Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Florida Living History is a great organization to follow if you're interested in Florida history. Just take a look at their mission and purpose:

FLH strives for high standards in historical interpretation and supports educational initiatives that promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Florida's rich and diverse history.

The purpose of FLH is to:
  • Foster an understanding of Florida’s history through programs, events, demonstrations, portrayals, media relations, and publications;

  • Encourage the study of Florida’s colonial and territorial history from the time of Don Juan Ponce de Leon’s first landing in 1513 to the time of Florida’s statehood in 1845;

  • Develop living history programs that interpret, portray, and demonstrate the Native American, military, and civilian aspects of that history;

  • Present such programs to students and members of the general public;

  • Operate exclusively for charitable and educational purposes.

They send out these wonderful enewsblasts from time to time and have a website (http://www.floridalivinghistory.org/). The posts are always well researched and breath life into primary and secondary resources. Davis Walker has generously allowed us to repost his eblast here on our blog so we can help get the word out.

For more information check out their website, or to get the eblasts sent directly to you, contact info@floridalivinghistory.org


Photos from their website:





Battle of San Mateo 1580
by Davis Walker

July 20, 1580: The Battle of San Mateo – In 1577, a French ship, Le Prince, is wrecked in Port Royal Sound, SC. The survivors include a true prince, Nicolas Strozzi, cousin of the queen mother of France, Catherine de Medici. In the summer of 1580, 20 French privateering ships are sighted in the harbors of Guale (the present-day SE Georgia coast), a province of Spanish Florida. These interlopers are engaged in “illicit” trading with the natives and searching for castaways from Le Prince.
One corsair captain has anchored his galeaceta at the bar of San Mateo (the mouth of today’s St. Johns River), trading and gathering intelligence on San Agustín, capitol of colonial Florida. Learning that there is an enemy vessel within striking range of San Agustín, General Don Pedro Menéndez Marqués, the colony’s first royal governor and nephew of Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the founder of the colony, mans two fragatas and sails north. On July 20, the Spanish encounter the French vessel amid the shoals at the mouth of the Rio de San Juan, near Fort San Mateo (today’s St. Johns River, at Jacksonville, FL). After an exchange of broadsides, the Spaniards grapple the French ship and hand-to-hand fighting ensues.

Seeing all is lost, the French run their ship onto the shoals, hoping to take the Spaniards down with them. One of the Spanish fragatas is destroyed along with the French galeaceta, but Menéndez Marqués disengages his flagship in time. Eighteen Spaniards and 54 Frenchmen (including two black sailors, the Spanish narrator noting one of whom “fought very well”) die in this engagement.

After the fight, the victors learn that the French vessel had been commanded by a Captain Gilberto Gil, a Corsican. He had fought “cased from head to foot in armor which was arquebus-proof, and he died of an arquebus shot which struck him through the visor in the temple, for in any other manner it was impossible to kill him.” French ships continue to menace the Guale coast throughout the rest of the year.

References

Bushnell, Amy Turner; Situado and Sabana: Spain’s Support System for the Presidio and Mission Provinces of Florida; American Museum of Natural History, New York; ISBN: 0820317128; 1994.

Chang-Rodriguez, Raquel; Beyond Books and Borders: Garcilaso de la Vega and La Florida Del Inca; Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg, PA; ISBN: 0838756514; 2006.

Chatelain, Verne E.; The Defenses of Spanish Florida: 1565 to 1763; Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC; 1941.

Connor, Jeanette Thurber, transl. and ed.; Colonial Records of Spanish Florida, Vol. 2; Florida State Historical Society; DeLand, FL; 1925-1930.

Hann, John H.; A History of the Timucua Indians and Missions; University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL; ISBN: 0813014247; 1996.

Hoffman, Paul E.; A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient: The American Southeast during the Sixteenth Century; Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA; ISBN: 0807115525; 1990.

Marshall, Bill; France and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History; ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA; ISBN: 1851094113; 2005.

Written by Davis Walker and posted courtesy of Florida Living History, Inc. (http://www.floridalivinghistory.org/ )


LI. A MOST TRUTHFUL RELATION OF WHAT HAPPENED IN FLORIDA IN THE MONTH OF JULY OF THIS YEAR MDLXXX

[54-3-19.
St. Augustine, after August, 1580.]

[f. 1] On the eighteenth of July of this year, General Pedro Menendez Marques being in this guard house, speaking with the soldiers, at three o’clock in the afternoon there arrived an Indian, perspiring and very tired, who said to the general that he brought him a piece of news; that Contreras, the interpreter, should be called to him at once. The general, seeing this, ordered him to be called immediately, and when he had come, the Indian said: “Sir General, inside the harbor of San Mateo there are a French vessel and a launch, with many people.” The general, on hearing this news, asked the Indian when it had entered, if he had spoken with the Frenchmen, and how many of them there were. He said that they had entered the day before, which was the seventeenth of July, during the night, and that he had not counted the men because he could not; but that he had spoken with them, and been aboard their ship, and that the French asked him how many people there were in this fort, and if there were any vessels in the fort [i.e., harbor]. And the Indian said that he answered them that there were no ships whatever in the harbor, except two launches, and that there were few people in the harbor [i.e., fort], and those were sick. The general asked the Indian why he had told them that the people were few and sick, since he knew that there were many, and that there were two large frigates in the harbor. The Indian replied that he and the others thought they would deceive the French, so that they would land, and there they would kill and despoil them. The general, hearing this, ordered a man who is known as Manuel Alvarez, to go on horseback that night to San Mateo, a distance of twelve leagues, arriving there at dawn, when he could look and see if there were more than that ship, of what size it was, and how many men in his opinion; and he was to endeavor that they should not see either him or his horse, and he was to return here early the next day. The said Manuel Alvarez went, and returned next day, the nineteenth of the said month, at the time of the Ave Maria; and he said that the vessel was a new and small galleass of two sails, of about eighty or ninety tons burden; and that during the morning he saw a crowd of people on deck, but he could not count them; that it seemed to him there were about fifty men, more or less, and a small launch. Hearing this, it appeared to the general that it would be well to go in search of it with the two frigates he had, and he ordered the masters and pilots thereof to mast them and put them in readiness that night, for they were dismasted and not equipped. And thus that night they worked, and on the twentieth of the said month, when the day broke, they were ready, and at eight o’clock in the morning they already had the artillery and munitions on board, and they set sail.

