Pedro Menendez

Menendez de Aviles, PEDRO, naval officer; born in Aviles, Spain, in 1519; entered the Spanish naval service in his youth. After successfully battling with French corsairs, Philip II. of Spain appointed him captain-general of the India fleet. Menendez carried that monarch to England to marry Queen Mary, and took him back on his return. In 1565 Philip made him governor of Florida; and just before he was to depart the King was informed of the Huguenot settlement there, and fitted out an expedition for their destruction. Menendez sailed with thirty-four vessels, bearing 2,600 persons — farmers, mechanics, soldiers, and priests. Arriving at Porto Rico with a small part of his force, Menendez heard of the reinforcements Ribault had taken to Florida, and he immediately went to the mouth of the St. John with Philip’s cruel order to murder all the Huguenots. Failing to catch the French fleet that escaped from the St. John, Menendez landed farther southward, built a fort, and founded ST. AUGUSTINE. Marching overland, he attacked and captured the French Fort Carolina, putting nearly the whole of the garrison to death. Only seventy of the colonists escaped, and some of the prisoners were hanged.

Ribault’s ships that went out to drive Menendez from St. Augustine were wrecked, and a portion of the crew, with Ribault, falling into the hands of the Spaniards, were nearly all put to death. These outrages were avenged by a Frenchman named De Gourgues. In 1570 Menendez sent a colony of Jesuits to establish a mission near Chesapeake Bay. They were massacred by Indians. In 1572 he explored the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay, and was preparing to colonize that region, when his King appointed him commander of a fleet against the Low Countries. While preparing for this expedition he died, in Santander, Sept. 17, 1574. See FLORIDA; HUGUENOTS.