d. 1540

Battle of Mauvila
Tuscaloosa was the leading chief of a Mississippian tribe in present-day Alabama. In 1539, the explorer Hernando de Soto was sent out to conquer what is now the southern U.S., and by the next fall he had reached Tuscaloosa’s territory. De Soto’s method of peaceful coercion had consisted of capturing the ruler of each province through which he passed, and Tuscaloosa was no exception. The chief first met the Spaniards with an envoy while they were still in Talisi, in order to plan a trap for their demise. The Spanish reached Tuscaloosa’s own village several weeks later, and upon their arrival the native leader welcomed them into his court. There, de Soto demanded women and servants, and when Tuscaloosa refused, the European explorers took him hostage. The chief tried to relent, but he was only given a pair of boots and a cloak for his delayed cooperation.

The expedition left Tuscaloosa’s village a few days later, but as de Soto continued on his journey, he began to sense a newfound hostility among the Indians. While in Piachi, he was refused canoes, and after building their own boats and crossing the river, the Spaniards discovered that two of their men were missing. Tuscaloosa answered only that the men would be returned at the town of Mabila. As de Soto approached the village, he grew worried; the buildings were heavily fortified, and the citizens seemed only to consist of young, able-bodied warriors. Once in the city, however, the Spanish fears were allayed by the festive spectacle that was shown in their honor, and de Soto even allowed Tuscaloosa to meet with some of his nobles in private in one of the large houses near the plaza. When he sent men into the house to retrieve the chief, however, they were instead met by a band of armed warriors ready to protect their leader. De Soto insisted that peace would be restored should the chief of Mabila only deliver servants to the explorers, but the latter refused; in the resulting brawl, the chief’s arm was cut off, and the Mabilians immediately jumped in to defend him. The Spanish escaped the village before reconvening with plans to attack the natives. At last, they were able to fight their way back inside, at which opportunity they set the town on fire. Nearly all the Indians, including Tuscaloosa, were killed.

Key events during the life of Tuscaloosa:

Hernando de Soto arrived in America.
  De Soto captured Tuscaloosa and brought him to Mabila.
Killed during the Battle of Mabila.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Great Chief Tuscaloosa  in  Ferdinand De Soto and the Invasion of Florida  by  Frederick A. Ober
Desperate Encounter at Mauvila  in  Ferdinand De Soto and the Invasion of Florida  by  Frederick A. Ober

Short Biography
Hernando De Soto Adventurer who aided in conquest of Peru, then explored Southwestern United States. Discovered Mississippi river.