Chapters 10–11, Book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles by John Smith (1624)

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In chapters 10 and 11, book 3 of The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, published in 1624, Captain John Smith writes of his time as president of the Virginia colony, the struggle to feed his men, and his often violent dealings with Virginia Indians.



The Generall Historie of Virginia

WHen the Ships departed, all the provision of the Store (but that the President had gotten) was so rotten with the last Summers rayne, and eaten with Rats and Wormes, as the Hogges would scarcely eate it. Yet it was the Souldiers dyet till our returnes, so that we found nothing done, but our victuals spent, and the most part of our tooles, and a good part of our Armes conveyed to the Salvages. But now casting vp the Store, and finding sufficient till the next harvest, the feare of starving was abandoned, and the company divided into tens, fifteens, or as the businesse required; six houres each day was spent in worke, the rest in Pastime and merry exercises, but the vntowardnesse of the greatest number caused the President advise as followeth.

Countrymen, the long experience of our late miseries, I hope is sufficient to perswade every one to a present correction of himselfe, and thinke not that either my pains, nor the Adventurers purses, will ever maintaine you in idlenesse and sloath. I speake not this to you all, for divers of you I know deserue both honour and reward, better then is yet here to be had: but the greater part must be more industrious, or starue, how euer you haue beene heretofore tollerated by the authoritie of the Councell, from that I haue often commanded you. You see now that power resteth wholly in my selfe: you must obey this now for a Law, that he that will not worke shall not eate (except by sicknesse he be disabled:) for the labours of thirtie or fortie houest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintaine an hundred and fiftie idle loyterers. And though you presume the authoritie here is but a shadow, and that I dare not touch the liues of any but my owne must answer it: the Letters patents shall each weeke be read to you, whose Contents will tell you the contrary. I would wish you therefore without contempt seeke to obserue these orders set downe, for there are now no more Counsellers to protect you, nor curbe my endevours. Therefore he that offendeth, let him assuredly expect his due punishment.

He made also a Table, as a publicke memoriall of every mans deserts, to incourage the good, and with shame to spurre on the rest to amendment. By this many became very industrious, yet more by punishment performed their businesse, for all were so tasked, that there was no excuse could prevaile to deceiue him: yet the Dutch-mens consorts so closely convayed them powder, shot, swords, and tooles, that though we could find the defect, we could not finde by whom, till it was too late.

All this time the Dutch men remaining with Powhatan, (who kindly entertained them to instruct the Salvages the vse of our Armes) and their consorts not following them as they expected; to know the cause, they sent Francis their companion, a stout young fellow, disguised like a Salvage, to the Glasse-house, a place in the woods neare a myle from Iames Towne; where was their Rendezvous for all their vnsuspected villany. Fortie men they procured to lie in Ambuscado for Captaine Smith, who no sooner heard of this Dutch-man, but he sent to apprehend him (but he was gone) yet to crosse his returne to Powhatan, the Captaine presently dispatched 20.

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shot after him, himselfe returning from the Glasse-house alone. By the way he incountred the King of Paspuhegh, a most strong stout Salvage, whose perswasions not being able to perswade him to his Ambush, seeing him onely armed but with a faucheon, attempted to haue shot him, but the President prevented his shoot by grapling with him, and the Salvage as well prevented him for drawing his faucheon, and perforce bore him into the River to haue drowned him. Long they strugled in the water, till the President got such hold on his throat, he had neare strangled the King; but having drawne his faucheon to cut off his head, seeing how pitifully he begged his life, he led him prisoner to Iames Towne, and put him in chaynes.

The Dutch-man ere long was also brought in, whose villany though all this time it was suspected, yet he fayned such a formall excuse, that for want of language Captaine Winne vnderstood him not rightly, and for their dealings with Powhatan, that to saue their liues they were constrained to accommodate his armes, of whom he extreamely complained to haue detained them perforce, and that he made this escape with the hazard of his life, and meant not to haue returned, but was onely walking in the woods to gather Walnuts. Yet for all this faire tale, there was so small appearance of truth, and the plaine confession of Paspahegh of his trechery, he went by the heeles: Smith purposing to regaine the Dutch-men, by the saving his life. The poore Salvage did his best by his daily messengers to Powhatan, but all returned that the Dutch-men would not returne, neither did Powhatan stay them; and to bring them fiftie myles on his mens backes they were not able. Daily this Kings wiues, children, and people came to visit him with presents, which he liberally bestowed to make his peace. Much trust they had in the Presidents promise: but the King finding his guard negligent, though fettered yet escaped. Captaine Winne thinking to pursue him found such troupes of Salvages to hinder his passage, as they exchanged many vollies of shot for flights of Arrowes. Captaine Smith hearing of this in returning to the Fort, tooke two Salvages prisoners, called Kemps and Tussore, the two most exact villaines in all the Country. With these he sent Captaine Winne and fiftie choise men, and Lieutenant Percie, to haue regained the King, and revenged this iniury, and so had done, if they had followed his directions, or beene advised with those two villaines, that would haue betrayed both King & kindred for a peece of Copper, but he trifling away the night, the Salvages the next morning by the rising of the Sunne, braved him to come ashore to fight: a good time both sides let fly at other, but we heard of no hurt, onely they tooke two Canowes, burnt the Kings house, and so returned to Iames towne.

