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Indians of Virginia

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The most complete and veracious account of the manners, appearance, and history of the aboriginal inhabitants of Virginia, particularly those who dwelt in the eastern portion of that district, upon the rivers and the shores of Chesapeake Bay, is contained in the narrative of the re doubted Captain John Smith. This bold and energetic pioneer, after many “strange adventures, happened by land or sea;” still a young man, though a veteran in military service; and inured to danger and hardship, in battle and captivity among the Turks, joined his fortunes to those of Bartholomew Gosnoll and his party, who sailed from England on the 19th of December, 1606, (O. S.) to form a settlement on the Western Continent.

Former attempts to establish colonies in Virginia had terminated disastrously, from the gross incompetence, extravagant expectations, improvidence, and villainous conduct of those engaged in them.

Expedition Of Amidas and Barlow

Sir Walter Ralegh
Sir Walter Ralegh

In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh and his associates, under a patent from Queen Elizabeth, had sent out two small vessels, commanded by Amidas and Barlow. By the circuitous route then usually adopted, the exploring party passed the “West Indies, coasted along the fragrant shores of Florida, and entered Ocrakoke Inlet in the month of July, enraptured with the rich and fruitful appearance of the country. Grapes grew to the very borders of the sea, overspreading the bushes and climbing to the tops of trees in luxurious abundance.

Their intercourse with the natives was friendly and peaceful; as they reported, “a more kind, loving people could not be.” They carried on trade and barter with Granganimeo, brother to Winginia, king of the country, and were royally entertained by his wife at the island of Roanoke.

Wingandacoa was the Indian name of the country, and, on the return of the expedition, in the ensuing September; it was called Virginia, in honor of the queen.

Of Sir Richard Grenville

Sir Richard Grenville
Sir Richard Grenville

Sir Richard Grenville, an associate of Raleigh, visited Virginia the next year, (1585,) and left over one hundred men to form a settlement at Roanoke. Being disappointed in their anticipations of profit, or unwilling to endure the privations attendant upon the settlement of a habitation in the wilderness, all returned within a year. A most unjustifiable outrage was committed by the English of this party, on one of their exploring expeditions. In the words of the old narrative, “At Aquascogoc the Indians stole a silver cup, wherefore we burnt the town and spoiled their corn; so returned to our fleet at Tocokon.” This act is but a fair specimen of the manner in which redress has been sought for injuries sustained at the hands of the natives, not only in early times, but too often at the present day.

It is not surprising that thereafter the Indians should have assumed a hostile attitude. Granganimeo was dead, and Winginia, who had now taken the name of Pemissapan, formed a plan to cut off these disorderly invaders of his dominions. This resulted only in some desultory skirmishing; and, a few days afterwards, the fleet of Sir Francis Drake appearing in the offing, the whole colony concluded to return to England.

Mr. Thomas Heriot, whose journal of this voyage and settlement is preserved, gives a brief account of the superstitions, customs, and manner of living which he observed among the savages. In enumerating the animals, which were used for food by the Indians, he mentions that “the savages sometimes killed a lion and ate him.” He concludes his narrative by very justly remarking, that some of the company ” showed themselves too furious in slaying some of the people in some towns upon causes that on our part might have been borne with more mildness.”

Grenville, in the following year, knowing nothing of the desertion of the settlement, took three ships over to America, well furnished for the support and relief of those whom he had left on the preceding voyage. Finding the place abandoned, he left fifty settlers to reoccupy it, and returned home. On the next arrival from England the village was again found deserted, the fort dismantled, and the plantations overgrown with weeds. The bones of one man were seen, but no other trace appeared to tell the fate of the colony. It afterwards appeared, from the narrations of the savages, that three hundred men from Aquascogoc and other Indian towns had made a descent upon the whites, and massacred the whole number.

The experiment of colonization was again tried, and again failed: of over one hundred persons, including some females, who landed, none were to be found by those who went in search of them in 1589, nor was their fate ever ascertained. It is recorded that, before the departure of the ships that brought over this colony, on the 18th of August (O. S.), the governor’s daughter, Ellinor Dare, gave birth to an infant, which was named Virginia, and was the first white child born in the country.

We now return to Gosnoll and his companions, numbering a little over one hundred, who, as we before mentioned, visited the country in 1606. They sailed from England with sealed orders, which were not to be opened until their arrival in America. Landing on Cape Henry, at the entrance of the Chesapeake, the hostile feelings of the Indians were soon made manifest; “thirty of the company recreating themselves on shore were assaulted by five savages, who hurt two of the English very dangerously.” The box containing the orders from the authorities in England being opened, Smith was found to be one of the number appointed as a council to govern the colony; but he was, at that time, in close custody, in consequence of sundry absurd and jealous suspicions which had been excited against him on the voyage, and he was therefore refused all share in the direction of the public affairs. Before the return of the ships, however, which took place in June, the weak and ill-assorted colony were glad to avail themselves of the services and counsel of the bold and persevering captain. His enemies were disgraced, and his authority was formally acknowledged. Meantime, the settlement was commenced at Jamestown, forty miles up the Powhatan, now James River. The Indians appeared friendly, and all hands fell to work at the innumerable occupations which their situation required. A few ruins, and the picturesque remains of the old brick church-tower still standing, utterly deserted amid the growth of shrubs and willows, are all that remains of the intended city.

Visit to Powhatan

Powhatan
Powhatan

Newport and Smith, with a company of twenty men, were sent to explore the upper portion of the river, and made their way to the town of Powhatan, situated upon a bluff just below the falls, and at the head of navigation the same spot afterwards chosen for the site of the capital of the state. The natives were peaceable and kind to the adventurers, receiving them with every demonstration of interest and pleasure, and rejoiced at the opportunity for traffic in beads and ornaments. As they approached Jamestown, on their return, they perceived some hostile demonstrations; and arriving there, found that seventeen men had been wounded, and that one boy had been killed by the Indians during their absence.

Wingfield, the president of the colony, had injudiciously neglected to make any secure fortifications, and the people, leaving their arms stored apart, set to work without a guard; thus giving to the lurking foe convenient opportunity for an assault.

After Captain Newport had sailed for England, the colonists, left to their own resources, were reduced to great straits and privation. Most of them were men utterly unfitted for the situation they had chosen, and unable to endure labor and hardship. Feeding upon damaged wheat, with such fish and crabs as they could catch; worn out by unaccustomed toil; unused to the climate, and ignorant of its diseases; it is matter of little wonder that fifty of the company died before the month of October.

Smith, to whom all now looked for advice, and who was virtually at the head of affairs, undertook an expedition down the river for purposes of trade. Finding that the natives “scorned him as a famished man,” derisively offering a morsel of food as the price of his arms, he adopted a very common expedient of the time, using force where courtesy availed not. After a harmless discharge of muskets, he landed and marched up to a village where much corn was stored. He would not allow his men to plunder, but awaited the expected attack of the natives. A party of sixty or seventy presently appeared, ” with a most hideous noise some black, some red, some white, some parti-colored, they came in a square order, singing and dancing out of the woods, with their Okee (which was an idol made of skins stuffed with moss, all painted and hung with chains and copper,) borne before them.” A discharge of pistol shot from the guns scattered them, and they fled, leaving their Okee. Being now ready to treat, their image was restored, and beads, copper, and hatchets were given by Smith to their full satisfaction, in return for provisions.

Improvidence and Difficulties of the Colonists

The improvident colonists, by waste and inactivity, counteracted the efforts of Smith: and Wingfield, the former president, with a number of others, formed a plan to seize the pinnace and return to England. This conspiracy was not checked without some violence and bloodshed. As the weather grew colder with the change of season, game became fat and plenty, and the Indians on Chickahamania River were found eager to trade their corn for English articles of use or ornament; so that affairs began to look more prosperous.

During the ensuing winter, Smith, with a barge and boat s crew, undertook an exploration of the sources of the Chickahamania, (Chickahominy,) which empties into James River, a few miles above Jamestown. After making his way for about fifty miles up the stream, his progress was so impeded by fallen trees and the narrowness of the channel, that he left the boat and crew in a sort of bay, and proceeded in a canoe, accompanied only by two Englishmen, and two Indian guides. The men left in charge of the boat, disregarding his orders to stay on board till his return, were set upon by a great body of the natives, and one of their number, George Cassen, was taken prisoner. Having compelled their captive to disclose the intentions and position of the captain, these savages proceeded to put him to death in a most barbarous manner, severing his limbs at the joints with shells, and burning them before his face. As they dared not attack the armed company in the boat, all hands then set out in hot pursuit of Smith, led by Opechancanough, king of Pamaunkee.

