Exploring Fort Caroline National Memorial

March 11, 2013 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Operated by the National Park Service, Fort Caroline National Memorial memorializes the short-lived French presence in sixteenth century Florida. Here you will find stories of exploration, survival, religious disputes, territorial battles, and first contact between American Indians and Europeans. In addition, Fort Caroline National Memorial hosts the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center.



Fort Caroline (1564)



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Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, 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 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 Menendez de Aviles, 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 Menendez's ships, the latter retreated 35 miles southward, where they established the settlement of St. Augustine. 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. Menendez 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 Laudonniere, 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 Menendez with his troops and summoned to surrender. Apparently believing that his men would be well treated, Ribault capitulated. Menendez then executed Ribault and several hundred Huguenots (French Protestants) as heretics at what is now known as the Matanzas Inlet. The atrocity shocked Europeans even in that bloody era of religious strife. A fort built much later, Fort Matanzas, 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.

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 the same year. 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.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Caroline










The United States Marine Corps (USMC) Support Facility - Blount Island, a pre-positioning center, can be seen in the distance. The USMC took ownership of half of Blount Island in 2005. The Blount Island Command was a personnel of 942 and an annual economic impact of $385 million.




Several new residences, across the St. Johns River, on Little Marsh Island.














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