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SECTION X. Occurrences, from the Defeat of Narvaez, 26th May 1520, to the Expulsion of the Spaniards from Mexico, on the 1st, and the Battle of Otumba on the 4th of July of the same Year

The wheel of fortune is ever in motion, evil following closely upon good. This was strongly exemplified with us at this time, as our late successes were speedily followed by melancholy news from Mexico by express, informing us that an insurrection had broke out in that city, that Alvarado was besieged in his quarters, which the natives had set on fire, after killing seven of his men and wounding many; for which reason Alvarado earnestly entreated immediate succour. It is not to be expressed how much this news afflicted us all. In consequence of this distressing intelligence, Cortes countermanded the expeditions which were to have marched under De Leon and De Ordas, and determined upon an immediate forced march to Mexico. We left Narvaez and Salvatierra as prisoners at Villa Rica, under the charge of Roderigo Rangel, who was likewise directed to collect all the stragglers, and to take care of the invalids, who were numerous: Just as we were ready to march, four principal nobles arrived from the court of Montezuma, who made a heavy complaint against Alvarado, who had assaulted them while dancing at a solemn festival in honour of their gods, which had been held by his permission, and stating that they had been constrained to take up arms in their own defence, during which seven of the Spanish soldiers were slain. Cortes made them a short answer, saying that he would shortly be at Mexico, when he would make proper inquiry and set all to rights, with which answer they had to return to Montezuma, who was much displeased with the insulting tone in which it was given, more especially as a great number of his subjects had been killed by Alvarado. Before commencing our march, Cortes made a speech to the soldiers of Narvaez, exhorting them to forget all past animosities, and not to let the present opportunity be lost of serving both his majesty and themselves; and by way of inducement, gave them a magnificent picture of the riches of Mexico, to a participation in which their faithful conduct would entitle them. They one and all declared their resolution to obey his orders, and to proceed immediately to Mexico, which they would hardly have agreed to if they had known its strength, and the numerous martial population of that city.

We arrived at Tlascala by very long marches, where we were informed that the Mexicans had made incessant attacks on Alvarado, until Montezuma and they received intelligence of the defeat of Narvaez; after which they had desisted, leaving the Spaniards in great distress, owing to excessive fatigue from their continual exertions, and much in want of water and provisions. At Tlascala, Cortes made a general muster and inspection of our army, which now amounted to thirteen hundred men, of whom nearly an hundred were cavalry, and a hundred and sixty armed with muskets and crossbows. We were here joined by two thousand Tlascalan warriors, and marched from hence to Tezcuco, where we were very ill received, every thing bearing the appearance of disaffection.

On St John's day, 24th of June 1520, we again entered Mexico25, where we met with a very different reception from what we had experienced on our former entry, on the 8th November 1519, seven months and a half before. Not one of the nobles of our acquaintance came now to meet us, and the whole city seemed to have been deserted by its inhabitants. On entering our quarters, Montezuma advanced to embrace Cortes, and to congratulate him on his victory; but our general turned from him with disdain, and would neither speak to him nor listen to his address, on which the king returned to his apartment much cast down. Cortes made inquiry into the causes and circumstances of the late commotion, from all of which it was evident that it had neither been instigated nor approved by Montezuma; as if he had chosen to act against our garrison, they might all have been as easily destroyed as only seven. Alvarado said, that the Indians were enraged at the detention of their sovereign, and by the erection of the cross in their temple; and that when they went, as they said by order of their gods, to pull it down, all their strength was unable to move it from its place; and that Montezuma had strictly enjoined them to desist from all such attempts. In justification of himself, Alvarado alleged that the friends and subjects of Montezuma had planned the attack upon him for the liberation of their sovereign, at the time when they believed Cortes and his army had been destroyed by Narvaez: And being questioned why he had fallen on the Mexicans, while holding a festival in honour of their gods, he pretended that he had intelligence of their hostile intentions from a priest and two nobles, and thought it safest to be beforehand with them. When pressed by Cortes to say whether the Mexicans had not asked and obtained his permission to hold that festival, he acknowledged it was so, and that he had fallen upon them by anticipation, that he might terrify them into submission, and prevent them from going to war with the Spaniards. Cortes was highly displeased with the conduct of Alvarado, and censured him in the strongest terms.

