The original manuscript of which the small volume now sent to you is a copy, was transmitted to the President of the United States, by Mr. King, our late minister plenipotentiary at the Court of London, in a letter of December 20, 1803. It was purchased by Mr. King at the sale of the stock of one Collins, a bookseller in London; and when received by the President, was carefully copied by him, with his own hand. The pages and lines of the Copy correspond with those of the original. The orthography, abbreviations, punctuation, and even interlineations are preserved, so that it is a facsimile, except as to the form of the letters. The two first are evidence of the age of the writing.
The copy was lately sent, as a curious and interesting historical document, by the President to his venerable friend Mr. Wythe, with a permission to the bearer, to communicate its contents to the public.
The transaction recorded in this manuscript, altho’ of little extent or consequence, is yet marked in the History of Virginia, as having been the only rebellion or insurrection which took place in the Colony during the 168 years of its existence preceding the American Revolution, and 100 years exactly before that event. The rebellion of Bacon, as it is improperly called, has been little understood, its cause and course being imperfectly explained by any authentic document hitherto possessed. This renders the present narrative of real value. It appears to have been written thirty years after the event took place, by a person intimately acquainted with its origin, progress and conclusion. It was written too, not for the public eye, but in compliance with the wish or curiosity of a British minister, Lord Orford. The candour and simplicity of the narrative cannot fail to command belief.
On the outside of the cover of the original MS are the numbers, 3947 and 5781.—Very possibly the one may indicate the place it held in L:d Oxford’s library and the other its number in the catalogue of the bookseller, into whose hands its came, before Mr. K. became the purchaser.
The author says of himself, that he was a planter, (p.20), that he lived in Northumberland (p. 3), but was elected a member of the assembly in 1676 for the county of Stafford (p. 20), Col. Mason being his colleague (21.45), of which assembly Col. Warner was speaker (61), that it was the first and should be the last time of his meddling with public affairs (49), and he subscribes the initials of his name T. M. Whether the records of the time, if they still exist, with the aid of these circumstances, will shew what his name was, remains for further enquiry.
If this little book speaks truth, Nathaniel Bacon will be no longer regarded as a rebel, but a patriot. His name will be rescued from the infamy which has adhered to it for more than a century; the stigma of corruption, cruelty and treachery will be fixed on the administration by which he was condemned; and one more café will be added to those which prove, that insurrections proceed oftener from the misconduct of those in power, than from the factious and turbulent temper of the people.
To the right hono’ble Robert Harley esq’e. her Maj’ties Principal Secretary of State, and one of her most Hono’ble Privy Council.
The great honour of your command obliging my pen to step aside from it’s habituall element of figures into this little treatise of history; which having never before experienced, I am like Sutor ultra crepidam, and therefore dare pretend no more than (nakedly) to recount matters of fact.
Beseeching yo’r hono’r will vouchsafe to allow, that in 30 years, diverse occurrences are laps’d out of mind, and others imperfectly retained.
So as the most solemn obedience can be now paid is to pursue the track of barefac’d truths, as close as my memory can recollect, to have seen, or believed, from credible friends, with concurring circumstances;
And whatsoever yo’r celebrated wisdom shall finde amisse in the composure, my intire dependance is upon yo’r candour favourably to accept these most sincere endeavo’rs of You’r Hono’rs
Most devoted humble ser’t
The 13th July 1705.
