Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Laudonnière, René de

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LAUDONNIÈRE, René de (lo'-don'-yair'), French colonist, b. in France in the 16th century; d. there after 1586. He professed the Reformed religion and accompanied Ribault, who was sent by Coligny in 1562 to found a colony in Florida, which might serve as an asylum for the French Huguenots. This expedition failed, and Laudonnière was charged in 1564 with the direction of a new one. Three vessels were given to him, and Charles IX. made him a present of 50,000 crowns. He took with him skilful workmen and several young gentlemen, who asked permission to follow him at their own expense. He landed in Florida on 22 June, and was well received by the natives. The next day he sailed up the river Mai, and began the erection of a fort, to which he gave the name of Caroline, in honor of King Charles. The young gentlemen that had accompanied him voluntarily soon complained of being forced to labor at the fortifications like ordinary workmen. Fearing that they would excite a mutiny, he sent the most turbulent of them back to France on one of his vessels. But the spirit of revolt increased among the new colonists, and he removed part of them from the fort and sent them to explore the country under the orders of his lieutenant. A few days afterward some sailors fled, taking with them the two boats that had been employed in procuring provisions, and finally others, who had left France solely with the view of making their fortunes rapidly, seized one of his ships and went cruising in the Gulf of Mexico. In this condition of affairs Laudonnière could no longer count on securing the possession of Florida to France. Moreover, the savages, who had been rendered discontented by deserters, refused to supply the colonists with provisions any longer, and they were soon threatened with famine. They lived for some time on acorns and roots, and when they were at the last extremity they were saved by the arrival of Capt. John Hawkins, 3 Aug., 1565. He supplied them with provisions, and sold one of his ships to Laudonnière, in which the latter purposed returning to France. He was waiting for a favorable wind to set sail, when Jean Ribault arrived with seven vessels, and informed Laudonnière that his loyalty was suspected by the French court, and that he had been deprived of the governorship of Florida. This intelligence only made him the more eager to reach France in order to justify himself. His departure, however, was delayed by the appearance of a Spanish fleet, under the command of Don Pedro Menendez. Ribault sailed out to meet the Spanish fleet, leaving Laudonnière, who was sick, in the fort with about a hundred men, scarcely twenty of whom were capable of bearing arms. The Spaniards who succeeded in landing above the fort profited by the departure of Ribault, and carried it by storm. They massacred all the sick, as well as the women and children, and hanged such of the soldiers as fell into their hands. Laudonnière, after vainly trying to delay the capture of the fort, cut his way through the Spaniards and plunged into the woods, where he found some of his soldiers that had escaped the massacre of their companions. He revived their courage, and, putting himself at their head, led them to the seashore during the night. Here he found a son of Ribault with three vessels. Laudonnière embarked on board of one of them with the intention of joining Ribault, but his ship was driven on the English coast. He stayed some time in Bristol to recruit his health, and then returned to France in 1566. He was coldly received at court, and spent the rest of his life in retirement. He wrote “L'histoire notable de la Floride, contenant les trois voyages faits en icelles par des capitaines et pilotes français” (Paris, 1586).