logo


Don Jose de Luis Migel Hernandez

Don 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 well.
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 the shore.
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 slaves.
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.