Raleigh’s “New Fort in Virginia” 1585

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Our many centennial celebrations within the past score of years, culminating in the glories of the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus, have awakened a widespread interest in early American history, and in all the incidents connected with the Genesis of the United States. Patriotic associations, both of men and women, have sprung up throughout the country, whose aim is to encourage research among our annals, and to cherish a spirit of reverence for our historic past. Many, too, are looking anxiously at the possible effect upon our institutions and national character of the dangerous experiment of absorbing into the body politic the heterogeneous elements of all Europe; and the tendency of this trend of thought and study is to emphasize anew the fact of our Anglican origin, and to bring home to us vividly the truth that we owe what we are as a nation to our English blood and traditions.

Monuments have been erected to mark various historic spots, and now on the coast of California, where in 1579 anchored the fleet of Sir Francis Drake, in his memorable circumnavigation of the globe–(the next after that of Magellan)-and where his chaplain, Francis Fletcher, held the Anglican service on the shore for the crews and the savage natives-there is rising a large stone cross-a conspicuous landmark as seen from the ocean in bold relief against the sky on a high rocky cliff-which will ever stand as a silent but eloquent memorial of the first American rites of the national church of that people who were destined to be the masters of this great continent.

To me it seemed of supreme importance to rescue from oblivion the sacred place where our fathers first worshiped God on the Atlantic coast, where they made the first English homes in the New World, and where was the cradle of our civilization. It is on North Carolina soil, and will you not uphold my hands in the good work? A small sum will secure possession of the precious site, and we can hand it down as a priceless heirloom to our children.

Let us read together the pathetic old story of romantic adventure, of manly fortitude, of disaster and death, prefacing it with the striking prediction of one of the early navigators:

“It seemeth probable that the countries lying North of Florida, God hath reserved to be reduced unto Christian civility by the English nation.”

This prophecy was made when Spain still claimed our whole coast under the decree of the Borgia Pope, when France had established herself in the North, and England had as yet no foothold on the continent. It is the utterance of one who describes himself as “Mr. Edward Haies, gentleman, and principal actour in the voyage attempted in the yeere of our Lord 1683, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, knight, and who alone continued unto the end, and by God’s special assistance returned home with his retinue safe and entire.”

Hayes’ picturesque narrative of Gilbert’s ill-starred voyage forms one of the earliest pages in the history of English colonization.

Till the close of the fifteenth century Italy was the most advanced and enlightened of the States of Europe, the chief seat of the arts and sciences; and as mistress of the Mediterranean it was natural that she should give birth to the first great navigators and explorers. Her sons had penetrated the unknown regions of Asia and Africa; they led the way to all the great discoveries, and Marco Polo, John Cabot, Columbus d Amerigo Vespucci are only the most illustrious among many adventurers. But when a new world had been found, when the Atlantic superseded the Mediterranean as the great sea of commerce, then the work of the Italian students and scientists is done, and it is the Spaniard and the Englishman who reap the fruit of the discoveries.

Strange freak of fortune that the genius and enterprise of her sons were to deprive Italy of her maritime supremacy; that Venice and Genoa, the queen-cities of mediaeval commerce, should be discrowned by the immortal exploits of their own children!

*The quotations in the text, unless otherwise stated, are from Hakluyt’s Voyages, Vol. III. For a discussion of the fate of the lost colony, see an article by Prof. S. B. Weeks of Trinity College, North Carolina, in the papers of the American Historical Society, Vol. V.

North Carolina Coast

The coast of North Carolina is a long, narrow chain of sand-hills, locally called the Banks, separating the ocean from the broad, shallow bodies of water, Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, which are the estuaries of the Neuse and Roanoke and other great rivers of the state. At irregular intervals the line of the Banks is broken by narrow and ever-shifting inlets, through which flow the ocean tides, turning the inner waters into vast salt lakes, very rich in all varieties of sea products.

Within this breastwork of barren downs are few islands; but there is one of supreme importance in the history of the Anglo-Saxon race in America. Roanoke island, about twenty miles long by three in width, lies between Roanoke and Croatan sounds, the shallow waters which connect Pamlico and Albemarle, and is two miles from the Banks, and thrice, that distance from the mainland. Here was established the first English colony; here was born the first white American; here was celebrated the first Christian rite within the limits of the Thirteen Colonies. It is the starting point of events as pregnant with great results in the wonderful history of our race, as was the landing of our forefathers on the shores of Kent, when they migrated from their Holstein homes more than a thousand years before.

Yet, interesting and important as is the spot, how little is known of it by the great majority of Americans, or of this first endeavor to plant the sturdy English stock in the soil of the new world! We are familiar with the bloody atrocities amid which St. Augustine was founded; we are versed in the story of John Smith’s adventures at Jamestown, and of the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth; but this early attempt at English colonization, with all its romantic incidents, has been allowed to sink almost into oblivion. It is not from lack of historical materials, for they are very abundant. While of the explorations of the Cabots we have no account from any one who took part in their voyages, the story of Roanoke has been fully told by Barlowe, Lane, Hariot, and White, leaders in the several expeditions. These precious documents, together with water-colored illustrations of the new country, have all been preserved, and no tale of adventure is fuller of picturesque incident and romantic interest.

