Posted: February 25th, 2022

John Smith –

from The General History of Virginia John Smith

What Happened Till the First Supply

John Smith himself wrote this account of the early months of the Jamestown settlement. For that reason, he may be trying to make his actions seem even braver and more selfless than they were. As you read, stay alert for evidence of exaggerating by Smith. Being thus left to our fortunes, it fortuned

1 that within ten

days, scarce ten amongst us could either go 2 or well stand,

such extreme weakness and sickness oppressed us. And thereat

none need marvel if they consider the cause and reason,

which was this: While the ships stayed, our allowance was

somewhat bettered by a daily proportion of biscuit which the

sailors would pilfer to sell, give, or exchange with us for

money, sassafras, 3 or furs. But when they departed, there

remained neither tavern, beer house, nor place of relief but the

common kettle. 4

Had we been as free from all sins as gluttony

and drunkenness we might have been canonized for saints,

but our President 5 would never have been admitted for

engrossing to his private ,6 oatmeal, sack,

7 oil, aqua vitae,

8 beef,

eggs, or what not but the kettle; that indeed he allowed equally

to be distributed, and that was half a pint of wheat and as

much barley boiled with water for a man a day, and this, having

fried some twenty-six weeks in the ship’s hold, contained

as many worms as grains so that we might truly call it rather

so much bran than corn; our drink was water, our lodgings

castles in the air.

With this lodging and diet, our extreme toil in bearing and

planting palisades so strained and bruised us and our continual

labor in the extremity of the heat had so weakened

us, as were cause sufficient to have made us as miserable in

our native country or any other place in the world.

From May to September, those that escaped lived upon

sturgeon and sea crabs. Fifty in this time we buried; the rest

Vocabulary Development: pilfer (pil far) v.steal palisades(pala sadz) n.large,pointed stakes set in the ground to form a fence used for defense

1. fortuned v. happened.

2. go v. be active. 3. sassafras (sas’ e fras) n. a tree, the root of which was valued for its supposed

medicinal qualities.

4. common kettle communal cooking pot 5. President Wingfield, the leader of the colony.

6. engrossing to his private taking for his own use.

7. sack n. type of white wine. 8. aqua vitae (ak’ we vir e) brandy.

seeing the President’s projects to escape these miseries in

our pinnace 9 by flight (who all this time had neither felt want

nor sickness) so moved our dead spirits as we deposed him

and established Ratcliffe in his place . . .

But now was all our provision spent, the sturgeon gone,

all helps abandoned, each hour expecting the fury of the

savages; when God, the patron of all good endeavors, in that

desperate extremity so changed the hearts of the savages

that they brought such plenty of their fruits and provision as

no man wanted.

And now where some affirmed it was ill done of the

Council 10

to send forth men so badly provided~ this incontra-

dictable reason will show them plainly they are too ill advised

to nourish such ill conceits: First, the fault of our going was

our own; what could be thought fitting or necessary we had,

but what we should find, or want, or where we should be, we

were all ignorant and supposing to make our passage in two

months, with victual to live and the advantage of the spring

to work; we were at sea five months where we both spent our

victual and lost the opportunity of the time and season to

plant, by the unskillful presumption of our ignorant trans-

porters that understood not at all what they undertook.

Such actions have ever since the world’s beginning been

subject to such accidents, and everything of worth is found

full of difficulties, but nothing so difficult as to establish a

commonwealth so far remote from men and means and ——-

where men’s minds are so untoward 11

as neither do well

themselves nor suffer others. But to proceed.

The new President and Martin, being little beloved, of

weak judgment in dangers, and less industry in peace, com-

mitted the managing of all things abroad 12

to Captain Smith,

who, by his own example, good words, and fair promises, set

some to mow, others to bind thatch, some to build houses,

others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest

task for his own share, so that in short time he provided

most of them lodgings, neglecting any for himself. . . .

Leading an expedition on the Chickalwminy River,

Captain Smith and his men are attacked by Indians,

and Smith is taken prisoner.

