Christopher Columbus

The Second Voyage

An Indian Cacique

An Indian Cacique in the Island of Cuba Addressing Columbus, The History, Civil, and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, 1793, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, F2131.E26.1793 rare.

Columbus’s first voyage was a test voyage, to see if reaching Asia by a westward sea route was even possible. Columbus still believed that he had reached Asia, and that he had found Asian lands fit for conquering and colonization. This expedition was much larger than the first: seventeen ships carried 1,200 men. This large force had two purposes: to conquer the native peoples and to begin settlements. Leaving Spain in September of 1493, Columbus and his fleet arrived in the islands in the fall of that year. Columbus continued to explore the islands throughout the month of November, either landing on or sighting Dominica, Santa María la Galante (Marie-Galante), Todos los Santos (Les Saintes), Santa María de Guadalupe (Guadaloupe), Santa María de Monstserrate (Montserrat), Santa María la Antigua (Antigua), Santa María la Redonda (Redonda), Santa María de las Nieve or San Martin (Nevis), San Jorge (Saint Kitts), Santa Anastasia (Saint Eustatius), San Cristobal (Saba), Santa Cruz (Saint Croix), the Virgin Islands, San Pedro, and Puerto Rico.

Columbus Cum Fratre

“Columbus Cum Fratre,” or Columbus with his brother, Orientalem et Inciam Occidentalem, 1590, From The Library at The Mariners’ Museum, E141.B9 O rare.

After this exploration, Columbus returned to Hispaniola, where he had left many colonists. When he arrived, he found that they had been attacked by the locals and killed. He continued to explore Hispaniola and Cuba. By this time, he had become disenchanted with the natives, and although he had been ordered to have peaceful relations with them, he chose instead to enslave some of the population, sending some to Europe and using others to mine gold for them in their homeland. Although finding gold had been one of the main objectives of Columbus’s second journey, even with the natives working as slaves to get gold for him, he was not very successful in this task. Very little gold was found by anyone, and it seems that Columbus must have exaggerated the amount of gold that had initially been available. He traveled back to Spain in 1495.