Book VII: the French in Florida. (A. D. 1562-1565.)
|Indians in canoe.|
Ribaut's personal narrative is here reprinted from Hakluyt's ‘Divers Voyages’ (London, Hakluyt Society, 1850), pp. 91-15. These extracts from Laudonniere's narrative are reprinted from Hakluyt's translation in his ‘Voyages’ (edition of 1810), vol. III. pp. 371-373, 378-384, 386, 387, 423-427. Parkman tells the story of these adventures in the first half of his ‘Pioneers of France in the New World.’ There is a memoir of Ribaut by Jared Sparks, in his ‘American Biography,’ vol. XVII.
I.—Jean Ribaut in Florida.[‘Dedicated to a great nobleman1 of France, and translated into English by one Thomas Hackit.’]
Whereas, in the year of our Lord God 1562, it pleased God to move your Honor to choose and appoint us to discover and view a certain long coast of the West India, from the head of the land called La Florida, drawing toward the north part, unto the head of Britons,2 distant from the said head of La Florida nine hundred leagues, or thereabout, to the end we might certify you, and make true report of the temperature, fertility, ports, havens, rivers, and generally of all the commodities that be seen and found in that land, and also to learn what people were there dwelling. . . . Thursday, the last of April, at the break of the day, we discovered and clearly perceived a fair coast,  stretching of a great length, covered with an infinite number of high and fair trees; we being not past seven or eight leagues from the shore. . . . . Where finding thirty-six fathom water [we] entered into a goodly and great river,3 which, as we went, found to increase still in depth and largeness, boiling and roaring through the multitude of all kind of fish. This being entered, we perceived a great number of the Indians, inhabitants there, coming along the sands and sea-banks, coming near unto us, without any taking of fear or doubt, showing unto us the easiest landing-place, and thereupon, we, giving them also on our parts, thanks of assurance and friendliness. Forthwith, one of appearance out of the best among them,4 brother unto one of their kings or governors, commanded one of the Indians to enter into the water, and to approach our boats, to show us the coast's landing-place. We, seeing this, without any more doubting or difficulty landed; and the messenger, after we had rewarded him with some looking-glass and other pretty things of small value, ran incontinently toward his lord, who forthwith sent me his girdle in token of assurance and friendship, which girdle was made of red leather, as well covered and colored as was possible. And, as I began to go toward him, he set forth and came and received me gently, and raised5 after his manner, all his men following with great silence and modesty; yea, more than our men did. And after we had awhile with gentle usage congratulated with him, we fell to the ground a little way from them, to call upon the name  of God, and to beseech him to continue still his goodness towards us, and bring to the knowledge of our Saviour Christ this poor people. While we were thus praying, they—sitting upon the ground, which was strewed and dressed with bay-boughs—beheld and harkened unto us very attentively, without either speaking or moving; and as I made a sign unto their king, lifting up mine arm, and stretching forth one finger, only to make them look up to heavenward, he likewise, lifting up his arm toward heaven, put forth two fingers, whereby it seemed that he made us to understand that they worshipped the sun and moon for gods; as afterwards we understood it so. In the mean time their numbers increased.; and thither came the king's brother that was first with us, their mother, wives, sisters, and children; and, being thus assembled, they caused a great number of bay-boughs to be cut, and therewith a place to be dressed for us, distant from theirs two fathom. For it is their manner to talk and bargain, sitting, and the chief of them to be apart from the meaner sort, with a show of great obedience to their kings, superiors, and elders. They be all naked, and of a goodly stature, mighty, and as well shapen and proportioned of body, as any people in the world, very gentle, courteous, and of a good nature . . . . . After we had tarried in this north side of the river the most part of the day,—which river we have called May, for that we discovered the same the first day of the month,—we congratulated, made alliance, and entered into amity with them, and presented the king and his brethren with gowns of blue cloth garnished with yellow fleur-de-luces And it seemed that they  were sorry for our departure; so that the most part of them entered into the water up to the neck, to set our boats afloat. . . . . Soon after this came thither the king with his brethren, and others with bows and arrows in their hands, using therewithal a goodly and a grave fashion, with their behavior right soldierlike, and [of] as warlike boldness as may be. They were naked and painted, as the other, their hair likewise long, and trussed up—with a lace made of herbs—to the top of their heads; but they had neither their wives nor children in their company. After we had a good while lovingly entertained and presented them with like gifts of habersher6 wares, cutting-hooks, and hatchets, and clothed the king and his brethren with like robes as we had given to them on the other side, we entered and viewed the country thereabouts, which is the fairest, fruit, fullest, and pleasantest of all the world, abounding in honey, venison, wild fowl, forests, woods of all sorts. palm-trees, cypress, and cedars, bays the highest and greatest, with also the fairest vines in all the world, with grapes according, which without natural art, and without man's help or trimming, will grow to tops of oaks and other trees that be of a wonderful greatness and height. And the sight of the fair meadows is a pleasure not able to be expressed with tongue; full of herns, curlews, bitterns, mallards, egrets, woodcocks, and all other kind of small birds, with harts, hinds, bucks, wild swine, and all other kinds of wild beasts, as we perceived well, both by their footing there, and also afterwards, in other places, by their cry and roaring in the night. . . .  