Columbus returned to Isabela in late March 1494, having left Pedro Margarite and a garrison of almost sixty men in the island’s mountainous Cibao to complete Fort Santo Tomás’s construction (see post of March 12). Within just days—April 1, 1494 (528 years ago)—Columbus received an urgent dispatch from Margarite requesting reinforcements.

Taínos living near the fort had abandoned their villages abruptly, and Margarite surmised that Chief Caonabó plotted to attack and massacre the garrison. Frictions also had risen along the fort’s supply route from Isabela, as soldiers returning sick to Isabela reported that Taínos at the Yaque River (in Guatiguaná’s chiefdom) had stolen their clothing as they forded the river.

Columbus and Caonabó depicts Caonabó’s plotting and Columbus’s alarm at this time. The map contained in the book (and posted March 12) is marked in red below for the areas concerned. Columbus dispatched advance reinforcements of seventy men to the fort the next day.

Expanding Conquest, Warning “Punishments”
Fate of First Indigenous Captives Sent to Spain