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“Muster Roll”

by Stewart L. Udall

Before each Spanish expedition, its leaders took a muster roll. A muster roll involved describing each traveler in detail: occupation, place of origin and habitation, his or her weapons and gear, supplies, and animals. Although people used to assume that only Spaniards traveled with Francisco Vázquez de Coronado when he rode north into what is now New Mexico, his muster roll shows a great diversity of origin among the soldiers. One thousand Mexican Indians also accompanied the expedition. Although most Indians returned to New Spain (today's Central America), several chose to remain in the northern settlements to live with the indigenous inhabitants.

Here, historian Stewart L. Udall describes Coronado's muster roll.

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We know a lot about events that day at Compostela— exactly 192 years before George Washington was born in 1732—because Don Antonio had issued an order that each soldier would pass before an inspector and declare his possessions. Thus, diligent scribes recorded the names and ages of those who went and the attire and equipment they took with them. One entry tells us that in addition to his “gilded suit and helmet with crested plume,” Coronado took twenty-three horses and three or four suits of horse armor. Another informs us that Captain Cardenas had twelve horses, three sets of Castilian armor, two pairs of cuirasses (metal vests), and a coat of mail. And a third notation states that young Juan Gallego (who would earn his spurs as a member of the first team of “pony express” riders in what is now the United States) checked in with “seven horses, a crossbow, a coat of mail with breeches, a buckskin coat...and other Castillian and native weapons.”

Entradas“Entradas,” Deborah Reade (Artist)

Additional entries convey the information that:
—Captain Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano carried a wide array of armor and weapons that included a leather jacket, sleeves and neckpieces of mail, “arms of the country” (that is, native-made weapons and/or vests), a chin piece, a harquebus, two crossbows, a two-handed sword, three ordinary swords, and other assorted arms for himself and his servants;

—Hernando de Alvarado…was a twenty-three-year-old stripling who checked in with four horses and a coat of mail with sleeves;

—the second in command, Campmaster Lope de Samaniego (who would be the first to die when an Indian arrow pierced his eye), reported sixteen horses, two buckskin jackets, a coat of mail, some cuirasses, and arms of the country; and

—then there was the downtrodden enlisted man Juan de Vegara, a cavalryman, who declared that the only animal he had to ride was a mule.

“[Not] all of these adventurers were male Spaniards.”

The official roll lists 225 mounted men and sixty-two foot soldiers. When one adds those who had gone ahead, Coronado commanded a force of 336 soldiers. The muster also includes some surprises, as all of these adventurers were not male Spaniards. In addition to five Portuguese enlistees who made the long trip to Cíbola, there were two Italians, a Frenchman, a Scot, and a German (the bugler, Juan Fisch), plus three intrepid women, Francisca de Hozes (the wife of the shoemaker), María Maldonado (who became the expedition's nurse), and the native wife of Lope Caballero.

On foot in the front rank were Fray Marcos and four Franciscan padres—and bringing up the rear were seven hundred “Indian allies” who went along as servants, wranglers, and herdsmen of the sheep, horses, and cattle brought along for food and transport.

The muster roll and other documents also provide data that allow us to develop profiles of some of the marchers in this last New World entrada. Let us familiarize ourselves with some of these characters before we follow them up the trail to the Seven Cities of Cíbola:

—Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (whose true family name was Vázquez, not Coronado, in accordance with Spanish custom) was the second son of a noble family of Salamanca. He would soon be thirty. One of his younger brothers, Juan, later came to Mexico and became the first governor of Costa Rica; a second brother, Pedro, was in the retinue of King Felipe II when he went to England, in 1554, to marry Queen Mary. Soon after Coronado came to New Spain with Mendoza, he married Beatriz de Estrada, a daughter of the deceased royal treasurer of Mexico, Alonso de Estrada. (Estrada, a wealthy man, made no secret of the fact that he was a son “on the wrong side of the blanket” of none other than King Ferdinand himself.) Coronado had served as governor of a province and as a troop commander in Indian campaigns, and he was named to the town council of Mexico City before Mendoza appointed him captain general.

—Lope de Samaniego, the ill-starred deputy commander, also a veteran of Indian campaigns, had recently been in charge of the royal arsenal in Mexico City.

—Don Garcia López de Cárdenas, another young noble, was a favorite of the viceroy who had performed important work for Mendoza.

—Don Tristán de Arellano, the captain who commanded the main force after Samaniego's death, earned such high marks on this entrada that he was chosen to lead a colonizing expedition to Florida in 1559.

—Hernando de Alarcón, discoverer and first explorer of the Colorado River, had served as the viceroy's chamberlain. His sea-borne expedition was a success, but he failed to carry out orders to link up with and supply the land army. Obscurity surrounds his subsequent life.

—Hernando de Alvarado, one of the outstanding outriders of the expedition (first to reach Acoma, Tigüex, Taos, Pecos, and the buffalo plains), had been in New Spain since his youth and had previously served under the command of Cortés.

—Juan de Zaldívar, an outstanding scout, was related to the Oñate family. If he had lived to a ripe old age, he would have seen one of his kinfolk, Juan de Oñate, found the first permanent settlement in New Mexico in 1598.

“Díaz was mayor of Culiacán when Cabeza de Vaca and his scarecrows turned up.”

—Melchor Díaz was a much-admired commoner who became the most trusted, most beloved captain of all. Little is known of his origins, but Díaz was mayor of Culiacán when Cabeza de Vaca and his scarecrows turned up. The discriminating de Vaca went out of his way to praise the character of Mayor Díaz.