Three prodigies in Virginia 1 2 3
Rob’t Hen’s murder the originall of Bacon’s rebellion 3 4
The king of the Doegs sons baptism & recovery 7 8 9
Pascataway fort besieged 9 to 12
Marylands first danger 12 13
Mr. Bacons overseer & serv’t kill’d 13
Small families withdrew into fortified houses 13 14
Comission delay’d by the Govern’r 14 15
Mr. Bacons first expedicon 16 17 18
Mr. Bacon taken 19
The Gov’s speeh to th’ assembly 22
Mr. Bacons recantation & penitence 22 23
Mr. Laurence & Mr. Drummond noted by the Govern’r 24 25
Th’ assembly imposed upon 25 to 28
The Queen of Pamunky introduced 28 to 33
Mr. Bacons escape 33 34
Mr. Laurence wrong’d by the Gov’r 33
The Govern’rs stratagem to circumvent Mr. Bacon 34 35 36
Mr. Bacons adherents & threatenings 34
Mr. Bacon enters Jamestown with his army 36 37
The Govern’r & Mr. Bacons furious actions 37 to 43
Mr. Bacon made General 43 44
Comissions to the comand’rs of the militia 45 46 47
The Govern’rs & assemblys letters 47 48
The assembly dissolved 49 50 51
Gen. Bacons first message by Capt. Carver 52 53
Gloster and Middlesex militia rais’d 54
The Governors flight to Accomack 55
Strict oaths imposed by Gen. Bacon 55
A Spy hang’d by Gen. Bacon & his clemency
Gen. Bacons 2d message by Major Langston 56
The Govern’rs 2d attempt 57
Jamestown taken & burnt by Gen. Bacon 58
Gen. Bacons Convention Proclamation & oaths 58 59
Marylands 2d danger 59 60
Capt. Larimores ship prest 60
Colo. Warners speech of setting marks on the Accomack men 61
The ship supriz’d & taken by the Govern’rs party 62 63 64
Capt. Carver executed 65
danger & distast 65
Gen. Bacons death 66
Ingram & Watelet submitted and pardoned 66
Mr. Drumond put to death 67
Laurence with 4 others never heard of 68
Gen. Bacons bones never found 68 69
The fleet arriv’d from England 69
Bland & many others executed 70
Fleet returned to England 71
The Govern’rs death 71
The Beginning Progress and Conclusion of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia in the Years 1675 & 1676
About the year 1675, appear’d three prodigies in that country, which from th’ attending disasters, were look’d upon as ominous presages.
The one was a large comet every evening for a week, or more at Southwest; thirty five degrees high streaming like a horse taile westwards, until it reach’d (almost) the horrison, and setting towards the Northwest.
Another was, sights of pigeons in breadth nigh a quarter of the mid-hemisphere, and of their length was no visible end; whose weights brake down the limbs of large trees whereon these rested at nights, of which the fowlers shot abundance and eat ‘em; this fight put the old planters under th more portentous apprehensions, because the like was seen (as they said) in the year 1640 when the Indians committed the last massacre, but not after, until that present year 1675.
The third strange appearance was swarms of flyes about an inch long, and big as the top of a man’s little finger, rising out of spigot holes in the earth, which eat the new sprouted leaves from the tops of the trees without other harm, and in a month left us.
My dwelling was in Northumberland, the lowest country on Potomack river, Stafford being the upmost, where having also a plantation, servants, cattle, &c. my overseer there had agreed with one Rob’t Hen to come thither, and be my herdsman, who then lived ten miles above it; but on a sabbath day morning in the sumer anno 1675, people in their way to church, saw this Hen lying thwart his threshold, & an Indian without the door, both chopt on their heads, arms and other parts, as if done with Indian hatchette, th’ Indian dead, but Hen when ask’d who did that? answered Doegs, Doegs, and soon died, then a boy came out from under a bed, where he had hid himself, and told them, Indians had come at break of day and done those murders.
From this Englishman’s bloud did (by degrees) arise Bacons rebellion with the following mischiefs which overspread all Virginia and twice endangered Maryland, as by the ensuing account is evident.
Of this horrid action Col. Mason who commanded the militia regiment of foot and Capt. Brent the trop of horse in that county (both dwelling six or eight miles downwards) having speedy notice raised 30, or more men, and pursu’d those Indians 20 miles up and 4 miles over that river into Maryland, where landing at dawn of day, they found two small paths, each leader with his party took a separate path and in less than a furlong, either found a cabin, which they (silently) surrounded. Capt. Brent went to the Doegs cabin (as it proved to be) who speaking the Indian tongue called to have a “Matchacomicha weewhio” i.e. a council called presently (such being the usuall manner with Indians) the king came trembling forth, and wou’d have fled, when Capt. Brent, catching hold of his twisted lock (which was all the hair he wore) told him he was come for the murderer of Robt. Hen, the king pleaded ignorance and flipt loos, whom Brent shot dead with his pistol, th’ Indians shot two or three guns out of the cabin, th’ English shot into it, th’ Indians throng’d out at the door and fled, the English shot as many as they cou’d, so that they killed ten, as Capt. Brent told me, and brought away the kings son of about 8 years old, concerning whom is an observable passage, at the end of this expedition; the noise of this shooting awaken’d the Indians in the cabin, which Col. Mason had encompassed, who likewise rush’d out and fled, of whom his company (supporting from that noise of shooting Brent’s party to be engaged) shott (as the Col. Informed me) fourteen before an Indian came, who with both hands shook him (friendly) by one arm saying Susquehanougs netoughs i.e. Susquehanaugh friends and fled, whereupon he ran amongst his men, crying out “for the Lords sake shoot no more, these are our friends the Susquehanoughs.
