St. Augustine

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Taken from Captain John Smith by Arthur Granville Bradley, copyright 1905:

A colony of French Huguenots had settled on the coast of Florida in 1565. Pedro de Menendez attacked it with overwhelming numbers, and hanged every grown male in the settlement on trees to the number of a hundred and forty and on the breast of each he attached this inscription, Not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans.

When a certain valiant De Gourgues, a Frenchman who had once been taken prisoner by the Spaniards, and hated them with a deadly hatred, heard of the catastrophe, he set about preparing to avenge it with grim deliberation, in spite of the frowns of his own government. The Spaniards had made a considerable settlement at St. Augustine in Florida, a day’s journey from the one they had so brutally destroyed, and upon this De Gourgues fixed his avenging eye. He sold his property in France, and invested the proceeds in three small ships, carrying eighty sailors and one hundred soldiers.

Having obtained a commission to sail the Guinea Coast as a slaver, he immediately crossed the Atlantic. He laid his plans, and kept his followers in hand with infinite skill and patience, surprised the Spaniards, who far outnumbered his own party, in their forts, and captured them all. He then deliberately hanged every man of them upon trees, and over each body he nailed the inscription, Not as Spaniards, but as traitors, robbers, and murderers.

This is perhaps the most appallingly dramatic episode that the story even of the Spanish Main can furnish, and in its daring almost rivalled the greatest even of Drake’s feats. The hero of it was offered high commands by foreign countries, but he died, like a later and less bloodthirsty hero, “at the moment when his fame began.”

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