The Anglo-American Adventure
Chapter 1: Native America, Part II
This chapter is divided into two parts, which cover the following topics:
How Many Indians?
One subject hotly debated these days is Native American demographics. According to census figures from the year 2000, 2.48 million US and 805,000 Canadian citizens identified themselves as "Native Americans." Because of an increased life expectancy, brought about by modern medicine and a rising standard of living, this is probably as high as the population has ever been. But what were the numbers when Native Americans had all the land to themselves? The traditional viewpoint is that there were 15 million people in the whole western hemisphere when Columbus arrived. This population would have been evenly divided between North and South America. Of the North American portion, one million lived north of the Rio Grande, half a million on the islands of the Caribbean, and the remaining six million were concentrated in Meso-America (Mexico + the seven nations of Central America). No tribe or nation that we know of ever took a census, so we can only guess at how many Indians really lived at this time, and that guessing is done by looking at how many artifacts they left behind. For that reason, some have argued that America could have supported twice as many Indians, with about the same number of artifacts and no more impact on the environment than what we already see. Furthermore, both the mound-building and the cliff-dwelling cultures had seen their best days long before 1492, so the total population, whatever it was, may have peaked at an earlier date, like 1200 A.D., and then declined after that.
If this was the only issue I wouldn't bother to write about it; scholars, after all, can believe any figure they want. But the debate does not stop there; some have increased the estimated population by one or even two orders of magnitude, meaning they actually believe there could have been more than 100 million Indians in the Americas! Numbers on this scale violate common sense; indeed, Europe's population did not reach the 100-million mark until the mid-seventeenth century. If the New World had that many people, many of them would have been crowded together in big cities. Where are the pre-Columbian equivalents of London and Paris? Mexico had impressive cities like Tenochtitlan, but north of the Rio Grande, the largest communities that we know of were either religious centers like Cahokia, or oversized apartment complexes like Mesa Verde. Could they have been home for thousands? Yes. Millions? No.
In addition to that, we must keep in mind that while North American tribes knew how to grow crops, none of them gave up hunting and fishing. In other history papers I have pointed out that farming the land full-time produces more food than herding, hunting or gathering, and because the Indians lived a lifestyle that was nomadic or semi-agricultural at best, they would have had a hard time feeding everyone if there were more than a few million of them. When European settlers begin to tell us how many Indian neighbors they had, their figures work best with a pre-Columbian population of one or two million.(20)
Of course, those who want the big numbers have an explanation. They will argue that the colonial-era figures are correct because the white man was a filthy slob who brought diseases like smallpox, and they killed off most of the Indians by 1600 (see footnote #11). We know for a fact that a lot of Indians died because they had no immunity to Old World microbes, but the revisionist historians want you to believe in a 90+% mortality rate, to cut the population from 20 million or more to 2 million or less. Alas, there is no record anywhere of an epidemic that virulent. A 2011 study of Native American DNA, using samples from both old bones and living individuals, concluded that the genetic variation seen among today's Indians is best explained by a 50 percent drop in population during the sixteenth century. Therefore, it looks like 50 percent was the most likely mortality rate, for the epidemics caused by first contact. You can compare that with the worst plague in Old World history, the Black Death, which is estimated to have killed anywhere from a third to half of Europe's population. The only part of the Americas where tribes were completely wiped out before 1600 was in the Caribbean, and there the brutality of the Spaniards was also a factor.
What I am trying to say is that it is a politically correct fantasy to claim that Anglo-America once had tens or hundreds of millions of Indians. It's part of the effort to describe pre-Columbian society as a Utopia, where non-white peoples lived in perfect harmony, both with nature(21) and each other. Think of it as another version of Rousseau's "noble savage." Elsewhere you may hear like-minded folks claim that hundreds of millions of Africans perished in the Atlantic from the slave trade, or that thousands of witches fell victim to a series of persecutions called "the burning times"; the same kind of thinking is at work here, promoting multiculturalism by making Western civilization look bad. Finally, there's the guilt that white Americans feel over what their ancestors did to the Indians, and they try to atone by promoting Indian cultures. Unfortunately the truth isn't so attractive. Indian children were as likely to die from diseases as anyone else's children, the various tribes fought frequently, and some of them elevated torture to an art, considering it a good deed if a warrior tortured a captured enemy to give him a chance to prove his courage.(22)
In some of my other works, I used Occam's Razor to decide which side to take; I did it with the creation-evolution controversy, and I did it with ancient Egyptian chronology. This famous maxim has been around since the fourteenth century, when William of Occam declared that the simplest solution which explains all the facts is likely to be the correct one. I am applying Occam's Razor to American populations as well, using his words "It is vain to do with more what can be done with less." Besides, claiming that the evidence for millions of Indians was destroyed by epidemics sounds a little like a classic conspiracy theory. I never was fond of conspiracy theories, which assume that one person or a small group can plan for everything that can possibly go wrong, in this unpredictable world. Somebody once said that a conspiracy theorist is like an undertaker who only has one size of coffins; if he gets a body that doesn't fit, he's going to alter the body, not the coffin.
The original "Department of Homeland Security."
Thanks to recent calls for "political correctness," the contributions of the American Indians are now getting the attention they deserve; hence, the pre-Columbian narrative that fills the chapter up to this point. However, there is still a period in American history that we overlook, to the point that most Americans are not even aware of it--the sixteenth century. This is probably because the years from 1492 to 1588 were the golden years of Spain; many call this "the Spanish century." The story of those people, mostly Spaniards and a few Frenchmen, who tried to establish new homes in America, is both exciting and tragic. Before the founding of Jamestown, no European community north of the tropics was able to keep itself going without a constant stream of supplies and colonists from the mother country, and as long as that was the case, every advantage would lie with the Indians. As a result, most of the early colonization attempts failed; the futility of those ventures will probably remind the reader of Don Quixote attacking the windmill. Eventually Spain and France were forced to abandon all efforts between Florida and Canada. When a nation did successfully colonize the mid-Atlantic seaboard, it would be one that had no interest in the fact that others had tried and failed; English settlers never saw the Spanish and French misadventures as part of their heritage. For that reason, you will probably recognize a few of the names mentioned in the rest of this chapter (e.g., de Leon, de Soto, Coronado), but most will be brand-new ones, participants in a drama that has recently has been rediscovered. Read and enjoy!
