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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fort Caroline

I was sitting down with my Archaeology mentor today and I explained to her that I was on a hunt for a fort that I could possibly explore besides San Marco's in St. Augustine. Interestingly enough, she had a perfect option for me, and I even had a free ferry ride thrown in.

Fort Caroline was the first French colony in the US established in 1564. Its initial use was for a refuge camp for Huguenots which were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France.

Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and Norman navigator Jean Ribault reached the Saint Johns River around 1562 and then headed North to South Carolina to set up Charlesfort.

In need of supplies, Ribault returned to Europe, but was arrested in England due to complications arising from the French Wars of Religion. Without food or supplies, the colonists resorted to cannibalism while sailing back to Europe.

Meanwhile, Ribaults second in command René Goulaine de Laudonnière, led new settlers back to Florida, where they founded Fort Caroline on June 22, 1564.

Over a year went by, and Fort Caroline was stricken with hunger and revolt. Sensing the underlying weakness of the settlement, the Spanish were keeping a close eye.

Around 1565, Ribault was released and he headed back to Florida with a fleet of ships to take full command of Fort Caroline. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Governor of Florida was sent to destroy the settlement and was met by Ribaults fleet. The latter retreated to St. Augustine.

In the dawn, Menéndez(Governor of Florida) marched his forces overland, launching a surprise dawn attack on the Fort Caroline garrison which then numbered about 200 to 250 people. The only survivors were about 50 women and children who were taken prisoner and a few defenders, including Laudonnière, who managed to escape; the rest were executed.
Ribault and his troops were found at sea, most of their ships destroyed and at the bottom of the ocean. Ribault , under the impression that his troops would be well treated, turned himself over. He was executed, along with all of his troops at Fort Matanza's Inlet(not to be confused with Fort Matanza's).

The fort was completely destroyed and another Spanish fort was built. However, in April 1568,
Dominique de Gourgues led a French force which attacked, captured and burned the fort. He then slaughtered all his Spanish prisoners in horrible revenge for the 1565 massacre.

The exact location of the fort was never found, along with any artifacts or bodies. All that remains is a reconstruction of the fort.


Rhett said...

I would not have wanted to be one of the first people over the pond back in those days. Building forts to die in and scared all of the time. I think a hardy bunch of people were needed for the job and if they were not hardy they would soon become hardy or dead.
Rhett Out.

Anonymous said...

Fort Caroline has been found! Well actually was found about 16 years ago. I am not letting Florida officials know the location at this time but soon very soon. I'm waiting for the anniversary of the massacre (Sept 20th), which happens to be my father's birthday.

I am a historical researcher and live in the Orlando area. I focused most of my research on Fort Caroline about 16 years ago (about 99%) and the actual fieldwork of locating Fort Caroline (about 1%). Because a few things happening at the time, I kind of put it on the back burner. I know I have found the location because of some of the artifacts I found. One thing that amazes me is that all of my research and fieldwork encompassed a time frame of 3 weeks.

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