Coming upon the little party among the marshes, far up the river, they shot the two Englishmen as they were sleeping by the canoe; and, to the number of over two hundred, surrounded the gallant captain, who, accompanied by one of his guides, was out with his gun in search of game. Binding the Indian fast to his arm, with a garter, as a protection from the shafts of the enemy, Smith made such good use of his gun that he killed three of his assailants and wounded several others. The whole body stood at some distance, stricken with terror at the unwonted execution of his weapon, while he slowly retired towards the canoe. Unfortunately, attempting to cross a creek with a miry bottom, he stuck fast, together with his guide, and, becoming benumbed with cold, for the season was unusually severe, he threw away his arms, and surrendered himself prisoner.

Smith Taken Prisoner his Treatment by the Indians

Smith's 1620 Map of the new Colony of Virginia
1620 Map of the new Colony of Virginia accompanying the memoir of John Smith. The locations of Native villages and tribes are shown for the region east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The western extent of the map is the upper center of the map, where the James River passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Delighted with their acquisition, the savages took him to the fire, and restored animation to his limbs by warmth and friction. He immediately set himself to conciliate the king, and presenting him with an ivory pocket compass, proceeded to explain its use, together with many other scientific matters greatly beyond the comprehension of the wild creatures who gathered around him in eager and astonished admiration. Perhaps with a view of trying his courage, they presently bound him to a tree, and all made ready to let fly their arrows at him, but were stayed by a sign from the chief. They then carried him to Orapaks, where he was well fed, and treated with kindness.

When they reached the town, a strange savage dance was performed around Opechancanough and his captive, by the whole body of warriors, armed and painted; while the women and children looked on with wonder and curiosity. The gaudy color of the oil and pocones with which their bodies were covered, “made an exceeding handsome show,” and each had “his bow in his hand, and the skin of a bird with her wings abroad, dried, tied on his head, a piece of copper, a white shell, a long feather, with a small rattle growing at the tails of their snakes tied to it, or some such like toy.”

Although the Indians would not, as yet, eat with their prisoner, he was so feasted that a suspicion arose in his mind that they “would fat him to eat him. Yet, in this desperate estate, to defend him from the cold, one Mocassater brought him his gown, in requital of some beads and toys Smith had given him at his first arrival in Virginia.” One of the old warriors, whose son had been wounded at the time of the capture, was with difficulty restrained from killing him. The young Indian was at his last gasp, but Smith, wishing to send information to Jamestown, said that he had there a medicine of potent effect. The messengers sent on this errand made their way to Jamestown, “in as bitter weather as could be of frost and snow,” carrying a note from Smith, written upon “part of a table book.” They returned, bringing with them the articles requested in the letter, “to the wonder of all that heard it, that he could either divine, or the paper could speak.”

A plan was at that time on foot to make an attack upon the colony, and such rewards as were in their power to bestow “life, liberty, land, and women” were proffered to Smith by the Indians, if he would lend his assistance.

They now made a triumphal progress with their illustrious captive, among the tribes on the Rappahanock and Potomac Rivers, and elsewhere; exhibiting him to the Youthtanunds, the Mattapamients, the Payankatanks, the Nantaughtacunds, and Onawmanients. Returning to Pamaunkee, a solemn incantation was performed, with a view to ascertain his real feelings towards them.

Having seated him upon a mat before a fire, in one of the larger cabins, all retired, ” and presently came skip ping in a great grim fellow, all painted over with coal mingled with oil; and many snakes and weasels skins stuffed with moss, and all their tails tied together, so as they met on the crown of his head in a tassel; and round about the tassel was a coronet of feathers, the skins hanging round about his head, back, and shoulders, and in a manner covered his face; with a hellish, voice and a rattle in his hand.” He sprinkled a circle of meal about the fire, and commenced his conjuration. Six more “such like devils,” then entered, fantastically bedaubed with red “Mutchatos ” (Mustaches) marked upon their faces, and having danced about him for a time, sat down and sang a wild song to the accompaniment of their rattles.

The chief conjurer next laid down five kernels of corn, and proceeded to make an extravagant oration with such violence of gesture that his veins swelled and the perspiration started from his body. “At the conclusion they all gave a short groan, and then laid down three grains more.” The operation was continued “till they had twice encircled the fire,” and was then varied by using sticks instead of corn. All these performances had some mystic signification, which was in part explained to the captain.

Three days were spent in these wearisome barbarities, each day being passed in fasting, and the nights being as regularly ushered in with feasts. Smith was, after this, entertained with the best of cheer at the house of Opitchapam, brother to the king. He still observed that not one of the men would eat with him, but the remains of the feast were given him to be distributed among the women and children.

He was here shown a bag of gunpowder, carefully preserved as seed against the next planting season.

Court of Powhatan

The great monarch of the country, Powhatan, at this period, was holding his court at Werowocomoco, on the left bank of York River, and thither Smith was conveyed to await the royal pleasure. The reception of so important a captive was conducted with suitable solemnity and parade. Powhatan sat upon a raised seat before a fire, in a large house, clothed with a robe of raccoon skins, the tails hanging in ornamental array. He was an old man, about sixty years of age, of noble figure, and that commanding presence natural in one born to rule with undisputed authority over all around him. A young girl sat on each side of the king, and marshaled around the room were rows of warriors and women, bedecked with beads, feathers, and paint.

Smith s entrance was hailed by a shout; the queen of Appamatuck brought him water to wash, and he was magnificently entertained, as a distinguished guest of the king. The strange scene, which ensued, so replete with pathos and poetic interest, must be given in the simple language of the old historian.

Smith’s Preservation By Pocahontas

Pocahontas
Pocahontas

Having ended his repast, “a long consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan: then as many as could, laid hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and, being ready with, their clubs to beat out his brains, Pocahontas, the king’s dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevail, got his head in her arms, and laid her own upon his to save him from death: whereat the emperor was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper; for they thought him as well of all occupations as themselves.”

The worthy captain’s own rhymes describe his appearance and state of mind at this crisis:

“They say he bore a pleasant show, but sure his heart was sad; For who can pleasant be and rest, that lives in fear and dread?”

Entertaining his captive as a privileged guest, Powhatan now held long consultations with him, giving wonderful accounts of the vast western country and its inhabitants. Smith responded with details, equally amazing to the savage monarch, of the power and magnificence of the East. After two days of friendly intercourse, Smith was informed that he should return in safety to Jamestown; but as a prelude to the conveyance of this satisfactory intelligence, Powhatan was at much pains to get up a theatrical scene that should impress or terrify his prisoner. Left alone in a large cabin, Smith’s ears were saluted by strange and frightful noises from behind a mat partition, and, incontinently, Powhatan, with some hundreds of attendants, all like himself, in hideous disguises, made his appearance. He appointed twelve Indians to guide him to the settlement, requesting that a grindstone and two great guns should be sent back, by them, in return for liberty and favors received at his hands.

Captain Smith, well knowing the capricious disposition of his captors, felt little security or ease, until he was safely restored to his companions at Jamestown.

His absence had been severely felt: confusion and dissension were rife among the inhabitants of the colony, and the strong arm and determined will of the bold captain were required to keep order, and restrain those who were again inclined to effect an escape in the pinnace.

The two guns (demi-culverins), together with a mill stone, were brought out, and proffered to the guides; but, seeing the terrible effect of a discharge of stones among the branches of an ice-covered tree, the poor savages were greatly terrified, and thankfully accepted divers toys in place of so weighty and dangerous a present.

Supplies Furnished By The Indians

So reduced were the settlers at this time, that all must have perished with starvation but for the intercourse established by Smith between them and the people of Powhatan. Every four or five days, his noble and generous little protectress, Pocahontas she was then only about ten years of age would make her appearance, accompanied by attendants laden with provisions. Part of these supplies came as presents from the king or his daughter; for the rest, the price paid in toys and articles of use was left entirely at Smith s discretion, ” so had he enchanted these poor souls, being their prisoner.”

Newport’s Arrival

Captains Newport and Nelson now arrived from Eng land, with two ships, laden with necessaries and articles of traffic. Rejoiced at the arrival of friends and provisions, the colonists allowed the sailors to hold what inter course they pleased with the natives, and the consequence was that the market was soon spoiled by the irregularity of prices offered by the English for the Indian commodities. Smith had possessed Powhatan and his people with extravagant ideas of the power and majesty of Newport, whose speedy arrival he predicted, and preparations were now made to give a still more forcible impression. Messengers were sent to inform the Indian monarch that the great captain of the seas had reached Jamestown, and would make a visit of state to his royal friend and ally. The pinnace was made ready for this purpose, and “a great coyle there was to set him forward.” When they had arrived at Werowocomoco, Newport was wary and cautious, fearing treachery on the part of the savages, and Smith therefore volunteered to go forward, with a small company, and see that the coast was clear. Over the creeks, which meandered through the marshy country, bridges were found, but of so frail a structure, being composed of poles bound with bark, that some suspicions were entertained that they might be intended as traps. Smith therefore kept some of the chief Indians, who acted as guides, in the midst of his company, for security against attack.

