Mobile, AL Live Cam

A port city on Alabama’s Gulf Coast


Hosted by:
  • Dauphin's - RSA Trustmark Bank Building
  • 107 St Francis St #3400 - Mobile
  • Alabama 36602 - United States
  • 251-444-0200

Early Explorers

Legend has it that Prince Madoc of Wales drifted into Mobile bay in 1170. He then sailed back to Wales and returned the following year with ten shiploads of colonists. After a year or so of living on the Gulf Coast, the colony moved North to Sand Island on the Ohio River. Some historians believe that his first Gulf Coast settlement was here at Mobile.

A few centuries later in 1497, Amerigo Vespucci was thought to have mapped Mobile Bay. If not true, somebody else must have charted it for the bay shows up very clearly on the Waldmueller Map of 1507.

In 1510, Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda coasted past Dauphin Island and up the Mobile River. Ascending the river six leagues, Pineda say Indian villages right and left.

He was kindly received by savages and after trading a trinket or two, came back down the river to the present site of Mobile and stayed for forty days.

Not until 1528 were the sands of Dauphin Island disturbed again by European invasion. In that year Pandilo de Narvaez and his small fleet hit the Florida coast. Narvaez sighted an Indian village near Pensacola Bay. The savages attacked Narvaez and drove him toward the Bay of Mobile where, three days later, he was again confronted by Indians. At this point, Narvaez was running short of water. A Christian Greek named Doroteo Teodore and a Negro waded ashore and went to the Indians for something to drink. But they never came back and Narvaez sailed to the West where he was lost at the sea near Galveston Island.

Twelve years later Hernaodo de Soto learned upon arriving in the vicinity that Teodoro and his African companion had been killed at the Indian village of Piachi. As proof of this, DeSoto was shown the dagger that the Greek had brought with him.

In late August of 1540, the Desoto expedition was resting at the village of Talisi when it received an invitation from Tuskaloosa, chief of the Mobile Indians, to visit him in the nearby town of Athahatchi. A short time later the Spaniards arrived to accept the invitation. Tuskaloosa received his visitors with all of the pomp and arrogance of a European king. He was seated in a wooden chair with several attendants surrounding him. One of them was fanning him with a large, fly fan made of palmetto. His head was covered with a magnificent headdress. But what had the Spaniards gaping was the tremendous size of the American king. He appeared to be a giant, and his limbs and face were in proportion to the height of his body. He war a look of severity which well revealed his ferocity and grandeur of spirit.

When DeSoto charged into the plaza where Tuskaloosa sat, he had dismounted his horse and haughtily stepped up to face him. But Tuskaloosa eyed the Spaniard with some aloofness. He made no movement to rise. Then DeSoto, in a daring gesture, grabbed Tuskaloosa by the hand and they went together to seat themselves on a bench that was in the piazza. "Our men demand women for companionship," DeSoto told Tuskaloosa, "and servants for carrying burdens."

Tuskaloosa replied that he was not accustomed to serving others but rather that it was for others to serve him. But seeing himself surrounded by armed soldiers, Tuskaloosa suggested that DeSoto accompany him to the chief village of Mobila where all these requests would be supplied.

And so they set out for the great town, Tuskaloosa draped over a European horse with his long legs dragging the ground. They crossed the river at Piachi and Monday, October 18, 1540, St. Luke's Day, the curious caravan came to the ancient town of Mobila, somewhere near the Bay of Mobile.

Mobila was strongly fortified, surrounded by great walls and situated on a beautiful plain. Inside the walls were large, wooden cabins full of concealed Indians. Once inside the walls, Tuskaloosa retired to one of the buildings while DeSoto and his small band of men were left in the piazza to wonder as the army encamped outside of town.

DeSoto's fears were somewhat assuaged when Tuskaloosa returned and ordered his dancing girls to perform, after which he said a feast would be held. During the performance, DeSoto noticed some of the savages slyly putting bundles of bows and arrows among the leaves. When Tuskaloosa left the scene to go back into the main cabin, DeSoto became alarmed. He rose to attention as a few stray arrows sailed into the arena. The uneasiness of the savages caused DeSoto to order one of his chief lieutenants, Baltasar de Gallegos, to recall Tuskaloosa from his cabin to quieten his subjects.

Gallegos advanced toward the cabin and DeSoto noticed the Indians standing guard over the entrance to the city. Gallegos was stopped at the door but then forced his way into the cabin. Another of DeSoto's officers, Luis de Moscoso, walked to the entrance of the cabin when Gallegos did not return. The tension was beginning to mount as Moscoso cried out, "Señor Gallegos, come out immediately for we can wait for you no longer!"

Presently, Gallegos returned. On the outside he was challenged by one of Tuskaloosa's sons, a tall, brazen savage. Gallegos drew his sword and disabled the arm of the savage with one fell swoop. The fateful blow had been struck!

