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Document Number: AJ-141
Author: Laudonnière, René Goulaine de
Title: History of the First Attempt of the French (The Huguenots) to Colonize the Newly Discovered Country of Florida
Source: French, B.F. (editor). Historical Collections of Louisiana and Florida, including Translations of Original Manuscripts Relating to Their Discovery and Settlement, with Numerous Historical and Biographical Notes. (New York: J. Sabin & Sons, 1869). Pages 165-362.
Pages/Illustrations: 199 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-141/

Author Note

The life of Rene Laudonierre (flourished 1562-82) remains obscure. Little is known about him apart from what he reveals in this book. He came from an aristocratic family in Poitou, France, before joining the expeditions described here.

Expeditions of 1562-1567

When other nations saw Spanish ships arrive home each year with millions of dollars in gold and silver, they wanted American colonies of their own. At the same time, religious passions were at their peak, and Protestant religious leaders were reluctant to allow the so-called New World to become exclusively Catholic. In 1562 the French Huguenot (Protestant) explorer Jean Ribault and his Lieutenant Rene Laudonierre left thirty soldiers to build a fort near the present site of Port Royal, South Carolina. When religious wars in France prevented Ribauts return, however, the fledgling colony was gradually destroyed by in-fighting and famine.

On June 22, 1564, they tried again. Laudonierre returned to make a fresh start with three hundred settlers, including artist Jacques Le Moynes de Morgues (see AJ-119), establishing a colony near modern St. Augustine, Florida, on the St. Johns River. Bad management and dishonesty with the Timucuan Indians once again led to mutiny and starvation. To make matters worse, Spanish Catholic authorities could not tolerate a French Protestant fort so close to the route of their treasure ships. On September 20, 1565, Spanish troops arrived on the St. John and massacred all the French settlers and the expedition sent to relieve them, including Ribaut. Laudonierre was wounded but managed to escape to France, where he wrote this account. Although the French exacted revenge in August 1567 when Dominique de Gourgues returned to the fort with 180 troops and put all its Spanish defenders to death, the Spanish continued to rule Florida for more than two centuries.

Document Note

Various participants on both sides left accounts of these events; Laudonierres is the most detailed. He described his experiences in three long letters that were combined with de Gourgues narrative and printed in Paris in 1586. London publisher Richard Hakluyt issued a translation the next year.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

To see Le Moynes pictures of life in the Ribaut-Laudonierre colony, go to AJ-119.

A Spanish version of these events, by Chaplain Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, can be read at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1565staugustine.html.

Maps, illustrations and texts prepared by the Florida Historical Society are at http://www.floridahistory.org/floridians/french.htm, and information about the Timucuan Indians based on archaeological research is at http://www.cgcas.org/itxt_fas.htm.

Maps and a detailed timetable prepared by the U.S. National Park Service are at http://www.nps.gov/timu/education_guide/self_guided_visits/ sg_book_foca.pdf

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