A mid-sixteenth century French outpost in Port Royal Sound, Charlesfort was the first French settlement in the present day United States. During the 1980s, archaeologists located its site on Parris Island.
In early 1562, Gaspard Coligny de Châtillon, the Admiral of France, dispatched the Norman mariner Jean Ribault to lead two royal ships and 150 men to survey the east coast of North America and locate a site for a future French colony. Landing near modern Jacksonville, Florida, Ribault established relations with a number of native peoples as he took his ships north to Port Royal Sound. Impressed by the apparent potential of this area for a colony, Ribault, before returning to France, left behind more than two dozen volunteers, who constructed a small wooden fort which they named after their king. From here they intended to explore the area while waiting for Ribault to return with supplies and more settlers.
However, civil war in France prevented Ribault from resupplying Charlesfort. Over the next fourteen months, mutiny, conflict with the local Indians, and shortages of food threatened the survival of the fort, and it was decided to abandon the area. Attempting an Atlantic crossing in an open boat, the survivors had been reduced to cannibalism by the time they were rescued by an English ship. A few months later, Coligny sponsored a second and larger French colonization attempt, on the St. John's River in Florida, which lasted a year before being captured by Spanish troops.
John T. McGrath