Early Exploration

1492 – Columbus reaches the Caribbean

1513 – Ponce de Leon arrives on Florida’s East Coast and names it “La Florida”

1526 – Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón settles the short-lived colony of San Miguel de Guadalupe on the coast of Georgia

1528 – Pánfilo de Narváez (with Cabeza de Vaca) lands on Florida’s west coast

1536 – Cabeza de Vaca and three others arrive in Mexico City after wandering throughout the American Southwest for years

1539 – Hernando de Soto arrives on the West Coast of Florida

The First Expedition

1562 – (Feb 18) Ribault departs from le Havre
              (March 1) Religious hostilities erupt in France
              (April 30) Ribault reaches Florida’s East Coast
              (May 1) Ribault arrives at and names the River of May
              (May 27) Ribault establishes Charlesfort in South Carolina
              (June 11) Ribault leaves a handful of men at Charlesfort and returns to Europe. Due to the religious hostilities, Ribault seeks help from England and is eventually imprisoned.
 1563 – (May) Ribault’s The Whole and True Discouerye of Terra Florida is published in England

The Second Expedition

1564 – (April 22) Laudonnière departs le Havre
            (June 22) Laudonnière arrives off the coast of Florida
            (June 25) Laudonnière reaches River May
            (June 25) Laudonnière meets Chief Saturiwa
            (June 30) Founding of la Caroline
            (November 13) Thirteen men desert the colony

1565 – (May-June) Famine at la Caroline

Third Expedition

1565 – (March 22) Menendez sent to deal with the French in Florida
              (May 26) Ribault leaves France
              (August 14) Ribault reaches Florida coast
              (August 15) Menendez leaves Puerto Rico with 5 vessels
              (August 25) Menendez is in sight of Florida
              (August 28) Ribault lands at Fort Caroline
              (September 4) Menendez discovers Ribault’s ships
              (September 8) Menendez moves south and establishes St. Augustine
              (September 10-23) Ribault’s fleet chases the Spanish and is destroyed by a storm around Cape Canaveral
              (September 17) Menendez begins march on Fort Caroline
              (September 20) Spanish capture Fort Caroline
              (September 25) Laudonnière, with two ships, leaves for France
              (September 29) First massacre at Matanzas
              (October 10) Menendez hears of Ribault’s shipwreck
              (October 12) Second massacre at Matanzas, Ribault is slain
              (November 15) Laudonnière arrives in England

De Gourgue’ Expedition

1567 – (August) De Gourges departs

1568 – (April 22) De Gourges lands in Florida
              (April 4) De Gourges takes the 2 Spanish forts
              (April 27) Capture of Fort San Mateo (Fort Caroline)
              (April 27-28) Massacre of the Spaniards
              (May 3) De Gourgues leaves Florida

Finding Fort Caroline

1805 – In his American Annals, Abiel Holmes identifies the St. Johns as The River May.

1827 – François-Xavier Martin claims the St. Marys River is the River May in his History of Louisiana.

1837 – In his The Territory of Florida, John Lee Williams remarks that the River May is “probably the St. Johns.”

1841 – George Bancroft cites Holmes in his History of the Colonization of the United States and identifies the River May as the St. Johns.

1844 – In the Library of American Biography’s treatment of Jean Ribault, Jared Sparks identifies the St. John’s River as the River May.

1846 – John Wesley Monette, in his History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley of the Mississippi, cites Williams but identifies the River May as the St. Marys.

1858 – Major George R. Fairbanks claims that Fort Caroline was located northwest of St. John’s bluff and its location was covered by the St. John’s River in the early 1800s.

1868 – George Fairbanks identifies the River May as the St. Johns in The Spaniards in Florida.

1917 – US Marines uncover 16th century artifacts on Paris Island, SC.

1920s – Major George Osterhout, U.S. Marines, excavates a site on Paris Island and claims it is the French Charlesfort. It is later found to be Spanish.

1925 – T. Fredrick Davis claims that Fort Caroline was below St. John’s Bluff and the dredging of the St. John’s caused the location to erode into the river.

1924 – Ribault Monument is erected at Mayport.

1925 – Monument to Ribault is erected at Charlesfort on Paris Island, SC.

1941- Ribault Monument is removed from Mayport.

1946-1955 – William Jones tests areas around the St. Johns Bluff. He finds a piece of French pottery in a dredge pile.

1950s – William Sears, University of Florida, digs in several location in the Fort Caroline area looking for French artifacts, but finds none.

1952 – Charles Fairbanks of the University of Florida searches within the National Memorial, along the river for traces of the French and finds nothing.

1953 – National Memorial is established.

1958 – The Ribault Monument is permanently installed on St. Johns Bluff.

1973 – Steven Ruple surveys Calypso Island but finds no native or French artifacts.

1984 – Richard E. Johnson explores a mound feature next to the Ribault Monument on St. John’s Bluff. He determines that the mound was associated with a Spanish American War gun battery on the bluff.

1988 – Robert Johnson dug at several new sites around the Theodore Roosevelt Preserve and the area around Spanish Pond. No 16th Century artifacts were found.

1995 – University of South Carolina refines the claims of Charlesfort’s location.

1996-1997 – David Brewer and Robert Thunen explored a moat-like feature in the vicinity of Shipyard Creek and an artesian springhead in the same area. No early European or native artifacts were uncovered.

2004 – Robert Thunan and students from the University of North Florida did shovel tests along the St. John’s Bluff and later explored the area around the Spanish American War gun battery. No early European artifacts were located.

2012-2013 – The University of North Florida’s La Caroline Project, did extensive tests around the Fort Caroline area looking for 16th century native and European remains. Very little native material was found and no 16th century European artifacts were uncovered.

2014 – (February 21) Crowe and Spring of the Fort Caroline Archeology Project claim Fort Caroline is along the Altamaha River in Georgia.

2016 – (May and June) Global Marine Exploration finds shipwreck off Cape Canaveral.

2016 – (November) France (along with Florida) file suit against GME.

2018 – (July) Federal Judge rules GME shipwreck is Ribault’s la Trinity and belongs to France.



 Much of the 16th century portion of this timeline was created using a published timeline from the National Parks Service.   Available here: https://www.nps.gov/timu/learn/historyculture/foca_chronology.htm

Much of the above archeological information from:   Douberly-Gorman, Rebecca. “Searching for Fort Caroline: New Perspectives.” The Florida Anthropologist 66, no. 4 (December 2013): 157–73.