Villasur expedition

Villasur expedition

The Villasur expedition of 1720 was a Spanish military expedition intended to check the growing French presence on the Great Plains of central North America. Led by Lieutenant-General Pedro de Villasur, the expedition ended with a defeat at the hands of the Pawnee.

In the first part of the 18th century, French explorers and traders began to enter the plains west of the Missouri River. In 1714, Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont became the first European to reach the Platte River. Spain, which had claimed ownership of the Great Plains since the Coronado expedition, was wary of this expansion of French influence. In 1718, the War of the Quadruple Alliance broke out between France and Spain; at this time of heightened tension, Villasur was sent by the governor of the Spanish colony of Nuevo México to capture French traders. By doing so, Spanish authorities could gather intelligence about French ambitions in the region.

Villasur left Santa Fe on June 16, 1720, leading an expedition that included about 40 soldiers, 60-70 Pueblo scouts, and approximately 12 Apache guides. The expedition also included Jose Naranjo, as scout, war captain for the Indian auxillarys and explorer who had visited the Platte River region several times in the past, a priest, and a Spanish trader. The expedition made its way northeast through present-day Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. In August, the expedition made contact with Pawnees and Otoes along the Platte and Loup rivers. [Citation | title=Columbus or North Platte? Site of Spanish Massacre | periodical=Nebraska History and Record of Pioneer Days | volume=7 | issue=3 | year=1924 | url=] Using a captured Pawnee slave, Francisco Sistaca, several attempts were made to negotiate with Indians in the area. On August 13, Sistaca disappeared. Villasur, nervous about the possibility of attack, camped that night just south of the Loup/Platte confluence, near what is now Columbus.

The following morning (August 14) a large Pawnee force (possibly aided by French traders) attacked the Spanish camp. Villasur, 34 of his soldiers, and 11 Pueblo scouts were killed after a brief battle. The remaining survivors returned to Santa Fe on September 6.

The expedition, which had journeyed farther to the north and east than any other Spanish military expedition, marked the end of Spanish influence on the central Great Plains.


The battle site was also once claimed to be near the confluence of the North Platte and South Platte rivers in western Nebraska.


External links

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