortes recrosses the Sierra . . 235 
Exquisite View of the Valley . 235 
Marches against Xochimilco . 236 
Narrow Escape of Cortes . . 237 
Chivalric Spirit of the Age . . 238 
Cor'es surveys the Countrv . 239 
Vigilance in his Quarters . 240 

Battles at Xochimilco . . . 240 
Spaniards Masters of the Town 241 
Conflagration of Xochimilco . 243 
Army arrives at Cojohuacan . 243 
Ambuscade of the Indians . . 245 
Spaniards enter Tacuba . . . 245 
View from its Teocalli . . . 246 
Strong Emotion of Cortes . . 246 
Return to Tezcuco .... 248 






Affairs in Spain 249 

Conspiracy in the Camp . . .250 

Its Design 251 

Disclosed to Cortes . . . .252 
The Ringleader executed . .253 

Policy of Cortes 254 

The General's Body -guard . .255' 
Brigantines launched . . . .256 
Impression on the Spectators . 257 

Muster of Forces 257 

Instruction to the Allies . . .258 


Cortes distributes his Troops . 259 
His spirited Harangue . . . 260 
Regulations read to the Army . 261 
Desertion of Xicotencatl . .261 
His Execution ....... 262 

His Character 263 

March of the Army .... 264 
Quarrel of Olid and Alvarado . 264 
Spaniards destroy the Aqueduct 265 
Commencement of the Siege . 266 





Saudoval marches on Iztapalapan 267 
Cortes takes Command of the 

Fleet 267 

Indian Flotilla defeated . . . 269 
Cortes occupies Xoloc . . .270 
Sandoval advances to Cojohuacan 270 
Skirmishes on the Causeway . 271 
Blockade completed .... 272 
Simultaneous Assaults on Mexico 273 
Ramparts raised by the Aztecs . 273 
Brigantines enfilade the Cause- 
way 273 

Spaniards enter the City . . 274 
Allies demolish the Buildings . 274 
Fierce Battles in the City . . 275 
Spaniards reach the Scmare . . 276 
Storm the Pyramid .... 276 
Hurl the Priests headlong . . 277 

The Aztecs rally 277 

Spaniards give way . . . .278 

Cavalry to the Rescue . . . 278 
Retreat to their Quarters . .279 

Ixtlilxochitl in the Camp . . 280 

A second Assault 280 

Spaniards penetrate the City . 281 

Fire the Palace of Axayacatl . 281 

Royal Aviary in Flames . . . 282 

Rage of the Mexicans . . . 2S2 

Their Desperation 283 

Sufferings of the Spaniards . . 2S5 

Operations of Guatemozin . . 285 

Has Vigilance 2S6 

Ambuscade among the Reeds . 287 
Resources of the Indian Em- 
peror 288 

Accession of Allies to the Spa- 
niards 288 

Barracks for the Troops . . . 289 

Hard Fare of the Besiegers . . 289 
Spirit of the Aztecs . . . .291 




TROOPS, p. 292. 

Views of the Spaniards . . .292 

Council of War 293 

General Assault on the City . 293 
Cortes rebukes Alvarado . . 294 

The Enemy give way . . . 295 

Their cunning Stratagem . . 296 

Horn of Guatemozin sounds . 297 

Aztecs turn upon their Foe . .297 



Terrible Rout of the Spaniards 297 

Imminent Danger of Cortes . 298 

Self-devotion of his Followers . 299 

Sharp Struggle on the Causeway 300 

His Division retreats .... 301 
Sandoval and Alvarado . . .301 
Their Troops driven from the 

City . . 302 

Sandoval visits the General . . 303 

His Interview with him . . . 301 

Great Drum beat in the Temple 305 
Sacrifice of the Captives . . . 306 
Sensations of the Spaniards . . 307 
Rejoicings of the Aztecs . . . 30S 
Prophecy of the Priests . . . 308 
Defection of the Allies . . . 309 
Gloomy Condition of the Spa- 
niards 309 

Their Constancy 310 

Heroism of their Women . .311 





ING ENGINE, p. 312. 

Allies return to the Camp . . 312 
Accession of Confederates . . 312 
Plan of the Campaign . . . 314 
The Breaches filled . . . .315 
Pamine in the City . . . .316 
Fruitless Offers to Guatemozin 317 
Council of the Aztecs . . . 31S 
Result of their Deliberations . 318 
Buildings razed to the Ground . 319 

Single Combats 321 

Guatemozin's Palace in Flames 321 




Sufferings of the Besieged . . 322 
Neglect of their Dead . . .323 
Their unconquerable Spirit . . 323 
Conflagration of the Teocalli . 325 
Success of Alvarado . . . .326 
Spaniards in the Market-place . 327 
Cortes surveys the City . . . 328 

Its Desolation 328 

Battering Engine 330 

Its Failure 331 





Dreadful Famine in the City . 332 

Cannibalism 333 

The Corpses fill the Streets. . 333 
Pestilence sweeps off Multitudes 334 
Alarming Prodigies .... 334 
Spirit of Guatemozin . . . .335 
Cortes requests an Interview 

with him 336 

Guatemozin consents .... 336 
He avoids a Parley . . . .337 
Murderous Assaidt . . . .338 
Appalling Scene of Carnage . 339 
Preparations for the final Attack 340 

Cortes urges an Interview 
The Signal given . . . 
Aztecs attempt to escape 
Capture of Guatemozin . 
Cessation of Hostilities . 
Person of Guatemozin . 


Brought before Cortes . . . 346 
HisWife,Montezuma'sDaughter 347 
Furious Thunder-storm . . . 34S 
Mexicans abandon their City . 349 
Number of those who perished 350 
Amount of the Spoil . . . .351 
Cortes dismisses his Allies . .351 
Rejoicings of the Spaniards . .352 
Solemn Thanksgiving . . .352 

Reflections 353 

Aztec Institutions 354 

Their moral Influence . . . 354 
Cruelty ascribed to the Spaniards 355 
The Conquest as a military 

Achievement 358 

Notice of the Historian Solis . 359 
His Life and Writings . . .360 
Sahagun's Twelfth Book . . 363 








Small Amount of Treasure . . 367 
Disappointment of the Soldiers 368 
Torture of Guatemozin . . . 368 
His Fortitude unshaken . . . 368 
Submission of the Country . . 369 
The Southern Ocean reached . 370 
Rebuilding of the Capital . . 371 
Aztec Prophecy accomplished . 372 

Mission to Castile 373 

Envoys captured by the French 374 
Charges against Cortes . . . 374 
Tapia sent to New Spain . . 375 
Insurrection of the Natives . . 376 


Quelled by Sandoval .... 376 
Fonseca's Hostility to Cortes . 377 
His Cause referred to a select 

Tribunal 378 

Accusations against Cortes . . 378 
Defence by his Friends . . . 379 
Acts of Cortes ratified . . . 380 
He is confirmed in the supreme 

Authority 380 

He triumphs over Fonseca . . 381 
Mortification of Velasquez . . 382 
His Death and Character . . 382 





Mexico rebuilt 384 

Edifices in the City . . . . 3S5 

Its Fortress 385 

Its Population 3S6 

Settlement of the Country . . 387 

Encouragements to Marriage . 3S8 
The Wife of Cortes arrives in 

Mexico 389 

Her Death 389 

System of Repartimientos . . 389 
Reward of Ihe Tlascalans . .390 

Treatment of the Natives . . 391 
Franciscan Missionaries . . .391 
Their Reception by Cortes . .392 
Progress of Conversion . . .393 
Settlements of the Conquerors . 394 
Cultivation of the Soil . . .395 
Fleet burnt at Zacatula . . . 395 
Voyages to discover a Strait . 396 
Expedition of Alvarado . . .397 
Result of the Enterprises of 
Cortes 398 



HONDURAS, p. 400. 

Defection of Olid . . . . . 400 
Cortes prepares to visit Hon- 
duras 401 

The General's Ectimic . . . 401 
Obstacles on the March . . . '103 
Passes near Palenque . . . 404 

Lost in the Mazes of the Forests 404 

Builds a stupendous Bridge . 405 

Horses sink in the Marshes . . 406 

Reports of a Conspiracy . . . 406 

Guatemozin arrested .... 407 

His Execution 407 


xi u 


His Character 408 

Feelings of the Army .... 409 

Cause of the Execution . . . 409 

Cortes' Remorse 410 

Prosecution of the March . . 41 1 

Lake of Peten 411 

Doha Marina 412 

Her Meeting with her Mother . 412 

She marries a Castilian Knight 412 
Her Son Don Martin . . .413 

Missionaries in the Isles of Peten 414 
Passage of "the Mountain of 

Hints'; 414 

Army arrives at Honduras . .415 
Famine in the Colony . . .416 
Cortes reaches Truxillo . . .416 
Prepares to. reduce Nicaragua . 416 
His romantic Daring . . . .417 
Tidings from Mexico . . . .418 


FERRED ON HIM, p. 419. 

Misrule in Mexico . . . .419 
Cortes attempts to return . . 420 
Driven back by the Tempest . 420 

His Despondency 421 

Embarks once more for Mexico 421 
Lands near San Juan de Ulua . 421 
Progress to the Capital . . . 421 
Cortes re-enters Mexico in State 422 
Distrust of the Crown . . .423 
Ponce de Leon sent as Commis- 
sioner 424 

He dies on his Arrival . . . 424 
Appoints Estrada his Successor 424 

Affronts to Cortes 425 

He leaves the City .... 425 
The Commission of the Royal 

Audience 426 

Cortes determines to return to 

Spain 426 

News of his Father's Death . 427 

Preparations for Departure . .428 

He lands at Palos 428 

His Meeting with Pizarro . . 429 

Death of Sandoval 429 

His Person and Character . . 430 
Brilliant Reception of Cortes . 432 
Sensation caused by his Presence 432 
Admitted to an Audience by the 

Emperor 433 

Charles V. visits him when ill . 433 
He is made Marquess of the 

VaUey 434 

Grants of Lands and Vassals . 434 
Refused the Government of 
Mexico _. . . . . . .435 

Reinstated in his military Com- 
mand 435 

Cortes' second Marriage . . . 436 
Splendid Presents to his Bride . 437 
His Residence at Court . . . 437 




Cortes embarks for Mexico 
Stops at Hispaniola . . 
Proceedings of the Audience 
Cortes lands at Villa Rica 
Reception in Mexico . . 
Retires to his Estates 
His Improvement of them 
His Voyages of Discovery 
He embarks for California 


Disastrous Expedition . . . 445 
Arrival of a Viceroy .... 445 
Policy of the Crown .... 445 
Maritime Enterprises of Cortes 446 
His Disgust with Mendoza . . 44S 
His final Return to Castile . _ . 448 
He joins theExpedition to Algiers 449 
His cold Reception by Charles V. 449 
Cortes' last Letter to theEmperor 450 




Taken ill at Seville . . . .451 

His Will 452 

Scruples of Conscience as to 

Slavery 453 

Yiews entertained on this topic 453 
He moves to Castilleja . . . 454 

Death of Cortes 454 

His funeral Obsequies . . .455 
Fate of his Remains .... 456 
Posterity of Cortes .... 457 

His Character . . . 
His Knight-errantry . 
His military Genius . 
Power over his Soldiers 
Character as a Conqueror 
His enlightened Views 
His private Life . . 
His Bigotry .... 
His Manners and Habits 





Preliminary Notice . . . 470 
Speculations on the New World 471 
Manner of its Population . . 471 

Plato's Atlantis 472 

Modern Theory 472 

Communication with the Old 

World. . . . . _. . . 473 
Origin of American Civilization 475 

Plan of the Essay 475 

Analogies suggested by the 

Mexicans to the Old World . 476 
Their Traditions of the Deluge 476 
Resemble the Hebrew Accounts 478 
Temple of Cholula . . . .478 
Analogy to the Tower of Babel 478 

The Mexican Eve 479 

The God Quetzalcoatl . . . 479 
Natural Errors of the Mis- 
sionaries 480 

The Cross in Anahuac . . • 480 
Eucharist and Baptism . . . 481 
Chroniclers strive for Coin- 
cidences 483 

Argument drawn from these . 484 
Resemblance of social Usages . 485 
Analogies from Science . . • 486 

Chronological System . . . 4S6 
Hieroglyphics arid Symbols . .487 
Adjustment of Time .... 488 
Affinities of Language . . .488 
Difficulties of Comparison . . 490 
Traditions of Migration . . .491 
Tests of their Truth . . . .492 
Physical Analogies .... 493 
Architectural Remains . . .494 
Destructive Spirit of the Spa- 
niards 495 

Ruins in Chiapa and Yucatan . 496 

Works of Art _ 497 

Tools for Building . . . .497 
Little Resemblance to Egyptian 

Art 49S 

Sculpture 499 

Hieroglyphics 501) 

Probable Age of these Monu- 
ments 502 

Their probable Architects . . 503 
Difficulties in forming a Con- 
clusion 504 

Ignorance of Iron and of Milk . 501 
Unsatisfactory Explanations . 506 
General Conclusions .... 507 





Aztec Mother's Advice to her 
Daughter 511 

Translations of Nezahualcoyotl's 
Poem 514 

Palace of Tezcotzinco . . .518 

Punishment of the guilty Tez- 
cucan Queen 519 

Velasquez's Instructions to 
Cortes 521 

Extracts from Las Casas' His- 
tory 524 

Deposition of Puerto Carrero . 525 

Extract from the Letter of Vera 
Cruz 527 

Extract from Camargo's Tlas- 

cala . . ._ . . . . .529 

Extract from Oviedo's History . 530 

Dialogue of Oviedo with Cano . 533 
Privilege of Dona Isabel de 

Montezuma 539 

Military Ordinances of Cortes . 542 
Extracts from the Fifth Letter 

of Cortes 546 

Last Letter of Cortes . . .549 
Account of his Funeral Obse- 
quies 552 

Index 555 








Cortes descends from the Table-land. — Negotiates with Narvaez. — Prepares 
to assault him. — Quarters of Narvaez. — Attacked by night. — Narvaez 


Traversing the southern causeway, by which they 
had entered the capital, the little party were soon on 
their march across the beautiful Valley. They climbed 
the mountain-screen which Nature has so ineffectually 
drawn around it; passed between the huge volcanoes 
that, like faithless watch-dogs on their posts, have long 
since been buried in slumber; threaded the intricate 
defiles where they had before experienced such bleak and 
tempestuous weather ; and, emerging on the other side, 
descended the eastern slope which opens on the wide 
expanse of the fruitful plateau of Cholula. 

They heeded little of what they saw on their rapid 
march, nor whether it was cold or hot. The anxiety of 
their minds made them indifferent to outward annoy- 
ances ; and they had fortunately none to encounter from 
the natives, for the name of Spaniard was in itself a 
charm, — a better guard than helm or buckler to the 



In Cholula, Cortes had the inexpressible satisfaction of 
meeting Velasquez de Leon, with the hundred and 
twenty soldiers intrusted to his command for the forma- 
tion of a colony. That faithful officer had been some 
time at Cholula, waiting for the general's approach. 
Had he failed, the enterprise of Cortes must have failed 
also. 1 The idea of resistance, with his own handful of 
followers, would have been chimerical. As it was, his 
little band was now trebled, and acquired a confidence 
in proportion. 

Cordially embracing their companions in arms, now 
knit together more closely than ever by the sense of a 
great and common danger, the combined troops traversed 
with quick step the streets of the sacred city, where 
many a dark pile of ruins told of their disastrous visit on 
the preceding autumn. They kept the high road to 
Tlascala ; and, at not many leagues' distance from that 
capital, fell in with father Olmedo and his companions 
on their return from the camp of Narvaez, to Avhich, it 
will be remembered, they had been sent as envoys. The 
ecclesiastic bore a letter from that commander, in which 
he summoned Cortes and his followers to submit to his 
authority as captain-general of the country, menacing 
them with condign punishment, in case of refusal or 
delay. Olmedo gave many curious particulars of the 
state of the enemy's camp. Narvaez he described as 
puffed up by authority, and negligent of precautions 
against a foe whom he held in contempt. He was sur- 
rounded by a number of pompous conceited officers, who 
ministered to his vanity, and whose braggart tones, the 
good father, who had an eye for the ridiculous, imitated, 
to the no small diversion of Cortes and the soldiers. 
Many of the troops, he said, showed no great partiality 

1 So says Oviedo — and with truth; vado a Guacacalco, a la parte dc 

" Si aquel capitan Juan Velasquez Pannlo de Narvaez su cunado, aca- 

de Leon no estubiera mal con su pa- bado oviera Cortes su oficio." Hist, 

riente Diego Velasquez, e se pasara de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12. 
con los 150 Hombres, que havia lie- 


for their commander, and were strongly disinclined to a 
rupture with their countrymen ; a state of feeling much 
promoted by the accounts they had received of Cortes, 
by his own arguments and promises, and by the liberal 
distribution of the gold with which he had been pro- 
vided. In addition to these matters, Cortes gathered 
much important intelligence respecting the position of 
the enemy's force, and his general plan of operations. 

At Tlascala, the Spaniards were received with a frank 
and friendly hospitality. It is not said, whether any of 
the Tlascalian allies had accompanied them from Mexico. 
If they did, they went no further than their native city. 
Cortes requested a reinforcement of six hundred fresh 
troops to attend him on his present expedition. It was 
readily granted; but, before the army had proceeded 
many miles on its route, the Indian auxiliaries fell off, 
one after another, and returned to their city. They had 
no personal feeling of animosity to gratify in the present 
instance, as in a war against Mexico. It may be, too, 
that although intrepid in a contest with the bravest of 
the Indian races, they had had too fatal experience of 
the prowess of the white men, to care to measure swords 
with them again. At any rate, they deserted in such 
numbers, that Cortes dismissed the remainder at once, 
saying, good-humouredly, " He had rather part with 
them then, than in the hour of trial." 

The troops soon entered on that wild district in the 
neighbourhood of Perote, strewed with the wreck of 
volcanic matter, which forms so singular a contrast to the 
general character of beauty with which the scenery is 
stamped. It was not long before their eyes were glad- 
dened by the approach of Sandoval and about sixty 
soldiers from the garrison of Vera Cruz, including 
several deserters from the enemy. It was a most im- 
portant reinforcement, not more on account of the num- 
bers of the men than of the character of the commander, 
in every respect one of the ablest captains in the service. 


He had been compelled to fetch a circuit, in order to 
avoid falling in with the enemy, and had forced his way 
through thick forests and wild mountain passes, till he 
had fortunately, without accident, reached the appointed 
place of rendezvous, and stationed himself once more 
under the banner of his chieftain. 2 

At the same place, also, Cortes was met by Tobillos, 
a Spaniard whom he had sent to procure the lances from 
Chinantla. They were perfectly well made, after the 
pattern which had been given ; double-headed spears, 
tipped with copper, and of great length. Tobillos drilled 
the men in the exercise of this weapon, the formidable 
uses of which, especially against horse, had been fully 
demonstrated, towards the close of the last century, by 
the Swiss battalions, in their encounters with the Bur- 
gundian chivalry, the best in Europe. 3 

Cortes now took a review of his army, — if so paltry a 
force may be called an army, — and found their numbers 
were two hundred and sixty-six, only five of whom were 
mounted. A few muskets and cross-bows were sprinkled 
among them. In defensive armour they were sadly 
deficient. They were for the most part cased in the 
quilted doublet of the country, thickly stuffed with cotton, 
the escaupil, recommended by its superior lightness, but 
which, though competent to turn the arrow of the 
Indian, was ineffectual against a musket-ball. Most of 
this cotton mail was exceedingly out of repair, giving 
evidence, in its unsightly gaps, of much rude service, 
and hard blows. Few, in this emergency, but would 
have given almost any price — the best of the gold chains 
which they wore in tawdry display over their poor habili- 

2 Rel. Scg. tie Cortes, ap. Loren- and buckler of the Spaniard, in the 
zana, pp. 123, 12i. — Bernal Diaz, great battle of Ravenna, fought a few 
Hist, cle la Conquista, cap. 115 — 117. years before this, 1512. Machiavelli 
— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., makes some excellent reflections on 
lib. 33, cap. 12. the comparative merit of these arms. 

3 But, although irresistible against Arte della Guerra, lib. 2, ap. Opere, 
cavalry, the long pike of the German torn. iv. p. 07. 

proved no match for the short sword 


ments — for a steel morion or cuirass, to take the place 
of their own hacked and battered armour. 4 

Under this coarse covering, however, they bore hearts 
stout and courageous as ever beat in human bosoms. 
For they were the heroes, still invincible, of many a 
hard-fought field, where the odds had been incalculably 
against them. They had large experience of the country 
and of the natives ; knew well the character of their own 
commander, under whose eye they had been trained, till 
every movement was in obedience to him. The whole 
body seemed to constitute but a single individual, in 
respect of unity of design and of action. Thus its real 
effective force was incredibly augmented ; and what was 
no less important, the humblest soldier felt it to be so. 

The troops now resumed their march across the table- 
land, until reaching the eastern slope, their labours were 
lightened, as they descended towards the broad plains of 
the tierra caliente, spread out like a boundless ocean of 
verdure below them. At some fifteen leagues' distance 
from Cempoalla, where Narvaez, as has been noticed, 
had established his quarters, they were met by another 
embassy from that commander. It consisted of the 
priest, Guevara, Andres de Duero, and two or three 
others. Duero, the fast friend of Cortes, had been the 
person most instrumental, originally, in obtaining him 
his commission from Velasquez. They now greeted each 
other with a warm embrace, and it was not till after 
much preliminary conversation on private matters, that 
the secretary disclosed the object of his visit. 

He bore a letter from Narvaez, couched in terms 
somewhat different from the preceding. That officer 
required, indeed, the acknowledgment of his paramount 
authority in the land, but offered his vessels to transport 
all who desired it, from the country, together with their 

f "■- 4 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- por mi peto, 6 capacete, d casco, d 

quista, cap. 118. babera de kierro, dieramos aquella 

" Tambien quiero dezir la gran ne- noche quato nos pidiera por ello, y to- 

cessidad que teniamos de annas, que do quato auiamos ganado." Cap. 122. 


treasures and effects, without molestation or inquiry. 
The more liberal ten our of these terms was, doubtless, to 
be ascribed to the influence of Duero. The' secretary 
strongly urged Cortes to comply with them, as the most 
favourable that could be obtained, and as the only alter- 
native affording him a chance of safety in his desperate 
condition. " For, however valiant your men may be, 
how can they expect," he asked, " to face a force so 
much superior in numbers and equipment as that of 
their antagonist?" But Cortes had set his fortunes on 
the cast, and he was not the man to shrink from it. 
" If Narvaez bears a royal commission," he returned, 
" I will readily submit to him. But he has produced 
none. He is a deputy of my rival, Velasquez. For 
myself, I am a servant of the king, I have conquered the 
country for him ; and for him I and my brave followers 
will defend it, be assured, to the last drop of our blood. 
If we fall, it will be glory enough to have perished in 
the discharge of our duty." 5 

His friend might have been somewhat puzzled to 
comprehend how the authority of Cortes rested on a 
different ground from that of Narvaez ; and if they both 
held of the same superior, the governor of Cuba, why 
that dignitary should not be empowered to supersede 
his own officer in case of dissatisfaction, and appoint 
a substitute. But Cortes here reaped the full benefit 

5 " Yo les respond]', que no via que morir en servicio de mi Rcy, y 
provision de Vuestra Alteza, por por defender, y amparar sus Tierras, 
donde le debiesse entregar la Ticrra; y no las dejar usurpar, a mi, y a los 
e que si alguna trahia, que la pre- de mi Companfa se nos scguia farfa 
sentasse ante mi, y ante el Cabildo gloria." llel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lo- 
de la Vera Cruz, segun orden, y cos- renzana, pp. 125 — 127. 
tumbrc de' Espaila, y que yo estaba ° Sucb are the natural reflections 
presto de la obedecer, y cumplir ; y of Oviedo, speculating, on the matter 
que hasta tanto, por niiigun intcrcse, some years later. " E tambien que 
ni partido baria lo que el decia; antes me parece donaire, 6 no bastante la 
yo, y los que conniigo estaban, mori- escusa que Cortes da para fundar e 
rianios en defensa die la Tierra, pues justificar su negocio, que cs deeir, 
la habiamos ganado, y tenido por que el Narvaez prescntase las provi- 
vuestra Magestad pacifiea, y segura, siones que llevana de S. M. Como 
y por no scr Traydorcs y deslealcs si el dicho Cortes oviera ido aaquella 
a nucstroRey Consideraudo, tierra por mandado de S. M. 6 con 


of that legal fiction, if it may be so termed, by which his 
commission, resigned to the self-constituted municipality 
of Vera Cruz, was again derived through that body from 
the Crown. The device, indeed, was too palpable to im- 
pose on any but those who chose to be blinded. Most of 
the army were of this number. To them it seemed to 
give additional confidence, in the same manner as a 
strip of painted canvass, when substituted, as it has 
sometimes been, for a real parapet of stone, has been 
found not merely to impose on the enemy, but to give 
a sort of artificial courage to the defenders concealed 
behind it. 7 

Duero had arranged with his friend in Cuba, when he 
took command of the expedition, that he himself was to 
have a liberal share of the profits. It is said that Cortes 
confirmed this arrangement at the present juncture, and 
made it clearly for the other's interest that he should 
prevail in the struggle with Narvaez. This was an 
important point, considering the position of the secre- 
tary. 8 Prom this authentic source the general derived 
much information respecting the designs of Narvaez, 
which had escaped the knowledge of Olmedo. On the 
departure of the envoys, Cortes intrusted them with 
a letter for his rival, a counterpart of that which he had 
received from him. This show of negotiation intimated 
a desire on his part to postpone, if not avoid hostilities, 
which might the better put Narvaez off his guard. In 
the letter he summoned that commander and his fol- 
lowers to present themselves before him without delay, 
and to acknowledge his authority as the representative of 
his sovereign, He should otherwise be compelled to 

mas, ni tanta autoridad como llebaba Hist, de las Lid., MS., lib. 33, 

Narvaez; pues que es claro e notorio, cap. 12. 

que el Adelautado Diego Velasquez, 7 More than one example of this 

que embio a Cortes, era parte, segun ruse is mentioned by Mariana in 

derecho, para le embiar a remover, Spanish history, though the precise 

y el Cortes obligado a le obedecer. passages have escaped my memory. 
No quiero deck mas en esto por no 8 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 

ser odioso a ninguna de las partes." quista, cap. 119. 

10 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

proceed against them as rebels to the Crown ! 9 With 
this missive, the vaunting tone of which was intended 
quite as much for his own troops as the enemy, Cortes 
dismissed the envoys. They returned to disseminate 
among their comrades their admiration of the general, 
and of his unbounded liberality, of which he took care 
they should experience full measure, and they dilated on 
the riches of his adherents, who, over their wretched 
attire, displayed with ostentatious profusion, jewels, orna- 
ments of gold, collars, and massive chains winding 
several times round their necks and bodies, the rich 
spoil of the treasury of Montezuma. 

The army now took its way across the level plains of 
the tierra caliente, on which Nature has exhausted all 
the wonders of creation ; it was covered more thickly 
then, than at the present day, with noble forests, where 
the towering cotton-wood tree, the growth of ages, stood 
side by side with the light bamboo, or banana, the 
product of a season, each in its way attesting the mar- 
vellous fecundity of the soil, while innumerable creeping- 
flowers, muffling up the giant branches of the trees, 
waved in bright festoons above their heads, loading the 
air with odours. But the senses of the Spaniards were 
not open to the delicious influences of nature. Their 
minds were occupied by one idea. 

Coming upon an open reach of meadow, of some 
extent, they were, at length, stopped by a river, or 
rather stream, called no de canoas, " the river of canoes," 
of no great volume ordinarily, but swollen at this time 
by excessive rains. It had rained hard that day, al- 

9 " E assimismo mandaba, y mande debian hacer en scrvicio de Vuestra 
por el dicho Mandamiento a todas Alteza : con protestation, que lo con- 
las Personas, que con el dicho Nar- trario liacicndo, procedcria contra 
vaez estaban, que no tubiessen, ui ellos, como contra Traydoros, y 
obedcciessen al dicho Narvaez por aleves, y malos Vasallos, que se re- 
tal Capitan, ni justicia; antes, dcntro belaban contra su lley, y quieren 
de cierto termino, que en el dicho usurpar sus Tierras, y Scnorios." 
Mandamiento senate, pnreciessenantc llel. Scg. de Cortes, ap Lorenzana, 
mi, para que yo les dijesse, lo que p. 127- 


though at intervals the sun had broken forth with 
intolerable fervour, affording a good specimen of those 
alternations of heat and moisture, which give such acti- 
vity to vegetation in the tropics, where the process of 
forcing seems to be always going on. 

The river was about a league distant from the camp 
of Narvaez. Before seeking out a practicable ford, by 
which to cross it, Cortes allowed his men to recruit their 
exhausted strength by stretching themselves on the 
ground. The shades of evening had gathered round ; 
and the rising moon, wading through dark masses of 
cloud, shone with a doubtful and interrupted light. It 
was evident that the storm had not yet spent its fury. 10 
Cortes did not regret this. He had made up his mind 
to an assault that very night, and in the darkness and 
uproar of the tempest his movements would be most 
effectually concealed. 

Before disclosing his design, he addressed his men in 
one of those stirring, soldierly harangues, to which he 
had recourse in emergencies of great moment, as if to 
sound the depths of their hearts, and, where any faltered, 
to reanimate them with his own heroic spirit. He 
briefly recapitulated the great events of the campaign, 
the dangers they had surmounted, the victories they had 
achieved over the most appalling odds, the glorious spoil 
they had won. But of this they were now to be de- 
frauded : not bv men holding a legal warrant from the 
Crown, but by adventurers, with no better title than 
that of superior force. They had established a claim on 
the gratitude of their country and their sovereign. This 
claim was now to be dishonoured ; their very services 
were converted into crimes, and their names branded 
with infamy as those of traitors. But the time had at 
last come for vengeance. God would not desert the 

10 " Y ami llouia de rato en rato, llouia, y tambien la escuridad ayudo." 
y entonces salia la Luna, que quado Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 122. 
alii llegamos hazia muy escuro, y 

12 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

soldier of the Cross. Those, whom he had carried vic- 
torious through great dangers, would not be left to fail 
now. And, if they should fail, better to die like brave 
men on the field of battle, than, with fame and fortune 
cast away, to perish ignominiously like slaves on the 
gibbet. — This last point he urged home upon his hearers ; 
well knowing there was not one among them so dull as 
not to be touched by it. 

They responded with hearty acclamations, and Ve- 
lasquez de Leon, and de Lugo, in the name of the rest, 
assured their commander, if they failed, it should be his 
fault, not theirs. They would follow wherever he led. 
— The general was fully satisfied with the temper of his 
soldiers, as he felt that his difficulty lay not in awakening 
their enthusiasm, but in giving it a right direction. 
One thing is remarkable. He made no allusion to the 
defection which he knew existed in the enemy's camp. 
He would have his soldiers, in this last pinch, rely on 
nothing but themselves. 

He announced his purpose to attack the enemy that 
very night, when he should be buried in slumber, and 
the friendly darkness might throw a veil over their own 
movements, and conceal the poverty of their numbers. 
To this the troops, jaded though they were by incessant 
marching, and half famished, joyfully assented. In their 
situation, suspense was the worst of evils. He next dis- 
tributed the commands among his captains. To Gonzalo 
de Sandoval he assigned the important office of taking 
Narvaez. He was commanded, as dlguacil mayor, to 
seize the person of that officer as a rebel to his sovereign, 
and, if he made resistance, to kill him on the spot. 11 

11 The Attorney of Narvaez, in de V. M. 6 de sus provisioues R.% 

his complaint before the Crown, ex- no mirando ni asattando la lealtad 

patiates on the diabolical enormity q e debia a V. M., el dho Corttcs 

of these instructions. " El dho Yer- dio un Mandamientto al dho Gonzalo 

nando Corttcs como traidor aleboso, de Sandobal para que prendiese al 

sin apercibir al dho mi partte, con dho Panfilo de Narvaez, e si se de- 

nn diabolico pensam' e Infernal fendiese q c lo mattase." Dcmanda de 

osadia, en contemtto 6 menosprccio Zavallos en nombrc dc Narvaez, MS. 

chap, vii.] PREPARES TO ASSAULT HIM. 13 

He was provided with sixty picked men to aid him in 
this difficult task, supported by several of the ablest 
captains, among whom were two of the Alvarados, de 
Avila, and Ordaz. The largest division of the force was 
placed under Christoval de Olid, or, according to some 
authorities, of Pizarro, one of that family so renowned in 
the subsequent conquest of Peru. He was to get pos- 
session of the artillery, and to cover the assault of 
Sandoval by keeping those of the enemy at bay, who 
would interfere with it. Cortes reserved only a body of 
twenty men for himself, to act on any point that occasion 
might require. The watch-word was Espiritu Santo, it 
being the evening of Whitsunday. Having made these 
arrangements, he prepared to cross the river. 12 

During the interval thus occupied by Cortes, Narvaez 
had remained at Cempoalla, passing his days in idle 
and frivolous amusement. Prom this he was at length 
roused, after the return of Duero, by the remonstrances 
of the old cacique of the city. " Why are you so 
heedless?" exclaimed the latter; " do you think Ma- 
lintzin is so ? Depend on it, he knows your situation 
exactly, and, when you least dream of it, he will be 
upon you." 13 

Alarmed at these suggestions and those of his friends, 
Narvaez at length put himself at the head of his troops, 
and, on the very day on which Cortes arrived at the 
River of Canoes, sallied out to meet him. But, when 
he had reached this barrier, Narvaez saw no sign of an 
enemy. The rain, which fell in torrents, soon drenched 
the soldiers to the skin. Made somewhat effeminate by 
their long and luxurious residence at Cempoalla, they 
murmured at their uncomfortable situation. " Of what 

12 Oviedo, Hist de las Ind., MS., descuidado ? pensais que Malintzin, 
lib. 33, cap. 12, 47. — Bernal Diaz, y los Teules que trae cosigo, que son 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 122. — assi como vosotros ? Pues yo os 
Hen-era, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. digo, que quado no os cataredes, sera, 
10, cap. 1. aqui, y os matara." Bernal Diaz, 

13 " Que hazeis, que estais mui Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 121. 

14 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

use was it to remain there fighting with the elements ? 
There was no sign of an enemy, and little reason to 
apprehend his approach in such tempestuous weather. 
It would be wiser to return to Cempoalla, and in the 
morning they should be all fresh for action, should Cortes 
make his appearance." 

Narvaez took counsel of these advisers, or rather of his 
own inclinations. Before retracing his steps, he provided 
against surprise, by stationing a couple of sentinels at no 
great distance from the river, to give notice of the approach 
of Cortes. He also detached a body of forty horse in 
another direction, by which he thought it not improbable 
the enemy might advance on Cempoalla. Having taken 
these precautions, he fell back again before night on his 
own quarters. 

He there occupied the principal teocalli. It consisted 
of a stone building on the usual pyramidal basis ; and 
the ascent was by a flight of steep steps on one of the 
faces of the pyramid. In the edifice or sanctuary above 
he stationed himself with a strong party of arquebusiers 
and crossbowmen. Two other teocallis in the same area 
were garrisoned by large detachments of infantry. His 
artillery, consisting of seventeen or eighteen small guns, 
he posted in the area below, and protected it by the 
remainder of his cavalry. When he had thus distributed 
his forces, he returned to his own quarters, and soon 
after to repose, with as much indifference as if his rival 
had been on the other side of the Atlantic, instead of a 
neighbouring stream. 

That stream was now converted by the deluge of 
waters into a furious torrent. It was with difficulty 
that a practicable ford could be found. The slippery 
stones, rolling beneath the feet, gave way at every step. 
The difficulty of the passage was much increased by the 
darkness and driving tempest. Still, with their long 
pikes, the Spaniards contrived to make good their foot- 
ing, at least, all but two, who were swept down by the 

chap, vii.] ATTACKED BY NIGHT. 15 

fury of the current. When they had reached the oppo- 
site side, they had new impediments to encounter in 
traversing a road never good, now made doubly difficult 
by the deep mire and the tangled brushwood with which 
it was overrun. 

Here they met with a cross, which had been raised by 
them on their former march into the interior. They 
hailed it as a good omen ; and Cortes, kneeling before 
the blessed sign, confessed his sins, and declared his 
great object to be the triumph of the holy Catholic 
faith. The army followed his example, and, having made 
a general confession, received absolution from father 
Olmedo, who invoked the blessing of heaven on the 
warriors who had consecrated their swords to the glory 
of the Cross. Then rising up and embracing one another, 
as companions in the good cause, they found themselves 
wonderfully invigorated and refreshed. The incident is 
curious, and well illustrates the character of the time, — 
in which war, religion, and rapine were so intimately 
blended together. Adjoining the road was a little cop- 
pice ; and Cortes, and the few who had horses, dis- 
mounting, fastened the animals to the trees, where they 
might find some shelter from the storm. They deposited 
there, too, their baggage and such superfluous articles as 
would encumber their movements. The general then 
gave them a few last words of advice. " Every thing," 
said he, " depends on obedience. Let no man, from 
desire of distinguishing himself, break his ranks. On 
silence, despatch, and, above all, obedience to your 
officers, the success of our enterprise depends." 

Silently and stealthily they held on their way without 
beat of drum or sound of trumpet, when they suddenly 
came on the two sentinels who had been stationed by 
Narvaez to give notice of their approach. This had been 
so noiseless, that the videttes were both of them surprised 
on their post, and one only, with difficulty, effected his 
escape. The other was brought before Cortes. Every 

16 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

effort was made to draw from him some account of the 
present position of Narvaez. But the man remained 
obstinately silent ; and, though threatened with the 
gibbet, and having a noose actually drawn round his 
neck, his Spartan heroism was not to be vanquished. 
Fortunately no change had taken place in the arrange- 
ments of Narvaez since the intelligence previously derived 
from Duero. 

The other sentinel, who had escaped, carried the news 
of the enemy's approach to the camp. But his report 
was not credited by the lazy soldiers, whose slumbers he 
had disturbed. " He had been deceived by his fears," 
they said, " and mistaken the noise of the storm, and the 
waving of the bushes, for the enemy. Cortes and his 
men were far enough on the other side of the river, which 
they would be slow to cross in such a night." Narvaez 
himself shared in the same blind infatuation, and the dis- 
credited sentinel slunk abashed to his own quarters, 
vainly menacing them with the consequences of their 
incredulity. 14 

Cortes, not doubting that the sentinel's report must 
alarm the enemy's camp, quickened his pace. As he 
drew near, he discerned a light in one of the lofty 
towers of the city. " It is the quarters of Narvaez," he 
exclaimed to Sandoval, " and that light must be your 
beacon." On entering the suburbs, the Spaniards were 
surprised to find no one stirring, and no symptom of 
alarm. Not a sound was to be heard, except the mea- 
sured tread of their own footsteps, half-drowned in the 
howling of the tempest. Still they could not move so 
stealthily as altogether to elude notice, as they defiled 
through the streets of this populous city. The tidings 
were quickly conveyed to the enemy's quarters, where, 
in an instant, all was bustle and confusion. The trum- 

11 Rel. Seg. dc Cortes, ap. Loren- rera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, 
zana, p. 128. — Oviedo, Hist, de las cap. 2, 3. 
Iud., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.— Her- 



pets sounded to arms. The dragoons sprang to their 
steeds, the artillerymen to their guns. Narvaez hastily 
buckled on his armour, called his men around him, and 
summoned those in the neighbouring teocallis to join 
him in the area. He gave his orders with coolness ; for, 
however wanting in prudence, he was not deficient in 
presence of mind or courage. 

All this was the work of a few minutes. But in those 
minutes the Spaniards had reached the avenue leading to 
the camp. Cortes ordered his men to keep close to the 
walls of the buildings, that the cannon-shot might have 
a free range. 15 No sooner had they presented themselves 
before the enclosure, than the artillery of Narvaez opened 
a general fire. Fortunately the pieces were pointed so 
high that most of the balls passed over their heads, and 
three men only were struck down. They did not give 
the enemy time to reload. Cortes shouting the watch- 
word of the night, " Espiritu Santo ! Espiritu Santo ! 
Upon them !" in a moment Olid and his division rushed 
on the artillerymen, whom they pierced or knocked 
down with their pikes, and got possession of their 
guns. Another division engaged the cavalry, and made 
a diversion in favour of Sandoval, who with his gallant 
little band sprang up the great stairway of the temple. 
They were received with a shower of missiles, — arrows, 
and musket-balls, which, in the hurried aim, and the 
darkness of the night, did little mischief. The next 
minute the assailants were on the platform, engaged 
hand to hand with their foes. Narvaez fought bravely 
in the midst, encouraging his followers. His standard- 
bearer fell by his side, run through the body. He him- 
self received several wounds ; for his short sword was no 
match for the long pikes of the assailants. At length, 
he received a blow from a spear, which struck out his 

15 " Ya que se acercaban al Apo- Senores, arrimaos a las dos aeeras de 

seuto de Narvaez, Cortes, que andaba la Calle, para que las balas del Artil- 

reconocieudo, i ordenando a, todas leria pasen por medio, sin hacer 

partes, dixo a la Tropa de Sandoval : dano." Ibid., dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 3. 


18 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

left eye. " Santa Maria ! " exclaimed the unhappy man, 
" I am slain ! " The cry was instantly taken up by the 
followers of Cortes, who shouted, " Victory !" 

Disabled, and half-mad with agony from his wound, 
Narvaez was withdrawn by his men into the sanctuary. 
The assailants endeavoured to force an entrance, but it 
was stoutly defended. At length a soldier, getting pos- 
session of a torch, or firebrand, flung it on the thatched 
roof, and in a few moments the combustible materials of 
which it was composed were in a blaze. Those within 
were driven out by the suffocating heat and smoke. 
A soldier, named Farfan, grappled with the wounded 
commander, and easily brought him to the ground ; 
when he was speedily dragged down the steps, and 
secured with fetters. His followers, seeing the fate of 
their chief, made no further resistance. 10 

During this time, Cortes and the troops of Olid had 
been engaged with the cavalry, and had discomfited 
them, after some ineffectual attempts on the part of the 
latter to break through the dense array of pikes, by 
which several of their number were unhorsed and some 
of them slain. The general then prepared to assault 
the other teocattis, first summoning the garrisons to 
surrender. As they refused, he brought up the heavy 
guns to bear on them, thus turning the artillery against 
its own masters. He accompanied this menacing move- 
ment with offers of the most liberal import ; an amnesty 
of the past, and a full participation in all the advantages 
of the Conquest. One of the garrisons was under the 
command of Salvatierra, the same officer who talked of 
cutting off the ears of Cortes. Prom the moment he 
had learned the fate of his own general, the hero was 
seized with a violent fit of illness, which disabled him 
from further action. The garrison waited only for one 
discharge of the ordnance, when they accepted the terms 

,6 Demanda de Zavallos en nam- Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
bre de Narvaez, MS. — Oviedo, cap. 47. 

chap, vii.] NARVAEZ DEFEATED. 19 

of capitulation. Cortes, it is said, received, on this 
occasion, a support from an unexpected auxiliary. The 
air was filled with the cocuyos, — a species of large beetle 
which emits an intense phosphoric light from its body, 
strong enough to enable one to read by it. These wan- 
dering fires, seen in the darkness of the night, were con- 
verted by the excited imaginations of the besieged, into 
an army with matchlocks. Such is the report of an eye- 
witness.' 7 But the facility with which the enemy surren- 
dered may quite as probably be referred to the cowardice 
of the commander, and the disaffection of the soldiers, 
not unwilling to come under the banners of Cortes. 

The body of cavalry posted, it will be remembered, by 
Narvaez on one of the roads to Cempoalla, to intercept 
his rival, having learned what had been passing, were 
not long in tendering their submission. Each of the 
soldiers in the conquered army was required, in token 
of his obedience, to deposit his arms in the hands of the 
alguacils, and to take the oaths to Cortes as Chief Justice 
and Captain General of the colony. 

The number of the slain is variously reported. It 
seems probable that not more than twelve perished on 
the side of the vanquished, and of the victors half that 
number. The small amount may be explained by the 
short duration of the action, and the random aim of the 
missiles in the darkness. The number of the wounded 
was much more considerable. 18 

The field was now completely won. A few brief hours 

17 " Como bazia tan escuro auia best means of approximation to 

muchos cocayos (ansi los llaman en t rutb. " E alb le mattaron quince 

Cuba) que relumbrauan de nocbe, e hombres q*. murieron de las feridas 

los de Narvaez ereyeron que era q e. i es d i6r011 £ i es quema ron seis 

muchas de las escopetas." Bernal hombres del dbo Incendio q e . despues 

iff at • ^ la Conquista, cap. 122. parecieron las cabezas de ellos que- 
ls arvaez, or rather bis attorney, m adas, e pusieron a sacomano todo 
swells the amount of slain on his qua ntto ttenian los que benian con 
own side much higher. But it was e [ dho mi partte como s i f ueran 
his cue to magnify the mischief sus- Moros y al dbo mi partte robaron e 
tamed by bis employer. The colla- sa quearon todos sus vienes, oro, 
tion of this account with those of & Platta e Joyas." Demanda de 
Cortes and his followers affords the Zavallos en nombre de Narvaez, MS. 

c 2 

20 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

had sufficed to change the condition of Cortes from that 
of a wandering outlaw at the head of a handful of needy 
adventurers, a rebel with a price upon his head, to that 
of an independent chief, with a force at his disposal 
strong enough not only to secure his present conquests, 
but to open a career for still loftier ambition. While the 
air rung with the acclamations of the soldiery, the vic- 
torious general, assuming a deportment corresponding 
with his change of fortune, took his seat in a chair of 
state, and, with a rich embroidered mantle thrown over 
his shoulders, received, one by one, the officers and 
soldiers, as they came to tender their congratulations. 
The privates were graciously permitted to kiss his hand. 
The officers he noticed with words of compliment or 
courtesy ; and, when Duero, Bermudez the treasurer, 
and some others of the vanquished party, his old friends, 
presented themselves, he cordially embraced them. 19 

Narvaez, Salvatierra, and two or three of the hostile 
leaders were led before him in chains. It was a moment 
of deep humiliation for the former commander, in which 
the anguish of the body, however keen, must have been 
forgotten in that of the spirit. " You have great reason, 
Senor Cortes," said the discomfited warrior, " to thank 
Fortune for having given you the day so easily, and put 
me in your power." — " I have much to be thankful for," 
replied the general ; " but for my victory over you, I 
esteem it as one of the least of my achievements since 
my coming into the country!" 20 He then ordered the 

19 " Entre ellos venia Andres de tan senor, y pujate : y assi como le 

Duero, y Agustin Bermudez, y rau- besaua la mano, se fuero cada vno a 

chos amigos de nuestro Capita, y assi su posada." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de 

como venia, ivan a, besar las manos la Conquista, cap. 122. 
a Cortes, q. cstaua sentado en una 20 Ibid. 

silla de cadetas, con una ropa larga " Di'xose que como Narvaez vido 

de color como narajada, co sus armas a, Cortes estando asi preso lc dixo : 

debaxo, acopanado de nosotros. Pues Senor Cortes, tened en mucho la 

ver la gracia con (pie les hablaua, y ventura que habeis tenido, 6 lo 

abraeaua, y las palabras de tatos mucho que habeis hecho en tcner 

cumplimielos que les dczia, era cosa mi persona, d en tomar mi persona. 

de ver que alegre cstaua : y tenia ■£ que Cortes le respondid, e dixo : 

mucha razon de verse en aquel puto Lo menos que yo be hecho en esta 

chap, vii.] NARVAEZ DEFEATED. 21 

wounds of the prisoners to be cared for, and sent them 
under a strong guard to Vera Cruz. 

Notwithstanding the proud humility of his reply, 
Cortes could scarcely have failed to regard his victory 
over Narvaez as one of the most brilliant achievements 
in his career. With a few scores of followers, badly 
clothed, worse fed, wasted by forced marches, under 
every personal disadvantage, deficient in weapons and 
military stores, he had attacked in their own quarters, 
routed, and captured the entire force of the enemy, thrice 
his superior in numbers, well provided with cavalry and 
artillery, admirably equipped, and complete in all the 
munitions of war ! The amount of troops engaged on 
either side was, indeed, inconsiderable. But the propor- 
tions are not affected by this : and the relative strength 
of the parties made a result so decisive one of the most 
remarkable events in the annals of war. 

It is true there were some contingencies on which the 
fortunes of the day depended, that could not be said to 
be entirely within his control. Something was the work 
of chance. If Velasquez de Leon, for example, had 
proved false, the expedition must have failed. 21 If the 
weather, on the night of the attack, had been fair, the 
enemy would have had certain notice of his approach, 
and been prepared for it. But these are the chances 

tierra donde estais, es haberos preu- quez, 6 al Panfilo en su nombre ; E 

dido ; e luego le hizo poner a buen combienen los veteranos milites, e a 

recaudo e le tubo mucho tiempo mi parecer determinan bien la ques- 

preso." Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., tion, en que si Juan Velasqiiez tubo 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. conducta de capitan para que con 

aquella Gente que el le did 6 toviese 
21 Oviedo says, that military men en aquella tierra como capitan par- 
discussed whether Velasquez de Leon ticular le acudiese a el 6 a quien le 
should have obeyed the commands of mandase. Juan Velasquez falto a lo 
Cortes rather than those of his kins- que era obligado en no pasar a Pan- 
man, the governor of Cuba. They filo de Narvaez sieudo requerido de 
decided in favour of the former, on Diego Velasquez, mas si le hizo 
the ground of his holding his com- capitan Hernando Cortes, e le dio el 
mission immediately from him. " Vis- la Gente, a el havia de acudir, como 
to he platicar sobre esto a caballeros acudio, excepto si viera carta, a man- 
e personas militares sobre si este damiento expreso del Rey en con- 
Juan Velasquez de Leon hizo lo que trario." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
debia, en acudir 6 no a Diego Velas- 33, cap. 12. 

22 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

that enter more or less into every enterprise. He is the 
skilful general who knows how to turn them to account ; 
to win the smiles of Fortune, and make even the elements 
fight on his side. 

If Velasquez de Leon was, as it proved, the very 
officer whom the general should have trusted with the 
command, it was his sagacity which originally discerned 
this, and selected him for it. It was his address that 
converted this dangerous foe into a friend ; and one so 
fast, that in the hour of need he chose rather to attach 
himself to his desperate fortunes than to those of the 
governor of Cuba, powerful as the latter was, and his 
near kinsman. It was the same address which gained 
Cortes such an ascendancy over his soldiers, and knit 
them to him so closely, that, in the darkest moment, 
not a man offered to desert him. 22 If the success of the 
assault may be ascribed mainly to the dark and stormy 
weather which covered it, it was owing to him that he 
was in a condition to avail himself of this. The shortest 
possible time intervened between the conception of his 
plan and its execution. In a very few days, he descended 
by extraordinary marches from the capital to the sea- 
coast. He came like a torrent from the mountains, 
pouring on the enemy's camp, and sweeping everything 
away, before a barrier could be raised to arrest it. This 
celerity of movement — the result of a clear head and 
determined will — has entered into the strategy of the 
greatest captains, and forms a prominent feature in their 
most brilliant military exploits. It was undoubtedly, in 
the present instance, a great cause of success. 

But it would be taking a limited view of the subject, 

22 This ascendancy the thoughtful tincador de los que le vinieron, fue 

Oviedo refers to his dazzling and mucha causa juntamentc con scr mal 

liberal manners, so strongly con- quisto Diego Velasquez, para que 

trasted with those of the governor Cortes so saliesc con lo que em- 

of Cuba. " En lo demas valerosa prendid, e sc qucdase en el oficio, <' 

persona ha seido, e para niucho ; y govcrnacion." Oviedo, Hist, de las 

este deseo de manclar juntamente Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 12. 
con que fue mui bien partido e gra- 

chap, vii.] NARVAEZ DEFEATED. 23 

to consider the battle which decided the fate of Narvaez 
as wholly fought at Cempoalla. It was begun in Mexico. 
With that singular power which he exercised over all 
who came near him, Cortes converted the very emissaries 
of Narvaez into his own friends and agents. The reports 
of Guevara and his companions, the intrigues of father 
Olmedo, and the general's gold, were all busily at work 
to shake the loyalty of the soldiers, and the battle was 
half won before a blow had been struck. It was fought 
quite as much with gold as with steel. Cortes under- 
stood this so well, that he made it his great object to 
seize the person of Narvaez. In such an event, he had 
full confidence that indifference to their own cause and 
partiality to himself would speedily bring the rest of the 
army under his banner. He was not deceived. Narvaez 
said truly enough, therefore, some years after this event, 
that " he had been beaten by his own troops, not by 
those of his rival ; that his followers had been bribed to 
betray him." 23 This affords the only explanation of their 
brief and ineffectual resistance. 

23 It was in a conversation with Adelantado Diego Velasquez a su 

Oviedo himself, at Toledo, in 1525, propia costa, e se le havia alzado 

in which. Narvaez descanted with con la tierra, e con la Gente e llaci- 

much bitterness, as was natural, on enda, e otras muchas cosas que mal 

his rival's conduct. The gossip, sonaban. Y en la manera de su pri- 

which has never appeared in print, sion la contaba mui al reves de lo 

may have some interest for the Spa- que esta dicho. Lo que yo noto de 

nish reader. " Que el aho cle 1525, esto es, que con todo lo que oi a 

estando Cesar en la cibdad de Toledo, Narvaez (como yo se lo dixe) no 

vi alii al dicho Narvaez, e publica- puedo hallarle desculpa para su de- 

mente decia, que Cortes era vn trai- scuido, porque ninguna necesidad 

dor ; E que dandole S. M. licencia tenia de andar con Cortes en platicas, 

se lo haria conocer de su persona a sino estar en vela mejor que la que 

la suya, e que era hombre sin verdad, hizo. E a, esto decia el que le ha- 

e otras muchas e feas palabras 11a- vian vendido aquellos de quien se 

mandole alevoso e tirano, e ingrato fiaba, que Cortes les havia sobor- 

a su Sehor, e a quien le havia em- nado." Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 

biado a la Nueva Espaha, que era el MS., lib. 33, cap. 12. 



Discontent of the Troops. — Insurrection in the Capital. — Return of 
Cortes. — General Signs of Hostility. — Massacre by Alvarado. — Rising 
of the ^ztecs. 


The tempest that had raged so wildly during the 
night, passed away with the morning, which rose bright 
and unclouded on the field of battle. As the light 
advanced, it revealed more strikingly the disparity of the 
two forces so lately opposed to each other. Those of 
Narvaez could not conceal their chagrin ; and murmurs 
of displeasure became audible, as they contrasted their 
own superior numbers and perfect appointments with 
the way-worn visages and rude attire of their handful of 
enemies ! It was with some satisfaction, therefore, that 
the general beheld his dusky allies from Chmantla, two 
thousand in number, arrive upon the field. They were 
a fine athletic set of men ; and, as they advanced in a 
sort of promiscuous order, so to speak, with their gay 
banners of feather-work, and their long lances tipped 
with itztli and copper, glistening in the morning sun, 
they had something of an air of military discipline. 
They came too late for the action, indeed, but Cortes 
was not sorry to exhibit to his new followers the extent 
of his resources in the country. As he had now no 
occasion for his Indian allies, after a courteous reception 


and a liberal recompense, lie dismissed them to their 
homes. 1 

He then used his utmost endeavours to allay the dis- 
content of the troops. He addressed them in his most 
soft and insinuating tones, and was by no means frugal 
of his promises. 2 He suited the action to the word. 
There were few of them but had lost their accoutre- 
ments, or their baggage, or horses taken and appro- 
priated by the victors. This last article was in great 
request among the latter, and many a soldier, weary with 
the long marches hitherto made on foot, had provided 
himself, as he imagined, with a much more comfortable 
as well as creditable conveyance for the rest of the cam- 
paign. The general now commanded everything to be 
restored. 3 " They were embarked in the same cause," 
he said, " and should share with one another equally." 
He went still further ; and distributed among the soldiers 
of Narvaez a quantity of gold and other precious com- 
modities gathered from the neighbouring tribes, or found 
in his rival's quarters. 4 

These proceedings, however politic in reference to his 
new followers, gave great disgust to his old. " Our 
commander," they cried, " has forsaken his friends for 
his foes. We stood by him in his hour of distress, and 
are rewarded with blows and wounds, while the spoil 
goes to our enemies !" The indignant soldiery commis- 
sioned the priest Olmedo and Alonso de Avila to lay 

1 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, listines, as he tells us, a very good 
lib. 10, cap. 6. — Oviedo, Hist, de horse, with all his accoutrements, a 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — brace of swords, three daggers, and 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, a buckler, — a very beautiful outfit 
cap. 323. for the campaign. The general's 

2 Diaz, who had often listened orders were, naturally enough, not 
to it, thus notices his eloquence. at all to his taste. Ibid., cap. 124. 
" Comenzo vn parlamento por tan 4 Narvaez alleges that Cortes 
lindo estilo, y platica, tabie dichas plundered him of property to the 
cierto otras palabras mas sabrosas, y value of 100,000 castellanos of gold ! 
llenas de ofertas, q. yo aqui no sabre (Demanda de Zavallos en nombre de 
escriuir." Ibid., cap. 121 . Narvaez, MS.) If so, the pillage 

3 Captain Diaz had secured for of the leader may have supplied the 
his share of the spoil of the Phi- means of liberality to the privates. 

26 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

their complaints before Cortes. The ambassadors stated 
them without reserve, comparing their commander's con- 
duct to the ungrateful proceeding of Alexander, who, 
when he gained a victory, usually gave away more to his 
enemies than to the troops who enabled him to beat 
them. Cortes was greatly perplexed. Victorious or de- 
feated, his path seemed equally beset with difficulties ! 

He endeavoured to soothe their irritation by pleading 
the necessity of the case. " Our new comrades," he 
said, " are formidable from their numbers ; so much so, 
that we are even now much more in their power than 
they are in ours. Our only security is to make them not 
merely confederates, but friends. On any cause of dis- 
gust, we shall have the whole battle to fight over again ; 
and, if they are united, under a much greater disadvan- 
tage than before. I have considered your interests," he 
added, iC as much as my own. All that I have is yours. 
But why should there be any ground for discontent, 
when the whole country, with its riches, is before us ? 
And our augmented strength must henceforth secure the 
undisturbed control of it !" 

But Cortes did not rely wholly on argument for the 
restoration of tranquillity. He knew this to be incom- 
patible with inaction ; and he made arrangements to 
divide his forces at once, and to employ them on distant 
services. He selected a detachment of two hundred 
men, under Diego de Ordaz, whom he ordered to form 
the settlement before meditated on the Coatzacualco. 
A like number was sent with Velasquez de Leon, to 
secure the province of Panuco, some three degrees to the 
north, on the Mexican Gulf. Twenty in each detach- 
ment were drafted from his own veterans. 

Two hundred men he despatched to Vera Cruz, with 
orders to have the rigging, iron, and everything portable 
on board of the fleet of Narvaez, brought on shore, and 
the vessels completely dismantled. He appointed a 
person named Cavallero superintendent of the marine, 


with instructions that if any ships hereafter should enter 
the port, they should be dismantled in like manner, and 
their officers imprisoned on shore. 5 

But while he was thus occupied with new schemes of 
discovery and conquest, he received such astounding in- 
telligence from Mexico, as compelled him to concentrate 
all his faculties and his forces on that one point. The 
city was in a state of insurrection. No sooner had the 
struggle with his rival been decided, than Cortes de- 
spatched a courier with the tidings to the capital. In 
less than a fortnight, the same messenger returned with 
letters from Alvarado, conveying the alarming informa- 
tion, that the Mexicans were in arms, and had vigorously 
assaulted the Spaniards in their own quarters. The 
enemy, he added, had burned the brigantines, by which 
Cortes had secured the means of retreat in case of the 
destruction of the bridges. They had attempted to force 
the defences, and had succeeded in partially undermining 
them, and they had overwhelmed the garrison with a 
tempest of missiles, which had killed several, and wounded 
a great number. The latter concluded with beseeching 
his commander to hasten to their relief, if he would save 
them, or keep his hold on the capital. 

These tidings were a heavy blow to the general, — the 
heavier, it seemed, coming, as they did, in the hour of 
triumph, when he had thought to have all his enemies at 
his feet. There was no room for hesitation. To lose 
their footing in the capital, the noblest city in the Western 
World, would be to lose the country itself, which looked 
up to it as its head. 6 He opened the matter fully to his 

5 Demanda cle Zavallos en nombre in his suite brought with him the 

de Narvaez, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist. small-pox. The disease spread ra- 

de la Conquista, cap. 124. — Oviedo, pidly in that quarter of the country, 

Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. and great numbers of the Indian 

47. — Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- population soon fell victims to it. 

zana, p. 130. — Camargo, Hist, de Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 

Tlascala, MS. 10, cap. 6. 

The visit of Narvaez left melan- 6 " Se perdia la mejor, y mas Noble 

choly traces among the natives, that Ciudad de todo lo nuevamente descu- 

made it long remembered, A negro bierto del Mundo ; y ella perdida, se 

28 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

soldiers, calling on all who would save their countrymen 
to follow him. All declared their readiness to go; show- 
ing an alacrity, says Diaz, which some would have been 
slow to manifest, had they foreseen the future. 

Cortes now made preparations for instant departure. 
He countermanded the orders previously given to Velas- 
quez and Ordaz, and directed them to join him with 
their forces at Tlascala. He recalled the troops from 
Vera Cruz, leaving only a hundred men in garrison 
there, under command of one Rodrigo Rangre : for he 
could not spare the services of Sandoval at this crisis. 
He left his sick and wounded at Cempoalla, under charge 
of a small detachment, directing that they should follow 
as soon as they were in marching order. Having com- 
pleted these arrangements, he set out from Cempoalla, 
well supplied with provisions by its hospitable cacique, 
who attended him some leagues on his way. The Toto- 
nac chief seems to have had an amiable facility of ac- 
commodating himself to the powers that were in the 

Nothing worthy of notice occurred during the first 
part of the march. The troops everywhere met with a 
friendly reception from the peasantry, who readily sup- 
plied their wants. Some time before reaching Tlascala, 
the route lay through a country thinly settled, and the 
army experienced considerable suffering from want of 
food, and still more from that of water. Their distress 
increased to an alarming degree, as, in the hurry of their 
forced march, they travelled with the meridian sun beat- 
ing fiercely on their heads. Several faltered by the way, 
and, throwing themselves down by the road-side, seemed 
incapable of further effort, and almost indifferent to life. 

In this extremity, Cortes sent forward a small detach- 
ment of horse to procure provisions in Tlascala, and 
speedily followed in person. On arriving, he found 

perdia todo lo que cstaba ganado, todos obedccian." Eel. Seg. de 
por ser la Cabcza de todo, y a quien Cortes, ap. Lorcnzana, p. 131. 

chap, vin.] RETURN OF CORTES. .29 

abundant supplies already prepared by the hospitable 
natives. They were sent back to the troops ; the strag- 
glers were collected one by one ; refreshments were 
administered ; and the army, restored in strength and 
spirits, entered the republican capital. 

Here they gathered little additional news respecting 
the events in Mexico, which a popular rumour attributed 
to the secret encouragement and machinations of Monte- 
zuma. Cortes was commodiously lodged in the quarters 
of Maxixca, one of the four chiefs of the republic. They 
readily furnished him with two thousand troops. There 
was no want of heartiness, when the war was with their 
ancient enemy, the Aztec. 7 

The Spanish commander, on reviewing his forces, after 
the junction with his two captains, found that they 
amounted to about a thousand foot, and one hundred 
horse, besides the Tlascalan levies. 8 In the infantry were 
nearly a hundred arquebusiers, with as many cross-bow- 
men ; and the part of the army brought over by Narvaez 
was admirably equipped. It was inferior, however, to 
his own veterans in what is better than any outward 
appointments, — military training, and familiarity with 
the peculiar service in which they were engaged. 

Leaving these friendly quarters, the Spaniards took a 
more northerly route, as more direct than that by which 
they had before penetrated into the Valley. It was the 
road to Tezcuco. It still compelled them to climb the 
same bold range of the Cordilleras, which attains its 
greatest elevation in the two mighty volcans at whose 
base they had before travelled. The sides of the sierra 

7 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- Bernal Diaz raises the amount to 
zana, p. 131. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 1300 foot and 96 horse. (Ibid., cap. 
Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 14. — 125.) Cortes diminishes it to less 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, than half that number. (Rel. Seg., 
cap. 124, 125. — Peter Martyr, de ubi supra.) The estimate cited in 
Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5. — Camargo, the text from the two preceding au- 
Hist. de Tlascala, MS. thorities corresponds nearly enough 

8 Gomara, Crdnica, cap. 103. — with that already given from official 
Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. documents of the forces of Cortes 
10, cap. 7. and Narvaez before the junction. 

30 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

were clothed with dark forests of pine, cypress, and 
cedar, 9 through which glimpses now and then opened 
into fathomless dells and valleys, whose depths, far down 
in the sultry climate of the tropics, were lost in a glowing 
wilderness of vegetation. From the crest of the mountain- 
range the eye travelled over the broad expanse of country, 
which they had lately crossed far away to the green 
plains of Cholula. Towards the west, they looked down 
on the Mexican Valley, from a point of view wholly dif- 
ferent from that which they had before occupied, but 
still offering the same beautiful spectacle, with its lakes 
trembling in the light, its gay cities and villas floating 
on their bosom, its burnished teocallis touched with fire, 
its cultivated slopes and dark hills of porphyry stretching 
away in dim perspective to the verge of the horizon. 
At their feet lay the city of Tezcuco, which, modestly 
retiring behind her deep groves of cypress, formed a 
contrast to her more ambitious rival on the other side of 
the lake, who seemed to glory in the unveiled splendours 
of her charms, as Mistress of the Valley. 

As they descended into the populous plains, their re- 
ception by the natives was very different from that which 
they had experienced on the preceding visit. There were 
no groups of curious peasantry to be seen gazing at them 
as they passed, and offering their simple hospitality. 
The supplies they asked were not refused, but granted 
with an ungracious air, that showed the blessing of the 
giver did not accompany them. This air of reserve 
became still more marked as the army entered the 
suburbs of the ancient capital of the Acolhuans. No one 
came forth to greet them, and the population seemed to 
have dwindled away, — so many of them were withdrawn 

9 " Las sierras altns de Tctzcuco descubrir el un cmisferio y otro, por- 
a que le mostrasen dcsde la mas alia que son los mayores puertos y mas 
cumbre de aquellas montanas y sier- altos dc esta Nueva Espafia, de ar- 
ras de Tetzcuco, que son las sierras boles y monies de grandisima altura 
de Tlallocan altisimas y humbrosas de eedras, ciprescs y pinares." Ca- 
en las cualcs he estado y visto y margo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 
puedo decir que son bastante para 

chap, viii.] RETURN OF CORTES. 31 

to the neighbouring scene of hostilities at Mexico. 10 
Their cold reception was a sensible mortification to the 
veterans of Cortes, who, judging from the past, had 
boasted to their new comrades of the sensation their 
presence would excite among the natives. The cacique 
of the place, who, as it may be remembered, had been 
created through the influence of Cortes, was himself 
absent. The general drew an ill omen from all these 
circumstances, which even raised an uncomfortable ap- 
prehension in his mind respecting the fate of the garrison 
in Mexico. 11 

But his doubts were soon dispelled by the arrival of a 
messenger in a canoe from that city, whence he had 
escaped through the remissness of the enemy, or, perhaps, 
with their connivance. He brought despatches from 
Alvarado, informing his commander that the Mexicans 
had for the last fortnight desisted from active hostilities, 
and converted their operations into a blockade. The 
garrison had suffered greatly, but Alvarado expressed his 
conviction that the siege would be raised, and tranquillity 
restored on the approach of his countrymen. Monte- 
zuma sent a messenger, also, to the same effect. At the 
same time, he exculpated himself from any part in the 
late hostilities, which he said had not only been con- 
ducted without his privity, but contrary to his inclination 
and efforts. 

The Spanish general, having halted long enough to 
refresh his wearied troops, took up his march along the 
southern margin of the lake, which led him over the 
same causeway by which he had before entered the 

10 The historian partly explains the dicho Mutecznma, como antes lo 
reason. " En la misma Ciudad de solian facer ; y toda la Tierra estaba 
Tezcuco habia algunos apasionados alborotada, y casi despoblada -. de que 
de los deudos y amigos de los que concebi mala sospecha, creyendo que 
mataron Pedro de Alvarado y sus los Espailoles que en la dicha Ciudad 
compafieros en Mexico." Ixtlilxochitl, habian quedado, eran muertos." Pel. 
Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 

11 " En todo el camino nunca me 132. 
salid a recibir ninguna Persona de el 

32 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

capital. It was the day consecrated to St. John the Bap- 
tist, the 24th of June, 1520. But how different was the 
scene from that presented on his former entrance ! 12 No 
crowds now lined the roads, no boats swarmed on the 
lake, filled with admiring spectators. A single pirogue 
might now and then be seen in the distance, like a spy 
stealthily watching their movements, and darting away 
the moment it had attracted notice. A death-like stillness 
brooded over the scene, — a stillness that spoke louder to 
the heart than the acclamations of multitudes. 

Cortes rode on moodily at the head of his battalions, 
finding abundant food for meditation, doubtless, in this 
change of circumstances. As if to dispel these gloomy 
reflections, he ordered his trumpets to sound, and their 
clear, shrill notes, borne across the waters, told the inha- 
bitants of the beleaguered fortress that their friends were 
at hand. They were answered by a joyous peal of artil- 
lery, which seemed to give a momentary exhilaration to 
the troops, as they quickened their pace, traversed the 
great drawbridges, and once more found themselves 
within the walls of the imperial city. 

The appearance of things here was not such as to allay 
their apprehensions. In some places they beheld the 
smaller bridges removed, intimating too plainly, now 
that their brigantines were destroyed, how easy it would 
be to cut off their retreat. 13 The town seemed even 
more deserted than Tezcuco. Its once busy and crowded 
population had mysteriously vanished. And, as the 
Spaniards defiled through the empty streets, the tramp 
of their horses' feet upon the pavement was answered by 
dull and melancholy echoes that fell heavily on their 
hearts. With saddened feelings they reached the great 

12 " Y como asomd a la vista de la nacion y enemistad por lo que liabia 

Ciudad de Mexico, pareciole quo pasado." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva 

estaba toda ycrma, y que no parecia Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 19. 
persona por todos los caminos, ni 13 " Pontes ligncos qui tractim 

casas, ni plazas, ne nadie le salid ;i lapideos intersecant sublafos, ac vias 

rccibir, ni de los suyos, ni ne los aggeribus munitas repent." P. Mar- 

enemigos ; y fue esto senal de indig- tyr, de Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5. 


gates of the palace of Axayacatl. The gates were thrown 
open, and Cortes and his veterans, rushing in, were cor- 
dially embraced by their companions in arms, while both 
parties soon forgot the present in the interesting recapi- 
tulation of the past. 14 

The first inquiries of the general were respecting the 
origin of the tumult. The accounts were various. Some 
imputed it to the desire of the Mexicans to release their 
sovereign from confinement ; others to the design of 
cutting off the garrison while crippled by the absence of 
Cortes and their countrymen. All agreed, however, in 
tracing the immediate cause to the violence of Alvarado. 
It was common for the Aztecs to celebrate an annual 
festival in May, in honour of their patron war-god. It 
was called the " incensing of Huitzilopotchli," and was 
commemorated by sacrifice, religious songs, and dances, 
in which most of the nobles engaged, for it was one of 
the great festivals which displayed the pomp of the Aztec 
ritual. As it was held in the court of the teocalli, in the 
immediate neighbourhood of the Spanish quarters, and 
as a part of the temple itself was reserved for a Christian 
chapel, the caciques asked permission of Alvarado to 
perform their rites there. They requested also, it is said, 
to be allowed the presence of Montezuma. This latter 
petition Alvarado declined, in obedience to the injunc- 
tions of Cortes ; but acquiesced in the former, on condi- 
tion that the Aztecs should celebrate no human sacrifices, 
and should come without weapons. 

They assembled accordingly on the day appointed, to 
the number of six hundred, at the smallest computation. 15 

14 Probanza a pedimento de Juan estaban sus hermanos ; los de dentro 

de Lexalde, MS. — Rel. Seg. de cuando los vieron, recibieron singular 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 133. consolacion y esfuerzo y recibieronlos 

" Esto causd gran admiration en con la artilleria que tenian, saludan- 

todos los que venian, pero no dejaron dolos, y dandolos el parabien de su 

de marcbar, hasta entrar donde esta- venida." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva 

banlosEspanolesacorralados. Venian Espafia, MS., Lib. 12, cap. 22. 
todos muy casados y muy fatigados is « e asi los Indios, todos Senores, 

y con mucho deseo de llegar a donde mas de 600 desnudos e con muchas 


34 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

They were dressed in their most magnificent gala cos- 
tumes, with their graceful mantles of feather-work, 
sprinkled with precious stones, and their necks, arms, 
and legs, ornamented with collars and bracelets of gold. 
They had that love of gaudy splendour which belongs to 
semi-civilized nations, and on these occasions displayed 
all the pomp and profusion of their barbaric wardrobes. 

Alvarado and his soldiers attended as spectators, some 
of them taking their station at the gates, as if by chance, 
and others mingling in the crowd. They were all armed, 
a circumstance, which, as it was usual, excited no atten- 
tion. The Aztecs were soon engrossed by the exciting 
movement of the dance, accompanied by their religious 
chant, and wild, discordant minstrelsy. While thus 
occupied, Alvarado and his men, at a concerted signal, 
rushed with drawn swords on their victims. Unprotected 
by armour or weapons of any kind, they were hewn 
down without resistance by their assailants, who, in their 
bloody work, says a contemporary, showed no touch of 
pity or compunction. 16 Some fled to the gates, but were 
caught on the long pikes of the soldiers. Others, who 
attempted to scale the Coatepantli, or Wall of Serpents, 
as it was called, which surrounded the area, shared the 
like fate, or were cut to pieces, or shot by the ruthless 
soldiery. The pavement, says a writer of the age, ran 
with streams of blood, like water in a heavy shower. 17 
Not an Aztec, of all that gay company, was left alive ! 
It was repeating the dreadful scene of Cholula, with 

joyas de oro e hermosos penachos, c usual, swells it only to two thousand, 

muchas piedras preciosas, c como Brcvissima Relatione, p. 48. 

mas adcrczados 6 gentiles hombres I6 „ gin dudo uj . dad Christiana 

se pudicrou e supioron aderezar, e sm ^ . xcucm6> j mat( £» Qomara, Cv6- 

anna alguna clclensiva m otensiva ■ -,q, 

bailaban e cautaban c haeiau su arcito c ' "' 

i fiesta scgun su costumbre." (Ovi- 1? "Fue" tan grande el derramami- 

edo Hist, dc las Ind., MS., Ub. 33, ento de Sangre, rpie corrian arroyos 

cap. 54.) Some writers carry the de clla nor el Patio, como agua cuan- 

number as high as eight hundred or do mucho llucve." Sahagun, Hist, 

even one thousand. Las Casas, with dc Nueva Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 

a more modest exaggeration than 20. 

chap, vin.] MASSACRE BY ALVARADO. 35 

the disgraceful addition, that the Spaniards, not con- 
tent with slaughtering their victims, rifled them of the 
precious ornaments on their persons ! On this sad day 
fell the flower of the Aztec nobility. Not a family of 
note but had mourning and desolation brought within 
its walls ; and many a doleful ballad, rehearsing the 
tragic incidents of the story, and adapted to the plaintive 
national airs, continued to be chanted by the natives long- 
after the subjugation of the country. 18 

Various explanations have been given of this atrocious 
deed ; but few historians have been content to admit that 
of Alvarado himself. According to this, intelligence had 
been obtained through his spies — some of them Mexicans 
— of an intended rising of the Indians. The celebration 
of this festival was fixed on as the period for its execu- 
tion, when the caciques would be met together, and 
would easily rouse the people to support them. Alvarado, 
advised of all this, had forbidden them to wear arms at 
their meeting. While affecting to comply, they had 
secreted their weapons in the neighbouring arsenals, 
whence they could readily withdraw them. But his own 
blow, by anticipating theirs, defeated the design, and, as 
he confidently hoped, would deter the Aztecs from a 
similar attempt in future. 19 

Such is the account of the matter given by Alvarado. 
But, if true, why did he not verify his assertion by 
exposing the arms thus secreted? Why did he not vin- 
dicate his conduct in the eyes of the Mexicans generally, 
by publicly avowing the treason of the nobles, as was 

is 't y de aqui a que se acabe el de la Conquista, cap. 125,) with 
mundo, 6 ellos del todo se acaben, some additional particulars in Tor- 
no dexaran de lamentar, y cantar en qu|mada, (Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 
sus areytos, y bayles, como en ro- 66 J Solis, (Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 
rnances, que aca dezimos, aquella 12,) and Herrera, (Hist. General, 
calamidad, y perdida de la sucession dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 8,) who all seem 
de toda su nobleza, de que se preci- content to endorse Alvarado's version 
auan de tantos anos atras." Las of the matter. I find no other au- 
Casas, Brevissima Relatione, p. 49. thority, of any weight, in the same 

19 See Alvarado's reply to queries charitable vein, 
of Cortes, as reported by Diaz, (Hist. 

d 2 

36 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

done by Cortes at Cliolula ? The whole looks much like 
an apology devised after the commission of the deed, to 
cover up its atrocity. 

Some contemporaries assign a very different motive 
for the massacre, which, according to them, originated in 
the cupidity of the Conquerors, as shown by their plun- 
dering the bodies of their victims. 20 Bernal Diaz, who, 
though not present, had conversed familiarly with those 
who were, vindicates them from the charge of this un- 
worthy motive. According to him, Alvarado struck the 
blow in order to intimidate the Aztecs from any insur- 
rectionary movement. 21 But whether he had reason to 
apprehend such, or even affected to do so before the 
massacre, the old chronicler does not inform us. 

On reflection, it seems scarcely possible that so foul a 
deed, and one involving so much hazard to the Spaniards 
themselves, should have been perpetrated from the mere 
desire of getting possession of the bawbles worn on the 
persons of the natives. It is more likely this was an 
afterthought, suggested to the rapacious soldiery by the 
display of the spoil before them. It is not improbable 
that Alvarado may have gathered rumours of a conspiracy 
among the nobles, — rumours, perhaps, derived through 
the Tlascalans, their inveterate foes, and for that reason 
very little deserving of credit. 22 He proposed to defeat 

20 Oviedo mentions a conversation avenge it. (Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

which he had some years after this lib. 33, cap. 54.) See the original 

tragedy with a noble Spaniard, Don dialogue in Appendix, Part 2, No. 11. 

Tlioan Cano, who came over in the 21 " Verdaderamente did en ellos 

train of Narvaez, and was present at por metelles tenior." Hist, de la 

all the subsequent operations of the Conquista, cap. 125. 

army. He married a daughter of w Such, indeed, is the statement 

Montezuma, and settled in Mexico of Ixtlilxochitl, derived, as he says, 

after the Conquest. Oviedo describes from the native Tezcucan annalists, 

him as a man of sense and integrity. According to them, the Tlascalans, 

In answer to the historian's queries urged by their hatred of the Aztecs 

respecting the cause of the rising, he and their thirst for plunder, per- 

said, that Alvarado had wantonly suaded Alvarado, nothing loth, that 

perpetrated the massacre from pure the nobles meditated a rising on the 

avarice ; and the Aztecs, enraged at occasion of these festivities. The 

such unprovoked and unmerited testimony is important, and I give it 

cruelty, rose, as they well might, to in the author's words. " Fue que 

chap, vm.] MASSACRE BY ALVARADO. 37 

it by imitating the example of his commander at Cholnla. 
But he omitted to imitate his leader in taking precau- 
tions against the subsequent rising of the populace. And 
he grievously miscalculated, when he confounded the 
bold and warlike Aztec with the effeminate Cholulan. 

No sooner was the butchery accomplished, than the 
tidings spread like wildfire through the capital. Men 
could scarcely credit their senses. All they had hitherto 
suffered, the desecration of their temples, the imprison- 
ment of their sovereign, the insults heaped on his person, 
all were forgotten in this one act. 23 Every feeling of 
long-smothered hostility and rancour now burst forth in 
the cry for vengeance. Every former sentiment of super- 
stitious dread was merged in that of inextinguishable 
hatred. It required no effort of the priests — though this 
was not wanting — to fan these passions into a blaze. 
The city rose in arms to a man ; and on the following 
dawn, almost before the Spaniards could secure them- 
selves in their defences, they were assaulted with des- 
perate fury. Some of the assailants attempted to scale 
the walls ; others succeeded in partially undermining and 
in setting fire to the works. Whether they would have 

ciertos Tlascaltecas (segun las His- fiesta habian acudido todos los Seii- 

torias de Tescuco que son las que Io ores y Cabezas del Imperio y que 

sigo y la carta que otras veces lie muertos no tenian mucho trabajo en 

referido) por embidia lo uno acor- sojuzgarles." Hist. Chich., MS., 

dandose que en semejante fiesta los cap. 88. 

Mexicanos solian sacrificar gran suma 23 Martyr well recapitulates these 

da eautivos de los de la Nacion Tlas- grievances, showing that they seemed 

calteca, y lo otro que era la mejor such in the eyes of the Spaniards 

ocasion que ellos podian tener para themselves — of those, at least, whose 

poder hinchir las manos de despojos judgment was not warped by a share 

y hartar su codicia, y vengarse de in the transactions. " Emori statu- 

sus Enemigos, (porque hasta enton- erunt malle, quam diutius ferre tales 

ces no habian tenido lugar, ni Cortes hospites qui regem suum sub tutoris 

se les diera, ni admitiera sus dichos, vitae specie detineant, civitatem occu- 

porque siempre hacia las cosas con pent, antiquos hostes Tascaltecanos 

mucho acuerdo) fueron con esta in- et alios prseterea in contumeham 

vencion al capitan Pedro de Alba- ante illorum oculos ipsorum impeusa 

rado, que estaba en lugar de Cortes, conseruent ; . . . . qui demum simul- 

el qual no fue menester mucho para achra deorum confregerint, et ritus 

darles credito porque tan buenos veteres ac ceremonias antiquas illis 

filos, y pensamientos tenia como ellos abstulerint." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, 

y mas viendo que alii «n aquella cap. 5. 

38 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book. iv. 

succeeded in carrying the place by storm, is doubtful. 
But, at the prayers of the garrison, Montezuma himself 
interfered, and mounting the battlements, addressed the 
populace, whose fury he endeavoured to mitigate by 
urging considerations for his own safety. They respected 
their monarch so far as to desist from further attempts 
to storm the fortress, but changed their operations into 
a regular blockade. They threw up works around the 
palace to prevent the egress of the Spaniards. They 
suspended the tianguez, or market, to preclude the pos- 
sibility of their enemy's obtaining supplies ; and they 
then quietly sat down, with feelings of sullen desperation, 
waiting for the hour when famine should throw their 
victims into their hands. 

The condition of the besieged, meanwhile, was suffi- 
ciently distressing. Their magazines of provisions, it is 
true, were not exhausted ; but they suffered greatly from 
want of water, which, within the inclosure, was exceed- 
ingly brackish, for the soil was saturated with the salt of 
the surrounding element. In this extremity, they dis- 
covered, it is said, a spring of fresh water in the area. 
Such springs were known in some other parts of the 
city; but, discovered first under these circumstances, it 
was accounted as nothing less than a miracle. Still 
they suffered much from their past encounters. Seven 
Spaniards, and many Tlascalans, had fallen, and there 
was scarcely one of either nation who had not received 
several wounds. In this situation, far from their own 
countrymen, without expectation of succour from abroad, 
they seemed to have no alternative before them but a 
lingering death by famine, or one more dreadful on the 
altar of sacrifice. From this gloomy state they were 
relieved by the coming of their comrades. 24 

Cortes calmly listened to the explanation made by 
Alvarado. But, before it was ended, the conviction must 

24 Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, lib. 33, cap. 13, 47. — Gomara, Crd- 
MS— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., nica, cap. -105. 

chap, viii.] RISING OF THE AZTECS. 39 

have forced itself on his mind, that he had made a wrong 
salection for this important post. Yet the mistake was 
natural. Alvarado was a cavalier of high family, gallant 
and chivalrous, and his warm personal friend. He had 
talents for action, was possessed of firmness and intre- 
pidity, while his frank and dazzling manners made the 
Tonatiuh an especial favourite with the Mexicans. But, 
underneath this showy exterior, the future conqueror of 
Guatemala concealed a heart rash, rapacious, and cruel. 
He was altogether destitute of that moderation, which, 
in the delicate position he occupied, was a quality of 
more worth than all the rest. 

When Alvarado had concluded his answers to the 
several interrogatories of Cortes, the brow of the latter 
darkened, as he said to his lieutenant, " You have done 
badly. You have been false to your trust. Your con- 
duct has been that of a madman!" And, turning 
abruptly on his heel, he left him in undisguised dis- 

Yet this was not a time to break with one so popular, 
and, in many respects, so important to him, as this cap- 
tain, much less to inflict on him the punishment he 
merited. The Spaniards were like mariners labouring in 
a heavy tempest, whose bark nothing but the dexterity 
of the pilot, and the hearty cooperation of the crew, can 
save from foundering. Dissensions at such a moment 
must be fatal. Cortes, it is true, felt strong in his pre- 
sent resources. He now found himself at the head of a 
force which could scarcely amount to less than twelve 
hundred and fifty Spaniards, and eight thousand native 
warriors, principally Tlascalans. 25 But, though relying 
on this to overawe resistance, the very augmentation of 
numbers increased the difficulty of subsistence. Dis- 

25 He left in garrison, on his de- liberal allowance — to have perished 
parture from Mexico, 1 40 Spaniards in battle and otherwise, it would still 
and about 6500 Tlascalans, inclu- leave a number, which, with the rein- 
ding a few Cempoallan warriors. forcement now brought, wovdd raise 
Supposing five hundred of these — a the amount to that stated in the text. 

40 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

contented with himself, disgusted with his officer, and 
embarrassed by the disastrous consequences in which 
Alvarado's intemperance had involved him, he became 
irritable, and indulged in a petulance by no means com- 
mon ; for, though a man of lively passions by nature, he 
held them habitually under control. 26 

On the day that Cortes arrived, Montezuma had left 
his own quarters to welcome him. But the Spanish 
commander, distrusting, as it would seem, however un- 
reasonably, his good faith, received him so coldly that 
the Indian monarch withdrew, displeased and dejected, 
to his apartment. As the Mexican populace made no 
show of submission, and brought no supplies to the 
army, the general's ill-humour with the emperor con- 
tinued. When, therefore, Montezuma sent some of the 
nobles to ask an interview with Cortes, the latter, turning 
to his own officers, haughtily exclaimed, " What have I 
to do with this dog of a king, who suffers us to starve 
before his eyes ? " 

His captains, among whom were Olid, de Avila, and 
Velasquez de Leon, endeavoured to mitigate his anger, 
reminding him, in respectful terms, that, had it not been 
for the emperor, the garrison might even now have been 
overwhelmed by the enemy. This remonstrance only 
chafed him the more. " Did not the dog," he asked, 
repeating the opprobrious epithet, " betray us in his 
communications with Narvaez ? And does he not now 
suffer his markets to be closed, and leave us to die of 
famine?" Then, turning fiercely to the Mexicans, he 
said, " Go, tell your master and his people to open the 
markets, or we will do it for them, at their cost ! " The 
chiefs, who had gathered the import of his previous taunt 
on their sovereign, from his tone and gesture, or perhaps 
from some comprehension of his language, left his pre- 

26 « y vicndo que todo estaua mucha gete de Espaiiolcs que traia, 

niuy al contrario de sus pensami- y muy triste, y mohino." Bernal 

entos, q' au de comer no uos dauan, Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

estaua muy airado, y sobervio co la 120. 

chap, vin.] cortEs' embarrassment. 41 

sence swelling with resentment ; and, in communicating 
his message, took care it should lose none of its effect. 27 

Shortly after, Cortes, at the suggestion, it is said, of 
Montezuma, released his brother Cuitlahua, lord of Izta- 
palapan, who, it will be remembered, had been seized on 
suspicion of cooperating with the chief of Tezcuco in his 
meditated revolt. It was thought he might be of service 
in allaying the present tumult, and bringing the populace 
to a better state of feeling. But he returned no more to 
the fortress. 28 He was a bold, ambitious prince, and the 
injuries he had received from the Spaniards rankled deep 
in his bosom. He was presumptive heir to the crown, 
which, by the Aztec laws of succession, descended much 
more frequently in a collateral than in a direct line. The 
people welcomed him as the representative of their sove- 
reign, and chose him to supply the place of Montezuma 
during his captivity. Cuitlahua willingly accepted the 
post of honour and of danger. He was an experienced 
warrior, and exerted himself to reorganize the disorderly 
levies, and to arrange a more efficient plan of operations. 
The effect was soon visible. 

Cortes, meanwhile, had so little doubt of his ability to 
overawe the insurgents, that he wrote to that effect to 
the garrison of Villa Rica, by the same despatches in 
which he informed them of his safe arrival in the 
capital. But scarcely had his messenger been gone half 
an hour, when he returned breathless with terror, and 
covered with wounds. " The city," he said, " was all 
in arms ! The drawbridges were raised, and the enemy 
would soon be upon them !" He spoke truth. It was 
not long before a hoarse, sullen sound became audible, 
like that of the roaring of distant waters. It grew 
louder and louder ; till, from the parapet surrounding 

27 The scene is reported by Diaz, Cano, an eye-witness, in his conver- 

who was present. (Ibid., cap. 126.) sation with Oviedo. See Appendix, 

See, also, the Chronicle of .Gomara, Part 2, No. 11. 

the chaplain of Cortes. (Cap. 106.) 2S Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, 

It is further confirmed by Don Thoan lib. 10, cap. 8. 

42 RESIDENCE IN MEXICO. [book iv. 

the inclosure, the great avenues which led to it might 
be seen dark with the masses of warriors, who came 
rolling on in a confused tide towards the fortress. At 
the same time, the terraces and azoteas or flat roofs, in 
the neighbourhood, were thronged with combatants 
brandishing their missiles, who seemed to have risen 
up as if by magic ! 29 It was a spectacle to appal the 
stoutest. — But the dark storm to which it was the pre- 
lude, and which gathered deeper and deeper round the 
Spaniards during the remainder of their residence in the 
capital, must form the subject of a separate book. 

29 " El qual Mensajero bolvid calles ni Azoteas se parecian con 

dende a media hora todo descala- Gente ; la qual venia con los mayores 

brado, y herido, dando voces, que alaridos, y grita mas espantable, que 

todos los Indios de la Ciudad venian en el Mundo sepuede pensar." Bel. 

de Guerra y que tenian todas las Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 

Puentes alzadas ; e junto tras el da 134. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Lid., 

sobre nosotros tanta multitud de MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. 
Gente por todas partes, que ni las 

Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes was born in 1478. He belonged 
to an ancient family of the Asturias. Every family, indeed, claims to be 
ancient in this last retreat of the intrepid Goths, fie was early introduced 
at court, and was appointed page to Prince Juan, the only son of Ferdinand 
and Isabella, on whom their hopes, and those of the nation, deservedly rested. 
Oviedo accompanied the camp in the latter campaigns of the Moorish war, 
and was present at the memorable siege of Grauada. On the untimely death 
of his royal master in 1496, he passed over to Italy and entered the service 
of King Frederick of Naples. At the death of that prince he returned to 
his own country, and in the beginning of the sixteenth century we find him 
again established in Castile, where he occupied the place of keeper of the 
crown jewels. In 1513, he was named by Ferdinand the Catholic veedor, or 
inspector of the gold founderies in the American colonies. Oviedo, accord- 
ingly, transported himself to the New World, where he soon took a commis- 
sion under Pedrarias, governor of Darien, and shared in the disastrous 
fortunes of that colony. He obtained some valuable privileges from the 
crown, built a fortress on Tierra Firme, and entered into traffic with the 
natives. In this wc may presume he was prosperous, since we find him at 
length established with a wife and family at Hispaniola, or Fernandina, as it 
was then called. Although he continued to make his principal residence in 
the New World, he made occasional visits to Spain; and, in 1526, published 
at Madrid his Sumurio. It is dedicated to the Emperor Charles the Fifth, 
and contains an account of the West Indies, their geography, climate, the 
races who inhabited them, together with their animal and vegetable produc- 
tions. The subject was of great interest to the inquisitive minds of Europe, 
and one of which they had previously gleaned but scanty information. In 


] OVIEDO. 43 

1535, in a subsequent visit to Spain, Oviedo gave to the world the first 
volume of his great work, which he had been many years in compiling, — the 
" Historia de las Indias Occidentals. " In the same year, he was appointed 
by Charles the Fifth alcayde of the fortress of Hispaniola. He continued 
in the island the ten following years, actively engaged in the prosecution of 
his historical researches, and then returned for the last time to his native 
land. The veteran scholar was well received at court, and obtained the 
honourable appointment of Chronicler of the Indies. He occupied this post 
until the period of his death, which took place at Valladolid in 1557, in the 
seventy-ninth year of his age, at the very time when he was employed in 
preparing the residue of his history for the press. 

Considering the intimate footing on which Oviedo lived with the eminent 
persons of his time, it is singular that so little is preserved of his personal 
history and his character. Nic. Antonio speaks of him as a " man of large 
experience, courteous in his manners, and of great probity." His long and 
active life is a sufficient voucher for his experience, and one will hardly doubt 
his good breeding, when we know the high society in which he moved. He 
left a large mass of manuscripts, embracing a vast range both of Civil and 
Natural History. By far the most important is his Historia General de las 
Indias. It is divided into three parts containing fifty books. The first part, 
consisting of nineteen books, is the one already noticed as having been pub- 
lished during his lifetime. It gives in a more extended form the details of 
geographical and natural history embodied in his Sumario, with a narrative, 
moreover, of the discoveries and conquests of the Islands. A translation of 
this portion of the work was made by the learned Ramusio, with whom 
Oviedo was in correspondence, and is published in the third volume of his 
inestimable collection. The two remaining parts relate to the conquests of 
Mexico, of Peru, and other countries of South America. It is that portion 
of the work consulted for these pages. The manuscript was deposited, at 
his death, in the Casa de la Contratacion, at Seville. It afterwards came into 
the possession of the Dominican monastery of Monserrat. In process of 
time, mutilated copies found their way into several private collections ; when, 
in 1775, Don Francisco Cerda y Rico, an officer in the Indian department, 
ascertained the place in which the original was preserved, and, prompted by 
his literary zeal, obtained an order from the government for its publication. 
Under his supervision the work was put in order for the press, and Oviedo's 
biographer, Alvarez y Baena, assures us that a complete edition of it, pre- 
pared with the greatest care, would soon be given to the world. (Hijos de 
Madrid, _ [Madrid, 1790,] torn. ii. pp. 354—361.) It still remains in 

No country has been more fruitful in the field of historical composition 
than Spain. Her ballads are chronicles done into verse. The chronicles 
themselves date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Every city, every 
small town, every great family, and many a petty one, has its chronicler. 
These were often mere monkish chroniclers, who in the seclusion of the con- 
vent found leisure for literary occupation ; or, not unfrequently, they were 
men who had taken part in the affairs they described, more expert with the 
sword than with the pen. The compositions of this latter class have a general 
character of that indifference to fine writing, which shows a mind intent on 
the facts with which it is occupied, much more than on forms of expression. 
The monkish chroniclers, on the other hand, often make a pedantic display 
of obsolete erudition, which contrasts rather whimsically with the homely 
texture of the narrative. The chroniclers of both the one and the other class 
of writers may frequently claim the merit of picturesque and animated detail, 
showing that the subject was one of living interest, and that the writer's 
heart was in his subject. 

44 OVIEDO. [book iv. 

Many of the characteristic blemishes of which I have been speaking, may 
be charged on Oviedo. His style is cast in no classic mould. His thoughts 
find themselves a vent in tedious, interminable sentences, that may fill the 
reader with despair ; and the thread of the narrative is broken by impertinent 
episodes that lead to nothing. His scholarship was said to be somewhat 
scanty. One will hardly be led to doubt it, from the tawdry display of Latin 
quotations with which he garnishes his pages, like a poor gallant, who would 
make the most of his little store of finery. He affected to take the elder 
Pliny as his model, as appears from the preface to his Sumario. But his own 
work fell far short of the model of erudition and eloquence which that great 
writer of natural history has bequeathed to us. 

Yet, with his obvious defects, Oviedo showed an enlightened curiosity, 
and a shrewd spirit of observation, which place him far above the ordinary 
range of chroniclers. He may even be said to display a philosophic tone in 
his reflections, though his philosophy must be regarded as cold and unscru- 
pulous, wherever the rights of the aborigines are in question. He was inde- 
fatigable iu amassing materials for his narratives, and for this purpose 
maintained a correspondence with the most eminent men of his time, who 
had taken part in the transactions which he commemorates. He even con- 
descended to collect iuformatiou from more humble sources, from popular 
tradition and the reports of the common soldiers. Hence his work often 
presents a medley of inconsistent and contradictory details, which perplex 
the judgment, making it exceedingly difficult, at this distance of time, to dis- 
entangle the truth. It was, perhaps, for this reason, that Las Casas com- 
plimented the author by declaring, that "his works were a wholesale 
fabrication, as full of lies as of pages!" Yet another explanation of this 
severe judgment may be found in the different characters of the two men. 
Oviedo shared in the worldly feelings common to the Spanish Conquerors; 
and, wliile he was ever ready to magnify the exploits of his countrymen, held 
lightly the claims and the sufferings of the unfortunate aborigines. He was 
incapable of appreciating the generous philanthropy of Las Casas, or of rising 
to his lofty views, which he doubtless derided as those of a benevolent, it 
might be, but visionary, fanatic. Las Casas, on the other hand, whose voice 
had been constantly uplifted against the abuses of the Conquerors, was filled 
with abhorrence at the sentiments avowed by Oviedo, and it was natural that 
his aversion to the principles should be extended to the person who professed 
them. Probably no two men could have been found less competent to form 
a right estimate of each other. 

Oviedo showed the same activity in gathering materials for natural history, 
as he had done for the illustration of civil He collected the different plants 
of the Islands in his garden, and domesticated many of the animals, or kept 
them in confinement under his eye, where he could study their peculiar 
habits By this course, if he did not himself rival Pliny and Hernandez in 
science, he was, at least, enabled to furnish the man of science with facts of 
the highest interest and importance. 

Besides these historical writings, Oviedo left a work in six volumes, called 
by the whimsical title of Quincuagmas. It consists of imaginary dialogues 
between the most eminent Spaniards of the time, in respect to their personal 
history, their families, and genealogy. It is a work of inestimable value to 
the historian of the times of Ferdinand and Isabella, and of Charles the 
Fifth. But it has attracted little attention in Spain, where it still remains 
in manuscript. A complete copy of Oviedo's History of the Indies is in the 
archives of the Royal Academy of History in Madrid, and it is understood 
that this body has now an edition prepared for the press. Such parts as are 
literally transcribed from preceding narratives, like the Letters of Cortes, 
which Oviedo transferred without scruple entire and unuiutilated into his 



own pages, though enlivened, it is true, by occasional criticism of his own, 
might as well be omitted. But the remainder of the great work affords a 
mass of multifarious information which would make an important contribu- 
tion to the colonial history of Spain. 

An authority of frequent reference in these pages is Diego Munos 
Camargo. He was a noble Tlascalan mestee, aud lived in the latter half of 
the sixteentli century. He was educated in the Christian faith, and early 
instructed in Castilian, in which tongue he composed his Historia de Tlascala. 
In this work he introduces the reader to the different members of the great 
Nahuatlac family, who came successively up the Mexican plateau. Born 
and bred among the aborigines of the country, when the practices of the 
Pagan age had not wholly become obsolete, Camargo was in a position per- 
fectly to comprehend the condition of the ancient inhabitants ; and his work 
supplies much curious and authentic information respecting the social and 
religious institutions of the land at the time of the Conquest. His patriotism 
warms, as he recounts the old hostilities of his countrymen with the Aztecs, 
and it is singular to observe how the detestation of the rival nations sur- 
vived their common subjection under the Castilian yoke. 

Camargo embraces in his narrative an account of this great event, and of 
the subsequent settlement of the country. As one of the Indian family, we 
might expect to see his chronicle reflect the prejudices, or, at least, par- 
tialities, of the Indian. But the Christian convert yielded up his sympathies 
as freely to the Conquerors as to his own countrymen. The desire to mag- 
nify the exploits of the latter, and at the same time to do full justice to the 
prowess of the white men, produces occasionally a most whimsical contrast 
in his pages, giving the story a strong air of inconsistency. In point of 
literary execution the work has little merit ; as great, however, as could be 
expected from a native Indian, indebted for his knowledge of the tongue to 
such imperfect instruction as he could obtain from the missionaries. Yet in 
style of composition it may compare not unfavourably with the writings of 
some of the missionaries themselves. 

The original manuscript was long preserved in the convent of San Felipe 
Neri in Mexico, where Torquemada, as appears from occasional references, 
had access to it. It has escaped the attention of other historians, but was 
embraced by Munoz in his magnificent collection, and deposited in the 
archives of the Royal Academy of History at Madrid; from which source 
the copy in my possession was obtained. It bears the title of Pedazo de 
Historia Verdadera, and is without the author's name, and without division 
into books or chapters. 






Desperate Assault on the Quarters. — Fury of the Mexicans. — Sally of the 
Spaniards. — Montezuma addresses the People. — Dangerously wounded. 


The palace of Axayacatl, in which the Spaniards were 
quartered, was, as the reader may remember, a vast, 
irregular pile of stone buildings, having but one floor, 
except in the centre, where another story was added, 
consisting of a suite of apartments which rose like turrets 
on the main building of the edifice. A vast area stretched 
around, encompassed by a stone wall of no great height. 
This was supported by towers or bulwarks at certain 
intervals, which gave it some degree of strength, not, 
indeed, as compared with European fortifications, but 
sufficient to resist the rude battering enginery of the 
Indians. The parapet had been pierced here and there 
with embrasures for the artillery, which consisted of thir- 
teen guns ; and smaller apertures were made in other 
parts for the convenience of arquebusiers. The Spanish 
forces found accommodations within the great building ; 
but the numerous body of Tlascalan auxiliaries could 
have had no other shelter than what was afforded by 
barracks or sheds hastily constructed for the purpose 

VOL. II. e 


in the spacious court-yard. Most of them, probably, 
bivouacked under the open sky, in a climate milder than 
that to which they were accustomed among the rude hills 
of their native land. Thus crowded into a small and 
compact compass, the whole army could be assembled at 
a moment's notice ; and, as the Spanish commander was 
careful to enforce the strictest discipline and vigilance, it 
was scarcely possible that he could be taken by surprise. 
No sooner, therefore, did the trumpet call to arms, as 
the approach of the enemy was announced, than every 
soldier was at his post, the cavalry mounted, the artillery- 
men at their guns, and the archers and arquebusiers 
stationed so as to give the assailants a warm reception. 

On they came, with the companies, or irregular masses, 
into which the multitude was divided, rushing forward 
each in its own dense column, with many a gay banner 
displayed, and many a bright gleam of light reflected 
from helmet, arrow, and spear-head, as they were tossed 
about in their disorderly array. As they drew near the 
inclosure, the Aztecs set up a hideous yell, or rather that 
shrill whistle used in light by the nations of Anahuac, 
which rose far above the sound of shell and atabal, and 
their other rude instruments of warlike melody. They 
followed this by a tempest of missiles, — stones, darts, 
and arrows, — which fell thick as rain on the besieged, 
while volleys of the same kind descended from the 
crowded terraces in the neighbourhood. 1 

The Spaniards waited until the foremost column had 
arrived within the best distance for giving effect to their 
fire, when a general discharge of artillery and arquebuses 
swept the ranks of the assailants, and mowed them down 

1 "Eran tantas las Pioclras, que p. 134.) No wonder that they should 

uos cchabau con Hondas dentro en have found some difficulty in' wading 

la Fortalcza, que no parccia sino que through the arrows, if Herrera's ac- 

ol Ciclo las llovia ; e las Elechas, y count be correct, thgbforfy cart-loads 

Tiraderas eran tantas, que todas las of them were gathered up and burnt 

paredes y Patios cstaban llenos, que by the besieged every day ! Hist, 

casi no podiamos andar con ellas." General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9. 
(Rel. Seg. dc Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 


by hundreds. 2 The Mexicans were familiar with the 
report of these formidable engines, as they had been 
harmlessly discharged on some holyday festival; but 
never till now had they witnessed their murderous power. 
They stood aghast for a moment, as with bewildered 
looks they staggered under the fury of the fire ; 3 but, 
soon rallying, the bold barbarians uttered a piercing cry, 
and rushed forward over the prostrate bodies of their 
comrades. A second and a third volley checked their 
career, and threw them into disorder, but still they 
pressed on, letting off clouds of arrows ; while their com- 
rades on the roofs of the houses took more deliberate 
aim at the combatants in the court-yard. The Mexicans 
were particularly expert in the use of the sling ; 4 and the 
stones which they hurled from their elevated positions 
on the heads of their enemies did even greater execution 
than the arrows. They glanced, indeed, from the mail- 
covered bodies of the cavaliers, and from those who were 
sheltered under the cotton panoply, or escaupil. But 
some of the soldiers, especially the veterans of Cortes, and 
many of their Indian allies, had but slight defences, and 
suffered greatly under this stony tempest. 

The Aztecs, meanwhile, had advanced close under the 
walls of the intrenchment ; their ranks broken and dis- 
ordered, and their limbs mangled by the unintermitting 
fire of the Christians. But they still pressed on, under 
the very muzzle of the guns. They endeavoured to scale 

2 " Luego sin tardanza se juntaron 22.) The good father waxes elo- 

los Mexicanos, en gran copia, puestos quent in his description of the battle 

a punto de Guerra, que no parecia, scene. 

sino que habian salido debajo de , The prese nted so easy a 

tierra todos luntos, y comenzaron i n_ Aiii 

i , -, J -, "i i -it, mark, says Gomara, that the eunners 

luego a dar grit a y pelear, y los Es- j d ' d ^ flre d with hardly the 

panoles les comenzaron a responder t u f ^ their J^ 

de dentro con toda la artillena que st T ^ f ^.^ gk 

de neubo habian traido, y con toda . ? >■ • ,■ ■ „ p. A 

-i , -> vf 1- ■ i asestar ]ue;aban con los tiros. Oro- 

la gente que de nuevo habia vemdo, • J s nfl 

? -pi i - i i • ■/ j nica, cap. 106. 

y los iiSpanoles hicieron gran de- r 

s'trozo en los Indios, con la artillena, 4 " Hondas, que eran la mas fuerte 

arcabuzes, y ballestas y todo el otro arma de pelca que los Mejicanos te- 

artificio de pelear." (Sahagun, Hist. man." Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, 

de Nueva Espaiia, MS., lib. 12, cap. MS. 



the parapet, which, from its moderate height, was in 
itself a work of no great difficulty. But the moment 
they showed their heads above the rampart, they were 
shot down by the unerring marksmen within, or stretched 
on the ground by a blow of a Tlascalan maquahuiU. 
Nothing daunted, others soon appeared to take the place 
of the fallen, and strove, by raising themselves on the 
writhing bodies of their dying comrades, or by fixing 
their spears in the crevices of the wall, to surmount the 
barrier. But the attempt proved equally vain. 