However, Cabot's son, Sebastian Cabot, wanted to go out again. A veteran of the first expedition, he made an attempt of his own in 1509, sailing far enough north to touch Greenland. He ventured into both the Davis and Hudson Straits before turning south to follow the coast of Labrador and New England. Although he made it back safely, he seems to have been convinced that there was no practical northwest passage.
The Portuguese must have heard the report about John Cabot finding the Great Khan's realm, for in 1500 they sent Gaspar Corte-Real to check it out. On the first voyage he continued up the west coast of Greenland until icebergs forced him back; on the second (1501) he brought his brother Miguel, and together they went first to Greenland, then Labrador, and finally Newfoundland. There they captured a number of Indians and Miguel brought them back to Portugal while Gaspar sailed on south. When Gaspar failed to return by May 1502, Miguel was sent out in search of him; nothing was heard from either brother again. Expeditions like this made it clear that the barren land visited by the Cabots was no China. Except for seasonal trips to the Grand Banks fisheries, off the coast of eastern Canada, the voyages of the two Cabots were not followed up.
When it came to turning a profit, the first expeditions to the Americas failed miserably. Instead of opening a shortcut to the Orient, Columbus had discovered some islands of dubious worth inhabited by natives whose accumulated stock of gold was exhausted in a few years. As for northern explorers like John Cabot, the only important thing they found was a great spot for fishing. But soon everyone except Columbus would recognize these discoveries as the periphery of a new world; if there was any land besides the places already discovered, it might be rich enough to make up for the lack of gold found so far. Soon rumors of such a treasure-filled country were flying, and the gullible, the greedy and the brave began searching for El Dorado.
Of course the USA as we know it did not exist at this early date, and most of the western hemisphere was still a blank spot on the map, so de Leon never realized what he had done. He thought Florida and Yucatan were just big islands like Cuba, so it might be possible to get to China by sailing between them. The next conquistador to enter the area, Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, was sent by the governor of Jamaica in 1519 to look for such a passage. Beginning with Florida, he sailed north, then west, following the Gulf Coast perfectly. He came to grief, however, when he landed in northeast Mexico; Huastec Indians quickly overwhelmed the small force. The survivors, including Pineda, were taken prisoner, and sacrificed on a Huastec pyramid (1520). Few explorers have ever suffered an end as inglorious as this, but Pineda succeeded in filling a major gap in geographical knowledge. His expedition proved that Florida and Mexico were part of the same landmass, and that there were two American continents, not one. For the past twenty years Spain and Portugal had been sending explorers to South America; now they had a North American continent to explore, too.
As the known portion of America grew, so did efforts to get around it. This was especially true with North America, which the conquistadors found less attractive than Central and South America. The lands north of the Rio Grande just didn't seem to have anything the early explorers and colonists wanted: no gold or silver, no jewels, no spices, and not even enough Indians to work on the farms they might set up.
While Pineda was filling in the boundaries of the Gulf of Mexico, Ferdinand Magellan set forth on the first globe-circling expedition. Magellan succeeded in finding a way to the Indies--the real Indies--but this passage, at the tip of South America, was not a very useful one. It was far enough south to see dangerous weather almost daily, and the route was too long to compete with Portugal's passage around Africa and through the Indian Ocean.(25) If a strait through the Americas was ever going to be worth using, it would have to be at the same latitude as most of Europe, meaning somewhere north of Florida. Both France and Spain sent ships to explore this unknown area in the 1520s.
The French hired an Italian sailor, Giovanni di Verrazano, for their first mission, and he headed west in early 1524. Before summer ended, he returned with the bad news. Starting at North Carolina's Cape Fear, he followed the coast all the way to Newfoundland without finding anything that looked like a passage. In fact, he didn't even try very hard; most of the time he stayed a few miles offshore and the only places where he dropped anchor were New York Harbor, Narragansett Bay, and Maine's Casco Bay. This caused him to completely miss Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and the Bay of Fundy, all of which would have looked like the beginning of the sought-after passage. Where Verrazano made his mark was in his expressed opinions. He remarked that New York Harbor would be a great place to build a port, prompting today's New Yorkers to name a bridge after him. In Narragansett Bay he said that nearby Block Island looked a lot like the Greek island of Rhodes, so we've called it Rhode Island ever since.
Verrazano seems to have known the coastline he was sailing was a continuous one, but he told the French king otherwise. He reported that there were many openings through the Carolina Banks, and he could see nothing but water on the other side. Could this "Sea of Verrazano" be the Pacific Ocean? Verrazano had seen the Venetian Lagoon, so he must have known the answer was no. The fact that he wasted no time exploring the inlets and sand bars of the banks tells us that he didn't really think there was any passage here. Presumably he was trying to get the king to hire him for another mission. If so, he failed; only a few cartographers took his "sea" seriously, and no follow-up expedition was sent to the Carolinas. The next French ship to cross the Atlantic went to Canada instead.
Though he came up empty-handed, Verrazano did better than his Spanish rivals; at least he got back alive. Juan Ponce de Leon returned to Florida in 1521; this time his main goal was to claim the "island" of Florida for Spain, by building a fort and maybe a town, so he brought two ships with 200 settlers. Unfortunately he showed that he had not learned enough from his first expedition, for he chose to build his fort in the southwest, right where the Calusa had chased him off last time. The Calusa still didn't want any Spaniards in their neighborhood, and one of them wounded de Leon in the thigh with a poisoned arrow. De Leon ordered everyone back to Cuba, and died there a few weeks later.
