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 Chief Tuskaloosa

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Chief Tuskaloosa Famous memorial

Birth
Death
18 Oct 1540
Alabama, USA
Burial
Burial Details Unknown
Memorial ID
111727781 View Source

16th Century Native American Leader. His name is derived from the western Muskogean language elements "taska" and "losa," which means "Black Warrior." Also known as Tushkalusa, Tuskalusa, Tastaluca, or Tuskaluza, he was a principal chief of the ancestral Choctaw and Creek Native American confederacies who lived in a series of villages, mostly along the Coosa and Alabama Rivers in what is now the US state of Alabama. Nothing is known of his early life and there was no written documentation of him until the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto came into contact with him in October 1540. In May 1539 de Soto's expedition had landed near Tampa, Florida with about 700 men with heavy armor, equipment, and livestock to sustain a planned four-year expedition and begin a circuitous exploration of modern-day Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, as directed by King Carlos I of Spain, often engaging in violent conflict with the indigenous Native Americans. As they traveled, the expedition's forces would kidnap natives to act as bearers and interpreters of the many different language families of the Native Americans who lived in the Southeast of the present-day US. They would frequently would take a local chief hostage to guarantee safe passage through his territory. By October 1540, de Soto's expedition had reached the middle of modern-day Alabama. According to his chroniclers, the expedition came to the village of Talisi on September 18, 1540, near the modern town of Childersburg, Alabama. The chief of Talisi and his leaders had fled the town before them, but de Soto sent messages to the chief, who returned a week later. Once the Chief of Talisi had showed his obedience by supplying the Spaniards with requested deerskins, food, bearers and women, de Soto released him, whom they had held hostage while traveling through his territory. The expedition remained at Talisi for several weeks and were visited by an envoy from Chief Tuskaloosa, led by his son, with the intention of assessing their strength and to lay an ambush for them. On October 5, 1540 de Soto's expedition departed for Tuskaloosa's village, reaching it four days later. Upon entering the village, de Soto was taken to meet Tuskaloosa. According to some of de Soto's chroniclers, he was well built and stood a foot and a half taller than the Spaniards. De Soto's men mounted their horses and galloped around the plaza in an attempt to intimidate and frighten him by jousting at him with lances but he did not become alarmed. Afterward, when de Soto demanded porters and women from him, he initially refused and de Soto took him hostage and made plans to leave the following day. Tuskaloosa then relented and provided bearers for the expedition but told de Soto that they would have to go to the village of Mabila to receive the women. On October 18 1540, the expedition arrived at Mabila, a small, heavily fortified village situated on a plain with a wooden palisade encircling it and bastions every so often for archers to shoot from. De Soto suspected that something was amiss because the village's population was almost exclusively male, young warriors and men of status. Additionally they noticed the palisade had been recently strengthened, and that everything had been cleared from outside the settlement for the length of a crossbow shot. Outside the palisade in the field, they saw an older warrior encouraging younger men by leading them in mock skirmishes and military exercises. When de Soto and several of his men approached the village, they were greeted by the chief of Mabila with robes of marten skins as a gift. De Soto and several of his men dismounted and entered the town, as the native bearers placed the expedition's supplies next to the palisade. Tuskaloosa told de Soto he was tired of marching and wished to stay in Mabila. De Soto refused, and the chief asked to confer with some of his nobles in one of the large dwellings on the plaza. After a while de Soto sent a man to retrieve him, but he was refused entrance to the house. Tuskaloosa then told de Soto and his expedition to leave in peace, or he would be forced to leave. When de Soto sent men into the house to retrieve the chief, they discovered it was full of armed warriors who were prepared to protect their chief. De Soto then asked the Chief of Mabila to demand the porters promised by Tuskaloosa, and the Spaniards would leave. The Chief refused, and one of de Soto's men grabbed him and in the ensuing scuffle, the chief had his arm cut off. The villagers then retaliated by attacking the Spanish, who bolted for the gate and their horses. Then the natives came from all of the houses and proceeded to attack the expedition, grabbing the provisions and equipment left outside the palisade and bringing them inside the village. After making it outside, de Soto's men regrouped and began to assault the village. After numerous attacks and many hours (the battle lasted eight or nine hours, according to the chroniclers), the Spaniards were able to hack holes into the walls of the palisade and reenter the town and burned it. During the course the battle, an estimated 100 of Tuskaloosa's warriors died, including himself and his son, although Tuskaloosa's body was never found among the dead. Twenty-two of de Soto's men were killed or died in a few days after the battle and 148 were wounded. Forty-five horses were slain, an irreplaceable loss, and all of de Soto's provisions and equipment was consumed in the fire. Although de Soto won the battle, the loss of his supplies and so many horses was a crippling blow to the morale of the expedition. The battle broke the back of the campaign from which they would never fully recover. The present-day city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama is named in his honor.