The next day, in the morning, we returned to land again, accompanied with the captains, gentlemen, and soldiers, and others of our small troop, carrying with us a pillar or column of hard stone, our king's arms granted therein, to plant and set the same in the entrance of the port in some high place, where it might be easily seen. And, being come thither before the Indians were assembled, we espied, on the south side of the river, a place very fit for that purpose upon a little hill, compassed with cypress, bays, palms, and other trees, with sweet-smelling and pleasant shrubs, in the middle whereof we planted the first bound7 or limit of his Majesty. . . . The 20th of May, we planted another column or pillar, graven with the king's arms, on the south side, in a high place at the entrance of a great river, which we called Libourne,8 where there is a lake of fresh water very good. . . . . There we saw the fairest and the greatest vines with grapes according, and young trees and small woods, very well smelling, that ever were seen; whereby it appeareth to be the pleasantest and most commodious dwelling of all the world. Wherefore, my lord, trusting you will not think it amiss, considering the commodities that may be brought thence, if we leave a number of men there, which may fortify and provide themselves of things necessary; for, in all new discoveries, it is the chiefest thing that may be done, at the beginning to fortify and people the country. I had not so soon9 set this forth to our company, but many of them offered to tarry there, yet with such a good — will and jolly courage, that such a number did  thus offer themselves, that we had much ado to stay their importunity. And namely of our shipmates and principal pilots, and such as we could not spare. Howbeit, we left there but to the number of thirty in all, gentlemen, soldiers, and mariners, and that at their own suit and prayer, and of their own free wills, and by the advice and deliberation of the gentlemen sent on the behalf of the prince and yours. And have left unto the fore-head10 and rulers, following therein your good-will, Capt. Albert de la Pierria, a soldier of long experience, and the first that from the beginning did offer to tarry. And further, by their advice, choice, and will, installed them in an island11 on the north side, a place of strong situation and commodious, upon a river which we named Chenonceau, and the habitation and fortress Charlesfort. The next day we determined to depart from this place, being as well contented as was possible that we had so happily ended our business, with good hope, if occasion would permit, to discover perfectly the River of Jordan. For this cause, we hoisted our sails about ten of the clock in the morning. After we were ready to depart, Capt. Ribaut commanded to shoot off our ordnance to give a farewell to our Frenchmen, which failed not to do the like on their part. This being done, we sailed toward the north; and then we named this river Port Royal because of the largeness and excellent fairness of the same.
[The remains of this fortress of Charlesfort are undoubtedly those still to be seen on ‘Old Fort Plantation,’ near Beaufort, S. C., at the junction of Beaufort River with Battery Creek. The compiler of this  book was encamped on this plantation for several months during the civil war, and visited the fortifications very frequently. They are built of a kind of concrete made with oyster-shells, and called coquina,this being the material also employed in Spanish buildings of the same period at St. Augustine. There is another similar fortification a little farther up Beaufort River.]
Ii.—Alone in the New world.[the thirty Frenchmen left behind at port Royal by Ribaut were probably the first Europeans who deliberately undertook to remain without ships upon the Atlantic shore of north America. Parkman says of them, ‘Albert and his companions might watch the receding ships. . . . they were alone in those fearful solitudes. From the north pole to Mexico there was no Christian denizen but they.’—Pioneers of France, p. 35. the following is from the narrative of their adventures written by Laudonniere, who afterwards came to search for them, but did not arrive till they had gone.]
our men, after our departure, never rested, but night and day did fortify themselves, being in good hope, that, after their fort was finished, they would begin to discover farther up within the river. It happened one day, as certain of them were in cutting of roots in the groves, that they espied, on the sudden, an Indian that hunted the deer, which, finding himself so near upon them, was much dismayed; but our men began to draw near unto him, and to use him so courteously, that he became assured, and followed them to Charlesfort, where every man sought to do him pleasure. Capt. Albert was very joyful of his coming, which after he had given him a shirt, and some other trifles, he asked him of his dwelling. The Indian answered him, that it was farther up within the river, and that he was vassal  of King Audusta: he also showed him with his hand the limits of his habitation. After much other talk, the Indian desired leave to depart, because it drew toward night, which Capt. Albert granted him very willingly. . . .