Also in 1521, a wealthy lawyer, Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, hired Francisco Gordillo to go looking for slaves in the vicinity of Florida. Gordillo left Santo Domingo (Spain's capital in the Caribbean), and at Great Abaco in the northern Bahamas, his caravel met another one, belonging to a friend, Pedro de Quexo. Quexo had heard of a mysterious "island of giants" in the north, so the two pilots decided to explore together. Sure enough, they reached land on the feast day of St. John the Baptist, so they called it the "Land of John the Baptist." Nearby was a river which they christened the Jordan (South Carolina's Santee River?), and an Indian village. These Indians were unusually tall, and the visitors traded for three weeks; then they suddenly seized sixty natives and headed home. On the way Gordillo's worn-out ship sank, so his captives and crew had to be crowded aboard Quexo's vessel.
At Santo Domingo most of the Indians died quickly. One who didn't said the name of his land was Chicora, so Ayllon named him Francisco de Chicora. Then Ayllon went to Spain to get an official claim to the new land, taking Francisco with him. Upon his return in 1525 he sent two more caravels, commanded by Quexo and Esteban Gomez, to survey the land that was now his. Gomez followed part of Verrazano's route in reverse, going south from Cape Breton Island to Cape Cod, but apparently found nothing of interest. Quexo made some useful discoveries; starting in the south, he went from Georgia to Virginia, proving that Ayllon's land was joined to Florida. In the north Quexo discovered Chesapeake Bay and called it the "Bay of the Mother of God." His voyage persuaded a cartographer named Juan Vespucci (Amerigo's nephew) to make a map of America that labeled most of the southeastern U.S. "The new land of Ayllon."
Ayllon himself arrived at the Carolina coast in 1526, with six ships and 500 colonists. His flagship ran aground and sank in the mouth of the Jordan River, taking most of the supplies with it. Then Francisco de Chicora showed how pointless it was to civilize him; as soon as he realized he was home, he disappeared into the bushes. Ayllon decided to move down the coast 150 miles, and set up a settlement named San Miguel de Gualdape. However, his fortunes were no better here. Autumn storms, disease and Indian attacks soon killed off 200 Spaniards; then on October 18, Ayllon died. A wild mutiny broke out that night, which burned so many houses and killed so many men, that the survivors had no choice but to abandon the colony. Of them, a hundred and fifty made it back to Santo Domingo. Their only accomplishment was to give the Carolinas the name "land of Ayllon" for the next fifty years.
The next Spaniard who tried was a one-eyed soldier, Panfilo de Narvaez. In Florida he made so many mistakes that his experience was a lesson in how not to start a colony (1527). First he landed 400 men in Bahia Honda (Tampa Bay), and immediately sent away the fleet before the settlement was firmly established. Then when he saw that the local Indians had some gold ornaments (no doubt merchandise they had received by trading with a distant tribe), he attacked them, instead of intimidating or befriending them. Because they had not brought much food, the Spaniards also ransacked Indian villages for corn, and the Indians struck back accordingly. Forced to pull out of the neighborhood, Narvaez and his party went to the Tallahassee Hills, where they thought the Indians had gotten their gold, and marched aimlessly in West Florida for the next four months. By the time they found the Gulf of Mexico, illness and Indian attacks had cut the size of the expedition in half. The 200 survivors decided to leave Florida altogether, and built five long canoes, hoping they could sail westward around the Gulf to Mexico. They misjudged the distance involved, and Narvaez was lost in a storm. The farthest any of the boats got was Texas, where two were wrecked near Galveston Island in 1528.
The four were separated at first, and treated as captives by the Indians. As Cabeza de Vaca put it, "I was in this country nearly six years, alone among the Indians, and naked like them." They survived by using their wits and their bartering skills, while learning as much as they could. In 1534 they found each other, and when the tribes gathered at the Yupe River for the summer cactus harvest (their main holiday), they escaped. In the course of looking for Mexico, they journeyed all the way across the continent, from Texas to Sonora, but understandably they could not record the path they took on this astonishing trek. Fortunately, they entered more fertile lands west of the (Texan) Colorado and Pecos Rivers, where corn-growing people lived in "fixed dwellings." Because the party knew a bit of European medicine, they gained acceptance as wandering medicine men, received buffalo robes and were soon welcomed with celebrations wherever they went.
In the Sonora valley, Cabeza de Vaca saw an Indian wearing a Spanish horseshoe nail as an amulet, and knew they were headed in the right direction. Not long after that, the four were picked up by the slavers and taken to Mexico City, where they were questioned by Hernando Cortez and his viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza. All the tribes they had seen were dirt poor; however, they had also heard rumors of tribes in the north who had cities and were much richer. So maybe North America had gold and silver after all.
The conquistadors had heard stories like these already. After Hernando Cortez looted Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs, rumors circulated about the Indians to the north living in seven cities, each of them as big as Tenochtitlan, and they were so wealthy that even poor families cooked their food in silver pots. Spaniards called these cities "the Seven Cities of Cibola," after an old legend which claimed that in the Middle Ages, a Spanish priest had sailed across the Atlantic to escape the Moorish invasion of Spain, discovered a new land, and founded an incredibly wealthy kingdom there. However, the conquistador who explored northwest Mexico in the 1520s, Nuńo de Guzmán, failed to find any of the seven cities, and that's where things stood until Cabeza de Vaca turned up.
