Without Fort Caroline, there would be no St. Augustine. Fort Caroline was the first French colony in the New World and was established in 1564, but with some difficulty. After a little over a year, the French colonists were preparing to return to France when explorer Jean Ribault returned with supplies and new soldiers and settlers.
Around the same time, Spain commanded Pedro Menendez de Aviles to destroy Fort Caroline, in fear of their territorial claim and safety. Menendez sailed to what is now the St. Augustine area and set up camp.
During September 18 through the 20th, the Spanish marched north through driving rain and heavy winds toward Fort Caroline. At the same time, Ribault sailed south to St. Augustine, but was caught up in the stormy sea.
Menendez and his men conquered Fort Caroline and executed Ribault, the soldiers and settlers.
To this day, no one knows exactly where Fort Caroline stood. Its role in the history of the New World is paramount, but no archaeological evidence can be found to support any theory on the location of Fort Caroline, and there are many theories.
The National Parks Service set up a memorial to Fort Caroline along the banks of the St. Johns River in 1953. The location for this memorial was chosen as a likely location described in first-hand accounts and maps, but this fact is contested.
A theory that surfaced in the beginning of 2014 says that Fort Caroline was not in Florida at all, rather it was in Southeastern Georgia, along the Altamaha River delta. This theory, which was presented by scholars Fletcher Crowe and Anita Spring, is based on research from the French colonists’ perspective, rather than the Spanish perspective. Local archaeologist Chuck Meide says that this theory is improbable because the Spanish soldiers could not have marched over 100 miles in two days, in those terrible conditions.
Another theory, presented by State Representative Lake Ray, his son and Mark Lloyd, proposes the location of Fort Caroline to be on federal land on the St. Johns river, but further east from where the memorial is located. Ray says that he wants to keep the exact location private so amateur archaeologists and enthusiasts do not do harm to the area before professionals can check out the location.
Many theories continue to sprout, yet who knows if the original location will be found. All we know is that without Fort Caroline, there would be no St. Augustine. Without St. Augustine, there would be no First Coast.