Adventures and Conquests of Pizarro - George Towle

Pizarro Captures Cuzco

The poor Inca had scarcely been buried when De Soto returned from the expedition which he had undertaken to find out whether there really was a Peruvian army advancing against the Spaniards.

Pizarro then learned, too late, that he had put Atahualpa to death on a false accusation. De Soto had found no army gathered for a hostile purpose. The country was everywhere quiet, and he had met with nothing but friendly welcome wherever he had gone. It was clear that there was no intention of attacking the Spaniards, and that Atahualpa had not instigated any resistance to them.

This news filled Pizarro with shame and regret; but reflecting that he could no longer restore Atahualpa to life, and that, after all, he would always have been dangerous had he been spared, the conqueror tried to drive the dead Inca from his thoughts, and to turn his attention to the task yet before him.

It happened that among the Peruvian prisoners at Caxamalca was a young brother of Atahualpa. His name was Toparca; and he was a mild and gentle person, who easily submitted to the strong will of Pizarro. This prince Pizarro resolved to declare the successor of his brother, as Inca of Peru., He thought it wise and prudent that there should be a new Inca, and that he should be under his control. The true heir to the throne was Manco, who, like Huascar, was a half-brother of Atahualpa; but Manco was in another part of the empire, and Pizarro knew too little of him to acknowledge him as Inca.

So young Toparca was duly crowned in the great square with the diadem of scarlet fringe, the token of Peruvian sovereignty, which had been snatched from Atahualpa's brow; and the Peruvians were all brought before him, and required to do him humble homage as their future ruler.

At last the time had arrived to resume the career of conquest which had been so brilliantly begun. Pizarro found that he now had at his disposal a force of not less than five hundred veteran soldiers, of whom one hundred and sixty were cavalry. They were well-armed, and used to hardship; and one and all were eager to push forward in pursuit of the almost limitless wealth which they believed to be gathered in the heart of the land.

Leaving a sufficient garrison to hold Caxamalca, Pizarro set forth upon the broad highway which led directly along the slopes of the Cordilleras to the Peruvian capital. The young Inca Toparca and the aged Peruvian general Challcuchima accompanied the expedition to Cuzco. Pizarro rode on a fiery white charger, in a full suit of armor and with plumed cap, at the head of his army. At a little distance behind came two litters, borne upon the shoulders of sturdy Peruvians, and bearing Toparca and Challcuchima, who were surrounded by a gaily-dressed crowd of attendants, as if they were still potentates, instead of being the puppets of Pizarro.

The Spanish army must have looked finely, as the horsemen, with their glistening sabers and helmets, curveted and caracoled along the broad and even high-road, and as the ranks of the infantry, in brightly-polished cuirasses, and with their long guns, marched vigorously forward in perfect line; while a confused troop of Peruvians, attached to the force as guides or servants, walked on either side, and brought up the rear.

There was now but little rough climbing by narrow paths over forbidding crags and up well-nigh impassable steeps; for, though much of the way was among the mountains, the great road of the Incas rendered the passage of even the difficult places comparatively easy. The march of the army was mainly across pleasant and smiling valleys, elevated plains that overlooked fairy-like prospects, or by zigzag windings through gorges and over mountain spurs. Sometimes the Spaniards reached heights where they shivered with the cold; but they speedily left them for more genial regions below. At the end of the day's journey they always found themselves at some town where there was ample accommodation and shelter, where they could rest their weary limbs beneath ample roofs, and where there never lacked an abundance of provisions.

Nor did Pizarro for many days perceive any signs of resistance to his triumphant advance. There was wild confusion among the Peruvians, many of whom deserted the villages along his route, carrying their treasure with them, and hiding it away. In other places he was welcomed with the humble submission due to a monarch.

It was after a long tramp that he and his comrades at last came in sight of Xauxa, nestling in its beautiful valley. This was the town which Hernando Pizarro had visited, and near which he had found the old general Challcuchima at the head of thirty-five thousand Peruvians. As the Spaniards advanced towards the town, they for the first time saw a large Peruvian force drawn up in hostile array to oppose them. A rapid river flowed through the valley between Pizarro's force and Xauxa, and it was on the opposite bank of this river that the Peruvian soldiers were posted.

Pizarro, however, never once thought of retreating, or even of pausing, but led his men boldly forward. No bridge spanned the stream: so Pizarro, waving to his troops to follow, plunged into the water, and began to swim across. Soon the river was alive with Spaniards buffeting the waves. The Peruvians saw this bold action with dismay; and after hurriedly discharging a shower of arrows and javelins, which fell for the most part harmless among the Spaniards, they cried out, and scampered away into the woods on the edge of the town as fast as they could run.

Entering Xauxa without further opposition, Pizarro took possession of the temple and some of the larger buildings, where he quartered his troops. He was now far on his way to the goal of his march; and he resolved to rest a while at Xauxa, and to establish a garrison there.

