Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ESPINOSA, Gaspar de (espeno'sa), Spanish soldier, born in Medina del Campo, Valladolid, in 1484; died in Cuzco, Peru, 14 February 1537. In 1514 he came to Darien with Pedrarias Davila as supreme judge of the expedition, and in that capacity presided at the first trial of Balboa, Davila's predecessor. (See BALBOA, VASCO NUNEZ DE.) When Pedrarias declared war against an Indian chief called Pocorosa, he ordered Espinosa to leave Acla with an expeditionary force of infantry and cavalry. He attacked a body of 3,009 Indians, and, after an obstinate fight, they fled, frightened by the horses and the bloodhounds that the Spaniards carried. After his victory Espinosa committed many cruelties against the Indian prisoners, and on the arrival of reinforcements from Pedrarias he invaded the Indian Territory still farther, and recovered a great part of the treasure that had been abandoned some time before by Gonzalo de Badajos, amounting to about 80,009 gold castellanos.
After defeating an army of 20,000 men with which the native cacique hoped to crush him, and conquering several other tribes, he began his return march to Darien, which he finally reached, with great riches and over 2,000 Indian slaves. Espinosa, preferring the adventurous life of a conqueror to that of a judge, soon started on another expedition, and, according to his assertion, explored many miles of the Pacific coast. On his return to Darien in 1517, he found that Balboa had been imprisoned a second time by Pedrarias, and although ha gave it as his opinion that that explorer ought to be pardoned in consideration of his services to the crown, he sentenced the prisoner to death on a written order from Pedrarias. Favored by the military for his generosity, and by the municipality of Darien on account of his success in his expedition, Espinosa was proclaimed deputy governor notwithstanding Pedrarias's strenuous opposition.
At the beginning of 1518, Pedrarias, to get rid of Espinosa, sent him with a force of 150 men on an expedition along the coast to recover the rest of the treasure lost by Badajos, in which attempt he was entirely successful. On his return to the isthmus he proceeded with his force to the western gulf to found, by Pedrarias's orders, a City to serve as a base for the expedition to the South Pacific, and toward the latter part of 1518, with the customary formalities, the foundations of the City of Panama were laid. In the same year Lope de Sosa, who was to relieve Pedrarias, arrived in Darien, and with him came Judge Alarconcillo to investigate the administration of the late governor. As Sosa died on the day of his arrival in Darien, the astute Espinosa persuaded Aiarconcillo that his authority had expired. Espinosa himself then proceeded with the investigation, and naturally favored Pedrarias as his own reputation was involved in that of Pedrarias.
In the beginning of 1519 Espinosa was sent with two ships to take possession of a group of islands called, by the historian Herrera, Zebaco. ttearing of goldmines on the mainland, he set sail for the coast, where he met an auxiliary force under Pizarro and De Soto. They were finally forced to retire without finding gold and with heavy losses, but the rest of his expeditions along the coast were more fortunate. The Indian chiefs submitted after a short struggle, and, loaded with booty, his command returned to the coast of the gulf of Parita, where he founded the City of Nata, leaving Francisco Companon in command. He was recalled to Panama in 1519 by Pedrarias, who wished to visit the new colony himself, and in the same year, together with many other officers from the West India islands, Espinosa reached San Lucar with a fleet of five ships, which carried, as tribute for the crown, over $600,000 in gold, 2,500 marks of pearls, and many other valuables.
At court he was received with distinction, more on account of his riches than of his character, and the emperor, Charles V, gave him a coat of arms, emblematic of his exploits in the New World. In 1524 he was commissioned to investigate the administration of the judges of the Supreme Court of Santo Domingo, and during that time to administer justice in the Island together with Judge Zuazo. After finishing the investigation, Espinosa went to Panama to attend to his private affairs, Hernando de Luque, in the compact signed by him with Pizarro and Almagro on10 3larch, 1526, seems to have been but a figurehead for Espinosa, who really furnished the 820,000 in gold for the outfit of the first expedition, but who, at that time in office, did not want his name to appear. When therefore Pizarro, in consequence of the general rising of Indians in 1536, asked for auxiliary troops, Espinosa raised a corps of 250 men in 'Panama; and when, after the return of AImagro from Chili in 1537, the war between the two copartners began, Espinosa accepted a commission from Pizarro to go to Ahnagro at Cuzco and try to arrange the difficulty. While there he was attacked by the illness of which he died.
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