This is the first chapter in the Castillo de San
Before the Pilgrims...
Ribault stopped at the Broad River, near
present-day Parris Island, South Carolina. He called the spot "Port
Royal" and in complete disobedience of his orders not to start
a settlement, Ribault built a log blockhouse, he named "Charlesfort."
Here, fifty-eight years before the Pilgrims, Ribault left thirty soldiers
under Albert de la Pierria to start a colony.
To Teacher's Resource Page
Jean Ribault Claims
Florida for France
In May of 1562, Jean Ribault, in command of two
small ships, sailed several miles up the St. Johns River and claimed the
surrounding area for France. Two years later, in June of 1564, some two
hundred French settlers, many of them Huguenots, established a colony
under the leadership of René de Goulaine de Laudonniere. France wanted to control this new land
and drive out the Spanish settlers.
Ribault landed near
the St. Augustine area. As he sailed further north, he found a river that
was called the St. Johns River. Because he did not like the river's
Spanish name, he renamed it the "River of May." (Today, it is known again
as the St. Johns River.) At the mouth of the river, Ribault built a stone
monument to mark his visit (see picture at left) and claim it for France.
Ribault constructed a five-sided column
featuring a bronze shield bearing the cost-of-arms of Queen Catherine, the
very woman who had opposed the mission. Curious Timucuans under Chief
Saturiba visited the Huguenot encampment. The French presented the
Timucuans with gowns of blue embroidery. In return, Saturiba stocked the
French with maize, beans, cucumbers, and fish. Ribault wrote
glowingly of the friendliness of the contact.
continued north to a place in South Carolina that he called Port Royal.
Here, the Huguenots built a fort and named it Charlesfort, in honor of
their king. Before long, the supplies began to dwindle, so Ribault sailed
back to France to gather more.
Much to his dismay,
religious conflict had broken out and he was unable to raise any money for
supplies. Ribault went to Queen Elizabeth of England for help. She had him
arrested for establishing a French Colony in Spanish Territory. He was put
in a London prison.
builds Fort Caroline
During the time that
Jean Ribault was in prison, Rene Laudonnière (wren AY day law dun YAIR)
was sent to rescue Charlesfort in South Carolina. Laudonnière led an
expedition of 304 Huguenot colonists. The Huguenots were excited about
moving to a new colony where they would have freedom to worship. Life was
difficult for the Protestant Huguenots in Catholic France.
When they arrived at
the mouth of the St. Johns River in Florida, they stopped there and built
a triangle-shaped fort for protection. They called it Fort Caroline. The colony, comprising of a village and a
small earthen and timber fortification, was named la Caroline -- literally
the colony of Charles, king of France. At
first, the colony prospered. The French ships were well stocked with
cattle, supplies, and tools. On board were farmers, artisans, women, and
The French Huguenot settlement
in Florida of 1564 is depicted in this view from Montanus, De Nieuwe en
Laudonnière set out
to explore the interior of this new territory. Initially, he established
good relations with the Timucuan Indians. Soon, however, supplies ran
short and the French colony was unable to get food from the natives. Some
of the colonists no longer believed in Laudonnière's leadership.
Rene Laudonniere organized a 300 person expedition, which included
three warships, headed by the 300 ton galleon Islbel of Honfleur .
His forces included rich noblemen and former criminals; Huguenots and
Moors; women and single men. It was a bad blend of people for an aristocrat
with limited leadership skills.
Laudonniere tried to govern the operation, but was
not an effective leader. There was neither gold nor silver to entice the
adventurous. Farming proved difficult. The restless young men stole the
fort's longboat and sailed out the mouth of the St. Johns to become pirates and raid Spanish treasure
ships. Most of the colonists at Fort Caroline decided to go home to
France. The French colony was in trouble.
The colony was in poor shape when English sea dog
John Hawkins stopped by and supplied the settlers with food. He warned
Laudonniere that the Spanish knew of Fort Caroline. When Hawkins returned
to Europe, he warned Coligny, the Huguenot leader, of the colony's disorder. Coligny sent
Jean Ribault, recently released from prison, to replace Laudonniere
before the Spanish arrived. Ribault left France in June of 1565 with a
rescue mission of six hundred men, women, and children. Ribault planned to rescue and take control of Fort Caroline.
returns to Florida
Meanwhile, a Spanish
explorer named Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived in Florida.
also claimed sovereignty over Florida. Menendez wanted to drive the French
out of Florida. He built a fort at St. Augustine, just south of Fort
Caroline, and prepared his men for battle. In September of 1565, Spanish
forces, led by Menendez and consisting of 500 of his men, marched overland from their newly established
settlement at San Agustín (St. Augustine), some 40 miles distant, and
overran the French colony, killing many of the French defenders, and
ending France's effort to build a permanent settlement in Florida. Rene Laudonnière was
wounded in the Spanish attack. He managed to escape to France where he
documented the events of his tragedy. Laudonnière died in 1582.
At the same time Menendez was attacking Ft. Caroline Ribault tried to
capture St. Augustine! It would be a most frustrating and life
ending disaster. His ships were destroyed in a severe storm. Ribault's forces, crushed on the Daytona
had no other option but to march northward in hopes of attacking St.
Augustine. The effort might have succeeded if they were not stopped at Matanzas Inlet, the southern entrance to St. Augustine Harbor. Without
tools and sufficient lumber, the French could not cross the waterway.
Menendez found the worn French on the south side
of the Inlet. Some rich Frenchmen offered payment for their lives, but
Menendez refused. He brought Ribault across the Inlet in a rowboat and
accepted formal surrender. Ten Frenchmen at a time were brought across the
waterway, and with their hands tied behind them, marched behind sand dunes
to be executed.
When it was Ribault's turn to die, he told
Menendez he was proud to be a Lutheran. He was stabbed to death by
Menendez' orders October 12, 1565. Only ten Catholic French and six
cabin boys were spared from the ordeal. The Inlet became known as "Mantanzas"
or "massacre" Inlet. That ended the French presence in this
part of North America.
remains of the original Fort de la Caroline; a near full-scale
interpretive rendering of the fort, together with exhibits in the nearby
visitor center, provide information on the history of the French colony,
their interaction with the native Timucua, and the colonists' brief
struggle for survival. The gate to the present incarnation of Ft. Caroline
is pictured here. It is near Jacksonville.