—Pablo de Melgosa was a wiry young captain of the footmen. We will meet him on the road as the leader of the climbers who tried to descend into the Grand Canyon from its South Rim.

—Don Rodrigo Maldonado was a cavalry captain who was a close friend of Coronado's. Maldonado led a side trip to the Pacific Ocean, went to Quivira, and was in a horse race with Coronado when the girth on Coronado's saddle broke, nearly killing him as a hoof struck his head.

Among the rank and file, there were also colorful characters who deserve special mention, such as:

—Francisco Santillán, blacksmith/veterinarian who received an arrow wound on the Rio Grande and was sent home an invalid;

—Alfonso Manrique de Lara, a rolling stone from Valladolid who had served his country earlier in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Tabasco (Mexico), and the Yucatán (Mexico);

—Diego López, a former alderman of Seville (Spain);

—Cristóbal de Quesada, an artist who went along “to paint the things of the country” but whose canvases did not survive the centuries; and

—Tomás Blaque (Blake), a Scottish veteran of earlier campaigns, who was apparently the only Briton (and surely a devout Catholic!) allowed to become a citizen of New Spain during this period.

The “journalists” of this expedition also deserve special mention. They included:

—Coronado himself, whose dispatches to the viceroy and the king were preserved;

—Juan Jaramillo, a veteran of wars in Italy and Tunis (Northern Africa). Jaramillo became a captain and, years afterward, composed a brief but invaluable account of events along “the turquoise trail”;

—Pedro de Castañeda was a foot soldier who had a way with words. Castañeda remained in Culiacán when the returning army passed by. In his old age, he wrote the account of the Coronado campaign that contains the most revealing details; and

—Don Pedro de Tovar, the chief standard-bearer, or ensign, is famous as the discoverer of the Hopi country. Tovar was a younger son of a Spanish noble in whom it is evident King Carlos reposed great trust. His father was the “lord high steward and guardian,” at a prison castle on a hillside near Tordesillas (Spain), of the legendary demented queen mother, Juana la Loca. Don Pedro apparently wrote an account of his experiences and left it with the Franciscans in Culiacán. Tovar's papers were used by the historian Mota Padilla two hundred years later but disappeared thereafter.

Finally, we need to pay attention to the sandal-shod Franciscans who were already on the trail ahead of Coronado. All Franciscan friars were dogged walkers because St. Francis of Assisi forbade his followers to ride horses, as they were symbols of nobility and wealth. In addition to the enigmatic Fray Marcos (who made a hasty retreat to Mexico after the fiasco at Cíbola), there were the following:

—Fray Juan de Padilla, a rugged Andalusian whose decade of missionary work had taken him from the Isthmus of Panama (Central America) to Tepic (Mexico). The venturesome Padilla was usually in the vanguard: He took the first tour of New Mexico with Alvarado and traveled all the way to Kansas with Coronado. Later we will follow his final walk, to martyrdom among the Indians of Quivira;

—Fray Antonio de Victoria, the chaplain of the expedition, was also in the forefront. He influenced Coronado's decisions about handling conflicts with Indians. This Franciscan also stayed behind; and

—Luis de Escalona, a friar who was listed as a “former companion” of the lord bishop of Mexico, the eminent Juan de Zumárraga.

“Mendoza was determined that this mission of conquest would ‘. . . be Christian and apostolic and not a butchery.’”

The main reason the padres were in the vanguard—and were usually consulted about Indian questions—was that the viceroy wanted it that way. The devout Mendoza knew the mind of his king—and was a friend of Bishop Bartolomé de Las Casas, the great champion of Indian humanity. Mendoza was determined, as Archbishop Zumárraga reported to his superiors in Spain, that this mission of conquest would “...be Christian and apostolic and not a butchery.” This helps explain why Mendoza chose Coronado, why he issued orders that the Indians they encountered be “...treated as if they were Spaniards;” and why he directed that the “Indian allies” not be used as tamenes (carriers) for the caravan.

This latter fiat had serious consequences. In his very first dispatch, Coronado reported to Mendoza that “...soldiers of high rank (were) going on foot because they carried their food and other belongings on their horses.” Indeed, to attest to his own brand of leadership, Coronado reminded Don Antonio that he had set an example on many occasions by dismounting and walking with his men “...so soldiers who were thus traveling laden would suffer and withstand the hardships with greater fortitude.”

There are many signs that the devout Mendoza put the missionary aims of his expedition on a par with the search for mines and precious metals. Mendoza saw himself as a reformer: The Indian orders he issued were clear and stern.

Having made the long journey to Compostela (Mexico) to put his personal stamp on the expedition, the viceroy wanted some open-air pageantry to stir loyalties and impress these soldier/pilgrims with the solemnity of their mission. It was Sunday, so he ordered a parade. A mass was celebrated by Father Victoria. Then the viceroy gave “...a very eloquent short speech” in which he stressed the importance of fidelity to God, to the king, and to their commander—and envisioned the “benefits” for everyone if the venture was a success.

Finally, after a swearing-in ceremony for Coronado, each soldier presented himself to the chaplain, placed his right hand on a cross and a prayer book, and “in a loud voice” took an oath “to uphold the service of God and his Majesty...(and to) be obedient to the said Francisco Vázquez de Coronado...as a gentleman should do to the best of his ability and intelligence.” Now the long march—the longest by any conquistadores in the sixteenth century—commenced. To lift their morale and underscore that this was his entrada, Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza rode down the trail for two days with his men.