Juan Pardo

Juan Pardo was a military officer who led Spanish explorations into Georgia and South Carolina in the 1560s, with explicit instructions to record everything he witnessed. Pardo most likely arrived with Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565 to help eject the French from Florida.

Expeditions of 1566-1568: Click Here to see maps of these explorations.

Having ousted the French from Florida, Spanish officials tried to discover what lay between their their new outpost on the Atlantic and their claims in Mexico. With little information about the interior, they suspected that descriptions they heard of the southern Appalachians might refer to the eastern side of the Sierra Madre Oriental, in Mexico. They hoped that a reconnaissance from the east might verify that supposition and also discover silver or gold mines.

Juan Pardo was chosen in 1566 to lead this investigation. He left the Spanish fort of Santa Elena on November 1, 1566, with 125 soldiers and spent eight weeks reconnoitering along the modern Georgia and South Carolina border. In September 1567, on the expedition described here, he pushed further northwest to the Tennessee River in northern Alabama and perhaps as far southwest as the Coosa River. Although he left small detachments of soldiers at garrisons along the route, his failure to find either riches or a route to Mexico gave the Spanish no reason to support them indefinitely, and the soldiers were eventually killed or absorbed into neighboring Indian tribes.

On December 1, 1566, the third Spanish expedition commenced when Juan Pardo left Santa Elena on the South Carolina coast with 125 soldiers. Sent into the interior to further Spain's colonial ambitions and to relieve the food shortage in Santa Elena, Pardo traveled northward. At the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains he built a small stockade, Fort San Juan, at Joara near modern Marion, North Carolina. Pardo garrisoned the fort with thirty men under the command of Sergeant Hernando Moyano de Morales and then explored to the east of Joara before returning to Santa Elena in early March.

While stationed at Fort San Juan, Moyano aided a local chief by taking fifteen soldiers and a force of warriors to attack a rival Chisca town, burning the houses and killing many of the inhabitants. Later Moyano received a threat from a "mountain chief," presumably a Chisca in the vicinity of the Upper Nolichucky River in eastern Tennessee. Moyano responded by attacking a strongly defended settlement with twenty men and perhaps native allies. Two of Hernando de Soto's men had contacted the Chiscas in this area some twenty-seven years earlier.

Moyano then explored the Upper Tennessee Valley for four days for precious metals and gems before arriving at the palisaded main town of Chiaha on Zimmerman's Island in the French Broad River near present-day Dandridge, Tennessee. This town had been visited previously by the Hernando de Soto and Tristan de Luna expeditions. While at Chiaha, Moyano's men were well fed and well treated. Moyano explored the area around Chiaha and built a small fort on the island.

Pardo departed Santa Elena for the interior again on September 1, 1567, with approximately 120 soldiers, harquebusiers, and crossbowmen. Arriving at Fort San Juan, he learned that the Chiahans had confined Moyano and his men to their fort. On his way to relieve Moyano at Chiaha, Pardo stopped at the fortified town of Tanasqui on the French Broad River on October 6. The land around Tanasqui reminded the Spaniards of Andalucia. Proceeding down the French Broad River the next day, they reached Olamico, the fortified principal town of Chiaha. There Pardo found Moyano and his men safe, but restricted to their fort. The Spaniards were impressed with the rich, broad alluvial land at Chiaha and referred to it as a tierra de angeles--a "land of angels."

After resting at Olamico for five days, Pardo struck out for Coosa, passing through several towns. On October 14 the Spaniards saw the highest mountains yet seen during their explorations--the Great Smoky Mountains. At the town of Satapo, near the junction of Citico Creek and the Little Tennessee River, Pardo was warned of a plot forged by the chief of Coosa and his Upper Tennessee Valley allies. The Coosas planned to ambush the Spaniards as they traveled from Chiaha to Coosa. To avoid an attack Pardo returned to Olamico and strengthened the island fort. Pardo and company continued on to Santa Elena, arriving there on March 2, 1568.

Juan de la Bandera was a Spanish notary who compilied the records of Juan Pardo's expeditions with explicit instructions to record everything he witnessed. Almost nothing is known about Juan de la Bandera, but his chronicles are outstanding and provide a lot of information on these early explorations of America. The Wisconsin Historical Society has an English-transcribed version of Juan de la Bandera's accounts of the expeditions of Juan Pardo, and you can go check it out at their webiste:

http://www.americanjourneys.org/aj-139/summary/index.asp - click on Download/Print and find an Adobe PDF file. (Link current as of July 2005 and September 2015- not responsible for outside URL changes)

The Wisconsin Historical Society's Document Note:

This manuscript of this document is preserved in the Spanish Archivo General de Indias. It occupies seventy-one hand-written pages and is dated March 31, 1569. In it Bandera recorded in great detail everything that the expedition saw or did, but he wrote as a legal secretary rather than a literary master. It is translated and printed for the first time in the source presented (in their site). 


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