| 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 SPANIARDS DROVE THE FRENCH OUT OF FLORIDA
 SCARCELY a week had passed before the new peace and happiness of
the French colony was brought to a cruel end.
Late one night the men on board the French ships saw a great black
hulk loom silently up out of the darkness. It was followed by
another and another. No word was spoken, and in eerie silence the
strange ships crept stealthily onwards, and cast anchor beside the
French. The stillness grew terrible. At length it was broken by a
trumpet call from the deck of one of the silent new-comers.
Then a voice came through the darkness. "Gentlemen," it asked,
"whence does this fleet come?"
"From France," was the reply.
"What are you doing here?" was the next question.
"We are bringing soldiers and supplies for a fort which the King of
France has in this country, and for many which he soon will have."
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?"
The question came sharply across the dark water. It was answered
by many voices.
"We are Lutherans," cried the French, "we are of the new religion."
Then it was the Frenchmen's turn to ask questions.
"Who are you," they cried, "and whence come ye?"
"I am Pedro Menendez," replied the voice out of the darkness. "I
am Admiral of the fleet of the King of Spain. And I am come into
this country to hang and behead all
 Lutherans whom I may find by
land or by sea. And my King has given me such strict commands that
I have power to pardon no man of them. And those commands I shall
obey to the letter, as you will see. At dawn I shall come aboard
your ship. And if there I find any Catholic he shall be well-treated,
but every heretic shall die."
In reply to this speech a shout of wrath went up from the Frenchmen.
"If You are a brave man," they cried, "why wait for dawn? Come on
now, and see what you will get."
Then in their anger they heaped insults upon the Spaniards, and
poured forth torrents of scoffing words. Thereupon Menendez was
so enraged that he swore to silence those Lutheran dogs once and
for ever. So the order was given, and his great ship slowly moved
towards the French.
The threats of the French had been but idle boasting; they could not
withstand the Spaniards, for their leader was ashore with most of
his soldiers. So cutting their cables they fled out to sea pursued
by the foe.
There was a mad chase through the darkness. But the heretic devils,
as the Spaniards called them, were skilful sailors. Menendez could
not catch them, and when day dawned he gave up the chase and moodily
turned back to Fort Caroline.
Here he found the French ready for him, and they seemed so strong
that he would not attack, but sailed away southwards until he
reached the river of Dolphins.
Here Menendez landed and took possession of the country in the
name of the King of Spain. While cannon boomed and trumpets blew
he stepped on shore followed by his officers and gentlemen. In
all the gay trappings of knighthood, with many-coloured banners
fluttering in the breeze, they marched. Then as they advanced another
procession came toward them. At the head of it was a priest in all
the pomp and splendour of his priestly robes.
 He carried a gilded
crucifix in his hand, and as he marched he sang a Te Deum.
When the two processions met Menendez and all his company knelt,
and baring their heads kissed the crucifix. So was the land claimed
for Spain and the Catholic faith, and St. Augustine, the oldest
town in the United States, was founded.
Meanwhile, the fleeing French ships had turned, followed the Spaniards,
and seen them land. Then they went back to Fort Caroline with the
While these things had been happening Laudonnière had been very
ill. He was still in bed when Ribaut, followed by several of his
chief officers, came to his room to tell him the news which the
returning ships had just brought. And beside his sickbed they held
a council of war. It was decided to attack the Spaniards and drive
them from the land. But how?
First one plan and then another was discussed, and to each some
one objected. But at length it was decided to go by sea and attack
the Spaniards suddenly in their newly-founded fort.
So almost every man who could hold a gun set forth with Ribaut,
and Laudonnière was left in the fort with the feeble and sick, and
scarcely a man besides who had ever drawn a sword or fired a shot.
Their leader was as sick and feeble as any of them. But he dragged
himself from his bed to review his forces. They were poor indeed,
but Laudonnière made the best of them. He appointed each man to a
certain duty, he set a watch night and day, and he began to repair
the broken-down walls of the fort, so that they would be able to
make some show of resistance in case of attack.
While Laudonnière was thus ordering his poor little garrison
the ships carrying the rest of the colonists sailed on their way.
