The Land of Tuscaloosa

     The lands into which DeSoto had now come were ruled by a mighty chief whose name was Tuscaloosa. The name Tuscaloosa means Black Warrior, this chief was as big and strong as his name sounded.  Now Tuscaloosa did not go forth to welcome DeSoto and his men with feasting and music, as the chief of the lands of Coosa had done. Instead, he sat upon his throne, surrounded by his warriors and waited for DeSoto to come to him. The throne was covered with woven grass matting and there was a cushion on which the chief sat. Over the throne was a sun shield made of deerskin, which was painted all over in stripes of many colors.

     DeSoto thought that Tuscaloosa would come out to welcome him as the chief of the lands of Coosa had done. When Tuscaloosa did not appear, DeSoto sent a messenger to tell the chief of the arrival of the party. Mosooso, the messenger, rode a very fine horse. As he came before the chief, he made his horse do a number of tricks.  Tuscaloosa pretended that he did not see the messenger and looked straight at him. Mosooso rode back and forth, all the time his horse was prancing and arching his neck. Tuscaloosa did not seem to see him at all. Mosooso was forced, therefore, to ride back to his master and tell him of his bad fortune. Then DeSoto got upon his own horse and rode into the presence of Chief Tuscaloosa.

     As DeSoto came near the chief, Tuscaloosa arose and told him that he was welcome. Tuscaloosa seemed to understand that he was to be made a prisoner by the white eyes. He folded his great arms and stood waiting silently.  DeSoto rode before him. One of his men led a very fine horse which Tuscaloosa was to ride and another carried a beautiful red robe which he gave to the waiting chief.

     Tuscaloosa put on the red robe, then he mounted the largest horse DeSoto owned, yet so tall was the powerful chief that his feet almost touched Mother Earth.  Away rode the strange party, DeSoto and his men, with the big chief in their midst. Tuscaloosa, dressed in the red robe, rode in silence, sitting erect and proud in the saddle. For many days the party rode towards the west, going in the direction of the village of Mauville.

     At last they reached the village of Mauville, where they were met by the people who welcomed them. Music and merry making were on hand. DeSoto and his men entered into the pleasures of the people of the village. Tuscaloosa sat in the midst of the merry makers but he did not make merry with them. After a few days he asked to be freed. He was allowed to go and he marched away with his head held high and entered the lodge of a friendly Indian.

     Later in the day, DeSoto sent word that dinner was ready and invited Tuscaloosa to join them in the meal. The chief refused, saying, “If you leader knows what is best for him, he will take himself and his band out of the lands of Tuscaloosa.”

     The messenger returned to DeSoto with these words but DeSoto paid no attention to the warning, even after he knew that the Indians were getting ready to fight.  He called his men around him and said to them, “We will set a trap for Tuscaloosa. He cannot escape DeSoto and his band of one hundred brave men.”

     When DeSoto approached Tuscaloosa with the soft words which he had planned to use, the big chief gave a signal and DeSoto and his band were attacked from every side by Indian warriors. A terrible battle took place. Tuscaloosa was slain with five hundred of his brave warriors. DeSoto lost many of his brave men and he lost his supplies and the valuable gifts of the friendly Indians.

     In spite of his great losses, DeSoto gathered his men together and continued the journey towards the west. Later he came to the banks of the Mississippi River, called the Father of Waters. It is said that DeSoto did not know that he had discovered the great Mississippi River, but we know that he was the first white eye to stand on the banks of this mighty stream.