We saw two islands, called the Bahama Islands. The shoals which lie between them are so extensive that the billows are felt far out at sea. The general gave orders to take soundings. The ship purchased at Porto Rico got aground that day in two and a half fathoms of water. At first we feared she might stay there; but she soon got off and came to us. Our galley, one of the best ships afloat, found herself all day in the same position, when suddenly her keel struck three times violently against the bottom. The sailors gave themselves up for lost, and the water commenced to pour into her hold. But, as we had a mission to fulfil for Jesus Christ and His blessed mother, two heavy waves, which struck her abaft, set her afloat again, and soon after we found her in deep water, and at midnight we entered the Bahama Channel.
On Saturday, the 25th, the captain-general (Menendez) came to visit our vessel and get the ordnance for disembarkment at Florida. This ordnance consisted of two rampart pieces, of two sorts of culverins, of very small caliber, powder and balls; and he also took two soldiers to take care of the pieces. Having armed his vessel, he stopt and made us an address, in which he instructed us what we had to do on arrival at the place where the French were anchored. I will not dwell on this subject, on which there was a good deal said for and against, although the opinion of the general finally prevailed. There were two thousand (hundred) Frenchmen in the seaport into which we were to force an entrance. I made some opposition to the plans, and begged the general to consider that he had the care of a thousand souls, for which he must give a good account. . . .
On Tuesday, the 4th, we took a northerly course, keeping all the time close to the coast. On Wednesday, the 5th, two hours before sunset, we saw four French ships at the mouth of a river.2 When we were two leagues from them the first galley joined the rest of the fleet, which was composed of four other vessels. The general concerted a plan with the captains and pilots, and ordered the flag-ship, the San Pelayo, and a chaloupe to attack the French flag-ship, the Trinity, while the first galley and another chaloupe would attack the French galley, both of which vessels were very large and powerful. All the ships of our fleet put themselves in good position; the troops were in the best of spirits, and full of confidence in the great talents of the captain-general. They followed the galley; but, as our general is a very clever and artful officer, he did not fire, nor seek to make any attack on the enemy. He went straight to the French galley, and cast anchor about eight paces from her. The other vessels went to the windward, and very near the enemy. During the maneuvers, which lasted until about two hours after sunset, not a word was said on either side. Never in my life have I known such stillness. Our general inquired of the French galley, which was the vessel nearest his, "Whence does this fleet come?" They answered, "From France." "What are you doing here?" said the Adelantado. "This is the territory of King Philip II. I order you to leave directly; for I neither know who you are nor what you want here."
The French commander then replied, "I am bringing soldiers and supplies to the fort of the King of France." He then asked the name of the general of our fleet, and was told, "Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Captain-general of the King of Spain, who have come to hang all Lutherans I find here." Our general then asked him the name of his commander, and he replied, "Lord Gasto." While this parleying was going on, a long-boat was sent from the galley to the flag-ship. The person charged with this errand managed to do it so secretly that we could not hear what was said; but we understood the reply of the French to be, "I am the admiral," which made us think he wished to surrender, as they were in so small a force. Scarcely had the French made this reply, when they slipped their cables, spread their sails, and passed through our midst. Our admiral, seeing this, followed the French commander, and called upon him to lower his sails, in the name of King Philip, to which he received an impertinent answer. Immediatly our admiral gave an order to discharge a small culverin, the ball from which struck the vessel amidship, and I thought she was going to founder. We gave chase, and some time after he again called on them to lower their sails. "I would sooner die first than surrender!" replied the French commander. The order was given to fire a second shot, which carried off five or six men; but, as these miserable devils are very good sailors, they maneuvered so well that we could not take one of them; and, notwithstanding all the guns we fired at them, we did not sink one of their ships. We only got possession of one of their large boats, which was of great service to us afterward. During the whole night our flag-ship (the San Pelayo) and the galley chased the French flag-ship (Trinity) and galley. . . .
