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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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Chapter III. — The Chevalier Gourgues Retaliates Upon the Spanish Settlement in Florida.

INTELLIGENCE of the horrid treachery of the Spaniards was received in France with one universal burst of indignation. The relatives of the persons massacred in Florida petitioned the king for redress, alleging that they had gone thither by his authority, and that, consequently, it was his crown that had been insulted. The nation demanded that the king of Spain should be required to make atonement for the atrocities of his subjects. But Charles IX. cared no more for these events than did Philip II. Protestantism being a heresy loathed by both monarchs, nothing was done. The blood of Ribault, and of his 900 followers, [62] vainly appealed to the French government for vengeance.


At length the matter was taken in hand by the Chevalier Dominico Gourgues, a Gascon gentleman, descended from an ancient family. He possessed an enviable reputation for courage, influence, and moral character, and stood high in public estimation for his military services, both in France and in foreign countries. His success and skill in naval affairs were also of a high order.

At his own cost, Gourgues equipped three vessels, of moderate tonnage, adapted to the navigation of small rivers and shallow bays. In calling for volunteers, both soldiers and sailors, he told no one his precise object, the prestige of his name being sufficient. He mustered 100 soldiers having fire arms, among whom were gentlemen, and eighty mariners armed with cross-bows, who designed also to act with the military force. He carried with him provisions for one year. [63] It was the 22d of August before he left the coast of France. He appeared to meditate a descent on the shores of Africa, which he really visited, but, finally, steering across the Atlantic, he made the shores of Brazil, whence he directed his course to Cape St. Antonio, or the west cape of Cuba. At this place he called his men together, and revealed to them the object of the expedition. He stated the injuries inflicted upon their country, the insult to their king, the gross violation of all recognised laws of war, and, above all, the

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outrages upon humanity. Having aroused their enthusiasm, and excited their feelings and sense of justice, he sailed into the river Somme, now St. Mary's, the coast boundary between Florida and Georgia.

Nearly a year had elapsed in the performance of the long and circuitous voyage, and in the delays incident to the landings which had been made. Spring had again clothed the Florida coasts in verdure. It was early in the month of April, when Gourgues entered the river St. Mary's. The Indians were assembled in considerable numbers, and evinced signs of hostility, until they ascertained that the new comers were French. The chief, Satouriona, was there to welcome him, and restored to him a young Frenchman (Pierre Delre), who had escaped to the Indians after the massacre of the garrison of Fort Caroline, and who, subsequently, became very serviceable to the French as an interpreter. Satouriona soon gave Gourgues to understand that the Indians hated the Spaniards, whose domination was irksome, and at once agreed to aid Gourgues in an attack on the three Spanish forts, then located on the St. John's. The movements of Gourgues were very rapid. Finding the Indians ready to second him, he determined to attack the enemy immediately. In three days the Indians, to the number of 300, armed with bows, and led on by experienced warriors, set out by land for a rendezvous on the St. John's. Gourgues, intending to proceed by water, embarked his men in boats; but the winds being adverse, when half way thither, he landed and marched across the country. When he arrived at the rendezvous, all the Indians were there, ready and eager for the fray.

A conference having been held with the Indian chiefs, they marched forward, and just at night-fall reached the river. It was decided to attack the fort on the south bank at daybreak, the Indians being skilful guides; but it happened that the tide in a creek near the fort was up, making it then too deep to ford. This caused a delay, during the continuance of which they lay in ambush, in the forest, to avoid discovery. When the tide flowed out, the allies crossed the creek unobserved, stormed and carried the fort, sword in hand, retaining but few prisoners.

The feelings of Gourgues and his men were much excited by the capture of a culverine, having the arms of Henry IV. engraved on it, which had been mounted in Fort Caroline. Ordering his boats around, he determined immediately to assault the north fort. He embarked his men in military order; but the Indians, too impatient to wait for the return of the boats, plunged into the river and swam across. Seeing so great an array, the garrison, sixty in number, made no show of defence, but fled, with the intention of seeking shelter in another fort, situated three miles above. But they were met by another strong party of French, and, being hemmed in by the Indians in the rear, were completely cut to pieces, with the exception of fifteen men, who were detained, that they might be hanged.

Fort Matheo, the strongest of the three, which the Spaniards had erected after the capture of Fort Caroline, was still unharmed. While meditating on the best mode of

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attack, they were informed by one of the Spanish prisoners, a soldier from Fort Matheo, of the exact height of its walls, to scale which, ladders were at once prepared. At this time the Indians discovered a Spaniard in camp, in the disguise of an Indian, who proved to be a spy. From him Gourgues learned that the garrison consisted of 260 men, that the fort was large, and that it was believed that Gourgues had a force of 2000 men. He instantly determined on his plan of attack, and, after two days spent in preparation, he directed the Indians to conceal themselves in the forest, on both sides of the river, near the fort. He then crossed in boats with his whole force, merely leaving behind him fifteen men as a guard. As soon as his army was seen from the fort, the Spaniards opened their culverines on him, to avoid the effects of which, he landed and took possession of an eminence, overlooking the fort and the movements of its garrison, while his own troops were concealed and protected. He designed taking the work by escalade the following morning, but the Spaniards precipitated matters by ordering a sally of sixty men. Gourgues ordered an officer and twenty men to get between the fort and the sallying party, by a circuitous route, which being accomplished, he marched rapidly forward, directing his forces to reserve their fire for a close contest, and, after the first discharge, to rush on sword in hand. Many of the foe fell, and, though the rest fought bravely, they were at length obliged to retreat; but, encountering the force in their rear, every man was slain, no quarter being given.

Seeing the flower of their force thus cut down, the garrison, crediting the exaggerated reports of the French strength, fled across the river, where the Indians, lying in ambush, rose upon them with overwhelming fury. Such was their skill in the use of the arrow, that one of them passed through the buckler of a Spanish officer, and entered his body, killing him dead on the spot. The French, having again crossed the river, assaulted the Spaniards in the rear, killing all who escaped the Indians; and thus the entire garrison perished, with the exception of a few, reserved for the gallows, as a retaliation for the cruelty of the Spaniards, after the surrender of Ribault.

Fort Matheo was entered triumphantly, and was found to contain a large quantity of arms, nine culverines, of all sizes, and eighteen casks of powder. The following day the boats were freighted with the artillery; but the magazine was blown up by a secret train, left by the enemy, which was unwittingly fired by an Indian, while cooking fish.

The work of retribution was not, however, as yet, fully completed. Drawing up his men, and the auxiliary Indians who had taken so active a part in the short campaign, and placing all the Spanish prisoners whom he had taken, in the centre, Gourgues addressed the latter, recounting to them the atrocities committed by Menendez, and finished by condemning them to immediate execution, in the same manner as that adopted by the Spaniards. They were then taken to the same tree which had served as the Tyburn of Menendez, and upon which he had placed the inscription — "Not as

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Frenchmen, but as Lutherans." The thirty prisoners having been suspended upon its limbs, Gourgues, with a red-hot pointed iron, inscribed upon a strip of pine board — "Not as Spaniards, but as traitors, robbers, and murderers;" which was fastened to the natural gallows.

Immediately returning with his cavaliers, Satouriona, and his native allies, to St. Mary's river, where he had left his ships, and, having distributed presents to the Indians, who were in ecstacies with his martial exploits, Gourgues exchanged the most friendly salutations and civilities with them, and then, on the 3d of May, set sail for France, arriving at the port of Rochelle on the 6th of June, after a very prosperous voyage.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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