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CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH
By Charles Dudley Warner
When I consented to prepare this volume for a series, which should deal with the notables of American history with some familiarity and disregard of historic gravity, I did not anticipate the seriousness of the task. But investigation of the subject showed me that while Captain John Smith would lend himself easily enough to the purely facetious treatment, there were historic problems worthy of a different handling, and that if the life of Smith was to be written, an effort should be made to state the truth, and to disentangle the career of the adventurer from the fables and misrepresentations that have clustered about it.
The extant biographies of Smith, and the portions of the history of Virginia that relate to him, all follow his own narrative, and accept his estimate of himself, and are little more than paraphrases of his story as told by himself. But within the last twenty years some new contemporary evidence has come to light, and special scholars have expended much critical research upon different portions of his career. The result of this modern investigation has been to discredit much of the romance gathered about Smith and Pocahontas, and a good deal to reduce his heroic proportions. A vague report of- -these scholarly studies has gone abroad, but no effort has been made to tell the real story of Smith as a connected whole in the light of the new researches.
This volume is an effort to put in popular form the truth about Smith’s adventures, and to estimate his exploits and character. For this purpose I have depended almost entirely upon original contemporary material, illumined as it now is by the labors of special editors. I believe that I have read everything that is attributed to his pen, and have compared his own accounts with other contemporary narratives, and I think I have omitted the perusal of little that could throw any light upon his life or character. For the early part of his career–before he came to Virginia–there is absolutely no authority except Smith himself; but when he emerges from romance into history, he can be followed and checked by contemporary evidence. If he was always and uniformly untrustworthy it would be less perplexing to follow him, but his liability to tell the truth when vanity or prejudice does not interfere is annoying to the careful student.
As far as possible I have endeavored to let the actors in these pages tell their own story, and I have quoted freely from Capt. Smith himself, because it is as a writer that he is to be judged no less than as an actor. His development of the Pocahontas legend has been carefully traced, and all the known facts about that Indian–or Indese, as some of the old chroniclers call the female North Americans–have been consecutively set forth in separate chapters. The book is not a history of early Virginia, nor of the times of Smith, but merely a study of his life and writings. If my estimate of the character of Smith is not that which his biographers have entertained, and differs from his own candid opinion, I can only plead that contemporary evidence and a collation of his own stories show that he was mistaken. I am not aware that there has been before any systematic effort to collate his different accounts of his exploits. If he had ever undertaken the task, he might have disturbed that serene opinion of himself which marks him as a man who realized his own ideals.
The works used in this study are, first, the writings of Smith, which are as follows:
“A True Relation,” etc., London, 1608.
“A Map of Virginia, Description and Appendix,” Oxford, 1612.
“A Description of New England,” etc., London, 1616.
“New England’s Trials,” etc., London, 1620. Second edition, enlarged, 1622.
“The Generall Historie,” etc., London, 1624. Reissued, with date of title-page altered, in 1626, 1627, and twice in 1632.
“An Accidence: or, The Pathway to Experience,” etc., London, 1626.
“A Sea Grammar,” etc., London, 1627. Also editions in 1653 and 1699.
“The True Travels,” etc., London, 1630.
“Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England,” etc., London, 1631.
Other authorities are:
“The Historie of Travaile into Virginia,” etc., by William Strachey, Secretary of the colony 1609 to 1612. First printed for the Hakluyt Society, London, 1849.
“Newport’s Relatyon,” 1607. Am. Ant. Soc., Vol. 4.
“Wingfield’s Discourse,” etc., 1607. Am. Ant. Soc., Vol. 4.
“Purchas his Pilgrimage,” London, 1613.
“Purchas his Pilgrimes,” London, 1625-6.
“Ralph Hamor’s True Discourse,” etc., London, 1615.
“Relation of Virginia,” by Henry Spelman, 1609. First printed by J. F. Hunnewell, London, 1872.
“History of the Virginia Company in London,” by Edward D. Neill, Albany, 1869.
