Gourgues, Dominique de

Gourgues, Dominique de

Gourgues, Dominique de, c.1530-1593, French soldier and adventurer. He served in the French army in Italy, was captured by the Spanish, then by the Turks, served as galley slave under both, and after his release led expeditions to Africa and South America. Stirred by the massacre (1565), by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, of the French Huguenot colony at Fort Caroline on the Florida coast, he fitted out three ships and, joining forces with the Native Americans of the region, captured the Spanish fort of San Mateo (formerly Fort Caroline). He ruthlessly put all the surviving garrison to death and nailed to a tree a sign saying, "Hanged, not as Spaniards, but as traitors, robbers, and murderers"; this was in reply to the Spanish claim that the French colonists were "hanged, not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans and heretics."
Dominique de Gourgue (or Domingue de Gourgues) (1530-1593) was a French nobleman and soldier who led an attack against the Spaniards in North-Florida in 1568. He was a captain in King Charles IX's army.


Dominique de Gourgue's early life is not well known. He came from the old and powerful family of Gourgue, one of the most important families of the French city of Bordeaux. It is known that he learned to fight early on, being captured by the Spaniards when still very young. Then he was used as a galley slave and treated very rudely.

Situation in the colonies

Philip II of Spain was a Catholic king who hated Protestants, including the French Huguenots. He and his troops murdered many in the colonies, particularly in a series of notorious massacres around Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville, Florida in 1565. Three years later Spanish troops from nearby St. Augustine executed almost all the French colonists and occupied the fort.


Dominique de Gourgue wanted the Huguenots to be avenged, so he sold everything he had and borrowed money from his brother Antoine in order to recruit a crew and charter three boats. He sailed to Cuba with two hundred men, never telling them the goal of their trip. Once in Cuba he made his intentions clear and his crew approved his choice of revenge.

Gourgue then moved to attack Spanish-held Fort Caroline, enlisting the aid of Fort Caroline's old allies, the Saturiwa, a Timucua people from the area. The fort soon surrendered to De Gourgues' forces. The French and Indians then massacred all their prisoners in retribution. Gourgue made no attempt to exploit his minor success, instead returning to France.




  • Morison, S. E. The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages AD 500-1600. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.
  • Weiss, Charles, "Histoire des réfigiés protestants de France", 1853.


  • Extraits de l'histoire coloniale de la Floride et de la Louisiane
  • Lhoumeau, Hélène "Les expéditions françaises en Floride (1562 - 1568)"
  • Document de la main de Gourgues
  • Guerin, Léon "Les navigateurs Français", 1847

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