[They afterward went to a feast among these Indians.]When the feast, therefore, was finished, our men returned unto Charlesfort, where having remained but a while, their victuals began to wax short, which forced them to have recourse unto their neighbors, and to pray them to succor them in their necessity, which gave them part of all the victuals which they had, and kept no more unto themselves than would serve to sow their fields. They told them further, that, for this cause, it was needful for them to retire themselves into the woods, to live of mast12 and roots until the time of harvest, being as sorry as might be that they were not able further to aid them. They gave them, also, counsel to go towards the country of King Couexis, a man of might and renown in this province, which maketh his abode toward the South, abounding at all seasons, and replenished with such quantity of mill,13 corn, and beans, that by his only succor they might be able to live a very long time. But, before they should come into his territories, they were able to repair unto a king, called Ouade, the brother of Couexis, which in mill, beans, and corn, was no less wealthy, and withal very liberal, and would be very joyful if he might but once see them.  Our men, perceiving the good relation which the Indians made them of those two kings, resolved to go thither; for they felt already the necessity which oppressed them. Therefore they made request unto King Maccou, that it would please him to give them one of his subjects to guide them the right way thither: whereupon he condescended very willingly, knowing, that, without his favor, they should have much ado to bring their enterprise to pass. . . . . Behold, therefore, how our men behaved themselves very well hitherto, although they had endured many great mishaps. But misfortune, or, rather, the just judgment of God, would have it, that those which could not be overcome by fire nor water should be undone by their own selves.. They entered, therefore, into partialities and dissensions, which began about a soldier named Guernache, which was a drummer of the French bands, which, as it was told me, was very cruelly hanged by his own captain,14 and for a small fault; which captain also using to threaten the rest of his soldiers which staid behind under his obedience, and peradventure, as it is to be presumed, were not so obedient to him as they should have been, was the cause that they fell into a mutiny, because that many times he put his threatenings in execution, whereupon they so chased him, that at the last they put him to death. And the principal occasion that moved them thereunto was because he degraded another soldier named La Chere, which he had banished, and because he had not performed his promise; for he had promised to send him victuals  from eight days to eight days,15 which thing he did not, but said, on the contrary, that he would be glad to hear of his death. He said, moreover, that he would chastise others also, and used so evil sounding speeches, that honesty16 forbiddeth me to repeat them. The soldiers, seeing his madness to increase from day to day, and fearing to fall into the dangers of the other, resolved to kill him. Having executed their purpose, they went to seek the soldier that was banished, which was in a small island distant from Charlesfort about three leagues, where they found him almost half dead for hunger. When they were come home again, they assembled themselves together to choose one to be governor over them, whose name was Nicolas Barre, a man worthy of commendation, and one which knew so well to quit himself of his charge, that all rancor and dissension ceased among them, and they lived peaceably one with another. During this time they began to build a small pinnace, with hope to return into France, if no succor came unto them, as they expected from day to day. And though there were no man among them that had any skill, notwithstanding, necessity, which is the mistress of all sciences, taught them the way to build it. After that it was finished, they thought of nothing else, save how to furnish it with all things necessary to undertake the voyage. But they wanted those things that of all other were most needful, as cordage and sails, without which the enterprise could not come to effect. Having no means to recover these things, they were in worse case than at the first, and almost ready to fall into  despair; but that good God, which never forsaketh the afflicted, did succor them in their necessity. As they were in these perplexities, King Audusta and Maccou came to them, accompanied with two hundred Indians, at the least, whom our Frenchmen went forth to meet withal, and showed the king in what need of cordage they stood; who promised them to return within two days, and to bring so much as should suffice to furnish the