The President fearing those Bravado’s would but incourage the Salvages, began againe himselfe to try his conclusions, where by six or seauen were slaine, as many made prisoners. He burnt their houses, tooke their Boats, with all their fishing wires, and planted some of them at Iames towne for his owne vse, and now resolved not to cease till he had revenged himselfe of all them had iniured him. But in his iourney passing by Paspahegh towards Chickahamania, the Salvages did their best to draw him to their Ambuscadoes; but seeing him regardlesly passe their Country, all shewed themselues in their bravest manner. To try their valours he could not but let fly, and ere he could land, they no sooner knew him, but they threw downe their armes and desired peace. Their Orator was a lustie young fellow called Okaning, whose worthy discourse deserveth to be remembred. And thus it was:

Captaine Smith, my Master is here present in the company, thinking it Capt. Winne, and not you, (of him he intended to haue beene revenged) having never offended him. If he hath offended you in escaping your imprisonment, the fishes swim, the foules fly, and the very beasts striue to escape the snare and liue. Then blame not him being a man. He would intreat you remember, you being a prisoner, what paines he tooke to saue your life. If since he hath iniured you he was compelled to it: but howsoeuer, you haue revenged it with our too great losse. We perceiue and well know you intend to destroy vs, that are here to intreat and desire your friendship, and to enioy our houses and plant our fields, of whose fruit you shall participate: otherwise you will haue the worse by our absence; for we can plant any where,

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though with more labour, and we know you cannot liue if you want our harvest, and that reliefe we bring you. If you promise vs peace, we will beleeue you; if you proceed in revenge we will abandon the Country.

Vpon these tearmes the President promised them peace, till they did vs iniury, vpon condition they should bring in provision. Thus all departed goods friends, and so continued till Smith left the Countrey.

Arriving at Iames Towne, complaint was made to the President, that the Chickahamanians, who all this while continued trade and seemed our friends, by colour thereof were the onely theeues. And amongst other things a Pistoll being stolne and the theefe fled, there was apprehended two proper young fellowes, that were brothers, knowne to be his confederates. Now to regaine this Pistoll, the one was imprisoned, the other was sent to returne the Pistoll againe within twelue houres, or his brother to be hanged. Yet the President pittying the poore naked Salvage in the dungeon, sent him victuall and some Char-coale for a fire: ere midnight his brother returned with the Pistoll, but the poore Salvage in the dungeon was so smoothered with the smoake he had made, and so pittiously burnt, that wee found him dead. The other most lamentably bewayed his death, and broke forth into such bitter agonies, that the President to quiet him, told him that if hereafter they would not steale, he would make him aliue againe: but he little thought he could be recovered. Yet we doing our best with Aqua vita and Vineger, it pleased God to restore him againe to life, but so drunke & affrighted, that he seemed Lunaticke, the which as much tormented and grieued the other, as before to see him dead. Of which maladie vpon promise of their good behaviour, the President promised to recover him: and so caused him to be layd by a fire to sleepe, who in the morning having well slept, had recovered his perfect senses, and then being dressed of his burning, and each a peece of Copper giuen them, they went away so well contented, that this was spread among all the Salvages for a miracle, that Captaine Smith could make a man aliue that was dead.

Another ingenuous Salvage of Powhatans, having gotten a great bag of Powder, and the backe of an Armour, at Werowocomoco amongst a many of his companions, to shew his extraordinary skill, he did dry it on the backe as he had seene the Souldiers at Iames Towne. But he dryed it so long, they peeping over it to see his skill, it tooke fire, and blew him to death, and one or two more, and the rest so scorched, they had little pleasure to meddle any more with powder.