The next morning, being fully persuaded that the storm had made a wreck of our galley, or that, at least, she had been driven a hundred leagues, out to sea, we decided that so soon as daylight came we would weigh anchor, and withdraw in good order, to a river (Seloy) which was below the French colony, and there disembark, and construct a fort, which we would defend until assistance came to us.
On Thursday, just as day appeared, we sailed toward the vessel at anchor, passed very close to her, and would certainly have captured her, when we saw another vessel appear on the open sea, which we thought was one of ours. At the same moment, however, we thought we recognized the French admiral's ship. We perceived the ship on the open sea: it was the French galley of which we had been in pursuit. Finding ourselves between these two vessels, we decided to direct our course toward the galley, for the sake of deceiving them and preventing them from attacking us, so as not to give them any time to wait. This bold maneuver having succeeded, we sought the river Seloy and port, of which I have spoken, where we had the good fortune to find our galley, and another vessel which had planned the same thing we had. Two companies of infantry now disembarked: that of Captain Andres Soyez Patino, and that of Captain Juan de San Vincente, who is a very distinguished gentleman. They were well received by the Indians, who gave them a large house belonging to a chief, and situated near the shore of a river. Immediately Captain Patino and Captain San Vincente, both men of talent and energy, ordered an intrenchment to be built around this house, with a slope of earth and fascines, these being the only means of defense possible in that country, where stones are nowhere to be found. Up to to-day we have disembarked twenty-four pieces of bronze guns of different calibers, of which the least weighed fifteen hundred weight. Our fort is at a distance of about fifteen leagues from that of the enemy (Fort Carolin). The energy and talents of those two brave captains, joined to the efforts of their brave soldiers, who had no tools with which to work the earth, accomplished the construction of this fort ress of defence; and, when the general disembarked he was quite surprized with what had been done.
On Saturday, the 8th, the general landed with many banners spread, to the sound of trumpets and salutes of artillery. As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn Te Deum laudamus. The general marched up to the cross, followed by all who accompanied him, and there they all kneeled and embraced the cross. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all they saw done. The same day the general took formal possession of the country in the name of his Majesty, and all the captains took the oath of allegiance to him, as their general and governor of the country. . . .
Our general was very bold in all military matters, and a great enemy of the French. He immediately assembled his captains and planned an expedition to attack the French settlement and fort on the river with five hundred men; and, in spite of the opinion of a majority of them, and of my judgment and of another priest, he ordered his plan to be carried out. Accordingly, on Monday, September 17, he set out with five hundred men, well provided with fire-arms and pikes, each soldier carrying with him a sack of bread and supply of wine for the journey. They also took with them two Indian chiefs, who were the implacable enemies of the French, to serve as guides. . . .
I have previously stated that our brave captain-general set out on the 17th of September with five hundred arquebusiers and pikemen, under the guidance of two Indian chiefs, who showed them the route to the enemy's fort. They marched the whole distance until Tuesday evening, the 18th of September, 1565, when they arrived within a quarter of a league of the enemy's fort (Carolin), where they remained all night up to their waists in water. When daylight came, Captains Lopez, Patino, and Martin Ochoa had already been to examine the fort, but, when they went to attack the fort, a greater part of the soldiers were so confused they scarcely knew what they were about.
On Thursday morning our good captain-general, accompanied by his son-in-law, Don Pedro de Valdes, and Captain Patino, went to inspect the fort. He showed so much vivacity that he did not seem to have suffered by any of the hardships to which he had been exposed, and, seeing him march off so brisk, the others took courage, and without exception followed his example. It appears the enemy did not perceive their approach until the very moment of the attack, as it was very early in the morning and had rained in torrents. The greater part of the soldiers of the fort were still in bed. Some arose in their shirts, and others, quite naked, begged for quarter; but, in spite of that, more than one hundred and forty were killed. A great Lutheran cosmographer and magician was found among the dead. The rest, numbering about three hundred, scaled the walls, and either took refuge in the forest or on their ships floating in the river, laden with treasures, so that in an hour's time the fort was in our possession, without our having lost a single man, or even had one wounded. There were six vessels on the river at the time. They took one brig, and an unfinished galley and another vessel, which had been just discharged of a load of rich merchandise, and sunk. These vessels were placed at the entrance to the bar to blockade the harbor, as they expected we would come by sea. Another, laden with wine and merchandise, was near the port. She refused to surrender, and spread her sails, when they fired on her from the fort, and sunk her in a spot where neither the vessel nor cargo will be lost.
