Chapter 12, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624)

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In chapter 12, book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, published in 1624, Captain John Smith tells of encounters with Virginia Indians, the wreck of the Sea Venture, and an explosion that injured him and forced him to leave Virginia.



The Generall Historie of Virginia

TO redresse those jarres and ill proceedings, the Treasurer, Councell, and Company of Virginia, not finding that returne, and profit they expected; and them ingaged there, not having meanes to subsist of themselues, made meanes to his Maiestie, to call in their Commission, and take a new in their owne names, as in their owne publication, 1610. you may reade at large. Having thus annihilated the old by vertue of a Commission made to the right Honourable, Sir Thomas West, Lord de la Warre , to be Generall of Virginia; Sir Thomas Gates , his Lieutenant; Sir George Somers , Admirall; Sir Thomas Dale , high Marshall; Sir Fardinando Wainman, Generall of the Horse; and so all other offices to many other worthy Gentlemen, for their liues: (though not any of them had ever beene in Virginia, except Captaine Newport , who was also by Patent made vice-Admirall:) those noble Gentlemen drew in such great summes of money, that they sent Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Captaine Newport with nine shippes, and fiue hundred people, who had each of them a Commission, who first arrived to call in the old, without the knowledge or consent of them, that had endured all those former dangers to beat the path, not any regard had at all of them. All things being ready, because those three Captaines could not agree for place, it was concluded they should goe all in one ship, so all their three Commissions were in that Ship with them called the Sea-Venture. They set sayle from England in May 1609. A small Catch perished at Sea in a Hericano: the Admirall with an hundred and fiftie men, with the two Knights, and their new Commission, their Bils of Loading, with all manner of directions, and the most part of their provision arrived not. With the o-

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ther seaven Ships as Captaines arrived Ratliffe, whose right name (as is sayd) was Sicklemore, Martin, and Archer, with Captaine Wood, Captaine Webbe, Captaine Moone, Captaine King, Captaine Davis, and divers Gentlemen of good meanes, and great parentage. But the first as they had beene troublesome at Sea, began againe to marre all ashore: for though (as is said) they were formerly sent for England, yet now returning againe, graced by the titles of Captaines of the passengers, seeing the Admirall wanting, and great probabilitie of her losse, strengthened themselues with those new companies, so exclaiming against Captaine Smith, that they mortally hated him ere ever they saw him. Who vnderstanding by his Scouts the arrivall of such a Fleet, little dreaming of any such supply, supposed them Spanyards. But he quickly so determined and ordered our affaires, as we little feared their Arrivall, nor the successe of our incounter; nor were the Salvages any way negligent for the most part, to ayd and assist vs with their best power. Had it so beene we had beene happy; for we would not haue trusted them but as our foes, where receiuing them as our Countreymen and friends, they did what they could to murther our President, to surprise the Store, the Fort, and our lodgings, to vsurpe the government, and make vs all their servants and slaues, till they could consume vs and our remembrance; and rather indeed to supplant vs then supply vs, as master William Box an honest Gentleman in this voyage thus relateth.

In the tayle of a Hericano wee were separated from the Admirall, which although it was but the remainder of that Storme, there is seldome any such in England, or those Northerne parts of Europe. Some lost their Masts, some their Sayles blowne from their Yards; the Seas so over-raking our Ships, much of our prouision was spoyled, our Fleet separated, and our men sicke, and many dyed, and in this miserable estate we arrived in Virginia.

But in this Storme,

When ratling Thunder ran along the Clouds;
Did not the Saylers poore, and Masters proud
A terror feele as strucke with feare of God?
Did not their trembling ioynts then dread his rod?
Least for foule deeds and black mouth’d blasphemies,
The rufull time be come that vengeance cryes.

To a thousand mischiefes those lewd Captaines led this lewd company, wherein were many vnruly Gallants, packed thither by their friends to escape ill destinies, and those would dispose and determine of the government, sometimes to one, the next day to another; to day the old Commission must rule, to morrow the new, the next day neither, in fine they would rule all, or ruine all: yet in charitie we must endure them thus to destroy vs, or by correcting their follies, haue brought the worlds censure vpon vs to be guiltie of their blouds. Happie had we beene had they never arrived, and we for ever abandoned, and as we were left to our fortunes: for on earth for the number was never more confusion, or misery, then their factions occasioned.

