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The French return to Spanish Florida

La Salle claiming the mouth of the Mississippi for France.
Public domain
La Salle claiming the mouth of the Mississippi for France.

Kicked out of La Florida by the Spanish in 1565, the French kept coming back, this time it was through Florida’s back door.

French explorer Robert La Salle sailed down the Mississippi River into Spanish Florida over a century later in 1682 and claimed the river system for France. He returned two years later with 200 colonists to build a fort and settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi. But he missed it…..landing instead on the coast of Texas where his ships sank. He built a small fort there and died looking for the great river’s mouth.

Archaeologists have found La Salle’s Fort St. Louis and discovered that it was a fort in name only. It had no defensive walls and there were only seven crude dwellings. Archaeologists also found eight bronze French cannons buried by the Spanish, who found the site several years later. Apparently, the French settlers were killed by the local Natives, as the remains of three people were found and buried by the Spanish.

The fate of Fort St. Louis was a fatal one, but the French kept coming back to Spanish Florida.

René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.
Public Domain
René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

Unearthing Florida is a project of WUWF Public Media, the Florida Public Archaeology Network(FPAN), and its founder, Dr. Judith Bense, since 1998. FPAN's Michael Thomin is a contributor to the program. WUWF's Sandra Averhart is the executive producer.

Dr. Judy Bense is President Emeritus and Professor of Anthropology/Archaeology at UWF.