A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part I, Chapter 10." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 10
HOW A FRENCHMAN AVENGED THE DEATH OF HIS COUNTRYMEN

WHEN the news of these terrible massacres reached France it was greeted with a cry of horror. Even the boy King, Charles IX, Catholic though he was, demanded redress. But the King of Spain declared that the Frenchmen had been justly served. The land upon which they had settled was his, he said, and they had no right to be there. He was sorry that they were Frenchmen, but they were also pirates and robbers, and had received only the just reward of their misdeeds.

The news reaches France

Neither Charles nor his mother, who was the real ruler in France at this time, wished to quarrel with the King of Spain. So finding that no persuasions would move him, and that instead of being punished Menendez was praised and rewarded, they let the matter drop.

 

But there was one man in France who would not thus tamely submit to the tyranny of Spain. His name was Dominique de Gourges. He hated the Spaniards with a deadly hatred. And when he heard of the Florida massacre he vowed to avenge the death of his countrymen. He sold all that he had, borrowed what money he could, and with three ships and a goodly company of soldiers and sailors set sail.

Dominique de Gourges determines to avenge his countrymen, 1567;

At first, however, he kept his real object secret. Instead of steering straight for Florida he steered southward, making believe that he was going to Africa for slaves. But after encountering storms and contrary winds he turned westward, and when off the coast of Cuba he gathered all his men together and told them what he had set out to do.

 

In vivid, terrible words he recounted to them the horrible slaughter. "Shall we let such cruelty go unpunished?" he asked. "What fame for us if we avenge it! To this end I have given my fortune, and I counted on you to help me. Was I wrong?"

 

"No," they all cried, "we will go with you to avenge our countrymen!"

 

So with hearts filled with thoughts of vengeance they sailed onward to Fort Caroline.

 

The Spaniards had repaired the fort and now called it Fort Mateo. They had also built two small forts nearer the mouth of the river to guard the entrance to it. Now one afternoon the men in these forts saw three ships go sailing by. These were the French ships bringing Gourges and his companions. But the men in the forts thought that they were Spanish ships and therefore fired a salute. Gourges did not undeceive them. He fired a salute in reply and, sailing on as if he were going elsewhere, was soon lost to sight.

he reaches Florida;

At length, having found a. convenient place out of sight of the forts, he drew to the shore. But when he would have landed he saw that the whole beach was crowded with savages armed with bows and arrows and ready for war. For the Indians, too, had taken the strange ships to be Spanish. And as they had grown to hate the Spaniards with a deadly hatred they were prepared to withstand their landing.

 

Fortunately, however, Gourges had on board a trumpeter who had been in Florida with Laudonnière. So now he sent him on shore to talk with the Indians. And as soon as they recognised him they greeted him with shouts of joy. Then they led him at once to their chief who was no other than Satouriona, Laudonnière's one-time friend.

 

So amid great rejoicings the Frenchmen landed. Then Satouriona poured into their ears the tale of his wrongs. He told them how the Spaniards stole their corn, drove them from their huts and their hunting grounds, and generally ill-treated them. "Not one peaceful day," he said, "have the Indians known since the Frenchmen went away."

 

When Gourges heard this he was well pleased. "If you have been ill-treated by the Spaniards," he said, "the French will avenge you."

makes friends with the Indians;

At this Satouriona leaped for joy.

 

"What!" he cried, "will you fight the Spaniards?"

 

"Yes," replied Gourges, "but you must do your part also."

 

"We will die with you," cried Satouriona, "if need be."

 

"That is well," said Gourges. "How soon can you be ready? For if we fight we should fight at once."

 

"In three days we can be ready," said the Indian.

 

"See to it then," said Gourges, "that you are secret in the matter so that the Spaniards suspect nothing."

 

"Have no fear," replied Satouriona; "we wish them more ill than you do."

 

The third day came and, true to his word, Satouriona appeared surrounded by hundreds of warriors, fearful in paint and feathers. Then some by water, some by land, the French and Indians set forth, and after many hardships and much toil they reached one of the forts which the Spaniards had built near the river's mouth. From the shelter of the surrounding trees they gazed upon it.

