MEDIA
C: Smith taketh the King of Pamaunkee prisoner
Original Author: Robert Vaughan, based on a 1590 engraving by Theodor de Bry and a 1585–1586 watercolor by John White
Created: 1624
Medium: Engraving

C: Smith taketh the King of Pamaunkee prisoner

English captain John Smith grabs Pamunkey Indian chief Opechancanough by the hair and threatens him with a pistol in this engraving by Robert Vaughan, which depicts an incident that took place in late January 1609. When Captain Smith and his men arrived in Pamunkey territory to trade for food that they desperately needed, the Indians plotted an ambush. According to Smith's later account, the Englishman cleverly turned the tables on Opechancanough, when he abruptly seized the Indian chief and "led the trembling king, neare dead with feare amongst all his people." This incident was probably embellished in Smith's version, according to the anthropologist Helen Rountree; nonetheless, it likely had a substantial impact: "This humiliation would have been … excruciating for a man who was also a weroance [or chief]. The onlookers would have been appalled: the unthinkable had happened. And it is very likely that Opechancanough never forgave [Smith] … "

This engraving was published in Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624). The figure of Opechancanough was based on a watercolor of an Algonquian-speaking chief who had been painted by John White in the 1580s, as well as a later engraving by Theodor de Bry.

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