« ZurückWeiter »
was situated near the mouth of the Rivière de Mai, as it was called by the French, now known as St. John's River. The fort was, as far as I can ascertain, built upon that high and level headland, on the southern shore of the St. John's, which, from its elevation above the swamps and low pine barrens of the coast, and its position at the entrance of the chief water communication with the interior of Florida, has always appeared to me to be marked out by nature as the site of a great commercial city.
This infant colony had endured many hardships; when, in the autumn of 1565, they were cheered by the return of Ribauld from France, with a new accession of emigrants, and plentiful supplies of all sorts. All their difficulties seemed now to be ended. But their joy and their bright prospects were of short duration.
It happened about the beginning of the same year that Don Pedro Menendez de Avilez, a veteran and distinguished officer of high rank in the Spanish navy, had received from his government a commission to survey the coast of that part of Florida and the shores of the gulf, which were claimed by Spain. This commission he had influence enough at court to get extended, soon after, into an authority to found a colony in Florida, of which, should it succeed, he was to be the here
ditary Governor, with splendid privileges and emoluments, and the title of Adelantado of Florida.
He had just succeeded in this application when he learnt, for the first time, that a settlement of French Protestants had already existed for three years in Florida, and that preparations were making in France for sending out large additional reinforcements. He immediately determined to expel these heretics from the new world. Although Spain was then at peace, and even in alliance with France, his sovereign, the bigotted and cruel Philip, entered with stern avidity into his design.
Under the countenance of the court the expedition took the character of a new holy war. It became a crusade against the enemies of the faith. A number of gentlemen of the best blood of Biscay and the Asturias flocked to its standard as volunteers; and Menendez finally set sail with a well-appointed fleet, and a force of near three thousand men.
I have not space here to relate the details of his voyage,
and of his adventures after landing, though they are full of interest, and show the Adelantado to have well merited that military reputation, which he had acquired by a long and active life. He landed at a place to which he gave the name of St. Augustine, and there
erected a fort; then, with a picked body of five hundred men, he marched along the coast to the French fort, where Landonniere had been left by Ribauld with a handful of troops, and the mechanics; together with the women, the children, the sick, and the aged of the colony. Ribauld himself, alarmed by intelligence of the hostile designs of the Spaniards, took the rest of his forces on board his squadron, and went to meet them. In the meantime the resolute and daring Menendez, after incredible hardships, succeeded in penetrating through pathless woods and swamps. During this march he displayed the highest qualities of a soldier and a general; his courage animated the timid, and his resolution awed the mutinous. At the close of the fourth day's march he suddenly appeared under the guns of the French fort, which he immediately carried by storm, and the place instantly rung with the shrieks of the sick and the old-of women and children-promiscuously butchered. Landonniere, after defending himself with desperate valour, escaped with a few followers to the woods, and thence succeeded in getting on board a French vessel lying in the roads. The rest of the garrison surrendered at discretion; and Menendez, when he perceived that all resistance was at an end, gave orders that the remaining women
and young children should be spared; the rest were killed without mercy. The money, and other property of the French, were seized and divided as booty by Menendez and his men.
He remained for some time at La Caroline, during which period a number more of the French, who had either escaped from the fort, or had been on board the shipping in the river, or were otherwise accidentally absent at the time of the assault, were brought in prisoners; some of them delivered up by the Indians, and others compelled by hunger to surrender themselves. Menendez added these to his other prisoners, and hung them together, on the trees around the town, with this inscription above their heads :“ These wretches were hung not as Frenchmen, but as heretics and enemies of God."
Ribauld and his squadron were not less unfortunate than their companions. A violent storm wrecked his squadron on the coast. The commander himself escaped from the wreck, with a numerous body of soldiers and sailors, and a large sum of money in gold, but without arms or provisions. After suffering every extreme of misery, they were obliged to throw themselves on the mercy of the Spaniards. It need scarcely be told what mercy they found. The French accounts all accuse the Adelantado of having
induced these fugitives to surrender to him, by a promise, made under the sanction of an oath, of giving them a ship to take them to France, as he told them he had already done in respect to the other prisoners taken in the fort. This oath and promise are denied by the Spanish writers, who allowing the ferocious cruelty of their brave countryman, resent with indignation any imputation upon his veracity. Such are the strange delusions of bigotry and of false honour. However this might have been, all authorities agree in relating that Ribauld and several hundred of his men, surrendered themselves near St. Augustine, whither Menendez had now returned: they were surrounded by the soldiers of the Adelantado, and there, unarmed as they were, by his order, massacred, in cold blood, to the last man. Ribauld himself met death with the firmness of a soldier and the fervour of a martyr. When he found himself betrayed, his hands bound, and the preparations for massacre around him, he firmly said "From the earth have we come, to the earth must we return : what matters it whether now or twenty years hence ?” He died repeating the psalm Exaudi Domine, in the old version of Marot.
" Seigneur Dieu, oy l'oraison mienne,