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A pinnace used in the funeral of Sir Philip Sidney, 1587. Small boats such as this were used to transport men and supplies from the harbor at Hatoraske through the inland waters to Roanoke Island.

THE VOYAGE. The route chosen lay via the Canaries and the Spanish West Indies. They anchored at "Moskito Bay" in the Island of "St. Johns" (Puerto Rico), May 12, where they constructed a fort, set up a forge to make nails, and built a pinnace to replace one lost in a storm. They left Puerto Rico toward the end of May after burning the fort and surrounding woods and after seizing two Spanish frigates. Just before departing, Ralph Lane raided "Roxo bay" in one of the captured frigates, built a fort, and seized a supply of salt.

These bellicose activities of the English in Puerto Rico illustrate the fact that England and Spain were virtually at war at that time. Indeed, the war was to become an actuality within 3 years. In the meantime, the English were engaged in what would be called today a "cold war"—pin-pricking the Spaniard in the West Indies and about to settle on the American mainland at a spot sufficiently close to Spanish Florida to constitute both an economic and a military threat to Spain. Growth of the English colony would circumscribe Spain's own colonial effort; at the same time, the location chosen for the English colony was close enough to serve as a base of operations against Spanish new world shipping. That both possibilities were uppermost in the minds of Raleigh and Grenville and their supporters at court is obvious. One of the weaknesses of their colonial program was their persistent thought that privateering operations against Spanish shipping should, or could, be made to pay the cost of English colonial effort.

drawing of fort
John White's water-color drawing of the fort which Ralph Lane built in Puerto Rico in May 1585 while the first group of colonists were en route to Roanoke Island.

The first part of June found the English banqueting the uneasy Spanish Governor at Isabella on the Island of Hispaniola (Haiti). To impress the Governor, Grenville treated him to a sumptuous meal served "all in plate" to the "sound of trumpets and consort of musicke." The Governor entertained in turn and, subsequently, the English traded with the Spaniards for commodities that would be needed in their colonial settlement: "horses, mares, kine, buls, goates, swine, sheepe, bull-hides, sugar, ginger," etc. From the Spanish accounts of Grenville's actions in Puerto Rico and Haiti are gained some interesting personal glimpses. The officers and persons of distinction in the expedition were served upon silver plate which was chased and gilt. Wanchese and Manteo had learned to speak English, and the illustrator, John White, was already engaged in drawing pictures of strange plants and objects.


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Last Modified: Mon, Dec 2 2002 10:00:00 am PDT

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