The Letters of Pedro Menendez Aviles

Letter III


Royal Catholic Majesty, I wrote to Your Majesty, by the Galleon San Salvador, on the 10!^ of September, being the day she left this harbor, a duplicate of the letter which accompanies this ; and immediately, within that very hour, I being on the bar, in a shallop, with two boats loaded with artillery and ammunition, the four French galleons which we had put to flight, came down on us, together with two or three pinnaces astern, in order to prevent us from landing here, and to capture our artillery and stores. Although the weather was bad for the bar, I was obliged to attempt it, even at the risk of being lost myself and the 150 who were with me, with the brass pieces and the demi-culverins, rather than see myself in their power, or see them fortify themselves. Our Lord was pleased to deliver us miraculously
at this low tide, for there was only a scant fathom and a half of water on the bar, and the ship required a full fathom and a half. They, seeing that I had escaped them, for that reason came to speech with me, wishing me to surrender and not be afraid, and kept away some distance so as to look for the galleon which I have heard they supposed could not escape them ; and, within two days, a hurricane and terrible storm came upon them, and as it appeared to me that they could not have returned to their fort, and ran risk of being lost, and that in order for them to come and attack me, as they had done, they must bring a larger and better force than they did, that their fort must have been left weak and that now was the time to go and attack it, I conferred with the captains as to the splendid enterprise we might engage in, and they were of the same opinion. I immediately ordered 500 men to be got ready, 300 of them arquebusiers, and the remainder armed with pikes and bucklers (although few of these,) and we packed our knapsacks so that every man carried six pounds of biscuit on his back, with his canteen of a measure and a half or two of wine, together with his arms, which every captain and soldier and I myself among the first for example’s sake, carried with this provision and drink, on my shoulder.

As we did not know the way, we thought that we should arrive in two days and that it was only six or eight leagues distant, for so the Indians who went with us had indicated to us. So we left this fort of St. Augustine in this manner and with this intention. On the 18*!^ of September we found the rivers greatly swollen with the much rain that had fallen, so that we advanced but little until the 19*^ at night, when we came to sleep a league more or less from the Fort ; then for more
than 15 leagues, through morasses and desert paths never yet trod, so as to be able to get round the streams, and on the 20% on the eve of the day of the Blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. Matthew, in the morning when it began to dawn, having prayed to God Our Lord and to his Blessed Mother that they would give us the victory over these Lutherans, for we had already determined to attack it openly with twenty scaling ladders that we had brought with us, and the Divine Majesty showed us such favor and so directed us that, without losing a man killed, nor wounded, save one, who is well already, we gained the fort and all that it contained. One hundred and thirty men were put to death, and the next day, ten more, who were taken in the mountain, among them many gentlemen ; and he who had been Governor and Alcayde, who called himself Monsieur Ludunier [Laudoniere] a relative of the Admiral of France, who had been his Major domo, fled to the woods, and a soldier pursuing him gave him a blow with a pike. We could not see what became of him. About 50 or 60 persons escaped by swimming to the mountain, and also in two boats from the three ships that they had in front of the fort. I immediately sent a trumpet to the ships to demand that they should surrender, and give up their arms and their ships, but they refused. We sent one ship to the bottom with the guns that were in the Fort, and the other took in her crew, and went down the river where, a league distant were two other ships with much provisions, being some of the seven that had come from France, and had not yet been unloaded. As it seemed to me that I ought not to lose this prize, I forthwith left this fort to get ready three barges there were there, in order to go and seek them, but they were warned by the Indians, and because their force was small they took the two best of the three ships that they had, and sunk the other, and within three days they took to flight, and I, being advised of this gave up going there. They wrote to me from the Fort that after these ships had gone, about twenty Frenchmen in their shirts, appeared in the mountain, many of whom were wounded, among them, it is believed was Monsieur Ludunier. I gave orders that they should use all diligence to take them and execute justice upon them. There were, between women, infants, and boys of 15 years and under, some 50 persons, whom it gives me the greater pain to see in the company of my men, by reason of their wicked sect, and I have feared that Our Lord would chastise me if I shall deal cruelly with them, for the eight or ten children were born here. These Frenchmen had many Indians for friends who have shown much feeling for their loss ; and especially for two or three Masters of their bad sect, who were teaching the caciques and Indians, who followed round after them as the Apostles followed Our Lord, so that it is a wonderful thing to see how these Lutherans have bewitched this poor savage people. I shall do everything possible to gain the good will oi these Indians who were friendly to these Frenchmen, and to see that there is no occasion given for my breaking with them for if they are not effectually resisted they are such traitors thieves and such malignants that it is impossible to live well with them. The caciques and Indians who are their enemies all show me friendship, which I shall preserve and maintain with them, even though it be not agreeable to them, and it shall be only from their own evil dispositions if I do otherwise.