All their suspicion proved groundless: Powhatan received the officers with the greatest distinction, entertained them hospitably, and celebrated their coming with feasts and dances. The great king ” carried himself so proudly yet discreetly (in his savage manner) as made all admire his natural gifts.” He declined any petty traffic, but requested Newport to bring forward at once all the goods that he had brought for trade, expressing his willingness to give full return. His desire was complied with, Newport wishing to outdo the king in generosity and show of munificence; but the result hardly equaled his expectation, for the cunning savage, says the narrator, ” valued his corn at such a rate that I think it better cheap in Spain.” A few blue beads in the possession of Smith now caught the eye of Powhatan, and aroused his curiosity and avarice. The wary captain pretended to be loath to part with them, as being of a “most rare substance of the color of the skies, and not to be worn but by the greatest kings in the world. This made him half mad to be the owner of such strange jewels,” and, to obtain them, he readily paid an immense quantity of corn; esteeming him self still the gainer. The trade in blue beads, after this, became a royal monopoly.

The party returned to Jamestown; but only to experience greater privation and hardship than ever.

The town took fire, and much of their provisions, clothing, and other means of comfort was destroyed. The winter was bitterly cold, and nearly the whole colony, together With the crews of the ships, were possessed with an insane desire to search for gold, to the neglect of the labors necessary to secure health and prosperity. From these causes more than half their number perished.

The Indians, seeing their weakness, became insolent and exacting, and, but for Smith, whose prompt and energetic action, without actual bloodshed, subdued and brought them to terms, they might have completely overawed, and perhaps have extirpated the colony. Those whom the English took prisoners insisted that the hostilities were in accordance with the orders of Powhatan: but he, on the other hand, averred that it was the work of some of his unruly subordinates. The conciliatory message was brought by “his dearest daughter Pocahontas,” whose appearance ever had the most potent influence with the brave man for whom she felt such filial attachment, and who was bound to her by every tie of gratitude and affection.

Smith’s Expeditions Up The Chesapeake

Upon the 2d of June 1608, Captain Smith, with four teen companions one half “gentlemen,” the rest “soldiers” undertook his celebrated exploration of Chesapeake Bay. Their conveyance was a large open barge.

They first shaped their course for the isles lying off Cape Charles, still known as Smith s Isles, and thence reentered the bay. Passing Cape Charles, they saw ” two grim and stout savages,” armed with bone-headed lances, who fearlessly questioned them as to whence they came and whither they were bound. They were subjects of the “Werowance of Accomack, on the eastern shore of the bay; and, being kindly entreated, responded with equal civility, and directed the English to their king’s head-quarters.

They found the chief to be the “comeliest, proper, civil savage” that they had ever held communion with. He gave a most singular account of a pestilence, which had not long before carried off the greater portion of his people. Two children had died, probably of some infectious disease, and ” some extreme passions, or dreaming visions, phantasies, or affection moved their parents again to revisit their dead carcasses, whose benumbed bodies reflected to the eyes of the beholders such delightful countenances as though they had regained their vital spirits.” Great crowds gathered to see this spectacle, nearly all of whom, shortly after, died of some unknown disease.

These Indians spoke the Powhatan dialect, and entertained Smith with glowing descriptions of the beauties and advantages of the bay, to the northward. Proceeding on their voyage, the navigators entered the river of Wighcocomoco, on the eastern shore, where the inhabitants exhibited great rage and hostility, but perceiving that no harm was intended them, with true savage caprice, fell to dancing and singing, in wonder and merriment at the novel spectacle. No good water was to be obtained here, and Smith with his crew made short tarrying. Still coasting along the eastern portion of the bay, they reached the Cuskarawaok, where great troops of savages followed them along the bank, climbing into the trees, and discharging their arrows with ” the greatest passion they could express of their anger.” As the party could not by signs give them to understand that they came peacefully, a discharge of pistol-shot was directed, which produced the usual effect, scattering the Indians in every direction. On landing, not a native could be found: the English therefore left a few beads, bells, looking-glasses, and bits of copper in the huts, and re turned on board their barge.

Next morning the poor simple savages, dismissing all fear, gathered round them to the number, as appeared, of two or three thousand, eager to offer whatever was in their power to bestow for “a little bead” or other trivial toy. These people were the Sarapinagh, Nause, Arseek, and Matitaquak, and they showed such readiness to trade, that Smith pronounced them the ” best merchants of all other savages.” They gave wonderful accounts of the powerful and warlike Massawomekes, who lived to the northward, and were identical with the Iroquois or Six Nations.

Some of the crew falling sick, and the rest becoming weary and discontented with their unaccustomed fatigue and exposure, Smith, much against his inclination, turned towards home, “leaving the bay some nine miles broad, at nine and ten fathom water.” Entering the Potomac, on the 16th of June, it was determined to explore it, as the sick men had recovered. No Indians were seen until the company had passed thirty miles up the river; but, arriving at a creek in the neighborhood of Onawmanient, ” the woods were laid with ambuscades, to the number of three or four thousand savages, so strangely painted, grimed, and disguised, shouting, yelling, and crying as so many spirits from hell could not have showed more terrible. Many bravados they made, “but a discharge of bullets, over the surface of the water, quickly changed their mood. Arms were flung down, hostages given, and courtesy and kindness succeeded the truculent demeanor, which was first exhibited. By the account of the Indians, Powhatan had directed this intended attack; and, if their representation was true, he was stimulated to such a course by sundry of Smith’s enemies at Jamestown.

The boat’s crew made their way as far up as the river was navigable, encountering various other tribes, some of whom were friendly, and others hostile. The thunder of the English weapons never failed to awe and subdue them.

Ever hankering after the precious metals, the adventurers were attracted by glittering particles in the bed of various streams; and, making it a constant object of inquiry, they were led by some Indians, subject to the king of Patawomeke, to a noted mine, on the little stream of Quiough. It was on a rocky mount, and the material sought, when dug out with shells and hatchets, sparkled like antimony. The Indians were accustomed to wash and cleanse it, and then, putting it in small bags, “sell it all over the country, to paint their bodies, faces or idols; which made them look like blackamoors dusted over with silver.” Newport asserted that the contents of some of those bags, when assayed in England, proved to be exceedingly rich in silver; but all that Smith and his men collected was worthless.

On the way towards Jamestown, as the barge lay in shoal water, the crew amused themselves by spearing fish, which were exceedingly plenty. Captain Smith, using his sword for this purpose, drew up a fish, (“not knowing her condition,) being much of the fashion of a thornback, but a long tail like a riding rod, whereon the middle is a most poisoned sting, of two or three inches long, bearded like a saw on each side, which she struck into the wrist of his arm near an inch and a half.” The swelling and pain consequent upon this, were so great that the brave captain, despairing of recovery, ordered his own grave to be dug; which was accordingly done on a neigh boring island. His time, however, had not yet come: the physician of the party succeeded in relieving him, in so much that, that very night, “he ate of the fish to his supper.”

As they returned to their old quarters, the Indians judged from their appearance that they had been engaged in notable wars; an idea, which they failed not to encourage, averring that all the spoil brought home was taken from the redoubtable Massawomekes.

At Jamestown all was found in disorder and misery, as was generally the case when the master-spirit was absent. Thus ended the first exploration of the unknown waters of the Chesapeake, leaving the English still in doubt as to its extent, and still hopeful of eventually finding a passage thereby to the South Seas!

On the 24th of July, a second expedition was undertaken up the bay, by Smith, with a boat s crew of twelve men. The Indians of Kecoughtan, with whom they spent several days, exulted greatly in the supposition that the English were out on a war expedition against their dreaded enemies, the Massawomekes.

Proceeding up the bay, more than half the party were prostrated by the diseases of the climate, and in this crippled condition they came upon seven or eight canoes, filled with Indians of the warlike tribe they were supposed to be in search of. Seeing that the English showed no fear, but prepared briskly for an engagement, these Massawomekes concluded that discretion was the better part of valor, and fled to the shore. Being tempted by the offer of some trifling toys, they at last came out to the barge unarmed, bringing presents of provisions, targets, skins, and rude implements of warfare. They had been engaged in war with the Indians of the Tockwogh or Sassafras River, as their fresh wounds bore witness.

They disappeared during the following night, and the explorers made their way into the river of Tockwogh. Seeing the Massawomeke weapons, the Tockwoghs were in ecstasy, supposing that their enemies had been defeated; and led Smith up to their fortified town: “Men, women, and children, with dances, songs, fruit, furs, and what they had, stretching their best abilities to express their loves.”

