Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, North Carolina
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Stewart L. Udall, Secretary
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Conrad L. Wirth, Director
HISTORICAL HANDBOOK NUMBER SIXTEEN
This publication is one of a series of handbooks describingthe historical and archeological areas in the National ParkSystem administered by the National Park Service of the UnitedStates Department of the Interior. It is printed by the GovernmentPrinting Office and may be purchased from the Superintendentof Documents, Washington 25, D. C. Price 35 cents.
NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
by Charles W. Porter, III
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE HISTORICAL HANDBOOK SERIES NO. 16
Washington, D. C., 1952
The National Park System, of which Fort Raleigh NationalHistoric Site is a unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic,scientific, and historic heritage of the United States for thebenefit and inspiration of its people.
- GILBERT AND RALEIGH 3
- EXPLORATION OF ROANOKE ISLAND, 1584 4
- RALEIGH’S FIRST COLONY, 1585-86 6
- The Voyage 7
- The Establishment of the Colony 10
- Life in the Colony 14
- Abandonment of the Colony 15
- Grenville’s Fifteen Men 18
- THE LOST COLONY OF 1587 18
- The Second Colony Established at Roanoke 21
- Governor White’s Return to England 22
- Attempts To Find the Lost Colony 25
- CONNECTING LINKS WITH JAMESTOWN AND NEW ENGLAND 27
- LATER HISTORICAL INFORMATION ON FORT RALEIGH 28
- RECENT HISTORY OF FORT RALEIGH 30
- GUIDE TO THE AREA 30
- THE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE 38
- HOW TO REACH THE SITE 38
- ADMINISTRATION 38
- RELATED AREAS 38
- ABOUT YOUR VISIT 39
- SUGGESTED READINGS 40
Sir Walter Raleigh. This portrait was engraved shortly beforehis last voyage and is the only one published during his lifetime.
The true and lively portraiture
of the honourable and learned Knight
Sr. Walter Raleigh.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site directly connects theAmerican people with the Court of Queen Elizabeth and thegolden age of English art, literature, and adventure. The figureswho play the chief roles in the story of the exploration and attemptedsettlement of the island are the epic figures of English history: QueenElizabeth, after whom the new land was named “Virginia,” is easily thepremier sovereign of England; Sir Walter Raleigh, poet, soldier, andstatesman, and the inspiration and financial mainstay of the RoanokeIsland project, is the best remembered of gallant English courtiers; SirRichard Grenville, of the Revenge, who brought the first colony to Americain 1585 and left another small group there in 1586, is the Elizabethanhero who in 1592 taught English sailors how to dare and die in the faceof overwhelming odds; Sir Frances Drake, who rescued the first colonyfrom starvation, is famous as the first English circumnavigator of theglobe and as the preeminent seadog and explorer of English history.
As Plymouth and other early New England sites connect the UnitedStates with the great European movement known as the Reformation,so the scene of Raleigh’s settlements connects the American people withthe powerful activating force known as the Renaissance. When energizedby the Renaissance movement, the human spirit knew no earthlybounds nor recognized any limits to intellectual or physical endeavor.Thus, Raleigh, who was born a gentleman of only moderate estate, willedto be the favorite of a Queen, aspired to found an empire across the seasin the teeth of Imperial Spain and undertook in prison to write the historyof the world! For the glory and enrichment of England, Sir FrancisDrake pillaged the cities and mighty galleons of Spain and dared to sailaround the globe. Sir Richard Grenville, shortly after his memorablevoyages to Roanoke Island, gave the British Navy an immortal traditionby duelling for a day and a night with one small ship against a Spanishfleet of 53.
Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen after whom the whole territoryin America covered by Raleigh’s patent was named“Virginia.” From an engraving of 1596 which refers to Elizabethas “Queen of England, France, Ireland and Virginia.”
Truly heroic was the Roanoke Island colonial venture. Here, despitethe hostility of Spain and Spanish Florida, the greatest naval and colonialpower of that day, the agents of Sir Walter Raleigh and the subjects ofQueen Elizabeth suffered, or died, in the first serious effort to begin theconquest of the larger part of the North American continent by theslow process of agriculture, industry, trade, and natural increase. Thehardships of the first colony under Governor Lane, 1585-86, and thedisappearance of the “Lost Colony” of 1587 taught the English the practicaldifficulties that would be attendant upon the conquest of the continentand enabled them to grow in colonial wisdom. Thus, the birth3of Virginia Dare, in the “Citie of Raleigh in Virginia,” August 18, 1587,first child of English parentage to be born in the New World, was aprophetic symbol of the future rise of a new English-speaking nationbeyond the seas.
Jamestown, Va., commemorates the successful settlement of EnglishAmerica growing out of the dreams of Sir Walter Raleigh and SirHumphrey Gilbert, his elder half-brother. Fort Raleigh, because of thetragic mystery of the “Lost Colony,” memorializes better than any othersite the cost of early English colonial effort. To a certain degree it alsocommemorates a forgotten part of the price that England paid for Englishliberty. The colonists at Fort Raleigh were, in a sense, sacrificed thatEngland might employ all her fighting strength against the juggernautof Spain in the battle against the Armada. To relieve the Roanoke colonyin 1588, in the place of Grenville’s warships, only two smallpinnaces could be spared, and these did not reach Roanoke. For theglorious victory over the Armada and for the gradual emergence ofBritish sea power after 1588, England gave her infant colony in America.
