Fort Raleigh - History and Facts | History Hit

Fort Raleigh

Fort Raleigh City, North Carolina, United States

Fort Raleigh in North Carolina was the site of the famous English “lost colony” of Roanoke.

Peta Stamper

24 Jul 2021
Image Credit: William Silver/

About Fort Raleigh

Fort Raleigh is a National Historic Park located on Roanoke Island in North Carolina, United States, the site of an English colony which was famously ‘lost’. Today, Fort Raleigh National Historic Park offers a range of activities for adults and children to get lost within the site’s long history.

Fort Raleigh history

First established between 1584 and 1590, the English colony was a first attempt by the English to colonise the ‘New World’, a campaign spearheaded by Sir Walter Raleigh. However, this community of 116 people effectively ‘disappeared’, never to be heard from again. The mysterious fate of these men, women and children has never been revealed.

During the American Civil War, Fort Raleigh was the site of a modest battle known as the Battle of Roanoke Island, in which the Union captured the island from the Confederates in February 1862. Whilst this battle was relatively small, it did add to the momentum of the Union efforts.

Following the battle, Fort Raleigh became the site of a ‘Freedmen’s Colony’, an experimental plan whereby African Americans were settled on the island. The community established at Roanoke thrived but at the end of the war, the land was returned to its original owners.

Fort Raleigh today

The actual ‘fort’ at Fort Raleigh, made up of earthworks, is a remnant of English colonisation and several 16th century items have been discovered there. Visitors can view this fort and learn more about its history, and a film about the historic first – albeit missing – colony at Roanoke can be viewed at the visitor centre.

Beyond the spectre of Fort Raleigh’s colonial past, the site boasts a wealth of history, including that of Native Americans. Visitors to Fort Raleigh can explore the culture of the Native Americans who lived there.

It is also worth noting that the first successful, permanent English colony was not established until 1607 – this can be viewed at Colonial National Park, Virginia.

Getting to Fort Raleigh

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is located on the north end of Roanoke Island, about 4 miles north of the town of Manteo, North Carolina. Follow I-95 South to Richmond, then I-64 East toward Virginia Beach and I-664 to Chesapeake. Exit 291B to Route 168, the Chesapeake Expressway and follow US 158 then US 64 to Roanoke Island toward Manteo where you will see the entrance sign to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

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