Don Jose de Luis Migel Hernandez
Don Hernandez is a proud and jealous man. He is also cruel, not physically, but mentally, and has a biting tongue.
He is hidalgo solariego ("ancestral hidalgo") (He has all four
grandparents who were hidalgo. Unfortunately his families wealth
is largely exhausted and he came to the New World to rebuild
them. To some extent he has been successful, owning
several large plantations in Cuba. Still the coffers are shallow
and he has a reputation for lusting after coin that can only be rivaled
by his desire for status.
Don Hernandez has been camped on the coast of Florida for almost three
months now. It is hot, buggy and boring. Don Hernandez spends
every free minute, and there are a lot of those, writing letters to
various friends and allies in Spain, Cuba and Mexico. He
recognizes that the assignment to oversee the salvage of the lost
Flota's treasure is a plume in his cap, but also away to remove him
from the center of activity in Havana and isolate him politically.
The encampment is called, ' Palmar de Ais' and is the sight of
the wreck of the Urca de Lima. It is also the encampment that was
raided by the English pirates, Captain Henry Jennings, with his ship
the 'Barsheba' and Captain John Wills aboard the 'Eagle' in
January of 1716.
Though the pirates took a fortune in salvaged treasure, there is still
much more aboard the Urca de Lima, so the encampment was fortified with
extra troops and Don Hernandez took command.
Don Hernandez is responsible not only for protecting the site of the
Urca de Lima, but also ALL of the other wrecks along the Florida
coast. (Eleven in all.)
The Urca de Lima lies in shallow water on the reef that tore out its
belly. The ship is not totally submerged so salvage operations,
though dangerous due to the currents and rip tides, have proceeded
There is an old Caravel named the 'Agueda' armed with a total of six
small guns, that is anchored virtually over the Urca de Lima and is the
center of salvage operations.
There is a balandrita (a small sloop like ship) called 'Custodia' that
serves as a guard and courier for Don Hernandez. It mounts twenty
guns and has a reputation for being fast.
About once a month a larger Spanish warship, the 'San Migel' appears
off the coast. Once in awhile the Captain and officers will come
ashore to dine. The San Migel draws too much water to come in
close, it has forty guns, and it is forced to stay more then a mile off
Palmar de Ais is a large, but temporary, encampment of tents and a few
log structures with about thirty infantry and twenty five cavalry who
make their base here, and about thirty slaves. Additionally the
crews of the ships (22 for the caravel and 28 for the sloop) are
present and forty non combatants (Priests, whores, camp followers,
servants). All together about a hundred and forty five plus
Some fifteen longboats are drawn up on the beach or floating at various
points around the wreck as dredges are operated to recover the cargo.
Ten guns have been salvaged from the wreck and are set up covering
approaches to the wreck site and the encampment.
About forty miles up the coast (north) is another active wreck site
with a smaller encampment. The wreck here is the 'San
Roman' and is guarded by twenty five Spanish infantry and fifteen
black slaves in an encampment of tents surrounded by a shoulder high
barricade of cut brush and thorns. Four of the sunken
ship's cannon have been recovered and are dug in at the crest of a dune
overlooking the wreck site.
Some salvage work is being done here as well. There are four long
boats and a floating raft made of ship hatch covers with empty barrels
as floats to facilitate the recovery.
The cavalry troop of Palmar de Ais is frequently gone. It rides
regular patrols along the coast, keeping an eye on the unoccupied wreck
sites to prevent salvage. It has a small gun, called a 'Rabinet'
that is packed on a couple of the horses. It is often gone for
two or more weeks. Since roads are nonexistent the patrol
often follows the beach and a few of the larger game trails.
In addition to guarding the wrecks from pirates, there is an underlying
fear of the local native population. The Ais are regarded as
fierce warriors with a penchant for torturing captives, especially
Spanish! However, after several early skirmishes there is
something of a truce in place at the moment and a few Ais have even
traded food for knives and trinkets. There have not been any
incidents with the Ais for at least six months.