• Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

    Fort Raleigh

    National Historic Site North Carolina

Roanoke Revisited Unit 3

Ralegh's First Colony, 1585 - 1586

The reconnaissance expedition that returned to England in mid-September 1584 delivered a glowing report of the new territory and its people. In spite of the escalating cold war between England and Spain, an enthusiastic Ralegh sent a colony of 108 men in the spring of 1585 to establish a settlement in the New World. Sir Richard Grenville transported the first settlers to the coast of modern North Carolina, made preliminary explorations of the area, put Ralph Lane in charge of the colony, and returned to England for supplies, capturing prize ships along the way. In the eleven months that followed, Lane and his men explored the surrounding area and assessed the economic potential of its resources. Deteriorating relations with the Native Americans and a shortage of food and supplies created severe hardships for the fledgling settlement, worsened by Grenville's failure to resupply them by the appointed time. Disheartened, the colonists abandoned the settlement and sailed to England with Sir Francis Drake when he stopped by Roanoke Island at the end of his West Indian voyage in June 1586. Upon their arrival in England, many of the ex-colonists complained loudly about life in the New World, but Thomas Harriot, in his "A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia" (1588), extolled the land's potential.

The following links provide an overview of persons and events associated with the 1585 - 1586 colony and develop telling details:

The First English Colony
Piracy, Privateering, and Elizabethan Maritime Expansion
Sir Richard Grenville
Thomas Cavendish
Forts of the Roanoke Colonists, 1584 - 1590
Arms and Armor of the Roanoke Colonists
Thomas Harriot, Trumpet of Roanoke
Wild Plants of Eastern North Carolina
Animals, Birds, and Fish of the New World
Sir Francis Drake
Postal Firsts

Did You Know?

English landing on Roanoke Island, NC Office of Archives & History

Before the 1587 colony of families, an English expedition of soldiers and explorers resided for nearly a year on Roanoke Island from 1585 to 1586. These men formed England’s first New World settlement, beginning a new chapter in the course of the world.