On the 28*!^ of September, two Indians came to inform me that there were many Frenchmen about six leagues from here, at the sea-shore, who had lost their ships, and had escaped by swimming ; so I took 50 soldiers in a barge and we reached them the next day and keeping my men concealed, I went, with one companion down to the shore of a river where they were on the opposite bank, and I, being on this side, spoke to them and told them I was a Spaniard ; and they answered me that they were Frenchmen. They asked that, either with or without my companion, I should swim across the stream where they were, for it was narrow. I told them that we did not know how to swim, but that one of them should come over confidently. They determined to do this, and to send over a man of good understanding, the master of a ship. He related to me particularly that they sailed from the fort with four galleons and eight pinnaces each of 24 oars, with 400 picked soldiers and 200 seamen, with Juan de Rivao for General and Monsieur Lagrange, who was General of Infantry, and other good captains, soldiers and gentlemen, with the intention of seeking for and engaging me at sea ; and, if I had already landed, to land their troops in the pinnaces and attack me, and that, if they had decided to land, they might well have done so, but that they did not venture to ; that intending to return to their fort, a storm and hurricane had struck them so that, about 20 or 25 leagues from here, three of them had gone to the bottom, which had on board upwards of 400 persons, of whom only 140 had reached this place alive ; as for the rest, some of them were drowned, others had been killed by the Indians, and about 50 of them had been taken by the Indians and carried away ; that Juan de Rivao, with his flag-ship was five leagues away from them, anchored in three fathoms, near some shoals, dismasted, for he had cut away his masts and that the ship had about 200 persons more or less on board, and they think she is lost ; that all the brass guns, of which there were many and very good ones, with the ammunition, were lost in these three ships, part of them being in the ship of Juan Rivao, which they thought was certainly lost. He also told me that his companions, the ofiicers and soldiers who had been saved, prayed me to allow them safe passage to their fort, as they were not at war with the Spaniards. I replied that we held their fort, having taken and put to death those who were in it, for having erected it there without the leave of Your Majesty, and because they were planting their wicked Lutheran sect in these, Your Majesty’s provinces, and that I made war with fire and blood as Governor and Captain General of these Provinces upon all who might have come to these parts to settle and to plant this evil Lutheran sect, seeing that I had come by Your Majesty’s command to bring the gospel into these parts, to enlighten the natives thereof with that which is told and believed by the Holy Mother Church of Rome, for the salvation of their souls ; that, therefore I should not give them passage, but on the contrary should pursue them by sea and by land, until I had their lives. He begged me that he might go back with this message, and said that he would return at night, by swimming, and prayed that I would grant him his life. Which I did, seeing that he was dealing truly with me, and that he was able to inform me concerning many things. And, as soon as he was returned to his companions, there came across to this side, a gentleman, the Lieutenant of Monsieur Ludunier, very crafty, to tempt me ; who having discussed some time with me, offered that they would lay down their arms and give themselves up if I would spare their lives. I answered that they might give up their arms and place themselves at my mercy ; that I should deal with them as Our Lord should command me, and that he had not moved me from this nor could move me, unless God Our Lord should inspire in me something different. And so he departed with this reply, and they came over and laid down their arms, and I caused their hands to be tied behind them, and put them to the knife. Only 16 were left, of whom 12 were Breton seamen whom they had kidnapped, the other 4 being carpenters and caulkers of whom I had great need. It seemed to me that to chastise them in this way would serve God Our Lord, as well as Your Majesty, and that we should thus be left more free from this wicked sect to plant the Gospel in these parts and to enlighten the natives, and bring them to allegiance to Your Majesty ; and forasmuch as this land is very great, it may well take 50 years to do this, but a good beginning gives hope of a good ending, and so, I hope in Our Lord, that he will in everything give me good success, that I and my descendants may give these kingdoms over to Your Majesty cleared of them, and that their people may become Christians ; this is what particularly interests me, as I have written Your Majesty. We shall gain much reputation with the Indians, and shall be feared by them, although we also make them gifts.

