Hinojosa was not satisfied; and he immediately wrote to Pizarro, acquainting him with Gasca's arrival and with the object of his mission, at the same time plainly intimating his own conviction that the president had no authority to confirm him in the government. But before the departure of the ship, Gasca secured the services of a Dominican friar, who had taken his passage on board for one of the towns on the coast. This man he intrusted with manifestoes, setting forth the purport of his visit, and proclaiming the abolition of the ordinances, with a free pardon to all who returned to their obedience. He wrote, also, to the prelates and to the corporations of the different cities. The former he requested to cooperate with him in introducing a spirit of loyalty and subordination among the people, while he intimated to the towns his purpose to confer with them hereafter, in order to devise some effectual measures for the welfare of the country. These papers the Dominican engaged to distribute, himself, among the principal cities of the colony; and he faithfully kept his word, though, as it proved, at no little hazard of his life. The seeds thus scattered might many of them fall on barren ground. But the greater part, the president trusted, would take root in the hearts of the people; and he patiently waited for the harvest.
Meanwhile, though he failed to remove the scruples of Hinojosa, the courteous manners of Gasca, and his mild, persuasive discourse, had a visible effect on other individuals with whom he had daily intercourse. Several of these, and among them some of the principal cavaliers in Panama, as well as in the squadron, expressed their willingness to join the royal cause, and aid the president in maintaining it. Gasca profited by their assistance to open a communication with the authorities of Guatemala and Mexico, whom he advised of his mission, while he admonished them to allow no intercourse to be carried on with the insurgents on the coast of Peru. He, at length, also prevailed on the governor of Panama to furnish him with the means of entering into communication with Gonzalo Pizarro himself; and a ship was despatched to Lima, bearing a letter from Charles the Fifth, addressed to that chief, with an epistle also from Gasca.
The emperor's communication was couched in the most condescending and even conciliatory terms. Far from taxing Gonzalo with rebellion, his royal master affected to regard his conduct as in a manner imposed on him by circumstances, especially by the obduracy of the viceroy Nunez in denying the colonists the inalienable right of petition. He gave no intimation of an intent to confirm Pizarro in the government, or, indeed, to remove him from it; but simply referred him to Gasca as one who would acquaint him with the royal pleasure, and with whom he was to cooperate in restoring tranquillity to the country.
Gasca's own letter was pitched on the same politic key. He remarked, however, that the exigencies which had hitherto determined Gonzalo's line of conduct existed no longer. All that had been asked was conceded. There was nothing now to contend for; and it only remained for Pizarro and his followers to show their loyalty and the sincerity of their principles by obedience to the Crown. Hitherto, the president said, Pizarro had been in arms against the viceroy; and the people had supported him as against a common enemy. If he prolonged the contest, that enemy must be his sovereign. In such a struggle, the people would be sure to desert him; and Gasca conjured him, by his honor as a cavalier, and his duty as a loyal vassal, to respect the royal authority, and not rashly provoke a contest which must prove to the world that his conduct hitherto had been dictated less by patriotic motives than by selfish ambition.
This letter, which was conveyed in language the most courteous and complimentary to the subject of it, was of great length. It was accompanied by another much more concise, to Cepeda, the intriguing lawyer, who, as Gasca knew, had the greatest influence over Pizarro, in the absence of Carbajal, then employed in reaping the silver harvest from the newly discovered mines of Potosi.20 In this epistle, Gasca affected to defer to the cunning politician as a member of the Royal Audience, and he conferred with him on the best manner of supplying a vacancy in that body. These several despatches were committed to a cavalier, named Paniagua, a faithful adherent of the president, and one of those who had accompanied him from Castile. To this same emissary he also gave manifestos and letters, like those intrusted to the Dominican, with orders secretly to distribute them in Lima, before he quitted that capital.21
Weeks and months rolled away, while the president still remained at Panama, where, indeed, as his communications were jealously cut off with Peru, he might be said to be detained as a sort of prisoner of state. Meanwhile, both he and Hinojosa were looking with anxiety for the arrival of some messenger from Pizarro, who should indicate the manner in which the president's mission was to be received by that chief. The governor of Panama was not blind to the perilous position in which he was himself placed, nor to the madness of provoking a contest with the Court of Castile. But he had a reluctance—not too often shared by the cavaliers of Peru—to abandon the fortunes of the commander who had reposed in him so great confidence. Yet he trusted that this commander would embrace the opportunity now offered, of placing himself and the country in a state of permanent security.
Several of the cavaliers who had given in their adhesion to Gasca, displeased by this obstinacy, as they termed it, of Hinojosa, proposed to seize his person and then get possession of the armada. But the president at once rejected this offer. His mission, he said, was one of peace, and he would not stain it at the outset by an act of violence. He even respected the scruples of Hinojosa; and a cavalier of so honorable a nature, he conceived, if once he could be gained by fair means, would be much more likely to be true to his interests, than if overcome either by force or fraud. Gasca thought he might safely abide his time. There was policy, as well as honesty, in this; indeed, they always go together.
Meantime, persons were occasionally arriving from Lima and the neighboring places, who gave accounts of Pizarro, varying according to the character and situation of the parties. Some represented him as winning all hearts by his open temper and the politic profusion with which, though covetous of wealth, he distributed repartimientos and favors among his followers. Others spoke of him as carrying matters with a high hand, while the greatest timidity and distrust prevailed among the citizens of Lima. All agreed that his power rested on too secure a basis to be shaken; and that, if the president should go to Lima, he must either consent to become Pizarro's instrument and confirm him in the government, or forfeit his own life.22
It was undoubtedly true, that Gonzalo, while he gave attention, as his friends say, to the public business, found time for free indulgence in those pleasures which wait on the soldier of fortune in his hour of triumph. He was the object of flattery and homage; courted even by those who hated him. For such as did not love the successful chieftain had good cause to fear him; and his exploits were commemorated in romances or ballads, as rivalling—it was not far from truth—those of the most doughty paladins of chivalry.23
Amidst this burst of adulation, the cup of joy commended to Pizarro's lips had one drop of bitterness in it that gave its flavor to all the rest; for, notwithstanding his show of confidence, he looked with unceasing anxiety to the arrival of tidings that might assure him in what light his conduct was regarded by the government at home. This was proved by his jealous precautions to guard the approaches to the coast, and to detain the persons of the royal emissaries. He learned, therefore, with no little uneasiness, from Hinojosa, the landing of President Gasca, and the purport of his mission. But his discontent was mitigated, when he understood that the new envoy had come without military array, without any of the ostentatious trappings of office to impose on the minds of the vulgar, but alone, as it were, in the plain garb of an humble missionary.24 Pizarro could not discern, that under this modest exterior lay a moral power, stronger than his own steel-clad battalions, which, operating silently on public opinion,—the more sure than it was silent,— was even now undermining his strength, like a subterraneous channel eating away the foundations of some stately edifice, that stands secure in its pride of place!
But, although Gonzalo Pizarro could not foresee this result, he saw enough to satisfy him that it would be safest to exclude the president from Peru. The tidings of his arrival, moreover, quickened his former purpose of sending an embassy to Spain to vindicate his late proceedings, and request the royal confirmation of his authority. The person placed at the head of this mission was Lorenzo de Aldana, a cavalier of discretion as well as courage, and high in the confidence of Pizarro, as one of his most devoted partisans. He had occupied some important posts under that chief, one secret of whose successes was the sagacity he showed in the selection of his agents.
Besides Aldana and one or two cavaliers, the bishop of Lima was joined in the commission, as likely, from his position, to have a favorable influence on Gonzalo's fortunes at court. Together with the despatches for the government, the envoys were intrusted with a letter to Gasca from the inhabitants of Lima; in which, after civilly congratulating the president on his arrival, they announce their regret that he had come too late. The troubles of the country were now settled by the overthrow of the viceroy, and the nation was reposing in quiet under the rule of Pizarro. An embassy, they stated, was on its way to Castile, not to solicit pardon, for they had committed no crime,25 but to petition the emperor to confirm their leader in the government, as the man in Peru best entitled to it by his virtues.26 They expressed the conviction that Gasca's presence would only serve to renew the distractions of the country, and they darkly intimated that his attempt to land would probably cost him his life.—The language of this singular document was more respectful than might be inferred from its import. It was dated the 14th of October, 1546, and was subscribed by seventy of the principal cavaliers in the city. It was not improbably dictated by Cepeda, whose hand is visible in most of the intrigues of Pizarro's little court. It is also said, —the authority is somewhat questionable,—that Aldana received instructions from Gonzalo secretly to offer a bribe of fifty thousand pesos de oro to the president, to prevail on him to return to Castile; and in case of his refusal, some darker and more effectual way was to be devised to rid the country of his presence.27
Aldana, fortified with his despatches, sped swiftly on his voyage to Panama. Through him the governor learned the actual state of feeling in the councils of Pizarro; and he listened with regret to the envoy's conviction, that no terms would be admitted by that chief or his companions, that did not confirm him in the possession of Peru.28
Aldana was soon admitted to an audience by the president. It was attended with very different results from what had followed from the conferences with Hinojosa; for Pizarro's envoy was not armed by nature with that stubborn panoply which had hitherto made the other proof against all argument. He now learned with surprise the nature of Gasca's powers, and the extent of the royal concessions to the insurgents. He had embarked with Gonzalo Pizarro on a desperate venture, and he found that it had proved successful. The colony had nothing more, in reason, to demand; and, though devoted in heart to his leader, he did not feel bound by any principle of honor to take part with him, solely to gratify his ambition, in a wild contest with the Crown that must end in inevitable ruin. He consequently abandoned his mission to Castile, probably never very palatable to him, and announced his purpose to accept the pardon proffered by government, and support the president in settling the affairs of Peru. He subsequently wrote, it should be added, to his former commander in Lima, stating the course he had taken, and earnestly recommending the latter to follow his example.