Alvarado alleged that during one of the attacks of the Mexicans on his quarters, he had endeavoured to fire off one of his guns and could not get the priming to take fire; but sometime afterwards, when they were in great danger, the gun went off of itself and made prodigious havock among the enemy, who were thus miraculously repulsed, and the Spaniards saved from inevitable destruction. He said also, that the garrison being in great distress for water, they sank a pit in one of the courts, when immediately a spring of the sweetest water sprung up. I know that there was a spring in the city which often produced tolerably fresh water26. Glory be to GOD for all his mercies! Some alleged that Alvarado was excited to this attack by avarice, in order to plunder the Indians of their golden ornaments during the festival; but I am satisfied his attack proceeded from a mistaken idea of preventing insurrection by terror. It is certain, that even after the massacre at the temple, Montezuma used every endeavour to prevent his subjects from attacking our people: but they were so enraged that nothing could restrain their eager thirst for vengeance.

During our march, Cortes had launched out to the new comers in warm eulogiums on the riches of Mexico, the power and influence which he had acquired, and the respect and obedience of the Mexicans, filling them with promises and expectations of enjoying gold in abundance. From the negligent coldness of his reception in Tezcuco, and the similar appearances in Mexico, he became vexed, disappointed, and peevish; insomuch, that when the officers of Montezuma came to wait upon him, and expressed the wishes of their master to see him, Cortes exclaimed angrily: "Away with the dog, wherefore does he neglect to supply us." The captains De Leon, De Oli, and De Lugo, happening to be present on this occasion, entreated him to remember the former kindness and generosity of the Mexican sovereign, and to treat him with moderation. This only seemed to irritate Cortes so much the more, as it appeared to censure his conduct, and he indignantly answered: "What obligations am I under to the wretch, who plotted secretly against me with Narvaez, and who now neglects to supply us with provisions?" The captains admitted that this ought to be done, and Cortes being full of confidence in the great military power he now commanded, continued a haughty demeanour to the Mexican noblemen who still waited his pleasure. Turning therefore to them, he desired them to tell their master, that he must immediately order markets to be held, and provisions to be supplied for his troops, or to beware of the consequences. These lords understood the general import of the injurious expressions which Cortes had used against Montezuma, and made a faithful report to him of all that passed. Whether it may have proceeded from rage on account of these opprobrious expressions against their sovereign, or from a plan previously concerted to fall upon us, I know not, but within a quarter of an hour, a soldier dangerously wounded came running into our quarters, and reported that the whole people were in arms against us. This man had been sent by Cortes to bring over to our quarters the daughter of Montezuma and other Indian ladies, who had been left under the charge of the cacique of Tacuba, when we marched against Narvaez. He was returning with these ladies, when the people attacked him in great numbers on the causeway of Tacuba, where they had broken down one of the bridges, and had once seized him, and were forcing him into a canoe to carry him off to be sacrificed; but he extricated himself by a violent effort, and got away with two dangerous wounds.

Cortes immediately ordered out a detachment of 400 men under Ordas, to see what was the matter, and to endeavour to pacify the people; but he had hardly proceeded the length of a street, when he was assailed by immense numbers of the natives, some in the street, and others from the terraced tops of the houses, who killed eight of his men on the first discharge of missiles, and wounded mostly the whole of his men, himself in three places. Finding it impossible to proceed, Ordas retreated slowly towards our quarters, and soon after lost another soldier, who did astonishing feats of valour with a two-handed sword. The streets were so crowded with enemies, and we were so incessantly attacked in front and rear, and from the roofs, that for a long while he was unable to force his way. Neither the effect of our fire-arms, nor the most efficacious use of our other arms could deter the natives from closing in upon us hand to hand, and foot to foot; but at length Ordas forced his way back, having lost in all twenty-three of his men. Our quarters were attacked by prodigious multitudes at the same moment that the attack on Ordas began, and they poured in such incessant discharges of missile weapons, that they soon wounded above forty-six of our men, of whom twelve afterwards died. Even after the retreat of Ordas, the enemy continued their attacks, and at length set fire to various parts of the buildings forming our quarters, thinking to burn us alive or to stifle us with smoke; and we were reduced to the necessity of tearing down some parts of the building, and to throw earth upon other parts, to extinguish the fire. All the courts and open places of our quarters were thickly strewed with arrows, stones, and darts, which had been thrown at us; and we were occupied the whole day and night, in repelling the incessant assaults, repairing the breaches in our defences, dressing our wounds, and preparing for future assaults. At dawn of the ensuing morning, we sallied out with our whole force, determined to conquer or to impress them with respect. The Mexicans met us with the utmost resolution, and though we fought almost in despair, their numbers were so immense, and they continually brought up such strong reinforcements of fresh troops, that even if we had all been Hectors or Orlandos, we could not have forced them to give ground. It is quite impossible to give any adequate idea of the obstinacy and violence of this battle. Though in every reiterated charge we brought down thirty or forty of the enemy, it had no effect, as they returned upon us with more violence and desperation than before; our musketry and cannon made no impression that was not instantly replaced; and if at any time they gave ground, it was only to draw us farther from our quarters, to make our destruction more sure. In the midst of all this, the stones and darts which were launched upon us from the terraces of the house tops did us astonishing injury. Some of our soldiers who had been in the wars of Italy declared, that neither among Christians or Turks, nor even in the French artillery, had they ever seen such desperate fighting as now among these Indians. We were at length forced to retreat to our quarters, which we reached with infinite difficulty, after losing ten or twelve of our men killed, and almost every one of us severely wounded.