Defeated here, they tried to effect a breach in the 
parapet by battering it with heavy pieces of timber. The 
works were not constructed on those scientific principles 
by which one part is made to overlook and protect 
another. The besiegers, therefore, might operate at their 
pleasure, with but little molestation from the garrison 
within, whose guns could not be brought into a position 
to bear on them, and who could mount no part of their 
own works for their defence, without exposing their per- 
sons to the missiles of the whole besieging army. The 
parapet, however, proved too strong for the efforts of the 
assailants. In their despair, they endeavoured to set the 
Christian quarters on fire, shooting burning arrows into 
them, and climbing up so as to dart their firebrands 
through the embrasures. The principal edifice was of 
stone. But the temporary defences of the Indian allies, 
and other parts of the exterior works, were of wood. 
Several of these took fire, and the flame spread rapidly 
among the light combustible materials. This was a 
disaster for which the besieged were wholly unprepared. 
They had little water, scarcely enough for their own con- 
sumption. They endeavoured to extinguish the flames 
by heaping on earth; but in vain. Fortunately the 
great building was of materials which defied the destroy- 
ing element. But the fire raged in some of the out- 
works, connected with the parapet, with a fury which 
could only be checked by throwing clown a part of the 


wall itself, thus laying open a formidable breach. This, 
by the general's order, was speedily protected by a bat- 
tery of heavy guns, and a file of arquebusiers, who kept 
up an incessant volley through the opening on the 
assailants. 5 

The fight now raged with fury on both sides. The 
walls around the palace belched forth an unintermitting 
sheet of flame and smoke. The groans of the wounded 
and dying were lost in the fiercer battle-cries of the com- 
batants, the roar of the artillery, the sharper rattle of the 
musketry, and the hissing sound of Indian missiles. It 
was the conflict of the European with the American ; of 
civilized man with the barbarian ; of the science of the 
one with the rude weapons and warfare of the other. 
And as the ancient walls of Tenochtitlan shook under 
the thunders of the artillery, — it announced that the 
white man, the destroyer, had set his foot within her 
precincts. 6 

Night at length came, and drew her friendly mantle 
over the contest. The Aztec seldom fought by night. 
It brought little repose, however, to the Spaniards, in 
hourly expectation of an assault ; and they found abun- 
dant occupation in restoring the breaches in their 
defences, and in repairing their battered armour. The 
beleaguered host lay on their arms through the night, 
giving token of their presence, now and then, by send- 
ing a stone or shaft over the battlements, or by a solitary 
cry of defiance from some warrior more determined than 
the rest, till all other sounds were lost in the vague, 

5 " En la Fortaleza daban tan recio sistir." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. 

combate, que por muchas partes nos Lorenzana, p. 134. 
pusieron fuego, y por la nna se quemo 

mucha parte deella, sin la poder reme- 6 Ibid., ubi supra.- Gomara, Crd- 
diar, hasta que la atajamos, cortando nica, cap. 106. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 
las paredes, y derrocando ,un pe- Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Saha- 
dazo que matd el fuego. E si no gun, Hist, de Nueva Espaiia, MS., 
fuera por la mucha Guarda, que alii lib. 12, cap. 22. — Gonzalo de las 
puse de Escopeteros, y Ballesteros, Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 
y otros tiros do polvora, nos entra- 26. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
ran a escala vista, sin los poder re- quista, cap. 126. 


indistinct murmurs which float upon the air in the 
neighbourhood of a vast assembly. 

The ferocity shown by the Mexicans seems to have 
been a thing for which Cortes was wholly unprepared. 
His past experience, his uninterrupted career of victory 
with a much feebler force at his command, had led him 
to underrate the military efficiency, if not the valour, of 
the Indians. The apparent facility with which the 
Mexicans had acquiesced in the outrages on their sove- 
reign and themselves, had led him to hold their courage, 
in particular, too lightly. He could not believe the pre- 
sent assault to be anything more than a temporary ebul- 
lition of the populace, which would soon waste itself by 
its own fury. And he proposed, on the following day, 
to sally out and inflict such chastisement on his foes as 
should bring them to their senses, and show who was 
master in the capital. 

With early dawn, the Spaniards were up and under 
arms ; but not before their enemies had given evidence 
of their hostility by the random missiles, which, from 
time to time, were sent into the enclosure. As the grey 
light of morning advanced, it showed the besieging army 
far from being diminished in numbers, filling up the 
great square and neighbouring avenues in more dense 
array than on the preceding evening. Instead of a con- 
fused, disorderly rabble, it had the appearance of some- 
thing like a regular force, with its battalions distributed 
under their respective banners, the devices of which 
showed a contribution from the principal cities and dis- 
tricts in the Valley. High above the rest was conspicuous 
the ancient standard of Mexico, with its well-known 
cognizance, an eagle pouncing on an ocelot, emblazoned 
on a rich mantle of feather-work. Here and there priests 
might be seen mingling in the ranks of the besiegers, 
and, with frantic gestures, animating them to avenge 
their insulted deities. 

The greater part of the enemy had little clothing save 


the maxtlatl, or sash round the loins. They were vari- 
ously armed, with long spears tipped with copper, or 
flint, or sometimes merely pointed and hardened in the 
fire. Some were provided with slings, and others with 
darts having two or three points, with long strings 
attached to them, by which, when discharged, they could 
be torn away again from the body of the wounded. This 
was a formidable weapon, much dreaded by the Spaniards. 
Those of a higher order wielded the terrible maqualmitl, 
with its sharp and brittle blades of obsidian. Amidst 
the motley bands of warriors, were seen many whose 
showy dress and air of authority intimated persons of 
high military consequence. Their breasts were protected 
by plates of metal, over which was thrown the gay 
surcoat of feather-work. They wore casques resembling, 
in their form, the head of some wild and ferocious animal, 
crested with bristly hair, or overshadowed by tall and 
graceful plumes of many a brilliant colour. Some few 
were decorated with the red fillet bound round the hair, 
having tufts of cotton attached to it, which denoted by 
their number that of the victories they had won, and 
their own preeminent rank among the warriors of the 
nation. The motley assembly plainly showed that priest, 
warrior, and citizen had all united to swell the tumult. 

Before the sun had shot his beams into the Castilian 
quarters, the enemy were in motion, evidently preparing 
to renew the assault of the preceding day. The Spanish 
commander determined to anticipate them by a vigorous 
sortie, for which he had already made the necessary 
dispositions. A general discharge of ordnance and 
musketry sent death far and wide into the enemy's 
ranks, and, before they had time to recover from their 
confusion, the gates were thrown open, and Cortes, sally- 
ing out at the head of his cavalry, supported by a large 
body of infantry, and several thousand Tlascalans, rode 
at full gallop against them. Taken thus by surprise, it 
was scarcely possible to offer much resistance. Those 


who did were trampled down under the horses' feet, cut 
to pieces with the broadswords, or pierced with the 
lances of the riders. The infantry followed up the blow, 
and the rout for the moment was general. 

But the Aztecs fled only to take refuge behind a 
barricade, or strong work of timber and earth, which 
had been thrown across the great street through which 
they were pursued. Rallying on the other side, they 
made a gallant stand, and poured in turn a volley of 
their light weapons on the Spaniards, who, saluted with 
a storm of missiles at the same time, from the terraces 
of the houses, were checked in their career, and thrown 
into some disorder. 7 

Cortes, thus impeded, ordered up a few pieces of 
heavy ordnance, which soon swept away the barricades, 
and cleared a passage for the army. But it had lost the 
momentum acquired in its rapid advance. The enemy 
had time to rally and to meet the Spaniards on more 
equal terms. They were attacked in flank, too, as they 
advanced, by fresh battalions, who swarmed in from the 
adjoining streets and lanes. The canals were alive with 
boats filled with warriors, who with their formidable 
darts searched every crevice or weak place in the armour 
of proof, and made havoc on the unprotected bodies of 
the Tlascalans. By repeated and vigorous charges, the 
Spaniards succeeded in driving the Indians before them; 
though many, with a desperation which showed they 
loved vengeance better than life, sought to embarrass the 
movements of their horses by clinging to their legs, or 
more successfully strove to pull the riders from their 
saddles. And woe to the unfortunate cavalier who was 
thus dismounted, — to be despatched by the brutal maqua- 
huill, or to be dragged on board a canoe to the bloody 
altar of sacrifice ! 

But the greatest annoyance which the Spaniards en- 
dured was from the missiles from the azoteas, consisting 

7 Carta del Exercito, MS. 


often of large stones, hurled with a force that would 
tumble the stoutest rider from his saddle. Galled in the 
extreme by these discharges, against which even their 
shields afforded no adequate protection, Cortes ordered 
fire to be set to the buildings. This was no very difficult 
matter, since, although chiefly of stone, they were filled 
with mats, cane-work, and other combustible materials, 
which were soon in a blaze. But the buildings stood 
separated from one another by canals and drawbridges, 
so that the flames did not easily communicate to the 
neighbouring edifices. Hence, the labour of the Spaniards 
was incalculably increased, and their progress in the work 
of destruction — fortunately ' for the city — was compara- 
tively slow. 8 They did not relax their efforts, however, 
till several hundred houses had been consumed, and the 
miseries of a conflagration, in which the wretched inmates 
perished equally with the defenders, were added to the 
other horrors of the scene. 

The day was now far spent. The Spaniards had been 
everywhere victorious. But the enemy, though driven 
back on every point, still kept the field. When broken 
by the furious charges of the cavalry, he soon rallied 
behind the temporary defences, which, at different in- 
tervals, had been thrown across the streets, and, facing 
about, renewed the fight with undiminished courage, till 
the sweeping away of the barriers by the cannon of the 
assailants left a free passage for the movements of their 
horse. Thus the action was a succession of rallying and 
retreating, in which both parties suffered much, although 
the loss inflicted on the Indians was probably tenfold 
greater than that of the Spaniards. But the Aztecs could 

8 " Estan todas en el agua, y de amos fuego, tardaua vim casa e se 

casa a casavna puente leuadiza, pas- quemar vn dia entero, y no se podia 

salla a nado, era cosa muy peligrosa ; pegar fuego de vna casa a otra ; lo 

porque desde las acuteas tirauan vno, por estar apartadas la vna de 

tanta piedra, y cantos, que era cosa. otra el agua en medio ; y lo otro, por 

perdida ponernos en ello. Y demas ser de acuteas." Berdal Diaz, Hist, 

desto, en algunas casas que les poni- de la Conquista, cap. 126. 


better afford the loss of a hundred lives than their anta- 
gonists that of one. And, while the Spaniards showed 
an array broken, and obviously thinned in numbers, the 
Mexican army, swelled by the tributary levies which 
flowed in upon it from the neighbouring streets, exhi- 
bited, with all its losses, no sign of diminution. At 
length, sated with carnage, and exhausted by toil and 
hunger, the Spanish commander drew off his men, and 
sounded a retreat. 9 

On his way back to his quarters, he beheld his friend, 
the secretary Duero, in a street adjoining, unhorsed, and 
hotly engaged with a body of Mexicans, against whom 
he was desperately defending himself with his poniard. 
Cortes, roused at the sight, shouted his war-cry, and, 
dashing into the midst of the enemy, scattered them 
like chaff by the fury of his onset ; then, recovering his 
friend's horse, he enabled him to remount, and the two 
cavaliers, striking their spurs into their steeds, burst 
through their opponents and joined the m-ain body of 
the army. 10 Such displays of generous gallantry were 
not uncommon in these engagements, which called forth 
more feats of personal adventure than battles with anta- 
gonists better skilled in the science of war. The chi- 
valrous bearing of the general was emulated in full 
measure by Sandoval, De Leon, Olid, Alvarado, Ordaz, 
and his other brave companions, who won such glory 
under the eye of their leader, as prepared the way for 
the independent commands which afterwards placed 
provinces and kingdoms at their disposal. 

9 " The Mexicans fought with shown by these Indians." Hist, de 

such ferocity," says Diaz, " that, if la Conquista, cap. 126. 

we had had the assistance on that Sec, also, for the last pages, Ilel. 

day of ten thousand Hectors, and as Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 

many Orlando.s, we should have made 135. — Ixtlilxochitl, llclacioncs, MS. 

no impression on them! There were — Brobanza k pedimento de Juan de 

several of our troops," he adds, Lexaldc, MS. — Ovicdo, Hist, de las 

" who had served in the Italian Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Gomara, 

wars, but neither there nor in the Crdnica, cap. 190. 

battles with the Turk had they ever 10 Hcrrcra, Hist. General, dec 2, 

seen anything like the desperation lib. 10, cap. 9. — Torrnicmada, Mo- 
narch. Ind., lib. 1, cap. 09. 

chap. i.] FURY OF THE MEXICANS. 59 

The undaunted Aztecs hung on the rear of their re- 
treating foes, annoying them at every step by fresh flights 
of stones and arrows ; and, when the Spaniards had 
reentered their fortress, the Indian host encamped around 
it, showing the same dogged resolution as on the pre- 
ceding evening. Though true to their ancient habits of 
inaction during the night, they broke the stillness of the 
hour by insulting cries and menaces, which reached the 
ears of the besieged. " The gods have delivered you, at 
last, into our hands," they said; " Huitzilopotchli has 
long cried for his victims. The stone of sacrifice is 
ready. The knives are sharpened. The wild beasts in 
the palace are roaring for their offal. And the cages," 
they added, taunting the Tlascalans with their leanness, 
" are waiting for the false sons of Anahuac, who are to 
be fattened for the festival." These dismal menaces, 
which sounded fearfully in the ears of the besieged, who 
understood too well their import, were mingled with 
piteous lamentations for their sovereign, whom they 
called on the Spaniards to deliver up to them. 

Cortes suffered much from a severe wound which he 
had received in the hand in the late action. But the 
anguish of his mind must have been still greater, as he 
brooded over the dark prospect before him, He had 
mistaken the character of the Mexicans. Their long and 
patient endurance had been a violence to their natural 
temper, which, as their whole history proves, was arro- 
gant and ferocious beyond that of most of the races of 
Anahuac. The restraint which, in deference to their 
monarch, more than to their own fears, they had so long 
put on their natures, being once removed, their passions 
burst forth with accumulated violence. The Spaniards 
had encountered in the Tlascalan an open enemy, who 
had no grievance to complain of, no wrong to redress. 
He fought under the vague apprehension only of some 
coming evil to his country. But the Aztec, hitherto the 
proud lord of the land, was goaded by insult and injury, 


till lie had readied that pitch of self-devotion, which 
made life cheap, m comparison with revenge. Armed 
thus with the energy of despair, the savage is almost a 
match for the civilized man ; and a whole nation, moved 
to its depths by a common feeling which swallows up all 
selfish considerations of personal interest and safety, 
becomes, whatever be its resources, like the earthquake 
and the tornado, the most formidable among the agencies 
of nature. 

Considerations of this kind may have passed through 
the mind of Cortes, as he reflected on his own impotence 
to restrain the fury of the Mexicans, and resolved in 
despite of his late supercilious treatment of Montezuma, 
to employ his authority to allay the tumult, — an authority 
so successfully exerted in behalf of Alvarado, at an earlier 
stage of the insurrection. He was the more confirmed 
in his purpose, on the following morning, when the 
assailants, redoubling their efforts, succeeded in scaling 
the works in one quarter, and effecting an entrance into 
the inclosure. It is true, they were met with so resolute 
a spirit, that not a man of those who entered was left 
alive. But in the impetuosity of the assault, it seemed, 
for a few moments, as if the place was to be carried by 
storm. 11 

Cortes now sent to the Aztec emperor to request his 
interposition with his subjects in behalf of the Spaniards. 
But Montezuma was not in the humour to comply. 
He had remained moodily in his quarters ever since the 
general's return. Disgusted with the treatment he had 
received, he had still further cause for mortification in 
finding himself the ally of those who were the open 
enemies of his nation. From his apartment he had be- 
held the tragical scenes in his capital, and seen another, 
the presumptive heir to his throne, taking the place 
which he should have occupied at the head of his Avar- 

11 Bcmal Diaz, Hist, do la Con- las Lid., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13.— 
quista, cap. 126. — Ovicdo, Hist, de Gomava, Crouica, cap. 107. 


riors, and fighting the battles of his country. 12 Dis- 
tressed by his position, indignant at those who had 
placed him in it, he coldly answered, " What have I to 
do with Malintzin ? I do not wish to hear from him. 
I desire only to die. To what a state has my willingness 
to serve him reduced me !" 13 When urged still further 
to comply by Olid and father Olmedo, he added, "It is 
of no use. They will neither believe me, nor the false 
words and promises of Malintzin. You will never leave 
these walls alive." On being assured, however, that the 
Spaniards would willingly depart, if a way were opened 
to them by their enemies, he at length — moved, pro- 
bably, more by the desire to spare the blood of his 
subjects than of the Christians — consented to expostulate 
with his people. 14 

In order to give the greater effect to his presence, he 
put on his imperial robes. The tilmatli, his mantle of 
white and blue, flowed over his shoulders, held together 
by its rich clasp of the green chalchivitl. The same 
precious gem, with emeralds of uncommon size, set in 
gold, profusely ornamented other parts of his dress. 
His feet were shod with the golden sandals, and his 
brows covered by the copilli, or Mexican diadem, re- 
sembling in form the pontifical tiara. Thus attired, and 
surrounded by a guard of Spaniards and several Aztec 
nobles, and preceded by the golden wand, the symbol of 
sovereignty, the Indian monarch ascended the central 
turret of the palace. His presence was instantly recog- 
nised by the people, and, as the royal retinue advanced 

12 Cortes sent Marina to ascertain rera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, 

from Montezuma the name of the cap. 10. 

gallant chief, who could be easily 13 " ,3 Que quiere de mi ya Malint- 

seen from the walls animating and zin, que yo no deseo viuir ni oille ? 

directing his countrymen. The em- pues en tal estado por su causa mi 

peror informed him that it was his ventura me ha traido." Bernal Diaz, 

brother Cuitlahuac,- the presumptive Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 126. 

heir to his crown, and the same chief M Ibid., ubi supra. — Ixililxochitl, 

whom the Spanish commander had Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88. 
released a few days previous. Her- 


along the battlements, a change, as if by magic, came 
over the scene. The clang of instruments, the fierce 
cries of the assailants, were hushed, and a death-like 
stillness pervaded the whole assembly, so fiercely agitated 
but a few moments before by the wild tumult of war ! 
Many prostrated themselves on the ground ; others 
bent the knee ; and all turned with eager expectation 
towards the monarch, whom they had been taught to 
reverence with slavish awe, and from whose countenance 
they had been wont to turn away as from the intolerable 
splendours of divinity ! Montezuma saw his advantage ; 
and, while he stood thus confronted with his awe-struck 
people, he seemed to recover all his former authority and 
confidence as he felt himself to be still a king. With a 
calm voice, easily heard over the silent assembly, he 
is said by the Castilian writers to have thus addressed 
them : — 

" Why do I see my people here in arms against the 
palace of my fathers ? Is it that you think your sovereign 
a prisoner, and wish to release him ? If so, you have 
acted rightly. But you are mistaken. I am no prisoner. 
The strangers are my guests. I remain with them only 
from choice, and can leave them when I list. Have you 
come to drive them from the city ? That is unnecessary. 
They will depart of their own accord, if you will open a 
way for them. Return to your homes, then. Lay down 
your arms. Show your obedience to me who have a 
right to it. The white men shall go back to their own 
land; and all shall be well again within the walls of 

As Montezuma announced himself the friend of the 
detested strangers, a murmur ran through the multitude; 
a murmur of contempt for the pusillanimous prince who 
could show himself so insensible to the insults and in- 
juries for which the nation was in arms ! The swollen 
tide of their passions swept away all the barriers of 
ancient reverence, and, taking a new direction, descended 


on the head of the unfortunate monarch, so far degene- 
rated from his warlike ancestors. " Base Aztec," they 
exclaimed, " woman, coward, the white men have made 
you a woman,— fit only to weave and spin!" These 
bitter taunts were soon followed by still more hostile 
demonstrations. A chief, it is said, of high rank, bent a 
bow or brandished a javelin with an air of defiance 
against the emperor, 15 when, in an instant, a cloud of 
stones and arrows descended on the spot where the royal 
train was gathered. The Spaniards appointed to protect 
his person had been thrown off their guard by the re- 
spectful deportment of the people during their lord's 
address. They now hastily interposed their bucklers. 
But it was too late. Montezuma was wounded by three 
of the missiles, one of which, a stone, fell with such 
violence on his head, near the temple, as brought him 
senseless to the ground. The Mexicans, shocked at their 
own sacrilegious act, experienced a sudden revulsion of 
feeling, and, setting up a dismal cry, dispersed panic- 
struck in different directions. Not one of the multi- 
tudinous array remained in the great square before the 
palace ! 

The unhappy prince, meanwhile, was borne by his 
attendants to his apartments below. On recovering from 
the insensibility caused by the blow, the wretchedness 
of his condition broke upon him. He had tasted the last 
bitterness of degradation. He had been reviled, rejected, 
by his people. The meanest of the rabble had raised 
their hands against him. He had nothing more to live 
for. It was in vain that Cortes and his officers endea- 
voured to soothe the anguish of his spirit and fill him 
with better thoughts. He spoke not a word in answer. 
His wound, though dangerous, might still, with skilful 
treatment, not prove mortal. But Montezuma refused 

15 Acosta reports a tradition, that the throne, was the man that shot 
Guatemozin, Montezuma's nephew, the first arrow. Lib. 7, cap. 26. 
who himself afterwards succeeded to 




all the remedies prescribed for it. He tore off the ban- 
dages as often as they were applied, maintaining all the 
while the most determined silence. He sat with eyes 
dejected, brooding over his fallen fortunes, over the 
image of ancient majesty and present humiliation. He 
had survived his honour. But a spark of his ancient 
spirit seemed to kindle in his bosom, as it was clear he 
did not mean to survive his disgrace. From this painful 
scene the Spanish general and his followers were soon 
called away by the new dangers which menaced the 
garrison. 16 

16 I have reported this tragical 
event, and the circumstances attend- 
ing it, as they are given, in more or 
less detail, but substantially in the 
same way, by the most accredited 
writers of that and the following 
age, — several of them eye-witnesses. 
(See Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
quista, cap. 126. — Oviedo, Hist, de 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47.— Eel. 
Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 
13G. — Camargo, Hist, cle Tlascala, 
MS.— Ixtlilxochitl,Hist.Chich.,MS., 
cap. 88. — Herrera, Hist. General, 
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10. — Torque- 
mada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 70. 
• — Acosta, ubi supra. — Martyr, de 
Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 5.) It is 
also confirmed by Cortes in the in- 
strument granting to Montezuma's 
favourite daughter certain estates by 
way of dowry. (See Appendix, Part 
2, No. 12.) Don Thoan Cano, in- 
deed, who married this princess, 
assured Oviedo that the Mexicans 
respected the person of the monarch 
so long as they saw him ; and were 
not aware, when they discharged 
their missiles, that he was present, 
being hid from sight by the shields 
of the Spaniards. (See Appendix, 
Part 2, No. 11.) This improbable 
statement is repeated by the chap- 
lain Gomara. (Cronica, cap. 107.) 
It is rejected by Oviedo, however, 
who says, that Alvarado, himself 
present at the scene, in a conversa- 
tion with him afterwards, explicitly 
confirmed the narrative given in the 

text. (Hist, de las hid., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 47.) The Mexicans gave a 
very different account of the trans- 
action. According to them, Monte- 
zuma, together with the lords of 
Tezcuco and Tlatelolco, then de- 
tained as prisoners in the fortress by 
the Spaniards, were all strangled by 
means of the garrote, and then dead 
bodies thrown over the walls to their 
countrymen. I quote the original of 
father Sahagun, who gathered the 
story from the Aztecs themselves. 

"De esta manera se determinaron 
los Espaholes a morir 6 veneer va- 
ronihnente ; y asi hablaron a todos 
los amigos Indios, y todos ellos estu- 
vieron firnies en esta determinacion ; 
y lo primero que hicieron fue que 
dieron garrote a todos los Schores 
que tenian presos, y los echaron 
mucrtos fuera del fucrte : y antes 
que esto hiciesen les dijeron muchas 
cosas, y les hicieron saber su deter- 
miuacion, y que de ellos habia de 
comenzar esta obra, y luego todos 
los demas habian de ser muertos a 
sus manos, dijeronles, no es posible 
que vuestros idolos os libren de 
nuestras manos. Y desque les hu- 
bieron dado Garrote, y vieron que 
cstaban muertos, mandiironlos echar 
por las azotcas, fuera de la casa, en 
un lugar que se llama Tortuga dc 
Picdra, porquc alii estaba una piedra 
labrada a manera de Tortuga. Y 
desque supioron y vieron los de a 
fuera, que aqucllos Sciiorcs tan prin- 
cipals habian sido muertos por las 




manos de los Espafioles, luego to- 
maron los cuerpos, y les hicieron sus 
exequias, al niodo de su Idolatria, y 
quemaron sus cuerpos, y tomaron 
sus cenizas, y las pusieron eu lugares 
apropiadas a sus dignidades y valor." 
Hist, de Nueva Espaha, MS., lib. 12, 
cap. 23. 

It is hardly necessary to comment 
on the absurdity of this monstrous 
imputation, which, however, has 

found favour with some later writers. 
Independently of all other conside- 
rations, the Spaniards would have 
been slow to compass the Indian 
monarch's death, since, as the Tezcu- 
can Ixtlilxochitl truly observes, it 
was the most fatal blow which could 
befall them, by dissolving the last tie 
which held them to the Mexicans. 
Hist. Chich., MS., ubi supra. 




Storming of the Great Temple. — Spirit of the Aztecs. — Distresses of the 
Garrison. — Sharp Combats in the City. — Death of Montezuma. 


Opposite to the Spanish quarters, at only a few rods' 
distance, stood the great teocalli of Huitzilopotchli. This 
pyramidal mound, with the sanctuaries that crowned it, 
rising altogether to the height of near a hundred and 
fifty feet, afforded an elevated position that completely 
commanded the palace of Axayacatl, occupied by the 
Christians. A body of five or six hundred Mexicans, 
many of them nobles and warriors of the highest rank, 
had got possession of the teocalli, whence they discharged 
such a tempest of arrows on the garrison, that no one 
could leave his defences for a moment without imminent 
danger ; while the Mexicans, under shelter of the sanc- 
tuaries, were entirely covered from the fire of the 
besieged. It was obviously necessary to dislodge the 
enemy, if the Spaniards would remain longer in their 

Cortes assigned this service to his chamberlain Escobar, 
giving him a hundred men for the purpose, with orders 
to storm the teocalli, and set fire to the sanctuaries. 
But that officer was thrice repulsed in the attempt, and, 
after the most desperate efforts, was obliged to return 
with considerable loss, and without accomplishing his 


Cortes, wlio saw the immediate necessity of carrying 
the place, determined to lead the storming party himself. 
He was then suffering much from the wound in his left 
hand, which had disabled it for the present. He made 
the arm serviceable, however, by fastening his buckler 
to it, 1 and, thus crippled, sallied out at the head of three 
hundred chosen cavaliers, and several thousand of his 

In the court-yard of the temple he found a numerous 
body of Indians prepared to dispute his passage. He 
briskly charged them, but the flat, smooth stones of the 
pavement were so slippery that the horses lost their 
footing, and many of them fell. Hastily dismounting, 
they sent back the animals to their quarters, and, renew- 
ing the assault, the Spaniards succeeded without much 
difficulty in dispersing the Indian warriors, and opening 
a free passage for themselves to the teocalli. This 
building, as the reader may remember, was a huge pyra- 
midal structure, about three hundred feet square at the 
base. A flight of stone steps on the outside, at one of 
the angles of the mound, led to a platform, or terraced 
walk, which passed round the building until it reached a 
similar flight of stairs directly over the preceding, that 
conducted to another landing as before. As there were 
five bodies or divisions of the teocalli, it became neces- 
sary to pass round its whole extent four times, or nearly 
a mile, in order to reach the summit, which, it may be 
recollected, was an open area, crowned only by the two 
sanctuaries dedicated to the Aztec deities. 2 

Cortes, having cleared a way for the assault, sprang 
up the lower stairway, followed by Alvarado, Sandoval, 

1 " Salf fuera de la Eortaleza, 2 See ante, vol. i. p. 55. 

aunque manco de la mano izquierda I have ventured to repeat the de- 

de una herida que el primer dia me scription of the temple here, as it is 

habian dado : y liada la rodela en el important that the reader, who may 

brazo fuy a la Torre con algunos perhaps not turn to the preceding 

Espaiioles, que me siguieron." Rel. pages, should have a distinct image 

Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loreozana, p. of it in his own mind, before begin- 

138. ning the combat. 

f 2 


Ordaz, and the other gallant cavaliers of his little band, 
leaving a file of arquebusiers and a strong corps of Indian 
allies to hold the enemy in check at the foot of the monu- 
ment. On the first landing, as well as on the several 
galleries above, and on the summit, the Aztec warriors 
were drawn up to dispute his passage. From their 
elevated position they showered down volleys of lighter 
missiles, together with heavy stones, beams, and burning 
rafters, which, thundering along the stairway, overturned 
the ascending Spaniards, and carried desolation through 
their ranks. The more fortunate, eluding or springing 
over these obstacles, succeeded in gaining the first ter- 
race, where, throwing themselves on their enemies, they 
compelled them, after a short resistance, to fall back. 
The assailants pressed on, effectually supported by a 
brisk fire of the musketeers from below, which so much 
galled the Mexicans in their exposed situation, that they 
were glad to take shelter on the broad summit of the 

Cortes and his comrades were close upon their rear, 
and the two parties soon found themselves face to face 
on this aerial battle-field, engaged in mortal combat, in 
presence of the whole city, as well as of the troops in the 
court-yard, who paused, as if by mutual consent, from 
their own hostilities, gazing in silent expectation on the 
issue of those above. The area, though somewhat smaller 
than the base of the teocalli, was large enough to afford 
a fair field of fight for a thousand combatants. It was 
paved with broad, flat stones. No impediment occurred 
over its surface, except the huge sacrificial block, and 
the temples of stone which rose to the height of forty 
feet, at the further extremity of the arena. One of these 
had been consecrated to the Cross ; the other was still 
occupied by the Mexican war-god. The Christian and 
the Aztec contended for their religions under the very 
shadow of their respective shrines • while the Indian 
priests, running to and fro, with their hair wildly 


streaming over their sable mantles, seemed hovering in 
mid air, like so many demons of darkness urging on the 
work of slaughter ! 

The parties closed with the desperate fury of men who 
had no hope but in victory. Quarter was neither asked 
nor given ; and to fly was impossible. The edge of the 
area was unprotected by parapet or battlement. The 
least slip would be fatal ; and the combatants, as they 
struggled in mortal agony, were sometimes seen to roll 
over the sheer sides of the precipice together. 3 Cortes 
himself is said to have had a narrow escape from this 
dreadful fate. Two warriors, of strong, muscular frames, 
seized on him, and were dragging him violently towards 
the brink of the pyramid. Aware of their intention, he 
struggled with all his force, and, before they could 
accomplish their purpose, succeeded in tearing himself 
from their grasp, and hurling one of them over the walls 
with his own arm ! The story is not improbable in 
itself, for Cortes was a man of uncommon agility and 
strength. It has been often repeated, but not by con- 
temporary history. 4 

The battle lasted with unintermitting fury for three 
hours. The number of the enemy was double that of 
the Christians ; and it seemed as if it were a contest 

3 Many of the Aztecs, according los Mexicanos, ruurieron mala mu- 

to Sahagun, seeing the fate of such erte." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva 

of their comrades as fell into the Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 22. 
hands of the Spaniards, on the narrow 4 Among others, see Herrera, 

terraces below, voluntarily threw Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. ]0, cap. 9. 

themselves headlong from the lofty — Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 

summit, and were dashed in pieces 4, cap. 69, — and Soli's, very circum- 

on the pavement. " Y los de arriba stantially, as usual, Conquista, lib. 4, 

viendo a los de abajo muertos, y a cap. 16. 

los de arriba que los iban matando The first of these authors had ac- 

los que habian subido, comenzaron a cess to some contemporary sources, 

arrojarse del cu abajo, desde lo alto, the chronicle of the old soldier, Ojeda, 

los cuales todos morian despenados, for example, not now to be met with, 

quebrados brazos y piernas, y hechos It is strange, that so valiant an ex- 

pedazos, porque el cu era muy alto ; ploit should not have been eommu- 

y otros los mesmos Espailoles los nicated by Cortes himself, who cannot 

arrojaban de lo alto del cu, y asi be accused of diffidence in such mat- 

todos cuantos alia habian subido de ters. 


which must be determined by numbers and brute force, 
rather than by superior science. But it was not so. 
The invulnerable armour of the Spaniard, his sword of 
matchless temper, and his skill in the use of it, gave him 
advantages which far outweighed the odds of physical 
strength and numbers. After doing all that the courage 
of despair could enable men to do, resistance grew fainter 
and fainter on the side of the Aztecs. One after another 
they had fallen. Two or three priests only survived to 
be led away in triumph by the victors. Every other 
combatant was stretched a corpse on the bloody arena, 
or had been hurled from the giddy heights. Yet the 
loss of the Spaniards was not inconsiderable. It 
amounted to forty-five of their best men, and nearly all 
the remainder were more or less injured in the desperate 
conflict. 5 

The victorious cavaliers now rushed towards the sanc- 
tuaries. The lower story was of stone ; the two upper 
were of wood. Penetrating into their recesses, they had 
the mortification to find the image of the Virgin and the 
Cross removed. 6 But in the other edifice they still 
beheld the grim figure of Huitzilopotchli, with his censer 
of smoking hearts, and the walls of his oratory reeking 
with gore, — not improbably of their own countrymen ! 
With shouts of triumph the Christians tore the uncouth 

5 Captain Diaz, a little loth some- — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espaiia, 

times, is emphatic in his encomiums MS., lib, 12, cap. 22. — Herrera., 

on the valour shown by his com- Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 

mander on this occasion. " Aqui se 9. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

mostro Cortes mui varo, como siepre lib. 33, cap. 13. — Torquemada, Mo- 

lo fue. O que pelear : y fuerte ba- narch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 69. 
talk q. aqui tuuimos, era cosa de no- 6 Archbishop Lorenzana is of opi- 

tar vernos a todos corriendo sangre, nion that this image of the Virgin is 

y llenos de hcridas, e mas de qua- the same now seen in the church of 

renta soldados mucrtos." (Hist. <le Nuestra Senora de los Remedios ! 

la Conquista, cap. 126.) The pens (Rcl. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 

of the old chroniclers keep pace with p. 138, nota.) In what way the 

their swords in the display of this Virgin survived the sack of the city, 

brilliant exploit ; — " colla penna e and was brought to light again, he 

colla spada," equally fortunate. See does Dot inform us. But the more 

Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, difficult to explain, the more un- 

p. 138. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 106. doubted the miracle. 


monster from his niche, and tumbled him, in the pre- 
sence of the horror-struck Aztecs, down the steps of the 
teocatti. They then set fire to the accursed building. 
The flame speedily ran up the slender towers, sending 
forth an ominous light over city, lake, and valley, to the 
remotest hut among the mountains. It was the funeral 
pyre of paganism, and proclaimed the fall of that sangui- 
nary religion which had so long hung like a dark cloud 
over the fair regions of Anahuac ! 1 

Having accomplished this good work, the Spaniards 
descended the winding slopes of the teocatti with more 
free and buoyant steps, as if conscious that the blessing 
of Heaven now rested on their arms. They passed 
through the dusky files of Indian warriors in the court- 
yard, too much dismayed by the appalling scenes they 
had witnessed to offer resistance ; and reached their own 
quarters in safety. That very night they followed up 
the blow by a sortie on the sleeping town, and burned 
three hundred houses, the horrors of conflagration being 
made still more impressive by occurring at the hour 
when the Aztecs, from their own system of warfare, were 
least prepared for them. 8 

Hoping to find the temper of the natives somewhat 
subdued by these reverses, Cortes now determined, with 

7 No achievement in the war domos combussere tercentum : in 
struck more awe into the Mexicans altera plerasque e quibus arci mo- 
than this storming of the great tern- lestia fiebat. Ita nunc trucidando, 
pie, in which the white men seemed nunc diruendo, et interdum vulnera 
to bid defiance equally to the powers recipiendo, in pontibus et in viis, 
of God and man. Hieroglyphical diebus noctibusque multis laboratum 
paintings minutely commemorating est utrinque." (Martyr, de Orbe 
it were to be frequently found among Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6.) In the num- 
the natives after the Conquest. The ber of actions and their general re- 
sensitive Captain Diaz intimates that suit, namely, the victories, barren 
those which he saw made full as victories of the Christians, all writers 
much account of the wounds and are agreed. But as to time, place, 
losses of the Christians as the facts circumstance, or order, no two hold 
would warrant. (Ibid., ubi supra.) together. How shall the historian 
It was the only way in which the of the present day make a harmo- 
conquered could take their revenge. nious tissue out of these motley and 

8 " Sequeuti nocte, nostri erum- many-coloured threads ? 
pentes in vna viarum arci vicina, 


his usual policy, to make them a vantage-ground for 
proposing terms of accommodation. lie accordingly in- 
vited the enemy to a parley, and, as the principal chiefs, 
attended by their followers, assembled in the great 
square, he mounted the turret before occupied by Mon- 
tezuma, and made signs that he would address them. 
Marina, as usual, took her place by his side, as his inter- 
preter. The multitude gazed with earnest curiosity on 
the Indian girl, whose influence with the Spaniards was 
well known, and whose connexion with the general, in 
particular, had led the Aztecs to designate him by her 
Mexican name of Malinche. 9 Cortes, speaking through 
the soft, musical tones of his mistress, told his audience 
they must now be convinced that they had nothing fur- 
ther to hope from opposition to the Spaniards. They 
had seen their gods trampled in the dust, their altars 
broken, their dwellings burned, their warriors falling on 
all sides. " All this," continued he, " you have brought 
on yourselves by your rebellion. Yet for the affection 
the sovereign, whom you have so unworthily treated, 
still bears you, I would willingly stay my hand, if you 
will lay down your arms, and return once more to your 
obedience. But, if you do not," he concluded, " I will 
make your city a heap of ruins, and leave not a soul alive 
to mourn over it !" 

But the Spanish commander did not yet comprehend 
the character of the Aztecs, if he thought to intimidate 
them by menaces. Calm in their exterior, and slow to 
move, they were the more difficult to pacify when roused ; 
and now that they had been stirred to their inmost 
depths, it was no human voice that could still the tem- 
pest. It may be, however, that Cortes did not so much 
misconceive the character of the people. He may have 

9 It is the name by which she is named in compliment to the Indian 

still celebrated in the popular min- damsel? At all events, it was an 

strelsy of Mexico. Was the famous honour well merited from her adopted 

Tlascalan mountain, sierra de Ma- countrymen. 
linche,— anciently " Maltalcupyc,"— 


felt that an authoritative tone was the only one he could 
assume with any chance of effect, in his present position, 
in which milder and more conciliatory language would, 
by intimating a consciousness of inferiority, have too cer- 
tainly defeated its own object. 

It was true, they answered, he had destroyed their 
temples, broken in pieces their gods, massacred their 
countrymen. Many more, doubtless, were yet to fall 
under their terrible swords. But they were content so 
long as for every thousand Mexicans they could shed the 
blood of a single white man ! 10 " Look out," they con- 
tinued, " on our terraces and streets, see them still 
thronged with warriors as far as your eyes can reach. 
Our numbers are scarcely diminished by our losses. 
Yours, on the contrary, are lessening every hour. You 
are perishing from hunger and sickness. Your provi- 
sions and water are failing. You must soon fall into 
our hands. The bridges are broken down, and you cannot 
escape /" There will be too few of you left to glut the 
vengeance of our gods ! " As they concluded, they sent 
a volley of arrows over the battlements, which com- 
pelled the Spaniards to descend and take refuge in their 

The fierce and indomitable spirit of the Aztecs filled 
the besieged with dismay. All, then, that they had done 
and suffered, their battles by day, their vigils by night, 
the perils they had braved, even the victories they had 
won, were of no avail. It was too evident that they had 
no longer the spring of ancient superstition to work upon 
in the breasts of the natives, who, like some wild beast 
that has burst the bonds of his keeper, seemed now to 
swell and exult in the full consciousness of their strength. 

10 According to Cortes, they 
boasted, in somewhat loftier strain, n " Que todas las calzadas de las 

they could spare twenty-five thou- entradas de la ciudad eran deshechas, 

sand for one, " a morir veinte y cinco como de hecho passaba." Ibid., loc. 

mil de ellos, y uno de los nuestros." cit. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

Eel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, lib. -33, cap. 13. 
p. 139. 


The annunciation respecting the bridges fell like a knell 
on the ears of the Christians. All that they had heard 
was too true, — and they gazed on one another with looks 
of anxiety and dismay. 

The same consequences followed, which sometimes 
take place among the crew of a shipwrecked vessel. 
Subordination was lost in the dreadful sense of danger. 
A spirit of mutiny broke out, especially among the recent 
levies drawn from the army of Narvaez. They had come 
into the country from no motive of ambition, but at- 
tracted simply by the glowing reports of its opulence, 
and they had fondly hoped to return in a few months 
with their pockets well lined with the gold of the Aztec 
monarch. But how different had been their lot ! From 
the first hour of their landing they had experienced only 
trouble and disaster, privations of every description, suf- 
ferings unexampled, and they now beheld in perspective 
a fate yet more appalling. Bitterly did they lament the 
hour when they left the sunny fields of Cuba for these 
cannibal regions ! And heartily did they curse their own 
folly in listening to the call of Velasquez, and still more, 
in embarking under the banner of Cortes ! 12 

They now demanded with noisy vehemence to be led 
instantly from the city, and refused to serve longer in 
defence of a place where they were cooped up like sheep 
in the shambles, waiting only to be dragged to slaughter. 
In all this they were rebuked by the more orderly soldier- 
like conduct of the veterans of Cortes. These latter had 
shared with their general the day of his prosperity, and 
they were not disposed to desert him in the tempest. It 
was, indeed, obvious, on a little reflection, that the only 
chance of safety, in the existing crisis, rested on subor- 
dination and union ; and that even this chance must be 

12 « p ues tambicn quiero dezir las aca les erobid, que bien pacificos 

maldiciones que Los de Narvaez estauau en sus casas en la Isla de 

echauan a Cortes, y las palabras que Cuba, y cst,auan embclcsados, y sin 

dezian, que reneg'auan del, y de la sentido." Beriial Diaz, Hist, de la 

tierra, y aim de Diego Velasquez, que Conquista, ubi supra. 


greatly diminished under any other leader than their 
present one. 

Thus pressed by enemies without and by factions 
within, that leader was found, as usual, true to himself. 
Circumstances so appalling as would have paralysed a 
common mind, only stimulated his to higher action, and 
drew forth all its resources. He combined what is most 
rare, singular coolness and constancy of purpose, with a 
spirit of enterprise that might well be called romantic. 
His presence of mind did not now desert him. He 
calmly surveyed his condition, and weighed the difficul- 
ties which surrounded him, before coming to a decision. 
Independently of the hazard of a retreat in the face of a 
watchful and desperate foe, it was a deep mortification 
to surrender up the city, where he had so long lorded it 
as a master ; to abandon the rich treasures which he had 
secured to himself and his followers ; to forego the very 
means by which he had hoped to propitiate the favour of 
his sovereign, and secure an amnesty for his irregular 
proceedings. This, he well knew must, after all, be 
dependent on success. To fly now was to acknowledge 
himself further removed from the conquest than ever. 
What a close was this to a career so auspiciously begun ! 
What a contrast to his magnificent vaunts ! What a 
triumph would it afford to his enemies ! The governor 
of Cuba would be amply revenged. 

But, if such humiliating reflections crowded on his 
mind, the alternative of remaining, in his present crippled 
condition, seemed yet more desperate. 13 With his men 
daily diminishing in strength and numbers, their provi- 
sions reduced so low that a small daily ration of bread 
was all the sustenance afforded to the soldier under his 
extraordinary fatigues, 14 with the breaches every day 

^ Notwithstanding this, in the pressly stated as the principal motive 

petition or letter from Vera Cruz, that finally induced their general to 

addressed by the army to the Em- abandon the city. Carta del Exer- 

peror Charles V., after the Conquest, cito, MS. 

the importunity of the soldiers is ex- M " La hambre era tanta, que a 


widening in his feeble fortifications, with his ammunition, 
in fine, nearly expended, it would be impossible to main- 
tain the place much longer — and none but men of iron 
constitutions and tempers, like the Spaniards, could have 
held it out so long — against the enemy. The chief 
embarrassment was as to the time and manner in which 
in would be expedient to evacuate the city. The best 
route seemed to be that of Tlacopan (Tacuba). For the 
causeway, the most dangerous part of the road, was but 
two miles long in that direction, and would therefore 
place the fugitives, much sooner than either of the other 
great avenues, on terra firma. Before his final departure, 
however, he proposed to make another sally in that direc- 
tion, in order to reconnoitre the ground, and, at the same 
time, divert the enemy's attention from his real purpose 
by a show of active operations. 

For some days his workmen had been employed in 
constructing a military machine of his own invention. 
It was called a mania, and was contrived somewhat on 
the principle of the mantelets used in the wars of the 
Middle Ages. It was, however, more complicated, con- 
sisting of a tower made of light beams and planks, having 
two chambers, one over the other. These were to be 
filled with musketeers, and the sides were provided with 
loop-holes, through which a fire could be kept up on the 
enemy. The great advantage proposed by this con- 
trivance was, to afford a defence to the troops against 
the missiles hurled from the terraces. These machines, 
three of which were made, rested on rollers, and were 
provided with strong ropes, by which they were to be 
dragged along the streets by the Tlascalan auxiliaries. 15 

los Indios no sc daba mas de vna mance of " Calavar," has made good 

Tortilla de. ration, i a los Caslellanos use of these manias, belter, indeed, 

cinquenta granos de Maiz." IIerrcra, than can be permitted to the his- 

Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9. torian. He claims the privilege of 

15 llcl. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lo- the romancer; though it must be 

renzana, p. 135. — Gomara, Cronica, owned he docs not abuse this privi- 

cap. 106. lege, for he lias studied with great 

Dr. Bird, in his picturesque ro- care the costume, manners, and 


The Mexicans gazed with astonishment on this war- 
like machinery, and, as the rolling fortresses advanced, 
belching forth fire and smoke from their entrails, the 
enemy, incapable of making an impression on those 
within, fell back in dismay. By bringing the manias 
under the walls of the houses, the Spaniards were enabled 
to fire with effect on the mischievous tenants of the 
azoteas, and when this did not silence them, by letting a 
ladder, or light drawbridge, fall on the roof from the 
top of the mania, they opened a passage to the terrace, 
and closed with the combatants hand to hand. They 
could not, however, thus approach the higher buildings, 
from which the Indian warriors threw down such heavy 
masses of stone and timber as dislodged the planks that 
covered the machines, or, thundering against their sides, 
shook the frail edifices to their foundations, threatening 
all within with indiscriminate ruin. Indeed, the success 
of the experiment was doubtful, when the intervention of 
a canal put a stop to their further progress. 

The Spaniards now found the assertion of their ene- 
mies too well confirmed. The bridge which traversed 
the opening had been demolished; and, although the 
canals which intersected the city were in general of no 
great width or depth, the removal of the bridges not 
only impeded the movements of the general's clumsy 
machines, but effectually disconcerted those of his cavalry. 
Resolving to abandon the manias, he gave orders to fill 
up the chasm with stone, timber, and other rubbish 
drawn from the ruined buildings, and to make a new 
passage-way for the army. While this labour was going 

military usages of the natives. He revive the antique dialogue of the 

has done for them what Cooper has Spanish cavalier, we must not be sur- 

done for the wild tribes of the prised. Nothing is more difficult 

North — touched their rude features than the skilful execution of a modern 

with the bright colouring of a poetic antique. It requires all the genius 

fancy. He has been equally fortu- and learning of Scott to execute it so 

nate in his delineation of the pictu- that the connoisseur shall not detect 

resque scenery of the land. If he the counterfeit, 
has been less so in attempting to 


on, the Aztec slingers and archers on the other side of 
the opening kept up a galling discharge on the Chris- 
tians, the more defenceless from the nature of their 
occupation, When the work was completed, and a safe 
passage secured, the Spanish cavaliers rode briskly against 
the enemy, who, unable to resist the shock of the steel- 
clad column, fell back with precipitation to where another 
canal afforded a similar strong position for defence. 16 

There were no less than seven of these canals, inter- 
secting the great street of Tlacopan, 17 and at every one 
the same scene was renewed, the Mexicans making a 
gallant stand, and inflicting some loss, at each, on their 
persevering antagonists. These operations consumed 
two days, when, after incredible toil, the Spanish gene- 
ral had the satisfaction to find the line of communication 
completely reestablished through the whole length of the 
avenue, and the principal bridges placed under strong 
detachments of infantry. At this juncture, when he had 
driven the foe before him to the furthest extremity of the 
street, where it touches on the causeway, he was in- 
formed that the Mexicans, disheartened by their re- 
verses, desired to open a parley with him respecting the 
terms of an accommodation, and that their chiefs awaited 
his return for that purpose at the fortress. Overjoyed 
at the intelligence, he instantly rode back, attended by 
Alvarado, Sandoval, and about sixty of the cavaliers, to 
his quarters. 

The Mexicans proposed that he should release the two 
priests captured in the temple, who might be the bearers 
of his terms, and serve as agents for conducting the 
negotiation. They were accordingly sent with the 

10 Carta del Exercito, MS. — ltd. Spaniards entered, but by which they 

Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorcnzana, p. finally left the city, and is correctly 

140. — Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. indicated by Lorenzana, as that of 

17 Clavigero is mistaken in call- Tlacopan, — or rather, Tacuba, into 

ing this the street of Iztapalapan. which the Spaniards corrupted the 

(Stor. del Messico, torn, hi., p. 129.) name. 
It was not the street bv which the 


requisite instructions to their countrymen. But they did 
not return. The whole was an artifice of the enemy, 
anxious to procure the liberation of their religious leaders, 
one of whom was their teoteuctli, or high priest, whose 
presence was indipensable in the probable event of a 
new coronation. 

Cortes, meanwhile, relying on the prospects of a 
speedy arrangement, was hastily taking some refresh- 
ment with his officers, after the fatigues of the day, 
when he received the alarming tidings, that the enemy 
were in arms again, with more fury than ever ; that they 
had overpowered the detachments posted under Alvarado 
at three of the bridges, and were busily occupied in 
demolishing them. Stung with shame at the facility 
with which he had been duped by his wily foe, or rather 
by his own sanguine hopes, Cortes threw himself into the 
saddle, and, followed by his brave companions, galloped 
back at full speed to the scene of action. The Mexicans 
recoiled before the impetuous charge of the Spaniards. 
The bridges were again restored ; and Cortes and his 
chivalry rode down the whole extent of the great street, 
driving the enemy, like frightened deer, at the points of 
their lances. But before he could return on his steps, 
he had the mortification to find, that the indefatigable 
foe, gathering from the adjoining lanes and streets, had 
again closed on his infantry, who, worn down by fatigue, 
were unable to maintain their position, at one of the 
principal bridges. New swarms of warriors now poured 
in on all sides, overwhelming the little band of Christian 
cavaliers with a storm of stones, darts, and arrows, which 
rattled like hail on their armour and on that of their 
well-barbed horses. Most of the missiles, indeed, glanced 
harmless from the good panoplies of steel, or thick 
quilted cotton; but, now and then, one better aimed 
penetrated the joints of the harness, and stretched the 
rider on the ground. 

The confusion became greater around the broken 


bridge. Some of the horsemen were thrown into the 
canal, and their steeds floundered, wildly about without a 
rider. Cortes himself, at this crisis, did more than any 
other to cover the retreat of his followers. While the 
bridge was repairing, he plunged boldly into the midst 
of the barbarians, striking down an enemy at every 
vault of his charger, cheering on his own men, and 
spreading terror through the ranks of his opponents by 
the well-known sound of his battle-cry. Never did he 
display greater hardihood, or more freely expose his 
person, emulating, says an old chronicler, the feats of the 
Roman Codes. 18 In this way he stayed the tide of 
assailants, till the last man had crossed the bridge, 
when, some of the planks having given way, he was 
compelled to leap a chasm of full six feet in width, 
amidst a cloud of missiles, before he could place himself 
in safety. 19 A report ran through the army that the 
general was slain. It soon spread through the city, to 
the great joy of the Mexicans, and reached the fortress, 
where the besieged were thrown into no less consterna- 
tion. But, happily for them, it was false. He, indeed, 
received two severe contusions on the knee, but in other 
respects remained uninjured. At no time, however, had 
he been in such extreme danger ; and his escape, and 
that of his companious, were esteemed little less than a 

18 It is Ovieclo who finds a parallel and horse in armour. But the gene- 
for his hero in the Roman warrior ; ral's own assertion to the Emperor 
the same, to quote the spirit-stirring (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 142) 
legend of Macaulay, is fully confirmed by Oviedo, who tells 

" who kept the bridge so well us he had it from several who were 

In the brave days of old." present. " Y segun lo que yo he en- 

" Mui digno es Cortes que se com- tendido dc algunos que presentcs se 

pare estc feclio suyo desta Jornada hallaron, denras de la resistencia de 

al de Oracio Cocles, que se toco de aquellos havia de la vna parte a la 

suso, porque con su esfuerzo, 6 otra casi vn cstado dc saltar con el 

lanza sola did" tanto lugar, que los caballo sin lc faltar muchas pedradas 

caballos pudieran pasar, c hizo des- de diversas partes, 6 manos, 6 por ir 

embarazar la pucnte e paso, a pesar el, e su caballo bien armados no los 

de los Enemigos, aunquc con harto hirieron ; pero no dexo de quedar 

trabajo." Hist, de las Ind., MS., atormentado de los golpes que le 

lib. 33, cap. 13. dieron." Hist, dc las Ind., MS., 

19 It was a fair leap for a knight ubi supra. 


miracle. More than one grave historian refers the 
preservation of the Spaniards to the watchful care of 
their patron Apostle, St. James, who, in these desperate 
conflicts, was beheld careering on his milk-white steed 
at the head of the Christian squadrons, with his sword 
flashing lightning, while a lady robed in white — supposed 
to be the Virgin — was distinctly seen by his side, throw- 
ing dust in the eyes of the infidel ! The fact is attested 
both by Spaniards and Mexicans, — by the latter after 
their conversion to Christianity. Surely never was there 
a time when the interposition of their tutelar saint was 
more strongly demanded. 20 

The coming of night dispersed the Indian battalions, 
which, vanishing like birds of ill omen from the field, 
left the well-contested pass in possession of the Spaniards. 
They returned, however, with none of the joyous feelings 
of conquerors to their citadel, but with slow step and 
dispirited, with weapons hacked, armour battered, and 
fainting under the loss of blood, fasting, and fatigue. 
In this condition they had yet to learn the tidings of a 
fresh misfortune in the death of Montezuma. 21 

20 Truly, "dignus vindice nodus!" incredulos 6 poco devotos diran, que 

The intervention of the celestial mi ocupacion en esto destos miraglos, 

chivalry on these occasions is testi- pues no los vi, es superflua, 6 perder 

fied in the most unqualified manner tiempo novelando, y yo hablo, que 

by many respectable authorities. It esto e mas se puede creer : pues que 

is edifying to observe the combat los gentiles e sin fe, e Idolatras es- 

going on in Oviedo's mind between criben, que ovo grandes misterios 6 

the dictates of strong sense and miraglos en sus tiempos, e aquellos 

superior learning, and those of the sabemos que eran causados e fechos 

superstition of the age. It was an por el Diablo, pues mas facil cosa es 

unequal combat, with odds sorely a Dios e a la inmaculata Virgen 

against the former, in the sixteenth Nuestra Senora e al glorioso Apdstol 

century. I quote the passage as Santiago, e a los santos e amigos de 

characteristic of the times. " A fir- Jesu Christo hacer esos miraglos, 

man que se vido el Apostol Santiago que de suso estan dichos, e otros 

a caballo peleando sobre vn caballo maiores." Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

bianco en favor de los Christianos ; lib. 33, cap. 47. 
e decian los Indios que el caballo 21 " Multi restiterunt lapidibus et 

con los pies y manos e con la boca iaculis confossi, fuit et Cortesius 

mataba muchos dellos, de forma, que grauiter percussus, pauci evaserunt 

en poco discurso de tiempo no parecid incolumes, et hi adeb languidi, vt 

Indio, e reposaron los Christianos lo neque lacertos erigere quirent. Post- 

restante de aquel dia. Yasequelos quam vero se in arcem receperunt, 



The Indian monarch had rapidly declined since he 
had received his injury, sinking, however, quite as much 
under the anguish of a wounded spirit, as under disease. 
He continued in the same moody state of insensibility as 
that already described ; holding little communication 
with those around him, deaf to consolation, obstinately 
rejecting all medical remedies, as well as nourishment. 
Perceiving his end approach, some of the cavaliers pre- 
sent in the fortress, whom the kindness of his manners 
had personally attached to him, were anxious to save the 
soul of the dying prince from the sad doom of those who 
perish in the darkness of unbelief. They accordingly 
waited on him, with father Olmedo at their head, and in 
the most earnest manner implored him to open his eyes 
to the error of his creed, and consent to be baptized. 
But Montezuma — whatever may have been suggested to 
the contrary — seems never to have faltered in his here- 
ditary faith, or to have contemplated becoming an 
apostate; for surely he merits that name in its most 
odious application, who, whether Christian or pagan, 
renounces his religion without conviction of its false- 
hood. 22 Indeed, it was a too implicit reliance on its 
oracles, which had led him to give such easy confidence 
to the Spaniards. His intercourse with them had, 
doubtless, not sharpened his desire to embrace their 
communion ; and the calamities of his country he might 
consider as sent by his gods to punish him for his 

non commode satis conditas dapes, ~ The sentiment is expressed with 

quibus reficerentur, inuenerunt, nee singular energy in the verses of Vol- 

forte asperi maiicii panis bnccllas, taire : 

ant aquam potabilem, dc vino aut 

carnibus sublata erat cura." (Mar- " Mais renoncer aux dieux que Ton 

tyr, de Orbc Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6.) croit dans son coeur, 

See also, for the hard fighting in the C'est le crime d'un lache, et non 

last pages, Ovicdo, Hist, de las Ind., pas une erreur ; 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — Kcl. Seg. de C'est trahir a la fois, sons un 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 140 — masque hypocrite, 

142. — Carta del Excrcito, MS. — Et lc dieu qu'on prefere, et le dieu 

Gonzalo de las Casas, Dcl'cnsa, MS., que Ton quitte : 

Parte 1, cap. 20. — Herrcra, Hist. C'est mentir au Ciel meme, a 

General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 9, 10. l'univers, a soi." 

— Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107. AxziEE, Acte 5, sc. 5. 

... „.] 



hospitality to those who had desecrated and destroyed 
their shrines. 23 

When father Olmedo, therefore, kneeling at his side, 
with the uplifted crucifix, affectionately besought him to 
embrace the sign of man's redemption, he coldly re- 
pulsed the priest, exclaiming, " I have but a few 
moments to live ; and will not at this hour desert the 
faith of my fathers." 2i One thing, however, seemed to 
press heavily on Montezuma's mind. This was the fate 
of his children, especially of three daughters, whom he 
had by his two wives ; for there were certain rites of 
marriage, which distinguished the lawful wife from the 
concubine. Calling Cortes to his bedside, he earnestly 
commended these children to his care, as " the most 
precious jewels that he could leave him." He besought 
the general to interest his master, the emperor, in their 
behalf, and to see that they should not be left destitute, 
but be allowed some portion of their rightful inheritance. 

23 Camargo, the Tlascalan convert, 
says, he was told by several of the 
Conquerors, that Montezuma was 
baptized at his own desire in his 
last moments, and that Cortes and 
Alvarado stood sponsors on the occa- 
sion. " Muchos afirman de los con- 
quistadoresque yo conoci, que estando 
en el articulo de la muerte pidid agua 
de batismo e que fue batizado y mu- 
rid Cristiano, aunque en esto hay 
grandes dudas y diferentes pares- 
ceres ; mas como digo que de per- 
sonas fidedignas conquistadores de 
los primeros desta tierra de quien 
fuiinos informados, supimos que mu- 
rid batizado y Cristiano, e que fueron 
sus padrinos del batismo Fernando 
Cortes y Don Pedro de Alvarado." 
(Hist, de Tlascala, MS.) According 
to Gomara, the Mexican monarch 
desired to be baptized before the 
arrival of Narvaez. The ceremony 
was deferred till Easter, that it 
might be performed with greater 
effect. But in the hurry and bustle 
of the subsequent scenes it was for- 
gotten, and he died without the stain 
of infidelity having been washed 

away from him. (Crdnica, cap. 107.) 
Torquemada, not often a Pyrrhonist 
where the honour of the faith is con- 
cerned, rejects these tales as irrecon- 
cilable with the subsequent silence 
of Cortes himself, as well as of Alva- 
rado, who would Lave been loud to 
Sroclaim an event so long in vain 
esired by them. (Monarch. Ind., 
lib. 4, cap. 70.) The criticism of 
the father is strongly supported by 
the fact, that neither of the pre- 
ceding accounts is corroborated by 
writers of any weight, while they are 
contradicted by several, by popular 
tradition, and, it may be added, by 
one another. 

24 " Respondid, Que por la media 
hora que le quedaba de vida, no se 
queria apartar de la religion de sus 
Padres." (Herrera, Hist. General, 
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.) " Ya he 
dicho," says Diaz, "la tristeza que 
todos nosotros huvimos por ello, y 
ami al Frayle de la Merced, que 
siempre estaua con el, y no le pudo 
atraer a que se volviesse Cristiano. 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 127. 
g 2 


" Your lord will do this," he concluded, " if it were only 
for the friendly offices I have rendered the Spaniards, 
and for the love I have shown them, — though it has 
brought me to this condition ! But for this I bear them 
no ill-will." 25 Such, according to Cortes himself, were 
the words of the dying monarch. Not long after, on the 
30th of June, 1520, 26 he expired in the arms of some 
of his own nobles, who still remained faithful in their 
attendance on his person. " Thus," exclaims a native 
historian, one of his enemies, a Tlascalan, " thus died 
the unfortunate Montezuma, who had swayed the sceptre 
with such consummate policy and wisdom ; and who was 
held in greater reverence and awe than any other prince 
of his lineage, or any, indeed, that ever sat on a throne 
in this Western World. With him may be said to have 
terminated the royal line of the Aztecs, and the glory to 
have passed aw T ay from the empire, which under him had 
reached the zenith of its prosperity." 27 " The tidings of 
his death," says the old Castilian chronicler Diaz, " were 
received with real grief by every cavalier and soldier in the 
army who had had access to his person ; for we all loved 

25 Antique no le pesaba dello ; 26 I adopt Clavigero's chronology, 
literally, "although he did not re- which cannot he far from truth, 
pent of it." But this would he (Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 131.) 
rather too much for human nature And yet there are reasons for sup- 
to assert; and it is probable the Ian- posing he must have died at least a 
guage of the Indian prince under- day sooner. 

went some little change, as it was - 7 " Dc suerte que le tiraron una 

sifted through the interpretation of pedrada con una lionda y le diuron 

Marina. The Spanish reader will en la cabeza de que vino a morir el 

find the original conversation, as re- desdichado Rey, habiendo gobemado 

ported by Cortes himself, in the re- este nuevo Mundo con la mayor 

markable document {Appendix, Part prudencia y gobicrno que se puedc 

2, No. 12). — The general adds, that imaginar, siendo el mas tenido y 

he faithfully complied with Monte- reverenciado y adorado Senor que en 

zunia's request, receiving his daugh- el mundo ha habido, y en su linaje. 

tors, after the Conquest, into his own como es cosa publica y notoria en 

family, where, agreeably to their royal toda la maquina deste Nuevo Mundo, 

fathers desire, they were baptized, dondc con la muerte de tan gran 

and instructed in the doctrines and Schor so acabaron los Reyes Culhu- 

usages of the Christian faith. They aqucs Mcjicanos, y todo su poder y 

were afterwards married to Castilian mando, estando en la mayor fclicidad 

hidalgos, and handsome dowries were de su monarqufa ; y ansi no hay dc 

assigned them by the government. que fiar en las cosas desta vida sino 

See note 30 of this chapter. on soloDios." Hist. dcTlascala, MS. 




him as a father, — and no wonder, seeing how good he 
was." 28 This simple, but emphatic, testimony to his 
desert, at such a time, is in itself the best refutation of 
the suspicions occasionally entertained of his fidelity to 
the Christians. 29 

It is not easy to depict the portrait of Montezuma in 
its true colours, since it has been exhibited to us under 
two aspects, of the most opposite and contradictory 
character. In the accounts gathered of him by the 
Spaniards, on coming into the country, he was uniformly 
epresented as bold and warlike, unscrupulous as to the 
means of gratifying his ambition, hollow and perfidious, 
the terror of his foes, with a haughty bearing which 
made him feared even by his own people. They found 
him, on the contrary, not merely affable and gracious, 
but disposed to waive all the advantages of his own 

2S " Y Cortes lloro por el, y toclos 
nuestros Capitanes, y soldados, e 
liombres, huvo entre nosotros, de los 
que le conociamos, y tratauamos, que 
tan llorado fue, como si fuera nuestro 
padre, y no nos hemos de maravillar 
dello, viendo que tan bueno era." 
Hist, de la Couquista, cap. 126. 

29 " He loved the Christians," says 
Herrera, " as well as could be judged 
from appearances." Hist. General, 
dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 10.) " They 
say," remarks the general's chap- 
lain, " that Montezuma, though often 
urged to it, never consented to the 
death of a Spaniard, nor to the in- 
jury of Cortes, whom he loved ex- 
ceedingly. But there are those who 
dispute this." (Gomara, Cronica, 
cap. 107.) Hon Thoan Cailo assured 
Oviedo, that, during all the troubles 
of the Spaniards with the Mexi- 
cans, both in the absence of Cortes 
and after his return, the emperor did 
his best to supply the camp with 
provisions. (See Appendix, Part 2, 
No. 11.) And finally, Cortes him- 
self, in an instrument already re- 
ferred to, dated six years after 
Montezuma's death, bears emphatic 
testimony to the good will he had 

shown to Spaniards, and particularly 
acquits him of any share in the late 
rising, which, says the Conqueror, 
" I had trusted to suppress through 
his assistance." See Appendix, Part 
2, No. 19, , 

The Spanish historians, in general, 
— notwithstanding an occasional in- 
timation of a doubt as to his good 
faith towards their countrymen, — 
make honourable mention of the 
many excellent qualities of the In- 
dian prince. Soils, however, the 
most eminent of all, dismisses the 
account of his death with the re- 
mark, that " his last hours were 
spent in breathing vengeance and 
maledictions against his people ; un- 
til he surrendered up to Satan — with 
whom he had frequent communica- 
tion in his lifetime — the eternal pos- 
session of his soul !" (Conquista de 
Mexico, lib. 4, cap. 15.) Fortunately, 
the historiographer of the Indies 
could know as little of Montezuma's 
fate in the next world, as he appears 
to have known of it in this. Was it 
bigotry, or a desire to set his own 
hero's character in a brighter light, 
which led him thus unworthily to 
darken that of his Indian rival P' 


position, and to place them on a footing with himself; 
making their wishes his law ; gentle even to effeminacy 
in his deportment, and constant in his friendship, while 
his whole nation was in arms against them. — Yet these 
traits, so contradictory, were truly enough drawn. They 
are to be explained by the extraordinary circumstances 
of his position. 

When Montezuma ascended the throne, he was 
scarcely twenty-three years of age. Young, and ambi- 
tious of extending his empire, he was continually en- 
gaged in war, and is said to have been present himself 
in nine pitched battles. 30 He was greatly renowned for 
his martial prowess, for he belonged to the Quachictin, 
the highest military order of his nation, and one into 
which but few even of its sovereigns had been admitted. 31 
In later life, he preferred intrigue to violence, as more 
consonant to his character and priestly education. In 
this he was as great an adept as any prince of his time, 
and, by arts not very honourable to himself, succeeded 
in filching away much of the territory of his royal kins- 
man of Tezcuco. Severe in the administration of justice, 
he made important reforms in the arrangement of the 
tribunals. He introduced other innovations in the royal 
household, creating new offices, introducing a lavish 
magnificence and forms of courtly etiquette unknown to 
his ruder predecessors. He was, in short, most attentive 
to all that concerned the exterior and pomp of royalty. 32 
Stately and decorous, he was careful of his own dignity, 
and might be said to be as great an " actor of majesty " 
among the barbarian potentates of the New World, as 

30 "Dicen que vencio* nueve Ba- ffi " Era mas cauteloso, y ardidoso, 
talks, i otros nueve Campos, en que valeroso. En las Armas, y modo 
desafio vno a vno." Gomara, Cro- de su govierno, fiie" muy justiciero ; 
nica, cap. 107. en las cosas tocantes a ser estimado 

31 One other only of his predeces- ytenido en su Dignidad y Majestad 
sors, Tizoc, is shown by the Aztec Real de condicion muy severo, aun- 
paintings to have belonged to this que cuerdo y gracioso." Ixtlilxochitl, 
knightly order, according to Clavi- Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 88. 

gero. Stor.del Messico, tom.ii. p. 140. 

chap, ii.] DEATH OF MONTEZUMA. 87 

Louis the Fourteenth was among the polished princes 
of Europe. 

He was deeply tinctured, moreover, with that spirit of 
bigotry, which threw such a shade over the latter days of 
the French monarch. He received the Spaniards as the 
beings predicted by his oracles. The anxious dread, 
with which he had evaded their proffered visit, was 
founded on the same feelings which led him so blindly 
to resign himself to them on their approach. He felt 
himself rebuked by their superior genius. He at once 
conceded all that they demanded, — his treasures, his 
power, even his person. For their sake, he forsook his 
wonted occupations, his pleasures, his most familiar 
habits. He might be said to forego his nature ; and, as 
his subjects asserted, to change his sex and become a 
woman. If we cannot refuse our contempt for the pusil- 
lanimity of the Aztec monarch, it should be mitigated 
by the consideration, that his pusillanimity sprung from 
his superstition, and that superstition in the savage is the 
substitute for religious principle in the civilized man. 

It is not easy to contemplate the fate of Montezuma 
without feelings of the strongest compassion ; — to see 
him thus borne along the tide of events beyond his 
power to avert or control ; to see him, like some stately 
tree, the pride of his own Indian forests, towering aloft 
in the pomp and majesty of its branches, by its very 
eminence a mark for the thunderbolt, the first victim of 
the tempest which was to sweep over its native hills ! 
When the wise king of Tezcuco addressed his royal 
relative at his coronation, he exclaimed, " Happy the 
empire, which is now in the meridian of its prosperity, 
for the sceptre is given to one whom the Almighty has 
in his keeping; and the nations shall hold him in 
reverence !" 33 Alas ! the subject of this auspicious in- 
vocation lived to see his empire melt away like the 

33 The whole address is given by Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, 
cap. 68. 


winter's wreath ; to see a strange race drop, as it were, 
from the clouds on his land ; to find himself a prisoner 
in the palace of his fathers, the companion of those who 
were the enemies of his gods and his people ; to be 
insulted, reviled, trodden in the dust, by the meanest of 
his subjects, by those who, a few months previous, had 
trembled at his glance ; drawing his last breath in the 
halls of the stranger, a lonely outcast in the heart of his 
own capital ! He was the sad victim of destiny, — a 
destiny as dark and irresistible in its march, as that 
which broods over the mythic legends of antiquity ! u 

Montezuma, at the time of his death, was about forty- 
one years old, of which he reigned eighteen. His person 
and manners have been already described. He left a 
numerous progeny by his various wives, most of whom, 
having lost their consideration after the Conquest, fell 
into obscurity as they mingled with the mass of the 
Indian population. 35 Two of them, however, a son and 
a daughter, who embraced Christianity, became the 
founders of noble houses in Spain. 36 The government, 

34 " Texvrj b' dvaynrjs daGevecrTepa Mexico ; and a daughter named Te- 

fiaKpcp. cuichpo, who embraced Christianity, 

Tt? ovv dvaynrjs iarlv olaico- and received the name of Isabella. 

arpocfios ; She was married, when very young, 

Molpat. rplpopcpot., fipqfxov&s r to her cousin Guatemozin; and lived 

'Epivvves. long enough after his death to give 

Tovto>v dp' 6 Zevs co-tip da- her hand to three Castilians, all of 

Bevearepos ; honourable family. From two of 

Ovkow av (Kcpvyoi ye rr)i/ ire- these, Don Pedro Gallejo, and Don 

7rp(cptvr]v." Thoan Caho, descended the illus- 
.ZEschyl., Prometh. v. 514 — 518. • trious families of the Andrada and 

Caho Montezuma. 

35 Sehor de Calderon, the late Montezuma, by his second wife, 
Spanish minister at Mexico, informs the princess Acatlan, left two 
me, that he has more than once daughters, named after their conver- 
passcd by an Indian dwelling, where sion, Maria and Leonor. The former 
the Indians in his suite made a died without issue. Dona Leonor 
reverence, saying it was occupied by married with a Spanish cavalier, 
a descendant of Montezuma. Cristoval de Valdcrrama, from whom 

38 This son, baptized by the name descended the family of the Sotelos 

of Pedro, was descended from one of de Montezuma. To which of these 

the royal concubines. Montezuma branches belonged the counts of 

had two lawful, wives. By the first Miravallc, noticed by Humboldt, 

of these, named Tecalco, he had a (Essai Politique, torn. ii. p. 73, note,) 

son, who perished in the flight from I am ignorant. 


willing to show its gratitude for the large extent of 
empire derived from their ancestor, conferred on them 
ample estates, and important hereditary honours ; and 
the Counts of Montezuma and Tula, intermarrying with 
the best blood of Castile, intimated by their names and 
titles their illustrious descent from the royal dynasty of 
Mexico. 37 

Montezuma's death was a misfortune to the Spaniards. 
While he lived, they had a precious pledge in their hands, 
which, in extremity, they might possibly have turned to 
account. Now the last link was snapped which connected 
them with the natives of the country. But independently 
of interested feelings, Cortes and his officers were much 
affected by his death from personal considerations j and, 
when they gazed on the cold remains of the ill-starred 
monarch, they may have felt a natural compunction, as 
they contrasted his late flourishing condition with that 
to which his friendship for them had now reduced him. 

The Spanish commander showed all respect for his. 
memory. His body, arrayed in its royal robes, was laid 

The royal genealogy is minutely — Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn, 

exhibited in a Memorial, setting i. p. 302, torn. iii. p. 132.) The last 

forth the claims of Montezuma's of the line, of whom I have been able 

grandsons to certain property in to obtain any intelligence, died not 

right of their respective mothers. long since in North America. He 

The document, which is without was very wealthy, having large es- 

date, is among the MSS. of Muhoz. tates in Spain, — but was not, as it 

37 It is interesting to know that a appears, very wise. When seventy 

descendant of the Aztec emperor, years old or more, he passed over to 

Don Joseph Sarmiento Valladares, Mexico, in the vain hope that the 

Count of Montezuma, ruled as vice- nation, in deference to his descent, 

roy, from 1697 to 1701, over the do- might place him on the throne of his 

minions of his barbaric ancestors. Indian ancestors, so recently occu- 

(Humboldt, Essai Politique, torn. ii. pied by the presumptuous Iturbide. 

p. 93, note.) Soils speaks of this But the modern Mexicans, with 

noble house, grandees of Spain, who all their detestation of the old 

intermingled their blood with that Spaniards, showed no respect for the 

of the Guzmans and the Mendozas. royal blood of the Aztecs. The un- 

Clavigero has traced their descent fortunate nobleman retired to New 

from the emperor's son Iohualicahua, Orleans, where he soon after put an 

or Don Pedro Montezuma, as he was end to his existence by blowing out 

called after his baptism, down to his brains, — -not for ambition, how- 

the close of the eighteenth century. ever, if report be true, but disap- 

(See Solis, Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 15. pointed love ! 


decently on a bier, and borne on the shoulders of his 
nobles to his subjects in the city. What honours, if any, 
indeed, were paid to his remains, is uncertain. A sound 
of wailing, distinctly heard in the western quarters of the 
capital, was interpreted by the Spaniards into the moans 
of a funeral procession, as it bore the body to be laid 
among those of his ancestors, under the princely shades 
of Chapoltepec. 38 Others state, that it was removed to a 
burial-place in the city named Copalco, and there burnt 
with the usual solemnities and signs of lamentation by 
his chiefs, but not without some unworthy insults from 
the Mexican populace. 39 Whatever be the fact, the 
people, occupied with the stirring scenes in which they 
were engaged, were probably not long mindful of the 
monarch, who had taken no share in their late patriotic 
movements. Nor is it strange that the very memory of 
his sepulchre should be effaced in the terrible catastrophe 
which afterwards overwhelmed the capital, and swept 
away every landmark from its surface. 

38 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 107. — 3S Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., 

Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. lib. 4, cap. 7. 
10, cap. 10. 




Council of War. — Spaniards evacuate the City. — Noche Triste, or "The 
Melancholy Night." — Terrible Slaughter. — Halt for the Night. — Amount 
of Losses. 


There was no longer any question as to the expe- 
diency of evacuating the capital. The only doubt was 
as to the time of doing so, and the route. The Spanish 
commander called a council of officers to deliberate on 
these matters. It was his purpose to retreat on Tlascala, 
and in that capital to decide according to circumstances 
on his future operations. After some discussion, they 
agreed on the causeway of Tlacopan as the avenue by 
which to leave the city. It would indeed take them 
back by a circuitous route, considerably longer than 
either of those by which they had approached the capital. 
But, for that reason, it would be less likely to be guarded, 
as least suspected ; and the causeway itself, being shorter 
than either of the other entrances, would sooner place 
the army in comparative security on the main land* 

There was some difference of opinion in respect to the 
hour of departure. The day-time, it was argued by 
some, would be preferable, since it would enable them 
to see the nature and extent of their danger, and to pro- 
vide against it. Darkness would be much more likely 
to embarrass their own movements than those of the 
enemy, who were familiar with the ground. A thousand 
impediments would occur in the night, which might 

92 Expulsion from Mexico. [book v. 

prevent their acting in concert, or obeying, or even 
ascertaining, the orders of the commander. But on the 
other hand it was urged, that the night presented many 
obvious advantages in dealing Avith a foe who rarely 
carried his hostilities beyond the day. The late active 
operations of the Spaniards had thrown the Mexicans off 
their guard, and it was improbable they would anticipate 
so speedy a departure of their enemies. With celerity 
and caution they might succeed, therefore, in making 
their escape from the town, possibly over the causeway, 
before their retreat should be discovered ; and could they 
once get beyond that pass of peril, they felt little appre- 
hension for the rest. 

These views were fortified, it is said, by the counsels 
of a soldier named Botello, who professed the mysterious 
science of judicial astrology. He had gained credit with 
the army by some predictions which had been verified 
by the events ; those lucky hits which make chance pass 
for calculation with the credulous multitude. 1 This man 
recommended to his countrymen by all means to evacuate 
the place in the night, as the hour most propitious to 
them, although he should perish in it. The event proved 
the astrologer better acquainted with his own horoscope 
than with that of others. 2 

It is possible Botello's predictions had some weight in 
determining the opinion of Cortes. Superstition was the 
feature of the age, and the Spanish general, as Ave have 
seen, had a full measure of its bigotry. Seasons of 
gloom, moreover, dispose the mind to a ready acqui- 
escence in the marvellous. It is, however, quite as pro- 
bable that he made use of the astrologer's opinion, 

1 Ovicdo, Hist, de las Incl, MS., cunning iu his art, as the West Indian 

lib. 33, cap. 47. sybil who foretold the destiny of the 

Theastrologerprcdictcd thatCortes unfortunate Josephine, 
would be reduced to the greatest cx- 

tremity of distress, and afterwards 2 "Pues al astrologo Botello, no 

come to great honour and fortune. le aprovochd su astrologia, que tarn- 

(Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, bien alii murio." Berual Diaz, Hist, 

cap. 128.) He showed himself as dc la Conquista, cap. 128. 

chap, in.] COUNCIL OF WAR. 93 

finding it coincided with his own, to influence that of 
his men, and inspire them with higher confidence. At 
all events, it was decided to abandon the city that 
very night. 

The general's first care was to provide for the safe 
transportation of the treasure. Many of the common 
soldiers had converted their share of the prize, as we 
have seen, into gold chains, collars, or other orna- 
ments, which they easily carried about their persons. 
But the royal fifth, together with that of Cortes himself, 
and much of the rich booty of the principal cavaliers, 
had been converted into bars and w r eclges of solid gold, 
and deposited in one of the strong apartments of the 
palace. Cortes delivered the share belonging to the Crown 
to the royal officers, assigning them one of the strongest 
horses, and a guard of Castilian soldiers to transport it. 3 
Still, much of the treasure belonging both to the Crown 
and to individuals was necessarily abandoned, from the 
want of adequate means of conveyance. The metal lay 
scattered in shining heaps along the floor, exciting the 
cupidity of the soldiers. " Take what you will of it," 
said Cortes to his men. " Better you should have it than 
these Mexican hounds. 4 But be careful not to overload 
yourselves. He travels safest in the dark night who 
travels lightest." His own more wary followers took 

3 The disposition of the treasure manera que habia para lopodersalvar, 

has been stated with some discre- que el alii estaba para por su parte 

pancy, though all agree as to its ul- hacer lo que fuese posible e poner su 

tirnate fate. The general himself persona a qualquier trance e riesgo 

did not escape the imputation of neg- que sobre lo salvar le viniese 

ligeuce, and even peculation, most El qual les did para ello una muy 

unfounded from his enemies. The buena yegua, e quatro 6 cinco Espa- 

account in the text is substantiated noles de mucha confianza, a quien se 

by the evidence, under oath, of the encargd la dha yegua cargado con el 

most respectable names in the expe- otro oro." Probanza a pedimento de 

dition, as given in the instrument Juan de Lexalde. 
already more than once referred to. 

"Hizo sacar el oro e joyas de sus 4 "Desde aqui se lo doi, como se 

Altezas e le did e entregd a los otros ha de quedar perdido entre estos 

oficiales Alcaldes e Kegidores, e les perros." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 

dixo a la rason que asi se lo entrego, Conquista, cap. 128. — Oviedo, Hist. 

que todos viesen el •mejor modo e de las Inch, MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 


heed to his counsel, helping themselves to a few articles 
of least bulk, though, it might be, of greatest value. 5 
But the troops of Narvaez, pining for riches, of which 
they had heard so much, and hitherto seen so little, 
showed no such discretion. To them it seemed as if the 
very mines of Mexico were turned up before them, and, 
rushing on the treacherous spoil, they greedily loaded 
themselves with as much of it, not merely as they could 
accommodate about their persons, but as they could stow 
away in wallets, boxes, or any other mode of conveyance 
at their disposal. 6 

Cortes next arranged the order of march. The van, 
composed of two hundred Spanish foot, he placed under 
the command of the valiant Gonzalo de Sandoval, sup- 
ported by Diego de Ordaz, Francisco de Lujo, and about 
twenty other cavaliers. The rearguard, constituting the 
strength of the infantry, was intrusted to Pedro de 
Alvarado, and Velasquez de Leon. The general himself 
took charge of the " battle," or centre, in which went 
the baggage, some of the heavy guns, most of which, 
however, remained in the rear, the treasure, and the pri- 
soners. These consisted of a son and two daughters of 
Montezuma, Cacama, the deposed lord of Tezcuco, and 
several other nobles, whom Cortes retained as important 
pledges in his future negotiations with the enemy. The 
Tlascalans were distributed pretty equally among the three 
divisions ; and Cortes had under his immediate command 
a hundred picked soldiers, his own veterans most attached 
to his service, who, with Christoval de Olid, Francisco 
de Morla, Alonso de Avila, and two or three other cava- 
liers, formed a select corps, to act wherever occasion 
might require. 

5 Captain Diaz tells us, that lie service, by supplying him the means 

contented himself with four chalchi- of obtaining food and medicine, when 

vitl, — the green stone so much prized in great extremity afterwards, from 

by the natives, — which he cunningly the people of the country. Ibid-, 

picked out of the royal coffers before loc. cit. 

Cortes' major domo had time to sc- ° Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

cure them. The prize proved of great lib. 33, cap. 47. 


The general had already superintended the construc- 
tion of a portable bridge to be laid over the open canals 
in the causeway. This was given in charge to an officer 
named Magarino, with forty soldiers under his orders, all 
pledged to defend the passage to the last extremity. 
The bridge was to be taken up when the entire army 
had crossed one of the breaches, and transported to the 
next. There were three of these openings in the cause- 
way, and most fortunate would it have been for the 
expedition if the foresight of the commander had provided 
the same number of bridges. But the labour would have 
been great, and time was short. 7 

At midnight the troops were under arms, in readiness 
for the march. Mass was performed by father Olmedo, 
who invoked the protection of the Almighty through the, 
awful perils of the night. The gates were thrown open, 
and, on the first of July, 1520, the Spaniards for the 
last time sallied forth from the walls of the ancient for- 
tress, the scene of so much suffering and such indo- 
mitable courage. 8 

The night was cloudy, and a drizzling rain, which fell 
without intermission, added to the obscurity. The great 
square before the palace was deserted, as, indeed, it had 
been since the fall of Montezuma. Steadily, and as 
noiselessly as possible, the Spaniards held their way 
along the great street of Tlacopan, which so lately had 
resounded to the tumult of battle. All was now hushed 
in silence ; and they were only reminded of the past by 

7 Gomara, Crdnica, cap. 109. — Cortes, which states, that the army 
Reg. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, reached Tlascala on the eighth of 
p. 143.— Oviedo, Hist, de las Lid., July, not the tenth, as Clavigero 
MS., lib. 33, cap. 13, 47. misquotes him ; (Stor. del Messico, 

8 There is some difficulty in ad- torn. iii. pp. 135, 136, nota;) and 
justing the precise date of their de- from the general's accurate account 
parture, as, indeed, of most events of their progress each day, it appears 
in the Conquest ; attention to chro- that they left the capital on the last 
nology being deemed somewhat su- night of June, or rather the morning 
perfluous by the old chroniclers. of July 1st. It was the night, he 
Ixtlilxochitl, Gomara, and others, also adds, following the affair of the 
fix the date at July 10th. But this bridges in the city. Comp. Rel. Seg, 
is wholly contrary to the letter of ap. Lorenzana, pp. 142 — 149. 


the occasional presence of some solitary corpse, or a dark 
heap of the slain, which too plainly told where the strife 
had been hottest. As they passed along the lanes and 
alleys which opened into the great street, or looked down 
the canals, whose polished surface gleamed with a sort 
of ebon lustre through the obscurity of night, they easily 
fancied that they discerned the shadowy forms of their 
foe lurking in ambush, and ready to spring on them. 
But it was only fancy ; and the city slept undisturbed 
even by the prolonged echoes of the tramp of the horses, 
and the hoarse rumbling of the artillery and baggage 
trains. At length a lighter space beyond the dusky line 
of buildings showed the van of the army that it was 
emerging on the open causeway. They might well have 
congratulated themselves on having thus escaped the 
dangers of an assault in the city itself, and that a brief 
time would place them in comparative safety on the op- 
posite shore. — But the Mexicans were not all asleep. 

As the Spaniards drew near the spot where the street 
opened on the causeway, and were preparing to lay the 
portable bridge across the uncovered breach which now 
met their eyes, several Indian sentinels, who had been 
stationed at this, as at the other approaches to the city, 
took the alarm, and fled, rousing their countrymen by 
their cries. The priests, keeping their night watch on 
the summit of the teocattis, instantly caught the tidings 
and sounded their shells, while the huge drum in the 
desolate temple of the war-god sent forth those solemn 
tones, which, heard only in seasons of calamity, vibrated 
through every corner of the capital. The Spaniards saw 
that no time was to be lost. The bridge was brought 
forward and fitted with all possible expedition. San- 
doval was the first to try its strength, and, riding across, 
was followed by his little body of chivalry, his infantry, 
and Tlascalan allies, who formed the first division of the 
army. Then came Cortes and his squadrons, with the 
baggage, ammunition wagons, and a part of the artillery. 

chap, in.] THE MELANCHOLY NIGHT. 97 

But before they had time to defile across the narrow pas- 
sage, a gathering sound was heard, like that of a mighty 
forest agitated by the winds. It grew louder and louder, 
while on the dark waters of the lake was heard a splash- 
ing noise, as of many oars. Then came a few stones and 
arrows striking at random among the hurrying troops. 
They fell every moment faster and more furious, till they 
thickened into a terrible tempest, while the very heavens 
were rent with the yells and war-cries of myriads of 
combatants, who seemed all at once to be swarming over 
land and lake ! 

The Spaniards pushed steadily on through this arrowy 
sleet, though the barbarians, dashing their canoes against 
the sides of the causeway, clambered up and broke in 
upon their ranks. But the Christians, anxious only to 
make their escape, declined all combat except for self- 
preservation. The cavaliers, spurring forward their steeds, 
shook off their assailants, and rode over their prostrate 
bodies, while the men on foot with their good swords or 
the butts of their pieces drove them headlong again 
down the sides of the dike. 

But the advance of several thousand men, marching, 
probably, on a front of not more than fifteen or twenty 
abreast, necessarily required much time, and the leading 
files had already reached the second breach in the cause- 
way before those in the rear had entirely traversed the 
first. Here they halted ; as they had no means of effect- 
ing a passage, smarting all the while under unintermitting 
volleys from the enemy, who were clustered thick on the 
waters around this second opening. Sorely distressed, 
the vanguard sent repeated messages to the rear to 
demand the portable bridge. At length the last of the 
army had crossed, and Magarino and his sturdy followers 
endeavoured to raise the ponderous framework. But it 
stuck fast in the sides of the dike. In vain they strained 
every nerve. The weight of so many men and horses, 
and above all of the heavy artillery, had wedged the 

VOL. II. h 


timbers so firmly in the stones and earth, that it was 
beyond their power to dislodge them. Still they la- 
boured amidst a torrent of missiles, until, many of them 
slain, and all wounded, they were obliged to abandon 
the attempt. 

The tidings soon spread from man to man, and no 
sooner was their dreadful import comprehended, than a 
cry of despair arose, which for a moment drowned all 
the noise of conflict. All means of retreat were cut off. 
Scarcely hope was left. The only hope was in such 
desperate exertions as each could make for himself. 
Order and subordination were at an end. Intense dan- 
ger produced intense selfishness. Each thought only of 
his own life. Pressing forward, he trampled down the 
weak and the wounded, heedless whether it were friend 
or foe. The leading files, urged on by the rear, were 
crowded on the brink of the gulf. Sandoval, Ordaz, and 
the other cavaliers dashed into the water. Some suc- 
ceeded in swimming their horses across; others failed, 
and some, who reached the opposite bank, being over- 
turned in the ascent, rolled headlong with their steeds 
into the lake. The infantry followed pellmell, heaped 
promiscuously on one another, frequently pierced by the 
shafts, or struck down by the war-clubs of the Aztecs ; 
while many an unfortunate victim was dragged half- 
stunned on board their canoes, to be reserved for a pro- 
tracted but more dreadful death. 9 

The carnage raged fearfully along the length of the 
causeway. Its shadowy bulk presented a mark of suffi- 
cient distinctness for the enemy's missiles, which often 
prostrated their own countrymen in the blind fury of the 
tempest. Those nearest the dike, running their canoes 

9 Eel. Seg. de Cortes ap. Loren- Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 24. — Mar- 

zana, p. 143. — Camargo, Hist, dc tyr, de Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6. — 

Tlascala, MS. Bemal Diaz, Hist. Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 

de la Conquista, cap. 128. — Ovicdo, 10, cap. 4. — Probanza en la Villa 

Hist, dc las Ind., MS., lib. 32, cap. Segura, MS. 
13, 47.— Sahagun, Hist, dc Nucva 

chap, in.] TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER. 99 

alongside, with a force that shattered them to pieces, 
leaped on the land and grappled with the Christians, 
until both came rolling down the side of the causeway 
together. But the Aztec fell among his friends, while 
his antagonist was borne away in triumph to the sacri- 
fice. The struggle was long and deadly. The Mexicans 
were recognised by their white cotton tunics, which 
showed faint through their darkness. Above the com- 
batants rose a wild and discordant clamour, in which 
horrid shouts of vengeance were mingled with groans of 
agony, with invocations of the saints and the blessed 
Virgin, and with the screams of women ; 10 for there were 
several women, both native and Spaniards, who had 
accompanied the Christian camp. Among these, one 
named Maria de Estrada is particularly noticed for the 
courage she displayed, battling with broadsword and 
target like the stanchest of the warriors. 11 

The opening in the causeway, meanwhile, was filled up 
with the wreck of matter which had been forced into it, 
ammunition-wagons, heavy guns, bales of rich stuffs scat- 
tered over the waters, chests of solid ingots, and bodies 
of men and horses, till over this dismal ruin a passage 
was gradually formed, by which those in the rear were 
enabled to clamber to the other side. 12 Cortes, it is said, 
found a place that was fordable, where halting with the 

10 « p ues i a g r ita, y lloros, y las- Pueblo de Tetela." Torquemada, 
timas q. dezia demadando socorro : Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 72. 
Ayudadme, q. me ahogo, otros : So- 12 Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 
corrednie, q. me mata, otros dema- — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
dando ayuda a N. Sefiora Santa cap. 128. 

Maria, y a Sefior Santiago." Bernal " Por la gran priesa que daban de 

Diaz, Ibid., cap. 128. ambas partes de el camino, comen- 

11 " Y asimismo se mostrd mui zaron a caer en aquel foso, y cayeron 
valerosa en este aprieto, y conflicto juntos, que de Espafioles, que de 
Maria de Estrada, la qual con vna Indios y de caballos, y de cargas, el 
Espada, y vna Rodela en las Manos, foso se hincho hasta arriba, cayendo 
hipo heehos maravillosos, y se entraba los unos sobre los otros y los otros 
por los Enemigos con tanto corage, sobre los otros, de manera que todos 
y animo, como si fuera vno de los los del bagage quedaron alii ahoga- 
mas valientes Hombres de el Mundo, dos, y los de la retaguardia pasaron 

olvidada de que era Muger sobre los muertos." Sahagun, Hist. 

Casd esta Sefiora con Pedro Sanchez de Nueva Espafia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 

Earfan, y dieronle en Encomienda el 24. 



water up to his saddle-girths, he endeavoured to check 
the confusion, and lead his followers by a safer path to 
the opposite bank. But his voice was lost in the wild 
uproar, and finally, hurrying on with the tide, he pressed 
forwards with a few trusty cavaliers, who remained near 
his person, to the van ; but not before he had seen his 
favourite page, Juan de Salazar, struck down, a corpse, 
by his side. Here he found Sandoval and his com- 
panions, halting before the third and last breach, endea- 
vouring to cheer on their followers to surmount it. But 
their resolution faltered. It was wide and deep ; though 
the passage was not so closely beset by the enemy as the 
preceding ones. The cavaliers again set the example by 
plunging into the water. Horse and foot followed as 
they could, some swimming, others with dying grasp 
clinging to the manes and tails of the struggling animals. 
Those fared best, as the general had predicted, who tra- 
velled lightest ; and many were the unfortunate wretches, 
who, weighed down by the fatal gold which they loved 
so well, were buried with it in the salt floods of the 
lake. 13 Cortes, with his gallant comrades, Olid, Morla, 
Sandoval, and some few others, still kept in the advance, 
leading his broken remnant off the fatal causeway. The 
din of battle lessened in the distance ; when the rumour 
reached them, that the rearguard would be wholly over- 
whelmed without speedy relief. It seemed almost an 
act of desperation ; but the generous hearts of the Spanish 
cavaliers did not stop to calculate danger when the cry 
for succour reached them. Turning their horses' bridles, 
they galloped back to the theatre of action, worked their 
way through the press, swam the canal, and placed them- 
selves in the thick of the melee on the opposite bank. 14 

33 " E los que habian ido con Nar- dos ; e* a otros llevaban arrastrando, 

vaez arrojaronse en la sala, e carga- e si otros mataban alb ; e asi no se 

ronse de aquel oro e plata quanto salviiron sino los desocupados e que 

pudieron ; pcro los menos lo gozaron, iban en la delantera." Oviedo, Hist, 

porque la carga no los dexaba pelear, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. 
6 los Indios los tomaban vivos carga- M Herrcra, Hist. General, dec. 2, 

chap, in.] TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER. 101 

The first grey of the morning was now coming over 
the waters. It showed the hideous confusion of the 
scene which had been shrouded in the obscurity of night. 
The dark masses of combatants, stretching along the 
dike, were seen struggling for mastery, until the very 
causeway on which they stood appeared to tremble, and 
reel to and fro, as if shaken by an earthquake ; while the 
bosom of the lake, as far as the eye could reach, was 
darkened by canoes crowded with warriors, whose spears 
and bludgeons, armed with blades of " volcanic glass," 
gleamed in the morning light. 

The cavaliers found Alvarado unhorsed, and defending 
himself with a poor handful of followers against an over- 
whelming tide of the enemy. His good steed, which 
had borne him through many a hard fight, had fallen 
under him. 15 He was himself wounded in several places, 
and was striving in vain to rally his scattered column, 
which was driven to the verge of the canal by the fury of 
the enemy, then in possession of the whole rear of the 
causeway, where they were reinforced every hour by 
fresh combatants from the city. The artillery in the 
earlier part of the engagement had not been idle, and its 
iron shower, sweeping along the dike, had mowed down 
the assailants by hundreds. But nothing could resist 
their impetuosity. The front ranks, pushed on by those 
behind, were at length forced up to the pieces, and, 
pouring over them like a torrent, overthrew men and 
guns in one general ruin. The resolute charge of the 
Spanish cavaliers, who had now arrived, created a tem- 
porary check, and gave time for their countrymen to make 
a feeble rally. But they were speedily borne down by 
the returning flood. Cortes and his companions were 
compelled to plunge again into the lake, — though all did 

lib. 10, cap. 11. — Oviedo, Hist, de dro de Alvarado bien herido con una 

las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. — lanca en la mano a pie, que la yegua 

Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, alacana ya se la auian muerto." 

cap. 128. Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 

15 " Luego encontraron con Pe- cap. 128. 


not escape. Alvarado stood on the brink for a moment, 
hesitating what to do. Unhorsed as he was, to throw 
himself into the water in the face of the hostile canoes 
that now swarmed around the opening, afforded but a 
desperate chance of safety. He had but a second for 
thought. He was a man of powerful frame, and despair 
gave him unnatural energy. Setting his long lance 
firmly on the wreck which strewed the bottom of the 
lake, he sprung forward with all his might, and cleared 
the wide gap at a leap ! Aztecs and Tlascalans gazed in 
stupid amazement, exclaiming, as they beheld the incre- 
dible feat, " This is truly the TonatiuJt, — the child of the 
Sun !" 16 — The breadth of the opening is not given. But 
it was so great, that the valorous captain Diaz, who well 
remembered the place, says the leap was impossible to 
any man. 17 Other contemporaries, however, do not dis- 
credit the story. 18 It was, beyond doubt, matter of 
popular belief at the time j it is to this day familiarly 
known to every inhabitant of the capital ; and the name 
of the Salto de Alvarado, " Alvarado's leap/' given to 

16 " Y los amigos vista tan gran would do more than anything else 

hazaiia quedaron maravillados, y al to establish the fact. But Camargo's 

instante que esto vieron se arrojaron language does not seem to me neces- 

por el suelo postrados por tierra en saruy to warrant the inference, 
sehal de hecho tan heroico, espan- 17 " Se llama aora la pucnte del 

table y raro, que ellos no habian salto de Alvarado : y platicavamos 

visto hacer a ningun hombre, y ansi muchos soldados sobre ello, y no hal- 

adoraron al Sol, comicndo puhados lavamos razon, ni soltura de vn horn- 

de tierra, arrancando yervas del bre que tal saltassc." Hist, de la 

campo, diciendo a grandes voces, Conquista, cap. 128. 
verdaderamente que este hombre es ls Gomara Cronica, cap. 109. — 

hijo 'del Sol." (Camargo, Hist, de Camargo, Ibid., ubi supra. — Oviedo, 

Tlascala, MS.) This writer con- Hist, cle las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 

suited the process instituted by Al- 47. — Which last author, however, 

varado's heirs, in which they set frankly says, that many who had 

forth the merits of their ancestor, as seen the place, declared it seemed 

attested by the most valorous cap- to them impossible. " Eue tan estrc- 

tains of theTlascalan nation, present mado de grande el salto, que a mu- 

at the conquest. It may be that chos hombres que ban visto aquello, 

the famous leap was among these he oido deeir que parcce cosa im- 

" merits," of which the historian posiblc habcrlo podido saltar ninguno 

speaks. M. de Humboldt, citing hombre humano. En fin el lo salto 

Camargo, so considers it. (Essai e gand por ello la vida, e perdieronla 

Politique, torn. ii. p. 75.) This muchos que atras quedaban !" 

chap, in.] TERRIBLE SLAUGHTER. 103 

the spot, still commemorates an exploit which rivalled 
those of the demigods of Grecian fable. 19 

Cortes and his companions now rode forward to the 
front, where the troops, in a loose, disorderly manner, 
were marching off the fatal causeway. A few only of the 
enemy hung on their rear, or annoyed them by occasional 
flights of arrows from the lake. The attention of the 
Aztecs was diverted by the rich spoil that strewed the 
battle-ground ; fortunately for the Spaniards, who, had 
their enemy pursued with the same ferocity with which 
he had fought, would, in their crippled condition have 
been cut off, probably to a man. But little molested, 
therefore, they were allowed to defile through the 
adjacent village, or suburbs, it might be called, of 
Popotla. 20 

The Spanish commander there dismounted from his 
jaded steed, and, sitting down on the steps of an Indian 
temple, gazed mournfully on the broken files as they 
passed before him. What a spectacle did they present ! 
The cavalry, most of them dismounted, were mingled 
with the infantry, who dragged their feeble limbs along 
with difficulty j their shattered mail and tattered gar- 
ments dripping with the salt ooze, showing through 
their rents many a bruise and ghastly wound ; their 
bright arms soiled, their proud crests and banners gone, 
the baggage, artillery, — all, in short, that constitutes the 
pride and panoply of glorious war, for ever lost. Cortes, 
as he looked wistfully on their thinned and disordered 

19 The spot is pointed out to every 20 " Fue Dios servido de que los 

traveller. It is where a ditch, of no Mejicanos se ocupasen en recqjer 

great width, is traversed by a small los despoios de los muertos, y las 

bridge not far from the western ex- riquezas de oro y piedras que llevaba 

tremity of the Alameda. As the el bagage, y de sacar los muertos de 

place received its name in Alvarado's aquel acequia, y a los caballos y 

time, the story could scarcely have otras bestias. Y.por esto no sigui- 

been discountenanced by him. But, eron el alcanze, y los Espanoles pu- 

siuce the length of the leap, strange dieron ir poco a poco por su. cammo 

to say, is nowhere given, the reader sin tener mucha molestia de enemi- 

can have no means of passing his gos." Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva 

own judgment on its probability. Espana, MS.,"lib. 12, cap. 25. 


ranks, sought in vain for many a familiar face, and 
missed more than one dear companion who had stood 
side by side with him through all the perils of the Con- 
quest. Though accustomed to control his emotions, or, 
at least, to conceal them, the sight was too much for 
him. He covered his face with his hands, and the tears 
which trickled down revealed too plainly the anguish of 
his soul. 21 

He found some consolation, however, in the sight of 
several of the cavaliers on whom he most relied. Alva- 
rado, Sandoval, Olid, Ordaz, Avila, were yet safe. He 
had the inexpressible satisfaction, also, of learning the 
safety of the Indian interpreter, Marina, so dear to him, 
and so important to the army. She had been committed 
with a daughter of a Tlascalan chief, to several of that 
nation. She was fortunately placed in the van, and her 
faithful escort had carried her securely through all the 
dangers of the night. Aguilar, the other interpreter, had 
also escaped ; and it was with no less satisfaction that 
Cortes learned the safety of the ship-builder, Martin 
Lopez. 22 The general's solicitude for the fate of this 
man, so indispensable, as he proved, to the success of his 
subsequent operations, showed that amidst all his affliction, 
his indomitable spirit was looking forward to the hour of 

Meanwhile, the advancing column had reached the 
neighbouring city of Tlacopan (Tacuba), once the capital 
of an independent principality. There it halted in the 
great street, as if bewildered and altogether uncertain 
what course to take ; like a herd of panic-struck deer, 
who, flying from the hunters, with the cry of hound and 
horn still ringing in their ears, look wildly around for 
some glen or copse in which to plunge for concealment. 
Cortes, who had hastily mounted and rode on to the 

21 Oviedo, Hist, dc las Ind., MS., nica, cap. 109. 
lib. 33, cap. 47. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. B Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, 

Chich., MS., cap. 89.— Gomara, Grd- lib. 10, cap. 12. 

chap, in.] HALT FOR THE NIGHT. 105 

front again, saw the danger of remaining in a populous 
place, where the inhabitants might sorely annoy the 
troops from the azoteas, with little risk to themselves. 
Pushing forward, therefore, he soon led them into the 
country. There he endeavoured to reform his disor- 
ganized battalions, and bring them to something like 
order. 23 

Hard by, at no great distance on the left, rose an 
eminence, looking towards a chain of mountains which 
fences in the Valley on the west. It was called the Hill 
of Otoncalpolco, and sometimes the Hill of Montezuma. 24 
It was crowned with an Indian teocalli, with its large 
outworks of stone covering an ample space, and by its 
strong position, which commanded the neighbouring 
plain, promised a good place of refuge for the exhausted 
troops. But the men, disheartened and stupefied by 
their late reverses, seemed for the moment incapable of 
further exertion ; and the place was held by a body of 
armed Indians. Cortes saw the necessity of dislodging 
them, if he would save the remains of his army from 
entire destruction. The event showed he still held a 
control over their wills stronger than circumstances 
themselves. Cheering them on, and supported by his 
gallant cavaliers, he succeeded in infusing into the most 
sluggish something of his own intrepid temper, and led 
them up the ascent in face of the enemy. But the latter 
made slight resistance, and, after a few feeble volleys of 
missiles which did little injury, left the ground to the 

It was covered by a building of considerable size, and 

23 " Tacuba," says that interesting tion chosen by Cortes for his in- 

traveller, Latrobe, "lies near the trenchment, after the retreat just 

foot of the hills, and is at the pre- mentioned, and before he commenced 

sent day chiefly noted for the large his painful route towards Otumba." 

and noble church which was erected (Rambler in Mexico, Letter 5.) It 

there by Cortes. And hard by, you is evident, from our text, that Cortes 

trace the lines of a Spanish encamp- could have thrown up no intrench- 

ment. I do not hazard the opinion, ment here, at least on his retreat 

but it might appear by the coin- from the capital, 
cidence, that this was the very posi- 2I Lorenzana, Viage, p. xiii. 


furnished ample accommodations for the diminished 
numbers of the Spaniards. They found there some 
provisions ; and more, it is said, were brought to them 
in the course of the day from some friendly Otomie vil- 
lages in the neighbourhood. There was, also, a quantity 
of fuel in the courts, destined to the uses of the temple. 
With this they made fires to dry their drenched gar- 
ments, and busily employed themselves in dressing one 
another's wounds, stiff and extremely painful from expo- 
sure and long exertion. Thus refreshed, the weary 
soldiers threw themselves down on the floor and courts 
of the temple, and soon found the temporary oblivion 
which Nature seldom denies even in the greatest ex- 
tremity of suffering. 25 

There was one eye in the assembly, however, which 
we may well believe did not so speedily close. For what 
agitating thoughts must have crowded on the mind of 
their commander, as he beheld his poor remnant of fol- 
lowers thus huddled together in this miserable bivouac ! 
And this was all that survived of the brilliant array with 
which but a few weeks since he had entered the capital 
of Mexico ! Where now were his dreams of conquest 
and empire ? And what was he but a luckless adven- 
turer, at whom the finger of scorn would be uplifted as 
a madman ? Whichever way he turned, the horizon 
was almost equally gloomy, with scarcely one light spot 
to cheer him. He had still a weary journey before him, 
through perilous and unknown paths, with guides of 
whose fidelity he could not be assured. And how could 
he rely on his reception at Tlascala, the place of his des- 
tination ; the land of his ancient enemies ; where, formerly 
as a foe, and now as a friend, he had brought desolation 
to every family within its borders ? 

