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English Captains Describe Sir Walter Raleigh

In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I granted the rights to settle the Roanoke colony to Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh sent a fleet to investigate the area called Virginia that year. The excerpts below come from a longer account of the first voyage of exploration to the Roanoke Island area written by one of the two English captains. The account includes descriptions of the journey, meetings with the local Indian tribes, and the surrounding countryside.

The first voyage made to the coasts of America, with two barks, where in were Captains M. Philip Amadas, and M. Arthur Barlowe, who discovered part of the Country now called Virginia, Anno 1584. Written by one of the said Captains, and sent to sir Walter Raleigh knight, at whose charge and direction, the said voyage was set forth.

The Kings brother had great liking of our armor, a sword, and diverse other things which we had: and offered to lay a great box of pearl in gage for them: but we refused it for this time, because we would not make them know, that we esteemed thereof, until we had understood in what places of the country the pearl grew: which now your Worship do very well understand.

He was very just of his promise: for many times we delivered him merchandise upon his word, but ever he came within the day and performed his promise. He sent us every day a brace or two of fat Bucks, Conies, Hares, Fish the best of the world. He sent us diverse kinds of fruits, Melons, Walnuts, Cucumbers, Gourds, Peas, and diverse roots, and fruits very excellent good, and of their Country corn, which is very white, fair and well tasted, and grows three times in five months: in May they sow, in July they reap, in June they sow, in August they reap: in July they sow, in September they reap: only they cast the corn into the ground breaking a little of the soft turf with a wooden mattock, or pickaxe: our selves proved the soil, and put some of our Peas in the ground, and in ten days they were of fourteen inches high: they have also Beans very fair of diverse colors and wonderful plenty: some growing naturally, and some in their gardens, and so have they both wheat and oats.

Source | Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1904); from University of Virginia Library's Electronic Text Center, "First Hand Accounts of Virginia, 1575-1705," Virtual Jamestown,
Creator | M. Philip Amadas and M. Arthur Barlowe
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | M. Philip Amadas and M. Arthur Barlowe, “English Captains Describe Sir Walter Raleigh,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 30, 2023,

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