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“D” is for DeSoto’s exploration of South Carolina

“D” is for DeSoto’s exploration of South Carolina (1540). Hernando DeSoto’s exploration of present-day South Carolina (April and May 1540) began in May 1539 at Tampa Bay and ended in 1543 in Mexico. DeSoto organized the expedition in fulfillment of his contract with the king of Spain to explore and settle the vast region known as “LaFlorida.” Crossing the Savannah River near present-day Clark Hill Reservoir, he entered South Carolina in search of the chiefdom of Cofitachiqui that was reported to contain great wealth. As they marched, the Spaniards looted villages and raped, tortured, and enslaved indigenous peoples. At Cofiachiqui they plundered the town and kidnapped the ruler, the “Lady of Cofitachiqui.” As DeSoto headed westward, the Lady escaped and returned home. DeSoto’s exploration provided Spain with knowledge of the interior of this vast continent.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.