This unhappy scene ended; Col. Mason took the king of the Doegs son home with him, who lay ten days in bed, as one dead, with eyes and mouth shut, no breath discern’d, but his body continuing warm, they believed him yet alive; the aforenamed Capt. Brent (a papist) coming thither on a visit, and seeing his little prisoner thus languishing said “perhaps he is pawewawd i. e. bewitch’d, and that he had heard baptism was an effectuall remedy against witchcraft wherefore advis’d to baptise him. Col. Mason answered, no minister cou’d be had in many miles; Brent replied yo’r clerk Mr. Dobson may do that office, which was done by the church of England liturgy; Col. Mason with Capt. Brent godfathers and Mrs. Mason godmother, My overseer Mr. Pimet being present, from whom I first heard it, and which all the other persons (afterwards) affirm’d to me; the four men return’d to drinking punch, but Mrs. Mason staying and looking on the child, it open’d the eyes, and breath’d, whereat she ran for a cordial, which he took from a spoon, gaping for more and so (by degrees) recovered, tho’ before his baptism, they had often tried the same meanes but cou’d not by no endeavours wrench open his teeth.
This was taken for a convincing proofe against infidelity.
But to return from this digression, the Susquehanoughs were newly driven from their habitations, at the head of Chesepiack bay, by the Cineca-Indians, down to the head of Potomack, where they sought protection under the Pasceataway Indians, who had a fort near the head of that river, and also were our friends.
After this unfortunate exploit of Mason and Brent, one or two being kill’d in Stafford, boats of war were equipt to prevent excursions over the river, and at the same time murders being (likewise) comitted in Maryland, by whom not known, on either side of the river, both countrys raised their quota’s of a thousand men, upon whose coming before the fort, the Indians sent out 4 of their great men, who ask’d the reason of that hostile appearance, what they said more or offered, I do not remember to have heard; but our commanders caused them to be (instantly) slaine, after which the Indians made an obstinate resistance shooting many of our men, and making frequent, fierce and bloody failyes; and when they were call’d to, or offer’d parley, gave no other answer, than “where are our four Cockaroufes, i.e. great men?
At the end of six weeks, march’d out seventy five Indians with their women children etc. who (by moonlight past our guards hollowing and firing att them without opposition, leaving 3 or 4 decrepits in the ffort.
The next morning the English followed, but could not, or (for fear of ambuscades) would not overtake these desperate fugitives the number we lost in that siege I did not hear was published.
The walls of this fort were high banks of earth, with flankers having many loop-holes, and a ditch round all, and without this a row of tall trees fastned 3 foot deep in the earth, their bodies from 5 to 8 inches diameter, watled 6 inches apart to shoot through with the tops twisted together ,and also artificially wrought, as our men could make no breach to storm it, nor (being low land) could they undermine it by reason of water neither had they cannon to batter itt, so that ‘twas not taken until famine drove the Indians out of it.
These escap’d Indians (forsaking Maryland) took their rout over the head of that river, and thence over the heads of Rappahanock and York Rivers, killing whom they found of th’ upmost plantations until they came to the head of James river, where (with Bacon and others) they flew Mr. Bacon’s overseer whom he much loved, and one of his servants, whose bloud hee vowed to revenge if possible.
In these frightful times the most exposed small families withdrew into our houses of better numbers, which we fortified with pallisadoes and redoubts, neighbors in bodies joined their labours from each plantation to others alternately, taking their arms into the fields and setting centinels; no man stirr’d out of door unarm’d, Indians were (ever and anon) espied, three 4 or 5 or 6 in a party lurking throughout the whole land, yet (what was remarkable) I rarely heard of any houses burnt, tho’ abundance was forsaken, nor ever, of any corn or tobacco cut up, or other injury done, besides murders, except the killing a very few cattle and swine.
Frequent complaints of bloudsheds were sent to S’r Wm. Berkley (then Govern’r) from the heads of the rivers, which were as often answered, with promises of assistance.
There at the heads of James and York rivers (having now most people destroyed by the Indians flight thither from Potomack) grew impatient at the many slaughters of their neighbours and rose for their own defence, who chusing Mr. Bacon for their leader sent oftentimes to the Govern’r, humbly beseeching a commission to go against those Indians at their own charge which his hono’r as often promis’d but did not send; the mysteryes of those delays, were wondred at and which I ne’re heard any could penetrate into, other than the effects of his passion, and a new (not to be mentioned) occasion of avarice, to both which, he was (by the common vogue) more than a little additcted; whatever were the popular surmizes and murmerings viz: “that no bullets would pierce bever skins.
“rebells forfeitures would be loyall inherritances etc.
[To be concluded in our next.]