The colony bears the name of one of the most remarkable men in a very remarkable age—
Raleigh, the cavalier, statesmen, philosopher, historian, poet, mariner, explorer, hero, martyr —-
“The courtier’s, scholar’s, soldier’s eye, tongue, sword.”

No character in legend or history is more brilliant or versatile. The period too, is the most interesting period in the life of the English people. “The spacious time of great Elizabeth,” crowded with great deeds, and filled with “those melodious bursts that echo still.” There were intellectual giants in those grand days, and through all classes of the people ran an enthusiasm of adventure and decay, just as the spirit of the Crusades had at one time thrilled through all Europe. Bacon and Shakespeare were budding into manhood; Sidney had written the Arcadia and Defense of Poesie, and was about to find his apotheosis on the field of Zutphen; while Spencer was dreaming of the land of Faery, among “the green alders by the Mulla’s shore.” Frobisher had made his Arctic explorations, and Drake had returned to amaze all England with his story of the circumnavigation of the globe.

The saving cruelties of Alva, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew, had kindled religious animosity into a fierce flame. The Prince of Orange was about to fall under the assassin’s knife, and plots were thickening about the fair head of Mary Stuart, which were to bring her to the scaffold. The Renaissance and the Reformation had broken the shackles of the intellect, and widened the horizon of thought; while the great discoveries had opened new fields for the display of human energy. Men were giving up speculations about the heavenly world, which had absorbed the intellectual activities of the middle ages, and were turning to the practical conquest of a world beyond the seas. England and Protestantism were gathering their forces for the last great struggle with Spain and the Latin church, for supremacy in the old world, and for mastery in the new.

English Claim

The English claim to North America, from Newfoundland to Florida, was based upon the discoveries of John and Sebastian Cabot, made under the authority of a patent granted to them by Henry VII, in March 1496, the oldest American State paper of England. It empowered them to look for and discover new lands “of infidels and pagans whatever, and wherever situated, which before that time had been unknown to all Christians.” Strachey, writing of Virginia in 1618, says: “The King of Spaine hath no collour of title to this place. King Henry VII gave his letters pattents unto John Cabot, a Venetian indenized his subject, and to his three sonnes, who discovered for the King the North part of America, and annexed to the crown of England all that great tract of land stretching from the Cape of Florida unto those parts, mayne and islands, which we call the New-found-land.”

John Cabot had come from Italy to England about 1468, and settled in a suburb of Bristol, then, as now, called Cathay, from its trade with the East Indies, and here his son Sebastian was born. After the Norse Vikings no European until the Cabots had set foot on this continent. Sailing in an English ship manned chiefly with English seamen, they reached the American coast at Prima-Vista, First-seen-land, now Cape Breton, on 24th June 1497, before either Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci had discovered the mainland. They planted a cross upon the shore, and the meteor flag of England is the first that was unfurled on the continent. Coasting for many leagues along what came to be called La Tierra de las Baccalaos, or Codfish-land, later Labrador, which they thought to be the territory of the Grand Khan in Asia, they returned to England at the end of summer, and Henry, swayed possibly by his unkingly passion of avarice, gave ten pounds to the adventurers who presented him with a new world!

Cabot is one of the great historic names over which the caprice of Fate has striven to draw the curtain of oblivion. While the name of Columbus is rightly found everywhere in America, and that of Vespucci—who first crossed the Atlantic when Sebastian Cabot was making his third voyage from England-has been given to the whole Western hemisphere, no river or mountain, bay or promontory bears the name of Cabot. Yet a recent writer, Brownson, on contrasting the results to the world of the English and Spanish explorations, says: “Columbus and Cabot looked for a land of gold and spices. Columbus found the lands rich in precious metals, and the result there have been four centuries of cruelty, slavery, and oppression, of despotism and anarchy. Cabot found a land whose only wealth was in the codfish that swarmed on its coasts; but that land became the cradle of liberty and justice, of resistance to tyranny and. oppression, the refuge of the down trodden and enslaved of every clime. The world, humanity, is better, nobler, happier, for the discovery made by Cabot; has any real benefit to mankind resulted from the lands south of us?”

The fame of the elder Cabot-whom we Anglo-Americans should learn to reverence-has been obscured by the greater glory of his son. English born and bred, Sebastian Cabot, on the death of his father, became the leader of the expedition of 1498, which was a scheme of colonization. By way of Iceland he reached the shores of Labrador, and coasted as far South as Cape Charles or Hatteras, whence from want of provisions he returned to Europe. In 1516 he discovered Hudson’s Bay for England, but through the greater part of the troublous reign of Henry VIII, he was in the service of Spain, and explored for her the great Rio de la Plata in South America. Returning to England he was pensioned and honored by Edward VI. Now an old man, his restless activity was unabated, and the English voyages in the middle of the sixteenth century were due to Cabot’s initiative.

In his fatal expedition to the Arctic seas in 1553, Sir Hugh Willoughby took with ‘him Cabot’s instructions for the voyage, which are most interesting as showing alike his wisdom and skill in seamanship, and his deeply religious character. In them the mariner’s logbook is first instituted, and minute directions are given with regard to every detail of the art of navigation. The morning and evening prayer of the Church of England are ordered to be read on every ship daily, and the sailors are enjoined always to act “for dutie and conscience sake towards God, under whose mercifull hand navigants above all other creatures naturally bee most nigh and nicine.”