After our return, we were busily occupied in preparing for a general sally on the next day after but one, with four military engines of strong timber like towers, each of which was calculated to contain twenty-five men under cover, with portholes for the artillery, and for muskets and crossbows. During this interval we had likewise to repair the breaches which the Mexicans had made in our walls, and to resist their attempts to scale them, often in twenty places at once. The Mexicans constantly used the most injurious language against us; saying that the voracious animals in the great temple had been kept fasting for two days, that they might be ready to devour our bodies, when we were sacrificed to their gods. They assured us at the same time that our allies were to be put into cages to fatten, and that they would soon recover our ill got treasure. Sometimes they adjured us in the most plaintive terms to restore their king to liberty, and they annoyed us without ceasing by flights of arrows, constantly shouting and whistling. On the ensuing morning at day-break, having first recommended ourselves to GOD, we sallied out from our quarters with the turrets, such as I have seen in other places, and called mantas or burros. Our column was headed by a party of musketeers and crossbow-men, and our cavalry on our flanks, occasionally charging the enemy. Our purpose was to assail the great temple, which by its elevation and strong enclosures, served as a citadel to the Mexicans, and we advanced therefore in that direction, accompanied by our turrets; but the enemy resisted all our efforts with the most determined obstinacy. I will not attempt to relate all the circumstances of this desperate battle, or the difficulty which we had to encounter in driving the enemy from a very strong house which they occupied. The arrows of the Mexicans wounded many of our horses, notwithstanding that they wore defensive armour; and when our cavalry attempted at any time to charge or to pursue the enemy, they threw themselves into the canals, while others sallied out from the houses on both sides with long lances, assailing our people in the rear and on both flanks. It was utterly impossible for us to burn the houses, or to pull them down, as they all stood singly in the water, communicating only by means of draw-bridges; and it was too dangerous for us to attempt reaching them by swimming, as they showered vollies of stones upon us by slings, and threw large stones upon our heads from the terraces of their house tops. Even when a house was set on fire, it was very long of taking effect; and even when we succeeded, the flames could not communicate to the other houses, as they were all separated by canals, and their roofs were terraced, not thatched.

At length we reached the great temple, into which four thousand of the Mexicans immediately rushed, independent of other large bodies who were previously stationed there for its defence. They defended their temple with the most obstinate valour, and for some time prevented us from being able to ascend, our turrets, musketry, and cavalry, being of no avail to force them to give ground. The pavements of the temple courts were so smooth, that the horses fell when our cavalry attempted to charge. They opposed us in front from the steps of the great temple, and assailed us with such fury on both flanks and in the rear, that though our guns swept off a dozen or fifteen of them at every discharge, and though in each charge of our infantry we killed many of them with our swords and lances, they continually filled up the chasms we had made among them, and their numbers and resolution were so great that we could not make any permanent or effectual impression. We were even forced to abandon our mantas or turrets, which the enemy had demolished. At length, by a desperate effort, we forced our way up the steps, and in this assault Cortes shewed himself a hero. Our battle in this place was most desperate, every man among us being covered with blood, and above forty of our number lay dead on the spot. We reached with infinite difficulty the place where we had formerly set up the image of the blessed Virgin, which was not to be found, as it had been removed by order of Montezuma, either through fear or from devotion to his idols. We set fire to the buildings, and burnt down a part of the temples of Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca; and while some of us were employed in setting fire to the buildings, and others fighting, in which our Tlascalan allies seconded us most gallantly, above three thousand Mexican nobles, headed by their priests, made a most severe attack, and drove us down eight or ten of the steps. Others of the enemy from the corridors, or within the railings and concavities of the temple, assailed us on every side with arrows and other missiles, so that we were unable even to maintain the ground we had gained. We were constrained therefore to retreat, every man of us being wounded, and forty-six of our number slain. We regained our quarters with the utmost difficulty, which the enemy had almost gained possession of, as they had been continually endeavouring to carry them by assault during our absence, or to set them on fire. But they desisted in a great measure from the assault on our arrival, yet continued to throw in perpetual showers of arrows, darts, and stones. In the course of this most terrible engagement, we made two of the chief priests prisoners, whom we carried along with us to our quarters. I have often seen representations of this battle in Mexican paintings, both at Mexico and Tlascala, in which the various incidents were represented in a very lively manner. Our ascent to the great temple; the setting the temple on fire; the numerous warriors defending it in the corridors, from behind the rails, and in the concavities, and others on the plain ground, in the courts of the temple, and on all sides of us; many of our men being represented as dead, and all of us covered with wounds. In these paintings, the destruction of our turrets is conspicuously represented as a most heroic achievement.

