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Matanzas Massacre

St. Augustine Under Three Flags: Tourist Guide and History


Upon his return to St. Augustine Menendez learned of Ribaut's fleet having been wrecked and that the ship-wrecked French had returned up the beach to the inlet eighteen miles below, which they were unable to cross. Proceeding at once down the island Menendez requested them to yield themselves to his mercy in order that he might do with them as he should be directed by the "Grace of God." This they did and were brought across the inlet ten at a time and their hands tied behind them. They were then led up the beach a short distance out of sight of their comrades and stabbed to death; two hundred perishing in this slaughter. A few days later one hundred and fifty more met the same fate, including Ribaut himself. On this account the river was named "Matanzas" meaning river of blood. This spot, consecrated by the blood of martyrs, is now marked by a suitable tablet.

Menendez, having succeeded in exterminating his enemies, now gave his attention to his colony. A fort, called San Juan de Pinos, was constructed of logs and earth on the exact spot where Fort Marion now stands. The town was laid out on the ground now occupied by the southwestern portion of the city, being separated from the fort by a creek, or river, later known as Maria Sanchez creek (a portion of which still remains at the southern end of the city). This creek extended north and terminated in a large swamp where the Ponce de Leon Hotel now stands.

The Indians were a continual source of trouble to the Spaniards. After a number of encounters with them in which many soldiers were killed, Menendez returned to Spain for reinforcements and necessary supplies. He was received with great favor at court but met with many obstacles and delays before he at last succeeded in getting a partial reimbursement for the funds he himself had expended. Before departing he was appointed Governor of Cuba.

He arrived at St. Augustine early in the summer of 1568 to find his colony completely demoralized, suffering from hunger and insufficiency of clothing. The Indians were everywhere in arms and three forts which he had left at the mouth of the River may had been destroyed by a Frenchman named DeGourges who, coming to avenge the death of his countrymen so cruelly murdered by Menendez, had captured the garrison and hung the soldiers under the same trees where his countrymen had perished three years before, placing over them the motto, "I do this, not as onto Spaniards, nor as outcasts, but as to traitors, thieves and murderers."

Menendez restored order and established posts along the coast, paying particular attention to mission work, missions being scattered from Cape Florida as far north as Chesapeake Bay. Menendez soon returned to Spain, leaving his nephew as governor. He was given a high position at court and in 1574 was appointed captain General of the Spanish fleet but before taking command of the Armada he died of a fever, being fifty-five years of age.

Excerpt from "St. Augustine Under Three Flags: Tourist Guide and History" W. J. Harris Company, 1918, pp. 5–6.


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