For God, Glory and Gold: Early French and Spanish Conquest of S.C., Part 2

For God, Glory and Gold: Early French and Spanish Conquest of South Carolina, Part 2 of 4

Paul Giotto of the National Park Service picks up the story with that of the explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés at La Caroline, following the arrival of Ribaut. Menendez attacked Fort Caroline at dawn on Sept, 21, 1565 and then returned to St. Augustine. Meanwhile, Ribaut's ships had been sunk in the raging storms. Without their ships, the French survivors walked northward along the beach in two groups toward Fort Caroline. They were not aware that Ft. Caroline had been captured by the Spaniards. The first group of Frenchmen became stranded at Mantanzas Inlet, due to the swift current. Local Indians told Menendez, and after a period of negotiation, Menendez convinced the group of about 140 Frenchmen to surrender. They were brought across the inlet and fed, then tied into groups of ten. Then, on Menendez' order, the captives were slaughtered, except for about a dozen who were spared because they were Catholic or possessed skills. The second group of about 70 Frenchmen, including Ribaut, reached the inlet, and they, too, surrendered and were slaughtered.

French Fort Caroline was renamed San Mateo, and was used as a Spanish outpost. Menendez then focused on Santa Elena, which became the major settlement and the capital of Spanish Florida from 1566-1576. Menendez encountered many difficulties in recruiting settlers to come to La Florida. Livestock was imported but did not survive. The population of Santa Elena rose to about 300 during this period, but living conditions were bad in both St. Augustine and Santa Elena. Supply ships arrived irregularly, Preparing the land for planting was difficult and there were repeated droughts. In the first decade, there was great hardship, insufficient land for planting. A petition written by residents of Santa Elena during this period said, "...and many have died of hunger, and suffering they have undergone, and the rest are very ill." Menendez died in 1574 and was succeeded by his lieutenant governor and son-in-law, who alienated both the townspeople and the local Indians. In 1576, when another son-in-law arrived to replace him, the colony was in turmoil and within only a few months of his arrival, Santa Elena was abandoned and its soldiers and residents were resettled in St. Augustine.