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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Ribault, Jean

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RIBAULT, Jean, a French navigator, born in Dieppe, killed in Florida in 1565. When Admiral Coligni had obtained from Charles IX. a patent authorizing him to send an expedition to Florida, two vessels under command of Ribault sailed from Dieppe Feb. 18, 1562, and, leaving the usual track so as not to touch at any of the islands held by the Spaniards, came on April 30 in sight of the coast of Florida. Sailing northward along the coast, Ribault anchored in Port Royal harbor in the present state of South Carolina. A fort was built, probably not far south of the present site of Beaufort, and named Fort Charles in honor of the king of France, and 26 colonists were left to keep possession of the country. Returning home, Ribault found France distracted by a civil war, and no aid could be procured for the new colony, the members of which were soon reduced by violence and starvation, and at last the few survivors set sail for their native country in a crazy bark and were picked up by an English ship. A new expedition under René de Laudonnière sailed in April, 1564, and made a settlement on the river May, now called the St. John's, building a fort which they called Caroline. Affairs were mismanaged, no ground was cultivated, some engaged in depredations upon the Spaniards, and all were on the point of returning to France when Ribault, who had sailed from Dieppe on May 22, 1565, arrived with a fleet of seven vessels, and superseded Laudonnière in the government of the colony. Scarcely had he anchored when, on Sept. 4, five Spanish vessels under Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles made their appearance. His name and objects were demanded. “I am Menendez of Spain,” was the haughty answer, “sent with strict orders from my king to gibbet and behead all the Protestants in these regions. The Frenchman who is a Catholic I will spare; every heretic shall die.” The French fleet, unprepared for battle, cut its cables; and the Spaniards after an ineffectual chase entered the harbor of St. Augustine. Against the advice of his officers, especially Laudonnière, Ribault determined to sail for St. Augustine with all the available forces of the colony, and there attack the Spaniards. He had scarcely reached the open sea when a terrible storm arose, by which his squadron was all wrecked on the coast of Florida not far from Cape Canaveral. In the mean time Menendez marched over land, surprised Fort Caroline, and massacred nearly 200 of both sexes. Ignorant of this, Ribault and more than 500 men set out for their fort, travelling through an unknown country. They divided into two parties, the first of which, consisting of 200 men, went in advance of the others, and after coming within a few leagues of St. Augustine surrendered to Menendez at discretion, and were executed. Ribault was with the second party, most of which also fell into the hands of Menendez, who massacred nearly all of them, among them their commander, “not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans.” The French and Spanish accounts differ in some particulars, but agree in the leading facts. In London a volume of 42 pages, now extremely rare, consisting of an English translation of the report of his first voyage made by Ribault to Coligni, was published under the title of “The whole and true Discoverye of Terra Florida (Englished the Florishing Land), conteyning as well the wonderful straunge Natures and Maners of the People, with the merveylous Commodities and Treasures of the Country; as also the pleasaunt Fortes and Havens, and Wayes thereunto never found out before the last year, 1562. Written in French, by Captain Ribauld, the fyrst that whollye discovered the same, and now newly set forthe in Englishe, the xxx. of May, 1563.”