Sebastian Cabot

Sebastian Cabot died probably in 1557—that lurid epoch when the Protestant martyrs were perishing at the stake but his place of death and his grave are unknown. England (as Tardneci says) “had no time to remember or mark the sepulchre of the man to whose (powerful) initiative she owes the wealth and power which have placed her among the foremost nations of the world.” “Her claims in the New World have uniformly rested on his discoveries. The English language might be spoken in no part of America but for Sebastian Cabot. The commerce of England and her Navy have been deeply his debtors. Yet his birthplace has been denied and his fame has been obscured. He gave a continent to England; yet no one can point to the few feet of earth she has allowed him in return.”

I have dwelt at some length on these earliest efforts at English colonization, because they are so generally overlooked and neglected, and because the story of them enforces any point of the exclusively English origin of our civilization.

After Cabot’s discovery of the North American Continent, and his taking possession of it for the crown of England, no important expeditions were undertaken for more than half a century. In the reign of Henry VIII all the energies of the nation were absorbed in the great problems of Church and State then pressing for solution, nor could the king attempt any conquests in the New World without a rupture with his ally, the Spanish monarch. On the accession of his son, Edward VI, the spirit of maritime adventure revived, but he was on his death bed when the expedition of Willoughby set sail, and no such enterprise was practicable in the reign of Mary, the slave of Spain and of Rome. But with Elizabeth on the throne, and the Reformation triumphant, all great designs seemed possible.

The earliest attempt at colonization in his reign was made in 1578, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and to the initiative of these two men the Anglicizing of this continent is due. The settlement of Jamestown and the establishment of the Puritans at Plymouth were only the last successful steps in a long series of great adventures. New England was founded by pursuing the path marked out by Gilbert, and Virginia by following that of Raleigh; the enterprises of these two great men– par nobile fratrum– are the true beginnings of the Anglo-American history. Raleigh was already conspicuous as a preux chevalier and champion of Protestantism. He had set before himself as the one great aim in life the humiliation of Spain, and the weakening of the power of the Latin race and religion. At the early age of seventeen he left the University of Oxford to join a band of a hundred volunteers, who went to the aid of Coligny and the Huguenots-“a gallant company, nobly mounted and accoutred, and bearing for a motto on their standard, ‘Let valor decide the contest.’ ” France was then aflame with the reports of the massacre of the Huguenots in Florida, and the idea germinated in Raleigh’s mind that a moral blow might be dealt to the enemy beyond the seas. From the service of Coligny he passed to that of William the Silent, and all the while was growing in him the conviction (which he expressed later in life,) that the possession of America would decide the question of the supremacy of Spain or England. “For whatsoever Prince shall possess it,” wrote he, “shall bee greatest, and if the king of Spayne enjoy it, he will become unresistible. I trust in God that he which is Lorde of Lords, will put it into her heart which is Lady of Ladies to possess it.” Paper on Guinea, 1595.

Raleigh took command of one of the small vessels of Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s fleet, with which they hoped to reach our shores, and by establishing a colony check the progress of the Spaniards, and “put a byt into their ancient enemye’s mouth.” The attempt was a failure; and on the second expedition, in 1583, Raleigh, who had fitted out one of the five ships, was forbidden by the queen to accompany his brother. Gilbert took formal possession of Newfoundland, but he lost his ship off Sable island; and on the return voyage the gallant soldier went down off the Azores, with the Squirrel, his little craft of ten tons, his last noble words being, ‘Courage, my friends! We are as neere to heaven by sea as by land.”

To Raleigh then came the scheme of colonization almost as an inheritance; and on Lady-Day, March 25, 1584, Queen Elizabeth issued to him a patent of discovery, granting him “all prerogatives, commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises, and pre-eminences, (thereto or thereabouts, both by sea and by land, whatsoever we by our letters patents may grant, and as we or any of our noble progenitors have heretofore granted to any person or persons, bodies politique or corporate.”)

He equipped two vessels under command of Amadas and Barlowe, and from the pen of the latter we have an account of the expedition: “The 27 day of April, in the yere of our redemption 1584, we departed the West of England, with two barker well furnished with men and victuals. . . The tenth of June we were fallen with the Islands of the West Indes. . . The second of July, we found shole water, wher we smelt so sweet and so strong a smel, as if we had been in the midst of some delicate garden abounding with odoriferous flowers, by which we were assured, that the land could not be farre distant.”

This characteristic of what Lane afterward called the “Paradise of the world” may have been in Milton’s mind when he described the approach of the Evil Spirit to the garden of Eden

“Now purer air
Meets his approach; . . . now gentle gales
Fanning their odoriferous wings dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheered with this grateful smell old Ocean smiles.”1

“Keeping good watch, and bearing but slacke saile the fourth of July [America’s fated day!] we arrived upon the coast, which we supposed to be a continent, and we sayled along the some 120 miles before we could find any entrance, or river issueing into the seat. The first that appeared unto us we entered, and cast anker about three harquebuzshot within the haven’s mouth: and after thanks given to God for our safe arrivall thither, we manned our boats, and went, to view the land next, adjoyning, and to take possession of the sauce, in right of the Queenes most excellent, Majestie.”