Considering that Juan de Rivao had made a halt, that within ten leagues of where he was anchored with his ship, the three other ships of his company had been lost and that, if he should be lost and abandon his ship, he would land his forces and entrench himself, landing what provisions he could from his ship, and would occupy himself in getting out what brass guns he might be able to from the three ships, and also, if he was not lost, from the masts and rigging of the other three ships, he would repair damages as he best could, and would come back to the fort, thinking it still his. If the ship were lost, getting all the force he could, he would march along the shore, and, if he does this I am waiting for him, so that, with God’s help, he will be destroyed ; yet he may go inland to a cacique who is friendly to him and very powerful, who is about 30 leagues distant. If this is the case I shall go there to seek him, for it must not be that he or his companions remain alive, and if he comes with his ship to the fort, I have ordered that two cannon and two demi-culverins shall be planted at the entrance of the bar, to sink him after he shall have entered, and have a brigantine in readiness to take his crew there and I shall do everything possible that he may not escape me.

The articles that were found in the fort were only the four brass pieces, of from 10 to 15 quintals; for the rest of the cannon that they brought from France, they carried dismounted, and were in the ballast in the galleons when they went to look for me, with all the rest of the ammunition. They also found 25 brass muskets, of about two quintals, with about twenty quintals of powder and all the ammunition for these pieces; also 170 pipes of flour, of three to a ton. They found also about 20 pipes of wine, and the rest of the stores had not been landed, they being in doubt whether they should fortify themselves so strongly in this harbor, on account of their fear that I might disembark there. They might have done it, but they spent all the days after they came here in carousing for joy at their arrival, and because they had news that, a hundred leagues North north east of Saint Helena they possess the mountain chain that comes down from Zacatecas and that there is much silver there, and Indians have come to them with many pieces, and they found of these pieces of silver (which the Indians of those parts had brought to them) a quantity of some five or six thousand ducats in value. There was found a quantity of three thousand ducats worth, more or less, of cloth and all kinds of goods for barter ; hogs male and female ; also sheep and asses. All this the soldiers sacked, nothing escaping save the artillery, the ammunition and the flour.

There were also in the harbor, not reckoning the two ships that were there and the two near the bar, two others that they had captured near Yaguana, laden with hides and sugar ; the crews they had thrown over- board, and the cargoes they had given to some English vessels, that they might take them to France or England to be sold. There re- mained with them two Englishmen as hostages, for the French had no seamen to send these ships with. Those two Englishmen were killed at the taking of the fort. The English vessels to which they gave this cargo, had arrived at the harbor where they were, which is where they held this fort that we took from them, in the beginning of August in this year, and were, a galleon of a thousand tons, which belonged to the Queen of England, with three tiers of guns, very heavy ; certainly those who saw them say they never saw a ship so armed, yet it drew very little water. The other three vessels were smaller. It had been agreed between these English and the French, as the French were looking for succor from France, that Monsieur Ludunier, (who was Governor) should wait here through September, and, if it did not come, that he should go to France to look for it ; and that, in the next April, they would come and bring a great fleet to await and capture the convoy for New Spain or Nombre de Dios, which must of necessity pass this way ; and if the succor should arrive, he would have abundant force
for this, for so he had already written to France. That the English vessels would come, as has been said, in April to this coast ; that they had for this purpose therefore, at the fort, a great galliot and seven ships, five of their own and two captured ones. The four galleons they were to send out to France, to be laden with troops and provisions, and if these should come back so as to unite with those that remained in April, together with the English who would also be there by that time, Juan Rivao with the 800 men who remained with him, intended to go in January to Martires, over against Havana, about 25 leagues off, and build a fort there, for which they say he had surveyed a very fine harbor, and thence in the spring when he would have his whole fleet there together watching for the convoys, he intended to take Havana. Your Majesty may be certain that this matter was discussed, treated of and agreed upon between them ; and before Juan Rivao left France he received orders to fortify at Martires over against Havana and about 25 or 30 leagues distant, so that no vessel could sail out of the Channel nor could come out without being seen by him, and to keep their six gallies, (for it is the best sea in the world for them) and from that point to take Havana and to set at liberty all the negroes, and to send thence to offer the same to all those at Hispaniola, Porto Rico and all Terra Firma, for I have informed myself of this very sufficiently from the intelligent Frenchman whose life I spared. They brought with them six Portuguese for pilots, of whom two were put to death, two were killed by the Indians, and Juan Rivao has the other two with him.