“William Stith’s History of Virginia,” 1753, has been consulted for the charters and letters-patent. The Pocahontas discussion has been followed in many magazine papers. I am greatly indebted to the scholarly labors of Charles Deane, LL.D., the accomplished editor of the “True Relation,” and other Virginia monographs. I wish also to acknowledge the courtesy of the librarians of the Astor, the Lenox, the New York Historical, Yale, and Cornell libraries, and of Dr. J. Hammond Trumbull, the custodian of the Brinley collection, and the kindness of Mr. S. L. M. Barlow of New York, who is ever ready to give students access to his rich “Americana.”
C. D. W.
HARTFORD, June, 1881
CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH
BIRTH AND TRAINING
Fortunate is the hero who links his name romantically with that of a woman. A tender interest in his fame is assured. Still more fortunate is he if he is able to record his own achievements and give to them that form and color and importance which they assume in his own gallant consciousness. Captain John Smith, the first of an honored name, had this double good fortune.
We are indebted to him for the glowing picture of a knight-errant of the sixteenth century, moving with the port of a swash-buckler across the field of vision, wherever cities were to be taken and heads cracked in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and, in the language of one of his laureates
“To see bright honor sparkled all in gore.”
But we are specially his debtor for adventures on our own continent, narrated with naivete and vigor by a pen as direct and clear-cutting as the sword with which he shaved off the heads of the Turks, and for one of the few romances that illumine our early history.
Captain John Smith understood his good fortune in being the recorder of his own deeds, and he preceded Lord Beaconsfield (in “Endymion”) in his appreciation of the value of the influence of women upon the career of a hero. In the dedication of his “General Historie” to Frances, Duchess of Richmond, he says:
“I have deeply hazarded myself in doing and suffering, and why should I sticke to hazard my reputation in recording? He that acteth two parts is the more borne withall if he come short, or fayle in one of them. Where shall we looke to finde a Julius Caesar whose atchievments shine as cleare in his owne Commentaries, as they did in the field? I confesse, my hand though able to wield a weapon among the Barbarous, yet well may tremble in handling a Pen among so many judicious; especially when I am so bold as to call so piercing and so glorious an Eye, as your Grace, to view these poore ragged lines. Yet my comfort is that heretofore honorable and vertuous Ladies, and comparable but amongst themselves, have offered me rescue and protection in my greatest dangers: even in forraine parts, I have felt reliefe from that sex. The beauteous Lady Tragabigzanda, when I was a slave to the Turks, did all she could to secure me. When I overcame the Bashaw of Nalbrits in Tartaria, the charitable Lady Callamata supplyed my necessities. In the utmost of my extremities, that blessed Pokahontas, the great King’s daughter of Virginia, oft saved my life. When I escaped the cruelties of Pirats and most furious stormes, a long time alone in a small Boat at Sea, and driven ashore in France, the good Lady Chanoyes bountifully assisted me.”
It is stated in his “True Travels” that John Smith was born in Willoughby, in Lincolnshire. The year of his birth is not given, but it was probably in 1579, as it appears by the portrait prefixed to that work that he was aged 37 years in 1616. We are able to add also that the rector of the Willoughby Rectory, Alford, finds in the register an entry of the baptism of John, son of George Smith, under date of Jan. 9, 1579. His biographers, following his account, represent him as of ancient lineage: “His father actually descended from the ancient Smiths of Crudley in Lancashire, his mother from the Rickands at great Heck in Yorkshire;” but the circumstances of his boyhood would indicate that like many other men who have made themselves a name, his origin was humble. If it had been otherwise he would scarcely have been bound as an apprentice, nor had so much difficulty in his advancement. But the boy was born with a merry disposition, and in his earliest years was impatient for adventure. The desire to rove was doubtless increased by the nature of his native shire, which offered every inducement to the lad of spirit to leave it.
