Grenville's relief fleet arrived shortly after Drake's departure. Finding the colony abandoned, Grenville returned to England with the bulk of his force, leaving behind a small detachment to maintain an English presence and to protect Raleigh's claim to Roanoke Island.
1587. Raleigh then dispatched a new group of 115 colonists to establish a colony on Chesapeake Bay. They were led by John White, an artist and friend of Raleigh who had accompanied the previous expeditions to Roanoke. Thomas Harriot eventually sailed to Roanoke with the second group of settlers, where his skills as a naturalist became particularly important. White was later appointed Governor.
Raleigh named 12 assistants to aid in the settlement and sent them to Roanoke to check on the settlers. When they arrived on July 22, 1587, they found nothing except a skeleton. The fleet's commander, Simon Fernandez, refused to let the colonists return to the ships, insisting they stay to establish the new colony on Roanoke. Shortly thereafter, colonist George Howe was killed by a native while he was by himself searching for crabs in Albemarle Sound.
Fearing for their lives, the colonists persuaded Governor White to return to England to explain the colony's desperate situation and ask for help. Left behind were about 115 colonists – the remaining men and women who had made the Atlantic crossing plus White's newly born granddaughter Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas. White sailed for England in late 1587. Plans for a relief fleet were delayed by the captain's refusal to return during the winter, and then the coming of the Spanish Armada and the subsequent Anglo-Spanish War for which every ship was commandeered.
1588. In the spring of 1588, White managed to hire two small vessels and sailed for Roanoke. But the captains of the ships attempted to capture several Spanish ships and instead were themselves captured and plundered. With nothing left to deliver to the colonists, the ships returned to England.
1590. White was unable to mount another resupply attempt for three more years. Finally, he gained passage on a privateering expedition that agreed to stop off at Roanoke on the way back from the Caribbean. He landed on August 18, 1590, on his granddaughter Virginia's third birthday, but found no trace of the 118 settlers... and no sign of any struggle.
Raleigh: Raleigh Trevelyan, Sir Walter Raleigh (2004). biography.com/people/walter-raleigh-9450901.