| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
HOW THE FRENCH FOUNDED A COLONY IN FLORIDA
 TWO years after Ribaut's ill-fated expedition another company of
Frenchmen set sail for America. This time René de Laudonnière was
captain. He had been with Ribaut two years before, and now again
he landed on the same spot where Ribaut had first landed, and set
up the arms of France.
As they saw his ship come the Indians ran down to the beach welcoming
him with cries of excitement and joy, and taking him by the hand
the chief led him to the pillar which Jean Ribaut had set up. It was
wreathed in flowers, and baskets of corn stood before it. For the
Indians looked upon it as an idol, and made offerings to it. They
kissed it with a great show of reverence, and begged the Frenchmen
to do the same. "Which we would not deny them," says Laudonnière,
who himself tells the story, "to the end we might draw them to be
more in friendship with us."
Laudonnière was so delighted with the natives' friendly greeting
that he resolved to found his colony among these kindly Indians.
So a little way up the river which Ribaut had named the river of
May, but which is now the St. John's, he built a fort.
It was late one evening in June when the Frenchmen reached the
spot where they intended to build the fort; wearied with their long
march through the forest they lay down upon the ground and were
soon fast asleep.
But at day-break Laudonnière was astir. He commanded a trumpet to
be sounded, and when all the men were
 aroused and stood together
he bade them give thanks to God for their safe arrival. So standing
beneath the waving palms, with the deep blue sky arching overhead,
the men sang a psalm of thanksgiving and praise. Then kneeling they
prayed long and earnestly.
The prayer ended, the men arose, and full of happy courage turned
to their work. Every one took part with right good will. Some brought
earth, some cut logs; there was not a man who had not a shovel or
hatchet or some tool in his hand. The work went on merrily, and
soon above the banks of the river the fort rose, secure and strong,
fenced and entrenched on every side. In honour of their King Charles
these new colonists called their fort Caroline, just as Ribaut had
called his Charlesfort.
But as the native Chief Satouriona watched the fort grow he began
to be uneasy. He wondered what these pale-faced strangers were
about, and he feared lest they should mean evil towards him. So he
gathered his warriors together, and one day the Frenchmen looked
up from their labours to see the heights above them thick with
savages in their war paint.
At once the Frenchmen dropped their tools and prepared to defend
themselves. But Satouriona, making signs of peace, and leaving most
of his warriors behind him, came down into the camp followed by a
band of twenty musicians who blew ear-piercing blasts upon discordant
Having reached the camp Satouriona squatted on his haunches, showing
that he wanted to take counsel with the Frenchmen. Then with many
signs and gestures he told the Frenchmen that his great enemies the
Thimagoes were near, and that if the Frenchmen wished to continue
in friendship with him they must promise to help him against these
powerful and hated foes.
Laudonnière feared to lose Satouriona's friendship. And
with signs, helped out now and again with a word or two, a, treaty
was made between the Indians and the Frenchmen, Laudonnière promising
to help Satouriona against his enemies, the Thimagoes. With this
treaty Satouriona was delighted, and he commanded his warriors to
help the Frenchmen in building their fort, which they very readily
Then, mindful of his promise, as soon as the fort was finished,
Laudonnière sent off some of his followers under one of his officers
to find out who the Thimagoes really were of whom Satouriona spoke
with such hate. Guided by some Indians, this officer soon came upon
the Thimagoes. But instead of fighting with them he made friends
with them, which greatly disgusted his Indian guides.
Meanwhile Satouriona, delighted at the idea of being able to crush
his enemies with the Frenchmen's help, had gathered all his braves
together and made ready for war.
Ten chiefs and five hundred warriors, fearful in war paint and
feathers, gathered at the call. Then seeing that Laudonnière was
not making any preparations for war, he sent messengers to him.
"Our chief has sent us," they said, "and he would know whether you
will stand by your promise to show yourself a friend of his friends,
an enemy of his enemies and go with him to war."
"Tell your chief," replied Laudonnière, "that I am not willing to
purchase his friendship with the enmity of another. Notwithstanding
I will go with him. But first I must gather food for my garrison,
neither are my ships ready. An enterprise such as this needs time.
Let your chief abide two months, then if he hold himself ready I
will fulfil my promise to him."
