Adventures and Conquests of Pizarro - George Towle

Almagro's Revolt

Almagro, when the Peruvians thus attacked the Spaniards at Cuzco, was far on his way southward with his stalwart band of adventurers. The plucky little cavalier, though now nearly seventy years old, and enfeebled by disease as well as age, was resolved, if possible, to make a conquest as rich as that of Pizarro; and he pushed bravely on, in the hope of finding in the south another golden land like Peru.

His hopes, however, were destined to be frustrated. For a while, he and his men advanced cheerily along the great highway that led from Cuzco to the southern limits of the Inca's empire; but as soon as they left it, and entangled themselves in the rude and savage mountain passes, their progress was slow and painful.

It was not long before they began to endure terrible sufferings. It grew so bitterly cold, that their fingers and toes froze, and dropped off. In those dreary and desolate wilds they could find no food; and the poor fellows were at last reduced to feed upon the corpses of their horses, while the Peruvians who were with them devoured their comrades who fell dead from hunger or cold by the wayside. Everywhere they went, they found that the natives had burnt their huts and provisions, and had fled from the pathway of the stranger.

The few Peruvians that Almagro succeeded in capturing he subjected to the most ferocious cruelties. He forced them to carry his ammunition and clothing; and, when they resisted, he caused them to be burned alive.

After going a distance of three hundred miles, and failing to find any of the treasure he hoped to obtain, Almagro was forced to turn back, and march northward again. His expedition was a sad failure, and the only desire of his suffering soldiers was to get back safely to Peru. In returning, they were forced to cross a dreary desert; but the prospect of once more reaching a land of riches and plenty buoyed them up, and they pushed rapidly forward towards Cuzco.

When Almagro had come within about a hundred and fifty miles of that city, he heard the news of the Peruvian rising, and of the siege of Cuzco. It at once occurred to him that he might take advantage of this state of things. He had by no means given up his claim to Cuzco; and now, more than ever, when he had failed to conquer a new country for himself, was he resolved to possess the capital of Peru, and become its ruler. He therefore hastened forward; and his soldiers, who were warmly devoted to him, eagerly hailed this prospect of the stirring action of conflict again.

When Almagro came near the Inca's camp, he sent to Manco, and asked for an interview with him. The young Inca received Almagro in his camp, and pretended to welcome him as a friend; but no sooner had the Spanish chief departed than the Peruvians prepared to resist him.

Manco marched against him with no less a force than fifteen thousand warriors. But the doughty Almagro was prepared for him. After a sharp battle, the Peruvians were repulsed and routed.

Almagro now resolved to lose no time in attacking Hernando Pizarro at Cuzco. Advancing with his brave little army upon the city, he availed himself of a dark, tempestuous night to storm it. He found but little opposition. The force under Hernando had greatly dwindled during the long siege, and Almagro took possession of the great square almost without the shedding of a drop of blood.

Among his officers was a very brave and energetic cavalier, who was faithfully devoted to Almagro's cause. The name of this cavalier was Orgonez.

Orgonez no sooner found himself in Cuzco, than, choosing a band of tried soldiers, he hastened to the palace where Hernando Pizarro and his brother Gonzalo had their quarters. Both Almagro and Orgonez heartily hated Hernando, whose haughty bearing and domineering temper had often deeply offended them. Orgonez attacked the palace furiously; but Hernando was defended by a gallant company of about twenty men, who desperately resisted the attack.

At last Orgonez, finding that he could not take the palace, ordered his soldiers to set fire to it. Presently it began to blaze up. It was no longer possible for those inside to remain; and Hernando and his followers rushed out, and were at once seized by their assailants. Hernando himself had scarcely emerged from the door when the whole roof of the great building fell in with a deafening roar.

Although Almagro was at last master of Cuzco, he was in great peril of losing it again; for at Xauxa, forty miles away, was encamped a body of five hundred Spaniards, under a general named Alonzo de Alvarado, which had been sent by Pizarro from Lima for the succor of his brothers.