Yet these agitating and gloomy reflections, which 

25 Sahagun, Hist, de Nucva Espa- — Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. 
na, MS., 'lib. 12, cap. 21.— Bemal — Ixtlikocliitl, Hist. Cbich., MS., 
Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. cap. 89. 

chap, in.] . AMOUNT OF LOSSES. 107 

might have crushed a common mind, had no power over 
that of Cortes ; or rather, they only served to renew his 
energies, and quicken his perceptions, as the war of the 
elements purifies and gives elasticity to the atmosphere. 
He looked with an unblenching eye on his past reverses ; 
but, confident in his own resources, he saw a light 
through the gloom which others could not. Even in the 
shattered relics which lay around him, resembling in 
their haggard aspect and wild attire a horde of famished 
outlaws, he discerned the materials out of which to re- 
construct his ruined fortunes. In the very hour of dis- 
comfiture and general despondency, there is no doubt 
that his heroic spirit was meditating the plan of opera- 
tions which he afterwards pursued with such dauntless 

The loss sustained by the Spaniards on this fatal night, 
like every other event in the history of the Conquest, is 
reported with the greatest discrepancy. If we believe 
Cortes' own letter, it did not exceed one hundred and 
fifty Spaniards and two thousand Indians. But the 
general's bulletins, while they do full justice to the diffi- 
culties to be overcome, and the importance of the results, 
are less scrupulous in stating the extent either of his 
means or of his losses. Thoan Cano, one of the cavaliers 
present, estimates the slain at eleven hundred and seventy 
Spaniards, and eight thousand allies. But this is a 
greater number than we have allowed for the whole 
army. Perhaps we may come nearest the truth by taking 
the computation of Gomara, the chaplain of Cortes, who 
had free access doubtless, not only to the general's papers, 
but to other authentic sources of information. According 
to him, the number of Christians killed and missing was 
four hundred and fifty, and that of natives four thou- 
sand. This, with the loss sustained in the conflicts of 
the previous week, may have reduced the former to some- 
thing more that a third, and the latter to a fourth, or, 
perhaps, fifth, of the original force with which they 




entered the capital. 26 The brunt of the action fell on 
the rearguard, few of whom escaped. It was formed 
chiefly of the soldiers of Narvaez, who fell the victims 
in some measure of their cupidity. 27 Forty-six of the 
cavalry were cut off, which with previous losses reduced 
the number in this branch of the service to twenty-three, 
and some of these in very poor condition. The greater 
part of the treasure, the baggage, the general's papers, 
including his accounts, and a minute diary of trans- 
actions since leaving Cuba — which, to posterity at least, 
would have been of more worth than the gold, — had 
been swallowed up by the waters. 28 The ammunition, 

26 The table below may give the 
reader some idea of the discrepancies 
in numerical estimates, even among 

eyewitnesses, and writers who, hav- 
ing access to the actors, are nearly 
of equal authority. 

Spaniards. Indians. 

2000 killed and missing 

8000 „ ,, 

2000 „ „ 

2000 „ „ 

4000 „ „ 

4000 „ „ 

4000 „ ,, 

2000 ,, 

4000 „ 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 145, 150 

Cano, ap. Oviedo, lib. 33, cap. 54, . . . . 1170 

Probanza, &c 200 

Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., lib. 33, cap. 13, . 150 

Camargo 450 

Gomara, cap. 109 450 

Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., cap. 88, ... 450 

Sahagun, lib. 12, cap. 24, 300 

Herrera, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 12, 150 

Bernal Diaz does not take the the knowledge of so many of their 

trouble to agree with himself. After comrades, — and this be permitted, 

stating that the rear, on which the too, at a juncture which made every 

loss fell heaviest, consisted of 150 man's cooperation so important, — 

men, he adds, in the same paragraph, is too obvious to require refutation, 

that 150 of these were slain, which Herrera records, what is much more 

number swells to 200 in a few lines probable, that Cortes gave particular 

further ! Ealstaffs men in buck- orders to the captain, Ojeda, to see 

ram ! See Hist, de la Conquista, that none of the sleeping or wounded 

cap. 128. should, in the hurry of the moment, 

Cano's estimate embraces, it is be overlooked in their quarters, 

true, those — but their number was Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, nap. 

comparatively small — who perished 11. 

subsequently on the march. The 27 " Pues de los de Narvaez, todos 
same authority states, that 270 of los mas en las puentes quedaron, 
the garrison, ignorant of the pro- cargados de oro." Bernal Diaz, 
posed departure of their countrymen, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. 
were perfidiously left in the palace 28 According to Diaz, part of the 
of Axayacatl, where they surrendered gold intrusted to the Tlascalan con- 
on terms, but were subsequently all voy was preserved. (Hist, de la 
sacrificed by the Aztecs ! (See Ap- Conquista, cap. 136.) Prom the 
pendix, Part 2, No. 11.) The im- document already cited, — Probanza 
probability of this monstrous story, de Villa Segura, MS., — it appears 
by which the army with all its equi- that it was a Castllian guard who 
page could leave the citadel without had charge of it. 

chap, in.] AMOUNT OF LOSSES. 109 

the beautiful little train of artillery, with which Cortes 
had entered the city, were all gone. Not a musket even 
remained, the men having thrown them away, eager to 
disencumber themselves of all that might retard their 
escape on that disastrous night. Nothing, in short, of 
their military apparatus was left, but their swords, their 
crippled cavalry, and a few damaged crossbows, to assert 
the superiority of the European over the barbarian. 

The prisoners, including, as already noticed, the chil- 
dren of Montezuma and the cacique of Tezcuco, all 
perished by the hands of their ignorant countrymen, it 
is said, in the indiscriminate fury of the assault. There 
were, also, some persons of consideration among the 
Spaniards, whose names were inscribed on the same 
bloody roll of slaughter. Such was Francisco de Morla, 
who fell by the side of Cortes, on returning with him to 
the rescue. But the greatest loss was that of Juan 
Velasquez de Leon, who, with Alvarado, had command 
of the rear. It was the post of danger on that night, 
and he fell, bravely defending it, at an early part of the 
retreat. He was an excellent officer, possessed of many 
knightly qualities, though somewhat haughty in his 
bearing, being one of the best connected cavaliers in the 
army. The near relation of the governor of Cuba, he 
looked coldly, at first, on the pretensions of Cortes ; 
but, whether from a conviction that the latter had been 
wronged, or from personal preference, he afterwards 
attached himself zealously to his leader's interests. The 
general requited this with a generous confidence, assign- 
ing him, as we have seen, a separate and independent 
command, where misconduct, or even a mistake, would 
have been fatal to the expedition. Velasquez proved 
himself worthy of the trust ; and there was no cavalier 
in the army, with the exception, perhaps, of Sandoval 
and Alvarado, whose loss would have been so deeply 
deplored by the commander. Such were the disastrous 
results of this terrible passage of the causeway; more 


disastrous than those occasioned by any other reverse 
which has stained the Spanish arms in the New World ; 
and which has branded the night on which it happened, 
in the national annals, with the name of the noche triste, 
" the sad or melancholy night." 29 

29 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 109. — Segura, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. la Conquista, cap. 128. 
33, cap. 13. — Probanza en la Villa 



Retreat of the Spaniards. — Distresses of the Army. — Pyramids of Tcoti- 
huacan. — Great Battle of Otumba. 


The Mexicans, during the day which followed the 
retreat of the Spaniards, remained, for the most part, 
quiet in their own capital, where they found occupation 
in cleansing the streets and causeways from the dead, 
which lay festering in heaps that might have bred a pes- 
tilence. They may have been employed, also, in paying 
the last honours to such of their warriors as had fallen, 
solemnizing the funeral rights by the sacrifice of their 
wretched prisoners, who, as they contemplated their own 
destiny, may well have envied the fate of their com- 
panions who left their bones on the battle-field. It was 
most fortunate for the Spaniards, in their extremity, that 
they had this breathing time allowed them by the enemy. 
But Cortes knew that he could not calculate on its con- 
tinuance, and, feeling how important it was to get the 
start of his vigilant foe, he ordered his troops to be in 
readiness to resume their march by midnight. Fires 
were left burning, the better to deceive the enemy ; and 
at the appointed hour, the little army, without sound of 
drum or trumpet, but with renewed spirits, sallied forth 
from the gates of the teocatti, within whose hospitable 
walls they had found such seasonable succour. The 
place is now T indicated by a Christian church, dedicated 


to the Virgin, under the title of Nuestra Senora de los 
Bemedios, whose miraculous image — the very same, it is 
said, brought over by the followers of Cortes \ — still ex- 
tends her beneficent sway over the neighbouring capital ; 
and the traveller, who pauses within the precincts of the 
consecrated fane, may feel that he is standing on the 
spot made memorable by the refuge it afforded to the 
Conquerors in the hour of their deepest despondency. 2 

It was arranged that the sick and wounded should 
occupy the centre, transported on litters, or on the backs 
of the tamenes, while those who were strong enough to 
keep their seats should mount behind the cavalry. The 
able-bodied soldiers were ordered to the front and rear, 
while others protected the flanks, thus affording all the 
security possible to the invalids. 

The retreating army held on its way unmolested under 
cover of the darkness. But, as morning dawned, they 
beheld parties of the natives moving over the heights, or 
hanging at a distance, like a cloud of locusts on their 
rear. They did not belong to the capital ; but were 
gathered from the neighbouring country, where the 
tidings of their route had already penetrated. The 
charm, which had hitherto covered the white men, was 
gone. The dread Teules 3 were no longer invincible. 

1 Lorenzana, Viage, p. xiii. and which — whether correctly or not 

2 The last instance, I believe, of — he interprets into gods, or divine 
the direct interposition of the Virgin beings. (See Hist, de la Conquista, 
in behalf of the metropolis was in cap. 48, et alibi ) One of the stanzas 
1833, when she was brought into of Ercilla intimates the existence of 
the city to avert the cholera. She a similar delusion among the South 
refused to pass the night in town, American Indians, — and a similar 
however, but was found the next cure of it. 

morning in her own sanctuary at 

Los llemedios, showing, by the mud ' " Por dioses, como dixe, eran 

with which she was plentifully be- tenidos 

spattered, that she must have per- de los Indios los nuestros ; pcro 

formed the distance — several leagues olieron 

— through the miry ways on foot! que de muger y hombre cran 

See Latrobe, Rambler in Mexico, nacidos, 

Letter 5. y todas sus flaquezas entcn- 

3 The epithet by which, according dieron 

to Diaz, the Castilians were con- viendolos a miserias sometidos, 

stantly addressed by the natives ; el error ignorante conocicron, 


The Spaniards, under the conduct of their Tlascalan 
guides, took a circuitous route to the north, passing 
through Quauhtitlan, and round lake Tzompanco, (Ziim- 
pango,) thus lengthening their march, but keeping at a 
distance from the capital. "From the eminences, as they 
passed along, the Indians rolled down heavy stones, 
mingled with volleys of darts and arrows, on the heads of 
the soldiers. Some were even bold enough to descend 
into the plain and assault the extremities of the column. 
But they were soon beaten off by the horse, and com- 
pelled to take refuge among the hills, where the ground 
was too rough for the rider to follow. Indeed, the 
Spaniards did not care to do so, their object being rather 
to fly than to fight. 

In this way they slowly advanced, halting at intervals 
to drive off their assailants when they became too im- 
portunate, and greatly distressed by their missiles and 
their desultory attacks. At night, the troops usually 
found shelter in some town or hamlet, whence the 
inhabitants, in anticipation of their approach, had been 
careful to carry off all the provisions. The Spaniards 
were soon reduced to the greatest straits for subsistence. 
Their principal food was the wild cherry, which grew in 
the woods or by the roadside. Fortunate were they, if 
they found a few ears of corn unplucked. More fre- 
quently nothing was left but the stalks ; and with them, 
and the like unwholesome fare, they were fain to supply 
the cravings of appetite. When a horse happened to be 
killed, it furnished an extraordinary banquet ; and Cortes 
himself records the fact of his having made one of a 
party who thus sumptuously regaled themselves, devour- 
ing the animal even to his hide. 4 

ardiendo en viva rabia avergon- 4 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 

zados zana, p. 147. 

por verse de mortales conquis- Hunger furnished them a sauce, 

tados." says Oviedo, which made their horse- 

La Araucana, Parte 1, flesh as relishing as the far-famed 

Canto 2. sausages of Naples, the delicate kid 



The wretched soldiers, faint with famine and fatigue, 
were sometimes seen to drop down lifeless on the road. 
Others loitered behind unable to keep up with the 
march, and fell into the hands of the enemy, who fol- 
lowed in the track of the army like a flock of famished 
vultures, eager to pounce on the dying and the dead. 
Others, again, who strayed too far, in their eagerness to 
procure sustenance, shared the same fate. The number 
of these, at length, and the consciousness of the cruel 
lot for which they were reserved, compelled Cortes to 
introduce stricter discipline, and to enforce it by sterner 
punishments than he had hitherto done, — though too 
often ineffectually, such was the indifference to danger, 
under the overwhelming pressure of present calamity. 

In their prolonged distresses, the soldiers ceased to 
set a value on those very things for which they had once 
been content to hazard life itself. More than one, who 
had brought his golden treasure safe through the perils 
of the noche triste, now abandoned it as an intolerable 
burden ; and the rude Indian peasant gleaned up, with 
wondering delight, the bright fragments of the spoils of 
the capital. 5 

Through these weary days Cortes displayed his usual 
serenity and fortitude. He was ever in the post of 
danger, freely exposing himself in encounters with the 
enemy ; in one of which he received a severe wound in 

of Avila, or the savoury veal of Sara- tado, e cocido, e yervas del campo, 

gossa ! " Con la carne del caballo y desto no tanto quanto quisieran d 

tubicron buen pasto, e se consolaron ovieran menester." Hist, de las 

6 mitigaron en parte su hambre, e se Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 13. 
lo comieron sin dexar cuero, ni otra 

cosa del sino los huesos, e las vnas, 5 Herrera mentions one soldier 

y el pelo; e aun las tripas no les who had succeeded in carrying off 

parecio dc menos buen gusto que las his gold to the value of 3,000 cas- 

sobieasados de Napoles, 6 los gen- tellanos across the causeway, and 

tiles cabritos dc Abila, 6 las sabrosas afterwards flung it away by the ad- 

Terneras de Zaragosa, segun la es- vice of Cortes. " The devil take 

trema necesidad que llevaban ; por your gold," said the commander 

que despues que de la gran cibdad bluntly to him, " if it is to cost you 

de Temixtitan havian salido, ninguna your life." Hist. General, dec. 2, 

otra cosa comieron sino mahiz tos- lib. 10, cap. 11. 

chap, iv.] DISTRESSES OF THE ARMY. 115 

the head, that afterwards gave him much trouble. 6 He 
fared no better than the humblest soldier, and strove, by 
his own cheerful countenance and counsels, to fortify the 
courage of those who faltered, assuring them that their 
sufferings would soon be ended by their arrival in the 
hospitable " land of bread." 7 His faithful officers co- 
operated with him in these efforts ; and the common file, 
indeed, especially his own veterans, must be allowed, for 
the most part, to have shown a full measure of the 
constancy and power of endurance so characteristic of 
their nation, — justifying the honest boast of an old 
chronicler, " that there was no people so capable of sup- 
porting hunger as the Spaniards, and none of them who 
were ever more severely tried than the soldiers of Cortes." 8 
A similar fortitude was shown by the Tlascalans, trained 
in a rough school that made them familiar with hardship 
and privations. Although they sometimes threw them- 
selves on the ground, in the extremity of famine, im- 
ploring their gods not to abandon them, they did their 
duty as warriors ; and, far from manifesting coldness 
towards the Spaniards as the cause of their distresses, 
seemed only the more firmly knit to them by the sense 
of a common suffering. 

On the seventh morning, the army had reached the 
mountain rampart which overlooks the plains of Otompan, 
or Otumba, as commonly called, from the Indian city, — 
now a village, — situated in them. The distance from 
the capital is hardly nine leagues. But the Spaniards 
had travelled more than thrice that distance, in their 
circuitous march round the lakes. This had been per- 
formed so slowly, that it consumed a week ; two nights 
of which had been passed in the same quarters, from the 
absolute necessity of rest. It was not, therefore, till the 

I Gomara, Crdnica, cap. 110. 8 " Empero la Nation nuestra 

' The meaning of the word Tlas- Espanola sufre mas hambre que 

cola, and so called from the abund- otra ninguna, i estos de Cortes mas 

ance of maize raised in the country. que todos." Gomara, Cronica, cap. 

Boturini, Idea, p. 78. 110. 

i 2 


7th of July, that they reached the heights commanding 
the plains which stretched far away towards the territory 
of Tlascala, in full view of the venerable pyramids of 
Teotihuacan, two of the most remarkable monuments of 
the antique American civilization now existing north of 
the Isthmus. During all the preceding day, they had 
seen parties of the enemy hovering like dark clouds above 
the highlands, brandishing their weapons, and calling 
out in vindictive tones, " Hasten on ! You will soon 
find yourselves where you cannot escape I" words of 
mysterious import, which they were made fully to com- 
prehend on the following morning. 9 

The monuments of San Juan Teotihuacan are, with the 
exception of the temple of Cholula, the most ancient 
remains, probably, on the Mexican soil. They were 
found by the Aztecs, according to their traditions, on 
their entrance into the country, when Teotihuacan, the 
habitation of the gods, now a paltry village, was a 
flourishing city, the rival of Tula, the great Toltec 
capital. 10 The two principal pyramids were dedicated 
to Tonatinh, the Sun, and Meztli, the Moon. The 
former, which is considerably the larger, is found by 
recent measurements to be six hundred and eighty-two 
feet long at the base, and one hundred and eighty feet 
high, dimensions not inferior to those of some of the 
kindred monuments of Egypt. 11 They were divided into 
four stories, of which three are now discernible, while 

9 For the concluding pages, see por estos tiempos era ciudad tan 

Cam argo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — famosa que no solo competia, pero 

Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, excedia con muchas ventajas a la 

cap. 12S.— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., Corte de Tollan." Veytia, Hist. 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 13: — Gomara, Antig., torn. i. cap. 27. 
Crdnioa, ubi supra. — Ixtlilxochitl, 

Hist. Chick, MS., cap. 89. — Martyr, u The pyramid of Mycerinos is 

de Orhe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 6.— Rel. 280 feet only at the base, and 162 

Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. feet in height. The great pyramid 

147, 148.— Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva of Cheops is 728 feet at the base, 

Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 25, 26. and 448 feet high. See Denon, 

'° " Su nombre, que quiere decir, Egypt Illustrated, (London, 1825,) 

habitation de los Dioses, y que ya p. 9. 


the vestiges of the intermediate gradations are nearly 
effaced. In fact, time has dealt so roughly with them, 
and the materials have been so much displaced by the 
treacherous vegetation of the tropics, muffling up with 
its flowery mantle the ruin which it causes, that it is not 
easy to discern, at once, the pyramidal form of the struc- 
tures. 12 The huge masses bear such resemblance to the 
North American mounds, that some have fancied them 
to be only natural eminences shaped by the hand of 
man into a regular form, and ornamented with the 
temples and terraces, the wreck of which still covers their 
slopes. But others, seeing no example of a similar ele- 
vation in the wide plain in which they stand, infer, with 
more probability, that they are wholly of an artificial 
construction. 13 

The interior is composed of clay mixed with pebbles, 
incrusted on the surface with the light porous stone tet- 
zontli, so abundant in the neighbouring quarries. Over 
this was a thick coating of stucco, resembling, in its 
reddish colour, that found in the ruins of Palenque. 
According to tradition, the pyramids are hollow, but 
hitherto the attempt to discover the cavity in that dedi- 
cated to the Sun has been unsuccessful. In the smaller 
mound, an aperture has been found on the southern side, 
at two-thirds of the elevation. It is formed by a narrow 
gallery, which, after penetrating to the distance of several 
yards, terminates in two pits or wells. The largest of 
these is about fifteen feet deep ; 14 and the sides are faced 

12 " It requires a particular posi- " Si com je I'ai trove escrite, 

tion," says Mr. Tudor, " united with Vos couterai la verite." 

some little faith to discover the „ ^ fa M de Humboldt's 

pyramidal form at all. (Tour in ^ (gee ^ Essai p olitique , 

North .America, vol. u r, 277.) Ye t om. ii. pp. 66-70.) He has also 

fiSLnff? SaJS ' " Tf discussed these interesting monu- 

ngure oi the square is as pertec " as , • i • ir j rvS^niww! 

+*?„ „,„„+ -a e t? I" /o- merits m his Vues des Loraiiieres, 

the great pyramid ol Egypt. (Six QK . 

Months in Mexico, vol. ii. chap. 26.) P- **> et seq * 

Eyewitnesses both ! The historian u Latrobe gives the description of 

must often content himself with re- this cavity, into which he aud his 

peating, in the words of the old fellow-travellers penetrated. Ram- 

Erench lay, — bier in Mexico, Let. 7. 


with unbaked bricks j but to what purpose it was de- 
voted, nothing is left to show. It may have been to 
hold the ashes of some powerful chief, like the solitary 
apartment discovered in the great Egyptian pyramid. 
That these monuments were dedicated to religious uses, 
there is no doubt ; and it would be only conformable to 
the practice of antiquity in the eastern continent, that 
they should have served for tombs, as well as temples. 15 

Distinct traces of the latter destination are said to be 
visible on the summit of the smaller pyramid, consisting 
of the remains of stone walls, showing a building of 
considerable size and strength. 16 There are no remains 
on the top of the pyramid of the Sun. But the traveller, 
who will take the trouble to ascend its bald summit, will 
be amply compensated by the glorious view it will open 
to him ; — towards the south-east, the hills of Tlascala, 
surrounded by their green plantations and cultivated 
corn-fields, in the midst of which stands the little village, 
once the proud capital of the republic. Somewhat fur- 
ther to the south, the eye passes across the beautiful 
plains lying around the city of Puebla de los Angeles, 
founded by the old Spaniards, and still rivalling, in the 
splendour of its churches, the most brilliant capitals of 
Europe ; and far in the west he may behold the Valley 
of Mexico, spread out like a map, with its diminished 
lakes, its princely capital rising in still greater glory from 
its ruins, and its rugged hills gathering darkly around it, 
as in the days of Montezuma. 

The summit of this larger mound is said to have been 
crowned by a temple, in which was a colossal statue of 
its presiding deity, the Sun, made of one entire block of 

15 "Et tot templa deum Roma?, 16 The dimensions are given by 

quot in urbe sepulcra Bullock, (Six Months in Mexico, 

Hcroum nunicrare licet : quos vol. ii. chap. 26,) who has sometimes 

fabula manes seen what has eluded the optics of 

Nobilitat, nostcr populus ve- other travellers. 
neratus adorat." 
Prudentius, Contra Sym., lib. 1. 


stone, and facing the east. Its breast was protected by 
a plate of burnished gold and silver, on which the first 
rays of the rising luminary rested. 17 An antiquary, in 
the early part of the last century, speaks of having seen 
some fragments of the statue. It was still standing, 
according to report, on the invasion of the Spaniards, 
and was demolished by the indefatigable bishop Zumar- 
raga, whose hand fell more heavily than that of Time 
itself on the Aztec monuments, 18 

Around the principal pyramids are a great number of 
smaller ones, rarely exceeding thirty feet in height, which, 
according to tradition, were dedicated to the stars, and 
served as sepulchres for the great men of the nation. 
They are arranged symmetrically in avenues terminating 
at the sides of the great pyramids, which face the cardinal 
points. The plain on which they stand was called Micoatl, 
or " Path of the Dead." The labourer, as he turns up 
the ground, still finds there numerous arrow-heads, and 
blades of obsidian, attesting the warlike character of its 
primitive population. 19 

What thoughts must crowd on the mind of the tra- 
veller, as he wanders amidst these memorials of the past ; 
as he treads over the ashes of the generations who reared 
these colossal fabrics, which take us from the present into 
the very depths of time ! But who were their builders ? 
Was it the shadowy Olmecs, whose history, like that of 
the ancient Titans, is lost in the mists of fable? or as 
commonly reported, the peaceful and industrious Toltecs, 
of whom all that we can glean rests on traditions hardly 
more secure ? What has become of the races who built 

17 Such is the account given by entirely disappeared by 1757, when 
the cavalier Boturini. Idea, pp. 42. Veytia examined the pyramid. Hist. 
43. Antig., torn. i. cap. 26. 

18 Both Ixtlilxochitl and Boturini, 

who visited these monuments, one, 19 " Agricola, incurvo terrain moli- 

early in the seventeenth, the other, tus aratro, 

in the first part of the eighteenth Exesa inveniet scabra rubi- 

century, testify to their having seen gine pila," &c. 

the remains of this statue. They had Georg., lib. 1. 


them ? Did they remain on the soil, and mingle and be- 
come incorporated with the fierce Aztecs who succeeded 
them ? Or did they pass on to the south, and find a 
wider field for the expansion of their civilization, as 
shown by the higher character of the architectural 
remains in the distant regions of Central America and 
Yucatan ? It is all a mystery, — over which Time has 
thrown an impenetrable veil, that no mortal hand may 
raise. A nation has passed away, — powerful, populous, 
and well advanced in refinement, as attested by their 
monuments, — but it has perished without a name. It 
has died and made no sign ! 

Such speculations, however, do not seem to have dis- 
turbed the minds of the Conquerors, who have not left 
a single line respecting these time-honoured structures, 
though they passed in full view of them, — perhaps, under 
their very shadows. In the sufferings of the present, they 
had little leisure to bestow on the past. Indeed, the new 
and perilous position, in which at this very spot they 
found themselves, must naturally have excluded every 
other thought from their bosoms, but that of self-pre- 

As the army was climbing the mountain steeps which 
shut in the Valley of Otompan, the videttes came in with 
the intelligence, that a powerful body was encamped on 
the other side, apparently awaiting their approach. The 
intelligence was soon confirmed by their own eyes, as 
they turned the crest of the sierra, and saw spread out, 
below, a mighty host, filling up the whole depth of the 
valley, and giving to it the appearance, from the white 
cotton mail of the warriors, of being covered with snow. 20 
It consisted of levies from the surrounding country, and 
especially the populous territory of Tezcuco, drawn together 
at the instance of Cuitlahuac, Montezuma's successor, and 
now concentrated on this point to dispute the passage of 

20 " Y como iban vestidos de bianco, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 
parecia el campo nevado." Herrcra, 13. 

chap. iv. J GREAT BATTLE OF OTUMBA. 121 

the Spaniards. Every chief of note had taken the field 
with his whole array gathered under his standard, proudly 
displaying all the pomp and rude splendour of his mili- 
tary equipment. As far as the eye could reach, were to 
be seen shields and waving banners, fantastic helmets, 
forests of shining spears, the bright feather- mail of the 
chief, and the coarse cotton panoply of his follower, all 
mingled together in wild confusion, and tossing to and 
fro like the billows of a troubled ocean. 21 It was a sight 
to fill the stoutest heart among the Christians with dis- 
may, heightened by the previous expectation of soon 
reaching the friendly land which was to terminate their 
wearisome pilgrimage. Even Cortes, as he contrasted the 
tremendous array before him with his own diminished 
squadrons, wasted by disease and enfeebled by hunger 
and fatigue, could not escape the conviction that his last 
hour had arrived. 22 

But his was not the heart to despond ; and he gathered 
strength from the very extremity of his situation. He 
had no room for hesitation ; for there was no alternative 
left to him. To escape was impossible. He could not 
retreat on the capital, from which he had been expelled. 
He must advance, — cut through the enemy, or perish. 
He hastily made his dispositions for the fight. He gave 
his force as broad a front as possible, protecting it on 
each flank by his little body of horse, now reduced to 
twenty. Fortunately, he had not allowed the invalids, 
for the last two days, to mount behind the riders, from a 
desire to spare the horses, so that these were now in 
tolerable condition ; and, indeed, the whole army had 
been refreshed by halting, as we have seen, two nights 
and a day in the same place, a delay, however, which had 

21 " Vistosa confusion," says Soils, should not have put fire-arms into 

'•' de armas y penachos, en que tenian the hands of his countrymen, on this 

su hermosura los horrores." (Con- occasion. 

quista, lib. 4, cap. 20.) His paint- ffl " Y cierto creimos sur aquel el 

ing shows the hand of a great artist, ultimo de nuestros dias." E.el. Seg. 

— which he certainly was. But he de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 148. 


allowed the enemy time to assemble in such force to dis- 
pute its progress. 

Cortes instructed his cavaliers not to part with their 
lances, and to direct them at the face. The infantry 
w r ere to thrust, not strike, with their swords ; passing 
them, at once, through the bodies of their enemies. 
They were, above all, to aim at the leaders, as the 
general well knew how much depends on the life of the 
commander in the wars of barbarians, whose want of 
subordination makes them impatient of any control but 
that to which they are accustomed. 

He then addressed to his troops a few words of en- 
couragement, as customary with him on the eve of an 
engagement. He reminded them of the victories they 
had won with odds nearly as discouraging as the pre- 
sent ; thus establishing the superiority of science and 
discipline over numbers. Numbers, indeed, were of no 
account, where the arm of the Almighty was on their 
side. And he bade them have full confidence, that He, 
who had carried them safely through so many perils, 
would not now abandon them and his own good cause, 
to perish by the hand of the infidel. His address was 
brief, for he read in their looks that settled resolve which 
rendered words unnecessary. The circumstances of their 
position spoke more forcibly to the heart of every soldier 
than any eloquence could have done, filling it with that 
feeling of desperation, which makes the weak arm strong, 
and turns the coward into a hero. After they had 
earnestly commended themselves, therefore, to the pro- 
tection of God, the Virgin, and St. James, Cortes led his 
battalions straight against the enemy. 23 

It was a solemn moment, — that in which the devoted 

23 Camargo, Hist, dc Tlascala, troops, as Napoleon did his in the 

MS. — Oviedo, Hist, dc las Ind., famous battle with the Mamelukes : 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 14. — Bernal Diaz, " From yonder pyramids forty cen- 

Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 128. — turics look down upon you." But 

Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espana, the situation of the Spaniards was 

MS., lib. 12, cap. 27. altogether too serious for theatrical 

Cortes might have addressed his display. 


little band, with steadfast countenances, and their usual 
intrepid step, descended on the -plain to be swallowed 
up, as it were, in the vast ocean of their enemies. The 
latter rushed on with impetuosity to meet them, making 
the mountains ring to their discordant yells and battle- 
cries, and sending forth volleys of stones and arrows 
which for a moment shut out the light of day. But, 
when the leading files of the two armies closed, the 
superiority of the Christians was felt, as their antagonists, 
falling back before the charges of cavalry, were thrown 
into confusion by their own numbers who pressed on 
them from behind. The Spanish infantry followed up 
the blow, and a wide lane was opened in the ranks of 
the enemy, who receding on all sides, seemed willing to 
allow a free passage for their opponents. But it was to 
return on them with accumulated force, as, rallying, they 
poured upon the Christians, enveloping the little army 
on all sides, which with its bristling array of long swords 
and javelins, stood firm, — in the words of a contempo- 
rary, — like an islet against which the breakers, roaring 
and surging, spend their fury in vain. 24 The struggle 
was desperate of man against man. The Tlascalan 
seemed to renew his strength, as he fought almost in 
view of his own native hills ; as did the Spaniard, with 
the horrible doom of the captive before his eyes. Well 
did the cavaliers do their duty on that day ; charging, in 
little bodies of four or five abreast, deep into the enemy's 
ranks, riding over the broken files, and by this temporary 
advantage giving strength and courage to the infantry. 
Not a lance was there which did not reek with the blood 
of the infidel. Among the rest, the young captain Sando- 
val is particularly commemorated for his daring prowess. 
Managing his fiery steed with easy horsemanship, he 

24 It is Sahagun's simile. "Es- venerable missionary gathered the 

taban los Espanoles como una Isleta particulars of the action, as he in- 

en el mar, combatida de las olas por lorms us, from several who were 

todas partes." (Hist, de Nueva present in it. 
Espaha, MS., lib. 12, cap. 27.) The 


darted, when least expected, into the thickest of the 
melee, overturning the stanchest warriors, and rejoicing 
in danger, as if it were his natural element. 25 

But these gallant displays of heroism served only to 
ingulf the Spaniards deeper and deeper in the mass of 
the enemy, with scarcely any more chance of cutting 
their way through his dense and interminable battalions, 
than of hewing a passage with their swords through the 
mountains. Many of the Tlascalans and some of the 
Spaniards had fallen, and not one but had been wounded. 
Cortes himself had received a second cut on the head, 
and his horse was so much injured that he was com- 
pelled to dismount, and take one from the baggage-train, 
a strong-boned animal, who carried him well through 
the turmoil of the day. 26 The contest had now lasted 
several hours. The sun rode high in the heavens, and 
shed an intolerable fervour over the plain. The Christians, 
weakened by previous sufferings, and faint with loss of 
blood, began to relax in their desperate exertions. Their 
enemies, constantly supported by fresh relays from the 
rear, were still in good heart, and, quick to perceive 
their advantage, pressed with redoubled force on the 
Spaniards. The horse fell back, crowded on the foot; 
and the latter, in vain seeking a passage amidst the 
dusky throngs of the enemy, who now closed up the 
rear, were thrown into some disorder. The tide of battle 
was setting rapidly against the Christians. The fate 
of the day would soon be decided; and all that now 

25 The epic bard Ercilla's spirited con piedra, palo, flecha, lanza y 

portrait of the young warrior Tuca- dardo 

pel may apply without violence to le persigue la gente cle manera 

Sandoval, as described by the Cas- como si fuera toro, 6 brava flera." 

tilian chroniclers. La Araucana, Parte 1, canto 8. 

"Cubierto Tucapel de fina malla 26 Hen-era, Hist. General, dec. 2, 

salt6 como un ligero y suclto lib. 10, cap. 13. 

pardo "Este caballo harricro," says Ca- 
en medio de la ti'mida canalla, margo, " le servio en la conquista de 
haciendo plaza el barbaro gal- Mejico, y en la ultima guerra que se 
lardo : did se le mataron." Hist, de Tlas- 
con silvos grita en desigual ba- cala, MS. 
talk : 

chap, iv.] GREAT BATTLE OF OTUMBA. 125 

remained for them seemed to be to sell their lives as 
dearly as possible. 

At this critical moment, Cortes, whose restless eye had 
been roving round the field in quest of any object that 
might offer him the means of arresting the coming ruin, 
rising in his stirrups, descried at a distance, in the midst 
of the throng, the chief who, from his dress and military 
cortege, he knew must be the commander of the barbarian 
forces. He was covered with a rich surcoat of feather- 
work; and a panache of beautiful plumes, gorgeously 
set in gold and precious stones, floated above his head. 
Rising above this, and attached to his back, between 
the shoulders, was a short staff bearing a golden net 
for a banner,— the singular, but customary, symbol of 
authority for an Aztec commander. The cacique, whose 
name was Cihuaca, was borne on a litter, and a body 
of young warriors, whose gay and ornamented dresses 
showed them to be the flower of the Indian nobles, 
stood round as a guard of his person and the sacred 

The eagle eye of Cortes no sooner fell on this per- 
sonage, than it lighted up with triumph. Turning 
quickly round to the cavaliers at his side, among whom 
were Sandoval, Olid, Alvarado, and Avila, he pointed out 
the chief, exclaiming, " There is our mark ! Follow and 
support me ! " Then crying his war-cry, and striking 
his iron heel into his weary steed, he plunged headlong 
into the thickest of the press. His enemies fell back, 
taken by surprise and daunted by the ferocity of the 
attack. Those who did not were pierced through with 
his lance, or borne down by the weight of his charger. 
The cavaliers followed close in the rear. On they swept, 
with the fury of a thunderbolt, cleaving the solid 
ranks asunder, strewing their path with the dying and 
the dead, and bounding over every obstacle in their 
way. In a few minutes they were in the presence 
of the Indian commander, and Cortes, overturning his 


supporters, sprung forward with the strength of a lion, 
and striking him through with his lance, hurled him to 
the ground. A young cavalier, Juan de Salamanca, who 
had hept close by his general's side, quickly dismounted 
and despatched the fallen chief. Then tearing away his 
banner, he presented it to Cortes, as a trophy to which 
he had the best claim. 27 It was all the work of a 
moment. The guard overpowered by the suddenness of 
the onset, made little resistance, but, flying, communi- 
cated their own panic to their comrades. The tidings of 
the loss soon spread over the field. The Indians, filled 
with consternation, now thought only of escape. In 
their blind terror, their numbers augmented their con- 
fusion. They trampled on one another, fancying it was 
the enemy in their rear. 28 

The Spaniards and Tlascalans were not slow to avail 
themselves of the marvellous change in their affairs. 
Their fatigue, their wounds, hunger, thirst, all were for- 
gotten in the eagerness for vengeance ; and they fol- 
lowed up the flying foe, dealing death at every stroke, 
and taking ample retribution for all they had suffered in 
the bloody marshes of Mexico. 29 Long did they pursue, 

2; The brave cavalier was after- notice of the affair in the general's 

wards permitted by the emperor own letter forms a beautiful contrast 

Charles V. to assume this trophy on to ,the style of panegyric by others, 

his own escutcheon, in commemora- "E con este trabajo fuimos mucha 

tion of his exploit. Bernal Diaz, parte de el dia, hasta que quiso Dios, 

Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 128. que murio una Persona de cllos, que 

2s The historians all concur in debia scr tan Principal, que con su 
celebrating this glorious, achieve- muerte ceso toda aquella Guerra." 
ment of Cortes ; who, concludes Eel, Seg. ap. Lorenzana, p. 148. 
Gomara, " by his single arm saved 29 " Pues a nosotros," says the 
the whole army from destruction." doughty captain Diaz, " no nos dolian 
See Cronica, cap. 110. — Also, Saha- las heridas, ni teniamos hambre, ni 
gun, Hist, de Nueva Espana, MS., sed, sino que pcrecia que no auiamos 
lib. 12, cap. 27. — Camargo, Hist, de auido, ni passado ningun mal trabajo. 
Tlascala, MS. — Bernal Diaz, Hist. Scguimos la vitoria matando, e" hi- 
de la Conquista, cap. 128. — Oviedo, riendo. Pues nucstros amigos los de 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. Tlascala estavan hechos vnos leones, 
47. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, y con sus espadas, y montantes, y 
lib. 10, cap. 13. — Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. otras annas que alii apailaron, hazi- 
Chich., MS., cap. 89. anlo muy bie y csforcadamente." 

The brief and extremely modest Hist, de fa Conquista, loe cit. 

chap, iv.] GREAT BATTLE OF OTUMBA. 127 

till, the enemy having abandoned the field, they returned 
sated with slaughter to glean the booty which he had 
left. It was great, for the ground was covered with the 
bodies of chiefs, at whom the Spaniards, in obedience to 
the general's instructions, had particularly aimed ; and 
their dresses displayed all the barbaric pomp of ornament, 
in which the Indian warrior delighted. 30 When his men 
had thus indemnified themselves, in some degree, for 
their late reverses, Cortes called them again under their 
banners ; and, after offering up a grateful acknowledg- 
ment to the Lord of Hosts for their miraculous preserva- 
tion, 31 they renewed their march across the now deserted 
valley. The sun was declining in the heavens, but before 
the shades of evening had gathered around, they reached 
an Indian temple on an eminence, which afforded a 
strong and commodious position for the night. 

Such was the famous battle of Otompan, — or Otumba, 
as commonly called, from the Spanish corruption of the 
name. It was fought on the 8th of July, 1520. The 
whole amount of the Indian force is reckoned by Castilian 
writers at two hundred thousand ! that of the slain at 
twenty thousand ! Those who admit the first part of the 
estimate will find no difficulty in receiving the last. 32 It 
is about as difficult to form an accurate calculation of the 
numbers of a disorderly savage multitude, as of the peb- 
bles on the beach, or the scattered leaves in autumn. 
Yet it was, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable 
victories ever achieved in the New World. And this, 

30 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- St. Peter. (Hist. Chich., MS., eap. 
quista, ubi supra. 89.) Voltaire sensibly remarks, 

31 The belligerent apostle, St. James, " Ceux que out fait les relations de 
riding, as usual, his milk-white courser, ces etranges evenemens les ont voulu 
came to the rescue on this occasion ; relever pas des miracles, qui ne ser- 
an event commemorated by the dedi- vent en effet qu'a les rabaisser. Le 
cation of a hermitage to him, in the vrai miracle fat la conduite de 
neighbourhood. (Camargo, Hist, de Cortes." Voltaire, Essai sur les 
Tlascala.) Diaz, a sceptic on former Moeurs, chap. 147. 

occasions, admits his indubitable ap- 32 See Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind-, 

pearance on this. (Ibid., ubi supra.) MS., lib. 33, cap. 47. — Herrera, Hist. 

According to the Tezcucan chronicler, General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. — 

he was supported by the Virgin and Gomara, Cronica, cap. 110. 


not merely on account of the disparity of the forces, but 
of their unequal condition. For the Indians were in all 
their strength, while the Christians were wasted by dis- 
ease, famine, and long protracted sufferings; without 
cannon or fire-arms, and deficient in the military appa- 
ratus which had so often struck terror into their barbariau 
foe, — deficient even in the terrors of a victorious name. 
But they had discipline on their side, desperate resolve, 
and implicit confidence in their commander. That they 
should have triumphed against such odds furnishes an 
inference of the same kind as that established by the 
victories of the European over the semi-civilized hordes 
of Asia. 

Yet even here all must not be referred to superior dis- 
cipline and tactics. For the battle would certainly have 
been lost, had it not been for the fortunate death of the 
Indian general. And, although the selection of the vic- 
tim may be called the result of calculation, yet it was by 
the most precarious chance that he was thrown in the 
way of the Spaniards. It is, indeed, one among many 
examples of the influence of fortune in determining the 
fate of military operations. The star of Cortes was in 
the ascendant. Had it been otherwise, not a Spaniard 
would have survived that day to tell the bloody tale of 
the battle of Otumba. 




Arrival in Tlascala. — Friendly Reception. — Discontents of the Army. — 
Jealousy of the Tlascalans. — Embassy from Mexico. 


On the following morning, the army broke up its 
encampment at an early hour. The enemy do not seem 
to have made an attempt to rally. Clouds of skir- 
mishers, however, were seen during the morning, keep- 
ing at a respectful distance, though occasionally venturing 
near enough to salute the Spaniards with a volley of 

On a rising ground they discovered a fountain, a 
blessing not too often met with in these arid regions, 
and gratefully commemorated by the Christians, for the 
refreshment afforded by its cool and abundant waters. 1 
A little further on, they descried the rude works which 
served as the bulwark and boundary of the Tlascalan 
territory. At the sight, the allies sent up a joyous shout 
of congratulation, in which the Spaniards heartily joined, 
as they felt they were soon to be on friendly and hos- 
pitable ground. 

But these feelings were speedily followed by others of 
a different nature ; and as they drew nearer the territory, 

1 Is it not the same fountain of llama Azumba, que en su lengua 

which Toribio makes honourable quiere decir cabeza, y asi es, porque 

mention in his topographical account esta fuente es cabeza y principio del 

of the country ? " Nace en Tlaxcala mayor rio de los que entran en la mar 

una fuente grande a la parte del del Sur, el cual entra en la mar por 

Norte, cinco leguas de la principal Zacatula." Hist, de los Indios, MS., 

ciudad; nace en un pueblo que se Parte 3, cap. 16. 



their minds were disturbed with the most painful appre- 
hensions as to their reception by the people among whom 
they were bringing desolation and mourning, and who 
might so easily, if ill-disposed, take advantage of their 
present crippled condition. " Thoughts like these," says 
Cortes, " weighed as heavily on my spirit as any which 
I ever experienced in going to battle with the Aztecs." 2 
Still he put, as usual, a good face on the matter, and 
encouraged his men to confide in their allies, whose past 
conduct had afforded every ground for trusting to their 
fidelity in future. He cautioned them, however, as their 
own strength was so much impaired, to be most careful 
to give no umbrage, or ground for jealousy, to their high- 
spirited allies. " Be but on your guard," continued the 
intrepid general, " and we have still stout hearts and 
strong hands to carry us through the midst of them!" 3 
With these anxious surmises, bidding adieu to the Aztec 
domain, the Christian army crossed the frontier, and once 
more trod the soil of the Republic. 

The first place at which they halted was the town of 
Huejotlipan, a place of about twelve or fifteen thousand 
inhabitants. 4 They were kindly greeted by the people, 
who came out to receive them, inviting the troops to 
their habitations, and administering all the relief of their 
simple hospitality. Yet this was not so disinterested, 
according to some of the Spaniards, as to prevent their 
expecting in requital a share of the plunder taken in the 
late action. 5 Here the weary forces remained two or 
three days, when the news of their arrival having reached 

2 " El qual pensamicnto, y sospccha cibidos." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 
nos puso en tanta afliccion, quanto Conquista, cap. 128. 

trahiamos viniendo peleando con los '' Called Gualipan by Cortes. (Ibid., 

dc Culua." Eel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. p. 149.) An Aztec would have found 

Lorenzana, p. 149. it hard, to trace the route of his 

3 " Y mas dixo, que tenia csperanca enemies by their itineraries, 
en Dios que los hallariamos bucnos, 5 Ibid., ubi supra. 

y leales ; e que si otra cosa fuesse, Tlioaii Cano, however, one of lite 

lo que Dios no permita, que nos ban army, denies this, and asserts that 

de tornar a andar los puhos con co- the natives received them like their 

racones fuertes, y bracos vigorosos, children, and would take no recom- 

y que para esso fucssemos may aper- pense. (See 'Appendix, Part 2. No. IE) 

chap, v.] ARRIVAL IN TLASCALA. 13 L 

the capital, not more than four or five leagues distant, 
the old chief, Maxixca, their efficient friend on their 
former visit, and Xicotencatl, the young warrior who, it 
will be remembered, had commanded the troops of his 
nation in their bloody encounters with the Spaniards, 
came with a numerous concourse of the citizens to wel- 
come the fugitives to Tlascala. Maxixca, cordially em- 
bracing the Spanish commander, testified the deepest 
sympathy for his misfortunes. That the white men could 
so long have withstood the confederated power of the 
Aztecs was proof enough of their marvellous prowess. 
" We have made common cause together," said the lord 
of Tlascala, " and we have common injuries to avenge ; 
and, come weal or come woe, be assured we will prove 
true and loyal friends, and stand by you to the death," G 
This cordial assurance and sympathy, from one who 
exercised a control over the public counsels beyond any 
other ruler, effectually dispelled the doubts that lingered 
in the mind of Cortes. He readily accepted his invita- 
tion to continue his march at once to the capital, where 
he would find so much better accommodations for his 
army, than in a small town on the frontier. The sick 
and wounded, placed in hammocks, were borne on the 
shoulders of the friendly natives ; and, as the troops 
drew near the city, the inhabitants came flocking out in 
crowds to meet them, rending the air with joyous accla- 
mations, and wild bursts of their rude Indian minstrelsy. 
Amidst the general jubilee, however, were heard sounds 
of wailing and sad lament, as some unhappy relative or 
friend, looking earnestly into the diminished files of their 
countrymen, sought in vain for some dear and familiar 
countenance, and, as they turned disappointed away, 
gave utterance to their sorrow in tones that touched the 
heart of every soldier in the army. With these mingled 
accompaniments of joy and woe, — the motley web of 

6 " Y que tubiesse por cierto, que Amigos, hasta la muerte." Rel. Seg. 
me serian muy ciertos, y verdaderos de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 150. 



human life, — the way-worn columns of Cortes at length 
reentered the republican capital. 7 

The general and his suite were lodged in the rude, 
but spacious, palace of Maxixca. The rest of the army 
took up their quarters in the district over which the 
Tlascalan lord presided. Here they continued several 
weeks, until, by the attentions of the hospitable citizens, 
and such medical treatment as their humble science 
could supply, the wounds of the soldiers were healed, 
and they recovered from the debility to which they had 
been reduced by their long and unparalleled sufferings. 
Cortes was one of those who suffered severely. He lost 
the use of two of the ringers of his left hand. 8 He had 
received, besides, two injuries on the head ; one of which 
was so much exasperated by his subsequent fatigues and 
excitement of mind, that it assumed an alarming appear- 
ance. A part of the bone was obliged to be removed. 9 
A fever ensued, and for several clays the hero, who had 
braved danger and death in their most terrible forms, 
lay stretched on his bed, as helpless as an infant. His 
excellent constitution, however, got the better of disease, 
and he was, at length, once more enabled to resume his 

7 Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. Lorenzana, p. 152.) Don Thoan 
— Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, Cano, however, whose sympathies — 
ubi supra. — " Sobrevinieron las ran- from Ins Indian alliance, perhaps — 
geres Tlascaltecas, y todas puestas de seem to have been quite as much 
luto, y llorando a donde estaban los with the Aztecs as with his own 
Espanoles, las unas preguntaban por countrymen, assured Oviedo, who 
sus maridos, las otras por sus hijos was lamenting the general's loss, that 
y hermanos, las otras por sus pari- he might spare his regrets, since 
entes que habian ido con los Espa- Cortes had as many fingers on his 
Holes, y quedaban todos allamuertos : hand, at that hour, as when he came 
no es menos, sino que de esto llanto from Castile. (Sec Ajypendix, Part 
causo gran sentimiento en el corazon 2, No. 11.) May not the word 
del Capitan, y de todos los Espanoles, manco, in his letter, be rendered by 
y el procuro lo mcjor que pudo con- " maimed " ? 

solarles por medio de sus Inter- 

pretes." Saliagun, Hist, de Nucva 9 " Hiricron a Cortes con Honda 

Espaiia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 2S. tan mal, que sc le pasmo" la Cabeea, 

8 " Yo assimismo quedemanco de 6 porque no le cuniron bicn, sacan- 
dos dedos de la mano izquierda" — is dole Cascos, 6 por cl demasiado tra- 
Cortes' own expression in his letter bajo que paso." Gomara, Crouica, 
to the Emperor. (Rel. Scg., ap. cap. 110. 

chap, v.] FRIENDLY RECEPTION. 133 

customary activity. The Spaniards, with politic gene- 
rosity, requited the hospitality of their hosts by sharing 
with them the spoils of their recent victory ; and Cortes 
especially rejoiced the heart of Maxixca, by presenting 
him with the military trophy which he had won from the 
Indian commander. 10 

But while the Spaniards were thus recruiting their 
health and spirits under the friendly treatment of their 
allies, and recovering the confidence and tranquillity of 
mind which had sunk under their hard reverses, they 
received tidings, from time to time, which showed that 
their late disaster had not been confined to the Mexican 
capital. On his descent from Mexico to encounter 
Narvaez, Cortes had brought with him a quantity of 
gold, which he left for safe keeping at Tlascala. To this 
was added a considerable sum, collected by the unfor- 
tunate Velasquez de Leon, in his expedition to the 
coast, as well as contributions from other sources. Prom 
the unquiet state of the capital, the general thought it 
best, on his return there, still to leave the treasure under 
the care of a number of invalid soldiers, who, when in 
marching condition, were to rejoin him in Mexico. A 
party from Vera Cruz, consisting of five horsemen and 
forty foot, had since arrived at Tlascala, and, taking 
charge of the invalids and treasure, undertook to escort 
them to the capital. He now learned that they had been 
intercepted on the route, and all cut off, with the entire 
loss of the treasure. Twelve other soldiers, marching 
in the same direction, had been massacred in the neigh- 
bouring province of Tepeaca ; and accounts continually 
arrived of some unfortunate Castilian, who, presuming on 
the respect hitherto shown to his countrymen, and igno- 
rant of the disasters in the capital, had fallen a victim to 
the fury of the enemy. 11 

10 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, u Eel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 

lib. 10, cap. 13. — Bernal Diaz, Ibid., zana, p. 150.— Oviedo, Hist, de las 
ubi supra. , Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 15. 



These dismal tidings filled the mind of Cortes with 
gloomy apprehensions for the fate of the settlement at 
Villa Rica, — the last stay of their hopes. He despatched 
a trusty messenger, at once, to that place \ and had the 
inexpressible satisfaction to receive a letter in return 
from the commander of the garrison, acquainting him 
with the safety of the colony, and its friendly relations 
with the neighbouring Totonacs. It was the best 
guarantee of the fidelity of the latter, that they had 
offended the Mexicans too deeply to be forgiven. 

While the affairs of Cortes wore so gloomy an aspect 
without, he had to experience an annoyance scarcely less 
serious from the discontents of his followers. Many of 
them had fancied that their late appalling reverses would 
put an end to the expedition ; or, at least, postpone all 
thoughts of resuming it for the present. But they knew 
little of Cortes who reasoned thus. Even while tossing 
on his bed of sickness, he was ripening in his mind fresh 
schemes for retrieving his honour, and for recovering the 
empire which had been lost more by another's rashness 
than his own. This was apparent, as he became con- 
valescent, from the new regulations he made respecting 
the army, as well as from the orders sent to Vera Cruz 
for fresh reinforcements. 

The knowledge of all this occasioned much disquietude 
to the disaffected soldiers. They were, for the most 
part, the ancient followers of Narvaez, on whom, as Ave 
have seen, the brunt of war had fallen the heaviest. 
Many of them possessed property in the islands, and had 
embarked on this expedition chiefly from the desire of 
increasing it. But they had gathered neither gold nor 
glory in Mexico. Their present service rilled them only 

Hcrreva gives the following in- hunger, that they were obliged to 

scription, cut on the bark of a tree give a solid bar of gold, weighing 

by some of these unfortunate Spa- eight hundred ducats, for a few cakes 

niards. " By this road passed Juan of maize bread." Hist. General, dec. 

Juste and his wretched companions, 2, lib. 10, cap. 13. 
who were so much pinched Ivy 


with disgust ; and the few, comparatively, who had been 
so fortunate as to survive, languished to return to their 
rich mines and pleasant farms in Cuba, bitterly cursing 
the day when they had left them. 

Ending their complaints little heeded by the general, 
they prepared a written remonstrance, in which they 
made their demand more formally. They represented 
the rashness of persisting in the enterprise in his present 
impoverished state, without arms or ammunition, almost 
without men ; and this, too, against a powerful enemy, 
who had been more than a match for him, with all the 
strength of his late resources. It was madness to think 
of it. The attempt would bring them all to the sacrifice- 
block. Their only course was to continue their inarch 
to Vera Cruz. Every hour of delay might be fatal. The 
garrison in that place might be overwhelmed from want 
of strength to defend itself; and thus their last hope 
would be annihilated. But, once there, they might wait 
in comparative security for such reinforcements as would 
join them from abroad ; while in case of failure, they 
could the more easily make their escape. They con- 
cluded, with insisting on being permitted to return, at 
once, to the port of Villa Rica. This petition, or rather 
remonstrance, was signed by all the disaffected soldiers, 
and, after being formally attested by the royal notary, 
was presented to Cortes. 12 

It was a trying circumstance for him. What touched 
him most nearly was, to find the name of his friend, the 
secretary Duero, to whose good offices he had chiefly 
owed his command, at the head of the paper. He was 
not, however, to be shaken from his purpose for a 
moment ; and while all outward resources seemed to be 

12 One is reminded of the similar from the ambition of indefinite con- 
remonstrance made by Alexander's quest, while Cortes was only bent on 
soldiers to him, on reaching the Hys- carrying out his original enterprise, 
taspis, — but attended with more What was madness in the one, was 
success ; as, indeed, was reasonable. heroism in the other. 
For Alexander continued to advance 


fading away, and his own friends faltered or failed him, 
he was still true to himself. He knew that to retreat to 
Vera Cruz would be to abandon the enterprise. Once 
there, his army would soon find a pretext and a way for 
breaking up, and returning to the islands. All his 
ambitious schemes would be blasted. The great prize, 
already once in his grasp, would then be lost for ever. 
He would be a ruined man. 

In his celebrated letter to Charles the Fifth, he says, 
that, in reflecting on his position, he felt the truth of the 
old adage, " that fortune favours the brave. The 
Spaniards were the followers of the Cross ; and, trusting 
in the infinite goodness and mercy of God, he could not 
believe that He would suffer them and His own good 
cause thus to perish among the heathen. 13 He was 
resolved, therefore, not to descend to the coast, but at 
all hazards to retrace his steps and beard the enemy 
again in his capital," 

It was in the same resolute tone that he answered his 
discontented followers. 14 He urged every argument which 
could touch their pride or honour as cavaliers. He ap- 
pealed to that ancient Castilian valour which had never 
been known to falter before an enemy ; besought them 
not to discredit the great deeds which had made their 
name ring throughout Europe ; not to leave the emprise 
half achieved, for others more daring and adventurous to 
finish. How could they with any honour, he asked, 
desert their allies whom they had involved in the war, 
and leave them unprotected to the vengeance of the 
Aztecs ? To retreat but a single step towards Villa Rica 
would be to proclaim their own weakness. It would 

13 " Acordandome, que siempre a M This reply, exclaims Ovicdo, 

los osados ayuda la fortuna, y que showed a man of unconquerable spirit, 

cramos Christianos yconfiando en la and high destinies. "Pareccme que 

grandfssima Bondad, y Misericordia la respuesta que a csto les dio Her- 

de Dios, que no pcrmitiria, que del nando Cortes, e lo que hizo en cllo, 

todo pcrccicsscjnos, y se perdiessc fue vna cosa do amino invcnciblc 6 

tanta, y Ian noble Tierra." Rel. de varon de mucha suerte c valor." 

Beg., ap. Lorcnzana, p. 152. Hist, de las lnd., MS., lib. 33, c. 15. 


dishearten their friends, and give confidence to their foes. 
He implored them to resume the confidence in him 
which they had ever shown, and to reflect, that, if they 
had recently met with reverses, he had up to that point 
accomplished all, and more than all, that he had pro- 
mised. It would be easy now to retrieve their losses, if 
they would have patience, and abide in this friendly land 
until the reinforcements, which would be ready to come 
in at his call, should enable them to act on the offensive. 
If, however, there were any so insensible to the motives 
which touch a brave man's heart, as to prefer ease at 
home to the glory of this great achievement, he would 
not stand in their way. Let them go in God's name. 
Let them leave then general in his extremity. He 
should feel stronger in the service of a few brave spirits, 
than if surrounded by a host of the false or the faint- 
hearted. 15 

The disaffected party, as already noticed, was chiefly 
drawn from the troops of Narvaez. When the general's 
own veterans heard this appeal, 16 their blood warmed 
with indignation at the thoughts of abandoning him or 
the cause at such a crisis. They pledged themselves to 
stand by him to the last ; and the malecontents silenced, 
if not convinced, by this generous expression of senti- 
ment from their comrades, consented to postpone their 
departure for the present, under the assurance that no 
obstacle should be thrown in their way, when a more 
favourable season should present itself. 17 

15 " E no me hable ninguno en of eloquence savouring much more 
otra cosa ; y el que desta opinion no of the closet than the camp. Cortes 
estubiere vayase en buen hora, que was no pedant, and his soldiers were 
mas holgare de quedar con los pocos no scholars. 

y osados, que en compania de mu- l? Eor the account of this turbu- 

chos, ni de ninguno cobarde, ni desa- lent transaction, see Bernal Diaz, 

cordado de su propia honra." Hist. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 129, — 

de las Ind., MS., loc. cit. Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 

16 Oviedo has expanded the ha- p. 152,— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 
rangue of Cortes into several pages, MS., lib. 33, cap. 15, — Gomara, Cro- 
in the course of which the orator nica, cap. 112, 113, — Herrera, Hist. 
quotesXenophon, and borrows largely General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 14. 
from the old Jewish history, a style Diaz is exceedingly wroth with the 


Scarcely was this difficulty adjusted, when Cortes was 
menaced with one more serious, in the jealousy springing 
up between his soldiers and their Indian allies. Not- 
withstanding the demonstrations of regard by Maxixca 
and his immediate followers, there were others of the 
nation who looked with an evil eye on their guests, for 
the calamities in which they had involved them ; and 
they tauntingly asked, if, in addition to this, they were 
now to be burdened by the presence and maintenance of 
the strangers? The sallies of discontent were not so 
secret as altogether to escape the ears of the Spaniards, 
in whom they occasioned no little disquietude. They 
proceeded, for the most part, it is true, from persons of 
little consideration, since the four great chiefs of the 
Republic appear to have been steadily secured to the 
interests of Cortes. But they derived some importance 
from the countenance of the warlike Xicotencatl, in 
Avhose bosom still lingered the embers of that implacable 
hostility which he had displayed so courageously on the 
field of battle ; and sparkles of this fiery temper occa- 
sionally gleamed forth in the intimate intercourse into 
which he was now reluctantly brought with his ancient 

Cortes, who saw with alarm the growing feelings of 
estrangement, which must sap the very foundations on 
which he was to rest the lever for future operations, em- 
ployed every argument which suggested itself to restore 
the confidence of his own men. He reminded them of 
the good services they had uniformly received from the 
great body of the nation. They had a sufficient pledge 
of the future constancy of the Tlascalans in their long- 
cherished hatred of the Aztecs, which the recent disasters 
they had suffered from the same quarter could serve 
only to sharpen. And he urged with much force, that, 

chaplain, Gomara, for not discrimi- The captain's own version seems a 

nating between the old soldiers and fair one, and I have followed it, 

the levies of Narvacz, whom he in- therefore, in the text. 
volves equally in the sin of rebellion. 


if any evil designs had been meditated by them against 
the Spaniards, the Tlascalans would doubtless have taken 
advantage of their late disabled condition, and not waited 
till they had recovered their strength and means of 
resistance. 18 

While Cortes was thus endeavouring, with somewhat 
doubtful success, to stifle his own apprehensions, as well 
as those in the bosoms of his followers, an event occurred 
which happily brought the affair to an issue, and per- 
manently settled the relations in which the two parties 
were to stand to each other. This will make it neces- 
sary to notice some events which had occurred in Mexico 
since the expulsion of the Spaniards. 

On Montezuma's death, his brother Cuitlahuac, lord 
of Iztapalapan, conformably to the usage regulating the 
descent of the Aztec crown, was chosen to succeed him. 
He was an active prince, of large experience in military 
affairs, and, by the strength of his character, was well 
fitted to sustain the tottering fortunes of the monarchy. 
He appears, moreover, to have been a man of liberal, 
and what may be called enlightened taste, to judge from 
the beautiful gardens which he had filled with rare 
exotics, and which so much attracted the admiration of 
the Spaniards in his city of Iztapalapan. Unlike his 
predecessor, he held the white men in detestation ; and 
had probably the satisfaction of celebrating his own 
coronation by the sacrifice of many of them. From the 
moment of his release from the Spanish quarters, where 
he had been detained by Cortes, he entered into the 
patriotic movements of his people. It was he who con- 
ducted the assaults both in the streets of the city, and 
on the '" Melancholy Night ;■" and it was at his instiga- 
tion that the powerful force had been assembled to 
dispute the passage of the Spaniards in the Vale of 
Otumba. 19 

18 Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espaiia, 
lib. 33, cap. 15.— Hen-era, Hist. MS., lib. 12, cap. 29. 
General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 14.— *» Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS , 


Since the evacuation of the capital, he had been busily 
occupied in repairing the mischief it had received, — 
restoring the buildings and the bridges, and putting it 
in the best posture of defence. He had endeavoured to 
improve the discipline and arms of his troops. He in- 
troduced the long spear among them, and, by attaching 
the sword-blades taken from the Christians to long poles, 
contrived a weapon that should be formidable against 
cavalry. He summoned his vassals, far and near, to 
hold themselves in readiness to march to the relief of the 
capital, if necessary, and, the better to secure their good 
will, relieved them from some of the burdens usually 
laid on them. But he was now to experience the insta- 
bility of a government which rested not on love, but on 
fear. The vassals in the neighbourhood of the Valley 
remained true to their allegiance ; but others held them- 
selves aloof, uncertain what course to adopt ; while others, 
again, in the more distant provinces, refused obedience 
altogether, considering this a favourable moment for 
throwing off the yoke which had so long galled them. 20 

In this emergency, the government sent a deputation 
to its ancient enemies, the Tlascalans. It consisted of 
six Aztec nobles, bearing a present of cotton cloth, salt, 
and other articles rarely seen, of late years, in the Re- 
public. The lords of the state, astonished at this unpre- 
cedented act of condescension in their ancient foe, called 
the council or senate of the great chiefs together, to give 
the envoys audience. 

Before this body, the Aztecs stated the purpose of their 
mission. They invited the Tlascalans to bury all past 

lib. 33, cap. 47. — Rel. Scg. dc Cortes, the coming of the Spaniards," ac- 

ap. Lorenzana, p. 106. — Sahagun, cording to father Sahagun, who 

Hist, de Nueva Espafia, MS., lib. 12, begins his chapter with this eloquent 

cap. 27, 2'.). exordium. 

Or rather it was "at the instiga- 2o Ixtlilxochiti, Hist. Chich., MS., 

lion of the great devil, the captain cap. S8. — Sahagun, Hist, dc Nueva 

of all the devils, called Satan, who Espana, MS., lib. 12, cap. 29. — 

regulated everything in New Spain Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 

by his free will and pleasure, before 10, cap. 19. 

chap, v.] EMBASSY FROM MEXICO. 141 

grievances in oblivion, and to enter into a treaty with 
them. All the nations of Anahnac should make common 
cause in defence of their country against the white men. 
The Tlascalans would bring down on their own heads 
the wrath of the gods, if they longer harboured the 
strangers who had violated and destroyed their temples. 

If they counted on the support and friendship of their 
guests, let them take warning from the fate of Mexico, 
which had received them kindly within its walls, and 
which, in return, they had filled with blood and ashes. 
They conjured them, by their reverence for their common 
religion, not to suffer the white men, disabled as they 
now were, to escape from their hands, but to sacrifice 
them at once to the gods, whose temples they had pro- 
faned. In that event, they proffered them their alliance, 
and the renewal of that friendly traffic which would 
restore to the Republic the possession of the comforts 
and luxuries of which it had been so long deprived. 

The proposals of the ambassadors produced different 
effects on their audience. Xicotencatl was for embracing 
them at once. Par better was it, he said, to unite with 
their kindred, with those who held their own language, 
their faith and usages, than to throw themselves into the 
arms of the fierce strangers, who, however they might 
talk of religion, worshipped no god but gold. This 
opinion was followed by that of the younger warriors, 
who readily caught the fire of his enthusiasm. But the 
elder chiefs, especially his blind old father, one of the 
four rulers of the state, who seem to have been all 
heartily in the interests of the Spaniards, and one of 
them, Maxixca, their stanch friend, strongly expressed 
their aversion to the proposed alliance with the Aztecs. 
They were always the same, said the latter, — fair in 
speech, and false in heart. They now proffered friend- 
ship to the Tlascalans. But it was fear which drove 
them to it, and, when that fear was removed, they would 
return to their old hostility. Who was it, but these 


insidious foes, that had so long deprived the country of 
the very necessaries of life, of which they were now so 
lavish in their offers ? Was it not owing to the white 
men that the nation at length possessed them? Yet 
they were called on to sacrifice the white men to the 
gods ! — the warriors who, after fighting the battles of 
the Tlascalans, now threw themselves on their hospitality. 
But the gods abhorred perfidy. And were not their 
guests the very beings whose coming had been so long 
predicted by the oracles ? Let us avail ourselves of it, 
he concluded, and unite and make common cause with 
them, until we have humbled our haughty enemy. 

This discourse provoked a sharp rejoinder from Xico- 
tencatl, till the passion of the elder chieftain got the 
better of his patience, and, substituting force for argu- 
ment, he thrust his younger antagonist with some 
violence from the council chamber. A proceeding so 
contrary to the usual decorum of Indian debate asto- 
nished the assembly. But, far from bringing censure 
on its author, it effectually silenced opposition. Even 
the hot-headed followers of Xicotencatl shrunk from sup- 
porting a leader who had incurred such a mark of con- 
temptuous displeasure from the ruler whom they most 
venerated. His own father openly condemned him ; 
and the patriotic young warrior, gifted with a truer fore- 
sight into futurity than his countrymen, was left without 
support in the council, as he had formerly been on the 
field of battle. — The proffered alliance of the Mexicans 
was unanimously rejected ; and the envoys, fearing that 
even the sacred character with which they were invested 
might not protect them from violence, made their escape 
secretly from the capital. 21 

The result of the conference was of the last importance 

21 The proceedings in the Tlas- MS., lib. 12, cap. 29, — Hcrrera, Hist, 

calan senate are reported in more or General, dec. 2, lib. 12, cap. 14. 
less detail, but substantially alike, by Sec, also, Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, dc 

Camargo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS., — . la Conquista, cap. 129, — Goraara, 

Saliagun, Hist, de Nueva Espnfia, Crdnica, cap. 111. 

chap, v.] EMBASSY FROM MEXICO. 143 

to the Spaniards, who, in their present crippled con- 
dition, especially if taken unawares, would have been, 
probably, at the mercy of the Tlascalans. At all events, 
the union of these latter with the Aztecs w^ould have 
settled the fate of the expedition ; since, in the poverty 
of his own resources, it was only by adroitly playing off 
one part of the Indian population against the other, that 
Cortes could ultimately hope for success. 



War with the surrounding Tribes. — Successes of the Spaniards. — Death of 
Maxixca. — Arrival of Reinforcements. — lleturn in Triumph to Tlascala. 


The Spanish commander, reassured by the result of 
the deliberations in the Tlascalan senate, now resolved 
on active operations, as the best means of dissipating 
the spirit of faction and discontent inevitably fostered by 
a life of idleness. He proposed to exercise his troops, 
at first, against some of the neighbouring tribes who 
had laid violent hands on such of the Spaniards as, con- 
fiding in their friendly spirit, had passed through their 
territories. Among these were the Tepeacans, a people 
often engaged in hostility with the Tlascalans, and who, 
as mentioned in a preceding Chapter, had lately mas- 
sacred twelve Spaniards in their march to the capital. 
An expedition against them would receive the ready 
support of his allies, and would assert the dignity of the 
Spanish name, much dimmed in the estimation of the 
natives by the late disasters. 

The Tepeacans were a powerful tribe of the same 
primitive stock as the Aztecs, to whom they acknow- 
ledged allegiance. They had transferred this to the 
Spaniards, on their first march into the country, intimi- 
dated by the bloody defeats of their Tlascalan neigh- 
bours. But, since the troubles in the capital, they had 
again submitted to the Aztec sceptre. Their capital, 


now a petty village, was a flourishing city at tlie time of 
the Conquest, situated in the fruitful plains that stretch 
far away towards the base of Orizaba. 1 The province 
contained, moreover, several towns of considerable size, 
filled with a bold and warlike population. 

As these Indians had once acknowledged the authority 
of Castile, Cortes and his officers regarded their present 
conduct in the light of rebellion, and, in a council of 
war, it was decided that those engaged in the late mas- 
sacre had fairly incurred the doom of slavery. 2 Before 
proceeding against them, however, the general sent a 
summons requiring their submission, and offering full 
pardon for the past, but, in case of refusal, menacing 
them with the severest retribution. To this the Indians, 
now in arms, returned a contemptuous answer, chal- 
lenging the Spaniards to meet them in fight, as they 
were in want of victims for their sacrifices. 

Cortes, without further delay, put himself at the head 
of his small corps of Spaniards, and a large reinforce- 
ment of Tlascalan warriors. They were led by the 
younger Xicotencatl, who now appeared willing to bury 
his recent animosity, and desirous to take a lesson in 
war under the chief who had so often foiled him in the 
field. 3 

The Tepeacans received their enemy on their borders. 
A bloody battle followed, in which the Spanish horse 
were somewhat embarrassed by the tall maize that 
covered part of the plain. They were successful in the 
end, and the Tepeacans, after holding their ground like 

1 The Indian name of the capital, — sado, y que se diessen por esclauos." 

the same as that of the province, — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 

Tepejacac, was corrupted by the Spa- cap. 130. 

niards into Tepeaca. It must be * The chroniclers estimate his 

admitted to have gained by the cor- army at 50,000 warriors ; one half, 

ruption. according to Toribio, of tire dispo- 

" Y como aquello vio Cortes, sable military force of the Republic, 

comunicolo con todos nuestros Capi- " De la cual, (Tlascala,) como ya 

tanes, y soldados : y fue acordado, tengo dicho, solian salir cien mil 

que se hiziesse vn auto por ante Es- hombres de pelea." Hist, de los 

criuano, que diesse fe de todo lo pas- Indios, MS., parte 3, cap. 1G. 



good warriors, were at length routed with great slaughter. 
A second engagement, which took place a few days 
after, was followed by like decisive results ; and the vic- 
torious Spaniards, with their allies, marching straightway 
on the city of Tepeaca, entered it in triumph. 4 No 
further resistance was attempted by the enemy, and the 
whole province, to avoid further calamities, eagerly ten- 
dered its submission. Cortes, however, inflicted the 
meditated chastisement on the places implicated in the 
massacre. The inhabitants were branded with a hot 
iron as slaves, and, after the royal fifth had been re- 
served, were distributed between his own men and the 
allies. 5 The Spaniards were familiar with the system of 
repartimientos established in the islands ; but this was 
the first example of slavery in New Spain. It was 
justified, in the opinion of the general and his military 
casuists, by the aggravated offences of the party. The 
sentence, however, was not countenanced by the Crown, 6 
which, as the colonial legislation abundantly shows, was 
ever at issue with the craving and mercenary spirit of 
the colonist. 

Satisfied with this display of his vengeance, Cortes 
now established his head-quarters at Tepeaca, which, 
situated in a cultivated country, afforded easy means 
for maintaining an army, while its position on the 
Mexican frontier made it a good point d'appui for 
future operations. 

The Aztec government, since it had learned the issue 
of its negotiations at Tlascala, had been diligent in 
fortifying its frontier in that quarter. The garrisons 

4 " That night," says the credu- liave smelt savoury in the nostrils 

lous Herrera, speaking of the carouse of Cortes. 

that followed one of their victories, s ,, v m 1 • a \. 1 1 ■ 

tc + i „ T „ 1; ii- „ 1 j j ' 6 Y alii hizierou hazer el hierro 

the Indian allies had a crand sup- • i 1 1 

„ » 1 j e -L -j con que se auian de herrar Jos que 

per ot legs and arms ; lor, besides . ' 1 

an incredible number of roasts on se to " iauan P or - esclauos ' 1 ue e ™ 

wooden spits, they had fifty thou- ™ a G. que quierc , decu • guerra 

sand pots of stewed human flesh ! !" Banal Dia* Hist, de la Conqmsta, 

(Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. ca P* 1,iU ' 
15.) Such a banquet would not c Solfs, Conquista, lib. 5, cap. 3. 


usually maintained there were strengthened, and large 
bodies of men were marched in the same direction, with 
orders to occupy the strong positions on the borders. 
The conduct of these troops was in their usual style of 
arrogance and extortion, and greatly disgusted the inha- 
bitants of the country. 

Among the places thus garrisoned by the Aztecs was 
Quauhquechollan, 7 a city containing thirty thousand in- 
habitants, according to the historians, and lying to the 
south-west twelve leagues or more from the Spanish 
quarters. It stood at the extremity of a deep valley, 
resting against a bold range of hills, or rather moun- 
tains, and flanked by two rivers with exceedingly high 
and precipitous banks. The only avenue by which the 
town could be easily approached, was protected by a 
stone wall more than twenty feet high and of great thick- 
ness. 8 Into this place, thus strongly defended by art 
as well as by nature, the Aztec emperor had thrown a 
garrison of several thousand warriors, while a much 
more formidable force occupied the heights commanding 
the city. 

The cacique of this strong post, impatient of the 
Mexican yoke, sent to Cortes, inviting him to march to 
his relief, and promising a cooperation of the citizens in 
an assault on the Aztec quarters. The general eagerly 
embraced the proposal, and detached Christoval de Olid, 
with two hundred Spaniards and a strong body of Tlas- 
calans, to support the friendly cacique. 9 On the way, 
Olid was joined by many volunteers from the Indian 

7 Called by the Spaniards Hva- dentro esta casi igual con el suelo. 
cachula, and spelt with every con- Y por toda la Muralla va su petril, 
ceivable diversity by the old writers, tan alto, como medio estado, para 
who may be excused for stumbling pelear, tiene quatro entradas, tan 
over such a confusion of conso- auchas, como uno puede entrar Ca- 
nants. ballo." 

8 " Y toda la Ciudad esta cercada 9 This cavalier's name is usually 
de muy fuerte Muro de cal y canto, spelt Olid by the chroniclers. In a 
tan alto, como quatro estados por copy of his own signature, I find it 
de fuera de la Ciudad : c por de written Oli. 



city and from the neighbouring capital of Cholula, all 
equally pressing their services, The number and eager- 
ness of these auxiliaries excited suspicions in the bosom 
of the cavalier. They were strengthened by the surmises 
of the soldiers of Narvaez, whose imaginations were still 
haunted, it seems, by the horrors of the noche triste, and 
who saw in the friendly alacrity of their new allies 
evidence of an insidious understanding with the Aztecs. 
Olid, catching this distrust, made a countermarch on 
Cholula, where he seized the suspected chiefs, who had 
been most forward in offering their services, and sent 
them under a strong guard to Cortes. 

The general, after a careful examination, was satisfied 
of the integrity of the suspected parties, He, expressing 
his deep regret at the treatment they had received, made 
them such amends as he could by liberal presents ; and, 
as he now saw the impropriety of committing an affair 
of such importance to other hands, put himself at the 
head of his remaining force, and effected a junction with 
his officer in Cholula, 

He had arranged with the cacique of the city against 
which he was marching, that, on the appearance of 
the Spaniards, the inhabitants should rise on the gar- 
rison. Everything succeeded as he had planned. No 
sooner had the Christian battalions defiled on the plain 
before the town, than the inhabitants attacked the garri- 
son with the utmost fury. The latter, abandoning the 
outer defences of the place, retreated to their own 
quarters in the principal ieocalli, where they maintained 
a hard struggle with their adversaries. In the heat of it, 
Cortes, at the head of his little body of horse, rode into 
the place, and directed the assault in person. The Aztecs 
made a fierce defence. But fresh troops constantly ar- 
riving to support the assailants, the works were stormed, 
and every one of the garrison was put to the sword. 10 

10 " I should have been very glad Cortes, " who could have informed 
to have taken some alive," says me of what was going on in the 


The Mexican forces, meanwhile, stationed on the neigh- 
bouring eminences, had marched down to the support of 
their countrymen in the town, and formed in order of 
battle in the suburbs, where they were encountered by 
the Tlascalan levies. " They mustered," says Cortes, 
speaking of the enemy, " at least thirty thousand men, 
and it was a brave sight for the eye to look on, — such a 
beautiful array of warriors glistening with gold and 
jewels and variegated feather- work \" u The action was 
well contested between the two Indian armies. The 
suburbs were set on fire, and, in the midst of the flames, 
Cortes and his squadrons, rushing on the enemy, at 
length broke their array, and compelled them to fall 
back in disorder into the narrow gorge of the mountain, 
from which they had lately descended. The pass was 
rough and precipitous. Spaniards and Tlascalans fol- 
lowed close in the rear, and the light troops, scaling the 
high wall of the valley, poured down on the enemy's 
flanks. The heat was intense, and both parties were 
so much exhausted by their efforts, that it was with 
difficulty, says the chronicler, that the one could pursue, 
or the other fly. 12 They were not too weary, however, 
to slay. The Mexicans were routed with terrible 
slaughter. They found no pity from their Indian foes, 
who had a long account of injuries to settle with them. 
Some few sought refuge by flying higher up into the 
fastnesses of the sierra. They were followed by their 
indefatigable enemy, until, on the bald summit of the 
ridge, they reached the Mexican encampment. It covered 

great city,, and who had been lord Plumajes." Rel. Seg-. de Cortes, 

there since the death of Montezuma. p. 160. 

But I succeeded in saving only one, 12 " Alcanzando rauchos por una 

— and he was more dead than alive." Cuesta arriba muy agra ;. y tal, que 

Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, quando acabamos de encumbrar la 

p. 159. Sierra, ni los Enemigos, ni nosotros 

11 " Y a ver que cosa era aquella, podiamos ir atras, ni adelante : e 

los quales eran mas de treinta mil assi caieron muchos de ellos muer- 

Hoinbres, y la mas lucida Gente. tos, y ahogados de la calor, sin herida 

que hemos visto, porque trahian ninguna." Ibid., p. 160. 
muchas Joyas de Oro, y Plata, y 


a wide tract of ground. Various utensils, ornamented 
dresses, and articles of luxury, were scattered round, and 
the number of slaves in attendance showed the barbaric 
pomp with which the nobles of Mexico went to their 
campaigns. 13 It was a rich booty for the victors, who 
spread over the deserted camp, and loaded themselves 
with the spoil, until the gathering darkness warned them 
to descend. 14 

Cortes followed up the blow by assaulting the strong 
town of Itzocan, held also by a Mexican garrison, and 
situated in the depths of a green valley watered by 
artificial canals, and smiling in all the rich abundance of 
this fruitful region of the plateau. 15 The place, though 
stoutly defended, was stormed and carried; the Aztecs 
were driven across a river which ran below the town, 
and, although the light bridges that traversed it were 
broken down in the flight, whether by design or acci- 
dent, the Spaniards, fording and swimming the stream 
as they could, found their way to the opposite bank, 
following up the chase with the eagerness of blood - 

13 cc p or q UC clemas de la Gente de supply the omissions with the details 
Guerra, teniau mucho aparato de of other writers. But where he is 
Servidores, y fornecimiento para su positive in his statements, — unless 
Real." Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. there be some reason to suspect a 
Lorenzana, p. 160. bias, — his practice of writing on the 

14 The story of the capture of this spot, and the peculiar facilities for 
strong post is told very differently information afforded by his posi- 
by Captain Diaz. According to him, tion, make him decidedly the best 
Olid, when he had fallen back on authority. 

Cholula, in consequence of the re- 15 Cortes, with an eyeless sensible 

fnsal of his men to advance, under to the picturesque than his great 

the strong suspicion which they predecessor in the track of discovery, 

entertained of some foul practice Columbus, was full as quick in de- 

from their allies, received such a tccting the capabilities of the soil. 

stinging rebuke from Cortes, that lie " Ticnc «n Valle redondo muy fertil 

compelled his troops to resume their dc Frutas, y Algodon, que en nin- 

march, and, attacking the enemy, guna parte de los Puertos arriba sc 

" with the fury of a tiger," totally hace por la gran frialdad : y alii cs 

routed them. (Hist, dc la Con- Tierra caliente, y caiisalo, que esta 

quista, cap. 132.) But this version muy abrigada de Sierras ; todo cste 

of the affair is not endorsed, so far Valle se riega por muy buenas Aze- 

as I am aware, by any contemporary. quias, que tienen muy bien sacadas, 

Cortes is so compendious in his y concertadas." Ibid., p. 164. 
report, that it is often necessary to 


hounds. Here, too, the booty was great ; and the 
Indian auxiliaries flocked by thousands to the banners 
of the chief who so surely led them on to victory and 
plunder. 16 

Soon afterwards, Cortes returned to his head-quarters 
at Tepeaca. Thence he detached his officers on expedi- 
tions which were usually successful. Sandoval, in par- 
ticular, marched against a large body of the enemy lying 
between the camp and Vera Cruz ; defeated them in two 
decisive battles, and thus restored the communications 
with the port. 

The result of these operations was the reduction of 
that populous and cultivated territory which lies between 
the great volcan, on the west, and the mighty skirts 
of Orizaba, on the east. Many places, also, in the 
neighbouring province of Mixtecapan, acknowledged the 
authority of the Spaniards, and others from the remote 
region of Oaxaca sent to claim their protection. The 
conduct of Cortes towards his allies had gained him 
great credit for disinterestedness and equity. The Indian 
cities in the adjacent territory appealed to him, as their 
umpire, in their differences with one another, and cases 
of disputed succession in their governments were referred 
to his arbitration. By his discreet and moderate policy, 
he insensibly acquired an ascendancy over their counsels, 
which had been denied to the ferocious Aztec. His 
authority extended wider and wider every day; and a 
new empire grew up in the very heart of the land, form- 
ing a counterpoise to the colossal power which had so 
long overshadowed it. 17 

16 So numerous, according to trusting the amount to the reader's 

Cortes, that they covered hill and own imagination, 
dale, as far as the eye could reach, 17 For the hostilities with the 

mustering more than a hundred and Indian tribes, noticed in the pre- 

twenty thousand strong. (Ibid., p. ceding pages, see, in addition to the 

162.) When the Conquerors attempt Letter of Cortes so often cited, 

anything like a precise numeration, Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

it will be as safe to substitute "a lib. 33, cap. 15, — Herrera, Hist, 

multitude," " a great force," &c, General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 15, ] 6, 


Cortes now felt himself strong enough to put in execu- 
tion the plans for recovering the capital, over which he 
had been brooding ever since the hour of his expulsion. 
He had greatly undervalued the resources of the Aztec 
monarchy. He was now aware, from bitter experience, 
that, to vanquish it, his own forces, and all he could 
hope to muster, would be incompetent, without a very 
extensive support from the Indians themselves. A large 
army would, moreover, require large supplies for its 
maintenance, and these could not be regularly obtained, 
during a protracted siege, without the friendly coopera- 
tion of the natives. On such support he might now 
safely calculate from Tlascala, and the other Indian 
territories, whose warriors were so eager to serve under 
his banners. His past acquaintance with them had in- 
structed him in their national character and system of 
war ; while the natives who had fought under his com- 
mand, if they had caught little of the Spanish tactics, 
had learned to act in concert with the white men, and to 
obey him implicitly as their commander. This was a 
considerable improvement in such wild and disorderly 
levies, and greatly augmented the strength derived from 

Experience showed, that in a future conflict with the 
capital it would not do to trust to the causeways, but 
that to succeed, he must command the lake. He pro- 
posed, therefore, to build a number of vessels, like those 
constructed under his orders in Montezuma's time, and 
afterwards destroyed by the inhabitants. For this he 
had still the services of the same experienced ship-builder, 
Martin Lopez, who, as we have seen, had fortunately 
escaped the slaughter of the " Melancholy Night." 
Cortes now sent this man to Tlascala, Avith orders to 
build thirteen brigantines, which might be taken to 

— IxtlikochitJ, Hist. Chick, MS., P. Martyr, de Orbe Novo, dec. 5, 

cap. 90, — Bemal Diaz, Hist, dc la cap. fi, — Camargo, Hist, dc Tlas- 

Conquista, cap. 130, 132, 134,— cala, MS. 
Gomara, Cronica, cap. 114 — 117, — 


pieces and carried on the shoulders of the Indians to be 
launched on the waters of Lake Tezcuco. The sails, rig- 
ging, and iron-work, were to be brought from Vera Cruz, 
where they had been stored since their removal from the 
dismantled ships. It was a bold conception, that of con- 
structing a fleet to be transported across forest and 
mountain before it was launched on its destined waters ! 
But it suited the daring genius of Cortes, who, with the 
cooperation of his stanch Tlascalan confederates, did not 
doubt his ability to carry it into execution. 

It was with no little regret, that the general learned 
at this time the death of his good friend Maxixca, the old 
lord of Tlascala, who had stood by him so steadily in the 
hour of adversity. He had fallen a victim to that terrible 
epidemic, the small-pox, which was now sweeping over 
the land like fire over the prairies, smiting down prince 
and peasant, and adding another to the long train of 
woes that followed the march of the white men. It was 
imported into the country, it is said, by a Negro slave, in 
the fleet of Narvaez. 18 It first broke out in Cempoalla. 
The poor natives, ignorant of the best mode of treating 
the loathsome disorder, sought relief in their usual prac- 
tice of bathing in cold water, which greatly aggravated 
their trouble. From Cempoalla it spread rapidly over 
the neighbouring country, and, penetrating through Tlas- 
cala, reached the Aztec capital, where Montezuma's suc- 
cessor, Cuitlahuac, fell one of its first victims. Thence 
it swept down towards the borders of the Pacific, leaving 
its path strown with the dead bodies of the natives, who, 
in the strong language of a contemporary, perished in 
heaps like cattle stricken with the murrain. 19 It does 

18 " La primera fue de viruela, y habia visto, y esta sazon estaba esta 

comenzo de esta manera. Siendo nueva Espaha en estremo muy llena 

Capitany Governador Hernando Cor- de gente." Toribio, Hist, de los 

tes al tiempo que el Capitan Panfilo Indios, MS., parte 1, cap. 1. 

de Narvaez desernbarco en esta tier- 19 " Morian como chinches a. mon- 

ra, en uno de sus navios vino un tones." (Ibid., ubi supra.) " Eran 

negro herido de viruelas, la cual en- tantos los difuntos que morian de 

ferraedad nunca en esta tierra se aquella enfermedad, que no habia 


not seem to have been fatal to the Spaniards, many of 
whom, probably, had already had the disorder, and who 
were, at all events, acquainted with the proper method 
of treating it. 

The death of Maxixca was deeply regretted by the 
troops, who lost in him a true and most efficient ally. 
With his last breath, he commended them to his son 
and successor, as the great beings whose coming into the 
country had been so long predicted by the oracles. 20 He 
expressed a desire to die in the profession of the Chris- 
tian faith. Cortes no sooner learned his condition, than 
he despatched father Olmedo to Tlascala. The friar 
found that Maxixca had already caused a crucifix to be 
placed before his sick couch, as the object of his adora- 
tion. After explaining, as intelligibly as he could, the 
truths of revelation, he baptized the dying chieftain ; 
and the Spaniards had the satisfaction to believe, that 
the soul of their benefactor was exempted from the 
doom of eternal perdition that hung over the unfortunate 
Indian who perished in his unbelief. 21 

Their late brilliant successes seem to have reconciled 
most of the disaffected soldiers to the prosecution of the 
war. There were still a few among them, the secretary 
Duero, Bermudez the treasurer, and others high in office, 
or wealthy hidalgos, who looked with disgust on another 
campaign, and now loudly reiterated their demand of a 
free passage to Cuba. To this Cortes, satisfied with the 
support on which he could safely count, made no further 
objection. Having once given his consent, he did all in 
his power to facilitate their departure, and provide for 
their comfort. He ordered the best ship at Vera Cruz 
to be placed at their disposal, to be well supplied with 

quien los cntcrrase, por lo cual en 20 Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
Mexico los cchaban en las azequias, quista, cap. 136. 
porque entonccs habia mny grandc 21 Ibid., nbi supra. — Hcrrera, Hist, 
eopia de agua3 y era may grande General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19, — 
hedor el que salia de los cuerpos Sahagim, Hist, de Nueva Espaila, 
muertos." Sahaguu, Hist, de "Nueva MS., lib. 12, cap. 39. 
Espaiia, lib. 8, cap. 1. 


provisions and everything necessary for the voyage, and 
sent Alvarado to the coast to superintend the embarka- 
tion. He took the most courteous leave of them, with 
assurances of his own unalterable regard. But, as the 
event proved, those who could part from him at this crisis 
had little sympathy with his fortunes ; and we find 
Duero not long afterwards in Spain, supporting the 
claims of Velasquez before the emperor, in opposition to 
those of his former friend and commander. 

The loss of these few men was amply compensated by 
the arrival of others, whom Fortune — to use no higher 
term — most unexpectedly threw in his way. The first 
of these came in a small vessel sent from Cuba by the 
governor, Velasquez, with stores for the colony at Vera 
Cruz. He was not aware of the late transactions in the 
country, and of the discomfiture of his officer. In the 
vessel came despatches, it is said, from Fonseca, bishop 
of Burgos, instructing Narvaez to send Cortes, if he had 
not already done so, for trial to Spain. 22 The alcalde of 
Vera Cruz, agreeably to the general's instructions, allowed 
the captain of the bark to land, who had no doubt that 
the country was in the hands of Narvaez. He was unde- 
ceived by being seized, together with his men, so soon as 
they had set foot on shore. The vessel was then secured ; 
and the commander and his crew, finding out their error, 
were persuaded without much difficulty to join their 
countrymen in Tlascala. 

A second vessel, sent soon after by Velasquez, shared 
the same fate, and those on board consented, also, to take 
their chance in the expedition under Cortes. 

About the same time, Garay, the governor of Jamaica, 
fitted out three ships with an armed force to plant a 
colony on the Panuco, a river which pours into the Gulf 
a few degrees north of Villa Rica. Garay persisted in 
establishing this settlement, in contempt of the claims of 

22 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Couquista, cap. 131. 


Cortes, who had already entered into a friendly commu- 
nication with the inhabitants of that region. But the 
crews experienced such a rough reception from the 
natives on landing, and lost so many men, that they 
were glad to take to their vessels again. One of these 
foundered in a storm. The others put into the port of 
Vera Cruz to restore the men, much weakened by hunger 
and disease. Here they were kindly received, their wants 
supplied, their wounds healed ; when they were induced, 
by the liberal promises of Cortes, to abandon the disas- 
trous service of their employer, and enlist under his own 
prosperous banner. The reinforcements obtained from 
these sources amounted to full a hundred and fifty men, 
well provided with arms and ammunition, together with 
twenty horses. By this strange concurrence of circum- 
stances, Cortes saw himself in possession of the supplies 
he most needed ; that, too, from the hands of his enemies, 
whose costly preparations were thus turned to the benefit 
of the very man whom they were designed to ruin. 

His good fortune did not stop here. A ship from the 
Canaries touched at Cuba, freighted with arms and mili- 
tary stores for the adventurers in the New World. Their 
commander heard there of the recent discoveries in 
Mexico, and, thinking it would afford a favourable 
market for him, directed his course to Vera Cruz. He 
was not mistaken. The alcalde, by the general's orders, 
purchased both ship and cargo ; and the crews, catching 
the spirit of adventure, followed their countrymen into 
the interior. There seemed to be a magic in the name 
of Cortes, which drew all who came within hearing of it 
under his standard. 23 

Having now completed the arrangements for settling 
his new conquests, there seemed to be no further reason 
for postponing his departure to Tlascala. He was first 

23 Bcmal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- Seg. dc Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 
quista, cap. 131, 133, 136.— Her- 151, 167.— Oviedo, Hist, de las Lid., 
vera, Hist. General, ubi supra. — Rel. MS., lib. 33, cap. 16. 


solicited by the citizens of Tepeaca to leave a garrison 
with them, to protect them from the vengeance of the 
Aztecs. Cortes acceded to the request, and, considering 
the central position of the town favourable for maintain- 
ing his conquests, resolved to plant a colony there. For 
this object he selected sixty of his soldiers, most of whom 
were disabled by wounds or infirmity. He appointed the 
alcaldes, regidores, and other functionaries of a civic 
magistracy. The place he called Segura tie la Front-era, 
or Security of the Frontier. 24 It received valuable pri- 
vileges as a city, a few years later, from the emperor 
Charles the Fifth f 5 and rose to some consideration in 
the age of the Conquest. But its consequence soon after 
declined. Even its Castilian name, with the same caprice 
which has decided the fate of more than one name in our 
own country, was gradually supplanted by its ancient 
one, and the little village of Tepeaca is all that now 
commemorates the once flourishing Indian capital, and 
the second Spanish colony in Mexico. 

While at Segura, Cortes wrote that celebrated letter 
to the emperor, — the second in the series, — so often 
cited in the preceding pages. It takes up the narrative 
with the departure from Vera Cruz, and exhibits in a brief 
and comprehensive form the occurrences up to the time 
at which we are now arrived. In the concluding page, 
the general, after noticing the embarrassments under 
which he labours, says, in his usual manly spirit, that 
he holds danger and fatigue light in comparison with the 
attainment of his object ; and that he is confident a short 
time will restore the Spaniards to their former position, 
and repair all their losses. 26 

He notices the resemblance of Mexico, in many of its 
features and productions, to the mother country, and 

24 Rel. Seg. de Cortes, ap. Loren- Magestad he dicho, que en muy 

zana, p. 156. breve tomara al estado, en que antes 

2o Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, yo la tenia, e se restanraran las per- 

tom. iii. p. 153. didas pasadas." Rel. Seg., ap. Lo- 

26 " E creo, como ya a Vuestra renzana, p. 167. 


requests that it may henceforth be called, " New Spain 
of the Ocean Sea." 27 He finally requests that a com- 
mission may be sent out at once, to investigate his con- 
duct, and to verify the accuracy of his statements. 

This letter, which was printed at Seville the year after 
its reception, has been since reprinted and translated 
more than once. 28 It excited a great sensation at the 
court, and among the friends of science generally. The 
previous discoveries in the New A¥orld had disappointed 
the expectations which had been formed after the solu- 
tion of the grand problem of its existence. They had 
brought to light only rude tribes, which, however gentle 
and inoffensive in their manners, were still in the primi- 
tive stages of barbarism. Here was an authentic account 
of a vast nation, potent and populous, exhibiting an 
elaborate social polity, well advanced in the arts of 
civilization, occupying a soil that teemed with mineral 
treasures and with a boundless variety of vegetable 
products, stores of wealth, both natural and artificial, 
that seemed, for the first time, to realize the golden 
dreams in which the great discoverer of the New World 
had so fondly, and in his own day, so fallaciously, in- 
dulged. Well might the scholar of that age exult in the 
revelation of these wonders, which so many had long, 
but in vain, desired to see. 29 

27 " Me parecio, que el mas con- not sent till the spring of the follow- 
venicnte nombre para esta dicha ing year ; leaving the nation still in 
Ticrra, era llamarse la Nueva Espana ignorance of the fate of the gallant 
del Mar Oceano : y assi en nombre adventurers in Mexico, and the mag- 
de Vuestra Magestad se le puso nitude of their discoveries, 
aqucste nombre : humildemente su- 

plico a, Vuestra Altcza lo tenga por 2 ' J The state of feeling occasioned 

bien, y mande, que se nombre assi." by these discoveries may be seen in 

(Ibid., p. 169.) The name of "New the correspondence of Peter Martyr, 

Spain," without other addition, had then residing at the court of Castile. 

been before given by Grijalva to Yu- Sec, in particular, his epistle, dated 

catan. Ante, Book 2, Chapter 1. March, 1521, to his noble pupil, the 

28 It was dated, " De la Villa Marques dc Mondejar, in which he 
Segura de la Fronteradc esta Nueva dwells with unbounded satisfaction 
Espafia, a treinta de Octubre de mil on all the rich stores of science which 
quinientos veiute anos." Bui, in the expedition of Cortes had thrown 
consequence of the loss of the ship open to the world. Opus Episto- 
intended to bear it, the letter was laruin, ep. 771. 


With this letter went another to the emperor, signed, 
as it would seem, by nearly every officer and soldier in 
the camp. It expatiated on the obstacles thrown in the 
way of the expedition by Velasquez and Narvaez, and 
the great prejudice this had caused to the royal interests. 
It then set forth the services of Cortes, and besought the 
emperor to confirm him in his authority, and not to 
allow any interference with one who, from his personal 
character, his intimate knowledge of the land and its 
people, and the attachment of his soldiers, was the man 
best qualified in all the world to achieve the conquest of 
the country. 30 

It added not a little to the perplexities of Cortes, that 
he was still in entire ignorance of the light in which his 
conduct was regarded in Spain. He had not even heard 
whether his despatches, sent the year preceding from 
Vera Cruz, had been received. Mexico was as far 
removed from all intercourse with the civilized world, as 
if it had been placed at the antipodes. Pew vessels had 
entered, and none had been allowed to leave its ports. 
The governor of Cuba, an island distant but a few days' 
sail, was yet ignorant, as we have seen, of the fate of his 
armament. On the arrival of every new vessel or fleet 
on these shores, Cortes might well doubt whether it 
brought aid to his undertaking, or a royal commission 
to supersede him. His sanguine spirit relied on the 
former ; though the latter was much the more probable, 
considering the intimacy of his enemy, the governor, with 
Bishop Fonseca, a man jealous of his authority, and one 
who, from his station at the head of the Indian depart- 
ment, held a predominant control over the affairs of the 

30 This memorial is in that part in the army, should not contain that 

of my collection made hy the former of Bernal Diaz del Castillo. It can 

President of the Spanish Academy, only be accounted for by his illness ; 

Vargas Ponce. It is signed by four as he tells us he was confined to his 

hundred and forty-four names ; and bed by a fever about this time, 

it is remarkable that this roll, which Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 134. 
includes every other familiar name 


New World. It was the policy of Cortes, therefore, to 
lose no time ; to push forward his preparations, lest 
another should be permitted to snatch the laurel now 
almost within his grasp. Could he but reduce the Aztec 
capital, he felt that he should be safe ; and that, in 
Avhatever light his irregular proceedings might now be 
viewed, his services in that event would far more than 
counterbalance them in the eyes both of the Crown and 
of the country. 

The general wrote, also, to the Royal Audience at St. 
Domingo, in order to interest them in his cause. Pie 
sent four vessels to the same island, to obtain a further 
supply of arms and ammunition • and, the better to 
stimulate the cupidity of adventurers, and allure them 
to the expedition, he added specimens of the beautiful 
fabrics of the country, and of its precious metals. 31 The 
funds for procuring these important supplies were pro- 
bably derived from the plunder gathered in the late 
battles, and the gold which, as already remarked, had been 
saved from the general wreck by the Castilian convoy. 

It was the middle of December, when Cortes, having 
completed all his arrangements, set out on his return to 
Tlascala, ten or twelve leagues distant. He inarched in 
the van of the army, and took the way of Cholula. How 
different was his condition from that in which he had left 
the republican capital not five months before ! His 
march was a triumphal procession, displaying the various 
banners and military ensigns taken from the enemy, long 
files of captives, and all the rich spoils of conquest 
gleaned from many a hard-fought field. As the army 
passed through the towns and villages, the inhabitants 
poured out to greet them, and, as they drew near to 

31 Rcl. Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. Lo- and then, to a fling at his commander, 

renzana, p. 179. — Hcrrera, Hist. says, that Cortes was willing to get 

General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 18. rid of this gallant cavalier, because 

Alouso de Avila went as the he was too independent and plain- 
bearer of despatches to St. Domingo. spoken. Hist, de la Conqnista, cap. 
Bernal Diaz, who is not averse, now 136. 


Tlascala, the whole population, men, women, and chil- 
dren, came forth celebrating their return with songs, 
dancing, and music. Arches decorated with flowers 
were thrown across the streets through which they 
passed, and a Tlascalan orator addressed the general, on 
his entrance into the city, in a lofty panegyric on his 
late achievements, proclaiming him the " avenger of the 
nation." Amidst this pomp and triumphal show, Cortes 
and his principal officers were seen clad in deep mourn- 
ing in honour of their friend Maxixca. And this tribute 
of respect to the memory of their venerated ruler touched 
the Tlascalans more sensibly than all the proud display 
of military trophies. 32 

The general's first act was to confirm the son of his 
deceased friend in the succession, which had been con- 
tested by an illegitimate brother. The youth was but 
twelve years of age ; and Cortes prevailed on him with- 
out difficulty to follow his father's example, and receive 
baptism. He afterwards knighted him with his own 
hand ; the first instance, probably, of the order of 
chivalry being conferred on an American Indian. 33 The 
elder Xicotencatl was also persuaded to embrace Chris- 
tianity ; and the example of their rulers had its obvious 
effect in preparing the minds of the people for the recep- 
tion of the truth. Cortes, whether from the suggestions 
of Olmedo, or from the engrossing nature of his own 
affairs, did not press the work of conversion further at 
this time, but wisely left the good seed, already sown, to 
ripen in secret, till time should bring forth the harvest. 

The Spanish commander, during his short stay in 
Tlascala, urged forward the preparations for the cam- 
paign. He endeavoured to drill the Tlascalans, and to 
give them some idea of European discipline and tactics. 

32 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- mole caballero, al vso de Castilla ; i 
quista, cap. 136. — Herrera, Hist. porque lo fuese de Jesu-Christo, le 
General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19. hico bauticar, i se llamb D. Lorenco 

33 Ibid., ubi supra. Maxiscatzin." 
" Hfcolo," says Herrera, " i ar- 



He caused new arms to be made, and the old ones to be 
put in order. Powder was manufactured with the aid 
of sulphur obtained by some adventurous cavaliers from 
the smoking throat of Popocatepetl. 34 The construction 
of the brigantines went forward prosperously under the 
direction of Lopez, with the aid of the Tlascalans. 35 
Timber was cut in the forests, and pitch, an article 
unknown to the Indians, was obtained from the pines on 
the neighbouring Sierra de Malinche. The rigging and 
other appurtenances were transported by the Indian 
tammies from Villa Rica ; and by Christmas, the work 
was so far advanced, that it was no longer necessary for 
Cortes to delay the march to Mexico. 

34 For an account of the manner junto a una hermita que se llama 
in which this article was procured by San Buenaventura, los quales hizo y 
Montaho and his doughty com- otro Martin Lopez uno de los pri- 
panions, see ante, vol. i. p. 413. meros conquistadores, y le ayudo 

35 " Ansi se hicieron trece ber- Neguez Gomez." Hist, de Tlascala, 
gantines en el barrio de Atempa, MS. 




Guatemozin, Emperor of the Aztecs. — Preparations for the March — Military- 
Code. — Spaniards cross the Sierra. — Enter Tezcuco. — Prince Ixtlilxochitl. 


While the events narrated in the preceding Chapter 
were passings an important change had taken place in 
the Aztec monarchy. Montezuma's brother and suc- 
cessor, Cuitlahuac, had suddenly died of the small-pox, 
after a brief reign of four months, — brief, but glorious, 
for it had witnessed the overthrow of the Spaniards, and 
their expulsion from Mexico. 1 On the death of their 
warlike chief, the electors were convened, as usual, to 
supply the vacant throne. It was an office of great 
responsibility in the dark hour of their fortunes. The 
teoteuctli, or high-priest, invoked the blessing of the 
supreme God on their deliberations. His prayer is still 
extant. It was the last one ever made on a similar occa- 
sion in Anahuac, and a few extracts from it may interest 
the reader, as a specimen of Aztec eloquence. 

1 Solis dismisses this prince with sovereign in the light represented in 

the remark, " that he reigned but a the text. Cortes, who ought to 

few days ; long enough, however, for know, describes him " as held to be 

his indolence and apathy to efface very wise and valiant." Pel. Seg., 

the memory of his name among the ap. Lorenzana, p. 166. — See, also, 

people." (Conquista, lib. 4, cap. 16.) Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espafia, 

Whence the historiographer of the MS., lib. 12, cap. 29, — Herrera, Hist. 

Indies borrowed the colouring for General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 19, — 

this portrait I cannot conjecture ; Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 

certainly not from the ancient autho- 88, — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

rities, which uniformly delineate the lib. 33, cap. 16, — Gomara, Cronica, 

character and conduct of the Aztec cap. 118. 



" O Lord ! thou knowest that the days of our sovereign 
are at au end, for thou hast placed him beneath thy feet. 
He abides in the place of his retreat ; he has trodden the 
path which we are all to tread ; he has gone to the house 
whither we are all to follow, — the house of eternal dark- 
ness, where no light cometh. He is gathered to his rest, 

and no one henceforth shall disquiet him All 

these were the princes, his predecessors, who sat on the 
imperial throne, directing the affairs of thy kingdom ; for 
thou art the universal lord and emperor, by whose will 
and movement the whole world is directed ; thou needest 
not the counsel of another. They laid down the intole- 
rable burden of government, and left it to him, their suc- 
cessor. Yet he sojourned but a few days in his kingdom, 
— but a few days had we enjoyed his presence, when 
thou summonedst him away to follow those who had 
ruled over the land before him. And great cause has he 
for thankfulness, that thou hast relieved him from so 
grievous a load, and placed him in tranquillity and rest. 

