The Spaniards Drive the Huguenots out of Florida. (1562-1565)
For more than twenty years after De Soto’s failure the Spaniards made no further efforts in Florida. In the meantime a bitter religious war broke out in France between the Catholics and the Huguenots. Coligny, the distinguished leader of the Huguenots, desired to establish a commonwealth of his own religious sect in America. Accordingly he sent over in 1562 a small number of settlers who tried to plant a colony where Port Royal, South Carolina, now stands. The colony having failed, another expedition under good leadership was sent out in 1564. This time the French planted a fort not far from the mouth of the St. John’s river, Florida. But for several reasons Spain laid claim to Florida: (I) By right of discovery through Columbus; (2) by the explorations of De Leon and De Soto; and (3) by the Pope’s decree, which assigned that part of the heathen world to Spain. The king of Spain, therefore, was indignant that the French should make any settlement there, and at once decided to send out a force to destroy the insolent intruders. This Spanish force was under the command of Menendez, who in 1565 landed in Florida and built a stronghold which later became St. Augustine. Then he marched across the country, and by surprise and treachery succeeded in destroying all but a miserable remnant of the unfortunate Frenchman who had established the settlement. It was a cruel work, thoroughly done. The French learned a lesson from their unpleasant experience with the Spaniards at this time, and made no further attempt to plant colonies in the southern part of what is now the United States.