Fort Caroline

From Academic Kids

Fort Caroline was the first permanent French colony in North America, located near present-day Jacksonville, Florida.

A Huguenot exploratory group led by French naval officer Jean Ribault had landed at the site on the River of May (now the St. Johns River) in February 1562. The exploration had then moved north to Port Royal Sound, established Charlesfort on Parris Island and stayed for a time. Ribault returned to Europe to arrange supplies for the new colony, but was arrested in England due to complications arising from the French Wars of Religion.

Without supplies or leadership, and beset by hostility from the native Timucua, most of the colonists followed René Goulaine de Laudonnière south, where they founded Fort Caroline (or Fort de la Caroline) atop St. Johns Bluff on June 22, 1564. The fort was named for the reigning French king Charles IX.

In August, 1565, Ribault returned to Ft. Caroline to take command of the settlement. Upon learning of the Spanish colony of St. Augustine just 35 miles (60 km) to the south, Ribault set out with several ships carrying 200 sailors and 400 soldiers to dislodge the Spanish, but he was surprised at sea by a violent storm lasting several days. Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the governor of Florida for Spain, took advantage of this. Marching his troops overland he surprised the Fort Caroline garrison at dawn on September 20, 1565, which then numbered about 200 to 250 people. The Spaniards attacked them and killed most of the defenders, except for about 50 women and children who were taken prisoner and 26 defenders who managed to escape, including de Laudonnière. As for the men of Ribaut's fleet, several had drowned; the Spanish picked up about 350 survivors (including Ribault) only to put them to the sword, sparing only about 20 (not including Ribault). This massacre put an end to France's attempts at colonization in Florida.

The Spanish continued to occupy the fort. In April 1568, Dominique de Gourgues led a French force which attacked and burned the fort. The Spanish rebuilt it, only to permanently abandon it the next year.

Today

The Fort Caroline National Memorial, honoring the history of the settlement, is a unit of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, which is a 46,000 acre (186 km&sup2) educational and ecological center.

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