The explorers had coasted northward two days along the Banks, and entering probably at New inlet or Trinity harbour, had anchored not fur from Roanoke Island. “We viewed till land about us, being, whereas we first landed, very sandie and low towards the water side, but so full of grapes, as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them, of which we found such plentie, both on the sand and on the green soil on the hills, as well as on the hills, as well on every shrubbe, as also climbing towards the tops of high Cedars, that I thinke in all the world the like abundance is not to be found.” This is evidently the Iuxuriaut North Carolina. Scuppernong grape, whose strong aromatic perfume might well be perceived at some distance frome the shore….. “There came unto us diver’s boats, :furl in one or them the king’s brother, with fortie or tilde men, levy handsome cud goodly people, and in their la haviour as mannerly and civill as any in Europe. . . The soile is the most; plentifull, sweete, fruitfull and wholesome of Al I Ire. worlde (Here were above fourteene severall sweete-smelling thriller trees, and the most part of their underwoods are Bayes and such like.)

1. Paradise Lost, IV, 153-165

Savage Manteo Christened

“The 13 of August our Savage Manteo was christened in Roanoak, and called Lord thereof and of Dasamonguepeuk, in reward of his faithfull service. The 18, Elenor, daughter to the Governour, and wife to Ananias Dare, one of the Assistants, was delivered of a daughter in Roanoak, and the same was christened there the Sonday following, and because this child was the first Christian borne in Virginia, shee was named Virginia.”

The baptism of Manteo and of the first Anglo-American child are the beginnings of the life of the English church in the new world. The name Dare has been given to a county of North Carolina on Pamlico sound, and its county-seat is the village of Manteo on Roanoke island; a happy and permanent association of these Indian and English names with the locality where they were first brought into interesting conjunction.

What became of Virginia Dare?—the first American girl-that pattern of sweet womanhood now recognized as a distinctive type, and one as fair and winsome as the Mirandas or Violas of poetry! Did she die in infancy, and does her dust, mingled with the soil of her birthplace, blossom there into flowers that blush unseen? Did her little feet join in the wandering of the settlers from Roanoke to Croatan? Did she grow to womanhood in their second home, and did her life end in tragedy amid the darkness which enshrouds the fate of the Colony? What a subject for imaginative speculation!–and I wonder that no Carolina writer has made her story the theme of a romance.

A pretty Indian legend is that for her grace and gentleness she was known among the Red Men as the “White Fawn,” and after death her spirit assumed that form-an elfin Fawn, which, clad in immortal beauty, would at times be seen haunting, like a tender memory, the place of her birth, or gazing wistfully over the sea, as with pathetic yearning for the distant mother-land.

Shall not the name of Virginia Dare, the White Fawn of Carolina, grow more dear, more familiar to us all? The women of our dear old State will see to it, I am sure, that the memory of this first Carolina girl, and of Eleanor Dare, the first Carolina mother, be tenderly cherished and honoured.

“The 22 of August the whole company came to the Governour, and with one voice requested him to return himselfe into England, for the obtaining of supplies and other necessaries for them; but he refused it, and alleaged many sufficient causes why he would not. . . . At the last, through their extreame intreating constrayned to return, he departed from Roanoak the 27 of August.” The next day he set sail, destined never again to see his daughter and grandchild, and after a terrible voyage reached the coast of Ireland on the 16th of October.

This is the last that is known of the lost colony, whose fate has given rise to so much interesting speculation, and whose blood it is thought may be traced to-day in the Croatan or Hatteras Indians of Robeson county, North Carolina. It was three years before succour came from the old world, for England in the meantime had needed every ship and every sailor in her life-and-death struggle with Spain and the invincible Armada. Efforts were made to reach the colony, but they were unsuccessful, and not until the summer of 1590 did Governor White again arrive off the North Carolina coast.

“The 20 of March the three shippes, the Hopewell, the John Evangelist, and the little John, put to sea from Plymouth. . . . The 23 of July we had sight of the Cape of Florida, and the broken hands thereof. . . . The 15 of August we came to an tinker at Hatorask, and saw a great smoke rise in the Ile Roanoke neere the place where I left our Colony in the yeere 1587. . . . The next morning our two boatel went ashore, and we saw another great smoke; but when we came to it, we found no man nor signe that any had bene there lately. . . . The 17 of August our boates were prepared againe to goe up to Roanoak. . . . Toward the North ende of the Island we espied the light of a great fire thorow the woods: when we came right over against it, we sounded with a trumpet a Call, and afterwardes many familiar English tunes and Songs, and called to them friendly; but we had no answere; we therefore landed, and coming to the fire, we found the grasse and sundry rotten trees burning about the place. . . . As we entered up the sandy banks, upon a tree, in the very browe thereof were curiously carved these faire Romane letters, C R 0: which letters we knew to signifie the place where I should find the planters seated, according to a secret token agreed upon betweene them and me, at my last departure from them, which was that they should not faile to write or carve on the trees or posts of the dores the name of the place where they should be seated : and if they should be distressed, that then they should carve over the letters a Crosse -|- in this forme, but we found no such sign of distresse. . . . We found the houses taken downe, and the place strongly enclosed with a high palisado of great trees, with cortynes and hankers very Fortlike, and one of the chief trees at the right side of the entrance had the barke taken off, and five foote from the ground in fayre Capitall letters was graven CROATOAN, without any crosse or signe of distress.” No further trace was found of the colonists, except buried chests which had been dug up and rifled by the Indians, “bookes torne from the covers, the frames of pictures and Mappes rotten and spoyled with rayne, and armour almost eaten through with rust. . . . The season was so unfit, and weather so foule, that we were constrayned of force to forsake that coast, having not seene any of our planters, with losse of one of our ship-boates, and seven of our chiefest men. . . . The 24 of October we came in safetie, God be thanked, to an anker at Plymmouth. . . . Thus committing the reliefe of my discomfortable company, the planters in Virginia, to the merciful help of the Almighty, whom I most humbly beseech to helpe and comfort them, according to his most holy will and their good desire, I take my leave.”