Here Smith made some stay, sending messengers to invite a deputation from the renowned Sasquesahanocks to visit him. Sixty of “those giant-like people,” accordingly came down from their country, bringing presents, and holding bold and familiar intercourse with the strangers. The daily devotional exercises of prayers and psalms, which our pious captain regularly observed, were responded to, on the part of the wondering savages, by strange ceremonies of their own.

“They began in a most passionate manner, to hold up their hands to the sun, with a most fearful song, then embracing our captain, they began to adore him in like manner: though he rebuked them, yet they proceeded till their song was finished: which done, with a most strange furious action, and a hellish voice, began an oration of their loves.”

They then clothed him with rich skins and mantles, and proffering beads and toys, declared that they, and all they had, were at his service, if he would but lend his assistance against the terrible Massawomekes.

Returning to examine the river Rapahanock, Smith fell in with a former acquaintance, one Mosco, of Wighcocomoco. He was doubtless a half-breed, and was supposed to be some Frenchman s son, as he rejoiced in the distinguishing mark of a “thick, black, bush beard, and the savages seldom have any at all.”

The English fortified their boat by making a breastwork around the gunwale, of the Massawomeke shields, which were so thickly plated as to resist the arrows of the savages. This stood them in good stead in divers skirmishes with the Rapahanock. On one occasion, thirty or forty of that tribe so disguised themselves with bushes and branches, that, as they stood discharging their arrows upon the edge of the river, the English supposed their array to be a natural growth of shrubs.

Mosco accompanied Smith in his visits to many nations on the Chesapeake, and proved of no little service, whether the reception at their hands was friendly or hostile. The good will of a patry of Manahocks was gained by means of favor shown to a wounded prisoner, whom Mosco would fain have dispatched “never was dog more furious against a bear, than Mosco was to have beat out his brains.” They questioned this captive, who was called Amorolock, about his own and the adjoining tribes, and demanded of him why his people had attacked peaceful strangers. ” The poor savage mildly answered,” that they had heard that the English were ” a people come from under the world to take their world from them.” He described the Monacans as friendly to his tribe, and said that they lived in the mountainous country to the west, ” by small rivers, living upon roots and fruits, but chiefly by hunting. The Massawomeks did dwell upon a great water, and had many boats, and so many men that they made war with all the world.”

In this, and the preceding voyage, the whole of the extensive bay of Chesapeake, was explored, together with the lower portions of the principal rivers emptying into it; and an accurate chart of the whole country still bears witness to the skill and perseverance of the brave commander. Curious sketches of native chiefs, and of encounters between them and the English, accompany the maps, which illustrate the quaint and interesting narrative from which this portion of our history is drawn.

Before returning to Jamestown, the party sailed for the southern shores, and passed up the Elizabeth River into the “Chisapeack” country. They saw but few dwellings, surrounded by garden plots, but were struck with the magnificent growth of pines, which lined the banks. Thence coasting along the shore, they came to the mouth of the Nandsamund, where a few Indians were engaged in fishing. These fled in affright, but the English landing, and leaving some attractive trifles where they would find them, their demeanor was soon changed. Singing and dancing, they invited the party to enter the river, and one of them came on board the barge. Complying with the request, Smith went up the stream seven or eight miles, when extensive cornfields were seen. Perceiving some signs of treachery, he would not proceed farther, but endeavored to regain the open water with all possible expedition. His fears proved to be well grounded; for on the way down, arrows were poured into the boat from either side of the river by hundreds of Indians, while seven or eight canoes filled with armed men followed “to see the conclusion.” Turning upon these, the English, by a volley from their muskets, soon drove the savages on shore and seized the canoes.

The Indians, seeing their invaluable canoes in the enemies power, to save them from destruction readily laid down their arms; and, upon further communication, agreed to deliver up their king’s bow and arrows, and to furnish four hundred baskets of corn to avert the threatened vengeance of the terrible strangers.

Coronation of Powhatan

The Coronation of Powhatan
“The Coronation of Powhatan,” by the American artist John Cadsby Chapman, oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Greenville Museum of Art, Greenville, South Carolina.

In the ensuing September, Smith was formally made president of the colony at Jamestown, and set himself promptly to correct abuses and perfect the company in the military exercises so suited to his own inclinations, and so essential in their isolated and dangerous position.

The wandering savages would collect in astonishment to see these performances, standing “in amazement to behold how a file would batter a tree, where he would make them a mark to shoot at.”

Newport, soon after, made his appearance, bringing out from England many adventurers ill-suited to the life before them in the new country: “thirty carpenters, husband men, gardeners, fishermen, blacksmiths, masons, and diggers up of trees roots,” says Smith, would have been worth a thousand of them. By the same arrival, came a large boat, brought out in five pieces, to be used in further explorations in search of the South Sea, and a crown, with brilliant trappings and regalia, for the solemn coronation of Powhatan. Smith speaks with great contempt of this transaction: the “costly novelties had been much better well spared than so ill-spent,” for they, had the king’s “favor much better only for a plain piece of copper, till this stately kind of soliciting made him so much overvalue himself that he respected us as much as nothing at all.”

Smith’s Visit To Werowocomoco For Supplies

The captain, with four companions, volunteered to go to “Werowocomoco, and invite Powhatan to come to Jamestown and receive his presents. Arriving at the village, they found that the chief was thirty miles away from home; but a messenger was dispatched for him, and, meanwhile, his daughter Pocahontas exerted herself, to the best of her ability, to divert and entertain her guests. This was done after a strange fashion. A masquerade dance of some thirty young women, nearly naked, was ushered in by such a ” hideous nowise and shrieking,” that the English seized on some old men who stood by, as hostages, thinking that treachery was intended. They were relieved from apprehension by the assurances of Pocahontas, and the pageant proceeded. The leader of the dance was decked with a “fair pair of buck’s horns on her head, and an otter’s skin at her girdle.” The others were also horned, and painted and equipped, “every one with their several devices. These fiends with most hellish shouts and cries, rushing from among the trees, cast themselves in a ring about the fire, singing and dancing with most excellent ill variety.” Afterwards, when Smith had entered one of their wigwams, “all these nymphs more tormented him than ever with crowding, pressing and hanging about him, most tediously crying, Love you not me? love you not me?”

Treachery Of Powhatan

Upon Powhatan’s return, he proudly refused to go to Jamestown for his presents, standing upon his dignity as a king; and the robes and trinkets were accordingly sent round to Werowocomoco by water. The coronation scene must have been ludicrous in the extreme: “the presents were brought him, his basin and ewer, bed and furniture set up, his scarlet cloak and apparel with much ado put on him, being persuaded by Namontack, they would not hurt him: but a foul trouble there was to make him kneel to receive his crown, he neither knowing the majesty nor meaning of a crown, nor bending of the knee, endured so many persuasions, examples and instructions as tired them all; at last, by leaning hard on his shoulders, he a little stooped, and three having the crown in their hands, put it on his head, when, by the warning of a pistol the boats were prepared with such a volley of shot, that the king start up with a horrible fear till he saw all was well.”

After this, Newport, with one hundred and twenty men, made some unimportant explorations, above the falls, among the Monacans. Their continual greedy search for mines of the precious metals interfered with useful operations and discoveries.

The Indians now became unwilling to trade, and Powhatan seemed to have adopted the policy of starving out the colony. We can hardly justify the course of Smith in enforcing supplies, on any other plea than that of necessity; but certain it is, that he alone seemed to have that power and influence over the simple savages which could secure at once their love and fear.

Powhatan having at last agreed to furnish a ship-load of corn, if the English would build him a house, and furnish him with a grindstone, a cock and hen, some arms, copper and beads, five men were sent to Werowocomoco to commence operations. Three of these were Dutchmen.

To carry out this contract, and procure the promised corn, Smith started for the camp of Powhatan towards the last of December, (1608,) accompanied by twenty-seven men in the barge and pinnace, while a number of others crossed the country to build the proposed house. At Warraskoyack, the friendly king cautioned him against being deceived by Powhatan s expressions of kindness, insisting that treachery was intended.

Christmas was spent by the party at Kecoughtan, on the left bank of James River, near its mouth; and merry cheer was made upon game and oysters. They reached “Werowocomoco on the 12th of January, and landed with much difficulty, as the river was bordered with ice, to break through which they were obliged to wade waist-deep, “a flight-shot through this muddy frozen oase.”

Powhatan gave them venison and turkeys for their immediate use, but when the subject of the corn was broached, he protested that he and- his people had little or none, and demanded forty swords in case he should procure forty baskets. Smith replied sternly, upbraiding him for duplicity and faithlessness, and cautioning him not to provoke hostilities where friendship only was intended. The wily chief, on the other hand, made many deprecatory speeches, continually urging Smith to direct his men to lay down their arms, that the conference should appear to be peaceful, and the Indians feel at ease and in safety, while bringing in their corn.