16th Century Native American Leader. His name is derived from the western Muskogean language elements "taska" and "losa," which means "Black Warrior." Also known as Tushkalusa, Tuskalusa, Tastaluca, or Tuskaluza, he was a principal chief of the ancestral Choctaw and Creek Native American confederacies who lived in a series of villages, mostly along the Coosa and Alabama Rivers in what is now the US state of Alabama. Nothing is known of his early life and there was no written documentation of him until the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto came into contact with him in October 1540. In May 1539 de Soto's expedition had landed near Tampa, Florida with about 700 men with heavy armor, equipment, and livestock to sustain a planned four-year expedition and begin a circuitous exploration of modern-day Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, as directed by King Carlos I of Spain, often engaging in violent conflict with the indigenous Native Americans. As they traveled, the expedition's forces would kidnap natives to act as bearers and interpreters of the many different language families of the Native Americans who lived in the Southeast of the present-day US. They would frequently would take a local chief hostage to guarantee safe passage through his territory. By October 1540, de Soto's expedition had reached the middle of modern-day Alabama. According to his chroniclers, the expedition came to the village of Talisi on September 18, 1540, near the modern town of Childersburg, Alabama. The chief of Talisi and his leaders had fled the town before them, but de Soto sent messages to the chief, who returned a week later. Once the Chief of Talisi had showed his obedience by supplying the Spaniards with requested deerskins, food, bearers and women, de Soto released him, whom they had held hostage while traveling through his territory. The expedition remained at Talisi for several weeks and were visited by an envoy from Chief Tuskaloosa, led by his son, with the intention of assessing their strength and to lay an ambush for them. On October 5, 1540 de Soto's expedition departed for Tuskaloosa's village, reaching it four days later. Upon entering the village, de Soto was taken to meet Tuskaloosa. According to some of de Soto's chroniclers, he was well built and stood a foot and a half taller than the Spaniards. De Soto's men mounted their horses and galloped around the plaza in an attempt to intimidate and frighten him by jousting at him with lances but he did not become alarmed. Afterward, when de Soto demanded porters and women from him, he initially refused and de Soto took him hostage and made plans to leave the following day. Tuskaloosa then relented and provided bearers for the expedition but told de Soto that they would have to go to the village of Mabila to receive the women. On October 18 1540, the expedition arrived at Mabila, a small, heavily fortified village situated on a plain with a wooden palisade encircling it and bastions every so often for archers to shoot from. De Soto suspected that something was amiss because the village's population was almost exclusively male, young warriors and men of status. Additionally they noticed the palisade had been recently strengthened, and that everything had been cleared from outside the settlement for the length of a crossbow shot. Outside the palisade in the field, they saw an older warrior encouraging younger men by leading them in mock skirmishes and military exercises. When de Soto and several of his men approached the village, they were greeted by the chief of Mabila with robes of marten skins as a gift. De Soto and several of his men dismounted and entered the town, as the native bearers placed the expedition's supplies next to the palisade. Tuskaloosa told de Soto he was tired of marching and wished to stay in Mabila. De Soto refused, and the chief asked to confer with some of his nobles in one of the large dwellings on the plaza. After a while de Soto sent a man to retrieve him, but he was refused entrance to the house. Tuskaloosa then told de Soto and his expedition to leave in peace, or he would be forced to leave. When de Soto sent men into the house to retrieve the chief, they discovered it was full of armed warriors who were prepared to protect their chief. De Soto then asked the Chief of Mabila to demand the porters promised by Tuskaloosa, and the Spaniards would leave. The Chief refused, and one of de Soto's men grabbed him and in the ensuing scuffle, the chief had his arm cut off. The villagers then retaliated by attacking the Spanish, who bolted for the gate and their horses. Then the natives came from all of the houses and proceeded to attack the expedition, grabbing the provisions and equipment left outside the palisade and bringing them inside the village. After making it outside, de Soto's men regrouped and began to assault the village. After numerous attacks and many hours (the battle lasted eight or nine hours, according to the chroniclers), the Spaniards were able to hack holes into the walls of the palisade and reenter the town and burned it. During the course the battle, an estimated 100 of Tuskaloosa's warriors died, including himself and his son, although Tuskaloosa's body was never found among the dead. Twenty-two of de Soto's men were killed or died in a few days after the battle and 148 were wounded. Forty-five horses were slain, an irreplaceable loss, and all of de Soto's provisions and equipment was consumed in the fire. Although de Soto won the battle, the loss of his supplies and so many horses was a crippling blow to the morale of the expedition. The battle broke the back of the campaign from which they would never fully recover. The present-day city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama is named in his honor.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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