The Indian carried this answer to the Chief who, when he heard it,
was filled with wrath. He was not, however, to be stayed from war,
and he determined to go alone.
 With great ceremony he prepared to set out. In an open space near
the river a huge fire was lit. In a wide circle round this the
warriors gathered. Their faces were fearful with paint, and their
hair was decorated with feathers, or the heads of wolves and bears
and other fierce animals. Beside the fire was placed a large bowl
of water, and near it Satouriona stood erect, while his braves
squatted at his feet. Standing thus he turned his face, distorted
with wrath and hatred, towards the enemy's country. First he
muttered to himself, then he cried aloud to his god the Sun. And
when he had done this for half an hour he put his hand into the bowl
of water, and sprinkled the heads of his braves. Then suddenly, as
if in anger, he cast the rest of the water into the fire, putting
it out. As he did so he cried aloud:
"So may the blood of our enemies be poured out and their lives
In reply a hoarse yell went up from the savage host, and all the
woods resounded with the fiendish noise.
Thus Satouriona and his braves set forth for battle. In a few days
they returned singing praises to the Sun, and bringing with them
twenty-four prisoners and many scalps.
And now Laudonnière made Satouriona more angry than ever with him.
For he demanded two of these prisoners. Laudonnière wanted them
so that he might send them back to the chief of the Thimagoes as a
proof that he at least was still friendly, for he already regretted
his unwise treaty. But when Satouriona heard Laudonnière's request
he was very angry and treated it with scorn.
"Tell your chief," he said, "that he has broken his oath, and I
will not give him any of my prisoners."
When Laudonnière heard this answer he in his turn was very angry,
and he resolved to frighten Satouriona into obeying him. So taking
twenty soldiers with him he went to the chief's village. Leaving
some of the soldiers at
 the gate, and charging them to let no
Indians go in or out, he went into Satouriona's hut with the others.
In perfect silence he came in, in perfect silence he sat down and
remained so for a long time which, says Laudonnèire, put the chief
"deeply in the dumps."
At length when he thought that Satouriona was completely frightened,
"Where are your prisoners?" he said. "I command them to be brought
before me." Thereupon the chief, "angry at the heart and astonied
wonderfully," stood a long time without making any answer. But when
at last he spoke it was boldly and without fear.
"I cannot give you my prisoners," he said. "For seeing you coming
in such warlike guise they were afraid and fled to the woods. And
not knowing what way they went we could not by any means find them
Laudonnière, however, pretended that he did not understand what
the chief said, and again he asked for the prisoners.
The chief then commanded his son to go in search of them, and in
about an hour he returned bringing them with him. As soon as they
were brought before Laudonnière the prisoners greeted him humbly.
They lifted up their hands to heaven, and then threw themselves at
his feet. But Laudonnière raised them at once, and led them away
to the fort, leaving Satouriona very angry.
Laudonnière now sent the prisoners back to the Thimagoes' chief,
who was greatly delighted at the return of his braves. He was still
more delighted when the Frenchmen marched with him against another
tribe who were his enemies, and defeated them.
But while Laudonnière was thus making both friends and enemies
among the Indians all was not peace in the colony itself. Many of
the adventurers had grown tired of the loneliness and sameness of
the life. The food was
 bad, the work was hard, and there seemed
little hope that things would ever be better. And for all their
hardships it seemed to them the Governor was to blame. So they
began to murmur and be discontented, gathering together in groups,
whispering that it would be a good deed to put an end to Laudonnière
and choose another captain.
And now when the discontent was at its height Laudonnière fell
ill. Then one of the ringleaders of the discontent urged the doctor
to put poison in his medicine. But the doctor refused. Next they
formed a plot to hide a barrel of gunpowder under his bed and blow
him up. But Laudonnière discovered that plot, and the ringleader
fled to the forest.
About this time a ship arrived from France bringing food for the
colony, so that for a time things went a little better. And when
the ship sailed again for home Laudonnière sent the worst of the
mutineers back in it. In their place the captain left behind some
of his sailors. But this proved a bad exchange. For these sailors
were little better than pirates, and very soon they became the
ringleaders in revolt. They persuaded some of the older colonists
to join them. And one day they stole a little ship belonging to the
colony, and set off on a plundering expedition to the West Indies.
