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The entire northern end of Hatteras Island was once known as Chicamacomico, but in 1874 the postal service changed the name to Rodanthe, but by the early 1900s, three distinct villages had become established in the Rodanthe area – North Rodanthe, South Rodanthe, and Clark. As the postal sections were subdivided, the northernmost village kept the name "Rodanthe," while the others were assigned new names once again.
Rodanthe is home to the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, the first such station established along the North Carolina coast, in the service of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, which eventually became today's modern Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard was essentially founded in this tiny village. A state historic site is one of the showpieces of this community, where re-enactments using the breeches-buoy rescue cannon, restored buildings and artifacts. Rodanthe is a simple delight for children and those hungry for history.
During the Civil War in 1861, Confederate troops landed on the northern end of the island in an effort to re-take Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras, which had fallen to the Union's first naval invasion of the South. The southern troops chased the 20th Indiana back to their lines near present-day Buxton, only have the Federals reinforced from the southern end of the island. The Union then chased the Confederates northward in a half-hearted skirmish that wags mockingly named "The Chicamacomico Races."
More recently, the natural beauty of Rodanthe was featured in the major motion picture Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. The actual locations seen in the film still draw thousands of fans each year, all longing to experience the romance and solitude found so easily among the sand and the waves.