Our Georgia History

Tristan de Luna
June 11, 1559 Tristane de Luna (Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano) sets sail from Vera Cruz to La Florida with orders to establish a gulf port and an overland route to Santa Elana.
  Tristan de Luna
July 17, 1559 Spanish explorer Tristan deLuna arrives on the coast of Florida near Appalachicola Bay.
  Tristan de Luna
August 14, 1559 Tristane de Luna's expedition lands at present-day Pensacola Bay and establishes the city of Santa Maria de Filipinos
  Tristan de Luna
September 19, 1559 Tristane de Luna's expedition is struck by a terrible storm, destroying much of his fleet. The storm was so fierce that a caravel ended up in an inland grove.
  Tristan de Luna
February 6, 1560 [circa] Tristan de Luna reaches the Alabama River while searching for food.
  Tristan de Luna
April 15, 1560 [circa] Tristan de Luna detaches 150 men to explore the Alabama River to the north.
  Tristan de Luna
July 26, 1560 A detachment of Tristan de Luna's force reaches the Indian settlement of Coosa, on the site of present-day Rome, Georgia.
  Tristan de Luna
January 30, 1561 Having failed to create an overland route between present-day Pensacola and Port Royal, SC, Tristane de Luna is relieved of duty and ordered to report to King Phillip II of Spain
  Tristan de Luna
March 9, 1561 [circa] Angel De Villafane arrives at Ichuse (Pensacola) and moves inland to find of de Luna's expedition.
  Tristan de Luna

During the winter of 1539-1540 one of Hernando de Soto's men, Maldonado discovered a good port he called Ochuse in Pensacola Bay. When Tristan de Luna left Vera Cruz on June 11, 1559, he headed for this port with a fleet of 13 vessels loaded with 1,500 people including soldiers, cavalry (their horses were also on board), and settlers including women and children. Finally landing at Pensacola on August 14. In letters he stated his goal was to fortify his position and wait for supplies.

Tristan de Luna probably thought he was lucky when the Apalachicola Indians proved to be friendly. Over the next month, the Spaniard built a relationship with the tribe in the area, which according to de Luna's account, was lightly populated. Work began on establishing a Spanish settlement, which de Luna called Santa Maria de Filipinos. Building the went slowly and a month later most of his year's worth of food and supplies remained on the ship. Beginning in the early morning of September 19, 1559, the area was struck by a violent storm, probably a hurricane.

The storm destroyed much of the material that had been unloaded to the shore and slammed the caravel holding much of the food into a grove of trees. De Luna and his men and the colonists moved to a nearby Indian village that had been abandoned and lived off food taken from there until two supply ships arrived early in 1560. By April, 1560, the food on the two supply ships was exhausted, little hope of additional supplies and no way to leave. Tristan de Luna decided to set out for his original destination, Santa Elana (Port Royal, SC) by land.

By the time the explorers reached the Alabama River near present-day Montgomery, they were out of food and in poor condition. De Luna detached about 150 men to follow the Alabama River northwest and try to reach Santa Elana while he returned to the colonists. The beginning of the journey to Santa Elana was through uninhabitable pine barrens that Indians avoided but the party reached Coosa (present-day Rome, Georgia), the Indian village with palisaded walls visited by Hernando de Soto in 1541. They found the population in decline (normally attributed to disease brought by de Soto). Five months after leaving, this party returned to Ochuse.

Meanwhile, word had gotten back to Mexico of the miserable conditions at de Luna's camp (a monk sailed to Mexico). Horrified at the monk's reports on the conditions facing the colonists, a local vicar ordered Angel Villafane to set sail and assume command of the expedition when he arrived.

After setting sail in early 1561, Villafane arrived at de Luna's original landing site that March and quickly finds the inland settlement. He offers the colonists and De Luna, who had returned by this time, transport to Havana, Cuba. All colonists and remaining military decide to evacuate the site, which they did.

In 1992 one of Tristan de Luna's ship was recovered from the water off Pensacola, ending speculation that de Luna's group may have landed elsewhere. A second ship was discovered in 2007.

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