Chronicles of America 

The Fight For Cuzco

Returning from Spain in the summer of 1535, Hernando Pizarro brought with him orders extending the jurisdiction of Pizarro seventy leagues beyond the two hundred to the south of the River Santiago earlier allotted him, and bestowing upon him the title of Marqués de los Atavillos. But already at Cuzco it had come to Almagro's knowledge, and hence to Pizarro's, that the former had received a grant to the south of that of Pizarro. Therefore the question: Did two hundred and seventy leagues south from the River Santiago fall short of Cuzco, and so deliver that prize to Almagro; or beyond it, and so confirm it to Pizarro? Contending strenuously that Cuzco fell to him, Almagro nevertheless, soon after June, 1535, set out for Chile, a land possibly richer than Peru, one in any event undeniably his to exploit. De Soto, eager for adventure, would fain have gone with the Marshal but failed to gain consent. There did go, however, an auxiliary party of natives under the chief medicine-man of Cuzco, the Villac Umu.

Such, as between the partners Pizarro and Almagro, was the situation when Pizarro found himself beset by another difficulty. The Indians of Peru were at last awake. In behalf of their land and their religion, of the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods, they had begun against the Spaniards a mighty revolt.

By the time this revolt broke forth on April 18, 1536, Pizarro had accomplished three considerable undertakings, or rather one such undertaking, for the other two had been accomplished for him rather than by him. Late in 1533, or early in 1534, Sebastián de Benalcazar had seized Quito. Then Pedro de Alvarado, our earlier acquaintance, blond and daredevil, having heard of Quito as a rich quarry, had disembarked against it at Caraques, but had been headed off by Almagro backed by Benalcazar, and for a consideration called "his expenses, " had agreed to leave the country. Lastly, on January 6, 1535, Pizarro had founded as the capital of Peru the city of Lima.

But to seize the thread of our story. On the execution of Atahualpa, Pizarro found that while a captive Inca might be an embarrassment, no Inca at all would be a greater embarrassment still. He thereupon promptly filled the place of the dead Inca by naming as his successor one of Atahualpa's brothers, Toparca. On the way to Cuzco Toparca died, and a brother to the murdered Huascar — called Manco Inca — coming forth to greet Pizarro with professions of loyalty, was accepted as Inca and received the borla. Manco Inca, with studied Indian craft, disarmed Spanish caution and laid deep and secret plans.

In 1536 Hernando Pizarro commanded in Cuzco, where were also his brothers, Juan and Gonzalo; and, though by this time Manco Inca had in a measure betrayed his hand, Hernando in his chivalrous way treated him with confidence. On the 18th of April, Manco, in company with his chief medicine-man, who had left Almagro, quietly departed from Cuzco, on a pretext of visiting the burial-place of Huayna Ccapac, and once beyond Pizarro's reach summoned in council the caciques and war captains of Peru. "I am resolved," declared the Inca, "to rid this land of every Christian, and shall first lay siege to Cuzco." Then, ordering to be brought two large golden vessels full of wine, "let such as are with me," he exclaimed, "pledge themselves herein to the death!"

The fight for Cuzco centered around the huge fortress of Sacsahuaman. This, at first, the Indians were able to seize and hold by setting on fire the combustible thatched roofs of the town and so forcing the Spaniards to huddle together in the plaza. But after a week of mingled struggle and endurance the fortress was scaled and captured. Its last defender was a Peruvian of giant size and prowess, one of the war chiefs who had pledged himself in the wine. This hero, seeing all was lost, "sprinkled dust upon his head toward heaven," then cast himself down upon the foe and so perished.

While Hernando Pizarro was defending Cuzco, his brother the Conqueror was at Lima, his new capital. Here he was besieged; but the country being level, he was able to beat off the enemies by the aid of his horsemen. His great concern was Cuzco. Thither he dispatched what aid he could, but with ill success, for the party was intercepted and the severed heads of divers of them were thrown at Hernando's feet. But he did more. He appealed for aid to the entire world of Spanish America — to Panamá, to Nicaragua, to Guatemala, to New Spain, and to Española. That is to say, he appealed among others to Pedro de Alvarado and to Hernan Cortés; and by Cortés at least aid was sent.