The President seeing the desire those Braues had to rule; seeing how his authoritie was so vnexpectedly changed, would willingly haue left all, and haue returned for England. But seeing there was small hope this new Commission would arriue, longer he would not suffer those factious spirits to proceede. It would be too tedious, too strange, and almost incredible; should I particularly relate the infinite dangers, plots, and practices, he daily escaped amongst this factious crew; the chiefe whereof he quickly layd by the heeles, till his leasure better served to doe them iustice: and to take away all occasions of further mischiefe, Master Percie had his request granted to returne for England, being very sicke; and Mr West with an hundred and twentie of the best he could chuse, he sent to the Falles; Martin with neare as many to Nandsamund, with their due proportions of all provisions according to their numbers.

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The Generall Historie of Virginia

Now the Presidents yeare being neare expired, he made Captaine Martin President to follow the order for the election of a President every yeare: but he knowing his owne insufficiency, and the companies vntowardnesse and little regard of him, within three houres after resigned it againe to Captaine Smith, and at Nandsamund thus proceeded. The people being contributers vsed him kindly; yet such was his iealous feare, in the midst of their mirth, he did surprise this poore naked King, with his Monuments, houses, and the Isle he inhabited, and there fortified himselfe; but so apparantly distracted with feare, as imboldened the Salvages to assault him, kill his men, release their King, gather and carry away a thousand bushels of Corne, he not once offering to intercept them; but sent to the President then at the Falles for thirtie good shot; which from Iames Towne immediately was sent him. But he so well imployed them they did iust nothing, but returned complaining of his tendernesse: yet he came away with them to Iames Towne, leauing his company to their fortunes.

Here I cannot omit the courage of George Forrest, that had seauenteene Arrowes sticking in him, and one shot through him, yet liued sixe or seauen dayes, as if he had small hurt, then for want of Chirurgery dyed.

Master West having seated his men by the Falles, presently returned to reuisit Iames Towne: the President followed him to see that company seated, met him by the way, wondering at his so quicke returne; and found his company planted so inconsiderately, in a place not onely subiect to the rivers invndation, but round invironed with many intollerable inconueniences.

For remedie whereof he presently sent to Powhatan to sell him the place called Powhatan, promising to defend him against the Monacans . And these should be his Conditions (with his people) to resigne him the Fort and houses, and all that Countrey for a proportion of Copper; that all stealing offenders should be sent him, there to receiue their punishment; that every house as a Custome should pay him a Bushell of Corne for an inch square of Copper, and a proportion of Pocones, as a yearely tribute to King Iames for their protection, as a dutie; what else they could spare to barter at their best discretions.

But both this excellent place and those good Conditions did those furies refuse, contemning both him, his kinde care and authoritie. So much they depended on the Lord Generals new Commission, as they regarded none: the worst they could doe to shew their spights they did; supposing all the Monacans Country, gold; and none should come there but whom they pleased. I doe more then wonder to thinke how onely with fiue men, he either durst or would adventure as he did, (knowing how greedie they were of his bloud) to land amongst them, and commit to imprisonment all the Chieftaines of those mutinies, till by their multitudes being an hundred and twentie they forced him to retyre: yet in that interim he surprised one of their Boates, wherewith he returned to their ship; where in deed was their prouision, which also he tooke, and well it chanced he found the Marriners so tractable and constant, or there had beene small possibilitie he had ever escaped. There were divers other of better reason and experience, that from their first landing, hearing the generall good report of his old Souldiers, and seeing with their eyes his actions so well mannaged with discretion, as Captaine Wood, Captaine Webbe, Cap. Moone, Captaine Fitz Iames, Master William Powell, Master Partridge, Master White, and divers others, when they perceiued the malice of Ratliffe and Archer, and their faction, left their companies, and ever rested his faithfull friends. But the worst was that the poore Salvages, that daily brought in their contribution to the President, that disorderly company so tormented those poore soules, by stealing their corne, robbing their gardens, beating them, breaking their houses and keeping some prisoners; that they daily complained to Captaine Smith, he had brought them for Protectors, worse enemies then the Monacans themselues: which though till then, for his loue they had endured, they desired pardon if hereafter they defended themselues; since he would not correct them, as they had long expected he would. So

