How Did The Chesapeake Bay Colony Disappear?

The Chesapeake Bay Colony Essay Sample

The Chesapeake Bay is found in an estuary of the river in the Harford County. Being a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it extends into the mainland and located between Virginia and Maryland states. This is one of the most beautiful natural landscapes of the North America. The name comes from the Indian words, meaning a mighty river, rich with fish. The first white man, exploring the Chesapeake Bay was legendary Captain John Smith. According to the legend, he decided to establish the first British colony on the Roanoke Island, being impressed by the beauty of the local nature.

So, in 1585, an English colony was founded in North Carolina, on the Roanoke Island, at the entrance to the Albemarle Bay and it got the royal privilege from the Queen Elizabeth I. This colony was the first permanent colony of England on the east coast of the New World. More than 100 people landed on the island. The colonists, including John White, who acted as the cartographer of the expedition, explored the area, searching for minerals, but soon they had a conflict with the Indians and it became harder to get food for them. Most settlers took the opportunity to go back to England with the ships by Sir Francis Drake, who made an unexpected stop on the island in June 1586 after raids over Spanish colonies. Arrived in July 1587, a group of colonists discovered only one of the 15 abandoned people or rather, his remains. Fortifications were destroyed, but some houses were preserved, although they were overgrown with the ivy. New settlers – more than a hundred men, women, and children – stayed here, but they had only to hope for the generosity of the local Indians. Because of the fall season, it was too late to plant anything. However, local Indians, who were frightened and offended by the behavior of the British who had arrived here earlier, left the island. In August 1590, the English ship approached the island of Roanoke. To inform the inhabitants of the island about the arrival of the Governor John White, the captain of the ship fired the cannon. There was no sign from the seashore. Two boats went to the island, but the sailors were very surprised to see nobody in the village.

Where did the colonists disappear? The Governor found the word “Croatoan”, carved in a tree at the gate of the empty Roanoke settlement. There was another inscription on the other tree, near the road leading to the pier, with only three letters “Cro”, which in all likelihood was a reduction of the same word. When White was leaving the island the previous time, the colonists promised that if they were forced to leave Roanoke, they would mark a sign explaining where they had gone, and in the case of danger they had to add a cross to this sign. But since there was no cross on any tree, this could only mean that the settlers voluntarily moved to Croatoan, an island that was about 60 miles to the south and which was populated by friendly Indians. The Governor John White was ready to go immediately to Croatoan, but the weather suddenly turned bad, and the ships began to sail away to the open sea. Because of this, White never crossed a short distance to Croatoan, and both ships headed to England. Nobody has ever seen again these men, women, and children who lived on the Roanoke Island in 1587. It was named a “disappeared colony”.

What are versions of the disappearance of this English colony? According to one of them, the English colony was destroyed by the Spaniards. The most northern Spanish settlement in America, San Augustin in Florida, was under the power of Pedro Menendez Marquez, the Spanish Governor of Florida. He knew that the British had built a fort in the north, and maybe even a colony, which would allow the English fleet to stay in the New World for the winter. But Menendez Marquez could not have known about the second group of settlers left on the Roanoke Island in 1587. That time, English pirates did not leave the Spaniards in peace, and the Spaniards had to use all available warships for the protection of ships that transported the gold and the silver from America to the metropolis. So, wondering what the British were up to, he sent a small ship under command of Vincent Gonzalez to that area in June 1588. Having examined the Chesapeake Bay, the Spaniards came across the Roanoke Island on the way back, where they have seen a berth for boats and several barrels, but neither settlers nor fortifications were seen. With this news, Vincent Gonzalez returned to Havana. Thus, we can surely say that the Spaniards are not to blame for the disappearance of the English colony.

According to another version, the English colony and colonists were destroyed by the Indians. But what danger, in reality, did the Indians, living in those places, represent for English settlers? John White remembered about the warm welcome of the local Indians. Only thanks to their support and hospitality, the British settlers were able to survive the first winter. The Indians used to give them seeds, taught how to grow corn, helped to make dams to fish. But there were problems as well. One time, when a silver cup was stolen from one boat, the Governor of the island ordered to burn an Indian village and destroy their corn sowings. Perhaps the disappearing white colonists paid for this and other similar crimes of the British? But in fact, the colonists left signs on the trees and no cross was there, meaning that they had to leave Roanoke without any danger. Moreover, after landing on the island in 1590, the British did not find any bodies or burnt buildings. In other words, there was no evidence that would confirm that the settlers became victims of the Indian revenge.

Probably most colonists, guided by the initial plan, moved north to establish another settlement at the Chesapeake Bay, where the locals could give them some protection from hostile Indians living around. Faced with the growing hostility of the Indians, fearing the Spaniards and losing hope on the return of the British ships, they could move to the south of Croatoan, where they inevitably had to live like Indians and became indistinguishable from the local people soon.

According to the fantastic novel Dare, written by Philip Farmer, the settlers of the colony were abducted by aliens and taken to one of the planets in the Tau Ceti star system. Then, following another version in the popular movie Supernatural, an incurable virus that destroyed the colony. So what happened with English colony after all? We do not know about it for sure by now.