In the struggle for Cuzco, Indian warfare was exhibited to Europeans on a scale hitherto unparalleled. Not alone were there warriors in countless masses. Such had there been in Mexico. Not alone were there tossing crests, waving banners, and panoplies of featherwork. Such had there been in Mexico. Not alone were there forests of long lances and battle-axes edged with copper. Such things, or similar, had there been in Mexico. But there was displayed something besides —something which in Mexico had not been quite the same — to wit, real military intelligence. Though in general softer of fiber than the Aztec, both intellectually and physically, the Peruvian sometimes outdid the Aztec in wit. To the Peruvian, for example, the "white stranger" was less a preternatural being than to the Aztec. The former, too, feared the horse somewhat less. It is even said by Herrera that, so accustomed to the horse had the Peruvian become by the time of the struggle for Cuzco that he was occasionally to be seen on horseback himself, a statement which Sir Arthur Helps distinctly challenges.

But the circumstances most significant for us in the Cuzco battles — battles hotly contested, for in one of them Juan Pizarro was killed — are the skill, the valor, the caution, the perseverance, and the knightly bearing of Hernando Pizarro. This capable leadership, especially in its knightly aspect, appears to an even higher degree, however, in the contest next to arise, one in which the Peruvian forces were divided between warring factions of the invading Spaniards.

It was 1537, and Almagro was back from Chile. Weary, starved, frost-bitten, sun-blistered, disillusioned, and disgusted, he had returned. No more chasing of will-o'-the-wisps for him! Cuzco fell within his province! He knew it, so Cuzco he would have! Seeking but failing to make friends with Manco Inca, who lay with a strong force outside the city, Almagro overthrew him in fight, and, disregarding an armistice with Hernando Pizarro for an adjustment of boundaries by "pilots, " on the stormy night of the 8th of April he stole into Cuzco and, surprising Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro in their beds, promptly seized them and imprisoned them in the Temple of the Sun.

The feud long maturing between the partners Pizarro and Almagro was now squarely at issue. First, Almagro defeated Pizarro's lieutenant, Alonso de Alvarado, and thereby made his tenancy of Cuzco secure. Next, Gaspar de Espinosa, Luque's successor in the partnership, arriving from Panamá, sought to reconcile Almagro with Pizarro, but died in the midst of his efforts. Then Almagro, becoming aware of Pizarro's increasing force, consented to arbitration. Over this the partners met, embraced one another, and wept. There had in the past been many meetings of reconciliation between Pizarro and Almagro, and at all of them tears had been freely shed. Once the partners had even had recourse to the Church, and had divided between them the Host. Nor were these meetings all mere fustian and hypocrisy. Not at any rate with Almagro. Old, ugly, scarred, and of inferior physique, he was at the same time capable of feeling and of manifesting the profoundest generosity.

Despite tears and embraces, the arbitration had not succeeded; but a treaty was made whereby Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro were set at liberty on stipulation that the question of Cuzco be left to the King and that Hernando Pizarro leave Peru within six weeks. Then suddenly there developed a further phase in the Pizarro-Almagro feud. Hardly had the treaty been concluded when a messenger from Spain brought word that each partner was to retain what he had already conquered and peopled. Both hereupon claimed to have conquered Cuzco; and Pizarro, having the stronger following, declared the treaty annulled and prepared for battle.

The principal commanders on the side of Pizarro, who had himself withdrawn to Lima on account of his years, were Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro, Alonso de Alvarado, and Pedro de Valdivia. On the side of Almagro, they were Almagro himself, too much incapacitated to fight but watching the field from afar in a litter; Pedro de Lerma, a deserter from Pizarro; and above all Rodrigo de Orgañez, a doughty, implacable soldier trained under the Constable of Bourbon. As for the forces, they were nearly equal: on Pizarro's side, some six hundred and fifty men; and on Almagro's, six hundred and eighty; whereof about two hundred and eighty and three hundred, respectively, were horsemen.

