|Pedro Menéndez de Avilés|
15 February 1519|
Avilés, Asturias, Spain
17 September 1574 (aged 55)|
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (15 February 1519 – 17 September 1574) was a Spanish admiral and explorer from the region of Asturias, Spain, remembered for planning the first regular trans-oceanic convoys and for founding St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. This was the first successful Spanish colony in La Florida and the most significant city in the region for nearly three hundred years. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the continental United States. Menéndez subsequently became the first governor of Spanish Florida.
Menéndez made his career as a sailor in the service of the Spanish king, Philip II of Spain. His initial plans for a voyage to Florida revolved around searching for his son, Juan, who had been shipwrecked there in 1561. However, following the founding of Fort Caroline in present-day Jacksonville by French Huguenots under René Goulaine de Laudonnière, he was commissioned to conquer the peninsula as Adelantado. He established St. Augustine in 1565, then seized Fort Caroline and displaced the French. His position as governor now solidified, Menéndez focused on exploring the area and building further fortifications. He returned to Spain in 1567 and was appointed governor of Cuba in October of the same year. He voyaged to La Florida for the last time in 1571, with 650 settlers for his colony at Santa Elena, as well as his wife and family. Menéndez died at Santander, Spain, in 1574.
In 1560, Pedro Menéndez commanded the galleons of the great Armada de la Carrera Spanish Treasure Fleet on their voyage from the Caribbean and Mexico to Spain. He was appointed by King Philip II of Spain, who chose him as Captain General, and his brother Bartolomé Menéndez as Admiral, of the Fleet of the Indies. When he had delivered the treasure fleet to Spain, he asked permission to go back in search of one lost vessel which had contained his son, other relatives, and friends, but the crown repeatedly refused his request.
In 1565, however, the Spanish decided to destroy the new French colony of Fort Caroline, located in what is now Jacksonville, Florida, in territory previously claimed by Spain. The crown approached Menéndez to fit out an expedition to Florida on the condition that he explore and colonize the region as King Philip's adelantado, and eliminate the Huguenot French, whom the Catholic Spanish considered to be dangerous heretics. Menéndez was in a race to reach Florida before the French captain Jean Ribault, who was on a mission to secure Fort Caroline. The two fleets met in a brief skirmish off the coast, but it was not decisive. On 28 August 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, Menéndez's crew finally sighted land. They landed shortly after to found the settlement they named St. Augustine. The settlement was founded in the former Timucua village of Seloy, and to this day, the locals of St. Augustine claim that it was here that Menéndez held the first Catholic mass in what is now the continental United States.
A French attack on St. Augustine was thwarted by a violent squall that ravaged the French naval forces. Taking advantage of this, Menéndez marched his troops overland to Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River, about 30 miles (50 km) north. The Spanish easily overwhelmed the lightly defended French garrison, which had been left with only a skeleton crew of 20 soldiers and about 100 others, killing most of the men and sparing about 60 women and children. The bodies of the victims were hung in trees with the inscription: "Hanged, not as Frenchmen, but as heretics." Menéndez renamed the fort San Mateo and marched back to St. Augustine, where he discovered that the shipwrecked survivors from the French ships had come ashore to the south of the settlement. A Spanish patrol encountered the remnants of the French force, and took them prisoner. Menéndez accepted their surrender, but then executed all of them except a few professing Catholics and some Protestant workers with useful skills, at what is now known as Matanzas Inlet (Matanzas is Spanish for "slaughters"). The site is very near the national monument Fort Matanzas, built in 1740-1742 by the Spanish.
Menéndez is credited as the Spanish leader who first surveyed and authorized the building of the royal fortresses at major Caribbean ports. He was appointed Captain-General of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1554, when he sailed out with the Indies fleet and brought it back safely to Spain. This experience assured him of the strategic importance of the Bahama Channel and the position of Havana as the key port to rendezvous the annual Flota of treasure galleons. Later, in his capacity as adelantado and the private instrument of his sovereign's will, he was required to implement the royal policies of fortification for the defense of conquered territories in La Florida and the establishment of Castilian governmental institutions in desirable areas.