On the seas they led a wild and lawless life, taking and plundering
Spanish ships. But after a time they ran short of food, and found
themselves forced to put into a Spanish port. Here in order to make
peace with the Spaniards they told all they knew about the French
Thus it was that for the first time the Spaniards learned that the
heretic Frenchmen had settled in their land, and speedily the news
was sent home to Spain.
Meanwhile Laudonnière was greatly grieved for the loss of his
ship. And as days passed, and there was no sign
 of the mutineers'
return, he set his men to work to build two new ships.
For a time the work went well. But soon many of the men grew tired
of it and they began to grumble. Why should men of noble birth,
they asked, slave like carpenters? And day by day the discontent
At last one Sunday morning the men sent a message to Laudonnière
asking him to come out to the parade ground to meet them. Laudonnière
went, and he found all the colony waiting for him with gloomy
faces. At once one of them stepped forward, and asked leave to read
a paper in the name of all the others. Laudonnière gave permission.
The paper was read. It was full of complaints about the hard work,
the want of food, and other grievances. It ended with a request
that the men should be allowed to take the two ships which were
being built and sail to Spanish possessions in search of food. In
fact they wanted to become pirates like those mutineers who had
already sailed away.
Laudonnière refused to listen to this request. But he promised that
as soon as the two ships were finished they should be allowed to
set out in search of gold mines.
The mutineers separated with gloomy faces; they were by no means
satisfied with Laudonnière's answer, and the discontent was as deep
as ever. Laudonnière now again became very ill and the malcontents
had it all their own way. Soon nearly every one in the fort was on
their side, and they resolved to put an end to Laudonnière's tyranny.
Late one night about twenty men all armed to the teeth gathered
together and marched to Laudonnière's hut. Arrived there they beat
loudly on the door demanding entrance. But Laudonnière and his few
remaining friends knew well what this loud summons meant, and they
refused to open the door. The mutineers, however, were not to be
easily held back; they forced open the door, wounding one
 man who
tried to hinder them, and in a few minutes with drawn swords in
hand, and angry scowls on their faces, they crowded round the sick
man's bed. Then holding a gun at his throat they commanded him to
give them leave to set forth for Spanish waters. But the stern old
Huguenot knew no fear. Even with the muzzle of the gun against his
throat he refused to listen to the demands of the lawless crew.
His calmness drove them to fury. With terrible threats, and more
terrible oaths, they dragged him from his bed. Loading him with
fetters they carried him out of the fort, threw him into a boat
and rowed him out to the ship which lay anchored in the river. All
the loyal colonists had by this time been disarmed, and the fort
was completely in the hands of the mutineers. Their leader then drew
up a paper giving them leave to set forth to Spanish possessions.
And this he commanded Laudonnière to sign.
Laudonnière was completely in the power of the mutineers. He was
a prisoner and ill, but his spirit was unbroken, and he refused to
sign. Then the mutineers sent him a message saying that if he did
not sign they would come on board the ship and cut his throat. So,
seeing no help for it, Laudonnière signed.
The mutineers were now greatly delighted at the success of their
schemes. They made haste to finish the two little ships which they
had been building, and on the 8th of December they set sail. As
they went they flung taunts at those who stayed behind, calling
them fools and dolts and other scornful names, and threatening
them with all manner of punishments should they refuse them free
entrance to the fort on their return.
As soon as the mutineers were gone Laudonnière's friends rowed out
to him, set him free from his fetters, and brought him back to the
They were now but a very small company, but they were
 at peace with
each other, and there was plenty to do. So the weeks went quickly
by. They finished the fort, and began to build two new ships to
take the place of those which the mutineers had stolen. But they
never thought of tilling the ground and sowing seed to provide
bread for the future. Thus more than three months passed. Then one
day an Indian brought the news that a strange ship was in sight.
Laudonnière at once sent some men to find out what ship this might
be, and whether it was friend or foe.
It proved to be a Spanish vessel which the mutineers had captured
and which was now manned by them. But the mutineers who had sailed
away full of pride and insolence now returned in very humble mood.
Their buccaneering had not succeeded as they had hoped. They were
starving, and instead of boldly demanding entrance, and putting
in force their haughty threats, they were eager to make terms. But
Laudonnière was not sure whether they really came in peace or not.