Battle was joined on April 6, 1538, a short way out of Cuzco on the Plains of Salinas, and by the encounter that took place such cavaliers as Hernando Pizarro, Rodrigo de Orgañez, and Pedro de Lerma, must have been reminded of combats in the Old World. One circumstance, however, rendered it peculiarly a New World combat. Almagro's men, divers of them, wore corslets, morions, and arm-pieces hammered out of silver. By doubling the quantity of silver used, as compared with iron, they succeeded in producing, so they said, an armor as strong as that forged at Milan. In any event, it was as pretty a mêlée of knights, gentlemen, and foot-soldiers as one might wish to see; for not only were there skill and prowess, but, as occurs not seldom in partnership readjustments, a becoming amount of deadly animosity.

But, more particularly, what of Hernando Pizarro? "A veray parfit gentil knight" Hernando was and, as such, careful of his appearance. Over his corslet he wore a surcoat of orange damask. Fastened to this was the Cross of the Order of Santiago given him by the King; and above his morion floated a tall white plume. These embellishments looked well, but there was more to them than that. Being a true Sir Knight, he had wrongs to avenge, and he wished his enemies to be able to distinguish him easily in the press and to have every opportunity to encounter him. At one point only was he at a disadvantage and a bit of a Don Quixote. He was not handsome. He was tall, which was well; but his lips hung heavy, and his nose was bulbous and red at the end.

The challenge of the flame-colored surcoat and white plume did not pass unheeded. Pedro de Lerma spurred against Pizarro, with whom his relations were peculiarly strained, and Pizarro spurred against Lerma. The lance of Lerma took effect chiefly upon Pizarro's horse, forcing him back on his haunches and unseating the rider, while Pizarro's lance pierced his adversary's thigh. Indeed this special bout was a kind of Ivanhoe and Brian de Bois-Guilbert affair, for neither combatant quite overcame the other; and the unhorsed knight, springing erect, drew his sword to try conclusions on foot.

Orgañez meanwhile, grim and sinister, was himself seeking Pizarro. His training had been in a harsh school which believed that "dead men do not bite, " and when Hernando was in Almagro's power, Orgañez had urgently advised cutting off his head. Like Richard of Gloucester at Bosworth Field, Orgañez at Salinas would seem to have been haunted by a presentiment that he was doomed to die. First, though, he would kill the usurper Pizarro. His rushes therefore were headlong and fierce. One cavalier whom, from a bright surcoat, he thought to be Hernando, he charged and ran through. Another he likewise pierced with his lance; and a third he cut down with his sword. Then, wounded in the head by a chain-shot, and his horse being down, he yielded to numbers. His sword he delivered up to one of Pizarro's squires, a cowardly fellow who stabbed his helpless prisoner to the heart.

Throughout the battle, the hills about the Plains of Salinas were covered by onlooking Indians, auxiliaries of Almagro; but they merely looked on and wondered and took no part. The more the Spaniards slaughtered one another, the greater the gain to the natives. And, considering the numbers engaged, the slaughter was great. In less than two hours, more than one hundred and fifty knights and foot-soldiers were killed outright. Lerma received seventeen wounds and escaped, only to be murdered in his bed after the battle. Then came Almagro's turn — not that he was immediately made way with, but was put in prison and treated with consideration. In connection with his imprisonment severe criticism has been visited upon Hernando Pizarro. In Cuzco there were many Almagrists, and, so long as their leader lived, peril to the stability of the Pizarro régime was imminent. Plots for the prisoner's liberation were rife. Under these circumstances Hernando Pizarro, disregarding tears, pleas for mercy, and reminders of how his own life had been spared by Almagro, permitted the latter to be condemned to death. Whether in so doing Hernando was actuated by a sense of duty or was simply displaying something of Spanish primitivism, a quality so conspicuous in Pedrarias, is a question. On July 8, 1538, Diego de Almagro was strangled in prison, and the next day the body was shown in the plaza with the head cut off.

