Charlesfort-Santa Elena National Historic Landmark

Location: Parris Island, South Carolina

Webpage: National Historic Landmark

General Description: Just off the golf course on Parris Island is the Charlesfort and Santa Elena National Historic Landmark.  This is an archeological site of three old forts that marked the conflicts between France and Spain colonial efforts in the 1500s.  Charlesfort was built in 1562 by Jean Ribault to defend a new French settlement to counter the Spanish colonies in Florida.  In 1563 Ribault returned to France for supplies and was delayed.  The men left rebelled, burned the fort and settlement, built a ship, and sailed back to Europe.  The Spanish renewed their efforts to colonize and pacify the indians by building Fort St. Felipe in 1566 and establishing Santa Elena.  This fort and colony were burned by the Indians in 1576, but the Spanish returned a year later and built Fort San Marco and rebuilt Santa Elena.  After a decade of fighting the indians, the Spanish finally abandoned Santa Elena in 1587.  Even though it was the first capital of Spanish Florida, the abandonment of Santa Elena marked the end of Spanish efforts to colonize the region.  The location of Charlesfort was believed to be under Fort San Marco and a monument along with the outlines of the fort were erected on the site.  However, later archeological evidence places Charlesfort under the remains of Fort St. Felipe, a couple of hundred yards away.

Brochure

Impressions:

1) There is a very nice trail and boardwalk maintained by the Marines leading from the golf clubhouse parking lot.  There are interpretative signs and quite a few benches along the trail to enjoy the scenery.  There is also the wreckage of a world war II airplane that crashed during training exercises at Page Field and towed here to remove it from the airfield.

SaltMarsh AirplaneWreck

2) The story of the mistaken monument for Charlesfort is interesting since it was based on accurately dating the few artifacts that were identified as French.  Remember, that Charlesfort was burned and abandoned and then the Spanish built their fort of top of Charlesfort.  Even though it was originally thought that it was Fort San Marcos that was built over Charlesfort, it is now believed that it was Fr. St Felipe, the first fort the Spanish build for Santa Elena.

NationalLandmark FortOutline

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