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ST. AUGUSTINE THE OLDEST TOWN IN THE U. STATES.
the arrival of the rest of his squadron, he sailed for CHAP. Florida. It had ever been his design to explore the coast; to select a favorable site for a fort or a settle- 1565. ment; and, after the construction of fortifications, to attack the French. It was on the day which the
Aug. customs of Rome have consecrated to the memory of one of the most eloquent sons of Africa and one of the most venerated of the fathers of the church, that he came in sight of Florida. For four days, he sailed along the coast, uncertain where the French were established ; on the fifth day, he landed and sept
. gathered from the Indians accounts of the Huguenots. At the same time, he discovered a fine haven and beautiful river; and, remembering the saint, on whose day he came upon the coast, he gave to the harbor and to the stream the name of St. Augustine.? Sailing, then, to the north, he discovered a portion Sept. of the French fleet, and observed the nature of the road, where they were anchored. The French demanded his name and objects. “I am Melendez of Spain,” replied he; “sent with strict orders from my king to gibbet and behead all the protestants in these regions. The Frenchman, who is a catholic, I will spare; every heretic shall die. 993 The French
' fleet, unprepared for action, cut its cables; the Spaniards, for some time, continued an ineffectual chase. It was at the hour of vespers, on the evening pre
Sept. ceding the festival of the nativity of Mary, that
1 Ensayo Cronolog. p. 68–70. Ensayo Cronologico, p. 75, 76. It
Ensayo Cronolog. p. 71. is the account of the apologist and 3 El que fuere herege, morirà. admirer of Melendez.
CHAP. the Spaniards returned to the harbor of St. Augus
tine. At noonday of the festival itself, the governor 1565.
went on shore, to take possession of the continent Sept.
in the name of his king. The bigotted Philip II. was proclaimed monarch of all North America. The solemn mass of our lady was performed, and the foundation of St. Augustine was immediately laid. It is by more than forty years the oldest town in the United States. Houses in it are yet standing, which are said to have been built many years before Virginia was colonized.2
By the French it was debated, whether they should improve their fortifications and await the approach of the Spaniards, or proceed to sea and attack their enemy? Against the advice of his offi
cers, Ribault resolved upon the latter course. Hardly Sept. had he left the harbor for the open sea, before there
arose a fearful storm, which continued till October, and wrecked every ship of the French fleet on the Florida coast. The vessels were dashed against the rocks about fifty leagues south of fort Carolina; most of the men escaped with their lives.
The Spanish ships also suffered, but not so severely; and the troops at St. Augustine were entirely safe. They knew that the French settlement was left in a defenceless state; with a fanatical indifference to toil, Melendez led his men through the lakes, and marshes, and forests, that divided the
1 Laudonniere. “They put their Murat, in American Quarterly soldiers, victual, and munition, on Review, v. ii. p. 216. De Thou, land.” Hakluyt, v. iii. p. 433. En- l. xliv. sayo Cronologico, p. 76,77. Prince 2 Stoddard's Sketches, p. 120.
MASSACRE OF THE FRENCH PROTESTANTS.
St. Augustine from the St. Johns ; and, with a furi- CHAP. ous onset, surprised the weak garrison, who had looked only towards the sea for the approach of 1565. danger. After a short contest, the Spaniards were Sept. masters of the fort. A scene of carnage ensued; soldiers, women, children, the aged, the sick, were alike massacred. The Spanish account asserts, that Melendez ordered women and young children to be spared ; yet not till after the havoc had long been raging.
Nearly two hundred persons were killed. A few escaped into the woods, among them Laudonniere, Challus and Le Moyne, who have related the horrors of the scene. But whither should they fly? Death met them in the woods; and the heavens, the earth, the sea, and men, all seemed conspired against them. Should they surrender, appealing to the sympathy of their conquerors? “Let us,” said Challus, “trust in the mercy of God, rather than of these men.” A few gave themselves up, and were immediately murdered. The others, after the severest sufferings, found their way to the sea-side, and were received on board two small French vessels, which had remained in the harbor. The Spaniards, angry that any should have escaped, insulted the corpses of the dead with wanton barbarity.
The victory had been gained on the festival of St. Sept. Matthew; and hence the Spanish name of the river May. After the carnage was completed, mass was said ; a cross was raised; and the site for a church selected, on ground still smoking with the blood of a
CHAP. peaceful colony. So easily is the human mind the
dupe of its own prejudices; so easily can fanaticism connect acts of savage ferocity with the rites of a a merciful religion.
The shipwrecked men were, in their turn, soon discovered. They were in a state of helpless weakness, wasted by their fatigues at sea, half famished, destitute of water and of food. Should they surrender to the Spaniards ? Melendez invited them to rely on his compassion ;' the French capitulated, and were received among the Spaniards in such successive divisions, as a boat could at once ferry across the river, which separated the parties. As the captives stepped upon the bank which their enemies occupied, their hands were tied behind them, and in this way they were marched towards St. Augustine, like a flock of sheep, driven to the slaughter-house. As they approached the fort, a signal was given; and, amidst the sound of trumpets and drums, the Spaniards fell upon the unhappy men, who had confided in their humanity, and who could offer no resistance. A few catholics were spared; some
. mechanics were reserved as slaves; the rest were massacred, “not as Frenchmen, but as protestants." The whole number of the victims of bigotry, here and at the fort, is said, by the French, to have been about nine hundred; the Spanish accounts diminish the number of the slain, but not the atrocity of the
1 So says his apologist ; si ellos de gracia. Is not this an implied quieren entregarle las Vanderas, è promise of mercy ? las armas, è ponerse en su miseri- 2 Epistola Supplicatoria, &c. in cordia, lo pueden hacer, para que de Bry, part ii. Ceciderunt plures èl haga de ellos lo que Dios le diere quam noningenti.
DE GOURGUES AVENGES HIS COUNTRYMEN.
deed. Melendez returned to Spain, impoverished CHAP. but triumphant. The French government heard of an the outrage with apathy; and made not even a remonstrance on the ruin of a colony, which, if it had been protected, would have given to its country a flourishing empire in the south, before England had planted a single spot on the new continent. History has been more faithful; and has assisted humanity by giving to the crime of Melendez an infamous notoriety. The first town in the United States sprung from the unrelenting bigotry of the Spanish king. We admire the rapid growth of our larger cities; the sudden transformation of portions of the wilderness into blooming states. St. Augustine presents a stronger contrast in its transition from the bigotted policy of Philip II. to the American principles of religious liberty. Its origin should be carefully remembered, for it is a fixed point, from which to measure the liberal influence of time; the progress of modern civilization; the victories of the American mind, in its contests for the interests of humanity.
The Huguenots and the French nation did not 1567. share in the apathy of the court. Dominic de Gourgues, -a bold soldier of Gascony, whose life had been a series of adventures, now employed in the army against Spain, now a prisoner and a galley-slave among the Spaniards, taken by the Turks with the vessel in which he rowed, and redeemed by the
2 Apud suos infamis. Grotius. lendez a suicide. See Ensayo Holmes unnecessarily makes Me- Cronologico, p. 150, 151. VOL. I.