Thus ended in disaster all of Raleigh’s great schemes for planting the English race on our shores. They had cost him £40,000, and the result was apparent failure; yet his greatest glory is these attempts at colonization. The seed

Natural Inhabitants

being boiled or sodden, they are very good meat. . . The natural inhabitants are a people clothed with loose mantles made of deere skinner, and aprons of the same round about their middle, all els naked. . . . For mankinde they say a woman was made first, which by the working of one of the gods, conceived and brought foorth children; and in such sort they had their beginning. . . Some of the people could not tell whether to thinke us gods or men, the rather because there was no man of ours knowen to die, or that was specially sicke: they noted also that we had no women among us. Some therefore were of opinion that we were not borne of women, and therefore not mortal, but that we were men of an old generation many yeeres past, then risen againe to immortalitie. Some would likewise prophecie that there were more of our generation yet to come to kill theirs and take their places.”

In no wise discouraged by the failure of this costly experiment at colonization, Raleigh fitted out another expedition of three vessels in the following year, under command of John White, to whom we are indebted for the story of this second colony. For the first time the enterprise had an element of permanence, by including among the emigrants women and children. The intention was to make a settlement on the shores of the Chesapeake, but through the treachery of a pilot, as is said, Roanoke island again became the home of the colonists.

“In the yeere of our Lord 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh intending to persevere in the planting of his Countrey of Virginia, prepared a newe Colonie of one hundred and fifty men to be sent thither, under the charge of John White, whom hee appointed Governour, and also appointed unto him twelve Assistants, unto whom he gave a Charter, and incorporated them by the name of Governour and Assistants of the Citie of Ralegh in Virginia. Our Fleete being in number three saile, the Admirall a shippe of one hundred and twenty Tunnel, a Flie-boat, and a Pinnosse, departed the 26 of April from Portsmouth. . . . About the 16 of July we fel with the maine of Virginia, and bare along the coast, where in the night, bad not Captaine Stafford bene carefull, we had bene all castaway upon the breach, called the Cape of Feare. The 22 of July wee arrived at Hatorask: the Governour went aboard the pin nesse, with fortie of his best men, intending to passe up to Roanok foorthwith, hoping there to finde those fifteene men, which Sir Richard Grenville had left there the yeere before. . . . The same night at sunne-set he went aland, and the next day walked to the North ende of the Island, where Master Ralfe Lane had his forte, with sundry dwellings, made by his men about it the yeere before, where wee hoped to find some signes of our fifteene men. We found the forte rased downe, but all the houses standing unhurt, saving that the heather roomes of them, and also of the forte, were overgrowen with Melons, and Deere within them feeding: so wee returned to our company, without hope of ever seeing any of the fifteene nien living. The same day order was given for the repayring of those houses, and also to make other new Cottages.”

The settlers, numbering ninety-one men, seventeen women, and nine children, set to work to rebuild the fort, and to make for themselves an English home. Soon after their arrival occurred two incidents of extreme importance in the life of the colony.

Roanoke Island

Wee came to an Island which they call Roanoke, distant from the harbour by which we entered seven leagues: and at the north end thereof was a village of nine houses, built of Cedar, and fortified round about with sharp trees, to keepe out their enemies, and the entrance into it made like a Turne pike very artificially. . . . The wife of the king’s brother came running out to meete us very cheerefully and friendly. When we come into the utter roome, having five roomes in her house, she caused us to sit downe by a great fire, and after tooke off our clothes and washed them, and dried them againe: some of the women plucked off our stockings and washed them, some washed our feete in warme water, shee herselfe making greate haste to dress some meate for us to eate. . . . We were entertained with all love and kindnesse, and with as much bountie as they could possibly devise. We found the people most gentle, loving and faithfull, voile of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age.”

It is important to mark this tribute to the character of the Hatteras Indians, and bearing in mind after instances of their kindliness and fidelity, we are forced to admit that their final attitude of hostility was entirely due to harsh and cruel treatment of them by the Colonists. It was a stern and ruthless age; the followers of the blessed Gospel of peace and love went ever armed with fire and sword, and admitted no right of any savage or pagan opponent to property, liberty or life.

These first explorers remained in our waters only two months, reaching England again “about the middle of September,” bringing with them two of the natives, Wanchese and Manteo. Their arrival excited the greatest interest. Raleigh named the new country Virginia in honor of the queen, and our whole Atlantic coast was now regarded as under the dominion of France, England, and Spain; the three districts of indefinite boundaries being known as Canada, Virginia, and Florida.