The official response to de Vaca's report was to send two more conquistadors in search of the cities of gold, Hernando de Soto and Francisco Coronado. De Soto, the governor of Cuba, went first, taking 570 men to Tampa Bay in 1539. He had traveled with Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru, brought back a fortune from South America, and was a thoroughly ruthless leader; if there was anything worth taking in North America, he would be the one to find it. Instead, he spent three years wandering through Florida, Georgia, the western part of the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas. He squeezed some supplies out of the Indians he met, but found the land too underpopulated to support any kind of city.(26) Nor did the Indians have any gold or silver. In 1542 he discovered the Mississippi River, and called it "the Father of Waters"; shortly after that he died of a fever and was buried in the river. Before the end, he must have realized that this was a fruitless chase. His men tried to cross Texas, turned back, headed down the Mississippi and followed the Gulf coast to Mexico. Surprisingly, more than 300 of them made it.
In February 1540 Coronado marched north from Mexico with 400 Spaniards and 1,300 Indian auxiliaries, a large army by New World standards. Unlike de Soto, Coronado thought he knew exactly where the cities of Cibola were. He sent two scouts ahead of the main party: Esteban, the black companion of de Vaca, and a Franciscan missionary named Brother Marcos.
They got off to a great start. Esteban did his medicine-man act, and it so impressed the Indians he met that they sent him on to the nearest "city" they knew of, a Zuni pueblo called Hawikuh. Unfortunately, the Zuni did not fall for it. When this black man told them about white gods, they killed him, figuring that he must either be an enemy, or dangerously insane. Brother Marcos returned to tell Coronado's men. He also reported that he had followed Esteban to Cibola (his name for Hawikuh), and though he did not enter the city it looked rich enough to be one of the legendary places they seeked. The expedition entered Arizona in high spirits.
Their good mood did not last long after they reached Hawikuh. They had marched a thousand miles, expecting to sack something like the treasure houses of the Aztecs, and instead they found a miserable little pueblo, whose wretched inhabitants didn't have enough gold between them to make a single piece of jewelry! The unlucky soldiers wanted to have a few words with Brother Marcos, but even here they were disappointed. The talkative little friar had seen how things were going, and hurried back to Mexico before anyone could stop him.
Coronado refused to be discouraged. Before leaving Mexico, he had sent part of his party up the coast; they made it to the mouth of the Colorado River. Another one of his lieutenants went due west from Hawikuh, passed through Hopi country, and discovered something truly amazing, the mile-deep Grand Canyon. As for Coronado and the main force, they found a cluster of pueblos on the upper Rio Grande; then they continued for several hundred miles across the Great Plains, becoming the first Europeans to see the tepees of the buffalo-hunting tribes. All three groups had made important geographical discoveries, but the natural wonders they found didn't make money for anyone. Coronado returned to Mexico to find that his expedition had been declared a failure, because it did not produce any revenue.
Exploring the southwest by sea proved equally unrewarding. Francisco de Ulloa, a lieutenant of Hernando Cortez, charted both sides of the California peninsula in 1539-40. Two years later another explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, took two ships up the Pacific coast as far as Bodega Bay. Here much of the shore was hidden by fog, and it kept Cabrillo from finding the west coast's most splendid harbor, San Francisco Bay. When winter came, he pulled back to San Miguel Island (next to modern Santa Barbara), and succumbed to an old wound. Bartolomeo Ferrer took command of the expedition, and headed north again the following spring. He reached a point near the California-Oregon border before turning back for Mexico (1543). On the return trip he took such a fearful battering from stormy seas that no one else wanted to repeat the exercise. Because of that, one of the most desirable places to live in today's world was ignored for the next two hundred years.
One more tale of failure remains to be told, the first French attempt to set up a colony in Canada. In 1534 the king of France commissioned Jacques Cartier to search for a passage to China. He chose to look on the far side of Newfoundland, and explored most of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In 1535 he came back and sailed up the St. Lawrence River to the Huron villages of Stadacona (modern Quebec) and Hochelaga (Montreal); he wintered at the latter before going home with his report.(27) Cartier visited a third time in 1541, this time with 150 colonists. The site they chose for their fort was just upstream from Stadacona, and they named it Charlesbourg-Royal. That winter they defended it against Huron attacks, but by spring morale was falling, only about half the colonists were still alive, and there was no sign of the promised reinforcements. Cartier decided to take the survivors back to France; off Newfoundland he met the delayed follow-up expedition, but even this didn't make him change his mind. He headed across the Atlantic, while the new settlers moved into Charlesbourg-Royal, suffered the same hardships and came to the same conclusion. By September 1543 they too had returned to France.
The losses and bad luck of North America's Spanish explorers was truly discouraging; many Spaniards, like King Philip II, now thought that any activity north of the tropics would only waste more money and lives. However, others took an interest in the region. In 1494 Pope Alexander VI had drawn a line at longitude 46o 37' West, and declared that every new land discovered east of that line belonged to Portugal, while every new land west of that line would go to Spain. The other seagoing nations of Europe felt put out by this; even the Catholic French were dismayed that the pope left nothing for them. By the middle of the century, many non-Iberian Europeans, especially Protestants like the English, began thinking that they could stake a claim to any territory Spain and Portugal hadn't occupied already.
On May 1, 1562, another European ship appeared off the coast of Florida. This vessel belonged to France, not Spain; her captain, Jean Ribault, didn't sail under the orders of any king, either. Ribault was a Huguenot, a French Protestant. Europe at this time was engulfed in the commotion of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic response, the Counter-Reformation (see Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 of my history of Christianity). It was an age that knew no quarter, when people could get killed just for attending the wrong church. Ribault was in America to find a place where his co-religionists could live and worship in peace.
He sailed up the Atlantic seaboard until he found a spot he liked, Parris Island in South Carolina. There he founded a fort named Charlesfort, left it with a garrison of 30 men, and sailed for home. Unfortunately for Ribault, a religious war broke out in France while he was away. He returned to find his home port, Dieppe, under siege from a Catholic army; when it fell he fled to England.
Queen Elizabeth I, being a Protestant herself, was very interested in Ribault's story, and offered to send him back to Charlesfort with some English ships. Such an offer, if accepted, would have effectively handed over the outpost, and possibly all of North America, to England; Ribault would have none of that. He tried to escape the country, but the queen had him arrested and thrown in the notorious Tower of London.
