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Justin Fox

The 1540 Battle That Changed the South

Archaeologists are still looking for exactly where De Soto fought Chief Tascaluca's men.
An engraving shows Hernando de Soto entering Mabila.
Source: Fotosearch/Getty Images

In September 1540, Hernando de Soto and his entourage marched into Talisi -- which these days is known as Tallassee and is about 30 miles northeast of Montgomery in central Alabama. It must have been quite the impressive sight: 600 Spanish soldiers, many on horseback, along with uncounted servants and burden-bearers, plus the chief and other important personages from the Coosa people to the north, whom De Soto had visited previously. There were a few attack dogs, too, and lots and lots of pigs from a Spanish province now famed for its jamón.

Talisi wasn’t too shabby either. A thick-walled town on the banks of the Tallapoosa River, it was in the middle of a rich harvest season. Food was plentiful, and De Soto and his army stuck around for 17 days before venturing into the neighboring territory of Chief Tascaluca.