On a sweltering day in May of 1539, Hernando de Soto and an army of over 600 soldiers splashed ashore in the Tampa Bay area. They had been ordered by King Charles V of Spain to sail to La Florida and "conquer, populate, and pacify" the land.
But this expedition would never yield the gold and treasure these men so desperately sought. Instead, they marched from one village to the next, taking food and enslaving the native peoples to use as guides and porters. The De Soto expedition would change the face of the American Southeast forever. Ultimately, it was the first hand accounts of survivors, describing the native cultures and the richness of the land, which became the journey's enduring legacy.
The mission of De Soto National Memorial is to preserve the controversial story of this four year, four thousand mile odyssey and interpret its significance in American history.