The influence of this precedent in so important a person as Aldana, aided, doubtless, by the conviction that no change was now to be expected in Pizarro, while delay would be fatal to himself, at length prevailed over Hinojosa's scruples, and he intimated to Gasca his willingness to place the fleet under his command. The act was performed with great pomp and ceremony. Some of Pizarro's stanchest partisans were previously removed from the vessels; and on the nineteenth of November, 1546, Hinojosa and his captains resigned their commissions into the hands of the president. They next took the oaths of allegiance to Castile; a free pardon for all past offences was proclaimed by the herald from a scaffold erected in the great square of the city; and the president, greeting them as true and loyal vassals of the Crown, restored their several commissions to the cavaliers. The royal standard of Spain was then unfurled on board the squadron, and proclaimed that this stronghold of Pizarro's power had passed away from him for ever.29
The return of their commissions to the insurgent captains was a politic act in Gasca. It secured the services of the ablest officers in the country, and turned against Pizarro the very arm on which he had most leaned for support. Thus was this great step achieved, without force or fraud, by Gasca's patience and judicious forecast. He was content to bide his time; and he now might rely with well-grounded confidence on the ultimate success of his mission.
Gasca Assembles His Forces—Defection Of Pizarro's Followers— He Musters His Levies—Agitation In Lima—He Abandons The City— Gasca Sails From Panama—Bloody Battle Of Huarina
No sooner was Gasca placed in possession of Panama and the fleet, than he entered on a more decisive course of policy than he had been hitherto allowed to pursue. He raised levies of men, and drew together supplies from all quarters. He took care to discharge the arrears already due to the soldiers, and promised liberal pay for the future; for, though mindful that his personal charges should cost little to the Crown, he did not stint his expenditure when the public good required it. As the funds in the treasury were exhausted, he obtained loans on the credit of the government from the wealthy citizens of Panama, who, relying on his good faith, readily made the necessary advances. He next sent letters to the authorities of Guatemala and Mexico, requiring their assistance in carrying on hostilities, if necessary, against the insurgents; and he despatched a summons, in like manner, to Benalcazar, in the provinces north of Peru, to meet him, on his landing in that country, with his whole available force.
The greatest enthusiasm was shown by the people of Panama in getting the little navy in order for his intended voyage; and prelates and commanders did not disdain to prove their loyalty by taking part in the good work, along with the soldiers and sailors.1 Before his own departure, however, Gasca proposed to send a small squadron of four ships under Aldana, to cruise off the port of Lima, with instructions to give protection to those well affected to the royal cause, and receive them, if need be, on board his vessels. He was also intrusted with authenticated copies of the president's commission, to be delivered to Gonzalo Pizarro, that the chief might feel, there was yet time to return before the gates of mercy were closed against him.2
While these events were going on, Gasca's proclamations and letters were doing their work in Peru. It required but little sagacity to perceive that the nation at large, secured in the protection of person and property, had nothing to gain by revolution. Interest and duty, fortunately, now lay on the same side; and the ancient sentiment of loyalty, smothered for a time, but not extinguished, revived in the breasts of the people. Still this was not manifested, at once, by any overt act; for, under a strong military rule, men dared hardly think for themselves, much less communicate their thoughts to one another. But changes of public opinion, like changes in the atmosphere that come on slowly and imperceptibly, make themselves more and more widely felt, till, by a sort of silent sympathy, they spread to the remotest corners of the land. Some intimations of such a change of sentiment at length found their way to Lima, although all accounts of the president's mission had been jealously excluded from that capital. Gonzalo Pizarro himself became sensible of these symptoms of disaffection, though almost too faint and feeble, as yet, for the most experienced eye to descry in them the coming tempest.
Several of the president's proclamations had been forwarded to Gonzalo by his faithful partisans; and Carbajal, who had been summoned from Potosi, declared they were "more to be dreaded than the lances of Castile." 3 Yet Pizarro did not, for a moment, lose his confidence in his own strength; and with a navy like that now in Panama at his command, he felt he might bid defiance to any enemy on his coasts. He had implicit confidence in the fidelity of Hinojosa.
It was at this period that Paniagua arrived off the port with Gasca's despatches to Pizarro, consisting of the emperor's letter and his own. They were instantly submitted by that chieftain to his trusty counsellors, Carbajal and Cepeda, and their opinions asked as to the course to be pursued. It was the crisis of Pizarro's fate.
Carbajal, whose sagacious eye fully comprehended the position in which they stood, was in favor of accepting the royal grace on the terms proposed; and he intimated his sense of their importance by declaring, that "he would pave the way for the bearer of them into the capital with ingots of gold and silver." 4 Cepeda was of a different way of thinking. He was a judge of the Royal Audience; and had been sent to Peru as the immediate counsellor of Blasco Nunez. But he had turned against the viceroy, had encountered him in battle, and his garments might be said to be yet wet with his blood! What grace was there, then, for him? Whatever respect might be shown to the letter of the royal provisions, in point of fact, he must ever live under the Castilian rule a ruined man. He accordingly, strongly urged the rejection of Gasca's offers. "They will cost you your government," he said to Pizarro; "the smooth-tongued priest is not so simple a person as you take him to be. He is deep and politic.5 He knows well what promises to make; and, once master of the country, he will know, too, how to keep them."
Carbajal was not shaken by the arguments or the sneers of his companions; and as the discussion waxed warm, Cepeda taxed his opponent with giving counsel suggested by fears for his own safety,—a foolish taunt, sufficiently disproved by the whole life of the doughty old warrior, Carbajal did not insist further on his own views, however, as he found them unwelcome to Pizarro, and contented himself with coolly remarking, that "he had, indeed, no relish for rebellion; but he had as long a neck for a halter, he believed, as any of his companions; and as he could hardly expect to live much longer, at any rate, it was, after all, of little moment to him." 6
Pizarro, spurred on by a fiery ambition that overleaped every obstacle,7 did not condescend to count the desperate chances of a contest with the Crown. He threw his own weight into the scale with Cepeda. The offer of grace was rejected; and he thus cast away the last tie which held him to his country, and, by the act, proclaimed himself a rebel.8
It was not long after the departure of Paniagua, that Pizarro received tidings of the defection of Aldana and Hinojosa, and of the surrender of the fleet, on which he had expended an immense sum, as the chief bulwark of his power. This unwelcome intelligence was followed by accounts of the further defection of some of the principal towns in the north, and of the assassination of Puelles, the faithful lieutenant to whom he had confided the government of Quito. It was not very long, also, before he found his authority assailed in the opposite quarter at Cuzco; for Centeno, the loyal chieftain who, as the reader may remember, had been driven by Carbajal to take refuge in a cave near Arequipa, had issued from his concealment after remaining there a year, and, on learning the arrival of Gasca, had again raised the royal standard. Then collecting a small body of followers, and falling on Cuzco by night, he made himself master of that capital, defeated the garrison who held it, and secured it for the Crown. Marching soon after into the province of Charcas, the bold chief allied himself with the officer who commanded for Pizarro in La Plata; and their combined forces, to the number of a thousand, took up a position on the borders of Lake Titicaca, where the two cavaliers coolly waited an opportunity to take the field against their ancient commander.
Gonzalo Pizarro, touched to the heart by the desertion of those in whom he most confided, was stunned by the dismal tidings of his losses coming so thick upon him. Yet he did not waste his time in idle crimination or complaint; but immediately set about making preparations to meet the storm with all his characteristic energy. He wrote, at once to such of his captains as he believed still faithful, commanding them to be ready with their troops to march to his assistance at the shortest notice. He reminded them of their obligations to him, and that their interests were identical with his own. The president's commission, he added, had been made out before the news had reached Spain of the battle of Ariaquito, and could never cover a pardon to those concerned in the death of the viceroy.9
Pizarro was equally active in enforcing his levies in the capital, and in putting them in the best fighting order. He soon saw himself at the head of a thousand men, beautifully equipped, and complete in all their appointments; "as gallant an array," says an old writer, "though so small in number, as ever trod the plains of Italy,"—displaying in the excellence of their arms, their gorgeous uniforms, and the caparisons of their horses, a magnificence that could be furnished only by the silver of Peru.10 Each company was provided with a new stand of colors, emblazoned with its peculiar device. Some bore the initials and arms of Pizarro, and one or two of these were audaciously surmounted by a crown, as if to intimate the rank to which their commander might aspire.11
Among the leaders most conspicuous on this occasion was Cepeda, "who," in the words of a writer of his time, "had exchanged the robe of the licentiate for the plumed casque and mailed harness of the warrior." 12 But the cavalier to whom Pizarro confided the chief care of organizing his battalions was the veteran Carbajal, who had studied the art of war under the best captains of Europe, and whose life of adventure had been a practical commentary on their early lessons. It was on his arm that Gonzalo most leaned in the hour of danger; and well had it been for him, if he had profiled by his counsels at an earlier period.