Across the ocean, Charlesfort languished. The fort's commander became homicidal; he hanged one man by his own hands and sentenced another to slow death by starvation. The exasperated men killed him in a mutiny, named Nicolas Barre as their new leader, and built a pitiful boat out of pine, vines and moss. Once they finished, everyone climbed aboard except seventeen-year-old Guillaume Rouffi, who said he would rather take his chances with the Indians. He did the right thing; the overloaded lifeboat was becalmed in the Atlantic for 21 days. The men aboard ate their clothing, drank their own urine, drew lots to see who must die for the sake of the others, and killed and ate the one who drew the unlucky number. Finally an English patrol ship found this boat of horrors drifting off the coast of Europe, her crew too weak to land without help. In August Queen Elizabeth interviewed the recovered Nicolas Barre and sent him to the Tower of London, too.(28)
Rene de Laudonniere, Ribault's first mate, crossed the Atlantic in 1564 with three ships, 300 men and four women, ready to make a second attempt at building a Huguenot colony. Meanwhile in Spain, King Philip loathed heretics, so he sent 25 men and a fighting caravel from Havana, commanded by Hernando Manrique de Rojas, to destroy Charlesfort; they did not know it had already been abandoned. Rojas reached the Carolina coast on June 12, and the Indians brought Guillaume Rouffi to him. Directed to Charlesfort by the young Frenchman, Rojas burned what was left, and returned to Havana, thinking he had destroyed the French presence in America. A few days later, Laudonniere sailed into the mouth of the St. Johns River, dropped anchor and built Fort Caroline, within the city limits of modern Jacksonville.
Fort Caroline may have gotten off to a better start than Charlesfort, but it suffered from the same problems that had afflicted other American colonies. First the men got involved in a war between two Indian tribes in the neighborhood; then they began lusting after for gold and silver, which they heard was in the "Apalatchy Mountains." Consequently they failed to prepare for the upcoming winter, and when it arrived, the colony was faced with starvation. Laudonniere got the blame for this hardship. When he discovered that some discontented colonists were plotting to blow him up with a keg of powder, thirteen rebels took off with a small boat. They made it to Cuba and captured a Spanish ship, dramatically announcing that the French were back in the Americas.
A few weeks later, 66 more mutineers stole a ship. They also headed for the Caribbean, where they intended to land on Christmas Eve and "enter into the Church while Mass was sayd after midnight, and to murder all those they found there." Instead they encountered a Spanish fleet, and 40 were killed in the resulting battle; the rest, however, managed to capture a Spanish brigantine and escape with it. Then they returned to Fort Caroline with their prize. If they expected mercy from Laudonniere, they were terribly mistaken; he shot the leaders and hung their bodies on gibbets.
After that weeks went by without relief for starving Fort Caroline. In August of 1565, four English ships arrived. The commander was John Hawkins, an enterprising merchant who made a living by selling slaves to the Spanish colonies, an illegal business that was both very risky and very profitable. He and Laudonniere made a deal; Hawkins would leave one of his ships and 50 pairs of shoes behind for some cannon and powder. The desperate colonists were planning to use the ship to go back to France, but the winds blew the wrong way for several days. While the colonists waited for a fair wind, seven more ships came in. Jean Ribault had finally escaped from England's Tower dungeon, and was in command of the long-awaited supply fleet.
Philip of Spain was furious when he heard that the Huguenots had another outpost in his overseas empire. This time he sent one of his best captains, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, to drive them out "by what means you see fit." Menendez left Spain with 18 ships and 1,504 people, but a hurricane scattered his fleet, so when he got to Florida, he had just five ships and 600 soldiers and settlers with him. Nevertheless, that was still enough to do the job. Making landfall at Cape Canaveral, he turned north and caught the French ships anchored offshore. The Spaniards tried to board them in a night battle, but the French cut their cables and got away. Menendez turned back, and found a harbor south of Fort Caroline that was suitable for a base. His men promptly built a fort around an Indian chief's council house, and on September 8, 1565, Menendez came ashore and named the place St. Augustine. Unlike all previous efforts, St. Augustine survived; it became the oldest continuously inhabited city in the United States.(29)
Back at Fort Caroline, the French ships regrouped, and Ribault decided that if they were ever going to defeat Menendez, they must attack now. He started south with twelve ships and 600 men, but when he got to the Spanish fleet, he noticed that Menendez's big flagship, the San Pelayo, wasn't there, and went looking for it. It was a fatal mistake; the strong north wind became a storm (probably another hurricane) that wrecked the French near Cape Canaveral. Meanwhile, Menendez used the storm to hide the 500 men he marched overland to the now unguarded Fort Caroline. It was still raining when they arrived on September 20, and what followed was sheer slaughter; 132 Frenchmen were killed in an hour. The remaining 45, including Laudonniere, ran through the dark woods to a pair of ships Ribault had not taken with him, and thus escaped to France.
Menendez renamed the captured outpost Fort San Mateo, and returned to St. Augustine. However, the survivors of the French shipwreck were streaming northward in two groups. The first and smaller group, numbering 200, met Menendez and his men on September 29, at an inlet eighteen miles south of St. Augustine. The French could not go any farther without boats, so they surrendered. Menendez ferried them across the inlet in groups of ten, and on the other side had them taken behind a dune, tied up and killed with knives. Only twelve were spared, because they professed to be Catholics. The other group, which included Ribault, arrived on the same beach twelve days later, and Menendez killed all of them as well. That inlet thus gained a grim name--Matanzas ("the Slaughters")--and the Huguenot adventure was over.