After much bargaining and haggling, a small quantity of corn was procured, and Powhatan made a most plausible and characteristic speech to persuade Smith that nothing could be farther from his intention than hostility. Can you suppose, said he, that I, a man of age and experience, having outlived three generations of my people, should be ” so simple as not to know it is better to eat good meat, lie well and sleep quietly with my women and children, laugh and be merry with you, have copper, hatchets, or what I want being your friend: than be forced to fly from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon acorns, roots, and such trash, and be so hunted by you that I can neither rest, eat, nor sleep; but my tired men must watch, and if a twig but break, every one crieth, there comes Captain Smith?”

Smith A Second Time Preserved By Pocahontas

Thus the time was spent in useless discourse, and Smith, perceiving that the Indians were only watching for an opportunity to attack him unawares, ordered the barge to be brought to shore, and the pittance of corn to be stowed on board. Powhatan then disappeared, but immediately sent his warriors to surround the house and cut off Smith while the body of the English were engaged with the barge.

Aided only by one companion, the valiant captain rushed forth, “with his pistol, sword and target,” and “made such a passage among these naked devils, that, at his first shoot, they next him tumbled one over another.” Seeing that Smith had rejoined his company, Powhatan pretended that he had sent his people to guard the corn from being stolen, and renewed his protestations of friendship.

The boats being left ashore by the tide, the captain was obliged to spend the night on shore. Powhatan now conceived himself sure of his victims, and gathered all his people, with the intention of surprising Smith under cover of the night. “Notwithstanding the eternal all-seeing God did prevent him, and by a strange means. For Pocahontas, his dearest jewel and daughter, in that dark night came through the irksome woods, and told our captain great cheer should be sent us by and by; but Powhatan and all the power he could make, would after come and kill us all, if they that brought it could not kill us with our own weapons when we were at supper. Therefore if we would live, she wished us presently to be gone. Such things as she delighted in he would have given her; but with the tears running down her cheeks, she said she durst not be seen to have any; for if Powhatan should know it she were but dead, and so she ran away by herself as she came.”

One can readily imagine the distress of the poor child at feeling thus compelled, by her affection for her English friend, to become unfaithful to her father and her own people.

The feast was sent in shortly after, by a number of strong warriors, who were very earnest in their invitation to the party to lay down their arms and fall to. The matches which the English kept burning met with their decided disapproval, the smoke, as they averred, making them sick. Smith, being forewarned, did not fail to spend the night in vigilance, and sent word to Powhatan that he felt well convinced of his villainous intentions, and should be prepared for him. The Dutchmen, who were with the king, were all along supposed to be implicated in his treachery, being inimical to Smith, and glad of an opportunity to destroy him. After his departure from Werowocomoco, two of them hastened to Jamestown, and, by various pretenses, obtained a quantity of arms, which, with the assistance of some Indian companions, they carried off to Powhatan. In return for this assistance, he promised them immunity from the havoc that should overtake the colony, and high office and power in his own service.

Visit To Pamunky

Continuing his search for provision, Smith arrived at Pamunky, where Opechancanough received him with apparent kindness, but showed no readiness to trade. Smith reminded him of former promises and injuries, and ex pressed a determination to obtain supplies; proffering just payment. The chief managed to decoy the captain and his “old fifteen” into his house, exhibiting some baskets of corn, which he alleged were procured with great difficulty, but in the meantime some seven hundred armed warriors, by his orders, surrounded the building.

Fight With The King Of Paspahegh

1910 photo of Pamunkey Indians re-enacting the story of Pocahontas.
1910 photo of Pamunkey Indians re-enacting the story of Pocahontas.

Our brave captain, first exhorting his men to show no signs of fear, now sternly addressed the king, challenging him to single combat, with equal arms, upon an island in the river. Opechancanough still pretended good will and friendship, and attempted to entice Smith out at the door, by promises of munificent presents: ” the bait was guarded with at least two hundred men, and thirty lying under a great tree (that lay thwart, as a barricado) each his arrow nocked ready to shoot.”

Smith, perceiving that prompt action was now necessary, sprang upon the king, and, holding him by the fore-lock with one hand, while, with the other, he held a cocked pistol to his breast, he led him forth among his people. Opechancanough, completely cowed, delivered up his arms, and all his warriors, amazed at the Englishman s audacity, laid theirs upon the ground.

Still keeping hold of the chief s hair, Smith made a brief oration, threatening terrible vengeance if a drop of English blood should be spilt, and declaring that if they would not sell him corn he would freight his ship with their carcasses. He promised, moreover, continued friend ship if no further cause for complaint were given. All now made friendly protestations, and brought in abundance of provision; but, as Smith lay down to recruit himself with a little sleep, a great number of the savages rushed in to overpower him. This attack was repelled as successfully and promptly as the first. The king in a lengthy speech excused and explained the movement, and the day ended in peaceful trade and barter.

At this time arrived one Richard Wyffin, who had venturously made his way alone through the wilderness to announce to Smith a great loss which the colony had met with in the death of Gosnoll and eight companions. They had started in a skiff for the Isle of Hogs, and were upset by a gale “(that extreme frozen time)” and drowned. Wyffin had stopped at Powhatan’s head-quarters, and only escaped destruction by the kindness of the Englishman s fast friend Pocahontas. She “hid him for a time, and sent them who pursued him the clean contrary way to seek him.”

Captain Smith Subduing the Chief
Captain Smith Subduing the Chief

Concealing this disastrous intelligence from his followers, Captain Smith set Opechancanough at liberty, and again embarked, intending, ere his return to Jamestown, to se cure the person of Powhatan. That chief had issued general orders for the destruction of Smith, and every where, as the boat passed along the river bank, crowds of Indians would appear, bringing corn in baskets, and offering it to the company if they would come for it unarmed. Their intention was evidently to draw the English into an am buscade. The captain succeeded in surprising one of these parties, and obtaining their provision.

Some of them, who consented to trade, supplied the English with poisoned food, which was eaten by Smith and others, but the poison did not prove sufficiently potent to destroy their lives. Suspicion fell upon a vigorous young warrior named Wecuttanow, as the author of this treachery; but he, having forty or fifty companions with him, “so proudly braved it as though he expected to encounter a revenge.” Which the president (Smith) perceiving in the midst of his company, did not only beat, but spurned him like a dog, as scorning to do him any worse mischief.”

At other places where provision was sought, it was plain that the Indians were themselves in want, and ” imparted that little they had with such complaints and tears from the eyes of women and children as he had been too cruel to have been a Christian that would not have been satisfied and moved with compassion.”

Powhatan, cautioned by “those damned Dutchmen,” had left Werowocomoco, with all his effects, before Smith arrived there, and the plan of making him prisoner was therefore abandoned. Here Smith breaks out into a spirited justification of his conduct and purposes, complaining that fault had been found with him, by some, for cruelty and harshness, and by others for want of energy and determination. He draws a strong contrast between the proceedings of the English colony and the manner in which the Spaniards usually followed up their discoveries. It was not pleasing, he says, to some, that he had temporized with such a treacherous people, and ” that he washed not the ground with their bloods, nor showed such strange inventions in mangling, murdering, ransacking, and destroying, (as did the Spaniards,) the simple bodies of such ignorant souls.”

The renegade Dutchmen had a place of rendezvous near Jamestown, known as the “glass house,” whither they resorted, with their Indian associates, to carry on their system of pilfering arms and other articles from the colony. Captain Smith making a visit to this spot, with the intention of arresting one of them, named Francis, whom he had heard to be there, was set upon, as he returned alone, by the king of Paspahegh, “a most strong stout savage,” and a terrible personal encounter ensued. The Indian closed upon him, so that he could make no use of his falchion, and, by sheer strength, dragged him into the river. After a desperate struggle, Smith succeeded in grasping the savage by the throat, and in drawing his weapon.

“Seeing how pitifully he begged for his life, he led him prisoner to Jamestown, and put him in chains.” His women and children came every day to visit him, bringing presents to propitiate the English. Being carelessly guarded, the king finally made his escape. In attempts to recover him, some fighting and bloodshed ensued, and two Indians, named Kemp and Tussore, “the two most exact villains in all the country,” were taken prisoners. Smith, with a corps of soldiery, proceeding to punish the Indians on the Chickahominy, passed by Paspahegh, and there concluded a peace with the natives. They at first ventured to attack him, but unable to resist the English weapons, they threw down their arms, and sent forward a young warrior, called Okaning, to make an oration.

Ascendancy Of The English

He represented that his chief, in effecting an escape, had but followed the instincts of nature; that fowls, beasts, and fishes strove to avoid captivity and snares, and why should not man be allowed so universal a privilege? He added that, if the English would not live at peace with them, the tribe must abandon the country, and the supplies which the colony had heretofore obtained from them be thereby cut off.

