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Dominique de Gourgues

GOURGUES, Dominique de, French soldier, born in Mont-de-Marsan, France, in 1537; died in Tours, France, in 1593. He served in the Italian wars under Marechal de Strozzi, was captured by Span-lards in 1557, and then by the Turks, and served several years in the galleys. After his return to France he made a voyage to Brazil and the West Indies, and then entered the naval service of the house of Lorraine, and was employed against the Huguenots. The massacre by Pedro Menendez d'Aviles of the French colonists who had established themselves on the St. John's River in Florida, and there built the Caroline fort, or Fort Charles, aroused indignation in France among Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. The king sent complaints to the Spanish court, but Menendez and his associates, instead of being punished for the deed, received rewards and honors. Captain de Gourgues, embittered by the cruelty and indignity that he had received from the Spaniards, determined to avenge the death of his Protestant compatriots, though he was himself a Catholic. He sold a part of his estate, fitted out an expedition, and sailed from France on 22 August, 1567, with one small and two large vessels, with a commission to capture slaves at Benin. The real object of the expedition was not disclosed even to the soldiers who joined it. Arriving there, after a fight with some Negro chiefs, he gained possession of the harbor, and sailed away with a cargo of slaves for the West Indies. At Puerto de la Plata, in Santa Domingo, one of his Spanish customers furnished him with a pilot for the coast of Florida. His force consisted of 150 arquebusiers, who volunteered from among the nobility and commonalty of Gascony, and 80 sailors who could serve as soldiers. According to the romantic French account of the expedition, he did not declare his intention until they were opposite Hispaniola. His squadron passed two batteries at the entrance of the St. John's River, being taken for Spanish vessels, and anchored at the mouth of the St. Mary's. The survivors of the former expedition had fled into the wilderness rather than trust themselves to the mercy of the bloodthirsty Menendez, who had attached placards to the murdered Huguenots with the inscription, "Not as Frenchmen, but as heretics." They had made friends with some of the Indians, and were protected by Saturiba, the only cacique who refused to submit to the Spaniards. This chief readily joined Gourgues in an attack on Fort San Marco, as the Spaniards had rechristened the stone fort that the French had built on the St. John's river. The redoubt on the opposite side of the River was easily captured. The French then crossed in boats, while their Indian allies swam across. The French accounts relate that about sixty Spaniards sallied from each of the two forts, and that all were slain by the French and Indians excepting fifteen, who were taken prisoners, and afterward hanged. The artillery of the forts was placed on board, but, before the rest of the spoils could be removed, a train of gunpowder left by the Spaniards was accidentally lighted by an Indian who was cooking, and the magazine exploded, destroying everything. Descending r, he River, Gourgues captured the works at the mouth, and hanged thirty more Spaniards, erecting the inscription, "Not as Spaniards, but as treacherous robbers and assassins." Gourgues returned to the port of La Rochelle on 6 June, 1568. He was received cordially by Monluc, governor of Bordeaux, and with enthusiasm by the nation, but coldly by the court, which feared a rupture with Spain. Nevertheless, he was taken into the king's naval service in August, 1568, and given command of a vessel. A few days later he participated in the siege of La Rochelle, commanding the largest vessel of the squadron. Many years afterward, Queen Elizabeth, with the consent of the French king, offered him the command of the fleet that she sent to the aid of the king of Portugal. While on the journey to England he died. See " Le Voyage du Capitaine de Gourgues dans la Floride" in Bazanier's "L'Histoire notable de la Ploride " (Paris, 1586; Latin version by De Bry). An English translation was made by Hakluyt (London, 1587), reprinted in French's " Historical Collections of Louisiana and Florida" (New York, 1869).

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