Jean Ribaut (both: zhäN rēbō´), c.1520–65, French mariner and colonizer in Florida, b. Dieppe. When Gaspard de Coligny decided to plant a French colony as an asylum for Huguenots in the New World, he appointed Ribaut to lead the expedition. Ribaut sailed from France in Feb., 1562, with five vessels carrying 150 colonists. On May 1, after entering the St. Johns River, which he called the River of May, he landed in Florida and claimed the land for France. Sailing north, he established his colony on what is now Parris Island, S.C. (see Sea Islands), naming it Charlesfort, and then returned to Dieppe in July, 1562. With the Roman Catholics and Huguenots at war in France, Ribaut fled to England and there published the English translation of his report to Coligny, The Whole and True Discouerye of Terra Florida (1563). Queen Elizabeth I of England, after urging him to join Thomas Stucley in establishing an English colony in Florida, accused Ribaut of planning to escape to France with the ships, and he was for some time imprisoned in the Tower of London. Meanwhile, Charlesfort had been abandoned, the colonists sailing for France when aid did not come. However, René de Laudonnière in 1564 established a new post, Fort Caroline, near the mouth of the St. Johns. In 1565, Ribault sailed with seven ships and reinforcements for Fort Caroline. The Spanish, alarmed by the activities of these Frenchmen and heretics, dispatched Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to drive them out. Ribaut's fleet avoided a fight with Menéndez at the mouth of the St. Johns, and the Spanish sailed to Saint Augustine. Ribaut followed, intending to annihilate them. With Fort Caroline virtually undefended, Menéndez marched overland and killed most of the colonists. Ribaut's fleet, meanwhile, was wrecked in a tropical hurricane. He and his followers, stranded on the coast S of St. Augustine, were captured by Menéndez, who massacred most of them. Ribaut's narrative has been reprinted in facsimile with notes by H. M. Biggar and a biography by Jeannette T. Connor (1927, repr. 1964).
See F. Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World (1865, repr. 1965).