 The wind was fair, and in the night they crept close to where the
Spanish vessels lay.
But when day dawned and the Spaniards saw the French vessels close
to them they fled to the shelter of their harbour. And a sudden
storm arising the French were driven out to sea again.
As Menendez watched them from the shore he rejoiced. He knew by
the number of the ships that most of the French colonists must be
in them, and he hoped that they would all be lost in the storm.
Then as he watched a sudden thought came to him. While the Frenchmen
were battling with wind and waves he resolved to move quickly over
land and take Fort Caroline. For he knew that it must be almost,
if not quite, unprotected.
One of the French mutineers who had deserted Laudonnière was now
in the Spanish fort. He would show the way. Full of this splendid
idea, eager to carry it out at once, he ordered Mass to be said,
then he called a council and laid his plan before his officers.
They, however, met his eagerness with coldness. It was a mad and
hopeless plan, they thought, and they did their best to dissuade
Menendez from it. But Menendez was determined to go.
"Comrades," he said, "it is now that we must show our courage and
our zeal. This is God's war, and we must not turn our backs upon
it. It is war against heretics, and we must wage it with blood and
But the Spanish leader's eager words awoke no response in the
hearts of his hearers. They answered him only with mutterings.
Still Menendez insisted. The debate grew stormy, and angry words
were flung this way and that.
At length, however, Menendez had his way. The clamour was stilled,
the officers gave a grudging consent, and preparations for the
march were begun. In a few days all was
 ready, and the expedition
set out. It was a simple matter. There was no great train of
sumpter mules or baggage waggons. Each man carried his own food and
ammunition, and twenty axemen marched in front of the little army
to cleave a way through the forest.
The storm still raged. Rain fell in torrents, and the wind howled
ceaselessly as on and on the men trudged. They plunged through
seas of mud, and grass which grew waist high, and threaded their
way along the narrow paths cloven for them by the axemen.
So for three days they toiled onward. Their food was gone, their
ammunition soaked, they were drenched to the skin, footsore and
famishing, when upon the third night they lay down upon the muddy
ground, cursing their leader for having brought them forth to
died thus miserably. But while the men cursed Menendez prayed. All
night he prayed. And before day dawned he called his officers to a
council. They were now within a mile of Fort Caroline, and he was
eager to attack.
But his officers were sick of the whole business. The men were
utterly disheartened; one and all they clamoured to return.
Yet once again Menendez bent them to his will. In the darkness of
the forest he spoke to the wretched, shivering, rain-drenched men.
He taunted, he persuaded, and at length wrung from them a sullen
consent to follow him.
So once again the miserable march was begun, and when day
dawned they stood on the hill above the fort .
No sound came from it, no watchman stood upon the ramparts. For
towards morning, seeing that it rained harder than ever, the captain
of the guard had sent his men to bed, for they were soaked to the
skin and he was sorry for them. In such rain and wind what enemy
would venture forth? he asked himself. It was folly to stay
on such a night he thought. So he dismissed the guard, and went
off to bed.
Thus none heard or saw the approach of the Spaniards. Then suddenly
the silence of the dawn was broken with fierce war cries.
"At them," shouted the Spaniards, "God is with us!"
The sleeping Frenchmen started from their beds in terror. Half
naked they sprang to arms. On every side the Spaniards poured in.
The dim light of dawn showed the dark cruel faces, and the gleam
of drawn swords. Then clash of steel, screams of frightened women
and children, curses, prayers, all mingled together in terrible
At the first alarm Laudonnière sprang from his bed, and seizing his
sword called his men to follow him. But the Spaniards surrounded
him, his men were slain and scattered, and he himself was forced
back into the yard of his house. Here there was a tent. This
stopped his pursuers, for they stumbled over the cordage and became
entangled with it. The confusion gave Laudonnière a few minutes'
respite in which he escaped through a breach in the ramparts, and
took refuge in the forest. A few others fleeing this way and that
escaped likewise. But some, the first moment of terror past, resolved
to return and throw themselves on the mercy of the Spaniards rather
than face starvation in the woods.
