Jean Ribaut



c.1520-65, French mariner and colonizer in Florida, born in Dieppe. When Admiral Gaspard de Coligny decided to plant a French colony as an asylum for Huguenots in the New World, he appointed Jean Ribaut (also spelled Ribault) to lead the expedition. Ribaut sailed from France in February of 1562 with five vessels carrying 150 colonists. On May 1, after entering the St. Johns River, which he called the River of May, he landed in Florida and claimed the land for France.

Sailing north, he established his colony on what is now Parris Island, SC, naming it Charlesfort, and then returned to Dieppe in July of 1562. With the Roman Catholics and Huguenots at war in France, Ribaut fled to England and there published the English translation of his report to Coligny, "The Whole and True Discouerye of Terra Florida (1563)." It was Jean Ribaut who actually provide "our Colony" with its name - Carolana - he named it thus after his King Charles IX, and the English later "adopted" the same name upon the English King Charles I taking the throne in 1624.

Queen Elizabeth I of England, after urging him to join Thomas Stucley in establishing an English colony in Florida, accused Ribaut of planning to escape to France with the ships, and he was for some time imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Meanwhile, Charlesfort had been abandoned, the colonists had sailed for France when aid did not come. However, Rene de Laudonniere in 1564 established a new post, Fort Caroline, near the mouth of the St. Johns River in Florida.

In 1565, Ribaut sailed with seven ships and reinforcements for Fort Caroline. The Spanish, alarmed by the activities of these Frenchmen and heretics, dispatched Pedro Menendez de Aviles to drive them out. Ribaut's fleet avoided a fight with Menendez at the mouth of the St. Johns River, and the Spanish sailed on to Saint Augustine. Ribaut followed, intending to annihilate them.

With Fort Caroline virtually undefended, Menendez marched overland and killed most of the colonists. Ribaut's fleet, meanwhile, was wrecked in a tropical hurricane. He and his followers, stranded on the coast south of St. Augustine, were captured by Menendez, who massacred most of them.

Unrelated to the Carolinas but interesting, here is a short description of Potanou, a native Indian chief that Jean Ribaut befriended while in Florida. 


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