The river which is near the Fort San Matteo which we took from the French, runs sixty leagues through the country, arid does not extend quite to the turning at the Southeast, so that it comes out almost into the Bay of Juan Ponce, and thence one can go to New Spain, arid to the harbor of San Juan de Lua there is not above 200 leagues. There they intended in the coming year to build a fort in that Bay of Juan Ponce, on account of its being so near to New Spain, and about 150
leagues from Honduras, and the same from Yucatan, and from which point the six gallies that they had could sail easily. On this river are large settlements of Indians, all very friendly to the French, for the French- men had been there three times to seek maize ; for they landed here very short of provisions, so that, within eight days they had nothing to eat. There is very little maize on this coast and they took it by force from the Indians, being greatly disposed to take without giving being very poor but very valiant. All these Indians did not have so perfect friendship with them but that they may have it even more firmly with us, for I shall not consent that one kernel of maize shall be taken from them, but will rather give them what I may have, for this is the best plan.

Considering that this land is so great and of such good climate, and considering the danger and inconvenience that the enemy and corsairs may commit in it every day, and that they may possess themselves of those that lie to the North and near to Tierra Nova, where they are tyrannically masters, and that they could easily hold them, I am of opinion that the following things should absolutely be done. Your Majesty may disabuse yourself of the idea that it will not be done at the smallest possible cost to Your Majesty, for, if any loss occurs, it will be at my cost. Your Majesty can increase this amount, as much as you may be pleased, which will be expedient for your royal service, and for the increase of your realms.

This harbor is in twenty nine and a half degrees ; that of the fort of San Matteo which we took, in thirty and a quarter degrees, for the Frenchmen and their pilots were in error, and I have had them take the sun on shore, in order to verify this. From here to Cape Canaveral is 50 leagues, and there are three rivers and harbors on the way. From there to Havana is a hundred leagues more or less, which can be navigated in barges coasting along the Island of Caiiaveral, and of the
Martires, crossing from there to Havana which is 25 or 30 leagues and no more. I propose to take two very good pinnaces which I took from the French, with a hundred men, and go along the coast, the barges going along by sea, and making fast to the shore at night. Being inside of Cape Canaveral, where the sea is like the river with the barges, I shall, by going along the coast, reconnoitre the island of Canaveral and all the Martires for the best harbor and situation in which to build a fort, which will be stronger with the one at Havana, as the Havana one will be for this, so as to assure ourselves that, at no time the enemy will be able to attack in the 150 leagues there are between here and Havana ; either fortify themselves, or lie in wait for convoys or ships from the Indias, since, with the force from St.
Domingo, which is now at Havana, and that of Pedro de las Roclas, I shall have enough to do during the whole of March, when I shall go across in these pinnaces to Havana, to seek these people, after I shall have found a place for this fort. When Pedro de las Roclas shall arrive at Havana he will find his ship there, for I do not propose to take her out of that harbor, and he will find his men, so that he can go to Spain as strong as he was before, for I shall put 150 men there now, as it
will be necessary for them to protect themselves from the Indians, who are very warlike, until they shall have gained their good will ; and by the beginning of April I shall be back in these forts, whither I can come in seven or eight days, along the shore.

In May it will be best for me to leave these two forts with the best force possible of 300 soldiers to each, to go, in vessels that draw very little water, and most of which I shall have ready here, which will be this galley and the French brigantine and as many of mine as I can, with 5t)0 soldiers and 100 seamen to settle at St. Helena which is 50 leagues from here, and has, in a space of three leagues, three harbors and rivers, the largest of which has six fathoms of water and the other
four, admirable harbors ; and the one which we call St. Helena, being the third place where the French were, is very small ; all three can be navigated inland, from one to the other, so that, whoever is master of one of them will be also of all three. There, in the best place, I shall build a fort, and have in it 300 soldiers who will complete it and then go on further to the Bay of St. Mary, which is in 37 degrees, 130 leagues beyond St. Helena, (which is the land of the Indians who are i^ Mexico) and build another fort, leaving in it the other 200 soldiers.