The power and influence of Smith among the savages was infinitely increased by a circumstance, which occurred immediately after his return to Jamestown. A pistol had been stolen by a Chickahominy Indian, and his two brothers, supposed to be privy to the theft, had been seized, to secure its return. One of them was sent in search of the missing article, assured that his brother should be hanged if it was not forthcoming within twelve hours. Smith, “pitying the poof naked savage in the dungeon, sent him victuals, and some charcoal for a fire; ere midnight, his brother returned, with the pistol, but the poor savage in the dungeon was so smothered with the smoke he had made, and so piteously burned,” that he appeared to be dead.

His brother, overwhelmed with grief, uttered such touching lamentations over the body, that Captain Smith, although feeling little hope of success, assured him that he would bring the dead Indian to life, provided he and his fellows would give over their thieving. Energetic treatment restored the poor fellow to consciousness, and, his burns being dressed, the simple pair were sent on their way, each with a small present, to spread the report, far and near, that Captain Smith had power to restore the dead to life. Not long after, several Indians were killed by the explosion of a quantity of powder, which they were at tempting to dry upon a plate of armor, as they had seen the English do. “These, and many other such pretty accidents, so amazed and frighten both Powhatan and all his people,” that they came in from all quarters, returning stolen property, and begging for favor and peace: “and all the country,” says the narrator, “became absolutely as free for us as for themselves.”

Distress of the Colonies

While Captain Smith remained in America, and continued in power, he maintained his authority over the natives. In a grievous famine that succeeded the events we have just detailed, they proved of infinite service in providing the wild products of the forest for the starving colonists. Many of the English were sent out to live with the savages, and learn their arts of gathering and preparing the roots and other edibles that must take the place of corn. These were treated with every kindness by the Indians, “of whom,” says Smith,” there was more hope to make better Christians and good subjects than the one half of those that counterfeited themselves both.” Kemp and Tussore, who had been set at liberty, remained thereafter stanch adherents to the English interests. Sundry malcontents belonging to the colony had fled into the woods, thinking to live in ease among the natives, whom they promised revenge upon their old conqueror, the president. Kemp, however, instead of giving ear to these persuasions, fed them ” with this law, who would not work must not eat, till they were near starved indeed, continually threatening to beat them to death;” and finally carried them forcibly back to Captain Smith.

Martin and West’s Settlements

In the early part of the summer of 1609, large supplies came over from England, and a great number of factious and disorderly adventurers were brought into the new settlement. Unwilling to submit to the authority of the president, insatiate after mines of gold and silver, cowardly in battle, and cruel and treacherous in peace, their distress proved commensurate with their unthrift. At Nansemund, a company, under one Captain Martin, after wantonly provoking the ill will of the natives, was unable to resist their attacks; and another division under West, which at tempted a settlement at the falls of James River, proved equally inefficient and impolitic. “The poor savages that daily brought in their contributions to the president, that disorderly company so tormented those poor souls, by stealing their corn, robbing their gardens, beating them, breaking their houses and keeping some prisoners, that they daily complained to Captain Smith, he had brought them for protectors worse enemies than the Monacans themselves: they desired pardon if hereafter they defended themselves.”

Carrying out this intention, the Indians fell upon the fort immediately after Smith s departure, he having set sail for Jamestown. His vessel taking ground before he had proceeded far, he was called upon to interfere, and brought matters to an amicable conclusion, removing the English from the inconvenient spot they had selected for their habitation into the pleasant country of Powhatan.

Arrival Of Lord De La Warre

Before reaching Jamestown, Captain Smith met with so severe an accident by the firing of a bag of gunpowder, that he was thereafter incapacitated from further service in the colony. So terribly was his flesh torn and burned, that, to relieve the pain, he instantly threw himself into the river, from which he was with difficulty rescued. It being impossible to procure the necessary medical assistance for the cure of so extensive an injury, he took pas sage for England by the first opportunity, and never again revisited the colony he had planted and supported with such singular devotion, energy, and courage. The fate of the two principal of the Dutch conspirators against his life, is thus chronicled: “But to see the justice of God upon these Dutchmen: Adam and Francis were fled again to Powhatan, to whom they promised, at the arrival of my Lord (La Warre), what wonders they would do, would he suffer them but to go to him. But the king, seeing they would be gone, replied; you that would have betrayed Captain Smith to me, will certainly betray me to this great lord for your peace; so caused his men to beat out their brains.”

Retaliations Upon The Natives

Smith’s departure was the signal for general defection among the Indians. They seized the boats of the settlers under Martin and West; who, unable to keep their ground, returned to Jamestown, with the loss of nearly half their men. A party of thirty or forty, bound upon a trading expedition, was set upon by Powhatan and his warriors, and all except two were slain. One of these, a boy, named Henry Spilman, was preserved by the intervention of Pocahontas, and sent to live among the Patawomekes. Reduced to the greatest extremity, the English were obliged to barter their very arms for provisions, thus adding to the power of the enemy in the same ratio that they weakened their own resources. Famine, pestilence, and savage invasion reduced the colony, which before had numbered five hundred inhabitants, to about sixty miserable and helpless wretches, within the short space of six months from the time that Smith set sail. The crude products of the forest formed their principal food; “nay, so great was our famine,” proceeds the narrative, “that a savage we slew and buried, the poorer sort took him up again and eat him, and so did divers one another, boiled and stewed with roots and herbs: and one amongst the rest did kill his wife, powdered her, and had eaten part of her before it was known, for which he was executed as he well deserved.”

Upon the arrival of a ship, with Sir Thomas Gates and company, all the unfortunate settlers, abandoning their town, took passage with him for England. At the commencement of the voyage, they fell in with Lord La Warre, who was on his way to Jamestown, bringing with him large supplies of men and necessaries; and all returned together to Jamestown.

Fortunately the Indians had not, as yet, destroyed the fort, and the numbers and efficiency of the whites were so far increased, that they were “able to tame the fury and treachery of the savages.”

On the 15th of June (1610) Captain Argall, being engaged in a trading expedition among the Patawomekes, found there the young prisoner, Henry Spilman, who had met with kind treatment, and by whose intervention abundance of corn was procured. Frequent mention is made of Spilman in subsequent portions of Virginian history. He was killed by the Potomac Indians, in 1623, while on a trading expedition up the river. Having gone on shore with some of his company, some difficulty arose, and, after a short skirmish, those on board the boat “heard a great bruit among the savages ashore, and saw a man’s head thrown down the bank, whereupon they weighed anchor and returned home; but how he was surprised or slain is uncertain.”

That the colonists were not slow in making use of their newly acquired power over the natives in their vicinity, sufficiently appears from the manner in which they revenged some injuries received from those of Paspahegh. Not satisfied with burning their town, they deliberately put to death the queen and her children, who had fallen into their hands.

In the following year the Appomatuck Indians, for some offences, were driven from their homes, and their corn was seized, “without the loss of any except some few savages.” The manner in which peaceful intercourse was at last established with Powhatan, however it may be justified upon the plea of necessity, reflects but little credit upon the English. Argall, in the year 1613, (according to some chronicles,) while up the Potomac in search of corn, heard from the sachem Japazaws that Pocahontas, who had not been seen at Jamestown since Smith s departure, was residing among his people. The captain determined not to lose the opportunity to secure so valuable a hostage, and having, by the assistance of Japazaws, decoyed her on board his ship, he made her prisoner. The treacherous Potomac sachem pretended great distress; “the old Jew and his wife began to howl and cry as fast as Pocahontas,” but appeared pacified when Argall told them that the princess should be well treated, and restored as soon as Powhatan would make restitution of the goods he had purloined and plundered from the colony.

Seizure Of Pocahontas: Her Marriage

Baptism of Pocahontas
John Gadsby Chapman depicts Pocahontas, wearing white, being baptized Rebecca by Anglican minister Alexander Whiteaker in Jamestown, Virginia; this event is believed to have taken place in 1613 or 1614. She kneels, surrounded by family members and colonists. Her brother Nantequaus turns away from the ceremony. The baptism took place before her marriage to Englishman John Rolfe, who stands behind her. Their union is said to be the first recorded marriage between a European and a Native American. The scene symbolizes the belief of Americans at the time that Native Americans should accept Christianity and other European ways.

When the emperor learned of this transaction, the “unwelcome news much troubled him, because he loved both his daughter and the English commodities well; ” and he left Pocahontas in the enemies hands for several months before he deigned to pay the least attention to their demands. It has been supposed, and with great show of reason, that the kind-hearted girl had lost favor with her father by her sympathy with the English, and by endeavoring to save them at the time of the massacres which pre ceded the last arrival; and that this was the cause of her retirement to Potomac.