Who now shall order matters for the good of the 

people and the realm ? Who shall appoint the judges to 
administer justice to thy people ? Who now shall bid 
the drum and the flute to sound, and gather together 
the veteran soldiers and the men mighty in battle ? Our 
Lord and our Defence ! wilt thou, in thy wisdom, elect 
one who shall be worthy to sit on the throne of thy king- 
dom • one who shall bear the grievous burden of govern- 
ment ; who shall comfort and cherish thy poor people, 

even as the mother cherisheth her offspring? 

Lord most merciful ! pour forth thy light and thy 

splendour over this thine empire ! Order it so 

that thou shalt be served in all, and through all." 2 

2 The reader of Spanish will sec como cs muerto nuestro N. : ya lo 

that, in the version in the text, I have habeis puesto debajo de vnestros 

condensed the original, which abounds pies: ya esta en su recogimiento, y 

in the tautology and repetitions cha- es ido por el camino que todos hemos 

racteristic of the compositions of a de ir y a la casa donde hemos de 

rude people. morar, casa de perpetuas tinieblas, 

" Senor nuestro ! ya V.M. sabe donde ni hay ventana, ni luz alguna : 


The choice fell on Quauhtemotzin, or Guatemozin, as 
euphoniously corrupted by the Spaniards. 3 He was 
nephew to the two last monarchs, and married his cousin, 
the beautiful princess Tecuichpo, Montezuma's daughter. 
" He was not more than twenty-five years old, and elegant 
in his person for an Indian," says one who had seen him 
often ; " valiant, and so terrible, that his followers trem- 
bled in his presence." 4 He did not shrink from the 
perilous post that was offered to him ; and, as he saw 
the tempest gathering darkly around, he prepared to 
meet it like a man. Though young, he had ample expe- 
rience in military matters, and had distinguished himself 

ya esta en el reposo donde uadie le 

desasosegara Todos estos se- 

llores y reyes rigieron, gobemaron, 
y gozaron del senorio y dignidad real, 
y del trono y sitial del imperio, los 
cuales ordenaron y concertaron las 
cosas de vuestro reino, que sois el 
universal seiior y emperador, por 
cuyo albedrio y motivo se rige todo 
el universo, y que no teneis necesi- 
dad de consejo de ningun otro. Ya 
estos dichos dejaron la carga intole- 
rable del gobierno que trageron sobre 
sus hombros, y lo dejaron a su suc- 
cesor N., el cual por algunos pocos 
dias tuvo en pie su senorio y reino, 
y ahora ya se ba ido en pos de ellos 
al otro mundo, porque vos le man- 
dasteis que fuese y le llamasteis, y 
por baberle descargado de tan gran 
carga, y quitado tan gran trabajo, y 
baberle puesto en paz y en reposo, 
esta muy obligado a daros gracias. 
Algunos pocos dias le logramos, y 
abora para siempre se ausento de 
nosotros para nunca mas volver al 

nmndo i Qnien ordenara y 

dispondra las cosas necesarias al bien 
del pueblo, senorio y reino ? ,; Quien 
elegira a los jueces particulares, que 
tengan carga de la gente baja por los 
barrios ? ,5 Quien mandara tocar el 
atambor y pifano para juntar gente 
para la guerra ? i Y quien reunira, 
y acaudMlara a los soldados viejos, y 
bombres diestros en la pelea ? Seiior 
nuestro y amparador nuestro ! tenga 
por bieu V. M. de eleghy y senalar 

alguna persona suficiente para que 
tenga vuestro trono, y lleve a cuestas 
la carga pesada del regimen de la re- 
publica, regocige y regale a, los popu- 
iares, bien asi como la madre regala 
a su hijo, poniendole en su regazo. 

O seiior nuestro humam- 

simo ! dad lumbre y resplandor de 

vuestra mano a esto reino ! 

Hagase como V.M. fuere servido en 
todo, y por todo." Sahagun, Hist, 
de Nueva Espaha, lib. 6, cap. 5. 

3 Tbe Spaniards appear to bave 
cbanged tbe Qua, beginning Aztec 
names into Qua, in tbe same manner 
as, in tbe mother country, tbey changed 
the Wad at the beginning of Arabic 
names into Guad. (See Conde, El 
Nubiense, Descripcion de Espaiia, 
notas, passim.) The Aztec tzin was 
added to the names of sovereigns 
and great lords, as a mark of rever- 
ence. Thus Cuitlahua was called 
Cuitlahuatzin. This termination, 
usually dropped by the Spaniards, 
has been retained from accident, or, 
perhaps, for the sake of euphony, in 
Guatemozin's name. 

4 " Mancebo de hasta veynte y 
cinco aiios, bien gentil hombre para 
ser Indio, y muy esforcado, y se hizo 
temer de tal manera, que todos los 
suyos temblauan del ; y estaua casado 
con vna hi j a de Montecuma, bien 
hermosa muger para ser India." 
Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 130. 


above all others in the bloody conflicts of the capital. 
He bore a sort of religious hatred to the Spaniards, like 
that which Hannibal is said to have sworn, and which 
he certainly cherished, against his Roman foes. 

By means of his spies, Guatemozin made himself 
acquainted with the movements of the Spaniards, and 
their design to besiege the capital. He prepared for it 
by sending away the useless part of the population, while 
he called in his potent vassals from the neighbourhood. 
He continued the plans of his predecessor for strengthen- 
ing the defences of the city, reviewed his troops, and 
stimulated them by prizes to excel in their exercises. He 
made harangues to his soldiers to rouse them to a spirit 
of desperate resistance. He encouraged his vassals 
throughout the empire to attack the white men wherever 
they were to be met with, setting a price on their heads, 
as well as on the persons of all who should be brought 
alive to him in Mexico. 5 And it was no uncommon 
thing for the Spaniards to find hanging up in the temples 
of the conquered places the arms and accoutrements of 
their unfortunate countrymen who had been seized and 
sent to the capital for sacrifice. 6 — Such was the young 
monarch who was now called to the tottering throne of 
the Aztecs; worthy, by his bold and magnanimous 
nature, to sway the sceptre of his country, in the most 
flourishing period of her renown ; and now, in her dis- 
tress, devoting himself in the true spirit of a patriot 
prince, to uphold her falling fortunes, or bravely perish 
with them. 7 

We must now return to the Spaniards in Tlascala, 

5 Herrcra, Hist. General, dec. 2, " Venez, cher rejeton d'une vaillante 
lib. 10, cap. 19. race, 

Remplir vos defenseurs d'une nou- 

6 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- velle audace ; 

quista, cap. 134. Venez du diademe a leurs yeux vous 


7 One may call to mind the beau- Et perissez du moins en roi, s'il 
tiful invocation which Racine has put faut perir." 

into the mouth of Joad; Athalie, acte 4, scene 5. 


where we left them preparing to resume their march on 
Mexico. Their commander had the satisfaction to see his 
troops tolerably complete in their appointments ; varying, 
indeed, according to the condition of the different rein- 
forcements which had arrived from time to time ; but on 
the whole, superior to those of the army with which he 
had first invaded the country. His whole force fell little 
short of six hundred men ; forty of whom were cavalry, 
together with eighty arquebusiers and crossbowmen. 
The rest were armed with sword and target, and with 
the copper-headed pike of Chinantla. He had nine 
cannon of a moderate calibre, and was indifferently sup- 
plied with powder. 8 

As his forces were drawn up in order of march, Cortes 
rode through the ranks, exhorting his soldiers, as usual 
with him on these occasions, to be true to themselves, 
and the enterprise in which they were embarked. He 
told them they were to march against rebels, who had 
once acknowledged allegiance to the Spanish sovereign ; 9 
against barbarians, the enemies of their religion. They 
were to fight the battles of the Cross and of the crown ; 
to fight their own battles, to wipe away the stain from 
their arms, to avenge their injuries, and the loss of the 
dear companions who had been butchered on the field or 
on the accursed altar of sacrifice. Never was there a 
war which offered higher incentives to the Christian 
cavalier ; a war which opened to him riches and renown 
in this life, and an imperishable glory in that to come. 10 

Thus did the politic chief touch all the secret springs 
of devotion, honour, and ambition in the bosoms of his 

8 Rel. Tercera de Cortes, ap. Lo- ellas sujetas, no solamente se habian 
renzana, p. 183. rebelado contra Vuestra Magestad." 

Most, if not all, of the authorities, Ibid., ubi supra. 
— a thing worthy of note, — concur 10 Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lo- 
in this estimate of the Spanish renzana., p. 184. 
forces. " Porque demas del premio, que 

9 " Y como sin causa ninguna todos les davia en el cielo, se les seguirian 
los Naturales de Coltia, que son los en esto mundo grandissima honra, 
de la gran Ciudad de Temixtitan, y riquezas inestimables." Ixtlilxochitl, 
los de todas las otras Provincias a Hist. Chichimeca, MS., cap. 91. 


martial audience, waking the mettle of the most sluggish 
before leading him on the perilous emprise. They an- 
swered with acclamations, that they were ready to die in 
defence of the Faith ; and would either conquer, or leave 
their bones with those of their countrymen in the waters 
of the Tezcuco. 

The army of the allies next passed in review before the 
general. It is variously estimated by writers from a 
hundred and ten to a hundred and fifty thousand soldiers! 
The palpable exaggeration, no less than the discrepancy, 
shows that little reliance can be placed on any estimate. 
It is certain, however, that it was a multitudinous array, 
consisting not only of the flower of the Tlascalan war- 
riors, but of those of Cholula, Tepeaca, and the neigh- 
bouring territories, which had submitted to the Castilian 
crown. 11 

They were armed, after the Indian fashion, with bows 
and arrows, the glassy macpcahuitl, and the long pike, 
which formidable weapon, Cortes, as we have seen, had 
introduced among his own troops. They were divided 
into battalions, each having its own banner, displaying 
the appropriate arms or emblem of its company. The 
four great chiefs of the nation marched in the van ; three 
of them venerable for their years, and showing, in the 
insignia which decorated their persons, the evidence of 
many a glorious feat in arms. The panache of many- 
coloured plumes floated from their casques, set in eme- 
ralds or other precious stones. Their escaupil, or stuffed 
doublet of cotton, was covered with the graceful surcoat 
of feather- work, and their feet were protected by sandals 
embossed with gold. Tour young pages followed, bear- 
ing their weapons, and four others supported as many 
standards, on which were emblazoned the armorial bear- 
ings of the four great divisions of the Republic. 12 The 

11 " Cosa muy de ver," says father de Nueva Espana, lib. 12, cap. 30, 

Sahagun, without hazarding any pre- MS. 

me number, "en la cantidad y en ,2 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, 

los aparejos que llevaban." Hist. lib. 10, cap. 20. 

chap, vii.] MILITARY CODE. 169 

Tlascalans, though frugal in the extreme, and rude in 
their way of life, were as ambitious of display in their 
military attire as any of the races on the plateau. As 
they denied before Cortes, they saluted him by waving 
their banners and by a flourish of their wild music, which 
the general acknowledged by courteously raising his cap 
as they passed. 13 The Tlascalan warriors, and especially 
the younger Xicotencatl, their commander, affected to 
imitate their European masters, not merely in their tac- 
tics, but in minuter matters of military etiquette. 

Cortes, with the aid of Marina, made a brief address 
to his Indian allies. He reminded them that he was 
going to fight their battles against their ancient enemies. 
He called on them to support him in a manner worthy 
of their renowned Republic. To those who remained at 
home, he committed the charge of aiding in the comple- 
tion of the brigantines, on which the success of the expe- 
dition so much depended ; and he requested that none 
would follow his banner, who were not prepared to 
remain till the final reduction of the capital. 14 This ad- 
dress was answered by shouts, or rather yells, of defiance, 
showing the exultation felt by his Indian confederates at 
the prospect of at last avenging their manifold wrongs, 
and humbling their haughty enemy. 

Before setting out on the expedition, Cortes published 
a code of ordinances, as he terms them, or regulations 
for the army, too remarkable to be passed over in silence. 
The preamble sets forth that in all institutions, whether 
divine or human, — if the latter have any worth, — order 
is the great law. The ancient chronicles inform us, that 
the greatest captains in past times owed their successes 
quite as much to the wisdom of their ordinances, as to 
their own valour and virtue. The situation of the 
Spaniards eminently demanded such a code ; a mere 
handful of men, as they were, in the midst of countless 
enemies, most cunning in the management of their 

13 Ibid , ubi supra. " Ibid., loc. cit. 


weapons and in the art of war. The instrument then 
reminds the army that the conversion of the heathen is 
the work most acceptable in the eye of the Almighty, 
and one that will be sure to receive his support. It calls 
on every soldier to regard this as the prime object of the 
expedition, without which the war would be manifestly 
unjust, and every acquisition made by it a robbery} 5 

The general solemnly protests, that the principal 
motive which operates in his own bosom, is the desire to 
wean the natives from their gloomy idolatry, and to im- 
part to them the knowledge of a purer faith j and next, 
to recover for his master, the emperor, the dominions 
which of right belong to him. 16 

The ordinances then prohibit all blasphemy against 
God or the saints; a vice much more frequent among 
Catholic than Protestant nations, arising, perhaps, less 
from difference of religion, than of physical temperament, 
for the warm sun of the South, under which Catholicism 
prevails, stimulates the sensibilities to the more violent 
expression of passion. 17 

Another law is directed against gaming, to which the 
Spaniards in all ages have been peculiarly addicted. 
Cortes, making allowance for the strong national propen- 

15 " Que su principal motive- e in- imperial e real de su Sacra Magestad, 
tencion sea apartar y desarraigar le a quien juridicamente el Senorio de 
las dichas idolatrias a todos los natu- todas estas partes." Ordenanzas Mili- 
rales destas partes y rcducillos 6 a tares, MS. 

lo meno desear su salvacion y quo 17 « Ce n'est qu'en Espagne et en 

sean reducidos al conocimieuto de italie," says the penetrating histo- 

Dios y de su Santa le catolica: rian of the Italian Republics, " qu'on 

porque si con otra mtencion se hi- renC0 ntre cette habitude vicieuse, 

ciese la dicha guerra sena mjusta _y absolument inconnue aux peuples 

todo lo que en ella se oviese Onoloxio pro testans, et qu'il ne faut point con- 

e obhgado arestitucion. Ordenanzas {• ondre avec les grossiers juremens 

Mibtares, MS. rmc j e p eu pi e en tout pays mele a 

16 " E desde ahora protexto en ses discours. Dans tous les acces de 
nombre de S. M. que mi principal in- colere des peuples du Midi, ils s'atta- 
tencion e motivo es facer esta guerra quent aux objets de leur culte, ils les 
e las otras que ficiese por traer y re- menacent, et ils accablent de paroles 
ducir a los dichos naturales al dicho outrageantes la Divinite elle-meme, 
conocimiento de nuestra Santa Ee e le Redempteur ou ses saints." Sis- 
creencia ; y despvies por los sozjugar mondi, Republiques Italicnnes, cap. 
6 supeditar debajo yugo e dominio 126. 



sity, authorizes it under certain limitations ; but prohibits 
the use of dice altogether. 18 Then follow other laws 
against brawls and private combats, against personal 
taunts and the irritating sarcasms of rival companies ; 
rules for the more perfect discipline of the troops, whether 
in camp or the field. Among others is one prohibiting 
any captain, under pain of death, from charging the 
enemy without orders ; a practice, noticed as most per- 
nicious and of too frequent occurrence, — showing the 
impetuous spirit and want of true military subordination 
in the bold cavaliers who followed the standard of 

The last ordinance prohibits any man, officer or pri- 
vate, from securing to his own use any of the booty taken 
from the enemy, whether it be gold, silver, precious 
stones, feather-work, stuffs, slaves, or other commodity, 
however or wherever obtained, in the city or in the 
field ; and requires him to bring it forthwith to the pre- 
sence of the general, or the officer appointed to receive 
it. The violation of this law T was punished with death 
and confiscation of property. So severe an edict may be 
thought to prove, that however much the Conquistador 
may have been influenced by spiritual considerations, 
he was by no means insensible to those of a temporal 
character. 19 

18 Lucio Marineo, who witnessed parescerne verdadera la opinion de 

all the dire effects of this national aquellos que dizen el infierno estar 

propensity at the Castilian court, lleno de jugadores." Cosas Memo- 

where he was residing at this time, rabies de Espagna, (ed. Sevilla, 1539,) 

breaks out into the following ani- fol. 165. 

mated apostrophe against it. "El 19 These regulations are reported 

jugador es el que dessea y procura la with much uniformity by Herrera, 

muerte de sus padres, el que jura Solis, Clavigero, and other's, but with 

falso por Dios y por la vida de su Hey such palpable inaccuracy, that it is 

y Senor, el que mata a su anima, y clear they never could have seen the 

la echa en el infierno : <j y que no original instrument. The copy in 

hara, el jugador q'no averguenca de my possession was taken from the 

perder sus dineros, de perder el Munoz collection. As the document, 

tiempo, perder el sueilo, perder la though curious and highly interest- 

fama, perder la honra, y perder final- ing, has never been published, I have 

mente la vida ? Por lo cual como ya given it entire in the Appendix, Part 

gran parte de los hombres siempre y II. No. 13. 
donde quiera continuamente juegan, 


These provisions were not suffered to remain a dead 
letter. The Spanish commander, soon after their pro- 
clamation, made an example of two of his own slaves, 
whom he hanged for plundering the natives. A similar 
sentence was passed on a soldier for the like offence, 
though he allowed him to be cut down before the sen- 
tence was entirely executed. Cortes knew well the cha- 
racter of his followers ; rough and turbulent spirits, who 
required to be ruled with an iron hand. Yet he Avas not 
eager to assert his authority on light occasions. The 
intimacy into which they were thrown by their peculiar 
situation, perils, and sufferings, in which all equally 
shared, and a common interest in the adventure, induced 
a familiarity between men and officers, most unfa void- 
able to military discipline. The general's own manners, 
frank and liberal, seemed to invite this freedom, which 
on ordinary occasions he made no attempt to repress; 
perhaps finding it too difficult, or at least impolitic, since 
it afforded a safety-valve for the spirits of a licentious 
soldiery, that, if violently coerced, might have burst forth 
into open mutiny. But the limits of his forbearance 
were clearly defined ; and any attempt to overstep them, 
or to violate the established regulations of the camp, 
brought a sure and speedy punishment on the offender. 
By thus tempering severity with indulgence, masking an 
iron will under the open bearing of a soldier, — Cortes 
established a control over his band of bold and reckless 
adventurers, such as a pedantic martinet, scrupulous in 
enforcing the minutiae of military etiquette, could never 
have obtained. 

The ordinances, dated on the twenty-second of De- 
cember, were proclaimed to the assembled army on the 
twenty-sixth. Two days afterwards, the troops were on 
their march, and Cortes, at the head of his battalions, 
with colours flying and music playing, issued forth from 
the gates of the republican capital, which had so gene- 
rously received him in his distress, and which now for 


the second time, supplied him with the means for con- 
summating his great enterprise. The population of the 
city, men, women, and children, hung on the rear of the 
army, taking a last leave of their countrymen, and im- 
ploring the gods to crown their arms with victory. 

Notwithstanding the great force mustered by the 
Indian confederates, the Spanish general allowed but a 
small part of them now to attend him. He proposed to 
establish his head-quarters at some place on the Tezcucan 
lake, whence he could annoy the Aztec capital, by re- 
ducing the surrounding country, cutting off the supplies, 
and thus placing the city in a state of blockade. 20 

The direct assault on Mexico itself he intended to 
postpone, until the arrival of the brigantines should 
enable him to make it with the greatest advantage. 
Meanwhile, he had no desire to encumber himself with 
a superfluous multitude, whom it would be difficult to 
feed ; and he preferred to leave them at Tlascala, whence 
they might convey the vessels, when completed, to the 
camp, and aid him in his future operations. 

Three routes presented themselves to Cortes, by which 
he might penetrate into the Valley. He chose the most 
difficult, traversing the bold sierra which divides the 
eastern plateau from the western, and so rough and pre- 
cipitous, as to be scarcely practicable for the march of an 
army. He wisely judged, that he should be less likely 
to experience annoyance from the enemy in this direction, 
as they might naturally confide in the difficulties of the 
ground for their protection. 

The first day the troops advanced five or six leagues, 
Cortes riding in the van at the head of his little body of 
cavalry. They halted at the village of Tetzmellocan, at 
the base of the mountain chain which traverses the 

20 Herrera, Hist. General, dee. 2, of Indian allies who followed Cortes, 

lib. 10, cap. 20. — Bernal Diaz, Hist. at eighty thousand ; the latter at ten 

de la Conquista, cap. 127. The thousand? jQtdensabe? 
former historian states the number 


country, touching at its southern limit the mighty Iztac- 
cihuatl, or " White Woman," — white with the snows of 
ages. 21 At this village they met with a friendly recep- 
tion, and on the following morning began the ascent of 
the sierra. 

The path was steep and exceedingly rough. Thick 
matted bushes covered its surface, and the winter tor- 
rents had broken it into deep stony channels, hardly 
practicable for the passage of artillery, while the strag- 
gling branches of the trees flung horizontally across the 
road, made it equally difficult for cavalry. The cold, as 
they rose higher, became intense. It was keenly felt by 
the Spaniards, accustomed of late to a warm, or at least 
temperate climate ; though the extreme toil with which 
they forced their way upward furnished the best means 
of resisting the weather. The only vegetation to be seen 
in these higher regions was the pine, dark forests of which 
clothed the sides of the mountains, till even these dwindled 
into a thin and stunted growth. It was night before the 
wayworn soldiers reached the bald crest of the sierra, 
where they lost no time in kindling their fires ; and, 
huddling round their bivouacs, they warmed their frozen 
limbs, and prepared their evening repast. 

With the earliest dawn, the troops were again in 
motion. Mass was said, and they began their descent, 
more difficult and painful than their ascent on the day 
preceding; for, in addition to the natural obstacles of 
the road, they found it strown with huge pieces of tim- 
ber and trees, obviously felled for the purpose by the 
natives. Cortes ordered up a body of light troops to 
clear away the impediments, and the army again resumed 
its march, but with the apprehension that the enemy 

21 This mountain, which., with its let. 22.) It rises far above the 

neighbour Popocatepetl, forms the limits of perpetual snow in the 

great barrier — the Herculis columns tropics, and its huge crest and sides, 

— of the Mexican Valley, has been enveloped in its silver drapery, form 

fancifully likened, from its long dor- one of the most striking objects in 

sal swell, to the back of a dromedary. the magnificent coup d'ceil presented 

(Tudor 's Tour in North America, to the inhabitants of the capital. 


had prepared an ambuscade, to surprise them when they 
should be entangled in the pass. They moved cautiously 
forward, straining their vision to pierce the thick gloom 
of the forests, where the wily foe might be lurking. But 
they saw no living thing, except only the wild inhabitants 
of the woods, and flocks of the zopilote, the voracious 
vulture of the country, which, in anticipation of a bloody 
banquet, hung like a troop of evil spirits on the march 
of the army. 

As they descended, the Spaniards felt a sensible and 
most welcome change in the temperature. The character 
of the vegetation changed with it, and the funereal pine, 
their only companion of late, gave way to the sturdy 
oak, to the sycamore, and lower down, to the graceful 
pepper-tree, mingling its red berry with the dark foliage 
of the forest; while, in still lower depths the gaudy- 
coloured creepers might be seen flinging their gay blos- 
soms over the branches, and telling of a softer and more 
luxurious climate. 

At length, the army emerged on an open level, where 
the eye, unobstructed by intervening wood or hill-top, 
could range far and wide over the Valley of Mexico. 
There it lay bathed in the golden sunshine, stretched 
out as it were in slumber, in the arms of the giant hills, 
which clustered like a phalanx of guardian genii around 
it. The magnificent vision, new to many of the spec- 
tators, filled them with rapture. Even the veterans of 
Cortes could not withhold their admiration, though this 
was soon followed by a bitter feeling, as they recalled 
the sufferings which had befallen them within these 
beautiful, but treacherous precincts. It made us feel, 
says the lion-hearted Conqueror in his Letters, that " we 
had no choice but victory or death; — and our minds 
once resolved, we moved forward with as light a step as 
if we had been going on an errand of certain pleasure." 22 

22 " Y prometimos todos de nunca ibamos todos tan alegres, como si 
de ella salir, sin Victoria, 6 dejar alii fueramos a cosa de mucho placer." 
las vidas. Y con esta determinacion Rel. Terc. ap. Lorenzana, p. 188. 


As the Spaniards advanced, they beheld the neigh- 
bouring hill-tops blazing with beacon-fires, showing that 
the country was already alarmed and mustering to 
oppose them. The general called on his men to be 
mindful of their high reputation ; to move in order, 
closing up their ranks, and to obey implicitly the com- 
mands of their officers. 23 At every turn among the hills, 
they expected to meet the forces of the enemy drawn up 
to dispute their passage. And, as they were allowed to 
pass the defiles unmolested, and drew near to the open 
plains, they were prepared to see them occupied by a 
formidable host, who would compel them to fight over 
again the battle of Otumba. But, although clouds of 
dusky warriors were seen, from time to time, hovering 
on the highlands, as if watching their progress, they ex- 
perienced no interruption till they reached a barranca, 
or deep ravine, through which flowed a little rivej*, 
crossed by a bridge partly demolished. On the opposite 
side a considerable body of Indians was stationed, as if 
to dispute the passage ; but, whether distrusting their 
own numbers, or intimidated by the steady advance of 
the Spaniards, they offered them no annoyance, and were 
quickly dispersed by a few resolute charges of cavalry. 
The army then proceeded, without molestation, to a small 
town, called Coatepec, where they halted for the night. 
Before retiring to his own quarters, Cortes made the 
rounds of the camp, with a few trusty folloAvers, to see 
that all was safe. 24 He seemed to have an eye that never 
slumbered, and a frame incapable of fatigue. It was the 
indomitable spirit within, which sustained him. 25 

2:i " Y yo tonic a, rogar, y enco- Coatcpequc. . . . E yo con diez de 

mondar mucho a, los Espafiolcs, que Caballo comenze la Vela, y Honda de 

hicicsscii,coniosicmprcliabianhccho, la prima, y bice, que toda la Gente 

y como se csperaba de susPcrsonas; cstubicssc muy apercibida." Ibid., 

y que nadie no se desmandasse, yque pp. 188, 189. 
f uessen con mucho concierto, y orden 25 For t ] ie prccc di n g p a g CS) giving 

por su Camino." Ibid., ubi supra. the account of the march, besides the 

a " E como la Gente de pic venia Letter of Cortes, so often quoted, 

algo cansada, y se hacia tarde, dor- sec Gomara, Cronica, cap. 121, — 

munos en una Poblacion, que ee" dice Ovicdo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 

chap, vii.] ENTER TEZCUCO. 177 

Yet he may well have been kept awake through the 
watches of the night, by anxiety and doubt. He was 
now but three leagues from Tezcuco, the far-famed 
capital of the Acolhuans. He proposed to establish his 
head-quarters, if possible, at this place. Its numerous 
dwellings would afford ample accommodations for his 
army. An easy communication with Tlascala, by a dif- 
ferent route from that which he had traversed, would 
furnish him with the means of readily obtaining supplies 
from that friendly country, and for the safe transporta- 
tion of the brigantines, when finished, to be launched on 
the waters of the Tezcuco. But he had good reason to 
distrust the reception he should meet with in the capital; 
for an important revolution had taken place there, since 
the expulsion of the Spaniards from Mexico, of which it 
will be necessary to give some account. 

The reader will remember that the cacique of that 
place, named Cacama, was deposed by Cortes, during 
his first residence in the Aztec metropolis, in conse- 
quence of a projected revolt against the Spaniards, and 
that the crown had been placed on the head of a 
younger brother, Cuicuitzca. The deposed prince was 
among the prisoners carried away by Cortes, and 
perished with the others, in the terrible passage of the 
causeway, on the noche triste. His brother, afraid, pro- 
bably, after the flight of the Spaniards, of continuing 
with his own vassals, whose sympathies were altogether 
with the Aztecs, accompanied his friends in their retreat, 
and was so fortunate as to reach Tlascala in safety. 

Meanwhile, a second son of Nezahualpilli, named 
Coanaco, claimed the crown, on his elder brother's 
death, as his own rightful inheritance. As he heartily 
joined his countrymen and the Aztecs in their detestation 
of the white men, his claims were sanctioned by the 

33, cap. 18, — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de — Ixtlilxochitl,RelaciondelaVenida 

la Conquista, cap. 137, — Camargo, de los Espafioles y Principle- de la 

Hist, de Tlascala, MS.,— Herrera, Ley Evangelica, (Mexico, 1829,) 

Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 20, p. 9. 

VOL. II. n 


Mexican emperor. Soon after his accession, the new 
lord of Tezcnco had an opportunity of showing his 
loyalty to his imperial patron in an effectual manner. 

A body of forty-five Spaniards, ignorant of the dis- 
asters in Mexico, were transporting thither a large quan- 
tity of gold, at the very time their countrymen were on 
the retreat to Tlascala. As they passed through the 
Tezcucan territory, they were attacked by Coanaco's 
orders, most of them massacred on the spot, and the 
rest sent for sacrifice to Mexico. The arms and accou- 
trements of these unfortunate men were hung up as 
trophies in the temples, and their skins, stripped from 
their dead bodies, were suspended over the bloody 
shrines, as the most acceptable offering to the offended 
deities. 26 

Some months after this event, the exiled prince, 
Cuicuitzca, wearied with his residence in Tlascala, and 
pining for his former royal state, made his way back 
secretly to Tezcuco, hoping, it would seem, to raise a 
party there in his favour. But if such were his expecta- 
tions, they were sadly disappointed ; for no sooner had 
he set foot in the capital, than he was betrayed to his 
brother, who, by the advice of Guatemozin, put him to 
death, as a traitor to his country. 27 — Such was the pos- 
ture of affairs in Tezcuco, when Cortes, for the second 
time, approached its gates ; and well might he doubt, 
not merely the nature of his reception there, but whether 
he would be permitted to enter it at all, without force of 

These apprehensions were dispelled the following 
morning, when, before the troops were well under arms, 

26 Soe ante, p. 133. these disgusting spoils of their vic- 

The skins of those immolated on tims. See Sahagim, Hist, dc Nueva 

the sacrificial stone were a common Espafia, passim, 
offering in the Indian temples, and 

the mad priests celebrated many of 2 ' Rel. Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 

their festivals by publicly dancing zana, p. 187. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 

with their own persons enveloped in ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 19. 



an embassy was announced from the lord of Tezcuco. 
It consisted of several nobles, some of whom were known 
to the companions of Cortes. They bore a golden flag 
in token of amity, and a present of no great value to 
Cortes. They brought also a message from the cacique, 
imploring the general to spare his territories, inviting 
him to take up his quarters in his capital, and pro- 
mising on his arrival to become the vassal of the Spanish 

Cortes dissembled the satisfaction with which he 
listened to these overtures, and sternly demanded of the 
envoys an account of the Spaniards who had been mas- 
sacred, insisting, at the same time, on the immediate 
restitution of the plunder. But the Indian nobles ex- 
cused themselves, by throwing the whole blame upon 
the Aztec emperor, by whose orders the deed had been 
perpetrated, and who now had possession of the treasure. 
They urged Cortes not to enter the city that day, but to 
pass the night in the suburbs, that their master might 
have time to prepare suitable accommodations for him. 
The Spanish commander, however, gave no heed to this 
suggestion, but pushed forward his march, and, at noon, 
on the thirty-first of December, 1523, entered, at the 
head of his legions, the venerable walls of Tezcuco, " the 
place of rest," as not inaptly denominated. 28 

He was struck, as when he before visited this populous 
city, with the solitude and silence which reigned through- 
out its streets. He was conducted to the palace of 
Nezahualpilli, which was assigned as his quarters. It 
was an irregular pile of low buildings, covering a wide 
extent of ground, like the royal residence occupied by 
the troops in Mexico. It was spacious enough to furnish 
accommodations, not only for all the Spaniards, says 

28 Tezcuco, a Chichemec name, North halted there on their entrance 
according to Ixtlilxochitl, signifying into Anahuac. Hist. Chich., MS., 
" place of detention or rest," be- cap. 10. 
cause the various tribes from the 

n 2 


Cortes, but for twice their number. 29 He gave orders 
on his arrival, that all regard should be paid to the 
persons and property of the citizens ; and forbade any 
Spaniard to leave his quarters under pain of death. 

His commands were not effectual to suppress some 
excesses of his Indian allies, if the report of the Tezcucan 
chronicler be correct, who states that the Tlascalans 
burned down one of the royal palaces, soon after their 
arrival. It was the depository of the national archives ; 
and the conflagration, however it may have occurred, 
may well be deplored by the antiquary, who might have 
found in its hieroglyphic records some clue to the migra- 
tions of the mysterious races which first settled on the 
highlands of Anahuac. 30 

Alarmed at the apparent desertion of the place, as 
well as by the fact that none of its principal inhabitants 
came to welcome him, Cortes ordered some soldiers to 
ascend the neighbouring teocatti and survey the city. 
They soon returned with the report, that the inhabitants 
were leaving it in great numbers, with their families and 
effects, some in canoes upon the lake, others on foot 
towards the mountains. The general now comprehended 
the import of the cacique's suggestion, that the Spaniards 
should pass the night in the suburbs, — in order to secure 
time for evacuating the city. He feared that the chief 
himself might have fled. He lost no time in detaching 
troops to secure the principal avenues, where they were 
to turn back the fugitives, and arrest the cacique, if he 
were among the number. But it was too late. Coanaco 
was already far on his way across the lake to Mexico. 

29 " La qual es tan grande, que de las mayores perdidas que tuvo 
aunque fueramos doblados los Espa- esta tierra, porque con esto toda la 
fioles, nos pudierauios aposentar bien memoria de sus antiguayas y otras 
a placer en ella." Rel. Terc, ap. cosas que eran como Escrituras y 
Lorenzana, p. 191. recuerdos perecieron desde este ti- 

empo. La obra de las Casas era la 

30 " De tal manera que se quema- mejor y la mas artificiosa que hubo 
ron todos los Archivos Reales de en esta tierra." Ixtlilxocliitl, Hist, 
toda la Nueva Espafia, que fue una Chich., MS., cap. 91. 

chap, vii.] PRINCE IXTLILXOCHITL. 181 

Cortes now determined to turn this event to his own 
account, by placing another ruler on the throne, who 
should be more subservient to his interests. He called 
a meeting of the few principal persons still remaining in 
the city, and by their advice, and ostensible election, 
advanced a brother of the late sovereign to the dignity, 
which they declared vacant. This prince, who consented 
to be baptized, was a willing instrument in the hands of 
the Spaniards. He survived but a few months, 31 and 
was succeeded by another member of the royal house, 
named Ixtlilxochitl, who, indeed, as general of his armies, 
may be said to have held the reins of government in his 
hands during his brother's lifetime. As this person was 
intimately associated with the Spaniards in their sub- 
sequent operations, to the success of which he essen- 
tially contributed, it is proper to give some account of 
his earlier history, which, in truth, is as much enveloped 
in the marvellous, as that of any fabulous hero of 
antiquity. 32 

He was son, by a second queen, of the great Neza- 
hualpilli. Some alarming prodigies at his birth, and the 
gloomy aspect of the planets, led the astrologers, who 
cast his horoscope, to advise the king, his father, to take 

31 The historian Ixtlilxochitl pays se debia hacer acerca de las guer- 

the following high tribute to the ras." Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los 

character of his royal kinsman, whose Esp., pp. 12, 13. 
name was Tecocol. Strange that 32 The accession of Tecocol, as, 

this name is not to be found — with indeed, his existence, passes un- 

the exception of Sahagun's work — noticed by some historians, and by 

in any contemporary record ! "Eue others is mentioned in so equivocal 

el primero que lo fue en Tezcoco, a manner, — his Indian name being 

con harta pena de los Espanoles, omitted, — that it is very doubtful 

porque fue nobilisimo y los quiso if any other is intended than his 

mucho. Eue D. Eernando Tecocolt- younger brother Ixtlilxochitl. The 

zin muy gentil hombre, alto de cu- Tezcucan chronicler, bearing this 

erpo y muy bianco, tanto cuanto last melodious name, has alone given 

podia ser cualquier Espanol por muy the particulars of his history. I 

bianco que fuese, y que mostraba have followed bim, as, from his per- 

su persona y termino descender, y sonal connexions, having had access 

ser del linage que era. Supo la to the best sources of information ; 

lengua Castallana, y asi casi las mas though, it must be confessed, he is 

noches despues de haber cenado, far too ready to take things on trust, 

trataban el y Cortes de todo lo que to be always the best authority. 


away the infant's life, since, if he lived to grow up, he 
was destined to unite with the enemies of his country, 
and overturn its institutions and religion. But the old 
monarch replied, says the chronicler, that " the time had 
arrived when the sons of Quetzalcoatl were to come from 
the East to take possession of the land ; and if the 
Almighty had selected his child to cooperate with them 
in the work, His will be done." 33 

As the boy advanced in years, he exhibited a marvel- 
lous precocity not merely of talent, but of mischievous 
activity, which afforded an alarming prognostic for the 
future. When about twelve years old, he formed a little 
corps of followers of about his own age, or somewhat 
older, with whom he practised the military exercises of 
his nation, conducting mimic lights and occasionally 
assaulting the peaceful burghers, and throwing the whole 
city as well as palace into uproar and confusion. Some 
of his father's ancient counsellors, connecting this con- 
duct with the predictions at his birth, saw in it such 
alarming symptoms, that they repeated the advice of the 
astrologers, to take away the prince's life, if the monarch 
would not see his kingdom one day given up to anarchy. 
This unpleasant advice was reported to the juvenile 
offender, who was so much exasperated by it, that he 
put himself at the head of a party of his young des- 
peradoes, and, entering the houses of the offending coun- 
sellors, dragged them forth, and administered to them 
the garrote, — the mode in which capital punishment was 
inflicted in Tezcuco. 

He was seized and brought before his father. When 
questioned as to his extraordinary conduct, he coolly 
replied, " that he had done no more than he had a right 

33 " El respondio, que era por de- sus Antepasados, que haviasc venir 

mas ir contra lo determinado por cl nucvas Gentes ;i poseer la Tierra, 

Dios Criador de todas las cosas, como eran los Hijos de Quetzalcoatl 

pues no sin misterio y secreto juicio que aguardaban se venida de la parte 

suyo le daba tal Hijo al tiempo y oriental." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Cliicli., 

quando se acercaban las profecias dc MS., cap. 69. 

chap, vii.] PRINCE 1XTLILX0CHITL. 183 

to clo. The guilty ministers had deserved their fate, by 
endeavouring to alienate his father's affections from him, 
for no other reason, than his too great fondness for the 
profession of arms, — the most honourable profession in 
the state, and the one most worthy of a prince. If they 
had suffered death, it was no more than they had intended 
for him." The wise Nezahualpilli, says the chronicler, 
found much force in these reasons ; and, as he saw 
nothing low and sordid in the action, but rather the 
ebullition of a daring spirit, which in after life might 
lead to great things, he contented himself with bestowing 
a grave admonition on the juvenile culprit. 34 Whether 
this admonition had any salutary effect on his subsequent 
demeanour, we are not informed. It is said, however, 
that as he grew older he took an active part in the wars 
of his country, and when no more than seventeen had 
won for himself the insignia of a valiant and victorious 
captain. 35 

On his father's death, he disputed the succession with 
his elder brother, Cacama. The country was menaced 
with a civil war, when the affair was compromised by his 
brother's ceding to him that portion of his territories, 
which lay among the mountains. On the arrival of the 
Spaniards, the young chieftain — for he was scarcely 
twenty years of age — made, as we have seen, many 
friendly demonstrations towards them, induced, no doubt, 
by his hatred of Montezuma, who had supported the 

34 " Con que el Rey no supo con Among other anecdotes recorded 

que ocacion poderle castigar, porque of the young prince's early develop- 

lo parecieron sus razones tan vivas ment is one of his having, when only 

y fundadas que su parte no habia three years old, pitched his nurse 

necho cosa indebida ni vileza para into a well, as she was drawing 

poder ser castigado, mas tan solo water, to punish her for certain im- 

una ferocidad de animo ; prondstico proprieties of conduct of which he 

de lo mucho que habia de venir a had been witness. But I spare the 

saber por las Armas, y asi el Rey reader the recital of these astonishing 

dijo, que se fuese a la mano." Ixt- proofs of precocity, as it is very pro- 

lilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. bable, his appetite for the marvellous 

69. may not keep pace with that of the 

35 Ibid., ubi supra. chronicler of Tezcuco. 

184 GOMARA. [book v. 

pretensions of Cacama. 36 It was not, however, till his 
advancement to the lordship of Tezcuco, that he showed 
the full extent of his good-will. From that hour, he 
became the fast friend of the Christians, supporting them 
with his personal authority, and the whole strength of his 
military array and resources, which, although much shorn 
of their ancient splendour since the days of his father, 
were still considerable, and made him a most valuable 
ally. His important services have been gratefully com- 
memorated by the Castilian historians; and history should 
certainly not defraud him of his just meed of glory, — the 
melancholy glory of having contributed more than any 
other chieftain of Anahuac to rivet the chains of the 
white man round the necks of his countrymen. 

36 Ante, vol. i. p. 240. 

The two pillars on which the story of the Conquest mainly rests, are the 
Chronicles of Gomara and of Bemal Diaz, two individuals having as little 
resemblance to each other as the courtly and cultivated churchman has to 
the unlettered soldier. 

The first of these, Francisco Lopez de Gomara, was a native of Seville. 
On the return of Cortes to Spain after the Conquest, Gomara became his 
chaplain; and on his patron's death continued in the service of his son, the 
second Marquess of the Valley. It was then that he wrote his Chronicle ; 
and the circumstances under which it was produced might lead one to con- 
jecture, that the narrative would not be conducted on the strict principles of 
historic impartiality. Nor would such a conjecture be without foundation. 
The history of the Conquest is necessarily that of the great man who 
achieved it. But Gomara has thrown his hero's character into so bold 
relief, that it has entirely overshadowed that of his brave companions in 
arms ; and, while he has tenderly drawn the veil over the infirmities of his 
favourite, he is ever studious to display his exploits in the full blaze of 
panegyric. His situation may in some degree excuse his partiality. But it 
did not vindicate him in tire eyes of the honest Las Casas, who seldom con- 
cludes a chapter of his own narrative of the Conquest without administering 
a wholesome castigatiou to Gomara. He even goes so far as to tax the 
chaplain with " downright falsehood," assuring us, " that he had neither 
eyes nor ears but for what his patron chose to dictate to him." That this 
is not literally true is evident from the fact, that the narrative was not 
written till several years after the death of Cortes. Indeed, Gomara derived 
his information from the highest sources ; not merely from his patron's 
family, but also from the most distinguished actors in the great drama, with 
whom his position in society placed him in intimate communication. 

The materials thus obtained he arranged with a symmetry little under- 
stood by the chroniclers of the time. Instead of their rambling incoherencies, 

chap, vii.] BERNAL DIAZ. 185 

his style displays an elegant brevity ; it is as clear as it is concise. If the 
facts are somewhat too thickly crowded on the reader, and occupy the mind 
too busily for reflection, they at least all tend to a determinate point, and 
the story, instead of dragging its slow length along till our patience and 
interest are exhausted, steadily maintains its onward march. In short, 
the execution of the work is not only superior to that of most contemporary 
narratives, but, to a certain extent, may aspire to the rank of a classical 

Owing to these circumstances, Gomara's history soon obtained general 
circulation and celebrity ; and, while many a letter of Cortes himself, and 
the more elaborate compositions of Oviedo and Las Casas, were suffered to 
slumber in manuscript, Gomara's writings were printed and reprinted in his 
own day, and translated into various languages of Europe. The first 
edition of the Cronica de la Nueva Espana appeared at Medina, in 1553 ; it 
was republished at Antwerp the following year. It has since been incor- 
porated in Barcia's collection, and lastly, in 1826, made its appearance in 
America from the Mexican press. The circumstances attending this last 
edition are curious. The Mexican government appropriated a small sum to 
defray the expense of translating what was supposed to be an original 
chronicle of Chimalpain, an Indian writer who lived at the close of the 
sixteenth century. The care of the translation was committed to the 
laborious Bustamante. But this scholar had not proceeded far in his 
labour, when he ascertained that the supposed original was itself an Aztec 
translation of Gomara's Chronicle. He persevered, however, in his editorial 
labours, until he had given to the public an American edition of Gomara. 
It is a fact more remarkable, that the editor in his different compilations 
constantly refers to this same work as the Chronicle of Chimalpain. 

The other authority to which I have adverted is Bernal Diaz del Castillo, 
a native of Medina del Campo in Old Castile. He was born of a poor and 
humble family, and in 1514 came over to seek his fortunes in the New 
World. He embarked as a common soldier under Cordova in the first 
expedition to Yucatan. He accompanied Grijalva, in the following year, to 
the same quarter ; and finally enlisted under the banner of Cortes. He 
followed this victorious chief in his first march up the great plateau '; 
descended with him to make the assault on Narvaez ; shared the disasters 
of the noche triste ; and was present at the siege and surrender of the 
capital. In short, there was scarcely an event or an action of importance 
in the whole war in which he did not bear a part. He was engaged in a 
hundred and nineteen different battles and rencontres, in several of which he 
was wounded, and in more than one narrowly escaped falling into the enemy's 
hands. In all these Bernal Diaz displayed the old Castilian valour, and a 
loyalty which made him proof against the mutinous spirit that too often 
disturbed the harmony of the camp. On every occasion he was found true 
to his commander and to the cause in which be was embarked. And his 
fidelity is attested not only by his own report, but by the emphatic com- 
mendations of his general ; who selected him on this account for offices of 
trust and responsibility, which furnished the future chronicler with access to 
the best means of information in respect to the Conquest. 

On the settlement of the country, Bernal Diaz received his share of the 
repartimientos of land and labourers. But the arrangement was not to his 
satisfaction ; and he loudly murmurs at the selfishness of his commander, 
too much engrossed by the care for his own emoluments to think of his 
followers. The division of spoil is usually an unthankful office. Diaz had 
been too long used to a life of adventure to be content with one of torpid 
security. He took part in several expeditions conducted by the captains of 
Cortes, and he accompanied that chief in his terrible passage through the 

186 BERNAL DIAZ. [book v. 

forests of Honduras. At length, in 156S, we find the veteran established 
as regidor of the city of Guatemala, peacefully employed in recounting the 
valorous achievements of his youth. It was then nearly half a century after 
the Conquest. He had survived his general and nearly all his ancient com- 
panions in arms. Five only remained of that gallant band who had accom- 
panied Cortes on his expedition from Cuba ; and those five, to borrow the 
words of the old chronicler, were " poor, aged, and infirm, with children and 
grandchildren looking to them for support, but with scarcely the means of 
affording it, — ending their days, as they had begun them, in toil and trouble." 
Such was the fate of the conquerors of golden Mexico. 

The motives which induced Bernal Diaz to take up his pen at so late a 
period of life, were to vindicate for himself and his comrades that share of 
renown in the Conquest which fairly belonged to them. Of this they had 
been deprived, as he conceived, by the exaggerated reputation of their 
general; owing, no doubt, in part, to the influence of Gomara's writings. 
It was not, however, till he had advanced beyond the threshold of his own 
work, that Diaz met with that of the chaplain. The contrast presented by 
his own homely diction to the clear and polished style of his predecessor 
filled him with so much disgust, that he threw down his pen in despair. But, 
when he had read further, and saw the gross inaccuracies and what he 
deemed disregard of truth in his rival, he resumed his labours, determined 
to exhibit to the world a narrative which should, at least, have the merit of 
fidelity. Such was the origin of the Ilistoria Verdadera de la Conquista de 
la Nueva JSspana. 

The chronicler may be allowed to have succeeded in his object. In 
reading his pages we feel that, whatever are the errors into which he has 
fallen from oblivion of ancient transactions, or from unconscious vanity, — of 
which he had full measure, — or from credulity, or any other cause, there is 
nowhere a wilful perversion of truth. Had he attempted it, indeed, his very 
simplicity would have betrayed him. Even in relation to Cortes, while he 
endeavours to adjust the true balance between his pretensions and those of 
his followers, and while he freely exposes his cunning or cupidity, and 
sometimes his cruelty, he does ample justice to his great and heroic 
qualities. With all his defects, it is clear that he considers his own chief as 
superior to any other of ancient or modern times. In the heat of remon- 
strance, he is ever ready to testify his loyalty and personal attachment. 
When calumnies assail his commander, or he experiences unmerited slight or 
indignity, the loyal chronicler is prompt to step forward and shield him. In 
short, it is evident that, however much he may at times censure Cortes, he 
will allow no one else to do it. 

Bernal Diaz, the untutored child of nature, is a most true and literal 
copyist of nature. He transfers the scenes of real life by a sort of 
daguerreotype process, if I may so say, to his pages. He is among 
chroniclers what De Foe is among novelists. He introduces us into the 
heart of the camp, we huddle round the bivouac with the soldiers, loiter 
with them on their wearisome marches, listen to their stories, their murmurs 
of discontent, their plans of conquest, their hopes, their triumphs, their dis- 
appointments. All the picturesque scenes and romantic incidents of the 
campaign are reflected in his page as in a mirror. The lapse of fifty years 
has had no power over the spirit of the veteran. The fire of youth glows in 
every line of his rude history ; and, as he calls up the scenes of the past, the 
remembrance of the brave companions who are gone gives, it may be, a 
warmer colouring to the picture than if it had been made at an earlier 
period. Time, and reflection, and the apprehensions for the future, which 
might steal over the evening of life, have no power over the settled opinions 
of his earlier days. He has no misgivings as to the right of conquest, or as 
to the justice of the severities inflicted on the natives. He is still the 


,] BERNAL DIAZ. 187 

soldier of the Cross , and those who fell by his side in the fight were 
martyrs for the Faith. " Where are now my companions ?" he asks ; 
" they have fallen in battle, or been devoured by the cannibal, or been 
thrown to fatten the wild beasts in their cages ! they whose remains should 
rather have been gathered under monuments emblazoned with their achieve- 
ments, which deserve to be commemorated in letters of gold ; for they died 
in the service of God and of his Majesty, and to give light to those who sat 
in darkness, — and also to acquire that wealth which most men covet." The 
last motive — thus tardily and incidentally expressed — may be thought by 
some to furnish a better key than either of the preceding to the conduct of 
the Conquerors. It is, at all events, a specimen of that naivete which gives 
an irresistible charm to the old chronicler ; and which, in spite of himself, 
unlocks his bosom, as it were, and lays it open to the eye of the reader. 

It may seem extraordinary that, after so long an interval, the incidents 
of his campaigns should have been so freshly remembered. But we must 
consider that they were of the most strange and romantic character, well 
fitted to make an impression on a young and susceptible imagination. They 
had probably been rehearsed by the veteran again and again to his family and 
friends, until every passage of the war was as familiar to his mind as the 
" tale of Troy" to the Greek rhapsodist, or the interminable adventures of 
Sir Lancelot or Sir Gawain to the Norman minstrel. The throwing of his 
narrative into the form of chronicle was but repeating it once more. 

The literary merits of the work are of a very humble order ; as might be 
expected from the condition of the writer. He has not even the art to 
conceal his own vulgar vanity, which breaks out with a truly comic osten- 
tation in every page of the narrative. And yet we should have charity for 
this, when we find that it is attended with no disposition to depreciate 
the merits of others, and that its display may be referred in part to the 
singular simplicity of the man. He honestly confesses his infirmity, though, 
indeed, to excuse it. " When my chronicle was finished," he says, " I sub- 
mitted it to two licentiates, who were desirous of reading the story, and for 
whom I felt all the respect which an ignorant man naturally feels for a 
scholar. I besought them, at the same time, to make no change or 
correction in the manuscript, as all there was set down in good faith. 
When they had read the work, they much commended me for my wonderful 
memory. The language, they said, was good old Castilian, without any 
of the flourishes and finicalities so much affected by our fine writers. But 
they remarked, that it would have been as well, if I had not praised myself 
and my comrades so liberally, but had left that to others To this 
I answered, that it was common for neighbours and kindred to speak 
kindly of one another ; and, if we did not speak well of ourselves, who 
would ? Who else witnessed our exploits and our battles, — unless, indeed, 
the clouds in the sky, and the birds that were flying over our heads ?" 

Notwithstanding the liberal encomiums passed by the licentiates on our 
author's style, it is of a very homely texture ; abounding in colloquial 
barbarisms, and seasoned occasionally by the piquant sallies of the camp. 
It has the merit, however, of clearly conveying the writer's thoughts, and is 
well suited to their simple character. His narrative is put together with 
even less skill than is usual among his craft, and abounds in digressions and 
repetitions, such as vulgar gossips are apt to use in telling their stories. 
But it is superfluous to criticise a work by the rules of art, which was 
written manifestly in total ignorance of those rules ; and which, however 
we may criticise it, will be read and re-read by the scholar and the schoolboy, 
while the compositions of more classic chroniclers sleep undisturbed on their 

In what, then, lies the charm of the work ? In that spirit of truth which 
pervades it ; which shows us situations as they were, and sentiments as 



they really existed ju the heart of the writer. It is this which imparts 
a living interest to his story ; and which is more frequently found in the 
productions of the untutored penman solely intent upon facts, than in 
those of the ripe and fastidious scholar occupied with the mode of expressing 

It was by a mere chance that this inimitable chronicle was rescued from 
the oblivion into which so many works of higher pretensions have fallen 
in the Peninsula. For more than sixty years after its composition, the 
manuscript lay concealed in the obscurity of a private library, when it 
was put into the hands of Father Alonso Remon, Chronicler General of the 
Order of Mercy. He had the sagacity to discover, under its rude exterior, 
its high value in illustrating the history of the Conquest. He obtained 
a license for the publication of the work, and under his auspices it 
appeared at Madrid in 1632, — the edition used in the preparation of these 






Arrangements at Tezcuco. — Sack of Iztapalapan. — Advantages of the 
Spaniards. — Wise Policy of Cortes. — Transportation of the Bngantines. 


The city of Tezcuco was the best position, probably, 
which Cortes could have chosen for the head-quarters of 
the army. It supplied all the accommodations for lodg- 
ing a numerous body of troops, and all the facilities for 
subsistence, incident to a large and populous town. 1 It 
furnished, moreover, a multitude of artisans and labourers 
for the uses of the army. Its territories, bordering on 
the Tlascalan, afforded a ready means of intercourse with 
the country of his allies, while its vicinity to Mexico 
enabled the general, without much difficulty, to ascertain 
the movements in that capital. Its central situation, in 
short, opened facilities for communication with all parts 
of the Valley, and made it an excellent point d'appui for 
his future operations. 

The first care of Cortes was to strengthen himself in 

1 " Asi mismo hizo juntar todos a la Ciudad de Tezcuco el Maiz que 

los bastimentos que fueron necesa- habia en las Troxes y Graneros de 

rios para sustentar el Exercito y las Provincias sugetas al Reyno de 

Guarniciones de Gente que andaban Tezcuco." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chicli., 

en favor de Cortes, y asi hizo traer MS., cap. 91. 


the palace assigned to him, and to place his quarters in 
a state of defence, which might secure them against 
surprise, not only from the Mexicans, but from the 
Tezcucans themselves. Since the election of their new 
ruler, a large part of the population had returned to their 
homes, assured of protection in person and property. 
But the Spanish general, notwithstanding their show of 
submission, very much distrusted its sincerity; for he 
knew that many of them were united too intimately with 
the Aztecs, by marriage and other social relations, not to 
have their sympathies engaged in their behalf. 2 The 
young monarch, however, seemed wholly in his interest ; 
and, to secure him more effectually, Cortes placed several 
Spaniards near his person, whose ostensible province it 
was to instruct him in their language and religion, but 
who were in reality to watch over his conduct, and pre- 
vent his correspondence with those who might be un- 
friendly to the Spanish interests. 3 

Tezcuco stood about half a league from the lake. It 
would be necessary to open a communication with it, so 
that the brigantines, when put together in the capital, 
might be launched upon its waters. It was proposed, 
therefore, to dig a canal, reaching from the gardens of 
Nezahualcoyotl, as they were called from the old monarch 
who planned them, to the edge of the basin. A little 
stream or rivulet, which flowed in that direction, was 
to be deepened sufficiently for the purpose ; and eight 
thousand Indian labourers were forthwith employed 
on this great work, under the direction of the young 
Ixtlilxochitl. 4 

Meanwhile Cortes received messages from several 
places in the neighbourhood, intimating their desire to 

2 " No era de espantar que tuviese todos." Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., 

este recelo, porque sus Enemigos, y MS., cap. 92. 
los de esta Ciudad eran todos Deudos 3 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 

y Parientes mas cercanos, mas des- quista, cap. 137. 
pues el tiempo lo desengailo, y vido 4 Ibid., ubi supra. — Ixtlilxochitl, 

la gran lealtad de Ixtlilxochitl, y de Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 91. 


become the vassals of his sovereign, and to be taken 
under his protection. The Spanish commander required, 
in return, that they should deliver up every Mexican who 
should set foot in their territories. Some noble Aztecs, 
who had been sent on a mission to these towns, were 
consequently delivered into his hands. He availed him- 
self of it to employ them as bearers of a message to their 
master, the emperor. In it he deprecated the necessity 
of the present hostilities. Those who had most injured 
him, he said, were no longer among the living. He was 
willing to forget the past ; and invited the Mexicans, by 
a timely submission, to save their capital from the horrors 
of a siege. 5 Cortes had no expectation of producing any 
immediate result by this appeal. But he thought it 
might lie in the minds of the Mexicans, and that, if 
there was a party among them disposed to treat with 
him, it might afford them encouragement, as showing 
his own willingness to cooperate with their views. At 
this time, however, there was no division of opinion in 
the capital. The whole population seemed animated by 
a spirit of resistance, as one man. 

In a former page I have mentioned that it was the 
plan of Cortes, on entering the Valley, to commence 
operations by reducing the subordinate cities before 
striking at the capital itself, which, like some goodly 
tree, whose roots had been severed one after another, 
would be thus left without support against the fury of 
the tempest. The first point of attack which he selected 
was the ancient city of Iztapalapan ; a place containing 
fifty thousand inhabitants, according to his own account, 
and situated about six leagues distant, on the narrow 
tongue of land which divides the waters of the great salt 
lake from those of the fresh. It was the private domain 
of the last sovereign of Mexico ; where, as the reader may 

_ 5 "Los principales, que habian dar causa a que destruyesse sus 

sido en hacerme la Guerra pasada, Tierras, y Ciudades, porque me pe- 

eran ya muertos ; y que lo pasado saba mucho do ello." Rel. Terc. de 

fuesse pasado, y que no quisiessen Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 193. 



remember, he entertained the white men the night before 
their entrance into the capital, and astonished them by 
the display of his princely gardens. To this monarch 
they owed no good-will, for he had conducted the opera- 
tions on the noclie triste. He was, indeed, no more ; 
bnt the people of his city entered heartily into his hatred 
of the strangers, and were now the most loyal vassals of 
the Mexican crown. 

In a week after his arrival at his new quarters, Cor- 
tes, leaving the command of the garrison to Sandoval, 
marched against this Indian city, at the head of two 
hundred Spanish foot, eighteen horse, and between three 
and four thousand Tlascalans. Their route lay along the 
eastern border of the lake, gemmed with many a bright 
town and hamlet, or, unlike its condition at the present 
day, darkened with overhanging groves of cypress and 
cedar, and occasionally opening a broad expanse to their 
view, with the Queen of the Valley rising gloriously from 
the waters, as if proudly conscious of her supremacy over 
the fair cities around her. Further on, the eye ranged 
along the dark line of causeway connecting Mexico with 
the main land, and suggesting many a bitter recollection 
to the Spaniards. 

They quickened their step, and had advanced within 
two leagues of their point of destination, when they were 
encountered by a strong Aztec force, drawn up to dis- 
pute their progress. Cortes instantly gave them battle. 
The barbarians showed their usual courage ; but, after 
some hard fighting, were compelled to give way before 
the steady valour of the Spanish infantry, backed by the 
desperate fury of the Tlascalans, whom the sight of an 
Aztec seemed to inflame almost to madness. The enemy 
retreated in disorder, closely followed by the Spaniards. 
When they had arrived within half a league of Iztapa- 
lapan, they observed a number of canoes filled with 
Indians, who appeared to be labouring on the mole 
which hemmed in the waters of the salt lake. Swept 

chap, i.] SACK OF 1ZTAPALAPAN. 195 

along in the tide of pursuit, they gave little heed to it, 
but, following up the chase, entered pell-mell with the 
fugitives into the city. 

The houses stood some of them on dry ground, some 
on piles in the water. The former were deserted by the 
inhabitants, most of whom had escaped in canoes across 
the lake, leaving, in their haste, their effects behind them. 
The Tlascalans poured at once into the vacant dwellings 
and loaded themselves with booty ; while the enemy, 
making the best of their way through this part of the 
town, sought shelter in the buildings erected over the 
water, or among the reeds which sprung from its shallow 
bottom. In the houses were many of the citizens also, 
who still lingered with their wives and children, unable 
to find the means of transporting themselves from the 
scene of danger. 

Cortes, supported by his own men, and by such of the 
allies as could be brought to obey his orders, attacked 
the enemy in this last place of their retreat. Both parties 
fought up to their girdles in the water. A desperate 
struggle ensued, as the Aztec fought with the fury of a 
tiger driven to bay by the huntsmen. It was all in vain. 
The enemy was overpowered in every quarter. The 
citizen shared the fate of the soldier, and a pitiless mas- 
sacre succeeded, without regard to sex or age. Cortes 
endeavoured to stop it. But it would have been as easy 
to call away the starving wolf from the carcass he was 
devouring, as the Tlascalan who had once tasted the 
blood of an enemy. More than six thousand, including 
women and children, according to the Conqueror's own 
statement, perished in the conflict. 6 

Darkness meanwhile had set in ; but it was dispelled 
in some measure by the light of the burning houses, 
which the troops had set on fire in different parts of the 

6 " Murieron de ellos mas de seis que Dios nos daba, no entendian en 
mil animas, entre Hombres, y Mu- otra cosa, sino en matar a diestro y 
geres, y Ninos; porque los Indios a siniestro." Ibid., p. 195. 
nuestros Amigos, vista la Victoria, 

o 2 


town. Their insulated position, it is true, prevented the 
flames from spreading from one building to another, but 
the solitary masses threw a strong and lurid glare over 
their own neighbourhood, which gave additional horror to 
the scene. As resistance was now at an end, the soldiers 
abandoned themselves to pillage, and soon stripped the 
dwellings of every portable article of any value. 

While engaged in this w^ork of devastation, a murmur- 
ing sound was heard as of the hoarse rippling of waters, 
and a cry soon arose among the Indians that the dikes 
were broken ! Cortes now comprehended the business 
of the men whom he had seen in the canoes at work on 
the mole which fenced in the great basin of Lake Tez- 
cuco. 7 It had been pierced by the desperate Indians, 
who thus laid the country under an inundation, by suf- 
fering the waters of the salt lake to spread themselves 
over the lower level, through the opening. Greatly 
alarmed, the general called his men together, and made 
all haste to evacuate the city. Had they remained three 
hours longer, he says, not a soul could have escaped. 8 
They came staggering under the weight of booty, w r ading 
with difficulty through the water, which was fast gaining 
upon them. For some distance, their path was illumined 
by the glare of the burning buildings. But, as the light 
faded away in distance, they wandered with uncertain 
steps, sometimes up to their knees, at others up to their 
waists, in the water, through which they floundered on 
with the greatest difficulty. As they reached the opening 
in the dike, the stream became deeper, and flowed out 
with such a current that the men were unable to main- 
tain their footing. The Spaniards, breasting the flood, 
forced their way through; but many of the Indians, 

7 " Estandolas qucinando, parccio tad, que si aquclla noche no pasara- 
que Nuestro Sefior me inspird, y mos el Agua, 6 aguardaranios tres 
trujo a. la memoria la Calzada, 6 horas mas, que ninguno de nosotros 
Presa, que habia visto rota en el escapara, porque quedabamos cerca- 
Camino, y reprcscntdseine el gran dosae Agua, sin toner paso por parte 
dano, que era." Ibid., Ion. cit. ninguna." Ibid., ubi supra. 

8 " Y ccrtifico a Vucstra Mages- 


unable to swim, were borne down by the waters. All the 
plunder was lost. The powder was spoiled ; the arms 
and clothes of the soldiers were saturated with the brine, 
and the cold night wind, as it blew over them, benumbed 
their weary limbs till they could scarcely drag them along. 
At dawn they beheld the lake swarming with canoes, full 
of Indians, who had anticipated their disaster, and who 
now saluted them with showers of stones, arrows, and 
other deadly missiles. Bodies of light troops, hovering 
in the distance, disquieted the flanks of the army in like 
manner. The Spaniards had no desire to close with the 
enemy. They only wished to regain their comfortable 
quarters in Tezcuco, where they arrived on the same 
day, more disconsolate and fatigued than after many a 
long inarch and hard-fought battle. 9 

The close of the expedition, so different from its bril- 
liant commencement, greatly disappointed Cortes. His 
numerical loss had, indeed, not been great ; but this 
affair convinced him how much he had to apprehend 
from the resolution of a people, who, with a spirit worthy 
of the ancient Hollanders, were prepared to bury their 
country under water rather than to submit. Still, the 
enemy had little cause for congratulation ; since, inde- 
pendently of the number of slain, they had seen one of 
their most flourishing cities sacked, and in part, at least, 
laid in ruins, — one of those, too, which in its public works 
displayed the nearest approach to civilization. Such are 
the triumphs of war I 

The expedition of Cortes, notwithstanding the disasters 
which chequered it, was favourable to the Spanish cause. 
The fate of Iztapalapan struck a terror throughout the 
Valley. The consequences were soon apparent in the 
deputations sent by the different places eager to offer 

9 The general's own Letter to the cap. 138— Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 

emperor is so full and precise, that MS., lib. 33, cap. 18.— Ixtlilxocliitl, 

it is the very best authority for this Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 92.— Herrera 

event. The story is told also by Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 2, 

Berual Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, et auct. aliis. 


their submission. Its influence was visible, indeed, 
beyond the mountains. Among others, the people of 
Otumba, the town near which the Spaniards had gained 
their famous victory, sent to tender their allegiance, and 
to request the protection of the powerful strangers. 
They excused themselves, as usual, for the part they 
had taken in the late hostilities, by throwing the blame 
on the Aztecs. 

But the place of most importance which thus claimed 
their protection, was Chalco, situated on the eastern ex- 
tremity of the lake of that name. It was an ancient 
city, peopled by a kindred tribe of the Aztecs, and once 
their formidable rival. The Mexican emperor, distrusting 
their loyalty, had placed a garrison within their walls to 
hold them in check. The rulers of the city now sent a 
message secretly to Cortes, proposing to put themselves 
under his protection, if he would enable them to expel 
the garrison. 

The Spanish commander did not hesitate ; but in- 
stantly detached a considerable force under Sandoval 
for this object. On the march his rearguard, composed 
of Tlascalans, was roughly handled by some light troops 
of the Mexicans. But he took his revenge in a pitched 
battle, which took place with the main body of the 
enemy at no great distance from Chalco. They were 
drawn up on a level ground, covered with green crops of 
maize and maguey. The field is traversed by the road 
which at this day leads from the last-mentioned city to 
Tezcuco. 10 Sandoval, charging the enemy at the head of 
his cavalry, threw them into disorder. But they quickly 
rallied, formed again, and renewed the battle with greater 
spirit than ever. In a second attempt he was more for- 
tunate ; and, breaking through their lines by a desperate 
onset, the brave cavalier succeeded, after a warm, but 
ineffectual, struggle on their part, in completely routing 
and driving them from the field. The conquering army 

10 Lorenzana, p. 199, nota. 

chap, i.] SACK OF IZTAPALAPAN. 199 

continued its march to Chalco, which the Mexican gar- 
rison had already evacuated, and was received in triumph 
by the assembled citizens, who seemed eager to testify 
their gratitude for their deliverance from the Aztec yoke. 
After taking such measures as he could for the permanent 
security of the place, Sandoval returned to Tezcuco, ac- 
companied by the two young lords of the city, sons of 
the late cacique. 

They were courteously received by Cortes ; and they 
informed him that their father had died full of years, a 
short time before. With his last breath he had expressed 
his regret that he should not have lived to see Malintzin. 
He believed that the white men were the beings predicted 
by the oracles, as one day to come from the East and 
take possession of the land; 11 and he enjoined it on his 
children, should the strangers return to the Valley, to 
render them their homage and allegiance. The young 
caciques expressed their readiness to do so ■ but, as this 
must bring on them the vengeance of the Aztecs, they 
implored the general to furnish a sufficient force for their 
protection. 12 

Cortes received a similar application from various other 
towns, which were disposed, could they do so with safety, 
to throw off the Mexican yoke. But he was in no situ- 
ation to comply with their request. He now felt, more 
sensibly than ever, the incompetency of his means to his 
undertaking. " I assure your Majesty," he writes in his 
letter to the emperor, " the greatest uneasiness which I 
feel after all my labours and fatigues, is from my inability 
to succour and support our Indian friends, your Majesty's 
loyal vassals." 13 Ear from having a force competent to 

11 « Porque ciertamente sus ante- 12 Ibid., ubi supra. — Eel. Terc. de 

passados les auian dicho, que auian Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 200. — 

de senorear aquellas tierras hombres Gornara, Cronica, cap. 122. — Venida 

que vernian con barbas de hazia de los Esp., p. 15. 
donde sale el Sol, y que por las cosas 13 " Y certifico a Vuestra Mages- 

que han visto, eramos nosotros." tad, allende de nuestro trabajo y ne- 

Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cesidad, la mayor fatiga, que tenia, 

cap. 139. era no poder ayudar, y socorrer a los 


this, he had scarcely enough for his own protection. His 
vigilant enemy had an eye on all his movements, and, 
should he cripple his strength by sending away too many 
detachments, or by employing them at too great a dis- 
tance, would be prompt to take advantage of it. His 
only expeditions, hitherto, had been in the neighbour- 
hood, where the troops, after striking some sudden and 
decisive blow, might speedily regain their quarters. The 
utmost watchfulness was maintained there, and the 
Spaniards lived in as constant preparation for an assault, 
as if their camp was pitched under the walls of Mexico. 

On two occasions the enemy had sallied forth and 
engaged the enemy in the environs of Tezcuco. At one 
time a thousand canoes, filled with Aztecs, crossed the 
lake to gather in a large crop of Indian corn nearly ripe, 
on its borders. Cortes thought it important to secure 
this for himself. He accordingly marched out and gave 
battle to the enemy, drove them from the field, and 
swept away the rich harvest to the granaries of Tezcuco. 
Another time a strong body of Mexicans had established 
themselves in some neighbouring towns friendly to their 
interests. Cortes, again sallying, dislodged them from 
their quarters, beat them in several skirmishes, and re- 
duced the places to obedience. But these enterprises 
demanded all his resources, and left him nothing to 
spare for his allies. In this exigency, his fruitful genius 
suggested an expedient for supplying the deficiency of 
his means. 

Some of the friendly cities without the Valley, observ- 
ing the numerous beacon-fires on the mountains, inferred 
that the Mexicans were mustering in great strength, and 
that the Spaniards must be hard pressed in their new 
quarters. They sent messengers to Tezcuco, expressing 
their apprehension, and offering reinforcements, which 

Inclios nucstros Amigos, que por ser Culiia." Rcl. Tcrc, ap. Lorcnzana, 
Vasallos de Vu'cstra Magestad, eras p. 204. 
molcstados y trabajados dc los do 

chap, i.] WISE POLICY OF CORTES. 201 

the general, when he set out on his march, had declined. 
He returned many thanks for the proffered aid; but, 
while he declined it for himself as unnecessary, he indi- 
cated in what manner their services might be effectual 
for the defence of Chalco and the other places which had 
invoked his protection. But his Indian allies were in 
deadly feud with these places, whose inhabitants had too 
often fought under the Aztec banner not to have been 
engaged in repeated wars with the people beyond the 

Cortes set himself earnestly to reconcile these differ- 
ences. He told the hostile parties that they should be 
willing to forget their mutual wrongs, since they had 
entered into new relations. They were now vassals of 
the same sovereign, engaged in a common enterprise 
against the formidable foe who had so long trodden them 
in the dust. Singly they could do little, but united they 
might protect each other's weakness, and hold their 
enemy at bay till the Spaniards could come to their 
assistance. These arguments finally prevailed ; and the 
politic general had the satisfaction to see the high-spirited 
and hostile tribes forego their long-cherished rivalry, and, 
resigning the pleasures of revenge, so dear to the bar- 
barian, embrace one another as friends and champions 
in a common cause. To this wise policy the Spanish 
commander owed quite as much of his subsequent suc- 
cesses, as to his arms. 14 

Thus the foundations of the Mexican empire were 
hourly loosening, as the great vassals around the capital, 
on whom it most relied, fell off one after another from 
their allegiance. The Aztecs, properly so called, formed 
but a small part of the population of the Valley. This 
was principally composed of cognate tribes, members of 
the same great family of the Nahuatlacs, who had come 
upon the plateau at nearly the same time. They were 

14 Ibid., pp. 204, 205.— Ovicdo, Hist, de las Ind.,MS. 3 lib. 33, cap. 19. 


mutual rivals, and were reduced one after another by the 
more warlike Mexican, who held them in subjection, 
often by open force, always by fear. Fear was the great 
principle of cohesion which bound together the discordant 
members of the monarchy, and this was now fast dis- 
solving before the influence of a power more mighty than 
that of the Aztec. This, it is true, was not the first time 
that the conquered races had attempted to recover their 
independence ; but all such attempts had failed for want 
of concert. It was reserved for the commanding genius 
of Cortes to extinguish their old hereditary feuds, and, 
combining their scattered energies, to animate them with 
a common principle of action. 15 

Encouraged by this state of things, the Spanish general 
thought it a favourable moment to press his negotiations 
with the capital. He availed himself of the presence of 
some noble Mexicans, taken in the late action with San- 
doval, to send another message to their master. It was 
in substance a repetition of the first, with a renewed 
assurance, that, if the city would return to its allegiance 
to the Spanish crown, the authority of Guatemozin should 
be confirmed, and the persons and property of his sub- 
jects be respected. To this communication no reply was 

15 Oviedo, in his admiration of his de caballeria Julio Cesar dictador, 

hero, breaks out in the following pa- como parece por sus comentarios, e 

negyric on his policy, prudence, and por Suetonio e Plutarco e otros au- 

military science, which, as he truly tores que en conformidad escrivieron 

predicts, must make his name im- los grandes hechos suyos. Pero los 

mortal. It is a fair specimen of de Hernando Cortes en un Mundo 

the manner of the sagacious old nuevo, e tan apart adas provincias dc 

chronicler. Europa, e con tantos trabajos e ne- 

" Sin dubda alguna la habilidad y cesidacles e pocas fuerzas, e con 

esfuerzo, e prudencia de Hernando gente tan innumerable, e tan barbara 

Cortes mui aignas son que cntrc los e bcllicosa, e apacentada en carne 

cavalleros, e gente militar en nucs- humana, e aun habida por excelentc 

tros tiempos se tcngan en mucha cs- e sabroso manjar entro sus adversa 

timacion, y en los venideros nunca rios; efaltandole a el 6 asusmilitcs 

se dcsacucrdcn. Por causa suya me el pan e vino e los otros mantcni- 

acuerdo muchas veecs de aqucllas co- mientos todos de Espaiia, y en tan 

sas qucseescriven dclcapitanViriato diferenciadas regioncs e aires 6 tan 

nuestro Espafiol y Estremefio ; y por dosviado e lejos de socorro e dc su 

Hernando Cortes me ocurren al senti- principe, cosas son de admiracion." 

do las muchas fatigas de aquel esprjo Hist, dc las Iiid., MS., lib. 33, cap. 20. 




made. The young Indian emperor had a spirit as daunt- 
less as that of Cortes himself. On his head descended 
the full effects of that vicious system of government 
bequeathed to him by his ancestors. But, as he saw his 
empire crumbling beneath him, he sought to uphold it 
by his own energy and resources. He anticipated the 
defection of some vassals by establishing garrisons within 
their walls. Others he conciliated by exempting them 
from tributes, or greatly lightening their burdens, or by 
advancing them to posts of honour and authority in the 
state. He showed, at the same time, his implacable 
animosity towards the Christians, by commanding that 
every one taken within his dominions should be straight- 
way sent to the capital, where he was sacrificed, with all 
the barbarous ceremonies prescribed by the Aztec ritual. 16 

16 Among other chiefs, to whom 
Guatemozin applied for assistance in 
the perilous state of his affairs, was 
Tangapan, lord of Michuacan, an in- 
dependent and powerful state in the 
west, which had never been subdued 
by the Mexican army. The accounts 
which the Aztec emperor gave him, 
through his ambassadors, of the white 
men, were so alarming, according to 
Ixtlilxochitl, who tells the story, that 
the king's sister voluntarily starved 
herself to death, from her apprehen- 
sions of the coming of the terrible 
strangers. Her body was deposited, 
as usual, in the vaults reserved for 
the royal household, until prepara- 
tions could be made for its being 
burnt. On the fourth day, the at- 
tendants who had charge of it were as- 
tounded by seeing the corpse exhibit 
signs of returning life. The restored 
princess, recovering her speech, re- 
quested her brother's presence. On 
his coming, she implored him not to 
think of hurting a hair of the heads 
of the mysterious visitors. She had 
been permitted, she said, to see the 
fate of the departed in the next 
world. The souls of all her ances- 
tors she had beheld tossing about in 
unquenchable fire ; while those who 
embraced the faith of the strangers 

were in glory. As a proof of the 
truth of her assertion, she added, 
that her brother would see, on a great 
festival, near at hand, a young war- 
rior, armed with a torch brighter than 
the sun, in one hand, and a flaming 
sword, like that worn by the white 
men, in the other, passing from east 
to west over the city. 

Whether the monarch waited for 
the vision, or ever beheld it, is not 
told us by the historian. But rely- 
ing, perhaps, on the miracle of her 
resurrection, as quite a sufficient 
voucher, he disbanded a very power- 
ful force, which he had assembled on 
the plains of Avalos, for the support 
of his brother of Mexico. 

This narrative, with abundance of 
supernumerary incidents, not neces- 
sary to repeat, was commemorated 
in the Michuacan picture-records, 
and reported to the historian of Tez- 
cuco himself, by the grandson of 
Tangapan. (See Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. 
Chich., MS., cap. 91.)— Whoever re- 
ported it to him, it is not difficult to 
trace the same pious fingers in it, 
which made so many wholesome le- 
gends for the good of the Church on 
the Old Continent, and which now 
found, in the credulity of the New, a 
rich harvest for the same godly work. 


While these occurrences were passing, Cortes received 
the welcome intelligence, that the brigan tines were com- 
pleted and waiting to be transported to Tezcuco. He 
detached a body for the service, consisting of two hundred 
Spanish foot and fifteen horse, which he placed under 
the command of Sandoval. This cavalier had been rising 
daily in the estimation both of the general and of the 
army. Though one of the youngest officers in the service, 
he possessed a cool head and a ripe judgment, which 
fitted him for the most delicate and difficult undertakings. 
There were others, indeed, as Alvarado and Olid, for 
example, whose intrepidity made them equally competent 
to achieve a brilliant coup -de-main. But the courage of 
Alvarado was too often carried to temerity, or perverted 
by passion ; while Olid, dark and doubtful in his charac- 
ter, was not entirely to be trusted. Sandoval was a 
native of Medellin, the birthplace of Cortes himself. He 
was warmly attached to his commander, and had on all 
occasions proved himself worthy of his confidence. He 
was a man of few words, showing his worth rather by 
what he did, than what he said. His honest, soldier-like 
deportment made him a favourite with the troops, and 
had its influence even on his enemies. He unfortunately 
died in the flower of his age. But he discovered talents 
and military skill, which, had he lived to later life, would 
undoubtedly have placed his name on the roll with those 
of the greatest captains of his nation. 

Sandoval's route was to lead him by Zoltepec, a small 
city where the massacre of the forty-five Spaniards, 
already noticed, had been perpetrated. The cavalier 
received orders to find out the guilty parties, if possible, 
and to punish them for their share in the transaction. 

When the Spaniards arrived at the spot, they found 
that the inhabitants, who had previous notice of their 
approach, had all fled. In the deserted temples they 
discovered abundant traces of the fate of their country- 
men ; for, besides their arms and clothing, and the hides 

chap, i.] WISE POLICY OF CORTfiS. 205 

of their horses, the heads of several soldiers, prepared in 
such a way that they could be well preserved, were found 
suspended as trophies of the victory. In a neighbouring 
building, traced with charcoal on the walls, they found 
the following inscription in Castilian : "In this place the 
unfortunate Juan Juste, with many others of his com- 
pany, was imprisoned." 17 This hidalgo was one of the 
followers of Narvaez, and had come with him into the 
country in quest of gold, but had found, instead, an 
obscure and inglorious death. The eyes of the soldiers 
were suffused with tears, as they gazed on the gloomy 
record, and their bosoms swelled with indignation, as 
they thought of the horrible fate of the captives. For- 
tunately the inhabitants were not then before them. 
Some few, who subsequently fell into their hands, were 
branded as slaves. But the greater part of the popula- 
tion, who threw themselves, in the most abject manner, 
on the mercy of the Conquerors, imputing the blame of 
the affair to the Aztecs, the Spanish commander spared, 
from pity, or contempt. 18 

He now resumed his inarch on Tlascala ; but scarcely 
had he crossed the borders of the republic, when he 
descried the flaunting banners of the convoy which 
transported the brigantines, as it was threading its way 
through the defiles of the mountains. Great was his 
satisfaction at the spectacle, for he had feared a detention 
of some days at Tlascala, before the preparations for the 
march could be completed. 

There were thirteen vessels in all, of different sizes. 
They had been constructed under the direction of the 
experienced ship-builder, Martin Lopez, aided by three 
or four Spanish carpenters and the friendly natives, some 
of whom showed no mean degree of imitative skill. The 
brigantines, when completed, had been fairly tried on the 

17 " Aqul estuvo preso el sin ven- 18 Ibid., ubi supra. — Oviedo, Hist, 

tura de Jua Juste co otros muclios de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 19. — 

que traia en mi compafiia." Bernal Eel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 

L)iaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 140. p. 206. 


waters of the Zahuapan. They were then taken to 
pieces, and, as Lopez was impatient of delay, the several 
parts, the timbers, anchors, iron-work, sails, and cordage 
were placed on the shoulders of the tamanes, and, under 
a numerous military escort, were thus far advanced on 
the way to Tezcuco. 19 Sandoval dismissed a part of the 
Indian convoy, as superfluous. 

Twenty thousand warriors he retained, dividing them 
into two equal bodies for the protection of the tamanes 
in the centre. 20 His own little body of Spaniards he 
distributed in like manner. The Tlascalans in the van 
marched under the the command of a chief who gloried 
in the name of Chichemecatl. For some reason Sandoval 
afterwards changed the order of march, and placed this 
division in the rear, — an arrangement which gave great 
umbrage to the doughty warrior that led it, who asserted 
his right to the front, the place which he and his ancestors 
had always occupied, as the post of danger. He was 
somewhat appeased by Sandoval's assurance that it was 
for that very reason he had been transferred to the rear, 
the quarter most likely to be assailed by the enemy. 
But even then he was greatly dissatisfied, on finding that 
the Spanish commander was to march by his side, 
grudging, it would seem, that any other should share 
the laurel with himself. 

Slowly and painfully, encumbered with their heavy 
burden, the troops worked their way over steep emi- 
nences and rough mountain-passes, presenting, one might 
suppose, in their long line of march, many a vulnerable 
point to an enemy. But, although small parties of 

19 " Y dcspues dc hcclios por ordcn Camargo, Hist, dc Tlascala, MS. 

de Cortes, y probados en el rio que 20 Rel. Terc. de Cort6s, ap. Loren- 

llaman de Tlaxcalla Zahuapan, que zana, p. 207. 

se atajo para probarlos los bergan- Benial Diaz says sixteen thousand, 

tines, y los tornaron a desbaratar por (Ibid., ubi supra.) There is a won- 

llcvarlos a cuestas sobrc hombros de derful agreement between the several 

los de Tlaxcalla a la ciudad de Tctz- Castilian writers as to the number of 

cuco, donde se echaron en la laguna, y forces, the order of march, and the 

scarmaron de artillcrfa y municiou." events that occurred on it. 


warriors were seen hovering at times on their flanks and 
rear, they kept at a respectful distance, not caring to 
encounter so formidable a foe. On the fourth day the 
warlike caravan arrived in safety before Tezcuco. 

Their approach was beheld with joy by Cortes and the 
soldiers, who hailed it as the signal of a speedy termina- 
tion of the war. The general, attended by his officers, 
all dressed in their richest attire, came out to welcome 
the convoy. It extended over a space of two leagues, 
and so slow was its progress that six hours elapsed before 
the closing files had entered the city. 21 The Tlascalan 
chiefs displayed all their wonted bravery of apparel, and 
the whole array, composed of the flower of their warriors, 
made a brilliant appearance. They marched by the 
sound of atabal and cornet, and, as they traversed the 
streets of the capital amidst the acclamations of the 
soldiery, they made the city ring with the shouts of 
" Castile and Tlascala, long live our sovereign, the 

I " 22 

emperor ! 

" It was a marvellous thing," exclaims the Conqueror, 
in his Letters, " that few have seen, or even heard of, — 
this transportation of thirteen vessels of war on the 
shoulders of men, for nearly twenty leagues across the 
mountains!" 23 It was, indeed, a stupendous achieve- 
ment, and not easily matched in ancient or modern story ; 
one which only a genius like that of Cortes could have 
devised, or a daring spirit like his have so successfully 

21 " Estendfase tanto la Gente, que lib. 33, cap. 19. — Gomara, Crdnica, 
dende que los primeros comenzaron cap. 124. — Torquemada, Monarch. 
a entrar, hasta que los postreros Ind., lib. 4, cap. 84. — Ixtlilxochitl, 
hobieron acabado, se pasaron mas de Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 92. — Herrera, 
seis horas ; sin quebrar el kilo de la Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 2. 
Gente." Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. 23 "Que era cosa maravillosa de 
Lorenzana, p. 208. ver, y assi me parece que es de oir, 

22 Dando voces y silvos y diziendo : Uevar trece Fustas diez y ocho leguas 
" Viva, viva el Emperador, nuestro por Tierra." (Rel. Terc. de Cortes, 
Senor, y Castilla, Castilla, y Tlascalla, ap. Lorenzana, p. 207.) " En rem 
Tlascalla." (Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Romano populo," exclaims Martyr, 
Conquista, cap. 104.) For the par- " quando illustrius res illorum vige- 
ticulars of Sandoval's expedition, see, bant, non facilem !" De Orbe Novo, 
also, Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., dec. 5, cap. 8. 


executed. Little did he foresee, when he ordered the 
destruction of the fleet which first brought him to the 
country, and with his usual forecast commanded the 
preservation of the iron-work and rigging, — little did he 
foresee the important uses for which they were to be 
reserved. So important, that on their preservation may 
be said to have depended the successful issue of his great 
enterprise. 24 

He greeted his Indian allies with the greatest cor- 
diality, testifying his sense of their services by those 
honours and attentions which he knew would be most 
grateful to their ambitious spirits. " We come," ex- 
claimed the hardy warriors, " to fight under your banner ; 
to avenge our common quarrel, or to fall by your side ;" 
and, with their usual impatience, they urged him to lead 
them at once against the enemy. " Wait," replied the 
general, bluntly, " till you are rested, and you shall have 
your hands full." 25 

24 Two memorable examples of a si- successful, as only two reached their 
milar transportation of vessels across point of destination. (See Herrera, 
the land are recorded, the one in an- Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 2, cap. 11.) 
cient, the other in modern history; This took place in 151.6, in the neigh- 
and both, singularly enough, at the bourhood, as it were, of Cortes, and 
same place, Tarentum, in Italy. The may have suggested to his enter- 
first occurred at the siege of that prising spirit the first idea of his own 
city by Hannibal ; (see Polybius, bb. more successful, as well as more ex- 
8 ;) the latter some seventeen centu- tensive, undertaking, 
ries later, by the Great Captain, Gon- 

salvo de Cordova. But the distance 25 " Y ellos me dijeron, que trahiau 

they were transported was inconsi- deseo de se ver con los de Culiia, y 

derable. A more analogous example que viesse lo que mandaba, que ellos, 

is that of Balboa, the bold discoverer y aquella Gente vcuiau con deseos, y 

of the Pacific. He made arrange- voluntad de se vengar, 6 morir con 

ments to have four brigantincs trans- nosotros ; y yo les df las gracias, y 

fwrted a distance of twenty-two les dije, que rcposassen, y que presto 

eagucs across the Isthmus of Daricn, les daria las manos llcnas." Bel. 

a stupendous labour, and not entirely Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 208. 

ii.] 209 


Cortes reconnoitres the Capital. — Occupies Tacuba. — Skirmishes with the 
Enemy. — Expedition of Sandoval. — Arrival of Reinforcements. 


In the course of three or four days, the Spanish gene- 
ral furnished the Tlascalans with the opportunity so 
much coveted, and allowed their boiling spirits to effer- 
vesce in active operations. He had, for some time, 
meditated an expedition to reconnoitre the capital and 
its environs, and to chastise, on the way, certain places 
which had sent him insulting messages of defiance, and 
which were particularly active in their hostilities. He 
disclosed his design to a few only of his principal officers, 
from his distrust of the Tezcucans, whom he suspected 
to be in correspondence with the enemy. 

Early in the spring, he left Tezcuco, at the head of 
three hundred and fifty Spaniards and the whole strength 
of his allies. He took with him Alvarado and Olid, and 
entrusted the charge of the garrison to Sandoval. Cortes 
had had practical acquaintance with the incompetence of 
the first of these cavaliers for so delicate a post, during 
his short, but disastrous, rule in Mexico. 

But all his precautions had not availed to shroud his 
designs from the vigilant foe, whose eye was on all his 
movements; who seemed even to divine his thoughts, 
and to be prepared to thwart their execution. He had 
advanced but a few leagues, when he was met by a con- 
siderable body of Mexicans, drawn up to dispute his 



progress. A sharp skirmish took place, in which the 
enemy were driven from the ground, and the way was 
left open to the Christians. They held a circuitous route 
to the north, and their first point of attack was the 
insular town of Xaltocan, situated on the northern ex- 
tremity of the lake of that name, now called San Chris- 
tobal. The town was entirely surrounded by water, and 
communicated with the main land by means of cause- 
ways, in the same manner as the Mexican capital. 
Cortes, riding at the head of his cavalry, advanced along 
the dike, till he was brought to a stand by finding a 
wide opening in it, through which the waters poured so 
as to be altogether impracticable, not only for horse, but 
for infantry. The lake was covered with canoes, filled 
with Aztec warriors, who, anticipating the movement of 
the Spaniards, had come to the aid of the city. They 
now began a furious discharge of stones and arrows on 
the assailants, while they were themselves tolerably well 
protected from the musketry of their enemy by the light 
bulwarks, with which, for that purpose, they had fortified 
their canoes. 

The severe volleys of the Mexicans did some injury to 
the Spaniards and their allies, and began to throw them 
into disorder, crowded as they were on the narrow cause- 
way, without the means of advancing, when Cortes 
ordered a retreat. This was followed by renewed tem- 
pests of missiles, accompanied by taunts and fierce yells 
of defiance. The battle-cry of the Aztec, like the war- 
whoop of the North American Indian, was an appalling 
note, according to the Conqueror's own acknowledgment, 
in the ears of the Spaniards. 1 At this juncture, the 
general fortunately obtained information from a deserter, 
one of the Mexican allies, of a ford, by which the army 
might traverse the shallow lake, and penetrate into the 
place. He instantly detached the greater part of the 

1 " De lejos comenzaron a gritar, que cierto es cosa espantosa ofllos." 
corao lo suelen hacer en la Gucrra, Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 209. 


infantry on the service, posting himself with the re- 
mainder, and with the horse, at the entrance of the pas- 
sage, to cover the attack and prevent any interruption in 
the rear. 

The soldiers, under the direction of the Indian guide, 
forded the lake without much difficulty, though in some 
places the water came above their girdles. During the 
passage, they were annoyed by the enemy's missiles ; 
but when they had gained the dry level, they took ample 
revenge, and speedily put all who resisted to the sword. 
The greater part, together with the townsmen, made 
their escape in the boats. The place was now abandoned 
to pillage. The troops found in it many women, who 
had been left to their fate ; and these, together with a 
considerable quantity of cotton stuffs, gold, and articles 
of food, fell into the hands of the victors, who, setting 
fire to the deserted city, returned in triumph to their 
comrades. 2 

Continuing his circuitous route, Cortes presented him- 
self successively before three other places, each of which 
had been deserted by the inhabitants in anticipation of 
his arrival. 3 The principal of these, Azcapozalco, had 
once been the capital of an independent state. It was 
now the great slave-market of the Aztecs, where their 
unfortunate captives were brought, and disposed of at 
public sale. It was also the quarter occupied by the 
jewellers ; and the place whence the Spaniards obtained 
the goldsmiths who melted down the rich treasures re- 
ceived from Montezuma. But they found there only a 
small supply of the precious metals, or, indeed, of any- 
thing else of value, as the people had been careful to 

2 Ibid., loc. cit. — Bernal Diaz, lodious names of Tenejoccan, Quauh- 
Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 141. — titlan, and Azcapozalco. I have 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. constantly endeavoured to spare the 
33, cap. 20. — Ixtlilxochitl, Venidade reader, in the text, any unnecessary 
los Esp., pp. 13, 14. — Idem, Hist. accumulation of Mexican names, 
Chich., MS., cap. 92. — Gomara, Crd- which, as he is aware by this time, 
nica, cap. 125. have not even brevity to recommend 

3 These towns rejoiced in the me- them. 

p 2 


remove their effects. They spared the buildings, how- 
ever, in consideration of their having met with no 

During the nights, the troops bivouacked in the open 
fields, maintaining the strictest watch, for the country 
was all in arms, and beacons were flaming on every hill- 
top, while dark masses of the enemy were occasionally 
descried in the distance. The Spaniards were now 
traversing the most opulent region of Anahuac. Cities 
and villages were scattered over hill and valley, with 
cultivated environs blooming around them, all giving 
token of a dense and industrious population. In the 
centre of this brilliant circumference stood the Indian 
metropolis, with its gorgeous tiara of pyramids and 
temples, attracting the eye of the soldier from every 
other object, as he wound round the borders of the lake. 
Every inch of ground which the army trod was familiar 
to them, — familiar as the scenes of childhood, though 
with very different associations, for it had been written 
on their memories in characters of blood. On the right 
rose the Hill of Montezuma, crowned by the teocalli, 
under the roof of which the shattered relics of the army 
had been gathered on the day following the flight from 
the capital. In front lay the city of Tacuba, through 
whose inhospitable streets they had hurried in fear and 
consternation ; and away to the east of it, stretched the 
melancholy causeway. 

It was the general's purpose to march at once on 
Tacuba, and establish his quarters in that ancient capital 
for the present. He found a strong force encamped 
under its walls, prepared to dispute his entrance. With- 
out waiting for their advance, he rode at full gallop 
against them with his little body of horse. The arque- 
buses and crossbows opened a lively volley on their 
extended wings, and the infantry, armed with their 
swords and copper-headed lances, and supported by the 
Indian battalions, followed up the attack of the horse 

chap, ii.] OCCUPIES TACUBA. 213 

with an alacrity which soon put the enemy to flight. 
The Spaniards usually opened the combat with a charge 
of cavalry. But, had the science of the Aztecs been 
equal to their courage, they might with their long spears 
have turned the scale of battle, sometimes at least, in 
their own favour ; for it was with the same formidable 
weapon, that the Swiss mountaineers, but a few years 
before this period of our history, broke and completely 
foiled the famous ordonnance of Charles the Bold, the 
best appointed cavalry of their day. But the barbarians 
were ignorant of the value of this weapon when opposed 
to cavalry. And, indeed, the appalling apparition of the 
war-horse and his rider, still held a mysterious power 
over their imaginations, which contributed, perhaps, 
quite as much as the effective force of the cavalry itself, 
to their discomfiture. — Cortes led his troops without 
further opposition into the suburbs of Tacuba, the 
ancient Tlacopan, where he established himself for the 

On the following morning, he found the indefatigable 
Aztecs again under arms, and, on the open ground be- 
fore the city, prepared to give him battle. He marched 
out against them, and, after an action hotly contested, 
though of no long duration, again routed them. They 
fled towards the town, but were driven through the 
streets at the point of the lance, and were compelled, 
together with the inhabitants, to evacuate the place. 
The city was then delivered over to pillage ; and the 
Indian allies, not content with plundering the houses of 
everything portable within them, set them on fire, and in 
a short time a quarter of the town — rthe poorer dwellings, 
probably, built of light, combustible materials — was in 
flames. Cortes and his troops did all in their power to 
stop the conflagration, but the Tlascalans were a fierce 
race, not easily guided at any time, and, when their 
passions were once kindled, it was impossible, even for 
the general himself, to control them. They were a 


terrible auxiliary, and, from their insubordination, as 
terrible sometimes to friend as to foe. 4 

Cortes proposed to remain in his present quarters for 
some days, during which time he established his own 
residence in the ancient palace of the lords of Tlacopan. 
It was a long range of low buildings, like most of the 
royal residences in the country, and offered good accom- 
modations for the Spanish forces. During his halt here, 
there was not a day on which the army was not engaged 
in one or more rencontres with the enemy. They termi- 
nated almost uniformly in favour of the Spaniards, though 
with more or less injury to them and to their allies. One 
encounter, indeed, had nearly been attended with more 
fatal consequences. 

The Spanish general, in the heat of pursuit, had 
allowed himself to be decoyed upon the great causeway, 
— the same which had once been so fatal to his army. 
He followed the flying foe, until he had gained the 
further side of the nearest bridge, which had been re- 
paired since the disastrous action of the noche triste. 
When thus far advanced, the Aztecs, with the rapidity 
of lightning, turned on him, and he beheld a large rein- 
forcement in their rear, all fresh on the field, prepared to 
support their countrymen. At the same time, swarms 
of boats, unobserved in the eagerness of the chase, 
seemed to start up as if by magic, covering the waters 
around. The Spaniards were now exposed to a perfect 
hail-storm of missiles, both from the causeway and the 
lake ; but they stood unmoved amidst the tempest, when 
Cortes, too late perceiving his error, gave orders for the 

4 They burned this place, accord- se quemd un Quarto ; y esto se hizo, 

ing to Cortes, in retaliation of the porque quando salimos la otra vez 

injuries inflicted by the inhabitants desbaratados de Temixtitan, pasando 

on their countrymen in the retreat. por esta Ciudad, los Naturales de 

" Y en amaneciendo los Indios cues- ella juntamente con los de Temix- 

tros Amigos comenzaron a saqucar, titan nos hicieron muy cruel Guerra, 

y quemar toda la Ciudad, salvo el y nos mataron muchos Espanoles." 

Aposento donde estabamos, y pusie- Rel. Terc, ap. Lorenzana, p. 210. 
ron tanta diligencia, que aun de el 


retreat. Slowly, and with admirable coolness, his men 
receded, step by step, offering a resolute front to the 
enemy. 5 The Mexicans came on with their usual vocife- 
ration, making the shores echo to their war-cries, and 
striking at the Spaniards with their long pikes, and with 
poles, to which the swords taken from the Christians had 
been fastened. A cavalier, named Volante, bearing the 
standard of Cortes, was felled by one of their weapons, 
and, tumbling into the lake, was picked up by the 
Mexican boats. He was a man of a muscular frame, 
and, as the enemy were dragging him off, he succeeded 
in extricating himself from their grasp, and clenching his 
colours in his hand, with a desperate effort sprang back 
upon the causeway. At length, after some hard righting, 
in which many of the Spaniards were wounded, and 
many of their allies slain, the troops regained the land, 
where Cortes, with a full heart, returned thanks to 
Heaven for what he might well regard as a providential 
deliverance. 6 It was a salutary lesson ; though he should 
scarcely have needed one, so soon after the affair of Izta- 
palapan, to warn him of the wily tactics of his enemy. 

It had been one of Cortes' principal objects in this 
expedition to obtain an interview, if possible, with the 
Aztec emperor, or with some of the great lords at his 
court, and to try if some means for an accommodation 
could not be found, by which he might avoid the appeal 
to arms. An occasion for such a parley presented itself, 
when his forces were one day confronted with those of 
the enemy, with a broken bridge interposed between 
them. Cortes, riding in advance of his people, intimated 
by signs his peaceful intent, and that he wished to confer 
with the Aztecs. They respected the signal, and, with 

5 " Luego mandd, que todos se de la Conquista, cap. 141. 

retraxessen ; y con el mejor con- 6 " Desta manera se escapo Cortes 

cierto que pudo, y no bueltas las aquella vez del poder de Mexico, y 

espaldas, sino los rostros a los con- quando se vid en tierra firme, did 

trarios, pie contra pie, como quien muclias gracias a Dios." Ibid., ubi 

haze represas." Bernal Diaz, Hist. supra. 


the aid of his interpreter, he requested, that, if there 
were any great chief among them, he would come for- 
ward and hold a parley with him. The Mexicans replied, 
in derision, they were all chiefs, and bade him speak openly 
whatever he had to tell them. As the general returned 
no answer, they asked, why he did uot make another 
visit to the capital, and tauntingly added, " Perhaps 
Malintzin does not expect to find there another Monte- 
zuma, as obedient to his command as the former." 7 
Some of them complimented the Tlascalans with the 
epithet of women, who, they said, would never have 
ventured so near the capital, but for the protection of 
the white men. 

The animosity of the two nations was not confined to 
these harmless, though bitter jests, but showed itself in 
regular cartels of defiance, which daily passed between 
the principal chieftains. These were followed by com- 
bats, in which one or more champions fought on a side, 
to vindicate the honour of their respective countries. A 
fair field of fight was given to the warriors, who con- 
ducted those combats a Toutrance, with the punctilio of 
a European tourney ; displaying a valour worthy of the 
two boldest of the races of Anahuac, and a skill in the 
management of their weapons, which drew forth the 
admiration of the Spaniards. 8 

Cortes had now been six days in Tacuba. There was 
nothing further to detain him, as he had accomplished 
the chief objects of his expedition. He had humbled 
several of the places which had been most active in their 
hostility ; and he had revived the credit of the Castilian 
arms, which had been much tarnished by their former 
reverses in this quarter of the Valley. He had also made 
himself acquainted with the condition of the capital, 

7 "Pcnsais, que hay agora otto « «y peleaban los unos con los 

Mutcczuma, para quo naga todo, lo otros muy hcrmosamentc." Ibid., 

que quisieredes ? " Rcl. Tcrc. de ubi supra. — Ovicdo, Hist, de las 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 211. laid., MS., lib. 33, cap. 20. 


which he found in a better posture of defence than he 
had imagined. All the ravages of the preceding year 
seemed to be repaired, and there was no evidence, even 
to his experienced eye, that the wasting hand of war had 
so lately swept over the land. The Aztec troops, which 
swarmed through the Valley, seemed to be well ap- 
pointed, and showed an invincible spirit, as if prepared 
to resist to the last. It is true, they had been beaten in 
every encounter. In the open field they were no match 
for the Spaniards, whose cavalry they could never com- 
prehend, and whose fire-arms easily penetrated the cotton 
mail, which formed the stoutest defence of the Indian 
warrior. But, entangled in the long streets and narrow 
lanes of the metropolis, where every house was a citadel, 
the Spaniards, as experience had shown, would lose 
much of their superiority. With the Mexican emperor, 
confident in the strength of his preparations, the general 
saw there was no probability of effecting an accommoda- 
tion. He saw, too, the necessity of the most careful 
preparations on his own part — indeed, that he must 
strain his resources to the utmost, before he could safely 
venture to rouse the lion in his lair. 

The Spaniards returned by the same route by which 
they had come. Their retreat was interpreted into a 
flight by the natives, who hung on the rear of the army, 
uttering vainglorious vaunts, and saluting the troops 
with showers of arrows, which did some mischief. Cortes 
resorted to one of their own stratagems to rid himself of 
this annoyance. He divided his cavalry into two or 
three small parties, and concealed them among some 
thick shrubbery, which fringed both sides of the road. 
The rest of the army continued its march. The Mexi- 
cans followed, unsuspicious of the ambuscade, when the 
horse, suddenly darting from their place of conceal- 
ment, threw the enemy's flanks into confusion, and 
the retreating columns of infantry, facing about sud- 
denly, commenced a brisk attack, which completed their 


consternation. It was a broad and level plain, over which 
the panic-struck Mexicans made the best of their way, 
without attempting resistance ; while the cavalry, riding 
them down and piercing the fugitives with their lances, 
followed up the chase for several miles, in what Cortes 
calls a truly beautiful style. 9 The army experienced no 
further annoyance from the enemy. 

On their arrival at Tezcuco, they were greeted with 
joy by their comrades, who had received no tidings of 
them during the fortnight which had elapsed since their 
departure. The Tlascalans, immediately on their return, 
requested the general's permission to carry back to their 
own country the valuable booty which they had gathered 
in their foray, — a request which, however unpalatable, 
he could not refuse. 10 

The troops had not been in quarters more than two 
or three days, when an embassy arrived from Chalco, 
again soliciting the protection of the Spaniards against 
the Mexicans, who menaced them from several points 
in their neighbourhood. But the soldiers were so much 
exhausted by unintermitted vigils, forced marches, battles, 
and wounds, that Cortes wished to give them a breathing- 
time to recruit, before engaging in a new expedition. 
He answered the application of the Chalcans, by sending 
his missives to the allied cities, calling on them to march 
to the assistance of their confederate. It is not to be 
supposed that they could comprehend the import of his 
despatches. But the paper, with its mysterious charac- 
ters, served for a warrant to the officer who bore it, as 
the interpreter of the general's commands. 

But, although these were implicitly obeyed, the Chal- 
cans felt the danger so pressing, that they soon repeated 

9 "Y comcnzamos a lanzcar en own commentaries so often quoted, 

ellos, y duro el alcanze cerca dc dos Oviedo, Hist, dc las Ind., MS., lib. 

leguas todas lianas, como la palma, 33, cap. 20, — Torquemada, Monarch, 

que fue muy hcrmosa cosa." ltd. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 85, — Gomara, Cro- 

T ere, ap. Lorenzana, p. 212. nica, cap. 125, — Ixtlilxochitl, Vcuida 

10 For the particulars of this ex- delosEsp., pp. 13,14, — BemalDiaz, 
pedition of Cortes, see, besides his Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 141. 


their petition for the Spaniards to come in person to 
their relief. Cortes no longer hesitated ; for he was well 
aware of the importance of Chalco, not merely on its own 
account, but from its position, which commanded one of 
the great avenues to Tlascala, and to Vera Cruz, the in- 
tercourse with which should run no risk of interruption. 
Without further loss of time, therefore, he detached a 
body of three hundred Spanish foot and twenty horse, 
under the command of Sandoval, for the protection of 
the city. 