It gives one some idea of the luxurious accommodations of Pizarro's forces, that he endeavored to provide each of his musketeers with a horse. The expenses incurred by him were enormous. The immediate cost of his preparations, we are told, was not less than half a million of pesos de oro; and his pay to the cavaliers, and, indeed, to the common soldiers, in his little army, was on an extravagant scale, nowhere to be met with but on the silver soil of Peru.13
When his own funds were exhausted, he supplied the deficiency by fines imposed on the rich citizens of Lima as the price of exemption from service, by forced loans, and various other schemes of military exaction.14 From this time, it is said, the chieftain's temper underwent a visible change.15 He became more violent in his passions, more impatient of control, and indulged more freely in acts of cruelty and license. The desperate cause in which he was involved made him reckless of consequences. Though naturally frank and confiding, the frequent defection of his followers filled him with suspicion. He knew not in whom to confide. Every one who showed himself indifferent to his cause, or was suspected of being so, was dealt with as an open enemy. The greatest distrust prevailed in Lima. No man dared confide in his neighbor. Some concealed their effects; others contrived to elude the vigilance of the sentinels, and hid themselves in the neighboring woods and mountains.16 No one was allowed to enter or leave the city without a license. All commerce, all intercourse, with other places was cut off. It was long since the fifth belonging to the Crown had been remitted to Castile; as Pizarro had appropriated them for his own use. He now took possession of the mints, broke up the royal stamps, and issued a debased coin, emblazoned with his own cipher.17 It was the most decisive act of sovereignty.
At this gloomy period, the lawyer Cepeda contrived a solemn farce, the intent of which was to give a sort of legal sanction to the rebel cause in the eyes of the populace. He caused a process to be prepared against Gasca, Hinojosa, and Aldana, in which they were accused of treason against the existing government of Peru, were convicted, and condemned to death. This instrument he submitted to a number of jurists in the capital, requiring their signatures. But they had no mind thus inevitably to implicate themselves, by affixing their names to such a paper; and they evaded it by representing, that it would only serve to cut off all chance, should any of the accused be so disposed, of their again embracing the cause they had deserted. Cepeda was the only man who signed the document. Carbajal treated the whole thing with ridicule. "What is the object of your process?" said he to Cepeda. "Its object," replied the latter, "is to prevent delay, that, if taken at any time, the guilty party may be at once led to execution." "I cry you mercy," retorted Carbajal; "I thought there must be some virtue in the instrument, that would have killed them outright. Let but one of these same traitors fall into my hands, and I will march him off to execution, without waiting for the sentence of a court, I promise you!" 18
While this paper war was going on, news was brought that Aldana's squadron was off the port of Callao. That commander had sailed from Panama, the middle of February, 1547. On his passage down the coast he had landed at Truxillo, where the citizens welcomed him with enthusiasm, and eagerly proclaimed their submission to the royal authority. He received, at the same time, messages from several of Pizarro's officers in the interior, intimating their return to their duty, and their readiness to support the president. Aldana named Caxamalca as a place of rendezvous, where they should concentrate their forces, and wait the landing of Gasca. He then continued his voyage towards Lima.
No sooner was Pizarro informed of his approach, than, fearful lest it might have a disastrous effect in seducing his followers from their fidelity, he marched them about a league out of the city, and there encamped. He was two leagues from the coast, and he posted a guard on the shore to intercept all communication with the vessels. Before leaving the capital, Cepeda resorted to an expedient for securing the inhabitants more firmly, as he conceived, in Pizarro's interests. He caused the citizens to be assembled, and made them a studied harangue, in which he expatiated on the services of their governor, and the security which the country had enjoyed under his rule. He then told them that every man was at liberty to choose for himself; to remain under the protection of their present ruler, or, if they preferred, to transfer their allegiance to his enemy. He invited them to speak their minds, but required every one who would still continue under Pizarro to take an oath of fidelity to his cause, with the assurance, that, if any should be so false hereafter as to violate this pledge, he should pay for it with his life.19 There was no one found bold enough—with his head thus in the lion's mouth—to swerve from his obedience to Pizarro; and every man took the oath prescribed, which was administered in the most solemn and imposing form by the licentiate. Carbajal, as usual, made a jest of the whole proceeding. "How long," he asked his companion, "do you think these same oaths will stand? The first wind that blows off the coast after we are gone will scatter them in air!" His prediction was soon verified.
Meantime, Aldana anchored off the port, where there was no vessel of the insurgents to molest him. By Cepeda's advice, some four or five had been burnt a short time before, during the absence of Carbajal, in order to cut off all means by which the inhabitants could leave the place. This was deeply deplored by the veteran soldier on his return. "It was destroying," he said, "the guardian angels of Lima." 20 And certainly, under such a commander, they might now have stood Pizarro in good stead; but his star was on the wane.
The first act of Aldana was to cause the copy of Gasca's powers, with which he had been intrusted, to be conveyed to his ancient commander, by whom it was indignantly torn in pieces. Aldana next contrived, by means of his agents, to circulate among the citizens, and even the soldiers of the camp, the president's manifestoes. They were not long in producing their effect. Few had been at all aware of the real purport of Gasca's mission, of the extent of his powers, or of the generous terms offered by government. They shrunk from the desperate course into which they had been thus unwarily seduced, and they sought only in what way they could, with least danger, extricate themselves from their present position, and return to their allegiance. Some escaped by night from the camp, eluded the vigilance of the sentinels, and effected their retreat on board the vessels. Some were taken, and found no quarter at the hands of Carbajal and his merciless ministers. But, where the spirit of disaffection was abroad, means of escape were not wanting.
As the fugitives were cut off from Lima and the neighboring coast, they secreted themselves in the forests and mountains, and watched their opportunity for making their way to Truxilla and other ports at a distance; and so contagious was the example, that it not unfrequently happened that the very soldiers sent in pursuit of the deserters joined with them. Among those that fled was the Licentiate Carbajal, who must not be confounded with his military namesake. He was the same cavalier whose brother had been put to death in Lima by Blasco Nunez, and who revenged himself, as we have seen, by imbruing his own hands in the blood of the viceroy. That a person thus implicated should trust to the royal pardon showed that no one need despair of it; and the example proved most disastrous to Pizarro.21
Carbajal, who made a jest of every thing, even of the misfortunes which pinched him the sharpest, when told of the desertion of his comrades, amused himself by humming the words of a popular ditty:—
"The wind blows the hairs off my head, mother; Two at a time, it blows them away!" 22
But the defection of his followers made a deeper impression on Pizarro, and he was sorely distressed as he beheld the gallant array, to which he had so confidently looked for gaining his battles, thus melting away like a morning mist. Bewildered by the treachery of those in whom he had most trusted, he knew not where to turn, nor what course to take. It was evident that he must leave his present dangerous quarters without loss of time. But whither should he direct his steps? In the north, the great towns had abandoned his cause, and the president was already marching against him; while Centeno held the passes of the south, with a force double his own. In this emergency, he at length resolved to occupy Arequipa, a seaport still true to him, where he might remain till he had decided on some future course of operations.
After a painful but rapid march, Gonzalo arrived at this place, where he was speedily joined by a reinforcement that he had detached for the recovery of Cuzco. But so frequent had been the desertions from both companies,—though in Pizarro's corps these had greatly lessened since the departure from the neighborhood of Lima,—that his whole number did not exceed five hundred men, less than half of the force which he had so recently mustered in the capital. To such humble circumstances was the man now reduced, who had so lately lorded it over the land with unlimited sway! Still the chief did not despond. He had gathered new spirit from the excitement of his march and his distance from Lima; and he seemed to recover his former confidence, as he exclaimed,—"It is misfortune that teaches us who are our friends. If but ten only remain true to me, fear not but I will again be master of Peru!" 23
No sooner had the rebel forces withdrawn from the neighborhood of Lima, than the inhabitants of that city, little troubled, as Carbajal had predicted, by their compulsory oaths of allegiance to Pizarro, threw open their gates to Aldana, who took possession of this important place in the name of the president. That commander, meanwhile, had sailed with his whole fleet from Panama, on the tenth of April, 1547. The first part of his voyage was prosperous; but he was soon perplexed by contrary currents, and the weather became rough and tempestuous. The violence of the storm continuing day after day, the sea was lashed into fury, and the fleet was tossed about on the billows, which ran mountain high, as if emulating the wild character of the region they bounded. The rain descended in torrents, and the lightning was so incessant, that the vessels, to quote the lively language of the chronicler, "seemed to be driving through seas of flame!" 24 The hearts of the stoutest mariners were filled with dismay. They considered it hopeless to struggle against the elements, and they loudly demanded to return to the continent, and postpone the voyage till a more favorable season of the year.
But the president saw in this the ruin of his cause, as well as of the loyal vassals who had engaged, on his landing, to support it. "I am willing to die," he said, "but not to return"; and, regardless of the remonstrances of his more timid followers, he insisted on carrying as much sail as the ships could possibly bear, at every interval of the storm.25 Meanwhile, to divert the minds of the seamen from their present danger, Gasca amused them by explaining some of the strange phenomena exhibited by the ocean in the tempest, which had filled their superstitious minds with mysterious dread.26
Signals had been given for the ships to make the best of their way, each for itself, to the island of Gorgona. Here they arrived, one after another, with but a single exception, though all more or less shattered by the weather. The president waited only for the fury of the elements to spend itself, when he again embarked, and, on smoother waters, crossed over to Manta. From this place he soon after continued his voyage to Tumbez, and landed at that port on the thirteenth of June. He was everywhere received with enthusiasm, and all seemed anxious to efface the remembrance of the past by professions of future fidelity to the Crown. Gasca received, also, numerous letters of congratulation from cavaliers in the interior, most of whom had formerly taken service under Pizarro. He made courteous acknowledgments for their offers of assistance, and commanded them to repair to Caxamalca, the general place of rendezvous.
