Saturday, February 1, 2014

1588 - The Armada Year

With Governor John White's leaving on August 27, the story of the planter's colony will become a tragic mystery. It was question of moving about 50 miles inland and White had arranged to get appropriate information on its location in case of abandoning Roanoke before his return. This was going to be constantly delayed with no means to hear from his daughter and grand-daughter Virginia remained on the other side of the ocean.

Thomas Harriot publishes his Briefe and True Report in which he describes all the observations made during the first Roanoke colony in 1585.

March 1588 - Urged by John White, Sir Richard Grenville has managed to prepare six boats in the port of Bideford intended to set sail as soon as possible to attack the Spaniards in the West Indies and supply the settlers in Roanoke. They are not allowed to leave England due to the impending war with Spain and must return to Plymouth. 
Reported unsuitable to military service, the Bark Brave, a 30-ton vessel and the Roe, a 25-ton pinnace were left at White's disposal.

April 22, 1588 - White's flotilla commanded by Captain Arthur Facy leaves Bideford, Devonshire, headed for Virginia but the two small boats are poorly equipped and carry few provisions.

Although his two boats were ill-suited to the open sea, John White hoped to reach Roanoke in mid-July. It was however not counting on captain Facy who was more concerned with piracy than with the fate of the colony.

May 6, 1588 - The Brave is attacked by two bigger French ships coming from La Rochelle. The fight causes several casualties including Governor White, wounded in the buttock. The English boat owes surrender, all its provisions and weapons are looted. Severely damaged, the Brave reaches however to join Bideford harbor. The Roe had also to sail back.
Discouraged, John White believes to be born under a "hapless star".

June, 1588 - The Spanish governor of St Augustine sends a boat with about 30 men including his nephew Juan Menendez Marquez under the orders of captain Vincent Gonzalez to locate the Roanoke colony in view of a possible attack.

Having looked out Chesapeake Bay, Vincente Gonzalez arrived somewhat by chance at Port Ferdinando. He found there all the appearances of a mooring place and an English settlement. He hastily left to share his discovery convinced that the little harbor was still used but the attack planned, once delayed and later irrelevant due to the poorness of fittings, never seems to have occurred. This is at least the conclusion that can be drawn from Spanish documents of that time.

August 10, 1588 - Only a half of the 122 ships forming the Spanish Armada will return home to Spain after being wrecked by the unusual gales that plague the North Atlantic during three days. For England, this victory foreshadows the maritime decline of Spain and its new supremacy on the seas.

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