Fort Caroline
Overview
 
Fort Caroline was the first French colony
French colonization of the Americas
The French colonization of the Americas began in the 16th century, and continued in the following centuries as France established a colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere. France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands, and in South America...

 in the present-day United States. Established in what is now Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, on June 22, 1564, under the leadership of René Goulaine de Laudonnière
René Goulaine de Laudonnière
René Goulaine de Laudonnière was a French Huguenot explorer and the founder of the French colony of Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville, Florida...

, it was intended as a refuge for the Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

s. It lasted one year before being obliterated by the Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. The site is now operated as Fort Caroline National Memorial, a unit of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is located in the city of Jacksonville, Florida, in the United States. The park was established in 1988, and covers 46,000 acres...

. For related events see Timeline of the colonization of North America.
A French expedition, organized by Protestant leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny
Gaspard de Coligny
Gaspard de Coligny , Seigneur de Châtillon, was a French nobleman and admiral, best remembered as a disciplined Huguenot leader in the French Wars of Religion.-Ancestry:...

 and led by the Norman navigator Jean Ribault
Jean Ribault
Jean Ribault was a French naval officer, navigator, and a colonizer of what would become the southeastern United States. He was a major figure in the French attempts to colonize Florida...

 had landed at the site on the May River (now the St. Johns River
St. Johns River
The St. Johns River is the longest river in the U.S. state of Florida and its most significant for commercial and recreational use. At long, it winds through or borders twelve counties, three of which are the state's largest. The drop in elevation from the headwaters to the mouth is less than ;...

) in February 1562, before moving north to Port Royal Sound
Port Royal Sound
Port Royal Sound is a coastal sound, or inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the Sea Islands region, in Beaufort County in the U.S. state of South Carolina...

.
Encyclopedia
Fort Caroline was the first French colony
French colonization of the Americas
The French colonization of the Americas began in the 16th century, and continued in the following centuries as France established a colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere. France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands, and in South America...

 in the present-day United States. Established in what is now Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, on June 22, 1564, under the leadership of René Goulaine de Laudonnière
René Goulaine de Laudonnière
René Goulaine de Laudonnière was a French Huguenot explorer and the founder of the French colony of Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville, Florida...

, it was intended as a refuge for the Huguenot
Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

s. It lasted one year before being obliterated by the Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. The site is now operated as Fort Caroline National Memorial, a unit of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is located in the city of Jacksonville, Florida, in the United States. The park was established in 1988, and covers 46,000 acres...

. For related events see Timeline of the colonization of North America.

Charlesfort (1562)

A French expedition, organized by Protestant leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny
Gaspard de Coligny
Gaspard de Coligny , Seigneur de Châtillon, was a French nobleman and admiral, best remembered as a disciplined Huguenot leader in the French Wars of Religion.-Ancestry:...

 and led by the Norman navigator Jean Ribault
Jean Ribault
Jean Ribault was a French naval officer, navigator, and a colonizer of what would become the southeastern United States. He was a major figure in the French attempts to colonize Florida...

 had landed at the site on the May River (now the St. Johns River
St. Johns River
The St. Johns River is the longest river in the U.S. state of Florida and its most significant for commercial and recreational use. At long, it winds through or borders twelve counties, three of which are the state's largest. The drop in elevation from the headwaters to the mouth is less than ;...

) in February 1562, before moving north to Port Royal Sound
Port Royal Sound
Port Royal Sound is a coastal sound, or inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the Sea Islands region, in Beaufort County in the U.S. state of South Carolina...

. There, on present-day Parris Island, South Carolina
Parris Island, South Carolina
Parris Island is a former census-designated place , currently a portion of Port Royal in Beaufort County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 4,841 at the 2000 census. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, Parris Island is included within the Beaufort Urban Cluster and the larger...