To this same spot he sent Hinojosa, so soon as that officer had disembarked with the land forces from the fleet, ordering him to take command of the levies assembled there, and then join him at Xauxa. Here he determined to establish his headquarters. It lay in a rich and abundant territory, and by its central position afforded a point for acting with greatest advantage against the enemy.
He then moved forward, at the head of a small detachment of cavalry, along the level road on the coast towards Truxillo. After halting for a short time in that loyal city, he traversed the mountain range on the southeast, and soon entered the fruitful valley of Xauxa. There he was presently joined by reinforcements from the north, as well as from the principal places on the coast; and, not long after his arrival, received a message from Centeno, informing him that he held the passes by which Gonzalo Pizarro was preparing to make his escape from the country, and that the insurgent chief must soon fall into his hands.
The royal camp was greatly elated by these tidings. The war, then, was at length terminated, and that without the president having been called upon so much as to lift his sword against a Spaniard. Several of his counsellors now advised him to disband the greater part of his forces, as burdensome and no longer necessary. But the president was too wise to weaken his strength before he had secured the victory. He consented, however, to countermand the requisition for levies from Mexico and the adjoining colonies, as now feeling sufficiently strong in the general loyalty of the country. But, concentrating his forces at Xauxa, he established his quarters in that town, as he had first intended, resolved to await there tidings of the operations in the south. The result was different from what he had expected.27
Pizarro, meanwhile, whom we left at Arequipa, had decided, after much deliberation, to evacuate Peru, and pass into Chili. In this territory, beyond the president's jurisdiction, he might find a safe retreat, The fickle people, he thought, would soon weary of their new ruler; and he would then rally in sufficient strength to resume active operations for the recovery of his domain. Such were the calculations of the rebel chieftain. But how was he to effect his object, while the passes among the mountains, where his route lay, were held by Centeno with a force more than double his own? He resolved to try negotiation; for that captain had once served under him, and had, indeed, been most active in persuading Pizarro to take on himself the office of procurator. Advancing, accordingly, in the direction of Lake Titicaca, in the neighborhood of which Centeno had pitched his camp, Gonzalo despatched an emissary to his quarters to open a negotiation. He called to his adversary's recollection the friendly relations that had once subsisted between them; and reminded him of one occasion in particular, in which he had spared his life, when convicted of a conspiracy against himself. He harbored no sentiments of unkindness, he said, for Centeno's recent conduct, and had not now come to seek a quarrel with him. His purpose was to abandon Peru; and the only favor he had to request of his former associate was to leave him a free passage across the mountains.
To this communication Centeno made answer in terms as courtly as those of Pizarro himself, that he was not unmindful of their ancient friendship. He was now ready to serve his former commander in any way not inconsistent with honor, or obedience to his sovereign. But he was there in arms for the royal cause, and he could not swerve from his duty. If Pizarro would but rely on his faith and surrender himself up, he pledged his knightly word to use all his interest with the government, to secure as favorable terms for him and his followers as had been granted to the rest of their countrymen.—Gonzalo listened to the smooth promises of his ancient comrade with bitter scorn depicted in his countenance, and, snatching the letter from his secretary, cast it away from him with indignation. There was nothing left but an appeal to arms.28
He at once broke up his encampment, and directed his march on the borders of Lake Titicaca, near which lay his rival. He resorted, however, to stratagem, that he might still, if possible, avoid an encounter. He sent forward his scouts in a different direction from that which he intended to take, and then quickened his march on Huarina. This was a small town situated on the southeastern extremity of Lake Titicaca, the shores of which, the seat of the primitive civilization of the Incas, were soon to resound with the murderous strife of their more civilized conquerors!
But Pizarro's movements had been secretly communicated to Centeno, and that commander, accordingly, changing his ground, took up a position not far from Huarina, on the same day on which Gonzalo reached this place. The videttes of the two camps came in sight of each other that evening, and the rival forces, lying on their arms, prepared for action on the following morning.
It was the twenty-sixth of October, 1547, when the two commanders, having formed their troops in order of battle, advanced to the encounter on the plains of Huarina. The ground, defended on one side by a bold spur of the Andes, and not far removed on the other from the waters of Titicaca, was an open and level plain, well suited to military manoeuvres. It seemed as if prepared by Nature as the lists for an encounter.
Centeno's army amounted to about a thousand men. His cavalry consisted of near two hundred and fifty, well equipped and mounted. Among them were several gentlemen of family, some of whom had once followed the banners of Pizarro; the whole forming an efficient corps, in which rode some of the best lances of Peru. His arquebusiers were less numerous, not exceeding a hundred and fifty, indifferently provided with ammunition. The remainder, and much the larger part of Centeno's army, consisted of spearmen, irregular levies hastily drawn together, and possessed of little discipline.29
This corps of infantry formed the centre of his line, flanked by the arquebusiers in two nearly equal divisions, while his cavalry were also disposed in two bodies on the right and left wings. Unfortunately, Centeno had been for the past week ill of a pleurisy,—so ill, indeed, that on the preceding day he had been bled several times. He was now too feeble to keep his saddle, but was carried in a litter, and when he had seen his men formed in order, he withdrew to a distance from the field, unable to take part in the action. But Solano, the militant bishop of Cuzco, who, with several of his followers, took part in the engagement,— a circumstance, indeed, of no strange occurrence,—rode along the ranks with the crucifix in his hand, bestowing his benediction on the soldiers, and exhorting each man to do his duty.
Pizarro's forces were less than half of his rival's, not amounting to more than four hundred and eighty men. The horse did not muster above eighty-five in all, and he posted them in a single body on the right of his battalion. The strength of his army lay in his arquebusiers, about three hundred and fifty in number. It was an admirable corps, commanded by Carbajal, by whom it had been carefully drilled. Considering the excellence of its arms, and its thorough discipline, this little body of infantry might be considered as the flower of the Peruvian soldiery, and on it Pizarro mainly relied for the success of the day.30 The remainder of his force, consisting of pikemen, not formidable for their numbers, though, like the rest of the infantry, under excellent discipline, he distributed on the left of his musketeers, so as to repel the enemy's horse.
Pizarro himself had charge of the cavalry, taking his place, as usual, in the foremost rank. He was superbly accoutred. Over his shining mail he wore a sobre-vest of slashed velvet of a rich crimson color; and he rode a high-mettled charger, whose gaudy caparisons, with the showy livery of his rider, made the fearless commander the most conspicuous object in the field.
His lieutenant, Carbajal, was equipped in a very different style. He wore armor of proof of the most homely appearance, but strong and serviceable; and his steel bonnet, with its closely barred visor of the same material, protected his head from more than one desperate blow on that day. Over his arms he wore a surcoat of a greenish color, and he rode an active, strong-boned jennet, which, though capable of enduring fatigue, possessed neither grace nor beauty. It would not have been easy to distinguish the veteran from the most ordinary cavalier.
The two hosts arrived within six hundred paces of each other, when they both halted. Carbajal preferred to receive the attack of the enemy, rather than advance further; for the ground he now occupied afforded a free range for his musketry, unobstructed by the trees or bushes that were sprinkled over some other parts of the field. There was a singular motive, in addition, for retaining his present position. The soldiers were encumbered, some with two, some with three, arquebuses each, being the arms left by those who, from time to time, had deserted the camp. This uncommon supply of muskets, however serious an impediment on a march, might afford great advantage to troops waiting an assault; since, from the imperfect knowledge as well as construction of fire-arms at that day, much time was wasted in loading them.31
Preferring, therefore, that the enemy should begin the attack, Carbajal came to a halt, while the opposite squadron, after a short respite, continued their advance a hundred paces farther. Seeing that they then remained immovable. Carbajal detached a small party of skirmishers to the front, in order to provoke them; but it was soon encountered by a similar party of the enemy, and some shots were exchanged, though with little damage to either side. Finding this manoeuvre fail, the veteran ordered his men to advance a few paces, still hoping to provoke his antagonist to the charge. This succeeded. "We lose honor," exclaimed Centeno's soldiers; who, with a bastard sort of chivalry, belonging to undisciplined troops, felt it a disgrace to await an assault. In vain their officers called out to them to remain at their post. Their commander was absent, and they were urged on by the cries of a frantic friar, named Damingo Ruiz, who, believing the Philistines were delivered into their hands, called out,— "Now is the time! Onward, onward, fall on the enemy!" 32 There needed nothing further, and the men rushed forward in tumultuous haste, the pikemen carrying their levelled weapons so heedlessly as to interfere with one another, and in some instances to wound their comrades. The musketeers, at the same time, kept up a disorderly fire as they advanced, which, from their rapid motion and the distance, did no execution.
Carbajal was well pleased to see his enemies thus wasting their ammunition, Though he allowed a few muskets to be discharged, in order to stimulate his opponents the more, he commanded the great body of his infantry to reserve their fire till every shot could take effect. As he knew the tendency of marksmen to shoot above the mark, he directed his men to aim at the girdle, or even a little below it; adding, that a shot that fell short might still do damage, while one that passed a hair's breadth above the head was wasted.33
The veteran's company stood calm and unmoved, as Centeno's rapidly advanced; but when the latter had arrived within a hundred paces of their antagonists, Carbajal gave the word to fire. An instantaneous volley ran along the line, and a tempest of balls was poured into the ranks of the assailants, with such unerring aim, that more than a hundred fell, dead on the field, while a still greater number were wounded. Before they could recover from their disorder, Carbajal's men, snatching up their remaining pieces, discharged them with the like dreadful effect into the thick of the enemy. The confusion of the latter was now complete, Unable to sustain the incessant shower of balls which fell on them from the scattering fire kept up by the arquebusiers, they were seized with a panic, and fled, scarcely making a show of further fight, from the field.
