| 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 FLAG OF FRANCE WAS PLANTED IN FLORIDA
 AS years went on many voyages of discovery and exploration were
made to the New World by both the Spaniards and the Portuguese,
but chiefly by the Spaniards. America was the land of golden hopes,
the land of splendid adventure, and the haughty knights of Spain,
thirsting for gold and for fame, were lured thither. They sought
the fabled seven cities of gold, they sought the fountain of eternal
youth. Through the dark pathless forests, across the wide prairies
they flashed in glittering array, awaking the vast silences with the
clash of arms. They came in all the pomp and splendour of warfare;
they brought also the Cross of Christ, threatening the heathen with
death if they did not bow to Him and be baptised. And it seemed for
a time as if they, and they only, would possess the vast continent.
But expedition after expedition ended in disaster. The Spaniards
found neither the far-famed seven cities nor the fountain of youth.
And the Redmen, instead of accepting their religion, hated them
and it with a deep hatred.
But the Spaniards were not long left in undisputed possession of
America. The French King too desired to have new lands across the
seas, and he saw no reason why Spain and Portugal should divide
the New World between them.
"I would fain see Father Adam's will," he said, "in which he made
you the sole heirs to so vast an inheritance. Until I do see that,
I shall seize as mine whatever my good ships may find upon the ocean. "
 From France, therefore, daring men sailed forth to the New World.
And there they set up the arms of their country, claiming broad
lands for their King.
And now came the time when all Christian lands were torn asunder by
religious strife. The Reformation had begun, and everywhere there
was discord between the people who followed the old religion and
those who followed the new. In France those who followed the new
religion were called Huguenots. They were often hardly used, and
were denied freedom to worship God in their own way. Many of them
therefore longed to get away from France, and go to some new country
where they would have the freedom they desired.
So a few grave, stern men gathered together and determined to set
out for some place in the New World where they might make a home.
Then one February day in 1562 two little ships sailed away from
France. Westward they sailed until about two and a half months
later they landed in what is now Florida.
It was May Day, the sun shone and all the world seemed gay and
green, and these Protestant adventurers thought they had never
seen so fair a land. It was, they said, the fairest, fruitfullest
and pleasantest of all the world, "abounding in honey, venison
and wildfowl." The natives were friendly and told the newcomers by
signs that the seven golden cities were not far off. That rejoiced
their hearts, for even those stern old Huguenots were not above
following the quest for gold.
Here then in this far-off land the Huguenots set up a stone pillar
carved with the arms of the King of France. And kneeling round
it they gave thanks to God for having brought them to so fair a
country. Then returning to their ships they sailed northward along
the coast, For they had
 not come to settle, but merely to explore,
and find out a good spot on which to found a colony.
But the land seemed so fair, the air so balmy, that they were ready
to settle there at once, and never return to France.
At length after inspecting several places the adventurers reached
a spot not far from what is now Beaufort in South Carolina. Here
they landed, and knowing that many of the men were already eager
to remain in this beautiful country, Jean Ribaut, their leader,
resolved to found a colony. So he called them all together, and
speaking wise and brave words to them asked who among them would
"Declare your minds freely unto me," he said, "and remember that
if you decide to remain you will for ever be famous, and be known
as the first white men who inhabited this land."
Ribaut had scarcely finished speaking when nearly all the men
replied with a shout, "We ask nothing better than to remain in this
Indeed so many were anxious to remain that Ribaut had enough to
do to persuade a sufficient number to man the ships to return with
In the end thirty men were chosen to remain. At once they set about
building a fort which they called Charlesfort in honour of the boy
King, Charles IX, who was then upon the throne.
The men worked so well that in a very few days the fort was so
far finished that it was fit to live in. Food and ammunition were
brought from the ships, and a man named Albert de la Pierria was
chosen as Governor. Then for the last time Ribaut gathered all the
men together and took leave of those to be left behind.
"Captain Albert," he said, "I have to ask you in the presence of
all these men, to quit yourself so wisely in
 your charge, that I
shall be able to commend you to your King.
"And you," he said, turning to the soldiers, "I beg you to esteem
Captain Albert as if he were myself, and to yield to him that
obedience that a true soldier owes to his general and captain. I
pray you live as brethren together without discord. And in so doing
God will assist you, and bless your enterprises."
Then farewells were said, and Ribaut sailed away, leaving the thirty
white men alone in the wilderness.
From north to south, from east to west, in all the vast continent
there were no white men save themselves. The little company was
made up of young nobles, sailors, merchants and artisans. There
were no farmers or peasants among them, and when they had finished
their fort none of them thought of clearing the land and sowing
corn. There was no need: Ribaut would soon return, they thought,
bringing with him all they required. So they made friends with
the Indians, and roamed the forest wilds in search of gold and of
adventures, without care for the future.
But the days and weeks passed and Ribaut did not return. For when
he arrived home he found that France was torn with civil war, and
that it was impossible to get ships fitted out to sail to America.
Soon the little colony began to feel the pangs of hunger. Daily they
scanned the pitiless blue sea for a glimpse of Ribaut's returning
sail. No sail appeared, and daily their supplies dwindled away. Had
it not been for the friendly Redmen they might all have perished.
For the Indians were generous, and as long as they had food themselves
they shared it with their white friends. But at length they could
spare no more. Indeed they had already given the Pale-faces so much
food that they themselves, they said, would be forced to roam the
woods in search of roots and
 herbs to keep them from starving until
harvest was ripe. They told the Frenchmen, however, of two rich
and powerful chiefs who held sway over land which lay to the south,
where they might obtain endless supplies of corn and vegetables.
This was indeed good news to the Frenchmen. And guided by their
Indian friends they lost no time in setting out to beg food from
those dusky potentates.