This must be the key to all the fortifications in this land since, beyond here, as far as Tierra Nova, there ,is no place to settle in, because to the north of this harbor, in the country within 80 leagues is a range of mountains and at the foot of them is an arm of the sea which goes up to Tierra Nova and is navigable for 600 leagues. This arm of the sea runs up into Tierra Nova and ends there. Eighty leagues within this land of the Indian is this Bay of St. Mary, in 37 degrees ; and within
half a league there is another arm of salt water, running east north east, which, it is suspected, goes to the South Sea. The Indians slaughter there many cattle of New Spain, which Francisco Vazquez Coronado found there, and carry their hides in canoes to Tierra Nova, to sell and barter them with the Frenchmen, by means of this arm of the sea, and from this place, for two years, the fishing vessels have taken to Rochelle more than six thousand of these hides, and through this arm of the sea the Frenchmen can go in their ships’ boats, from which they fish, to these lands of the Indians, and so they will come to the foot of the mountains 400 leagues from the Mines of St. Martin and New Gallicia and in order for them to command these places at their pleasure, they will have to establish their out-posts here and gain the Bahama Channel ; and afterwards from this point by entering there, to command the mines of New Spain. This key and power it is absolutely necessary that Your Majesty should hold and be master of, and thus you will be lord of Tierra Nova since with our gallies, by this arm of the sea you can refuse consent to any ship to take fish unless they shall pay tribute and recognize this land to be Your Majesty’s, and so you will secure all the Indies. And if this arm of
the sea, as is certainly believed, does go to the South Sea, it is near China, which is a very important thing as respects the enlightenment of that region and the trade with Molucca.

As to the 500 Soldiers and 100 seamen which I must have this May in order to go and fortify St. Helena and this Bay of St. Mary, I have written to Pedro de Castillo that he has my authority to send me, at my cost 300 soldiers, and one year’s provisions for them as well as provisions for the 800 persons whom I have here and in Havana, partly soldiers and partly useless people not counting the 300 soldiers who are on Your Majesty’s account.

Your Majesty, by the order of Your Council of War and State, provided that I should be furnished with 500 soldiers paid and equipped for the necessary time, and I, fearing delay, which it was important that I should not experience, as it seemed to me that it was impossible to get them together and to fit out the ships to carry them and the provisions, they ordered me to take 200, and as many more as I could ; and contrive, as I could, to find the 500, all good men, and at the time of sailing from Cadiz, Francisco Duarte, who was there as Purveyor, was only willing to pay 300 and very low pay too, (being only 4 ducats, to each, for two payments and for his arquebus), with no more to captains, sergeants” or ensigns. Moreover, he would not give provisions for the whole year for the 300 soldiers and 100 seamen, as will be seen by his accounts. On the other hand much of this provision and biscuit was lost, being thrown overboard when we experienced the hurricane, so that these stores were not sufficient to last ^ve months, and as so little provision was furnished me in Spain I loaded much more than I was obliged to, and I gave account of it to Your Majesty, praying that Your Majesty would be pleased to pay the 200 soldiers, over and above the 500, and the stores, since Your Majesty had given the order that they should be supplied me, and since I have done it with such despatch and at so little cost, there is no ground or reason that I should not be paid. I do not know what Your Majesty may have ordered in respect to this, but I pray Your Majesty, if you have not commanded that I should be paid, that you will so order and that I be paid forthwith, so that I may provide myself with the things requisite and necessary to come out right with this enterprise ; and that Your Majesty will be pleased to order that these people shall be provided with the provisions necessary for them, over and above what has been issued to them for one year, for we are suffering for want of food, and the labors and dangers that we undergo are great, the fort that we erect here being built by the labor of every man, of whatever rank, of six hours every day, three hours before noon, and three hours after, and if the men do not endure it well, many of us will be sick and die, and moreover will be discouraged, which is a very bad thing ;