This voyage of Amadas was merely one of exploration; but in 1585 Raleigh fitted out a second expedition of seven sail and one hundred and eight men, under command of his cousin Sir Richard Grenville, to plant a colony in the paradise described by Barlowe. Grenville is another of the brilliant heroes of this period, and it is interesting to note the number of remarkable men who were connected with the American voyages. Gilbert, Raleigh, Grenville, Lane, Hariot, White, form as striking a group of adventurous spirits as can be gathered together in history.

Full accounts of the experiences of the colonists are given by Lane. “The 9 day of April 1585 we departed from Plymouth, our Fleete consisting of the number of seven sailes, (to wit the Tyger, of the burden of seven score tonnes, a Flie-boat called the Roe-bucke, of the like burden, the Lyon of a hundred tunnes, the Elizabeth, of fifty tunnes, and the Dorothie, a small barke: wherunto were also adjoyned for speedy services, two small pinnesses. . . . The 12. day of May wee came to an anker off the island of St. John de Porto Rico. . . . The 24. day we set saile from St. Johns, being many of us stung upon shoare with the Muskitos. . . . The 20 of June we fell in with the maine of Florida. The 23. we were in great danger of wracke on a beach called the Cape of Feare, [the Promontorium tremendum of the old maps.] The 26. we came to anker at Wocokon [Ocracoke]. July 3 we sent word of our arriving at Wocokon to Wingina [the Indian chief] at Roanoak. The 16. one of the savages having stolen from us a silver cup, we burnt and spoyled their come and towne, all the people being fled. . . . The 27. our Fleete ankered at Haterask, and there we rested. The 25. August our Generall weyed anker, and set saile for England.”

Grenville thus remained two months, on the Carolina coast, and then putting the colony under the government of Ralph Lane, returned home to join the other

Seadogs

“Seadogs” who were now making the whole Atlantic unsafe for Spain. His death in 1591 off the Azores, where also Gilbert had perished, is one of the most glorious events in British naval annals. The English squadron consisted of but seven sail; the Spanish fleet numbered fifty-five. Engaged all night at close quarters with many of the largest Spanish galleons, at daylight Grenville found his little ship, the Revenge, literally shot to pieces, and not a man on board unhurt. Desperately wounded, he still refused to strike his flag; and when forced by his crew to surrender the sinking hull, he was taken on board the Spanish Admiral to utter the memorable last words: “Here die I. Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind; for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do, fighting for his country, queen, religion, and honor.”

On September 3, 1585, Governor Lane wrote to Richard Hakluyt from ”the New Fort in Virginia,” which he had built at the northern end of Roanoke island, on the site of the fortified Indian village found there by Amadas: “Since Sir Richard Grenville’s departure, we have discovered the maine to be the goodliest soyle under the cope of heaven, so abounding with sweete trees, and grapes of such greatnesse, yet wilde. . . . And we have found here Maiz or Guinie wheat, whose eare yeeldeth come for bread 400 upon one eare. . . . It is the goodliest and most pleasing Territorie of the world: for the continent is of an huge and unknowen greatnesse, and the climate is wholesome. . . . If Virginia had but horses and kine, I dare assure myselfe, being inhabited with English, no realme in Christendome were comparable to it.”

He describes the whole neighboring country, and determines to change the site of the colony to a better port, for “the harborough of Roanoak was very naught;” but the hostility of some of the Indian tribes rendered all his efforts futile. Conspiracies were formed against the English, and their situation grew so precarious, that many turned a longing eye homeward. On June 10, 1586, Sir Francis Drake anchored off the coast with a fleet of twentythree sail, and furnished Lane with a a “very proper barke of seventy tun, and tooke present order for bringing of victual aboord her for 100 men for four moneths.” But on the 13th there arose a great storm, which drove her to sea, with many of the chief colonists on board, and she did not return. Despairing of any remedy for this disaster, and unable to pass another winter without succor from home, Lane determined to abandon the colony. The men were bestowed among Drake’s fleet, and arrived at Portsmouth on the 27th of July.

“Immediately after the departing of our English colony out of this paradise of the world.” writes Lane, “the ship sent at the charges of Sir Walter Raleigh, fraighted with all manor of things in most plentifull maner, arrived at Hatorask; who after some time spent in seeking our Colony up in the countrey, and not finding them, returned with all the aforesayd provision into England. About foureteene days after the departure of the aforesayd shippe, Sir Richard Grenville Generall of Virginia arrived there; who not hearing any newes of the Colony, and finding the places which they inhabited desolate, yet unwilling to loose the possession of the countrey, determined to leave some men behinde to reteine it: whereupon he landed fifteene men in the Isle of Roanoak, furnished plentifully with all maner of provisions for two yeeres.”

Besides Lane’s narrative of his explorations in the waters of North Carolina, of his relations with the Indians, and of the various adventures and vicissitudes of the first colony, we have a “Briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia” by Thomas Hariot, “a man no lesse for his honesty than learning commendable,” the scholar of the expedition, and the inventor of the algebraic system of notation described in his epitaph as:

Doctissimus ille Harriotus,
Qui omnes scientias coluit,
Qui in omnibus excelluit.
Mathematicis, philosophicis, theologicis,
Veritatis indagator studiosissimus.

