On this day in 1676, forces allied with the rebel Nathaniel Bacon discovered their enemy, Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley, at his hiding spot on the Eastern Shore. One of Bacon’s men was William Carver, who, according to our entry, “possessed a volatile temper and may have indulged too frequently in drink.” This could probably describe a number of early Virginians, except that “on July 25, 1672, while suffering from severe abdominal pains and perhaps taking alcohol to relieve the symptoms, Carver stabbed to death Thomas Gilbert, who was sitting beside him at dinner.”
I believe the takeaway here is this: Never ask Carver to pass the salt.
Anyway, Carver and his compatriot Giles Bland found the governor at the Arlington plantation in Northampton County on September 1, at which time Carver landed with a hundred men while Bland stayed aboard the Rebecca. “Accounts of what happened next,” our entry tells us, “contain inconsistencies.”
Which is to say, Carver was into the bottle again. God knows what happened.
John Cotton penned an account of Bacon’s Rebellion shortly after it happened, and his version of events is full of long, sketchily punctuated sentences in which pronouns hopelessly lose track of their antecedents and metaphors sally forth “with an emty hand” only to return, a few clauses later, “with a full fist.” On the important question of whether Carver’s unexpected surrender to Berkeley was the fruit of treason or, instead, was “assisted by the juce of the Grape,” Cotton offers up a polite little belch.
Had Carver been a turncoat, he explains, “the Governour would never [have] rewarded the servis with the gift of a Halter, which he honoured Carver with, sudenly after his surpriseall.”
So there you have it. But the story is not over. From our entry:
Carver’s widow reportedly died of grief shortly after he was hanged. A year later Carver’s son petitioned the Crown for restitution of the estate, a part of which he recovered and sold in 1681. On that land William Craford established the town of Portsmouth in 1752.
IMAGE: Tavern scene, 17th century