Lincolnshire is the most uninteresting part of all England. It is frequently water-logged till late in the summer: invisible a part of the year, when it emerges it is mostly a dreary flat. Willoughby is a considerable village in this shire, situated about three miles and a half southeastward from Alford. It stands just on the edge of the chalk hills whose drives gently slope down to the German Ocean, and the scenery around offers an unvarying expanse of flats. All the villages in this part of Lincolnshire exhibit the same character. The name ends in by, the Danish word for hamlet or small village, and we can measure the progress of the Danish invasion of England by the number of towns which have the terminal by, distinguished from the Saxon thorpe, which generally ends the name of villages in Yorkshire. The population may be said to be Danish light-haired and blue-eyed. Such was John Smith. The sea was the natural element of his neighbors, and John when a boy must have heard many stories of the sea and enticing adventures told by the sturdy mariners who were recruited from the neighborhood of Willoughby, and whose oars had often cloven the Baltic Sea.
Willoughby boasts some antiquity. Its church is a spacious structure, with a nave, north and south aisles, and a chancel, and a tower at the west end. In the floor is a stone with a Latin inscription, in black letter, round the verge, to the memory of one Gilbert West, who died in 1404. The church is dedicated to St. Helen. In the village the Wesleyan Methodists also have a place of worship. According to the parliamentary returns of 1825, the parish including the hamlet of Sloothby contained 108 houses and 514 inhabitants. All the churches in Lincolnshire indicate the existence of a much larger population who were in the habit of attending service than exists at present. Many of these now empty are of size sufficient to accommodate the entire population of several villages. Such a one is Willoughby, which unites in its church the adjacent village of Sloothby.
The stories of the sailors and the contiguity of the salt water had more influence on the boy’s mind than the free, schools of Alford and Louth which he attended, and when he was about thirteen he sold his books and satchel and intended to run away to sea: but the death of his father stayed him. Both his parents being now dead, he was left with, he says, competent means; but his guardians regarding his estate more than himself, gave him full liberty and no money, so that he was forced to stay at home.
At the age of fifteen he was bound apprentice to Mr. Thomas S. Tendall of Lynn. The articles, however, did not bind him very fast, for as his master refused to send him to sea, John took leave of his master and did not see him again for eight years. These details exhibit in the boy the headstrong independence of the man.
At length he found means to attach himself to a young son of the great soldier, Lord Willoughby, who was going into France. The narrative is not clear, but it appears that upon reaching Orleans, in a month or so the services of John were found to be of no value, and he was sent back to his friends, who on his return generously gave him ten shillings (out of his own estate) to be rid of him. He is next heard of enjoying his liberty at Paris and making the acquaintance of a Scotchman named David Hume, who used his purse–ten shillings went a long ways in those days–and in return gave him letters of commendation to prefer him to King James. But the boy had a disinclination to go where he was sent. Reaching Rouen, and being nearly out of money, he dropped down the river to Havre de Grace, and began to learn to be a soldier.
Smith says not a word of the great war of the Leaguers and Henry IV., nor on which side he fought, nor is it probable that he cared. But he was doubtless on the side of Henry, as Havre was at this time in possession of that soldier. Our adventurer not only makes no reference to the great religious war, nor to the League, nor to Henry, but he does not tell who held Paris when he visited it. Apparently state affairs did not interest him. His reference to a “peace” helps us to fix the date of his first adventure in France. Henry published the Edict of Nantes at Paris, April 13, 1598, and on the 2d of May following, concluded the treaty of France with Philip II. at Vervins, which closed the Spanish pretensions in France. The Duc de Mercoeur (of whom we shall hear later as Smith’s “Duke of Mercury” in Hungary), Duke of Lorraine, was allied with the Guises in the League, and had the design of holding Bretagne under Spanish protection. However, fortune was against him and he submitted to Henry in February, 1598, with no good grace. Looking about for an opportunity to distinguish himself, he offered his services to the Emperor Rudolph to fight the Turks, and it is said led an army of his French followers, numbering 15,000, in 1601, to Hungary, to raise the siege of Coniza, which was beleaguered by Ibrahim Pasha with 60,000 men.