When Powhatan at last consented to treat, his offers were entirely unsatisfactory to the English, and another long interval elapsed without any communication from him. Meantime, an ardent attachment had sprung up between Pocahontas and a young Englishman of the colony named John Rolfe, “an honest gentleman and of good behavior.” When it was at last concluded to use open force to reduce Powhatan to compliance with the English requisitions, a large force proceeded to the chief s head-quarters, by water, taking the princess with them. The Indians exhibited an insolent and warlike demeanor, but were easily put to flight, and their town was burned. Pursuing their advantage, the invading party proceeded up the river to Matchot, where, a truce being agreed upon, two of Powhatan s sons came to visit their sister, and, overjoyed at finding her well and kindly cared for, promised their best endeavors to bring matters to a peaceful issue. Rolfe, with one companion, had an interview with Opechancanough, who also declared that he would strive to persuade the king to compliance with the English proposals.

When Powhatan heard of the proposed marriage of his daughter, his anger and resentment towards the whites seemed to be appeased. He sent his brother Opitchapan, and others of his family, to witness the ceremony, and readily permitted the old terms of trade and intimacy to be renewed. Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married about the 1st of April 1613.

The Chickahominies, hearing that Powhatan was in league with the colony, felt little inclined to be upon ill terms with so powerful a confederacy; and, having made advances, a treaty of friendship was entered into with all due forms and ceremonies.

Not contented with the security against Powhatan’s hostility which the possession of his beloved daughter afforded, the colonial governor, Sir Thomas Dale, sought yet another hostage from the king; and in 1614 sent John Rolfe and Ralph Hamor to his court for this purpose.

Peace With The Indians

The aged chief received them with courtesy and kindness, and appeared pleased and gratified at the accounts which they gave him of Pocahontas satisfaction with her new alliance, and the religion and customs of the English. “When the purpose of the mission was made known to him, which was no other than the obtaining possession of his youngest daughter, upon pretext of marrying her nobly, Powhatan gravely refused compliance. He would never trust himself, he said, in the power of the English; and, therefore, if he should send away his child, whom he now loved as his life, and beyond all his other numerous off spring, it would be never again to behold her. ” My brother,” he added, “hath a pledge, one of my daughters, which so long as she lives shall be sufficient; when she dies he shall have another: I hold it not a brotherly part to desire to bereave me of my two children at once.”

Pocahontas was carefully educated in the Christian religion, which she appeared sincerely to embrace. She nourished the warmest affection for her husband, upon his part faithfully returned; and what with these new ties, and the enlarged ideas attendant upon education and inter course with intelligent Europeans, she seemed entirely to lose all desire of associating with her own people.

Pocahontas Visits England: Her Death

Rolfe and his wife sailed for England in 1616, and reached Plymouth on the 12th of June. Great interest was excited by their arrival, both at court and among many people of distinction. Captain Smith prepared an address to the queen upon this occasion, setting forth in quaint, but touching language, the continued kindness and valuable services received by himself and the colony at large from Pocahontas. He commended her to his royal mistress, as “the first Christian ever of that nation, the first Virginian ever spoke English, or had a child in marriage by an Englishman, a matter surely worthy a prince s understanding.”

When Smith met with his preserver at Branford, where she was staying with her husband after her arrival in England, his demeanor did not at first satisfy her. Etiquette, and the restraints of English customs, prevented him perhaps from making such demonstration of affection as she had expected from her adopted father. “After a modest salutation,” he says, “without any word, she turned her self about, obscured her face as not seeming well contented; and in that humor, her husband, with divers others, we all left her two or three hours, repenting myself to have writ she could speak English.”

This pique, or whatever emotion it may have been, soon passed off, and she began to converse freely upon old times and scenes. She said she would always call Smith her father that he should call her child, and ever consider her as his “countryman.” It seems that she had been told that he was dead, and only learned the truth on reaching England. Powhatan had been anxious to get intelligence of his old rival, and specially commissioned an Indian of his council, named Uttomatomakkin, whom he sent over to England, to find out Captain Smith; to see the Englishmen’s God, their queen, and their prince; and to ascertain the number of the country’s inhabitants.

This last direction he endeavored to perform by carrying a stick with him, and making a notch for every man he saw, “but he was quickly weary of that task.”

Captain Argall, Rolfe, and others, having been furnished with an outfit for Virginia, in 1617, Pocahontas (known as Rebecca, since her baptism and conversion,) was about to revisit her native country, but was taken suddenly ill, and died at Gravesend. “She made not more sorrow for her unexpected death, than joy to the beholders to hear and see her make so religious and godly an end.” She left one child, Thomas Rolfe, who afterwards resided in Virginia, and from whom many families in that state still trace their origin. The celebrated John Randolph, of Roanoke, was one of his descendants.

At Jamestown, Argall found matters in a bad state. Little was attended to but the raising of tobacco, which was seen growing in the streets and market place. The savages had become bold and familiar, “as frequent in the colonists houses as themselves, whereby they were become expert in the English arms.” They broke out, in some instances, into open murder and robbery, but the old chief Opechancanough, when redress was demanded, disclaimed all knowledge of or participation in the outrages.

Death Of Powhatan

The venerable Powhatan died in April, of the year 1618, and was succeeded by his second brother, Itopatin. The new king, as well as the formidable Opechancanough, seemed desirous of continuing at peace with the whites. Despite his protestations of friendship, and renewal of solemn leagues and covenants, the old king of Pamaunky was still held in sore suspicion, and it is plain that Indian power, if roused against the colony, was growing formidable. The historian expresses his amazement “to understand how strangely the savages had been taught the use of arms, and employed in hunting and fowling with our fowling pieces, and our men rooting in the ground about tobacco like swine.”

Pory’s Settlement

John Pory, secretary of the colony, undertook a settlement on the eastern shore in 1621. Namenacus, king of Pawtuxent, visited him, and expressed his good will in style characteristic of Indian metaphor. Baring his breast, says Pory, he asked “if we saw any deformity upon it; we told him, No; No more, said he, is the inside, but as sincere and pure; therefore come freely to my country and welcome.” The English were accompanied by Thomas Savage as interpreter; a youth who, sixteen years before, had been left with Powhatan for the purpose of acquiring the Indian language, and who afterwards proved of great service to the colony.

When the party reached the dwelling of Namenacus and his brother Wamanato, they were most hospitably received and entertained. Boiled oysters were set before them in a “brass kettle as bright without as within,” and the alliance was cemented by exchange of presents. Wamanato promised to keep what he had received “whilst he lived, and bury them with him being dead. He much wondered at our Bible,” proceeds Pory, “but much more to hear it was the law of our God, and the first chapter of Genesis expounded of Adam and Eve, and simple marriage; to which he replied he was like Adam in one thing, for he never had but one wife at once; but he, as all the rest, seemed more willing of other discourses they better understood.”

The Virginia Massacre of 1622 and of 1641 (or 1644)

1622 Jamestown Massacre
A 1628 woodcut by Matthaeus Merian published along with Theodore de Bry’s earlier engravings in 1628 book on the New World. The engraving shows the March 22, 1622 massacre when Powhatan Indians attacked Jamestown and outlying Virginia settlements. Merian relied on de Bry’s earlier depictions of the Indians, but the image is largely considered conjecture.

The spring of 1622 was memorable for a deep-laid and partially successful plot, attributed in no small measure to the contrivance of Opechancanough, for the extermination of the English colony. The settlers had come to look upon the Indians with a mixture of condescension and contempt; they admitted them freely into their houses; suffered them to acquire the use of English weapons; and took little or no precautions against an outbreak. The plantations and villages of the whites were widely separated and ill-protected, offering an easy opportunity for a sudden and concerted attack.

No suspicions whatever were entertained of any hostile intent upon the part of the savages until just before the massacre commenced, and then there was neither time nor opportunity to convey the intelligence to the distant settlements. The plot was so arranged that upon a day appointed, the 22d of March, the Indians spread themselves throughout the settlements, and, going into the houses, or joining the laborers in the field, on pretense of trade, took the first opportunity to kill those with whom they were communicating, by a blow from behind.

No less than three hundred and forty-seven of the English perished, the most extensive massacre at any one spot being that in Martin’s Hundred, only seven miles from Jamestown. The savages spared not their best friends, with whom they had held amicable intercourse for years, but availed themselves of that very intimacy to carry out their bloody design with the greater secrecy and impunity. One only showed signs of relenting. “The slaughter had been universal if God had not put it into the heart of an Indian, who, lying in the house of one Pace, was urged by another Indian, his brother, that lay with him the night before, to kill Pace as he should do Perry, which was his friend, being so commanded from their king.”

