History Timeline 1490s

Above: Explorer John Cabot. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Right: Painting Christopher Columbus taking possession of San Salvador, Watling Island by L Prang and Co., 1893. Images courtesy Library of Congress.


Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1400s

Columbus and Cabot

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  • Timeline

  • 1498 - Detail

    May 30, 1498 - The third voyage of Columbus began in the Spanish city of Sanlucar. During this voyage, he explored the islands of the Caribbean again as well as the South American territories of what is now Venezuela. Upon visiting the previously established settlements, he found much discontent among those left behind to colonize the region.

    Columbus with Natives

    Columbus had been back in Spain since 1496 when a new mission arrived. There had been Portuguese reports that a large mainland existed below the islands of the Indies which Columbus had discovered on his first and second voyages. They were purported to be southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. Columbus sailed from Sanlucar with six ships in his fleet, departing on May 30, 1498. Accompanying him was Bartolome de las Casas, the eventual Bishop of Chiapas. The Admiral led three of them directly toward the supposed continent, the Santa Maria de Guia, the Vaquenos, and the Correo, founding Trinidad on July 31. There are reports that the other three ships, according to Bartolome de las Casas, were sent directly toward Hispaniola.

    For eight days in early August, Columbus and his three ships explored the Gulf of Paria between Trinidad and today's Venezuela. His exploration continued on the mainland with forays into the region of the Orinoco River. Back on sea, Columbus encountered the islands of Margarita, Chacachacare, Tobago, and Grenada.

    Arrival in South America

    From the "The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus by His Son," Ferdinand Columbus.

    Tuesday, the last day of July, 1498, having sailed westward so many days, the Admiral concluded the Cannibales (Caribe) Islands must be to the north of him. He therefore decided not to hold on that course any longer but to make for Espanola, not only because he was in great want of water but also because all his provisions were spoiling. He also feared that in his absence some mutiny or disorder might take place among the people he had left there, as had actually happened. He therefore altered his course from the west and stood north, thinking that on the way he might strike one of the Cannibales (Caribe), where the sailors could rest and the ships take on wood and water, of which they were very short. One day at noon a sailor from Huelva by the name of Alonso Perez Nizardo, climbing to the crow's nest, saw land some fifteen leagues to the westward. It had the appearance of three mountains joined at the base, a htde (sp) later they perceived that this land extended northwestward as far as the eye could reach. So, after all had given many thanks to God and recited the Hail Mary and other devout prayers that sailors are accustomed to say in tune of rejoicing as in adversity, the Admiral gave that island the name of Trinidad, both because he had intended to give that name to the first land he should find and because he wished to show his gratitude to God, Who had shown him those three mountains all together. He then sailed due west toward a cape which lay to the south and cruised along the southern shore of that island till he came to anchor five leagues beyond a point that he called Cabo de la Galera, from a nearby rock that from a distance looked like a galley under sail. As he now had only one cask of water for all his ship's crew and the other ships were in the same plight, and there was no good watering place there, he continued on Wednesday morning on his course west and anchored at another point that he named Punta de la Playa. The sailors went ashore with much merriment and took water from a pleasant brook, they encountered no people or village in the vicinity, though all along that coast they had seen many huts and villages. They did find signs of fishermen who had fled, leaving their fishing tackle behind, also they found many footprints of animals that seemed to be goats and the skeleton of a hornless animal that they judged to be a macaque or small monkey. They later knew this opinion to be true, from the many animals of that kind they saw in Paria.

    That same day (August 1st), sailing southward between Cabo de la Galera and Punta de la Playa, they saw the continent on their left, twenty-five leagues away, but they thought it was another island and the Admiral named it Isla Santa. The coast of Trinidad extends thirty leagues from one point to the other, unbroken by a single harbor its entire length. The whole country was very lovely, with woods reaching down to the water's edge and many villages and huts. They covered this distance in a very short time, because the sea current set so strongly westward that it looked like an impetuous river, both day and night and at all hours, although the tide on this shore rises and falls more than sixty feet, this happens at Sanlucar de Barrameda, whose waters rise and fall with the tide, yet never cease to flow out to sea.

