Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Gourgues, Dominique Chevalier de
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Gourgues, Dominique Chevalier de
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GOURGUES, Dominique Chevalier de, French soldier, b. in Mont-de-Marsan, France, in 1530; d. in Tours, France, in 1593. He served in the Italian wars under Maréchal de Strozzi, was captured by Spaniards 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 service of Duke de Guise, the elder, and was employed against the Huguenots. The massacre by Pedro Menendez de Avilles 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. Capt. 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 Aug., 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 at Cape Blanco, after a fight with some negro chiefs, he gained possession of the harbor, and sailed away for the West Indies. His force consisted of 100 arquebusiers, who volunteered from among the nobility and commonalty of Gascony, and 80 sailors who could serve as soldiers. According to the French account of the expedition, he did not declare his intention until they were opposite Cape San Antonio of Cuba. He was joined there by Cacique Satouriona and the only survivor of the former expedition, Pierre Dugré, a youth of sixteen, who proved invaluable as an interpreter. 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 chief readily joined Gourgues in an attack on Fort San Mateo, 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, and the forts destroyed. They then attacked the principal fort, San Mateo, which had a garrison of 260 men, and carried it, killing most of the Spaniards, a few only escaping to the woods. Descending the 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, but coldly by the court, which feared a rupture with Spain. For several years he lived in obscurity, almost in misery, at Rouen with the president of Mariguy, till restored to the king's favor in 1572. He was given command of a vessel, and participated in the siege of La Rochelle, commanding the largest vessel of the squadron. In 1592 Don Antonio de Crato tendered him the command of his fleet to defend his right to the crown of Portugal against Philip II. While on the journey he died. See “Le Voyage du Capitaine de Gourgues dans la Floride” in Basanier's “L'Histoire notable de la Floride” (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). Gourgues's narrative, “La Reprinse de la Floride,” is preserved among the manuscripts of the National library of Paris. It consists of two manuscripts; one, that bears the name of Prévost (probably the copyist), has been published by Ternaux-Compans (q. v.) in his collection. A copy of a manuscript preserved in the Gourgues family was presented in 1831, by the Viscount de Gourgues, to the historian George Bancroft.