Raleigh’s “New Fort in Virginia” 1585, North Carolina Coast
The following data is extracted from Trinity College Historical Society .
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.“The courtier's, scholar's, soldier's eye, tongue, sword."
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 ----
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.
Source: Trinity College Historical Society