Pardo Expedition

On December 1, 1566, the third Spanish expedition into Tennessee commenced when Juan Pardo left Santa Elena on the South Carolina coast with 125 soldiers. Sent into the interior to further Spain’s colonial ambitions and to relieve the food shortage in Santa Elena, Pardo traveled northward. At the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains he built a small stockade, Fort San Juan, at Joara near modern Marion, North Carolina. Pardo garrisoned the fort with thirty men under the command of Sergeant Hernando Moyano de Morales and then explored to the east of Joara before returning to Santa Elena in early March.

While stationed at Fort San Juan, Moyano aided a local chief by taking fifteen soldiers and a force of warriors to attack a rival Chisca town, burning the houses and killing many of the inhabitants. Later Moyano received a threat from a “mountain chief,” presumably a Chisca in the vicinity of the Upper Nolichucky River in eastern Tennessee. Moyano responded by attacking a strongly defended settlement with twenty men and perhaps native allies. Two of Hernando de Soto’s men had contacted the Chiscas in this area some twenty-seven years earlier.

Moyano then explored the Upper Tennessee Valley for four days for precious metals and gems before arriving at the palisaded main town of Chiaha on Zimmerman’s Island in the French Broad River near present-day Dandridge, Tennessee. This town had been visited previously by the Hernando de Soto and Tristan de Luna expeditions. While at Chiaha, Moyano’s men were well fed and well treated. Moyano explored the area around Chiaha and built a small fort on the island.

Pardo departed Santa Elena for the interior again on September 1, 1567, with approximately 120 soldiers, harquebusiers, and crossbowmen. Arriving at Fort San Juan, he learned that the Chiahans had confined Moyano and his men to their fort. On his way to relieve Moyano at Chiaha, Pardo stopped at the fortified town of Tanasqui on the French Broad River on October 6. The land around Tanasqui reminded the Spaniards of Andalucia. Proceeding down the French Broad River the next day, they reached Olamico, the fortified principal town of Chiaha. There Pardo found Moyano and his men safe, but restricted to their fort. The Spaniards were impressed with the rich, broad alluvial land at Chiaha and referred to it as a tierra de angeles–a “land of angels.”

After resting at Olamico for five days, Pardo struck out for Coosa, passing through several towns. On October 14 the Spaniards saw the highest mountains yet seen during their explorations–the Great Smoky Mountains. At the town of Satapo, near the junction of Citico Creek and the Little Tennessee River, Pardo was warned of a plot forged by the chief of Coosa and his Upper Tennessee Valley allies. The Coosas planned to ambush the Spaniards as they traveled from Chiaha to Coosa. To avoid an attack Pardo returned to Olamico and strengthened the island fort. Pardo and company continued on to Santa Elena, arriving there on March 2, 1568.

Suggested Reading

Charles Hudson, The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568 (1990)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Pardo Expedition
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date July 24, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018