The general went in person, with fifty soldiers, ten sailors and three pieces of artillery in the two frigates; and he arrived that very day, the twentieth of the said month, at the bar of San Mateo, three hours before dark, and found the French vessel in danger of foundering at the bar, amid the shoals, that it was trying to get out of. The general decided to close with it, so that it might not get away that night, and so he attacked it with the two frigates. With the first discharge they [i.e., the French] killed three soldiers and wounded eight on the flagship, and on the other frigate they killed Captain Hernando de Quiros and two others. From the flagship at the first discharge they struck down twenty-six Frenchmen, nine killed and seventeen wounded; from the other frigate they struck down three Frenchmen killed and six wounded. The French vessel was boarded for a long hour, until little by little we went on reducing the Frenchmen, only six of whom remained; and they, on seeing this, and that already there was no help for them, and the tide was running out, loosened the cable whereby they were anchored, and let themselves go on the shoals, so that we might all be lost. The general, seeing this, and that now all the vessels were running aground, disengaged himself from the French ship after it had already surrendered and [those aboard] were begging for mercy; placed himself in the channel, anchored near it with one anchor, and later, as the tide rose, the French ship and the other frigate were shattered to a thousand pieces. The general saved the men with three boats he had, and he cut off the heads of the Frenchmen although there was little to cut, for they were in a thousand pieces from their wounds. This done, the general returned to this fort on the next day, the twenty-first of the said month. On our side, the slain numbered [f. 1v] eighteen, among them Captain Hernando de Quiros, and the wounded fourteen. The French lost fifty-four, including two negroes they brought, one of whom fought very well. There only remained alive a surgeon and three boys. This, in truth, is what happened, for I was present at all of it.

The captain, who died at San Mateo, was called Captain Gil. He was a native of Corsica, married in Marseilles. He was cased from head to foot in armor, which was arquebus proof, and he died of an arquebus shot which struck him through the visor in the temple, for in any other manner it was impossible to kill him.

The rest [of the story] is that with that vessel came another, which remained outside [the bar]. We know not where it went. Two other ships entered a harbor they call Gualequeni*, and they made a great show of friendship with the Indians, and took soundings on the bars. On the twenty-eighth of the said month of July, five ships appeared at the bar of Guale and tried to cross the bar. The sea was rough and they could not enter. On the seventh of August, three others appeared at the bar of Çapala**; one crossed it, the other two remained outside. On the twenty-eighth day of the said month of August, two other ships appeared at the same bar of Çapala, which is the best there is on this coast. One of them, a patache, crossed it and took soundings at the bar, and on the rivers within it, and returned outside without speaking to the Indians. Two days after the skirmish at San Mateo, another vessel appeared at the bar of San Pedro***. In such wise, there are, of corsair ships that arrived in these provinces in the months of July and August of this year eighty, fifteen ships. This is known to be a fact, because the general sent Anton Martin[ez], a pilot****, to range along the coast in a launch. And he knew it for certain in the district of Guale, for a Spaniard was there who saw them; because when the first vessels were seen in Guale by the Indians, they immediately gave notice to the captain at Santa Elena, and the captain sent that Spaniard so that he should remain there and see what happened, and keep the general advised of everything by land, through the Indians, since they were all friendly. We cannot understand the corsairs’ designs. May God provide in this as He may best be pleased.

[f. 2, blank] [Rubric]

[f. 2v, as follows:] †

News of Florida, in the year MDLXXX.



*Gualequeni was Jekyll Island. See Juan López de Velasco, Geografía y Descripción de las Indias, 1571-1574 (Madrid, 1894), pp. 168-169; John Gilmary Shea, The Catholic Church in Colonial Days (New York, 1886), pp. 142-143, note 1, and 178, note 1; Woodbury Lowery, The Spanish Settlements within the Present Limits of the United States, 1562-1574 (New York, 1905), Appendix AA, p. 543.


**The bar of Çapala (Zapala, Sapala) was Sapelo Sound, which lies a little to the north of that of Gualequeni.


***The bar of San Pedro, or Seña, was Cumberland Sound, at the mouth of the St. Marys River. The latter was the stream called Seine by the French, which became Seña to the Spaniards.
****Antonio Martínez Carvajal. See his letter, ante, Document No. XXXVIII, pp. 247-251.


Connor, Jeanette Thurber, transl. and ed.; Colonial Records of Spanish Florida, Vol. 2; Florida State Historical Society; DeLand, FL; 1925-1930; pp. 319-23.

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