The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
DISTRIBUTION OF THE SPANISH FORCES IN THE INTERIOR
PREPARATIONS FOR A VOYAGE TO CUBA.

[ 1494.]

The increasing discontents of the motle population of Isabella and the rapid consumption of the scanty stores which remained, were causes of great anxiety to Columbus. He was desirous of proceeding on another voyage of discovery, but it was indispensable, before sailing, to place the affairs of the island in such a state as to secure tranquillity. He determined, therefore, to send all the men that could be spared from Isabella, into the interior; with orders to visit the territories of the different caciques, and explore the island. By this means they would be roused and animated; they would become accustomed to the climate and to the diet of the natives, and such a force would be displayed as to overawe the machinations of Caonabo or any other hostile cacique. In pursuance of this plan, every healthy person, not absolutely necessary to the concerns of the city or the care of the sick, was put under arms, and a little array mustered, consisting of two hundred and fifty cross-bow men, one hundred and ten arquebusiers, sixteen horsemen, and twenty officers. The general command of the forces was intrusted to Pedro Margarite, in whom Columbus had great confidence as a noble Catalonian, and a knight of the order of Santiago. Alonso de Ojeda was to conduct the army to the fortress of St. Thomas, where he was to succeed Margarite in the command; and the latter was to proceed with the main body of the troops on a military tour, in which he was particularly to explore the province of Cibao, and subsequently the other parts of the island.

Columbus wrote a long and earnest letter of instructions to Margarite, by which to govern himself in a service requiring such great circumspection. He charged him above all things to observe the greatest justice and discretion in respect to the Indians, protecting them from all wrong and insult, and treating them in such a manner as to secure their confidence and friendship. At the same time they were to be made to respect the property of the white men, and all thefts were to be severely punished. Whatever provisions were required from them for

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