These and many other such pretty Accidents, so amazed and affrighted both Powhatan, and all his people, that from all parts with presents they desired peace; returning many stolne things which we never demanded nor thought of; and after that, those that were taken stealing, both Powhatan and his people haue sent them backe to Iames towne, to receiue their punishment; and all the Country became absolute as free for vs, as for themselues.


NOw we so quietly followed our businesse, that in three moneths wee made three or foure Last of Tarre, Pitch, and Sope ashes; produced a tryall of Glasse; made a Well in the Fort of excellent sweet water, which till then was wanting; built some twentie houses; recovered our Church; provided Nets and Wires for fishing; and to stop the disorders of our disorderly theeues, and the Salvages, built a Blockhouse in the neck of our Isle, kept by a Garrison to entertaine

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the Saluages trade, and none to passe nor repasse Saluage nor Christian without the presidents order. Thirtie or forty Acres of ground we digged and planted. Of three sowes in eighteene moneths, increased 60, and od Piggs. And neere 500. chickings brought vp themselues without hauing any meat giuen them: but the Hogs were transported to Hog. Isle: where also we built a block-house with a garison to giue vs notice of any shipping, and for their exercise they made Clapbord and waynscot, and cut downe trees. We built also a fort for a retreat neere a conuenient Riuer vpon a high commanding hill, very hard to be assalted and easie to be defended, but ere it was finished this defect caused a stay.

In searching our casked corne, we found it halfe rotten, and the rest so consumed with so many thousands of Rats that increased so fast, but there originall was from the ships, as we knew not how to keepe that little we had. This did driue vs all to our wits end, for there was nothing in the country but what nature afforded. Vntill this time Kemps and Tassore were fettered prisoners, and did double taske and taught vs how to order and plant our fields: whom now for want of victuall we set at liberty, but so well they liked our companies they did not desire to goe from vs. And to expresse their loues for 16. dayes continuance, the Countrie people brought vs (when least) 100. a day, of Squirrils, Turkyes, Deere and other wilde beasts: But this want of corne occasioned the end of all our works, it being worke sufficient to provide victuall. 60. or 80. with Ensigne Laxon was sent downe the riuer to liue vpon Oysters, and 20. with liutenant Percy to try for fishing at Poynt Comfort: but in six weekes they would not agree once to cast out the net, he being sicke and burnt sore with Gunpouder. Master West with as many went vp to the falls, but nothing could be found but a few Acornes; of that in store euery man had their equall proportion. Till this present, by the hazard and indeuours of some thirtie or fortie, this whole Colony had ever beene fed. We had more Sturgeon, then could be deuoured by Dog and Man, of which the industrious by drying and pounding, mingled with Caviare, Sorell and other wholesome hearbes would make bread and good meate: others would gather as much Tockwhogh roots, in a day as would make them bread a weeke, so that of those wilde fruites, and what we caught, we liued very well in regard of such a diet, But such was the strange condition of some 150, that had they not beene forced nolens, volens, perforce to gather and prepare their victuall they would all haue starued or haue eaten one another. Of those wild fruits the Salvages often brought vs, and for that, the President would not fullfill the vnreasonable desire, of those distracted Gluttonous Loyterers, to sell not only out kettles, hows, tooles, and Iron, nay swords, pieces, and the very Ordnance and howses, might they haue prevayled to haue beene but Idle: for those Saluage fruites, they would haue had imparted all to the Saluages, especially for one basket of Corne they heard of to be at Powhata[n]s, fifty myles from our Fort. Though he bought neere halfe of it to satisfie their humors, yet to haue had the other halfe, they would haue sould their soules, though not sufficient to haue kept them a weeke. Thousands were there exclamations, suggestions and deuises, to force him to those base inventions to haue made it an occasion to abandon the Country. Want perforce constrained him to indure their exclaiming follies, till he found out the author, one Dyer a most crafty fellow and his ancient Maligner, whom he worthily punished, and with the rest he argued the case in this maner.