Almagro saw that he must lose no time in attacking Alvarado. The latter had his camp on the banks of a river, opposite a bridge. At some distance farther down was a ford, where he had also taken pains to leave a guard. It happened that among his officers was one named Lerma, who was secretly a friend of Almagro. To this treacherous man Alvarado owed the misfortune which soon overtook him.

Almagro, leaving a garrison at Cuzco, issued forth with the rest of his troops to assail Alvarado; and Orgonez went with him. On approaching the river, he received a message from Lerma, who apprised him of the ford lower down the river, and advised him to pretend to attack the bridge, but to really lead his main force to the ford, and cross there.

No time was lost in following out this plan. Almagro advanced upon the bridge, as if about to attack it; but, as soon as night fell, he sent the greater part of his force down to the ford under Orgonez, while he himself remained at the bridge with the rest.

Orgonez quickly led his men into the shallow water, and, after a sharp fight with those who were guarding the ford (in the course of which he himself was severely wounded in the mouth), succeeded in getting a footing on the opposite shore. Alvarado soon learned what was going on, and hastened down the bank, too late, to defend the passage of the ford. Then Almagro, seizing his chance, forced his way across the bridge, fell upon Alvarado in the rear, and, after a brief though desperate encounter, defeated him, and took a large number of his soldiers prisoners.

All this while Pizarro remained at Lima, the "City of the Kings," impatiently awaiting the aid he had summoned from Panama and Guatemala.

After living in this distressing suspense for several months, which seemed an age to him, his eyes were delighted with the arrival of some ships, which brought a goodly re-enforcement of soldiers, and were, besides, laden with cargoes of provisions, ammunition, and clothing. The soldiers were under the command of a renowned cavalier named Espinosa, who heartily devoted himself to Pizarro's service.

Pizarro hastened to organize another army for the purpose of marching to Cuzco and raising the siege of the Inca. Though he had grown sick of war, and longed to live in peace in his new city, which was now built, and was fast being filled up by Spanish settlers, his dauntless soul could not rest until he had crushed all opposition to his rule.

He set out at last at the head of about five hundred men, two hundred and thirty of whom were cavalry. But he had scarcely left the valley of the Rimac when the news reached him of Almagro's sudden return, his capture of Cuzco, and his crushing triumph over Alvarado. With the quickness of his military instinct, Pizarro saw that it would not be safe to advance farther, with so small a force as he had, against his victorious rival. So he returned to Lima, and resolved, as the part of prudence, to send an envoy to Almagro, and, if possible, to come to terms with him. He dispatched Espinosa to him; but Almagro was flushed and insolent with success, and, instead of listening to Pizarro's proposals, put himself at the head of a large force, and marched straight towards Lima. No longer content with Cuzco, the old cavalier's towering ambition now extended to the mastery of all Peru.

Almagro carried Hernando Pizarro, closely guarded, along with him. Orgonez, whose hatred for Hernando knew no bounds, begged the chief to kill him, instead of taking him on the expedition.

"A Pizarro," urged Orgonez, "was never known to forget or forgive an injury; and you will surely rue the day if you let Hernando live."

Hernando's lot, since his capture, had been a hard one. He had been closely confined in a dungeon, and had been scantily fed. But his jailers allowed him one consolation. Among Almagro's most trusted officers was a certain Diego de Alvarado, a brother of the cavalier who some time before had attempted to invade Peru, as has been related. This Alvarado became Hernando's constant companion in prison, and they beguiled the time by gambling. In this bad occupation, Hernando won a large sum of money from Alvarado; but, when the latter offered to pay his debt, Hernando refused to take it. This made Alvarado his fast friend, and he was destined to do him afterwards more than one valuable service.

Almagro, with a formidable body of troops, marched rapidly across the country, and soon made his appearance in the lovely valley where Lima, Pizarro's new capital, stood.

Pizarro had no sooner learned Almagro's near approach than he sent a gentle message to him, proposing an interview. To this Almagro consented.