But very different was the fortune of the day in the cavalry combat. Gonzalo Pizarro had drawn up his troop somewhat in the rear of Carbajal's right, in order to give the latter a freer range for the play of his musketry. When the enemy's horse on the left galloped briskly against him, Pizarro, still favoring Carbajal,—whose fire, moreover, inflicted some loss on the assailants,—advanced but a few rods to receive the charge. Centeno's squadron, accordingly, came thundering on in full career, and, notwithstanding the mischief sustained from their enemy's musketry, fell with such fury on their adversaries as to overturn them, man and horse, in the dust; "riding over their prostrate bodies," says the historian, "as if they had been a flock of sheep!" 34 The latter, with great difficulty recovering from the first shock, attempted to rally and sustain the fight on more equal terms.
Yet the chief could not regain the ground he had lost. His men were driven back at all points. Many were slain, many more wounded, on both sides, and the ground was covered with the dead bodies of men and horses. But the loss fell much the most heavily on Pizarro's troop; and the greater part of those who escaped with life were obliged to surrender as prisoners. Cepeda, who fought with the fury of despair, received a severe cut from a sabre across the face, which disabled him and forced him to yield.35 Pizarro, after seeing his best and bravest fall round him, was set upon by three or four cavaliers at once. Disentangling himself from the melee, he put spurs to his horse, and the noble animal, bleeding from a severe wound across the back, outstripped all his pursuers except one, who stayed him by seizing the bridle. It would have gone hard with Gonzalo, but, grasping a light battle-axe, which hung by his side, he dealt such a blow on the head of his enemy's horse that he plunged violently, and compelled his rider to release his held. A number of arquebusiers, in the mean time, seeing Pizarro's distress, sprang forward to his rescue, slew two of his assailants who had now come up with him, and forced the others to fly in their turn.36
The rout of the cavalry was complete; and Pizarro considered the day as lost, as he heard the enemy's trumpet sending forth the note of victory. But the sounds had scarcely died away, when they were taken up by the opposite side. Centeno's infantry had been discomfited, as we have seen, and driven off the ground. But his cavalry on the right had charged Carbajal's left, consisting of spearmen mingled with arquebusiers. The horse rode straight against this formidable phalanx. But they were unable to break through the dense array of pikes, held by the steady hands of troops who stood firm and fearless on their post; while, at the same time, the assailants were greatly annoyed by the galling fire of the arquebusiers in the rear of the spearmen. Finding it impracticable to make a breach, the horsemen rode round the flanks in much disorder, and finally joined themselves with the victorious squadron of Centeno's cavalry in the rear. Both parties now attempted another charge on Carbajal's battalion. But his men facing about with the promptness and discipline of well-trained soldiers, the rear was converted into the front. The same forest of spears was presented to the attack; while an incessant discharge of balls punished the audacity of the cavaliers, who, broken and completely dispirited by their ineffectual attempt, at length imitated the example of the panic-struck foot, and abandoned the field.
Pizarro and a few of his comrades still fit for action followed up the pursuit for a short distance only, as, indeed, they were in no condition themselves, nor sufficiently strong in numbers, long to continue it. The victory was complete, and the insurgent chief took possession of the deserted tents of the enemy, where an immense booty was obtained in silver;37 and where he also found the tables spread for the refreshment of Centeno's soldiers after their return from the field. So confident were they of success! The repast now served the necessities of their conquerors. Such is the fortune of war! It was, indeed, a most decisive action; and Gonzalo Pizarro, as he rode over the field strewed with the corpses of his enemies, was observed several times to cross himself and exclaim,—"Jesu! What a victory!"
No less than three hundred and fifty of Centeno's followers were killed, and the number of wounded was even greater. More than a hundred of these are computed to have perished from exposure during the following night; for, although the climate in this elevated region is temperate, yet the night winds blowing over the mountains are sharp and piercing, and many a wounded wretch, who might have been restored by careful treatment, was chilled by the damps, and found a stiffened corpse at sunrise. The victory was not purchased without a heavy loss on the part of the conquerors, a hundred or more of whom were left on the field. Their bodies lay thick on that part of the ground occupied by Pizarro's cavalry, where the fight raged hottest. In this narrow space were found, also, the bodies of more than a hundred horses, the greater part of which, as well as those of their riders, usually slain with them, belonged to the victorious army. It was the most fatal battle that had yet been fought on the blood-stained soil of Peru.38
The glory of the day—the melancholy glory—must be referred almost wholly to Carbajal and his valiant squadron. The judicious arrangements of the old warrior, with the thorough discipline and unflinching courage of his followers, retrieved the fortunes of the fight, when it was nearly lost by the cavalry, and secured the victory.
Carbajal, proof against all fatigue, followed up the pursuit with those of his men that were in condition to join him. Such of the unhappy fugitives as fell into his hands—most of whom had been traitors to the cause of Pizarro—were sent to instant execution. The laurels he had won in the field against brave men in arms, like himself, were tarnished by cruelty towards his defenceless captives. Their commander, Centeno, more fortunate, made his escape. Finding the battle lost, he quitted his litter, threw himself upon his horse, and, notwithstanding his illness, urged on by the dreadful doom that awaited him, if taken, he succeeded in making his way into the neighboring sierra. Here he vanished from his pursuers, and, like a wounded stag, with the chase close upon his track, he still contrived to elude it, by plunging into the depths of the forests, till, by a circuitous route, he miraculously succeeded in effecting his escape to Lima. The bishop of Cuzco, who went off in a different direction, was no less fortunate. Happy for him that he did not fall into the hands of the ruthless Carbajal, who, as the bishop had once been a partisan of Pizarro, would, to judge from the little respect he usually showed those of his cloth, have felt as little compunction in sentencing him to the gibbet as if he had been the meanest of the common file.39
On the day following the action, Gonzalo Pizarro caused the bodies of the soldiers, still lying side by side on the field where they had been so lately engaged together in mortal strife, to be deposited in a common sepulchre. Those of higher rank—for distinctions of rank were not to be forgotten in the grave—were removed to the church of the village of Huarina, which gave its name to the battle. There they were interred with all fitting solemnity. But in later times they were transported to the cathedral church of La Paz, "The City of Peace," and laid under a mausoleum erected by general subscription in that quarter. For few there were who had not to mourn the loss of some friend or relative on that fatal day.
The victor now profited by his success to send detachments to Arequipa, La Plata, and other cities in that part of the country, to raise funds and reinforcements for the war. His own losses were more than compensated by the number of the vanquished party who were content to take service under his banner. Mustering his forces, he directed his march to Cuzco, which capital, though occasionally seduced into a display of loyalty to the Crown, had early manifested an attachment to his cause.
Here the inhabitants were prepared to receive him in triumph, under arches thrown across the streets, with bands of music, and minstrelsy commemorating his successes. But Pizarro, with more discretion, declined the honors of an ovation while the country remained in the hands of his enemies. Sending forward the main body of his troops, he followed on foot, attended by a slender retinue of friends and citizens, and proceeded at once to the cathedral, where thanksgivings were offered up, and Te Deum was chanted in honor of his victory. He then withdrew to his residence, announcing his purpose to establish his quarters, for the present, in the venerable capital of the Incas.40
All thoughts of a retreat into Chili were abandoned; for his recent success had kindled new hopes in his bosom, and revived his ancient confidence. He trusted that it would have a similar effect on the vacillating temper of those whose fidelity had been shaken by fears for their own safety, and their distrust of his ability to cope with the president. They would now see that his star was still in the ascendant. Without further apprehensions for the event, he resolved to remain in Cuzco, and there quietly await the hour when a last appeal to arms should decide which of the two was to remain master of Peru.
Dismay In Gasca's Camp—His Winter Quarters—Resumes His March— Crosses The Apurimac—Pizarro's Conduct In Cuzco— He Encamps Near The City—Rout Of Xaquixaguana
While the events recorded in the preceding chapter were passing, President Gasca had remained at Xauxa, awaiting further tidings from Centeno, little doubting that they would inform him of the total discomfiture of the rebels. Great was his dismay, therefore, on learning the issue of the fatal conflict in Haurina,—that the royalists had been scattered far and wide before the sword of Pizarro, while their commander had vanished like an apparition,1 leaving the greatest uncertainty as to his fate.
The intelligence spread general consternation among the soldiers, proportioned to their former confidence; and they felt it was almost hopeless to contend with a man who seemed protected by a charm that made him invincible against the greatest odds. The president, however sore his disappointment, was careful to conceal it, while he endeavored to restore the spirits of his followers. "They had been too sanguine," he said, "and it was in this way that Heaven rebuked their persumption. Yet it was but in the usual course of events that Providence, when it designed to humble the guilty, should allow him to reach as high an elevation as possible, that his fall might be the greater!"
