The vast assemblage of military equipment that has been unearthed (probably the largest collection of late 16th-and 17th-century English weapons used in America) emphasizes the important part which firearms and other weapons played during the early years of the settlement. They helped the colonists to protect themselves from the ever-menacing Indian and from the Spaniards who might at anytime have sailed up the James River to attack the small colony. They were also the means of providing the settlers with much of their food.
During the early years of the colony each Englishman who planned to emigrate to Virginia was advised to supply himself with the following “Armes”:
“One Armour compleat,
One long Peece, five foot or five and a halfe, neere
One bandaleere [a bandoleer was a belt worn to carry the
cases which held the powder charges].
Twenty pound of powder.
Sixty pound of shot or lead, Pistoll and Goose shot.”
Most of the kinds of arms listed have been found at Jamestown and will be described briefly along with other types of weapons which were unearthed.
Parts from several polearms, including bills, pikes, and a halberd, have been excavated. The recovered halberd (a polearm with sharp cutting edges and a spearlike point) is typical of the late 16th century, and may have been made as early as 1575. A few bills were unearthed, all dating around 1600. (A bill is a polearm, having a long staff terminating in a hook-shaped blade, usually with spikes at the back and top.) Two pike butts were also unearthed.
[Illustration: Two early 17th-century polearms—A bill and halberd—unearthed at Jamestown. Both weapons had long wooden handles.]
[Illustration: The caltrop unearthed at Jamestown. This sharp-pointed instrument was thrown on the ground to impede an enemy’s infantry and cavalry.]
This small item unearthed at Jamestown is an instrument with 4 iron points, so arranged that no matter how it lands, 1 point always projects upward, to impede the progress of an enemy’s cavalry and to prevent surprise attacks.
SWORDS, RAPIERS, AND CUTLASSES
Types of swords that have been found include broadswords, cutlasses or back swords, and rapiers. Three examples are complete, or nearly so—a cutlass, a broadsword, and a swept-hilt rapier. Many basket hilts were unearthed together with guards from other type swords, pommels, and blade fragments. A number of these edged weapons were made between 1600 and 1625. Several basket-hilted guards and blade fragments were found at the site of an early 17th-century forge, which may have been an armorer’s workshop.