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Voyage of Le Prince, 1576-1577: The Spanish Perspective
Shortly after the first abandonment of Santa Elena in the summer of 1576 by the Spanish residents under Indian duress, a French galleon, Le Prince, or El Principe to the Spanish, wrecked on a sandbar in the vicinity of Port Royal Sound in early January 1577. Apparently the corsair had departed France in early 1576 to raid and trade with Spanish colonial possessions in the New World. The captain of the vessel was Nicolas Strozzi, an Italian from Florence. Strozzi and his crew of approximately 180 men sacked three Spanish towns: Margarita Island off the coast of present-day Venezuela, Cumuná on the Spanish Main, and Guadianilla on the island of Puerto Rico. The corsair also raided other towns and preyed on shipping in the Caribbean basin. Sailing along the leeward side of present-day Haiti, the corsair was chased away from Cape Tiburon by the Spanish Indies Armada stationed at La Yaguana. Reportedly, the vessel suffered minor damage during the encounter with the armada. Nevertheless, the corsair escaped and steered to the north coast of Cuba. Several leagues east of Havana at Matanzas Bay, the vessel took on victuals and water provided by a Spanish colonist. After resupplying, the corsair sailed north and anchored off St. Augustine in late 1576. The corsair remained for several days while the town's population anxiously speculated about the vessel's intentions. Blown off the anchorage by a storm, Le Prince sailed further north, perhaps to seek a safe harbor, and struck the shoals at the entrance to Santa Elena in early January 1577. Survivors of the shipwreck proceeded to the abandoned Spanish capitol of Santa Elena, possibly led by Felix, a pilot who had previously served with Jean Ribault in 1565. Arriving at the burnt and ruined town they tossed several cannons into the water from one of the hastily abandoned forts. Next, they moved to a nearby, but presently unknown location in the Port Royal Sound environs, to build a fort. The fort was armed with one bronze cannon and numerous arquebuses retrieved during the wrecking. Shortly afterwards, the local Native Americans, apparently incensed with the appearance of more Europeans, attacked the fort and reduced the survivors to around forty men. The remaining Frenchmen were taken inland and distributed among local villages and held as slaves or as forced guests.
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