pinnace with tackling. Our men, being pleased with these good news and promises, bestowed upon them certain cutting-hooks and shirts. After their departure, our men sought all means to recover resin in the woods, wherein they cut the pine-trees round about, out of which they drew sufficient reasonable quantity to bray17 the vessel. Also they gathered a kind of moss which groweth on the trees of this country, to serve to calk the same withal. There now wanted nothing but sails, which they made of their own shirts and of their sheets. Within few days after, the Indian kings returned to Charlesfort with so good store of cordage, that there was found sufficient for tackling of the small pinnace. Our men, as glad as might be, used great liberality towards them, and, at their leaving of the country, left them all the merchandise that remained, leaving them thereby so fully satisfied, that they departed from them with all the contentation18 of the world. They went forward, therefore, to finish the brigantine, and used so speedy diligence, that, within a short time afterward, they made it ready furnished with all things. In the mean season the wind came so fit for their purpose, that it seemed  to invite them to put to the sea; which they did without delay, after they had set all their things in order. But, before they departed, they embarked their artillery, their forge, and other munitions of war which Capt. Ribaut had left them, and then as much mill as they could gather together. But being drunken with the too excessive joy which they had conceived for their returning into France, or, rather, deprived of all foresight and consideration, without regarding the inconstancy of the winds, which change in a moment, they put themselves to sea, and with so slender victuals, that the end of their enterprise became unlucky and unfortunate. For, after they had sailed the third part of their way, they were surprised with calms, which did so much hinder them, that in three weeks they sailed not above five and twenty leagues. During this time, their victuals consumed, and became so short, that every man was constrained to eat not past twelve grains of mill by the day, which may be in value as much as twelve peas. Yea, and this felicity lasted not long; for their victuals failed them altogether at once, and they had nothing for their more assured refuge, but their shoes and leather jerkins, which they did eat . . . . . Beside this extreme famine, which did so grievously oppress them, they fell every minute of an hour out of all hope ever to see France again, insomuch that they were constrained to cast the water continually out, that on all sides entered into their bark. And every day they fared worse and worse; for, after they had eaten up their shoes and leather jerkins, there arose so boisterous a wind, and so contrary to their course, that, in  the turning of a hand, the waves filled their vessel half full of water, and bruised it upon the one side. Being now more out of hope than ever to escape out of this extreme peril, they cared not for casting out of the water, which now was almost ready to drown them. And, as men resolved to die, every one fell down backward, and gave themselves over altogether unto the will of the waves. When as one of them, a little having taken heart unto him, declared unto them how little way they had to sail, assuring them, that, if the wind held, they should see land within three days, this man did so encourage them, that, after they had thrown the water out of the pinnace, they remained three days without eating or drinking, except it were of the seawater. When the time of his promise was expired, they were more troubled than they were before, seeing they could not descry any land . . . . . After so long and tedious travels, God, of his goodness, using his accustomed favor, changed their sorrow into joy, and showed unto them the sight of land. Whereof they were so exceeding glad, that the pleasure caused them to remain a long time as men without sense; whereby they let the pinnace float this and that way, without holding any right way or course. But a small English bark boarded the vessel, in the which there was a Frenchman which had been in the first voyage into Florida, who easily knew them, and spake unto them, and afterward gave them meat and drink. Incontinently they recovered their natural courages, and declared unto him at large all their navigation. The Englishmen consulted a long time what were best to be done; and in fine they resolved to put on land those  that were most feeble, and to carry the rest unto the Queen of England, which purposed at that time to send into Florida.
[They finally reached England, having doubtless made the first voyage across the Atlantic ever accomplished in an American-built vessel.]
Iii.—Laudonniere's search for the colonists.