On a balmy afternoon in November, the two Spanish chiefs, once such devoted friends, but now enemies at heart, met on the verdant banks of the Rimac, each surrounded by a picked band of cavaliers. Almagro, as soon as he saw Pizarro, started forward with a smile on his lips, and stretched out both his hands, as if to welcome the governor with all his old cordiality; but Pizarro drew himself up proudly, put his hands behind his back, and made a cold and haughty bow. Then, turning upon Almagro with flashing eyes, he exclaimed,—

"Why have you seized my city of Cuzco, and cast my brothers into prison? What means this hostile armament that you have brought hither?"

Almagro replied sharply that Cuzco was his by right, and that he was resolved to defend it. The dispute grew warmer and warmer, until the cavaliers seemed about to come to blows; when Almagro, looking around suspiciously, and fearing that Pizarro's attendants were about to rush upon him, turned on his heel, mounted his horse, and hurried off to his camp.

In spite of this quarrel, the two cavaliers did not at once attack each other. They continued to send messages to and fro, and at last came to terms on the matters in dispute between them. It was agreed that Almagro should keep possession of Cuzco until fresh instructions came from the emperor; and that, on the other hand, Hernando Pizarro should be set free.

Almagro hastened to the tent where Hernando was kept under guard, and, with a generous impulse, grasped him by the hand.

"You are free from this moment," said the old cavalier. Let us bury all our disputes, and live henceforth as friends."

"Nothing," replied Hernando, delighted to recover his liberty, "would suit me better."

The two then cordially embraced; and Hernando, mounting a horse which Almagro provided for him, galloped away to his brother's camp. Pizarro greeted him with affectionate warmth, led him into his tent, and regaled him with the best dishes the country afforded.

The next day Pizarro called a council of his principal officers. Dauntless and determined as he was, he had one very grave defect. He was deceitful, and made light of his plighted faith. He had solemnly agreed with Almagro upon the terms of peace between them, and had by this means procured Hernando's freedom. But now he proposed to break his pledges, and to send Almagro word that he did not intend to fulfill his agreement. At first Hernando, who had been so leniently dealt with by Almagro, objected to this; but his voice was overcome by that of the other cavaliers, who one and all clamored to march against the other camp.

As soon as Almagro received Pizarro's message that he would not abide by the treaty, he hastened to retreat from the valley, and to get back to Cuzco as quickly as he could. He feared every moment, lest, unprepared as he was, Pizarro should attack him; and he was anxious to reach the capital before his enemy.

Poor Almagro was in a sad plight. He was now not only old, but broken down by a long-lingering and incurable disease. At this critical moment in his fortunes he could not even walk, and had to be carried on a litter across the arid deserts and over the rugged and dangerous mountain passes.

He succeeded, however, in reaching Cuzco before his enemy, and in all haste prepared to defend himself. It was full time; for he had only been at Cuzco a few days when a formidable array of troops, with armor shining and flags flying, appeared in the dim distance, winding down the mountain defiles towards the city. It was Hernando Pizarro, to whom his brother had committed the command of the army, while he himself remained at Lima.

At first Almagro thought that he would remain with his force inside Cuzco, and defend it from the fortress and ramparts. But his faithful officer Orgonez persuaded him to adopt a different plan. Orgonez proposed to march, with the five hundred men at their disposal, outside the city, and await Hernando's attack on a plain about three miles off. Almagro himself, sick, feeble, and foreboding disaster, remained in Cuzco, while Orgonez took command of the troops.

The scene was a thrilling one, as with slow, steady, measured tread, the serried ranks of Hernando's soldiers advanced down the green slopes, their banners and plumes floating in the air, their trumpets sounding, and their armor glistening in the sunlight. As the sun set, he took up his position on the banks of a small river which separated him from Orgonez' force. Presently the watch-fires, lit up in both camps, showed each where the other was, and cast a fitful and lurid glare over the hills and plain.

