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The Shocking History of Fort Matanzas

The feud between Catholics and Protestants in the sixteenth century was not just fought within the borders of Europe but exploded into the growing colonies and settlements of the empires abroad. 

Many protestants fearing the violence of Europe sought refuge in the New World and a desire to set up their own settlements free of persecution. One of these such voyages was led by Jean Ribault who led a group of French protestants to the new world to set up a base. After failing to create a settlement off the coast of South Carolina, Ribault set sail for Florida in 1565.

The voyage of the French was doomed from the start as the Spanish Crown had already claimed all of Florida and were warned of the protestants trying to create a settlement there.

King Philip II of Spain

King Philip II of Spain ordered Pedro Menendez to rid the French out of the area on the basis of heresy. Menendez created a base in St. Augustine and the French created their own base to the south called Fort Caroline. The two groups began to attack one another over the course of several small battles.

Eventually, Ribault decided to launch an attack on St. Augustine and took the bulk of his forces by sea to attack the Spanish fort from the coast. Unfortunately for the French, a storm wrecked all of their ships shortly after they set sail for their attack. Menendez also took advantage of the storm and captured the unguarded French fort to the south and massacred over 130 civilians. The Spanish eventually discovered the shipwrecked survivors near a river and they suffered the same fate as their fellow countrymen. The river where the French were discovered was named Matanzas meaning river of blood.

Today the sites of the battles and the forts can be visited at the Fort Matanzas National Monument located south of St. Augustine near Matanzas State Forest. The exciting history of the area can be explored by visitors alongside the beautiful Florida landscape at one of the many live CME conferences held in Palm Coast, FL by Continuing Education Company.  St. Augustine is only a short ride from Palm Coast, FL.

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