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De Gourgues, Dominique

A History of Florida


Menendez was greatly praised by his king, the cruel Philip II., for his treatment of the Huguenots. The king of France, Charles IX., had himself so little love for his Huguenot subjects that be gave himself no trouble about the matter, and the noblemen at his court sympathized rather with the Spaniards than with their own countrymen. The people of France were very indignant, but could do nothing. The widows and orphans of the murdered colonists signed and sent to the king a memorial. Still he paid no attention to their sufferings.

Dominique de Gourgues. However, there was a gentleman of France, Dominique de Gourgues, who could not rest until the massacre of his countrymen should be revenged. We do not know certainly whether be was Catholic or Huguenot, but we do know that be cared for the honor of France. He had been a soldier from his boyhood. While very young he was captured by the Spaniards, made to work as galley slave, and treated with great cruelty. The insults received at that time he bad never forgiven, and the memory of them now made him yet more ready for the work of revenge.

How was the conduct of Menendez considered by the Spanish king? How, by the French king? Who were indignant? Who undertook revenge? What private grievances had he?

The Expedition of Revenge. Keeping his plan secret, he sold all that he had and borrowed the rest that was needed from a brother. Then he fitted out three small vessels for the purpose, he said, of capturing slaves of the African coast. He sailed with nearly two hundred men, August, 1567, and after a very stormy voyage reached Cuba. Here he called his followers about him, and, for the first time, told the true purpose of the voyage: "We must avenge the insult to our country," he said, "I will always be at your head; I will bear the brunt of the danger; will you refuse to follow me?" The men cried out that they were ready to go where he led them. Indeed, they were so eager that he could hardly make them wait until the moon should be full before making the passage of the Bahama channel.

French Huguenots
French Huguenots

St. Augustine and San Mateo. The Spaniards were more strongly situated in Florida than the French had been. St. Augustine was well defended; a new fort, called San Mateo, had been built on the site of Fort Caroline, and there were two small forts guarding the mouth of the river. The French ships kept their course to the north, and one morning at daybreak anchored near the mouth of the St. Marys River.

Friendship of the Indians. The shore was thronged with warlike Indians. They were now at open war with the Spaniards at St. Augustine and the forts, and, thinking the strangers were Spaniards, were ready to prevent their landing. It happened that on one of the ships was a trumpeter who had been ill and knew the Indians. He went toward them in a boat, making gestures of friendship. They recognized him and danced about on the beach and shouted for joy as he came nearer. They asked why he had ever left them and why he had not come back sooner. For, they all said, they had not had a happy day since the French had gone. De Gourgues told the chief, the powerful Satouriona, that he had come to be friends with him and had brought him presents. At this there was more dancing and more shouting than ever. Satouriona sent word to all the neighboring chiefs to come to meet the French, and next morning there was a great council held. To show their trust in each other, all laid aside their arms. Satouriona and De Gourgues sat side by side on a seat decorated with gray moss, while the Indians and the French gathered around in circles.

How was the expedition fitted out? When was its purpose explained to the men? How (lid they respond? What fortifications had the Spaniards built in Florida? Where did the French land ?

De Gourgues began to speak but the chief, who had not, as an old historian solemnly tells us, learned French manners, broke in upon the speech, telling his own tale of Spanish cruelty. He said that the Spaniards had robbed them of their food, driven them from their homes, and killed their children: all because they had loved the French.

How were they received by the Indians? How was the friendship established? What did the Indian chief tell the French?

Then he brought to De Gourgues a French boy sixteen years of age, Pierre de Bre, who, after the massacre, had been found and cared for by the Indians. They bad kept him with them and protected him, though the Spaniards had repeatedly demanded that he should be given up. After much talking it was agreed that when three days should have passed the French and Indians should go together to attack the Spanish forts. Then presents were given to the savages—mirrors, and trinkets, and knives, and the council was over.

Capture of Forts. When the appointed day came, the Indians were ready, armed, and in their war paint. They danced, and waved their war clubs, and drank the "black drink," which they thought would make them strong in battle. They insisted that Do Gourgues, too, should drink the black drink with them. All preparations being made, they set out at dark; the Indians by paths through the forest, the French by sea.

They met at dawn of the second day on the bank of a stream near one of the forts at the mouth of the river, and here had to wait for some hours on account of the tide. After this delay they proceeded, and had nearly reached the fort before they were discovered. Confused and terrified, the Spaniards did not know where to turn. A sentinel gave the alarm and fired twice upon the French. One of the Indians ran him through with a spear. Some tried to escape through the gates, but were killed or captured. The ships began an attack from the sea, and the arrows of the Indians fell like hail. The guns in the fort across the river opened fire. The French returned the fire from the captured fort.

What had the Indians done to befriend one of the French? What plot was laid? What tokens were given? How did the savages prepare for the attack? Where did they attack?

San Mateo Taken. De Gourgues now marched on to San Mateo. Here the garrison were so terrified that they did not attempt to defend themselves. The commander, with a few others, escaped. All the rest were killed or captured. But De Gourgues was not yet satisfied. When Menendez had destroyed Fort Caroline, some of the French, after escaping from the fort, had returned and surrendered themselves. Menendez had them hanged from a tree. On the tree he wrote, "This is done, not as unto Frenchmen, but as unto Lutherans." On the same tree De Gourgues hanged certain unfortunate Spanish prisoners, and placed on the tree the inscription, "This is done, not as unto Spaniards, but as unto liars, thieves, and murderers."

St. Augustine was too strong to be attacked, so when the three forts were destroyed, farewells were said to the Indian allies, and the ships of revenge sailed for home in France. The Huguenots greeted him warmly, but the king and nobles were not pleased. The king of Spain demanded his life, and he was obliged to live in concealment for several years. Then things grew brighter for him. Queen Elizabeth of England invited him to enter her service, but about that time Charles IX. restored him to favor. He died in 1593, just as he was about to take command of a Portuguese fleet against his old enemies, the Spaniards.

With what result? What place was next attacked? With what result? What explanation had Menendez written of his massacre? What reply did De Gourgues now make? Why did De Gourgues now return? How was be received in France?

Excerpt from Part One, Chapter Seven, "The Revenge of Dominique De Gorgues" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents


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