In 1539, De Soto began his expedition through territories that today make up the southern United States, landing with his men in Florida. From there he made his way westward through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and most likely Arkansas. De Soto and his men had several battles with Indian tribes in the area, leaving them low on supplies.
De Soto and his men spent the winter of 1540-1541 in northeast Mississippi, near the Chickasaw Indian tribe. When spring arrived, De Soto demanded men from the tribe to help carry supplies. The Chickasaw refused and attacked De Soto's camp, destroying much of their remaining supplies. De Soto continued with his mission despite the lack of supplies, continuing west toward the Mississippi River. The location where De Soto crossed the path that later became the Natchez Trace Parkway is marked on the trail today. This location is near the city of Tupelo, where the monument is located.
Hernando De Soto died from a fever on May 21, 1542, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Before his death, De Soto appointed Luis de Moscoso Alvarado to take over once he had passed away. Once De Soto had passed, the leaders of the army decided to end the expedition. The men headed for the Spanish colony of Mexico City. De Soto started his expedition with 700 men, but by the end of the journey, only 300 to 350 remained.