The night which succeeded this unfortunate battle was passed by us in a most melancholy state; repairing the breaches which had been made in the walls of our quarters, dressing our wounds, burying our slain companions, and consulting upon measures for extricating us from our present almost hopeless situation. The followers of Narvaez heaped maledictions on Cortes for leading them to Mexico, and Velasquez came in for an ample share of their abuse, for having induced them to quit their peaceful habitations in Cuba. The enemy assembled around us again at day-break, and assailed our quarters with greater fury than ever, insomuch that our fire-arms were insufficient to repel them, though they mowed them down in great numbers. In this desperate situation, Cortes sent for Montezuma, whom he desired to address his subjects from a terrace, desiring them to desist from their attacks, assuring them that we would immediately evacuate the city. On receiving this message, Montezuma burst into tears, exclaiming, "What does he want with me now? I have been reduced to my present unhappy state on his account, and I neither wish to see him nor to live any longer?" He therefore dismissed the messengers with a refusal, and it is reported that he added, that he desired not to be any more troubled with the false words and specious promises of Cortes. Father Olmedo and Captain De Oli went to wait upon him, and used all possible expressions of respect and affection to induce him to comply with the request of Cortes. To this he replied, that he did not believe any thing he could now do would be of any avail, as the Mexicans had elected another sovereign, and were resolved not to allow a single Spaniard to quit the city alive. He made his appearance however at the railing of a terraced roof, attended by many of our soldiers, and made a very affectionate address to the people below, earnestly entreating a cessation of hostilities, that we might evacuate Mexico. As soon as Montezuma was perceived, the chiefs and nobles made their troops to desist from the attack, and commanded silence. Then four of the principal nobles came forwards, so near as to be able to hold conversation with Montezuma whom they addressed, lamenting the misfortunes which had befallen him and his family. They told him that they had raised Cuitlahuatzin27 to the throne; that the war would soon be ended, as they had promised to their gods never to desist till they had utterly destroyed the Spaniards; that they offered up continual prayers for the safety of Montezuma their beloved sovereign, whom they would venerate and obey as formerly, as soon as they had rescued him from our hands, and hoped he would pardon all they had done for the defence of their religion and independence, and their present disobedience. Just as they concluded this address, a shower of arrows fell about the place where Montezuma stood; and though the Spaniards had hitherto protected him by interposing their shields, they did not expect any assault while he was speaking to his subjects, and had therefore uncovered him for an instant; in that unguarded state, three stones and an arrow hit him on the head, the arm, and the leg, wounding him severely. Montezuma refused every assistance, and all the endeavours of Father Olmedo could not prevail upon him to embrace the holy Catholic faith, neither could he be prevailed upon to have his wounds attended to. When informed of his death, Cortes and our captains lamented him exceedingly, and all of us soldiers who had been acquainted with his generosity and other amiable qualities, grieved as for the loss of a father. He was said to have reigned seventeen years, and to have been the best of all the sovereigns who had ruled over Mexico; having fought and conquered in three pitched battles, while subjugating other states to his dominions.

After the death of Montezuma, Cortes sent two of our prisoners, a nobleman and a priest, with a message to the new sovereign Cuitlahuatzin, to inform him of the melancholy event, which had happened by the hands of his own subjects; to express our grief on the occasion; and our wish that Montezuma might be interred with that respect which was due to his exalted character. Cortes likewise informed these messengers, that he did not acknowledge the right of the sovereign whom the Mexicans had chosen, as the throne ought to belong to the son of the great Montezuma, or to his cousin, who was now a prisoner in our quarters. He desired them also to say, if they would desist from hostilities, we would immediately march out of their city. He then ordered the body of Montezuma to be carried out by six nobles, and attended by most of the priests whom we had taken prisoners, desiring them to deliver the body of their deceased monarch to the Mexican chiefs, according to his dying injunctions. We could hear the exclamations of sorrow which were expressed by the people, at the sight of the body of their late sovereign; but our message was unavailing, as they recommenced their attack on our quarters with the utmost violence, threatening that in two days we should all pay with our lives for the death of their king and the dishonour of their gods, as they had now a sovereign whom we could not deceive as we had done by the good Montezuma.

