Impressed by the apparent potential of this area for a colony, [mariner Jean] Ribault, before returning to France, left behind more than two dozen volunteers, who constructed a small wooden fort that they named after their king.

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-day Jacksonville, Florida, Ribault established relations with various 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 that 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 the decision was made 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.

Hoffman, Paul E. A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient: The American Southeast during the Sixteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.

Laudonnière, René Goulaine de. Three Voyages. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1975.

McGrath, John T. The French in Early Florida: In the Eye of the Hurricane. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

Share This SC Encyclopedia Content:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/charlesfort/

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Charlesfort
  • Author John T. McGrath
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/charlesfort/
  • Access Date November 19, 2017
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date April 15, 2016
  • Date of Last Update July 28, 2016