A Tampa Bay Theory
Early interest in Soto's route through America was directed to those southern states more settled than Florida. It is natural to be curious about areas in which one lives -- in contrast to wild regions little known. However, this attitude neglected the historically important landing places of America's adelantados for more than three centuries. Casual observations during this period, by historians concerned with events in their home areas, became fixed in the literature.
Confusion over Florida geography began at least by 1601 when Herrera misplaced Tampa. The map makers Lucini (1630) and Sanson (1650), following Herrera, placed Soto's landing at Apalache Bay -- a gross misunderstanding of the chronicles.
Jaillot is his superb American Septentrionalis map of 1694 placed the principal towns of Soto's route in reasonable relationship to Florida geography. Unfortunately the configuration of the coast line is vague. Hirriga, the landing place, is shown on the northern shore of "B. Le Juan Ponce" in about the location of Carlos Bay, while "C. Carlos" is shown as a cape within a two-pronged bay farther north, about where Tampa Bay should be.
Delisle, an influential French cartographer in the early 1700's, made the first attempt to draw in Soto's route. His map was the most accurate produced up to that time and obviously was based on good information. Soto's landing is shown on the north shore of "La Baye de S. Esprit," but that body of water resembles no feature of Florida.
The name Tampa is placed considerably north of the Baye Esprit, but it is not clear what kind of feature it represents. The "Carlos" Indians are shown on the south shore of Baye Esprit, but they were associated historically with San Carlos Bay.
Subsequent map makers interpreted Delisle's mysterious bay, or at least the northern portion of it, as Tampa. As no one questioned that interpretation, it was repeated for a century or more.
Antonio de Arredondo, who was given a large block of land near Gainesville by the Spanish Crown, prepared a map of Florida in 1742 which apparently was copied from the Delisle map or from the same sources. The Arredondo map was compiled for use in negotiations with the British over boundary lines. Consequently we can assume it represented current information.
Soto's landing and route shown by Arredondo are identical to that of Delisle. However, the line of march in Georgia shows a loop back on itself that is unexplainable by any other authority.
The first United States writer to address himself to the problems of Soto's route through Florida was John Lee Williams. As a surveyor he was hired to help select a new capital preparatory to statehood. In his book titled "Territory of Florida," Williams places Soto's landing at Tampa and his winter camp at Mickasookee Lake.
William B. Rye, editor and annotator of the Hakluyt Society's republication in 1851 of Elvas, also places Soto's landing on the east shore of Hillsborough Bay. The route swung east of the Withlacoochee Swamp to Acuera (Ocale) near Ft. King. Vitachuco is located southwest of Micanopy and Osachile on the lower Suwanee River. Thereafter, the route is run near the coast considerably below the junction of the Suwanee and Santa Fe rivers. He places Anhica at the site of Tallahassee.
The great Hispanist, Buckingham Smith, retranslated the Elvas and Biedma chronicles and stimulated a lasting interest in the history of early Spanish explorers. He concurred with Rye's conclusions and mapped them in his "Narratives In The Career of Hernando de Soto." His endorsement was unquestioned by most scholars who followed.
Woodbury Lowery, an eminent historian, published in 1901 his "Spanish Settlements Within The Present Limits Of The United States" backed