Although Pardo did not find much, his reconnaissance of the Carolinas was quite successful. First he found a large Indian community named Cofitachequi, in the middle of South Carolina. Then he went into the foothills of the Appalachians, built a fort at Joara, and left a company of men under Sergeant Hernando Moyano de Morales to garrison it. Turning east, he marched to central North Carolina; at the Indian village of Guatari he met 30 chiefs. While there he received a note from Santa Elena with "news of the French"; it turned out to be a false rumor, but Pardo decided to go home anyhow. Four soldiers and Pardo's chaplain, Sebastian Montero, stayed behind at Guatari, where they founded the first successful Christian mission in the United States.
As for Sergeant Moyano, by the spring of 1567 he had all the Indian trouble he could handle. Right after Pardo had left Joara, Moyano exchanged insults with a chief from the Chiasca, a tribe across the mountains in Tennessee. The chief threatened to eat both the fort commander and his dog, prompting Moyano to respond with force. He crossed the mountains, found a fortified Chiasca village, and attacked at once. Moyano was wounded but his men got through its wall, burned the buildings, and slew more than a thousand Indians. Once they were finished, Moyano and his company followed the Nolichucky River to another village, Chiaha. Here 3,000 Indian warriors greeted them in peace, and escorted them to the village of the main chief in the area. At this point Moyano built another fort and settled down, waiting for whatever a man waits for in a remote and unknown land.
Back in Santa Elena, Pardo reported to Governor Menendez that the land he passed through did not have an easy road to Mexico, but it was fertile and worth conquering. Accordingly, in September 1567 he headed west again. His second expedition stumbled into familiar ground; Pardo recognized the first Indian village he found, Guiomae, as a place Hernando de Soto had visited a quarter century earlier. From there he followed de Soto's route to Cofitachequi and Joara; it turned out that de Soto had also been to Joara (he called it Xuala). Then he used the valley of the French Broad River to get through the Great Smokey Mountains, and on October 7 he reached Sergeant Moyano at Chiaha. Together they pushed west to another village named Satapo, where a friendly Indian slipped word that a huge army was planning to ambush the Spaniards, so Pardo chose to turn back while he could. On the way back from Tennessee he planted some more forts, and reached Santa Elena on March 2, 1568, bringing sacks of badly needed corn and stories of the western frontier.
Santa Elena needed corn because food was constantly in short supply. Captain Pardo's favorable reports persuaded Spain to send another 193 colonists in 1568, raising Santa Elena's population to 327 (October 1569 figures). The new arrivals included farmers, but the crops they planted (mostly wheat and barley) didn't fare very well. By 1569 the colony was in danger of starvation; the settlers stayed alive by looking for oysters and digging up wild roots. Fortunately a supply ship arrived in the nick of time; it came while everybody was attending a church service, so they saw it as the answer to their prayers. After that the farmers grew corn, melons and squash, which did better in that climate, and Santa Elena managed to make a small profit by exporting sarsaparilla root, cedar, oak and furs to Spain. Prosperity seemed to be just around the corner.
After exploring the areas where Jamestown and Williamsburg would some day stand, they built a small church with a thatched roof along the York River. Unfortunately Don Luis, like Francisco de Chicora nearly fifty years earlier, changed his mind about helping white men, now that he was reunited with his own people. Within a week he went to the village of an uncle, and sent back word that he was gathering chestnuts and souls. Juan Bautista de Segura, the Jesuit leader, thought he was really gathering "many wives."
Five months went by, and Don Luis did not return, despite the messages the priests sent to him. Segura fell ill, and only gradually did they realize that they had been abandoned. Finally in February three priests went to visit their Indian "convert." Don Luis agreed to follow them back, and killed all three of them on the way. Then he and his warriors went to the mission and asked for axes so they could chop wood for the priests; instead, they used the axes to cut down every remaining clergyman. Only young Alonso de Olmos was spared.
That summer a relief ship came to Ajacan. The pilot did not see the signals that Segura had promised, but he did see "Jesuits" walking on the shore--costumed Indians. A fight followed; two Indians were captured and taken to Havana for questioning, and thus Menendez learned that Alonso de Olmos was still alive. In August 1572 he gathered a force big enough (three ships and thirty soldiers) to punish the Indians and rescue Alonso. They succeeded in both, and found Alonso "naked as an Indian"; he had been gone so long that he had trouble remembering his Spanish. Menendez hanged eight or nine Indian captives for murdering the missionaries, and let the rest go, but never captured the brave he wanted the most, Don Luis. He vowed he would get revenge some day, and left for Spain, where he died while building a new fleet (1574).
Every colonist feared an all-out Indian uprising, and one erupted in 1576. It began when the Guale tribe of southeast Georgia killed a chief who had been baptized. In response Santa Elena sent a force to the Guale village that killed two chiefs and cut the ears off a third; the Indians retaliated by intercepting a Spanish ship near Sapelo Island and killing everyone aboard. Then the Orista tribe, in the neighborhood of Savannah, jumped in on the side of the Guale. Twenty-one men from Santa Elena marched on the Orista and took their corn, but that night the Indians struck back, killing all but one of them. Among the dead were two individuals who had cheated death in the past: Sergeant Moyano, and a newly recruited soldier--former altar boy Alonso de Olmos. A month later the attacking tribes reached Santa Elena itself, and burned everything the colonists had built over the previous ten years.
Santa Elena's residents managed to escape the destruction by crowding into small boats and going to St. Augustine. Pedro Menendez Marques, a nephew of the first Menendez, came from Spain to restore the situation. He sent the colonists back to Santa Elena with ships full of timber, and they not only rebuilt their community, but also added a fort named San Marcos. During the next four years, Menendez burned 19 Guale villages and defeated a native force of 300 Orista bowmen, before the uprising was finally crushed. When peace returned, it must have looked like North America's future would be written in Spanish, until a certain English privateer appeared on the scene.