Chanco Giving Information of the Intended Massacre
Chanco Giving Information of the Intended Massacre

Instead of complying, he rose, and made known to his host the plan of the next day’s attack. Pace carried the intelligence to Jamestown with the utmost expedition, and the caution was spread as far as possible. Wherever the Indians saw the English upon their guard, no attempt was made upon them, even where there was a gross disparity in numbers. One of Smith’s old guard, Nathaniel Causie, after receiving a severe wound, seized an axe, and put those to flight who had set upon him. In another instance, two men repelled the attack of sixty savages, and a Mr. Baldwin, at Warraskoyack, defended his house and its inmates single handed, the Indians being unwilling to stand his fire. Women, children, and unarmed men; all who could be taken unawares, were murdered, and their bodies hacked and mutilated. No tie of friendship or former favor proved strong enough to stay the hand of the remorseless foe. A Mr. Thorp, who had shown every kindness to the Indians, and especially to the king, was one of the victims, his “dead corpse being abused with such spite and scorn as is unfit to be heard with civil ears.” He had formerly built a convenient house for the sachem, “after the English fashion, in which he took such pleasure, especially in the lock and key, which he so admired as locking and unlocking his door a hundred times a day, he thought no device in the world comparable to it.”

It was supposed that the motive which operated most forcibly upon Opechancanough, in urging him to these enormities, was the death of Nemattanow, one of his favorites, styled “Jack of the Feather, because he commonly was most strangely adorned with them.” This Indian was shot, about a fortnight before the massacre, for the murder of a man named Morgan, whom he enticed from home on pretense of trade.

Little active efforts were made to revenge the uprising of the Indians. After the bloody day in March, no general engagement took place between the English and the savages until the ensuing autumn, when an army of three hundred colonists marched to Nandsamund, and laid waste the country.

Death Of Opechancanough

Opecancanough
Opecancanough, son of Powhatan

The bitterest animosity prevailed for many years between the rival claimants to the country the Indians and the pale faces, who were supplanting them, insidiously, or by open warfare. The old chief, Opechancanough, remained long a thorn in the sides of the colonists; and, as late as 1641, nine years after the conclusion of a settled peace, he organized a conspiracy, which resulted in the destruction of even a larger number of the whites than fell in the massacre of 1622. The time of the second uprising is fixed, by some, three years later than the date above mentioned.

After that event, the war was pursued with the energy that the dangerous circumstances of the colony required; and the aged chief, falling into the hands of the English, was carried captive to Jamestown. Regard to his infirmities and age restrained the authorities from showing him indignity or unkindness, but he was shot by a private soldier, in revenge, as is supposed, for some former injury. Although so enfeebled by the weight of years as to be utterly helpless, and unable even to raise his eyelids with out assistance, the venerable chief still maintained his dignity and firmness; and, just before his death, rebuked Berkley, the governor, for suffering his people to crowd around and gaze upon him.

It is said by some historians that he was not a native of Virginia, but that he was reputed among his subjects and the neighboring tribes, to have been formerly a king over a nation far to the south-west.

Smith’s Account of the Numbers

“To the door
The red man slowly drags the enormous bear,
Slain in the chestnut thicket, or flings down
The deer from his strong shoulders.” Bryant.

Virginia, like every other division of the eastern coast of North America, was but thinly inhabited when the white settlements first commenced. As hunting formed the chief means of subsistence to the natives during a considerable portion of the year, it was impracticable for them to live closely congregated. There were computed to be, within sixty miles of the settlement of Jamestown, some five thousand Indians, of whom not quite one-third were men serviceable in war. The lower portion of the Powhatan or James river, below the falls, passed through the country of the great king and tribe who bore the same name: among the mountains at its source dwelt the Monacans. The great nations were subdivided into a number of small er tribes, each subject to its own Werowance, or king.

The stature and general appearance of different races among them presented considerable discrepancy. Of the Sasquesahanocks, Smith says: “Such great and well-proportioned men are seldom seen, for they seemed like giants to the English. For their language, it may well beseem their proportions, sounding from them as a voice in a vault.” One of their chief “Werowances measured three-quarters of a yard about the calf of his leg,” and all the rest of his limbs so answerable to that proportion, that he seemed the goodliest man we ever beheld. His hair, the one side, was long, the other shore close, with a ridge like a cock’s comb.”

These people were dressed in bear and wolf-skins. “some have cassocks made of bears heads and skins, that a man s head goes through the skin s neck, and the ears of the bear fastened to his shoulders, the nose and teeth hanging down his breast, another bear s face split behind him, and at the end of the nose hung a paw. One had the head of a wolf hanging in a chain for a jewel; his tobacco pipe, three quarters of a yard long, prettily carved with a bird, a deer, or some such device, at the great end, sufficient to beat out one’s brains.”

Farther to the South, upon the Rappahanock, and other adjacent rivers, dwelt an inferior people, of small stature. The Monacans, Mannahocks, Sasquesahanocks, and other tribes, which environed the Powhatan country, were so dissimilar in their language that they could only communicate by interpretation.

The clothing of all these Indians consisted principally of skins, dressed with or without the hair, according to the season. Occasionally would be seen a mantle neatly and thickly covered with feathers, so fastened as to appear like a natural growth but many of the savages contented themselves with very simple and primitive habiliments, woven from grass and leaves. Tattooing was common, especially among the women, and the red powdered root of the pocone, mixed with oil to the consistency of paint, served to satisfy their barbaric taste for fancifully coloring the body. He was “the most gallant who was the most monstrous to behold.” Their ears were generally bored, and pendants of copper and other ornaments were attached. “Some of their men wear in those holes a small green and yellow-colored snake, near half a yard in length, which, crawling and lapping herself about his neck, often times would familiarly kiss his lips.”

Their wigwams were much after the usual fashion, warm, but smoky, and stood in the midst of the planting grounds where they raised their beans, corn, and pompions. About the dwellings of some, mulberry-trees were planted, and fine groves of the same grew naturally in various parts of the country. The English made an attempt to raise silk here, “and surely the worms prospered excellent well till the master-workman fell sick. During which time they were eaten with rats.” To affect a clearing, the custom of the natives was to girdle the trees by bruising and burning the bark near the root; and, in the ensuing year, the soil was rudely loosened for the reception of the seed.

During a great part of the year they were obliged to resort to the natural productions of the forest, sea, and rivers for their support; and, as their diet varied with the season, ” even as the deer and wild beasts, they seemed fat and lean, strong and weak.” In the spring they re lied chiefly upon fish and small game; in summer, before the green corn was ready for use, they were obliged to eke out a subsistence with roots, acorns, and shellfish. Some species of acorns, besides being useful as food, furnished an oil with which the natives anointed their heads and joints.

Smith enumerates many of the wild fruits and game, which were sought by the Indians, describing them in quaint and forcible language. It is singular to observe how the original Indian names of plants and animals have been altered and corrupted on their adoption by the English. All will recognize the “putchamin,” whose “fruit is like a medlar; it is first green, then yellow, then red, when it is ripe; if it be not ripe, it will draw a man s mouth awry, with much torment.” Broth or bread made from the “chechinquamin,” (chincopin,) was considered a great dainty.

With a slight change of orthography, the “aroughcun, a beast much like a badger, but which useth to live on trees, as squirrels do,” becomes familiar, as do also the “opassum ” and “mussascus.”

Among the fish, a kind of ray attracted the worthy captain’s special admiration, being “so like the picture of St. George his dragon as possible can be, except his legs and wings.”

The Indians fished with nets, woven with no little skill; with hooks of bone; with the spear; and with arrows attached to lines. For other game, the principal weapon was the bow and arrow. The arrows were generally headed with bone or flint, but sometimes with the spur of a turkey or a bird s bill. It is astonishing how the stone arrow-heads, which are, to this day, found scattered over our whole country, could have been shaped, or attached to the reed with any degree of firmness. Smith says that a small bone was worn constantly at the “bracert” for the purpose of manufacturing them, probably to hold the flint while it was chipped into shape by another stone, and that a strong glue, obtained by boiling deer s horns and sinews, served to fasten them securely. Very soon after intercourse with Europeans commenced, these rude implements were superseded by those of iron.

Deer were hunted with most effect by driving in large companies, dispersed through the woods. When a single hunter undertook the pursuit, it was usual for him to disguise himself in the skin of a deer, thrusting his arm through the neck into the head, which was so stuffed as to resemble that of the living animal. Thus accoutred, he would gradually approach his prey, imitating the motions of a deer as nearly as possible, stopping occasionally, and appearing to be occupied in licking his body, until near enough for a shot.

In war these Indians pursued much the same course as the other eastern nations. On one occasion, at Mattapanient, they entertained Smith and his companions with a sham fight, one division taking the part of Monacans, and the other of Powhatans. After the first discharge of arrows, he says, “they gave such, horrible shouts and screeches as so many infernal hell-hounds could not have made them more terrible.” During the whole performance, “their actions, voices, and gestures, were so strained to the height of their quality and nature, that the strangeness thereof made it seem very delightful.” Their martial music consisted of the discordant sounds produced by rude drums and rattles.


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