Your Majesty will also order 200 soldiers to be sent out to make up those whom Your Majesty had provided for this enterprise, so that Your Majesty shall not pay more than 500 of those who are here and who are to come, and, as to the 100 seamen who went in the galleon to Hispaniola that she might lie there in some harbor ready for active service with all the provisions on board ; for if the bread should be unloaded and exposed to the air, it would all be spoiled, while it would be kept in good condition on board, with much ammunition which we were unable to take out by reason of the enemy. It will be well that these hundred seamen and the Lombard gunners on board be ready for service, so that, if the enemy should seek them, they may defend themselves, and I shall send vessels, so that in the course of January, she may be unloaded. I shall send orders to pay off the ship and crew from the first of February, so that, after the first of February, Your Majesty can take other vessels there of the same capacity, and these hundred seamen and Lombard gunners, that they may bring the stores that are to come, with the artillery and ammunition, according to the memorial that goes herewith, which is a convenient and necessary thing. With these 200 soldiers who are to come at Your Majesty’s cost, and the 300 who are to come in other ships at my charge I shall carry out my plan for May, at St. Helena and the Bay of St. Mary, unless the French anticipate me, for it is a thing of the greatest importance.

Your Majesty will certainly find that instead of the 500 men whom I was bound to place here, I have put a thousand, including those whom I have in Havana. I now ask that 300 may be here in the course of April, and it would be well that 200 more should be sent in the month of October, for the settling of the Bay of Juan Ponce, for the river of the fort of St. Matthew which we took from the enemy goes 60 leagues inland within this Bay, and by means of this river we shall easily com-
municate from one sea to the other. The multitude of Indians there are there will be thus sooner brought to the knowledge of our Holy Catholic Faith, for, in this Bay of Juan Ponce, is the province of Apalache an indomitable people, with whom the Spaniards have never been able to effect anything and as this province is level, we can easily pass over as far as New Gallicia, which may be about 300 leagues distant, about as far to Vera Cruz, and about as much farther to Honduras and
to Yucatan. From Yucatan this settlement may be provided with maize, of which there is much in great quantity. One hundred and fifty leagues inland, to the north, is the Province of Coza, friendly to us in 38 or 39 degrees, at the foot of the mountains that begin near the mines Zacatecas and St. Martin, and that province must be about 150 leagues from these settlements and forts of ours, and from the river of St. Helena, and the country of the Indians. After the year ’65 we may
go over to settle at Coza and we may build there a fine city, and there will be no more to do but to settle in Florida, and the way to New Spain will be easily kept open for trade and passage, and we shall get the benefit of the many silver mines there are in that land which are the mines of Zacatecas, and even within a few years the silver that will be obtained from those mines and the mountains of St. Martin, will come to these harbors and to St. Helena and the Bay of St. Mary, because, from the mines of St. Martin and Zacatecas to the harbor of San Juan de Lua is more than 200 leagues, and the navigation thence is very bad and dangerous, and from here and from St. Helena to the Bay of St. Mary it is an easy and short voyage to Spain, ordinarily of forty or fifty days, and as for the hundred leagues more of distance by land that there will be from the mines of Zacatecas and St. Martin to these harbors they will prefer to bring it here, on account of the short and safe voyage, rather than to San Juan de Lua. From this Bay of Juan Ponce to where we should settle in the Province of Apalache, there would not be from these forts by land more than fifty leagues where we could not very easily correspond, help, and succor any one of these harbors from another. As to myself, Your Majesty may be assured, moreover, that, besides all that I am bound for, which I can get among my relatives and friends, I shall expend all I have in this undertaking, that I may be able to go on with it and succeed in it, that the Gospel may be preached to these natives, and that they may come into Your Majesty’s allegiance, and to do this I watch and shall watch by day and by night with mind and soul, so that I may best accomplish it.