Meanwhile the valiant De Soto was once more sent out to reconnoiter the country in advance of them. Taking sixty sturdy cavalrymen armed to the teeth, he proceeded rapidly over the great road, confident of overcoming any resistance he might encounter.

De Soto had not gone far before he was called upon to match Spanish valor against that of the Peruvians. Everywhere he found that the villages had been burned and deserted, the road choked up with trees, the bridges torn down, and the treasure carried off. One day, when he was riding at the head of his horsemen through a narrow craggy pass, he was suddenly surprised by a number of Peruvians, who fell fiercely upon him from every side. For a time it seemed as if the destruction of his whole force was inevitable. They were completely hemmed in; and the arrows and spears fell upon them like rain, maddening the horses, and wounding the men. But De Soto did not despair. Crying out to his soldiers to plunge forward, he broke through the dense ranks of the enemy, and safely gained an open plain.

But the danger was not yet over. The Peruvians emerged from the mountain defiles in formidable numbers, and seemed bent on renewing the attack. De Soto lost no time in sending a message to Pizarro, apprising him of his danger; and happily, before the Peruvians were ready to again assail him, the grateful shades of night fell upon the scene.

Dawn was just breaking when De Soto's party, who had been sleeping soundly despite their danger, heard the clarion-notes of bugles echoing among the hills. They responded by the same means; and their hearts beat high with joy as they saw Almagro at the head of a large company of cavalry gallop out of the mountains, hastening to their aid.

No sooner did the Peruvians see the increased force of the strangers than they availed themselves of a thick fog which hung over the hills to make their escape.

De Soto and Almagro then leisurely advanced over the plain, ensconced their soldiers in a good defensive position, and sent word to Pizarro that they would wait for him where they were.

Pizarro was greatly incensed when he heard of the attack made upon De Soto's party. He had hoped to reach Cuzco without resistance; and he at once suspected the old general Challcuchima, who was still with him, of having secretly instigated the assault upon De Soto.

Ordering Challcuchima before him, he sternly charged him with this, and added,—

"If you do not cause the Peruvians to lay down their arms at once, you shall be burned alive."

The aged chief sullenly replied that he was innocent of the charge; but Pizarro put him under a strong guard.

A new misfortune now occurred. The young Inca, Toparca, suddenly died. Pizarro was thus deprived of the authority over the Peruvians which he hoped to exercise through this royal puppet.

On setting out from Xauxa, he left his treasure in that town, and a garrison of forty soldiers to guard it, and to hold the place against the hostile Peruvians. After a brief march, the main body rejoined De Soto, whom they found perfectly safe where he had posted himself.

Pizarro now thought it prudent to get rid of the old chief Challcuchima. He brought him to trial, and, after a hasty hearing, condemned him to be burned alive. A friar named Valverde then attempted to convert the condemned man to Christianity; but the veteran quietly shook his head, saying,—

"I do not understand the religion of the white men."

He was then led out, and tied to the fatal stake. No appearance of emotion altered his wrinkled features. He was calm and silent; and, as the flames glided up and enveloped his venerable form, he cast his eyes heavenward, as if appealing to the sun, which shone brightly down, to reward him for his sufferings with heavenly joys.

Thus was the career of Pizarro stained with one more act of barbarous cruelty. Not long after Challcuchima's execution, a brilliant array of Peruvians was seen approaching the Spanish camp. As they came nearer, it was evident that they were persons of high rank. They were attired in fine cloths, and gold and jewels glittered on their persons. There was no sign, moreover, that they were advancing with a hostile intention.

Pizarro, with several of his officers, went promptly forward to meet them. A fine-looking young man, with large, dark eyes, more richly dressed than the others, stepped out of the group, and, bowing to Pizarro, addressed him.

"I am Manco," said he, "the brother of the murdered Huascar, and the true Inca of Peru. I come to you, not as an enemy, but as a friend, to seek your aid and protection in my attempt to regain my rightful throne."

"You are right welcome," returned Pizarro heartily, rejoiced to find once more an Inca in his power. "Go with us, and you shall obtain your royal rights."

The young prince and his attendants at once joined the train of the Spaniards, and together they marched rapidly forward towards Cuzco. The greater part of the way had now been traversed; and one afternoon Pizarro, riding at the head of his little army, came suddenly, by a turn in the road, in full sight of the noble capital of the Incas. At last the goal of his weary journey was before him: it only remained to enter, and take possession of the ancient and beautiful city founded by the Children of the Sun.

It was so near dark, that Pizarro thought it wise to defer his entrance into Cuzco until morning. His troops, therefore, bivouacked in a field a mile or more from the city. There seemed little reason to fear an attack during the dark hours. There were no vestiges of a hostile preparation: the people round about seeming dazed and wonder-stricken, rather than incensed, by the arrival of the Spaniards. A strict guard was kept, nevertheless, throughout the camp; while the soldiers, full of high spirits and eager expectation, slumbered soundly on their arms.

