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First Spanish Fort is an Epic Fail

After running the Santa Maria aground on his 1st voyage, Christopher Columbus left 40 of his men on the shores of Hispaniola [HISS-pan-YO-lah] to build a fort and look for gold while he sailed the Niña back to Spain with trinkets and a few Indians. (The Niña is a caravel with a normal crew complement of 20 and very little room for extra people or supplies. Think of a boat a little smaller than the California Disneyland ride: "The Sailing Ship Columbia" that circumnavigates Tom Sawyer Island.) The local Indian tribe, the Taíno [TAY-no], seems peaceful and willing to help. Columbus returns with 17 ships, and over 1,200 men ready to colonize but he finds the fort abandoned. The dead litter the beach. A more aggressive tribe, the Caribs, had heard that the Spaniards were engaged in rape and murder so they visited justice upon them all (including the local tribe) and possibly eaten them too. Columbus decides to move eastward and next year establishes a colony named "La Isabella" in what is the modern day Dominican Republic. Dominicans don't celebrate Columbus Day though they take some pride in knowing that they were the location of the oldest European settlement. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Were the Caribs really cannibals? I think so but experts disagree. Certainly there were reports of the drinking of blood of one's enemies and reports of Indians inquiring of the Spanish why they didn't eat their enemies. It didn't happen everywhere but apparently it happened enough to be noticed. Regarding the colony of La Isabella, it failed after 5 years due to poor planning. Columbus hadn't checked his water barrels before leaving Spain. They leaked so the colonists were forced to drink the local water. They had no idea of what causes disease so they didn't boil the water. In later history segments I'll cover more about why La Isabella failed. The lesson here is to check your supplies to make sure that what you THINK you have is really what you have.

The Croatian Nobility Is Wiped Out, Sort Of

The Croatians have been feeling the heat from the Ottoman Turks in small raids for a long time now. However, the Croatians have been so busy fighting each other that the Ottoman's decide to begin a major raid. The Croatians quickly come together against a common enemy. The plan is to meet the Ottomans in open battle at Krbava Field. It's a mistake. An open battle against the more experienced Turks is more than they can handle. It's also an ambush. The Turks have sent a unit behind the Croatians. Many of the nobles are killed during the battle and the Ban (Governor) of Croatia and Dalmatia is captured and executed. [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Were the Croatian nobles really wiped out? The historians of the time said yes but what actually happened after the battle doesn't meet the "smell test". The Ottoman Turks don't press their advantage and a peace treaty is signed. Nevertheless, the Turks continue their raids against the Croatians and many of the inhabitants convert to Islam or move away. My sense is that if the nobility had really been destroyed the Ottomans would have moved in like they did in Bosnia and appoint new nobles. So... I'm guessing that it was a devastating blow to Croatia but there was enough left to give the Ottomans pause.

The King of France Wants a Crusade *

Remember that little war in Naples that Pope Innocent the 8th supported but a major cardinal opposed? The war went badly and that cardinal is now Pope Alexander the 6th (who has an illegitimate 13-year-old daughter he will marry off this year!) Naples was the first tiny rock in the coming avalanche. That avalanche will be the King of France. King Charles the Affable is sad that there are no Great Crusades any more. He wants a Crusade real bad and he's thinking about having one in Italy to bring order to the chaos there. The King is just in the planning stages now but when it gets going, it's going to be an eye-opener for the Italians. [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Italian idea of war is a set piece that is almost choreographed (at least on the home turf). It's all done by mercenaries who might be allies one month and enemies the next depending on who is paying them. Thus, it pays for the mercenary companies not to hurt each other too badly. The problem is that the King of France is not going to care about whose feelings he's going to hurt. He's going fight to win. It's going to be messy.[13][14]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1493, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. The Eastern Stars: How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macorís (BOOK), Riverhead Books. “Understandably, Dominicans do not feel comfortable with their founding history. There is no Columbus Day holiday in the Dominican Republic, because they knew him too well. Yet there is a certain pride, especially in the capital city, in the firstness that Columbus gave them--that Santo Domingo is the oldest European city in the Americas and its university the oldest in the Americas.” 
  2. Taíno - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 1 January 2015.
  3. Hispaniola - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 1 January 2015.
  4. Christopher Columbus - Biography of the Explorer. about.com (2015). Retrieved on 1 January 2015. “After the success of finding this new land, Columbus set sail west again on September 23, 1493 with 17 ships and 1,200 men. The purpose of this journey was to establish colonies in the name of Spain, check on the crew at Navidad, and continue his search for riches in what he still thought was the Far East.”
  5. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (BOOK), Knopf. ISBN 9780307265722. “The new colony, predicted one of its founders, “will be widely renowned for its many inhabitants, its elaborate buildings, and its magnificent walls.” Instead La Isabela was a catastrophe, abandoned barely five years after its creation.” 
  6. Sailing Ship Columbia - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 2 January 2015.
  7. "Preface", Croatia: A Nation Forged in War (BOOK), Yale University Press. ISBN 0300069332. 
  8. Battle of Krbava Field - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  9. Emerik Derencin - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 4 January 2015.
  10. A history of Croatia. Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 1566193966. OCLC 29686674. 
  11. TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY 1493. EveryHistory.org (2013). Retrieved on 4 January 2015. “Lucrezia was born in Subiaco, Italy to Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and Roman mistress Vanozza Catanei. Lucrezia before the age of 13 was enaged to two Spanish princes, but after her father became Pope she was married to Giovanni Sforza in 1493 at the age of 13.”
  12. Charles VIII of France (King Charles the Affable) - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 4 January 2015.
  13. Boot, Max. "Preface", War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History. Gotham. ISBN 9781592402229. 
  14. Alex Shrugged notes: For a good novel that depicts how competing mercenaries might cooperate while still fighting each other, read the omnibus book: "The Deed of Paksenarrion" by Elizabeth Moon. The author is a Marine living in Texas and she's pretty sharp.

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