When this news came to Jamestown, much was their

sorrow for his loss, few expecting what ensued.

Vocabulary Development: conceits(ken setz’) n. strange or fanciful ideas 9. pinnace (pin’ is) n. small sailing ship. 10. Council the seven persons in charge of the expedition.

11. untoward adj. stubborn.

12. abroad adv. outside the palisades.

Six or seven weeks those barbarians kept him prisoner,

many strange triumphs and conjurations they made of him,

yet he so demeaned himself amongst them, as he not only

diverted them from surprising the fort, but procured his own

liberty, and got himself and his company such estimation

amongst them, that those savages admired him.

The manner how they used and delivered him is as followeth:

The savages having drawn from George Cassen whither

Captain Smith was gone, prosecuting that opportunity they fol-

lowed him with three hundred bowmen, conducted by the King

of Pamunkee, 13

who in divisions searching the turnings of the

river found Robinson and Ermy by the fireside; those they shot

full of arrows and slew. Then finding the Captain, as is said,

that used the savage that was his guide as his shield (three of

them being slain and divers 14

others so galled), 15

all the rest

would not come near him. Thinking thus to have returned to

his boat, regarding them, as he marched, more than his way,

slipped up to the middle in an oozy creek and his savage with

him; yet dared they not come to him till being near dead with

cold he threw away his arms. Then according to their composi-

tions 16

they drew him forth and led him to the fire where his

men were slain. Diligently they chafed his benumbed limbs.

He demanding for their captain, they showed him

Opechancanough, King of Pamunkee, to whom he gave a

round ivory double compass dial. Much they marveled at the

playing of the fly and needle, 17

which they could see so plainly

and yet not touch it because of the glass that covered

them. But when he demonstrated by that globe-like jewel the

roundness of the earth and skies, the sphere of the sun,

moon, and stars, and how the sun did chase the night

round about the world continually, the greatness of the land

and sea, the diversity of nations, variety of complexions, and

how we were to them antipodes 18

and many other such like

matters, they all stood as amazed with admiration.

Nothwithstanding, within an hour after, they tied him to a

tree, and as many as could stand about him prepared to

shoot him, but the King holding up the compass in his

hand, they all laid down their bows and arrows and in a

triumphant manner led him to Orapaks where he was after

their manner kindly feasted and well used. . . .

At last they brought him to Werowocomoco, where was

Powhatan, their Emperor. Here more than two hundred of those

grim courtiers stood wondering at him, as he had been a

monster, till Powhatan and his train had put themselves in

13. Pamunkee Pamunkee River. 14. divers (dr varz) adj. several.

15. galled v. wounded. 16. composition n. ways.

17. fly and needle n. parts of a compass.

18. antipodes (an tip’ a dez) n. two places on opposite sides of the Earth.

their greatest braveries. Before a fire upon a seat like a bed-

stead, he sat covered with a great robe made of raccoon skins

and all the tails hanging by. On either hand did sit a young

wench of sixteen or eighteen years and along on each side the

house, two rows of men and behind them as many women,

with all their heads and shoulders painted red, many of their

heads bedecked with the white down of birds, but every one

with something, and a great chain of white beads about their


At his entrance before the King, all the people gave a great

shout. The queen of Appomattoc was appointed to bring him

water to wash his hands, and another brought him a bunch of

feathers, instead of a towel. to dry them; having feasted him

after their best barbarous manner they could, a long

consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones

were brought before Powhatan: then as many as could, laid

hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head

and being ready with their clubs to beat out his brains,

Pocahontas, the King’s dearest daughter, when no entreaty

could prevail, got his head in her arms and laid her own upon

his to save him from death; whereat the Emperor was contented

he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and

copper, for they thought him as well of all occupations as

themselves. 19

For the King himself will make his own robes,

shoes, bows, arrows, pots; plant, hunt, or do anything so well as

the rest.

