Jean Ribault

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Jean Ribault (1520 - October 12, 1565) was a French naval officer, navigator, and a colonizer of what would become the southeastern United States. He was born in the English Channel village of Dieppe. In 1562, Ribault was chosen to lead an expedition to the New World to establish a haven for the Huguenots.With a fleet of 150 colonists he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and explored the mouth of the St. Johns River near modern-day Jacksonville, Florida.

Ribault’s fleet then proceeded north and chose to settle on Parris Island, one of the Sea Islands off the coast of present-day South Carolina. The colony was named Charlesfort in honor of the French king, Charles IX. Ribault oversaw the layout of the settlement, then returned to home for supplies.

Warfare had broken out during Ribault’s absence from France between the Roman Catholic majority and the Huguenots. Ribault sought safety in England; despite a cordial welcome, he was arrested and detained in the Tower of London. English authorities feared he was plotting to steal their ships to use in French colonization efforts.

Meanwhile, Charlesfort fell into despair. A lack of supplies threatened the colonists' lives, most of whom followed René Laudonnière south to establish Fort Caroline at the mouth of the St. Johns River which had early success, but the colonists had trouble feeding themselves after turmoil developed with the local Native American tribes. Some colonists sailed home while others deserted and became pirates. Following his release from prison, Ribault was dispatched by the French government to save the settlement.

Spanish troops led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established a fortified position at St. Augustine in 1565 and prepared to attack Ribault. A naval confrontation was averted, but the Spanish ambushed Fort Caroline by land and wiped out all but a few of the French settlers.Shortly afterward a tropical storm destroyed Ribault’s fleet. The few survivors able to make it ashore near St. Augustine, including Ribault, were killed by waiting Spanish soldiers.fr:Jean Ribault

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