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St. Augustine Under Three Flags: Tourist Guide and History


In 1562 there sailed from France the first of those expeditions which had as its object the finding of refuge from religious persecution. Two vessels under Captain Jean Ribaut arrived off the coast of Florida in the neighborhood of St. Augustine. Sailing north they discovered the mouth of the St. Johns river where they erected a stone monument bearing the coat of arms of France. Having landed on May Day they called it the river May.

Continuing their voyage to the north they finally planted a colony on an island which they named Fort Charles. Leaving 25 men Ribaut returned to France for a larger force and the necessities for forming a permanent settlement. Ribaut failing to return, the men ran out of provisions and attempted to cross the ocean in a frail boat of their own construction. At sea their provisions became exhausted and as a last resort they cast lots and one gave up his life for the rest. The survivors were finally rescued by an English vessel. Thus failed the first attempt to plant a colony on American soil.

On June 22, 1564, three Huguenot vessels under command of Rene de Laudonnaire arrived off what is now St. Augustine. Taking a few men in a small boat, late in the afternoon, he entered the harbor which he sounded and explored. His description is an accurate picture of the harbor as we see it today. He then landed and met the Indians who awaited him on shore. They treated him kindly. Among other things, in a lengthy account of this meeting he says "For mine own part I pray God continually for the great love I have found in these savages." As night approached he returned to his ships and sailed at once for the river May. Here he established a settlement near the point now known as St. Johns Bluff. He, with the help of the Indians, at once erected a triangular fort which he called Fort Caroline. No attempt was made to cultivate the soil and by the end of the next summer their provisions ran out and they decided to return to France. While making preparations Sir John Hawkins entered the harbor on the 4th of August. Seeing their distress he gave them provisions and sold them his smallest ship. Before they could sail, however, reinforcements arrived from France.

On May 23, 1565, Jean Ribaut, who had succeeded in fitting out his expedition had sailed again from Diepe, France for Fort Caroline. The arrived at the river on August 28th, to the great relief of Laudonniere.

Ribaut"s preparation had occupied considerable time and in some way the knowledge was carried to Philip II of Spain, who of course considered the settlement of any foreigners in Florida (a name applied to the whole continent of North America) as an encroachment on the rights of the Spanish crown. Further, the Huguenots were regarded as detestable heretics, beyond the pale of humanity, hence a settlement of them in Florida must at all costs be prevented.

Excerpt from "St. Augustine Under Three Flags: Tourist Guide and History" W. J. Harris Company, 1918, pp. 3–4.


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