By dawn of the next day the trumpets had called Hernando's soldiers to their ranks. His infantry was drawn up in the center, and his cavalry occupied the flanks. When they had formed in order of battle, two priests walked slowly to the front, arrayed in the robes of their office; two small altars were set up; and the priests chanted the mass, and gave the soldiers a solemn benediction.

Then the order was given to "Forward march!" The little army advanced as if by a single motion. They boldly waded into the stream, and ascended the other side. A wide swamp now lay between them and the enemy; but they marched straight on, unchecked either by the sinking soil, or by the volleys of cannon with which Orgonez had begun to welcome them.

In an instant, as it seemed, the two armies came together with a furious rush. On the surrounding hills, swarms of Peruvians watched with wonder and delight this deadly onset of Spaniard against Spaniard. The conflict raged with desperation. Both Hernando and Orgonez performed prodigies of valor. At last Orgonez fell to the ground, his horse being shot under him. In a moment he was surrounded by a crowd of his enemies. Raising his head proudly, he asked,—

"Is there a knight here to whom I can surrender?"

A mean-looking soldier stepped forward, and held out his hand. Orgonez delivered him his sword. No sooner had he done so than the wretch who received it, drawing a dagger, plunged it into the brave cavalier's heart up to the hilt.

For a moment there was confusion in the ranks of Almagro's soldiers. They had lost their leader. But another, not less valiant, took his place. Lerma put himself at their head, and called aloud to them to follow him into the fray. Enraged at the dastardly deed by which Orgonez had died, Lerma wildly searched over the battlefield for Hernando Pizarro. He thirsted to wreak his vengeance upon him. Hernando, who was as fearless as he, hastened to meet Lerma. They charged full at each other with their lances, and each fell at the shock of the other's weapon. The wounded cavaliers were picked up by their adherents; and the tide of battle swept between them, and parted them.

As the conflict raged, Almagro, lying upon a litter, watched its course from a hill nearby. He knew that upon its result hung his fate. If his soldiers prevailed, he would be master of Peru; if they were routed, it would be utter ruin to him. What was his agony when he heard that his faithful Orgonez had fallen under an assassin's blow! and what his dismay, when, on Hernando's troops charging furiously his defenders, he saw the latter break their ranks, and fly bewildered in every direction! The battle had been decided against him, and there was nothing left for him but to try to save his life. He with difficulty got on the back of a mule, ill as he was, and rode in all haste to the fortress. But he was speedily followed by a band of Hernando's soldiers, rudely seized, put in irons, and brought to the same palace where he had imprisoned Hernando. There he was cast into a dark, damp dungeon.

Hernando entered Cuzco in triumph, and unresisted. Once more he found himself encamped on the great square where he had sustained the siege of the Peruvians, master of the city, and with Almagro as his captive.

The fate of the brave Lerma, who had taken Orgonez' place as the leader of Almagro's troops, deserves to be told. He was carried by his conquerors, pierced by no less than seventeen wounds, from the battlefield into the city. There he was laid in the house of one of his friends. As he was reclining on his bed, smarting and feeble from his wounds, a rough soldier, whom on one occasion he had struck in a moment of anger, entered the apartment. Walking up to Lerma's bedside, and shaking his fist in his face, he cried,—

"Once you struck me a blow. I have come to wash it away with your blood!"

Lerma raised himself on his elbow, and replied, that, when he was well, he would settle the account with the man.

"No!" retorted the wretch: "I will not wait. Now is the moment for my revenge."

With this he plunged a sword deep into the wounded cavalier's body; and Lerma, falling back, and throwing up his arms, expired. Five years after, the ruffian was hung for having committed this dastardly outrage.

Hernando was puzzled to know what to do with his captive Almagro. To set him free would be to kindle anew the fires of civil war between the conquerors of Peru; to keep him in prison was to tempt his adherents to rescue him. Almagro, when he had Hernando in his power, had spared him, in spite of the eager advice of Orgonez to put an end to his life; and Hernando hesitated to repay this generosity by executing his prisoner.