But while Gasca thus strove to reassure the superstitious and the timid, he bent his mind, with his usual energy, to repair the injury which the cause had sustained by the defeat at Huarina. He sent a detachment under Alvarado to Lima, to collect such of the royalists as had fled thither from the field of battle, and to dismantle the ships of their cannon, and bring them to the camp. Another body was sent to Guamanga, about sixty leagues from Cuzco, for the similar purpose of protecting the fugitives, and also of preventing the Indian caciques from forwarding supplies to the insurgent army in Cuzco. As his own forces now amounted to considerably more than any his opponent could bring against him, Gasca determined to break up his camp without further delay, and march on the Inca capital.2
Quitting Xauxa, December 29, 1547, he passed through Guamanga, and after a severe march, rendered particularly fatiguing by the inclement state of the weather and the badness of the roads, he entered the province of Andaguaylas. It was a fair and fruitful country, and since the road beyond would take him into the depths of a gloomy sierra, scarcely passable in the winter snows, Gasca resolved to remain in his present quarters until the severity of the season was mitigated. As many of the troops had already contracted diseases from exposure to the incessant rains, he established a camp hospital; and the good president personally visited the quarters of the sick, ministering to their wants, and winning their hearts by his sympathy.3
Meanwhile, the royal camp was strengthened by the continual arrival of reinforcements; for notwithstanding the shock that was caused throughout the country by the first tidings of Pizarro's victory, a little reflection convinced the people that the right was the strongest, and must eventually prevail. There came, also, with these levies, several of the most distinguished captains in the country. Centeno, burning to retrieve his late disgrace, after recovering from his illness, joined the camp with his followers from Lima. Benalcazar, the conqueror of Quito, who, as the reader will remember, had shared in the defeat of Blasco Nunez in the north, came with another detachment; and was soon after followed by Valdivia, the famous conqueror of Chili, who, having returned to Peru to gather recruits for his expedition, had learned the state of the country, and had thrown himself, without hesitation, into the same scale with the president, though it brought him into collision with his old friend and comrade, Gonzalo Pizarro. The arrival of this last ally was greeted with general rejoicing by the camp; for Valdivia, schooled in the Italian wars, was esteemed the most accomplished soldier in Peru; and Gasca complimented him by declaring "he would rather see him than a reinforcement of eight hundred men!" 4
Besides these warlike auxiliaries, the president was attended by a train of ecclesiastics and civilians, such as was rarely found in the martial fields of Peru. Among them were the bishops of Quito, Cuzco, and Lima, the four judges of the new Audience, and a considerable number of churchmen and monkish missionaries.5 However little they might serve to strengthen his arm in battle, their presence gave authority and something of a sacred character to the cause, which had their effect on the minds of the soldiers.
The wintry season now began to give way before the mild influence of spring, which makes itself early felt in these tropical, but from their elevation temperate, regions; and Gasca, after nearly three months detention in Andaguaylas, mustered his levies for the final march upon Cuzco.6 Their whole number fell little short of two thousand,—the largest European force yet assembled in Peru. Nearly half were provided with fire-arms; and infantry were more available than horse in the mountain countries which they were to traverse. But his cavalry was also numerous, and he carried with him a train of eleven heavy guns. The equipment and discipline of the troops were good; they were well provided with ammunition and military stores; and were led by officers whose names were associated with the most memorable achievements in the New World. All who had any real interest in the weal of the country were to be found, in short, under the president's banner, making a striking contrast to the wild and reckless adventurers who now swelled the ranks of Pizarro.
Gasca, who did not affect a greater knowledge of military affairs than he really possessed, had given the charge of his forces to Hinojosa, naming the Marshal Alvarado as second in command. Valdivia, who came after these dispositions had been made, accepted a colonel's commission, with the understanding that he was to be consulted and employed in all matters of moment.7—Having completed his arrangements, the president broke up his camp in March, 1548, and moved upon Cuzco.
The first obstacle of his progress was the river Abancay, the bridge ever which had been broken down by the enemy. But as there was no force to annoy them on the opposite bank, the army was not long in preparing a new bridge, and throwing it across the stream, which in this place had nothing formidable in its character. The road now struck into the heart of a mountain region, where woods, precipices, and ravines were mingled together in a sort of chaotic confusion, with here and there a green and sheltered valley, glittering like an island of verdure amidst the wild breakers of a troubled ocean! The bold peaks of the Andes, rising far above the clouds, were enveloped in snow, which, descending far down their sides, gave a piercing coldness to the winds that swept over their surface, until men and horses were benumbed and stiffened under their influence. The roads, in these regions, were in some places so narrow and broken, as to be nearly impracticable for cavalry. The cavaliers were compelled to dismount; and the president, with the rest, performed the journey on foot, so hazardous, that, even in later times, it has been no uncommon thing for the sure-footed mule to be precipitated, with its cargo of silver, thousands of feet down the sheer sides of a precipice.8
By these impediments of the ground, the march was so retarded, that the troops seldom accomplished more than two leagues a day.9 Fortunately, the distance was not great; and the president looked with more apprehension to the passage of the Apurimac, which he was now approaching. This river, one of the most formidable tributaries of the Amazon, rolls its broad waters through the gorges of the Cordilleras, that rise up like an immense rampart of rock on either side, presenting a natural barrier which it would be easy for an enemy to make good against a force much superior to his own. The bridges over this river, as Gasca learned before his departure from Andaguaylas, had been all destroyed by Pizarro. The president, accordingly, had sent to explore the banks of the stream, and determine the most eligible spot for reestablishing communications with the opposite side.
The place selected was near the Indian village of Cotapampa, about nine leagues from Cuzco; for the river, though rapid and turbulent from being compressed within more narrow limits, was here less than two hundred paces in width; a distance, however, not inconsiderable. Directions had been given to collect materials in large quantities in the neighborhood of this spot as soon as possible; and at the same time, in order to perplex the enemy and compel him to divide his forces, should he be disposed to resist, materials in smaller quantities were assembled on three other points of the river. The officer stationed in the neighborhood of Cotapampa was instructed not to begin to lay the bridge, till the arrival of a sufficient force should accelerate the work, and insure its success.
The structure in question, it should be remembered, was one of those suspension bridges formerly employed by the Incas, and still used in crossing the deep and turbulent rivers of South America. They are made of osier withes, twisted into enormous cables, which, when stretched across the water, are attached to heavy blocks of masonry, or, where it will serve, to the natural rock. Planks are laid transversely across these cables, and a passage is thus secured, which, notwithstanding the light and fragile appearance of the bridge, as it swings at an elevation sometimes of several hundred feet above the abyss, affords a tolerably safe means of conveyance for men, and even for such heavy burdens as artillery.10
Notwithstanding the peremptory commands of Gasca, the officer intrusted with collecting the materials for the bridge was so anxious to have the honor of completing the work himself, that he commenced it at once. The president, greatly displeased at learning this, quickened his march, in order to cover the work with his whole force. But, while toiling through the mountain labyrinth, tidings were brought him that a party of the enemy had demolished the small portion of the bridge already made, by cutting the cables on the opposite bank. Valdivia, accordingly, hastened forward at the head of two hundred arquebusiers, while the main body of the army followed with as much speed as practicable.
That officer, on reaching the spot, found that the interruption had been caused by a small party of Pizarro's followers, not exceeding twenty in number, assisted by a stronger body of Indians. He at once caused balsas, broad and clumsy barks, or rather rafts, of the country, to be provided, and by this means passed his men over, without opposition, to the other side of the river. The enemy, disconcerted by the arrival of such a force, retreated and made the best of their way to report the affair to their commander at Cuzco. Meanwhile, Valdivia, who saw the Importance of every moment in the present crisis, pushed forward the work with the greatest vigor. Through all that night his weary troops continued the labor, which was already well advanced, when the president and his battalions, emerging from the passes of the Cordilleras, presented themselves at sunrise on the opposite bank.
Little time was given for repose, as all felt assured that the success of their enterprise hung on the short respite now given them by the improvident enemy. The president, with his principal officers, took part in the labor with the common soldiers;11 and before ten o'clock in the evening, Gasca had the satisfaction to see the bridge so well secured, that the leading files of the army, unencumbered by their baggage, might venture to cross it. A short time sufficed to place several hundred men on the other bank. But here a new difficulty, not less formidable than that of the river, presented itself to the troops. The ground rose up with an abrupt, almost precipitous, swell from the river-side, till, in the highest peaks, it reached an elevation of several thousand feet. This steep ascent, though not to its full height, indeed, was now to be surmounted. The difficulties of the ground, broken up into fearful chasms and water-courses, and tangled with thickets, were greatly increased by the darkness of the night; and the soldiers, as they toiled slowly upward, were filled with apprehension, akin to fear, from the uncertainty whether each successive step might not bring them into an ambuscade, for which the ground was so favorable. More than once, the Spaniards were thrown into a panic by false reports that the enemy were upon them. But Hinojosa and Valdivia were at hand to rally their men, and cheer them on, until, at length, before dawn broke, the bold cavaliers and their followers placed themselves on the highest point traversed by the road, where they waited the arrival of the president. This was not long delayed; and in the course of the following morning, the royalists were already in sufficient strength to bid defiance to their enemy.