Our situation was now exceedingly alarming, and on the day after the death of Montezuma, we made another sally towards that part of the city which contained many houses built on the firm ground, meaning to do all the injury we could, and, taking advantage of the causeway, to charge through the enemy with our cavalry, hoping to intimidate them by severe military execution, so as to induce them to grant us a free passage; we accordingly forced our way to that part of the city, where we burnt down about twenty houses, and very nearly reached the firm land28. But the injury we did the enemy was dearly purchased by the death of twenty of our soldiers, and we were unable to gain possession of any of the bridges, which were all partly broken down, and the enemy had constructed barricades or retrenchments in various places to obstruct the cavalry, wherever they could have done most essential service. Thus our troubles and perplexities continually increased, and we were forced again to fight our way back to our quarters. In this sally, which took place on a Thursday, Sandoval and others of our cavalry acted with great bravery; but those who came with Narvaez, not having been accustomed to such service, were timorous in comparison with our veterans. The number and fury of our enemies increased daily, while our force was diminished by each successive attack, and from our wounds we were become less able for resistance. Our powder was almost entirely expended; provisions and water became scarce; our friend Montezuma was no more; all our proposals for peace were rejected; the bridges by which we might have retreated were broken down; and in fine nothing but death in its direst form of immolation to their horrible idols appeared before us. In this state almost bordering on despair, it was resolved by Cortes in a consultation with all his confidential officers and soldiers, to make an attempt to quit the city during the night, as we were in expectation to find the enemy less upon their guard than in the day time. In order to deceive them, a message was sent by one of their chief priests who had been made prisoner, engaging to give up all the treasure in our possession, if they would give us permission within eight days to quit the city. Four days before this, one Botello, who pretended to be an astrologer, predicted that if we did not leave Mexico on this very night, that none of us would ever get out of it alive, adding many other foolish particulars to his prophecy.

