God has an amazing way of fitting the pieces of our lives together. This year we are studying American history. There were so many courageous explorers who, defying all odds left their homelands to traverse the unknown. I am just amazed at by the chances they took. While we were visiting Jamestown last month, we read about Fort Caroline and Caroline quickly added it to the places she wanted to see first hand.
Fort Caroline is located in the Timucuan Preserve on St. Johns River. The Timucua were Native Americans who lived in this area. We learned how they built canoes from hollowed out logs and made their lives on the salt marshes. Oysters were their main source of food. As we walked along the path leading to the fort we saw a replica of one of their houses.
In the middle of the 1500’s France was ready to try there hand at a permanent settlement in the Americas. In 1562, French Protestants or Huguenots set off to find refuge from their persecution in France. They landed and a small garrison was left at Charlesfort. The men found life in the New World too difficult and they sailed home. In 1564, 200 soldiers, artisans and woman returned. They were helped by the Native Americans and began to build a village and a fort. They named it La Caroline or land of Charles, after King Charles IX. When their relationship with the natives turned they faced starvation. They had found no riches and were ready to give up, but 600 more settlers and supplies arrived in 1565.
When Spain learned about this settlement they sent Pedro Menendez (we will visit his fort next) to dislodge them. The French left in ships to attack the Spanish, but were scattered by a hurricane. Menendez marched to attack the La Caroline (now called Fort Caroline.) Between the boats and the fort most of the French settlers were killed or captured. A few did escape and returned to France. Which is why there is so much detailed information about the fort.
Caroline and Marcus earned their Junior Ranger Badges and the ranger recommend two more forts to expand our understanding of the history in the area near St. Augustine. I feel so blessed that our family can visit the places which made this country what it is today.