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much they importuned him to punish their misdemeanors, as they offered (if he would leade them) to fight for him against them. But having spent nine dayes in seeking to reclaime them; shewing them how much they did abuse themselues with these great guilded hopes of the South Sea Mines, commodities, or victories, they so madly conceived; then seeing nothing would prevaile, he set sayle for Iames Towne.

Thus oft we see from small greene wounds, and from a little griefe,
A greater sore and sicknesse growes, then will admit reliefe
For thus themselues they did beguile, and with the rest play’d theefe.

Now no sooner was the Ship vnder sayle, but the Salvages assaulted those hundred and twentie in their Fort, finding some stragling abroad in the woods: they slew many, and so affrighted the rest, as their prisoners escaped, and they safely retyred, with the swords and cloakes of those they had slaine. But ere wee had sayled halfe a league, our ship grounding, gaue vs once more libertie to summon them to a parley; where we found them all so strangely amazed with this poore silly assault of twelue Saluages, that they submitted themselues vpon any tearmes to the Presidents mercy; who presently put by the heeles sixe or seauen of the chiefe offenders: the rest he seated gallantly at Powhatan, in that Salvage Fort, readie built, and prettily fortified with poles and barkes of trees, sufficient to haue defended them from all the Salvages in Virginia, dry houses for lodgings and neere two hundred accres of ground ready to be planted, and no place we knew so strong, so pleasant and delightfull in Virginia for which we called it Non-such. The Salvages also hee presently appeased, redeliuering to either party their former losses. Thus all were friends.

New officers appointed to command, and the President againe ready to depart, at that instant arriued Captaine West, whose gentle nature (by the perswasions and compassion of those mutinous prisoners, alledging they had onely done this for his honor) was so much abused, that to regaine their old hopes, new turboyles did arise. For they a-shore being possessed of all there victuall, munition, and euery thing, grew to that height in their former factions, as the President left them to their fortunes: they returned againe to the open ayre at Wests Fort, abandoning Non-such, and he to Iames towne with his best expedition, but this hapned him in that Iourney.

Sleeping in his Boate, (for the ship was returned two daies before) accidentallie, one fired his powder-bag, which tore the flesh from his body and thighes, nine or ten inches square in a most pittifull manner; but to quench the tormenting fire, frying him in his cloaths he leaped over-boord into the deepe river, where ere they could recouer him he was neere drowned. In this estate without either Chirurgian, or Chirurgery he was to goe neere an hundred myles. Arriving at Iames towne, causing all things to be prepared for peace or warres to obtaine provision, whilest those things were providing, Ratliffe, Archer, & the rest of their Confederates, being to come to their trials; their guiltie consciences, fearing a iust reward for their deserts, seeing the President, vnable to stand, and neere bereft of his senses by reason of his torment, they had plotted to haue murdered him in his bed. But his heart did faile him that should haue giuen fire to that mercilesse Pistoll. So not finding that course to be the best, they ioyned together to vsurpe the government, thereby to escape their punishment. The President, had notice of their proiects, the which to withstand, though his old souldiers importuned him but permit them to take their heads that would resist his command, yet he would not suffer them, but sent for the Masters of the ships, and tooke order with them for his returne for England. Seeing there was neither Chirurgian, nor Chirurgery in the Fort to cure his hurt, and the ships to depart the next day, his Commission to be suppressed he knew not why, himselfe and souldiers to be rewarded he knew not how, and a