Fellow souldiers, I did little thinke any so false to report, or so many to be so simple to be perswaded, that I either intend to starue you, or that Powhatan at this present hath corne for himselfe, much lesse for you; or that I would not haue it, if I knew where it were to be had. Neither did I thinke any so malitious as now I see a great many; yet it shal not so passionate me, but I will doe my best for my most maligner. But dreame no longer of this vaine hope from Powhatan, not that I will longer forbeare to force you, from your Idlenesse, and punish you if you rayle. But if I finde any more runners for Newfoundland with the Pinnace, let him assuredly looke to ariue at the Gallows. You cannot deny but that by the hazard of my life many a time I haue saued yours, when ( might your owne wills haue preuailed ) you

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would haue starued; and will doe still whether I will or noe; But I protest by that God that made me, since necessitie hath not power to force you to gather for your selues those fruites the earth doth yeeld, you shall not onely gather for your selues, but those that are sicke. As yet I neuer had more from the store then the worst of you: and all my English extraordinary prouision that I haue, you shall see me diuide it amongst the sick. And this Saluage trash you so scornfully repine at; being put in your mouthes your stomackes can disgest, if you would haue better you should haue brought it; and therefore I will take a course you shall prouide what is to be had. The sick shall not starue, but equally share of all our labours; and he that gathereth not every day as much as I doe, the next day shall be set beyond the riuer, and be banished from the Fort as a drone; till he amend his conditions or starue. But some would say with Seneca,

I know those things thou sayst are true good Nurse
But fury forceth me to follow worse.
My minde is hurried headlong vp and downe:
Desiring better counsell, yet finds none.

But seuen of 200 dyed in nine moneths.

This order many murmured was very cruell, but it caused the most part so well bestirre themselues, that of 200. (except they were drowned) there died not past seuen[:] as for Captaine Winne and Master Leigh they were dead ere this want hapned, and the rest dyed not for want of such as preserued the rest. Many were billetted amongst the Saluages, whereby we knew all their passages, fields and habitations, how to gather and vse there fruits as well as themselues; for they did know wee had such a commanding power at Iames towne they durst not wrong vs of a pin.

So well those poore Salvages vsed vs that were thus billetted, that diuers of the Souldiers ran away to search Kemps & Tassore our old prisoners. Glad were these Salvages to haue such an oportunity to testifie their loue vnto vs, for in stead of entertaining them, and such things as they had stollen, with all their great Offers, and promises they made them how to reuenge their iniuryes vpon Captaine Smith; Kemps first made himselfe sport, in shewing his countrie men (by them) how he was vsed, feeding the[m] with this law, who would not work must not eat, till they were neere starued indeede, continually threatning to beate them to death: neither could they get from him, till hee and his consorts brought them perforce to our Captaine, that so well contented him and punished them, as many others that intended also to follow them, were rather contented to labour at home, then aduenture to liue idlely amongst the Salvages; (of whom there was more hope to make better Christians & good subiects, then the one halfe of those that counterfeited themselues both.) For so affraide was al those kings and the better sort of the people to displease vs, that some of the baser sort that we haue extreamly hurt and punished for there villanies would hire vs, we should not tell it to their kings, or countrymen, who would also repunish them, and yet returne them to Iames towne to content the President for a testimony of their loues.

Master Sicklemore well returned from Chawwonoke; but found little hope and lesse certaintie of them were left by Sir Walter Raleigh. The riuer, he saw was not great, the people few, the countrey most over growne with pynes, where there did grow here and there straglingly Pemminaw, we call silke grasse. But by the riuer the ground was good, and exceeding furtill;

Master Nathanael powell and Anas Todkill were also by the Quiyoughqnohanocks conducted to the Mangoags to search them there: but nothing could they learne but they were all dead. This honest proper good promise-keeping king, of all the rest did euer best affect vs, and though to his false Gods he was very zealous, yet he would confesse our God as much exceeded his as our Gunns did his Bow and Arrowes, often sending our President may presents, to pray to his God for raine or his corne would perish, for his Gods were angry. Three dayes iorney they conducted

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them through the woods, into a high country towards the Southwest: where they saw here and there a little corne field, by some little spring or smal brooke, but no riuer they could see: the people in all respects like the rest, except there language: they liue most vpon rootes, fruites and wilde beasts; and trade with them towards the sea and the fatter countryes for dryed fish and corne, for skins.