One day he went to visit Almagro in his dungeon. The gray-haired cavalier lay suffering on a pallet of straw. Disease and privation had reduced him to a mere skeleton.

"Cheer up!" said Hernando. "As soon as my brother the governor comes, you shall be released. You shall be sent whither and how you will."

Almagro was comforted by his captor's words, and still more so when Hernando sent him every day the nicest dishes that graced his own table.

But, despite these promises and attentions, Hernando at last resolved that Almagro must die. The old man was amazed, a few days after Hernando's visit to him, to find himself rudely seized by two soldiers, and dragged out of his dungeon. They told him that he was about to be tried for treason and conspiracy. He could scarcely believe his ears. Nevertheless, he submitted meekly to the rough treatment of the soldiers, and soon made his appearance before his judges.

The trial had already been concluded, and he had been sentenced to death. For a moment the poor old cavalier was unmanned.

"I cannot believe," he cried, "that such an outrage will be committed upon me!"

Restored to his dungeon, he sent to Hernando, imploring him to come and see him. When Hernando appeared, Almagro fell at his feet, and, with tears streaming down his withered cheeks, implored him to spare his life.

"Think," he pleaded, "what friendship there has been between your brother and me! what services I rendered him when he was poor and without authority! Oh! spare my gray hairs as I spared you, and let me live out in peace the brief existence that still remains to me."

But his enemy was relentless. Glancing coldly at the old man groveling at his feet, Hernando said with a sneer,—

"I am surprised to see you behave so unlike a brave cavalier. You need have no hope of being spared. Prepare to die. Your doom is sealed, and you had best make ready to meet it."

With these harsh and cruel words Hernando turned on his heel, and left him.

Almagro had a son, named Diego, whom he greatly loved,—a fair young man of one or two and twenty. To him the old man bequeathed the power he had derived from the emperor, and all his property he left to his sovereign.

The next day after Almagro's unhappy interview with Hernando, the great square was strongly guarded by several companies of infantry with loaded guns. Hernando feared lest Almagro's friends in Cuzco, hearing of his intended fate, should rise, and seek to prevent it by force of arms; for there were many of his adherents in the city who detested the Pizarros. At the same time, the houses of these adherents were strictly watched.

Almagro was aroused by two persons entering his dungeon. One was a priest, who carried a book, and slowly approached his bedside. The other was a villainous-looking man, who kept his face concealed, and who carried something—Almagro could not see what—in his hand.

The priest, in a low voice, urged Almagro to think of his soul, telling him that his hour was come. Then, kneeling beside him, the priest uttered a long and solemn prayer. Rising to his feet, he withdrew to a corner of the prison.

The strange man now came forward, and, without saying a word, bound the miserable old man hand and foot. He fastened the fatal noose around the shriveled neck, and, leaping behind him, twisted the stick to which the noose was applied. Almagro gasped, quivered, and fell stark and stiff to the ground.

So ended the famous friendship between Almagro and Pizarro. Thus did Pizarro's brother cruelly requite the indispensable aid which Almagro had lent towards the conquest of Peru.

No sooner was the old cavalier dead than his body was brought out into the square, and laid on a bier in the center. A herald in a loud voice announced his end through the streets, and the next day all that remained of the old man was entombed in the new church which the Spaniards had built at Cuzco.

While this bloody deed was being done, Pizarro was on his way from Lima to Cuzco. In due time the news of his old comrade's fate reached him. When he heard it, he seemed overcome with emotion. His body shook with agitation, and he retired pale and silent to his tent. For several days his soldiers did not catch a glimpse of his face.

Almagro's son Diego had hastened to Pizarro, and pleaded for his father's life; and Pizarro had told him to fear nothing, for he would protect the old man's gray hairs. The youth, made happy by this promise, had gone on cheerfully to Lima; and there he heard with intense grief, that, in spite of all, his father was no more.