As it was determined to endeavour to force our way from the city, a portable bridge of very strong timber was prepared for enabling us to pass over the canals or passages in the causeway, where the enemy had broken down the bridges; and one hundred and fifty of our soldiers, with four hundred Tlascalan allies, were appointed for conveying, guarding, and placing this bridge. The advanced guard of an hundred of our youngest and most active men, was commanded by Sandoval, assisted by Azevedo, De Lugo, De Ordas, and De Tapia, with eight of the captains that came with Narvaez. The rear guard of an hundred men, mostly those of Narvaez, and the greater part of our cavalry, was confided to Alvarado and Velasquez de Leon. Donna Marina and Donna Luisa, with the Mexican chiefs who were prisoners, were placed under an escort of thirty Spanish soldiers and three hundred Tlascalans: Our general, with Avila, Oli, and other officers, and fifty soldiers, formed a body of reserve to act where they might be most needed. The rest of our soldiers and allies, with the baggage, formed a main body along with which the prisoners and their especial escort was to move, under protection of the van and rear guards. By the time that all these arrangements were completed, it drew towards night, and Cortes caused all the gold, which had hitherto been kept in his apartment, to be brought into the great hall of our quarters, when he desired Avila and Mexia, the kings officers, to take charge of what belonged to his majesty, assigning them eight wounded horses and above fourscore Mexicans for its conveyance. When these were loaded with all the gold they were able to carry, a great deal more remained heaped up in the saloon. Cortes then desired his secretary Hernandez and other notaries to bear witness that he could no longer be responsible for this gold; and desired the soldiers to take as much as they pleased, saying it were better for them to have it, than to leave it to their Mexican enemies. Upon this many of the soldiers of Narvaez, and some even of our veterans, loaded themselves with treasure. I was never avaricious, and was now more intent on saving my life than on the possession of riches: I took the opportunity, however, of carrying off four calchihuis from a casket, though Cortes had ordered his major-domo to take especial care of this casket and its contents, and these jewels were of infinite use to me afterwards, as a resource against famine, as they are highly prized by the Indians. The memorable night of our leaving Mexico, was dark, with much mist and some rain. Just before midnight, the detachment having charge of the portable bridge moved off from our quarters, followed in regular succession by the other divisions of our army. On coming to the first aperture in the causeway of Tacuba or Tlacopan, by which we retreated as being the shortest, the bridge was laid across, and was passed by the vanguard, the baggage, artillery, part of the cavalry, the Tlascalans with the gold. Just as Sandoval and his party had passed, and Cortes with his body of reserve, the trumpets of the enemy were heard, and the alarm was given on every side, the Mexicans shouting out, "Tlaltelulco! Tlaltelulco29! out with your canoes! the teules are marching off, assail them at the bridges!" In an instant the enemy assailed us on every side, some on the land and others in their canoes, which swarmed on the lake and the canals on both sides of our road, and so numerous were they and so determined that they entirely intercepted our line of march, especially at the broken bridges, and from this moment nothing but confusion and dismay prevailed among our troops. It rained so heavily that some of the horses became restive and plunged into the water with their riders; and to add to our distress our portable bridge was broken down at this first gap, and it was no longer serviceable. The enemy attacked us with redoubled fury, and as our soldiers made a brave resistance, the aperture became soon choked up with the dead and dying men and horses, intermixed with artillery, packs and bales of baggage, and those who carried them, all heaped up in the water. Many of our companions were drowned at this place, and many were forced into canoes and hurried away to be sacrificed. It was horrible to hear the cries of these unfortunate captives, calling upon us for aid which we were unable to give, and invoking the blessed Virgin and all the saints in vain for deliverance. Others of our companions escaped across those gaps in the causeway, by clambering over the confused mass of dead bodies and luggage by which they were filled, and were calling out for assistance to help them up on the other side; while many of them, thinking themselves in safety when they got to the firm ground, were there seized by the Mexicans, or killed with war clubs. All the regularity which had hitherto guided our march was now utterly lost and abandoned. Cortes and all the mounted officers and soldiers galloped off along the causeway, providing for their own immediate safety, and leaving all the rest to save ourselves as we best might: Nor can I blame them for this procedure, as the cavalry could do nothing against the enemy, who threw themselves into the water on both sides of the causeway when attacked, while others, by continual flights of arrows from the houses, or with long lances from the canoes on each side, killed and wounded the men and horses. Our powder was all expended, so that we were unable to do any injury to the Mexicans in the canoes. In this situation of utter confusion and derout, the only thing we could do was by uniting together in bands of thirty or forty, to endeavour to force our way to the land: When the Indians closed upon us, we exerted our utmost efforts to drive them off with our swords, and then hurried our march to get over the causeway as soon as possible. Had we waited for each other, or had our retreat been in the day, we had all been inevitably destroyed. The escape of such as made their way to land, was due to the mercy of God who gave us strength to force our way; for the multitudes that surrounded us, and the melancholy sight of our companions hurried away in the canoes to instant sacrifice, was horrible in the extreme. About fifty of us, mostly soldiers of Cortes, with a few of those who came with Narvaez, stuck together in a body, and made our way along the causeway through infinite difficulty and danger. Every now and then strong parties of Indians assailed us, calling us luilones, their severest term of reproach, and using their utmost endeavours to seize us. As soon as we thought them within reach, we faced about and repelled them with a few thrusts of our swords, and then resumed our march. We thus proceeded, until at last we reached the firm ground near Tacuba, where Cortes, Sandoval, De Oli, Salcedo, Dominguez, Lares, and others of the cavalry, and such of the infantry as had got across the bridge before it was broken down, had already arrived30.