Chance of fighting and pay failing in France by reason of the peace, he enrolled himself under the banner of one of the roving and fighting captains of the time, who sold their swords in the best market, and went over into the Low Countries, where he hacked and hewed away at his fellow-men, all in the way of business, for three or four years. At the end of that time he bethought himself that he had not delivered his letters to Scotland. He embarked at Aucusan for Leith, and seems to have been shipwrecked, and detained by illness in the “holy isle” in Northumberland, near Barwick. On his recovery he delivered his letters, and received kind treatment from the Scots; but as he had no money, which was needed to make his way as a courtier, he returned to Willoughby.
The family of Smith is so “ancient” that the historians of the county of Lincoln do not allude to it, and only devote a brief paragraph to the great John himself. Willoughby must have been a dull place to him after his adventures, but he says he was glutted with company, and retired into a woody pasture, surrounded by forests, a good ways from any town, and there built himself a pavilion of boughs–less substantial than the cabin of Thoreau at Walden Pond–and there he heroically slept in his clothes, studied Machiavelli’s “Art of War,” read “Marcus Aurelius,” and exercised on his horse with lance and ring. This solitary conduct got him the name of a hermit, whose food was thought to be more of venison than anything else, but in fact his men kept him supplied with provisions. When John had indulged in this ostentatious seclusion for a time, he allowed himself to be drawn out of it by the charming discourse of a noble Italian named Theodore Palaloga, who just then was Rider to Henry, Earl of Lincoln, and went to stay with him at Tattershall. This was an ancient town, with a castle, which belonged to the Earls of Lincoln, and was situated on the River Bane, only fourteen miles from Boston, a name that at once establishes a connection between Smith’s native county and our own country, for it is nearly as certain that St. Botolph founded a monastery at Boston, Lincoln, in the year 654, as it is that he founded a club afterwards in Boston, Massachusetts.
Whatever were the pleasures of Tattershall, they could not long content the restless Smith, who soon set out again for the Netherlands in search of adventures.
The life of Smith, as it is related by himself, reads like that of a belligerent tramp, but it was not uncommon in his day, nor is it in ours, whenever America produces soldiers of fortune who are ready, for a compensation, to take up the quarrels of Egyptians or Chinese, or go wherever there is fighting and booty. Smith could now handle arms and ride a horse, and longed to go against the Turks, whose anti-Christian contests filled his soul with lamentations; and besides he was tired of seeing Christians slaughter each other. Like most heroes, he had a vivid imagination that made him credulous, and in the Netherlands he fell into the toils of three French gallants, one of whom pretended to be a great lord, attended by his gentlemen, who persuaded him to accompany them to the “Duchess of Mercury,” whose lord was then a general of Rodolphus of Hungary, whose favor they could command. Embarking with these arrant cheats, the vessel reached the coast of Picardy, where his comrades contrived to take ashore their own baggage and Smith’s trunk, containing his money and goodly apparel, leaving him on board. When the captain, who was in the plot, was enabled to land Smith the next day, the noble lords had disappeared with the luggage, and Smith, who had only a single piece of gold in his pocket, was obliged to sell his cloak to pay his passage.
Thus stripped, he roamed about Normandy in a forlorn condition, occasionally entertained by honorable persons who had heard of his misfortunes, and seeking always means of continuing his travels, wandering from port to port on the chance of embarking on a man-of- war. Once he was found in a forest near dead with grief and cold, and rescued by a rich farmer; shortly afterwards, in a grove in Brittany, he chanced upon one of the gallants who had robbed him, and the two out swords and fell to cutting. Smith had the satisfaction of wounding the rascal, and the inhabitants of a ruined tower near by, who witnessed the combat, were quite satisfied with the event.
Our hero then sought out the Earl of Ployer, who had been brought up in England during the French wars, by whom he was refurnished better than ever. After this streak of luck, he roamed about France, viewing the castles and strongholds, and at length embarked at Marseilles on a ship for Italy. Rough weather coming on, the vessel anchored under the lee of the little isle St. Mary, off Nice, in Savoy.
