Reenactors demonstrating how the Spanish explorers would have used their firearms. Image courtesy of De Soto National Memorial.
The snowy winter of 1566-1567 temporarily stopped Juan Pardo’s exploration of modern-day Piedmont and western North Carolina, so he and his Spanish force built Fort San Juan near the Indian town Joara (near present-day Morganton). When the weather permitted, Pardo continued his expedition. But he garrisoned the fort with between twenty to thirty men under the direction of Sergeant Hernando Moyano, whose interest in locating minerals and gold more than likely prompted the only attack against Indians during the Pardo Expeditions.
During the spring of 1567, Moyano and fifteen Spaniards and an unknown number of Indians attacked the Chiscas. Recent archeological scholarship locates the Chisca town near Saltville, Virginia. The rival tribe is unknown but scholars contend that the Joara chief and his warriors allied themselves with the Spaniards. Whoever they were, the Indians scalped fallen Chisca warriors. Juan de Ribas, a participant in the foray, claimed thirty years later that the rival chief paid Moyano in gold.
A chief from the mountains soon threatened to attack the Spaniards, so Moyano launched a preemptive strike. With his men and an unknown number of Indian allies, Moyano traveled four days and found and burned Guapare, the town of the mountain cacique on the Wautaga River. No indisputable source exists regarding the number of Indian fatalities, but one Spaniard estimated 1,500.
After the attack, Moyano explored what is now East Tennessee and eventually built a fort near Chiaha (near Dandridge, Tennessee). The sergeant and his detachment stayed there until October, when Pardo found them unharmed. Moyano and his men abandoned the fort, joined Pardo’s second expedition, and began a treacherous voyage eastward, across the mountains.
Warren Wilson College, Archeology Department, http://www.warren-wilson.edu/~arch/ (accessed July 10, 2007) and “Moyano’s Foray” http://www.warren-wilson.edu/~arch/berryhistory (accessed July 10, 2007); Charles Hudson, The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568 (Tuscaloosa, 1990, reprint 2005).
By Troy L. Kickler, founding director of the North Carolina History Project
See Also:Related Categories: Colonial North Carolina