Ferdinand De Soto, had served with much reputation in Castilla del Oro and Nicaragua, and went with Pizarro upon the conquest of Peru, being even promoted for his worth and valour to the distinguished office of lieutenant-general under Pizarro. On the breaking out of the disturbances between the factions of Pizarro and Almagro, he was so much disgusted that he returned into Spain, without having acquired the riches that his services and good qualities deserved, considering the immense wealth which was found in Peru. Aspiring to undertake some brilliant enterprise suited to his lofty genius, he petitioned the king to be allowed to undertake the conquest of Florida, which was readily granted to him, as he was a person of experience, of a fine presence and graceful carriage, and well fitted by the strength of his constitution to encounter the hardships incident to such hazardous enterprises. Since the entire failure and destruction of Panfilo de Narvaez and his armament, as already related, no one had hitherto offered to attempt the reduction of that country till now. Among the terms granted to Soto on this occasion, he was appointed governor of the island of Cuba, which was to serve as a place of arms from whence to conduct the intended conquest of Florida. On the design of this enterprise being made public, near a thousand men were soon raised for the expedition, among whom were many gentlemen of good birth, encouraged by the reputation of the commander, and the hopes of acquiring wealth.
Ten ships were fitted out at San Lucar for carrying out the troops and all the necessary stores, which set sail on the 6th of April 1538, accompanying the fleet for New Spain, the whole being under the supreme command of the adelantado Ferdinand de Soto so far as the island of Cuba, after which the flota was to be commanded by Gonzalo de Salazar, the factor of New Spain. To shew his proud and turbulent disposition, on the first night after going to sea, Salazar pushed a cannon shot a-head of all the fleet to affront the admiral, who immediately ordered a shot to be fired at him. The ball went through all the sails of Salazars ship from the poop to the head; and by a second shot, all the side of his ship was torn immediately above the deck. Salazars ship became unmanageable from the injury done to her sails, and on the admiral pushing forwards the two ships ran foul of each other and were both in imminent danger of perishing in the dark, but by cutting all the rigging of the other ship the admiral got clear. Soto was so highly incensed by this haughty conduct of Salazar that he had well nigh ordered him to be beheaded; but forgave him on submission and promise of better behaviour in future.