The next European presence around the Georgia and South Carolina coast was another ill-fated attempt, the establishment of Charlesfort in 1562 by French Huguenots under Jean Ribault on present-day Parris Island, South Carolina. Part of a covert effort by the Protestant French Admiral Coligny to send Huguenot colonists around the globe, Ribault’s crew of 150 first explored the mouth of the St. Johns River near present-day Jacksonville, Florida, before heading north.
After establishing Charlesfort, Ribault returned to France for supplies. In his absence, religious war had broken out in his home country. Ribault sought sanctuary in England but was clapped in irons anyway. Meanwhile, most of Charlesfort’s colonists grew so demoralized they joined another French expedition led by Rene Laudonniere at Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River. The remaining 27 built a ship to sail from Charlesfort back to France, 20 of whom survived the journey, which was cut short in the English Channel when they had to be rescued.
Ribault himself was dispatched to reinforce Fort Caroline, but was headed off by a contingent from the new Spanish settlement at St. Augustine. The fate of the French presence on the southeast coast was sealed when not only did the Spanish take Fort Caroline, but a storm destroyed Ribault’s reinforcing fleet. Ribault and all survivors were killed as soon as they came ashore.
To keep the French away for good and cement Spain’s hold on this northernmost part of their province of La Florida, the Spanish built the fort of Santa Elena directly on top of Charlesfort. Both layers are currently being excavated and studied today.