When the Frenchmen reached the wigwams of one of these chiefs they
were received with great honour. They found that their Redskin
friends had spoken truly. Here there was food in abundance; and
after a great feast they returned joyfully to the fort, carrying
with them a great supply of corn and beans, and—what was still
better—a promise from the friendly chief that he would give them
more food whenever they had need of it.
Once more the colonists rejoiced in plenty. But not for long. For
the very night they arrived home their storehouse took fire, and
all the food which they had brought with such joy was destroyed.
Again famine stared them in the face. In their plight they once more
appealed to the savage chief who supplied their wants as generously
as before; promising them that as long as his meal should last they
should never want. So for the time being the colonists were saved
But another danger now threatened them, for quarrels arose among
the men. Albert de Pierria who had been set over them as captain
proved to be cruel and despotic. He oppressed the men in many ways,
hanging and imprisoning at will those who displeased him. Soon the
men began to murmur under his tyranny. Black looks greeted Albert
de Pierria: he answered them with blacker deeds. At length one
day for some misdeed he banished a soldier to a lonely island, and
left him there to die of hunger. This was more than the colonists
could well bear. Their
smoul-  dering anger burst forth, and seizing
the tyrant they put him to death. Then they chose one of their
number called Nicolas Barre to be their captain.
They were rid of their tyrant, and that brought peace for a time
to the little colony. But the men had grown to hate the place. The
land which had once seemed to them so fair now seemed no better
than a prison, and they longed to escape from it.
They had, however, no ship, and although all around them tall
trees grew no one of them knew anything of ship building. Still, so
strong was their desire to leave the hated spot that they resolved
to build one.
They set to work with. a will. Soon the sound of saw and hammer
awoke the silence of the forest. High and low, noble and peasant,
all worked together, the Indians, even, lending a hand.
At length their labours were over and the rough little ship was
afloat. It made but a sorry appearance. The planks were rough-hewn
by the hatchet, and caulked with the moss which grew in long
streamers on the trees. The cordage was Indian made, and the sails
were patched together from shirts and bedclothes. Never before had
men thought to dare the ocean waves in so crazy a craft. But the
colonists were in such eagerness to be gone that they chose rather
to risk almost certain death upon the ocean than remain longer in
their vast prison house.
So they loaded the ship with as much food as they could collect,
and saying farewell to their Indian friends, they spread their
patchwork sails, and glided out to sea drunken with joy at the
thought of returning to France.
At first the wind blew fair, and the little ship sped gaily
homeward. Then came a calm. The sun burned overhead, no faintest
breeze stirred the slack sails, and the ship lay as if at anchor
upon the glassy waters. And as the ship lay motionless the slender
stock of food grew less and less.
 Soon there was nothing left but
maize, and little of that. At first a tiny handful was each man's
daily portion; then it was counted by grains. But jealously hoarded
although it was the maize at length gave out, and there was nothing
left to eat but their leather shoes and jerkins.
Then to the pain of hunger was added the pain of thirst, for the
water barrels were emptied to the last drop. Unable to endure the
torture some drank the sea, water and so died in madness. Beneath
the burning sun every timber of the crazy little ship warped and
started, and on all sides the sea flowed in. Still through all
their agony the men clung to life. And sick with hunger, maddened
with thirst as they were they laboured unceasingly bailing out
the water. But they laboured now with despair in their hearts, and
they gave up hope of ever seeing their beloved France again. Then
at length the pitiless sun was overcast, a wild wind arose, and
the glassy sea, whipped to fury, became a waste of foam and angry
billows. The tiny vessel was tossed about helplessly and buffeted
this way and that.
"In the turning of a hand," says an old writer, "the waves filled
their vessel half full of water, and bruised it upon one side."
The wretched men now gave themselves up for lost. They cared no
longer to bail, but cast themselves down into the bottom of the
boat, and let it drift where it would. Only one man among them did
not utterly lose heart. He set himself now to encourage the others,
telling them that if only the wind held, in three days they would
see the shores of France.
This man was so full of hope that at length he aroused the others
from their despair. Once more they began the weary work of bailing,
and in spite of all the fury of the wind and waves the little vessel
At last the storm passed. Once more the fainting wanderers righted
their vessel, and turned the prow towards
 the shores of France.
But three days passed, and no land was seen, and they became more
despairing than before.
For now the last grain of corn was eaten, the last drop of water
drunk. Mad with thirst, sick with hunger, the men strained their
weary eyes over the rolling waste of waters. No land was in sight.
Then a terrible thought crept into one mind after another. In a low
hoarse whisper one man and then another spoke out his thought—that
one man should die for his fellows.
So deep were they sunk in woe that all were of one mind. So lots
were cast, and the man upon whom the lot fell was killed.
These tortured wayfarers had become cannibals.
Kept alive in this terrible fashion the men sailed on, and
at length a faint grey streak appeared on the horizon. It was the
long-looked-for shore of France. But the joy was too great for
their over-strained minds. The sight of land seemed to rob them of
all power of thought or action. With salvation in sight they let
the little vessel drift aimlessly this way and that.
While they thus drifted aimlessly a white sail hove in sight, and
an English vessel bore down upon them. In the English vessel there
happened to be a Frenchman who had sailed with Ribaut on his first
voyage to Florida. He soon recognised his countrymen in spite of
their sorry plight, and they were brought aboard the English vessel.
And when they had been given food and drink, and were somewhat
revived, they told their tale of misery.
The Englishmen were in doubt for some time as to what it was best
to do. In the end they decided to set the most feeble on the shores
of France, and to carry the others prisoners to the Queen of England,
who at that time was about to send an expedition to Florida.
So ended the first attempt of the French to found a colony in North
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