The passage of the river had been effected with less loss than might have been expected, considering the darkness of the night, and the numbers that crowded over the aerial causeway. Some few, indeed, fell into the water, and were drowned; and more than sixty horses, in the attempt to swim them across the river, were hurried down the current, and dashed against the rocks below.12 It still required time to bring up the heavy train of ordnance and the military wagons; and the president encamped on the strong ground which he now occupied, to await their arrival, and to breathe his troops after their extraordinary efforts. In these quarters we must leave him, to acquaint the reader with the state of things in the insurgent army, and with the cause of its strange remissness in guarding the passes of the Apurimac.13
From the time of Pizarro's occupation of Cuzco, he had lived in careless luxury in the midst of his followers, like a soldier of fortune in the hour of prosperity; enjoying the present, with as little concern for the future as if the crown of Peru were already fixed irrevocably upon his head. It was otherwise with Carbajal. He looked on the victory at Huarina as the commencement, not the close, of the struggle for empire; and he was indefatigable in placing his troops in the best condition for maintaining their present advantage. At the first streak of dawn, the veteran might be seen mounted on his mule, with the garb and air of a common soldier, riding about in the different quarters of the capital, sometimes superintending the manufacture of arms, or providing military stores, and sometimes drilling his men, for he was most careful always to maintain the strictest discipline.14 His restless spirit seemed to find no pleasure but in incessant action; living, as he had always done, in the turmoil of military adventure, he had no relish for any thing unconnected with war, and in the city saw only the materials for a well organized camp.
With these feelings, he was much dissatisfied at the course taken by his younger leader, who now professed his intention to abide where he was, and, when the enemy advanced, to give him battle. Carbajal advised a very different policy. He had not that full confidence, it would seem, in the loyalty of Pizarro's partisans, at least, not of those who had once followed the banner of Centeno. These men, some three hundred in number, had been in a manner compelled to take service under Pizarro. They showed no heartiness in the cause, and the veteran strongly urged his commander to disband them at once; since it was far better to go to battle with a few faithful followers than with a host of the false and faint- hearted.
But Carbajal thought, also, that his leader was not sufficiently strong in numbers to encounter his opponent, supported as he was by the best captains of Peru. He advised, accordingly, that he should abandon Cuzco, carrying off all the treasure, provisions, and stores of every kind from the city, which might, in any way, serve the necessities of the royalists. The latter, on their arrival, disappointed by the poverty of a place where they had expected to find so much booty, would become disgusted with the service. Pizarro, meanwhile, might take refuge with his men in the neighboring fastnesses, where, familiar with the ground, it would be easy to elude the enemy; and if the latter persevered in the pursuit, with numbers diminished by desertion, it would not be difficult in the mountain passes to find an opportunity for assailing him at advantage.—Such was the wary counsel of the old warrior. But it was not to the taste of his fiery commander, who preferred to risk the chances of a battle, rather than turn his back on a foe.
Neither did Pizarro show more favor to a proposition, said to have been made by the Licentiate Cepeda,—that he should avail himself of his late success to enter into negotiations with Gasca. Such advice, from the man who had so recently resisted all overtures of the president, could only have proceeded from a conviction, that the late victory placed Pizarro on a vantage-ground for demanding terms far better than would have been before conceded to him. It may be that subsequent experience had also led him to distrust the fidelity of Gonzalo's followers, or, possibly, the capacity of their chief to conduct them through the present crisis. Whatever may have been the motives of the slippery counsellor, Pizarro gave little heed to the suggestion, and even showed some resentment, as the matter was pressed on him. In every contest, with Indian or European, whatever had been the odds, he had come off victorious. He was not now for the first time to despond; and he resolved to remain in Cuzco, and hazard all on the chances of a battle. There was something in the hazard itself captivating to his bold and chivalrous temper. In this, too, he was confirmed by some of the cavaliers who had followed him through all his fortunes; reckless young adventurers, who, like himself, would rather risk all on a single throw of the dice, than adopt the cautious, and, as it seemed to them, timid, policy of graver counsellors. It was by such advisers, then, that Pizarro's future course was to be shaped.15
Such was the state of affairs in Cuzco, when Pizarro's soldiers returned with the tidings, that a detachment of the enemy had crossed the Apurimac, and were busy in reestablishing the bridge. Carbajal saw at once the absolute necessity of maintaining this pass. "It is my affair," he said; "I claim to be employed on this service. Give me but a hundred picked men, and I will engage to defend the pass against an army, and bring back the chaplain—the name by which the president was known in the rebel camp—-a prisoner to Cuzco." 16 "I cannot spare you, father," said Gonzalo, addressing him by this affectionate epithet, which he usually applied to his aged follower,17 "I cannot spare you so far from my own person"; and he gave the commission to Juan de Acosta, a young cavalier warmly attached to his commander, and who had given undoubted evidence of his valor on more than one occasion, but who, as the event proved, was signally deficient in the qualities demanded for so critical an undertaking as the present. Acosta, accordingly, was placed at the head of two hundred mounted musketeers, and, after much wholesome counsel from Carbajal, set out on his expedition.
But he soon forgot the veteran's advice, and moved at so dull a pace over the difficult roads, that, although the distance was not more than nine leagues, he found, on his arrival, the bridge completed, and so large a body of the enemy already crossed, that he was in no strength to attack them. Acosta did, indeed, meditate an ambuscade by night; but the design was betrayed by a deserter, and he contented himself with retreating to a safe distance, and sending for a further reinforcement from Cuzco. Three hundred men were promptly detached to his support; but when they arrived, the enemy was already planted in full force on the crest of the eminence. The golden opportunity was irrecoverably lost; and the disconsolate cavalier rode back in all haste to report the failure of his enterprise to his commander in Cuzco.18
The only question now to be decided was as to the spot where Gonzalo 'Pizarro should give battle to his enemies. He determined at once to abandon the capital, and wait for his opponents in the neighboring valley of Xaquixaguana. It was about five leagues distant, and the reader may remember it as the place where Francis Pizarro burned the Peruvian general Challcuchima, on his first occupation of Cuzco. The valley, fenced round by the lofty rampart of the Andes, was, for the most part, green and luxuriant, affording many picturesque points of view; and, from the genial temperature of the climate, had been a favorite summer residence of the Indian nobles, many of whose pleasure-houses still dotted the sides of the mountains. A river, or rather stream, of no great volume, flowed through one end of this inclosure, and the neighboring soil was so wet and miry as to have the character of a morass.
Here the rebel commander arrived, after a tedious march over roads not easily traversed by his train of heavy wagons and artillery. His forces amounted in all to about nine hundred men, with some half-dozen pieces of ordnance. It was a well-appointed body, and under excellent discipline, for it had been schooled by the strictest martinet in the Peruvian service. But it was the misfortune of Pizarro that his army was composed, in part, at least, of men on whose attachment to his cause he could not confidently rely. This was a deficiency which no courage nor skill in the leader could supply.
On entering the valley, Pizarro selected the eastern quarter of it, towards Cuzco, as the most favorable spot for his encampment. It was crossed by the stream above mentioned, and he stationed his army in such a manner, that, while one extremity of the camp rested on a natural barrier formed by the mountain cliffs that here rose up almost perpendicularly, the other was protected by the river. While it was scarcely possible, therefore, to assail his flanks, the approaches in front were so extremely narrowed by these obstacles, that it would not be easy to overpower him by numbers in that direction. In the rear, his communications remained open with Cuzco, furnishing a ready means for obtaining supplies. Having secured this strong position, he resolved patiently to wait the assault of the enemy.19
Meanwhile, the royal army had been toiling up the steep sides of the Cordilleras, until, at the close of the third day, the president had the satisfaction to find himself surrounded by his whole force, with their guns and military stores. Having now sufficiently refreshed his men, he resumed his march, and all went forward with the buoyant confidence of bringing their quarrel with the tyrant, as Pizarro was called, to a speedy issue.
Their advance was slow, as in the previous part of the march, for the ground was equally embarrassing. It was not long, however, before the president learned that his antagonist had pitched his camp in the neighboring valley of Xaquixaguana. Soon afterward, two friars, sent by Gonzalo himself, appeared in the army, for the ostensible purpose of demanding a sight of the powers with which Gasca was intrusted. But as their conduct gave reason to suspect they were spies, the president caused the holy men to be seized, and refused to allowed them to return to Pizarro. By an emissary of his own, whom he despatched to the rebel chief, he renewed the assurance of pardon already given him, in case he would lay down his arms and submit. Such an act of generosity, at this late hour, must be allowed to be highly creditable to Gasca, believing, as he probably did, that the game was in his own hands.—It is a pity that the anecdote does not rest on the best authority.20
After a march of a couple of days, the advanced guard of the royalists came suddenly on the outposts of the insurgents, from whom they had been concealed by a thick mist, and a slight skirmish took place between them. At length, on the morning of the eighth of April, the royal army, turning the crest of the lofty range that belts round the lovely valley of Xaquixaguana, beheld far below on the opposite side the glittering lines of the enemy, with their white pavilions, looking like clusters of wild fowl nestling among the cliffs of the mountains. And still further off might be descried a host of Indian warriors, showing gaudily in their variegated costumes; for the natives, in this part of the country, with little perception of their true interests, manifested great zeal in the cause of Pizarro.