The passengers on board, among whom were many pilgrims bound for Rome, regarded Smith as a Jonah, cursed him for a Huguenot, swore that his nation were all pirates, railed against Queen Elizabeth, and declared that they never should have fair weather so long as he was on board. To end the dispute, they threw him into the sea. But God got him ashore on the little island, whose only inhabitants were goats and a few kine. The next day a couple of trading vessels anchored near, and he was taken off and so kindly used that he decided to cast in his fortune with them. Smith’s discourse of his adventures so entertained the master of one of the vessels, who is described as “this noble Britaine, his neighbor, Captaine la Roche, of Saint Malo,” that the much-tossed wanderer was accepted as a friend. They sailed to the Gulf of Turin, to Alessandria, where they discharged freight, then up to Scanderoon, and coasting for some time among the Grecian islands, evidently in search of more freight, they at length came round to Cephalonia, and lay to for some days betwixt the isle of Corfu and the Cape of Otranto. Here it presently appeared what sort of freight the noble Britaine, Captain la Roche, was looking for.
An argosy of Venice hove in sight, and Captaine la Roche desired to speak to her. The reply was so “untoward” that a man was slain, whereupon the Britaine gave the argosy a broadside, and then his stem, and then other broadsides. A lively fight ensued, in which the Britaine lost fifteen men, and the argosy twenty, and then surrendered to save herself from sinking. The noble Britaine and John Smith then proceeded to rifle her. He says that “the Silkes, Velvets, Cloth of Gold, and Tissue, Pyasters, Chiqueenes, and Suitanies, which is gold and silver, they unloaded in four-and-twenty hours was wonderful, whereof having sufficient, and tired with toils, they cast her off with her company, with as much good merchandise as would have freighted another Britaine, that was but two hundred Tunnes, she four or five hundred.” Smith’s share of this booty was modest. When the ship returned he was set ashore at “the Road of Antibo in Piamon,” “with five hundred chiqueenes [sequins] and a little box God sent him worth neere as much more.” He always devoutly acknowledged his dependence upon divine Providence, and took willingly what God sent him.
FIGHTING IN HUNGARY
Smith being thus “refurnished,” made the tour of Italy, satisfied himself with the rarities of Rome, where he saw Pope Clement the Eighth and many cardinals creep up the holy stairs, and with the fair city of Naples and the kingdom’s nobility; and passing through the north he came into Styria, to the Court of Archduke Ferdinand; and, introduced by an Englishman and an Irish Jesuit to the notice of Baron Kisell, general of artillery, he obtained employment, and went to Vienna with Colonel Voldo, Earl of Meldritch, with whose regiment he was to serve.
He was now on the threshold of his long-desired campaign against the Turks. The arrival on the scene of this young man, who was scarcely out of his teens, was a shadow of disaster to the Turks. They had been carrying all before them. Rudolph II., Emperor of Germany, was a weak and irresolute character, and no match for the enterprising Sultan, Mahomet III., who was then conducting the invasion of Europe. The Emperor’s brother, the Archduke Mathias, who was to succeed him, and Ferdinand, Duke of Styria, also to become Emperor of Germany, were much abler men, and maintained a good front against the Moslems in Lower Hungary, but the Turks all the time steadily advanced. They had long occupied Buda (Pesth), and had been in possession of the stronghold of Alba Regalis for some sixty years. Before Smith’s advent they had captured the important city of Caniza, and just as he reached the ground they had besieged the town of Olumpagh, with two thousand men. But the addition to the armies of Germany, France, Styria, and Hungary of John Smith, “this English gentleman,” as he styles himself, put a new face on the war, and proved the ruin of the Turkish cause. The Bashaw of Buda was soon to feel the effect of this re-enforcement.
Caniza is a town in Lower Hungary, north of the River Drave, and just west of the Platen Sea, or Lake Balatin, as it is also called. Due north of Caniza a few miles, on a bend of the little River Raab (which empties into the Danube), and south of the town of Kerment, lay Smith’s town of Olumpagh, which we are able to identify on a map of the period as Olimacum or Oberlymback. In this strong town the Turks had shut up the garrison under command of Governor Ebersbraught so closely that it was without intelligence or hope of succor.