Menéndez' military experience served him well when he led a successful overland expedition from St. Augustine to surprise and destroy the French garrison at Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River. On September 20, 1565, a hundred and thirty-two Frenchmen were killed within the fort; only the women and children and a few drummers and trumpeters were spared. Menéndez left a Spanish garrison at the captured fort, now renamed San Mateo (it was later destroyed and the Spanish there massacred as revenge by the French in 1568). Menéndez then pursued Jean Ribault, who had already left with four ships to attack the Spanish at St. Augustine. A storm wrecked three of the French ships near what is now the Ponce de León inlet and the flagship was grounded near Cape Canaveral. The survivors made their way up the coast to an inlet, and it was here that Menéndez ordered them to be put to death after their surrender. The slaughter of these men led to the area of their execution being called 'Matanzas' ('Massacre' or 'Slaughters'). With the coast of Florida now firmly in Spanish hands, Menéndez then set to work finishing the construction of a fort in St. Augustine, establishing missions to the natives for the Catholic Church, and exploring the east coast and interior of the peninsula.
Pedro Menéndez de Aviles was appointed Captain General of the Fleet of the Indies in 1554 by King Phillip II of Spain. This position carried great honor, and it was an unusual appointment as the Casa de Contratación in Sevilla had appointed the Captain General in the past. Phillip II and Menéndez maintained a close relationship, Menéndez was even invited to be a part of the Royal Party when Phillip married Mary I, Queen of England. Menéndez was the chief planner of the formalized Spanish treasure fleet convoy system that was to be the main link between Spain and her overseas colonies. He was also the designer, in partnership with Álvaro de Bazán, of the great galleons that were employed to carry the trade between Cadiz in Spain and Vera Cruz in Mexico.
Menéndez traveled to Southwest Florida, looking for his son. There he made contact with the Calusa tribe, an advanced maritime people. He negotiated an initial peace with their leader, King Carlos, which was solidified by Menéndez's marriage to Carlos's sister, who took the baptismal name Doña Antonia. The peace was uneasy, and Menéndez's use of his new wife as a hostage in negotiations with her people, as well as his negotiating with the Calusas' enemies, the Tocobagas, helped cause the decline of relations to all out war, which continued intermittently into the next century. Menéndez was unsuccessful in locating his son Juan.
Establishing a Spanish garrison of 200 men further up the coast, he sailed to the Georgia coast making contact with the local Indians of St. Catherines Island  before returning to Florida, where he expanded Spanish power throughout southeastern Florida. In 1567, he marched south encountering the Ais (Jece) as he reached the Indian River near present-day Vero Beach.
In December of 1571, Menéndez was sailing from Florida to Havana with two frigates when, as he tells it, "I was wrecked at Cape Canaveral because of a storm which came upon me, and the other boat was lost fifteen leagues further on in the Bahama Channel, in a river they call the Ais, because the cacique is so called. I, by a miracle reached the fort of St. Augustine with seventeen persons I was taking with me. Three times the Indians gave the order to attack me, and the way I escaped them was by ingenuity and arousing fear in them, telling them that behind me many Spaniards were coming who would slay them if they found them." The Ais, like the Tequesta and Calusa tribes, proved hostile to Spanish settlement as war continued on and off until 1670.
Menéndez later made contact with the less hostile Tequesta at their capital in El Portal (Miami) and was able to negotiate for three chieftains to accompany him to Cuba as translators to the Arawak. Although Menéndez left behind Jesuit missionaries Brother Francisco de Villareal and Padre Rogel in an attempt to convert the Tequesta to Roman Catholicism, the tribe were indifferent to their teachings and the Jesuits returned to St. Augustine after a year.
In August 1572, Menéndez led a ship with thirty soldiers and sailors to take revenge for the killing of the Jesuits of the Ajacán Mission in present-day Virginia.
At the end of his life, he was appointed as governor of Cuba shortly after his arrival. He died in Santander on 17 September 1574.
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was born to an old noble family in the kingdom of Asturias. He was one of the younger sons of Juan Alfonso Sánchez de Avilés, who had served the Catholic Monarchs in the war of Granada, and María Alonso y Menéndez Arango. His parents had twenty children, and Pedro was still a child when his father died. When Doña Maria remarried, the boy was sent to live with a relative who promised to oversee his education. Pedro and his guardian did not get along, and he ran away from home. He was found six months later in Valladolid and taken back to his foster home. Eventually he went off to fight in one of the wars with France, serving in a small armada against the French corsairs who harassed the maritime commerce of Spain.
After two years of fighting Menéndez returned to his people, having conceived a plan to use part of his inheritance to build his own vessel. He built a patache, a small but fast row-sailer, suitable for patrolling the coast. He was then able to persuade a number of his relatives to sail with him in search of adventure. It was in this little ship that the youthful Menéndez won his first victory of command in an engagement with French corsairs who attacked three slow Spanish freighters off the coast of Galicia. Through daring and resourceful cunning he separated the two swift zabras (Biscayan frigates) that pursued him and captured them both, and drove away the third. The exploits of Pedro Menéndez soon became a topic of conversation on the waterfronts of Spain and France, and even in the royal courts. The Seville merchants and the associated Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) were chagrined by the success of Menéndez' adventures and his growing influence with the Crown. In 1561 he was jailed by Casa officials for alleged smuggling but he was able to get his case transferred to court and win his release.