That active officer soon presented him self before Chalco, 
and, strengthened by the reinforcement of its own troops 
and those of the confederate towns, directed his first 
operations against Huaxtepec, a place of some import- 
ance, lying two leagues or more to the south among the 
mountains. It was held by a strong Mexican force, 
watching their opportunity to make a descent upon 
Chalco. The Spaniards found the enemy drawn up at a 
distance from the town, prepared to receive them. The 
ground was broken and tangled with bushes, unfavour- 
able to the cavalry, which in consequence soon fell into 
disorder ; and Sandoval, finding himself embarrassed by 
their movements, ordered them, after sustaining some 
loss, from the field. In their place he brought up his 
musketeers and crossbowmen, who poured a rapid fire 
into the thick columns of the Indians. The rest of the 
infantry, with sword and pike, charged the flanks of the 
enemy, who, bewildered by the shock, after sustaining 
considerable slaughter, fell back in an irregular manner, 
leaving the field of battle to the Spaniards. 

The victors proposed to bivouac there for the night. 
But, while engaged in preparations for their evening 
meal, they were aroused by the cry of " To arms, to 
arms! the enemy is upon us!" In an instant the 
trooper was in his saddle, the soldier grasped his musket 
or his good toledo, and the action was renewed with 
greater fury than before. The Mexicans had received a 


reinforcement from the city. But their second attempt 
was not more fortunate than their first ; and the victo- 
rious Spaniards, driving their antagonists before them, 
entered and took possession of the town itself, which had 
already been evacuated by the inhabitants. 11 

Sandoval took up his quarters in the dwelling of the 
lord of the place, surrounded by gardens, which rivalled 
those of Iztapalapan in magnificence, and surpassed them 
in extent. They are said to have been two leagues in 
circumference, having pleasure-houses, and numerous 
tanks stocked with various kinds of fish ; and they were 
embellished with trees, shrubs, and plants, native and 
exotic, some selected for their beauty and fragrance, 
others for their medicinal properties. They were scien- 
tifically arranged ; and the whole establishment displayed 
a degree of horticultural taste and knowledge, of which 
it would not have been easy to find a counterpart, at 
that day, in the more civilized communities of Europe. 12 
Such is the testimony not only of the rude Conquerors, 
but of men of science, who visited these beautiful repo- 
sitories in the day of their glory. 13 

Alter halting two days to refresh his forces in this 
agreeable spot, Sandoval marched on Jacapichtla, about 
six miles to the eastward. It was a town, or rather 

11 Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lo- dc admiration ver la gentileza, y 
renzana, pp. 214, 215. — Gomara, grandeza de toda esta Huerta." 
Crdnica, cap. 146. — Bernal Diaz, (Rel. Terc., ap. Lorenzana, pp. 221, 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 142. — 222.) Bernal Diaz is not less em- 
Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. pliatic in Lis admiration. Hist, de 
33, cap. 21. la Conquista, cap. 142. 

12 " La qual Huerta," says Cortes, Vi The distinguished naturalist, 
who afterwards passed a day there, Hernandez, has frequent occasion to 
" es la mayor, y mas hcrmosa, y notice this garden, which furnished 
frcsca, que nunca se vio, porque him with many specimens for his 
tiene dos leguas dc circuito, y por great work. It had the good for- 
medio de clla va una muy gentil Ri- tunc to be preserved after the Con- 
bera de Agua, y de trccho a trecho, quest, when particular attention was 
cantidad dc dos tiros de Ballesta, given to its medicinal plants, for the 
hay Aposentamientos, y, Jardincs use of a great hospital established 
muy frescos, y infinitos Arboles dc in the neighbourhood. See Cla- 
divcrsas Erutas, y mucnas Yervas, y vigero, Stor. del Mcssico, torn. ii. p. 
Flores olorosas, que cierto es cosa 153. 


fortress, perched on a rocky eminence, almost inacces- 
sible from its steepness. It was garrisoned by a Mexican 
force, who rolled clown on the assailants, as they attempted 
to scale the heights, huge fragments of rock, which, thun- 
dering over the sides of the precipice, carried ruin and 
desolation in their path. The Indian confederates fell 
back in dismay from the attempt. But Sandoval, indig- 
nant that any achievement should be too difficult for a 
Spaniard, commanded his cavaliers to dismount, and, 
declaring that he " would carry the place or die in the 
attempt," led on his men with the cheering cry of " St. 
Iago." 14 With renewed courage, they now followed their 
gallant leader up the ascent, under a storm of lighter 
missiles, mingled with huge masses of stone, which, 
breaking into splinters, overturned the assailants, and 
made fearful havoc in their ranks. Sandoval, who had 
been wounded on the preceding day, received a severe 
contusion on the head, while more than one of his brave 
comrades were struck down by his side. Still they 
clambered up, sustaining themselves by the bushes or 
projecting pieces of rock, and seemed to force themselves 
onward as much by the energy of their wills, as by the 
strength of their bodies. 

After incredible toil, they stood on the summit, face 
to face with the astonished garrison. Eor a moment 
they paused to recover breath, then sprang furiously on 
their foes. The struggle was short but desperate. Most 
of the Aztecs were put to the sword. Some were thrown 
headlong over the battlements, and others, letting them- 
selves down the precipice, were killed on the borders of 
a little stream that wound round its base, the waters 
of which were so polluted with blood, that the victors 

14 " E como esto vid el diclio comenzaron a subir." Kel. Terc. 

Alguacil Mayor, y los Espaiioles, de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 214. — 

determinaron de morir, d subilles Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 

por fuerza a lo alto del Pueblo, y 33, cap. 21. 
con el apellido de Senor Santiago, 


were unable to slake their tliirst with them for a full 
hour ! 15 

Sandoval, having now accomplished the object of his 
expedition, by reducing the strongholds which had so 
long held the Chalcans in awe, returned in triumph to 
Tezcuco. Meanwhile, the Aztec emperor, whose vigilant 
eye had been attentive to all that had passed, thought 
that the absence of so many of its warriors afforded a 
favourable opportunity for recovering Chalco. He sent 
a fleet of boats for this purpose across the lake, with a 
numerous force under the command of some of his most 
valiant chiefs. 16 Fortunately the absent Chalcans reached 
their city before the arrival of the enemy ; but, though 
supported by their Indian allies, they were so much 
alarmed by the magnitude of the hostile array, that they 
sent again to the Spaniards, invoking their aid. 

The messengers arrived at the same time with San- 
doval and his army. Cortes was much puzzled by the 
contradictory accounts. He suspected some negligence 
in his lieutenant, and, displeased with his precipitate 
return in this unsettled state of the affair, ordered him 
back at once, with such of his forces as were in fighting 
condition. Sandoval felt deeply injured by this proceed- 
ing, but he made no attempt at exculpation, and, obeying 
his commander in silence, put himself at the head of 
his troops, and made a rapid countermarch on the 
Indian city. 17 

Before he reached it, a battle had been fought between 
the Mexicans and the confederates, in which the latter, 

16 So says the Conquistador. (Rel. mara, says, that the force consisted 

Terc., ap. Lorenzana, p. 215.) Diaz, of 20,000 warriors in 2000 canoes, 

who will allow no one to hyperbolize Ibid., loc cit. 
but himself, says, "For as long as 

one might take to say an Ave 17 " El Cortes no le quiso escu- 

Maria!" (Hist, de la Conquista, char a Sandoval de enojo, creyendo 

cap. 142.) Neither was present. que por su culpa, 6 descuido, reci- 

16 The gallant captain Diaz, who bia mala obra nuestros amigos los de 

affects a sobriety in his own esti- Chalco ; y luego sin mas dilacion, ni 

mates, which often leads him to le oyr, le mandd bolver." Ibid., ubi 

disparage those of the chaplain Go- supra. 


who had acquired unwonted confidence from their recent 
successes, were victorious. A number of Aztec nobles 
fell into their hands in the engagement, whom they 
delivered to Sandoval to be carried off as prisoners to 
Tezcuco. On his arrival there, the cavalier, wounded by 
the unworthy treatment he had received, retired to his 
own quarters without presenting himself before his chief. 

During his absence, the inquiries of Cortes had satis- 
fied him of his own precipitate conduct, and of the great 
injustice he had done his lieutenant. There was no man 
in the army on whose services he set so high a value, as 
the responsible situations in which he had placed him 
plainly showed ; and there was none for whom he seems 
to have entertained a greater personal regard. On San- 
doval's return, therefore, Cortes instantly sent to request 
his attendance; when, with a soldier's frankness, he 
made such an explanation as soothed the irritated spirit 
of the cavalier, — a matter of no great difficulty, as the 
latter had too generous a nature, and too earnest a 
devotion to his commander and the cause in which they 
were embarked, to harbour a petty feeling of resentment 
in his bosom. 18 

During the occurrence of these events, the work was 
going forward actively on the canal, and the brigantines 
were within a fortnight of their completion. The greatest 
vigilance was required, in the mean time, to prevent their 
destruction by the enemy, who had already made three 
ineffectual attempts to burn them on the stocks. The 
precautions which Cortes thought it necessary to take 
against the Tezcucans themselves, added not a little to his 

At this time he received embassies from different 
Indian states, some of them on the remote shores of the 
Mexican Gulf, tendering their allegiance and soliciting 

18 Besides the authorities already Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 
quoted for Sandoval's expedition, 92. — Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., 
see Gomara, Crdnica, cap. 126. — lib. 4, cap. 86. 


his protection. For this he was partly indebted to the 
good offices of Ixtlilxocliitl, who, in consequence of his 
brother's death, was now advanced to the sovereignty of 
Tezcuco. This important position greatly increased his 
consideration and authority through the country, of which 
he freely availed himself to bring the natives under the 
dominion of the Spaniards. 19 

The general received also at this time the welcome 
intelligence of the arrival of three vessels at Villa Rica, 
with two hundred men on board, well provided with 
arms and ammunition, and with seventy or eighty horses. 
It was a most seasonable reinforcement. From what 
quarter it came is uncertain ; most probably, from His- 
paniola. Cortes, it may be remembered, had sent for 
supplies to that place ; and the authorities of the island, 
who had general jurisdiction over the affairs of the 
colonies, had shown themselves, on more than one occa- 
sion, well inclined towards him, probably considering 
him, under all circumstances, as better fitted than any 
other man to achieve the conquest of the country. 20 

The new recruits soon found their way to Tezcuco ; as 
the communications with the port were now open and 
unobstructed. Among them were several cavaliers of 
consideration, one of whom, Julian de Alderete, the royal 
treasurer, came over to superintend the interests of 
the Crown. 

19 " Ixtlilxocliitl procuraba si- does not intimate from what quarter, 
empre traer a la devocion y amistad (Rel. Tcrc., ap. Lorenzaua, p. 216.) 
de los Cristianos no tan solamente Bcrnal Diaz, who notices only one, 
a los de el Rcyno de Tezcuco sino says it came from Castile. (Hist, 
aun los de las Provincias remotas, de la Conquista, cap. 143.) But the 
rogandolcs que todos so procurasen old soldier wrote long after the 
dar de paz al Capitan Cortes, y events he commemorates, and may 
que aunque de las guerras pasadas have confused the true order of 
algunos tuviesen culpa, era tan things. It seems hardly probable 
afable y deseaba tanto la paz que that so important a reinforcement 
luego al punto los rcciviria en su should have arrived from Castile, 
amistad." Ixtlilxocliitl, Hist. Chick,, considering that Cortes had yet 
MS., cap. 92. received none of the royal patro- 
nage, or even sanction, which would 

20 Cortes speaks of these vessels stimulate adventurers in the mother- 
as coming at the same time, but country to enlist under his standard. 


There was also in the number a Dominican friar, who 
brought a quantity of pontifical bulls, offering indulgences 
to those who engaged in war against the infidel. The 
soldiers were not slow to fortify themselves with the 
good graces of the Church ; and the worthy father, after 
driving a prosperous traffic with his spiritual wares, had 
the satisfaction to return home, at the end of a few 
months, well freighted, in exchange, with the more sub- 
stantial treasures of the Indies. 21 

21 Berual Diaz, Hist, de la Con- Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 
quista, cap. 143. — Oviedo, Hist, de 1, cap. G. 
las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 21.— - 


226 [BOOK VI. 


Second Reconnoitring Expedition. — Engagements on the Sierra. — Capture 
of Cuemavaca. — Battles at Xochhnilco. — Narrow Escape of Cortes. — He 
enters Tacuba. 


Notwithstanding the relief which had been afforded 
to the people of Chalco, it was so ineffectual, that envoys 
from that city again arrived at Tezcuco, bearing a hiero- 
glyphical chart, on which were depicted several strong 
places in their neighbourhood, garrisoned by the Aztecs, 
from which they expected annoyance. Cortes determined 
this time to take the affair into his own hands, and to 
scour the country so effectually, as to place Chalco, if 
possible, in a state of security. He did not confine 
himself to this object, but proposed, before his return, to 
pass quite round the great lakes, and reconnoitre the 
country to the south of them, in the same manner as he 
had before done to the west. In the course of his 
march, he would direct his arms against some of the 
strong places from which the Mexicans might expect 
support in the siege. Two or three weeks must elapse 
before the completion of the brigantines ; and, if no 
other good resulted from the expedition, it would give 
active occupation to his troops, whose turbulent spirits 
might fester into discontent in the monotonous existence 
of a camp. 

He selected for the expedition thirty horse and three 
hundred Spanish infantry, with a considerable body of 


Tlascalan and Tezcucan warriors. The remaining garri- 
son lie left in charge of the trusty Sandoval, who, with 
the friendly lord of the capital, would watch over the 
construction of the brigantines, and protect them from 
the assaults of the Aztecs. 

On the fifth of April he began his march, and on the 
following day arrived at Chalco, where he was met by a 
number of the confederate chiefs. With the aid of his 
faithful interpreters, Dona Marina and Aguilar, he ex- 
plained to them the objects of his present expedition ; 
stated his purpose soon to enforce the blockade of 
Mexico, and required their cooperation with the whole 
strength of their levies. To this they readily assented ; 
and he soon received a sufficient proof of their friendly 
disposition in the forces which joined him on the march, 
amounting, according to one of the army, to more than 
had ever before followed his banner. 1 

Taking a southerly direction, the troops, after leaving 
Chalco, struck into the recesses of the wild sierra, which, 
with its bristling peaks, serves as a formidable palisade 
to fence round the beautiful Valley; while, within its 
rugged arms, it shuts up many a green and fruitful 
pasture of its own. As the Spaniards passed through its 
deep gorges, they occasionally wound round the base of 
some huge cliff or rocky eminence, on which the inhabi- 
tants had built their towns in the same manner as was 
done by the people of Europe in the feudal ages ; a 
position which, however favourable to the picturesque, 
intimates a sense of insecurity as the cause of it, which 
may reconcile us to the absence of this striking appen- 
dage of the landscape in our own more fortunate 

The occupants of these airy pinnacles took advantage 
of their situation to shower down stones and arrows on 

1 " Vinieron tantos, que en to- guerra de nuestros amigos, como 
das las entradas que yo auia ido, aora fueron en nuestra compama." 
despues que en la Nueva Espana Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
entre, nunca vi tanta gente de cap. 144. 



the troops, as they defiled through the narrow passes of 
the sierra. Though greatly annoyed by their incessant 
hostilities, Cortes held on his way, till, winding round 
the base of a castellated cliff, occupied by a strong garri- 
son of Indians, he was so severely pressed, that he felt 
to pass on without chastising the aggressors would imply 
a want of strength, which must disparage him in the 
eyes of his allies. Halting in the Valley, therefore, he 
detached a small body of light troops to scale the heights, 
while he remained with the main body of the army below, 
to guard against surprise from the enemy. 

The lower region of the rocky eminence was so steep, 
that the soldiers found it no easy matter to ascend, 
scrambling, as well as they could, with hand and knee. 
But, as they came into the more exposed view of the 
garrison, the latter rolled down huge masses of rock, 
which, bounding along the declivity, and breaking into 
fragments, crushed the foremost assailants, and mangled 
their limbs in a frightful manner. Still thev strove to 
work their way upward, now taking advantage of some 
gulley, worn by the winter torrent, now sheltering them- 
selves behind a projecting cliff, or some straggling tree, 
anchored among the crevices of the mountain. It Avas 
all in vain. For no sooner did they emerge again into 
open view, than the rocky avalanche thundered on their 
heads with a fury against which steel helm and cuirass 
were as little defence as gossamer. All the party were 
more or less wounded. Eight of the number were killed 
on the spot, — a loss the little band could ill afford, — 
and the gallant ensign Corral, who led the advance, saw 
the banner in his hand torn into shreds. 2 Cortes, at 
length convinced of the impracticability of the attempt, 
at least without a more severe loss than he was disposed 
to incur, commanded a retreat. It was high time ; for 

a " Todos descalabrados, y com- y oclio mucrtos." Bernal Diaz, ubi 
cndo saiigrc, y las vandcras rotas, supra. 


a large body of the enemy were on full march across the 
valley to attack him. 

He did not wait for their approach, but, gathering 
his broken files together, headed his cavalry, and spurred 
boldly against them. On the level plain, the Spaniards 
were on their own ground. The Indians, unable to sus- 
tain the furious onset, broke, and fell back before it. 
The flight soon became a rout, and the fiery cavaliers, 
dashing over them at full gallop, or running them 
through with their lances, took some revenge for their late 
discomfiture. The pursuit continued for some miles, till 
the nimble foe made their escape into the rugged fast- 
nesses of the sierra, where the Spaniards did not care to 
follow. The weather was sultry, and, as the country was 
nearly destitute of water, the men and horses suffered 
extremely. Before evening they reached a spot over- 
shadowed by a grove of wild mulberry trees, in which some 
scanty springs afforded a miserable supply to the army. 

Near the place rose another rocky summit of the sierra, 
garrisoned by a stronger force than the one which they 
had encountered in the former part of the day ; and at 
no great distance stood a second fortress at a still greater 
height, though considerably smaller than its neighbour. 
This was also tenanted by a body of warriors, who, as 
well as those of the adjoining cliff , soon made active de- 
monstration of their hostility by pouring down missiles on 
the troops below. Cortes, anxious to retrieve the disgrace 
of the morning, ordered an assault on the larger, and, as 
it seemed, more practicable eminence. But, though two 
attempts were made with great resolution, they were 
repulsed with loss to the assailants. The rocky sides 
of the hill had been artificially cut and smoothed, so as 
greatly to increase the natural difficulties of the ascent. 
— The shades of evening now closed around ; and 
Cortes drew off" his men to the mulberry grove, where he 
took up his bivouac for the night, deeply chagrined at 
having been twice foiled by the enemy on the same day. 


During the night, the Indian force, which occupied 
the adjoining height, passed over to their brethren, to 
aid them in the encounter, which they foresaw would be 
renewed on the following morning. No sooner did the 
Spanish general, at the break of day, become aware of 
this manoeuvre, than, with his usual quickness, he took 
advantage of it. He detached a body of musketeers and 
crossbowmen to occupy the deserted eminence, pur- 
posing, as soon as this was done, to lead the assault in 
person against the other. It was not long before the 
Castilian banner was seen streaming from the rocky pin- 
nacle, when the general instantly led up his men to the 
attack. And, while the garrison were meeting them 
resolutely on that quarter, the detachment on the 
neighbouring heights poured into the place a well- 
directed fire, which so much distressed the enemy, that, 
in a very short time, they signified their willingness 
to capitulate. 3 

On entering the place, the Spaniards found that a 
plain of some extent ran along the crest of the sierra, and 
that it was tenanted, not only by men, but by women 
and their families, with their effects. No violence was 
offered by the victors to the property or persons of the 
vanquished, and the knowledge of this lenity induced 
the Indian garrison, who had made so stout a resistance 
on the morning of the preceding day, to tender their 
submission. 4 

After a halt of two days in this sequestered region, 

3 For the assault on the rocks, — "not to meddle with a grain of 
the topography of which it is iin- maizo belonging to the besieged." 
possible to verify from the narratives Diaz, giving this a very liberal in- 
oftlie Conquerors, — see Bernal Diaz, terprctation, proceeded forthwith to 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 144, — load his Indian tannines with every - 
llel. Tore, de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, thing but maize, as fair booty. He 
pp. 218 — 221, — Gomara, Cn'mica, was interrupted in his labours, how- 
cap. 127, — Ixtlilxochitl, Vcnida de ever, by the captain of the dctach- 
los Esp., pp. 10, 17, — Ovicdo, Hist. ment, who gave a more narrow con- 
de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 21. struction to his general's orders, 

4 Cortes, according to Bernal much to the dissatisfaction of the 
Diaz, ordered the troops who took latter, if we may trust the doughty 
possession of the second fortress, chronicler, [bid., ubi supra. 

chap, in.] CAPTURE OF CUERNAVACA. 231 

the army resinned its march in a south-westerly direction 
on Huaxtepec, the same city which had surrendered to 
Sandoval. Here they were kindly received by the ca- 
cique, and entertained in his magnificent gardens, which 
Cortes and his officers, who had not before seen them, 
compared with the best in Castile. 5 Still threading the 
wild mountain mazes, the army passed through Jauhtepec 
and several other places, which were abandoned at their 
approach. As the inhabitants, however, hung in armed 
bodies on their flanks and rear, doing them occasionally 
some mischief, the Spaniards took their revenge by burn- 
ing the deserted towns. 

Thus holding on their fiery track, they descended the 
bold slope of the Cordilleras, which, on the south, are 
far more precipitous than on the Atlantic side. Indeed, 
a single day's journey is sufficient to place the traveller 
on a level several thousand feet lower than that occu- 
pied by him in the morning ; thus conveying him in a 
few hours through the climates of many degrees of lati- 
tude. The route of the army led them across many 
an acre, covered with lava and blackened scoriae, attest- 
ing the volcanic character of the region ; though this was 
frequently relieved by patches of verdure, and even tracts 
of prodigal fertility, as if Nature were desirous to com- 
pensate by these extraordinary efforts for the curse of 
barrenness, which elsewhere had fallen on the land. 
On the ninth day of their march, the troops arrived be- 
fore the strong city of Quauhnahuac, or Cuernavaca, as 
since called by the Spaniards. 6 It was the ancient capital 
of the Tlahuicas, and the most considerable place for 

5 " Adoucle estaua la huerta que tortm - ed into all possible variations 
he dicho, que es la mejor que auia by the old chroniclers. The town 
visto en toda mi vida, y ausi lo torno soon received from the Spaniards the 
a dezir, que Cortes, y el Tesorero name which it now bears, of Cuer- 
Alderete, desque entonccs la vieron, navaca, and by which it is indicated 
y passeiiron algo de ella, se admira- on modern maps. What can Clavi- 
ron, y dixeron, que mejor cosa de gero mean by saying, that it is com- 
huerta no auian visto en Castilla." monly called by his countrymen 
Ibid., loc. cit. Cucinabaca ? Clavigero, Stor. del 

6 This barbarous Indian name is Messico, torn. iii. p. 185, nota. 


wealth and population in this part of the country. It 
was tributary to the Aztecs, and a garrison of this nation 
was quartered within its walls. The town was singu- 
larly situated, on a projecting piece of land, encompassed 
by barrancas, or formidable ravines, except on one side, 
which opened on a rich and well-cultivated country. 
Tor, though the place stood at an elevation of between 
five and six thousand feet above the level of the sea, it 
had a southern exposure so sheltered by the mountain 
barrier on the north, that its climate was as soft and 
genial as that of a much lower region. 

The Spaniards, on arriving before this city, the limit 
of their southerly progress, found themselves separated 
from it by one of the vast barrancas before noticed, which 
resembled one of those frightful rents not unfrequent in 
the Mexican Andes, the result, no doubt, of some ter- 
rible convulsion in earlier ages. The rocky sides of the 
ravine sunk perpendicularly down, and so bare as 
scarcely to exhibit even a vestige of the cactus, or of the 
other hardy plants with which Nature in these fruitful 
regions so gracefully covers up her deformities. The 
bottom of the chasm, however, showed a striking con- 
trast to this, being literally choked up with a rich and 
spontaneous vegetation ; for the huge walls of rock, 
which shut in these barrancas, while they screen them 
from the cold winds of the Cordilleras, reflect the rays of 
a vertical sun, so as to produce an almost suffocating 
heat in the inclosure, stimulating the soil to the rank 
fertility of the tierra calienfe. Under the action of this 
forcing apparatus, — so to speak, — the inhabitants of the 
towns on their margin above may with case obtain the 
vegetable products which are to be found on the sultry 
level of the low-lands. 

At the bottom of the ravine was seen a little stream, 
which, oozing from the stony bowels of the sierra, tum- 
bled along its narrow channel, and contributed, by its 
perpetual moisture, to the exuberant fertility of the 

chap, in.] CAPTURE OF CUERNAVACA. 233 

valley. This rivulet, which at certain seasons of the 
year was swollen to a torrent, was traversed at some 
distance below the town, where the sloping sides of the 
barranca afforded a more practicable passage, by two 
rude bridges, both of which had been broken in antici- 
pation of the coming of the Spaniards. The latter had 
now arrived on the brink of the chasm, which intervened 
between them and the city. It was, as has been re- 
marked, of no great width, and the army drawn up on 
its borders was directly exposed to the archery of the 
garrison, on whom its own fire made little impression, 
protected as they were by their defences. 
•-„ The general, annoyed by his position, sent a detach- 
ment to seek a passage lower down, by which the troops 
might be landed on the other side. But although the 
banks of the ravine became less formidable as they de- 
scended, they found no means of crossing the river, 
till a path unexpectedly presented itself, on which, pro- 
bably, no one before had ever been daring enough to 

Prom the cliffs on the opposite sides of the barranca, 
two huge trees shot up to an enormous height, and, in- 
clining towards each other, interlaced their boughs so as 
to form a sort of natural bridge. Across this avenue, in 
mid air, a Tlascalan conceived it would not be difficult 
to pass to the opposite bank. The bold mountaineer suc- 
ceeded in the attempt, and was soon followed by several 
others of his countrymen, trained to feats of agility and 
strength among their native hills. The Spaniards imi- 
tated their example. It was a perilous effort for an armed 
man to make his way over this aerial causeway, swayed 
to and fro by the wind, where the brain might become 
giddy, and where a single false movement of hand or 
foot would plunge him into the abyss below. Three of 
the soldiers lost their hold and fell. The rest, consisting 
of some twenty or thirty Spaniards, and a considerable 
number of Tlascalans, alighted in safety on the other 


bank. 7 There hastily forming, they marched with all 
speed on the city. The enemy, engaged in their contest 
with the Castilians on the opposite brink of the ravine, 
were taken by surprise, — which, indeed, could scarcely 
have been exceeded if they had seen their foe drop from 
the clouds on the field of battle. 

They made a brave resistance, however, when fortu- 
nately the Spaniards succeeded in repairing one of the 
dilapidated bridges in such a manner as to enable both 
cavalry and foot to cross the river, though with much 
delay. The horse under Olid and Andre de Tapia, in- 
stantly rode up to the succour of their countrymen. 
They were soon followed by Cortes at the head of the re- 
maining battalions ; and the enemy, driven from one 
point to another, were compelled to evacuate the city, 
and to take refuge among the mountains. The buildings 
in one quarter of the town were speedily wrapt in flames. 
The place was abandoned to pillage, and, as it was one of 
the most opulent marts in the country, it amply compen- 
sated the victors for the toil and danger they had encoun- 
tered. The trembling caciques, returning soon after to 
the city, appeared before Cortes, and deprecating his 
resentment by charging the blame, as usual, on the 
Mexicans, threw themselves on his mercy. Satisfied 
with their submission, he allowed no further violence to 
the inhabitants. 8 

Having thus accomplished the great object of his expe- 
dition across the mountains, the Spanish commander 
turned his face northwards, to recross the formidable 

7 The stout-hearted Diaz was one 8 For the preceding account of the 
of those who performed this danger- capture of Cuernavaca, sec Bernal 
ous feat, though his head swam so, Diaz, ubi supra, — Ovicdo, Hist, dc 
as lie tells us, that he scarcely knew las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 21, — Ix- 
how he got on. "Porque dc mi tlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 
digo, queverdadcramete quando pas- 93, — Hen-era, Hist. General, dec. 3, 
saua, q' lo vi mui pcligroso, e malo lib. 1, cap. 8, — Torqucmada, Mon- 
de passar, y sc me desvaneeia la ca- arch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 87, — Rel. 
beca, y todavia passe yo, y ofros Tcrc. dc Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 
vcintc 6 trcinta soldados, y muehos 223, 221. 
Tlascaltecas." ibid., ubi supra. 

chap, in.] CAPTURE OF CUERNAVACA. 235 

barrier which divided him from the Valley. The ascent, 
steep and laborious, was rendered still more difficult by 
fragments of rock and loose stones which encumbered 
the passes. The mountain sides and summits were 
shaggy with thick forests of pine and stunted oak, which 
threw a melancholy gloom over the region, still further 
heightened at the present day by its being a favourite 
haunt of banditti. 

The weather was sultry, and, as the stony soil was 
nearly destitute of water, the troops suffered severely 
from thirst. Several of them, indeed, fainted on the 
road, and a few of the Indian allies perished from ex- 
haustion. 9 The line of march must have taken the army 
across the eastern shoulder of the mountain, called the 
Cruz del Marques, or Cross of the Marquess, from a huge 
stone cross, erected there to indicate the boundary of 
the territories granted by the Crown to Cortes, as Mar- 
quess of the Valley. Much, indeed, of the route lately 
traversed by the troops lay across the princely domain 
subsequently assigned to the Conqueror. 10 

The Spaniards were greeted from these heights with a 
different view from any which they had before had of the 
Mexican Valley, made more attractive in their eyes, 
doubtless, by contrast with the savage scenery in which 
they had lately been involved. It was its most pleasant 
and populous quarter, for nowhere did its cities and vil- 
lages cluster together in such numbers as round the lake 
of sweet water. From whatever quarter seen, however, 
the enchanted region presented the same aspect of natu- 
ral beauty and cultivation, with its flourishing villas, and 

9 " Una Tierra de Pinales, despo- the dukes of Monteleone, descend- 
blada, y sin ninguna agua, la qual y ants and heirs of the Conquistador. 
nn Puerto pasamos con grandissimo — The Spaniards, in their line of 
trabajo, y sin beber : tanto, que mu- march towards the north, did not de- 
chos de los Indios que iban con no- viate far, probably, from the great 
sotros perecieron de sed." Rel. Terc. road which now leads from Mexico 
de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 22i. to Acapulco, still exhibiting in this 

upper portion of it the same charac- 

10 The city of Cuernavaca was teristic features as at the period of 
comprehended in the patrimony of the Conquest. 


its fair lake in the centre, whose dark and polished sur- 
face glistened like a mirror, deep set in the huge frame- 
work of porphyry in which nature had enclosed it. 

The point of attack selected by the general was Xochi- 
milco, or " the field of flowers," as its name implies, 
from the floating gardens which rode at anchor, as it 
were, on the neighbouring waters. 11 It was one of the 
most potent and wealthy cities in the Valley, and a 
stanch vassal of the Aztec crown. It stood, like the 
capital itself, partly in the water, and was approached in 
that quarter by causeways of no great length. The town 
was composed of houses like those of most other places 
of like magnitude in the country, mostly of cottages or 
huts made of clay and the light bamboo, mingled with 
aspiring teocallis, and edifices of stone, belonging to the 
more opulent classes. 

As the Spaniards advanced, they were met by skirmish- 
ing parties of the enemy, who, after dismissing a light 
volley of arrows, rapidly retreated before them. As they 
took the direction of Xochimilco, Cortes inferred that 
they were prepared to resist him in considerable force. 
It exceeded his expectations. 

On traversing the principal causeway, he found it oc- 
cupied, at the further extremity, by a numerous body of 
warriors, who, stationed on the opposite side of a bridge, 
which had been broken, were prepared to dispute his 
passage. They had constructed a temporary barrier of 
palisades, which screened them from the fire of the mus- 
ketry. But the water in its neighbourhood was very 
shallow, and the cavaliers and infantry, plunging into it, 
soon made their way, swimming or wading, as they could, 
in face of a storm of missiles, to the landing near the 
town. Here they closed with the enemy, and, hand to 
hand, after a sharp struggle, drove them back on the 
city ; a few, however, taking the direction of the open 
country, were followed up by the cavalry. The great 

11 Ckvigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. iii. p. 187, nota. 

chap, in.] BATTLES AT XOCHIMILCO. 237 

mass, hotly pursued by the infantry, were driven 
through street and lane without much further resistance. 
Cortes, with a few followers, disengaging himself from 
the tumult, remained near the entrance of the city. He 
had not been there long, when he was assailed by a fresh 
body of Indians, who suddenly poured into the place 
from a neighbouring dike. The general, with his usual 
fearlessness, threw himself into the midst, in hopes to 
check their advance. But his own followers were too 
few to support him, and he was overwhelmed by the 
crowd of combatants. His horse lost his footing and 
fell ; and Cortes, who received a severe blow on the head 
before he could rise, was seized and dragged off in 
triumph by the Indians. At this critical moment, a 
Tlascalan, who perceived the general's extremity, sprang, 
like one of the wild ocelots of his own forests, into the 
midst of the assailants, and endeavoured to tear him from 
their grasp. Two of the general's servants also speedily 
came to the rescue, and Cortes, with their aid and that of 
the brave Tlascalan, succeeded in regaining his feet and 
shaking off his enemies. To vault into the saddle and 
brandish his good lance was but the work of a moment. 
Others of his men quickly came up, and the clash of 
arms reaching the ears of the Spaniards who had gone in 
pursuit, they returned, and, after a desperate conflict, 
forced the enemy from the city. Their retreat, however, 
was intercepted by the cavalry returning from the coun- 
try, and, thus hemmed in between the opposite columns, 
they were cut to pieces, or saved themselves only by 
plunging into the lake. 12 

12 Bel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Loren- server received three severe wounds 

zana, p. 226. — Herrera, Hist. Gene- himself on the occasion. (Hist, de 

ral, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 8.— Oviedo, la Conquista, cap. 145.) This was 

Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. an affair, however, in which Coi'tes 

21. ought to be better informed than any 

This is the general's own account one else, and one, moreover, not 

of the matter. Diaz, however, says, likely to slip his memory. The old 

that he was indebted for his rescue soldier has probably confounded it 

to a Castilian, named Olea, supported with another and similar adventure 

by some Tlascalans, and that his pre- of his commander. 


This was the greatest personal danger which Cortes 
had yet encountered. His life was in the power of the 
barbarians, and, had it not been for their eagerness to 
take him prisoner, lie must undoubtedly have lost it. To 
the same cause may be frequently attributed the preser- 
vation of the Spaniards in these engagements. The next 
day be sought, it is said, for the Tlascalan, who came so 
boldly to his rescue, and, as he could learn nothing of 
him, he gave the credit of his preservation to his patron, 
St. Peter. 13 He may well be excused for presuming the 
interposition of his good Genius, to shield him from the 
awful doom of the captive, — a doom not likely to be 
mitigated in his case. That heart must have been a bold 
one, indeed, which, from any motive, could voluntarily 
encounter such a peril ! Yet his followers did as much, 
and that, too, for a much inferior reward. 

The period which we are reviewing was still the age 
of chivalry; that stirring and adventurous age of which 
we can form little conception in the present day of sober, 
practical reality. The Spaniard, with his nice point of 
honour, high romance, and proud, vainglorious vaunt, 
was the true representative of that age. The Europeans, 
generally, had not yet learned to accommodate them- 
selves to a life of literary toil, or to the drudgery of 
trade, or the patient tillage of the soil. They left these 
to the hooded inmate of the cloister, the humble burgher, 
and the miserable serf. Arms was the only profession 
worthy of gentle blood, — the only career which the high- 
mettled cavalier could tread with honour. The New 
World, with its strange and mysterious perils, afforded a 
noble theatre for the exercise of his calling ; and the 
Spaniard entered on it with all the enthusiasm of a 
paladin of romance. 

Other nations entered on it also, but with different 

13 " Otro Dia bused Cortes al In- vocion dc San Pedro, juzgd que el le 
dio, que le socorrid ; i mucrto, ni avia aiudado." Ilerrcra, Hist. Genc- 
vivo no parccid ; i Cortes, por la dc- ral, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 9. 

chap, in.] BATTLES AT XOCHIMILCO. 239 

motives. The French sent forth their missionaries to 
take up their dwelling among the heathen, who, in the 
good work of winning souls to Paradise, were content to 
wear — nay, sometimes seemed to court — the crown of 
martyrdom. The Dutch, too, had their mission, but it 
was one of worldly lucre, and they found a recompense 
for toil and suffering in their gainful traffic with the 
natives. While our own Puritan fathers, with the true 
Anglo-Saxon spirit, left their pleasant homes across the 
waters, and pitched their tents in the howling wilderness, 
that they might enjoy the sweets of civil and religious 
freedom. But the Spaniard came over to the New 
World in the true spirit of a knight-errant, courting 
adventure however perilous ; wooing danger, as it would 
seem, for its own sake. With sword and lance, he was 
ever ready to do battle for the Faith ; and, as he raised 
his old war-cry of " St. Jago," he fancied himself fighting 
under the banner of the military apostle, and felt his 
single arm a match for more than a hundred infidels ! — 
It was the expiring age of chivalry ; and Spain, romantic 
Spain, was the land where its light lingered longest above 
the horizon. 

It was not yet dusk when Cortes and his followers 
reentered the city; and the general's first act was to 
ascend a neighbouring teocatti and reconnoitre the sur- 
rounding country. He there beheld a sight which might 
have troubled a bolder spirit than his. The surface of 
the salt lake was darkened with canoes, and the cause- 
way, for many a mile, with Indian squadrons, apparently 
on their march towards the Christian camp. In fact, no 
sooner had Guatemozin been apprized of the arrival of 
the white men at Xochimilco, than he mustered his levies 
in great force to relieve the city. They were now on 
their march, and, as the capital was but four leagues 
distant, would arrive soon after nightfall. 14 

14 " Por el Agua a una muy que pasaban cle dos mil ; y en ellas 
grande nota de Canoas, que creo, venian mas de doce mil Hombres dc 


Cortes made active preparations for the defence of his 
quarters. He stationed a corps of pikemen along the 
landing where the Aztecs would be likely to disembark. 
He doubled the sentinels, and, with his principal officers, 
made the rounds repeatedly in the course of the night. 
In addition to other causes for watchfulness, the bolts of 
the crossbowmen were nearly exhausted, and the archers 
were busily employed in preparing and adjusting shafts 
to the copper heads, of which great store had been pro- 
vided for the army. There was little sleep in the camp 
that night. 15 

It passed away, however, without molestation from the 
enemy. Though not stormy, it was exceedingly dark. 
But, although the Spaniards on duty could see nothing, 
they distinctly heard the sound of many oars in the 
water, at no great distance from the shore. Yet those 
on board the canoes made no attempt to land, distrust- 
ing, or advised, it may be, of the preparations made for 
their reception. With early dawn, they were under 
arms, and, without waiting for the movement of the 
Spaniards, poured into the city and attacked them in 
their own quarters. 

The Spaniards, who were gathered in the area round 
one of the teocallis, were taken at disadvantage in the 
town, where the narrow lanes and streets, many of them 
covered with a smooth and slippery cement, offered 
obvious impediments to the manoeuvres of cavalry. But 
Cortes hastily formed his musketeers and crossbowmen, 
and poured such a lively, well-directed fire into the 
enemy's ranks, as threw him into disorder, and compelled 
him to recoil. The infantry, with their long pikes, 

Gucrra ; e por la Ticrra llcgo 1 anta barcar, y los de acauallo mui a punto 

multifold de Gente, que todos los toda la noclie cnsillados y enfrena- 

Campos cubrian." Rel. Tcrc. de dos, aguardando en la oalcada, y 

Cortes, ap. Lorcnzana, p. 227. tierra lirme, y todos los Capitancs, 

15 " Y acordose que liuviesse mui y Cortes con cllos, hazicndo vela 

buena vela en todo nucstro Real, y ronda toda la noclie." Bcrnal 

repartida a los puertos, e azequias Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

por dondc auian de vcnir a dcscra- 145. 

chap, in.] BATTLES AT XOCHIMILCO. 241 

followed up the blow ; and the horse, charging at full 
speed, as the retreating Aztecs emerged from the city, 
drove them several miles along the main land. 

At some distance, however, they were met by a strong 
reinforcement of their countrymen, and rallying, the tide 
of battle turned, and the cavaliers, swept along by it, 
gave the rein to their steeds, and rode back at full gallop 
towards the town. They had not proceeded very far, 
when they came upon the main body of the army, 
advancing rapidly to their support. Thus strengthened, 
they once more returned to the charge, and the rival 
hosts met together in full career, with the shock of an 
earthquake. For a time, victory seemed to hang in the 
balance, as the mighty press reeled to and fro under the 
opposite impulse, and a confused shout rose up towards 
heaven, in which the war-whoop of the savage was 
mingled with the battle-cry of the Christian, — a still 
stranger sound on these sequestered shores. But, in 
the end, Castilian valour, or rather Castilian arms and 
discipline, proved triumphant. The enemy faltered, 
gave way, and, recoiling step by step, the retreat soon 
terminated in a rout, and the Spaniards, following up 
the flying foe, drove them from the field with such 
dreadful slaughter, that they made no further attempt to 
renew the battle. 

The victors were now undisputed masters of the city. 
It was a wealthy place, well stored with Indian fabrics, 
cotton, gold, feather-work, and other articles of luxury 
and use, affording a rich booty to the soldiers. While 
engaged in the work of plunder, a party of the enemy, 
landing from their canoes, fell on some of the stragglers 
laden with merchandise, and made four of them pri- 
soners. It created a greater sensation among the troops 
than if ten times that number had fallen on the field. 
Indeed, it was rare that a Spaniard allowed himself to be 
taken alive. In the present instance, the unfortunate 
men were taken by surprise. They were hurried to the 

vol. ii. n 


capital, and soon after sacrificed ; when their arms and 
legs were cut off, by the command of the ferocious young 
chief of the Aztecs, and sent round to the different cities, 
with the assurance that this should be the fate of the 
enemies of Mexico ! 16 

From the prisoners taken in the late engagement, 
Cortes learned that the forces already sent by Guate- 
mozin formed but a small part of his levies; that his 
policy was to send detachment after detachment, until 
the Spaniards, however victorious they might come off 
from the contest with each individually, would, in the 
end, succumb from mere exhaustion, and thus be van- 
quished, as it were, by their own victories. 

The soldiers having now sacked the city, Cortes did 
not care to await further assaults from the enemy in his 
present quarters. On the fourth morning after his 
arrival, he mustered his forces on a neighbouring plain. 
They came many of them reeling under the weight of 
their plunder. The general saw this with uneasiness. 
They were to march, he said, through a populous coun- 
try, all in arms to dispute their passage. To secure their 
safety, they should move as light and unencumbered as 
possible. The sight of so much spoil would sharpen the 
appetite of their enemies, and draw them on, like a flock 
of famished eagles after their prey. But his eloquence 
was lost on his men ; who plainly told him they had a 
right to the fruit of their victories, and that what they 
had won with their swords, they knew well enough how 
to defend with them. 

Seeing them thus bent on their purpose, the general 

16 Diaz, who had an easy faith, ninguno de nosotros a vida, y con 
states, as a fact, that the limbs of los coracones y sangre hizo sacriiicio 
the unfortunate men were cut off a sus idolos." (Hist, de la Con- 
before their sacrifice. "Manda cor- quista, cap. 145.) — This is not very- 
tar pies y bracos a los tristes nues- probable. The Aztecs did not, like 
tros compaiieros, y las cmbia por our North American Indians, torture 
muchos pueblos nuestros amigos de their enemies from mere cruelty, but 
los que nos auian venido de paz, y les in conformity to the prescribed regu- 
embzia a dezir, que antes que bolva- lations of their ritual. The captive 
mos a Tezcuco, piensa no qucdara was a religious victim. 

chap, in.] BATTLES AT XOCHIMILCO. 243 

did not care to balk their inclinations. He ordered the 
baggage to the centre, and placed a few of the cavalry 
over it ; dividing the remainder between the front and 
rear, in which latter post, as that most exposed to attack, 
he also stationed his arqnebusiers and crossbowmen. 
Thus prepared, he resumed his march ; but first set fire 
to the combustible buildings of Xochimilco, in retaliation 
for the resistance he had met there. 17 The light of the 
burning city streamed high into the air, sending its 
ominous glare far and wide across the waters, and telling 
the inhabitants on their margin, that the fatal strangers 
so long predicted by their oracles had descended like a 
consuming flame upon their borders. 18 

Small bodies of the enemy were seen occasionally at a 
distance, but they did not venture to attack the army on 
its march, which before noon brought them to Cojo- 
huacan, a large town about two leagues distant from 
Xochimilco. One could scarcely travel that distance in 
this populous quarter of the Valley without meeting with 
a place of considerable size, oftentimes the capital of 
what had formerly been an independent state. The 
inhabitants, members of different tribes, and speaking- 
dialects somewhat different, belonged to the same great 
family of nations who had come from the real or imaginary 

17 "Y al cabo dejandola toda deed, prevails in the different reports 
quemada y asolada nos partimos ; y of them, even those proceeding from 
cierto era mucho para ver, porque contemporaries, making it extremely 
tenia muchas Casas, y Torres de sus difficult to collect a probable narra- 
Idolos de cal y canto." Rel. Terc. tive from authorities, not only con- 
de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 228. tradicting one another, but them- 

18 Eor other particulars of the selves. It is rare, at any time, that 
actions at Xochimilco, see Oviedo, two accounts of a battle coincide in 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 23, cap. all respects ; the range of observa- 
21, — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, tion for each individual is necessarily 
lib. 1, cap. 8, 11, — Ixtlilxochitl, so limited and different, and it is so 
Venida de los Esp., p. 18, — Torque- difficult to make a cool observation 
mada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 87, at all in the hurry and heat of con- 
88, — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- flict. Any one who has conversed 
quista, cap. 145. with the survivors will readily com- 

The Conqueror's own account of prehend this, and be apt to conclude, 
these engagements has not his usual that, wherever he may look for truth, 
perspicuity, perhaps from its brevity. it will hardly be on the battle- 
A more than ordinary confusion, in- ground. , 

r 2 


region of Aztlan, in the far North-west. Gathered round 
the shores of their Alpine sea, these petty communities 
continued, after their incorporation with the Aztec 
monarchy, to maintain a spirit of rivalry in their inter- 
course with one another, jwhich — as with the cities on 
the Mediterranean, in the feudal ages — quickened their 
mental energies, and raised the Mexican Valley higher 
in the scale of civilization than most other quarters of 

The town at which the army had now arrived was 
deserted by its inhabitants ; and Cortes halted two days 
there to restore his troops, and give the needful attention 
to the wounded. 19 He made use of the time to recon- 
noitre the neighbouring ground, and taking with him a 
strong detachment, descended on the causeway which led 
from Cojohuacan to the great avenue of Iztapalapan. 20 
At the point of intersection, called Xoloc, he found a 
strong barrier or fortification, behind which a Mexican 
force was intrenched. Their archery did some mischief 
to the Spaniards, as they came within bow-shot. But 
the latter, marching intrepidly forward in face of the 
arrowy shower, stormed the works, and, after an obsti- 
nate struggle, drove the enemy from their position. 21 

19 This place, recommended by the given of the Valley. A short arm, 
exceeding beauty of its situation, which reached from this city in the 
became, after the Conquest, a fa- days of the Aztecs, touched obliquely 
vourite residence of Cortes, who the great southern avenue, by which 
founded a nunnery in it, and com- the Spaniards first entered the capi- 
manded in his will, that his bones tal. As the waters which once 
should be removed thither from any entirely surrounded Mexico, have 
part of the world in which he might shrunk into their narrow basin, the 
die. " Que mis huesos — los lleven face of the country has undergone a 
a la mi Villa de Coyoacan, y alii les great change, and, though the foun- 
den tierra en el Monesterio de Mon- dations of the principal causeways 
jas, que mando hacer y edificar en la are still maintained, it is not always 
dicha mi Villa." Testamento de Her- easy to discern vestiges of the ancient 
nan Cortes, MS. avenues. 

20 Ihis, says Archbishop Loren- 21 "Y llegamos a una Albarrada, 
zana, was the modern calzada de la que tenian hecha en la Calzada, y 
Piedad. (Rel. Terc. de Cortes, p. los Peones comenzaronla acombatir; 
229, nota.) But it is not easy to y aunque fue muy recia, y hubo mu- 
reconcile this with the elaborate cha resisteucia, y hirieron diez Espa- 
chart which M. de Humboldt has iloles, al fin se la ganaron, y mataron 

chap, in.] HE ENTERS TACUBA. 245 

Cortes then advanced some way on the great causeway 
of Iztapalapan ; but he beheld the further extremity 
darkened by a numerous array of warriors, and as he 
did not care to engage in unnecessary hostilities, espe- 
cially as his ammunition was nearly exhausted, he fell 
back and retreated to his own quarters. 

The following day, the army continued its march, 
taking the road to Tacuba, but a few miles distant. On 
the way it experienced much annoyance from straggling 
parties of the enemy, who, furious at the sight of the 
booty which the invaders were bearing away, made re- 
peated attacks on their flanks and rear. Cortes retaliated, 
as on the former expedition, by one of their own strata- 
gems, but with less success than before ; for, pursuing 
the retreating enemy too hotly, he fell with his cavalry 
into an ambuscade, which they had prepared for him in 
their turn. He was not yet a match for their wily tactics. 
The Spanish cavaliers were enveloped in a moment by 
their subtle foe, and separated from the rest of the army. 
But, spurring on their good steeds, and charging in a 
solid column together, they succeeded in breaking 
through the Indian array, and in making their escape, 
except two individuals, who fell into the enemy's hands. 
They were the general's own servants, who had followed 
him faithfully through the whole campaign, and he was 
deeply affected by their loss ; rendered the more dis- 
tressing by the consideration of the dismal fate that 
awaited them. When the little band rejoined the army, 
which had halted in some anxiety at their absence, under 
the walls of Tacuba, the soldiers were astonished at the 
dejected mien of their commander, which too visibly 
betrayed his emotion. 22 

The sun was still high in the heavens, when they 
entered the ancient capital of the Tepanecs. The first 

muchos de los Enemigos, aunqueBal- tes, con el qual nos allegramos, pu- 

lesteros, y Escopeteros quedaron sin esto que el venia muy triste y como 

Pol vora,y sin Saetas." Ibid. ,ubi supra, lloroso." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 

22 " Y estando en esto viene Cor- Conauista, cap. 145. 


care of Cortes was to ascend tlie principal teocatti, and 
survey the surrounding country. It was an admirable 
point of view, commanding the capital, which lay but 
little more than a league distant, and its immediate 
environs. Cortes was ; accompanied by Alderete, the 
treasurer, and some other cavaliers, who had lately 
joined his banner. The spectacle was still new to 
them ; and, as they gazed on the stately city, with its 
broad lake covered with boats and barges hurrying to 
and fro, some laden with merchandise, or fruits and 
vegetables, for the markets of Tenochtitlan, others crowded 
with warriors, they could not withhold their admiration 
at the life and activity of the scene, declaring that nothing 
but the hand of Providence could have led their country- 
men safe through the heart of this powerful empire. 23 

In the midst of the admiring circle, the brow of Cortes 
alone was observed to be overcast, and a sigh, which now 
and then stole audibly from his bosom, showed the 
gloomy working of his thoughts. 24 " Take comfort," 
said one of the cavaliers, approaching his commander, 
and wishing to console him in his rough way for his 
recent loss, " you must not lay these things so much to 
heart ; it is, after all, but the fortune of war." The 
general's answer showed the nature of his meditations. 
" You are my witness," said he, " how often I have 
endeavoured to persuade yonder capital peacefully to 
submit. It fills me with grief, when I think of the toil 
and the dangers my brave followers have yet to encounter 
before we can call it ours. But the time is come when 
we must put our hands to the work." 25 

_ » « p U es quan do vieron la gran eran cosas de hombres humanas, sino 

ciudad de Mexfco, y la laguna, y que la gran misericordia de Dios quie 

tanta multitud de canoas, que viias nos sostenia." Ibid., ubi supra, 

ivan cargadas con bastimentos, y M " En este instante, suspiro Cor- 

otras ivan a pescar, y otras valdias, tes co vna muy gra tristeza, mui 

muclio mas cspantaron, porque no mayor q' la q' de antes traia." Ibid., 

las auian visto, hasta en aquella loc. cit. 

facon ; y dixeron, que nuestra ve- 2S " Y Cortes le dixo, que ya veia 

nida en esta Nueva Espana, que no quantasvezes auia embiado a Mexico 

chap, in.] HE ENTERS TACUBA. 247 

There can be no doubt, that Cortes, with every other 
man in his army, felt he was engaged in a holy crusade, 
and that, independently of personal considerations, he 
could not serve Heaven better than by planting the 
Cross on the blood-stained towers of the heathen metro- 
polis. But it was natural that he should feel some com- 
punction, as he gazed on the goodly scene, and thought 
of the coming tempest, and how soon the opening blos- 
soms of civilization which there met his eye must wither 
under the rude breath of War. It was a striking spec- 
tacle, that of the great Conqueror, thus brooding in 
silence over the desolation he was about to bring on the 
land ! It seems to have made a deep impression on his 
soldiers, little accustomed to such proofs of his sensi- 
bility ; and it forms the burden of some of those 
romances, or national ballads, with which the Castilian 
minstrel, in the olden time, delighted to commemorate 
the favourite heroes of his country, and which, coming 
mid-way between oral tradition and chronicle, have been 
found as imperishable a record as chronicle itself. 26 

Tacuba was the point which Cortes had reached on 
his former expedition round the northern side of the 
Valley. He had now, therefore, made the entire circuit 
of the great lake; had reconnoitred the several ap- 
proaches to the capital, and inspected with his own 
eyes the dispositions made on the opposite quarters for 
its defence. He had no occasion to prolong his stay in 

a rogalles con la paz, y que la tris- triste, y con gran cuidado, 

teza no la tenia por solo vna cosa, la vna mano en la mexilla, 

sino en pensar en los grandes traba- y la otra en el costado," &c. 

jos en que nos auiamos de ver, hasta Jt be thus done Mq tt 

tornarasenorear;yqueconlaayuda literal do J erel . 

de JJios presto lo pormamos por la a& 

obra." Ibid., ubi supra. In Tacuba stood Cortes, 

26 Diaz gives tbe opening redon- With many a care opprest, 

dillas of the romance, which I have Thoughts of the past came o'er him, 

not been able to find in any of the And he bowed his haughty crest, 

printed collections. One hand upon his cheek he laid, 

" En Tacuba esta Cortes, The other on his breast, 

c5 su esquadron esforcado, While his valiant squadrons round 

triste estaua, y muy penoso, him, &c. 


Tacuba, the vicinity of which to Mexico must soon bring 
on him its whole warlike population. 

Early on the following morning, he resumed his march, 
taking the route pursued in the former expedition, north 
of the small lakes. He met with less annoyance from 
the enemy than on the preceding days ; a circumstance 
owing in some degree, perhaps, to the state of the 
weather, which was exceedingly tempestuous. The 
soldiers, with their garments heavy with moisture, 
ploughed their way with difficulty through miry roads 
flooded by the torrents. On one occasion, as their 
military chronicler informs us, the officers neglected to 
go the rounds of the camp at night, and the sentinels 
to mount guard, trusting to the violence of the storm 
for their protection. Yet the fate of Narvaez might 
have taught them not to put their faith in the elements. 

At Acolman, in the Acolhuan territory, they were 
met by Sandoval, with the friendly cacique of Tezcuco, 
and several cavaliers, among whom were some recently 
arrived from the islands. They cordially greeted their 
countrymen, and communicated the tidings that the 
canal was completed, and that the brigantines, rigged 
and equipped, were ready to be launched on the bosom 
of the lake. There seemed to be no reason, therefore, 
for longer postponing operations against Mexico. — With 
this welcome intelligence, Cortes and his victorious 
legions made their entry for the last time into the 
Acolhuan capital, having consumed just three weeks in 
completing the circuit of the Valley. 

CHAP. IV.] 249 


Conspiracy in the Army. — Brigantines launched. — Muster of Forces. — • 
Execution of Xicotencatl. — March of the Army. — Beginning of the 


At the very time when Cortes was occupied with 
reconnoitring the Valley, preparatory to his siege of 
the capital, a busy faction in Castile was labouring to 
subvert his authority and defeat his plans of conquest 
altogether. The fame of his brilliant exploits had spread 
not only through the isles, but to Spain and many parts 
of Europe, where a general admiration was felt for the 
invincible energy of the man, who, with his single arm 
as it were, could so long maintain a contest with the 
powerful Indian empire. The absence of the Spanish 
monarch from his dominions, and the troubles of the 
country, can alone explain the supine indifference shown 
by the government to the prosecution of this great 
enterprise. To the same causes it may be ascribed, that 
no action was had in regard to the suits of Velasquez 
and Narvaez, backed as they were by so potent an 
advocate as Bishop Fonseca, president of the council of 
the Indies. The reins of government had fallen into the 
hands of Adrian of Utrecht, Charles's preceptor, and 
afterwards Pope, — a man of learning, and not without 
sagacity, but slow and timid in his policy, and altogether 
incapable of that decisive action which suited the bold 
genius of his predecessor, Cardinal Ximenes. 


In the spring of 1521, however, a number of ordi- 
nances passed the Council of the Indies, which threatened 
an important innovation in the affairs of New Spain. 
It was decreed, that the Royal Audience of Hispaniola 
should abandon the proceedings already instituted against 
Narvaez, for his treatment of the commissioner Ayllon ; 
that that unfortunate commander should be released from 
his confinement at Vera Cruz ; and that an arbitrator 
should be sent to Mexico, with authority to investigate 
the affairs and conduct of Cortes, and to render ample 
justice to the governor of Cuba. There were not want- 
ing persons at court, who looked with dissatisfaction on 
these proceedings, as an unworthy requital of the services 
of Cortes, and who thought the present moment, at any 
rate, not the most suitable for taking measures which 
might discourage the general, and, perhaps, render him 
desperate. But the arrogant temper of the Bishop of 
Burgos overruled all objections ; and the ordinances 
having been approved by the Regency, were signed by 
that body, April 11, 1521. A person named Tapia, 
one of the functionaries of the Audience at St. Domingo, 
was selected as the new commissioner to be despatched 
to Vera Cruz. Fortunately circumstances occurred which 
postponed the execution of the design for the present, 
and permitted Cortes to go forward unmolested in his 
career of conquest. 1 

But, while thus allowed to remain, for the present 
at least, in possession of authority, he was assailed by 
a danger nearer home, which menaced not only his 
authority, but his life. This was a conspiracy in the 
army, of a more dark and dangerous character than any 
hitherto formed there. It was set on foot by a common 
soldier, named Antonio Villafaiia, a native of Old Castile, 
of whom nothing is known but his share in this trans- 
action. He was one of the troop of Narvaez, — that 

1 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, de Vcrzara, Escrivano Publico de 
lib. 1, cap. 15. — Relacion de Alouso Vera Cruz, MS., dec. 21. 

chap, iv.] CONSPIRACY IN THE ARMY. 251 

leaven of dissaffectkm, which had remained with the 
army, swelling with discontent on every light occasion, 
and ready at all times to rise into mutiny. They had 
voluntarily continued in the service after the secession of 
their comrades at Tlascala ; but it was from the same 
mercenary hopes with which they had originally embarked 
in the expedition, — and in these they were destined 
still to be disappointed. They had little of the true 
spirit of adventure, which distinguished the old com- 
panions of Cortes ; and they found the barren laurels 
of victory but a sorry recompense for all their toils and 

With these men were joined others, who had causes 
of personal disgust with the general ; and others, again, 
who looked with disgust on the result of the war. The 
gloomy fate of their countrymen, who had fallen into the 
enemy's hands, filled them with dismay. They felt 
themselves the victims of a chimerical spirit in their 
leader, who, with such inadequate means, was urging to 
extremity so ferocious and formidable a foe; and they 
shrunk with something like apprehension from thus 
pursuing the enemy into his own haunts, where he 
would gather tenfold energy from despair. 

These men would have willingly abandoned the enter- 
prise, and returned to Cuba; but how could they do it? 
Cortes had control over the whole route from the city 
to the sea-coast ; and not a vessel could leave its ports 
without his warrant. Even if he were put out of the 
way, there were others, his principal officers, ready to 
step into his place, and avenge the death of their com- 
mander. It was necessary to embrace these, also, in the 
scheme of destruction ; and it was proposed, therefore, 
together with Cortes, to assassinate Sandoval, Olid, Alva- 
rado, and two or three others most devoted to his 
interests. The conspirators would then raise the cry of 
liberty, and doubted not that they should be joined by 
the greater part of the army, or enough, at least, to 


enable them to work their own pleasure. They proposed 
to offer the command, on Cortes' death, to Francisco 
Verdugo, a brother-in-law of Velasquez. He was an 
honourable cavalier, and not privy to their design. But 
they had little doubt that he would acquiesce in the 
command, thus, in a manner, forced upon him, and this 
would secure them the protection of the governor of 
Cuba, who, indeed, from his own hatred of Cortes, 
would be disposed to look with a lenient eye on their 

The conspirators even went so far as to appoint the 
subordinate officers, an alguacil mayor, in place of San- 
doval, a quarter-master-general to succeed Olid, and 
some others. 2 The time fixed for the execution of the 
plot was soon after the return of Cortes from his expe- 
dition. A parcel, pretended to have come by a fresh 
arrival from Castile, was to be presented to him while 
at table, and, when he was engaged in breaking open 
the letters, the conspirators were to fall on him and his 
officers, and despatch them with their poniards. Such 
was the iniquitous scheme devised for the destruction of 
Cortes and the expedition. But a conspiracy, to be 
successful, especially when numbers are concerned, should 
allow but little time to elapse between its conception and 
its execution. 

On the day previous to that appointed for the per- 
petration of the deed, one of the party, feeling a natural 
compunction at the commission of the crime, went to 
the general's quarters, and solicited a private interview 
with him. He threw himself at his commander's feet, 
and revealed all the particulars relating to the con- 
spiracy, adding, that in Villafana's possession a paper 
would be found, containing the names of his accom- 
plices. Cortes, thunderstruck at the disclosure, lost not 

2 " Ilazia Alguazil mayor c Al- partido eutre ellos nuestros bienes, 

ferez, y Alcaldes, y llegidores, y y cauallos." Bcrual Diaz, Hist, de 

Contador, y Tesorcro, y Ucedor, y la Conquista, cap. 146. 
otras cosas deste arte, y aun re- 

chap, iv.] CONSPIRACY IN THE ARMY. 253 

a moment in profiting by it. He sent for Alvarado, 
Sandoval, and one or two other officers marked out by 
the conspirator, and, after communicating the affair to 
them, went at once with them to Villafana's quarters, 
attended by four alguacils. 

They found him in conference with three or four 
friends, who were instantly taken from the apartment, 
and placed in custody. Villafana, confounded at this 
sudden apparition of his commander, had barely time to 
snatch a paper, containing the signatures of the con- 
federates, from his bosom, and attempt to swallow it. 
But Cortes arrested his arm, and seized the paper. As 
he glanced his eye rapidly over the fatal list, he was 
much moved at finding there the names of more than 
one who had some claim to consideration in the army. 
He tore the scroll in pieces, and ordered Villafana to be 
taken into custody. He was immediately tried by a 
military court hastily got together, at which the general 
himself presided. There seems to have been no doubt of 
the man's guilt. He was condemned to death, and, 
after allowing him time for confession and absolution, 
the sentence was executed by hanging him from the 
window of his own quarters. 3 

Those ignorant of the affair were astonished at the 
spectacle; and the remaining conspirators were filled 
with consternation, when they saw that their plot was 
detected, and anticipated a similar fate for themselves. 
But they were mistaken. Cortes pursued the matter no 
further. A little reflection convinced him, that to do so 
would involve him in the most disagreeable, and even 
dangerous, perplexities. And, however much the parties 
implicated in so foul a deed might deserve death, he 
could ill afford the loss even of the guilty, with his 
present limited numbers. He resolved, therefore, to con- 
tent himself with the punishment of the ringleader. 

3 Bernal Diaz, loc. cit. — Oviedo, 48. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, 
Hist, de las Ind , MS., lib. 33, cap. lib. 1, cap. 1. 


He called his troops together, and briefly explained to 
them the nature of the crime for which Villafana had 
suffered. He had made no confession, he said, and the 
guilty secret had perished with him. He then expressed 
his sorrow, that any should have been found in their 
ranks capable of so base an act, and stated his own 
unconsciousness of having wronged any individual among 
them ; but, if he had done so, he invited them frankly to 
declare it, as he was most anxious to afford them all the 
redress in his power. 4 — But there was no one of his 
audience, whatever might be his grievances, who cared 
to enter his complaint at such a moment ; least of all 
were the conspirators willing to do so, for they were too 
happy at having, as they fancied, escaped detection, to 
stand forward now in the ranks of the malecontents. The 
affair passed off, therefore, without further consequences. 

The conduct of Cortes, in this delicate conjuncture, 
shows great coolness and knowledge of human nature. 
Had he suffered his detection, or even his suspicion, of 
the guilty parties to take air, it would have placed him in 
hostile relations with them for the rest of his life. It 
was a disclosure of this kind, in the early part of Louis 
the Eleventh's reign, to which many of the troubles of 
his later years were attributed. 5 The mask once torn 
away, there is no longer occasion to consult even appear- 
ances. The door seems to be closed against reform. The 
alienation, which might have been changed by circum- 
stances, or conciliated by kindness, settles into a deep 
and deadly rancour • and Cortes would have been sur- 
rounded by enemies in his own camp, more implacable 
than those in the camp of the Aztecs. 

As it was, the guilty soldiers had suffered too serious 

4 Ibid, ubi supra. fait cclater leur mauvais vouloir, cm 

6 So says M. de Barantc in his clu rnoins leur peu de fidelite pour le 

picturesque rifacimento of the ancient roi ; ils ne pouvaient done douter 

chronicles. "Lcsprocesdu conne- qu'il desirat ou complotat leur ruinc." 

table et de monsieur de Nemours, Histoire des Dues de Bourgogne, 

bien d'autrcs revelations, avaicnt (Paris 1838,) torn. xi. p. 169. 

chap, iv.] CONSPIRACY IN THE ARMY. 255 

apprehensions to place their lives hastily in a similar 
jeopardy. They strove, on the contrary, by demonstra- 
tions of loyalty, and the assiduous discharge of their 
duties, to turn away suspicion from themselves. Cortes, 
on his part, was careful to preserve his natural demea- 
nour, equally removed from distrust, and — what was 
perhaps more difficult — that studied courtesy which inti- 
mates, quite as plainly, suspicion of the party who is the 
object of it. To do this required no little address. Yet 
he did not forget the past. He had, it is true, destroyed 
the scroll containing the list of the conspirators ; but the 
man that has once learned the names of those who have 
conspired against his life, has no need of a w T ritten record 
to keep them fresh in his memory. Cortes kept his eye 
on all their movements, and took care to place them in 
no situation, afterwards, where they could do him injury. 6 

This attempt on the life of their commander excited 
a strong sensation in the army, with whom his many 
dazzling qualities and brilliant military talents had made 
him a general favourite. They were anxious to testify 
their reprobation of so foul a deed coming from their own 
body, and they felt the necessity of taking some effectual 
measures for watching over the safety of one, with whom 
their own destinies, as well as the fate of the enterprise, 
were so intimately connected. It was arranged, there- 
fore, that he should be provided with a guard of soldiers, 
who were placed under the direction of a trusty cavalier 
named Antonio de Quinones. They constituted the 
general's body-guard during the rest of the campaign, 
watching over him day and night, and protecting him 
from domestic treason, no less than from the sword of 
the enemy. 

As was stated at the close of the last Chapter, the 
Spaniards, on their return to quarters, found the 

6 " Y desde alii adelante, aunque siempre se rezelaua dellos." Bernal 
mostraua gran voluntad a las per- Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 
sonas que eran en la cojuracid, 146. 


construction of the brigantines completed, and that they 
were fully rigged, equipped, and ready for service. The 
canal, also, after having occupied eight thousand men for 
nearly two months, was finished. 

It was a work of great labour; for it extended half 
a league in length, was twelve feet wide, and as many 
deep. The sides were strengthened by palisades of 
wood, or solid masonry. At intervals dams and locks 
were constructed, and part of the opening was through 
the hard rock. By this avenue the brigantines might 
now be safely introduced on the lake. 7 

Cortes was resolved that so auspicious an event should 
be celebrated with due solemnity. On the 28th of April, 
the troops were drawn up under arms, and the whole 
population of Tezcuco assembled to witness the cere- 
mony. Mass was performed, and every man in the 
army, together with the general, confessed and received 
the sacrament. Prayers were offered up by father 
Ohnedo, and a benediction invoked on the little navy, 
the first worthy of the name ever launched on American 
waters. 8 The signal was given by the firing of a cannon, 
when the vessels, dropping down the canal one after ano- 
ther, reached the lake in good order; and as they 
emerged on its ample bosom, with music sounding, and 
the royal ensign of Castile proudly floating from their 
masts, a shout of admiration arose from the countless 
multitudes of spectators, which mingled with the roar of 
artillery and musketry from the vessels and the shore ! 9 

7 Ixtblxochitl, Venida de los Esp., 8 The brigantines were still to be 

p. 19. — llel. Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. seen, preserved as precious memorials 

Lorenzana, p. 234. long after the Conquest, in the dock- 

" Obra grantlissima," exclaims the yards of Mexico. Toribio, Hist, de 

Conqueror, "y muclio para ver." — ■ los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 1. 
"Fueron en guarde de estos bergan- ° "Deda la serial, soltd la Presa, 

tines," adds Camargo, " mas de diez fueron saliendo los Vcrgantines, sin 

mil hombres de gucrra con los macs- tocar vno a otro, i apartandose por 

tros dcllas, liasta que los armaron y la Laguna, desplegaron las Vanderas, 

ccharon en el agua y laguna de toed la Musica, dispaniron su Artil- 

Mejico, que fue obra de muclio cfecto lcria, respondid la del Exercito, asi 

para tomarsc Mejico." Hist, de de Castellanos, como de Indios." 

Tlascala, MS. Herrera, Hist. Gen., dec. 3, lib. 1, c. 6. 

chap, iv.] MUSTER OF FORCES. 257 

It was a novel spectacle to the simple natives ; and they 
gazed with wonder on the gallant ships, which, fluttering 
like sea-birds on their snowy pinions, bounded lightly 
over the waters, as if rejoicing in their element. It 
touched the stern hearts of the Conquerors with a glow 
of rapture, and, as they felt that Heaven had blessed 
their undertaking, they broke forth, by general accord, 
into the noble anthem of the Te Deum. But there was 
no one of that vast multitude for whom the sight had 
deeper interest than their commander. For he looked 
on it as the work, in a manner, of his own hands ; and 
his bosom swelled with exultation, as he felt he was now 
possessed of a power strong enough to command the 
lake, and to shake the haughty towers of Tenoch- 
titlan. 10 

The general's next step was to muster his forces in the 
great square of the capital. He found they amounted to 
eighty-seven horse, and eight hundred and eighteen foot, 
of which one hundred and eighteen were arquebusiers and 
crossbowmen. He had three large field-pieces of iron, and 
fifteen lighter guns or falconets of brass. 11 The heavier 
cannon had been transported from Vera Cruz to Tezcuco, 
a little while before, by the faithful Tlascalans. He was 
well supplied with shot and balls, with about ten hun- 
dredweight of powder, and fifty thousand copper-headed 
arrows, made after a pattern furnished by him to the 
natives. 12 The number and appointments of the army 

10 Ibid, ubi supra. — Rel. Terc. de quiero detener, ni las teugo en tanto 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 234. — como esta tranchea, 6 canja que es 

Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de los Esp., dicho, y los Vergantiues de que tra- 

p. 19. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., tamos, los quales dieron ocasion a 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 48. que se ovieseu mayores Thesoros e 

The last-mentioned chronicler in- Provincias, e Reynos, que no tuvo 

dulges in no slight swell of exultation Sesori, para la corona Real de Cas- 

at this achievement of his hero, which tilla por la industria de Hernando 

in his opinion throws into shade the Cortes." Ibid., lib. 33, cap. 22. 
boasted exploits of the great Sesos- n Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 

tris. " Otras muchas e notables zana, p. 234. 

cosas, cuenta este actor que he dicho B Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 

de aqueste Rey Sesori, en que no me quista, cap. 147. 



much exceeded what they had been at any time since the 
flight from Mexico, and showed the good effects of the 
late arrivals from the Islands. Indeed, taking the fleet 
into the account, Cortes had never before been in so good 
a condition for carrying on his operations. Three hun- 
dred of the men were sent to man the vessels, thirteen, 
or rather twelve, in number, one of the smallest having 
been found, on trial, too dull a sailer to be of service. 
Half of the crews were required to navigate the ships. 
There was some difficulty in finding hands for this, as 
the men were averse to the employment. Cortes selected 
those who came from Palos, Moguer, and other maritime 
towns, and notwithstanding their frequent claims of 
exemption, as hidalgos, from this menial occupation, he 
pressed them into the service. 13 Each vessel mounted 
a piece of heavy ordnance, and was placed under an 
officer of respectability, to whom Cortes gave a general 
code of instructions for the government of the little 
navy, of which he proposed to take the command in 

He had already sent to his Indian confederates, an- 
nouncing his purpose of immediately laying siege, to 
Mexico, and called on them to furnish their promised 
levies within the space of ten days at furthest. The 
Tlascalans he ordered to join him at Tezcuco ; the others 
were to assemble at Chalco, a more convenient place of 
rendezvous for the operations in the southern quarter of 
the Valley. The Tlascalans arrived within the time pre- 
scribed, led by the younger Xicotencatl, supported by 
Chichemecatl, the same doughty warrior who had con- 
voyed the brigantines to Tezcuco. They came fifty thou- 

13 Ibid., ubi supra. bread. (For an amusing account of 

Hidalguia, besides its legal privi- these, see Doblado's Letters from 

leges, brought with it some fanciful Spain, Let. 2.) In no country has 

ones to its possessor ; if, indeed, it the poor gentleman afforded so rich a 

be considered a privilege to have theme for the satirist, as the writings 

excluded liim from many a humble, of Le Sage, Cervantes, and Lope de 

but honest calling, by which the Vega, abundantly show. 
poor man might have gained his 

chap, iv.] MUSTER OF FORCES. 259 

sand strong, according to Cortes, 14 making a brilliant 
show with their military finery, and marching proudly 
forward under the great national banner, emblazoned 
with a spread eagle, the arms of the Republic. 15 With 
as blithe and manly a step as if they were going to the 
battle-ground, they defiled through the gates of the 
capital, making its walls ring with the friendly shouts of 
" Castile and Tlascala." 

The observations which Cortes had made in his late 
tour of reconnaissance had determined him to begin the 
siege by distributing his forces into three separate camps, 
which he proposed to establish at the extremities of the 
principal causeways. By this arrangement the troops 
would be enabled to move in concert on the capital, and 
be in the best position to intercept its supplies from the 
surrounding country. The first of these points was 
Tacuba, commanding the fatal causeway of the noche 
triste. This was assigned to Pedro de Alvarado, with a 
force consisting, according to Cortes' own statement, of 
thirty horse, one hundred and sixty-eight Spanish infantry, 
and five and twenty thousand Tlascalans. Christoval de 
Olid had command of the second army, of much the same 
magnitude, which was to take up its position at Cojohua- 
can, the city, it will be remembered, overlooking the short 
causeway connected with that of Iztapalapan. Gonzalo 
cle Sandoval had charge of the third division, of equal 
strength with each of the two preceding, but which was 
to draw its Indian levies from the forces assembled at 

14 " Y los Capitaues de Tascaltecal 15 " Y sus vaderas tedidas, y el aue 

con toda su gente, muy hicida, y bien blaca q' tienen por armas, q 3 parece 

armada, y segun la cuenta, aguila, con sus alas tendidas." (Berual 

que los Capitanes nos dieron, pasaban Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 149.) 

decinquentamilHornbresdeGuerra." A spread eagle of gold, Clavigero 

( Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, considers as the arms of theRepublic. 

p. 236.) " I toda la Gente," adds (Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. ii. 

Herrera, " tardo tres Dias en entrar, p. 145.) But, as Bernal Diaz speaks 

segun en sus Memoriales dice Alonso of it as " white," it may have beeii 

de Ojeda, ni con ser Tezcuco tan gran the white heron, which belonged to 

Ciudad, cabian en ella." Hist. Ge- the house of Xicotencatl. 
ncral, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 13. 



Chalco. This officer was to march on Iztapalapan, and 
complete the destruction of that city, begun by Cortes 
soon after his entrance into the Valley. It was too for- 
midable a post to remain in the rear of the army. The 
general intended to support the attack with his brigan- 
tines, after which the subsequent movements of Sandoval 
would be determined by circumstances. 16 

Having announced his intended dispositions to his 
officers, the Spanish commander called his troops together, 
and made one of those brief and stirring harangues with 
which he was wont on great occasions to kindle the hearts 
of his soldiery. " I have taken the last step," he said ; 
" I have brought you to the goal for which you have so 
long panted. A few days will place you before the gates 
of Mexico, — the capital from which you were driven with 
so much ignominy. But we now go forward under the 
smiles of Providence. Does any one doubt it ? Let him 
but compare our present condition with that in which we 
found ourselves not twelve months since, when, broken 
and dispirited, we sought shelter within the walls of 
Tlascala; nay, with that in which we were but a few 
months since, when we took up our quarters inTezcueo. 17 
Since that time our strength has been nearly doubled. 
We are fighting the battles of the Faith, fighting for our 
honour, for riches, for revenge. I have brought you face 
to face with your foe. It is for you to do the rest." 18 

10 The precise amount of eacli divi- porque bien sabian, que quando ha- 

sion, as given by Cortes, was, — in biamos entrado en Tesaico, no habi- 

that of Alvarado, 30 horse, 168 Cas- amos trahido mas de quarentade Ca- 

tilian infantry, and 25,000 Tlasca- ballo, y que Dios nos liabia socorrido 

laus ; in that of Olid, 33 horse, 178 meior, que lo habiamos pensado." 

infantry, 20,000 Tlascalans ; and in Iiei. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 

Sandoval's, 24 horse, 1G7 infantry, p. 235. 

30,000 Indians. — (Rel. Terc. ap. Lo- ls Oviedo expands what he never- 

renzana, p. 236 ) Diaz reduces the theless calls the " brebe e substan- 

number of native troops to one third. cial oracion" of Cortes, into treble 

Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 150. the length of it, as found in the genc- 

' 7 " Que se alegrassen, y esfor- ral's own pages ; in which he is imi- 

zassen mucho, pues que veian que tatedbymost of the other chroniclers, 

nuestro Serior nos encaminaba para Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 

haber victoria de nuestros Eneini^os : 22. 

chap, iv.] MUSTER OF FORCES. 261 

The address of the bold chief was answered by the 
thundering acclamations of his followers, who declared 
that every man would do his duty under such a leader; 
and they only asked to be led against the enemy. 19 Cortes 
then caused the regulations for the army, published at 
Tlascala, to be read again to the troops, with the assur- 
ance that they should be enforced to the letter. 

It was arranged that the Indian forces should precede 
the Spanish by a day's march, and should halt for their 
confederates on the borders of the Tezcucan territory. 
A circumstance occurred soon after their departure which 
gave bad augury for the future. A quarrel had arisen 
in the camp at Tezcuco, between a Spanish soldier and a 
Tlascalan chief, in which the latter was badly hurt. He 
was sent back to Tlascala, and the matter was hushed 
up, that it might not reach the ears of the general, who, 
it was known, would not pass it over lightly. Xicotencatl 
was a near relative of the injured party, and, on the first 
day's halt, he took the opportunity to leave the army, 
with a number 'of his followers, and set off for Tlascala. 
Other causes are assigned for his desertion. 20 It is 
certain, that, from the first, he looked on the expedition 
with an evil eye, and had predicted that no good would 
come of it. He came into it with reluctance, as, indeed, 
he detested the Spaniards in his heart. 

His partner in the command instantly sent information 
of the affair to the Spanish general, still encamped at 
Tezcuco. Cortes, who saw at once the mischievous con- 
sequences of this defection at such a time, detached a 

19 " Y con estas ultimas palabras con los Enemigos." Oviedo, Hist, 

ceso ; y todos respondieron sin dis- de las Ind., MS., ubi supra, 

crepancia, e a una voce dicentes : 2o According to Diaz, the desire to 

Sirvanse possess himself of the lands of his 

Seiior de tan buen capitan, y de no- comrade Chichemecatl, who remained 

sotros, que asi lo haremos todos como with the army ; (Hist, de la Con- 

quien somos, y como se debe esperar quista, cap. 150 ;) according to Her- 

de buenos Espanoles, y con tanta rera, it was an amour that carried 

voluntad, y deseo ; dicho que parecia him home. (Hist. General, dec. 3, 

que cada hora les era perder vn ano lib. 1, cap. 17-) Both and all agree 

de tiempo por estar ya a las manos on the chief's aversion to the Spa- 
niards, and to the war. 


party of Tlascalan and Tezcucan Indians after the fugitive, 
with instructions to prevail on him, if possible, to return 
to his duty. They overtook him on the road, and remon- 
strated with him on his conduct, contrasting it with that 
of his countrymen generally, and of his own father in 
particular, the steady friend of the white men. " So 
much the worse," replied the chieftain ; "if they had 
taken my counsel, they would never have become the 
dupes of the perfidious strangers." 21 Finding their 
remonstrances received only with anger or contemptuous 
taunts, the emissaries returned without accomplishing 
their object. 

Cortes did not hesitate on the course he was to pursue. 
" Xicotencatl," he said, " had always been the enemy of 
the Spaniards, first in the field, and since in the council- 
chamber ; openly, or in secret, still the same, — their 
implacable enemy. There was no use in parleying with 
the false-hearted Indian." He instantly despatched a 
small body of horse with an alguacil to arrest the chief, 
wherever he might be found, even though it were in the 
streets of Tlascala, and to bring him back to Tezcuco. 
At the same time he sent information of Xicotencatl's 
proceedings to the Tlascalan senate, adding, that deser- 
tion among the Spaniards was punished with death. 

The emissaries of Cortes punctually fulfilled his 
orders. They arrested the fugitive chief, — whether in 
Tlascala or in its neighbourhood is uncertain, — and 
brought him a prisoner to Tezcuco, where a high gallows, 
erected in the great square, was prepared for his recep- 
tion. He was instantly led to the place of execution ; 
his sentence and the cause for which he suffered were 
publicly proclaimed, and the unfortunate cacique expiated 
his offence by the vile death of a malefactor. His ample 

21 " Y la rcspucsta que le embio dellos, que les haze hazcr todo lo 

adczirfue, que si el viejode su padre, quiere: y por no gastar rims palabras, 

y Masse Escaci le Imvieiau creido,, que no gneria venir." Berual 

que no se lmvieran seiioreado tanto Diaz, Hist, de laConquisia, cap. 150. 


property, consisting of lands, slaves, and some gold, was 
all confiscated to the Castilian crown. 22 

Thus perished Xicotencatl, in the flower of his age, — 
as dauntless a warrior as ever led an Indian army to 
battle. He was the first chief who successfully resisted 
the arms of the invaders ; and, had the natives of Anahuac 
generally been animated with a spirit like his, Cortes 
would probably never have set foot in the capital of 
Montezuma. He was gifted with a clearer insight into 
the future than his countrymen ; for he saw that the 
European was an enemy far more to be dreaded than the 
Aztec. Yet, when he consented to fight under the ban- 
ner of the white men, he had no right to desert it, and 
he incurred the penalty prescribed by the code of savage 
as well as of civilized nations. It is said, indeed, that 
the Tlascalan senate aided in apprehending him, having 
previously answered Cortes, that his crime was punishable 
with death by their own laws. 23 It was a bold act, how- 
ever, thus to execute him in the midst of his people ; for 
he was a powerful chief, heir to one of the four seig- 
niories of the Republic. His chivalrous qualities made 
him popular, especially with the younger part of his 
countrymen ; and his garments were torn into shreds at 
his death, and distributed as sacred relics among them. 
Still, no resistance was offered to the execution of the 
sentence, and no commotion followed it. He was the 

22 So says Hen-era, who had the tencatl before the eyes of his own 
Memorial of Ojeda in his possession, troops. (Conquista, lib. 5, cap. 19.) 
one of the Spaniards employed to But the Tlascalans were already well 
apprehend the chieftain. (Hist. Ge- on their way towards Tacuba. A 
neral, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 17, and Tor- very few only could have remained 
quemada, Monarch. Lid., lib. 4, cap. in Tezcuco, which was occupied by 
90.) Bernal Diaz, on the other hand, the citizens and the Castilian army, 
says, that the Tlascalan chief was ■ — neither of them very likely to in- 
taken and executed on the road. terfere in the prisoner's behalf. His 
(Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 150.) execution there would be an easier 
But the latter chronicler was pro- matter than in the territory of Tlas- 
bably absent at the time with Alva- cala, which he had probably reached 
rado's division, in which he served. before his apprehension. 
Soils, however, prefers his testimony, 23 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, 
on the ground that Cortes would not lib. 1, cap. 17. — Torquemada, Mo- 
have hazarded the execution of Xico- narch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 90. 


only Tlascalan who ever swerved from his loyalty to the 

According to the plan of operations settled by Cortes, 
Sandoval, with his division, was to take a southern direc- 
tion ; while Alvarado and Olid would make the northern 
circuit of the lakes. These two cavaliers, after getting 
possession of Tacuba, were to advance to Chapoltepec, 
and demolish the great aqueduct there, which supplied 
Mexico with water. On the 10th of May, they com- 
menced their march ; but at Acolman, where they halted 
for the night, a dispute arose between the soldiers of the 
two divisions, respecting their quarters. Prom words 
they came to blows, and a defiance was even exchanged 
between the leaders, who entered into the angry feelings 
of their followers. 24 Intelligence of this was soon com- 
municated to Cortes, who sent at once to the fiery chiefs, 
imploring them, by their regard for him and the com- 
mon cause, to lay aside their differences, which must end 
in their own ruin, and that of the expedition. His 
remonstrance prevailed, at least, so far as to establish a 
show of reconciliation between the parties. But Olid 
was not a man to forget, or easily to forgive ; and Alva- 
rado, though frank and liberal, had an impatient temper 
much more easily excited than appeased. They were 
never afterwards friends. 25 

The Spaniards met with no opposition on their march. 
The principal towns were all abandoned by the inhabit- 
ants, who had gone to strengthen the garrison of Mexico, 
or taken refuge with their families among the mountains. 
Tacuba was in like manner deserted, and the troops once 
more established themselves in their old quarters in the 
lordly city of the Tcpanecs. 26 

24 " Y sobre cllo ya auiamos echado Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 
manotilas armas los do nucstra Capi- 237. — Gomara, Crdnica, cap. 130. — 
tania contra los dc Cliristoval dc Ovicdo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
Oli, y auu los Capitancs desafiados." 33, cap. 22. 

Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 26 The Tepanec capital, shorn of 

cap. 150. its ancient splendours, is now only 

25 Bernal Diaz, loc. cit. — Eel. interesting from its historic associa- 

chap, iv.] MARCH OF THE ARMY. 20 5 

Their first undertaking was, to cut off the pipes that 
conducted the water from the royal streams of Chapol- 
tepec to feed the numerous tanks and fountains which 
sparkled in the court-yards of the capital. The aque- 
duct, partly constructed of brick-work, and partly of 
stone and mortar, was raised on a strong, though nar- 
row, dike, which transported it across an arm of the 
lake ; and the whole work was one of the most pleasing 
monuments of Mexican civilization. The Indians, well 
aware of its importance, had stationed a large body of 
troops for its protection. A battle followed, in which 
both sides suffered considerably, but the Spaniards were 
victorious. A part of the aqueduct was demolished, and 
during the siege no water found its way again to the 
capital through this channel. 

On the following dav, the combined forces descended 
on the fatal causeway, to make themselves masters, if 
possible, of the nearest bridge. They found the dike 
covered with a swarm of warriors, as numerous as on 
the night of their disaster, while the surface of the lake 
was dark with the multitude of canoes. The intrepid 
Christians strove to advance under a perfect hurricane 
of missiles from the water and the land, but they made 
slow progress. Barricades thrown across the causeway 
embarrassed the cavalry, and rendered it nearly useless. 
The sides of the Indian boats were fortified with bul- 
warks, which shielded the crews from the arquebuses 
and crossbows ; and, when the warriors on the dike 
were hard pushed by the pikemen, they threw them- 
selves fearlessly into the water, as if it were their native 
element, and reappearing along the sides of the dike, 

tions. " These plains of Tacuba," mud huts, with some fine old trees, 

says the spirited author of " Life in a few very old ruined houses, a 

Mexico," " once the theatre of fierce ruined church, and some traces of 

and bloody conflicts, and where, a building, which assured us 

during the siege of Mexico, Alvarado had been the palace of their last 

' of the leap ' fixed his camp, now monarch ; whilst others declare it 

present a very tranquil scene. Ta- to have been the site of the Spanish 

cuba itself is now a small village of encampment." Vol. i. Let. 13. 


shot off their arrows and javelins with fatal execution. 
After a long and obstinate struggle, the Christians were 
compelled to fall back on their own quarters with dis- 
grace, and — including the allies — with nearly as much 
damage as they had inflicted on the enemy. Olid, dis- 
gusted with the result of the engagement, inveighed 
against his companion, as having involved them in it by 
his wanton temerity, and drew off his forces the next 
morning to his own station at Cojohuacan. 

The camps, separated by only two leagues, maintained 
an easy communication with each other. They found 
abundant employment in foraging the neighbouring 
country for provisions, and in repelling the active sallies of 
the enemy ; on whom they took their revenge by cutting 
off his supplies. But their own position was precarious, 
and they looked with impatience for the arrival of the 
brigantines under Cortes. It was in the latter part of 
May that Olid took up his quarters at Cojohuacan ; and 
from that time may be dated the commencement of the 
siege of Mexico. 27 

27 Bel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Loren- Cortes ; and three weeks could not 

zana, pp. 237 — 239. — Ixtlilxochitl, have intervened between their depar- 

Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 94. — Oviedo, ture and their occupation of Cojo- 

Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. lmacan. Clavigero disposes of this 

22. — Bernal Diaz, Hist, de las Con- difficulty, it is true, by dating the 

quista, cap. 50. — Gornara, Crdnica, beginning of their march on the 

cap. 130. 20th, instead of the 10th of May ; 

Clavigero settles this date at the following the Chronology of Herrera, 

day of Corpus Christi, May 30th. instead of that of Cortes. Surely, 

(Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, torn. the general is the better authority 

iii. p. 196.) But the Spaniards left of the two. 
Tezcuco, May 10th, according to 




Indian Flotilla defeated. — Occupation of the Causeways. — Desperate 
Assaults. — Firing of the Palaces. — Spirit of the Besieged. — Barracks 
for the Troops. 


No sooner had Cortes received intelligence that his 
two officers had established themselves in their respective 
posts, than he ordered Sandoval to march on Iztapalapan. 
The cavalier's route led him through a country for the 
most part friendly ; and at Chalco his little body of 
Spaniards was swelled by the formidable muster of 
Indian levies who awaited there his approach. After 
this junction, he continued his march without opposition 
till he arrived before the hostile city, under whose walls 
he found a large force drawn up to receive him. A 
battle followed, and the natives, after maintaining their 
ground sturdily for some time, were compelled to give 
Avay, and to seek refuge either on the water, or in that 
part of the town which hung over it. The remainder 
was speedily occupied by the Spaniards. 

Meanwhile Cortes had set sail with his flotilla, intend- 
ing to support his lieutenant's attack by water. On 
drawing near the southern shore of the lake, he passed 
under the shadow of an insulated peak, since named 
from him the " Rock of the Marquess." It was held 
by a body of Indians, who saluted the fleet, as it passed, 
with showers of stones and arrows. Cortes, resolving to 


punish their audacity, and to clear the lake of his trou- 
blesome enemy, instantly landed with a hundred and 
fifty of his followers. He placed himself at their head, 
scaled the steep ascent, in the face of a driving storm of 
missiles, and, reaching the summit, put the garrison to 
the sword. There Avas a number of women and children, 
also, gathered in the place, whom he spared. 1 

On the top of the eminence was a blazing beacon, 
serving to notify to the inhabitants of the capital when 
the Spanish fleet weighed anchor. Before Cortes had 
regained his brigantine, the canoes and piraguas of the 
enemy had left the harbours of Mexico, and Avere seen 
darkening the lake for many a rood. There were several 
hundred of them, all crowded with warriors, and advanc- 
ing rapidly by means of their oars over the calm bosom 
of the waters. 2 

Cortes, who regarded his fleet, to use his own lan- 
guage, as " the key of the war," felt the importance of 
striking a decisive blow in the first encounter with the 
enemy. 3 It was with chagrin, therefore, that he found 
his sails rendered useless by the want of wind. He 
calmly waited the approach of the Indian squadron, 
which, however, lay on their oars, at something more 
than musket-shot distance, as if hesitating to encounter 
these leviathans of their waters. At this moment, a light 
air from land rippled the surface of the lake ; it gradually 
freshened into a breeze, and Cortes taking advantage of 
the friendly succour, which he may be excused, under 
all the circumstances, for regarding as especially sent 

1 " It was a beautiful victory," Bernal Diaz ; (Hist, de la Conquista, 
exclaims the Conqueror. " E entra- cap. 150 ;) who, however, was not 
moslos de tal manera, que ninguno present. 

dc ellos se escapo, excepto las Mu- 3 " Y como yo deseaba mucho, que 

geres, y Niilos ; y en este combate el primer reencuentro, que coil ellos 

me hineron veinte y cinco Espailoles, obiesscmos, fuesse de mucha victoria; 

pero fue muy hermosa Victoria." y se hiciesse de manera, que ellos 

]tel. Tore., ap. Lorcn.zana, p. 241. cobrassen mucho temor de los ber- 

2 About live hundred boats, ac- gantines, porque la Have de toda la 
cording to the general's own esti- Guerra cstaba en ellos." liel. Terc., 
mate ; (Ibid., loc. cit. ;) but more ap. Lorenzana, p. 213. 

than four thousand, according to 


him by Heaven, extended his line of battle, and bore 
down, under full press of canvass, on the enemy. 4 

The latter no sooner encountered the bows of their 
formidable opponents, than they were overturned and 
sent to the bottom by the shock, or so much damaged 
that they speedily filled and sank. The water was 
covered with the wreck of broken canoes, and with the 
bodies of men struggling for life in the waves, and vainly 
imploring their companions to take them on board their 
over-crowded vessels. The Spanish fleet, as it dashed 
through the mob of boats, sent off its vollies to the right 
and left with a terrible effect, completing the discomfiture 
of the Aztecs. The latter made no attempt at resistance, 
scarcely venturing a single flight of arrows, but strove 
with all their strength to regain the port from which 
they had so lately issued. They were no match in the 
chase, any more than in the fight, for their terrible anta- 
gonist, who, borne on the wings of the wind, careered to 
and fro at his pleasure, dealing death widely around him, 
and making the shores ring with the thunders of his 
ordnance. A few only of the Indian flotilla succeeded 
in recovering the port, and, gliding up the canals, found 
a shelter in the bosom of the city, where the heavier 
burden of the brigantines made it impossible for them 
to follow. This victory, more complete than even the 
sanguine temper of Cortes had prognosticated, proved 
the superiority of the Spaniards, and left them, hence- 
forth, undisputed masters of the Aztec sea. 5 

4 " Plugo a nuestro Senor, que scription in " Madoc," and one as 
estandonos mirando los unos a los pertinent as it is beautiful : 

otros, vino un viento de la Tierra " Their thousand boats, and the 
muy favorable para embestir con ten thousand oars 

ellos." Ibid., ubi supra. From whose broad bowls the 

waters fall and flash, 

5 Rel. Terc. loc. cit. — Oviedo, And twice ten thousand feather'd 
Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. helms, and shields, 

48. — Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espa- Glittering with gold and scarlet 

fia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 32. plurnery. 

I may be excused for again quoting Onward they come with song and 

a few verses from a beautiful de- swelling horn; 


It was nearly dusk, when the squadron, coasting along 
the great southern causeway, anchored off the point of 
junction, called Xoloc, where the branch from Cojohu- 
acan meets the principal dike. The avenue widened at 
this point, so as to afford room for two towers, or tur- 
reted temples, built of stone, and surrounded by walls 
of the same material, which presented altogether a posi- 
tion of some strength, and, at the present moment, was 
garrisoned by a body of Aztecs. They were not nume- 
rous ; and Cortes, landing with his soldiers, succeeded 
without much difficulty in dislodging the enemy, and in 
getting possession of the works. 

It seems to have been originally the general's design, 
to take up his own quarters with Olid at. Cojohuacan. 
But, if so, he now changed his purpose, and wisely fixed 
on this spot, as the best position for his encampment. 
It was but half a league distant from the capital ; and, 
while it commanded its great southern avenue, had a 
direct communication with the garrison at Cojohuacan, 
through which he might receive supplies from the sur- 
rounding country. Here, then, he determined to esta- 
blish his head-quarters. He at once caused his heavy 
iron cannon to be transferred from the brigantines to the 
causeway, and sent orders to Olid to join him with half 
his force, while Sandoval was instructed to abandon his 
present quarters, and advance to Cojohuacan, whence he 
was to detach fifty picked men of his infantry to the 
camp of Cortes. Having made these arrangements, the 
general busily occupied himself with strengthening the 
works at Xoloc, and putting them in the best posture 
of defence. 

During the first five or six days after their encamp- 
ment, the Spaniards experienced much annoyance from 

On the other side The waters sing, while proudly 

Advance the British barks ; the they sail on, 

freshening breeze Lords of the water." 

Pills the broad sail ; around the Madoc, Part 2, 

rushing keel canto 25. 


the enemy, who too late endeavoured to prevent their 
taking up a position so near the capital, and which, had 
they known much of the science of war, they would have 
taken better care themselves to secure. Contrary to 
their usual practice, the Indians made their attacks by 
night as well as by day. The water swarmed with 
canoes, which hovered at a distance in terror of the 
brigantines, but still approached near enough, especially 
under cover of the darkness, to send showers of arrows 
into the Christian camp, that fell so thick as to hide the 
surface of the ground, and impede the movements of 
the soldiers. Others ran along the western side of the 
causeway, unprotected, as it was, by the Spanish fleet, 
and plied their archery with such galling effect, that the 
Spaniards were forced to make a temporary breach in 
the dike, wide enough to admit tw r o of their own smaller 
vessels, which, passing through, soon obtained as entire 
command of the interior basin, as they before had of the 
outer. Still, the bold barbarians, advancing along the 
causeway, marched up within bow-shot of the Christian 
ramparts, sending forth such yells and discordant battle- 
cries, that it seemed, in the words of Cortes, "as if 
heaven and earth were coming together." But they were 
severely punished for their temerity, as the batteries, 
which commanded the approaches to the camp, opened a 
desolating fire, that scattered the assailants, and drove 
them back in confusion to their own quarters. 6 

The two principal avenues to Mexico, those on the 
south and the west, were now occupied by the Christians. 
There still remained a third, the great dike of Tepejacac, 
on the north, which, indeed, taking up the principal 
street, that passed in a direct line through the heart of 
the city, might be regarded as a continuation of the dike 

6 " Y era tanta la multitud," says ap.Lorenzana, p 245. — Oviedo, Hist. 

Cortes, " que por el Agua, y por la de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 23. — 

Tierra no viamos sino Gente, y daban Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Cliich., MS., cap. 

tantas gritas, y alaridos, que parecia 95. — Sahagun, Hist, de NuevaEspa- 

que se huudia'el Mundo." Rel. Terc. na, MS., lib. 12, cap. 32. 


of Tztapalapan. By this northern route a means of 
escape was still left open to the besieged, and they 
availed themselves of it, at present, to maintain their 
communications with the country, and to supply them- 
selves with provisions. Alvarado, who observed this 
from his station at Tacuba, advised his commander of it, 
and the latter instructed Sandoval to take up his position 
on the causeway. That officer, though suffering at the 
time from a severe wound received from a lance in one 
of the late skirmishes, hastened to obey ; and thus, by 
shutting up its only communication with the surrounding 
country, completed the blockade of the capital. 7 

But Cortes was not content to wait patiently the effects 
of a dilatory blockade, which might exhaust the patience 
of his allies, and his own resources. He determined to 
support it by such active assaults on the city as should 
still further distress the besieged, and hasten the hour of 
surrender. For this purpose he ordered a simultaneous 
attack, by the two commanders at the other stations, on 
the quarters nearest their encampments. 

On the day appointed, his forces were under arms 
with the dawn. Mass, as usual, was performed; and 
the Indian confederates, as they listened with grave atten- 
tion to the stately and imposing service, regarded with 
undisguised admiration the devotional reverence shown 
by the Christians, whom, in their simplicity, they looked 
upon as little less than divinities themselves. 8 The 
Spanish infantry marched in the van, led on by Cortes, 
attended by a number of cavaliers, dismounted like him- 
self. They had not moved far upon the causeway, when 

7 Rel. Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. Loren- devotion ; e aun los Indios, como 
zana, pp. 246, 247- — Beraal Diaz, simples, e no entendientes de tan alto 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 150. — • misterio, con admiration estaban 
Herrera, Hist, de las Ind., dec. 3, atentos notando el silencio de los 
lib. 1, cap. 17. — Dcfensa, MS., cap. catholicos y el acatamiento que al 
28. altar, y al sacerdote los Christianos 

8 " Asi como fue de dia sc dixo tovieron hasta recevir la benedicion." 
vna misa de Espiritu Santo, que to- Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
dos los Christianos oyeron con rnuclio 3.'3, cap. 2 1. 


they were brought to a stand by one of the open breaches, 
that had formerly been traversed by a bridge. On the 
further side a solid rampart of stone and lime had been 
erected, and behind this a strong body of Aztecs were 
posted, who discharged on the Spaniards, as they ad- 
vanced, a thick volley of arrows. The latter vainly 
endeavoured to dislodge them with their fire-arms and 
crossbows ; they were too well secured behind their 

Cortes then ordered two of the brigantines, which had 
kept along, one on each side of the causeway, in order 
to cooperate with the army, to station themselves so as 
to enfilade the position occupied by the enemy. Thus 
placed between two well-directed fires, the Indians were 
compelled to recede. The soldiers on board the vessels, 
springing to land, bounded like deer up the sides of the 
dike. They were soon followed by their countrymen 
under Cortes, who, throwing themselves into the water, 
swam the undefended chasm, and joined in pursuit of 
the enemy. The Mexicans fell back, however, in some- 
thing like order, till they reached another opening in the 
dike, like the former, dismantled of its bridge, and for- 
tified in the same manner by a bulwark of stone, behind 
which the retreating Aztecs, swimming across the chasm, 
and reinforced by fresh bodies of their countrymen, again 
took shelter. 

They made good their post till, again assailed by the 
cannonade from the brigantines, they were compelled to 
give way. In this manner breach after breach was car- 
ried, and, at every fresh instance of success, a shout went 
up from the crews of the vessels, which, answered by the 
long files of the Spaniards and their confederates on the 
causeway, made the Valley echo to its borders. 

Cortes had now reached the end of the great avenue, 
where it entered the suburbs. There he halted to give 
time for the rearguard to come up with him. It was 
detained by the labour of filling up the breaches, in such 



a manner as to make a practicable passage for the artillery 
and horse, and to secure one for the rest of the army on 
its retreat. This important duty was intrusted to the 
allies, who executed it by tearing down the ramparts on 
the margins, and throwing them into the chasms, and, 
when this was not sufficient, — for the water was deep 
around the southern causeway, — by dislodging the great 
stones and rubbish from the dike itself, which was broad 
enough to admit of it, and adding them to the pile, until 
it was raised above the level of the water. 

The street, on which the Spaniards now entered, was 
the great avenue that intersected the town from north to 
south, and the same by which they had first visited the 
capital. It was broad and perfectly straight, and, in 
the distance, dark masses of warriors might be seen 
gathering to the support of their countrymen, who were 
prepared to dispute the further progress of the Spaniards. 
The sides were lined with buildings, the terraced roofs 
of which were also crowded with combatants, who, as 
the army advanced, poured down a pitiless storm of 
missiles on their heads, which glanced harmless, indeed, 
from the coat of mail, but too often found their way 
through the more common escaupil of the soldier, already 
gaping with many a ghastly rent. Cortes, to rid him- 
self of this annoyance for the future, ordered his Indian 
pioneers to level the principal buildings, as they ad- 
vanced ; in which work of demolition, no less than in 
the repair of the breaches, they proved of inestimable 
service. 9 

The Spaniards, meanwdiile, were steadily, but slowly, 
advancing, as the enemy recoiled before the rolling fire 
of musketry, though turning at intervals to discharge 
their javelins and arrows against their pursuers. In 
this way they kept along the great street, until their 

9 Saliagun, Hist, dc Nueva Es- 95.— Oviedo, Hist, cle las Ind., MS., 
paiia, MS., lib. 12, cap. 32.— Ix- lib. 33, cap. 23. — Rel. Terc. de 
tlilxochitl, Hist. Chicb., MS., cap. Cortes, ap. Lorcnz. pp. 247, 248. 

chap, v.] DESPERATE ASSAULTS. 275 

course was interrupted by a wide ditch or canal, once 
traversed by a bridge, of which only a few planks now 
remained. These were broken by the Indians, the 
moment they had crossed, and a formidable array of 
spears were instantly seen bristling over the summit of 
a solid rampart of stone, which protected the opposite 
side of the canal. Cortes was no longer supported by 
his brigantines, which the shallowness of the canals 
prevented from penetrating into the suburbs. He 
brought forward his arquebusiers, who, protected by the 
targets of their comrades, opened a fire on the enemy. 
But the balls fell harmless from the bulwarks of stone ; 
while the assailants presented but too easy a mark to 
their opponents. 

The general then caused the heavy guns to be brought 
up, and opened a lively cannonade, which soon cleared a 
breach in the works, through which the musketeers and 
crossbowmen poured in their volleys thick as hail. The 
Indians now gave way in disorder, after having held 
their antagonists at bay for two hours. 10 The latter, 
jumping into the shallow water, scaled the opposite bank 
without further resistance, and drove the enemy along 
the street towards the square, where the sacred pyramid 
reared its colossal bulk high over the other edifices of 
the city. 

10 Ibid., ubi supra. — Ixtlilxochitl, Indian languages and picture-writing, 

Hist. Chicb., MS., cap. 95. and in tbe oral testimony wbich lie 

Here terminates tbe work last was at pains to collect from the 
cited of tbe Tezcucan chronicler; actors in tbe scenes be describes, 
who has accompanied us from the All these advantages are too often 
earliest period of our narrative down counterbalanced by a singular in- 
to this point in tbe final siege of the capacity for discriminating — I will 
capital. Whether tbe concluding not say, between historic truth and 
pages of the manuscript have been falsehood (for what is truth ?) — but 
lost, or whether he was interrupted between tbe probable, or rather the 
by death, it is impossible to say. possible, and the impossible. One 
But the deficiency is supplied by a of the generation of primitive con- 
brief sketch of tbe principal events verts to the Romish faith, he lived 
of the siege, which be has left in in a state of twilight civihzation, 
another of bis writings. He bad, when, if miracles were not easily 
undoubtedly, uucommon sources of wrought, it was at least easy to be- 
information in his knowledge of the lieve them. 

