On this day in 1610, in the dark of night, George Percy and a group of English colonists attacked a Paspahegh town, killing more than a dozen, burning their houses, and stealing their corn. In the process, Percy’s soldiers captured the local chief’s wife and two children, whom Percy apparently intended to deliver to the authorities at Jamestown. Except that the soldiers had other ideas. They began to “murmur,” as Percy later wrote* — and to satisfy them he agreed to allow his men to toss the kids in the river and shoot “owtt their Braynes in the water.”
But what of the chief’s wife? Percy had to draw the line somewhere, refusing his men permission to execute her. Upon arrival at Jamestown, Percy found the Virginia governor, whose advice on the matter he sought, ill aboard ship. One of Percy’s fellow military men, Captain Davis, volunteered to row out and make their report, and when he returned, he stated that, regarding the prisoner, the governor “thowghte beste to Burn her.”
Percy later claimed to be aghast, protesting that “haveinge seene so mutche Blood shedd thatt day, now in my Cowld bloode I desyred to see noe more.” He therefore told Captain Davis to just use the sword, which he did. But Percy ends his account on a skeptical note: “Capteyne Davis towlde me itt was my Lords direction yett I ame perswaded to the Contrary.”
* Alluding, methinks, to the murmuring of the Israelites in the Torah (i.e., Percy = Moses, his men = faithless whiners).
IMAGE: A nineteenth-century portrait of a nine-fingered George Percy by Herbert Luther Smith (Virginia Historical Society)