 

"There!" cried Gourges, "there at last are the thieves who have stolen this land from our King. There are the murderers who slew our countrymen."

 

At his words the men were hardly to be restrained. In eager whispers they begged to be led on. So the word was given, and the Frenchmen rushed upon the fort.

 

The Spaniards had just finished their mid-day meal when a cry was heard from the ramparts. "To arms! to arms! the French are coming!"

attacks the Spaniards;

They were taken quite unawares, and with but short resistance they fled. The French and Indians pursued them and hemmed them in so that not one man escaped. In like manner the second fort was also taken, and every man slain or made prisoner.

 

The next day was Sunday, and Gourges spent it resting, and making preparations to attack Fort Mateo.

 

When the Spaniards in Fort Mateo saw the French and their great host of yelling, dancing Indians they were filled with fear. And in order to find out how strong the force really was one of them dressed himself as an Indian and crept within the French lines. But almost at once he was seen by a young Indian chief. And his disguise being thus discovered he was seized and questioned. He owned that there were scarce three hundred men in the fort and that, believing the French to number at least two thousand, they were completely terror-stricken. This news delighted Gourges, and next morning he prepared to attack.

 

The fort was easily taken. When the Spaniards saw the French attack, panic seized them and they fled into the forest. But there the Indians, mad with the desire of blood and vengeance, met them. Many fell before the tomahawks; others turned back choosing rather to die at the hands of the French than of the Indians. But which way they turned there was no escape. Nearly all were slain, a few only were taken prisoner.

defeats them utterly;

When the fight was over Gourges brought all the prisoners from the three forts together. He led them to the trees where Menendez had hanged the Frenchmen a few months before. There he spoke to them.

 

"Did you think that such foul treachery, such abominable cruelty would go unpunished?" he said. "Nay, I, one of the most lowly of my King's subjects, have taken upon myself to avenge it. There is no name shameful enough with which to brand your deeds, no punishment severe enough to repay them. But though you cannot be made to suffer as you deserve you shall suffer all that an enemy may honourably inflict. Thus your fate shall be an example to teach others to keep the peace and friendly alliance, which you have broken so wickedly."

 

And having spoken thus sternly to the trembling wretches Gourges ordered his men to hang them on the very same trees upon which Menendez had hanged the Frenchmen. And over their heads he nailed tablets of wood upon which were burned the words "Not as Spaniards or as Mariners, but as Traitors, Robbers and Murderers."

the prisoners are hanged

Then at length the vengeance of Gourges was satisfied. But indeed it was scarce complete, for Menendez the chief mover and leader of the Spaniards was safe in Europe, and beyond the reach of any private man's vengeance. The Spaniards, too, were strongly entrenched at St. Augustine, so strongly indeed that Gourges knew he had not force enough to oust them. He had not even men enough to keep the three forts he had won. So he resolved to destroy them.

 

This delighted the Indians, and they worked with such vigour that in one day all three forts were made level with the ground. Then, having accomplished all that he had come to do, Gourges made ready to depart. Whereupon the Indians set up a wail of grief. With tears they begged the Frenchmen to stay, and when they refused they followed them all the way to the shore, praising them and giving them gifts, and praying them to return.

The forts are destroyed

So leaving the savages weeping upon the shore the Frenchmen sailed away, and little more than a month later they reached home.

Gourges sails back to France

When they heard of what Gourges had done the Huguenots rejoiced, and they greeted him with honour and praise. But Philip of Spain was furiously angry. He demanded that Gourges should be punished, and offered a large sum of money for his head. King Charles, too, being in fear of the King of Spain, looked upon him coldly, so that for a time he was obliged to flee away and hide himself.

 

Gourges had used all his money to set forth on his expedition, so for a few years he lived in poverty. But Queen Elizabeth at length heard of him and his deeds. And as she, too, hated the Spaniards she was pleased at what he had done, and she asked him to enter her service. Thus at length he was restored to honour and favour. And in honour and favour he continued all the rest of his life.

 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this book were the work of volunteers at
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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom