The Spanish explorer encounters the Chickasaw Nation, who reasserts its strength and military might

In December 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led an army of men and horses across a river which was the border of the province of Chicasa or modern-day Tombigbee River, bordering the Blackland Prairie where Chickasaws lived for many centuries.

De Soto met the minko' or leader of Chicasa. The Spanish took refuge in an abandoned Chickasaw village to spend the winter in. De Soto's dangerous nature was known to the Chickasaws. The Spanish had slaughtered over a thousand Indians at the Battle of Mabila somewhere in southern Alabama during the previous autumn.

In an uneasy truce, the Chickasaws brought supplies and let the Spaniards remain at their camp until spring 1541. As de Soto prepared to leave, he demanded 200 Chickasaw slaves to carry the troops’ supplies. On March 8, 1541, the Spaniards received a defiant answer from the Chickasaws.

Chickasaw warriors staged a surprise night attack, burning the entire camp, killing 50 horses, 400 hogs and destroying the Spaniard’s weaponry, saddles and clothing and food stores.

At least a dozen Spanish soldiers died and many more were wounded. The Spanish reassembled on a hill some distance away and spent weeks recovering, camping in defensive formations under the open air in grass sleeping bags, due to lack of clothing.

The Chickasaws had sent a strong message to their European enemies: do not return to our land. It was over 150 years until the Chickasaws received another European exploration party.