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The Generall Historie of Virginia

new commission granted they knew not to whom (the which disabled that authority he had, as made them presume so oft to those mutinies as they did:) besides so grievous were his wounds, and so cruell his torments (few expecting he could liue) nor was hee able to follow his busines to regaine what they had lost, suppresse those factions, and range the countries for provision as he intended; and well he knew in those affaires his owne actions and presence was as requisit as his directions, which now could not be, he went presently abroad, resoluing there to appoint them governours, and to take order for the mutiners, but he could finde none hee thought fit for it would accept it. In the meane time, seeing him gone, they perswaded Master Percy to stay, who was then to goe for England, and be their President. Within lesse then an houre was this mutation begun and concluded. For when the Company vnderstood Smith would leaue them, & saw the rest in Armes called Presidents & Councellors, divers began to fawne on those new commanders, that now bent all their wits to get him resigne them his Commission: who after much adoe and many bitter repulses; that their confusion (which he tould them was at their elbowes) should not be attributed to him, for leauing the Colony without a Commission, he was not vnwilling they should steale it, but never would he giue it to such as they.

And thus,

Strange violent forces drew vs on vnwilling:
Reason perswading ‘gainst our loues rebelling.
We saw and knew the better, ah curse accurst!
That notwithstanding we imbrace the worst.

But had that vnhappie blast not hapned, he would quickly haue qualified the heate of those humors, and factions, had the ships but once left them and vs to our fortunes; and haue made that provision from among the Salvages, as we neither feared Spanyard, Salvage, nor famine; nor would haue left Virginia, nor our lawfull authoritie, but at as deare a price as we had bought it, and payd for it. What shall I say but thus, we left him, that in all his proceedings, made Iustice his first guide, and experience his second, even hating basenesse, sloath, pride, and indignitie, more then any dangers; that neuer allowed more for himselfe, then his souldiers with him; that vpon no danger would send them where he would not lead them himselfe; that would never see vs want, what he either had, or could by any meanes get vs; that would rather want then borrow, or starue then not pay; that loued action more then words, and hated falshood and covetousnesse worse then death; whose adventures were our liues, and whose losse our deaths.

Leaving vs thus with three ships, seaven boats, commodities readie to trade, the harvest newly gathered, ten weeks provision in the store, foure hundred nintie and od persons, twentie-foure Peeces of Ordnance, three hundred Muskets, Snaphances, and Firelockes, Shot, Powder, and Match sufficient, Curats, Pikes, Swords, and Morrios, more then men; the Salvages, their language, and habitations well knowne to an hundred well trayned and expert Souldiers; Nets for fishing; Tooles of all sorts to worke; apparell to supply our wants; six Mares and a Horse; fiue or sixe hundred Swine; as many Hennes and Chickens; some Goats; some sheepe; what was brought or bred there remained. But they regarding nothing but from hand to mouth, did consume that wee had, tooke care for nothing, but to perfect some colourable complaints against Captaine Smith. For effecting whereof three weekes longer they stayed the Ships, till they could produce them. That time and charge might much better haue beene spent, but it suted well with the rest of their discretions.

Besides Iames towne that was strongly Pallizadoed, containing some fiftie or sixtie houses, he left fiue or sixe other severall Forts and Plantations: though they were not so sumptuous as our successors expected, they were better then they provided any for vs. All this time we had but one Carpenter in the Countrey, and three o-

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thers that could doe little, but desired to be learners: two Blacksmiths; two saylers, & those we write labourers were for most part footmen, and such as they that were Adventurers brought to attend them, or such as they could perswade to goe with them, that neuer did know what a dayes worke was, except the Dutch-men and Poles, and some dozen other. For all the rest were poore Gentlemen, Tradsmen, Serving-men, libertines, and such like, ten times more fit to spoyle a Common-wealth, then either begin one, or but helpe to maintaine one. For when neither the feare of God, nor the law, nor shame, nor displeasure of their friends could rule them here, there is small hope ever to bring one in twentie of them ever to be good there. Notwithstanding, I confesse divers amongst them, had better mindes and grew much more industrious then was expected: yet ten good workemen would haue done more substantiall worke in a day, then ten of them in a weeke. Therefore men may rather wonder how we could doe so much, then vse vs so badly, because we did no more, but leaue those examples to make others beware, and the fruits of all, we know not for whom.

