BLTC Press Titles


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Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett


The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman


History of the Conquest of Peru, 3

by William Hickling Prescott

Excerpt:

CHAFFEE I.

MOVEMENTS OF THE CONSPIRATORS.—ADVANCE OF VACA DE CASTRO.— PROCEEDINGS OF ALMAGRO.—PROGRESS OF THE GOVERNOR.—THE

FORCES APPROACH EACH OTHER.—BLOODY PLAINS OF CHUPAS.

CONDUCT OF VACA DE CASTRO.

1541—1543. The first step of the conspirators, after securing possession of the capital, was to send to the different cities, proclaiming the revolution which had taken place, and demanding the recognition of the young Almagro as governor of Peru. Where the summons was accompanied by a military force, as at Truxillo and Arequipa, it was obeyed without much cavil. But in other cities a colder assent was given, and in some the requisition was treated with contempt. In Cuzco, the place of most importance next to Lima, a considerable number of the Almagro faction secured the ascendancy of their party; and such of the magistracy as resisted were

ejected from their offices to make room for others of a more accommodating temper. But the loyal inhabitants of the city, dissatisfied with this proceeding, privately sent to one of Pizarro's captains, named Alvarez de Holguin, who lay with a considerable force in the neighbourhood; and that officer, entering the place, soon dispossessed the new dignitaries of their honours, and restored the ancient capital to its allegiance.

The conspirators experienced a still more determined opposition from Alonso de Alvarado, one of the principal captains of Pizarro,—defeated, as the reader will remember, by the elder Almagro at the bridge of Abancay,—and now lying in the north with a corps of about two hundred men, as good troops as any in the land. That officer, on receiving tidings of his general's assassination, instantly wrote to the Licentiate Vaca de Castro, advising him of the state of affairs in Peru, and urging bim to quicken his march towards the south.*

This functionary had been sent out by the Spanish Crown, as noticed in a preceding chapter, to co-operate with Pizarro in restoring tranquillity to the country, with authority to assume the government himself, in case of that commander's death. After a long and tempestuous voyage, he had landed, in the spring of 1541, at the port of Buena Ventura, and, disgusted with the dangers of the sea, preferred to continue his wearisome journey by land. But so enfeebled was he by the hardships he had undergone, that it was full three months before he reached Popayan, where he received the astounding tidings of the death of Pizarro. This was the contingency which had been provided for, with such judicious forecast, in his instructions. Yet he was sorely perplexed by the difficulties of his situation. He was a stranger in the land, with a very imperfect knowledge of the country, without an armed force to support him, without even the military science which might be supposed necessary to avail himself of it. He knew nothing of the degree of Almagro's influence, or of the extent to which the insurrection had spread,—nothing, in short, of the dispositions of the people among whom he was cast.

* Zarate, Couq. del Peru, lib. iv. cap. xiii.—Herrera, Hist. General, dec. vi. lib. x. cap. vii.—Declaracion de Uscategui, MS.—Carta del Maestro, Martin de Arauco, MS.—Carta de Fray Vicente Valverde, desde Tumbez, MS.

In such an emergency, a feebler spirit might have listened to the counsels of those who advised to return to Panama, and stay there until he had mustered a sufficient force to enable him to take the field against the insurgents with advantage. But the courageous heart of Vaca de Castro shrunk from a step which would proclaim his incompetency to the task assigned him. He had confidence in his own resources, and in the virtue of the commission under which he acted. He relied, too, on the habitual loyalty of the Spaniards; and after mature deliberation, he determined to go forward, and trust to events for accomplishing the objects of his mission.


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