Philip II was alarmed when he received the report from France of the Spanish spy Dr. Gabriel de Enveja that Jean Ribault had secured for himself the title of "Captain-General and Viceroy of New France", and that an expedition of ships, soldiers and supplies was being fitted at Dieppe for a voyage to Florida—more than 500 arquebusiers and many dismounted bronze cannons were loaded aboard the vessels. Menéndez was now available to serve the king's purposes, having been granted an appointment as adelantado of La Florida, and standing to receive a large land grant and the title of marquis if he was successful in his commission. He advised the king of the strategic importance of exploring the Florida coast for discovery of trade passages to the riches of China and Molucca—waterways that might lead to the mines of New Spain and the Pacific—and of settling several colonies to defend the territory against incursions by the Indians and foreign powers. Menéndez expected to make vast profits for himself and to increase the royal treasury with this Florida enterprise, which was to include the development of agriculture, fisheries, and naval stores. This ambitious venture was supported materially and politically by his kinship alliance of seventeen families from northern Spain, all tied by blood relations and marriage, who pledged their persons and their fortunes to the adelantado, hoping to enrich themselves with large grants of lands and the royal honors of civil and military offices in La Florida. The support of this familial elite of partners sharing his vision of enlarged estate and enhanced prestige gave Menéndez a loyal cadre of lieutenants and officials who not only had blood connection to him, but also had invested their futures in his success.
Pedro Menendez High School on State Road 206 in Saint Johns County is named after him, as well as several streets in the area.
- St. Augustine, Florida
- Spanish Florida
- Viele, John (1999). The Florida Keys: True stories of the perilous straits. Pineapple Press Inc, p. 20. ISBN 1-56164-179-0.
- Margaret F. Pickett; Dwayne W. Pickett (2011). The European Struggle to Settle North America: Colonizing Attempts by England, France and Spain, 1521-1608. McFarland. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-7864-6221-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=vTkyqDHcBvsC&pg=PA84.
- Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Florida (1 January 1976). Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State. North American Book Dist LLC. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-403-02161-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=DEjI9IVepygC&pg=PA51.
- Willis Fletcher Johnson (1920). The History of Cuba. B.F. Buck, Incorporated. pp. 205, 208. http://books.google.com/books?id=zWMYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA205.
- Ann L. Henderson; Gary Ross Mormino (1991) (in English and Spanish). Los caminos españoles en La Florida. Pineapple Press Inc. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-56164-004-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=gVrQgITtBVMC&pg=PA110. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "HendersonMormino1991" defined multiple times with different content
- Antonio de Arredondo; Mary Ross (1925). Arredondo's Historical Proof of Spain's Title to Georgia: A Contribution to the History of One of the Spanish Borderlands. University of California Press. p. 339. http://books.google.com/books?id=o8sBAAAAMAAJ.
- Woodbury Lowery (1911). The Spanish settlements within the present limits of the United States: Florida, 1562-1574. G.P. Putnam. p. 144. http://books.google.com/books?id=_XGGAAAAIAAJ. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Pickett Pickett 2011, p.84
- Lowery 1911, p.100
- Lowery 1911, p.105
- René Goulaine de Laudonnière (1853). L'histoire notable de la Floride: situèe es Indes Occidentales. P. Jannet. pp. 218–219. http://books.google.com/books?id=0-M8AAAAYAAJ. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (1773). Essais sur les Moeurs et l'esprit des Nations. p. 75. http://books.google.com/books?id=UpMBAAAAMAAJ. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Richard R. Henderson (March 1989). A Preliminary inventory of Spanish colonial resources associated with National Park Service units and national historic landmarks, 1987. United States Committee, International Council on Monuments and Sites, for the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service. p. 87. http://books.google.com/books?id=AIkIAQAAMAAJ. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- Eugene Lyon (28 May 1983). The Enterprise of Florida: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the Spanish Conquest of 1565-1568. University Press of Florida. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-8130-0777-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=W_gdHQAACAAJ. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- Lyon 1983, p.122
- Lyon 1983, p.124
- extracted from the historical text available at http://augustine.com Written History
- "The galleon evolved in response to Spain's need for an ocean-crossing cargo ship that could beat off corsairs. Pedro de Menéndez, along with Álvaro de Bazán (later a hero of the Battle of Lepanto, is credited with developing the prototypes which had the long hull - and sometimes the oars - of a galley married to the poop and prow of a nao or merchantman. Galeones were classed as 1-, 2- or 3-deckers, and stepped two or more masts rigged with square sails and topsails (except for a lateen sail on the mizzenmast). Capacity ranged up to 900 tons or more. Menéndez' San Pelayo of 1565 was a 900 ton galleon which was also called a nao and galeaza. She carried 77 crewmen, 18 gunners, transported 317 soldiers and 26 families, as well as provisions and cargo. Her armament was iron." Menéndez: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Captain General of the Ocean Sea. Albert C. Manucy. Pineapple Press, Inc. (1992). p.100
- R. Edwin Green (1 November 2004). St. Simons Island: A Summary of Its History. The History Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-59629-017-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=HmBMv05lb7AC. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- Rouse, Irving. Survey of Indian River Archaeology. Yale University Publications in Anthropology 45. ISBN 978-0-404-15668-8.