T 2 


It was a spot too familiar to the Spaniards. On one 
side stood the palace of Axayacatl, their old quarters, 
the scene to many of them of so much suffering. Oppo- 
site was the pile of low, irregular, buildings, once the 
residence of the unfortunate Montezuma; while a third 
side of the square was flanked by the Coatepantli, or 
Wall of Serpents, which encompassed the great teocalli 
with its little city of holy edifices. The Spaniards halted 
at the entrance of the square, as if oppressed, and for a 
moment overpowered, by the bitter recollections that 
crowded on their minds. But their intrepid leader, 
impatient at their hesitation, loudly called on them to 
advance before the Aztecs had time to rally; and, 
grasping his target in one hand, and waving his sword 
high above his head with the other, he cried his war- 
cry of " St. Iago," and led them at once against the 
enemy. 11 

The Mexicans, intimidated by the presence of their 
detested foe, who, in spite of all their efforts, had again 
forced his way into the heart of their city, made no 
further resistance, but retreated, or rather fled, for refuge 
into the sacred inclosure of the teocalli, where the 
numerous buildings scattered over its ample area afforded 
many good points of defence. A few priests, clad in 
their usual wild and blood-stained vestments, were to be 
seen lingering on the terraces which wound round the 
stately sides of the pyramid, chanting hymns in honour 
of their god, and encouraging the warriors below to 
battle bravely for his altars. 12 

The Spaniards poured through the open gates into the 
area, and a small party rushed up the winding corridors 
to its summit. No vestige now remained there of the 

11 " I con todo cso no se deter- Santiago, arrcmctio cl primero." 

minaban los Cliristianos de entrar en Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 1, 

laPlaca; por lo qual diciendo Her- cap. IS. 
nando Cortes, que no era tiempo de 

mostrar cansancio, ni cobardia, con 12 Sahagiui, Hist, de Nucva Es- 

vna Rodela en la mano, apcllidando pafin, MS., lib. 12, cap. 32. 

chap, v.] DANGEROUS ASSAULTS. 277 

Cross, or of any other symbol of the pure faith to which 
it had been dedicated. A new effigy of the Aztec war- 
god had taken the place of the one demolished by the 
Christians, and raised its fantastic and hideous form in 
the same niche which had been occupied by its prede- 
cessor. The Spaniards soon tore away its golden mask 
and the rich jewels with which it was bedizened, and, 
hurling the struggling priests down the sides of the 
pyramid, made the best of their way to their comrades 
in the area. It was full time. 13 

The Aztecs, indignant at the sacrilegious outrage per- 
petrated before their eyes, and gathering courage from 
the inspiration of the place, under the very presence of 
their deities, raised a yell of horror and vindictive fury, 
as, throwing themselves into something like order, they 
sprang, by a common impulse, on the Spaniards. The 
latter, who had halted near the entrance, though taken 
by surprise, made an effort to maintain their position at 
the gateway. But in vain ; for the headlong rush of 
the assailants drove them at once into the square, where 
they were attacked by other bodies of Indians, pouring 
in from the neighbouring streets. Broken, and losing 
their presence of mind, the troops made no attempt to 
rally, but, crossing the square, and abandoning the 
cannon planted there to the enemy, they hurried down 
the great street of Iztapalapan. Here they were soon 
mingled with the allies, who choked up the way, and 
who, catching the panic of the Spaniards, increased the 
confusion, while the eyes of the fugitives, blinded by the 
missiles that rained on them from the azoteas, were 
scarcely capable of distinguishing friend from foe. In 

13 Ixtlilxochitl, in his Thirteenth estaba HuitzilopoxctlL que llegaron 

Relation, embracing among other Cortes e Ixtlilxuchitl a. un tiempo, 

things a brief notice of the capture y ambos embistieron con el idolo. 

of Mexico, of which an edition has Cortes cogio la mascara de oro que 

been given to the world by the in- tenia puesta este idolo con ciertas 

dustrious Bustamante, bestows the piedras preciosas que estaban engas- 

credit of this exploit on Cortes him- tadas en ella." Venida de los Esp., 

self. "En la capilla mayor donde p. 29. 


vain Cortes endeavoured to stay the torrent, and to 
restore order. His voice was drowned in the wild 
uproar, as he was swept away, like drift-wood, by the 
fury of the current. 

All seemed to be lost; — when suddenly sounds were 
heard in an adjoining street, like the distant tramp 
of horses galloping rapidly over the pavement. They 
drew nearer and nearer, and a body of cavalry soon 
emerged on the great square. Though but a handful 
in number, they plunged boldly into the thick of the 
enemy. We have often had occasion to notice the super- 
stitious dread entertained by the Indians of the horse 
and his rider. And, although the long residence of the 
cavalry in the capital had familiarized the natives, in 
some measure, with their presence, so long a time had 
now elapsed since they had beheld them, that all their 
former mysterious terrors revived in full force ; and, 
when thus suddenly assailed in flank by the formidable 
apparition, they were seized with a panic, and fell into 
confusion. It soon spread to the leading files, and 
Cortes, perceiving his advantage, turned with the rapidity 
of lightning, and, at this time supported by his followers, 
succeeded in driving the enemy with some loss back into 
the inclosure. 

It was now the hour of vespers, and, as night must 
soon overtake them, he made no further attempt to 
pursue his advantage. Ordering the trumpets, there- 
fore, to sound a retreat, he drew off his forces in good 
order, taking with him the artillery which had been 
abandoned in the square. The allies first went off the 
ground, followed by the Spanish infantry, while the rear 
was protected by the horse, thus reversing the order of 
march on their entrance. The Aztecs hung on the 
closing files, and, though driven back by frequent charges 
of the cavalry, still followed in the distance, shooting 
off their ineffectual missiles, and filling the air with 
wild cries and bowlings, like a herd of ravenous wolves 

chap, v.] DESPERATE ASSAULTS. 279 

disappointed of their prey. It was late before the army 
reached its quarters at Xoloc. 14 

Cortes had been well supported by Alvaraclo and San- 
doval in this assault on the city ; though neither of these 
commanders had penetrated the suburbs, deterred, per- 
haps, by the difficulties of the passage, which, in Alva- 
raclo's case, were greater than those presented to Cortes, 
from the greater number of breaches with which the 
dike in his quarter was intersected. Something was 
owing, too, to the want of brigantines, until Cortes sup- 
plied the deficiency by detaching half of his little navy 
to the support of his officers. Without their cooperation, 
however, the general himself could not have advanced 
so far, nor, perhaps, have succeeded at all in setting foot 
within the city. The success of this assault spread con- 
sternation, not only among the Mexicans, but their vassals, 
as they saw that the formidable preparations for defence 
were to avail little against the white man, who had so 
soon, in spite of them, forced his way into the very heart 
of the capital. Several of the neighbouring places, in 
consequence, now showed a willingness to shake off their 
allegiance, and claimed the protection of the Spaniards. 
Among these were the territory of Xochimilco, so roughly 
treated by the invaders, and some tribes of Otomies, a 
rude but valiant people, who dwelt on the western con- 
fines of the Valley. 15 Their support was valuable, not 
so much from the additional reinforcements which it 
brought, as from the greater security it gave to the 
army, whose outposts were perpetually menaced by these 
warlike barbarians. 

14 " Los de Caballo revolvian Lorenzana, p. 250. — Herrera, Hist, 

sobre ellos, que siempre alanceaban, General, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. IS. — 

6 mataban algunos ; e como la Calle Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Espaha, 

era muy larga, bubo lugar de bacerce MS., lib. 12, cap. 32. — Oviedo, Hist. 

esto quatro, 6 cinco veces. F aunque de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 23. 
los Enemigos viau que recibian dafio, 15 Tbe great mass of the Otomies 

venian los Perros tan rabiosos, que were an untamed race, who roamed 

en ninguna nianera los podiaraos over the broad tracts of the plateau, 

detener, ni que nos dejassen de far away to the north. But many 

seguir." Peel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. of them, who found their way into 


The most important aid which the Spaniards received 
at this time, was fromTezcuco, whose prince, IxtlilxochitJ, 
gathered the whole strength of his levies, to the number 
of fifty thousand, if we are to credit Cortes, and led 
them in person to the Christian camp. By the general's 
orders they were distributed among the three divisions 
of the besiegers. 16 

Thus strengthened, Cortes prepared to make another 
attack upon the capital, and that before it should have 
time to recover from the former. Orders were given 
to his lieutenants on the other causeways, to march at 
the same time, and cooperate with him, as before, in the 
assault. It was conducted in precisely the same manner 
as on the previous entry, the infantry taking the van, 
and the allies and cavalry following. But, to the great- 
dismay of the Spaniards, they found two thirds of the 
breaches restored to their former state, and the stones 
and other materials, with which they had been stopped, 
removed by the indefatigable enemy. They were again 
obliged to bring up the cannon, the brigantines ran 
alongside, and the enemy was dislodged, and driven 
from post to post, in the same manner as on the pre- 
ceding attack. In short, the whole work was to be done 
over again. It was not till an hour after noon that the 
army had won a footing in the suburbs. 

Here their progress was not so difficult as before ; for 
the buildings from the terraces of which they had 

the Valley, became blended with the Tezcuco. It is rare, that either of 
Tezcucan, and even with the Tlas- them is mentioned by any other than 
calan nation, making some of the his baptismal name of Hernando ; 
best soldiers in their armies. and, if Iierrera is correct in the as- 
sertion, that this name was assumed 
10 " Istrisuchil, (Ixtlilxochitl,) que by both, it may explain in some de- 
es de edad de veinte y trcs, 6 vcinte grec the confusion. (Hist. General, 
y quatro afios, muy csforzado, amado, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 18.) I have con- 
y temido dc todos." (Rcl. Terc. formed in the main to the old Tez- 
de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 251.) cucan chronicler, who gathered his 
The greatest obscurity prevails account of his kinsman, as he tells 
among historians in respect to this us, from the records of his nation, 
prince, whom they seem to have con- and from the oral testimony of the 
founded very often with his brother contemporaries of the prince him- 
and predecessor on the throne of self. Vcuida de los Esp., pp. 3D, 31. 

chap, v.] DESPERATE ASSAULTS. 281 

experienced the most annoyance, had been swept away. 
Still it was only step by step that they forced a passage 
in face of the Mexican militia, who disputed their ad- 
vance with the same spirit as before. Cortes, who would 
willingly have spared the inhabitants, if he could have 
brought them to terms, saw them with regret, as he 
says, thus desperately bent on a war of extermination. 
He conceived that there would be no way more likely to 
affect their minds, than by destroying at once some of 
the principal edifices, which they were accustomed to 
venerate as the pride and ornament of the city. 17 

Marching into the great square, he selected, as the 
first to be destroyed, the old palace of Axayacatl, his 
former barracks. The ample range of low buildings 
was, it is true, constructed of stone ; but the interior, as 
well as the outworks, its turrets, and roofs, were of wood. 
The Spaniards, whose associations with the pile were of 
so gloomy a character, sprang to the work of destruction 
with a satisfaction like that which the French mob may 
have felt in the demolition of the Bastile. Torches and 
firebrands were thrown about in all directions ; the lower 
parts of the building were speedily on fire, which running 
along the inflammable hangings and woodwork of the 
interior, rapidly spread to the second floor. There the 
element took freer range, and, before it was visible from 
without, sent up from every aperture and crevice a dense 
column of vapour, that hung like a funereal pall over the 
city. This was dissipated by a bright sheet of flame, 
which enveloped all the upper regions of the vast pile, 
till, the supporters giving way, the wide range of turreted 
chambers fell, amidst clouds of dust and ashes, with an 
appalling crash, that for a moment stayed the Spaniards 
in the work of devastation. 

17 "Daban ocasion, y nos forza- viniesseu en conocimiento de su 

"ban a que,totalmente les destruyes- yerro, y de el daiio, que podian re- 

semos. E de esta postrera tenia cibir de nosotros, y no hacia sino 

mas sentimiento, y me pesaba en el quemalles, y derrocalles las Torres 

alma, y pensaba que forma ternia de susJdolos,y sus Casas." Rel.Terc. 

para los atemorizar, de manera, que de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 254, 


It was but for a moment. On the other side of the 
square adjoining Montezuma's residence, were several 
buildings, as the reader is aware, appropriated to animals. 
One of these was now marked for destruction, — the 
House of Birds, — filled with specimens of all the painted 
varieties which swarmed over the wide forests of Mexico. 
It was an airy and elegant building, after the Indian 
fashion, and viewed in connexion with its object, was 
undoubtedly a remarkable proof of refinement and intel- 
lectual taste in a barbarous monarch. Its light, combus- 
tible materials of wood and bamboo formed a striking 
contrast to the heavy stone edifices around it, and made 
it obviously convenient for the present purpose of the 
invaders. The torches were applied, and the fanciful 
structure was soon wrapped in flames, that sent their 
baleful splendours far and wide over city and lake. 
Its feathered inhabitants either perished in the fire, or 
those of stronger wing, bursting the burning lattice- 
work of the aviary, soared high into the air, and 
fluttering for a while over the devoted city, fled 
with loud screams to their native forests beyond the 

The Aztecs gazed with inexpressible horror on this de- 
struction of the venerable abode of their monarchs, and 
of the monuments of their luxury and splendour. Their 
rage was exasperated almost to madness, as they beheld 
their hated foes, the Tlascalans, busy in the work of de- 
solation, and aided by the Tezcucans, their own allies, 
and not unfrequently their kinsmen. They vented their 
fury in bitter execrations, especially on the young prince, 
Ixtlilxochitl, who, marching side by side with Cortes, 
took his full share in the dangers of the day. The 
warriors from the housetops poured the most oppro- 
brious epithets on him as he passed, denouncing him 
as a false-hearted traitor ; false to his country and 
his blood, — reproaches not altogether unmerited, as 
his kinsman, who chronicles the circumstance, candidly 

chap, v.] SPIRIT OF THE BESIEGED. 283 

confesses. 18 He gave little heed to their taunts, however, 
holding on his way with the dogged resolution of one 
true to the cause in which he was embarked ; and, 
when he entered the great square, he grappled with 
the leader of the Aztec forces, wrenched a lance from 
his grasp, won by the latter from the Christians, and 
dealt him a blow with his mace, or maquahuitl, which 
brought him lifeless to the ground. 19 

The Spanish commander, having accomplished the 
work of destruction, sounded a retreat, sending on the 
Indian allies, who blocked up the way before him. The 
Mexicans, maddened by their losses, in wild transports 
of fury hung close on his rear, and, though driven back 
by the cavalry, still returned, throwing themselves des- 
perately under the horses, striving to tear the riders 
from their saddles, and content to throw away their 
own lives for one blow at their enemy. Fortunately 
the greater part of their militia was engaged with the 
assailants on the opposite quarters of the city ; but, thus 
crippled, they pushed the Spaniards under Cortes so 
vigorously, that few reached the camp that night with- 
out bearing on their bodies some token of the desperate 
conflict. 20 

On the following day, and, indeed, on several days 
following, the general repeated his assaults with as little 
care for repose, as if he and his men had been made of 
iron. On one occasion he advanced some way down the 
street of Tacuba, in which he carried three of the bridges, 
desirous, if possible, to open a communication with 
Alvarado, posted on the contiguous causeway. But the 
Spaniards in that quarter had not penetrated beyond the 

18 "Y desde las azoteas deshon- 19 Ibid., p. 29. 

rarle llamandole de traidor contra su 20 For the preceding pages relat- 

patria y deudos, y otras razones pe- ing to this second assault, see Hel. 

sadas, que a la verdad a ellos les so- Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 

braba la razon ; mas Ixtlilxuchitl 254 — 256, — Sahagun, Hist, de 

callaba y peleaba, que mas estimaba Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 33, 

la amistad y salud de los Cristianos, — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

que todo esto." Venida de los Esp., lib. 33, cap. 24, — Defensa, MS., 

p. 32. cap. 28. 


suburbs, still impeded by the severe character of the 
ground, and wanting, it may be, somewhat of that fiery 
impetuosity which the soldier feels who fights under the 
eye of his chief. 

In each of these assaults, the breaches were found 
more or less restored to their original state by the perti- 
nacious Mexicans, and the materials, which had been 
deposited in them with so much labour, again removed. 
It may seem strange, that Cortes did not take measures 
to guard against the repetition of an act which caused so 
much delay and embarrassment to his operations. He 
notices this in his Letter to the Emperor, in which he 
says, that to do so would have required, either that he 
should have established his quarters in the city itself, 
which would have surrounded him with enemies, and 
cut off his communications with the country ; or that he 
should have posted a sufficient guard of Spaniards — for 
the natives were out of the question — to protect the 
breaches by night, a duty altogether beyond the strength 
of men engaged in so arduous a service through 
the day. 21 

Yet this was the course adopted by Alvarado ; who 
stationed, at night, a guard of forty soldiers for the de- 
fence of the opening nearest to the enemy. This was 
relieved by a similar detachment in a few hours, and this 
again by a third, the two former still lying on their post ; 
so that, on an alarm, a body of one hundred and twenty 
soldiers was ready on the spot to repel an attack. Some- 
times, indeed, the whole division took up their bivouac 
in the neighbourhood of the breach, resting on their 
arms, and ready for instant action. 22 

21 Rcl. Tore, ap. Lorcnzaua, p. of the breaches. " I Alvarado, i San- 
259. doval, por su parte, tambien lo hici- 

22 Bernal Diaz, Hist, dc la Con- eron mui bicn, culpando a Hernando 
quista, cap. 151. Cortes por estas retiradas, queriendo 

According to ITerrcra, Alvarado mucbos que se quedara en lo ganado, 

and Sandoval did not conceal their por no bolver tantas vcce3 a cllo." 

disapprobation of the course pur- Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 19. 
sued by their commander in respect 

chap, v.] SPIRIT OF THE BESIEGED. 285 

But a life of such incessant toil and vigilance was 
almost too severe even for the stubborn constitutions of 
the Spaniards. " Through the long night," exclaims 
Diaz, who served in Alvarado's division, "we kept our 
dreary watch ; neither wind, nor wet, nor cold availing 
anything. There we stood, smarting, as we were, from 
the wounds we had received in the tight of the preceding 
day." 23 It was the rainy season, which continues in that 
country from July to September ; and the surface of the 
causeways, flooded by the storms, and broken up by the 
constant movement of such large bodies of men, was con- 
verted into a marsh, or rather quagmire, which added 
inconceivably to the distresses of the army. 

The troops under Cortes were scarcely in a better 
situation. But few of them could find shelter in the rude 
towers that garnished the works of Xoloc. The greater 
part were compelled to bivouac in the open air, exposed 
to all the inclemency of the weather. Every man, unless 
his wounds prevented it, was required by the camp regu- 
lations to sleep on his arms ; and they were often roused 
from their hasty slumbers by the midnight call to battle. 
For Guatemozin, contrary to the usual practice of his 
countrymen, frequently selected the hours of darkness to 
aim a blow at the enemy. " In short," exclaims the 
veteran soldier above quoted, " so unintermitting were 
our engagements, by day and by night, during the three 
months in which we lay before the capital, that to re- 
count them all would but exhaust the reader's patience, 
and make him to fancy he was perusing the incredible 
feats of a knight errant of romance." 24 

23 « Porque como era de noclie, estuuimos sobre esta tan fuerte ciu- 

no aguardauan raucho, y desta ma- dad, cada dia e de noclie tenianios 

nera que he dicho velauamos, que ni guerras, y combates ; e no lo pongo 

porque llouiesse, ni vientos, ni frios, aqui por capitulos lo que cada dia 

y aunque estauamos metidos en me- haziamos, porque me parece que seria 

dio de grandes lodos, y heridos, alii gran proligidad, e seria cosa para 

auiamos de estar." Hist, de la Con- nunca acabar, y pareceria a los libros 

quista, cap. 151. de Amadis, e de otros corros de cau- 

21 " Porque nouenta y tres dias alleros." Ibid., ubi supra. 


The Aztec emperor conducted his operations on a sys- 
tematic plan, which showed some approach to military 
science. He not unfrequently made simultaneous attacks 
on the three several divisions of the Spaniards established 
on the causeways, and on the garrisons at their extremi- 
ties. To accomplish this, he enforced the service not 
merely of his own militia of the capital, but of the great 
towns in the neighbourhood, who all moved in concert, 
at the well-known signal of the beacon-fire, or of the 
huge drum struck by the priests on the summit of the 
temple. One of these general attacks, it was observed, 
whether from accident or design, took place on the eve 
of St. John the Baptist, the anniversary of the clay on 
which the Spaniards made their second entry into the 
Mexican capital. 25 

Notwithstanding the severe drain on his forces by this 
incessant warfare, the young- monarch contrived to re- 
lieve them in some degree by different detachments, who 
took the place of one another. This was apparent from 
the different uniforms and military badges of the Indian 
battalions, who successively came and disappeared from 
the field. At night a strict guard was maintained in the 
Aztec quarters, a thing not common with the nations of 
the plateau. The outposts of the hostile armies were sta- 
tioned within sight of each other. That of the Mexicans 
was usually placed in the neighbourhood of some wide 
breach, and its position was marked by a large fire in 
front. The hours for relieving guard were intimated by 
the shrill Aztec whistle, while bodies of men might be 
seen moving behind the flame, which threw a still ruddier 
glow over the cinnamon-coloured skins of the warriors. 

While thus active on land, Guatemozin was not idle on 
the water. He was too wise, indeed, to cope with the 
Spanish navy again in open battle ; but he resorted to 
stratagem, so much more congenial to Indian warfare. 

25 Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. — Saliagun, Hist, dc Nueva Esp., MS., 
lib. 12, cap. 33. 

chap, v.] SPIRIT OF THE BESIEGED. 287 

He placed a large number of canoes in ambuscade 
among the tall reeds which fringed the southern shores 
of the lake, and caused piles, at the same time, to be 
driven into the neighbouring shallows. Several piraguas, 
or boats of a larger size, then issued forth, and rowed 
near the spot where the Spanish brigantines were moored. 
Two of the smallest vessels, supposing the Indian barks 
were conveying provisions to the besieged, instantly stood 
after them, as had been foreseen. The Aztec boats fled 
for shelter to the reedy thicket, where their companions 
lay in ambush. The Spaniards following, were soon 
entangled among the palisades under the water. They 
were instantly surrounded by the whole swarm of Indian 
canoes, most of the men were wounded, several, including- 
the two commanders, slain, and one of the brigantines fell 
— a useless prize — into the hands of the victors. Among 
the slain was Pedro Barba, captain of the crossbowmen, 
a gallant officer, who had highly distinguished himself in 
the Conquest. This disaster occasioned much mortifica- 
tion to Cortes. It was a salutary lesson, that stood him 
in good stead during the remainder of the war. 26 

Thus the contest was waged by land and by water, — 
on the causeway, the city, and the lake. Whatever else 
might fail, the capital of the Aztec empire was true 
to itself ; and, mindful of its ancient renown, opposed a 
bold front to its enemies in every direction. As in a 
body, whose extremities have been struck with death, 
life still rallied in the heart, and seemed to beat there for 
the time, with even a more vigorous pulsation than ever. 

It may appear extraordinary, that Guatemozin should 
have been able to provide for the maintenance of the 
crowded population now gathered in the metropolis, espe- 
cially as the avenues were all in the possession of the 
besieging army. 27 But, independently of the preparations 

26 Hist, cle la Conquista, loc. cit. 27 I recollect meeting -with no es- 

— Sahagun, Hist, de Neuva Esp., timate of their numbers ; nor, in the 
MS., lib. 12, cap. 34. loose arithmetic of the Conquerors, 


made with this view before the siege, and of the loathsome 
sustenance daily furnished by the victims for sacrifice, 
supplies were constantly obtained from the surrounding 
country across the lake. This was so conducted, for 
a time, as in a great measure to escape observation ; 
and even when the brigantines were commanded to 
cruise day and night, and sweep the waters of the 
boats employed in this service, many still contrived, 
under cover of the darkness, to elude the vigilance of the 
cruisers, and brought their cargoes into port. It was 
not till the great towns in the neighbourhood cast off 
their allegiance, that the supply began to fail, from the 
failure of its sources. This defection was more frequent, 
as the inhabitants became convinced that the govern- 
ment, incompetent to its own defence, must be still more 
so to theirs : and the Aztec metropolis saw its great 
vassals fall off, one after another, as the tree, over which 
decay is stealing, parts with its leaves at the first blast of 
the tempest. 28 

The cities, which now claimed the Spanish general's 
protection, supplied the camp with an incredible number 
of warriors ; a number which, if we admit Cortes' own 
estimate, one hundred and fifty thousand, 29 could have 
only served to embarrass his operations on the long 
extended causeways. Yet it is true, that the Valley, 
teeming with towns and villages, swarmed with a popu- 
lation — and one, too, in which every man was a warrior 
— greatly exceeding that of the present day. These 
levies were distributed among the three garrisons at the 
terminations of the causeways ; and many found active 
employment in foraging the country for provisions, and 

would it be worth much. They must, The principal cities were Mexicalt- 

however, have been very great, to zinco, Cuitlahuac, Iztapalapan, Miz- 

cnable them to meet the assailants quiz, Huitzilopochco, Colhuacan. 

so promptly and efficiently on every 20 " Y como aqucl dia llevabamos 

point. mas de cicnto y cincucnta mil Hom- 

28 Dcfensa, MS., cap. 28. — Saha- bres de Guerra." Itel. Terc. ap. Lo- 

gun, Hist, de Nueva Esp., MS., lib. renza, p. 280. 
12, cap. 31. 


yet more in carrying on hostilities against the places still 
unfriendly to the Spaniards. 

Cortes found further occupation for them in the con- 
struction of barracks for his troops, who suffered greatly 
from exposure to the incessant rains of the season, which 
were observed to fall more heavily by night than by day. 
Quantities of stone and timber were obtained from the 
buildings that had been demolished in the city. They 
were transported in the brigantines to the causeway, and 
from these materials a row of huts or barracks was con- 
structed, extending on either side of the works of Xoloc. 
It may give some idea of the great breadth of the cause- 
way at this place, one of the deepest parts of the lake, 
to add, that, although the barracks were erected in 
parallel lines on the opposite sides of it, there still 
remained space enough for the army to defile between. 30 

By this arrangement, ample accommodations were fur- 
nished for the Spanish troops and their Indian attend- 
ants, amounting in all to about two thousand. The 
great body of the allies, with a small detachment of horse 
and infantry, were quartered at the neighbouring post of 
Cojohuacan, which served to protect the rear of the 
encampment, and to maintain its communications with 
the country. A similar disposition of forces took place 
in the other divisions of the army, under Alvarado and 
Sandoval, though the accommodations provided for the 
shelter of the troops on their causeways were not so sub- 
stantial as those for the division of Cortes. 

The Spanish camp was supplied with provisions from 
the friendly towns in the neighbourhood, and especially 
from Tezcuco. 31 They consisted of fish, the fruits of the 
country, particularly a sort of fig borne by the tuna, 

30 " Y vea Vuestra Magestad," caballo ibamos, y veniamos por ella." 

says Cortes to the Emperor, " que Ibid., p. 260. 

tan ancha puede ser la Calzada, que 31 The greatest difficulty under 

va por lo mas hondo de la Laguna, which the troops laboured, accord- 

que de la una parte, y de la otra iban ing to Diaz, was that of obtaining 

estas Casas, y quedaba en medio he- the requisite medicaments for their 

cha Calle, que muy a placer a pic, y wounds. But this was in a great 




{cactus opuntia,) and a species of cherry, or something 
much resembling it, which grew abundant at this season. 
But their principal food was the tortillas, cakes of 
Indian meal, still common in Mexico, for which bake- 
houses were established, under the care of the natives, in 
the garrison towns commanding the causeways. 32 The 
allies, as appears too probable, reinforced their frugal fare 
with an occasional banquet on human flesh, for which the 
battle-field unhappily afforded them too much facility, 
and which, however shocking to the feelings of Cortes, 
he did not consider himself in a situation at that moment 
to prevent. 33 

Thus the tempest, which had been so long mustering, 
broke at length in all its fury on the Aztec capital. Its 
unhappy inmates beheld the hostile legions encompassing 
them about with their glittering files stretching as far as 
the eye could reach. They saw themselves deserted by 

degree obviated by a Catalan sol- 
dier, who, by virtue of bis prayers 
and incantations, wrought wonder- 
ful cures both on the Spaniards and 
their allies. The latter, as the more 
ignorant, flocked in crowds to the 
tent of this military iEsculapius, 
whose success was doubtless in a 
direct ratio to the faith of his pa- 
tients. Hist, de la Conquista, ubi 

32 Diaz mourns over this unsa- 
vory diet. (Ibid., loc. cit.) Yet 
the Indian fig is an agreeable, nu- 
tritious fruit ; and the tortilla, made 
of maize-flour, with a slight infu- 
sion of lime, though not precisely 
a moreen u friand, might pass for 
very tolerable camp fare. Accord- 
ing to the lively Author of " Life 
in Mexico," it is made now pre- 
cisely as it was in the days of the 
Aztecs. — If so, a cooking receipt 
is almost the only thing that has 
not changed in this country of revo- 

33 "Quo strages," says Martyr, 
" crat crudelior, eo magis copiose ac 
opipare ccenabant Guazuzingui et 

Tascaltecani, cseterique prouinciales 
auxiliarij, qui soliti sunt hostes in 
prcelio cadentes intra suos ventres 
scpelire ; nee vetare ausus fuisset 
Cortesius." (De Orbe Novo, dec. 
5, cap. 8.) "Y los otros les mostra- 
ban los de su eiudad hechos pedazos, 
diciendoles, que los habian de cenar 
aquella noche, y almorzar otro dia, 
como de hecho lo hacian." (Rel. 
Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 
25(3.) Yet one may well be startled 
by the assertion of Oviedo, that the 
carnivorous monsters fished up the 
bloated bodies of those drowned in 
the lake to swell their repast ! " Ni 
podian ver los ojos de los Christi- 
anos, e Catholicos, mas cspantable e 
aborrccida cosa, que ver en el Real 
de los Amigos confederados el con- 
tinuo exercicio de comer carne asada, 
6 cocida de los Indios enemigos, e 
ami de los que mataban en las ca- 
noas, d se ahogaban, e despues el 
agua los echaba en la superficie de la 
laguna, 6 cu la costa, no los dcxaban 
de pescar, c aposcntar en sus vien- 
trcs." Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
33, cap. 24. 




their allies and vassals in their utmost need ; the fierce 
stranger penetrating into their secret places, violating 
their temples, plundering their palaces, wasting the fair 
city by day, firing its suburbs by night, and intrenching 
himself in solid edifices under their walls, as if deter- 
mined never to withdraw his foot while one stone 
remained upon another. All this they saw, yet their 
spirits were unbroken ; and, though famine and pesti- 
lence were beginning to creep over them, they still 
showed the same determined front to their enemies. 
Cortes, who would gladly have spared the town and its 
inhabitants, beheld this resolution with astonishment. 
He intimated more than once, by means of the prisoners 
whom he released, his willingness to grant them fair 
terms of capitulation. Day after day, he fully expected 
his proffers would be accepted. But day after day he 
was disappointed. 34 He had yet to learn how tenacious 
was the memory of the Aztecs ; and that, whatever might 
be the horrors of their present situation, and their fears 
for the future, they were all forgotten in their hatred of 
the white man. 

34 "Y sin duda el dia pasado, y 
aqueste yo tenia por cierto, que 
vinieran de Paz, de la qual yo siem- 
pre con Victoria, y sin ella hacia 

todas las muestras, que podia. Y 
nunca por esso en ellos kallabamos 
alguua serial de Paz." Rel. Terc. 
de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 261. 

u 2 

292 [book vi. 


General Assault on the City. — Defeat of the Spaniards. — Their Disastrous 
Condition. — Sacrifice of the Captives. — Defection of the Allies. — Con- 
stancy of the Troops. 


Famine was now gradually working its way into the 
heart of the beleaguered city. It seemed certain that, 
with this strict blockade, the crowded population must 
in the end be driven to capitulate, though no arm should 
be raised against them. But it required time ; and the 
Spaniards, though constant and enduring by nature, 
began to be impatient of hardships scarcely inferior to 
those experienced by the besieged. In some respects 
their condition was even worse, exposed, as they were, 
to the cold, drenching rains, which fell with little inter- 
mission, rendering their situation dreary and disastrous 
in the extreme. 

In this state of things, there were many who would 
willingly have shortened their sufferings, and taken the 
chance of carrying the place by a coup de main. Others 
thought it would be best to get possession of the great 
market of Tlatelolco, which, from its situation in the 
north-western part of the city, might afford the means of 
communication with the camps of both Alvarado and 
Sandoval. This place, encompassed by spacious porticos, 
would furnish accommodations for a numerous host; and, 
once established in the capital, the Spaniards would be 


in a position to follow up the blow with far more effect 
than at a distance. 

These arguments were pressed by several of the 
officers, particularly by Alderete, the royal treasurer, a 
person of much consideration, not only from his rank, 
but from the capacity and zeal he had shown in the 
service. In deference to their wishes, Cortes summoned 
a council of war, and laid the matter before it. The 
treasurer's views were espoused by most of the high- 
mettled cavaliers, who looked with eagerness to any 
change of their present forlorn and wearisome life ; and 
Cortes, thinking it probably more prudent to adopt the 
less expedient course, than to enforce a cold and re- 
luctant obedience to his own opinion, suffered himself to 
be overruled. 1 

A day was fixed for the assault, which was to be made 
simultaneously by the two divisions under Alvaraclo and 
the commander-in-chief. Sandoval was instructed to 
draw off the greater part of his forces from the northern 
causeway, and to unite himself with Alvarado, while 
seventy picked soldiers were to be detached to the sup- 
port of Cortes. 

On the appointed morning, the two armies, after the 
usual celebration of mass, advanced along their respec- 
tive causeways against the city. 2 They were supported, 
in addition to the brigantines, by a numerous fleet of 
Indian boats, which were to force a passage up the 
canals, and by a countless multitude of allies, whose 

1 Such is the account explicitly sunshine, by day and by night, 
given by Cortes to the Emperor. among friends and enemies, draws 
(Rel. Terc.j ap. Lorenzana, p. 264.) forth a warm eulogium from the 
Bernal Diaz, on the contrary, speaks archiepiscopal editor of Cortes, 
of the assault as first conceived by " En el Campo, en una Calzada, 
the general himself. (Hist, de la entre Enemigos, trabajando dia, y 
Conquista, cap. 151.) Yet Diaz noche, nunca se omitia la Missa, 
had not the best means of knowing ; para que toda la obra se atribuyesse 
and Cortes would hardly have sent a Dios, y mas en unos Meses, en 
home a palpable misstatement that que incomodan las Aguas cle el 
could have been so easily exposed. Cielo ; y encima del Agua las Habi- 

2 This punctual performance of taciones, 6 malas Tiendas." Loren- 
mass by the army, in storm and in zana, p. 266, nota. 


very numbers served in the end to embarrass their opera- 
tions. After clearing the suburbs, three avenues pre- 
sented themselves, which all terminated in the square of 
Tlatelolco. The principal one, being of much greater 
width than the other two, might rather be called a cause- 
way than a street, since it was flanked by deep canals on 
either side. Cortes divided his force into three bodies. 
One of them he placed under Alderete, with orders to 
occupy the principal street. A second he gave in charge 
to Andres de Tapia and Jorge de Alvarado ; the former 
a cavalier of courage and capacity, the latter, a younger 
brother of Don Pedro, and possessed of the intrepid 
spirit which belonged to that chivalrous family. These 
were to penetrate by one of the parallel streets, while 
the general himself, at the head of the third division, 
was to occupy the other. A small body of cavalry, with 
two or three field pieces, was stationed as a reserve in 
front of the great street of Tacuba, which was designated 
as the rallying point for the different divisions. 3 

Cortes gave the most positive instructions to his cap- 
tains not to advance a step without securing the means 
of retreat, by carefully filling up the ditches, and the 
openings in the causeway. The neglect of this precau- 
tion by Alvarado, in an assault which he had made on 
the city but a few days before, had been attended with 
such serious consequences to his army, that Cortes rode 
over, himself, to his officer's quarters, for the purpose of 
publicly reprimanding him for his disobedience of orders. 
On his arrival at the camp, however, he found that his 
offending captain had conducted the affair with so much 
gallantry, that the intended reprimand — though well 
deserved — subsided into a mild rebuke. 4 

3 In the treasurer's division, ac- allies." (Ibid., ubi supra.) The 

cording to the general's Letter, there looseness of the language shows 

were 70 Spanish foot, 7 or 8 horse, that a few thousands, more or less, 

and 15,000 or 20,000 Indians; in were of no great moment in the 

Tapia's, 80 foot, and 10,000 allies ; estimate of the Indian forces, 

ami in his own, 8 horse, 100 in- '' " dia de mahana acorde de 

fnntry, and "an infinite number of ir a ,'su Real para le reprehender lo 


The arrangements being completed, the three divisions 
marched at once up the several streets. Cortes, dis- 
mounting, took the van of his own squadron, at the head 
of his infantry. The Mexicans fell back as he advanced, 
making less resistance than usual. The Spaniards pushed 
on, carrying one barricade after another, and carefully 
filling up the gaps with rubbish, so as to secure them- 
selves a footing. The canoes supported the attack, by 
moving along the canals, and grappling with those of the 
enemy ; while numbers of the nimble-footed Tlascalans, 
scaling the terraces, passed on from one house to another, 
where they were connected, hurling the defenders into 
the streets below. The enemy, taking apparently by 
surprise, seemed incapable of withstanding for a moment 
the fury of the assault; and the victorious Christians, 
cheered on by the shouts of triumph which arose from 
their companions in the adjoining streets, were only the 
more eager to be first at the destined goal. 

Indeed, the facility of his success led the general to 
suspect that he might be advancing too fast ; that it 
might be a device of the enemy to draw them into the 
heart of the city, and then surround or attack them in 
the rear. He had some misgivings, moreover, lest his 
too ardent officers, in the heat of the chase, should, 
notwithstanding his commands, have overlooked the 
necessary precaution of filling up the breaches. He 
accordingly brought his squadron to a halt, prepared to 
baffle any insidious movement of his adversary. Mean- 
while he received more than one message from Alderete, 
informing him that he had nearly gained the market. 
This only increased the general's apprehension, that, in 
the rapidity of his advance, he might have neglected 
to secure the ground. He determined to trust no 
eyes but his own, and, taking a small body of troops, 

pasado Y visto, no les impute habia de hacer, yo me bolvi a nues- 

tanta culpa, como antes parecia tro Real aquel dia." Rel. Terc, pp. 
teiier, y platicado cerca de lo que 263, 264. 


proceeded at once to reconnoitre the route followed by 
the treasurer. 

He had not proceeded far along the great street, or 
causeway, when his progress was arrested by an opening 
ten or twelve paces wide, and filled with water, at 
least two fathoms deep, by which a communication was 
formed between the canals on the opposite sides. A 
feeble attempt had been made to stop the gap with the 
rubbish of the causeway, but in too careless a manner to 
be of the least service ; and a few straggling stones and 
pieces of timber only showed that the work had been 
abandoned almost as soon as begun. 5 To add to his 
consternation, the general observed that the sides of the 
causeway in this neighbourhood had been pared off, and, 
as was evident, very recently. He saw in all this the 
artifice of the cunning enemy ; and had little doubt that 
his hot-headed officer had rushed into a snare deliberately 
laid for him. Deeply alarmed, he set about repairing 
the mischief as fast as possible, by ordering his men to 
fill up the yawning chasm. 

But they had scarcely begun their labours, when the 
hoarse echoes of conflict in the distance were succeeded 
by a hideous sound of mingled yells and war-whoops, 
that seemed to rend the very heavens. This was fol- 
lowed by a rushing noise, as of the tread of thronging 
multitudes, showing that the tide of battle was turned 
back from its former course, and was rolling on towards 
the spot where Cortes and his little band of cavaliers 
were planted. 

His conjectures proved too true. Alderete had fol- 
lowed the retreating Aztecs with an eagerness which 
increased with every step of his advance. He had carried 

5 " Y balle, que habian pasado en clla madera, y caiias de carrizo, 

una quebrada de la Callc, que era dc y como pasaban pocos a pocos, y con 

diez, 6 docc pasos de audio ; y el tieuto, no sc habia liundido la madera 

Agua, que por ella pasaba, era de y cafias." Ilcl. Tcrc, ap. Lorenzana, 

bondura dc mas de dos estados, y al p. 268. — See also Ovicdo, Hist, dc 

tiempo que la pasaron liabian echado las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 48. 


the barricades, which had defended the breach, without 
much difficulty, and, as he swept on, gave orders that 
the opening should be stopped. But the blood of the 
high-spirited cavaliers was warmed by the chase, and no 
one cared to be detained by the ignoble occupation of 
filling up the ditches, while he could gather laurels so 
easily in the fight ; and they all pressed on, exhorting and 
cheering one another with the assurance of being the 
first to reach the square of Tlatelolco. In this way they 
suffered themselves to be decoyed into the heart of the 
city ; when suddenly the horn of Guatemozin — the 
sacred symbol, heard only in seasons of extraordinary 
peril — sent forth a long and piercing note from the 
summit of a neighbouring teocatti. In an instant, the 
flying Aztecs, as if maddened by the blast, wheeled 
about, and turned on their pursuers. At the same time, 
countless swarms of warriors from the adjoining streets 
and lanes poured in upon the flanks of the assailants, 
filling the air with the fierce, unearthly cries which had 
reached the ears of Cortes, and drowning, for a moment, 
the wild dissonance which reigned in the other quarters 
of the capital. 6 

The army, taken by surprise, and shaken by the fury 
of the assault, were thrown into the utmost disorder. 
Friends and foes, white men and Indians, were mingled 
together in one promiscuous mass ; spears, swords, and 
war-clubs were brandished together in the air. Blows 
fell at random. In their eagerness to escape, they trod 
down one another. Blinded by the missiles, which now 
rained on them from the azoteas, they staggered on, 

6 Gomara, Crdnica, cap. 138. — roanera, q' hiziessen presa, d morir 

Ixtlilxochitl, Yemda de los Esp., sobre ello ; y retumbaua el sonido, 

p. 37. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., q' se metia en los oidos, y de q' lo 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 26. oyero aquellos sus esquadrones, y 

Guatemozin's horn rung in the Capitanes saber yo aqm dezir aora, 

ears of Bernal Diaz for many a day con q' rabia, y esfuerco le metian 

after the battle. " Guatemuz, y entre nosotros a nos echar inano, es 

manda tocar su corneta, q' era vna cosa de espanto." Hist, de la Con- 

senal quando aquella se tocasse, era quista, cap. 152. 
q' avian de pelear sus Capitanes de 


scarcely knowing in what direction, or fell, struck down 
by bands which they could not see. On they came like 
a rushing torrent sweeping along some steep declivity, 
and rolling in one confused tide towards the open breach, 
on the further side of which stood Cortes and his com- 
panions, horror-struck at the sight of the approaching 
ruin. The foremost files soon plunged into the gulf, 
treading one another under the flood, some striving in- 
effectually to swim, others, with more success, to clamber 
over the heaps of their suffocated comrades. Many, as 
they attempted to scale the opposite sides of the slippery 
dike, fell into the water, or were hurried off by the war- 
riors in the canoes, who added to the horrors of the 
rout by the fresh storm of darts and javelins which they 
poured on the fugitives. 

Cortes, meanwhile, with his brave followers, kept his 
station undaunted on the other side of the breach. " I 
had made up my mind," he says, " to die rather than 
desert my poor followers in their extremity ! " 1 With 
outstretched hands he endeavoured to rescue as many as 
he could from the watery grave, and from the more 
appalling fate of captivity. He as vainly tried to restore 
something like presence of mind and order among the 
distracted fugitives. His person was too well known to 
the Aztecs, and his position now made him a conspicuous 
mark for their weapons. Darts, stones, and arrows fell 
around him thick as hail, but glanced harmless from his 
steel helmet and armour of proof. At length a cry 
of " Malintzin, Malintzin ! " arose among the enemy ; 
and six of their number, strong and athletic warriors, 
rushing on him at once, made a violent effort to drag 
him on board their boat. In the struggle he received a 
severe wound in the leg, which, for the time, disabled it. 
There seemed to be no hope for him ; when a faithful 

7 "Ecorao cl ncgocio fuc tan de peleaado." Rel. Terc, ap. Loren- 
si'ipito, y vf que mataban la Genii;, zaua, p. 2G8. 
determine de me qucdar alii, y morir 

chap, vi.] DEFEAT OF THE SPANIARDS. 299 

follower, Christoval cle Olea, perceiving his general's 
extremity, threw himself on the Aztecs, and with a blow 
cut off the arm of one savage, and then plunged his 
sword in the body of another. lie was quickly sup- 
ported by a comrade named Lerma, and by a Tlascalan 
chief, who, fighting over the prostrate body of Cortes, 
despatched three more of the assailants, though the 
heroic Olea paid dearly for his self-devotion, as he fell 
mortally wounded by the side of his general. 8 

The report soon spread among the soldiers, that their 
commander was taken ; and Quiiiones, the captain of his 
guard, with several others, pouring- in to the rescue, suc- 
ceeded in disentangling Cortes from the grasp of his 
enemies who were struggling with him in the water, and, 
raising him in their arms, placed him again on the cause- 
way. One of his pages, meanwhile, had advanced some 
way through the press, leading a horse for his master to 
mount. But the youth received a wound in the throat 
from a javelin, which prevented him from effecting his 

8 Ixtlilxochitl, who 'would fain fate he commemorates in verses, that, 
make his royal kinsman a sort of at least, aspire to historic fidelity, 
residuary legatee for all unappro- 
priated, or even doubtful, acts of " Tiivole con las manos abracado, 
heroism, puts in a sturdy claim for Y Francisco de Olea el valeroso, 
him on this occasion. A painting, Vn valiente Espaiiol, y su criado, 
he says, on one of the gates of a Le tiro vn tajo brauo y riguroso : 
monastery of Tlatelolco, long re- Las dos manos a cercen le ha cor- 
corded the fact that it was the tado, 

Tezcucan chief who saved the life of Y el le librd del trance trabajoso. 

Cortes. (Venida de los Esp., p. 38.) Huuo muy gran rumor, porque 

But Camargo gives the full credit of dezian, 

it to Olea, on the testimony of "a Que ya en prision amarga le 

famous Tlascalan warrior," present tenian. 
in the action, who reported it to 

him. (Hist, de Tlascala, MS.) The " Llegaron otros Indios arriscados, 

same is stoutly maintained by Bemal Y a Olea mataron en vn punto, 

Diaz, the townsman of Olea, to whose Cercaron a Cortes por todos lados, 

memory he pays a hearty tribute, as Y al miserable cuerpo ya difunto : 

one of the best men and bravest Y viendo sus sentidos recobrados, 

soldiers in the army. (Hist, de la Puso mano a la espada y daga 

Conquista, cap. 152, 204.) Saavedra, junto. 

the poetic chronicler, — something Antonio de Quiiiones llegd luego, 

more of chronicler than poet, — who Capitan de la guarda ardiendo eu 

came on the stage before all that had fuego." 

borne arms in the Conquest had left El Perec;kino Indian o, 

it, gives the laurel also to Olea, whose Canto 20. 


object. Another of his attendants was more successful. 
It was Guzman, his chamberlain; but, as he held the 
bridle, while Cortes was assisted into the saddle, he was 
snatched away by the Aztecs, and with the swiftness of 
thought, hurried off by their canoes. The general still 
lingered, unwilling to leave the spot, whilst his presence 
could be of the least service. But the faithful Quifiones, 
taking his horse by the bridle, turned his head from the 
breach, exclaiming, at the same time, that " his master's 
life was too important to the army to be thrown away 
there." 9 

Yet it was no easy matter to force a passage through 
the press. The surface of the causeway, cut up by the 
feet of men and horses, was knee-deep in mud, and in 
some parts was so much broken, that the water from the 
canals flowed over it. The crowded mass, in their efforts 
to extricate themselves from their perilous position, stag- 
gered to and fro like a drunken man. Those on the 
flanks were often forced by the lateral pressure of their 
comrades down the slippery sides of the dike, where they 
were picked up by the canoes of the enemy, whose shouts 
of triumph proclaimed the savage joy with which they 
gathered in every new victim for the sacrifice. Two 
cavaliers, riding by the general's side, lost their footing, 
and rolled down the declivity into the water. One was 
taken and his horse killed ; the other was happy enough 
to escape. The valiant ensign, Corral, had a similar 
piece of good fortune. He slipped into the canal, and 
the enemy felt sure of their prize, when he again suc- 
ceeded in recovering the causeway with the tattered 
banner of Castile still flying above his head. The bar- 
barians set up a cry of disappointed rage, as they lost 

9 "E aquel Capitan que cstaba vos, ninguno de nosotros puede esca- 

con el General, que sc dccia Antonio par, que no es esf'uerzo, sino poque- 

dc Quifiones, dixolc : Vamos, Sefior, dad, porfiar aqui otra cosa." Oviedo, 

de aqui, y salvcmos vuestra Persona, Hist, dc las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 

pucs que ya esto estade manera, que cap. 26. 
es morir dcscsperado atcnder ; e sin 

chap, vi.] DEFEAT OF THE SPANIARDS. 301 

possession of a trophy, to which the people of Anahuac 
attached, as we have seen, the highest importance, hardly 
inferior in their eyes to the capture of the commander- 
in-chief himself. 10 

Cortes at length succeeded in regaining the firm 
ground, and reaching the open place before the great 
street of Tacuba. Here, under a sharp fire of the artil- 
lery, he rallied his broken squadrons, and charging at 
the head of the little body of horse, which, not having 
been brought into action, were still fresh, he beat off the 
enemy. He then commanded the retreat of the two other 
divisions. The scattered forces again united ; and the 
general, sending forward his Indian confederates, took the 
rear with a chosen body of cavalry to cover the retreat of the 
army, which was effected with but little additional loss. 11 

Andres de Tapia was despatched to the western 
causeway to acquaint Alvarado and Sandoval with the 
failure of the enterprise. Meanwhile the two captains 
had penetrated far into the city. Cheered by the trium- 
phant shouts of their countrymen in the adjacent streets, 
they had pushed on with extraordinary vigour, that they 
might not be outstripped in the race of glory. They 
had almost reached the market-place, which lay nearer 
to their quarters than to the general's, when they heard 
the blast from the dread horn of Guatemozin, 12 followed 

10 It may have been the same Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
banner which is noticed by Mr. 33, cap. 26, 48. 

Bullock, as treasured up in the ,„ . CT1 i -i j i ± j 

tt -j. i e t ct i " El resomdo de la corneta de 

Hospital oi Jesus, where, says r, . „ A . i f , i 

he, "we beheld the identical em- Guatenmz. -Astolfo s magic horn 

broidered standard, under which the was not m0re temble> ^ 

great captain wrested this immense " Dico che '1 corno e di si orribil 

empire from the unfortunate Monte- suono, 

zuma." Six Months in Mexico, vol. i., Ch' ovunque s' oda, fa fuggir la 

chap. 10. gente. 

11 For tins disastrous affair, be- Non pub trovarsi al mondo un cor 
sides the Letter of Cortes, and the si buono, 

Chronicle of Diaz, so often quoted, Che possa non fuggir come lo sente. 

see Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Esp., Rumor di vento e di tremuoto, e '1 

MS., lib. 12, cap. 33. — Camargo, tuono, 

Hist, de Tlascala, MS.,— Gomara, A par del suon di questo, era 

Crdnica, cap. 138, — Torquemada, niente." 

Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 94, — Oklakdo Fuiuoso, Canto 15, st. 15. 


by the overpowering yell of the barbarians, which had so 
startled the ears of Cortes ; till at length the sounds of 
the receding conflict died away in the distance. The two 
captains now understood that the day must have gone 
hard with their countrymen. They soon had further 
proof of it, when the victorious Aztecs, returning from 
the pursuit of Cortes, joined their forces to those engaged 
with Sandoval and Alvarado, and fell on them with 
redoubled fury. At the same time they rolled on the 
ground two or three of the bloody heads of the Spaniards, 
shouting the name of " Malintzin." The captains, struck 
with horror at the spectacle, — though they gave little 
credit to the words of the enemy, — instantly ordered a 
retreat. Indeed, it was not in their power to maintain 
their ground against the furious assaults of the besieged, 
who poured on them swarm after swarm, with a despe- 
ration, of which, says one who was there, " although it 
seems as if it were now present in my eyes, I can give 
but a faint idea to the reader. God alone could have 
brought us off safe from the perils of that day." 13 The 
fierce barbarians followed up the Spaniards to their very 
intrenchments. But here they were met, first by the 
cross fire of the brigantines, which, dashing through the 
palisades planted to obstruct their movements, completely 
enfiladed the causeway, and next by that of the small 
battery erected in front of the camp, which, under the 
management of a skilful engineer, named Medrano, swept 
the whole length of the defile. Thus galled in front and 
on flank, the shattered columns of the Aztecs were com- 
pelled to give way and take shelter under the defences of 
the city. 

The greatest anxiety now prevailed in the camp, 
regarding the fate of Cortes; for Tapia had been 

13 « Porque yo no lo se aqui csfuerco, segun estauamos todos 

escrivir q' aora q' me pongo a pcnsar heridos : el nos saluo\ q' de otra 

en ello, es como si visiblemcntc lo manera no nos podiamos llegar ;'i 

viesse, mas bueluo a dezir, y ansi es nuestros ranchos." Bernal Diaz, 

verdad, q' si Dios no nos diera Hist, de la Conqnista, cap. 152. 


detained on the road by scattered parties of the enemy, 
whom Gautemozin had stationed there to interrupt the 
communications between the camps. He arrived, at 
length, however, though bleeding from several wounds. 
His intelligence, while it reassured the Spaniards as to 
the general's personal safety, was not calculated to allay 
their uneasiness in other respects. 

Sandoval, in particular, was desirous to acquaint 
himself with the actual state of things, and the further 
intentions of Cortes. Suffering as he was from three 
wounds which he had received in that day's fight, he 
resolved to visit in person the quarters of the commander- 
in-chief. It was mid-day, — for the busy scenes of the 
morning had occupied but a few hours, when Sandoval 
remounted the good steed, on whose strength and speed 
he knew he could rely. It was a noble animal, well- 
known throughout the army, and worthy of its gallant 
rider, whom it had carried safe through all the long 
marches and bloody battles of the conquest. 14 On the 
way he fell in with Guatemozin's scouts, who gave him 
chase, and showered around him volleys of missiles, which 
fortunately found no vulnerable point in his own harness, 
or that of his well-barbed charger. 

On arriving at the camp, he found the troops there 
much worn and dispirited by the disaster of the morning. 
They had good reason to be so. Besides the killed, and 
a long file of wounded, sixty-two Spaniards, with a mul- 
titude of allies, had fallen alive into the hands of the 
enemy, — an enemy who was never known to spare a 
captive. The loss of two field-pieces and seven horses 
crowned their own disgrace and the triumphs of the 

14 This renowned steed, who might defrauded of his fair guerdon in 

rival the Babieca of the Cid, was these campaigns against the infidel, 

named Motilla, and, when one would He was of a chestnut colour, it 

pass unqualified praise on a horse, seems, with a star in his forehead, 

he would say, "He is as good as and, luckily for his credit, with only 

Motilla." So says that prince of one foot white. See Hist, de la 

chroniclers, Diaz, who takes care Conquista, cap. 152 — 205. 
that neither beast nor man shall be 


Aztecs. This loss, so insignificant in European warfare, 
was a great one here, where both horses and artillery, 
the most powerful arms of war against the barbarians, 
were not to be procured without the greatest cost and 
difficulty. 15 

Cortes, it was observed, had borne himself throughout 
this trying day with his usual intrepidity and coolness. 
The only time he was seen to falter was when the 
Mexicans threw down before him the heads of several 
Spaniards, shouting, at the same time, " Sandoval," 
" Tonatiuh," the well-known epithet of Alvarado. At the 
sight of the gory trophies he grew deadly pale, — but, in 
a moment recovering his usual confidence, he endea- 
voured to cheer up the drooping spirits of his followers. 
It was with a cheerful countenance, that he now received 
his lieutenant ; but a shade of sadness was visible through 
this outward composure, showing how the catastrophe 
of the puente cuidada, " the sorrowful bridge," as he 
mournfully called it, lay heavy at his heart. 

To the cavalier's anxious inquiries, as to the cause of 
the disaster, he replied : " It is for my sins, that it has 
befallen me, son Sandoval;" for such was the affection- 
ate epithet with which Cortes often addressed his best- 
beloved and trusty officer. He then explained to him 
the immediate cause, in the negligence of the treasurer. 
Further conversation followed, in which the general 
declared his purpose to forego active hostilities for a few 
days. "You must take my place," he continued, "for 
I am too much crippled at present to discharge my 
duties. You must watch over the safety of the camps. 
Give especial heed to Alvarado's. He is a gallant soldier, 
I know it well ; but I doubt the Mexican hounds may, 

15 The cavaliers might be excused sazon vn cauallo ochocientos pesos, 

for not wantonly venturing their y aun alguuos costauan a mas dc 

horses, if, as Diaz asserts, they could mil." Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

only be replaced at an expense of 151. See, also, ante, Book II., 

eight hundred, or a thousand dollars chap. 2, note 42. 
apiece. " Porque costaua en aquclla 


some hour, take him at disadvantage." 16 These few words 
showed the general's own estimate of his two lieutenants ; 
both equally brave and chivalrous ; but the one uniting 
with these qualities the circumspection so essential to 
success in perilous enterprises, in which the other was 
signally deficient. The future conqueror of Guatemala 
had to gather wisdom, as usual, from the bitter fruits of 
his own errors. It was under the training of Cortes, 
that he learned to be a soldier. — The general, having 
concluded his instructions, affectionately embraced his 
lieutenant, and dismissed him to his quarters. 

It was late in the afternoon when he reached them ; 
but the sun was still lingering above the western hills, 
and poured his beams wide over the Valley, lighting up 
the old towers and temples of Tenochtitlan with a mellow 
radiance that little harmonized with the dark scenes of 
strife in which the city had so lately been involved. The 
tranquillity of the hour, however, was on a sudden broken 
by the strange sounds of the great drum in the temple 
of the war-god, — sounds which recalled the iwche triste, 
with all its terrible images, to the minds of the Spaniards, 
for that was the only occasion on which they had ever 
heard them. 17 They intimated some solemn act of reli- 
gion within the unhallowed precincts of the teocatti ; and 
the soldiers, startled by the mournful vibrations, which 
might be heard for leagues across the Valley, turned 
their eyes to the quarter whence they proceeded. They 
there beheld a long procession winding up the huge sides 
of the pyramid ; for the camp of Alvarado was pitched 
scarcely a mile from the city, and objects are distinctly 

is « jy[j ra p ueg ye j s q Ue y no p U _ g rau p 0( j er d es tos perros no les ayan 

edo ir a todas partes, a vos os enco- desbaratado." Ibid., cap. 152. 
miendo estos trabajos, pues veis q' 

estoy herido y coxo ; ruego os pon- 17 " Un atambor de muy triste 

gais cobro en estos tres reales ; bien sonido, enfin como instrumento de 

se q' Pedro de Aluarado, y sus Capi- demonios, y retumbaua tanto, que 

tanes, y soldados auran batallado, y se oia dos, d tres leguas." Ibid., 

liecho como caualleros, rnas temo el loc. cit. 



visible, at a great distance, in the transparent atmosphere 
of the table-land. 

As the long file of priests and warriors reached the 
flat summit of the ieocalli, the Spaniards saw the figures 
of several men stripped to their waists, some of whom, 
by the whiteness of their skins, they recognised as their 
own countrymen. They were the victims for sacrifice. 
Their heads were gaudily decorated with coronals of 
plumes, and they carried fans in their hands. They 
were urged along by blows, and compelled to take part 
in the dances in honour of the Aztec war-god. The 
unfortunate captives, then stripped of their sad finery, 
were stretched one after another on the great stone of 
sacrifice. On its convex surface, their breasts were 
heaved up conveniently for the diabolical purpose of the 
priestly executioner, who cut asunder the ribs by a strong 
blow with his sharp razor of itztli, and thrusting his 
hand into the wound, tore away the heart, which, hot 
and reeking, was deposited on the golden censer before 
the idol. The body of the slaughtered victim was then 
hurled down the steep stairs of the pyramid, which, it 
may be remembered, were placed at the same angle of 
the pile, one flight below another ; and the mutilated 
remains were gathered up by the savages beneath, who 
soon prepared with them the cannibal repast which 
completed the work of abomination ! 18 

We may imagine with what sensations the stupefied 

,s Ibid., ubi supra. — Oviedo, Hist. de largo, le daba un golpe con ambas 

de las Ir±d., MS., lib. 33, cap. 48. manos en el pecbo ; y sacando aquel 

" Sacandoles los corazones sobre pedernal, por la misma llaga mctia 

una piedra que era como un pilar la mano, y arrancabale el corazon, y 

cortado, tan grueso como un liombre luego frcgaba con el la boca del 

y algo mas, y tan alto como medio Jdolo ; y ecbaba ;i rodar el cuerpo 

estadio ; alii a cada uno ecliado de por } as grac i as a b a j , que serian como 

cspaldas sobre aquclla piedra, que sc C m qucn ta 6 scsenta gradas, por alii 

llama Tcchcatl, uno le tiraba por un a t> a j , iba quebrando las piernas y los 

brazo, y otro por el otro, y tambien brazos, y dando cabezasos con la 

por las piernas otros dos, y vema ca bcza, hasta que llegaba abajo ann 

uno de aquellos Satrapas, con un vivo » Sabagun, Hist, de Nueva 

pedernal, como un bicrro de lauza E sp-) ^s. } lib. 12, cap. 35. 
cnliastado, en un palo de dos palmos 


Spaniards must have gazed on this horrid spectacle, so 
near that they could almost recognise the persons of 
their unfortunate friends, see the struggles and writhing 
of their bodies, hear — or fancy that they heard — their 
screams of agony ! yet so far removed that they could 
render them no assistance. Their limbs trembled beneath 
them, as they thought what might one day be their own 
fate; and the bravest among them, who had hitherto 
gone to battle, as careless and light-hearted, as to the 
banquet or the ball-room, were unable, from this time 
forward, to encounter their ferocious enemy without 
a sickening feeling, much akin to fear, coming over 
them. 19 

Such was not the effect produced by this spectacle on 
the Mexican forces, gathered at the end of the causeway. 
Like vultures maddened by the smell of distant carrion, 
they set up a piercing cry, and, as they shouted that, 
" such should be the fate of all their enemies," swept 
along in one fierce torrent over the dike. But the 
Spaniards were not to be taken by surprise ; and, before 
the barbarian horde had come within their lines, they 
opened such a deadly fire from their battery of heavy 
guns, supported by the musketry and crossbows, that 
the assailants were compelled to fall back slowly, but 
fearfully mangled, to their former position. 

The five following days passed away in a state of in- 
action, except indeed, so far as was necessary to repel 
the sorties, made from time to time, by the militia of the 

19 At least, such is the honest todos aquellos caualleros, que desto 

confession of captain Diaz, as stout- del militar entienden, y se han hal- 

hearted a soldier as any in the army. lado en trances peligrosos de muerte, 

He consoles himself, however, with a que fin echaran mi temor, si es a 

the reflection, that the tremor of mucha flaqueza de animo, 6 a mucbo 

his limbs intimated rather an excess esfuerco, porque como he dicho, sen- 

of courage than a want of it, since tia yo en mi pensamiento, que auia 

it arose from a lively sense of the de poner por mi persona, batallando 

great dangers into which his daring en parte que por fuerca auia de 

spirit was about to hurry him ! The temer la muerte mas que otras vezes, 

passage in the original affords a good y por esto me temblaua el coracon, 

specimen of the inimitable naivete of y temia la muerte." Hist, de la 

the old chronicler. " Digan agora Conquista, cap. 156. 



capital. The Mexicans, elated with their success, mean- 
while abandoned themselves to jubilee ; singing, dancing 
and feasting on the mangled relics of their wretched 
victims. Guatemozin sent several heads of the Spaniards, 
as well as of the horses, round the country, calling on 
his old vassals to forsake the banners of the white men, 
unless they would share the doom of the enemies of 
Mexico. The priests now cheered the young monarch 
and the people with the declaration, that the dread Huit- 
zilopochtli, their offended deity, appeased by the sacrifices 
offered up on his altars, would again take the Aztecs 
under his protection, and deliver their enemies, before 
the expiration of eight days, into their hands. 20 

This comfortable prediction, confidently believed by 
the Mexicans, was thundered in the ears of the besieging 
army in tones of exultation and defiance. However it 
may have been contemned by the Spaniards, it had a 
very different effect on their allies. The latter had begun 
to be disgusted with a service so full of peril and suffer- 
ing, and already protracted far beyond the usual term of 
Indian hostilities. They had less confidence than before 
in the Spaniards. Experience had shown that they were 
neither invincible nor immortal, and their recent reverses 
made them even distrust the ability of the Christians to 
reduce the Aztec metropolis. They recalled to mind 
the ominous words of Xicotencatl, that " so sacrilegious 
a war could come to no good for the people of Anahuac." 
They felt that their arm was raised against the gods of 
their country. The prediction of the oracle fell heavy on 
their hearts. They had little doubt of its fulfilment, and 
were only eager to turn away the bolt from their own 
heads by a timely secession from the cause. 

They took advantage, therefore, of the friendly cover 

20 Hcrrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, nosotros a vida, porque assi se lo 

lib. 2, cap. 20. — Ixtlilxochitl, Vcnida auian prometido la noche antes sus 

de los Esp., pp. 41, 42. Dioses." Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 

" Y nos dezian, que de ai a oclio Conquista, cap. 153. 
dias no auia de quedar niuguno de 

chap, vi.] DEFECTION OF THE ALLIES. 309 

of night to steal away from their quarters. Company 
after company deserted in this manner, taking the direc- 
tion of their respective homes. Those belonging to the 
great towns of the Valley, whose allegiance was the most 
recent, were the first to cast it off. Their example was 
followed by the older confederates, the militia of Cholula, 
Tepeaca, Tezcuco, and even the faithful Tlascala. There 
were, it is true, some exceptions to these, and, among 
them, Ixtlilxochitl, the younger lord of Tezcuco, and 
Chichemecatl, the valiant Tlascalan chieftain, who, with 
a few of their immediate followers, still remained true to 
the banner under which they had enlisted. But their 
number was insignificant. The Spaniards beheld with 
dismay the mighty array, on which they relied for sup- 
port, thus silently melting away before the breath of 
superstition. Cortes alone maintained a cheerful coun- 
tenance. He treated the prediction with contempt, as 
an invention of the priests, and sent his messengers after 
the retreating squadrons, beseeching them to postpone 
their departure, or at least to halt on the road, till the 
time, which would soon elapse, should show the falsehood 
of the prophecy. 

The affairs of the Spaniards, at this crisis, must be 
confessed to have worn a gloomy aspect. Deserted by 
their allies, with their ammunition nearly exhausted, cut 
off from the customary supplies from the neighbourhood, 
harassed by unintermitting vigils and fatigues, smarting 
under wounds, of which every man in the army had his 
share, with an unfriendly country in their rear, and a 
mortal foe in front, they might well be excused for 
faltering in their enterprise. They found abundant occu- 
pation by day in foraging the country, and in maintaining 
their position on the causeways against the enemy, now 
made doubly daring by success and by the promises of 
their priests ; while at night their slumbers were dis- 
turbed by the beat of the melancholy drum, the sounds 
of which, booming far over the waters, tolled the knell 


of their murdered comrades. Night after night fresh 
victims were led up to the great altar of sacrifice ; and 
while the city blazed with the illuminations of a thou- 
sand bonfires on the terraced roofs of the dwellings, and 
in the areas of the temples, the dismal pageant, showing- 
through the fiery glare like the work of the ministers of 
hell, was distinctly visible from the camp below. One 
of the last of the sufferers was Guzman, the unfor- 
tunate chamberlain of Cortes, who lingered in captivity 
eighteen days before he met his doom. 21 

Yet in this hour of trial the Spaniards did not falter. 
Had they faltered, they might have learned a lesson of 
fortitude from some of their own wives, who continued 
with them in the camp, and who displayed a heroism, on 
this occasion, of which history has preserved several 
examples. One of these, protected by her husband's 
armour, would frequently mount guard in his place, 
when he was wearied. Another, hastily putting on a 
soldier's escaupil and seizing a sword and lance, was 
seen, on one occasion, to rally her retreating country- 
men, and lead them back against the enemy. Cortes 
would have persuaded these Amazonian dames to remain 
at Tlascala; but they proudly replied, "It was the duty 
of Castilian wives not to abandon their husbands in 
danger, but to share it with them, — and die with them, 
if necessary." And well did they do their duty. 22 

21 Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Esp., en aquel instate estauan sacrificaudo 

MS., lib. 12, cap. 36, — Ixtlilxochitl, de nuestros copaiieros, dc los q' 

Venida de los Esp., pp. 41, 42. tomaro a Cortes, que supimos q' 

The Castilian scholar will see that sacrificaron dicz dias arrco, hasta 

I have not drawn on my imagination que los acabaron, y el postrero dex- 

for the picture of these horrors. aro a Christoua! dc Guzman, q' viuo 

"Digamos aoraloque los Mexicanos lo tuuieron dicz y ocho dias, seguu 

hazian de noche en sus grandcs, y dixero trcs Capitancs Mexicanos q' 

altos Cues ; y es, q' taiiian su maldito prcdimos." Eernal Diaz, Hist, dc 

atambor, que dixe otra vez que era la Conquista, cap. 153. 
el de mas maldito sonido, y mas 22 " Que no era bien, que Mugercs 

triste q' sc podia inuetar, y sonaua Castellanas dexasen a sus Maridos, 

muy lexos ; y tanian otros peores iendo a la Gnerra, i que adonde ellos 

instrumentos. En fin, cosas diabo- muriesen, moririan ellas." (Hcrrera, 

licas, y tenia grandes lumbrcs, y Hist. General, dec. 3. lib. 1, cap. 22.) 

dana gradissimos gritos, y siluos, y The historian has embalmed the 


Amidst all the distresses and multiplied embarrass- 
ments of their situation, the Spaniards still remained 
true to their purpose. They relaxed in no degree the 
severity of the blockade. Their camps still occupied the 
only avenues to the city ; and their batteries, sweeping 
the long defiles at every fresh assault of the Aztecs, 
mowed down hundreds of the assailants. Their brigan- 
tines still rode on the waters, cutting off the communi- 
cation with the shore. It is true, indeed, the loss of the 
auxiliary canoes left a passage open for the occasional 
introduction of supplies to the capital. 23 But the whole 
amount of these supplies was small ; and its crowded 
population, while exulting in their temporary advantage, 
and the delusive assurances of their priests, were begin- 
ning to sink under the withering grasp of an enemy 
within, more terrible than the one which lay before 
their gates. 

names of several of these heroines Maria de Estrada, Juana Martin, 

in his pages, who are, doubtless, Isabel Rodriguez, and Beatriz Ber- 

well entitled to share the honours of mudez. 

the Conquest; Beatriz de Palacios, 2a Ibid., ubi supra. 




Successes of the Spaniards. — Fruitless Offers to Guatemozin. — Buildings 
razed to the Ground. — Terrible Famine. — The Troops gain the Market- 
place. — Battering Engine. 


Thus passed away the eight days prescribed by the 
oracle ; and the sun, which rose upon the ninth, beheld 
the fair city still beset on every side by the inexorable 
foe. It was a great mistake of the Aztec priests, — one 
not uncommon with false prophets, anxious to produce a 
startling impression on their followers, — to assign so 
short a term for the fulfilment of their prediction. 1 

The Tezcucan and Tlascalan chiefs now sent to acquaint 
their troops with the failure of the prophecy, and to re- 
call them to the Christian camp. The Tlascalans, who 
had halted on the way, returned, ashamed of their cre- 
dulity, and with ancient feelings of animosity, heightened 
by the artifice of which they had been the dupes. Their 
example was followed by many of the other confederates, 
with the levity natural to a people whose convictions are 
the result, not of reason, but of superstition. In a short 
time the Spanish general found himself at the head of 
an auxiliary force, which, if not so numerous as before, 
was more than adequate to all his purposes. He received 

1 And yet the priests were not so into the cars of his flock, what he 

much to blame, if, as Solis assures could not into their hearts." Con- 

us, " the devil went about very in- quista, lib. 5, cap. 22. 
dustriously in those days, insinuating 


them with politic benignity ; and, while he reminded 
them that they had been guilty of a great crime in thus 
abandoning their commander, he was willing to overlook 
it in consideration of their past services. They must be 
aware that these services were not necessary to the 
Spaniards, who had carried on the siege with the same 
vigour during their absence as when they were present. 
But he was unwilling that those who had shared the 
dangers of the war with him, should not also partake of 
its triumphs, and be present at the fall of their enemy, 
which he promised, with a confidence better founded 
than that of the priests in their prediction, should not be 
long delayed. 

Yet the menaces and machinations of Guatemozin 
were still not without effect in the distant provinces. 
Before the full return of the confederates, Cortes received 
an embassy from Cuernavaca, ten or twelve leagues dis- 
tant, and another from some friendly towns of the Oto- 
mies, still further off, imploring his protection against 
their formidable neighbours, who menaced them with 
hostilities, as allies of the Spaniards. As the latter were 
then situated, they were in a condition to receive succour 
much more than to give it. 2 Most of the officers were 
accordingly opposed to granting a request, the compli- 
ance with which must still further impair their dimi- 
nished strength. But Cortes knew the importance, 
above all, of not betraying his own inability to grant it. 
" The greater our weakness," he said, " the greater need 
have we to cover it under a show of strength." 3 

He immediately detached Tapia with a body of about 
a hundred men in one direction, and Sandoval with a 
somewhat larger force in the other, with orders that their 

2 " Y teniamos necesidad antes de pero como nos convenia mostrar mas 
ser socorridos, que de dar socorro." esfuerzo y animo, que nunca, y morir 
Sel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, peleando, disimulabamos nuestra fla- 
p- 272. queza assi con los Amigos como con 

3 " God knows," says the general, los Enemigos." Ibid., p. 275. 
" the peril in which we all stood ; 


absence should not in any event be prolonged beyond ten 
days. 4 The two captains executed their commission 
promptly and effectually. They each met and defeated 
his adversary in a pitched battle ; laid waste the hostile 
territories, and returned within the time prescribed. 
They were soon followed by ambassadors from the con- 
quered places, soliciting the alliance of the Spaniards • 
and the affair terminated by an accession of new con- 
federates, and, what was more important, a conviction 
in the old, that the Spaniards were both willing and 
competent to protect them. 

Fortune, who seldom dispenses her frowns or her 
favours single-handed, further showed her good-will to 
the Spaniards at this time, by sending a vessel into 
Vera Cruz laden with ammunition and military stores. 
It was part of the fleet destined for the Florida coast 
by the romantic old knight, Ponce de Leon. The cargo 
was immediately taken by the authorities of the port, 
and forwarded, without delay, to the camp, where it 
arrived most seasonably, as the want of powder, in par- 
ticular, had begun to be seriously felt. 5 With strength 
thus renovated, Cortes determined to resume active 
operations, but on a plan widely differing from that 
pursued before. 

In the former deliberations on the subject, two courses, 
as we have seen, presented themselves to the general. 
One was, to intrench himself in the heart of the capital, 
and from this point carry on hostilities ; the other was 
the mode of proceeding hitherto followed. Both were 
open to serious objections, which he hoped would be 

4 Tapia's force consisted of 10 p. 278.) It was probably the expe- 
horse and SO foot ; the chief alguacil, dition in which Ponce de Leon lost 
as Sandoval was styled, had IS horse his life ; an expedition to the very 
and 100 infantry. Ibid., loc. cit. — land which the chivalrous cavalier 
Also Ovicdo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., had himself first visited in quest of 
lib. 33, cap. 26. the Fountain of Health. The story 

5 " Polvora y Ballestas, dc que is pleasantly told by Irving, as the 
teniamos muy estrema necesidad." reader may remember, in his " Com- 
(llel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, panions oi Columbus." 


obviated by the one now adopted. This was to advance 
no step without securing the entire safety of the army, 
not only on its immediate retreat, but in its future 
inroads. Every breach in the causeway, every canal in 
the streets, was to be filled up in so solid a manner, that 
the work should not be again disturbed. The materials 
for this were to be furnished by the buildings, every one 
of which, as the army advanced, whether public or pri- 
vate, hut, temple, or palace, was to be demolished ! Not 
a building in their path was to be spared. They were 
all indiscriminately to be levelled, until, in the Con- 
queror's own language, " the water should be converted 
into dry land," and a smooth and open ground be afforded 
for the manoeuvres of the cavalry and artillery. 6 

Cortes came to this terrible determination with great 
difficulty. He sincerely desired to spare the city, " the 
most beautiful thing in the world," 7 as he enthusiasti- 
cally styles it, and which would have formed the most 
glorious trophy of his conquest. But, in a place where 
every house was a fortress, and every street was cut up 
by canals so embarrassing to his movements, experience 
proved it was vain to think of doing so, and becoming 
master of it. There was as little hope of a peaceful 
accommodation with the Aztecs, who, so far from being 
broken by all they had hitherto endured, and the long 
perspective of future woes, showed a spirit as haughty 
and implacable as ever. 8 

The general's intentions were learned by the Indian 
allies with unbounded satisfaction ; and they answered 

6 The calm and simple manner in paso adelante, sin lo dejar todo aso- 

•\yhich the Conquistador, as usual, lado, y lo que era Agua, hacerlo 

states this' in his Commentaries, has Tierra-finne, aunque hobiesse toda la 

something appalling in it from its dilacion, que se pudiesse seguir." 

very simplicity. " Acorde de tomar Rel. Terc, ap. Lorenzana, p. 279. 

un medio para nuestra seguridad, y 7 „p era k mas hermosa 

para poder mas estrechar a los Ene- coga M jj ^ „ md 278> 

migos ; y me, que como tuessemos r 

ganando por las Calles de la Ciudad, 8 " Mas antes en el pelear, y en 

que fuessen derrocando todas las Ca- todos sur ardides, los hallabamos con 

sas de ellas, del un lado, y del otro ; mas ammo que nunca." Ibid., p. 

por manera, que no fuessemos un 279. 


his call for aid by thousands of pioneers, armed with 
their coas, or hoes of the country, all testifying the 
greatest alacrity in helping on the work of destruction. 9 
In a short time the breaches in the great causeways were 
filled up so effectually that they were never again molested. 
Cortes himself set the example by carrying stones and 
timber with his own hands. 10 The buildings in the 
suburbs were then thoroughly levelled, the canals were 
filled up with the rubbish, and a wide space around the 
city was thrown open to the manoeuvres of the cavalry, 
who swept over it free and unresisted. The Mexicans 
did not look with indifference on these preparations to lay 
waste their town, and leave them bare and unprotected 
against the enemy. They made incessant efforts to 
impede the labours of the besiegers ; but the latter, 
under cover of their guns, which kept up an un intermit- 
ting fire, still advanced in the work of desolation. 11 

The gleam of fortune, which had so lately broken out 
on the Mexicans, again disappeared ; and the dark mist, 
after having been raised for a moment, settled on the 
doomed capital more heavily than before. Famine, with 
all her hideous train of woes, was making rapid strides 
among its accumulated population. The stores provided 
for the siege were exhausted. The casual supply of 
human victims, or that obtained by some straggling 

9 Yet we shall hardly credit the fue tan porfiada y tan sangrienta, 
Tczcucan historian's assertion, that que era espanto de vcrla, y no hay 
a hundred thousand Indians nocked possibilidad, para decir las particula- 
te the camp for this purpose ! " Vi- ridades que pasaban ; eran tan espe- 
niesen todos los labradores con sus sas las sactas, y dardos, y piedras, y 
coas para este efecto con toda breve- palos, que se arrojavan los unos a los 

dad : llegaron mas de cien mil otros, que quitavan la claridad del 

de ellos." Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de sol ; era tan grande la voceria, y 

los Esp., p. 42. grita, de hombres y mugeres y ninos 

10 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- que voceaban y lloraban, que era 
quista, cap. 153. cosa dc grima; era tan grande la 

11 Sahagun,who gathered the story polvareda, y ruido, en derrocar y 
from the actors, and from the aspect quemar casas y robar lo que en ellas 
of the scene, before the devastation Labia, y cautivar ninos y mugeres, 
had been wholly repaired, writes que parecia un juicio." Hist, dc 
with the animation of an eye-witness. Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 38. 
"La guerra por agua y por tierra 


pirogue from the neighbouring shores, was too inconside- 
rable to be widely felt. 12 Some forced a scanty suste- 
nance from a mucilaginous substance, gathered in small 
quantities on the surface of the lake and canals. 13 Others 
appeased the cravings of appetite by devouring rats, 
lizards, and the like loathsome reptiles, which had not 
yet deserted the starving city. Its days seemed to be 
already numbered. But the page of history has many 
an example, to show that there are no limits to the endu- 
rance of which humanity is capable, when animated by 
hatred and despair. 

With the sword thus suspended over it, the Spanish 
commander, desirous to make one more effort to save the 
capital, persuaded three Aztec nobles, taken in one of the 
late actions, to bear a message from him to Guatemozin ; 
though they undertook it with reluctance, for fear of the 
consequences to themselves. Cortes told the emperor, 
that all had now been done that brave men could clo in 
defence of their country. There remained no hope, no 
chance of escape, for the Mexicans. Their provisions 
were exhausted ; their communications were cut off ; 
their vassals had deserted them ; even their gods had 
betrayed them. They stood alone, with the nations of 
Anahuac banded against them. There was no hope, but 
in immediate surrender. He besought the young monarch 
to take compassion on his brave subjects, who were daily 
perishing before his eyes ; and on the fair city, whose 
stately buildings were fast crumbling into ruins. " Return 
to the allegiance," he concludes, " which you once prof- 
fered to the sovereign of Castile. The past shall be 
forgotten. The persons and property — in short, all the 
rights of the Aztecs shall be respected. You shall be 

12 The flesh of the Christians 13 Ibid., ubi supra, 

failed to afford them even the cus- When dried in the sun, this slimy 

tomary nourishment, since the Mexi- deposit had a flavour not unlike that 

cans said it was intolerably bitter ; a of cheese, and formed part of the 

miracle, considered by Captain Diaz, food of the poorer classes at all times, 

as expressly wrought for this occa- according to Clavigero, Stor. del 

sion. Ibid., cap. 153. Messico, torn. ii. p. 222. 


confirmed in your authority, and Spain will once more 
take your city under her protection." u 

The eye of the young monarch kindled, and his dark 
cheek flushed with sudden anger, as he listened to pro- 
posals so humiliating. But, though his bosom glowed with 
the fiery temper of the Indian, he had the qualities of a 
" gentle cavalier," says one of his enemies who knew him 
well. 15 He did no harm to the envoys ; but, after the 
heat of the moment had passed off, he gave the matter 
a calm consideration, and called a council of his wise 
men and warriors to deliberate upon it. Some were for 
accepting the proposals, as offering the only chance of 
preservation. But the priests took a different view of 
the matter. They knew that the ruin of their own order 
must follow the triumph of Christianity. " Peace was 
good," they said, "but not with the white men." They 
reminded Guatemozin of the fate of his uncle Monte- 
zuma, and the requital he had met with for all his hospi- 
tality ; of the seizure and imprisonment of Cacama, the 
cacique of Tezcuco ; of the massacre of the nobles by 
Alvarado ; of the insatiable avarice of the invaders, which 
had stripped the country of its treasures ; of their profa- 
nation of the temples ; of the injuries and insults which 
they had heaped without measure on the people and 
their religion. " Better," they said, " to trust in the 
promises of their own gods, who had so long watched 
over the nation. Better, if need be, give up our lives at 
once for our country, than drag them out in slavery and 
suffering among the false strangers." 16 

The eloquence of the priests, artfully touching the 
various wrongs of his people, roused the hot blood of 
Guatemozin. " Since it is so," he abruptly exclaimed, 

11 Bernal Diaz, Ibid., cap. 151. consejo sobrc cllo y no tc fics de 

15 "Mas como el Gualcmuz era Malinlzin, ni de sus palabras, que 

mancebo, y muy gentil-hombre y de mas vale que todos muramos en csla 

buena disposiciou." Ibid., loc. cit. ciudad pclcando, que no vernos en 

i6 « Mira primcro lo que nucstros podcr de quie nos lianin esclauos, y 

Dieses te ban prometido, toina buen nos atormentaran." Ibid., ubi supra. 


" let us think only of supplying the wants of the people. 
Let no man, henceforth, who values his life, talk of sur- 
render. We can at least die like warriors." 17 

The Spaniards waited two days for the answer to their 
embassy. At length, it came in a general sortie of the 
Mexicans, who, pouring through every gate of the capital, 
like a river that has burst its banks, swept on, wave 
upon wave, to the very intrenchments of the besiegers, 
threatening to overwhelm them by their numbers ! For- 
tunately the position of the latter on the dikes secured 
their flanks, and the narrowness of the defile gave their 
small battery of guns all the advantages of a larger one. 
The fire of artillery and musketry blazed without inter- 
mission along the several causeways, belching forth 
volumes of sulphurous smoke, that, rolling heavily over 
the waters, settled dark around the Indian city, and hid 
it from the surrounding country. The brigantines thun- 
dered, at the same time, on the flanks of the columns, 
which, after some ineffectual efforts to maintain them- 
selves, rolled back in wild confusion, till their impotent 
fury died away in sullen murmurs within the capital. 

Cortes now steadily pursued the plan he had laid down 
for the devastation of the city. Day after day the several 
armies entered by their respective quarters ; Sandoval 
probably directing his operations against the north- 
eastern district. The buildings made of the porous 
tetzontti, though generally low, were so massy and exten- 
sive, and the canals were so numerous, that their progress 
was necessarily slow. They, however, gathered fresh 
accessions of strength every day from the numbers who 
flocked to the camp from the surrounding country, and 
who joined in the work of destruction with a hearty 
good-will, which showed their eagerness to break the 

17 "Y entonces el Guatemuz me- adelante ninguno sea osado a me 

dio enojado les dixo : Pues assi que- demandar pazes, si no yo le matare : 

reis que sea, guardad mucho el maiz, y alii todos prometieron de pelear 

y bastimentos que tenemos, y mura- noches, y dias, y morir en la defensa 

mos todos peleando : y clesde aqui de su ciudad." Ibid., ubi supra. 


detested yoke of the Aztecs. The latter raged with 
impotent anger as they beheld their lordly edifices, their 
temples, all they had been accustomed to venerate, thus 
ruthlessly swept away ; their canals, constructed with so 
much labour, and what to them seemed science, filled up 
with rubbish ; their flourishing city, in short, turned into 
a desert, over which the insulting foe now rode trium- 
phant. They heaped many a taunt on the Indian allies. 
" Go on," they said bitterly ; " the more you destroy, 
the more you will have to build up again hereafter. If 
we conquer, you shall build for us ; and if your white 
friends conquer, they will make you do as much for 
them." 18 The event justified the prediction. 

In their rage they rushed blindly on the corps which 
covered the Indian pioneers. But they were as often 
driven back by the impetuous charge of the cavalry, or 
received on the long pikes of Chinantla, which did good 
service to the besiegers in their operations. At the close 
of day, however, when the Spaniards drew off their 
forces, taking care to send the multitudinous host of con- 
federates first from the ground, the Mexicans usually 
rallied for a more formidable attack. Then they poured 
out from every lane and by-way, like so many mountain 
streams, sweeping over the broad level cleared by the 
enemy, and falling impetuously on their flanks and rear. 
At such times, they inflicted considerable loss in their 
turn, till an ambush, which Cortes laid for them among 
the buildings adjoining the great temple, did them so 
much mischief, that they were compelled to act with 
more reserve. 

At times the war displayed something of a chivalrous 
character, in the personal rencontres of the combatants. 
Challenges passed between them, and especially between 

18 " Los do la Ciuclad como vcian porquc si ellos eran vencedores, ya 

tanto cstrago, por esforzarsc, decian cllos sabian, que habia de ser assi y 

a, nuestros Amigos, que no ficiessen si no, que las habian dc hacer para 

sino quemar, y destruir, que ellos se nosotros." llel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. 

las harian tornar a hacer dc nuevo, Lorciizana, p. 286. 


the native warriors. These combats were usually con- 
ducted on the azoteas, whose broad and level surface 
afforded a good field of fight. On one occasion, a Mexi- 
can of powerful frame, brandishing a sword and buckler 
which he had won from the Christians, defied his enemies 
to meet him in single fight. A young page of Cortes, 
named Nunez, obtained his master's permission to accept 
the vaunting challenge of the Aztec ; and, springing on 
the azotea, succeeded after a hard struggle in discom- 
fiting his antagonist, who fought at a disadvantage with 
weapons in which he was unpractised, and, running him 
through the body, brought off his spoils in triumph, and 
laid them at the general's feet. 19 

The division of Cortes had now worked its way as far 
north as the great street of Tacuba, which opened a com- 
munication with Alvarado's camp, and near which stood 
the palace of Guatemozin. It was a spacious stone pile, 
that might well be called a fortress. Though deserted 
by its royal master, it was held by a strong body of 
Aztecs, who made a temporary defence, but of little avail 
against the battering enginery of the besiegers. It was 
soon set on fire, and its crumbling walls were levelled in 
the dust, like those other stately edifices of the capital, 
the boast and admiration of the Aztecs, and some of the 
fairest fruits of their civilization. " It was a sad thing 
to witness their destruction," exclaims Cortes ; " but it 
was part of our plan of operations, and we had no 
alternative." 20 

These operations had consumed several weeks, so that 
it was now drawing towards the latter part of July. 
During this time, the blockade had been maintained with 
the utmost rigour, and the wretched inhabitants were 

19 Ibid., pp. 282 — 284. — Herrera, 20 " No se entendio sino en quemar, 

Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 1, cap. 22, y hallanar Casas, que era lastima 

lib. 2, cap. 2. — Gomara, Crdnica, cap. cierto de lo ver; pero corao no nos 

140. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., convenia hacer otra cosa, eramos for- 

lib. 33, cap. 28. — Ixtlilxoehitl, Veni- zado seguir aquella drden." Ibid., 

da de los Esp., p. 43. p. 286., 

vol. ii. y 


suffering all the extremities of famine. Some few stragglers 
were taken, from time to time, in the neighbourhood of 
the Christian camp, whither they had wandered in search 
of food. They were kindly treated by command of 
Cortes, who was in hopes to induce others to follow their 
example, and thus to afford a means of conciliating the 
inhabitants, which might open the way to their submis- 
sion. But few were found willing to leave the shelter of 
the capital, and they preferred to take their chance with 
their suffering countrymen, rather than trust themselves 
to the mercies of the besiegers. 

From these few stragglers, however, the Spaniards 
heard a dismal tale of woe, respecting the crowded popu- 
lation in the interior of the city. All the ordinary means 
of sustenance had long since failed, and they now sup- 
ported life as they could, by means of such roots as they 
could dig from the earth, by gnawing the bark of trees, 
by feeding on the grass, — on anything, in short, however 
loathsome, that could allay the craving of appetite. Their 
only drink was the brackish water of the soil, saturated 
with the salt lake. 21 Under this unwholesome diet, and 
the diseases engendered by it, the population was gradu- 
ally wasting away. Men sickened and died every day, 
in all the excruciating torments produced by hunger, 
and the wan and emaciated survivors seemed only to be 
waiting for their time. 

The Spaniards had visible confirmation of all this, as 
they penetrated deeper into the city, and approached 
the district of Tlatelolco, now occupied by the besieged. 
They found the ground turned up in quest of roots and 
weeds, the trees stripped of their green stems, their 
foliage and their bark. Troops of famished Indians 

21 "No tenian agua dulce para fcrmaron muchos, y murieron mu- 

bcbcr, ni para de ninguna mancra dc clios." Sahaguu, Hist, dc Nueva 

comer; bcbian del agua salada y lie- Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 39. — Also, 

dionda, comian ratoucs y lagartijas, llcl. Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, 

y cortczas dc iirbolcs, y otras cosas p. 289. 
no comestibles ; y dc esta causa en- 

chap, vii.] TERRIBLE FAMINE. 323 

flitted in the distance, gliding like ghosts among the 
scenes of their former residence. Dead bodies lay 
unburied in the streets and court-yards, or filled up the 
canals. It was a sure sign of the extremity of the 
Aztecs ; for they held the burial of the dead as a 
solemn and imperative duty. In the early part of the 
siege, they had religiously attended to it. In its later 
stages, they were still careful to withdraw the dead 
from the public eye, by bringing their remains within 
the houses. But the number of these, and their own 
sufferings, had now so fearfully increased, that they 
had grown indifferent to this, and they suffered their 
friends and their kinsmen to lie and moulder on the 
spot where they drew their last breath ! 22 

As the invaders entered the dwellings, a more appalling 
spectacle presented itself; — the floors covered with the 
prostrate forms of the miserable inmates, some in the 
agonies of death, others festering in their corruption ; 
men, women, and children, inhaling the poisonous atmo- 
sphere, and mingled promiscuously together; mothers, 
with their infants in their arms perishing of hunger 
before their eyes, while they were unable to afford them 
the nourishment of nature ; men crippled by their 
wounds, with their bodies frightfully mangled, vainly 
attempting to crawl away, as the enemy entered. Yet, 
even in this state, they scorned to ask for mercy, and 
glared on the invaders with the sullen ferocity of the 
wounded tiger, that the huntsmen have tracked to his 
forest cave. The Spanish commander issued strict orders 

22 " Y es verdad y juro ainen, que Messico, torn. ii. p. 231, nota.) But 

toda la laguna, y casas, y babacoas this policy would have operated much 

estavan llenas de cuerpos, y cabecas more to the detriment of the besieged 

de hombres muertos, que yo no se than of the besiegers, whose presence 

de que manera lo escriua." (Bernal in the capital was but transitory. It 

Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. is much more natural to refer it to 

156.) Clavigero considers that it the same cause which has led to_ a 

was a scheme of the Mexicans to similar conduct under similar cir- 

leave the dead unburied, in order cumstances elsewhere, whether occa- 

that the stench might annoy and sioned by pestilence or famine, 
drive off the Spaniards. (Stor. del 

y 2 


that mercy should be shown to these poor and disabled 
victims. But the Indian allies made no distinction. 
An Aztec, under whatever circumstances, was an enemy ; 
and, with hideous shouts of triumph, they pulled down 
the burning buildings on their heads, consuming the 
living and the dead in one common funeral pile ! 

Yet the sufferings of the Aztecs, terrible as they were, 
did not incline them to submission. There were many, 
indeed, who, from greater strength of constitution, or 
from the more favourable circumstances in which they 
were placed, still showed all their wonted energy of body 
and mind, and maintained the same undaunted and 
resolute demeanour as before. They fiercely rejected 
all the overtures of Cortes, declaring they would rather 
die than surrender, and, adding with a bitter tone of 
exultation, that the invaders would be at least disap- 
pointed in their expectations of treasure, for it was 
buried where they could never find it ! 23 

The women, it is said, shared in this desperate — it 
should rather be called heroic — spirit. They were inde- 
fatigable in nursing the sick, and dressing their wounds ; 
they aided the warriors in battle, by supplying them 
with the Indian ammunition of stones and arrows, pre- 
pared their slings, strung their bows, and displayed, in 
short, all the constancy and courage shown by the noble 
maidens of Saragossa in our day, and by those of 
Carthage in the days of antiquity. 24 

Cortes had now entered one of the great avenues 
leading to the market-place of Tlatelolco, the quarter 

23 Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, Mugeres de Fcmixtitan, de quien 
MS., cap. 28. — Martyr, de Orbe ninguna mention se ha fecho. Y soy 
Novo, dec. 5, cap. 8. — Ixtlilxocliill, ccrtiOcado, que fue cosa maravillosa 
Venida de los Esp., p. 45. — Rel. y para cspantar, vcr la prontitud y 
Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. constancia que tobieron en servir a 
289. — Oviedo, Hist, de las Iud., MS., sus maridos, y en curar los hcridos, 
lib. 33, cap. 29. e en el labrar de las picdras para los 

24 " Muclias cosas acaecieron en que tiraban con hondas, e en otros 
este cerco, que entre otras genera- oficios para mas que mugeres." Ovi- 
ciones estobieran discantadas 6 te- edo, Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, 
nidas en mucbo, en especial de las cap. 48. 


towards which the movements of Alvarado were also 
directed. A single canal only lay in his way, but this 
was of great width and stoutly defended by the Mexican 
archery. At this crisis, the army one evening, while in 
their intrenchments on the causeway, were surprised by 
an uncommon light, that arose from the huge teocalli in 
that part of the city, which, being at the north, was the 
most distant from their own position. This temple, dedi- 
cated to the dread War-god, was inferior only to the 
pyramid in the great square ; and on it the Spaniards 
had more than once seen their unhappy countrymen led 
to slaughter. They now supposed that the enemy were 
employed in some of their diabolical ceremonies, when 
the flame, mounting higher and higher, showed that the 
sanctuaries themselves were on fire. A shout of exulta- 
tion at the sight broke forth from the assembled soldiers, 
as they assured one another that their countrymen under 
Alvarado had got possession of the building. 

It was indeed true. That gallant officer, whose posi- 
tion on the western causeway placed him near the district 
of Tlatelolco, had obeyed his commander's instructions 
to the letter, razing every building to the ground in his 
progress, and filling up the ditches with their ruins. 
He, at length, found himself before the great teocalli in 
the neighbourhood of the market. He ordered a com- 
pany, under a cavalier named Gutierre cle Badajoz, to 
storm the place, which was defended by a body of 
warriors, mingled with priests, still more wild and fero- 
cious than the soldiery. The garrison, rushing down the 
winding terraces, fell on the assailants with such fury, as 
compelled them to retreat in confusion, and with some 
loss. Alvarado ordered another detachment to their 
support. This last was engaged, at the moment, with a 
body of Aztecs, who hung on its rear as it wound up 
the galleries of the teocalli. Thus hemmed in between 
two enemies, above and below, the position of the 
Spaniards was critical. With sword and buckler, they 


plunged desperately on the ascending Mexicans, and 
drove them into the court-yard below, where Alvarado 
plied them with such lively volleys of musketry, as soon 
threw them into disorder and compelled them to abandon 
the ground. Being thus rid of annoyance in the rear, 
the Spaniards returned to the charge. They drove the 
enemy up the heights of the pyramid, and, reaching the 
broad summit, a fierce encounter followed in mid-air, — 
such an encounter as takes place where death is the 
certain consequence of defeat. It ended, as usual, in 
the discomfiture of the Aztecs, who were either slaugh- 
tered on the spot still wet with the blood of their 
own victims, or pitched headlong down the sides of 
the pyramid. 

The area was covered with the various symbols of the 
barbarous worship of the country, and with two lofty 
sanctuaries, before whose grinning idols were displayed 
the heads of several Christian captives, who had been im- 
molated on their altars. Although overgrown by their 
long, matted hair and bushy beards, the Spaniards could 
recognise, in the livid countenances, their comrades who 
had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Tears fell from 
their eyes, as they gazed on the melancholy spectacle, 
and thought of the hideous death which their country- 
men had suffered. They removed the sad relics with 
decent care, and after the Conquest, deposited them 
in consecrated ground, on a spot since covered by the 
Church of the Martyrs. 25 

They completed their work by firing the sanctuaries, 
that the place might be no more polluted by these 
abominable rites. The flame crept slowly up the lofty 
pinnacles, in which stone was mingled Math wood, till at 
length, bursting into one bright blaze, it shot up its 
spiral volume to such a height, that it was seen from the 

25 Ovicdo, Hist, dc las Ind., MS., Tore, de Cortes, ap. Lorcnzana, pp. 
lib. 33, cap. 29.— Bcrnal Diaz, Hist. 2S7— 289. 
de la Conquista, cap. 155. — Rcl. 


most distant quarters of the Valley. It was this which 
had been hailed by the soldiery of Cortes, and it served 
as the beacon-light to both friend and foe, intimating the 
progress of the Christian arms. 

The commander-in-chief and his division, animated by 
the spectacle, made, in their entrance on the following 
day, more determined efforts to place themselves along- 
side of their companions under Alvarado. The broad 
canal, above noticed as the only impediment now lying 
in his way, was to be traversed ; and on the further side, 
the emaciated figures of the Aztec warriors were gathered 
in numbers to dispute the passage, like the gloomy shades 
that wander, — as ancient poets tell us — on the banks of 
the infernal river. They poured down, however, a storm 
of missiles, which were no shades, on the heads of the 
Indian labourers, while occupied with filling up the wide 
gap with the ruins of the surrounding buildings. Still 
they toiled on in defiance of the arrowy shower, fresh 
numbers taking the place of those who fell. And when 
at length the work was completed, the cavalry rode over 
the rough plain at full charge against the enemy, fol- 
lowed by the deep array of spearmen, who bore down all 
opposition Avith their invincible phalanx. 

The Spaniards now found themselves on the same 
ground with Alvarado's division. Soon afterwards, that 
chief, attended by several of his staff, rode into their 
lines, and cordially embraced his countrymen and com- 
panions in arms, for the first time since the beginning of 
the siege. They were now in the neighbourhood of the 
market. Cortes, taking with him a few of his cavaliers, 
galloped into it. It was a vast inclosure, as the reader 
has already seen, covering many an acre. 26 Its dimensions 

26 Ante, vol. i. p. 480. muy espasioso mucho mas de lo que 
The tianguez still continued of ahora es) el cual se podia llamar em- 
great dimensions, though with faded porio de toda esta nueva Espaila : 
magnificence, after the Conquest, al cual venian a tratar gentes de toda 
■when it is thus noticed by father esta nueva Espaha, y aun de los Re- 
Sahagun. " Entraron en la plaza 6 inos a ella contiguos, y donde se 
Tianguez de este Tlaltilulco (lugar vendian y compraban todas cuantas 


were suited to the immense multitudes who gathered 
there from all parts of the Valley in the flourishing days 
of the Aztec monarchy. It was surrounded by porticos 
and pavilions for the accommodation of the artisans and 
traders, who there displayed their various fabrics and 
articles of merchandise. The flat roofs of the piazzas 
were now covered with crowds of men and women, who 
gazed in silent dismay on the steel-clad horsemen, that 
profaned these precincts with their presence for the first 
time since their expulsion from the capital. The multi- 
tude, composed for the most part, probably, of unarmed 
citizens, seemed taken by surprise ; at least, they made 
no show of resistance ; and the general, after leisurely 
viewing the ground, was permitted to ride back unmo- 
lested to the army. 

On arriving there, he ascended the teocatti, from 
which the standard of Castile, supplanting the memo- 
rials of Aztec superstition, was now triumphantly float- 
ing. The Conqueror, as he strode among the smoking 
embers on the summit, calmly surveyed the scene of 
desolation below. The palaces, the temples, the busy 
marts of industry and trade, the glittering canals, covered 
with their rich freights from the surrounding country, 
the royal pomp of groves and gardens, all the splendours 
of the imperial city, the capital of the Western World, 
for ever gone, — and in their place a barren wilderness ! 
How different the spectacle which the year before had 
met his eye, as it wandered over the same scenes from 
the heights of the neighbouring tcocalU, with Montezuma 
at his side ! Seven-eights of the city were laid in ruins, 
with the occasional exception, perhaps, of some colossal 
temple, that it would have required too much time to 
demolish. 27 The remaining eighth, comprehending the 

cosas bay en toda csta ticrra, y en no era tan to como antes de la Con- 

los Reinos de Quahtimalla y Xaiisco, quista." Hist, dc Nncva Espafia, 

(cosa cierto muclio de ver,) yo lo vi MS., lib. 12, cap. 37. 

por muchos alios morando en csta 2 ? " E'yo mire dendc aquella Torre, 

Casa del Seilor Santiago, aunque ya ] q ue tcniamos ganado dc la Ciudad, 


district of Tlatelolco, was all that now remained to the 
Aztecs, whose population — still large after all its losses 
— was crowded into a compass that would hardly have 
afforded accommodations for a third of their numbers. 
It was the quarter lying between the great northern and 
western causeways, and is recognised in the modern 
capital as the Barrio de San Jago and its vicinity. It 
was the favourite residence of the Indians after the Con- 
quest, 28 though at the present day thinly covered with 
humble dwellings, forming the straggling suburbs, as it 
were, of the metropolis. Yet it still affords some faint 
vestiges of what it was in its prouder days ; and the 
curious antiquary, and occasionally the labourer, as he 
turns up the soil, encounters a glittering fragment of 
obsidian, or the mouldering head of a lance, or arrow, or 
some other warlike relic, attesting that on this spot the 
retreating Aztecs made their last stand for the indepen- 
dence of their country. 29 

On the day following, Cortes, at the head of his bat- 
talions, made a second entry into the great tiaiiguez. 
But this time the Mexicans were better prepared for his 
coming. They were assembled in considerable force in 
the spacious square. A sharp .encounter followed ; but 
it was short. Their strength was not equal to their 
spirit, and they melted away before the rolling fire 
of musketry, and left the Spaniards masters of the 

The first act was to set fire to some temples of no 
great size within the market-place, or more probably 

que sin duda de ocko partes teuiamos now in his possession several of these 

ganado las siete." Rel. Terc. de military spoils. " Todo la llanura 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 289. del Santuario de nuestra Sefiora de 

28 Toribio, Hist, de los Ind., MS., los Angeles y de Santiago Tlaltilolco 

Parte 3, cap. 7. se ve sembrada de fragmentos de 

The remains of the ancient foun- lanzas cortantes, de macanas, y fie- 

dations may still be discerned in this chas de piedra obsidiana, de que 

quarter, while in every other etiam usaban los Mexicanos 6 sea Chinapos, 

periere mince ! y yo he recogido no pocos que con- 

. 29 Bustamante, the Mexican editor servo en mi poder." Hist, de Nueva 

of Sahagun, mentions that he has Esp., lib. 12, nota 21. 


on its borders. As the flames ascended, the Aztecs, 
horror-struck, broke forth into piteous lamentations at 
the destruction of the deities on whom they relied for 
protection. 30 

The general's next step was at the suggestion of a 
soldier named Sotelo, a man who had served under the 
Great Captain in the Italian wars, where he professed to 
have gathered knowledge of the science of engineering, 
as it was then practised. He offered his services to con- 
struct a sort of catapult, a machine for discharging stones 
of great size, which might take the place of the regular 
battering-train, in demolishing the buildings. As the 
ammunition, notwithstanding the liberal supplies which, 
from time to time, had found their way into the camp, 
now began to fail, Cortes eagerly acceded to a proposal 
so well suited to his exigencies. Timber and stone were 
furnished, and a number of hands were employed, under 
the direction of the self-styled engineer, in constructing 
the ponderous apparatus, which was erected on a solid 
platform of masonry, thirty paces square, and seven or 
eight feet high, that covered the centre of the market- 
place. It was the work of the Aztec princes, and was 
used as a scaffolding on \Y,hich mountebanks and jugglers 
might exhibit their marvellous feats for the amusement 
of the populace, who took great delight in these 
performances. 31 

The erection of the machine consumed several days, 
during which hostilities were suspended, while the arti- 
sans were protected from interruption by a strong corps 
of infantry. At length the work was completed ; and 
the besieged, who, with silent awe, had beheld from the 

30 " Y corao comcnzo a ardcr, tanico lucgo cntendieron que habian 

lcvantose una llama tan alta que de ser del todo destruidos y robados." 

parecia llegar al cielo, al expect iiculo Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Esp., MS., 

de esta quema, todos los hombrcs y lib. 12, cap. 37. 
mugcrcs que se habian acogido a las 31 Vestiges of the work are still 

tiendas que cercaban todo el Tian- visible, according to M. de Hum- 

guez comenzaron a llorar a voz en boldt, within the limits of the porch 

grito, que fue cosa de espanto oirlos ; of the chapel of St. Jago. Essai Poli- 

porquc qucmado aquel delubro sa- tiquc, torn. ii. p. 44. 

chap, vii.] BATTERING ENGINE. 331 

neighbouring azoteas, the progress of the mysterious 
engine, which was to lay the remainder of their capital in 
ruins, now looked with terror for its operation. A stone 
of huge size was deposited on the timber. The machinery 
was set in motion ; and the huge rocky fragment was 
discharged with a tremendous force from the catapult. 
But, instead of taking the direction of the Aztec build- 
ings, it rose high and perpendicularly into the air, and, 
descending whence it sprung, broke the ill-omened ma- 
chine into splinters ! It was a total failure. The Aztecs 
were released from their apprehensions, and the soldiery 
made many a merry jest on the catastrophe, somewhat 
at the expense of their commander, who testified no little 
vexation at the disappointment, and still more at his 
own credulity. 32 

32 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- Sahagim, Hist, de Nueva Espaiia, 
quista, cap. 155. — Rel. Terc. de MS.,' lib. 12, cap. 37. 
Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 290. — 



Dreadful Sufferings of tire Besieged. — Spirit of Guatemozin. — Murderous 
Assault. — Capture of Guatemozin. — Evacuation of the City. — Termination 
of the Siege. — Reflections. 


