Giant Archers in Florida
In 1528, or almost ten years after Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda’s discovery of giants on the Mississippi River, the ill-fated explorer Panfilo de Narvaez put three hundred men ashore at Tampa Bay. His mission was to search the Florida mainland for its riches, while his five ships sailed just off the coast. Only Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and three companions survived this expedition. Afterward they crossed the North American continent from shore to shore, becoming the first white men to do so. In his history, Cabeza de Vaca mentions some giant Florida Indians who attacked the Narvaez party. “When we came in view of Apalachen,” he writes, “the Governor ordered that I should take nine cavalry with fifty infantry and enter the town.18 Accordingly the assessor and I assailed it; and having got in, we found only women and boys there, the men being absent; however these returned to its support, after a little time, while we were walking about, and began discharging arrows at us. They killed the horse of the assessor, and at last taking to flight, they left us…. The town consisted of forty small houses, made low, and set up in sheltered places because of the frequent storms. The material was thatch. They were surrounded by very dense woods, large groves and many bodies of fresh water. . . Two hours after our arrival at Apalachen, the Indians who had fled from there came in peace to us, asking for their women and children, whom we released; but the detention of a cacique [the Indians’ chief] by the Governor produced great excitement, in consequence of which they returned for battle early the next day, and attacked us with such promptness and alacrity that they succeeded in setting fire to the houses in which we were.”19
After twenty-five days, Narvaez’ army departed Apalachen. But a short while later, as they attempted to cross a large lake, they came under heavy attack from many giant Indians concealed behind trees. “Some of our men were wounded in this conflict, for whom the good armor they wore did not avail,” continues Cabeza de Vaca. ‘There were those this day who swore that they had seen two red oaks, each the thickness of the lower part of the leg, pierced through from side to side by arrows; and this is not so much to be wondered at, considering the power and skill with which the Indians are able to project them. I myself saw an arrow that had entered the butt of an elm to the depth of a span…. The Indians we had so far seen in Florida are all archers. They go naked, are large of body, and appear at a distance like giants. They are of admirable proportions, very spare and of great activity and strength. The bows they use are as thick as the arm, of eleven or twelve palms in length, which will discharge at two hundred paces with so great precision that they miss nothing.”20
Harassments by these Indian giants continued. So Narvaez decided to head south for the gulf coast and escape by the sea. Arriving there after much hardship, he and his men constructed five crude boats, in order to search along the coast for a Spanish settlement. Unfortunately, a sudden, fierce storm caught them some distance from land. The high winds drove all the boats, with all their men aboard, far out to sea. All were subsequently lost except Cabeza de Vaca and three companions who managed to reach the shore. They walked across Texas and northern Mexico, finally reaching the Pacific coast where they linked up with Francisco Vazquez de Coronado in 1541.http://stevequayle.com/Giants/N.Am/Giants.N.Am1.html#Anchor-Florida-6296
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