Many of us in Florida are familiar with Ft. Caroline, the French fort and settlement that was wiped out by the Spanish near what is today Jacksonville. The recreated fort we have today is a national park. This is the 450th anniversary of the final fort in 1564. After this bloody episode in history, Florida remained firmly in Spanish control for the next 140 years without much challenge.
This is also one of those incidence where the weather played a part, and a hurricane changed the events of what would happen. The balance of European power in the western hemisphere was changed by one hurricane.
The French had a larger fleet, better ships, and more soldiers than Pedro Menendez who was settling St. Augustine at the same time. But as the French fleet pulled up to attack St. Augustine, they were hit with a hurricane and wrecked further south. So before it had even stopped raining, Menendez went up to the fort about 40 miles to the north of St. Augustine, and killed the French who were there, then returned to St. Augustine, When Menendez heard about survivors from the shipwrecks, he went and found them and killed them, too!
One of the mysteries, has been where the original French fort was exactly located? The recent issue of the Florida Anthropologist, Dec. 2013, Vol. 66, number 4, takes on that question. An article titled, “Searching for Fort Caroline: New Perspectives,” by Rebecca Douberly-Gorman.
Looks like the Army Corp of Engineers wiped out the original site back in the 1960s when they dredged out a shipping channel for the St. Johns River, by getting rid of a bend in the river and making a straight channel. That is the theory. Unfortunately we don’t have much to go on, except one piece of French pottery from the period, but it seems pretty certain this is what happened.
If you want to learn more about Fort Caroline, there is an excellent program by the History Channel. You can order it from the website, or probably find it on Netflix? It is “Conquest of America; the Southeast.” It is about a 42 minute program, but is well produced as a drama/documentary with reenactors & actors portraying the periods and events. It is one of my favorite programs from the History Channel, when they still did really good history programs. It is one of those programs that is so riveting, I watch it all the way through.