Saturday, July 11, 2015

French in Florida - First paragraphs in rough draft.



The French in Florida

            You remember that we talked about the Protestant Reformation and the religious division that followed? The Reformation spread to France, though most remained Catholics. French Protestants were called Huguenots. The meaning of the name is lost, and we can only guess at it. Most Huguenots believed the doctrines taught by John Calvin of Geneva, Switzerland. Calvin believed that we are predestined to either have God’s favor or not have it. At their peak, they were no more than about ten percent of the French population, somewhere around two millions souls. They were persecuted by the Catholics. Some sought a refuge from persecution. They went to Florida.
            In 1559, the Spanish established a settlement at Cape of Santa Elena to counter French explorations of the North American coast. They had cause to worry. In 1662 Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot and Admiral of France, sponsored an expedition, sending one hundred fifty men commanded by Jean Ribault (1520 – October 12, 1565) one of his officers, in two of the King’s ships. All of the officers and most of the crew were Protestants. They landed near where St. Augustine, Florida is now. They moved northward to avoid a Spanish Catholic mission, eventually reaching what is now South Carolina but was then part of Florida.
            Ribault established a settlement and built a small fort on Parris Island. Archeologists discovered the site and dug up the remains of the fort. He called it Arx Carolana (Charles Fort) after the French king, Charles IX. He left Captain Albert de la Pierria, an Italian, in charge of twenty-six men and sailed for France in April or June 1663 to report and bring back supplies and more support. While he was gone, the small colony failed.
            They were not prepared to grow their own food. Many of the French adventurers were soldiers or sons of noble families who thought farming beneath them. They traded with the native tribes for it. This disrupted native society. Tribal members wanted French goods and sold them food they needed for themselves. Because of this some had to live on roots and moss until the next harvest.
          Isolated from their home and free of its restraining influences, military discipline broke down. French Protestants may have believed differently than Catholics, but they didn’t behave differently. They saw the natives and their possessions theirs to use and abuse. Albert de la Pierria made friends of the natives, ensuring food supply. John Monette, a historian who lived long ago, wrote that, “Every exertion was used by him to restrain the avarice and licentiousness of the people.”[1] In plain words, the French stole from the native peoples and abused their women and children.
Because of Pierria’s efforts to restrain the unruly men, they mutinied. Their resentment at Pierria’s discipline boiled over when he had their drummer, a man named Guernache, hung without a trial for disobeying his orders. Guernache was a respected veteran of the French Guards, and his offense had been minor, but Pierria hung him raising the rope with his own hands. When some grumbled and threatened he said they would receive the same treatment. Soon he sentenced a young man named La Chère to exile on a nearby island without food or water. The men had enough of Pierria.[2] They chased him through the forest and killed him.


[1]  History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley of the Mississippi, Vol. 2, 1864, page 67.
[2]  The first names of Guernache and La Chère are lost.

1 comment:

Harry H said...

Paris Island today is home to the east coast Marine Corps Recruit Depot.