Almagro, dead, was now more his partner's " master " than he had been when alive. Hernando Pizarro sailed in 1539 for Spain to explain matters to the King. He was, however, anticipated by a friend of the dead partner, Diego de Alvarado, and was coldly received. Alvarado on his part challenged Hernando to mortal combat but died before the ordeal of battle could be essayed. Yet Hernando Pizarro did not escape punishment for the death of Almagro but was shut up in the fortress of Medina del Campo, where he was kept a prisoner for twenty years.

On leaving Peru, Hernando Pizarro had cautioned his brother the Conqueror, to "beware the men of Chile," the Almagrists. They formed a distinct element both in Cuzco and in Lima, and at the latter place under the leadership of Juan de Rada, the one-time follower of Cortés, dreamed and conspired against the Conqueror's life. Finally, on June 26, 1541, their plottings bore fruit. On that day at noon, to the number of eighteen or twenty, they surprised Pizarro in the government house and slew him in cold blood. With the Conqueror at the time were several persons, notably his brother Martin of Alcantara, the least prominent of the family, but like all of them valiant and a good swordsman. The onset of the conspirators was furious. Pizarro was not able so much as to secure the door against them or to put on his corslet. Martin fought desperately but was soon cut down. Thereupon Pizarro, wrapping his left arm in his cloak, seized his sword and did bloody execution; but at length, receiving a thrust in the neck, he fell to the floor. "Jesu!" exclaimed the fallen Conqueror, and, tracing on the floor a cross in his own blood, he bent to kiss it and so died.

Of the four brothers of Pizarro, two were now dead and one was in permanent confinement in Spain. There was left in Peru Gonzalo Pizarro only. His career, like that of the Conqueror, was chequered. In 1540, in obedience to orders, he had made exploration from the Andes eastward. On this expedition one of his lieutenants, Francisco de Orellana, sailed down a stream traversing a country where "the women fought by the side of their husbands," a country of Amazons, and at length passed into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1544 Gonzalo Pizarro made himself Governor of Peru. He aspired, it is said, to become its absolute ruler and lord; and had he but heeded the counsel of his master of the camp, Francisco de Carvajal, he might have succeeded. As it was, in April, 1548, he was defeated in battle by forces of the Crown and was beheaded. The same year in which Gonzalo Pizarro had gone eastward from Quito, another explorer, Pedro de Valdivia, had gone southward into Chile; and here, on September 3, 1544, he founded the city of Valparaiso. In 1547 Valdivia returned to Peru and was instrumental in bringing defeat on Gonzalo Pizarro.

With regard to the Almagrist party, on the execution of their leader, they set up his natural son Diego as Governor, but he was pronounced a rebel by the Crown, and in 1542, after the death of his able supporter, Juan de Rada, was overthrown in battle, captured, and put to death. In this conflict our old acquaintance Pedro de Candia was Almagro's artillerist, but, falling under suspicion of treachery, was ridden down and killed by Almagro himself.

From among the interesting figures in Peru under the Pizarro régime, there remains to be accounted for only the Inca Manco. Not long after his defeat by Almagro, he took refuge in a fastness of the Andes. The spot, it is thought, was the Megalithic town of Machu Picchu, whence the Incas had sprung. Here with his concubines, the Virgins of the Sun, he kept court, receiving and succoring outlawed Spaniards, beings no longer regarded by any Indian as preternatural. Here, too, about 1544, he died — struck down, it is said, at a game of bowls by a Spaniard with whom he had an altercation.

After 1545, zeal for conquest in America on the part of Spain tended perceptibly to die down. As early as 1535, well within the lifetime of Cortés, who did not die till 1547, a Viceroy had been sent to Mexico. One was sent to Peru in 1543. With these appointments, government in Spanish-America gradually became more stable. Vast now, seemingly, was the interval since the day when, responding to the lure of Antillia, of Cipangu, and of the Cathay of Marco Polo, Columbus had set sail from Palos for the land where the sunsets go.

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