And, inasmuch as these lands are great, of many good rivers and harbors, and the population of this country is great, such great results cannot be effected with few Spaniards, it is not expedient in any way that it should be done by degrees, but that we should hasten, so that what might be expended in ten years, should be spent in five, for so will Your Majesty be lord of these great provinces, will enlighten the natives thereof, and greatly increase your kingdoms, for there will be great and
very excellent gains to be made in this country, for there will be much wine, many sugar plantations, a great number of cattle, since there are extensive pasture grounds, much hemp, tar, pitch and planking, such as Your Majesty has not in all your realms. Many ships can be built here and much salt made. As to grain on these rivers, we have seen none. There must be all kinds of fruits, there is most excellent water and a fine temperature to the country. There will be much rice, and
many pearls in the river of St. Helena, where we have news that there are some, and entering further inland into this land, there must be places where much grain can be gathered and much silk made.

For the things that I send to ask for in Spain for these parts, being absolutely necessary for provisions and equipping ships and for clothes and shoes for the men, I must have 3,000 ducats and I have not a single one. Your Majesty will be pleased to command that the pay for the whole month of January for the galleon shall be paid me, as well as that of the hundred men who came in her with the supplies that are due them, because seamen were not willing to come to these parts for such
small pay, and I bound myself to Francesco Duarte to bring them, so that I made the best bargain I could with them, and it is certain that they cost me three thousand ducats over and above what Your Majesty pays them, and Your Majesty commanded me to despatch a vessel from Florida with the news of my arrival, which being my own, I required no freight money. I paid the master, pilot and seamen for wages and provisions one thousand ducats, and this I have need of, confiding in Pedro del Castillo, that he will look for it and will engage to provide me with everything that I sent him to seek ; for having no children and being a good Christian, he has taken it upon him, as his principal undertaking, to aid me in this enterprise with all his substance, that I may succeed in it, and without his having any other interest in it but that of being my friend and desiring to do me a favor in a time of so great necessity. I supplicate Your Majesty for the love of Our Lord that you will direct that what is due to me be paid with the greatest despatch, and that Your Majesty will order that such stores as are at Your Majesty’s charge shall be provided, also the pay of the men as well as the pay to be given to the 200 soldiers, so that all may be here by the end of April, and that in the first part of May, I may go to St. Helena, and to the Bay of St. Mary which is the outpost and frontier which Your Majesty must hold to be Lord of these parts, for without this is done we have done nothing, and if the French once set foot there, we shall have to spend a great sum of money, and pass a long time before we can get them out again from there, and this business must not be lightly esteemed.

Diego Flores de Valdes, who goes with this despatch and is to come back with .this reinforcement, is a gentleman who, for fifteen years has served Your Majesty in all the fleets under my command as a captain of armed ships, and sometimes as my Lieutenant, and he has always served well and with all intelligence, and he has also done the same in this expedition, so that I have taken him as Admiral of the fleet and my Lieutenant, and to this day, Your Majesty has shown him no favor, nor given him any aid toward his expenses, although Ruy Gomez offered it to him in Your Majesty’s name, (as also did Eraso, when he made the
voyages to Flanders in the vessels that he took out to him as my Lieutenant,) yet nothing was ever given him. He has gone on spending and has sold and mortgaged the larger part of his patrimony that he inherited from his ancestors, with the hope which he always had that Your Majesty will show him some favor. I have done him but little good on account of my necessities, but I have great need of him that he may serve Your Majesty in matters on the sea in these parts, for he well
understands how to do it. I pray your Majesty that you will confer an order of knighthood upon him, and grant him some aid toward his expenses. It will all be for Your Majesty’s better service, and, in order that he may go in the fleet on the seas of this coast, he should have all absolute authority both with friends and enemies, in which this Order will aid him much. He carries with him two pilots, that they may come with the ships which shall bring this reinforcement, for he is one
of the best sailors in the whole kingdom, and is very fit, so that with him, and with them, everything will be well directed and come to a good issue.