Quickening their step, the royal army now hastily descended the steep sides of the sierra; and notwithstanding every effort of their officers, they moved in so little order, each man picking his way as he could, that the straggling column presented many a vulnerable point to the enemy; and the descent would not have been accomplished without considerable loss, had Pizarro's cannon been planted on any of the favorable positions which the ground afforded. But that commander, far from attempting to check the president's approach, remained doggedly in the strong position he had occupied, with the full confidence that his adversaries would not hesitate to assail it, strong as it was, in the same manner as they had done at Huarina.21
Yet he did not omit to detach a corps of arquebusiers to secure a neighboring eminence or spur of the Cordilleras, which in the hands of the enemy might cause some annoyance to his own camp, while it commanded still more effectually the ground soon to be occupied by the assailants. But his manoeuvre was noticed by Hinojosa; and he defeated it by sending a stronger detachment of the royal musketeers, who repulsed the rebels, and, after a short skirmish, got possession of the heights. Gasca's general profited by this success to plant a small battery of cannon on the eminence, from which, although the distance was too great for him to do much execution, he threw some shot into the hostile camp. One ball, indeed, struck down two men, one of them Pizarro's page, killing a horse, at the same time, which he held by the bridle; and the chief instantly ordered the tents to be struck, considering that they afforded too obvious a mark for the artillery.22
Meanwhile, the president's forces had descended into the valley, and as they came on the plain were formed into line by their officers. The ground occupied by the army was somewhat lower than that of their enemy, whose shot, as discharged, from time to time, from his batteries, passed over their heads. Information was now brought by a deserter, one of Centeno's old followers, that Pizarro was getting ready for a night attack. The president, in consequence, commanded his whole force to be drawn up in battle array, prepared, at any instant, to repulse the assault. But if such were meditated by the insurgent chief, he abandoned it,—and, as it is said, from a distrust of the fidelity of some of the troops, who, under cover of the darkness, he feared, would go over to the opposite side. If this be true, he must have felt the full force of Carbajal's admonition, when too late to profit by it. The unfortunate commander was in the situation of some bold, high-mettled cavalier, rushing to battle on a war-horse whose tottering joints threaten to give way under him at every step, and leave his rider to the mercy of his enemies!
The president's troops stood to their arms the greater part of the night, although the air from the mountains was so keen, that it was with difficulty they could hold their lances in their hands.23 But before the rising sun had kindled into a glow the highest peaks of the sierra, both camps were in motion, and busily engaged in preparations for the combat. The royal army was formed into two battalions of infantry, one to attack the enemy in front, and the other, if possible, to operate on his flank. These battalions were protected by squadrons of horse on the wings and in the rear, while reserves both of horse and arquebusiers were stationed to act as occasion might require. The dispositions were made in so masterly a manner, as to draw forth a hearty eulogium from old Carbajal, who exclaimed, "Surely the Devil or Valdivia must be among them!" an undeniable compliment to the latter, since the speaker was ignorant of that commander's presence in the camp.24
Gasca, leaving the conduct of the battle to his officers, withdrew to the rear with his train of clergy and licentiates, the last of whom did not share in the ambition of their rebel brother, Cepeda, to break a lance in the field.
Gonzalo Pizarro formed his squadron in the same manner as he had done on the plains of Huarina; except that the increased number of his horse now enabled him to cover both flanks of his infantry. It was still on his fire-arms, however, that he chiefly relied. As the ranks were formed, he rode among them, encouraging his men to do their duty like brave cavaliers, and true soldiers of the Conquest. Pizarro was superbly armed, as usual, and wore a complete suit of mail, of the finest manufacture, which, as well as his helmet, was richly inlaid with gold.25 He rode a chestnut horse of great strength and spirit, and as he galloped along the line, brandishing his lance, and displaying his easy horsemanship. he might be thought to form no bad personification of the Genius of Chivalry. To complete his dispositions he ordered Cepeda to lead up the infantry for the licentiate seems to have had a larger share in the conduct of his affairs of late, or at least in the present military arrangements, than Carbajal. The latter, indeed, whether from disgust at the course taken by his leader, or from a distrust, which, it is said, he did not affect to conceal, of the success of the present operations, disclaimed all responsibility for them, and chose to serve rather as a private cavalier than as a commander.26 Yet Cepeda, as the event showed, was no less shrewd in detecting the coming ruin.
When he had received his orders from Pizarro he rode forward as if to select the ground for his troops to occupy; and in doing so disappeared for a few moments behind a projecting cliff. He soon reappeared, however, and was seen galloping at full speed across the plain. His men looked with astonishment, yet not distrusting his motives, till, as he continued his course direct towards the enemy's lines, his treachery became apparent. Several pushed forward to overtake him, and among them a cavalier, better mounted than Cepeda. The latter rode a horse of no great strength or speed, quite unfit for this critical manoeuvre of his master. The animal, was, moreover, encumbered by the weight of the caparisons with which his ambitious rider had loaded him, so that, on reaching a piece of miry ground that lay between the armies, his pace was greatly retarded.27 Cepeda's pursuers rapidly gained on him, and the cavalier above noticed came, at length, so near as to throw a lance at the fugitive, which, wounding him in the thigh, pierced his horse's flank, and they both came headlong to the ground. It would have fared ill with the licentiate, in this emergency, but fortunately a small party of troopers on the other side, who had watched the chase, now galloped briskly forward to the rescue, and, beating off his pursuers, they recovered Cepeda from the mire, and bore him to the president's quarters.
He was received by Gasca with the greatest satisfaction,—so great, that, according to one chronicler, he did not disdain to show it by saluting the licentiate on the cheek.28 The anecdote is scarcely reconcilable with the characters and relations of the parties, or with the president's subsequent conduct. Gasca, however, recognized the full value of his prize, and the effect which his desertion at such a time must have on the spirits of the rebels. Cepeda's movement, so unexpected by his own party, was the result of previous deliberation, as he had secretly given assurance, it is said, to the prior of Arequipa, then in the royal camp, that, if Gonzalo Pizarro could not be induced to accept the pardon offered him, he would renounce his cause.29 The time selected by the crafty counsellor for doing so was that most fatal to the interests of his commander.
The example of Cepeda was contagious. Garcilasso de la Vega, father of the historian, a cavalier of old family, and probably of higher consideration than any other in Pizarro's party, put spurs to his horse, at the same time with the licentiate, and rode over to the enemy. Ten or a dozen of the arquebusiers followed in the same direction, and succeeded in placing themselves under the protection of the advanced guard of the royalists.
Pizarro stood aghast at this desertion, in so critical a juncture, of those in whom he had most trusted. He was, for a moment, bewildered. The very ground on which he stood seemed to be crumbling beneath him. With this state of feeling among his soldiers, he saw that every minute of delay was fatal. He dared not wait for the assault, as he had intended, in his strong position, but instantly gave the word to advance. Gasca's general, Hinojosa, seeing the enemy in motion, gave similar orders to his own troops. Instantly the skirmishers and arquebusiers on the flanks moved rapidly forward, the artillery prepared to open their fire, and "the whole army," says the president in his own account of the affair, "advanced with steady step and perfect determination." 30
But before a shot was fired, a column of arquebusiers, composed chiefly of Centeno's followers, abandoned their post, and marched directly over to the enemy. A squadron of horse, sent in pursuit of them, followed their example. The president instantly commanded his men to halt, unwilling to spill blood unnecessarily, as the rebel host was like to fall to pieces of itself.
Pizarro's faithful adherents were seized with a panic, as they saw themselves and their leader thus betrayed into the enemy's hands. Further resistance was useless. Some threw down their arms and fled in the direction of Cuzco. Others sought to escape to the mountains; and some crossed to the opposite side, and surrendered themselves prisoners, hoping it was not too late to profit by the promises of grace. The Indian allies, on seeing the Spaniards falter, had been the first to go off the ground.31
Pizarro, amidst the general wreck, found himself left with only a few cavaliers who disdained to fly. Stunned by the unexpected reverse of fortune, the unhappy chief could hardly comprehend his situation. "What remains for us?" said he to Acosta, one of those who still adhered to him. "Fall on the enemy, since nothing else is left," answered the non- hearted soldier, "and die like Romans!" "Better to die like Christians," replied his commander; and, slowly turning his horse, he rode off in the direction of the royal army.32
He had not proceeded far, when he was met by an officer, to whom, after ascertaining his name and rank, Pizarro delivered up his sword, and yielded himself prisoner. The officer, overjoyed at his prize, conducted him, at once, to the president's quarters. Gasca was on horseback, surrounded by his captains, some of whom, when they recognized the person of the captive, had the grace to withdraw, that they might not witness his humiliation.33 Even the best of them, with a sense of right on their side, may have felt some touch of compunction at the thought that their desertion had brought their benefactor to this condition.
Pizarro kept his seat in his saddle, but, as he approached, made a respectful obeisance to the president, which the latter acknowledged by a cold salute. Then, addressing his prisoner in a tone of severity, Gasca abruptly inquired,—"Why he had thrown the country into such confusion; —raising the banner of revolt; killing the viceroy; usurping the government; and obstinately refusing the offers of grace that had been repeatedly made him?"
Gonzalo attempted to justify himself by referring the fate of the viceroy to his misconduct, and his own usurpation, as it was styled, to the free election of the people, as well as that of the Royal Audience. "It was my family," he said, "who conquered the country; and, as their representative here, I felt I had a right to the government." To this Gasca replied, in a still severer tone, "Your brother did, indeed, conquer the land; and for this the emperor was pleased to raise both him and you from the dust. He lived and died a true and loyal subject; and it only makes your ingratitude to your sovereign the more heinous." Then, seeing his prisoner about to reply, the president cut short the conference, ordering him into close confinement. He was committed to the charge of Centeno, who had sought the office, not from any unworthy desire to gratify his revenge,—for he seems to have had a generous nature,—but for the honorable purpose of ministering to the comfort of the captive. Though held in strict custody by this officer, therefore, Pizarro was treated with the deference due to his rank, and allowed every indulgence by his keeper, except his freedom.34