Two smaller fishing enterprises sprang up near the Grand Banks. For centuries the Basques had been hunting right whales in the Bay of Biscay. When they found out that right whales also migrated along the American coast they quickly took advantage of the opportunity, by sending whalers to the Strait of Belle Isle (between Newfoundland and Labrador). Occasionally ice caught the whalers in their shore stations, but they never planned to spend the winter in Labrador; the cold weather killed those who did. The other business came from those French fishermen who looked for cod in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. What made this group important is that because they were closer to land, they frequently went ashore to trade with the Indians. They gave them iron tools, which the local tribes--the Micmac of New Brunswick and the Montagnais of eastern Quebec--paid for with furs. It was the beginning of an important industry, one that would bring the French back to Canada.
At this stage the Spanish Empire was at its peak. Spain tightly controlled commerce around her colonies, and regarded any non-Spanish ships in those waters as enemies of the state. The first interlopers who ran afoul of the Spanish Navy, like John Hawkins, were forced to fight, and had no choice but to accept the verdict of the battle when they lost. However, Hawkins had a cousin named Francis Drake, who felt very differently about this. Believing that a nation should always negotiate when weak and strike when it is strong, he accused Spain of treachery and called upon God, Queen Elizabeth, and his countrymen for revenge. Then he led a series of raids that left key Spanish colonies like Porto Bello (the main port of Panama) in smoking ruins. Drake hurt Spain, made a fortune in the process, was knighted for his actions, and created the legend of the Elizabethan sea-dog, who humbled the proud dons by showing superior courage and seamanship.
Sir Francis Drake was mainly interested in plundering already-settled areas, but he did make a small contribution to geography. From 1577 to 1580 he sailed around the world, becoming the second person to do so. At first he followed the same path as Magellan, until he entered the Pacific, whereupon he sailed farther up the Pacific coast of North America than anyone else had done. He made this detour because a year before his voyage began, Martin Frobisher (see the next section) went looking for the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. Drake believed Frobisher's report that he had found the passage's eastern entrance, and thought he could find the western end of it somewhere on the Oregon coast. Following the coast as far as Vancouver Island, he found no such passage, noted that the coast ran northwest (geographers expected it to run northeast on account of the passage) and concluded that if the passage existed, it was too far north to be worth bothering with. Then he sailed south again, to a spot now called Drake's Bay, just north of San Francisco, came ashore, and claimed California for England, by raising the English flag and practicing the curious English custom of nailing a bronze plaque and a sixpence to a post. He called the land New Albion, and set off across the Pacific to continue his predatory adventures.
Drake returned to America in 1586, with 42 ships and 2,000 men. This raid was his biggest success; Santo Domingo, Cartagena (in Columbia) and St. Augustine were all burned to the ground. Spain decided to concentrate its remaining men and defenses in Florida, so one year later the 33 families of Santa Elena received an order to tear down their hard-won settlement, move south, and rebuild St. Augustine. They protested, but eventually complied, and except for some missionaries, Spaniards were no longer seen north of Florida.
The souvenir was a great success, for the English reasoned that since the Eskimos look so much like Asians, with their long black hair, slanted eyes, broad faces and flat noses, Frobisher could not have been far from Cathay. Others were impressed by the samples Frobisher brought back of a black stone with gold-colored streaks in them. His gold was no more real than his strait, but it got him the financial backing for two more expeditions, in 1577 and 1578. Both of these were fruitless, the main result being that he found Hudson Strait, though he did not get very far past the entrance. The failure of Frobisher's expeditions to find useful discoveries bankrupted the investors who backed him.
Because no one else wanted to look for the northwest passage after this, Sir Humphrey Gilbert decided he would have to go himself; maybe if he planted a colony close enough to where Frobisher had been, it would encourage new efforts to explore beyond it. In 1583 Gilbert went to Newfoundland with five tiny ships (his flagship, the Squirrell, only weighed 10 tons!), and suffered nothing but bad luck all the way. One ship (the Bark Raleigh, commanded by Sir Walter Raleigh of muddy coat fame), turned back because it ran out of food before they arrived; a second had to be abandoned at Newfoundland because it was no longer seaworthy, and a third ran aground on Cape Breton Island. He stayed at St. Johns for just a few weeks, long enough to announce that henceforth he would tax the catches fishermen made near Newfoundland's shore. Then he tried to return to England with the two remaining ships, only to drown when his flagship sank.
The next Englishman to try the passage, John Davis, was a scientist rather than a freebooter like Frobisher, or a noble like Gilbert. His first voyage (1585) went farther north than Frobisher's and discovered Cumberland Sound on Baffin Island, before winter storms forced his return. A second voyage the following year added little knowledge; his third and last journey (1587) took him up high up the coast of Greenland to a point now called Sanderson's Hope. As before, the pack ice forced him to turn back, but he had gone farther north than any other sailor so he was still optimistic. "I have been in seventy-three degrees," he wrote to one of his backers, "finding the sea all open, and forty leagues between land and sea. The passage is most probable, the execution easy." Thus Davis was convinced that the strait which now bears his name was the most likely way to reach the seas of the Orient, but by the time money and support became available for another expedition he was dead.
However, the story of the search for the Northwest Passage does not end here. In 1592 a Greek pilot, Ioánnis Fokás (better known by his Spanish name of Juan de Fuca), sailed from Acapulco to explore the Pacific coast north of California for Spain. He came back claiming that he followed the coast as far as latitude 47° north, and there he found the mouth of the strait Drake had been seeking, with a large island at the entrance (Vancouver Island again?). Modern scholars are highly skeptical of the story, because it is not backed up by offical records from the Spanish government. Some have even questioned whether Juan de Fuca ever existed, because our only report of him comes from Michael Locke, an Englishman who claimed to have met him in 1596. Still, because some people believe the tale, the entrance to Puget Sound is named the Strait of Juan de Fuca today.
