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1520: Gaspar Quesada, Magellan’s expedition mutineer

April 7th, 2010 Headsman

On this date* in 1520, on his famous voyage of circumnavigation, explorer Ferdinand Magellan ordered the immediate execution of a mutinous captain.

Not to be trifled with.

Having alit just days before at the natural harbor of Puerto San Julien on the Brazilian Argentine coast (Magellan named it) with plans to winter there, the overweening Portuguese explorer faced an uprising of grumpy Spanish officers.

Gaspar Quesada, captain of the Concepcion, along with Luis de Mendoza of the Victoria and recently displaced San Antonio skipper Juan de Cartagena, seized some of the expedition’s ships during the night of April 1-2.

Since you know Magellan’s name five centuries later, you already know he quashed it.

As the sovereign of this fragile floating world, Magellan had little choice but to treat a challenge to his authority mercilessly.**

Though accounts are inconsistent, it seems Mendoza was boldly slain by one of Magellan’s men meeting him under color of “negotiation”.


Mendoza’s assassination. From this site.

Mendoza was then posthumously beheaded and quartered along with Gaspar Quesada. Juan de Cartagena was either executed as well, or else caught a “break”: some sources relate that, instead of executing Cartagena, Magellan had him marooned.

the twentieth of June [1578], wee harboured ourselues againe in a very good harborough, called by Magellan Port S. Julian, where we found a gibbet standing upon the maine, which we supposed to be the place where Magellan did execution upon some of his disobedient and rebellious company.

-From a member of the Francis Drake expedition. Just 12 days later and at the very same place, Drake visited a similar penalty for a similar offense upon one of his own crew.

* “‘The authorities’ are divertingly divergent on the precise date of these events,” says O.H.K. Spate in The Spanish Lake, referring specifically to the dates of the mutiny. “Denucé puts them on Easter Sunday and Monday, 1–2 April; Merriman on Easter Sunday and Monday, 8–9 April; Nowell on Palm Sunday and the next day, with the trial verdict on 7 April. By the Julian calendar, in use until 1582, the dates would be 1–2 April; by the Gregorian, ten days later. Pigafetta and Maximilian, who slur over the whole affair, give no dates at all. It is not of vast moment.” Clearly, O.H.K. Spate never had to write an almanac blog.

Anyway, there’s some primary sourcing on this affair here.

** Though Magellan made an example of the leaders, he pragmatically spared about 40 others after keeping them in chains and working the pumps for three months. After all, the man still needed to crew his ships.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Argentina,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Dismembered,Drawn and Quartered,Execution,History,Military Crimes,Mutiny,Notable Participants,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Soldiers,Spain,Summary Executions

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2 thoughts on “1520: Gaspar Quesada, Magellan’s expedition mutineer”

  1. fer castellanos says:

    Puerto San Julián is in Argentina my friends!

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