    Columbus Meets the Natives of South America

    From the "The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus by His Son," Ferdinand Columbus.

    As they had no opportunity to speak with the natives of the country at the Punta de la Playa, and there was no good watering place there, or one in which they could repair their ships or obtain provisions, the Admiral proceeded the next day, August 2d, to another point that seemed to be the western end of that island and named it Punta del Arenal. There he anchored, thinking it offered better protection from the east wind that blew in that region and hindered the boats in coming and going ashore. As they sailed toward this point a canoe with twenty-five persons began to follow them, a lombard shot away the Indians stopped paddling and called out to them. Our people did not understand a word they said, but the Indians were probably asking what sort of men the Spaniards were and whence they came, as the Indians are accustomed to do. Since words could not persuade the Indians to come nearer, our men tried to coax them by showing brass pots, mirrors, and other things of which Indians are usually very fond. This brought them a little closer, but from time to time they stopped as if in doubt. Then the Admiral tried to lure them by staging a show, with a pipe-and-tabor player mounting the prow, while another sang and played a kettle-drum and some grummets did a dance. At this the Indians assumed a waihke (sp) posture, taking up their shields and beginning to shoot arrows at the entertainers, who promptly stopped their performance. Unwilling to let this insolence go unpunished lest they feel contempt for the Christians, the Admiral ordered some crossbowmen to shoot at the Indians, who, finding it difficult to retreat, paddled over to the Vaquena without sign of fear or hesitation. The Vaquenas pilot entered their canoe and gave them some trifles that pleased them greatly, they said that if the Christians came ashore, they would bring them bread from their houses. Then they left for shore, and the ship's people did not detain any for fear of displeasing the Admiral. They said these Indians were of very handsome appearance and had lighter skins than those on the other islands, that they wore their hair long, like women, tied in the back with small strings, and that they covered their private parts wnth breechclouts.

    Return to Espaniola (Hispaniola)

    Columbus returned to Santo Domingo on August 31, 1498 from his exploration of the northern coast of South America and the islands in between in ill health. The settlements had not fared well in his several year absence. At first, thinking Columbus would return with increased provisions, they remained in peace. However, after a year, this halted, and Columbus returned to a city and island rife with struggle. There had been a revolt led by the Alcade Mayor Francisco Roldan, whom Columbus had appointed. On November 21, 1498, an agreement was made between Columbus and Roldan to provide the rebels safe harbor back to Spain, however, that agreement did not go into place, with a separate agreement coming to fore one year later on November 5th, that would lead to Roldan continuing in his post as Mayor.

    Columbus continued to govern, but with his health, had decided that a return to Spain would be better than remaining as Governor of the Indies, and requested that a replacement be appointed. His seven year reign in that post had not gone particulary well, with mistreatment of the natives by the Admiral and his brothers, as well as unrest. On August 23, 1500, Francisco de Babadilla arrived from Spain to take over as governor, appointed on May 21, 1499 and given expanded powers. He arrested Columbus, removed the Admiral from his posts, and shipped he and his brothers back to Spain on October 1, 1500. They were imprisoned for six weeks, before King Ferdinand had them released. The King and Queen agreed with the contention of Columbus that those who had conspired against him were doing so for their own benefit; he would be given back his wealth, but not the governorship. Columbus would return to the Americas for his fourth journey on March 14, 1502.

    Image above: Christopher Columbus among Indians, 1850/1900, Vve. Turgis, Editor. Courtesy Library of Congress. Image below: Landing of Columbus showing objects to Natives, 1860/1880. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: "The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus by His Son," Ferdinand Columbus. Courtesy archive.org; christopher-columbus.eu; "Narrative of the Third Voyage of Columbus as Contained in Las Casas's History," American Journeys Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society; Wikipedia Commons.

    Christopher Columbus Landing in America

    History Photo Bomb