While writing this, on the tenth of this month, news came to me that the fort which we had taken from the Frenchmen had been burned one night, together with everything that had been taken in it and the provisions. I set out to succor it immediately, departing with the men who were there, together with such provisions and ammunition as there was there. Within an hour of this news came another message to me, that Juan Rivao with 200 soldiers was five or six leagues from here at the place where I had done justice to the Frenchmen out of the three ships under his charge that had been lost ; and fearing that the Indians who were friendly to them might unite with him and that so he might give me trouble, I immediately went with 150 soldiers to seek him, and the next day at dawn, on the eleventh of this month, I came up to him, there being a river between us which he could not pass, save by swimming. We made on both sides a demonstration of our force with two colors displayed, and with our drums and fifes, and, on assurance of safety, he sent across his Sergeant-major to speak with me, who delivered me a message from Juan Rivao that I should allow his whole force safe passage to their fort. I answered, as I had to the others, that I was his enemy and waged war against them with fire and blood, for that they were Lutherans, and because they had come to plant in these lands of Your Majesty their evil sect, and to instruct the Indians in it; that he might undeceive himself as to his fort, for that we had taken it; that they might surrender their flags and arms to me, and place themselves at my mercy, that I might do with their persons as I should please, and that they could not do or agree otherwise with me. And the sergeant-major having gone back with this message, the same day in the evening, under assurance of safety, Juan Rivao came over to speak with me and to treat with me, of some course more safe for him ; but, as I was not willing to accede to it, he said that the next morning he would return with his reply, and so he did, with about 70 companions, many principal men among them, three or four captains, among them Captain Cerceto, who was a long time captain of arquebusiers in Lombardy ; Captain Lagrange, who was a captain of land infantry, was already dead. There also came with Juan Rivao among these men, four others, Germans and relatives of the Prince de Porance, great Lutherans. I wished to make sure whether there were any Catholic among them, but found none. I spared the lives of two young gentlemen of about 18 years old, and three others, drummer, fifer and trumpeter, but Juan Rivao and all the others I caused to be put to the knife, understanding this to be necessary for the service of God Our Lord, and of Your Majesty. I hold it our chief good fortune that he is dead, for with him the King of France could do more with 500 ducats, than with any others with 5,000, and he would do more in one year than any other in ten, for he was the most skilful sailor and corsair that was known, very experienced in this navigation of the Indies and of the coast of Florida and so much a friend to England that he had so great reputation in that kingdom that he was nominated as Captain General of all the English fleet against the Catholics of France, in those past years when there was war between France and England. The rest of the people whom Juan Rivao had with him, who may he 70 or 80 persons, fled to the mountains, and refused to surrender unless their lives were spared. These with 20 others, who escaped from the fort and 50 others who were taken by the Indians from the ships that were lost, who may be in all 150 people, less, rather than more, are all the Frenchmen now alive in Florida, separated from each other, fleeing in the mountains, and others captives among the Indians, and because they are Lutherans, and that so wicked a sect shall not remain alive in these parts, I shall do everything on my part, and shall induce the friendly Indians on theirs, so that, within five or six months, no one of them shall remain alive; and of the thousand Frenchmen who had landed, when I arrived in these provinces, and their fleet of twelve sail, but two vessels alone have escaped, in very bad condition, with 40 or 50 persons on board, who, as they go so ill provided and equipped, may never arrive in France, and if they should arrive, would not carry the news of the death and destruction of Juan Rivao and his fleet, and the later that they come to know this in France, the better it will be, for they will be at ease, thinking they have still a good force here, so that now it is more than ever necessary that, with great secrecy and diligence, everything be provided that I have asked, and be here in the course of April, so that, in the coming spring, I shall be master of this coast of Florida, and so Your Majesty will remain Lord of it without opposition or uneasiness ; being master of Florida You will secure the Indies and the navigation to it ; and I assure Your Majesty that henceforth Florida will make very little cost, but will bring in much money to Your Majesty and will be worth more to Spain than New Spain or even Peru ; and it may be said that this land is a suburb of Spain, for in truth, the voyage from there is not above 40 days to come here, and as many more ordinarily, to return to that kingdom.

From the burning of the Fort we suffer very great hunger, and the biscuit that we landed here is spoiling and being used up, and unless we are speedily succored, we shall suffer, and many will pass out of this w^orld from starvation. So, trusting that Your Majesty is assured that I am serving you with all fidelity and love, and that in everything I am dealing and always shall deal truly, I shall say no more, but shall advise Your Majesty, in every way that I can, of all that may occur.

May Our Lord preserve and prosper Your Majesty’s Royal Catholic Person, with increase of greater realms and kingdoms, as Christianity requires, and as we, Your Majesty’s servants desire.

From this Province of Florida, and the river of San Pelayo and Fort
of St. Augustine, this fifteenth of October, in the year 1565, Your
Majesty’s humble servant kisses Your Royal hands.

Pedro Menendez.

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