But to see the justice of God vpon these Dutch-men; Valdo before spoke of, made a shift to get for England, where perswading the Merchants what rich Mines he had found, and great service he would doe them, was very well rewarded, and returned with the Lord La Warre: but being found a meere Impostor, he dyed most miserably. Adam and Francis his two consorts were fled againe to Powhatan, to whom they promised at the arrivall of my Lord, what wonders they would doe, would he suffer them but to goe to him. But the King seeing they would be gone, replyed; You that would haue betrayed Captaine Smith to mee, will certainely betray me to this great Lord for your peace: so caused his men to beat out their braines.

To conclude, the greatest honour that ever belonged to the greatest Monarkes, was the inlarging their Dominions, and erecting Common-weales. Yet howsoever any of them haue attributed to themselues, the Conquerors of the world: there is more of the world never heard of them, then ever any of them all had in subiection: for the Medes, Persians, and Assyrians, never Conquered all Asia, nor the Grecians but part of Europe and Asia. The Romans indeed had a great part of both, as well as Affrica: but as for all the Northerne parts of Europe and Asia, the interior Southern and Westerne parts of Affrica, all America & Terra incognita, they were all ignorant: nor is our knowledge yet but superficiall. That their beginnings, ending, and limitations were proportioned by the Almightie is most evident: but to consider of what small meanes many of them haue begun is wonderfull. For some write that even Rome her selfe, during the Raigne of Romulus, exceeded not the number of a thousand houses. And Carthage grew so great a Potentate, that at first was but incirculed in the thongs of a Bulls skinne, as to fight with Rome for the Empire of the world. Yea Venice at this time the admiration of the earth, was at first but a Marish, inhabited by poore Fishermen. And likewise Ninivie, Thebes, Babylon, Delus, Troy, Athens, Mycena and Sparta, grew from small beginnings to be most famous States, though now they retaine little more then a naked name. Now this our young Common-wealth in Virginia, as you haue read once consisted but of 38 persons, and in two yeares increased but to 200. yet by this small meanes so highly was approved the Plantation in Virginia, as how many Lords, with worthy Knights, and braue Gentlemen pretended to see it, and some did, and now after the expence of fifteene yeares more, and such massie summes of men and money, grow they disanimated? If we truely consider our Proceedings with the Spanyards, and the rest, we haue no reason to despayre, for with so small charge, they never had either greater Discoveries, with such certaine tryals of more severall Commodities, then in this short time hath beene returned from Virginia, and by much lesse meanes. New England was brought out of obscuritie, and affoorded fraught for neare 200 sayle of ships, where there is now erected a braue Plantation. For the happines of Summer Isles, they are no lesse then either, and yet those haue had a far lesse, and a more difficult beginning, then either Rome, Carthage, or Venice.

Written by Richard Pots, Clarke of the Councell, William Tankard, and G.P.


A True relation of such occurrences and accidents of note, as hath hapned at Virginia, since the first planting of that Collony by John Smith (1608) A Map of Virginia. With a Description of the Countrey, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion by John Smith (1612) Chapter 1, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624) Chapter 2, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624) Chapter 7, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624) Chapters 10–11, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624) “The gouernment left to Captaine Yearly,” from Book 4 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624) Chapter 1 of The Trve Travels, Adventvres and Observations of Captaine Iohn Smith in Europe, Asia, Africke, and America, Vol. 1 (1629) Chapter 7 of The Trve Travels, Adventvres and Observations of Captaine Iohn Smith in Europe, Asia, Africke, and America, Vol. 1 (1629) Chapters 11–12 of The Trve Travels, Adventvres and Observations of Captaine Iohn Smith in Europe, Asia, Africke, and America, Vol. 1 (1629) Chapter 17 of The Trve Travels, Adventvres and Observations of Captaine Iohn Smith in Europe, Asia, Africke, and America, Vol. 1 (1629) The Legend of Captaine Jones by David Lloyd (1631) “John Smith,” from The History of the Worthies of England by Thomas Fuller (1661)

APA Citation:
Smith, John. Chapter 12, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Smith, John. "Chapter 12, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 24 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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