In this strait, the ingenious John Smith, who was present in the reconnoitering army in the regiment of the Earl of Meldritch, came to the aid of Baron Kisell, the general of artillery, with a plan of communication with the besieged garrison. Fortunately Smith had made the acquaintance of Lord Ebersbraught at Gratza, in Styria, and had (he says) communicated to him a system of signaling a message by the use of torches. Smith seems to have elaborated this method of signals, and providentially explained it to Lord Ebersbraught, as if he had a presentiment of the latter’s use of it. He divided the alphabet into two parts, from A to L and from M to Z. Letters were indicated and words spelled by the means of torches: “The first part, from A to L, is signified by showing and holding one linke so oft as there is letters from A to that letter you name; the other part, from M to Z, is mentioned by two lights in like manner. The end of a word is signifien by showing of three lights.”
General Kisell, inflamed by this strange invention, which Smith made plain to him, furnished him guides, who conducted him to a high mountain, seven miles distant from the town, where he flashed his torches and got a reply from the governor. Smith signaled that they would charge on the east of the town in the night, and at the alarum Ebersbraught was to sally forth. General Kisell doubted that he should be able to relieve the town by this means, as he had only ten thousand men; but Smith, whose fertile brain was now in full action, and who seems to have assumed charge of the campaign, hit upon a stratagem for the diversion and confusion of the Turks.
On the side of the town opposite the proposed point of attack lay the plain of Hysnaburg (Eisnaburg on Ortelius’s map). Smith fastened two or three charred pieces of match to divers small lines of an hundred fathoms in length, armed with powder. Each line was tied to a stake at each end. After dusk these lines were set up on the plain, and being fired at the instant the alarm was given, they seemed to the Turks like so many rows of musketeers. While the Turks therefore prepared to repel a great army from that side, Kisell attacked with his ten thousand men, Ebersbraught sallied out and fell upon the Turks in the trenches, all the enemy on that side were slain or drowned, or put to flight. And while the Turks were busy routing Smith’s sham musketeers, the Christians threw a couple of thousand troops into the town. Whereupon the Turks broke up the siege and retired to Caniza. For this exploit General Kisell received great honor at Kerment, and Smith was rewarded with the rank of captain, and the command of two hundred and fifty horsemen. From this time our hero must figure as Captain John Smith. The rank is not high, but he has made the title great, just as he has made the name of John Smith unique.
After this there were rumors of peace for these tormented countries; but the Turks, who did not yet appreciate the nature of this force, called John Smith, that had come into the world against them, did not intend peace, but went on levying soldiers and launching them into Hungary. To oppose these fresh invasions, Rudolph II., aided by the Christian princes, organized three armies: one led by the Archduke Mathias and his lieutenant, Duke Mercury, to defend Low Hungary; the second led by Ferdinand, the Archduke of Styria, and the Duke of Mantua, his lieutenant, to regain Caniza; the third by Gonzago, Governor of High Hungary, to join with Georgio Busca, to make an absolute conquest of Transylvania.
In pursuance of this plan, Duke Mercury, with an army of thirty thousand, whereof nearly ten thousand were French, besieged Stowell- Weisenberg, otherwise called Alba Regalis, a place so strong by art and nature that it was thought impregnable.
This stronghold, situated on the northeast of the Platen Sea, was, like Caniza and Oberlympack, one of the Turkish advanced posts, by means of which they pushed forward their operations from Buda on the Danube.
This noble friend of Smith, the Duke of Mercury, whom Haylyn styles Duke Mercurio, seems to have puzzled the biographers of Smith. In fact, the name of “Mercury” has given a mythological air to Smith’s narration and aided to transfer it to the region of romance. He was, however, as we have seen, identical with a historical character of some importance, for the services he rendered to the Church of Rome, and a commander of some considerable skill. He is no other than Philip de Lorraine, Duc de Mercceur.’