In 1587 Raleigh brought a fresh load of colonists to the same spot, promising that this time the backup would be reliable enough to get the colony through any problems. Unfortunately, the next year was the year of the Spanish Armada, Madrid's mighty response to a decade of English provocation, and every ship the queen could get her hands on was needed to protect the British Isles. Not until 1590 did a relief ship get to Roanoke, only to find the colony completely deserted. Nobody ever saw the colonists again; the only clue to their fate was the word "CROATOAN" carved on a tree, suggesting that they moved to a nearby island by that name. For more than a century after that, people reported seeing fair-skinned, blue-eyed Indians in the vicinity, leading some to believe that a few colonists "went native," and stayed alive by joining and intermarrying with the Indians. Their disappearance left St. Augustine as the only permanent European settlement on North America's Atlantic coast.(32)
Where did Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists go?
If the colonists had left this message, their fate would not be a mystery.
In 1600 a French fur trader founded an outpost named Tadoussac, on the Lower St. Lawrence River. In 1604 two French explorers, Samuel de Champlain and Pierre du Guast, the Sieur de Monts, founded an outpost in the Bay of Fundy, at Ile Ste-Croix (on Maine's side of the present-day US-Canadian frontier). This outpost had a military purpose, rather than a commercial one--to keep other Europeans from getting too close to the area that was now turning a profit for the French. They quickly learned how cold a Maine winter can get, and 35 of the 79 colonists died. When the weather warmed up the survivors moved to Port Royal, on the other side of the bay. Here they also had a tough time, but the outpost survived long enough to be considered a success, allowing France to claim the entire peninsula on the east side of the Bay of Fundy (present-day Nova Scotia, the French called it Acadia). A few more French citizens worked on Sable Island, an island surrounded by sand bars, ninety miles east of Nova Scotia; they serviced the ships that came for the fur trade.
As the sixteenth century ended, the real mover and shaker in the exploration business was an English writer, Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552-1616). In the 1580s and 1590s, he wrote several exciting books, describing the adventures of the explorers who had done so much to push back the world's frontiers. Whenever possible Hakluyt used eyewitness accounts, and he translated the stories of non-English explorers like Hernando de Soto, but his main interest was in the explorers from England, especially John Hawkins, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake. Thus, he argued that the English race ought to settle the unoccupied parts of North America, and he is responsible, more than anyone else, in keeping England interested in Virginia until a successful colony could be established there.
Letting economics finance future exploration, rather than the government or wealthy individuals like Raleigh, the English now floated two companies, the Virginia Company and the Plymouth Company, to exploit North America. A few years earlier, the Dutch had shown that when several people pool their resources and agree to share the rewards from a venture, the risk to each member is reduced as well. Their expeditions (to the Spice Islands of Indonesia) brought back a profit quickly, so the English now felt that corporations were the way to pay for ships and crewmen. Anyway, the Virginia Company's charter allowed it to colonize any spot on the Atlantic coast, from Cape Fear to New York Harbor. In 1602 one of the Virginia Company's founders, an English lawyer and privateer named Bartholomew Gosnold, took a small ship, the Concord, and 32 colonists, to make a second attempt at settling Virginia. When he got to the other side of the Atlantic, Gosnold was considerably farther north than where he wanted to be; he made landfall at Cape Elizabeth, in Maine. Sailing south from there, he gave Cape Cod its name, discovered Martha's Vineyard (and named it after his daughter), and finally chose Cuttyhunk Island (then known as Elizabeth's Island), another island off the coast of Massachusetts, as the place for his outpost. However, the settlers did not stay long, and returned to England when they realized that they did not have enough supplies to make it through the winter. Not willing to give up, Gosnold then began calling for another colonization attempt; Jamestown would be his idea.
As for the Plymouth Company, it got a charter to settle the North American coast north of New York Harbor; like the Virginia Company, it claimed the continent's interior at the same latitude as its coastal claim, going all the way to the Pacific (this was called a "sea to sea" claim). In 1607 the Plymouth Company sent George Popham and Raleigh Gilbert to found a colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Because Maine was at the same latitude as England, the Company, not knowing anything about how ocean currents affect climate, thought Maine would have temperate, English-style weather. Instead, everybody perished from another Maine winter. As a result, the other colony founded in the same year, Jamestown, would be remembered, while Popham's colony is now all but forgotten.
Modern historians now believe that Don Luis de Velasco was none other than Opechancanough, a half-brother of the famous Powhatan whose long name meant "he whose soul is white." In 1622 and 1644 Opechancanough led the two Indian uprisings that nearly destroyed England's Virginia colony. At the time of the second attack, the chief was about 100 years old, and after it failed he was shot in the back while being held prisoner in Jamestown. The idea that he had traveled with--and fought--Spaniards in an earlier generation, helps to explain how he knew so much about his European opponents.
After Santa Elena's abandonment, some Spanish missionaries remained active in Georgia and the Carolinas. Gradually Franciscans replaced the Jesuits, and their missions grew to number more than 50. The most important of these, Santa Catalina de Guale, was located on St. Catherine's, an offshore Georgia island. They continued their efforts until 1680, when 300 pro-English Yamasee Indians destroyed St. Catherine's in a hail of fire and arrows. By this time English settlers had founded Charleston, and the disappearance of the missionaries allowed them to move into Georgia without Spanish resistance a few years later.
One more ironic story remains. In 1611 a Spanish ship sailed into Chesapeake Bay to spy on England's Virginia activities, claiming that it was searching for a lost ship. It captured and took an English pilot named John Clark to Spain, while three of its crewmen were stranded ashore and jailed by the English. One starved to death, while the second, an Englishman, was hanged for treason. The third, Don Diego de Molina, was released five years later. As for John Clark, he was also eventually returned to his native land, but he preferred the sailor's life, so he found the kind of work he wanted, as first mate on another ship bound for America. That ship was the Mayflower.
This is the End of Chapter 1.
The Anglo-American Adventure
Other History Papers