The taking of this fort gained us many valuable objects, namely, two hundred pikes, a hundred and twenty helmets, a quantity of arquebuses and shields, a quantity of clothing, linen, fine cloths, two hundred tons of flour, a good many barrels of biscuit, two hundred bushels of wheat, three horses, four asses, and two she-asses, hogs, tallow, books, furnace, flour-mill, and many other things of little value. But the greatest advantage of this victory is certainly the triumph. which our Lord has granted us, and which will be the means of the holy Gospel being introduced into this country, a thing necessary to prevent the loss of many souls. . . .
When we had reached the sea, we went about three leagues along the coast in search of our comrades. It was about ten o'clock at night when we met them, and there was a mutual rejoicing at having found each other. Not far off we saw the camp fires of our enemies, and our general ordered two of our soldiers to go and reconnoiter them, concealing themselves in the bushes, and to observe well the ground where they were encamped, so as to know what could be done. About two o'clock the men returned, saying that the enemy was on the other side of the river, and that we could not get at them. Immediately the general ordered two soldiers and four sailors to return to where we had left the boats, and bring them down the river, so that we might pass over to where the enemy was. Then he marched his troops forward to the river, and we arrived before daylight. We concealed ourselves in a hollow between the sandhills, with the Indians who were with us; and, when it became light, we saw a great many of the enemy go down to the river to get shell-fish for food. Soon after we saw a flag hoisted, as a war-signal.
Our general, who was observing all that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, said to us, "I intend to change these clothes for those of a sailor, and take a Frenchman with me (one of those whom we had brought with us from Spain), and we will go and talk with these Frenchmen. Perhaps they are without supplies, and would be glad to surrender without fighting." He had scarcely finished speaking before he put his plan into execution. As soon as he had called to them, one of them swam toward and spoke to him; told him of their having been shipwrecked, and the distress they were in; that they had not eaten bread for eight or ten days; and, what is more, stated that all, or at least the greater part of them, were Lutherans. Immediately the general sent him back to his countrymen, to say they must surrender, and give up their arms, or he would put them all to death. A French gentleman, who was a sergeant, brought back the reply that they would surrender on condition their lives should be spared. After having parleyed a long time, our brave captain-general answered "that he would make no promises, that they must surrender unconditionally, and lay down their arms, because, if he spared their lives, he wanted them to be grateful for it, and, if they were put to death, that there should be no cause for complaint." Seeing that there was nothing else left for them to do, the sergeant returned to the camp; and soon after he brought all their arms and flags, and gave them up to the general, and surrendered unconditionally. Finding they were all Lutherans, the captain-general ordered them all to be put to death; but, as I was a priest, and had bowels of mercy, I begged him to grant me the favor of sparing those whom we might find to be Christians. He granted it; and I made investigations, and found ten or twelve of the men Roman Catholics, whom we brought back. All the others were executed, because they were Lutherans and enemies of our Holy Catholic faith. All this took place on Saturday (St. Michael's Day), September 29, 1565.3
1Francisco Lopez de Mendoza was the chaplain of the expedition. His account is printed in "Old South Leaflets."
2These ships, commanded by Ribault,--seven in number, with 500 men besides families of artizans on board,--had arrived at the mouth of the St. John's River on August 29, 1565. The four left outside, as seen by Menendez, were at the time disembarking their passengers.
3When the French Government learned of this massacre, the event did not arouse any particular interest. Indeed, the colony seems not to have had any special protection from the home authorities. Had the contrary been the case, it would have been easily possible for the French to have built up a flourishing colony in America nearly half a century before the English were ever established in the new world.