Sixteenth Century Vengeance on Roanoke Island

A watercolor by John White depicting a Roanoke village. Image from the British Museum.On July 18, 1585, the Indian village of Aquascogoc was burned by men from the second of three Roanoke Voyages.

The voyagers on the second expedition left England in April 1585 with the goal of establishing a new colony on Roanoke Island. After arriving on the Outer Banks in June, a detachment of colonists, with Native American Manteo as their interpreter, explored the mainland and visited several villages, including Pomeiok, Aquascogoc and Secotan.

All but one of the boats of the detachment returned to settlers’ camp at Wococon on July 18. The remaining boat took Captain Philip Amadas, Manteo, and a few others back to Aquascogoc to “demand a silver cup which one of the Savages had stolen from us.”

It is unclear exactly what transpired at Aquascogoc—whether the Indians denied having the cup or whether they thought the English were taking back a gift. The leader of the village apparently promised the cup’s return in an effort to stall the English long enough for the women and children to escape. After noticing the people clearing the village, Amadas reacted with unconscionable violence.  It was written that the men “burnt, and spoyled their Corne, and Towne, all the people being fledde.”

Not a month had passed into the attempted colonization of the “New World,” when the English committed the first act of violence against the natives. It is believed that Aquascogoc was southeast of modern-day Belhaven in Beaufort County.

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