Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

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1401 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC, USA

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site Manteo Reviews

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Fort Raleigh National Historic Site Oct 06, 2012
The first English attempt to colonize North America occurred on Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks in the 1580s. Organized by Sir Walter Raleigh (who never set foot on the continent), an initial expedition in 1584 led to a short-lived encampment in 1585 and then a larger colony on the same site in 1587. The 1587 colonists intended to set up further north along the Chesapeake Bay but were essentially stranded in Roanoke when their Portuguese captain decided to go pirating instead. They had stopped on the island to pick up ten men left behind from the previous encampment, only to find a lone skeleton (a hint perhaps of what was to come).

Captain John White left for England in the remaining ship for supplies, but his return was delayed for three years by the Spanish Armada. When he finally arrived in 1590, the colony was was gone save for the words "Croatan" and "Cro" carved into two trees. The fate of the Lost Colony of Roanoke is one of the great mysteries of American history. White's granddaughter Virginia Dare was the first person of English descent born in what would become the thirteen colonies (Dare County, which encompasses most of the Outer Banks, is named after the girl who disappeared with the rest of the colonists).

The site of the colony is preserved by the National Park Service. There isn't much here besides a visitors center with a short film and artifacts found in various archaeological digs. The highlight is the restored earthen fort originally built by the 1585 colonists, long referred to by locals as "Fort Raleigh." While the locations of other structures remain unknown, the earthen fort is genuine (though historians argue over its original use, some holding it was only meant to protect the natural specimens collected for study in the 1585 expedition). Also on site is a small monument for the Freedmen's Colony established on Roanoke by the Union army for escaped slaves during the Civil War.

This is a great place to stop by for a brief visit if only to stand in the spot where the United States had its rather inauspicious beginning and to ponder the mystery of the Lost Colony. During the summer an open air theater nearby performs a nightly play on the colonists which has been running since 1936 (I have not seen it). Also close by are the Elizabethan Gardens and historical reenactments of life in the colony and Indian villages at Festival Park in Manteo.
The earthen fort at Roanoke Island…
Inside the fort
Where it all began
An 1896 memorial to the Lost Colony
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photo by: Zagnut66