In the late sixteenth century, England began an attempt to expand her influence into the New World. Sir Walter Raleigh, trusted counselor of Queen Elizabeth I, sent out an expedition in 1584 under Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe. In a search for appropriate sites of future colonization, they first touched the North Carolina coast in the vicinity of Hatteras and then moved north to what may have been Roanoke Inlet. The eventual report which the two explorers presented to Raleigh spoke of a land of plenty peopled by friendly and benevolent Indians.
So encouraged was Sir Walter by this handsome account that a colonization party of 600 men under Sir Richard Grenville was launched in April of 1585. Landfall was made near Ocracoke Inlet, but eventually, the expedition moved north to Roanoke Island. A settlement, Fort Raleigh, was soon constructed on the island's northern tip. In late August, Grenville returned to England, leaving 107 men under the leadership of Ralph Lane. A professional soldier, Lane apparently had no qualms about stealing supplies from the nearby Indians. The deterioration in relations was climaxed by an English raid on the main village of the Roanoke Indians and the murder of their chief.
In June of 1586, Sir Francis Drake appeared off Roanoke Island and offered his aid. Perhaps goaded by the worsening situation with the local Indians, Lane decided to abandon the colony. Just a few weeks later, Grenville dropped anchor nearby with three ships loaded with supplies. Finding the colonists gone, he left fifteen men as a holding force and sailed again for England.
Following Lane's return to England, Sir Walter Raleigh began to prepare his most ambitious effort. A large group of men, women, and children under the governorship of John White set sail for the New World in early May of 1587 and arrived at Roanoke Island in July. The plan was to retrieve the fifteen men left there and move on to the southern shore of Chesapeake Bay.
Published here by kind permission of Claiborne S. Young's Cruising Guide
Photo: Museum of the Albemarle