On our approach, we heard the voices of Sandoval, De Oli, and Morla, calling on Cortes to return to the assistance of those who were still on the causeway, who loudly complained of being abandoned. Cortes replied, that it was a miracle any should have escaped, and that all who returned to the bridges would assuredly be slain: Yet he actually did return with ten or twelve of the cavalry and such of the infantry as had escaped unhurt, and proceeded along the causeway to attempt the succour of such as might be still engaged. He had not gone far when he met Alvarado badly wounded, accompanied by three of our soldiers, four of those belonging to Narvaez, and eight Tlascalans, all severely wounded and covered with blood. These Alvarado assured him were all that remained of the rear-guard, Velasquez de Leon and about twenty of the cavalry, and above an hundred of the infantry, who had belonged to his division, being all slain, or made prisoners and carried away to be sacrificed. He said farther, that after all the horses were slain, about eighty had assembled in a body and passed the first gap on the heaps of luggage and dead bodies; that at the other bridge the few who now accompanied him were saved by the mercy of God. I do not now perfectly recollect in what manner he passed that last aperture, as we were all more attentive to what he related of the death of Velasquez and above two hundred of our unhappy companions. As to that last fatal bridge, which is still called Salto de Alvarado, or the Leap of Alvarado, we were too much occupied in saving our own lives to examine whether he leaped much or little. He must, however, have got over on the baggage and dead bodies; for the water was too deep for him to have reached the bottom with his lance, and the aperture was too wide and the sides too high for him to have leaped over, had he been the most active man in the world. In about a year after, when we besieged Mexico, I was engaged with the enemy at that very bridge which was called Alvarados Leap, where the enemy had constructed breastworks and barricades, and we all agreed that the leap was impossible. One Ocampo, a soldier who came with Garay, who used to amuse himself with lampoons, made one on this supposed feat of Alvarado, saying, "That fear made him give that prodigious leap, leaving Velasquez and two hundred more to their fate as he leaped for his life." As Cortes found, by the information of Alvarado, that the causeway was entirely filled by the enemy, who must have intercepted all the rest of our companions, he returned to Tacuba, where all who had escaped were now collected. Messengers had been already sent from Mexico, ordering all the people of Tacuba, Ezcapuzalco, Tenajocan, and other neighbouring cities on that side of the lake, to collect and attack us; and they now began to surround us in the inclosed courts of Popotla where we had taken shelter, harassing us with stones and arrows, and even attacking us with lances, many of which were headed with the swords which we lost during our retreat. We defended ourselves against this attack as well as we could, and made several sallies to drive them off. But, as the enemy continually increased in number, it was determined to endeavour to reach Tlascala, for which purpose we set out under the direction of six or seven of our allies who were well acquainted with the country. After a fatiguing march by an indirect road, during which we were much harassed by the enemy, who plied us with stones and arrows, we reached some houses on a hill near a temple, where we defended ourselves, and took such care as we could of our wounds; but could get no provisions. After the conquest of Mexico, a church was built on the site of this temple, and dedicated to Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, our Lady of Succour, to which many ladies and other inhabitants of Mexico, now go in procession to pay nine days devotion31.

Our wounds had become extremely painful from cold, and want of proper dressings, and we now bound them up as well as we could. We had to deplore the loss of great numbers of our valiant companions, most of the soldiers of Narvaez having lost their lives by being overloaded with gold. Poor Botello the astrologer was killed among the rest. The sons of Montezuma, Cacamatzin who had been prince of Tezcuco, and all the other prisoners, among whom were some Mexican princes, lost their lives on this fatal night of our retreat from Mexico. All our artillery were lost. We had only twenty-three horses remaining, and very few crossbows; and our situation was melancholy and desperate in the extreme, having no other resource but to endeavour to reach Tlascala, and even there our reception was exceedingly uncertain32. After dressing our wounds, and making arrows for our crossbows, during which employment we were incessantly harassed in our present post, we proceeded at midnight on our march, under the direction of our faithful Tlascalans. Some of those who were badly wounded had to walk with the aid of crutches; others were assisted on each side by some of their companions; and those who were utterly unable to support themselves were placed upon lame horses. Thus, making head against the enemy with as many of the infantry as could bear arms, and having the cavalry who were able to act in front and on our flanks, with the wounded Spaniards and allies in the centre, we marched on continually harassed by the enemy, who reviled us, saying that we should soon meet our destruction; words that we did not then understand. I have forgot to mention the satisfaction we all enjoyed at finding Donna Marina and Donna Luisa had been saved in our retreat from Mexico. Having crossed among the first, they had been brought safe to Popotla by the exertions of two brothers of Donna Luisa, all the rest of the female Indians having been lost in the retreat.