- History of the Tekesta - Part 6. Late Contact Period (1565 to the Present).
- Seth Mallios (August 28, 2006). The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange And Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, And Jamestown. University of Alabama Press. pp. 53–57. ISBN 978-0-8173-5336-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=u07AtztpazIC. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- María Antonia Sáinz Sastre (1992). La Florida, Siglo XVI: Descubrimiento y Conquista. Editorial Mapfre. p. 131. ISBN 978-84-7100-475-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=NBULAAAAYAAJ. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Albert C. Manucy (1983). Menéndez: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Captain General of the Ocean Sea. Pineapple Press Inc. pp. 9–11. ISBN 978-1-56164-015-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=6eRPYySL4dYC. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
- Eugene Lyon (1996). "Settlement and Survival". In Michael Gannon. The New History of Florida. University Press of Florida. pp. 42–44. ISBN 978-0-8130-1415-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=sn5xQgAACAAJ. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
|Library resources about
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
- Forbes, James Grant (1821). Sketches, Historical and Topographical, of the Floridas: More Particularly of East Florida. C.S. Van Winkle.
- Green, R. Edwin. (1 November 2004). St. Simons Island: A Summary of Its History. The History Press. ISBN 978-1-59629-017-4.
- Henderson, Richard R. (March 1989). A Preliminary inventory of Spanish colonial resources associated with National Park Service units and national historic landmarks, 1987. United States Committee, International Council on Monuments and Sites, for the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service.
- History of the Tekesta - Part 6. Late Contact Period (1565 to the Present).
- Laudonnière, René Goulaine de (1853). L'histoire notable de la Floride: situèe es Indes Occidentales. P. Jannet
- Lowery, Woodbury. (1911). The Spanish settlements within the present limits of the United States: Florida, 1562-1574. G.P. Putnam.
- Lyon, Eugene (28 May 1983). The Enterprise of Florida: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and the Spanish Conquest of 1565-1568. University Press of Florida.
- Lyon, Eugene (1996). The New History of Florida. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1415-8.
- Lyon, Eugene (1991). "Pedro Menéndez de Avilés". Edited by Gary Mormino (in English and Spanish). Spanish Pathways in Florida: 1492-1992/Los Caminos Espanoles En La Florida 1492-1992. Ann L Henderson (1st ed.). Pineapple Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-56164-003-4.
- Mallios, Seth. (August 28, 2006) The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange And Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, And Jamestown. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 978-0-8173-5336-0.
- Manucy, Albert C. (1992). Menéndez, Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, Captain General of the Open Sea. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-015-8.
- Pickett, Margaret F. ; Pickett, Dwayne W. (15 February 2011). "Four". The European Struggle to Settle North America: Colonizing Attempts by England, France and Spain, 1521-1608. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-5932-2.
- Ponce De Leon's Discovery, Written History section at http://augustine.com
- Rouse, Irving. Survey of Indian River Archaeology. Yale University Publications in Anthropology 45. ISBN 978-0-404-15668-8.
- Sáinz Sastre, María Antonia. (1992). La Florida, Siglo XVI: Descubrimiento y Conquista. Editorial Mapfre. ISBN 978-84-7100-475-8.
- Viele, John (1999). The Florida Keys: True stories of the perilous straits. Pineapple Press Inc. ISBN 1-56164-179-0.
- Voltaire, Francois Marie Arouet (1773). Essais sur les Moeurs et l'esprit des Nations.
- Hannay, David (1911) "Avilés, Pedro Menéndez de" in Chisholm, Hugh Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press
- "Avilés, Pedro Menéndez de" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography 1900
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