Captain John Smith eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 226 pages of information about Captain John Smith.

In speaking of the exploration of the James River as far as the Falls by Newport, Smith, and Percy, we have followed the statements of Percy and the writer of Newport’s discovery that they saw the great Powhatan.  There is much doubt of this.  Smith in his “True Relation” does not say so; in his voyage up the Chickahominy he seems to have seen Powhatan for the first time; and Wingfield speaks of Powhatan, on Smith’s return from that voyage, as one “of whom before we had no knowledge.”  It is conjectured that the one seen at Powhatan’s seat near the Falls was a son of the “Emperor.”  It was partly the exaggeration of the times to magnify discoveries, and partly English love of high titles, that attributed such titles as princes, emperors, and kings to the half-naked barbarians and petty chiefs of Virginia.

In all the accounts of the colony at this period, no mention is made of women, and it is not probable that any went over with the first colonists.  The character of the men was not high.  Many of them were “gentlemen” adventurers, turbulent spirits, who would not work, who were much better fitted for piratical maraudings than the labor of founding a state.  The historian must agree with the impression conveyed by Smith, that it was poor material out of which to make a colony.

VII

SMITH TO THE FRONT

It is now time to turn to Smith’s personal adventures among the Indians during this period.  Almost our only authority is Smith himself, or such presumed writings of his companions as he edited or rewrote.  Strachey and others testify to his energy in procuring supplies for the colony, and his success in dealing with the Indians, and it seems likely that the colony would have famished but for his exertions.  Whatever suspicion attaches to Smith’s relation of his own exploits, it must never be forgotten that he was a man of extraordinary executive ability, and had many good qualities to offset his vanity and impatience of restraint.

After the departure of Wingfield, Captain Smith was constrained to act as Cape Merchant; the leaders were sick or discontented, the rest were in despair, and would rather starve and rot than do anything for their own relief, and the Indian trade was decreasing.  Under these circumstances, Smith says in his “True Relation,” “I was sent to the mouth of the river, to Kegquoughtan [now Hampton], an Indian Towne, to trade for corn, and try the river for fish.”  The Indians, thinking them near famished, tantalized them with offers of little bits of bread in exchange for a hatchet or a piece of copper, and Smith offered trifles in return.  The next day the Indians were anxious to trade.  Smith sent men up to their town, a display of force was made by firing four guns, and the Indians kindly traded, giving fish, oysters, bread, and deer.  The town contained eighteen houses, and heaps of grain.  Smith obtained fifteen bushels of it, and on his homeward way he met two canoes with Indians, whom he accompanied to their villages on the south side of the river, and got from them fifteen bushels more.

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Captain John Smith from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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