"They are men," said one; "it may be when their fury is spent they
will spare our lives. Even if they slay us what of that? It is but
a moment's pain. Better that than to starve here in the woods or
be torn to pieces by wild beasts."
Still some held back, but most agreed to throw themselves upon the
mercy of the Spaniards.
So unarmed and almost naked as they were, they turned back to give
themselves up. But little did these simple Frenchmen understand
the fury of the foe. When they
 neared the fort the Spaniards rushed
out upon them and, unheeding their cries for mercy, slew them to
a man. Those who had held back, when they saw the fate of their
companions, fled through the forest. Some sought refuge among the
Indians. But even from that refuge the Spaniards hunted them forth
and slew them without pity. Thus the land was filled with bloodshed
and ruin. Many were slain at once by the sword, others were hanged
on trees round the fort, and over them Menendez wrote, "I do this
not as to Frenchmen but as to Lutherans." Only a few miserable
stragglers, after untold sufferings, reached the little ship which
still lay at anchor in the river. Among these was Laudonnière.
Their one desire now was to flee homewards, and unfurling their
sails they set out for France.
The colony of Fort Caroline was wiped out, and rejoicing at the
success of his bold scheme, Menendez marched back to St. Augustine
where a Te Deum was sung in honour of this victory over heretics.
Meanwhile the Frenchmen who had set forth to attack St. Augustine
by sea had been driven hither and thither by the storm, and at length
were wrecked. But although the ships were lost all, or nearly all,
of the men succeeded in reaching the shore in safety. And not knowing
what had happened at Fort Caroline they set out in two companies
to try to reach the fort by land.
But they never reached the fort. For one morning scarcely ten days
after the destruction of Fort Caroline some Indians came to Menendez
with the news that they had seen a French ship wrecked a little to
The news delighted Menendez, and he at once set out to capture the
shipwrecked men. It was not long before he saw the lights of the
French camp in the distance. But on coming nearer it was seen that
they were on the other side of an arm of the sea, so that it was
impossible to reach
 them. Hiding, therefore, in the bushes by the
water's edge Menendez and his men watched the Frenchmen on the other
side. The Spaniards soon saw that their enemies were in distress.
They suspected that they were starving, for they could be seen
walking up and down the shore seeking shellfish. But Menendez
wanted to make sure of the state they were in, and he made up his
mind to get nearer to the Frenchmen. So he put off his fine clothes,
and dressing himself like a common sailor, got into a boat and
rowed across the water.
Seeing him come one of the Frenchmen swam out to meet him. As he
drew near Menendez called out to him: "Who are you, and whence come
"We are followers of Ribaut, Viceroy of the King of France," answered
"Are you Catholics or Lutherans?" asked Menendez.
"We are Lutherans," answered the man.
Then after a little more talk Menendez told who he was.
With this news the man swam back to his companions. But he soon
returned to the boat to say that five of the French leaders wished
to speak with the Spanish leader, and begged for safe conduct to
To this Menendez readily agreed, and returning to his own side he
sent the boat back to bring the Frenchmen over.
When they landed Menendez received them courteously. And after
returning his ceremonious greetings the Frenchmen begged the
Spaniards to lend them a boat so that they might cross the river
which lay between them and Fort Caroline.
At this request Menendez smiled evilly. "Gentlemen," he said, "it
were idle for you to go to your fort. It has been taken, and every
man is slain."
But the Frenchmen could not at first believe that he spoke the truth.
So in proof of his words the Spanish leader bade
 his men show the
heretics the plunder which had been taken from their fort. As they
looked upon it the hearts of the Frenchmen sank.
Then ordering breakfast to be sent to them Menendez left them, and
went to breakfast with his own officers.
Breakfast over he came back to the Frenchmen, and as he looked at
their gloomy faces his heart rejoiced. "Do you believe now," he
asked, "that what I told you is true?"
"Yes," replied the Frenchmen, "we believe. It would be useless now
to go to the fort. All we ask of you is to lend us ships so that
we may return home."
"I would gladly do so," replied Menendez, "if you were Catholics,
and if I had ships. But I have none."
Then seeing that he would give them no help to reach home, the
Frenchmen begged Menendez at least to let them stay with his people
until help came to them from France. It was little enough to ask,
they thought, as France and Spain were at peace. But there was no
pity or kindliness in the Spanish general's heart.
"All Catholics," he replied sternly, "I would defend and succour.
But as for you, you are Lutherans, and I must hold you as enemies.
I will wage war against you with blood and fire. I will wage it
fiercely, both by land and sea, for I am Viceroy for my King in
this country. I am here to plant the holy Gospel in this land ,
that the Indians may come to the light and knowledge of the Holy
Catholic faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, as taught by the Roman
Church. Give up your banners and your arms, and throw yourselves
on my mercy, and I will do with you as God gives me grace. In no
other way can you have truce or friendship with me."
To this the Frenchmen knew not what to say. First they consulted
together, then some of them went back across the water to take
counsel with those who waited there.
 They talked long, and anxiously
those on the Spanish side awaited their return. At length one of
their messengers returned, and going to Menendez he offered him a
large sum of money if he would swear to spare their lives.
But Menendez would promise nothing. The Frenchmen were helpless.
They were starving and in his hands. And both he and they knew it.
They saw no hope anywhere, so they yielded to the Spanish general's
Once more the boat was sent across the water, and this time it came
back laden with banners, arms and armour. Then guarded by Spanish
soldiers the Frenchmen were brought across by tens. As each batch
landed they found themselves prisoners; their arms were taken from
them and their hands were tied behind their backs.
All day, hour after hour, the boat plied to and fro: and when all
the Frenchmen had been brought over they were ordered to march
forward. The Spanish general walked in front. But he did not go
far, for the sun was already setting, and it was time to camp for
the night. So but a little way from the shore he stopped, and drew
a line in the sand. And when the wretched Frenchmen reached that
line, weaponless and helpless as they were, they were one and all
put to death. Then, glorying in his deed, Menendez returned to St.
But he had not yet completely wiped out the French colony. For
besides those he had so ruthlessly slain there was another large
party under Ribaut, who, ignorant of all that had happened, were
still slowly making their way to Fort Caroline. But again news of
their whereabouts was brought to Menendez by Indians, and again he
set off to waylay them.
He found them on the same spot as he had found the first party. But
this time the Frenchmen had made a raft, and upon this they were
preparing to cross the water when
 the Spaniards came upon them. The
Frenchmen were in such misery that many of them greeted the appearance
of their enemies with joy. But others were filled with misgiving.
Still they resolved to try to make terms with the Spaniards. So
first one of his officers, and then Ribaut himself, rowed across
the strip of water to parley with the Spanish leader. They found
him as pitiless as their companions had found him. And seeing that
they could make no terms with him many of the Frenchmen refused to
give themselves up, and they marched away. But after much parleying,
and many comings and goings across the river, Ribaut, believing
that Menendez would spare their lives, yielded up himself and the
rest of his company to the Spaniards.
He was soon undeceived. For he was led away among the bushes, and
his hands were tied behind his back. As his followers came over
they, too, were bound and led away. Then as trumpets blew and drums
beat the Spaniards fell upon their helpless prisoners and slew them
to a man.
When Ribaut saw that his hour was come he did not flinch. "We are
but dust," he said, "and to dust we must return: twenty years more
or less can matter little." So with the words of a psalm upon his
lips he met the sword-thrust.
Not till every man lay dead was the fury of the Spaniards sated.
Then, his horrible labour ended, Menendez returned once more in
triumph to his fort.
Those of the French who had refused to give themselves up to Menendez
now wandered back to the shore where their ship had been wrecked.
Out of the broken pieces they tried to build a ship in which they
might sail homeward. But again news of their doings was brought to
Menendez by the Indians. And again he set out to crush them. When
the Frenchmen saw the Spaniards come they fled in terror. But Menendez
sent a messenger after them promising that
 if they yielded to him
he would spare their lives. Most of them yielded. And Menendez kept
his promise. He treated his prisoners well. But, when an opportunity
arrived, he sent them home to end their lives as galley slaves.
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