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Location: Charlesfort

Second Voyage Commanded by René Goulaine de Laudonniére

In early 1562 the government of France dispatched Captain Jean Ribault with a small fleet to explore the South Atlantic Coast; claim it for the King of France; and identify potential locations for colonies. Ribault brought along with him three stone columns displaying the coat of arms of the King of France.  He placed one of these columns at the mouth of the River May, which contemporary scholars assume to be the St. Johns River.  Ribault’s fleet then sailed northward along the coast, mapping the islands and river outlets, until it reached was is now assumed to be Port Royal Sound.  Ribault planted a second column at the mouth of the sound. Most of the expedition’s energies during the short stay of Captains Ribault and René de Laudonniére were focused on constructing a fort and buildings for the 28 men, who were to stay at the new colony while the remainder went to France for more supplies and colonists. Captain Albert de la Pierria was placed in command of Charlesfort.  Because a religious civil war had broken out in France during their absence, neither Ribault nor de Laudonniére was able to return to Charlesfort as soon as promised. The garrison faced starvation and was saddled with a increasingly neurotic commander.  Captain Albert was killed by the garrison.  The survivors then built a sail boat. All but one sailed to...

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History of Charlesfort

René Goulaine de Laudonniére described Charlesfort as a simple, triangular earthen fort, reinforced with vertical timbers and bales of faggots (small limbs.)   It contained a fairly large timber-framed warehouse in the center, plus a small house for the commander, a somewhat larger house for the officers and a barracks for the enlisted men.  Much of the construction of the buildings was done by local Natives.  Presumably, these buildings resembled Native American structures of the region. There was also a cooking shed, an outhouse, a covered oven, well and a woodshed. Charlesfort would have given little protection from a warship, a sizable European force, or even one of the trained, disciplined armies maintained by Muskogean provinces within the interior of the Lower Southeast.  In particular, a night time attack using flaming arrows, would have been catastrophic.  It could well be that their store house was set on fire by flaming arrows fired by neighboring Edisto Indians. South Carolina archaeologists currently believe that they have found the location of Charlesfort on Parris Island, SC, within the U.S. Marine Reservation. The location matches the description of Charlesfort’s landscape, provided by de Laudonniére.  French-made artifacts were found in the lower levels of a fort constructed by the Spanish. The Spanish burned the French fort in 1565, but apparently rebuilt it in 1566. The launch of the first colonial voyage occurred a month before...

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Unanswered Questions Concerning Charlesfort

Late 16th and 17th century maps published in France, the Netherlands and Germany stated that Captain René Goulaine de Laudonniére journeyed up what appears to be the Savannah River to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1562 and claimed the gold-bearing lands for the King of France.  De Laudonniére was only at Charlesfort for less than a month in 1562, before returning to France. He does not mention making any long journeys. However, prior to leaving he was given a gold chain that was made in these mountains. He was also given a chunk of silver ore that supposedly came from a mine farther north. Did some of the 28 men, who stayed behind at Charlesfort, secretly make that journey?  Precise French maps of the entire length of the Savannah River seem to suggest so, but to date no archives have been found that describe such a journey. When a fire destroyed the Frenchmen’s warehouse, local Native American leaders refused to give them more food. Some of the garrison traveled southward to a provincial capital probably located near Savannah, where a King Ouede did give them food.  His capital was probably the Irene Complex.  Ouede is the French phonetic spelling of the Muskogean ethnic name meaning, “Water People.”  It probably was a name for the Wahale (Guale.)   If the journey did occur, it most likely was after the garrison befriended...

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The French Colony of Charlesfort

South Carolina archaeologists currently believe that they have found the location of Charlesfort on Parris Island, SC, within the U.S. Marine Reservation. The location matches the description of Charlesfort’s landscape, provided by de Laudonniére.  French-made artifacts were found in the lower levels of a fort constructed by the Spanish. The Spanish burned the French fort in 1565, but apparently rebuilt it in 1566. The launch of the first colonial voyage occurred a month before the beginning of the French Wars of Religion.  In March of 1562, troops employed by the Duke of Guise massacred an unarmed Huguenot congregation inside their church at Wassy, France.  Warfare soon raged across France.  Of course, Ribault continued his plans for colonization with the assumption that all was normal back in France. Jean Ribault and René Goulain de Laudonniére made contact with a powerful Native king, they named Audisto.  His name is most likely the same person, named Edisto five years later by the Spanish settlers of Port Royal Sound. Audisto introduced the Frenchmen, who were sub-kings of neighboring provinces.  Relations with their neighbors were excellent.  Ribault had a trunk filled with trinkets at his side often, so he could always end diplomatic meetings with gifts.  The French made no effort to impress the Indians with their superior military During the early phase of the first expedition, de Laudonniére was given a chunk of...

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