Jean Ribault


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Ribault, JEAN, navigator ; born in Dieppe, France, in 1520; first appeared in history as commander of Coligni's expedition to America in 1562 (See Huguenots). Returning for supplies, he was detained by civil war until the spring of 1565, when Coligni sent him with five ships to Florida, where he succeeded Laudonniere as commander-in-chief. He had just arrived, when five Spanish vessels appeared, under Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, whose name and object were demanded. "I am Menendez," he said, and declared he was sent to destroy all Protestants he could find. Ribault had been advised of the expedition of Menendez before his departure from France. Just as he was departing from Dieppe he was handed a letter from Coligni, in which the admiral had written a postscript, saying, " While closing this letter I have received certain advice that Don Pedro Menendez is about to depart from Spain to the coast of Florida. You will take care not to suffer him to encroach upon us, any more than he would that we should encroach upon him." The cables of the French fleet were instantly cut, and they went to sea, followed by the Spanish squadron, which, failing to overtake the fugitives, returned to the shore farther south.

Ribault returned to the St. John, when, contrary to the advice of Laudonniere, he determined to try to drive the Spaniards away from the coast. When he reached the open sea he was struck by a fierce tempest that wrecked his vessels not far from Cape Canaveral, on the central coast of Florida. With his command, Ribault started by land for Fort Carolina (built on the St. John by the Frenchmen), ignorant of the fact that its garrison had been destroyed. Ribault divided his force of 500 men, about 200 of them taking the advance in the march, the remainder, with Ribault, following soon afterwards. The latter were betrayed by a sailor, and fell into the hands of Menendez.

Ribault Killed

The captives pleaded for mercy. Menendez asked, " Are you Catholics or Lutherans ?" They answered, " We are all of the reformed religion." He told them he was ordered to exterminate all of that faith. They offered him 50,000 ducats if he would spare their lives. " Give up your arms and place yourselves under my mercy," he said. A small stream divided the Frenchmen from the Spaniards. Menendez ordered the former to be brought over in companies of ten. Out of sight of their companions left behind, they were bound with their hands behind them. When all were gathered in this plight they were marched to a spot a short distance off, when they were again asked, " Are you Catholics or Lutherans?" A dozen who professed to be Catholics, and four others who were mechanics, useful to the Spaniards, were led aside. The remainder, helpless, were butchered without mercy. Very soon after this treacherous massacre Ribault, with the rest of his followers, reached the spot where their companions had been betrayed a few hours before. Menendez hurried back, and by the same treacherous method disarmed Ribault and his friends. Ribault was shown the pile of unburied corpses of his men. A ransom of 100,000 ducats was offered for the lives of Ribault and his friends. As before, they were betrayed, and Ribault and all but six or eight of his companions were murdered, Sept. 23, 1565. " They were put to the sword," Menendez wrote, " judging this to be expedient for the service of God our Lord and of your Majesty." See FLORIDA.



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