Gilbert and Raleigh
The statesmen, merchants, and ship captains of Elizabethan Englandshared the adventurous and speculative spirit of the Spaniards and Portuguesewho had established empires in the West after 1492. Religiouszeal and both personal and national interests impelled Englishmen tocompete with Spain and Portugal for a share in the exploration and developmentof the New World. Englishmen wondered if they could notfind a northwest passage through the American continent which woulddivert the wealth of the Indies to England, or if they could not translatethe mineral and agricultural wealth of North America into Englishfortunes as Spaniards had grown rich from the gold of Mexico and Peru.
On June 11, 1578, Sir Humphrey Gilbert obtained from Queen Elizabetha charter to discover and colonize “remote heathen and barbarouslands” not actually possessed by any Christian prince. In 1583, heventured almost his entire fortune, as well as that of his wife, AnneAucher, in an attempt to explore the northern part of North Americaand found a colony in the New World. The Queen herself displayedinterest in the enterprise by giving Raleigh a good-luck token to sendto Gilbert just before the expedition sailed. Gilbert landed at St. John’s,Newfoundland, which he claimed for England, but on coasting southwardhe met with repeated misfortunes, turned away, and was himselfdrowned on the return voyage to England. He had insisted on sailing inone of his smaller ships. “I will not forsake my little company goinghomeward, with whom I have passed so many stormes and perils.”Among his last recorded words was the famous cry to his men in thelarger boat, “We are as neere to heaven by sea as by land.” His last will4and testament, dated July 8, 1582, makes clear that his ultimate purposehad been to found an English empire beyond the seas to be colonizedby English people.
Sir Francis Walsingham. Courtesy NationalPortrait Gallery, London.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
Gilbert’s heroic death must have deeply moved his half-brother, SirWalter Raleigh. The latter had voyaged with Sir Humphrey Gilbert inan expedition of 1578 and had fitted out a ship intended to participatein the great voyage of 1583 to Newfoundland. In 1584, when the Gilbertpatent was to expire, Raleigh stood high in the favor of the Queen andreceived from her a charter which confirmed to him the powers formerlyenjoyed by Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
Exploration of Roanoke Island, 1584
On April 27, 1584, Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe leftthe west of England in two barks “well furnished with men and victuals,”to explore the North American coast for Sir Walter Raleigh.Among the company of explorers was the enigmatical Simon Ferdinando,formerly the master of the ship Falcon under the captaincy ofRaleigh, but also known as the “man” of the Queen’s Secretary of State,Sir Francis Walsingham. Ferdinando had sailed to the coast of Americaand back in 3 months’ time in 1579. His knowledge of navigation wasto make him a key figure in many of the Roanoke Island enterprises.
The party of explorers landed on July 13, 1584, on the North Carolinacoast, about 7 leagues above Roanoke Island, and took possession ofthe country for Queen Elizabeth “as rightfull Queene” with the further5proviso that the land was to be for the use of Sir Walter Raleigh, accordingto the Queen’s charter. Despite the passing of more than 350 years,Barlowe’s description of the country is still basically true, if pardonablyexuberant. They found it “very sandie and low toward the waters side,but so full of grapes [scuppernongs] as the very beating and surge ofthe Sea overflowed them, of which we found such plentie, as well thereas in all places else, both on the sand and on the greene soil on the hils,as in the plaines, as well on every little shrubbe, as also climing towardsthe tops of high Cedars, that I thinke in all the world the like abundanceis not to be found.”
The shore line of Roanoke Island as it looks today.
From their landing place they proceeded along the seashore towardthe “toppes of those hilles next adjoining” (perhaps the big Nags HeadDunes or hills in the Nags Head woods), from the summit of whichthey beheld the sea on both sides and came to realize that they were ona barrier island. After admiring the scene, they discharged an arquebusshot, whereupon “a flocke of Cranes (the most part white) arose ...with such a cry redoubled by many ecchoes, as if an armie of men hadshowted all together.” On the fourth day they were visited by Granganimeo,brother of Wingina, chief of the Roanoke Island Indians.After a short period of trading, Barlowe and seven others went by boatto Roanoke Island at the north end of which they found a palisadedIndian village. Here they were entertained with primitive but hospitableIndian ceremony. The Indians appeared “gentle, loving, and faithfull.”The explorers described Roanoke Island as “a most pleasant and fertileground, replenished with goodly Cedars, and divers other sweete woods,6full of Corrants [grapes], flaxe, and many other notable commodities.”Game and fish were to be had in abundance.
The picture that Amadas and Barlowe took back to Sir Walter Raleighwas a rosy one, for they had seen Roanoke Island in midsummer. TheIndians were generous, because at this season of the year they had plentyof everything in contrast to the scarcity of their winter fare; and thewhite man was new to them, though they had heard of others wreckedon the coast years before. Two Indians, Wanchese and Manteo, werebrought back to England by Amadas and Barlowe that Raleigh mightlearn, first hand, the character of the coastal Indians. Queen Elizabethappears to have been pleased by the western exploit, for she called thenew possession Virginia, perhaps at the suggestion of Raleigh, chieflord of the new territory, whose poetic gift and courtly tact wouldprompt him thus to memorialize the virgin queen.
The Ark Royal or Ark Raleigh. Somewhat smaller ships of thisgeneral appearance brought the colonists to Roanoke Island.
Raleigh’s First Colony, 1585-86
The next Spring, Raleigh sent a colony of 108 persons to RoanokeIsland. The expedition, commanded by Raleigh’s cousin, Sir RichardGrenville, sailed from