His report, addressed to “the Adventurers, Favourers, and Welwillers of the enterprise for the inhabiting and planting in Virginia,” is a very full and interesting account of the varied products of the new country, and of the manners and customs of the natives. “There is a kind of grasse in the country, upon the blades whereof there groweth very good silks. . . . There are two kinder of grapes that the soile doth yeeld, the one small and sowre, of the ordinary bignesse, the other farre greater and of himselfe lushious sweet [the Scuppernong]. . . . A kinde of graine called by the inhabitants Pagatowr [Indian corn], about the bignesse of English peaze; but of divers colours; white, red, yellow and blew. All yeeld a very white and sweete flowre. . . . There is an herbe called by the inhabitants Uppowoe; the Spanyards call it Tabacco. The leaves thereof being brought into ponder, they used to take the smoake thereof, by sucking it thorow pipes made of clay, into their stomacke and heade; from whence it purgeth superfluous fleame and other grosse humours whereby their bodies are notably preserved in health, and know not many grievous diseases, wherewithall we in England are afflicted. They thinke their gods are marvellously delighted therewith: whereupon they make hallowed fires, and cast some of the ponder therein for sacrifice being in a storm, to pacifie their gods, they cast some into the waters: also after an escape from danger, they cast some into the a ire. . . . We our selves used to sucke it after their maner, and have found many wonderfull experiments of the vertues thereof: the use of it by so many of late, men and women of great calling, is sufficient witnesse. . . . Openauk are a kinde of roots of round forme [the potato] found in moist and marish grounds:

Richest Harvest

was sown which was eventually to yield the richest harvest: the direct fruit of these efforts was the colony of Jamestown, and Raleigh is the real pioneer of American civilization. It was he, and not King James, who, as Shakspere says, was destined to “make new* nations,” and to whom rightly belongs the proud title of imperii Atlantici coeditor.

“It was through Raleigh’s failures that success at length became possible; and his name is better entitled than any other to rank as the founder of the Anglo-American nation. “—Payne.

The misfortunes of the Roanoke settlers postponed the peopling of our State for more than a generation, but the fame of its beauty, fertility and rich resources had gone forth to the old world. Hear with what quaint expressions of enthusiasm a London writer speaks of Carolina in 1650: “Nature regards this Ornament of the new world with a more indulgent eye than she hath cast upon many other countreys. . . . It is all of so delectable an aspect, that the melanchollyest eve cannot look upon it without contentment, nor content himself without admiration. . . . Nature has crowned the Virgin Brow of this unexampled Countrey with universal plenty. . . . Winter Snowes, Frosts, and other excesses, are here only remembered, never known: the furling Springs and wanton Rivers everywhere kissing the happy soyle into a perpetuall verdure. . . . This fertility-labouring Countrey, especially in its Southerne beauties, in its Roanoke excellencies, like to a Princesse, all composed of Beauty, suffers no addresse to be made unsatisfied. . . . Why, being capable to crown her browes with Garlands of Roses, hath she sate desolate amongst the Willowes of neglect? . . . But the incomparable Virgin hath raised her dejected head, and now, like the Eldest Daughter of Nature, expresseth a priority in her Dowry. Her browes encircled with opulency, she may with as great justice as any Countrey the Sunne honours with his eye-betimes, entitle herself to an affinity with Eden, to an absolute perfection above all but Paradise. . . . The incomparable Roanoke like a Queene of the Ocean, encircled with an hundred attendant Islands, and the most Majestick Carolana shall in such an ample and noble gratitude repay her Adventurers with an Interest far transcending the Principall. “-Force Tracts, III, XI. E. Williams.

For more than half a century the name of the first settlement, the so-called -City of Raleigh,” disappears from our annals; until in 1654 a company of explorers from Virginia reached Roanoke, and saw what they termed the “ruins of Sir Walter Raleigh’s fort.” The lapse of time has probably altered its appearance but little from what it then was, except for the changes wrought by a luxuriant vegetation. Its present condition is thus described in Harper’s Magazine for May, 1860: “The trench is clearly traceable in a square about forty yards each way. Midway of one side another trench, perhaps flanking the gateway, runs inward fifteen or twenty feet. On the right of the same face of the enclosures, the corner is apparently thrown out in the form of a small bastion. The ditch is generally two feet deep, though in many places scarcely perceptible. The whole site is overgrown with pine, liveoak, vines, and a variety of other plants. A flourishing tree, draped with vines, stands sentinel near the centre. A fragment or two of stone or brick may be discovered in the grass, and then all is told of the existing relics of the city of Raleigh.”

Surely, these interesting historic remains should be saved from further decay, and kept intact for all time to come. No spot in the country should be dearer or more sacred to us than that which was marked by the first footprints of the English race in America. In this year of the great Exhibition at Chicago, and in these days of enthusiasm about Columbus and his explorations, it is especially important not to lose sight of the fact that he did not discover the continent of North America, and that the United States owe nothing to Spanish civilization. That influence was to mould the destiny of the peoples who gathered in the new world south of the Gulf of Mexico; but Cabot with his English explorers was the first to set foot on our Atlantic coast, and it is to English enterprise, English moral standards, English political ideas, and English civil and religious liberty, that we owe the manifold blessings we now enjoy, and to which we must gratefully ascribe the marvelous progress and prosperity of our beloved country.

