The End of the Colony
The settlement barely survived that first year. Good relations with the Indians eventually soured and by the following spring the colonists were close to starvation. Twice mutinous parties had sailed off to make their own fortunes and some were eventually captured by the Spanish, revealing the presence of the French colony. The remaining colonists were about to leave Florida in August 1565, when they spotted sails on the horizon. Ribault had arrived with a relief expedition of supplies and 600 soldiers and settlers, including more women and some children.
On learning of Ribault’s departure for Florida, Phillip II of Spain sent Admiral Pedro Menendez to remove the French from Florida. Menendez established a base to the south at St. Augustine. Ribault sailed down the coast seeking to attack the Spanish, but his ships were scattered by a hurricane and beached far to the south.
Seizing the opportunity, Menendez marched north with 500 soldiers to attack the weakly guarded colony. It is believed that the Spanish camped overnight nearby, and attacked early. Forty or fifty French people, including Laudonniere, escaped and sailed for France. Out of the remaining 200 people, only about 60 women and children were spared.
Menendez next marched south and found the shipwrecked Frenchmen, Ribault among them. They threw themselves on his mercy, but to Menendez they were heretics and enemies of his king. At a place later named Matanzas (Slaughter), he put to the sword about 350 men - all but those professing to be Catholics and a few musicians. France never again strongly challenged Spanish claims in North America.
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Did You Know?
Fort Caroline National Memorial was the site of the first conflict between Europeans over land that is now part of the Continental United States. More...