So he sent out a little boat to the mutineers' ship. On the deck
of it there was an officer with one or two men only. But below,
thirty men, all armed to the teeth, were hidden. Seeing only these
one or two men in the boat the mutineers let her come alongside.
But what was their astonishment when armed men suddenly sprang from
the bottom of the boat and swarmed over the sides of their vessel.
Many of the mutineers were stupid with drink, all of them were
weak with hunger, and before they could seize their arms, or make
any resistance, they were overpowered and carried ashore.
There a court-martial was held, and four of the ringleaders were
condemned to death. But these bold bad men were loath to die.
"Comrades," said one, turning to the loyal soldiers near, "will
you stand by and see us die thus shamefully?"
 "These," replied Laudonnière, sharply, "are no comrades of mutineers
All appeals for mercy were in vain. So the men were shot and their
bodies hanged on gibbets near the mouth of the river as a lesson
After this there was peace for a time in Fort Caroline. But it
soon became peace with misery, for the colony began to starve. The
long-expected ship from France did not come. Rich and fertile land
spread all round them, but the colonists had neither ploughed nor
sown it. They trusted to France for all their food. Now for months
no ships had come, and their supplies were utterly at an end.
So in ever increasing misery the days passed. Some crawled about the
meadows and forest, digging for roots and gathering herbs. Others
haunted the river bed in search of shell-fish. One man even gathered
up all the fish bones he could find and ground them to powder to
make bread. But all that they scraped together with so much pain
and care was hardly enough to keep body and soul together. They
grew so thin that their bones started through the skin. Gaunt,
hollow-eyed spectres they lay about the fort sunk in misery, or
dragged themselves a little way into the forest in search of food.
Unless help came from France they knew that they must all soon die
a miserable death. And amid all their misery they clung to that
last hope, that help would come from France. So, however feeble they
were, however faint with hunger, they would crawl in turns to the
top of the hill above the fort straining their dimming eyes seaward.
But no sail appeared.
At length they gave up all hope, and determined to leave the hated
spot. They had the Spanish ship which the mutineers had captured,
and another little vessel besides which they had built. But these
were not enough to carry them all to France, so gathering all their
last energy they began
 to build another boat. The hope of getting
back to France seemed for a time to put a little strength into their
famine stricken bodies. And while they worked Laudonnière sailed
up the river in search of food. But he returned empty-handed.
Famishing men cannot work, and soon the colonists began to weary
of their labours.
The neighbouring Indians, too, who might have given them food, were
now their enemies. They indeed now and again brought scant supplies
of fish to the starving men. But they demanded so much for it that
soon the colonists were bare of everything they had possessed. They
bartered the very shirts from their backs for food. And if they
complained of the heavy price the Indians laughed at them.
"If thou makest so great account of thy merchandise," they jeered,
"eat it and we will eat our fish."
But summer passed. The grain began to ripen, and although the Indians
sold it grudgingly the colony was relieved from utter misery for
the time being.
But now fresh troubles arose, for the Frenchmen quarrelled with the
chief of the Thimagoes for whose sake they had already made enemies
of Satouriona and his Indians.
Thinking themselves treated in an unfriendly manner by the Thimagoes
the Frenchmen seized their chief, and kept him prisoner until the
Indians promised to pay a ransom of large quantities of grain.
The Indians agreed only because they saw no other means of freeing
their chief. They were furiously angry with the Frenchmen and,
seething with indignation against them, they refused to pay an
ounce of grain until their chief had been set free: and even then
they would not bring it to Fort Caroline, but forced the Frenchmen
to come for it. The Frenchmen went, but they very quickly saw
that they were in great danger. For the village swarmed with armed
warriors who greeted the colonists
 with scowls of deepest hatred.
After a few days, therefore, although only a small portion of the
ransom had been paid, the Frenchmen decided to make for home as
fast as possible.
It was a hot July morning on which they set off. Each man besides
his gun carried a sack of grain, so the progress was slow. They had
not gone far beyond the village when a wild war whoop was heard.
It was immediately followed by a shower of arrows. The Frenchmen
replied with a hot fire of bullets. Several of the Indians fell
dead, and the rest fled howling into the forest.
Then the Frenchmen marched on again. But they had scarcely gone
a quarter of a mile when another war whoop was heard in front.