And now we sons of Carolina, whose lot is cast beyond her borders, appeal to you at home for help in our patriotic undertaking. Perhaps those who are privileged to hang ever on the mother’s breast do not so fully realize how dear she is as we who yearn for her from afar. But however this may be, our love for the dear old mother State is deep and tender; we are proud of her glory, jealous of her honor; eager to work for her, to plead for her; and ready I trust, if God will, to die for her.

Her record is illustrious, but the world does not know it,—her history is full of good deeds, great deeds, noble deeds, but it is largely unwritten. Shall this ever be so? Shall no stepping-stone mark her grand progress across the waters of time? Are no statues to rise in honor of our immortals,—no monuments to our heroic dead,—no memorials of great epochs in our history?

To put these questions is to answer them, and we can no longer remain unmindful of our worthy past. The times are full of hopeful signs: associations are forming for patriotic purposes; historical societies are springing up in our principal towns; a few men have found that they have no time to make money, and are spending happy laborious days in turning over old manuscripts and publishing

*King Henry VIII, V.4, 53.

Colonial Records

forgotten papers. Our Colonial Records have been printed, chiefly through the noble efforts of William Saunders. All honor to him who, though a cripple from wounds and a martyr to pain, bravely carried through his colossal work! Go to Greensborough, and see what the devotion of one man can accomplish.. Six years ago Guilford battlefield, —the scene of the only pitched battle fought within our borders by regular armies during the Revolutionary war, —was an almost unknown wilderness. Today, through the energies of David Schenck, it is a beautiful park adorned with noble monuments, and it has become a Mecca of patriotism for thousands of pilgrims. As the years roll on it will become more and more a centre of historic interest to our children’s children, until Guilford will be as familiar a name as Bunker Hill, and its significance in the great struggle will be as fully recognized as that of Yorktown, to which it was the necessary prelude.

Thus should we cherish the memory of every important fact in our history. Let us devoutly study the Genesis of our beloved State, the development of our institutions, the formation of our special character,—for we Tar Heels, like the Hebrews of old, are a peculiar people,—we may even say in a limited sense God’s chosen people. Let us remember how the English pioneers from the borders of the Chesapeake peopled the Albemarle district,—how the French Huguenots settled on Pamplico Sound and on the fertile lands between the Neuse and Trent,—the Swiss and the persecuted refugees from the Palatinate found a home at New Berne,-the Scotch Highlanders occupied the banks of the Cape Fear,—the sturdy Irish Protestants and the Germans filled the centre of the State, and the industrious Moravians the country between the Dan and Yadkin. From the mingling of these varied elements has grown a homogeneous people-simple, unpretentious, modest, unostentatious, hardy, patient under suffering, obedient to law divine and human-a nation of brave, honest men and pure, tender women, unsurpassed in the world for their sterling qualities. As ready to resist tyranny as loyally submissive to rightful authority, their political acts have been marked by the highest wisdom, and if “there is any,” says Bancroft, “who doubt man’s capacity for self-government, let them study the history of North Carolina.”

Over sixty years under the government of the Lords Proprietors, and nearly as long under the rule of royal Governors, our fathers showed from the outset an earnest love of liberty and a determined spirit of independence. All oppression of the home government and every abuse of the royal prerogative were stoutly resisted, and when the day of inevitable conflict came, Mecklenburg pointed out to the sister Colonies the path to independence, and North Carolina soldiers shed their blood for the common safety from Stony Point on the Hudson to our extreme Southern border in Georgia. The cause, which their valour had helped to win in the field, was upheld by their wisdom in the council-chamber, and in nothing are our ancestors worthier of admiration than in the measures adopted for the formation of a State government and the conditions prescribed for the acceptance of the Federal Constitution.

Then followed two generations of happy, prosperous development, when again our country was desolated by a cruel civil. war,—for the outbreak of which North Carolina was in no way responsible,—and yet how nobly she responded to every call of duty and honour!—till her best blood was reddening every battlefield, and our dear mother offered up more of the precious lives of her children than -lid any other State.

With what interest, what pride should we dwell upon dl these things! But especially should we love and adorn he sacred spot which was the birthplace of American civilisation. Let Roanoke Island become as familiar and as tear to its as is Plymouth Rock to the New Englander; cake Fort Raleigh as widely known as Jamestow; let there gather around Virginia Dare the romantic interest that attaches to the name of Pocahontas.

Let us men and women give to this, and to all such patriotic movements, our substantial aid and hearty sympathy; and let all the young be taught to know and feel what a proud privilege it is to be a child of Carolina.

Edward Graham Daves
NOTE.-This article was prepared by Professor Daves for use as a lecture. As such it was delivered by him in a lecturing tour throughout North Carolina, in the winter of 1894-’93, in the interest of the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association scheme.-EDITOR.



MLA Source Citation:

Trinity College Historical Society. Historical Papers of the Trinity College Historical Society. Durham, N. C.: The Society. 1897-1956. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 21 November 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/north-carolina/raleighs-new-fort-in-virginia-1585.htm - Last updated on Jan 22nd, 2013


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