On this day we reached a large town named Gualtitlan33. From that place we continued our march, still harassed at every step by the enemy, whose numbers and boldness increased as we advanced, insomuch that they killed two of our lame soldiers and one of our horses at a difficult pass, wounding many both of our horses and ourselves. Having repulsed them, we reached some villages, where we halted for the night, making our supper of the slain horse34. We began our march very early next morning, and had only proceeded about a league, believing ourselves now almost in safety, when three of our videts came in with a report that the whole extent of a plain through which we must necessarily pass was covered over by an innumerable army. This intelligence was truly terrifying to our small numbers, worn out with fatigue and privations, and covered with wounds; yet we resolved to conquer or die, as we had indeed no other alternative. We were immediately halted and formed in order of battle, the infantry being directed to use their swords only in thrusts, by which we exposed ourselves less to the weapons of the enemy, and the cavalry were ordered to charge clear through at half speed, with their lances levelled at the faces of the enemy, never stopping to make thrusts. While recommending ourselves to God and his Holy Mother, and invoking the aid of St Jago, the enemy began to close around us, and we resolved to sell our lives dearly, or force our way through. The infantry being drawn up in a solid column, and our cavalry formed in bodies of five, we proceeded to the attack. It is impossible to describe the tremendous battle which ensued: How we closed hand to hand, and with what fury the enemy attacked us, wounding us with their clubs and lances and two-handed swords; while our cavalry, favoured by the even surface of the plain, rode through them at will with couched lances, bearing down the enemy wherever they came, and fighting most manfully though they and their horses were all wounded. We too of the infantry did our best, regardless of our former wounds and of those we now received, closing up with the enemy, and using every effort to bear them down with our swords. Cortes, Alvarado, and De Oli, though all wounded, continued to make lanes through the throng of the enemy, calling out to us to strike especially at the chiefs, who were easily distinguished by their plumes of feathers, golden ornaments, rich arms, and curious devices. The valiant Sandoval encouraged us by his example and exhortations, exclaiming, "Now is the day of victory! Trust in God, who will still preserve us to do him service." We were all resolute to conquer or die, and were assuredly assisted by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Virgin, and St Jago; as was afterwards certified by a chief belonging to Guatimotzin, who was present in this battle. Though some were killed and many wounded, we continued to maintain our ground, yet the enemy never relaxed in their efforts. At length it was the will of God, that Cortes, accompanied by Sandoval, De Oli, Alvarado, Avila, and other captains, came up to that part of the enemy in which their commander-in-chief was posted, who was distinguished from all the rest by his rich golden arms, and highly adorned plume of feathers, and the grand standard of the army35. Immediately on Cortes perceiving this chief, who was surrounded by many nobles wearing plumes of feathers, he exclaimed to his companions, "Now, gentlemen, let us charge these men, and if we succeed the day is our own." Then, recommending themselves to God, they charged upon them, and Cortes struck the Mexican chief and threw down his standard, he and the other cavaliers effectually breaking and dispersing this numerous body. The Mexican chief, however, was making his escape, but was pursued and slain by Juan de Salamanca, who seized his rich plume of feathers and presented it to Cortes, saying, that as he had first struck the Mexican general and overthrown the standard, the trophy of the conquest was his undoubted right.

It pleased God, that the enemy should relax in their efforts immediately on learning the death of their general and of the numerous chiefs who surrounded him. On perceiving that they began to retreat, we forgot our hunger, thirst, fatigue, and wounds, and thought of nothing but victory and pursuit. Our scanty cavalry followed them up close, dealing destruction around them on every side; and our faithful allies fought like lions, mowing down all before them with the arms which the enemy threw away to facilitate their flight. On the return of our cavalry from the pursuit, we gave humble thanks to God for our unexpected victory and miraculous preservation. Never had the Mexican empire collected together so large a force as on this occasion; being composed of all the warriors of Mexico, Tezcuco, and Tlalcopan, headed by the whole nobility of these nations, magnificently armed and adorned, and all determined not to leave a single trace of us upon earth. This great and decisive battle was fought in the neighbourhood of a place called Obtumba, Otumba, or Otompan. I have frequently seen it, and all the other battles we fought against the Mexicans, antecedent to the final conquest, admirably represented in Mexican paintings. It is now proper to mention, that we entered Mexico to relieve Alvarado on the 24th of June 1520, with upwards of 1300 soldiers, including 97 cavalry, 80 musketeers, and 80 armed with crossbows; having with us a great train of artillery, and 2000 warriors of our allies the Tlascalans. Our flight from Mexico was on the 1st of the succeeding month of July, and the battle of Obtumba on the 4th of that month. In Mexico, during our passage of the causeway, on our march, and in the battle, we lost above 870 soldiers, including 72 of those belonging to Narvaez, and five Spanish women, who were put to death at a place called Tustepeque. Upwards of 1200 of our Tlascalan allies were also killed; as were Juan de Alcantara and two more who had been sent from Chempoalla for the share of the gold assigned to the garrison of Villa Rica, who were robbed and murdered. Upon the whole, all who were concerned in the treasure came to bad fortune; and thus a much greater proportion of the soldiers of Narvaez perished in the flight from Mexico than of our veterans, as they had avariciously loaded themselves with gold on that unhappy night36.



SECTION IX. Expedition of Narvaez to supersede Cortes in the command, and occurrences till the Defeat of that Officer by Cortes at Chempoalla | A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol.IV | SECTION XI. Occurrences from the Battle of Otumba till the march of Cortes to besiege Mexico