, Ribault left twenty-eight men to build a settlement known as Charlesfort. Ribault then 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
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil infighting and military operations, primarily fought between French Catholics and Protestants . The conflict involved the factional disputes between the aristocratic houses of France, such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise...

, which prevented his return.

Without supplies or leadership, and beset by hostility from the native populations, all but one of the colonists sailed back to Europe after only a year. During their voyage in an open boat, they were reduced to cannibalism before the survivors were rescued in English waters.

Fort Caroline (1564)

Meanwhile, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, who had been Ribault's second-in-command on the 1562 expedition, led a contingent of around 200 new settlers back to Florida, where they founded Fort Caroline (or Fort de la Caroline) atop St. Johns Bluff on June 22, 1564. The fort was named for King Charles IX
Charles IX of France
Charles IX was King of France, ruling from 1560 until his death. His reign was dominated by the Wars of Religion. He is best known as king at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.-Childhood:...

 of France. For just over a year, this colony was beset by hunger, Indian attacks, and mutiny, and attracted the attention of Spanish authorities who considered it a challenge to their control over the area.

In June 1565, Ribault had been released from English custody, and Coligny sent him back to Florida. In late August, Ribault arrived at Fort Caroline with a large fleet and hundreds of soldiers and settlers and took command of the settlement. However, the recently appointed Spanish Governor of Florida, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was a Spanish admiral and explorer, best remembered for founding St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. This was the first successful Spanish foothold in La Florida and remained the most significant city in the region for several hundred years. St...

, had simultaneously been dispatched from Spain with orders to remove the French outpost, and arrived within days of Ribault's landing. After a brief skirmish between Ribault's ships and Menéndez's ships, the latter retreated 35 miles south, where they established the settlement of St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is a city in the northeast section of Florida and the county seat of St. Johns County, Florida, United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United...

. Ribault pursued the Spanish with several of his ships and most of his troops, but he was surprised at sea by a violent storm lasting several days. Menéndez marched his forces overland, launching a surprise dawn attack on the Fort Caroline garrison which contained 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 massacred.

As for Ribault's fleet, all of the ships either sank or ran aground south of St. Augustine during the storm, and many of the Frenchmen onboard were lost at sea. Ribault and his marooned sailors were located by Menéndez and his troops and summoned to surrender. Apparently believing that his men would be well treated, Ribault capitulated. Menéndez then executed Ribault and several hundred Huguenots (French Protestants) as heretics at what is now known as the Matanzas Inlet
Matanzas Inlet
Matanzas Inlet is a channel in Florida between barrier islands connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the south end of the Matanzas River. It is south of St. Augustine, in the southern part of St. Johns County, at coordinates...

. The atrocity shocked Europeans even in that bloody era of religious strife. A fort built much later, Fort Matanzas
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Commemorated in 1924, Fort Matanzas National Monument is a United States National Monument run by the National Park Service. The Monument consists of a 1740 Spanish fort, Fort Matanzas, and about 100 acres of salt marsh and barrier islands along the Matanzas River on the northern Atlantic coast...

, is in the vicinity of the site. This massacre put an end to France's attempts at colonization of the southeastern Atlantic coast of North America.

The Spanish destroyed Fort Caroline, but built their own fort on the same site. In April 1568, Dominique de Gourgues led a French force which attacked, captured and burned the fort. He then slaughtered the Spanish prisoners in revenge for the 1565 massacre. The Spanish rebuilt, but permanently abandoned the fort the following year. The exact location of the settlement is not known.

Fort Caroline (20th Century reproductions)

The original site of Fort de la Caroline has never been determined, but it is believed to have been located near the present day Fort Caroline National Memorial. The National Park Service constructed an outdoor exhibit of the original fort in 1964, but it was destroyed by Hurricane Dora in 1964. Today, the second replica, a near full-scale "interpretive model" of the original Fort de la Caroline, also constructed and maintained by the National Park Service, illustrates the modest defenses upon which the 16th-century French colonists depended.

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