Two days after, Powhatan, having disguised himself in the

most fearfulest manner he could, caused Captain Smith to be

brought forth to a great house in the woods and there upon a

mat by the fire to be left alone. Not long after, from behind a

mat that divided the house, was made the most dolefulest

noise he ever heard; then Powhatan more like a devil than a

man, with some two hundred more as black as himself, came

unto him and told him now they were friends, and presently

he should go to Jamestown to send him two great guns and a

grindstone for which he would give him the country of

Capahowasic and forever esteem him as his son Nantaquond.

So to Jamestown with twelve guides Powhatan sent him.

That night they quartered in the woods, he still expecting (as

he had done all this long time of his imprisonment) every

hour to be put to one death or other, for all their feasting.

But almighty God (by His divine providence) had mollified

the hearts of those stern barbarians with compassion. The

next morning betimes they came to the fort, where Smith

having used the savages with what kindness he could, he

showed Rawhunt, Powhatan’s trusty servant, two

Vocabulary Development: mollified (mal a fid’) v.soothed;calmed 19.aswell. . . themselvescapableof makingthemjust aswell asthey could themselves.

demiculverins 20

and a millstone to carry Powhatan; they

found them somewhat too heavy, but when they did see him

discharge them, being loaded with stones, among the boughs

of a great tree loaded with icicles, the ice and branches came

so tumbling down that the poor savages ran away half dead

with fear. But at last we regained some conference with them

and gave them such toys and sent to Powhatan, his women,

and children such presents as gave them in general full


Now in Jamestown they were all in combustion, 21


strongest preparing once more to run away with the pinnace;

which, with the hazard of his life, with saker falcon 22


musket shot, Smith forced now the third time to stay or sink.

Some, no better than they should be, had plotted with the

President the next day to have him put to death by the

Levitical law, 23

for the lives of Robinson and Emry; pretending

the fault was his that had led them to their ends: but he

quickly took such order with such lawyers that he laid them

by their heels till he sent some of them prisoners for England.

Now every once in four or five days, Pocahontas with her

attendants brought him so much provision that saved many

of their lives, that else for all this had starved with hunger.

His relation of the plenty he had seen, especially at

Werowocomoco, and of the state and bounty of Powhatan

(which till that time was unknown), so revived their dead spirits

(especially the love of Pocahontas) as all men’s fear was


Thus you may see what difficulties still crossed any good

endeavor; and the good success of the business being thus oft

brought to the very period of destruction; yet you see by what

strange means God hath still delivered it.

20. demiculverins (dem’ e kul var inz) large cannons. 21. combustion (kam bas’ chan) n. tumult. 22. saker falcon small cannon. 23. Levitical law “He that killeth man shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17).

Check Price Discount

More Assignment Samples: »

Order for this Paper or Similar Assignment Help

Fill a form in 3 easy steps - less than 5 mins.

Why choose us

You Want Quality and That’s What We Deliver

Top Essay Writers

We select the finest writers to join our team. They each have expertise in specific topic fields and background in academic writing.

Affordable Prices

We offer the lowest possible pricing while still providing the best writers. Our costs are fair and reasonable compared to other writing services.

100% Plagiarism-Free

You will never receive a product that contains any plagiarism. We scan every final draft before releasing it to be delivered to a customer.

How it works

When you decide to place an order with Study Pro Essay, here is what happens:

Complete the Order Form

You will complete our order form, filling in all of the fields and giving us as much detail as possible.

Assignment of Writer

We analyze your order and match it with a writer who has the unique qualifications to complete it, and he begins from scratch.

Order in Production and Delivered

You and your writer communicate directly during the process, and, once you receive the final draft, you either approve it or ask for revisions.

Giving us Feedback (and other options)

We want to know how your experience went. You can read other clients’ testimonials too. And among many options, you can choose a favorite writer.

Expert paper writers are just a few clicks away

Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.

Calculate the price of your order

You will get a personal manager and a discount.
We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price: