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LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
ever looked on the main body of that mighty stream which rolls for nearly three thousand miles through the heart of the continent, and, with its tributaries, has a total navigable length of over twenty thousand miles.
The river at that point is so wide that a person standing on the bank can just see a man standing on the opposite side. Here the Spaniards crossed. They made a long march westward, -- getting no treasure, but meeting, as they declared, "Indians as fierce as mad dogs." After a time they came back to the great river (1542) at that point in Louisiana where the Red River unites with it.
Here De Soto ended his career. Here he died, and was secretly buried at midnight in the muddy waters of the Mississippi.
The survivors at length reached the Spanish settlements in Mexico. They were a forlorn band, half-naked, half-starved, looking worse than the savages they bad gone out to subdue.
22. Coronado's Expedition in the West. While De Soto had been moving westward, Coronado, a Spanish governor in Mexico, heard of seven wonderful cities in the northeast. The Indians said that the principal houses of these marvelous cities were ornamented with precious stones, and that the women wore strings of gold heads and the men belts of gold. Coronado set out (1540) to
find and conquer these places. (Map, p. 23.) He discovered the Grand Canyon of the Colorado1 in Arizona, and a number of Indian pueblos, or villages, in New Mexico, built of stone and adobe or bricks made of mud dried in the sun. But he found no gold, and nothing more valuable than some bright blue stones. Disappointed in his hopes of plunder, he pushed on until he reached the plains of Kansas. There he first saw and hunted the famous "hunchback cows," or buffalo. Had he kept on, he might have met his countryman, De Soto (§ 21); but he was disgusted with the Indians, who were so miserably poor that he could rob them of nothing, so he made his way back to Mexico.
23. Attempts of the Huguenots2 to establish Colonies. Menendez destroys them and builds Fort St. Augustine. For twenty years after De Soto's death (§21), Florida, with the adjacent country, was left to the undisturbed possession of the Indians. Then (1562) a small party of Huguenots attempted to plant a colony at what is now Port Royal, South Carolina, but the wilderness made them homesick and they soon went back to France.
1 Canyon of the Colorado: this tremendous gorge extends for over 300 miles. Its rocky walls rise from 3000 to over 7000 feet above the river. Nothing equal to it can be seen in any other part of the world.
2 Huguenots: a name given to the early French Protestants. For a full account of them, see "The Leading Facts of French History," in this series.
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
The next year (1564) a second band of Huguenots landed on the St. Johns River in Florida and built a fort. The King of Spain claimed the whole of that region by right of discovery (§§ 11, 18). He resolved to break up the French settlement, and sent an officer named Menendez to do the work.
Menendez found the French at the mouth of the St. Johns River (15 6 5), but decided not to attack them that day. He sailed southward and built a fort which he named St. Augustine. He then advanced to the St. Johns, surprised the French garrison, and massacred all but the women and children.
Meanwhile the leader of the French forces had started to attack the Spaniards. Both hated each other, both were equally cruel, and in such a war neither would spare the other. The French ships were wrecked and the soldiers thrown helpless upon the beach. Menendez soon found them and put them to death.
Later, Menendez found the French leader and several hundred more of his men. They were too exhausted to make any resistance. The Spaniards made part of them slaves for life; then they took nearly a hundred and fifty more, bound their hands behind them, and drove them like cattle to St. Augustine. There they slaughtered them. In this way Menendez laid, in blood, the foundations of the oldest town in the United States (1565).
24. Revenge by De Gourgues. A French Catholic named De Gourgues vowed vengeance on the murderers of his countrymen.
He sailed for Florida. Reaching the St. Johns River, he captured the Spanish garrison that Menendez had left there (§ 23), bound the prisoners, and hanged them. Over their heads he placed a pine board on which he burned these words with a hot iron "I do this not as to Spaniards, but as to assassins." Then he set sail for France. The French never made a second attempt to colonize Florida, and the Spaniards were left in full possession not only of Florida, but of the whole of North America.
25. English Exploration: Frobisher; Davis; Gilbert; Drake. It was nearly eighty years after John Cabot planted the English flag on the coast of North America (§ 14) before another such expedition was undertaken.
Then (1576) Sir Martin Frobisher, followed by Captain John Davis, made new attempts to discover a northwest passage to the Indies. But the ice fields of the Arctic Ocean compelled them to turn back.
A little later (1578) Sir Humphrey Gilbert set out on a voyage of discovery. He took possession of Newfoundland, but was soon afterward lost at sea.
Meanwhile Sir Francis Drake, a noted English sailor and fighter, started on a piratical expedition against the Spanish settlements on the western coast of America.
He passed through Magellan's Strait (§ 16) into the Pacific, plundering Spanish towns and Spanish treasure ships as he made his way up the coast. He landed at some point in California, probably near the Golden Gate. Then he sailed north as far as the upper part of the state of Washington. (Map, p. 29.) He hoped
LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
he should have the good luck to discover a strait leading through to the Atlantic, so that England could establish direct trade with China and the Indies. Failing in that, he took possession of the whole northwest coast of America in the name of Queen Elizabeth.
Crossing the Pacific, he returned to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope. Like Magellan (§ 16), he had "plowed a furrow round the world." He was the first Englishman to perform that feat (1577-1580).
26. Walter Raleigh's Exploring Expedition to Virginia. A few years later (1584) Queen Elizabeth granted one of her favorites, Walter Raleigh, a charter giving him the right to explore and settle the eastern coast of America.
He was one of the few men of that day who believed that the northern part of the New World was worth settling. Most of the expeditions that had crossed the Atlantic went out mainly to discover a way through or round the continent to Asia (§§ 14, 16, 25); but Raleigh thought that England might find that America would be worth as much as Asia, or even more.
He sent out two ships (1584) to explore. The English reached Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. The explorers were delighted with the "native Americans," and spent several weeks "eating and drinking very merrily" with the red men. When the explorers returned to England, the Queen was so highly pleased with their description of the "Good Land" that she named it Virginia, in honor of her own maiden life, and knighted the fortunate Raleigh, who now became Sir Walter.
27. Sir Walter Raleigh's Colony; the New "Root" and the New Weed. Raleigh sent out a number of emigrants to make a settlement on Roanoke Island (1585). They stayed less than a year and then returned to England.
Still the experiment was not a complete failure, for they carried back a peculiar kind of "root" -- as they called it. The English baked it and found it excellent. Thus the potato1 became an article of food in the British Islands.
1 The potato, by which is meant the common, not the sweet, potato, was not cultivated by the Indians. Strictly speaking, the potato is not a true root, but an underground stem.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH'S COLONY
But this was not all. The Indians had a weed whose leaves they dried and smoked with great satisfaction. They told the white men at Roanoke that "it would cure being tired." The emigrants tried it, and one of them said that it had so many virtues
EARLY VOYAGES TO AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD
that "it would take an entire volume to describe them all." Queen Elizabeth smoked a very little of this wonderful plant and confessed that it was "a vegetable of singular strength and power." We shall see later (§ 50) that Virginia tobacco came to have a very important influence on American trade, and also on American history.