The sun had just risen, bright and glorious, over the city devoted to his worship, when the army of adventurers was formed, in disciplined order, to enter its gates. Pizarro divided his forces in three bodies, the cavalry under De Soto forming the van. The center division was led by the commander himself, and the rear by one of his brothers. In this order the command was given to march; and the troops, their armor glistening in the sunlight, their plumes waving in the fresh morning air, their banners flying and flapping, and their trumpets sending clear, loud blasts among the hills, advanced with sturdy step into the streets of Cuzco.

The streets were crowded with an immense crowd of Peruvians, attired in the most brilliant variety of color; their curious head-gear, indicating the province from which each came, especially attracting the attention of the Spaniards. The multitude seemed dazed at the appearance of the strangers, but not at all disposed to resent their entrance. The young prince Manco was carried at Pizarro's side on a litter; and, as he passed, he was greeted with the shouts of the people, who hailed him as their sovereign.



Pizarro marched directly to the great public square in the center of the city. On the way, the Spaniards were exceedingly struck by the noble edifices, the towers and temples, the palaces and vast private residences, the well-built streets crossing each other at right angles, the blooming gardens, the brightly-painted walls, the sparkling river which ran directly through the city, spanned by handsome stone bridges, and, looming on a crag high above the houses, the frowning fortress of the Incas.

The square itself was surrounded by a number of low buildings, and by several palaces. In these Pizarro lodged his officers; while the troops encamped in their tents in the broad open space, which they found to be neatly paved with small pebbles.

Pizarro lost no time in taking full possession of Cuzco, and surmounting the fortress, the palaces, and the great Temple of the Sun, with the royal banner of Spain. His occupation of this great city had been achieved without the shedding of a drop of blood; and, as the days passed, he found no obstacle in the hostility of the natives.

The soldiers were eager to discover and seize the enormous treasures, which, as they rightly guessed, were gathered in the capital. Pizarro forbade them to invade the private dwellings of the people; but they freely entered the temples and palaces, without scruple tore down the golden plates and ornaments that glittered on the walls, and (to their shame be it said), in their greed for gold; invaded the tombs of the dead, and robbed the corpses of their adornments. Hid away in caverns, and stored in the public magazines, they found a bewildering mass of golden vases and other utensils, fine cloths, golden sandals, and a superabundance of grain and other food.

All the treasure thus found was brought into the square, melted down, and divided, as before, proportionately among the officers and men; and, when this had been done, the humblest and most obscure Spaniard among them might count himself a rich man. The soldiers found themselves so rich, indeed, that they began to gamble furiously; and many a soldier thus played away in a week the fortune he had won by long hardship and suffering, and found himself a beggar again.

One of the first things that Pizarro did, after gaining full possession of Cuzco, was to cause the young prince Manco to be crowned, with all state and pageantry, as Inca of Peru.

All the ancient ceremonies attending the coronation of an Inca were scrupulously performed. Manco's brow was encircled with the "borla," or red fringe; his nobles and soldiers paid him the wonted homage; his accession was loudly proclaimed by the royal heralds; and Manco and his real master Pizarro pledged each other's health in brimming golden goblets of Peruvian wine. Meanwhile the light-hearted people of Cuzco feasted, sang, and danced as of old, forgetting that they were thus celebrating the conquest and servitude of their native land.

Pizarro's energies were indefatigable. No sooner did he thus find himself in full and undisputed possession of Cuzco than he began to establish himself and his comrades as the rulers of Peru. He set up a new government in Cuzco, of which two of his brothers were members. He retained a show of the ancient customs and institutions of the empire; but he secured the real power for the Spaniards. He took for himself the title of "governor;" and feeling that much of his power over his soldiers was due to their religious enthusiasm, and that the belief that it was a pious work to convert the heathen even by force of arms had done much to achieve the conquest, he caused a cathedral to be built upon the public square, and turned the "House of the Virgins of the Sun" into a Catholic nunnery.

It was while he was thus engaged in transforming Cuzco into a Spanish city that he heard rumors of the approach of a hostile force of Peruvians, under the command of Quizquiz, one of Atahualpa's ablest generals.

He at once dispatched Almagro with some cavalry, and the young Inca Manco with some native troops, to oppose him. Almagro surprised Quizquiz in his camp. The encounter was short and sharp. Quizquiz retreated hastily to Xauxa, whither he was pursued by Almagro. The Peruvian was there so utterly defeated, that his soldiers, enraged at his failure, killed him with their own hands. Almagro and the Inca then returned in triumph to Cuzco.

But meanwhile Pizarro heard of a far more formidable attempt to contest his newly-obtained power. His conquest, though so magnificent, and seemingly so complete, was destined to be perpetually disturbed by turmoil and conflict. Henceforth the conqueror was to know no rest except in the grave. The news which he had received might well alarm him; for he would now probably have to contend, not with hordes of semi-civilized Peruvians, but with hardy and disciplined troops of his own countrymen.