It was answered from behind, and the Frenchmen knew themselves
surrounded. But they stood their ground bravely. Dropping their
bags of corn they seized their guns. A sharp encounter followed,
and soon the Indians fled again into the forest. But again and
again they returned to the attack, and the Frenchmen had to fight
every yard of the way. At nine o'clock the fight began, and the sun
was setting when at length the Indians gave up the pursuit. When
the Frenchmen reached their boats they counted their losses. Two
had been killed, and twenty-two injured, some of them so badly
that they had to be carried on board the boats. Of all the bags of
grain with which they had started out only two remained. It was a
miserable ending to the expedition.
The plight of the colony was now worse than ever. The two sacks
of grain were soon consumed; the feeble efforts at building a ship
had come to nothing. But rather than stay longer the colonists
resolved to crowd into the two small vessels they had, and sail
homeward if only they could gather food enough for the voyage. But
where to get that food none knew.
One day full of troubled, anxious thoughts Laudonnière
the hill and looked seaward. Suddenly he saw something which made
his heart beat fast, and brought the colour to his wasted cheeks.
A great ship, its sails gleaming white in the sunlight was making
for the mouth of the river. As he gazed another and still another
ship hove in sight. Thrilling with excitement Laudonnière sent
a messenger down to the fort with all speed to tell the news, and
when they heard it the men who had seemed scarce able to crawl arose
and danced for joy. They laughed, and wept, and cried aloud, till
it seemed as if joy had bereft them of their wits.
But soon fear mingled with their joy. There was something not
altogether familiar about the cut and rig of the ships. Were they
really the long-looked-for ships from France, or did they belong
to their deadly and hated enemies, the Spaniards? They were neither
one nor the other. That little fleet was English, under command
of the famous admiral, John Hawkins, in search of fresh water of
which they stood much in need. The English Admiral at once showed
himself friendly. To prove that he came with no evil intent he
landed with many of his officers gaily clad, and wearing no arms.
The famine-stricken colonists hailed him with delight, for it seemed
to them that he came as a deliverer.
Gravely and kindly Hawkins listened to the tale of misery, yet he
was glad enough when he heard that the Frenchmen had decided to
leave Florida, for he wanted to claim it for Queen Elizabeth and
England. When, however, he saw the ships in which they meant to
sail homewards he shook his head. "It was not possible," he said,
"for so many souls to cross the broad Atlantic in those tiny
barques." So he offered to give all the Frenchmen a free passage
to France in his own ships. This Laudonnière refused. Then Hawkins
offered to lend him, or sell him, one
 of his ships. Even this
kindness Laudonnière hesitated to accept.
Thereupon there arose a great uproar among the colonists, they
crowded round him clamouring to be gone, threatening that if he
refused the Englishman's offer they would accept it and sail without
So Laudonnière yielded. He told Hawkins that he would buy the
ship he offered, but he had no money. The Englishman, however, was
generous. Instead of money he took the cannon and other things now
useless to the colonists. He provided them with food enough for
the voyage, and seeing many of the men ragged and barefoot, added
among other things fifty pairs of shoes.
Then with kindly good wishes Hawkins said farewell and sailed away,
leaving behind him many grateful hearts. As soon as he was gone
the Frenchmen began to prepare to depart also. In a few days all
was ready, and they only waited for a fair wind in order to set
sail. But as they waited, one day, the fort was again thrown into
a state of excitement by the appearance of another fleet of ships.
Again the question was asked, were they friends or foes, Spaniards
or Frenchmen? At length, after hours of sickening suspense, the
question was answered, they were Frenchmen under the command of
The long-looked-for help had come at last. It had come when it was
no longer looked for, when it was indeed unwelcome to many. For
the colonists had grown utterly weary of that sunlit cruel land,
and they only longed to go home. France with any amount of tyranny
was to be preferred before the freedom and the misery of Florida.
But to abandon the colony was now impossible, for besides supplies
of food the French ships had brought many new colonists. This
time, too, the men had not come alone but had brought their wives
and families with them. Soon
 the fort which had been so silent and
mournful was filled with sounds of talk and laughter. Again, the
noise of hatchet and hammer resounded through the woods, and the
little forsaken corner of the world awoke once more to life.
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