Charlesfort (1562-1563) was established when a French expedition, organized by Protestant leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and led by the Norman navigator Jean Ribault landed at the site on the May River in February 1562, before moving north to Port Royal Sound. There, on present-dayParris Island, South Carolina, Ribault left twenty-eight men to build a settlement known as Charlesfort. Ribault then returned to France to arrange supplies for the new colony but was arrested in England after becoming involved in the period of unrest known as the French Wars of Religion, which prevented his return.
After Ribault left, much of the settlers’ stores were burned, and Captain Albert de la Pierria’s died in a mutiny, possibly as a reaction to his heavy discipline. Without supplies or leadership, and beset by hostility from the native population, all but one of the remaining colonists sailed back to Europe after only a year. They built their own boat and set sail, without compass, across the Atlantic. During the long voyage in an open boat, they were reduced to cannibalism before the survivors were finally rescued in English waters by an English ship, and some eventually reached France.
Shortly after the colonists’ departure, Hernando de Manrique de Rojas commanded a Spanish force from Cuba that destroyed the French fort, and took captive the one Frenchman who had remained with the local Native Americans in the region of the fort.