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January 03 , 2008

Great Epochs in American History, Volume II


In 1562 the French Huguenot party, headed by Coligny, made another attempt[2] to secure themselves a refuge in the New World. Two ships set sail under the command of Jean Ribault, a brave and experienced seaman, destined to play a memorable and tragic part in the history of America. Ribault does not seem to have set out with any definite scheme of colonization, but rather, like Amidas and Barlow, to have contented himself with preliminary exploration. In April he landed on the coast of Florida....
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After he had laid the foundations of a fort, called in honor of the king Charlefort, Ribault returned to France. He would seem to have been unfortunate in his choice alike of colonists and of a commander. The settlers lived on the charity of the Indians, sharing in their festivities, wandering from village to village and wholly doing away with any belief in their superior wisdom and power which might yet have possest their savage neighbors....

France was torn asunder by civil war, and had no leisure to think of an insignificant settlement beyond the Atlantic. No supplies came to the settlers, and they could not live forever on the bounty of their savage neighbors. The settlers decided to return home. To do this it was needful to build a bark with their own hands from the scanty resources which the wilderness offered. Whatever might have been the failings of the settlers, they certainly showed no lack of energy or of skill in concerting means for their departure. They felled the trees to make planks, moss served for calking, and their shirts and bedding for sails, while their Indian friends supplied cordage. When their bark was finished they set sail. Unluckily in their impatience to be gone, they did not reckon what supplies they would need. The wind, at first favorable, soon turned against them, and famine stared them in the face. Driven to the last resort of starving seamen, they cast lots for a victim, and the lot, by a strange chance, fell upon the very man whose punishment had been a chief count against De Pierria. Life was supported by this hideous relief, till they came in sight of the French coast. Even then their troubles were not over. An English privateer bore down upon them and captured them. The miseries of the prisoners seem, in some measure, to have touched their enemies. A few of the weakest were landed on French soil. The rest ended their wanderings in an English prison.
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