All this time to recouer the Dutch-men and one Bentley another fugitiue, we imployed one William Volday, a Zwitzar by birth, with Pardons & promises to regaine them. Little we then suspected this double villaine of any villany; who plainly taught vs, in the most trust was the greatest treason; for this wicked hypocrite, by the seeming hate he bore to the lewd conditions of his cursed country men, (hauing this oportunity by his imployment to regaine them) conuayed them euery thing they desired to effect their proiects, to distroy the Colony. With much deuotion they expected the Spaniard, to whom they intended good seruice, or any other, that would but carry them from vs. But to begin with the first oportunity; they seeing necessitie thus inforced vs to disperse our selues, importuned Powhatan to lend them but his forces, and they would not onely distroy our Hoggs, fire our towne, and betray our Pinnace; but bring to his seruice and subiection the most of our company. With this plot they had acquainted many Discontents, and many were agreed to their Deuilish practise. But one Thomas Douse, and Thomas Mallard (whose christian hearts relented at such an vnchristian act) voluntarily reuealed it to Captaine Smith, who caused them to conceale it, perswading Douse and Mallard to proceed in their confedracie: onely to bring the irreclamable Dutch men and the inconstant Salvages in such a maner amongst such Ambuscado’s as he had prepared, that not many of the[m] should returne from our Peninsula. But this brute co[m]ming to the eares of the impatie[n]t multitude they so importuned the President to cut off those Dutch men, as amongst many that offred to cut their throats before the face of Powhata[n], the first was Lieutena[n]t Pèrcy, and Mr. Iohn Cuderington, two Gentlemen of as bold resolute spirits as could possibly be fou[n]d. But the Presidẽt had occasio[n] of other imploiment for them, & gaue gaue way to Master Wyffin and Sarieant Ieffrey Abbot, to goe and stab them or shoot them. But the Dutch men made such excuses, accusing Volday whom they supposed had reuealed their proiect, as Abbot would not, yet Wyffing would, perceiuing it but deceit. The King vnderstanding of this their imployment, sent presently his messengers to Captaine Smith to signifie it was not his fault to detaine them, nor hinder his men from executing his command: nor did he nor would he mantaine them, or any to occasion his displeasure.

But whilst this businesse was in hand, Arriued one Captaine Argall, and Master Thomas Sedan, sent by Master Cornelius to truck with the Colony, and fish for Sturgeon, with a ship well furnished, with wine and much other good provision. Though it was not sent vs, our necessities was such as inforced vs to take it. He brought vs newes of a great supply and preparation for the Lord La Warre, with letters that much taxed our President for his heard dealing with the Salvages, and not returning the shippes fraughted. Notwithstanding we kept this ship tell the fleete arriued. True it is Argall lost his voyage, but we reuictualled him, and sent him for England, with a true relation of the causes of our defailments, and how imposible it was to returne that wealth they expected, or obserue there instructions to indure the Salvages insolencies, or doe any thing to any purpose, except they would send vs men and meanes that could produce that they so much desired: otherwises all they did was lost, and could not but come to confusion. The villany of Volday we still dissembled. Adam vpon his pardon came home but Samuell still stayed with Powhahan to heare further of their estates by this supply. Now all their plots Simth [sic] so well vnderstood, they were his best advantages to secure vs from any trechery, could be done by them or the Salvages: which with facility he could revenge when he would, because all those countryes more feared him then Powhatan, and hee had such parties with all his bordering neighbours: and many of the rest for loue or feare would haue done any thing he would haue them, vpon any commotion,

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though these fugitiues had done all they could to perswade Powhatan, King Iames would kill Smith, for vsing him and his people so vnkindly.

By this you may see for all those crosses, trecheries, and dissentions, how hee wrestled and overcame (without bloudshed) all that happened: also what good was done; how few dyed; what food the Countrey naturally affoordeth; what finall cause there is men should starue, or be murthered by the Salvages, that haue discretion to mannage them with courage and industrie. The two first yeares, though by his adventures, he had oft brought the Salvages to a tractable trade, yet you see how the envious authoritie ever crossed him, and frustrated his best endevours. But it wrought in him that experience and estimation amongst the Salvages, as otherwise it had bin impossible, he had ever effected that he did. Notwithstanding the many miserable, yet generous and worthy adventures, he had oft and long endured in the wide world, yet in this case he was againe to learne his Lecture by experience. Which with thus much adoe having obtained, it was his ill chance to end, when he had but onely learned how to begin. And though he left those vnknowne difficulties (made easie and familiar) to his vnlawfull successors, (who onely by liuing in Iames Towne, presumed to know more then all the world could direct them:) Now though they had all his Souldiers, with a tripple power, and twice tripple better meanes; by what they haue done in his absence, the world may see what they would haue done in his presence, had he not prevented their indiscretions: it doth iustly proue, what cause he had to send them for England, and that he was neither factious, mutinous, nor dishonest. But they haue made it more plaine since his returne for England; having his absolute authoritie freely in their power, with all the advantages and opportunitie that his labours had effected. As I am sorry their actions haue made it so manifest, so I am vnwilling to say what reason doth compell me, but onely to make apparant the truth, least I should seeme partiall, reasonlesse, and malicious.


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) Chapter 12, 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. Chapters 10–11, 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. "Chapters 10–11, 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. 12 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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