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Roanoke Island: Wikis


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Coordinates: 35°53′N 75°39′W / 35.883°N 75.65°W / 35.883; -75.65

Entrance to Fort Raleigh Outdoor Theater near the north end of Roanoke Island

Roanoke Island is an island in Dare County near the coast of North Carolina, United States.

About eight miles (12 km) long and two miles (3 km) wide, Roanoke Island lies between the mainland and the barrier islands, with Albemarle Sound on its north, Roanoke Sound at the northern end, and Wanchese CDP at the southern end. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is on the island. There is a land area of 17.95 square miles (46.48 km²) and a population of 6,724 as of the 2000 census.

Located along U.S. Highway 64, a major highway from mainland North Carolina to the Outer Banks, Roanoke Island combines recreational and water features with historical sites and an outdoor theater to form one of the major tourist attractions of Dare County.

Roanoke Island is best known for its historical significance as the site of Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to establish a permanent English settlement with his Roanoke Colony in 1585 and 1587. The fate of the final group of colonists has never been determined, yielding persistent myths. Stories about the "Lost Colony" have circulated for over 400 years. In the 21st century, even as archaeologists, historians and scientists continue to work to resolve the mystery, visitors come to see the longest-running outdoor theater production in America: "The Lost Colony."

Roanoke Island is one of the three oldest surviving English place-names in the U.S. Along with the Chowan and Neuse rivers, it was named in 1584 by Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, sent by Sir Walter Raleigh. [1]




The First Colony

Roanoke Island was the site of the sixteenth-century Roanoke Colony, the first English colony in the New World. It was located in what was then called Virginia, named in honor of England's ruling monarch and "Virgin Queen", Elizabeth I. There were two groups of settlers who attempted to establish a colony there, and each failed. The first attempt was headed by Ralph Lane in 1585, after Sir Richard Grenville, who had transported the colonists to Virginia, returned to England for supplies as planned. Unfortunately for the colonists, who were desperately in need of supplies, Grenville's return was delayed. As a result, when Sir Francis Drake put in at Roanoke after attacking the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, the entire population of the colony returned with Drake to England.

In 1587, the English again attempted to settle Roanoke Island. John White, father of colonist Eleanor Dare, and grandfather to the first English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare, left the colony to return to England for supplies he believed would help the colonists survive. He expected to return to Roanoke Island within three months. Instead, he found England at war with Spain, and all ships were confiscated for use of the war efforts. His return to Roanoke Island was delayed until 1590, by when all the colonists had disappeared and the settlement was abandoned. The only clue he found was the word "CROATOAN" carved into a tree.[citation needed] Before leaving the colony three years earlier, White had left instructions that, if the colonists left the settlement, they were to carve the name of their destination, with a Maltese cross if they left due to danger.[2]

"CROATOAN" was the name of an island to the south (modern-day Hatteras Island), where a friendly native tribe was known to live. Colonists might have tried to reach that island. However, foul weather would keep White from venturing south to search on Croatoan for the colonists, and he returned to England. White would never return to the New World. The fate of the colony has never been authoritatively ascertained, and consequently it became known as "The Lost Colony".

Later, in the 1880s, a man living in North Carolina wrote about what the Natives looked like there. He wrote that he had noticed that some of them had "fair skin and light eyes and hair, with Anglo bone structure." That was the kind of assumption that people made when not being able to place people of mixed race, more usually of European and African descent. Some people persist in believing that survivors of the Roanoke colonists had been assimilated into the Croatan Indian tribe, but there had been other opportunities for European-Native American contact. This is a legend for which there is no documentation.

Battle of Roanoke Island

Map of Roanoke Island showing Rebel forts

During the American Civil War, the Confederacy fortified the island. The Battle of Roanoke Island (February 7–8, 1862) was an incident in the Union North Carolina Expedition of January to July 1862, when Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside landed an amphibious force and took Confederate forts on the island. Afterward, the Union Army renamed the three Confederate forts for the Union generals who had commanded the winning forces: Fort Huger became Fort Reno; Fort Blanchard became Fort Parke; and Fort Bartow became Fort Foster. Loss of the forts led to the resignation of Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin. Roanoke Island was occupied by Union forces for the duration of the war.

Slaves from the island and the mainland of North Carolina fled to the occupied area with hopes of gaining freedom. By 1863, numerous former slaves, known as "contrabands," were living on the fringe of the Union camp. They had built churches and opened what was likely the first free school for blacks in North Carolina. Fearing that the freedmen's camp might lead to problems related to sanitation and soldiers' discipline, the Union Army established an official freedmen's colony on the island. In addition to serving the original residents, the colony was to be a refuge for the families of black soldiers who enlisted in the Union Army. Horace James, superintendent, had great hopes for the colony, as he viewed it as an important social experiment, to prove blacks could progress. Northern missionary teachers, mostly women, journeyed to the island to teach literacy to both children and adults, who were eager for education.

Museums on Roanoke Island


  1. ^ Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. pp. 21, 22. 
  2. ^ Beers Quinn. David, Ed."The Roanoke Voyages 1584-90". Vol. 1-11. Hakluyt Society, 1955. p.615

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Simple English

Roanoke Island is an island that was also an early settlement in what would become the United States. It was located on what is now the coast of North Carolina. Walter Raleigh and others lived there from 1585 to 1587. It was eventually given up, and nobody knows why. Virginia Dare, the first white person born in the United States, was born there. There was also a Civil War


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