[Laudonniere sailed with three ships, April 22, 1564, on an expedition in search of the men whom Ribaut had left at Port Royal nearly two years before. He reached the St. John's River a little more than two months later.]The second voyage into Florida, made and written by Capt. Laudonniere, which fortified and inhabited there two summers and one whole winter. . . . . The next day, the 23d of this month,19—because that toward the south I had not found any commodious place for us to inhabit, and to build a fort,—I gave commandment to weigh anchor, and to hoist our sails to sail toward the River of May,20 where we arrived two days after, and cast anchor. Afterward going on land with some number of gentlemen and soldiers, to know for a certainty the singularities of this place, we espied the paracoussey21 of the country, which came towards us, —this was the very same that we saw in the voyage of Capt. John Ribaut. Which, having espied us, cried very far off, ‘Antipola, antipola!’ And, being so joyful that he could not contain himself, he came to meet us, accompanied with two of his sons, as fair and mighty  persons as might be found in all the world, which had nothing in their mouths but this word, ‘Ami, ami;’ that is to say, ‘Friend, friend!’ Yea; and, knowing those which were there in the first voyage, they went principally to them to use this speech unto them. There was in their train a great number of men and women, which still made very much of us, and by evident signs made us understand how glad they were of our arrival. This good entertainment passed, the paracousseyprayed me to go see the pillar which we had erected in the voyage of John Ribaut—as we have declared heretofore—as a thing which they made great account of. Having yielded unto him, and being come to the place where it was set up, we found the same crowned with crowns of bay, and at the foot thereof many little baskets full of mill,22 which they call in their language tapaga tapola.Then, when they came thither, they kissed the same with great reverence, and besought us to do the like, which we would not deny them, to the end we might draw them to be more in friendship with us. This done, the paracousseytook me by the hand, as if he had desire to make me understand some great secret, and by signs showed me very well up within the river the limits of his dominion, and said that he was called ParacousseySatouriona, which is as much as King Satouriona. His children have the selfsame title of paracoussey.The eldest is name Athore,—a man, I dare say, perfect in wisdom, beauty, and honest sobriety; showing by his modest gravity that he deserveth the name which he beareth, besides  that he is gentle and tractable. After we had sojourned a certain space with them, the paracoussey prayed one of his sons to present unto me a wedge of silver, which he did, and that with a good will; in recompense whereof I gave him a cutting-hook and some other better present, wherewith he seemed to be very well pleased. Afterward we took our leave of them, because the night approached, and then returned to lodge in our ships. Being allured with this good entertainment, I failed not the next day to embark myself again with my lieutenant, Ottigny, and a number of soldiers, to return toward the paracousseyof the River of May, which of purpose waited for us in the same place where, the day before, we conferred with him. We found him under the shadow of an arbor, accompanied with fourscore Indians at the least, and apparelled at that time after the Indian fashion; to wit, with a great hart's skin dressed like chamois, and painted with devices of strange and divers colors, but of so lively a portraiture, and representing antiquity with rules so justly compassed, that there is no painter so exquisite that could find fault therewith. The natural disposition of this strange people is so perfect and well guided, that, without any aid and favor of arts, they are able, by the help of Nature only, to content the artisans,23 yea, even of those which by their industry are able to aspire unto things most absolute. Then I advertised ParacousseySatouriona that my desire was to discover farther up into the river, but that it should be with such diligence that I would come  again unto him very speedily; wherewith he was content, promising to stay for me in the place where he was; and, for an earnest of his promise, he offered me his goodly skin, which I refused then, and promised to receive it of him at my return. For my part, I gave him certain small trifles, to the intent to retain him in our friendship.
Iv.—The capture of fort Caroline by the Spaniards.[Laudonniere built a fort on the St. John's River, just above St. John's Bluff, and named it fort Caroline, but partly destroyed it, meaning to build vessels with the materials. Don Pedro Menendez came to the Florida coast with a Spanish fleet, and founded the town of St. Augustine. Ribaut took most of Laudonniere's soldiers, with his ships, and went to attack the ships of Menendez. Meanwhile the Spaniards marched by land, five hundred in number, through swamps and across streams, guided by a French deserter, to attack the fort. Laudonniere thus describes what took place after Ribaut's departure.]
The very day that he departed, which was the 10th of September,24 there rose so great a tempest, accompanied with such storms, that the Indians themselves assured me that it was the worst weather that ever was seen on the coast. Whereupon, two or three days after, fearing lest our ships might be in some distress, I sent for Monsieur Du Lys unto me, to take order to assemble the rest of our people to declare unto them what need we had to fortify ourselves; which was done accordingly. And then I gave them to understand the necessity and inconvenience whereinto we were like to fall, as well by the absence of our ships, as by the  nearness of the Spaniards, at whose hands we could look for no less than an open and sufficient proclaimed war, seeing they had taken land, and fortified themselves so near unto us. And, if any misfortune were fallen unto our men which were at sea, we ought to make full account with ourselves that we were to endure many great miseries, being in so small number, and so many ways afflicted as we were.
[The fate of Ribaut at the hands of Menendez, and the terrible vengeance taken on the Spaniards by another Frenchman, Dominic de Gourgues, may be found described in Parkman's interesting book, ‘Pioneers of France in the New World.’]