These being hoisted, the trumpets proclaimed the victory, and the band of soldiers who had entered opened the gates and sought the quarters, leaving no Frenchman alive.
Today’s installment concludes Spain’s First Settlements in Florida,
our selection from The Spaniards in Florida by George R. Fairbanks published in 1868. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of four thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Spain’s First Settlements in Florida.
Place: St. Augustine, Florida
The French, awakened by the clamor, some dressed, others in their night-clothes, rushed to the doors of their houses to see what had happened; but they were all killed, except sixty of the more wary, who escaped by leaping the walls.
Immediately the standards of the Sergeant-major and of Diego Mayo were brought in, and set up by Rodrigo Troche and Pedro Valdes Herrera, with two cavaliers, at the same moment. These being hoisted, the trumpets proclaimed the victory, and the band of soldiers who had entered opened the gates and sought the quarters, leaving no Frenchman alive.
The Adelantado, hearing the cries, left Castaneda in his place to collect the people who had not come up, who were at least half the force, and went himself to see if they were in any danger. He arrived at the fort running; and as he perceived that the soldiers gave no quarter to any of the French, he shouted “that, at the penalty of their lives, they should neither wound nor kill any woman, cripple, or child under fifteen years of age.” By which seventy persons were saved, the rest were all killed.
Rene de Laudonnière, the commander of the fort, escaped, with his servant and some twenty or thirty others, to a vessel lying in the river.
Such is the Spanish chronicle, contained in Barcia, of the capture of Fort Caroline. Its details in the main correspond with the account of Laudonnière, and of Nicolas Challeux, the author of the letter printed at Lyons, in France, under date of August, 1566, by Jean Saugrain. In some important particulars, however, the historians disagree. It has been already seen that Menendez is represented as having given orders to spare all the women, maimed persons, and all children under fifteen years of age. The French relations of the event, on the contrary, allege that an indiscriminate slaughter took place, and that all were massacred, without respect to age, sex, or condition; but as this statement is principally made upon the authority of a terrified and flying soldier, it is alike due to the probabilities of the case, and more agreeable to the hopes of humanity, to lessen somewhat the horrors of a scene which has need of all the palliation which can be drawn from the slightest evidences of compassion on the part of the stern and bigoted leader.
Some of the fugitives from the fort fled to the Indians; and ten of these were given up to the Spaniards, to be butchered in cold blood, says the French account — to be sent back to France, says the Spanish chronicle.
September 24th being the day of St. Matthew, the name of the fort was changed to San Matteo, by which name it was always subsequently called by the Spaniards; and the name of St. Matthew was also given by them to the river, now called St. John’s, on which it was situated.
The Spaniards proceeded at once to strengthen the fortress, deepening and enlarging the ditch, and raised and strengthened the ramparts and wall in such manner, says the boastful Mendoza, “that, if the half of all France had come to attack it, they could not have disturbed it;” a boast upon which the easy conquest of it by De Gourgues, three years subsequently, affords an amusing commentary. They also constructed, subsequently, two small forts at the mouth of the river, one on each side, which probably were located, the one on Batten Island, and the other at Mayport Mills.
Leaving three hundred soldiers as a garrison under his son-in-law, De Valdez, Master of the Camp, who was now appointed governor of the fort, Menendez marched from St. Augustine, beginning now to feel considerable anxiety lest the French fleet, escaping from the tempest, might return and visit upon his own garrison at St. Augustine the fate of Fort Caroline. He took with him upon his return but fifty soldiers, and, owing to the swollen waters, found great difficulty in retracing his route. When within a league of St. Augustine, he allowed one of the soldiers to go forward to announce his victory and safe return.
The garrison at St. Augustine had been in great anxiety respecting their leader, and from the accounts given by those who had deserted, they feared the total loss of the expedition. The worthy captain thus describes the return of Menendez: “The same day, being Monday, we saw a man coming, crying out loudly. I myself was the first to run to him for the news. He embraced me with transport, crying, ‘Victory! Victory! The French fort is ours.’ I promised him the present which the bearer of good news deserves, and gave him the best in my power.
At the hour of vespers our good General arrived, with fifty foot-soldiers very much fatigued. As soon as I learned that he was coming, I ran home and put on a new soutain, the best which I had, and a surplice, and, going out with a crucifix in my hand, I went forward to receive him; and he, a gentleman and a good Christian, before entering, kneeled and all his followers, and returned thanks to the Lord for the great favors which he had received. My companions and myself marched in front in procession chanting, so that we all returned with the demonstrations of joy.”
This ends our series of passages on Spain’s First Settlements in Florida by George R. Fairbanks from his book The Spaniards in Florida published in 1868. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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