There was no occasion to resort to artificial means to 
precipitate the ruin of the Aztecs. It was accelerated 
every hour by causes more potent than those arising 
from mere human agency. There they were, — pent up 
in their close and suffocating quarters, nobles, com- 
moners, and slaves, men, women, and children, some in 
houses, more frequently in hovels, — for this part of the 
city was not the best, — others in the open air in canoes, 
or in the streets, shivering in the cold rains of night, and 
scorched by the burning heat of clay. 1 An old chronicler 
mentions the fact of two women of rank remaining three 
days and nights up to their necks in the water among 
the reeds, with only a handful of maize for their sup- 
port. 2 The ordinary means of sustaining life were long 
since gone. They wandered about in search of anything, 
however unwholesome or revolting, that might mitigate 
the fierce gnawings of hunger. Some hunted for insects 

1 " Estabau los tristes Mcjicanos, y cada hora cspci'ando la muerte." 

hombrcs y mugcrcs, nifios y nhlas, Sahagun, Hist, dc Nueva Esp., MS., 

vicjos y vicjas, heridos y cnfcrmos lib. 12, cap. 39. 
en un lugar bicn cstrccho, y bicn 2 Tonpicmada had the anecdote 

aprctados los unos con los otros, y from a nephew of one of the Indian 

con grandisima falta de bastimentos, matrons, then a very old man him- 

y al calor del Sol, y al frio de la nochc, self. Monarch. lud., lib. 4, cap. 102. 


and worms on the borders of the lake, or gathered the 
salt weeds and moss from its bottom, while at times they 
might be seen casting a wistful look at the green hills 
beyond, which many of them had left to share the fate 
of their brethren in the capital. 

To their credit, it is said by the Spanish writers, that 
they were not driven in their extremity to violate the 
laws of nature by feeding on one another. 3 But unnap- 
pily this is contradicted by the Indian authorities, who 
state that many a mother, in her agony, devoured the 
offspring which she had no longer the means of sup- 
porting. This is recorded of more than one siege in 
history ; and it is the more probable here, where the 
sensibilities must have been blunted by familiarity with 
the brutal practices of the national superstition. 4 

But all was not sufficient, and hundreds of famished 
wretches died every day from extremity of suffering. 
Some dragged themselves into the houses, and drew 
their last breath alone, and in silence. Others sank 
down in the public streets. Wherever they died, there 
they were left. There was no one to bury or to remove 
them. Familiarity with the spectacle made men indif- 
ferent to it. They looked on in dumb despair, waiting 
for their own turn. There was no complaint, no lamen- 
tation, but deep, unutterable woe. 

If in other quarters of the town the corpses might be 
seen scattered over the streets, here they were gathered 
in heaps. " They lay so thick," says Bernal Diaz, "that 

3 Ibid., ubi supra. — Bernal Diaz, tions of Moses : " The tender and 
Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 156. delicate woman among you, which 

would not adventure to set the sole 

4 " De los niilos, no quedo nadie, of her foot upon the ground for deli- 
que las mismas madres y padres los cateness and tenderness, her eye shall 

comian (que era gran lastima de ver, be evil toward her children 

y mayormentedesufrir)." (Sahaguu, which she shall bear: for she shall 

Hist, de Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, eat them for want of all things, 

cap. 39.) The historian derived his secretly, in the siege and straitness 

accounts from the Mexicans them- wherewith thine enemy shall distress 

selves, soon after the event. — One is thee in thy gates." Deuteronomy, 

reminded of the terrible demmcia- chap. 28, vs. 5G, 57. 


one could not tread except among the bodies." 5 " A 
man could not set his foot down," says Cortes, yet more 
strongly, " unless on the corpse of an Indian !" 6 They 
were piled one upon another, the living mingled with 
the dead. They stretched themselves on the bodies of 
their friends, and lay down to sleep there. Death was 
everywhere. The city was a vast charnel-house, in which 
all was hastening to decay and decomposition. A poi- 
sonous steam arose from the mass of putrefaction, under 
the action of alternate rain and heat, which so tainted 
the whole atmosphere, that the Spaniards, including the 
general himself, in their brief visits to the quarter, were 
made ill by it, and it bred a pestilence that swept off 
even greater numbers than the famine. 7 

Men's minds were unsettled by these strange and 
accumulated horrors. They resorted to all the super- 
stitious rites prescribed by their religion, to stay the 
pestilence. They called on their priests to invoke the 
gods in their behalf. But the oracles were dumb, or 
gave only gloomy responses. Their deities had deserted 
them, and in their place they saw signs of celestial 
wrath, telling of still greater woes in reserve. Many, 
after the siege, declared, that, among other prodigies, 
they beheld a stream of light, of a blood-red colour, 
coming from the north in the direction of Tepejacac, 
with a rushing noise, like that of a whirlwind, which 
swept round the district of Tlatelolco, darting out 
sparkles and flakes of fire, till it shot far into the centre 
of the lake ! 8 In the disordered state of their nerves, 

5 "No podiamos andar sino cntrc lib. 12, cap. 41. — Gonzalo de las 

cuevpos, y cabecas de Indios muer- Casas, Defcnsa, MS., cap. 28. 

tos. Hist, de la Conquista, cap. s " Un torbellino dc f'uego como 

15G. sangre embuelto en brasas y en cen- 

" No tenian donde cstar sino tellas, que partia de bacia Tepeacac 

sobrc los cuerpos mucrtos dc los (que cs donde csta, abora Santa 

suyos." Rel. Terc, ap. Lorenzana, Maria dc Guadalupe) y fue haciendo 

p. 291. gran ruido, bacia donde cstaban acor- 

7 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- raladoslosMejicanosyTlaltilulcanos; 

quista, ubi supra. — Herrera, Hist. y dio una vuclta para enrededor de 

General, dec. 3, lib. 2, cap. 8. — Sa- ellos, y no dicen si los ciupccio algo, 

bagun, Hist, de Nucva Lsp., MS., sino que babiendo dado aquclla vu- 


a mysterious fear took possession of their senses. Pro- 
digies were of familiar occurrence, and the most familiar 
phenomena of nature were converted into prodigies. 9 
Stunned by their calamities, reason was bewildered, and 
they became the sport of the wildest and most super- 
stitious fancies. 

In the midst of these awful scenes, the young em- 
peror of the Aztecs remained, according to all accounts, 
calm and courageous. With his fair capital laid in ruins 
before his eyes, his nobles and faithful subjects dying 
around him, his territory rent away, foot by foot, till 
scarce enough remained for him to stand on, he rejected 
every invitation to capitulate, and showed the same in- 
domitable spirit as at the commencement of the siege. 
When Cortes, in the hope that the extremities of the 
besieged would incline them to listen to an accommoda- 
tion, persuaded a noble prisoner to bear to Guatemozin 
his proposals to that effect ; the fierce young monarch, 
according to the general, ordered him at once to be 
sacrificed. 10 It is a Spaniard, we must remember, who 
tells the story. 

Cortes, who had suspended hostilities for several days, 
in the vain hope that the distresses of the Mexicans 
would bend them to submission, now determined to 
drive them to it by a general assault. Cooped up, as 
they were, within a narrow quarter of the city, their 
position favoured such an attempt. He commanded 
Alvarado to hold himself in readiness, and directed 
Sandoval — who, besides the causeway, had charge of 
the fleet, which lay off the Tlatelolcan district, — to sup- 
port the attack by a cannonade on the houses near the 
water. He then led his forces into the, city, or rather 
across the horrid waste that now encircled it. 

elta, se eritrd por la laguna adelante; tuita." Tacitus, Hist., lib. 2, sec. 1. 
y alii desaparecio." Sahagun, Hist. l0 " Y como lo Uevaron delante de 

de Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 40. Guatirrracin su Seilor, y el le co- 

9 " Inclinatis ad credendura an- menzd a hablar sobre la Paz, dizque 

imis," says the philosophic Roman luego lo mandd matar y sacrificar." 

historian, " loco ominum etiam for- Rel. Terc, ap. Lorenzana, p. 293. 


On entering the Indian precincts, lie was met by 
several of the chiefs, who, stretching forth their emaciated 
arms, exclaimed, "You are the children of the Sun. But 
the Sun is swift in his course. Why are you, then, so 
tardy ? Why do you delay so long to put an end to 
our miseries ? Rather kill us at once, that we may go 
to our god Huitzilopochtli, who waits for us in heaven 
to give us rest from our sufferings !" n 

Cortes was moved by their piteous appeal, and an- 
swered, that he desired not their death, but their submis- 
sion. " Why does your master refuse to treat with me," 
he said, " when a single hour will suffice for me to crush 
him and all his people ?" He then urged them to request 
Guatemozin to confer with him, with the assurance that 
he might do it in safety, as his person should not be 

The nobles, after some persuasion, undertook the 
mission ; and it was received by the young monarch in 
a manner which showed — if the anecdote before related 
of him be true — that misfortune had, at length, asserted 
some power over his haughty spirit. He consented 
to the interview, though not to have it take place on 
that clay, but the following, in the great square of 
Tlatelolco. Cortes, well satisfied, immediately with- 
drew from the city, and resumed his position on the 

The next morning he presented himself at the place 
appointed, having previously stationed Alvarado there 
with a strong corps of infantry to guard against treachery. 
The stone platform in the centre of the square was 
covered with mats and carpets, and a banquet was pre- 
pared to refresh the famished monarch and his nobles. 

11 " Que pues olios me icnian por pcnar tanto, porque ya ellos tcniau 

I T i j o del Sol, y el Sol en tanta breve- descos de mom, y irsc al Cielo para 

dad como era en un dia,'y una noclic su Ochilobus, (Huitzilopochtli,) que 

daba vuclta a Mundo, que losestaba csperando para descansar." 

porque yo assf brevemente no Jos Ibid., p. 292. 
acababa dc matar, y los quitaba de 

chap, vin.] SPIRIT OF GUATEMOZIN. 337 

Having made these arrangements, he awaited the hour 
of the interview. 

But Guatemozin, instead of appearing himself, sent 
his nobles, the same who had brought to him the general's 
invitation, and who now excused their master's absence 
on the plea of illness. Cortes, though disappointed, gave 
a courteous reception to the envoys, considering that it 
might still afford the means of opening a communication 
with the emperor. He persuaded them without much 
entreaty to partake of the good cheer spread before them, 
which they did with a voracity that told how severe had 
been their abstinence. He then dismissed them with a 
seasonable supply of provisions for their master, pressing 
him to consent to an interview, without which it was 
impossible their differences could be adjusted. 

The Indian envoys returned in a short time, bearing 
with them a present of fine cotton fabrics, of no great 
value, from Guatemozin, who still declined to meet the 
Spanish general. Cortes, though deeply chagrined, was 
unwilling to give up the point. " He will surely come," 
he said to the envoys, " when he sees that I suffer you 
to go and come unharmed, you who have been my steady 
enemies, no less than himself, throughout the war. He 
has nothing to fear from me." n He again parted with 
them, promising to receive their answer the following day. 
On the next morning, the Aztec chiefs, entering the 
Christian quarters, announced to Cortes that Guatemozin 
would confer with him at noon in the market-place. The 
general was punctual at the hour ; but without success. 
Neither monarch nor ministers appeared there. It was 
plain that the Indian prince did not care to trust the 
promises of his enemy. A thought of Montezuma may 

12 " Y yo les tome a repetir, que y venir seguramente, sin recibir en- 
no sabia la causa, porque el se rece- ojo alguno ; que lcs rogaba, que le 
laba venir ante mi, pues veia que a, tornassena. hablar, y mirassea mucho 
ellos, que yo sabia q' habian sido los en esto de su venida, pues a el le 
causadores priucipales de la Guerra, convenia, y yo lo haeia por su pro- 
y que la habian sustentado, les haeia vecho." Itel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. 
buen tratamiento, que los dejaba ir, Lorenzana, pp. 294, 295. 



have passed across his mind. After he had waited three 
hours, the general's patience was exhausted, and, as he 
learned that the Mexicans were busy in preparations for 
defence, he made immediate dispositions for the assault. 13 

The confederates had been left without the walls, for 
he did not care to bring them in sight of the quarry, 
before he was ready to slip the leash. He now ordered 
them to join him ; and, supported by Alvarado's division, 
marched at once into the enemy's quarters. He found 
them prepared to receive him. Their most able-bodied 
warriors were thrown into the van, covering their feeble 
and crippled comrades. Women were seen occasionally 
mingling in the ranks, and, as well as children, thronged 
the azoteas, where, with famine -stricken visages and 
haggard eyes, they scowled defiance and hatred on their 

As the Spaniards advanced, the Mexicans set up a 
fierce war-cry, and sent off clouds of arrows with their 
accustomed spirit, while the women and boys rained 
down darts and stones from their elevated position on 
the terraces. But the missiles were sent by hands too 
feeble to do much damage ; and, when the squadrons 
closed, the loss of strength became still more sensible 
in the Aztecs. Their blows fell feebly and with doubtful 
aim ; though some, it is true, of stronger constitution, 
or gathering strength from despair, maintained to the 
last a desperate fight. 

The arquebusiers now poured in a deadly fire. The 
brigantines replied by successive volleys in the opposite 
quarter. The besieged, hemmed in, like deer surrounded 
by the huntsmen, were brought down on every side. 
The carnage was horrible. The ground was heaped up 

13 The testimony is most emphatic Hist. General, lib. 2, cap. 6, 7, — 

and unequivocal to these repealed Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, 

efforts on the part of Cort6s to bring cap. 100, — Ixtlilxochitl, Venida de 

the Aztecs peaceably to terms. Be- los Esp., pp. 44 — 48, — Oviedo, Hist. 

sides his own Letter to the Emperor, dc las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 29, 30. 
see Bcrnal Diaz, cap. 155, — Herrcra, 

chap, viii.] MURDEROUS ASSAULT. 339 

with slain, until the maddened combatants were obliged 
to climb over the human mounds to get at one another. 
The miry soil was saturated with blood, which ran off 
like water, and dyed the canals themselves with crimson. 14 
All was uproar and terrible confusion. The hideous yells 
of the barbarians ; the oaths and execrations of the 
Spaniards ; the cries of the wounded ; the shrieks of 
women and children ; the heavy blows of the Conquerors ; 
the death-struggle of their victims ; the rapid, reverbe- 
rating echoes of musketry ; the hissing of innumerable 
missiles ; the crash and crackling of blazing buildings, 
crushing hundreds in their ruins • the blinding volumes 
of dust and sulphurous smoke shrouding all in their 
gloomy canopy, — made a scene appalling even to the 
soldiers of Cortes, steeled as they were by many a rough 
passage of war, and by long familiarity with blood and 
violence. " The piteous cries of the women and children, 
in particular," says the general, " were enough to break 
one's heart." 15 He commanded that they should be 
spared, and that all, who asked it, should receive quarter. 
He particularly urged this on the confederates, and placed 
men among them to restrain their violence. 16 But he 
had set an engine in motion too terrible to be controlled. 
It were as easy to curb the hurricane in its fury, as the 
passions of an infuriated horde of savages. " Never did 
I see so pitiless a race," he exclaims, "or any thing 
wearing the form of man so destitute of humanity." 17 

14 " Corrian Arroios de San'gre por 16 " Como la geute de la Cibdad 
las Calles, como pueden correr de se salia a los nuestros, Labia el gene- 
Agua, quando llueve, y con impetu, ral proveido, que por todas las calles 
y fuerca." Torquemada, Monarch. estubiesen Espaiioles para estorvar a 
Ind., lib. 4, cap. 103. los amigos, que no matasen aquellos 

15 " Era tanta la grita, y lloro de tristes, que eran sin numero. E tam- 
los Nines, y Mugeres, que no habia bien dixo a todos los amigos capi- 
Persona, a, quien no quebrantasse el tanes, que no consintiesen a su gente 
corazon." (Pel. Terc. ap. Lorenzana, que matasen a ninguno de los que 
p. 296.) They were a rash and stiff- salian." Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., 
necked race, exclaims his reverend MS., lib. 33, cap. 30. 

editor, the archbishop, with a cha- 17 "La qual crueldad nnnca en 

ritable commentary ! " Gens clurce Generacion tan recia se vid, ni tan 
cervicis, gens absque consilio." Nota. fuera de toda orden de naturaleza, 

z 2 


They made no distinction of sex or age, and in this hour 
of vengeance seemed to be requiting the hoarded wrongs 
of a century. At length, sated with slaughter, the 
Spanish commander sounded a retreat. It was full time, 
if, according to his own statement, — we may hope it is 
an exaggeration, — forty thousand souls had perished ! 18 
Yet their fate was to be envied, in comparison with that 
of those who survived. 

Through the long night which followed, no movement 
was perceptible in the Aztec quarter. No light was seen 
there, no sound was heard, save the low moaning of 
some wounded or dying wretch, writhing in his agony. 
All was dark and silent, — the darkness of the grave. 
The last blow seemed to have completely stunned them. 
They had parted with hope, and sat in sullen despair, 
like men waiting in silence the stroke of the executioner. 
Yet, for all this, they showed no disposition to submit. 
Every new injury had sunk deeper into their souls, and 
filled them with a deeper hatred of their enemy. Fortune, 
friends, kindred, home, — all were gone. They were con- 
tent to throw away life itself, now that they had nothing 
more to live for. 

Far different was the scene in the Christian camp, 
where, elated with their recent successes, all was alive 
with bustle and preparation for the morrow. Bonfires 
were seen blazing along the causeways, lights gleamed 
from tents and barracks, and the sounds of music and 
merriment, borne over the waters, proclaimed the joy of 
the soldiers at the prospect of so soon terminating their 
wearisome campaign. 

On the following morning the Spanish commander 
again mustered his forces, having decided to follow up 
the blow of the preceding day before the enemy should 
have time to rally, and at once to put an end to the war. 

como en los Naturales dc cstas says, 50,000 were slain and taken in 

partes." Rel. Terc. dc Cortes, ap. this dreadful onslaught. Venida de 

Lorcnzana, p. 29G. los Esp., p. 48. 
18 Ibid., ubi supra. — Ixtlilxochitl 

chap, viii.] MURDEROUS ASSAULT. 341 

He had arranged with Alvaraclo, on the evening previous, 
to occupy the market-place of Tlateloico ; and the dis- 
charge of an arquebuse was to be the signal for a simul- 
taneous assault. Sandoval was to hold the northern 
causeway, and, with the fleet, to watch the movements 
of the Indian emperor, and to intercept the flight to the 
main land, which Cortes knew he meditated. To allow 
him to effect this, would be to leave a formidable enemy 
in his own neighbourhood, who might at any time kindle 
the flame of insurrection throughout the country. He 
ordered Sandoval, however, to do no harm to the royal 
person, and not to fire on the enemy at all, except in 
self-defence. 19 

It was on the memorable 15th of August, 1521, the 
day of St. Hypolito, — from this circumstance selected as 
the patron saint of modern Mexico, — that Cortes led his 
warlike array for the last time across the black and 
blasted environs which lay around the Indian capital. 
On entering the Aztec precincts, he paused, willing to 
afford its wretched inmates one more chance of escape, 
before striking the fatal blow. He obtained an intervieAv 
with some of the principal chiefs, and expostulated with 
them on the conduct of their prince. " He surely will 
not," said the general, " see you all perish, when he can 
so easily save you." He then urged them to prevail on 
Guatemozin to hold a conference with him, repeating the 
assurances of his personal safety. 

The messengers went on their mission, and soon re- 
turned with the cilmacoatt at their head, a magistrate of 
high authority among the Mexicans. He said, with a 
melancholy air, in which his own disappointment was 
visible, that " Guatemozin was ready to die where he 
was, but would hold no interview with the Spanish 

19 " Adonde estauan retraidos, el dios, saluo si no le diessen guerra, e 

Guatemuz con todo la flor de sns que aunque se la diessen, que sola- 

Capitanes, y personas mas nobles que mente se defendiesse." Bernal Diaz, 

en Mexico auia, y le mando que no Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 156. 
matasse, ni hiriesse a ningunos In- 


commander;" adding, in atone of resignation, "It is 
for you to work your pleasure." " Go, then," replied 
the stern Conqueror, " and prepare your countrymen for 
death. Their hour is come." 20 

He still postponed the assault for several hours. But 
the impatience of his troops at this delay was heightened 
by the rumour, that Guatemozin and his nobles were 
preparing to escape with their effects in the piraguas 
and canoes which were moored on the margin of the 
lake. Convinced of the fruitlessness and impolicy of 
further procrastination, Cortes made his final dispositions 
for the attack, and took his own station on an azotea, 
which commanded the theatre of operations. 

When the assailants came into presence of the enemy, 
they found them huddled together in the utmost con- 
fusion, all ages and sexes, in masses so dense that they 
nearly forced one another over the brink of the cause- 
ways into the water below. Some had climbed on the 
terraces, others feebly supported themselves against the 
walls of the buildings. Their squalid and tattered gar- 
ments gave a wildness to their appearance, which still 
further heightened the ferocity of their expression, as 
they glared on their enemy with eyes in which hate was 
mingled with despair. When the Spaniards had ap- 
proached within bowshot, the Aztecs let off a flight of 
impotent missiles, showing to the last the resolute spirit, 
though they had lost the strength, of their better days. 
The fatal signal was then given by the discharge of an 
arquebuse, — speedily followed by peals of heavy ordnance, 
the rattle of fire-arms, and the hellish shouts of the con- 
federates, as they sprang upon their victims. It is 
unnecessary to stain the page with a repetition of the 

2U " Y al fin rac dijo, que en niu- dije ; que se bolvicsse a los suyos, y 

guna manera el Sefior vernia ante que el, y cllos se aparejasscn, porque 

mi ; y antes qucria por alia morir, y los queria coinbatir, y acabar de 

que a el pesaba inuclio do. eslo, que matar, y assi se fue." Rel. Terc. de 

liiciesse yo lo que quisiessc ; y como Cortes, ap. Lorenzaua, p. 298. 
vi en esto bu detenninacion, jo le 

chap, viii.] MURDEROUS ASSAULT. 343 

horrors of the preceding day. Some of the wretched 
Aztecs threw themselves into the water, and were picked 
up by the canoes. Others sunk and were suffocated in 
the canals. The number of these became so great, that 
a bridge was made of their dead bodies, over which the 
assailants could climb to the opposite banks. Others 
again, especially the women, begged for mercy, which, 
as the chroniclers assure us, was everywhere granted by 
the Spaniards, and, contrary to the instructions and 
entreaties of Cortes, everywhere refused by the con- 
federates. 21 

While this work of butchery was going on, numbers 
were observed pushing off in the barks that lined the 
shore, and making the best of their way across the lake. 
They were constantly intercepted by the brigantines, 
which broke through the flimsy array of boats ; sending 
off their volleys to the right and left, as the crews of the 
latter hotly assailed them. The battle raged as fiercely 
on the lake as on the land. Many of the Indian vessels 
were shattered and overturned. Some few, however, 
under cover of the smoke, which rolled darkly over the 
waters, succeeded in clearing themselves of the turmoil, 
and were fast nearing the opposite shore. 

Sandoval had particularly charged his captains to keep 
an eye on the movements of any vessel in which it was 
at all probable that Guatemozin might be concealed. At 
this crisis, three or four of the largest piraguas were seen 
skimming over the water, and making their way rapidly 
across the lake. A captain named Garci Holguin, who 
had command of one of the best sailers in the fleet, 
instantly gave them chase. The wind was favourable, 
and every moment he gained on the fugitives, who 
pulled their oars with a vigour that despair alone could 
have given. But it was in vain ; and, after a short race, 

21 Oviedo, Hist, de las Irid., MS., — Rel. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Loren- 

lib. 33, cap. 30. — Ixtlilxochitl, zana, pp. 297, 298. — Gomara, Cro- 

Yenida de losEsp., p. 48. — Hen-era, nica, cap. 142. 
Hist. General, dec, 3, lib. 2, cap. 7. 


Holguin, coming alongside of one of the piraguas, which, 
whether from its appearance, or from information he had 
received, he conjectured might bear the Indian emperor, 
ordered his men to level their crossbows at the boat. 
But, before they could discharge them, a cry arose from 
those in it, that their lord was on board. At the same 
moment, a young warrior, armed with buckler and 
maqualudtl, rose up, as if to beat off the assailants. But, 
as the Spanish captain ordered his men not to shoot, he 
dropped his weapons, and exclaimed, " I am Guate- 
mozin ; lead me to Malintzin. I am his prisoner; but 
let no harm come to my wife and my followers." 22 

Holguin assured him that his wishes should be re- 
spected, and assisted him to get on board the brigantine, 
followed by his wife and attendants. These were twenty 
in number, consisting of Coanoca, the deposed lord of 
Tezcuco, the lord of Tlacopan, and several other caciques 
and dignitaries whose rank, probably, had secured them 
some exemption from the general calamities of the siege. 
When the captives were seated on the deck of his vessel, 
Holguin requested the Aztec prince to put an end to the 
combat by commanding his people in the other canoes 
to surrender. But, with a dejected air, he replied, " It 
is not necessary. They will fight no longer, when they 
see that their prince is taken." He spoke truth. The 
news of Guatemozin's capture spread rapidly through 
the fleet, and on shore, where the Mexicans were still 
engaged in conflict with their enemies. It ceased, how- 
ever, at once. They made no further resistance ; and 
those on the water quickly followed the brigantines, 

22 IxtlilxochithVenidadclosEsp., cap. 156.) M. de Humboldt has 

p. 49. taken much pains to identify the 

"No me tircn, que yo soy el Rcy place of Guatemozin's capture, — 

dc Mexico, y desta tierra, y lo que now become dry land, — which he 

te ruego cs, que no me Ucgucs a mi considers to have been somewhere 

muger, ni a mis hijos ; ni a ninguna between the Garita del Peralvillo, 

muger, ni a ninguna cosa de lo que the square of St. Iago de Tlaltclolco, 

aqui traygo, siuo que me tomes a and the bridge of Amaxac. Essai 

mi, y me llcucs a Malintzin." (Ber- Politique, loin. ii. p. 70. 
nal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquistft, 

chap, viii.] CAPTURE OF GUATEMOZIN. 345 

which conveyed their captive monarch to land. It 
seemed as if the fight had been maintained thus long, 
the better to divert the enemy's attention, and cover 
their master's retreat. 23 

Meanwhile Sandoval, on receiving tidings of the cap- 
ture, brought his own brigantine alongside of Holguin's, 
and demanded the royal prisoner to be surrendered to 
him. But his captain claimed him as his prize. A dis- 
pute arose between the parties, each anxious to have the 
glory of the deed, and perhaps the privilege of com- 
memorating it on his escutcheon. The controversy con- 
tinued so long that it reached the ears of Cortes, who, in 
his station on the azote a, had learned, with no little 
satisfaction, the capture of his enemy. He instantly sent 
orders to his wrangling officers to bring Guatemozin 
before him, that he might adjust the difference between 
them. 24 He charged them, at the same time, to treat 
their prisoner with respect. He then made preparations 
for the interview ; caused the terrace to be carpeted with 
crimson cloth and matting, and a table to be spread 
with provisions, of which the unhappy Aztecs stood so 
much in need. 25 His lovely Indian mistress, Dona 
Marina, was present to act as interpreter. She had 
stood by his side through all the troubled scenes of 
the Conquest, and she was there now to witness its 
triumphant termination. 

23 For the preceding account of ing Jugurtlia. (Hist, de la Con- 

tbe capture of Guatemozin, told with quista, cap. 156.) This piece of 

little discrepancy, though with more pedantry savours much more of the 

or less minuteness by the different old chronicler than his commander, 

writers, see Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi The result of the whole, — not an 

supra, — Rel. Terc. de Cortes, p. 299, uncommon one in such cases, — was, 

— Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, that the Emperor granted to neither 

MS., — Oviedo, Hist, de las Ind., of the parties, but to Cortes, the ex- 

MS., lib. 33, cap. 30, — Torquemada, elusive right of commemorating the 

Monarch. Inch, lib. 4, cap. 101. capture of Guatemozin, by placing 

21 The general, according to Diaz, his head, together with the heads of 

rebuked his officers for their ill-timed seven other captive princes, on the 

contention, reminding them of the border of his shield, 
direful effects of a similar quarrel 25 Sahagun, Hist, de Nueva Esp., 

between Marius and Sylla, respect- lib. 12, cap. 40, MS. 


Guatemozin, on landing, was escorted by a company 
of infantry to the presence of the Spanish commander. 
He mounted the azoiea with a calm and steady step, 
and was easily to be distinguished from his attendant 
nobles, though his full, dark eye was no longer lighted 
up with its accustomed fire, and his features wore an 
expression of passive resignation, that told little of the 
fierce and fiery spirit that burned within. His head was 
large, his limbs well proportioned, his complexion fairer 
than those of his bronze-coloured nation, and his whole 
deportment singularly mild and engaging. 20 

Cortes came forward with a dignified and studied 
courtesy to receive him. The Aztec monarch probably 
knew the person of his conqueror, for he first broke 
silence by saying ; "I have clone all that I could to 
defend myself and my people. I am now reduced to 
this state. You will deal with me, Malintzin, as you 
list." Then, laying his hand on the hilt of a poniard, 
stuck in the general's belt, he added, with vehemence, 
"Better despatch me with this, and rid me of life at 
once." 2? Cortes was filled with admiration at the proud 
bearing of the young barbarian, showing in his reverses 
a spirit worthy of an ancient Roman. " Fear not," he 
replied, "you shall be treated with all honour. You have 
defended your capital like a brave warrior. A Spaniard 
knows how to respect valour even in an enemy." 28 He 

26 For the portrait of Guatemozin, lengua ; que ya el Labia hecho todo, 
I again borrow the faithful pencil of lo que de su parte era obligado para 
Diaz, who knew him — at least his dcfendcrsc a si, y a los suyos, hasta 
person — well. "Guatemuz era dc venir en aquel estado ; que aliora 
muy gentil disposicion, assi dc ficicsse dc cl lo que yo quisiesse ; y 
cucrpo, como de faycioncs, y la cata puso la mano en un puhal, que yo 
algo larga, y alegre, y los ojos mas tenia, diciendome, que le diessc de 
parccian que quando miraua, que pufialadas, y le niatasse." (Rcl. 
eran con grauedad, y halaguenos, y Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 
no iiauia falta en ellos, y era de cdad 300.) This remarkable account by 
de vcinte y tres, d veintc y quatro tlic Conqueror himself is confirmed 
ahos, y cl color tiraua mas ;i bianco, by Diaz, wlio docs not appear to 
que al color, y matiz dc essotros have seen this letter of his com- 
lndios morcnos.". Hist, dc la Con- mander. Hist, de la Conquista, 
quista, cap. 156. cap. 156. 

27 " Llegose a mi, y dijomc en su ffl Ibid., cap. 156. — Also Oviedo, 

chap, viii.] CAPTURE OF GUATEMOZIN. 347 

then inquired of hirn, where he had left the princess, his 
wife ; and, being informed that she still remained under 
protection of a Spanish guard on board the brigantine, 
the general sent to have her escorted to his presence. 

She was the youngest daughter of Montezuma; and 
was hardly yet on the verge of womanhood. On the 
accession of her cousin, Guaternozin, to the throne, she 
had. been wedded to him as his lawful wife. 29 She is 
celebrated by her contemporaries for her personal charms ; 
and the beautiful princess, Tecuichpo, is still commemo- 
rated by the Spaniards, since from her, by a subsequent 
marriage, are descended some of the illustrious families 
of their own nation. 30 She was kindly received by Cortes, 
who showed her the respectful attentions suited to her 
rank. Her birth, no doubt, gave her an additional 
interest in his eyes, and he may have felt some touch 
of compunction, as he gazed on the daughter of the 
unfortunate Montezuma. He invited his royal captives 
to partake of the refreshments which their exhausted 
condition rendered so necessary. Meanwhile the Spanish 
commander made his dispositions for the night, ordering 
Sandoval to escort the prisoners to Cojohuacan, whither 
he proposed himself immediately to follow. The other 
captains, Olid and Alvarado, were to draw off their 
forces to their respective quarters. It was impossible for 
them to continue in the capital, where the poisonous 
effluvia from the unburied carcasses loaded the air with 
infection. A small guard only was stationed to keep 
order in the wasted suburbs. — It was the hour of vespers 

Hist, de las Lid., MS., lib. 33, cap. conversation with Oviedo. Accord- 

48, — and Martyr, (de Orbe Novo, ing to this, it appears that the only 

dec. 5, cap. 8,) who, by the epithet legitimate offspring which Monte- 

of Magnaninw rec/i, testifies the ad- zuma left at his death, was a son 

miration which Guatemozin's lofty and a daughter, this same princess, 

spirit excited in the court of Castile. — See Appendix, Part II, No. 11. 

29 The ceremony of marriage, 

which distinguished the " lawful 30 For a further account of Mon- 

Avife" from the concubine, is de- tezuma's daughter, see Book VII., 

scribed by Don Thoan Cano, in his Chapter III. of this History. 



when Guateraozin surrendered, 31 and the siege might be 
considered as then concluded. The evening set in dark, 
and the rain began to fall, before the several parties had 
evacuated the city. 32 

During the night, a tremendous tempest, such as the 
Spaniards had rarely witnessed, and such as is known 
only within the tropics, burst over the Mexican Valley. 
The thunder, reverberating from the rocky amphitheatre 
of hills, bellowed over the waste of waters, and shook the 
teocallis and crazy tenements of Tenochtitlan — the few 
that yet survived — to their foundations. The lightning 
seemed to cleave asunder the vault of heaven, as its vivid 
flashes wrapped the whole scene in a ghastly glare, for a 
moment, to be again swallowed up in darkness. The 
war of elements was in unison with the fortunes of the 
ruined city. It seemed as if the deities of Anahuac, 
scared from their ancient abodes, were borne along; 
shrieking and howling in the blast, as they abandoned 
the fallen capital to its fate ! 33 

31 The event is annually com- 
memorated, or rather was, under 
the colonial government, by a solemn 
procession round the walls of the 
city. It took place on the 13th of 
August, the anniversary of the sur- 
render, and consisted of the principal 
cavaliers and citizens on horseback, 
headed by the viceroy, and display- 
ing the venerable standard of the 

32 Toribio, Hist, de las Ind., MS., 
Parte 3, cap. 7- — Sahagun, Hist, de 
Nueva Esp., MS., lib. 12, cap. 42.— 
Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 156. 

" The lord of Mexico having sur- 
rendered," says Cortes, in his letter 
to the Emperor, "the war, by the 
blessing of Heaven, was brought to 
an end, on Wednesday, the 13th day 
of August, 1521. So that from the 
day when wc first sat down before 
the city, which was the 30th of May, 
until its final occupation, seventy-five 
days elapsed." (Rel. Tore, ap. Lo- 

renzana, p. 300.) It is not easy to 
tell what event occurred on May 
30th, to designate the beginning of 
the siege. Clavigero considers it the 
occupation of Cojohuacan by Olid. 
(Stor. del Messico, torn. hi. p. 19G.) 
But I know not on what authority. 
Neither Bcrnal Diaz, nor Herrcra, 
nor Cortes, so fixes the date. In- 
deed, Clavigero says, that Alvarado 
and Olid left Tezcuco May 20, while 
Cortes says May 10. Perhaps Cortes 
dates from the time when Sandoval 
established himself on the northern 
causeway, and when the complete 
investment of the capital began. — 
Bcrnal Diaz, more than once, speaks 
of the siege as lasting three months, 
computing, probably, from the time 
when his own division, under Alva- 
rado, 1 ook up its position at Tacuba. 
33 It did not, apparently, disturb 
the slumbers of the troops, who had 
been so much deafened by the in- 
cessant noises of the siege, that now 
these had ceased, " wc felt," says 

chap, viii.] TERMINATION OF THE SIEGE. 349 

On the day following the surrender, Guateraozin 
requested the Spanish commander to allow the Mexicans 
to leave the city, and to pass unmolested into the open 
country. To this Cortes readily assented, as, indeed, 
without it he could take no steps for purifying the capital. 
He gave his orders, accordingly, for the evacuation of 
the place, commanding that no one, Spaniard or con- 
federate, should offer violence to the Aztecs, or in any 
way obstruct their departure. The whole number of 
these is variously estimated at from thirty to seventy 
thousand, beside women and children who had survived 
the sword, pestilence, and famine. 34 It is certain they 
were three days in defiling along the several causeways, 
— a mournful train; 35 husbands and wives, parents and 
children, the sick and the wounded, leaning on one 
another for support, as they feebly tottered along, squalid, 
and but half covered with rags, that disclosed at every 
step hideous gashes, some recently received, others 
festering from long neglect, and carrying with them an 
atmosphere of contagion. Their wasted forms and 
famine-stricken faces told the whole history of the siege ; 
and as the straggling files gained the opposite shore, they 
were observed to pause from time to time, as if to take 
one more look at the spot so lately crowned by the im- 
perial city, once their pleasant home, and endeared to 
them by many a glorious recollection. 

On the departure of the inhabitants, measures were 
immediately taken to purify the place, by means of 

Diaz, in his homely way, "like men 70,000. (Hist, de las IncL, MS., 

suddenly escaped from a helfry, lib. 33, cap. 48.) — After the losses 

where we had been shut up for of the siege, these numbers are 

months with a chime of bells ringing startling. 

in our ears !" Ibid., ubi supra. 35 "Digo que en tres dias con sus 

34 Herrera (Hist. General, dec. 3, noches iban todas tres calcadas llenas 

lib. 2, cap. 7,) and Torquemada de Indios, e Indias, y muchachos, 

(Monarch. Ind., lib. 4, cap. 101) llenas de bote en bote, que nunca 

estimate them at 30,000. Ixtlil- dexauan de salir, y tan flacos, y 

xochitl says, that 60,000 fighting suzios, e amarillos, e hediondos, que 

men laid down their arms ; (Venida era lastima de los ver." Bemal 

de los Esp., p. 49 ;) and Oviedo Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

swells the amount still higher to 156. 


numerous fires kept burning day and night, especially in 
the infected quarter of Tlatelolco, and by collecting the 
heaps of dead, which lay mouldering in the streets, and 
consigning them to the earth. — Of the whole number 
who perished in the course of the siege, it is impossible 
to form any probable computation. The accounts range 
widely from one hundred and twenty thousand, the 
lowest estimate, to two hundred and forty thousand. 36 
The number of the Spaniards who fell was comparatively 
small, but that of the allies must have been large, if the 
historian of Tezcuco is correct in asserting, that thirty 
thousand perished of his own countrymen alone. 37 That 
the number of those destroyed within the city was im- 
mense cannot be doubted, when we consider, that, 
besides its own redundant population, it was thronged 
with that of the neighbouring towns, who, distrusting 
their strength to resist the enemy, sought protection 
within its walls. 

The booty found there — that is, the treasures of gold 
and jewels, the only booty of much value in the eyes of 
the Spaniards — fell far below their expectations. It did 
not exceed, according to the general's statement, a 

36 Cortes estimates the losses of number of Indian warriors from all 

the enemy in the three several the provinces and towns subject to 

assaults at 67,000, which, with Mexico, the most of whom perished." 

50,000, whom he reckons to have (Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 156.) 

perished from famine and disease, " I have conversed," says Oviedo, 

would give 117,000. (Rel. Terc. " with many hidalgos and other per- 

ap. Lorenzana, p. 298, et alibi.) sons, and have heard tlicm say that 

But this is exclusive of those who the number of the dead was incal- 

fell previously to the commencement culablc, — greater than that at Jcru- 

of the vigorous plan of operations salcm, as described by Josephus." 

for demolishing the city. Ixtlil- (Hist, dc las Ind., MS., lib. 30, cap. 

xochitl, who seldom allows any one 30.) As the estimate of the Jewish 

to beat him in figures, puts the dead, historian amounts to 1,100,000, (An- 

in rouDcl numbers, at 210,000, com- liquifies of the Jews, Eng. tr., Book 

prehending the flower of the Aztec vii. chap, xvii.,) the comparison may 

nobility. ( Vcnidade los Esp., p. 51.) stagger the most accommodating 

Bcrnal Diaz observes, more gene- faith. It will be safer to dispense 

rally, "I have read the story of the with arithmetic, where the data are 

destruction of Jerusalem, but 1 doubt too loose and slippery to afford a 

if there was as great mortality there foothold for getting at truth, 
as in this siege; for there was 

assembled in the city an immense :! ' Ibid., nbi supra. 

chap, viii.] TERMINATION OF THE SIEGE. 351 

hundred and thirty thousand castettanos of gold, including 
the sovereign's share, which, indeed, taking into account 
many articles of curious and costly workmanship, volun- 
tarily relinquished by the army, greatly exceeded his 
legitimate fifth. 38 Yet the Aztecs must have been in 
possession of a much larger treasure, if it were only the 
wreck of that recovered from the Spaniards on the night 
of the memorable flight from Mexico. Some of the 
spoil may have been sent away from the capital ; some 
spent in preparations for defence, and more of it buried 
in the earth, or sunk in the water of the lake. Their 
menaces were not without a meaning. They had, at 
least, the satisfaction of disappointing the avarice of 
their enemies. 

Cortes had no further occasion for the presence of his 
Indian allies. He assembled the chiefs of the different 
squadrons, thanked them for their services, noticed their 
valour in flattering terms, and, after distributing presents 
among them, with the assurance that his master, the 
Emperor, would recompense their fidelity yet more 
largely, dismissed them to their own homes. They 
carried off a liberal share of the spoils, of which they 
had plundered the dwellings, — not of a kind to excite 
the cupidity of the Spaniards, — and returned in triumph, 
short-sighted triumph ! at the success of their expedition, 
and the downfall of the Aztec dynasty. 

Great also was the satisfaction of the Spaniards at this 
brilliant termination of their long and laborious cam- 
paign. They were, indeed, disappointed at the small 
amount of treasure found in the conquered city. But 
the soldier is usually too much absorbed in the present 
to give much heed to the future ; and, though their dis- 
content showed itself afterwards in a more clamorous 
form, they now thought only of their triumph, and 

38 Rel. Terc, ap. Lorenzana, p. the treasure, and especially of the 

301. imperial fifth, to which I shall have 

Oviedo goes into some further occasion to advert hereafter. Hist, 

particulars respecting the amount of de las Inch, MS., lib. 33, cap. 31. 


abandoned themselves to jubilee. Cortes celebrated the 
event by a banquet, as sumptuous as circumstances would 
permit, to which all the cavaliers and officers were in- 
vited. Loud and long was their revelry, which was 
carried to such an excess, as provoked the animadversion 
of father Olmedo, who intimated that this was not the 
fitting way to testify their sense of the favours shown 
them by the Almighty. Cortes admitted the justice of 
the rebuke, but craved some indulgence for a soldier's 
licence in the hour of victory. The following clay was 
appointed for the commemoration of their successes in a 
more suitable manner. 

A procession of the whole army was then formed with 
father Olmedo at its head. The soiled and tattered 
banners of Castile, which had waved over many a field 
of battle, now threw their shadows on the peaceful array 
of the soldiery, as they slowly moved along, rehearsing 
the litany, and displaying the image of the Virgin, and 
the blessed symbol of man's redemption. The reverend 
father pronounced a discourse, in which he briefly re- 
minded the troops of their great cause for thankfulness 
to Providence for conducting them safe through their 
long and perilous pilgrimage ; and, dwelling on the 
responsibility incurred by their present position, he be- 
sought them not to abuse the rights of conquest, but to 
treat the unfortunate Indians with humanity. The sacra- 
ment was then administered to the commander-in-chief 
and the principal cavaliers, and the services concluded 
with a solemn thanksgiving to the God of battles, who 
had enabled them to carry the banner of the Cross tri- 
umphant over this barbaric empire. 39 

Thus, after a siege of nearly three months' duration, 
unmatched in history for the constancy and courage of 

39 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, 12, cap. 42. — Oviedo, Hist, de las 

lib. 2, cap. 8.— Bcrnal Diaz, Hist. Lid., MS., lib. 33, cap. 30.— Ixtlil- 

de la Conquista, cap. 156. — Saha- xochitl, Vcnida dc los Esp., pp. 51, 

gun, Hist, de Nucva Esp., MS., lib. 52. 

chap, viii.] TERMINATION OF THE SIEGE. 353 

the besieged, seldom surpassed for the severity of its 
sufferings, fell the renowned capital of the Aztecs. Un- 
matched, it may be truly said, for constancy and courage, 
when we recollect that the door of capitulation on the 
most honourable terms was left open to them through- 
out the whole blockade, and that, sternly rejecting every 
proposal of their enemy, they, to a man, preferred to 
die rather than surrender. More than three centuries 
had elapsed, since the Aztecs, a poor and wandering 
tribe from the far North-west, had come on the plateau. 
There they built their miserable collection ef huts on the 
spot — as tradition tells us — prescribed by the oracle. 
Their conquests, at first confined to their immediate 
neighbourhood, gradually covered the Valley, then cross- 
ing the mountains, swept over the broad extent of the 
table-land, descended its precipitous sides, and rolled 
onwards to the Mexican gulf, and the distant confines of 
Central America. Their wretched capital, meanwhile, 
keeping pace with the enlargement of territory, had 
grown into a flourishing city, filled with buildings, 
monuments of art, and a numerous population, that 
gave it the first rank among the capitals of the Western 
World. At this crisis, came over another race from the 
remote East, strangers like themselves, whose coming- 
had also been predicted by the oracle, and, appearing 
on the plateau, assailed them in the very zenith of their 
prosperity, and blotted them out from the map of 
nations for ever ! The whole story has the air of fable, 
rather than of history ! a legend of romance, — a tale of 
the genii ! 

Yet we cannot regret the fall of an empire which did 
so little to promote the happiness of its subjects, or the 
real interests of humanity. Notwithstanding the lustre 
thrown over its latter days by the glorious defence of its 
capital, by the mild munificence of Montezuma, by the 
dauntless heroism of Guatemozin, the Aztecs were em- 
phatically a fierce and brutal race, little calculated, in 

VOL. II. a a 


their best aspects, to excite our sympathy and regard. 
Their civilization, such as it was, was not their own, but 
reflected, perhaps imperfectly, from a race whom they 
had succeeded in the land. It was, in respect to the 
Aztecs, a generous graft on a vicious stock, and could 
have brought no fruit to perfection. They ruled over 
their wide domains with a sword, instead of a sceptre. 
They did nothing to ameliorate the condition, or in any 
way promote the progress, of their vassals. Their vassals 
were serfs, used only to minister to their pleasure, held 
in awe by armed garrisons, ground to the dust by imposts 
in peace, by military conscriptions in war. They did 
not, like the Romans, whom they resembled in the nature 
of their conquests, extend the rights of citizenship to the 
conquered. They did not amalgamate them into one 
great nation, with common rights and interests. They 
held them as aliens, — even those who in the Valley were 
gathered round the very walls of the capital. The Aztec 
metropolis, the heart of the monarchy, had not a sym- 
pathy, not a pulsation, in common with the rest of the 
body politic. It was a stranger in its own land. 

The Aztecs not only did not advance the condition of 
their vassals, but, morally speaking, they did much to 
degrade it. How can a nation, where human sacrifices 
prevail, and especially when combined with cannibalism, 
further the march of civilization ? How can the interests 
of humanity be consulted, where man is levelled to the 
rank of the brutes that perish ? The influence of the 
Aztecs introduced their gloomy superstition into lands 
before unacquainted with it, or where, at least, it was 
not established in any great strength. The example of 
the capital was contagious. As the latter increased in 
opulence, the religious celebrations were conducted with 
still more terrible magnificence. In the same manner as 
the gladiatorial shows of the Romans increased in pomp 
with the increasing splendour of the capital, men became 
familiar with scenes of horror and the most loathsome 

chap. VIII.] REFLECTIONS. 355 

abominations; women and children — the whole nation 
became familiar with, and assisted at them. The heart 
Avas hardened, the manners were made ferocious, the 
feeble light of civilization, transmitted from a milder 
race, was growing fainter and fainter, as thousands and 
thousands of miserable victims throughout the empire, 
were yearly fattened in its cages, sacrificed on its altars, 
dressed and served at its banquets ! The whole land 
was converted into a vast human shambles ! The empire 
of the Aztecs did not fall before its time. 

Whether these unparalleled outrages furnish a suffi- 
cient plea to the Spaniards for their invasion, whether, 
with the Protestant, we are content to find a warrant for 
it in the natural rights and demands of civilization, or, 
with the Roman Catholic, in the good pleasure of the 
Pope, — on the one or other of which grounds, the con- 
quests by most Christian nations in the East and the 
West have been defended, — it is unnecessary to discuss, 
as it has already been considered in a former Chapter. 
It is more material to inquire, whether, assuming the 
right, the conquest of Mexico was conducted with a 
proper regard to the claims of humanity. And here we 
must admit, that, with all allowance for the ferocity of 
the age and the laxity of its principles, there are passages 
which every Spaniard, who cherishes the fame of his 
countrymen, would be glad to see expunged from their 
history; passages not to be vindicated on the score of 
self-defence, or of necessity of any kind, and which must 
for ever leave a dark spot on the annals of the Conquest. 
And yet, taken as a whole, the invasion, up to the cap- 
ture of the capital, was conducted on principles less 
revolting to humanity, than most, perhaps than any, of 
the other conquests of the Castilian crown in the New 

It may seem slight praise to say, that the followers of 
Cortes used no blood-hounds to hunt down their wretched 
victims, as in some other parts of the Continent, nor 


exterminated a peaceful and submissive population in 
mere wantonness of cruelty, as in the Islands. Yet it is 
something, that they were not so far infected by the 
spirit of the age, and that their sAvords were rarely 
stained with blood, unless it was indispensable to the 
success of their enterprise. Even in the last siege of 
the capital, the sufferings of the Aztecs, terrible as they 
were, do not imply any unusual cruelty in the victors ; 
they were not greater than those inflicted on their own 
countrymen at home, in many a memorable instance, by 
the most polished nations, not merely of ancient times, 
but of our own. They were the inevitable conse- 
quences which follow from war, when, instead of being 
confined to its legitimate field, it is brought home to the 
hearthstone, to the peaceful community of the city, — 
its burghers untrained to arm, its Avomen and children 
yet more defenceless. In the present instance, indeed, 
the sufferings of the besieged were in a great degree to 
be charged on themselves, — on their patriotic, but des- 
perate, self-devotion. It was not the desire, as certainly 
it was not the interest, of the Spaniards to destroy the 
capital, or its inhabitants. When any of these fell into 
their hands, they were kindly entertained, their wants 
supplied, and every means taken to infuse into them a 
spirit of conciliation ; and this, too, it should be remem- 
bered, in despite of the dreadful doom to which they 
consigned their Christian captives. The gates of a fair 
capitulation were kept open, though unavailing!}^, to the 
last hour. 

The right of conquest necessarily implies that of using 
whatever force may be necessary for overcoming resist- 
ance to the assertion of that right. For the Spaniards 
to have done otherwise than they did, would have been 
to abandon the siege, and, with it, the conquest of the 
country. To have suffered the inhabitants, with their 
high-spirited monarch, to escape, would but have pro- 
longed the miseries of war by transferring it to another 


. viii.] REFLECTIONS. 357 

and more inaccessible quarter. They literally, as far as 
the success of the expedition was concerned, had no 
choice. If our imagination is struck with the amount 
of suffering in this, and in similar scenes of the Con- 
quest, it should be borne in mind, that it is a natural 
result of the great masses of men engaged in the conflict. 
The amount of suffering does not in itself show the 
amount of cruelty which caused it ; and it is but justice 
to the Conquerors of Mexico to say, that the very bril- 
liancy and importance of their exploits have given a 
melancholy celebrity to their misdeeds, and thrown them 
into somewhat bolder relief than strictly belongs to 
them. It is proper that thus much should be stated, 
not to excuse their excesses, but that we may be enabled 
to make a more impartial estimate of their conduct, as 
compared with that of other nations under similar cir- 
cumstances, and that we may not visit them with peculiar 
obloquy for evils which necessarily flow from the con- 
dition of war. 40 I have not drawn a veil over these 
evils ; for the historian should not shrink from depicting, 
in their true colours, the atrocities of a condition, over 
which success is apt to throw a false halo of glory, but 
which, bursting asunder the strong bonds of human 
fellowship, purchases its triumphs by arming the hand 
of man against his brother, makes a savage of the 

40 By none has this obloquy been pure Aztec blood, uncontaminated 
poured with such unsparing hand by a drop of Castilian, flowed in the 
on the heads of the old Conquerors, veins of the indignant editor and his 
as by their own descendants, the compatriots ; or, at least, that their 
modern Mexicans. Ixtlilxochitl's sympathies for the conquered race 
editor, Bustamante, concludes an would make them anxious to rein- 
animated invective against the in- state them in their ancient rights, 
vaders, with recommending that a Notwithstanding these bursts of ge- 
monument should be raised on the nerous indignation, however, which 
spot, — now dry land, — where Gua- plentifully season the writings of 
temozin was taken, which, as the the Mexicans of our day, we do not 
proposed inscription itself intimates, find that the Revolution, or any of 
should " devote to eternal execration its numerous brood of pronuncia- 
the detested memory of these ban- mientos, has resulted in restoring 
ditti!" (Venida de los Esp., p. 52, them to an acre of their ancient 
nota.) One would suppose that the territory. 


civilized, and kindles the fires of hell in the bosom of 
-the savage. 

Whatever may be thought of the Conquest in a moral 
view, regarded as a military achievement, it must fill us 
with astonishment. That a handful of adventurers, in- 
differently armed and equipped, should have landed on 
the shores of a powerful empire, inhabited by a fierce 
and warlike race, and, in defiance of the reiterated pro- 
hibitions of its sovereign, have forced their way into the 
interior ; — that they should have done this, without 
knowledge of the language or of the land, without chart 
or compass to guide them, without any idea of the diffi- 
culties they were to encounter, totally uncertain whether 
the next step might bring them on a hostile nation, or 
on a desert, feeling their way along in the dark, as it 
were ; — that, though nearly overwhelmed by their first 
encounter with the inhabitants, they should have still 
pressed on to the capital of the empire, and, having 
reached it, thrown themselves unhesitatingly into the 
midst of their enemies ; — that, so far from being daunted 
by the extraordinary spectacle there exhibited of power 
and civilization, they should have been but the more 
confirmed in their original design ; — that they should 
have seized the monarch, have executed his ministers 
before the eyes of his subjects, and, when driven forth 
with ruin from the gates, have gathered their scattered 
wreck together, and, after a system of operations pursued 
with consummate policy and daring, have succeeded in 
overturning the capital, and establishing their sway over 
the country ,— that all this should have been so effected 
by a mere handful of indigent adventurers, is a fact 
little short of the miraculous, — too startling for the 
probabilities demanded by fiction, and without a parallel 
in the pages of history. 

Yet this must not be understood too literally; for it 
would be unjust to the Aztecs themselves, at least to 
their military prowess, to regard the Conquest as directly 



achieved by the Spaniards alone. This would indeed be 
to arm the latter with the charmed shield of Ruggiero, 
and the magic lance of Astolfo, overturning its hundreds 
at a touch. The Indian empire was in a manner con- 
quered by Indians. The first terrible encounter of the 
Spaniards with the Tlascalans, which had nearly proved 
their ruin, did in fact insure their success. It secured 
to them a strong native support, on which to retreat in 
the hour of trouble, and round which they could rally the 
kindred races of the land for one great and overwhelming 
assault. The Aztec monarchy fell by the hands of its 
own subjects, under the direction of European sagacity 
and science. Had it been united, it might have bidden 
defiance to the invaders. As it was, the capital was dis- 
severed from the rest of the country ; and the bolt, which 
might have passed off comparitively harmless, had the 
empire been cemented by a common principle of loyalty 
and patriotism, now found its way into every crack and 
crevice of the ill-compacted fabric, and buried it in its 
own ruins. — Its fate may serve as a striking proof, that 
a government, which does not rest on the sympathies of 
its subjects, cannot long abide ; that human institutions, 
when not connected with human prosperity and pro- 
gress, must fall, — if not before the increasing light of 
civilization, by the hand of violence ; by violence from 
within, if not from without. And who shall lament 
their fall ? 

With the events of this book terminates the history, by Soils, of the 
Conquista de Mejico; a history, in many points of view, the most remark- 
able in the Castilian language. — Don Antonio de Soils was born of a respect- 
able family, in October, 1610, at Alcala de Henares, the nursery of science, 
and the name of which is associated in Spain with the brightest ornaments 
of both church and state. Sobs, while very young, exhibited the sparks of 
future genius, especially in the vivacity of his imagination and a sensibility to 
the beautifid. He showed a decided turn for dramatic composition, and 
produced a comedy, at the age of seventeen, which would have reflected 
credit on a riper age. He afterwards devoted himself with assiduity to the 
study of ethics, the fruits of which are visible in the moral reflections which 
give a didactic character to the lightest of his compositions. 

300 SOLIS. [book vt. 

At the usual age he entered the University of Salamanca, and went 
through the regular course of canon and civil law. But the imaginative 
spirit of Solis took much more delight in the soft revels of the Muses than 
in the severe discipline of the schools ; and he produced a number of pieces 
for the theatre, much esteemed for the richness of the diction, and for the 
ingenious and delicate texture of the intrigue. His taste for dramatic com- 
position was, no doubt, nourished by his intimacy with the great Calderon, 
for whose dramas he prepared several has, or prologues. The amiable 
manners and brilliant acquisitions of Solis recommended him to the favour 
of the Conde de Oropesa, viceroy of Navarre, who made him his secretary. 
The letters written by him while in the service of this nobleman, and after- 
wards, have some of thern been given to the public, and are much com- 
mended for the suavity and elegance of expression, characteristic of all the 
writings of their author. 

The increasing repul ation of Solis attracted the notice of the Court, and, 
in 1661, he was made secretary of the queen dowager, — an office which he 
had declined under Philip the Eourth, — and he was also preferred to the 
still more important post of Historiographer of the Indies, an appointment 
which stimulated his ambition to a bold career, different from anything he 
had yet attempted. Five years after this event, at the age of fifty-six, he 
made a most important change in his way of life, by embracing the religious 
profession, and was admitted to priest's orders in 1666. Erom this time he 
discontinued his addresses to the comic Muse ; and, if we may credit his 
biographers, even refused, from conscientious scruples, to engage in the 
composition of the religious dramas, styled autos sacramentales, although the 
field was now open to him by the death of the poet Calderou. But such 
tenderness of conscience it seems difficult to reconcile with the publication 
of his various comedies, which took place in 1681. It is certain, however, 
that he devoted himself zealously to his new profession, and to the historical 
studies in which his office of chronicler had engaged him. At length the 
fruits of these studies were given to the world in his Conquisla de Mejico, 
which appeared at Madrid in 1684. He designed, it is said, to continue 
the work to the times after the Conquest. But, if so, he was unfortunately 
prevented by his death, which occurred about two years after the publica- 
tion of his history, on the 13th of April, 1686. He died at the age of 
seventy-six, much regarded for his virtue and admired for his genius, but in 
that poverty with which genius and virtue are too often requited. 

The miscellaneous poems of Solis were collected nnd published a few years 
after his death in one volume quarto ; which has since been reprinted. But 
his great work, that on which his fame is permanently to rest, is his Con- 
quista de Mejico. Notwithstanding the field of history had been occupied 
by so many eminent Spanish scholars, there was still a new career open to 
Solis. His predecessors, with all their merits, had shown a strange ignor- 
ance of the principles of art. They had regarded historical writing not as a 
work of art, but as a science. They had approached it on that side only, 
and thus divorced it from its legitimate connexion with belles-lettres. They 
had thought only of the useful, and nothing of the beautiful ; had addressed 
themselves to the business of instruction, not to that of giving pleasure ; to 
the man of letters, studious to hive up knowledge, not to the man of leisure, 
who turns to books as a solace or a recreation. Such writers are never in the 
hands of the many, — not even of the cultivated many. They are condemned 
to the closet of the student, painfully toiling after truth, aud little mindful 
of the coarse covering under which she may be wrapped. Some of the most 
distinguished of the national historiographers, as, for example, Hcrrera and 
Zurita, two of the greatest names in Castile and Aragon, fall under this 
censure. They display acutcness, strength of argument, judicious criticism, 
■wonderful patience and industry in accumulating details lor their varied and 


.] solis. 361 

voluminous compilations ; but in all the graces of composition, — in elegance 
of style, skilful arrangement of the story, and in selection of incidents, they 
are lamentably deficient. With all their high merits, intellectually con- 
sidered, they are so defective on the score of art, that they can neither be 
popular, nor reverenced as the great classics of the nation. 

Solis saw that the field was unappropriated by his predecessors, and had 
the address to avail himself of it. Instead of spreading himself over a vast 
range, where he must expend his efforts on cold and barren generalities, he 
fixed his attention on one great theme, — one, that, by its picturesque ac- 
companiments, the romantic incidents of the story, the adventurous character 
of the actors, and their exploits, associated with many a proud and patriotic 
feeling in the bosom of the Spaniard, — one, in fine, that, by the brilliant 
contrast it afforded of European civilization to the barbaric splendours of an 
Indian dynasty, was remarkably suited to the kindling imagination of the 
poet. It was accordingly under its poetic aspect that the eye of Solis sur- 
veyed it. He distributed the whole subject with admirable skill, keeping 
down the subordinate parts, bringing the most important into high relief, 
and, by a careful study of its proportions, giving an admirable symmetry to 
the whole. Instead of bewildering the attention by a variety of objects, he 
presented to it one great and predominant idea, which shed its light, if I 
may so say, over his whole work. Instead of the numerous episodes leading, 
like so many blind galleries, to nothing, he took the student along a great 
road, conducting straight towards the mark. At every step which we take 
in the narrative, we feel ourselves on the advance. The story never falters 
or stands still. That admirable liaison of the parts is maintained, by which 
one part is held to another, and each preceding event prepares the way for 
that which is to follow. Even those occasional interruptions, the great 
stumbling-block of the historian, which cannot be avoided in consequence of 
the important bearing which the events that cause them have on the story, 
are managed with such address, that, if the interest is suspended, it is never 
snapped. Such halting-places, indeed, are so contrived as to afford a repose 
not unwelcome after the stirring scenes in which the reader has been long 
involved ; as the traveller, exhausted by the fatigues of his journey, finds 
refreshment at places which, in their own character, have little to recom- 
mend them. 

The work, thus conducted, affords the interest of a grand spectacle, — of 
some well-ordered drama, in which scene succeeds to scene, act to act, each 
unfolding and preparing the mind for the one that is to follow, until the 
whole is consummated by the grand and decisive denouement. With this 
denouement, the fall of Mexico, Solis has closed his history, preferring to 
leave the full impression unbroken on the reader's mind, rather than to 
weaken it by prolonging the narrative to the Conqueror's death. In this 
he certainly consulted effect. 

Solis used the same care in regard to style, that he showed in the arrange- 
ment of his story. It is elaborated with nicest art, and displays that varied 
beauty and brilliancy which remind us of those finely variegated woods, 
which, under a high polish, display all the rich tints that lie beneath the 
surface. Yet this style finds little favour with foreign critics, who are apt 
to condemn it as tumid, artificial and verbose. But let the foreign critic 
beware how he meddles with style, that impalpable essence which surrounds 
thought as with an atmosphere, giving to it its life and peculiar tone of 
colour, differing in different nations, like the atmospheres which envelope the 
different planets of our system, and which require to be comprehended, that 
we may interpret the character of the objects seen through their medium. 
None but a native can pronounce with any confidence upon style, affected, 
as it is, by so many casual and local associations, that determine its pro- 
priety and its elegance. In the judgment of eminent Spanish critics, the 

362 solis. 


style of Solis claims the merits of perspicuity, copiousness, and classic ele- 
gance. Even the foreigner will not be insensible to its power of conveying 
a living picture to the eye. Words are the colours of the writer, and Solis 
uses them with the skill of a consummate artist ; now displaying the dark 
tumult of battle, and now refreshing the mind by scenes of quiet magnifi- 
cence, or of soft luxury and repose. 

Soils formed himself, to some extent, on the historical models of Anti- 
quity. He introduced set speeches into the mouths of his personages, 
speeches of his own composing. The practice may claim high authority 
among moderns as well as ancients, especially among the great Italian histo- 
rians. It has its advantages, in enabling the writer to convey, in a dramatic 
form, the sentiments of the actors, and thus to maintain the charm of 
historic illusion by never introducing the person of the historian. It has 
also another advantage, that of exhibiting the author's own sentiments under 
cover of his hero's, — a more effective mode than if they were introduced as 
his own. But to one trained in the school of the great English historians, 
the practice has something in it unsatisfactory and displeasing. There is 
something like deception in it. The reader is unable to determine what are 
the sentiments of the characters, and what those of the author. History 
assumes the air of romance, and the bewildered student wanders about in an 
uncertain light, doubtful whether he is treading on fact or fiction. 

It is open to another objection, when, as it frequently does, it violates the 
propriety of costume. Nothing is more difficult than to preserve the keep- 
ing of the piece, when the new is thus laid on the old, — the imitation of the 
antique on the antique itself. The declamations of Solis are much prized as 
specimens of eloquence. But they are too often misplaced, and the rude 
characters, into whose mouths they are inserted, are as little in keeping with 
them, as were the lioman heroes with the fashionable wig and sword, with 
which they strutted on the French stage in Louis the Fourteenth's time. 

As to the value of the researches made by Solis in the compilation of his 
work, it is not easy to speak, for the page is supported by none of the notes 
and references which enable us to track the modern author to the quarry 
whence he has drawn his materials. It was not the usage of the age. The 
people of that day, and, indeed, of preceding times, were content to take the 
author's word for his facts. They did not require to know why he affirmed 
this thing or doubted that ; whether he built his story on the authority of 
a friend, or of a foe, of a writer of good report, or of evil report. In short, 
they did not demand a reason for their faith. They were content to take it 
on trust. This was very comfortable to the historian. It saved him a world 
of trouble in the process, and it prevented the detection of error, or at least 
of negligence It prevented it with all who did not carefully go over the 
same ground with himself. They who have occasion to do this with Solis 
will probably arise from the examination with no very favourable idea of the 
extent of his researches ; they will find that, though his situation gave him 
access to the most valuable repositories in the kingdom, he rarely ascends to 
original documents, but contents himself with the most obvious and acces- 
sible ; that he rarely discriminates between the contemporary testimony, and 
that of later date; in a word, that, in all that constitutes the scientific value 
of history, he falls far below his learned predecessor, Hcrrcra, — rapid as was 
the composition of this last. 

Another objection that may be made to Solis is his bigotry, or rather his 
fanaticism. This defect, so repugnant to the philosophic spirit which should 
preside over the labours of the historian, he possessed, it is true, in common 
with many of his countrymen. But, in him it was carried to an uncommon 
height; and it was peculiarly unfortunate, since his subject, being the con- 
test between the Christian and the Infidel, naturally drew forth the full 
display of this failing. Instead of regarding the benighted heathen with the 


.] SAHAGUN. 363 

usual measure of aversion iu which they were held iu the Peninsula, after 
the subjugation of Granada, he considered them as part of the grand confe- 
deracy of Satan, not merely breathing the spirit and acting under the invi- 
sible influence of the Prince of Darkness, but holding personal communication 
with him-; he seems to have regarded them, in short, as his regular and 
organized militia. In this view, every act of the unfortunate enemy was 
a crime. Even good acts were misrepresented, or referred to evil motives ; 
for how could goodness originate with the Spirit of Evil ? No better evi- 
dence of the results of this way of thinking need be given, than that afforded 
by the ill-favoured and unauthorized portrait which the historian has left us 
of Montezuma, — even in his dying hours. The war of the Conquest was, in 
short, iu the historian's eye, a conflict between light and darkness, between 
the good principle and the evil principle, between the soldiers of Satan and 
the chivalry of the Cross. It was a Holy War, in which the sanctity of the 
cause covered up the sins of the Conquerors ; and every one — the meanest 
soldier who fell in it — might aspire to the crown of martyrdom. With sym- 
pathies thus preoccupied, what room was there for that impartial criticism 
which is the life of history ? 

The historian's overweening partiality to the Conquerors is still further 
heightened by those feelings of patriotism, — a bastard patriotism, — which, 
identifying the writer's own glory with that of his countrymen, makes him 
blind to their errors. This partiality is especially shown in regard to Cortes, 
the hero of the piece. The lights and shadows of the picture are all disposed 
with reference to this principal character. The good is ostentatiously 
paraded before us, and the bad is winked out of sight. Soils does not stop 
here, but, by the artful gloss which makes the worse appear the better 
cause, he calls on us to admire his hero sometimes for his very trans- 
gressions. No one, not even Gomara himself, is such a wholesale encomiast 
of the great Conqueror ; and, when his views are contradicted by the state- 
ments of honest l)iaz, Soils is sure to find a motive for the discrepancy in 
some sinister purpose of the veteran. He knows more of Cortes, of Ins 
actions and his motives, than his companion in arms, or his admiring 

In this way, Soils has presented a beautiful image of his hero, — but it is 
a hero of Romance ; a character without a blemish. An eminent Castilian 
critic has commended him for " having conducted his history with so much 
art that it has become a panegyric." This may be true ; but, if history be 
panegyric, panegyric is not history. 

Yet, with all these defects, the existence of which no candid critic will be 
disposed to deny, the History of Soils has found such favour with his own 
countrymen, that it has been printed and reprinted, with all the refinements 
of editorial luxury. It has been translated into the principal languages of 
Europe ; and such is the charm of its composition, and its exquisite finish as 
a work of art, that it will doubtless be as imperishable as the language in 
which it is written, or the memory of the events which it records. 

At this place, also, we are to take leave of father Sahagun, who has 
accompanied us through our narrative. As his information was collected 
from the traditions of the natives, the contemporaries of the Conquest, it has 
been of considerable importance in corroborating or contradicting the state- 
ments of the Conquerors. Yet its value in this respect is much impaired by 
the wild and random character of many of the Aztec traditions,' — so absurd, 
indeed, as to carry their own refutation with them. Where the passions 
are enlisted, what is too absurd to find credit ? 

The Twelfth Book — as it would appear from his Preface, the Ninth Book 
originally — of his Historia de la Nueva Hspana, is devoted to the account of 
the Conquest. In 15S5, thirty years after the first draft, he re- wrote this 



part of his great work, moved to it, as he tells us, " by the desire to correct 
the defects of the first account, in which some things had found their way 
that had better been omitted, and other things omitted which were well- 
deserving of record." * It might be supposed, that the obloquy which the 
missionary had brought on his head by his honest recital of the Aztec tradi- 
tions, would have made him more circumspect in this rifacimento of his 
former narrative. But I have not found it so ; or that there has been any 
effort to mitigate the statements that bore hardest on his countrymen. As 
this manuscript copy must have been that which the author himself deemed 
the most correct, since it is his last revision, and as it is more copious than 
the printed narrative, I have been usually guided by it. 

Sehor de Bustamante is mistaken in supposing that the edition of this 
Twelfth Book, which he published in Mexico in 1829, is from the reformed 
copy of Sahagun. The manuscript cited in these pages is undoubtedly 
a transcript of that copy. For in the Preface to it, as we have seen, the 
author himself declares it. — In the intrinsic value of the two drafts there is, 
after all, but little difference. 

* " En el libro nono, donde se trata esta Conquista, se hicieron ciertos 
defectos ; y fue, que algunas cosas se pusieron en la narracion de esta Con- 
quista que fueron mal puestas ; y otras se callaron, que fueron mal calladas. 
Por esta causa, este aho de mil quinientos ochenta y cinco, enmende este 
Libro." MS. 







orture of Guatemozin. — Submission of the Country. — Rebuilding of the 
Capital. — Mission to Castile. — Complaints against Cortes. — He is con- 
firmed in his authority. 


The history of the Conquest of Mexico terminates 
with the surrender of the capital. But the history of 
the Conquest is so intimately blended with that of the 
extraordinary man who achieved it, that there would 
seem to be an incompleteness in the narrative, if it were 
not continued to the close of his personal career. This 
part of the subject has been very imperfectly treated by 
preceding writers. I shall therefore avail myself of the 
authentic materials in my possession to give a brief 
sketch of the brilliant, but chequered, fortunes which 
marked the subsequent career of Cortes. 

The first ebullition of triumph was succeeded in the 
army by very different feelings, as they beheld the scanty 
spoil gleaned from the conquered city, and as they 
brooded over the inadequate compensation they were to 
receive for all their toils and sufferings. Some of the 
soldiers of Narvaez, with feelings of bitter disappoint- 
ment, absolutely declined to accept their shares. Some 


murmured audibly against the general, and others against 
Guatemozin, who, they said, could reveal, if he chose, 
the place where the treasures were secreted. The white 
walls of the barracks were covered with epigrams and 
pasquinades levelled at Cortes, whom they accused of 
taking " one-fifth of the booty as Commander-in-chief, 
and another fifth as King." As Guatemozin refused to 
make any revelation in respect to the treasure, or rather 
declared there was none to make, the soldiers loudly 
insisted on his being put to the torture. But for this act 
of violence, so contrary to the promise of protection 
recently made to the Indian prince, Cortes was not pre- 
pared ; and he resisted the demand, until the men, insti- 
gated, it is said, by the royal treasurer, Alderete, accused 
the general of a secret understanding with Guatemozin, 
and of a design to defraud the Spanish sovereigns and 
themselves. These unmerited taunts stung Cortes to the 
quick, and in an evil hour he delivered the Aztec prince 
into the hands of his enemies to work their pleasure 
on him. 

But the hero, who had braved death in its most awful 
forms, was not to be intimidated by bodily suffering. 
When his companion, the cacique of Tacuba, who was 
put to the torture with him, testified his anguish by his 
groans, Guatemozin coldly rebuked him by exclaiming, 
" And do you think I, then, am taking my pleasure in 
my bath?" 1 At length Cortes, ashamed of the base 
part he was led to play, rescued the Aztec prince from 
his tormentors before it was too late ; — not, however, 
before it was too late for his own honour, which has 
suffered an indelible stain from this treatment of his 
royal prisoner. 

All that could be wrung from Guatemozin by the 
extremity of his sufferings was the confession, that much 

1 " rt Estoi yo en algun dclcitc, o as " the bed of flowers," into which 
bafioP" (Gomara, Cronica, cap. 145.) this exclamation of Guatemozin is 
The literal version is not so poetical usually rendered. 


gold had been thrown into the water. But, although the 
best divers were employed, under the eye of Cortes him- 
self, to search the oozy bed of the lake, only a few arti- 
cles of inconsiderable value were drawn from it. They 
had better fortune in searching a pond in Guatemozin's 
gardens, where a sun, as it is called, probably one of the 
Aztec calendar-wheels, made of pure gold, of great size 
and thickness, was discovered. The cacique of Tacuba 
had confessed that a quantity of treasure was buried in 
the ground at one of his own villas. But, when the 
Spaniards carried him to the spot, he alleged that " his 
only motive for saying so was the hope of dying on the 
road !" The soldiers, disappointed in their expectations, 
now, with the usual caprice of an unlicensed mob, 
changed their tone, and openly accused their commander 
of cruelty to his captive. The charge was well deserved, 
but not from them. 2 

The tidings of the fall of Mexico were borne on the 
wings "of the wind over the plateau, and down the 
broad sides of the Cordilleras. Many an envoy made his 
appearance from the remote Indian tribes, anxious to 
learn the truth of the astounding intelligence, and to gaze 
with their own eyes on the ruins of the detested city. 
Among these were ambassadors from the kingdom of 
Mechoacan, a powerful and independent state, inhabited 
by one of the kindred Nahuatlac races, and lying between 
the Mexican Valley and the Pacific. The embassy was 
soon followed by the king of the country in person, who 
came in great state to the Castilian quarters. Cortes 
received him with equal parade, astonished him by the 
brilliant evolutions of his cavalry, and by the thunders of 
his ordnance, and escorted him in one of the brigantines 
round the fallen city, whose pile of smouldering palaces 
and temples was all that now remained of the once dread 

2 The most particular account of his villa. (Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 

this disgraceful transaction is given 157.) He notices the affair with 

by Bernal Diaz, one of those selected becoming indignation, but excuses 

to accompany the lord of Tacuba to Cortes from a voluntary part in it. 


capital of Anahuac. The Indian monarch gazed with 
silent awe on the scene of desolation, and eagerly craved 
the protection of the invincible beings who had caused it. 3 
His example was followed by ambassadors from the 
remote regions which had never yet had intercourse with 
the Spaniards. Cortes, who saw the boundaries of his 
empire thus rapidly enlarging, availed himself of the 
favourable dispositions of the natives to ascertain the pro- 
ducts and resources of their several countries. 

Two small detachments were sent into the friendly 
state of Mechoacan, through which country they pene- 
trated to the borders of the great Southern ocean. No 
European had as yet descended on its shores so far north 
of the equator. The Spaniards eagerly advanced into its 
waters, erected a cross on the sandy margin, and took 
possession of it, with all the usual formalities, in the name 
of their Most Catholic Majesties. On their return, they 
visited some of the rich districts towards the north, since 
celebrated for their mineral treasures, and brought back 
samples of gold and Californian pearls, with an account 
of their discovery of the Ocean. The imagination of 
Cortes was kindled, and his soul swelled with exultation 
at the splendid prospects which their discoveries unfolded. 
" Most of all," he writes to the emperor, " do I exult in 
the tidings brought me of the great Ocean. For in it, as 
cosmographers, and those learned men who know most 
about the Indies, inform us, are scattered the rich isles 
teeming with gold and spices and precious stones." 4 He 

3 Rel. Tcrc. de Cortes, ap. Lorcn- alii esta el gran tcmplo de Huitzilo- 

zana, p. 308. puctli; estas ruinas son del graude 

The simple statement of the Con- cdificio de Quauhtemoc, aquellos de 

queror contrasts strongly with the la gran plaza del mcrcado. Conmo- 

pompons narrative of Herrcra, (Hist. vido Vehichilzi de cste espectaculo, 

Genera], dec. 3, lib. 3, cap. 3,) and sc le saltaron las lagrimas." Los 

with that of father Cavo, who may Trcs Siglos de Mexico, (Mexico, 

draw a little on his own imagination. 1836,) torn. i. p. 13. 
" Cortes en una canoa ricamente en- 4 " Que todos los que tiencn al- 

tapizada, llevd a el Itey Vehichilze, guna ciencia y experiencia en la 

y a los nobles de Michoacan ;i Navegacion de las Indias, han tenido 

Mexico. Este es uno de los pala- por muy cicrto, que descubriendo 

cios de Moctheuzoma (les decia) ; por estas Partes la Mar del Sur, se 


at once sought a favourable spot for -a colony on the 
shores of the Pacific, and made arrangements for the con- 
struction of four vessels to explore the mysteries of these 
unknown seas. This was the beginning of his noble 
enterprises for discovery in the Gulf of California. 

Although the greater part of Anahuac, overawed by 
the successes of the Spaniards, had tendered their alle- 
giance, there were some, especially on the southern 
slopes of the Cordilleras, who showed a less submissive 
disposition. Cortes instantly sent out strong detach- 
ments under Sandoval and Alvarado to reduce the 
enemy and establish colonies in the conquered provinces. 
The highly coloured reports which Alvarado, who had a 
quick scent for gold, gave of the mineral wealth of 
Oaxaca, no doubt operated with Cortes in determining 
him to select this region for his own particular domain. 

The commander-in-chief, with his little band of Spa- 
niards, now daily recruited by reinforcements from the 
Islands, still occupied the quarters of Cojohuacan, which 
they had taken up at the termination of the siege. 
Cortes did not immediately decide in what quarter of 
the Valley to establish the new capital which was to 
take the place of the ancient Tenochtitlan. The situation 
of the latter, surrounded by water and exposed to occa- 
sional inundations, had some obvious disadvantages. 
But there was no doubt that in some part of the 
elevated and central plateau of the Valley the new 
metropolis should be built, to which both European and 
Indian might look up as to the head of the colonial 
empire of Spain. At length he decided on retaining 
the site of the ancient city, moved to it, as he says, " by 
its past renown, and the memory" — not an enviable 
one, surely — " in which it was held among the nations ;" 
and he made preparations for the reconstruction of the 

habian de hallar muchas Tslas ricas brir y hallar otros muchos secretos y 
de Oro, y Perlas, y Piedras preciosas, cosas admirables." Eel. Terc, de 
y Especeria, y se habian de descu- Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 302. 

b b 2 


capital on a scale of magnificence, which should, in his 
own language, " raise her to the rank of Queen of the 
surrounding provinces, in the same manner as she had 
been of yore." 5 

The labour was to be performed by the Indian popu- 
lation, drawn from all quarters of the Valley, and in- 
cluding the Mexicans themselves, great numbers of whom 
still lingered in the neighbourhood of their ancient 
residence. At first they showed reluctance, and even 
symptoms of hostility, when called to this work of 
humiliation by their conquerors. But Cortes had the 
address to secure some of the principal chiefs in his 
interests, and, under their authority and direction, the 
labour of their countrymen was conducted. The deep 
groves of the Valley and the forests of the neighbouring 
hills supplied cedar, cypress, and other durable woods, 
for the interior of the buildings, and the quarries of 
tetzontli and the ruins of the ancient edifices furnished 
abundance of stone. As there were no beasts of draught 
employed by the Aztecs, an immense number of hands 
was necessarily required for the work. All within the 
immediate control of Cortes were pressed into the ser- 
vice. The spot so recently deserted now swarmed with 
multitudes of Indians of various tribes, and with Euro- 
peans, the latter directing, while the others laboured. 
The prophecy of the Aztecs was accomplished. 6 And 
the work of reconstruction went forward with a rapidity 
like that shown by an Asiatic despot, who concentrates 
the population of an empire on the erection of a favourite 
capital. 7 

5 " Y erea Vuestra Magestad, que Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 32. — Ca- 

cada dia se ira. ennoblcciendo en tal margo, Hist, de Tlascala, MS. — 

manera, que como antes fue Prin- Gomara, Cronica, cap. 162. 

cipal, y Sefiora de todas estas Pro- " En la cual (la edificacion dc la 

vincias, que lo sera tambieu de aqui ciudad) los primeros afios andaba 

adelantc." Ibid , p. 307. mas gente que en la edificacion del 

Ante, p. 320. tempTo de Jerusalem, porque era 

7 Hcrrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, tanta la gente que andaba en las 

lib. 4, cap. 8. — Oviedo, Hist, de las obras, que apenas podia hombre 



Yet the condition of Cortes, notwithstanding the 
success of his arms, suggested many causes for anxiety. 
He had not received a word of encouragement from 
home, — not a word, indeed, of encouragement or cen- 
sure. In what light his irregular course was regarded 
by the government or the nation was still matter of 
painful uncertainty. He now prepared another Letter 
to the emperor, the Third in the published series, written 
in the same simple and energetic style which has 
entitled his Commentaries, as they may be called, to a 
comparison with those of Caesar. It was dated at Cojo- 
huacan, May 15th, 1525 j and in it he recapitulated the 
events of the final siege of the capital, and his subsequent 
operations, accompanied by many sagacious reflections, 
as usual, on the character and resources of the country. 
With this letter he purposed to send the royal fifth of 
the spoils of Mexico, and a rich collection of fabrics, 
especially of gold and jewelry wrought into many rare 
and fanciful forms. One of the jewels was an emerald, 
cut in a pyramidal shape, of so extraordinary a size, that 
the base was as broad as the palm of the hand ! 8 The 
collection was still further augmented by specimens of 
many of the natural products, as well as of animals 
peculiar to the country. 

The army wrote a letter to accompany that of Cortes, 
in which they expatiated on his manifold services, and 
besought the emperor to ratify his proceedings and 
confirm him in his present authority. The important 
mission was intrusted to two of the general's confidential 

romper por algunas calles y calzadas, esmeralda fina, como la palma, pero 

aunque son muy anchas." (Toribio, quadrada, i que se remataba en punta 

Hist, de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, como piramide." ' (Gomara, Crdnica, 

cap. 1.) Ixtlilxocbitl supplies any cap. 146.) Martyr confirms the ac- 

blank which the imagination might count of this wonderful emerald, 

leave, by filling it up with 400,000,, which, he- says; " was reported to 

as the number of natives employed the king and council to be nearly as 

in this work by Cortes ! Yenida de broad as the palm of the hand, and 

los Esp., p. 60. which those who had seen it thought 

8 " Sirvieron al Emperador con could not be procured for any sum." 

muchas piedras, i entre ellas con una De Orbe Novo, dec. 8, cap. 4. 


officers, Quinones and Avila. It proved to be unfor- 
tunate. The agents touched at the Azores, where 
Quinones lost his life in a brawl. Avila, resuming his 
voyage, was captured by a French privateer, and the 
rich spoils of the Aztecs went into the treasury of his 
Most Christian Majesty. Francis the First gazed with 
pardonable envy on the treasures which his Imperial 
rival drew from his colonial domains ; and he intimated 
his discontent by peevishly expressing a desire " to see 
the clause in Adam's testament which entitled his 
brothers of Castile and Portugal to divide the New 
World between them." Avila found means, through a 
private hand, of transmitting his letters, the most im- 
portant part of his charge, to Spain, where they reached 
the court in safety. 9 

While these events were passing, affairs in Spain had 
been taking an unfavourable turn for Cortes. It may 
seem strange, that the brilliant exploits of the Conqueror 
of Mexico should have attracted so little notice from the 
government at home. But the country was at that time 
distracted by the dismal feuds of the comunidades. The 
sovereign was in Germany, too much engrossed by the 
cares of the empire to allow leisure for those of his own 
kingdom. The reins of government were in the hands 
of Adrian, Charles's preceptor ; a man whose ascetic and 
studious habits better qualified him to preside over a 
college of monks, than to fill, as he successively did, the 
most important posts in Christendom, — first as Regent 
of Castile, afterwards as Head of the Church. Yet the 
slow and hesitating Adrian could not have so long 
passed over in silence the important services of Cortes, 
but for the hostile interference of Velasquez, the governor 
of Cuba, sustained by Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, the 
chief person in the Spanish colonial department. This 
prelate, from his elevated station, possessed paramount 
authority in all matters relating to the Indies, and he 

9 Ibid., ubi supra — Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, dc la Conquista, cap. 169. 


had exerted it from the first, as we have already seen, in 
a manner most prejudicial to the interest of Cortes. 
He had now the address to obtain a warrant from the 
regent which was designed to ruin the Conqueror at 
the very moment when his great enterprise had been 
crowned with success. The instrument, after recapi- 
tulating the offences of Cortes, in regard to Velasquez, 
appoints a commissioner with full powers to visit the 
country, to institute an inquiry into the general's conduct, 
to suspend him from his functions, and even to seize his 
person and sequestrate his property, until the pleasure 
of the Castilian court could be known. The warrant was 
signed by Adrian, at Burgos, on the 11th of April, 1521, 
and countersigned by Fonseca. 10 

The individual selected for the delicate task of appre- 
hending Cortes and bringing him to trial, on the theatre 
of his own discoveries and in the heart of his own camp, 
was named Christoval de Tapia, veedor, or inspector of 
the gold foundries in St. Domingo. He was a feeble, 
vacillating man, as little competent to cope with Cortes 
in civil matters, as Narvaez had shown himself to be 
in military. 

The commissioner, clothed in his brief authority, landed 
in December, at Villa Rica. But he was coldly received 
by the magistrates of the city. His credentials were dis- 
puted, on the ground of some technical informality. It 
was objected, moreover, that his commission was founded 
on obvious misrepresentations to the government ; and, 
notwithstanding a most courteous and complimentary 
epistle which he received from Cortes, congratulating 
him, as an old friend, on his arrival, the veedor soon 

_ 10 The instrument also conferred ceedings of Tapia and the munici- 

shnilar powers in respect to an in- pality of Villa Rica, dated at Cem- 

quiry into Narvaez's treatment of poalla, Dec. 21th, 1521. The MS. 

the licentiate Ayllon. The whole forms part of the collection of Don 

document is cited in a deposition Vargas Ponce, in the archives of the 

drawn up by the notary, Alonso Academy of History at Madrid, 
de Vergara, setting forth the pro- 


found that he was neither to be permitted to penetrate 
far into the country, nor to exercise any control there. 
He loved money, and, as Cortes knew the weak side of 
his " old friend," he proposed to purchase his horses, 
slaves, and equipage, at a tempting price. The dreams 
of disappointed ambition were gradually succeeded by 
those of avarice ; and the discomfited commissioner con- 
sented to reembark for Cuba, well freighted with gold if 
not with glory, and provided with fresh matter of accu- 
sation against the high-handed measures of Cortes. 11 

Thus left in undisputed possession of authority, the 
Spanish commander went forward with vigour in his 
plans for the settlement of his conquests. The Panu- 
chese, a fierce people, on the borders of the Panuco, 
on the Atlantic coast, had taken up arms against the 
Spaniards. Cortes marched at the head of a consider- 
able force into their country, defeated them in two 
pitched battles, and after a severe campaign, reduced the 
warlike tribe to subjection. 

A subsequent insurrection was punished with greater 
severity. They rose on the Spaniards, massacred five 
hundred of their oppressors, and menaced with destruc- 
tion the neighbouring settlement of San Estevan. Cortes 
ordered Sandoval to chastise the insurgents ; and that 
officer, after a campaign of incredible hardship, com- 
pletely routed the barbarians, captured four hundred of 
their chiefs, and, after the affected formalities of a trial, 
sentenced every man of them to the stake or the gibbet. 
" By which means," says Cortes, " God be praised ! 
the safety of the Spaniards was secured, and the pro- 
vince once more restored to tranquillity and peace." 12 

11 Relation dc Vergara, MS. — necessary to overawe the natives. 

R,el. Terc. de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, (MS., Coyoacan, Dee. 12, 1521.) 

pp. 309 — 314. — Bernal Diaz, Hist. The general acquiesced in the force 

de la Conquista, cap. 15S. of a remonstrance, which, it is not 

The regidores of Mexico and other improbable, was made at his own 

places remonstrated against Cortes' suggestion. 

leaving the Valley to meet Tapia, on ' 2 " Como ya (loado nucstro Senor) 

the ground that his presence was egtaba toda la Provincia muy paci- 


He had omitted to mention in his letter his ungenerous 
treatment of Guatemozin. But the undisguised and 
naive manner, so to speak, in which he details these cir- 
cumstances to the emperor, shows that he attached no 
discredit to the deed. It was the just recompense of 
rebellion; a word that has been made the apology for 
more atrocities than any other word, — save religion. 

During this interval, the great question in respect to 
Cortes and the colony had been brought to a decisive 
issue. The general must have succumbed under the 
insidious and implacable attacks of his enemies, but for 
the sturdy opposition of a few powerful friends zealously 
devoted to his interests. Among them may be men- 
tioned his own father, Don Martin Cortes, a discreet 
and efficient person, 13 and the Duke de Bejar, a power- 
ful nobleman, who from an early period had warmly 
espoused the cause of Cortes. By their representations 
the timid regent was at length convinced that the mea- 
sures of Fonseca were prejudicial to the interests of the 
Crown, and an order was issued interdicting him from 
further interference in any matters in which Cortes was 

While the exasperated prelate was chafing under this 
affront, both the Commissioners Tapia and Narvaez 
arrived in Castile. The latter had been ordered to 
Cojohuacan after the surrender of the capital, where his 
cringing demeanour formed a striking contrast to the 
swaggering port which he had assumed on first entering 
the country. When brought into the presence of Cortes 
he knelt down and would have kissed his hand, but the 
latter raised him from the ground, and, during his resi- 
dence in his quarters, treated him with every mark of 
respect. The general soon afterwards permitted his 

fica, y segura." Rel. Quarta de him to manage all negotiations with 

Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 367. the emperor and with private per- 

13 The Munoz collection of MSS. sons, to conduct all lawsuits on 

contains a power of attorney given his behalf, to pay over and receive 

by Cortes to his father, authorizing money, &c. 


unfortunate rival to return to Spain, where lie proved, 
as might have been anticipated, a most bitter and im- 
placable enemy. 14 

These two personages, reinforced by the discontented 
prelate, brought forward their several charges against 
Cortes with all the acrimony which mortified vanity and 
the thirst of vengeance could inspire. Adrian was no 
longer in Spain, having been called to the Chair of St. 
Peter ; but Charles the Fifth, after his long absence, had 
returned to his dominions, in July 1522. The royal 
ear was instantly assailed with accusations of Cortes on 
the one hand and his vindication on the other, till the 
young monarch, perplexed, and unable to decide on the 
merits of the question, referred the whole subject to the 
decision of a board selected for the purpose. It was 
drawn partly from the members of his privy council, and 
partly from the Indian department, with the Grand 
Chancellor of Naples as its president ; and constituted 
altogether a tribunal of the highest respectability for 
integrity and wisdom. 15 

By this learned body a patient and temperate hearing 
was given to the parties. The enemies of Cortes accused 
him of having seized and finally destroyed the fleet in- 
trusted to him by Velasquez, and fitted out at the 
governor's expense ; of having afterwards usurped powers 
in contempt of the royal prerogative ; of the unjustifiable 
treatment of Narvaez and Tapia, when they had been 
lawfully commissioned to supersede him ; of cruelty 
to the natives, and especially to Guatemozin ; of em- 
bezzling the royal treasures, and remitting but a small 
part of its dues to the crown ; of squandering the reve- 
nues of the conquered countries in useless and wasteful 

14 Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, dc la Con- find in it the name of Dr. Galindez 
quista, cap. 158. de Carbajal, an eminent Castilian 

15 Sayas, Annales de Aragon, (Za- jurist, grown grey in the service of 
ragoza, 1066,) cap. 63, 78. Ferdinand and Isabella, whose con- 
It is sufficient voucher for the fidence he enjoyed in the highest 

respectability of this court, that we degree. 


schemes, and particularly in rebuilding the capital on a 
plan of unprecedented extravagance; of pursuing, in short, 
a system of violence and extortion, without respect to the 
public interest, or any other end than his own selfish 

In answer to these grave charges, the friends of Cortes 
adduced evidence to show that he had defrayed with his 
own funds two-thirds of the cost of the expedition. 
The powers of Velasquez extended only to traffic, not to 
establish a colony. Yet the interests of the Crown re- 
quired the latter. The army had therefore necessarily 
assumed this power to themselves ; but, having done so, 
they had sent intelligence of their proceedings to the 
emperor and solicited his confirmation of them. The 
rupture with Narvaez was that commander's own fault ; 
since Cortes would have met him amicably, had not the 
violent measures of his rival, threatening the ruin of the 
expedition, compelled him to an opposite course. The 
treatment of Tapia was vindicated on the grounds alleged 
to that officer by the municipality at Cempoalla. The 
violence to Guateinozin was laid at the door of Alderete, 
the royal treasurer, who had instigated the soldiers to 
demand it. The remittances to the Crown, it was clearly 
proved, so far from falling short of the legitimate fifth, 
had considerably exceeded it. If the general had ex- 
pended the revenues of the country on costly enterprises 
and public works, it was for the interest of the country 
that he did so, and he had incurred a heavy debt by 
straining his own credit to the utmost for the same great 
objects. Neither did they deny, that, in the same spirit, 
he was now rebuilding Mexico on a scale which should 
be suited to the metropolis of a vast and opulent empire. 

They enlarged on the opposition he had experienced, 
throughout his whole career, from the governor of Cuba, 
and still more from the Bishop of Burgos, which latter 
functionary, instead of affording him the aid to have 
been expected, had discouraged recruits, stopped his 


supplies, sequestered such property as, from time to time, 
he had sent to Spain, and falsely represented his remit- 
tances to the Crown, as coming from the governor of 
Cuba. In short, such and so numerous were the obsta- 
cles thrown in his path, that Cortes had been heard to 
say, ' ' he had found it more difficult to contend against 
his own countrymen than against the Aztecs." They 
concluded with expatiating on the brilliant results of his 
expedition, and asked if the council were prepared to 
dishonour the man who, in the face of such obstacles, 
and with scarcely other resources than what he found in 
himself, had won an empire for Castile, such as was pos- 
sessed by no European potentate ! 16 

This last appeal was irresistible. However irregular 
had been the manner of proceeding, no one could deny 
the grandeur of the results. There was not a Spaniard 
that could be insensible to such services, or that would 
not have cried out " Shame ! " at an ungenerous requital 
of them. There were three Flemings in the council; 
but there seems to have been no difference of opinion in 
the body. It was decided, that neither Velasquez nor 
Fonseca should interfere further in the concerns of New 
Spain. The difficulties of the former with Cortes were 
regarded in the nature of a private suit ; and, as such, 
redress must be sought by the regular course of law. 
The acts of Cortes were confirmed in their full extent. 
He was constituted Governor, Captain General, and 
Chief Justice of New Spain, with power to appoint to all 
offices, civil and military, and to order any person to 
leave the country whose residence there he might deem 
prejudicial to the interests of the Crown. This judg- 
ment of the council was ratified by Charles the Fifth, 
and the commission investing Cortes with these ample 
powers was signed by the emperor at Valladolid, 

16 Sayas, Annalcs de Aragon, cap. Villa Scgura, MSS. — Declaracioncs 
78. — Herrera, Hist. General, dec. dc Pucrtocarrcro y de Montcjo, MSS. 
3, lib. 4, cap. 3. — Probanza en la 


October 15th, 1522. A liberal salary was provided, to 
enable the governor of New Spain to maintain his office 
with suitable dignity. The principal officers were re- 
compensed with honours and substantial emoluments ; 
and the troops, together with some privileges, grateful to 
the vanity of the soldier, received the promise of liberal 
grants of land. The emperor still further complimented 
them by a letter written to the army with his own 
hand, in which he acknowledged its services in the 
fullest manner. 17 

From this hour the influence of Fonseca in the Indian 
department was at an end. He did not long survive his 
chagrin, as he died in the following year. No man was 
in a situation to do more for the prosperity of his coun- 
try than the bishop of Burgos. For more than thirty 
years, ever since the first dawn of discovery under 
Columbus, he had held supreme control over colonial 
affairs ; and it lay with him, therefore, in an especial 
degree, to give ardour to enterprise, and to foster the 
youthful fortunes of the colonies. But he lay like a 
blight upon them. He looked with an evil eye on the 
most illustrious of the Spanish discoverers, and sought 
only to throw impediments in their career. Such had 
been his conduct towards Columbus, and such to Cortes. 
By a wise and generous policy, he might have placed his 
name among the great lights of his age. As it was, he 
only served to bring these into greater lustre by contrast 
with his own dark and malignant nature. His career 
shows the overweening ascendancy which the ecclesi- 
astical profession possessed in Castile in the sixteenth 
century ; when it could raise a man to so important a 
station, for which he was totally unfit, — and keep him 
there after he had proved himself to be so. 18 

17 Nombramiento de Govemador 1!i The character of Fonseca has 

y Capitan General y Justicia Mayor been traced by the same hand which 

de Nueva Espaha, MS. — Also Ber- has traced that of Columbus. (Irv- 

nal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. ing's Life and Voyages of Columbus, 

168. Appendix, No. 32.) Side by side 


The messengers who bore the commission of Cortes to 
Mexico, touched on their way at Cuba, where the tidings 
were proclaimed by sound of trumpet. It was a death- 
blow to the hopes of Velasquez. Exasperated by the 
failure of his schemes, impoverished by the expense of 
expeditions of which others had reaped the fruits, he 
had still looked forward to eventual redress, and che- 
rished the sweet hope of vengeance, — long delayed. That 
hope was now gone. There was slight chance of redress, 
he well knew, in the tedious and thorny litigation of the 
Castilian courts. Ruined in fortune, dishonoured before 
the nation, the haughty spirit of the governor was hum- 
bled in the dust. He would take no comfort, but fell 
into a sudden melancholy, and in a few months died — if 
report be true — of a broken heart. 19 

The portrait usually given of Velasquez is not favour- 
able. Yet Las Casas speaks kindly of him, and, when 
his prejudices are not involved, there can be no better 
authority. But Las Casas knew him when, in his earlier 
days, the missionary first landed in Cuba. The governor 
treated him with courtesy, and even confidence ; and it 
was natural, that the condescension of a man of high 
family and station should have made its impression on 
the feelings of the poor ecclesiastic. In most accounts 
he is depicted as a haughty, irascible person, jealous of 
authority, and covetous of wealth. He quarrelled with 
Grijalva, Cortes' predecessor, apparently without cause. 
With as little reason, he broke with Cortes before he left 
the port. He proposed objects to himself in their nature 
incompatible. He proposed that others should fight his 
battles, and that he should win the laurels ; that others 
should make discoveries, and that he should reap the 
fruits of them. None but a weak mind would have 

they will go down to posterity in the golden and iron pen which Paolo 
the beautiful page of the historian, Giovio tells us he employed in his 
though the characters of the t\vo composilions. 
individuals have been inscribed with I9 Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, dc la Con- 
pens as different from each other as qnista, cap. 158. 


conformed to his conditions, and a weak mind could not 
have effected his objects. His appointment of Cortes 
put him in a false position for the rest of his life. His 
efforts to retrieve his position only made things worse. 
The appointment of Cortes to the command was scarcely 
a greater error, than the subsequent appointment of 
Narvaez and of Tapia. The life of Velasquez was a 
series of errors. 

The announcement of the emperor's commission, con- 
firming Cortes in the supreme authority of New Spain, 
was received there with general acclamation. The army 
rejoiced in having, at last, secured not merely an am- 
nesty for their irregular proceedings, but a distinct ac- 
knowledgment of their services. The nomination of 
Cortes to the supreme command put his mind at ease 
as to the past, and opened to him a noble theatre for 
future enterprise. The soldiers congratulated themselves 
on the broad powers conferred on their commander, and, 
as they reckoned up their scars and their services, in- 
dulged in golden dreams and the most vague and visionary 
expectations. It is not strange that their expectations 
should have been disappointed. 



Modern Mexico.— Settlement of the Country. — Condition of the Natives.— 
Christian Missionaries. — Cultivation of the Soil. — Voyages and Expe- 


In less than four years from the destruction of Mexico, 
a new city had risen on its rains, which, if inferior to the 
ancient capital in extent, surpassed it in magnificence 
and strength. It occupied so exactly the same site as 
its predecessor that the plaza mayor, or great square, 
was the same spot which had been covered by the huge 
teocalli and the palace of Montezuma ; while the prin- 
cipal streets took their departure as before from this 
central point, and passing through the whole length of 
the city, terminated at the principal causeways. Great 
alterations, however, took place in the fashion of the 
architecture. The streets were widened, many of the 
canals were filled up, and the edifices were constructed 
on a plan better accommodated to European taste and 
the wants of a European population. 

On the site of the temple of the Aztec war-god rose 
the stately cathedral dedicated to St. Francis ; and, as if 
to complete the triumphs of the Cross, the foundations 
were laid with the broken images of the Aztec gods. 1 
In a corner of the square, on the ground once covered 

1 Hcrrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 4, cap. 8. 

chap, ii.] MODERN MEXICO. 385 

by the House of Birds, stood a Franciscan convent, a 
magnificent pile, erected a few years after the Conquest 
by a lay brother, Pedro de Gante, a natural son, it is 
said, of Charles the Fifth. 2 In an opposite quarter of 
the same square, Cortes caused his own palace to be 
constructed. It was built of hewn stone, and seven 
thousand cedar beams are said to have been used for the 
interior. 3 The government afterwards appropriated it 
to the residence of the viceroys; and the Conqueror's 
descendants, the Dukes of Monteleone, were allowed to 
erect a new mansion in another part of the plaza, on 
the spot which, by an ominous coincidence, had been 
covered by the palace of Montezuma. 4 

The houses occupied by the Spaniards were of stone, 
combining with elegance a solid strength which made 
them capable of defence like so many fortresses. 5 The 
Indian buildings were for the most part of an inferior 
quality. They were scattered over the ancient district 
of Tlatelolco, where the nation had made its last stand 
for freedom. This quarter was also provided with a spa- 
cious cathedral ; and thirty inferior churches attested 
the care of the Spaniards for the spiritual welfare of the 
natives. 6 It was in watching over his Indian flock, and 
in the care of the hospitals with which the new capital 
was speedily endowed, that the good father Olmedo, 
when oppressed by growing infirmities, spent the evening 
of his clays. 7 

To give greater security to the Spaniards, Cortes 
caused a strong fortress to be erected in a place since 
known as the Matadero. 8 It was provided with a dock- 
yard, and the brigantines which had served in the siege 
of Mexico, were long preserved there as memorials of the 

2 Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, 5 Rel. d' un gent., ap. Hamusio, 
torn. i. p. 271.— Humboldt, Essai torn. iii. fol. 309. 

Politique, torn. ii. p. 58. 6 Ibid., ubi supra. 

3 Herrera, Hist. General, ubi 7 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 
supra, quista, cap. 177. 

4 Humboldt, Essai Politique, torn. 8 Rel. Quarta de Cortes, ap. Lo- 
ii. P- 72. renzana, p. 376, nota. 



Conquest. When the fortress was completed, the general 
owing to the evil offices of Fonseca, found himself in 
want of artillery and ammunition for its defence. He sup- 
plied the former deficiency by causing cannon to be cast 
in his own foundries, made of the copper which was 
common in the country, and tin which he obtained with 
more difficulty from the mines of Tasco. By this means, 
and a contribution which he received from the shipping, 
he contrived to mount his walls with seventy pieces of 
ordnance. Stone balls, used much in that age, could 
easily be made ; but for the manufacture of his powder, 
although there was nitre in abundance, he was obliged 
to seek the sulphur by a perilous expedition into the 
bowels of the great volcan? Such were the resources 
displayed by Cortes, enabling him to supply every defi- 
ciency, and to triumph over every obstacle which the 
malice of his enemies had thrown in his path. 

