Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ribaut, Jean

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RIBAUT, or RIBAULT, Jean (re-bo), French navigator, b. in Dieppe in 1520; d. in Florida, 23 Sept., 1565. He was reputed an experienced naval officer when he proposed to Admiral Gaspar de Coligny, the chief of the Protestants in France, to establish colonies in unexplored countries, where they would be at liberty to practise the reformed religion. The admiral obtained a patent from Charles IX., and armed two ships, on which, besides 550 veteran soldiers and sailors, many young noblemen embarked as volunteers, and appointed Ribaut commander. The latter sailed from Dieppe, 18 Feb., 1562, and, avoiding routes where he might encounter Spanish vessels, as the success of the expedition depended entirely on secrecy, sighted on 30 April a cape which he named François. It is now one of the headlands of Matanzas inlet. The following day he discovered the mouth of a stream, which he called Rivière de Mai (now St. John's river), and on its southern shore he planted a cross bearing the escutcheon of the king of France, and took formal possession of the country. Moving northward slowly for three weeks, they named each stream after some French river, till they saw, in latitude 32° 15', a commodious haven, which received the name of Port Royal. On 27 May they crossed the bar, passed Hilton Head, and landed. Ribaut built a fort six miles from the present site of Beaufort, and, in honor of the king, named it Fort Charles. He left there one of his trusted lieutenants, Charles d'Albert. with twenty-five men and some supplies, and on 11 June sailed for France. His vessels were scarcely out of sight when trouble arose in the colony; Albert was murdered, and the survivors, headed by Nicolas de la Barre, after difficulties with the Indians, who burned the fort and destroyed their provisions, constructed a small bark in which they set sail. They were rescued near the coast of Brittany in extreme misery by an English vessel and carried as prisoners to London. Ribaut, who had meanwhile arrived safely in Dieppe on 20 July, was unable to forward re-enforcements and supplies to his colony, owing to the religious war that then raged in France, in which he was obliged to take part. After the peace he renewed the project of a Huguenot colony in Florida, and at his instance Coligny sent, in April, 1564, René de Laudonnière (q. v.) with five ships, who built Fort Caroline on St. John's river. Ribaut followed on 22 May, 1565 with seven vessels, carrying 400 soldiers ami emigrants of both sexes, with supplies and provisions. They arrived on 29 Aug. and found Laudonnière's colony starving and on the eve of dissolution. Ribaut immediately superseded Laudonnière in command, and, after landing his troops, went to explore the country. On 4 Sept. the French that had been left to guard the ships sighted a large fleet, and asked their object. “I am Pedro Menendez de Aviles,” haughtily responded the commander, “who has come to hang and behead all Protestants in these regions. If I find any Catholic he shall be well treated, but every heretic shall die.” The French fleet, being surprised, cut its cables, and Menendez entered an inlet, which he named San Augustin, and here he began to intrench himself. Ribaut rallied all his forces and resolved to attack the Spaniards against the advice of his officers, especially Landonnière. He embarked on 10 Sept., but was scarcely at sea when a hurricane dispersed his fleet. The Spanish conceived the plan of attacking Fort Caroline by land, and captured it by surprise. Three days later Ribaut's ships were wrecked near Cape Cañaveral, and he immediately marched toward Fort Caroline in two divisions. The first one arrived near the site of the fort and surrendered to Menendez, and its members were put to death. Ribaut's party arrived a few days later, and, as Menendez pledged his word that they should be spared, they agreed to surrender on 23 Sept., but they were likewise murdered, Ribaut being killed by Menendez's own hands, and their bodies hung to the surrounding trees with the inscription: “Executed, not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans.” Ribaut's son, Jacques, with Laudonnière and a few others, when Fort Caroline was taken, escaped upon a small brig, “La Perle,” and brought the news of the disaster to France. Ribaut's death was afterward avenged by Dominique de Gourgues (q. v.). The relation of Ribaut's first expedition to Coligny is known only in the English translation: “The whole and true Discovery of Florida, written in French by Captain Ribault, the first that whollye discovered the same, conteyning as well the wonderful straunge Natures and Maners of the People, with the marveylous Commodities and Treasures of the Country; as also the pleasaunt Portes and Havens and Wayes thereunto, never found out before the last year 1562. now newly set forth in English the XXX of May 1563” (London, 1563). This volume is extremely rare, and was reprinted by Richard Hakluyt in his “Voyages” (London, 1582). Laudonniére's relation contains also an account of Ribaut's death, as also the “Discours de l'histoire de la Floride” (Dieppe, 1566), written by Étienne Challeux, a carpenter who had accompanied Ribaut, and who escaped in the brig “La Perle.”