Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012

Grandchemin: Forgotten Victim of Florida’s French Fort Caroline

Neither his Christian name nor his age have come to light, but the man known as Grandchemin was one of the Huguenot settlement of Fort Caroline’s most tragic victims. He was a tailor and apparently also a soldier. Nothing is known of his family or if he traveled to La Caroline with relatives, with friends, or alone, or why he originally came to the New World. The French painter Jacques le Moyne du Morgues mentions Grandchemin’s tragic end in his narrative, stating that after the Spaniards had attacked Fort Caroline and he found himself running for his life, he had come upon a fellow Protestant in flight. It seemed there was nowhere to turn. If they went back they would likely be martyred, but if they went in any direction they could be alternately attacked by Timucuan tribesmen, swallowed up in the swamps, or dispatched by hunger. 

The two men walked for about a day, encountering hurricane rains, muddy paths, and the constant possibility of death. They must have weighed their options over and over again, but no one idea seemed best. Grandchemin decided to return to La Caroline. Le Moyne begged him not to, reminding his companion that they had already seen the violence of which the Spanish conquistadors were capable, but Grandchemin hoped that the bloodlust had passed and he might now be the recipient of leniency. He reasoned that if the Spaniards showed mercy, his life would be saved, but that if not, he would perish soon enough due to some other fate. Le Moyne’s narrative, as recounted in Miles Harvey’s “Painter in a Savage Land,” describes why this proved to be Grandchemin’s death: 

“But he embraced me, saying, ‘I will go; so farewell.’ In order to see what should happen to him, I got up to a higher spot on the hill and watched. As he came down from the high ground, the Spaniards saw him, and sent out a party. As they came up to him, he fell on his knees to beg for his life.” Though the following description is too violent to recount, let it be said that his pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. What one wonders is how, after having seen such horrors at La Caroline, Grandchemin could have believed mercy was an option. What was there in his spirit, his disposition, his life that would have driven this man to trust, even in a position where trust seemed foolish? Did he believe that men were basically good and would revert to their milder natures when their bloodlust was spent? Did he act on the spur of the moment? Was he simply too tired and desperate to do anything but appeal to men who had also been created in the image of God and erroneously thought they were acting on His behalf?

Rest in peace, Monsieur Grandchemin.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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