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ATTEMPTED CONQUEST OF FLORIDA.
that the king — so the French say — sent out an expedition to obtain his share of America.
But we cannot be sure that France accomplished anything in this way before 1535. That year Cartier, a French navigator, discovered a great river in the northern part of America, to which he gave the name of St. Lawrence. Ascending the stream, he came to an island where there was a little Indian village. Landing, he climbed the lofty hill behind it. He was so delighted with the grand view that he called the height Montreal, or Royal Mountain.
21. New Attempts of the Spaniards to conquer Florida. – Meanwhile the Spaniards, under Narvaez, made another attempt (1528) on Florida. The undertaking failed. The disheartened explorers built some boats, embarked on the Gulf of Mexico, and crept along the shore toward the west. After cruising in this way for more than five weeks, Cabeza De Vaca, an officer of the expedition, discovered one of the mouths of the Mississippi. Narvaez," the commander of the little fleet, soon after parted company with Cabeza, and was lost. About a week later, Cabeza himself was shipwrecked, probably on the coast of Texas. He was captured by the Indians. After a long captivity, he and three of his companions managed to escape. They plunged into the wilderness, and at length, after nearly two years of wandering, reached a Spanish settlement on the western coast of Mexico.
They were the first white men that had ever crossed so large a portion of the continent. They had only journeyed from the
1 This was the expedition said to have been undertaken by Verrazano in 1524. He states that he landed in the vicinity of Cape Fear, North Carolina; then sailed about 150 miles southward along the coast, and then, turning north, sailed to what is now New York Bay, afterward cruising along the coast of New England.
2 Cartier (Kar-te-ay', French pronunciation): he made his first expedition in 1534, to Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
3 Cabeza De Vaca (Kah-bā'thah Day Vah'kah, Spanish pronunciation). 4 Narvaez (Nar-vah'eth, Spanish pronunciation).
5 Compostela, twenty miles from the Pacific. Lat. 21° 10'. From thence they went to the city of Mexico. See Map of America, page 35.
Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific, but they probably had a clearer idea of the actual width of that part of the new world than any one else in it; for they literally knew every foot of the way.
22. De Soto's Expedition. — The next one to undertake the subjugation of Florida was Ferdinando De Soto," a Spaniard, as greedy of gold as he was cruel, and as daring as he was greedy. He sailed from Cuba in the spring of 1539, with a force of about six hundred picked men and over two hundred horses. A number of priests in their black robes accompanied the expedition, to
De Soto's Expedition 1539-1542. (The outlines and names of States are given for convenience in tracing De Soto's course.)
hold daily religious services in the wilderness. Bloodhounds and chains were provided, to hunt and enslave the Indians. Last of all, a drove of three hundred hogs was taken, in order that the men might be sure of an ample supply of fresh meat.
DE soto's EXPEDITION.
The expedition landed at Tampa Bay,' and began its march of exploration, of robbery, and of murder. The soldiers seized the natives, chained them in couples so that they might not escape, and forced them to carry their baggage and grind their corn.? The chief of each tribe through whose country they passed was compelled to serve as a guide until they reached the next tribe. If an Indian refused to be a slave or a beast of burden for these insolent Spaniards, his fate was pitiful. They set him up as a target, and riddled his body with bullets; or they chopped off his hands, and then sent him home to exhibit the useless, bleeding stumps to his family.
For two years this march went on. During that time De Soto and his men travelled upwards of fifteen hundred miles through what are now the States of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. They found no gold worth mentioning; but, in its stead, hunger, suffering, and death. They deserved what they found.
In the spring of 1541 the Spaniards, worn out, sick, disgusted, emerged from the forest on the banks of the Mississippi. Cabeza * had seen one of the mouths of the river, but De Soto was probably the first civilized man that 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 fifteen 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 circuit of many months' march, getting no treasure, but meeting, as they declared, “ Indians as fierce as mad dogs.” In May, 1542, they came back to the great river at that point in Louisiana where the Red River unites with it.
