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  • Writer's pictureDavid Smith

Is it true dead men tell no tales?

Updated: Jan 17, 2018

Do dead men really tell no tales? Believe it if you want to but I can definitely hear the echo of a choir singing their last song 453 years after they died. Every conflict, every disagreement and every struggle, however large or small, has two sides to the story. Yet there are occasions when the silence of one of the parties involved is so deafening that the bystander to history is obliged to enquire further. Not to do so is to invite history to repeat itself and the next time we just might be the victims.

The background to our enquiry is religious in nature, though as is often the case, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” How many wars have been fought, how many lives have been sacrificed, how many lies have been told in the name of Christianity or one particular view of Christianity? Nor should we forget the same is true of every other religion and secular/atheistic belief system because their proponents have coveted someone else’s land, money and power. If the truth of many past atrocities were only known I’m sure history books would have to be rewritten. In fact, the precise truth of history is known and recorded in the annals of Heaven and someday all will give an account.

The year was 1562 when a contingent of French Huguenots (Protestants) established a settlement with the promise of being able to worship God without fear of persecution from the French Catholic Church. This promise, made by the Catholic French government, was a way of ridding itself of some of those nasty heretical Protestants and at the same time a way of gaining control over some new territory. The religious band of migrating pilgrims, however, were not so much concerned with the French government’s territorial aspirations as they were with living in peace and worshiping God in freedom according to the dictates of the Bible. They built their houses and shops and a fortification, called Fort Caroline [in honour of the French Queen], at the mouth of a grand river, in an uncharted land occupied by primitive, howbeit, religious natives.

The persecutions the Huguenot immigrants were fleeing from in France would eventually take several million lives and indeed it made little difference if your family was wealthy, educated or in government or for that matter a member of the royal family. The persecution by church and state spared no supossed guilty party. Whole congregations were being massacred and many imprisoned for nothing more than being the son or daughter of or married to a Huguenot. People's property and businesses were stolen in the name of the State. The inquisition unleashed on these Huguenots sent many seeking refuge in other countries.

The freedom of these pioneering Christians to a strange world was not long lived for in 1565, just three years into their adventure of faith, Spanish Catholics Conquistadors attacked Fort Caroline and slaughtered an unknown number of men, women and children. The Catholic government in Spain had earlier claimed this territory for itself and they would have no Frenchmen, Catholic or Protestant, trespassing their land. Apart from a small band of settlers who managed to escape by ship back to France the remaining 350 men of Fort Caroline were rounded up and taken to a beach where they were asked if there were any Catholics among them who would like to make confession. It seems the few who confessed a Catholic faith were taken into sanctuary and given safe passage by the Conquistadors.

In response the Huguenots admitted being of the Reformed Faith and then in unison, arm in arm, they broke into singing the 59th Psalm,” …But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy.” By days end, and almost to the last man, 350 husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were hacked to death by the edge of intolerant swords.

Today, sawgrass grows over the graves of long ago eager pilgrims and the flow of the river washes over the place where Fort Caroline originally stood erasing all physical vestiges of a place called home by a people who only wanted to worship God freely, without the fear of government intervention. If it wasn’t for the PR apparatus of the politically correct, the story of Fort Caroline would be taught in American public schools today alongside the founding of James Town and Plymouth Rock. Even taught beside the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, Florida, which was established in 1565 by those same Spanish Conquistadors who martyred the first permanent settlers in America.

So vibrant was the Huguenots living faith during those few years at Fort Caroline and so thorough was their witness to the native Timucuan Indians it was reported by Nicholas Le Challeux in 1579 that the Indians "yet retain such happy memories that when someone lands on their shore the most endearing greeting that they know how to offer is 'Du fond de ma pensée' (Psalm 130), which they say as if to ask the watchword, 'Are you French or not?’" Martyrs are never given an opportunity to speak, after all they are the dead but on this occasion one could still hear the French Christians singing the Psalms 14 years after they were massacred. Hebr. 11:4 … and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

When in London book a visit to the Muesum of The Book where there are exhibited the Bibles of the French Huguenot Christians. Also found in the archives are the original 1592 first edition illustrations of the Timucuan Indians made by Theodor de Bry.

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