“This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States,” said Florida State University alumnus and historian Fletcher Crowe. “This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It’s older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 by 56 years.”
Announcement of the discovery of Fort Caroline was made during “La Floride Française: Florida, France, and the Francophone World,” a conference hosted by FSU’s Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies and its Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution. The conference commemorates the cultural relations between France and Florida since the 16th century.
Researchers have been searching for actual remains of Fort Caroline for more than 150 years but had not found the actual site until now, Crowe said. The fort was long thought to be located east of downtown Jacksonville, Fla., on the south bank of the St. Johns River. The Fort Caroline National Memorial is located just east of Jacksonville’s Dames Point Bridge, which spans the river.
However, Crowe and his co-author, Anita Spring, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Florida, say that the legendary fort is actually located near the mouth of the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia…
Crowe was able to match French maps from the 16th to 18th centuries of what is today the southeastern coast of the United States with coastal charts of the United States published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and with maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey…
“The frustrating and often acrimonious quest to find the fort has become a sort of American quest for the Holy Grail by archaeologists, historians and other scholars,” he noted. “The inability to find the fort has made some wonder if it ever existed.”
While studying in the Paris archives, Crowe found a 1685 map of “French Florida” that was accurately surveyed.
Using the known GPS coordinates derived from the English map, Crowe was able to propose the location of dozens of Indian villages that up until now have eluded scholars and archaeologists.
The structure discovered by Crowe and Spring forms an equilateral triangle surrounded by what appear to be moats encompassing walls of about 800 feet in length. The apex of the structure points to the northeast, just as reported for the original Fort Caroline.
“The next step is to do archaeological excavations to confirm this discovery,” Crowe said.
Still lots of productive time to be spent in libraries looking through records not yet digitized. 🙂