1 See Map, page 28.
3 Probably at or near a place now called De Soto Front, De Soto County; in the northwestern corner of the State of Mississippi.
4 Cabeza De Vaca: see Paragraph 21.
5 This is the lowest estimate; the highest is from 35,000 to 40,000 miles ! See "Encyclopædia Britannica."
This was to be the end of De Soto's career. There he died, and was secretly buried at midnight in the muddy waters of the Mississippi. He had made the Indians believe that he was not a human being, but a “ child of the sun," and that death could not touch him. When the chief found that he had mysteriously disappeared, he asked where he was. The Spaniards replied that their captain had gone on a journey to heaven; but that he would soon return. What the chief said we are not told ; but he doubtless hoped that if De Soto had gone there, that there he would stay.
The survivors at length reached the Spanish settlements in Mexico. Only about half of those that had landed in Florida were alive; they were a miserable band, half-naked, half-starved, looking worse than the savages they had gone out to subdue.
23. Attempts of the Huguenots? to establish Colonies. For twenty years after De Soto's death Florida, with the adjacent country, was left to the undisturbed possession of the Indians. Then, in 1562, Jean Ribaut, taking out a small number of Huguenots, attempted to plant a colony at what is now Port Royal, South Carolina. After they had got established Ribaut went back to France.
The settlers numbered less than thirty. That handful of men, shut up in a log fort on the Atlantic coast, represented the first efforts of Admiral Coligny 4 to establish a great Protestant commonwealth in America. But the Huguenots found the wilderness lonesome; at length homesickness made it intolerable. They set to work, cut down trees, constructed a rude vessel, took their shirts and bedding to make sails and rigging, and started for France.
1 Huguenots (Hū'ge-nots, g hard): a name given to the early French Protestants. For a full account of them, see “ The Leading Facts of French History," in this series.
Jean Ribaut (Zhon Re-boh', French pronunciation). 3 See Map, page 51.
4 Coligny (Ko-leen-ye', French pronunciation): he was the champion of the French Protestants.
DESTRUCTION OF THE HUGUENOT SETTLEMENT.
On the way they were picked up by a passing ship, and taken to England. Without that chance help they would probably have perished.
The next year (1564) a second expedition was sent out under the leadership of Laudonnière. This time the French landed at the St. John's River in Florida, where they built a fort. Later, Jean Ribaut arrived with re-enforcements, determined, it would seem, to hold the peninsula against the Spaniards.
24. Menendez” destroys the Huguenot Settlement. — The king of Spain had heard of the new settlement, and resolved to break it up. Pedro Menendez, an officer of the royal navy, was commissioned to clear out the intruders from territory which the Spanish monarch claimed by right, first, of the discovery of America by Columbus, and next, of that of Florida by De Leon.
Menendez started with his fleet in the summer of 1565, and found the French at the mouth of the St. John's River; but after some maneuvring deferred the attack for that day. He accordingly set sail, and, proceeding southward down the coast about twenty miles, to a point where he had previously landed, there he built a fort at a place which he named St. Augustine.
Meanwhile Jean Ribaut, leaving part of his men in their fort on the St. John's River, set sail with the rest to attack the Spaniards. A tempest came up, and they were wrecked. As soon as Menendez had made his preparations, he advanced to the St. John's, surprised the French garrison, and massacred all but the women and the children.
Shortly after his return, the Indians reported that some of the
1 Laudonnière (Lõ-dởn-yair', French pronunciation). 2 Menendez (Mā-něn'deth, Spanish pronunciation).
8" The nations of Europe adopted the principle that the discovery of any part of America gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, it was made, as against all European governments. This title was to be consummated by possession." — Bouvier's Law Dictionary, " Discovery." It will be seen from this that the Spanish title to Florida was good, but not complete, if by “possession" the actual settlement and holding of the country was meant.
4 See Paragraph 18.