The Lost Colony and Its Aftermath
Until Sir Walter Raleigh came on the scene, England had primarily viewed North America Map as an obstacle to effective exploration, the goal of which was to discover a speedy route to the Far East. Raleigh changed this by focusing on America itself. Raleigh’s motives for colonizing are not precisely clear; he likely hoped to find treasure, raid Spanish colonies, and explore simply for the sake of exploration. The first voyage to North America undertaken on Raleigh’s behalf was a smashing success, particularly in the area of public relations. Two well-equipped ships financed by Raleigh and commanded by members of his household sailed from Plymouth in April 1584. They stopped in Puerto Rico for a new supply of food and water, then sailed north to an island off the coast of present-day North America Map North Carolina, where they stayed for six weeks.
The expedition returned to London with two Native Americans, who became instant celebrities. Raleigh was elected to Parliament in the same year. Raleigh, together with Arthur Barlowe (one of the captains of the voyage) and both Richard Hakluyts, Senior and Junior, tried to muster support for an even more extensive colonizing expedition. The second expedition was to include 500 men; reinforcements were to follow. Thomas Harriot and John White were tapped to study the region’s native peoples, mainly Algonquian speakers. In April 1585, at least seven ships containing about 600 men sailed for Virginia. After some trade, piracy, rough weather, and adventures at sea, the colony at Roanoke was established in the summer of 1585. Supplies were short, though, so only 100 men remained and the rest returned to England. Throughout the winter of 15851586, the colonists struggled to eke out a living in an unfamiliar environment. They explored their surroundings, establishing friendly relations with some tribes and leaning on others for food and supplies. Not surprisingly, relations with Wingina, the nearest tribal leader, went sour. In June 1586, the colonists killed Wingina and beheaded him.
This hostile situation resulted in the abandonment of this first Roanoke colony. Raleigh collected the accounts of the first colonists and decided to outfit another expedition, intending that this second party would have less of a military character and would settle near Chesapeake Bay. Under the leadership of John White, the group, which included women and children, sailed in 1587. After a few weeks, responding to the colonists’ worries over supplies, White returned to England, promising to return soon with the needed goods; however, he was not able to return until 1590. He discovered the colony abandoned, the fort ransacked, and the word CROATOAN carved into one of the posts. What happened to the colonists at Roanoke stands as one of the great mysteries in early American history. They may have fallen victim to an attack by Native Americans or been adopted into neighboring tribes. Their fate is wrapped in legend and folklore. Some of the Jamestown settlers claimed to have heard Powhatan boasting that he had killed them when his armies invaded the island. In the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, explorers claimed to have seen fair-skinned, blue-eyed Native Americans on the coast of Virginia. The loss of the colony stung Raleigh, who still believed that an English settlement could thrive there.