Surrounded from all sides, the Spaniards leaped for their horses and fought their way toward the gate. One of the Christians fell dead, an arrow piercing his spine. But DeSoto and the rest of his men bore down on the savages at the gate, slashing them with their long swords and trampling them with their horses. DeSoto took an arrow in his posterior, but the savages, terrified of the horses, abandoned the gate and the Spaniards escaped.

Straggling back to the Spanish camp, DeSoto now had to make a momentous decision. Should he take up his tents and press on to the Gulf or should he return to Mobila to give the wily savages a taste of Christian fortitude?

It took only a moment to decide. No Spaniard of Don Quixote's era would place wisdom above honor. Least of all, the great Castillian Hernando DeSoto. Back to the walls of Mobila rode the six hundred, their banners of the Lord waving in the wind. But the Mobilians were ready for them. They opened the gates and charged the horsemen, seeking to entice the Spaniards to enter the city. Now it was the Spaniards' turn to be cunning. Retreating just enough to lure the Mobilians into the open, they turned on their pursuers and slaughtered them like cattle. Then, taking the care, the full force of the Castillians charged past the main gate and into the heart of the city. Immediately they were attacked from all sides by more savages than they thought existed and a terrible hand to hand combat ensued. The savages, men, women, and children, attacked the Spaniards with spears, hatchets and rocks. And from the roof tops came flocks of fire-tipped arrows which settled on the just and unjust alike.

In the heat of the battle DeSoto sounded the call to retreat and the Spaniards retired to a nearby pond to refresh themselves. After a while they again took up their lances and charged back into the city. Desperately the Indians attempted to defend Mobila. Now the entire town was aflame and the savages rushed wildly, almost suicidally, at their oppressors. They even charged the horses that they had so greatly feared at the beginning of the battle. But sticks and stones were no match for Spanish armor. Most of the blows were easily warded off. Now and then a perfectly placed arrow would strike a Christian in the eye or the mouth and he would topple off his steed.

Hour after hour, the battle raged on. Then gradually the Mobilian resistance began to dwindle. Most of the de fenders now lay motionless on the battleground while some escaped into the forests.

As dusk settled on the burning town, the harsh sounds of battle diminished to an eerie cacophony of groans and whimpers. The Spanish retreated to the plains and what the historian Bancroft has called "the greatest Indian battle ever fought" was over. Mobila lay in ashes.

The next day DeSoto took a dreadful inventory. He counted twenty dead but this was almost superfluous when compared to his other losses. Nearly every Christian had been wounded, many critically. DeSoto, himself, was wounded in such a way that for the next thirty days he felt more disposed to walking than to riding. To top the climax, the bulk of the army's provisions was lost in the fire, including two hundred pounds of pearls with which DeSoto had hoped to entice more men to his settlement at Mobile Bay and more support from the Spanish crown. The original plan had been for DeSoto to traverse the land of Florida in search of riches so that when he made a rendezvous with Maltonado at Mobile Bay, he would have enough gold to found a great colony. Now he must meet his compatriots empty-handed.

Fearing mutiny from his men, DeSoto now made the second of his ill-fated decisions. He must turn around and march back into the wilderness until he found enough riches to salvage his pride and his enterprise. Reluctantly, his disgruntled men followed him to the north to a rendezvous with destiny and death.

Mobila was left behind in ruins. Once a splendid town, it had been the citadel of a tribe whose domain included most of the southern United States. As for Tuskaloosa, no one ever knew his fate. After the holocaust, DeSoto had sought his bones for a prize but the great chief must have escaped into the forests to help save the Mobilians from extinction. If the tribe was nearly decimated, the same was not true for the language. For the Mobile Trade Language became the "lingua franca" of all the southern Indians and remained in use all through the French Colonial period.

Two decades after DeSoto, another Spaniard set his sights on Mobile Bay. Don Tristan De Luna landed somewhere near the bay with 1,500 colonists in 1559. After settling his colony on the coast, De Luna sent an expedition of two hundred men to explore the interior. After a journey of forty leagues, they came to the Alabama River and founded a town called Nanipicana that the Indians told them had been burned by white men years earlier.

Once in Nanipicana, De Luna moved all the remaining colonists from the port to that village. When spring came, a scarcity of food forced De Luna to send a party to the Indian village of Coosa. After three months the party returned to Nanipicana and found in a pot buried under a tree a message saying that De Luna had abandoned Nanipicana for lack of food and resources. He had returned to the coast in the spring of 1561 and there the colonists disbanded and returned to Spain. Tristan de Luna had discovered first-hand what his other Spanish brethren had found before him, that the wilderness of Mobile Bay was a prize as elusive as it was beautiful.