The general's next care was to provide a population 
for the capital. He invited the Spaniards thither by 
grants of lands and houses, while the Indians, with po- 
litic liberality, were permitted to live under their own 
chiefs as before, and to enjoy various immunities. With 
this encouragement, the Spanish quarter of the city in 
the neighbourhood of the great square could boast in a 
few years two thousand families ; while the Indian 
district of Tlatelolco included no less than thirty thou- 
sand. 10 The various trades and occupations were re- 
sumed; the canals were again covered with barges; two 
vast markets in the respective quarters of the capital dis- 
played all the different products and manufactures of the 
surrounding country ; and the city swarmed with a busy, 
industrious population, in which the white man and the 
Indian, the conqueror and the conquered, mingled toge- 

9 For an account of this singular veeinos. (Rcl. Quarta, ap. Lorenzaua, 
enterprise, see ante, vol. i. p. 412. p. 375.) Gomara, speaking of Mexico 

some years later, estimates the nura- 

10 Cortes, reckoning only the In- ber of Spanish householders as in the 
dian population, says treinta mil text. Cronica, cap. 162. 

chap, ii.] MODERN MEXICO. 387 

ther promiscuously in peaceful and picturesque confusion. 
Not twenty years had elapsed since the Conquest, when 
a missionary who visited it had the confidence, or the 
credulity, to assert, that " Europe could not boast a single 
city so fair and opulent as Mexico." 11 

The metropolis of our day would seem to stand in a 
different situation from that reared by the Conquerors ; 
for the waters no longer flow through its streets, nor 
wash the ample circumference of its walls. These waters 
have retreated within the diminished basin of Tezcuco ; 
and the causeways, which anciently traversed the depths 
of the lake, are not now to be distinguished from the 
other avenues to the capital. But the city, embellished, 
it is true, by the labours of successive viceroys, is sub- 
stantially the same as in the days of the Conquerors ; 
and the massive grandeur of the few buildings that remain 
of the primitive period, and the general magnificence and 
symmetry of its plan, attest the far-sighted policy of its 
founder, which looked beyond the present to the wants 
of coming generations. 

The attention of Cortes was not confined to the capital. 
He was careful to establish settlements in every part of 
the country which afforded a favourable position for 
them. He founded Zacatula on the shores of the mis- 
called Pacific, Coliman in the territory of Mechoacan, San 
Esteban on the Atlantic coast, probably not far from the 
site of Tampico, Medellin (so called after his own birth- 
place) in the neighbourhood of the modern Vera Cruz, 
and a port near the river Antigua, from which it derived 
its name. It was designed to take the place of Villa 
Rica, which, as experience had shown, from its exposed 
situation, afforded no protection to shipping against the 
Avinds that sweep over the Mexican Gulf. Antigua, 

11 Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, di si belle piazze et strade, quaiito 
MS., Parte 3, cap. 7. d' altre citta che siano al mondo." 

Yet this is scarcely stronger Ian- B.el. d' un gent., ap. Ramusio, torn, 
guage than that of the Anonymous iii. fol. 309. 
Conqueror ; " Cosi ben ordinate et 

c c 2 


sheltered within the recesses of a bay, presented a more 
advantageous position. Cortes established there a board 
of trade, connected the settlement by a highway with the 
capital, and fondly predicted that his new city would 
become the great emporium of the country. 12 But in this 
he was mistaken. From some cause not very obvious, 
the port of entry was removed, at the close of the sixteenth 
century, to the modern Vera Cruz ; which, without any 
superiority, probably, of topographical position, or even 
of salubrity of climate, has remained ever since the great 
commercial capital of New Spain. 

Cortes stimulated the settlement of his several colonies 
by liberal grants of land and municipal privileges. The 
great difficulty was to induce women to reside in the 
country, and without them he felt that the colonies, like 
a tree without roots, must soon perish. By a singular 
provision, he required every settler, if a married man, to 
bring over his wife within eighteen months, on pain of 
forfeiting his estate. If he were too poor to do this him- 
self, the government would assist him. Another law 
imposed the same penalty on all bachelors who did not 
provide themselves with wives within the same period ! 
The general seems to have considered celibacy as too great 
a luxury for a young country. 13 

12 " Y tengo por cierto, que aquel served in Mexico ; and the copy in 

Tueblo ha de ser, despues de esta my possession was transmitted to me 

Ciudad, el mejor que obiere en esta from that capital. They give ample 

Nucva Espafia." (Rel. Quarta, ap. evidence of the wise and penetrating 

Lorenzana, p. 382.) The archbishop spirit which embraced every object 

confounds this town with the modern worthy of the attention of an en- 

Vera Cruz. But the general's de- lightened ruler ; and I will quote, in 

scription of the port refutes this sup- the original, the singular provisions 

position, and confirms our confidence mentioned in the text, 
in Clavigcro's statement, that the " Item. Por que mas sc manifieste 

present city was founded by the la voluntad que los pobladores de 

Conde de Monterey, at the time estas partes tiencn de residir y per- 

mentioned in the text. See Vol. I. manecer en cllas, mando quetodas 

p. 307, note. las pcrsonas que tuvicren Indios, que 

13 Ordenanzas Municipalcs, Tc- fucrcn casados en Castilla 6 en otras 

nochtitlan, Marzo, 1524, MS. partes, que traigan sus mugcres den- 

The Ordinances made by Cortes, tro dc un afio y medio primero sigui- 

for the government of the country entcs decomo estas ordenanzas fueran 

during his viceroyalty, are still pre- prcgonadas, so pena de perdcr los 


His own wife, Dona Catalina Xuarez, was among those 
who came over from the Islands to New Spain. Accord- 
ing to Bernal Diaz, her coming gave him iio particular 
satisfaction. 14 It is possible ; since his marriage with her 
seems to have been entered into with reluctance, and her 
lowly condition and connexions stood somewhat in the 
way of his future advancement. Yet they lived happily 
together for several years, according to the testimony of 
Las Casas ; 15 and, whatever he may have felt, he had the 
generosity or the prudence not to betray his feelings to 
the world. On landing, Dona Catalina was escorted by 
Sandoval to the capital, where she was kindly received 
by her husband, and all the respect paid to her to which 
she was entitled by her elevated rank. But the climate 
of the table-land was not suited to her constitution, and 
she died in three months after her arrival. 16 An event so 
auspicious to his worldly prospects did not fail, as we 
shall see hereafter, to provoke the tongue of scandal to 
the most malicious, but it is scarcely necessary to say, 
unfounded inferences. 

In the distribution of the soil among the Conquerors, 
Cortes adopted the vicious system of repartimientos, 
universally practised among his countrymen. In a letter 

Indios, y todo lo con ellos adquirido la salud de sus conciencias de los tales 

e grangeado ; y por que muchas per- por estar en buen estado, como por 

sonas podrian poner por achaque la poblacion e noblecimiento de sus 

aunque tuviesen aparejo de decirque tierras, mando que les tales personas 

no tienen dineros para enviar por se casen, traigan y tengan sus mu- 

ellas, por hende las tales personas geres en esta tierra dentro de un 

que tuvieran esta necesidad parescan ano y medio, despues que fueren 

ante el R°. P e . Eray Juan de Teto pregonadas estas dichas Ordenanzas, 

y ante Alonso de Estrada, tesorero e que no haciendo lo por el mismo 

de su Magestad, a les informar de su caso sean privados y pierdan los tales 

necesidad, para que ellos la comuni- Indios que asi tienen." 
quen a mi, y su necesidad se remedie ; u Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 

y si algunas personas hay que casa- quista, cap. 160. 
dos y no tienen sus mugeres en esta 15 Ante, vol. i. p. 187. 

tierra, y quisieran traerlas, sepan que 16 Of asthma, according to Bernal 

trayendolas seran ayudadas asi mismo Diaz ; (Hist, de la Conquista, ubi 

para las traer dando fianzas. supra ;) but her death seems to have 

" Item. Por quanto en esta tierra been too sudden to be attributed to 

hay muchas personas que tienen In- that disease. I shall return to the 

dios de encomienda y no son casados, subject hereafter, 
por hende por que conviene asi para 


to the emperor, lie states, that the superior capacity of 
the Indians in New Spain had made him regard it as a 
grievous thing to condemn them to servitude, as had 
been done in the Islands. But, on further trial, he had 
found the Spaniards so much harassed and impoverished, 
that they could not hope to maintain themselves in the 
land without enforcing the services of the natives, and 
for this reason he had at length waived his own scruples 
in compliance with their repeated remonstrances. 17 This 
was the wretched pretext used on the like occasions by 
his countrymen to cover up this flagrant act of injustice. 
The crown, however, in its instructions to the general, 
disavowed the act and annulled the repartimientos.™ It 
was all in vain. The necessities, or rather the cupidity, 
of the colonies, easily evaded the royal ordinances. The 
colonial legislation of Spain shows, in the repetition of 
enactments against slavery, the perpetual struggle that 
subsisted between the crown and the colonists, and the 
impotence of the former to enforce measures repugnant 
to the interests, at all events, to the avarice, of the latter. 
New Spain furnishes no exception to the general fact. 

The Tlascalans, in gratitude for their signal services, 
were exempted, at the recommendation of Cortes, from 
the doom of slavery. It should be added that the 
general, in granting the repartimientos, made many 
humane regulations for limiting the power of the master, 
and for securing as many privileges to the native as were 
compatible with any degree of compulsory service. 19 
These limitations, it is true, were too often disregarded ; 
and in the mining districts in particular, the situation of 
the poor Indian was often deplorable. Yet the Indian 

17 ReL Terc. ap. Lorenzana, pp. may be employed, their food, com- 
319, 320. pensation, and the like. They re- 

18 Hen-era, Hist. General, dec. 3, quire theencomendero to provide them 
lib. 5, cap. 1. with suitable means of religious in- 

1D Ibid., dec. 4, lib. 0, cap. 5 — Or- struction and places of worship. — But 

denanzas, MS. what avail good laws, which, in their 

The ordinances prescribe the scr- very nature, imply the toleralion of 

vice of the Indians, the hours they a great abuse ? 


population, clustering together in their own villages, and 
living under their own magistrates, have continued to 
prove by their numbers, fallen as these have below their 
primitive amount, how far superior was their condition 
to that in most other parts of the vast colonial empire of 
Spain. 20 This condition has been gradually ameliorated, 
under the influence of higher moral views and larger 
ideas of government; until the servile descendants of 
the ancient lords of the soil have been permitted, in 
republican Mexico, to rise — nominally, at least — to a 
level with the children of their conquerors. 

Whatever disregard he may have shown to the political 
rights of the natives, Cortes manifested a commendable 
solicitude for their spiritual welfare. He requested the 
emperor to send out holy men to the country ; not 
bishops and pampered prelates, who too often squandered 
the substance of the Church in riotous living, but godly 
persons, members of religious fraternities, w T hose lives 
might be a fitting commentary on their teaching. Thus 
only, he adds, — and the remark is worthy of note, — can 
they exercise any influence over the natives, who have 
been accustomed to see the least departure from morals 
in their own priesthood punished with the utmost rigour 
of the law. 21 In obedience to these suggestions, twelve 
Franciscan friars embarked for New Spain, w r hich they 
reached early in 1524. They were men of unblemished 
purity of life, nourished with the learning of the cloister, 
and, like many others whom the Romish Church has 

20 The whole population of New was acceded to by government, which 
Spain, in 1810, is estimated by Don further prohibited " attorneys and 
Francisco Navarro y Noriega at men learned in the law from setting 
about 6,000,000 ; of which more foot in the country, on the ground 
than half were pure Indians. The that experience had shown, they 
author had the best means for arriving would be sure by their evil practices 
at a correct result. See Humboldt, to disturb the peace of the com- 
Essai Politique, torn. i. pp. 318, 319, munity." (Hen-era, Hist. General, 
note. dec. 3, lib. 5, cap. 2.) These enact - 

21 Rel. Quarta, ap. Lorenzana, ments are but an indifferent tribute 
pp. 391—394. to the charcter of the two professions 

The petition of the Conquerors in Castile. 


sent forth on such apostolic missions, counted all personal 
sacrifices as little in the sacred cause to which they were 
devoted. 22 

The presence of the reverend fathers in the country 
was greeted with general rejoicing. The inhabitants of 
the towns through which they passed came out in a body 
to welcome them ; processions were formed of the natives, 
bearing wax tapers in their hands, and the bells of the 
churches rung out a joyous peal in honour of their arrival. 
Houses of refreshment were provided for them along 
their route to the capital ; and, when they entered it, 
they were met by a brilliant cavalcade of the principal 
cavaliers and citizens, with Cortes at their head. The 
general dismounting, and bending one knee to the ground, 
kissed the robes of father Martin of Valencia, the princi- 
pal of the fraternity. The natives, filled with amazement 
at the viceroy's humiliation before men whose naked feet 
and tattered garments gave them the aspect of mendi- 
cants, henceforth regarded them as beings of a superior 
nature. The Indian chronicler of Tlascala does not con- 
ceal his admiration of this edifying condescension of 
Cortes, which he pronounces " one of the most heroical 
acts of 'his life !" 23 

The missionaries lost no time in the good work of con- 
version. They began their preaching through interpre- 
ters, until they had acquired a competent knowledge of 
the language themselves. They opened schools and 
founded colleges, in which the native youth were in- 
structed in profane as well as Christian learning. The 
ardour of the Indian neophyte emulated that of his 

22 " Toribio, Hist, dc los Indios, Tlascala, MS. — See also Bernal Diaz, 
MS., Parte 1, cap. 1. — Camargo, Hist, dc la Conquista, cap. 171.) 
Hist, de Tlascala, MS. Archbishop Lorenzana falls nothing 

23 " Cuyo hecho del rotisimo y hu- short of the Tlascalan historian in his 
milde recebimiento fue uno de los admiration of the religious zeal of 
heroicos hechos que este Capitan the great Conquistador, which, he 
hizo, porque fue documento para que assures us, " entirely overwhelms 
con mayor fervor nos naturaics desta him, as savouring so much more of 
ticrra viniesen a la conversion dc the apostolic missionary than of the 
nuestra fee." (Camargo, Hist, de soldier !" Lorenzana, p. 393, nota. 


teacher. In a few years every vestige of the primitive 
teocallis was effaced from the land. The uncouth idols 
of the country, and unhappily the hieroglyphical manu- 
scripts, shared the same fate. Yet the missionary and 
the convert did much to repair these losses by their 
copious accounts of the Aztec institutions, collected from 
the most authentic sources. 24 

The business of conversion went on prosperously among 
the several tribes of the great Nahuatlac family. In 
about twenty years from the first advent of the mission- 
aries, one of their body could make the pious vaunt, that 
nine millions of converts — a number probably exceeding 
the population of the country — had been admitted within 
the Christian fold ! 25 The Aztec worship was remarkable 
for its burdensome ceremonial, and prepared its votaries 
for the pomp and splendours of the Romish ritual. It 
was not difficult to pass from the fasts and festivals of 
the one religion to the fasts and festivals of the other ; 
to transfer their homage from the fantastic idols of their 
own creation to the beautiful forms in sculpture and in 
painting which decorated the Christian cathedral. It is 
true, they could have comprehended little of the dogmas 
of their new faith, and little, it may be, of its vital spirit. 
But, if the philosopher may smile at the reflection, that 
conversion, under these circumstances, was one of form 
rather than of substance, the philanthropist will console 

24 Toribio, Hist, de los Indios, ing at it for a few days, they levelled 

MS., Parte 3, cap. 1. it to the ground. In this way they 

Father Sahagun, who has done demolished, in a short time, all the 
better service in this way than any Aztec temples, great and small, so 
other of his order, describes with that not a vestige of them remained?' 
simple brevity the rapid process of (Hist, de Nueva Espafia, torn. iii. p. 
demolition, " We took the children 77.) This passage helps to explain 
of the caciques," he says, " into our why so few architectural relics of the 
schools, where we taught them to Indian era still survive in Mexico, 
read, write, and to chant. The chil- 
dren of the poorer natives were 25 " De manera que a mi juicio y 
brought together in the court-yard, verdaderamente seran bautizados en 
and instructed there in the Christian este tiempo que digo, que seran 
faith. After our teaching, one or quince ahos, mas de nueve millones 
two brethren took the pupils to some de animas de Indios," Toribio, Hist. 
neighbouring teocalli, and, by work- de los Indios, MS., Parte 2, cap. 3. 


himself by considering how much the cause of humanity 
and good morals must have gained by the substitution 
of these unsullied rites for the brutal abominations of 
the Aztecs. 

The Conquerors settled in such parts of the country as 
best suited their inclinations. Many occupied the south- 
eastern slopes of the Cordilleras towards the rich valley 
of Oaxaca. Many more spread themselves over the 
broad surface of the table-land, which, from its elevated 
position, reminded them of the plateau of their own Cas- 
tiles. Here, too, they were in the range of those inex- 
haustible mines which have since poured their silver 
deluge over Europe. The mineral resources of the land 
were not, indeed, fully explored or comprehended till at 
a much later period ; but some few, as the mines of 
Zacatecas, Guanuaxato, and Tasco, — the last of which 
was also known in Montezuma's time, — had begun to be 
wrought within a generation after the Conquest. 26 

But the best wealth of the first settlers was in the vege- 
table products of the soil, whether indigenous, or intro- 
duced from abroad by the wise economy of Cortes. He 
had earnestly recommended the crown to require all 
vessels coming to the country, to bring over a certain 
quantity of seeds and plants. 27 He made it a condition 
of the grants of land on the plateau, that the proprietor 
of every estate should plant a specified number of vines 
in it. 28 He further stipulated, that no one should get a 
clear title to his estate until he had occupied it eight 
years. 29 He knew that permanent residence could alone 

26 Clavigero, Stor. del Mcssico, 28 " Item, que cualquier vesino 
torn. i. p. 43. — Humboldt, Essai que tubicre Indios de repartimiento 
Politique, torn. iii. pp. 115, 145. — Es- sea obligado a poner en ellos en cada 
posicion de Don Lucas Alaman, un ailo con cada cien Indios de los 
(Mexico, 1828,) p. 59. que turieren de repartimiento mil 

27 " Paraquc cada Navio traiga sarmientos, cncogicndo la mejor que 
cierta cantidad de Plantas, y que no pudicse hallar." Ordenanzas Muni- 
pueda salir sin ellas, porque son! cipales, ailo de 1524, MS. 

mucha causa para la Poblacion, y 

perpctuacion de ella." Rel. Quarta M Ordenanzas Municipalcs, ailo de 

de Cortes, ap. Lorenzana, p. 397. 1524, MS. 


create that interest in the soil which would lead to its 
efficient culture ; and that the opposite system had caused 
the impoverishment of the best plantations in the Islands. 
His various regulations, some of them not a little dis- 
tasteful to the colonists, augmented the agricultural 
resources of the country by the addition of the most 
important European grains and other vegetables, for 
which the diversified climate of New Spain was admi- 
rably adapted. The sugar-cane was transplanted from 
the neighbouring islands to the lower level of the coun- 
try, and, together with indigo, cotton, and cochineal, 
formed a more desirable staple for the colony than its 
precious metals. Under the sun of the tropics, the 
peach, the almond, the orange, the vine, and the olive, 
before unknown there, flourished in the gardens of the 
table-land, at an elevation twice as great as that at which 
the clouds are suspended in summer above our heads. 
The importation of a European fruit or vegetable was 
hailed by the simple colonists with delight. The first 
produce of the exotic was celebrated by a festival, and 
the guests greeted each other, as on the appearance of an 
old familiar friend, who called up the remembrance of the 
past, and the tender associations of their native land. 

While thus occupied with the internal economy of the 
country, Cortes was still bent on his great schemes of 
discovery and conquest. In the preceding chapter we 
have seen him fitting out a little fleet at Zacatula, to 
explore the shores of the Pacific. It was burnt in the 
dock-yard, when nearly completed. This was a serious 
calamity, as most of the materials were to be transported 
across the country from Villa Rica. Cortes however, 
with his usual promptness, took measures to repair the 
loss. He writes to the emperor, that another squadron 
will soon be got ready at the same port, and, "he doubts 
not, will put his Majesty in possession of more lands and 
kingdoms, than the nation has ever heard of!" 30 This 

30 " Tengo de ser causa, que estas partes Seiior de mas Reynos, 
Vuestra Cesarea Magestad sea en y Senorios que los que liasta boy en 


magnificent vaunt shows the common sentiment of the 
Spaniards at that time, who looked on the Pacific as the 
famed Indian Ocean, studded with golden islands, and 
teeming with the rich treasures of the East. 

A principal object of this squadron was the discovery 
of a strait which should connect the Atlantic with the 
Pacific. Another squadron, consisting of five vessels, 
was fitted out in the Gulf of Mexico, to take the direc- 
tion of Florida, with the same view of detecting a strait. 
Por Cortes trusted — we, at this day, may smile at the 
illusion — that one might be found in that direction, 
which should conduct the navigator to those waters 
which had been traversed by the keels of Magellan ! 31 

The discovery of a strait was the great object to which 
nautical enterprise in that day was directed, as it had 
been ever since the time of Columbus. It was in the 
sixteenth century what the discovery of the North- West 
passage has been in our own age ; the great ignis fatuus 
of navigators. The vast extent of the American continent 
had been ascertained by the voyages of Cabot in the 
North, and of Magellan very recently in the South. 
The proximity, in certain quarters, of the two great 
oceans that washed its eastern and western shores had 
been settled by the discoveries both of Balboa and of 
Cortes. European scholars could not believe, that 
Nature had worked on a plan so repugnant, apparently, 
to the interests of humanity, as to interpose, through 
the whole length of the great continent, such a barrier 
to communication between the adjacent waters. The 
correspondence of men of science, 32 the instructions of 
the Court, the letters of Cortes, like those of Columbus, 
touch frequently on this favourite topic. " Your Majesty 

nucstra Nacion sc ticnc noticia." known, I think such an opinion 

ltd. Quarta de Cortes, ap. Loren- shows he was no great cosmogra- 

zana, p. 374. pher." (Hist, de las Ind., MS., 

31 "Much as I esteem Hernando lib. 33, cap. 41.) Oviedo had lived 

Cortes," exclaims Oviedo, " for the to sec its fallacy, 
greatest captain and most practised 
in military matters of any we have M Martyr, Opus Epist., ep. 811. 


may be assured," he writes, " that, as I know how much 
you have at heart the discovery of this great secret of a 
strait, I shall postpone all interests and projects of my 
own, some of them of the highest moment, for the 
fulfilment of this great object." 33 

It was partly with the same view, that the general 
caused a considerable armament to be equipped and 
placed under the command of Christoval de Olid, the 
brave officer who, as the reader will remember, had 
charge of one of the great divisions of the besieging 
army. He was to steer for Honduras, and plant a 
colony on its northern coast. A detachment of Olid's 
squadron was afterwards to cruise along its southern 
shore towards Darien in search of the mysterious strait. 
The country was reported to be full of gold ; so full, that 
" the fishermen used gold weights for their nets." The 
life of the Spanish discoverers was one long day-dream. 
Illusion after illusion chased one another like the bubbles 
which the child throws off from his pipe, as bright, 
as beautiful, and as empty. They lived in a world of 
enchantment. 34 

Together with these maritime expeditions Cortes fitted 
out a powerful expedition by land. It was intrusted to 
Alvarado, who, with a large force of Spaniards and 
Indians, was to descend the southern slant of the Cor- 
dilleras, and penetrate into the countries that lay beyond 
the rich valley of Oaxaca. The campaigns of this bold 
and rapacious chief terminated in the important conquest 
of Guatemala. The general required his captains to 
send him minute accounts of the countries which they 
visited, the productions of the soil, and their general 

33 Rel. Quarta, ap. Lorenzana, was a piece of ordnance, made of 
p. 385. gold and silver, of very fine work- 

34 The illusion at home was kept manship, the metal of which alone 
up, in some measure, by the dazzling cost 25,500 pesos de oro. Oviedo, 
display of gold and jewels remitted who saw it in the palace, speaks 
from time to time, wrought into fan- with admiration of this magnificent 
ciful and often fantastic forms. One toy. Hist, de las Ind., MS., lib. 
of the articles sent home by Cortes 33, cap. 41. 


resources. The result was several valuable and interest- 
ing communications. 35 In his instructions for the conduct 
of these expeditions, he enjoined a considerate treatment 
of the natives, and inculcated a policy which may be 
called humane, as far as humanity is compatible with a 
system of subjugation. 36 Unfortunately, the character 
of his officers too often rendered these instructions 

In the prosecution of his great enterprise, Cortes, 
within three short years after the Conquest, had reduced 
under the dominion of Castile an extent of country more 
than four hundred leagues in length, as he affirms, on 
the Atlantic coast, and more than five hundred on the 
Pacific; and, with the exception of a few interior pro- 
vinces of no great importance, had brought them to a 
condition of entire tranquillity. 37 In accomplishing this, 
he had freely expended the revenues of the Crown, drawn 
from tributes similar to those which had been anciently 
paid by the natives to their own sovereigns ; and he had, 
moreover, incurred a large debt on his own account, for 
which he demanded remuneration from government. 
The celebrity of his name, and the dazzling reports of 
the conquered countries, drew crowds of adventurers to 
New Spain, who furnished the general with recruits for 
his various enterprises. 

Whoever would form a just estimate of this remark- 
able man, must not confine himself to the history of the 
Conquest. His military career, indeed, places him on a 

35 Among these may be particu- forms part of the Mufioz collection 

larly mentioned the Letters of Alva- of MSS. 

ratio and Diego de Godoy, transcribed 37 Rcl. Quarta, ap. Lorenzana, 

by Oviedo in his Hist, dc las Ind., p. 371. 

MS., (lib. 33, cap. 42 — 44,) and " Well may we wonder," exclaims 

translated by Ramusio, for his rich his archiepiscopal editor, " that 

collection, Viaggi, torn. iii. Cortes and his soldiers coidd have 

30 Sec, among others, his orders overrun and subdued, in so short a 

to his kinsman, Francis Cortes, — time, countries, many of them so 

" Instruccion Civil y Militar por la rough and difficult of access, that, 

Expedicion de la Costa dc Colima," even at the present day, we can 

The paper is dated in 1524, and hardly penetrate them ! " Ibid., nota. 


level with the greatest captains of his age. But the 
period subsequent to the Conquest affords different, and 
in some respects nobler, points of view for the study of 
his character. For we then see him devising a system 
of government for the motley and antagonist races, so to 
speak, now first brought under a common dominion ; 
repairing the mischiefs of war ; and employing his 
efforts to detect the latent resources of the country, and 
to stimulate it to its highest power of production. The 
narrative may seem tame after the recital of exploits as 
bold and adventurous as those of a paladin of romance. 
But it is only by the perusal of this narrative that we can 
form an adequate conception of the acute and compre- 
hensive genius of Cortes. 

400 Tbook VII. 


Defection of Olid. — Dreadful March to Honduras. — Execution of Gua- 
temozin. — Doiia Marina. — Arrival at Honduras. 


In the last chapter we have seen that Christoval de 
Olid was sent by Cortes to plant a colony in Honduras. 
The expedition was attended with consequences which 
had not been foreseen. Made giddy by the possession 
of power, Olid, when he had reached his place of des- 
tination, determined to assert an independent jurisdiction 
for himself. His distance from Mexico, he flattered 
himself, might enable him to do so with impunity. He 
misunderstood the character of Cortes, when he supposed 
that any distance would be great enough to shield a 
rebel from his vengeance. 

It was long before the general received tidings of 
Olid's defection. But no sooner was he satisfied of this, 
than he despatched to Honduras a trusty captain and 
kinsman, 1'rancisco de las Casas, with direction to arrest 
his disobedient officer. Las Casas was wrecked on the 
coast, and fell into Olid's hands ; but eventually suc- 
ceeded in raising an insurrection in the settlement, seized 
the person of Olid, and beheaded that unhappy delin- 
quent in the market-place of Naco. 1 

Of these proceeding Cortes learned only what related 
to the shipwreck of his lieutenant. He saw all the 

1 Carta Quinta dc Cortes, MS. 

chap, in.] DEFECTION OF OLID. 401 

mischievous consequences that must arise from Olid's ex- 
ample, especially if his defection were to go unpunished. 
He determined to take the affair into his own hands, 
and to lead an expedition in person to Honduras. He 
would thus, moreover, be enabled to ascertain from 
personal inspection the resources of the country, which 
were reputed great on the score of mineral wealth ; and 
would, perhaps, detect the point of communication be- 
tween the great oceans, which had so long eluded the 
efforts of the Spanish discoverers. He was still further 
urged to this step by the uncomfortable position in which 
he had found himself of late in the capital. Several 
functionaries had recently been sent from the mother 
country for the ostensible purpose of administering the 
colonial revenues. But they served as spies on the 
general's conduct, caused him many petty annoyances, 
and sent back to court the most malicious reports of his 
purposes and proceedings. Cortes, in short, now that 
he was made Governor- General of the country, had less 
real power than when he held no legal commission at all. 
The Spanish force which he took with him did not 
probably exceed a hundred horse, and forty or perhaps 
fifty foot; to which were added about three thousand 
Indian auxiliaries. 2 Among them were Guatemozin and 
the cacique of Tacuba, with a few others of highest rank, 
whose consideration with their countrymen would make 
them an obvious nucleus, round which disaffection might 
gather. The general's personal retinue consisted of 
several pages, young men of good family, and among 
them Montejo, the future conqueror of Yucatan ; a butler 
and steward ; several musicians, dancers, jugglers, and 
buffoons, showing, it might seem, more of the effeminacy 
of the Oriental satrap than the hardy valour of a Spanish 

2 Carta de Albornos, MS., Mexico, agree as to the numbers, which were 

Dec. 15, 1525. — Carta Quinta de changing, probably, with every step 

Cortes, MS. of their march across the table-land. 

The authorities do not precisely 


cavalier. 3 Yet the imputation of effeminacy is sufficiently 
disproved by the terrible march which he accomplished. 

On the 12th of October, 1524, Cortes commenced his 
march. As he descended the sides of the Cordilleras, 
he was met by many of his old companions in arms, who 
greeted their commander with a hearty welcome, and 
some of them left their estates to join the expedition. 4 
He halted in the province of Coatzacualco, (Huasacualco,) 
until he could receive intelligence respecting his route 
from the natives of Tabasco. They furnished him with 
a map, exhibiting the principal places whither the Indian 
traders, who wandered over these wild regions, were in 
the habit of resorting. With the aid of this map, a 
compass, and such guides as from time to time he could 
pick up on his journey, he proposed to traverse that 
broad and level tract which forms the base of Yucatan, 
and spreads from the Coatzacualco river to the head of 
the Gulf of Honduras. " I shall give your Majesty," he 
begins his celebrated Letter to the emperor, describing 
this expedition, " an account, as usual, of the most 
remarkable events of my journey, every one of which 
might form the subject of a separate narration." Cortes 
did not exaggerate. 5 

The beginning of the march lay across a low and 
marshy level, intersected by numerous little streams, 
which form the head waters of the Bio de Tabasco, and 

* Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- written in the same clear, simple, 

quista, cap. 174. business-like manner; and is as fall 

4 Among these was Captain Diaz, of interest as any of the preceding, 

who, however, left the pleasant farm, It gives a minute account of the 

which he occupied in the province of expedition to Honduras, together 

Coatzacualco, with a very ill grace, with events that occurred in the 

to accompany the expedition. "But year following. It bears no date, 

Cortes commanded it, and we dared but was probably written in that 

not say No," says the veteran. Ibid., year from Mexico. The original 

cap. 175. manuscript is in the Imperial Library 

6 This celebrated Letter, which at Vienna, which, as the German 

has never been published, is usually sceptre was swayed at that time by 

designated as the Carta Qa'mia, or the same hand which held the Cast'i- 

" Fifth Letter," of Cortes. It is ban, contains many documents of 

nearly as long as the longest of the value for the illustration of Spanish 

printed letters of the Conqueror; is history. 


of the other rivers that discharge themselves, to the 
north, into the Mexican Gulf. The smaller streams they 
forded, or passed in canoes, suffering their horses to swim 
across as they held them by the bridle. Rivers of more 
formidable size they crossed on floating bridges. It gives 
one some idea of the difficulties they had to encounter in 
this way, when it is stated, that the Spaniards were 
obliged to construct no less than fifty of these bridges in 
a distance of less than a hundred miles ! 6 One of them 
was more than nine hundred paces in length. Their 
troubles were much augmented by the difficulty of obtain- 
ing subsistence, as the natives frequently set fire to the 
villages on their approach, leaving to the wayworn adven- 
turers only a pile of smoking ruins. 

It would be useless to encumber the page with the 
names of the Indian towns which lay in the route of the 
army, but which may be now obsolete, and, at all events, 
have never found their way into a map of the country. 7 
The first considerable place which they reached was 
Iztapan, pleasantly situated in the midst of a fruitful 
region, on the banks of one of the tributaries of the Ilio 
de Tabasco. Such was the extremity to which the Spa- 
niards had already, in the course of a few weeks, been 
reduced by hunger and fatigue, that the sight of a village 
in these dreary solitudes was welcomed by his followers, 
says Cortes, " with a shout of joy that was echoed back 
from all the surrounding woods." The army was now 

6 "Estierramuibajay de muchas by Spanish, French, and Dutch cos- 
sienegas, tanto que en tiempo de mographers, in order to determine 
invierno no se puede andar, ni se the route of Cortes. An inestimable 
sirve sino en canoas, y con pasarla yo collection of these maps, made by 
en tiempo de seca, desde la entrada the learned German, Ebeling, is to 
hasta la salida de ella, que puede be found in the library of Harvard 
aver veinti leguas, se hizieron mas University. I can detect on them 
de cinquenta puentes, que sin se only four or five of the places indi- 
hazer, fuera imposible pasar." Carta cated by the general. They are the 
Quinta de Cortes, MS. places mentioned in the text, and, 

though few, may serve to show the 

7 I have examined some of the general direction of the march of the 
most ancient maps of the country, army. 

i) p 2 


at no great distance from the ancient city of Palenque, 
the subject of so much speculation in our time. The vil- 
lage of Las Tres Crazes, indeed, situated between twenty 
and thirty miles from Palenque, is said still to comme- 
morate the passage of the Conquerors by the existence of 
three crosses which they left there. Yet no allusion is 
made to the ancient capital. Was it then the abode of 
a populous and flourishing community, such as once 
occupied it, to judge from the extent and magnificence 
of its remains ? Or was it, even then, a heap of moul- 
dering ruins, buried in a wilderness of vegetation, and 
thus hidden from the knowledge of the surrounding 
country ? If the former, the silence of Cortes is not easy 
to be explained. 

On quitting Iztapan, the Spaniards struck across a 
country having the same character of a low and marshy 
soil, chequered by occasional patches of cultivation, and 
covered with forests of cedar and Brazil-wood, which 
seemed absolutely interminable. The overhanging foliage 
threw so deep a shade, that, as Cortes says, the soldiers 
could not see where to set their feet. 8 To add to their 
perplexity, their guides deserted them; and when they 
climbed to the summits of the tallest trees, they could 
see only the same cheerless, interminable line of waving 
woods. The compass and the map furnished the only 
clue to extricate them from this gloomy labyrinth ; and 
Cortes and his officers, among whom was the constant 
Sandoval, spreading out their chart on the ground, 
anxiously studied the probable direction of their route. 
Their scanty supplies meanwhile had entirely failed them, 
and they appeased the cravings of appetite by such roots 
as they dug out of the earth, or by the nuts and berries 
that grew wild in the woods. Numbers fell sick, and 

8 " Donde se ponian los pics en el subian en algunos, no podian descu- 

suelo acia arriba la claridad del cielo brir un tiro de piedra." Carta 

no se veia, tanta era la espesura y Quinta dc Cortes, MS. 
alfeza de los arboles, que aunque se 


many of the Indians sank by the way, and died of abso- 
lute starvation. 

When at length the troops emerged from these dismal 
forests, their path was crossed by a river of great depth, 
and far wider than any which they had hitherto traversed. 
The soldiers, disheartened, broke out into murmurs 
against their leader, who was plunging them deeper and 
deeper in a boundless wilderness, where they must lay 
their bones. It was in vain that Cortes encouraged 
them to construct a floating bridge, which might take 
them to the opposite bank of the river. It seemed 
a work of appalling magnitude, to which their wasted 
strength was unequal. He was more successful in his 
appeal to the Indian auxiliaries, till his own men, put to 
shame by the ready obedience of the latter, engaged in 
the work with a hearty good-will, which enabled them, 
although ready to drop from fatigue, to accomplish it at 
the end of four days. It was, indeed, the only expedient 
by which they could hope to extricate themselves from 
their perilous situation. The bridge consisted of one 
thousand pieces of timber, each of the thickness of a 
man's body and full sixty feet long. 9 When we consider 
that the timber was all standing in the forest at the com- 
mencement of the labour, it must be admitted to have 
been an achievement worthy of the Spaniards. The well- 
compacted beams presented a solid structure, which 
nothing, says Cortes, but fire could destroy. It excited 
the admiration of the natives, who came from a great 
distance to see it; and "the bridge of Cortes" remained 
for many a year the enduring monument of that com- 
mander's energy and perseverance. 

The arrival of the army on the opposite bank of the 
river involved them in new difficulties. The ground was 
so soft and saturated with water, that the horses floun- 

9 " Porque lleva mas que mil bigas, y diez brazas en largo." Carta 
que la menor es casi tan gorda como Quinta de Cortes, MS. 
un cuerpo de un hombre, y de nueve 


dered up to their girths, and, sometimes plunging into 
quagmires, were nearly buried in the mud. It was with 
the greatest difficulty that they could be extricated by 
covering the wet soil with the foliage and the boughs of 
trees, when a stream of water, which forced its way 
through the heart of the morass, furnished the jaded 
animals with the means of effecting their escape by swim- 
ming. 10 As the Spaniards emerged from these slimy 
depths, they came on a broad and rising ground, which, 
by its cultivated fields teeming with maize, agi, or pepper 
of the country, and the yuca plant, intimated their 
approach to the capital of the fruitful province of Aculan. 
It was in the beginning of Lent, 1525, a period memo- 
rable for an event of which I shall give the particulars 
from the narrative of Cortes. 

The general at this place was informed by one of the 
Indian converts in his train, that a conspiracy had been 
set on foot by Guatemozin, with the cacique of Tacuba, 
and some other of the principal Indian nobles, to mas- 
sacre the Spaniards. They would seize the moment 
when the army should be entangled in the passage of 
some defile, or some frightful morass like that from which 
it had just escaped, where, taken at disadvantage, it 
could be easily overpowered by the superior number of 
the Mexicans. After the slaughter of the troops, the 
Indians would continue their march to Honduras, and 
cut off the Spanish settlements there. Their success 
would lead to a rising in the capital, and, indeed, 

10 " Pasada tenia la gente y cavallos a trabajar y oomponerles haces de 

dc la otra parte del alcon di'mos lucgo verba y ramas graudes de bajo, sobrc 

en una gran cicnega, que durava que sc sostuviesen y no se sumiescn, 

bien trcs tiros dc ballcsta, la cosa remediavanse algo, y andando traba- 

mas espantosa que jamas las gcutes jando y yendo y viniendo de la una 

vieron, donde todos los cavallos de- parte a la otra, abriose por medio dc 

scncillados se sumieron hasta las un calejon de agua y cieno, que los 

orejas sin parecerse otra cosa, y cavallos comenzaron algo ;i nadar, 

querer forccjar a salir, sumiansc mas, y con esto plugo a nuestro Scnor 

de manera que alii pcrdfmos toda la que salieron todos sin peligro nin- 

espcranza de pooler cscapar cavallos guno." Carl a Quinta de Cortes, 

ningunos, pero todavia comenzamos MS. 


throughout the land, until every Spaniard would be 
exterminated, and the vessels in the ports be seized, and 
secured from carrying the tidings across the waters. 

No sooner had Cortes learned the particulars of this 
formidable plot, than he arrested Guatemozin, and the 
principal Aztec lords in his train. The latter admitted 
the fact of the conspiracy, but alleged, that it had been 
planned by Guatemozin, and that they had refused to 
come into it. Guatemozin and the chief of Tacuba 
neither admitted nor denied the truth of the accusation, 
but maintained a dogged silence. — Such is the statement 
of Cortes. 11 Bernal Diaz, however, who was present in 
the expedition, assures us, that both Guatemozin and the 
cacique of Tacuba avowed their innocence. They had, 
indeed, they said, talked more than once together of the 
sufferings they were then enduring, and had said, that 
death was preferable to seeing so many of their poor 
followers dying daily around them. They admitted, also, 
that a project for rising on the Spaniards had been dis- 
cussed by some of the Aztecs ; but Guatemozin had 
discouraged it from the first, and no scheme of the kind 
could have been put into execution without his know- 
ledge and consent. 12 These protestations did not avail 
the unfortunate princes ; and Cortes, having satisfied, or 
affected to satisfy, himself of their guilt, ordered them to 
immediate execution. 

When brought to the fatal tree, Guatemozin displayed 
the intrepid spirit worthy of his better days. " I knew 
what it was," said he, " to trust to your false promises, 
Malintzin ; I knew that you had destined me to this 
fate, since I did not fall by my own hand when you en- 
tered my city of Tenochtitlan. Why do you slay me so 
unjustly ? God will demand it of you ! " 13 The cacique 
of Tacuba, protesting his innocence, declared that he 
desired no better lot than to die by the side of his lord. 

11 Carta Quinta de Cortes, MS. 1S Ibid., ubi supra. 

12 Hist, de laConquista, cap. 177. 


The unfortunate princes, with one or more inferior no- 
bles, (for the number is uncertain,) were then executed 
by being hung from the huge branches of a ceiba tree, 
which overshadowed the road. 14 

Such was the sad end of Guatemozin, the last em- 
peror of the Aztecs, if we might not rather call him " the 
last of the Aztecs ;" since, from this time, broken in 
spirit and without a head, the remnant of the nation re- 
signed itself, almost without a struggle, to the stern yoke 
of its oppressors. Among all the names of barbarian 
princes, there are few entitled to a higher place on the 
roll of fame than that of Guatemozin. He was young, 
and his public career was not long ; but it was glorious. 
He was called to the throne in the convulsed and expiring 
hours of the monarchy, when the banded nations of 
Anahuac and the fierce European were thundering at 
the gates of the capital. It was a post of tremendous 
responsibility ; but Guatemozin's conduct fully justified 
the choice of him to fill it. No one can refuse his ad- 
miration to the intrepid spirit which could prolong a de- 
fence of his city while one stone was left upon another : 
and our sympathies, for the time, are inevitably thrown 
more into the scale of the rude chieftain, thus battling 
for his country's freedom, than into that of his civilized 
and successful antagonist. 15 

14 According to Diaz, both Gua- of Montezuma, lived long enough 
temoziu and the prince of Tacuba after his death to give her hand to 
had embraced the religion of their three Castilians, all of noble descent, 
conquerors, and were confessed by a (See ante, p. 347, note 30.) She is 
Franciscan friar before their cxecu- described as having been as well in- 
tion. We are further assured by structcd in the Catholic faith as any 
the same authority, that "they were, woman in Castile, as most gracious 

for Indians, very good Christians, and winning in her deportment, and 

and believed well and truly." (Ibid., as having contributed greatly, by her 

loc. cit.) One is reminded of the example, and the deference with 

last hours of Caupolican, converted which she inspired the Aztecs, to 

to Christianity by the same men who the tranquillity of the conquered 

tied him to the stake. See the scene, country. — This pleasing portrait, 

painted in the frightful colouring it may be well enough to mention, 

of a master hand, in the Araucana, is by the hand of her husband, Don 

Canto 34. . Thoan Cano. See Appendix, Part 2, 

15 Guatemozin's beautiful wife, No. 11. 
the princess Tecuichpo, the daughter 


In reviewing the circumstances of Guatemozin's death, 
one cannot attach much weight to the charge of con- 
spiracy brought against him. That the Indians, brooding 
over their wrongs and present sufferings, should have 
sometimes talked of revenge, would not be surprising. 
But that any chimerical scheme of an insurrection, like 
that above mentioned, should have been set on foot, or 
even sanctioned by Guatemozin, is altogether improbable. 
That prince's explanation of the affair, as given by Diaz, 
is, to say the least, quite as deserving of credit as the 
accusation of the Indian informer. 16 The defect of tes- 
timony and the distance of time make it difficult for us, 
at the present day, to decide the question. We have a 
surer criterion of the truth in the opinion of those who 
were eyewitnesses of the transaction. It is given in the 
words of the old chronicler so often quoted. " The exe- 
cution of Guatemozin," says Diaz, " was most unjust ; 
and was thought wrong by all of us." 17 

The most probable explanation of the affair seems to 
be, that Guatemozin was a troublesome, and, indeed, 
formidable captive. Thus much is intimated by Cortes 
himself in his Letter to the emperor. 18 The fallen 
sovereign of Mexico, by the ascendancy of his character, 
as well as by his previous station, maintained an influ- 
ence over his countrymen, which would have enabled 
him with a breath, as it were, to rouse their smothered, 
not extinguished, animosity into rebellion. The Spa- 
niards, during the first years after the Conquest, lived 

16 The Indian chroniclers regard 17 " Y fue esta rrraerte que les 
the pretended conspiracy of Guate- dieron muy injustamente dada, y 
mozin as an invention of Cortes. parecid mal a todos los que ibamos 
The informer himself, when after- aquella Jornada." Hist, de la Con- 
wards put to the torture by the quista, cap. 177. 
cacique of Tezcuco, declared that 

he had made no revelation of this 18 " Guatemozin, Sefior que fue 
nature to the Spanish commander. de esta Ciudad de Temixtitan, a 
Ixtlilxochitl vouches for the truth quien yo despues que la gane he 
of this story. (Venida de los Esp., tenido siempre preso, teniendole por 
pp. S3 — 93.) But who will vouch hombre bullicioso, y le lleve con- 
fer Ixtlilxochitl ? mie-o." Carta Quinta, MS. 


in constant apprehension of a rising of the Aztecs. This 
is evident from numerous passages in the writings of the 
time. It was under the same apprehension, that Cortes 
consented to embarrass himself with his royal captive on 
this dreary expedition. And in such distrust did he hold 
him, that, even while in Mexico, he neither rode abroad, 
nor walked to any great distance, according to Gomara, 
without being attended by Guatemozin. 19 

Parties standing in such relations to each other could 
have been the objects only of mutual distrust and aver- 
sion. The forlorn condition of the Spaniards on the 
present march, which exposed them, in a peculiar degree, 
to any sudden assault from their wily Indian vassals, 
increased the suspicions of Cortes. Thus predisposed to 
think ill of Guatemozin, the general lent a ready ear to 
the first accusation against him. Charges were converted 
into proofs, and condemnation followed close upon the 
charges. By a single blow he proposed to rid himself 
and the state for ever of a dangerous enemy, — the more 
dangerous, that he was an enemy in disguise. Had he 
but consulted his own honour and his good name, Guate- 
mozin's head should have been the last on which he 
should have suffered an injury to fall. " He should have 
cherished him," to borrow the homely simile of his enco- 
miast, Gomara, "like gold in a napkin, as the best 
trophy of his victories." 20 

Whatever may have been the real motives of his con- 
duct in this affair, it seems to have left the mind of 
Cortes but ill at ease. For a long time he was moody 
and irritable, and found it difficult to sleep at night. On 
one occasion, as he was pacing an upper chamber of a 
teocalli in which he was quartered, he missed his footing 
in the dark, and was precipitated from a height of some 

19 " Y le hacian aquella mcsma como el iba." Cronica, cap. 170. 

rcverencia, i ceremonias, que a Mo- 20 " I Cortes debiera guardarlo 

teccuma, i creo que por eso le llevaba vivo, como Oro en paiio, que era el 

uiernpre consigo por la Ciudad a triumpho, i gloria de sus Victorias." 

Caballo, si cavalgaba, i sino a pie Cronica, cap. ]70. 

chap, in.] DONA MARINA. 411 

twelve feet to the ground, which occasioned him a severe 
contusion on the head, — a thing too palpable to be con- 
cealed, though he endeavoured, says the gossiping Diaz, 
to hide the knowledge of it, as well as he could, from 
the soldiers. 21 

It was not long after the sad scene of Guatemozin's 
execution, that the wearied troops entered the head town 
of the great province of Aculan ; a thriving community 
of traders, who carried on a profitable traffic with the 
furthest quarters of Central America. Cortes notices in 
general terms the excellence and beauty of the buildings, 
and the hospitable reception which he experienced from 
the inhabitants. 

After renewing their strength in these comfortable 
quarters, the Spaniards left the capital of Aculan, the 
name of which is to be found on no map, and held on 
their toilsome way in the direction of what is now called 
the lake of Peten. It was then the property of an 
emigrant tribe of the hardy Maya family, and their 
capital stood on an island in the lake, " with its houses 
and lofty teocallis glistening in the sun," says Bernal 
Diaz, " so that it might be seen for the distance of two 
leagues." 22 These edifices, built by one of the races of 
Yucatan, displayed, doubtless, the same peculiarities of 
construction as the remains still to be seen in that 
remarkable peninsula. But, whatever may have been 
their architectural merits, they are disposed of in a brief 
sentence by the Conquerors. 

The inhabitants of the island showed a friendly spirit, 
and a docility unlike the warlike temper of their country- 
men of Yucatan. They willingly listened to the Spanish 
missionaries who accompanied the expedition, as they 
expounded the Christian doctrines through the interven- 
tion of Marina. The Indian interpreter was present 
throughout this long march, the last in which she 

21 Hist, de la Conquista, ubi supra. 22 Ibid., cap. 178. 


remained at the side of Cortes. As this, too, is the last 
occasion on which she will appear in these pages, I will 
mention, before parting with her, an interesting circum- 
stance that occurred when the army was traversing the 
province of Coatzacualco. This, it may be remembered, 
was the native country of Marina, where her infamous 
mother sold her, when a child, to some foreign traders, 
in order to secure her inheritance to a younger brother. 
Cortes halted for some days at this place, to hold a con- 
ference with the surrounding caciques on matters of 
government and religion. Among those summoned to 
this meeting was Marina's mother, who came, attended 
by her son. No sooner did they make their appearance 
than all were struck with the great resemblance of the 
cacique to her daughter. The two parties recognised 
each other, though they had not met since their separa- 
tion. The mother, greatly terrified, fancied that she had 
been decoyed into a snare, in order to punish her in- 
human conduct. But Marina instantly ran up to her, 
and endeavoured to allay her fears, assuring her that she 
should receive no harm, and, addressing the by-standers, 
said, " that she was sure her mother knew not what she 
did, when she sold her to the traders, and that she for- 
gave her." Then tenderly embracing her unnatural 
parent, she gave her such jewels and other little orna- 
ments as she wore about her own person, to win back, 
as it would seem, her lost affection. Marina added, that 
" she felt much happier than before, now that she had 
been instructed in the Christian faith, and given up the 
bloody worship of the Aztecs." 23 

In the course of the expedition to Honduras, Cortes 
gave Marina away to a Castilian knight, Don Juan 
Xamarillo, to whom she was wedded as his lawful wife. 
She had estates assigned to her in her native province, 

23 Diaz, who was present, attests que dijo, se lo of muy certificada- 
thc truth of this account by the most mente y se lo juro, amen. Hist, de 
solemn adjuration. " Y todo esto la Conquista, cap. 37. 

CHAP. Ill 

.] DONA MARINA. 413 

where she probably passed the remainder of her days. 
From this time the name of Marina disappears from the 
page of history. But it has been always held in grateful 
remembrance by the Spaniards, for the important aid 
which she gave them in effecting the Conquest, and by 
the natives, for the kindness and sympathy which she 
showed them in their misfortunes. Many an Indian 
ballad commemorates the gentle virtues of Malinche, — 
her Aztec epithet. Even now her spirit, if report be 
true, watches over the capital which she helped to win ; 
and the peasant is occasionally startled by the apparition 
of an Indian princess, dimly seen through the evening 
shadows, as it flits among the groves and grottos of the 
royal Hill of Chapoltepec. 24 

By the Conqueror, Marina left one son, Don Martin 
Cortes. He rose to high consideration, and was made 
a comendador of the order of St. Jago. He was subse- 
quently suspected of treasonable designs against the 
government ; and neither his parents' extraordinary ser- 
vices, nor his own deserts, could protect him from a 
cruel persecution ; and in 1568, the son of Hernando 
Cortes was shamefully subjected to the torture in the 
very capital which his father had acquired for the Cas- 
tilian Crown ! 

The inhabitants of the isles of Peten — to return from 
our digression — listened attentively to the preaching of 
the Franciscan friars, and consented to the instant 
demolition of their idols, and the erection of the Cross 
upon their ruins. 25 A singular circumstance showed the 
value of these hurried conversions. Cortes, on his 
departure, left among this friendly people one of his 

2 * Life in Mexico, Let. 8. did not destroy their idols while the 

The fair author does not pretend Spaniards remained there. (His- 

to have been favoured with a sight toria de la Conquista de la Provincia 

of the apparition. de el Itza, [Madrid, 1701,] pp. 49, 

50.) The historian is wrong, since 

25 Yillagutierre says, that the Cortes expressly asserts, that the 

Itzaes, by which name the inhabi- images were broken and burnt in his 

tants of these islands were called, presence. Carta Quinta, MS. 


horses, which had been disabled by an injury in the 
foot. The Indians felt a reverence for the animal, as in 
some way connected with the mysterious power of the 
white men. When their visitors had gone, they offered 
flowers to the horse, and, as it is said, prepared for him 
many savoury messes of poultry, such as they would have 
administered to their own sick. Under this extra- 
ordinary diet the poor animal pined away and died. 
The affrighted Indians raised his effigy in stone, and, 
placing it in one of their teocattis, did homage to it, as 
to a deity. In 1618, when two Franciscan friars came 
to preach the Gospel in these regions, then scarcely 
better known to the Spaniards than before the time of 
Cortes, one of the most remarkable objects which they 
found was this statue of a horse, receiving the homage 
of the Indian worshippers, as the God of thunder and 
lightning ! 26 

It would be wearisome to recount all the perils and 
hardships endured by the Spaniards in the remainder of 
their journey. It would be repeating only the incidents 
of the preceding narrative ; the same obstacles in their 
path, the same extremities of famine and fatigue, — 
hardships more wearing on the spirits than encounters 
with an enemy, which, if more hazardous, are also more 
exciting. It is easier to contend with man than with 
Nature. Yet I must not omit to mention the passage of 
the Sierra de los Pedemales, " the Mountain of Flints," 
which, though only twenty-four miles in extent, con- 
sumed no less than twelve days in crossing it ! The 
sharp stones cut the horses' feet to pieces, while many 
were lost down the precipices and ravines ; so that, when 
they had reached the opposite side, sixty-eight of these 
valuable animals had perished, and the remainder were, 
for the most part, in an unserviceable condition ! 27 

26 The fact is recorded by Villa- 27 " Y quercr dezir la aspereza y 

gutierrc, Concjuista de el Itza, pp. fragosidad de este Puerto y sierras, 

]00 — 102, and Cojullado, Hist, cle ni quien lo dixesc lo sabria siguificar, 

Yucathan, lib. 1, cap. 1G. ni quien lo oycsc podria cntender, 

chap, in.] ARRIVAL AT HONDURAS. 415 

The rainy season had now set in, and torrents of 
water, falling day and night, drenched the adventurers 
to the skin, and added greatly to their distresses. The 
rivers, swollen beyond their usual volume, poured along 
with a terrible impetuosity that defied the construction 
of bridges ; and it was with the greatest difficulty that, 
by laying trunks of trees from one huge rock to another, 
with which these streams were studded, they effected a 
perilous passage to the opposite banks. 28 

At length the shattered train drew near the Golfo 
Dolce, at the head of the Bay of Honduras. Their 
route could not have been far from the side of Copan, 
the celebrated city whose architectural ruins have fur- 
nished such noble illustrations for the pencil of Cather- 
wood. But the Spaniards passed on in silence. Nor, 
indeed, can we wonder that, at this stage of the enter- 
prise, they should have passed on without heeding the 
vicinity of a city in the wilderness, though it were as 
glorious as the capital of Zenobia ; for they were arrived 
almost within view of the Spanish settlements, the object 
of their long and wearisome pilgrimage. 

The place which they were now approaching was Nito, 
or San Gil de Buena Vista, a Spanish settlement on the 
Golfo Dolce. Cortes advanced cautiously, prepared to 
fall on the town by surprise. He had held on his way 
with the undeviating step of the North American Indian, 
who, traversing morass and mountain and the most 
intricate forests, guided by the instinct of revenge, 
presses straight towards the mark, and, when he has 
reached it, springs at once on his unsuspecting victim. 

sino que sepa V. M. que en ocho samos aprovecharnos de ninguno." 

leguas que durd hasta este puerto Carta Quinta de Cortes, MS. 
estuvimos en las andar doze dias, 2S " If any unhappy wretch had 

digo los postreros en llegar al cabo become giddy in this transit," says 

de el, en que murieron sesenta y Cortes, " lie must inevitably have 

ocho cavallos despeiiados y desxare- been precipitated into the gulf and 

tados, y todos los demas vinieron perished. There were upwards of 

beridos y tan lasthnados que no pen- twenty of these frightful passes." 

Carta Quinta, MS. 


Before Cortes made his assault, his scouts fortunately 
fell in with some of the inhabitants of the place, from 
whom they received tidings of the death of Olid, and of 
the reestablishment of his own anthority. Cortes, there- 
fore, entered the place like a friend, and was cordially 
welcomed by his countrymen, greatly astonished, says 
Diaz, " by the presence among them of the general so 
renowned throughout these countries." 29 

The colony was at this time sorely suffering from 
famine ; and to such extremity was it soon reduced, that 
the troops would probably have found a grave in the 
very spot to which they had looked forward as the goal 
of their labours, but for the seasonable arrival of a vessel 
with supplies from Cuba. With a perseverance which 
nothing could daunt, Cortes made an examination of the 
surrounding country, and occupied a month more in 
exploring dismal swamps, steaming with unwholesome 
exhalations, and infected with bilious fevers, and with 
swarms of venomous insects which left peace neither by 
day nor night. At length he embarked with a part of 
his forces on board of two brigantines, and after touching 
at one or two ports in the Bay, anchored off Truxillo, 
the principal Spanish settlement on that coast. The 
surf was too high for him easily to effect a landing ; but 
the inhabitants, overjoyed at his arrival, rushed into the 
shallow water and eagerly bore back the general in their 
arms to the shore. 30 

After he had restored the strength and spirits of his 
men, the indefatigable commander prepared for a new 
expedition, the object of which was to explore and to 
reduce the extensive province of Nicaragua. One may 
well feel astonished at the adventurous spirit of the 
man, who, unsubdued by the terrible sufferings of his 

29 " Espantaronse en gran ma- Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 179. 
nera, y como supieron que era Cor- 30 Ibid., cap. 179, et seq. — Her- 

tes q' tan nombrado era en todas rera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, 

estas partes de las Indias, y en Cas- cap. 3, 4. — Carta Quinta de Cortds, 

t ilia, no sabia que se hazer de placer." MS. 

chap, in.] ARRIVAL AT HONDURAS. 417 

recent march, should so soon be prepared for another 
enterprise equally appalling. It is difficult, in this age 
of sober sense, to conceive the character of a Castilian 
cavalier of the sixteenth century, a true counterpart of 
which it would not have been easy to find in any other 
nation, even at that time, — or anywhere, indeed, save in 
those tales of chivalry, which, however wild and extra- 
vagant they may seem, were much more true to character 
than to situation. The mere excitement of exploring the 
strange and the unknown was a sufficient compensation 
to the Spanish adventurer for all his toils and trials. It 
seems to have been ordered by Providence, that such a 
race of men should exist contemporaneously with the 
discovery of the New World, that those regions should 
be brought to light which were beset with dangers and 
difficulties so appalling as might have tended to overawe 
and to discourage the ordinary spirit of adventure. Yet 
Cortes, though filled with this spirit, proposed nobler 
ends to himself than those of the mere vulgar adven- 
turer. In the expedition to Nicaragua, he designed, 
as he had done in that to Honduras, to ascertain the 
resources of the country in genera], and above all, the 
existence of any means of communication between the 
great oceans on its borders. If none such existed, it 
would at least establish this fact, the knowledge of 
which, to borrow his own language, was scarcely less 

The general proposed to himself the further object of 
enlarging the colonial empire of Castile. The conquest 
of Mexico was but the commencement of a series of 
conquests. To the warrior who had achieved this, 
nothing seemed impracticable ; and scarcely would any- 
thing have been so, had he been properly sustained. 
It is no great stretch of imagination, to see the Con- 
queror of Mexico advancing along the provinces of the 
vast Isthmus, — Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Darien, until 
he had planted his victorious banner on the shores of 

VOL. II. e E 


the Gulf of Panama ; and while it was there fanned by 
the breezes from the golden South, the land of the 
Incas, to see him gathering such intelligence of this 
land as would stimulate him to carry his arms still 
further, and to anticipate, it might be, the splendid 
career of Pizarro ! 

But from these dreams of ambition Cortes was sud- 
denly aroused by such tidings as convinced him, that his 
absence from Mexico was already too far prolonged, and 
that he must return without delay, if he would save the 
capital or the country. 

CHAP. IV. J 419 


Disturbances in Mexico. — Return of Cortes. — Distrust of the Court. — 
Cortes returns to Spain. — Death of Sandoval. — Brilliant Reception of 
Cortes. — Honours conferred on him. 


The intelligence alluded to in the preceding Chapter 
was conveyed in a letter to Cortes from the licentiate 
Zuazo, one of the functionaries to whom the general had 
committed the administration of the country during his 
absence. It contained full particulars of the tumultuous 
proceedings in the capital. No sooner had Cortes quitted 
it, than dissensions broke out among the different mem- 
bers of the provisional government. The misrule in- 
creased as his absence was prolonged. At length tidings 
were received, that Cortes with his whole army had 
perished in the morasses of Chiapa. The members of 
the government showed no reluctance to credit this story. 
They now openly paraded their own authority ; pro- 
claimed the general's death ; caused funeral ceremonies 
to be performed in his honour; took possession of his 
property wherever they could meet with it, piously 
devoting a small part of the proceeds to purchasing 
masses for his soul, while the remainder was appropriated 
to pay off what was called his debt to the state. They 
seized, in like manner, the property of other individuals 
engaged in the expedition. From these outrages they 
proceeded to others against the Spanish residents in the 

E E 2 


city, until the Franciscan missionaries left the capital in 
disgust, while the Indian population were so sorely op- 
pressed, that great apprehensions were entertained of a 
general rising. Zuazo, who communicated these tidings, 
implored Cortes to quicken his return. He was a tem- 
perate man, and the opposition which he had made to 
the tyrannical measures of his comrades had been re- 
warded with exile. 1 

The general, greatly alarmed by this account, saw that 
no alternative was left but to abandon all further schemes 
of conquest, and to return at once, if he would secure 
the preservation of the empire which he had won. He 
accordingly made the necessary arrangements for settling 
the administration of the colonies at Honduras, and em- 
barked with a small number of followers for Mexico. 

He had not been long at sea, when he encountered 
such a terrible tempest as seriously damaged his vessel, 
and compelled him to return to port and refit. A second 
attempt proved equally unsuccessful ; and Cortes, feeling 
that his good star had deserted him, saw, in this re- 
peated disaster, an intimation from Heaven that he was 
not to return. 2 He contented himself, therefore, with 
sending a trusty messenger to advise his friends of his 
personal safety in Honduras. He then instituted pro- 
cessions and public prayers to ascertain the will of 
Heaven, and to deprecate its anger. His health now 
showed the effects of his recent sufferings, and declined 
under a wasting fever. His spirits sank with it, and he 
fell into a state of gloomy despondency. Bernal Diaz, 
speaking of him at this time, says, that nothing could 
be more wan and emaciated than his person, and that so 
strongly was he possessed with the idea of his approach- 
ing end, that he procured a Franciscan habit, — for it 
was common to be laid out in the habit of some one or 

1 Carta Quinta dc Cortes, MS. — Strada, MS., Mexico, 1526. 
Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, 
cap. 185. ; — Relacion del Tesorcro 3 Carta Quinta de Cortes, MS. 

chap, iv.] RETURN OF CORTES. 421 

other of the monastic orders, — in which to be carried to 
the grave. 3 

From this deplorable apathy Cortes was roused by 
fresh advices urging his presence in Mexico, and by the 
judicious efforts of his good friend Sandoval, who had 
lately returned, himself, from an excursion into the inte- 
rior. By his persuasion, the general again consented to 
try his fortunes on the seas. He embarked on board of 
a brigantine, with a few followers, and bade adieu to the 
disastrous shores of Honduras, April 25, 1526. He had 
nearly made the coast of New Spain, when a heavy gale 
threw him off his course, and drove him to the island of 
Cuba. After staying there some time to recruit his ex- 
hausted strength, he again put to sea on the 1 6th of May, 
and in eight days landed near San Juan de Ulua, whence 
he proceeded about five leagues on foot to Medellin. 

Cortes was so much changed by disease, that his per- 
son was not easily recognised. But no sooner was it 
known that the general had returned, than crowds of 
people, white men and natives, thronged from all the 
neighbouring country to welcome him. The tidings 
spread far and wide on the wings of the wind, and his 
progress to the capital was a triumphal procession. The 
inhabitants came from the distance of eighty leagues to 
have a sight of him ; and they congratulated one another 
on the presence of the only man who could rescue the 
country from its state of anarchy. It was a resurrection 
of the dead, — so industriously had the reports of his 
death been circulated, and so generally believed. 4 

At all the great towns where he halted he was sump- 
tuously entertained. Triumphal arches were thrown 
across the road, and the streets were strewed with flowers 
as he passed. After a night's repose at Tezcuco, he 
made his entrance in great state into the capital. The 

3 Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 184, Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Ccmquista, 
et seq. — Carta Quirita de Cortes, cap. 189, 190. — Carta de Cortes al 
MS. Emperador, MS., Mexico, Sept. 11, 

4 Carta Quinta de Cortes, MS.— 1526. 


municipality came out to welcome him, and a brilliant 
cavalcade of armed citizens formed his escort ; while the 
lake was covered with barges of the Indians, all fancifully 
decorated with their gala dresses, as on the day of his 
first arrival among them. The streets echoed to music, 
and dancing, and sounds of jubilee, as the procession 
held on its way to the great convent of St. Francis, where 
thanksgivings were offered up for the safe return of the 
general, who then proceeded to take up his quarters 
once more in his own princely residence. 5 — It was in 
June, 1526, when Cortes reentered Mexico; nearly two 
years had elapsed since he had left it, on his difficult march 
to Honduras, — a inarch which led to no important re- 
sults, but which consumed nearly as much time, and 
was attended with sufferings quite as severe, as the con- 
quest of Mexico itself. 6 

Cortes did not abuse his present advantage. He, in- 
deed, instituted proceedings against his enemies ; but he 
followed them up so languidly, as to incur the imputa- 
tion of weakness. It is the only instance in which he 
has been accused of weakness ; and, since it was shown 
in the prosecution of his own injuries, it may be thought 
to reflect no discredit on his character. 7 

He was not permitted long to enjoy the sweets of 

5 Carta de Ocano, MS., Agosto 31, tude of mind, more perseverance and 

1526. — Carta Quinta de Cortes, MS. patience, than in any other period or 

"What Cortes suffered," says scene in his life." (Hist, of America, 

Dr. Robertson, " on this march, a note 90.) The historian's remarks 

distance, according to Gomara, of arc just ; as the passages, which I 

3000 miles," — (the distance must be have borrowed from the extraordi- 

grcatly exaggerated,) — " from fa- nary record of the Conqueror, may 

mine, from the hostility of the na- show. Those who are desirous of 

tives, from the climate and from seeing something of the narrative 

hardships of every species, has no- told in his own way, will find a few 

thing in history parallel to if, but pages of it translated in the Appeu- 

what occurs in the adventures of the di.r, Part IT. No. 14. 
other discoverers and conquerors of ' " Y esto yo lo oi dezir a los del 

the New World. Cortes was em- Ileal Conscjo de Indias, estando pre- 

ploycd in this dreadful service above scute el scfior Obispo Fray Bartolome 

two years; and, though it was not de las Casas, que se descuido mucho 

distinguished by any splendid event, Cortes en cllo, y se lo tuvieron a 

he exhibited, during the course of it, floxedad." Bcrnal Diaz, Hist, de la 

greater personal courage, more forti- Conquista, cap. 190. 

chap, iv.] DISTRUST OF THE COURT. 423 

triumph. In the month of July, he received advices of 
the arrival of a juez de residencia on the coast, sent by 
the court of Madrid to supersede him temporarily in the 
government. The Crown of Castile, as its colonial em- 
pire extended, became less and less capable of watching 
over its administration. It was therefore obliged to 
place vast powers in the hands of its viceroys ; and, as 
suspicion naturally accompanies weakness, it was ever 
prompt to listen to accusations against these powerful 
vassals. In such cases the government adopted the 
expedient of sending out a commissioner, ox juez de resi- 
dencia, with authority to investigate the conduct of the 
accused, to suspend him in the mean while from his 
office, and, after a judicial examination, to reinstate him 
in it, or to remove him altogether, according to the issue 
of the trial. The enemies of Cortes had been, for a long 
time, busy in undermining his influence at court, and in 
infusing suspicions of his loyalty in the bosom of the 
emperor. Since his elevation to the government of the 
country, they had redoubled their mischievous activity, 
and they assailed his character with the foulest imputa- 
tions. They charged him with appropriating to his own 
use the gold which belonged to the Crown, and especially 
with secreting the treasures of Montezuma. He was 
said to have made false reports of the provinces he had 
conquered, that he might defraud the exchequer of its 
lawful revenues. He had distributed the principal offices 
among his own creatures ; and had acquired an un- 
bounded influence, not only over the Spaniards, but the 
natives, who were all ready to do his bidding. He had 
expended large sums in fortifying both the capital and 
his own palace ; and it was evident from the magnitude 
of his schemes and his preparations, that he designed to 
shake off his allegiance, and to establish an independent 
sovereignty in New Spain. 8 

8 Memorial de Luis Cardenas, MS. Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 3, lib. 8, 
— Carta de Diego de Ocana, MS. — cap. 14, 15. 


The government, greatly alarmed by these formidable 
charges, the probability of which they could not estimate, 
appointed a commissioner with full powers to investigate 
the matter. The person selected for this delicate office 
was Luis Ponce de Leon, a man of high family, young 
for such a post, but of a mature judgment, and distin- 
guished for his moderation and equity. The nomination 
of such a minister gave assurance that the Crown meant 
to do justly by Cortes. 

The emperor wrote at the same time with his own 
hand to the general, advising him of this step, and assur- 
ing him that it was taken, not from distrust of his inte- 
grity, but to afford him the opportunity of placing that 
integrity in a clear light before the world. 9 

Ponce de Leon reached Mexico in July, 1526. He 
was received with all respect by Cortes and the muni- 
cipality of the capital ; and the two parties interchanged 
those courtesies with each other, which gave augury that 
the future proceedings would be conducted in a spirit of 
harmony. Unfortunately, this fair beginning was blasted 
by the death of the commissioner in a few weeks after 
his arrival, a circumstance which did not fail to afford 
another item in the loathsome mass of accusation heaped 
upon Cortes. The commissioner fell the victim of a 
malignant fever, which carried off a number of those who 
had come over in the vessel with him. 10 

On his death-bed, Ponce de Leon delegated his autho- 
rity to an infirm old man, who survived but a few months, 
and transmitted the reins of government to a person 
named Estrada or Strada, the royal treasurer, one of the 
officers sent from Spain to take charge of the finances, 
and who was personally hostile to Cortes. The Spanish 
residents would have persuaded Cortes to assert for him- 
self at least an equal share of the authority, to which 

9 Carta del Emperador, MS., To- quista, cap. 192. — Carta de Cortes 
lcdo, Nov. 4, 1525. al Emp., MS., Mexico, Set. 11, 

10 Beriial Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 1526. 

chap, iv.] DISTRUST OF THE COURT. 425 

they considered Estrada as having no sufficient title. 
But the general, with singular moderation, declined a 
competition in this matter, and determined to abide a 
more decided expression of his sovereign's will. To his 
mortification, the nomination of Estrada was confirmed, 
and this dignitary soon contrived to inflict on his rival 
all those annoyances by which a little mind, in possession 
of unexpected power, endeavours to make his superiority 
felt over a great one. The recommendations of Cortes 
were disregarded ; his friends mortified and insulted ; 
his attendants outraged by injuries. One of the domes- 
tics of his friend Sandoval, for some slight offence, was 
sentenced to lose his hand ; and when the general re- 
monstrated against these acts of violence, he was peremp- 
torily commanded to leave the city ! The Spaniards, 
indignant at this outrage, would have taken up arms in 
his defence ; but Cortes would allow no resistance, and, 
simply remarking, "that it was well, that those, who, at 
the price of their blood, had won the capital, should not 
be allowed a footing in it," withdrew to his favourite 
villa of Cojohuacan, a few miles distant, to wait there the 
result of these strange proceedings. 11 

The suspicions of the Court of Madrid, meanwhile, 
fanned by the breath of calumny, had reached the most 
preposterous height. One might have supposed, that it 
fancied the general was organizing a revolt throughout 
the colonies, and meditated nothing less than an inva- 
sion of the mother country. Intelligence having been 
received, that a vessel might speedily be expected from 
New Spain, orders were sent to the different ports of the 
kingdom, and even to Portugal, to sequestrate the cargo, 
under the expectation that it contained remittances to the 
general's family which belonged to the Crown ; while his 
letters, affording the most luminous account of all his 
proceedings and discoveries, were forbidden to be printed. 

11 Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 194. — Carta de Cortes al 
Emp., MS., Set. 11, 1526. 


Fortunately, three letters, forming the most important 
part of the Conqueror's correspondence, had already been 
given to the world by the indefatigable press of Seville. 

The Court, moreover, made aware of the incompe- 
tency of the treasurer, Estrada, to the present delicate 
conjuncture, now entrusted the whole affair of the inquiry 
to a commission dignified with the title of the Royal 
Audience of New Spain. This body was clothed with 
full powers to examine into the charges against Cortes, 
with instructions to send him back, as a preliminary 
measure, to Castile, — peacefully, if they could, but for- 
cibly if necessary. Still afraid that its belligerent vassal 
might defy the authority of this tribunal, the government 
resorted to artifice to effect his return. The president of 
the Indian Council was commanded to write to him, 
urging his presence in Spain to vindicate himself from 
the charges of his enemies, and offering his personal 
cooperation in his defence. The emperor further wrote 
a letter to the Audience, containing his commands for 
Cortes to return, as the government wished to consult 
him on matters relating to the Indies, and to bestow on 
him a recompense suited to his high deserts. This letter 
was intended to be shown to Cortes. 12 

But it was superfluous to put in motion all this com- 
plicated machinery to effect a measure on which Cortes 
was himself resolved. Proudly conscious of his own 
unsAverving loyalty, and of the benefits he had rendered 
to his country, he felt deeply sensible to this unworthy 
requital of them, especially on the very theatre of his 
achievements. He determined to abide no longer Avhere 
he was exposed to such indignities ; but to proceed 
at once to Spain, present himself before his sovereign, 
boldly assert his innocence, and claim redress for his 
wrongs, and a just reward for his services. In the close 
of his letter to the emperor, detailing the painful expe- 
dition to Honduras, after enlarging on the magnificent 

12 Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 4, lib. 2, cap. 1 ; and lib. 3, cap. 8. 

chap, iv.] CORTES RETURNS TO SPAIN. 427 

schemes lie had entertained of discovery in the South 
Sea, and vindicating himself from the charge of a too 
lavish expenditure, he concludes with the lofty, yet 
touching, declaration, " that he trusts his Majesty will 
in time acknowledge his deserts ; but, if that unhappily 
shall not be, the world at least will be assured of his 
loyalty, and he himself shall have the conviction of 
having done his duty; and no better inheritance than 
this shall he ask for his children." 13 

No sooner was the intention of Cortes made known, 
than it excited a general sensation through the country. 
Even Estrada relented ; he felt that he had gone too far, 
and that it was not his policy to drive his noble enemy 
to take refuge in his own land. Negotiations were 
opened, and an attempt at a reconciliation was made, 
through the bishop of Tlascala. Cortes received these 
overtures in a courteous spirit, but his resolution was 
unshaken. Having made the necessary arrangements, 
therefore, in Mexico, he left the Valley, and proceeded at 
once to the coast. Had he entertained the criminal am- 
bition imputed to him by his enemies, he might have 
been sorely tempted by the repeated offers of support 
which were made to him, whether in good or in bad 
faith, on the journey, if he would but reassume the 
government, and assert his independence of Castile. 
But these disloyal advances he rejected with the scorn 
they merited. 14 

On his arrival at Villa Rica, he received the painful 
tidings of the death of his father, Don Martin Cortes, 
whom he had hoped so soon to embrace, after his long 

13 <c Todas estas entradas estan con saber quea todo el muiido tengo 

ahora para partir casi a una, plega satisfecho, y les son notorios mis 

a Dios de los guiar como el se sirva, servicios y lealdad, con que los hago, 

que yo aunque V. M. mas me mande y no quiero otro mayorasgo sino 

desfavorecer no tengo de dejar de este." Carta Quinta, MS. 
servir, que no es posible, que por u Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la Con- 

tiempo V. M. no conosca mis ser- quista, cap. 194. — Carta de Ocaila, 

vicios, y ya que esto no sea, yo me MS-, Agosto 31, 1520. 
satisfago con hazer lo que debo, y 


and eventful absence. Having celebrated his obsequies 
with every mark of filial respect, he made preparations 
for his speedy departure. Two of the best vessels in 
the port were got ready and provided with everything 
requisite for a long voyage. He was attended by his 
friend, the faithful Sandoval, by Tapia, and some other 
cavaliers, most attached to his person. He also took 
with him several Aztec and Tlascalan chiefs, and among 
them a son of Montezuma, and another of Maxixca, the 
friendly old Tlascalan lord, both of whom were desirous 
to accompany the general to Castile. He carried home 
a large collection of plants and minerals, as specimens of 
the natural resources of the country ; several wild ani- 
mals and birds of gaudy plumage ; various fabrics of 
delicate workmanship, especially the gorgeous feather- 
work ; and a number of jugglers, dancers, and buffoons, 
who greatly astonished the Europeans by the marvellous 
facility of their performances, and were thought a suit- 
able present for his Holiness the Pope. 15 Lastly, Cortes 
displayed his magnificence in a rich treasure of jewels, 
among which were emeralds of extraordinary size and 
lustre, gold to the amount of two hundred thousand 
pesos de oro, and fifteen hundred marks of silver. " In 
fine," says Herrera, " he came in all the state of a 
great lord." 16 

After a brief and prosperous voyage, Cortes came in 
sight once more of his native shores, and, crossing the 
bar of Saltes, entered the little port of Palos in May, 
1528, — the same spot where Columbus had landed five 
and thirty years before on his return from the discovery 

15 The Pope, who was of the joyous of the services rendered to Chris- 
Medici family, Clement VII., and tianity by the Conquerors of Mexico, 
the cardinals, were greatly delighted and generously requited them by 
with the feats of the Indian jugglers, bulls, granting plenary absolution 
according to Diaz ; and his Holiness, from their sins. Hist, de la Con- 
who, it may be added, received at quista, cap. 195. 
the same time from Cortes a sub- 
stantial donative of gold and jewels, 1B " Y en fin venia como gran 
publicly testified, by prayers and Scfior." Hist. Gen., dec. 4, lib. 3, 
solemn processions, his great sense cap. 8. 

chap. iv.] DEATH OF SANDOVAL. 429 

of the Western World. Cortes was not greeted with the 
enthusiasm and public rejoicings which welcomed the 
great navigator; and, indeed, the inhabitants were not 
prepared for his arrival. From Palos he soon proceeded 
to the convent of La Rabida, the same place, also, within 
the hospitable walls of which Columbus had found a 
shelter. An interesting circumstance is mentioned by 
historians, connected with his short stay at Palos. Fran- 
cisco Pizarro, the Conqueror of Peru, had arrived there, 
having come to Spain to solicit aid for his great enter- 
prise. 17 He was then in the commencement of his bril- 
liant career, as Cortes might be said to be at the close of 
his. He was an old acquaintance, and a kinsman, as is 
affirmed, of the general, whose mother was a Pizarro. 18 
The meeting of these two extraordinary men, the Con- 
querors of the North and of the South, in the New 
World, as they set foot, after their eventful absence, on 
the shores of their native land, and that, too, on the spot 
consecrated by the presence of Columbus, has something 
in it striking to the imagination. It has accordingly 
attracted the attention of one of the most illustrious of 
living poets, who, in a brief, but beautiful sketch, has 
depicted the scene in the genuine colouring of the age. 19 
While reposing from the fatigues of his voyage at La 
Rabida, an event occurred which afflicted Cortes deeply, 
and which threw a dark cloud over his return. This was 
the death of Gonzalo de Sandoval, his trusty friend, and 
so long the companion of his fortunes. He was taken ill 
in a wretched inn at Palos, soon after landing ; and his 
malady gained ground so rapidly, that it was evident his 
constitution, impaired, probably, by the extraordinary 
fatigues he had of late years undergone, would be unable 
to resist it. Cortes was instantly sent for, and arrived 
in time to administer the last consolations of friendship 

17 Herrera, Hist. Gen., dec. 4, ls Pizarro y Orellana, Varones 

lib. 4, cap. 1. — Cavo, Los Tres Siglos Ilustres, p. 121. 
de Mex., torn, i., p. 78. 19 See the conclusion of Rogers' 

Yoyage of Columbus. 


to the dying cavalier. Sandoval met his approaching 
end with composure, and, having given the attention, 
which the short interval allowed, to the settlement of 
both his temporal and spiritual concerns, he breathed 
his last in the arms of his commander. 

Sandoval died at the premature age of thirty-one. 20 
He was in many respects the most eminent of the great 
captains formed under the eye of Cortes. He was of 
good family, and a native of Medellin, also the birth- 
place of the general, for whom he had the warmest per- 
sonal regard. Cortes soon discerned his uncommon 
qualities, and proved it by uniformly selecting the young 
officer for the most difficult commissions. His conduct 
on these occasions fully justified the preference. He was 
a decided favourite with the soldiers ; for, though strict 
in enforcing discipline, he was careful of their comforts, 
and little mindful of his own. He had nothing of the 
avarice so common in the Castilian cavalier ; and seemed 
to have no other ambition than that of faithfully dis- 
charging the duties of his profession. Pie was a plain 
man, affecting neither the showy manners nor the bravery 
in costume which distinguished Alvarado, the Aztec 
Tonatiuh. The expression of his countenance was open 
and manly ; his chestnut hair curled close to his head ; 
his frame was strong and sinewy. He had a lisp in his 
utterance, which made his voice somewhat indistinct. 
Indeed, he was no speaker; but, if slow of speech, he 
was prompt and energetic in action. He had precisely 
the qualities which fitted him for the perilous enterprise 
in which he was embarked. He had accomplished his 
task ; and, after having escaped death, which lay waiting 
for him in every step of his path, had come home as it 
would seem, to his native land, only to meet it there. 

His obsequies were performed with all solemnity by 
the Franciscan friars of La Rabida, and his remains were 

20 Bcrnal Diaz says, that Sandoval first came to New Spain, in 1519. — ■ 
Avas twenty-two years old, when he Hist, tie la Conquista, cap. 205. 


followed to their final resting-place by the comrades who 
had so often stood by his side in battle. They were laid 
in the cemetery of the convent, which, shrouded in its 
forest of pines, stood, and may yet stand, on the bold 
eminence that overlooks the waste of waters so lately 
traversed by the adventurous soldier. 21 

It was not long after this melancholy event, that 
Cortes and his suite began their journey into the inte- 
rior. The general stayed a few days at the castle of the 
duke of Medina Sidonia, the most powerful of the Anda- 
lusian lords, who hospitably entertained him, and, at his 
departure, presented him with several noble Arabian 
horses. Cortes first directed his steps towards Guada- 
loupe, where he passed nine days, offering up prayers 
and causing masses to be performed at our Lady's 
shrine for the soul of his departed friend. 

Before his departure from La Rabida, he had written 
to the court, informing it of his arrival in the country. 
Great was the sensation caused there by the intelligence • 
the greater, that the late reports of his treasonable prac- 
tices had made it wholly unexpected. His arrival pro- 
duced an immediate change of feeling. All cause of 
jealousy was now removed ; and, as the clouds which 
had so long settled over the royal mind were dispelled, 
the emperor seemed only anxious to show his sense of 
the distinguished services of his so dreaded vassal. 
Orders were sent to different places on the route to 
provide him with suitable accommodations, and prepa- 
rations were made to give him a brilliant reception in 
the capital. 

Meanwhile Cortes had formed the acquaintance at 
Guadaloupe of several persons of distinction, and among 
them of the family of the comendador of Leon, a noble- 
man of the highest consideration at court. The general's 
conversation, enriched with the stores of a life of adven- 
ture, and his manners, in which the authority of habitual 

21 Hist, de la Conquista, cap. 195. 


command was tempered by the frank and careless free- 
dom of the soldier, made a most favourable impression 
on his new friends ; and their letters to the court, where 
he was yet unknown, heightened the interest already felt 
in this remarkable man. The tidings of his arrival had 
by this time spread far and wide throughout the country ; 
and, as he resumed his journey, the roads presented a 
spectacle such as had not been seen since the return of 
Columbus. Cortes did not usually affect an ostentation 
of dress, though he loved to display the pomp of a great 
lord in the number and magnificence of his retainers. 
His train was now swelled by the Indian chieftains, who, 
by the splendours of their barbaric finery, gave additional 
brilliancy, as well as novelty, to the pageant. But his 
own person was the object of general curiosity. The 
houses and the streets of the great towns and villages 
were thronged with spectators, eager to look on the hero, 
who, with his single arm, as it were, had won an empire 
for Castile, and who, to borrow the language of an old 
historian, " came in the pomp and glory, not so much of 
a great vassal, as of an independent monarch." 22 

As he approached Toledo, then the rival of Madrid, 
the press of the multitude increased, till he was met by 
the duke de Bejar, the count de Aguilar, and others of 
his steady friends, who, at the head of a large body of 
the principal nobility and cavaliers of the city, came out 
to receive him, and attended him to the quarters pre- 
pared for his residence. It was a proud moment for 
Cortes ; and distrusting, as he well might, his reception 
by his countrymen, it afforded him a greater satisfaction 
than the brilliant entrance, which a few years previous, 
he had made into the capital of Mexico. 

The following day he was admitted to an audience by 

22 " Vino de las Indias dcspues vasallo dc algun Rcy 6 Emperador.'* 

dc la conquista de Mexico, con Lanuza, Historias Ecclesiasticas y 

tanto acompailamiento y magcstad, Scculares dc Aragon, (Zaragoza, 

que mas parecia de Prmcipe, o sefior 1G22,) lib. 3, cap. 14. 
poderosissimo, que de Capitan y 


the emperor; and Cortes, gracefully kneeling to kiss 
the hand of his sovereign, presented to him a memorial 
which succinctly recounted his services and the requital 
he had received for them. The emperor graciously 
raised him, and put many questions to him respecting 
the countries he had conquered. Charles was pleased 
with the general's answers, and his intelligent mind 
took great satisfaction in inspecting the curious speci- 
mens of Indian ingenuity which his vassal had brought 
with him from New Spain. In subsequent conversations 
the emperor repeatedly consulted Cortes on the best 
mode of administering the government of the colonies ; 
and by his advice introduced some important regulations, 
especially for ameliorating the condition of the natives, 
and for encouraging domestic industry. 

The monarch took frequent opportunity to show the 
confidence which he now reposed in Cortes. On all 
public occasions he appeared with him by his side ; and 
once, when the general lay ill of a fever, Charles paid 
him a visit in person, and remained some time in the 
apartment of the invalid. This was an extraordinary 
..mark of condescension in the haughty court of Castile ; 
and it is dwelt upon with becoming emphasis by the 
historians of the time, who seem to regard it as an 
ample compensation for all the sufferings and services 
of Cortes. 23 

The latter had now fairly triumphed over opposition. 
The courtiers, with that ready instinct which belongs to 
the tribe, imitated the example of their master; and 
even envy was silent, amidst the general homage that 
was paid to the man who had so lately been a mark for 
the most envenomed calumny. Cortes, without a title, 
without a name but what he had created for himself, 
was, at once, as it were, raised to a level with the 
proudest nobles in the land. 

He was so still more effectually by the substantial 

23 Gomara, Cronica, cap. 183. — cap. 1.— Bernal Diaz, Hist, de la 
Herrera, Hist. Gen., dec. 4, lib. 4, Conquista, cap. 195. 

vol. ii. n 


honours which were accorded to him by his sovereign in 
the course of the following year. By an instrument, 
dated July 6th, 1529, the emperor raised him to the 
dignity of the Marquess of the Valley of Oaxaca ; 24 and 
the title of " marquess," when used without the name of 
the individual, has been always appropriated in the 
colonies, in an especial manner, to Cortes, as the title 
of " admiral " was to Colnmbus. 25 

Two other instruments, dated in the same month of 
July, assigned to Cortes a vast tract of land in the rich 
province of Oaxaca, together with large estates in the 
city of Mexico, and other places in the Valley. 26 The 
princely domain thus granted comprehended more than 
twenty large towns and villages, and twenty-three thou- 
sand vassals. The language in which the gift was made 
greatly enhanced its value. The preamble of the instru- 
ment, after enlarging on the " good services rendered by 
Cortes in the Conquest, and the great benefits resulting 
therefrom, both in respect to the increase of the Castilian 
empire, and the advancement of the Holy Catholic Faith," 
acknowledges " the sufferings he had undergone in 
accomplishing this glorious work, and the fidelity and* 
obedience with which, as a good and trusty vassal, he 
had ever served the Crown." 27 It declares, in conclu- 
sion, that it grants this recompense of his deserts, 

24 Titulo cle Marques, MS., Bar- los, MS., Barcelona, G dc Julio, 
cclona, 6 dc Julio, 1529. 1529. ;. 

25 Humboldt, Essai Politique, 27 " E nos habemos rccibido y 
torn, ii., p. 30, note. tencmos dc vos por bien servido cu 

According to Lanuza, lie was ello, y acatando los grandes provc- 

offered by the emperor the Order of chos que dc vucstros servicios ban 

St. Jago, but declined it, because ralundado, ansi para el scrvicio dc 

no encomienda was attached to it. Nuestro Scfior y aumento de su 

(Hist, de Aragon, torn, i., lib. .'5, santa fc catolica, y en las dichas 

cap. 14.) But Caro de Torres, in tierras que estaban sin conocimiento 

his History of the Military Orders ni fe sc han plantado, como el acre- 

of Castile, enumerates Cortes among ccntamicnto que dcllo ha redundado 

the members of the Compostcllan a nuestra corona real destos rcynos, 

fraternity. Hist, de las Ord- Mili- y los trabajos que en ello habcis 

tares (Madrid, 1G29,) fol. 103, et pasado, y la fidelidad y obediencia 

scq. con que siempre nos habeis servido 

20 Merced de Tierras Immcdiatas como bucno 6 fiel servidor y vasallo 
a Mexico, MS., Barcelona, 23 de nuestro, de que somos cicrtos y con- 
Julio, 1529.— Merced de los Vasal- fiados." Merced de los Vasallos, MS. 


because it is " the duty of princes to honour and reward 
those who serve them well and loyally, in order that the 
memory of their great deeds should be perpetuated, and 
others be incited by their example to the performance of 
the like illustrious exploits." The unequivocal testimony 
thus borne by his sovereign to his unwavering loyalty 
was most gratifying to Cortes ; — how gratifying, every 
generous soul, who has been the subject of suspicion 
undeserved, will readily estimate. The language of 
the general in after time shows how deeply he was 
touched by it. 2S 

Yet there was one degree in the scale, above which 
the royal gratitude would not rise. Neither the soli- 
citations of Cortes, nor those of the duke de Bejar, and 
his other powerful friends, could prevail on the emperor 
to reinstate him in the government of Mexico. The 
country, reduced to tranquillity, had no longer need of 
his commanding genius to control it ; and Charles did 
not care to place again his formidable vassal in a situa- 
tion which might revive the dormant spark of jealousy 
and distrust. It was the policy of the crown to employ 
one class of its subjects to effect its conquests, and 
another class to rule over them. For the latter it 
selected men in whom the fire of ambition was tempered 
by a cooler judgment naturally, or by the sober influence 
of age. Even Columbus, notwithstanding the terms of 
his original " capitulation " with the crown, had not 
been permitted to preside over the colonies ; and still 
less likely would it be to concede this power to one 
possessed of the aspiring temper of Cortes. 

But although the emperor refused to commit the civil 
government of the colony into his hands, he reinstated 
him in his military command. By a royal ordinance, 

28 " The benignant reception which cause me regret that I have not been 

I experienced on my return, from called to endure more in your ser^ 

your Majesty," says Cortes, "your vice." (Carta de Cortes al Lie. 

kind expressions and generous treat- Nunez, MS., 1535.) This memorial, 

ment, make me not only forget all addressed to his agent in Castile, was 

my toils and sufferings, but even designed for the emperor. 

ff 2 


dated also in July, 1529, the marquess of the Valley was 
named Captain-general of New Spain, and of the coasts 
of the South Sea. He was empowered to make dis- 
coveries in the Southern Ocean, with the right to rule 
over such lands as he should colonize, 29 and by a sub- 
sequent grant he was to become proprietor of one-twelfth 
of all his discoveries. 30 The government had no design 
to relinquish the services of so able a commander. But 
it warily endeavoured to withdraw him from the scene of 
his former triumphs, and to throw open a new career of 
ambition, that might stimulate him still further to en- 
large the dominions of the crown. 

Thus gilded by the sunshine of royal favour, " rival- 
ling," to borrow the homely comparison of an old 
chronicler, " Alexander in the fame of his exploits, and 
Crassus in that of his riches," 31 with brilliant manners, 
and a person, which, although it showed the effects of 
hard service, had not yet lost all the attractions of youth, 
Cortes might now be regarded as offering an enviable 
alliance for the best houses in Castile. It was not long 
before he paid his addresses, Avhich were favourably 
received, to a member of that noble house, which had so 
steadily supported him in the dark hour of his fortunes. 
The lady's name was Dona Juana de Zunigar, daughter 
of the second count de Aguilar, and niece of the duke de 
Bcjar. 32 She was much younger than himself, beautiful, 
and, as events showed, not without spirit. One of his 
presents to his youthful bride excited the admiration 
and envy of the fairer part of the court. This was five 
emeralds, of wonderful size and brilliancy. These jewels 

29 Titulo de Capiian General dc la Valley, according to L. Marineo 
Nueva Espafia y Costa del Sur, MS., Siculo, who lived at the court at this 
Barcelona, G de Julio, 1529. time, were about 00,000 ducats a 

30 Asiento y Capitulation epic hizo year. Cosas Mcmorables de Espafia, 
con cl Emperador Don H. Cortes, (Alcala de Henares, 1539,) fol. 24. 
MS., Madrid, 27 de Oct., 1529. 32 Dofia Juana was of the house 

31 " Q,ae, segun se dezia, excedia of Arellano, and of the royal lineage 
en las hazafias a Alexandro Magno, of Navarre. Her father was not a 
y en las riquezas it Crasso." (Lanuza, very wealthy noble. L. Marineo 
Hist, de Aragon, lib. 3, cap. 14.) Siculo, Cosas Mem., fol. 24, 25. 
The rents of the Marquess of the 


had been cut by the Aztecs into the shapes of flowers, 
fishes, and into other fanciful forms, with an exquisite 
style of workmanship which enhanced their original 
value. 33 They were, not improbably, part of the treasure 
of the unfortunate Montezuma, and, being easily port- 
able, may have escaped the general wreck of the noche 
triste. The Queen of Charles the Fifth, it is said, — it 
may be the idle gossip of a court, — had intimated 
a willingness to become proprietor of some of these 
magnificent baubles ; and the preference which Cortes 
gave to his fair bride caused some feelings of estrange- 
ment in the royal bosom, which had an unfavourable 
influence on the future fortunes of the marquess. 

Late in the summer of 1529, Charles the Fifth left 
his Spanish dominions for Italy. Cortes accompanied 
him on his way, probably to the place of embarkation : 
and in the capital of Aragon we find him, according to 
the national historian, exciting the same general interest 
and admiration among the people as he had done in 
Castile. On his return, there seemed no occasion for 
him to protract his stay longer in the country. He was 
weary of the life of idle luxury which he had been lead- 
ing for the last year, and which was so foreign to his 
active habits and the stirring scenes to which he had 
been accustomed. He determined, therefore, to return 
to Mexico, where his extensive property required his 
presence, and where a new field was now opened to him 
for honourable enterprise. 

33 One of these precious stones little bell, with a fine pearl for the 

was as valuable as Shylock's tur- tongue, and on the rim was the in- 

quoise. Some Genoese merchants in scription, in Spanish, Blessed is He 

Seville offered Cortes, according to who created thee. The fifth, which 

Gomara, 40,000 ducats for it. The was the most valuable, was a small 

same author gives a more particular cup with a foot of gold, and with 

account of the jewels, which may four little chains, of the same metal, 

interest some readers. It shows the attached to a large pearl as a button, 

ingenuity of the artist, who, without The edge of the cup was of gold, 

steel, could so nicely cut so hard a on which was engraven this Latin 

material. One emerald was in the sentence, Inter natos mulierum non 

form of a rose ; the second in that surrexit major. Gomara, Cronica, 

of a horn; a third, like a fish, with cap. 184. 
eyes of gold ; the fourth was like a 




Cortes revisits Mexico. — Retires to his Estates. — His Voyages of Dis- 
covery. — Einal Return to Castile. — Cold Reception. — Death of Cortes. — 
His Character. 


Eaiily in the spring of 1530, Cortes embarked for 
New Spain. He was accompanied by the marchioness, 
his wife, together with his aged mother, (who had the 
good fortune to live to see her son's elevation,) and by a 
magnificent retinue of pages and attendants, such as 
belonged to the household of a powerful noble. How 
different from the forlorn condition in which, twenty-six 
years before, he had been cast loose, as a wild adventurer, 
to seek his bread upon the waters ! 

The first point of his destination was Hispaniola, 
where he was to remain until he received tidings of the 
organization of the new government that was to take 
charge of Mexico. 1 In the preceding Chapter it was 
stated, that the administration of the country had been 
intrusted to a body called the Royal Audience ; one of 
whose first duties it was to investigate the charges 
brought against Cortes. Nunez dc Guzman, his avowed 
enemy, was placed at the head of this board ; and the 
investigation was conducted with all the rancour of per- 
sonal hostility. A remarkable document still exists, 
called the Pesquisa Secreta, or " Secret Inquiry," which 
contains a record of the proceedings against Cortes. It 

1 Carta dc Cortes al Einpcrador, MS., Tczcuco, 10 de Oct.. 15o0. 



" ed by the secretary of the Audience, and 

g'»he several members. The document is very 

lacing nearly a hundred folio pages. The 

he testimony of every witness are given, and 

forms a mass of loathsome details such as 

,er suit a prosecution in a petty municipal 

"(.that of a great officer of the Crown. 

irges are eight in number ; involving, among 

' tes, that of a deliberate design to cast off his 

t to the Crown ; that of the murder of two of 

tie 'nssioners who had been sent out to supersede 

s^-the murder of his own wife, Catalina Suarez ; 2 

de-ion, and of licentious practices, — of offences, in 

Allien, from their private nature, would seem to 

ir > le to do with his conduct as a public man. 

ra imony is vague and often contradictory ; the 

jf;S are, for the most part, obscure individuals, and 

coi>ersons of consideration among them appear to 

W e .\ taken from the ranks of his decided enemies. 

it l:, 

w hi talina's death happened 
the y for the rising fortunes 
COr <at this charge of murder 
•' ,oband has found more 
ith the vulgar than the 
accusations brought against 
a. Cortes, from whatever reason, 
perhaps from the conviction that the 
charge was too monstrous to obtain 
credit, never condescended to vindi- 
cate his innocence. But, in addition 
to the arguments mentioned in the 
text for discrediting the accusation 
generally, we should consider, that 
this particular charge attracted so 
little attention in Castile, where he 
had abundance of enemies, that he 
found no difficulty, on his return 
there, seven years afterwards, in 
forming an alliance with one of the 
noblest houses in the kingdom ; that 
no writer of that day, (except 
Bemal Diaz, who treats it as a base 
calumny,) not even Las Casas, the 
stern accuser of the Conquerors, 
intimates a suspicion of his guilt ; 

and that, lastly, no allusion whatever 
is made to it in the suit, instituted, 
some years after her death, by the 
relatives of Doha Catalina, for the 
recovery of property from Cortes, 
pretended to have been derived 
through her marriage with him, — a 
suit conducted with acrimony, and 
protracted for several years. I have 
not seen the documents connected 
with the suit, which are still pre- 
served in the archives of the house 
of Cortes, but the fact has been com- 
municated to me by a distinguished 
Mexican, who has carefully examined 
them ; and I cannot but regard it as 
of itself conclusive, that the family, 
at least, of Doha Catalina, did not 
attach credit to the accusation. 

Yet so much credit has been given 
to this in Mexico, where the memory 
of the old Spaniards is not held in 
especial favour, at the present day, 
that it has formed the subject of an 
elaborate discussion in the public 
periodicals of that city. 


When it is considered, that the inquiry was conducted 
in the absence of Cortes, before a court, the members of 
which were personally unfriendly to him, and that he 
was furnished with no specification of the charges, and 
had no opportunity, consequently, of disproving them, it 
is impossible, at this distance of time, to attach any 
importance to this paper as a legal document. When it 
is added, that no action was taken on it by the govern- 
ment to whom it was sent, we may be disposed to 
regard it simply as a monument of the malice of his 
enemies. It has been drawn by the curious antiquary 
from the obscurity to which it had been so long con- 
signed in the Indian archives at Seville ; but it can be 
of no further use to the historian than to show, that a 
great name in the sixteenth century exposed its pos- 
sessor to calumnies as malignant as it has done at any 
time since. 3 

The high-handed measures of the Audience and the 
oppressive conduct of Guzman, especially towards the 
Indians, excited general indignation in the colony, and 
led to serious apprehensions of an insurrection. It be- 
came necessary to supersede an administration so reck- 
less and unprincipled. But Cortes was detained two 
months at the island, by the slow movements of the Cas- 
tilian court, before tidings reached him of the appoint- 
ment of a new Audience for the government of the 
country. The person selected to preside over it was the 

3 This remarkable paper, forming del dicho Don Hernando ausente 

part of the valuable collection of Don como csta. Los quales yo Gregorio 

Vargas Ponce, is without date. It de Saldaila, escribano dc S. M. y 

was doubtless prepared in 1529, escribano dc la dicha Residcncia, 

during the visit of Cortes to Castile. saque dc la dicha pesquisa secreta 

The following title is prefixed to it: por mandado de los Senorcs, Presi- 

" Pesquisa secreta. dente y Oidorcs de la Audiencia y 

"Rclacion de los cargos que re- Chancillcria Real que por mandado 
sultan de la pesquisa secreta contra dc S. M. en esta IMueva Espafia re- 
Don Hernando Cortes, de los quales side. Los quales dischos Scilores, 
no se lc did copia ni traslado a la Prcsidcnte y Oidorcs, envian a S. M. 
parte del dicho Don Hernando, asi para que los mande ver, y vistos 
por ser los dichos cargos de la calidad mande provecr lo que a su servicio 
que son, como por estar la persona convenga." MS. 

chap, v.] RETIRES TO HIS ESTATES. 441 

bishop of St. Domingo, a prelate whose acknowledged 
wisdom and virtue gave favourable augury for the con- 
duct of his administration. After this, Cortes resumed 
his voyage, and landed at Villa Rica on the 15th of 
July, 1530. 

After remaining for a time in the neighbourhood, 
where he received some petty annoyances from the Au- 
dience, he proceeded to Tlascala, and publicly proclaimed 
his powers as Captain-general of New Spain and the 
South Sea. An edict, issued by the empress during her 
husband's absence, had interdicted Cortes from ap- 
proaching within ten leagues of the Mexican capital, 
while the present authorities were there. 4 The empress 
was afraid of a collision between the parties. Cortes, 
however, took up his residence on the opposite side of 
the lake, at Tezcuco. 

No sooner was his arrival there known in the metro- 
polis, than multitudes, both of Spaniards and natives, 
crossed the lake to pay their respects to their old com- 
mander, to offer him their services, and to complain of 
their manifold grievances. It seemed as if the whole 
population of the capital was pouring into the neighbour- 
ing city, where the marquess maintained the state of an 
independent potentate. The members of the Audience, 
indignant at the mortifying contrast which their own 
diminished court presented, imposed heavy penalties on 
such of the natives as should be found in Tezcuco ; and, 
affecting to consider themselves in danger, made pre- 
parations for the defence of the city. But these belli- 
gerent movements were terminated by the arrival of the 
new Audience ; though Guzman had the address to 
maintain his hold on a northern province, where he 
earned a reputation for cruelty and extortion, unrivalled 
even in the annals of the New World. 

Everything seemed now to assure a tranquil residence 

4 MS., Tordelaguna, 22 deMarzo, 1530. 


to Cortes. The new magistrates treated him with 
marked respect, and took his advice on the most impor- 
tant measures of government. Unhappily this state of 
things did not long continue ; and a misunderstanding- 
arose between the parties, in respect to the enumeration 
of the vassals assigned by the Crown to Cortes, which 
the marquess thought was made on principles prejudicial 
to his interests, and repugnant to the intentions of the 
grant. 5 He was still further displeased by finding that 
the Audience were intrusted, by their commission, with 
a concurrent jurisdiction with himself in military affairs. 6 
This led, occasionally, to an interference, which the proud 
spirit of Cortes, so long accustomed to independent rule, 
could ill brook. After submitting to it for a time, he 
left the capital in disgust, no more to return there, and 
took up his residence in his city of Cuernavaca. 

It was the place won by his own sword from the 
Aztecs, previous to the Siege of Mexico. It stood on 
the southern slope of the Cordilleras, and overlooked a 
wide expanse of country, the fairest and most flourishing- 
portion of his own domain. He had erected a stately 
palace on the spot, and henceforth made this city his 
favourite residence. 7 It was well situated for superin- 
tending his vast estates, and he now devoted himself to 
bring them into proper cultivation. He introduced the 
sugar-cane from Cuba, and it grew luxuriantly in the rich 

5 The principal grievance alleged deron, " of the Tlahuica nation, and 

was, that slaves, many of them held after the Conquest, Cortes built, here 

temporarily by their masters, ac- a splendid palace, a church, and a 

cording to the old Aztec usage, were convent for Franciscans, believing 

comprehended in the census. The that he had laid the foundation of a 

complaint forms part of a catalogue great city It is, however, a 

of grievances embodied by Cortes in palace of little importance, though 
a memorial to the emperor. It is a so favoured by nature ; and the Con- 
clear and business-like paper. Carta qucror's palace is a half-ruined bar- 
de Cortes ti Nunez, MS. rack, though a most picturesque ob- 
fi Carta dc Cort6s a Nunez, MS. jeet, standing on a hill, behind which 
7 The palace has crumbled info starts up the great white volcan. 
ruins, and tin; spot is now only re- There arc some good houses, and 
markable for its natural beauty and the remains of the Church which 
its historic associations. " It was Cortes built, celebrated for its bold 
the capital," says Madame dc Cal- arch." Life in Mexico, vol. ii. let.31. 


soil of the neighbouring lowlands. lie imported large 
numbers of merino sheep and other cattle, which found 
abundant pastures in the country around Tehuantepec. 
His lands were thickly sprinkled with groves of mulberry 
trees, which furnished nourishment for the silk- worm. 
He encouraged the cultivation of hemp and flax, and, 
by his judicious and enterprising husbandry, showed 
the capacity of the soil for the culture of valuable pro- 
ducts before unknown in the land ; and he turned these 
products to the best account, by the erection of sugar- 
mills, and other works for the manufacture of the raw 
material. He thus laid the foundation of an opulence 
for his family, as substantial, if not as speedy, as that 
derived from the mines. Yet this latter source of wealth 
was not neglected by him ; and he drew gold from the 
region of Tehuantepec, and silver from that of Zacatecas. 
The amount derived from these mines was not so abun- 
dant as at a later day. But the expense of working 
them, on the other hand, was much less in the earlier 
stages of the operation, when the metal lay so much 
nearer the surface. 8 

But this tranquil way of life did not long content his 
restless and adventurous spirit ; and it sought a vent by 
availing itself of his new charter of discovery to explore 
the mysteries of the Great