[So far as I know, Dr. Edward Eggleston was the first to identify him. There is a sketch of him in the “Biographie Universelle,” and a life with an account of his exploits in Hungary, entitled: Histoire de Duc Mercoeur, par Bruseles de Montplain Champs, Cologne, 1689-97]
At the siege of Alba Regalis, the Turks gained several successes by night sallies, and, as usual, it was not till Smith came to the front with one of his ingenious devices that the fortune of war changed. The Earl Meldritch, in whose regiment Smith served, having heard from some Christians who escaped from the town at what place there were the greatest assemblies and throngs of people in the city, caused Captain Smith to put in practice his “fiery dragons.” These instruments of destruction are carefully described: “Having prepared fortie or fiftie round-bellied earthen pots, and filled them with hand Gunpowder, then covered them with Pitch, mingled with Brimstone and Turpentine, and quartering as many Musket-bullets, that hung together but only at the center of the division, stucke them round in the mixture about the pots, and covered them againe with the same mixture, over that a strong sear-cloth, then over all a goode thicknesse of Towze-match, well tempered with oyle of Linseed, Campheer, and powder of Brimstone, these he fitly placed in slings, graduated so neere as they could to the places of these assemblies.”
These missiles of Smith’s invention were flung at midnight, when the alarum was given, and “it was a perfect sight to see the short flaming course of their flight in the air, but presently after their fall, the lamentable noise of the miserable slaughtered Turkes was most wonderful to heare.”
While Smith was amusing the Turks in this manner, the Earl Rosworme planned an attack on the opposite suburb, which was defended by a muddy lake, supposed to be impassable. Furnishing his men with bundles of sedge, which they threw before them as they advanced in the dark night, the lake was made passable, the suburb surprised, and the captured guns of the Turks were turned upon them in the city to which they had retreated. The army of the Bashaw was cut to pieces and he himself captured.
The Earl of Meldritch, having occupied the town, repaired the walls and the ruins of this famous city that had been in the possession of the Turks for some threescore years.
It is not our purpose to attempt to trace the meteoric course of Captain Smith in all his campaigns against the Turks, only to indicate the large part he took in these famous wars for the possession of Eastern Europe. The siege of Alba Regalis must have been about the year 1601–Smith never troubles himself with any dates–and while it was undecided, Mahomet III.–this was the prompt Sultan who made his position secure by putting to death nineteen of his brothers upon his accession–raised sixty thousand troops for its relief or its recovery. The Duc de Mercoeur went out to meet this army, and encountered it in the plains of Girke. In the first skirmishes the Earl Meldritch was very nearly cut off, although he made “his valour shine more bright than his armour, which seemed then painted with Turkish blood.” Smith himself was sore wounded and had his horse slain under him. The campaign, at first favorable to the Turks, was inconclusive, and towards winter the Bashaw retired to Buda. The Duc de Mercoeur then divided his army. The Earl of Rosworme was sent to assist the Archduke Ferdinand, who was besieging Caniza; the Earl of Meldritch, with six thousand men, was sent to assist Georgio Busca against the Transylvanians; and the Duc de Mercoeur set out for France to raise new forces. On his way he received great honor at Vienna, and staying overnight at Nuremberg, he was royally entertained by the Archdukes Mathias and Maximilian. The next morning after the feast–how it chanced is not known–he was found dead His brother-inlaw died two days afterwards, and the hearts of both, with much sorrow, were carried into France.
We now come to the most important event in the life of Smith before he became an adventurer in Virginia, an event which shows Smith’s readiness to put in practice the chivalry which had in the old chronicles influenced his boyish imagination; and we approach it with the satisfaction of knowing that it loses nothing in Smith’s narration.
It must be mentioned that Transylvania, which the Earl of Meldritch, accompanied by Captain Smith, set out to relieve, had long been in a disturbed condition, owing to internal dissensions, of which the Turks took advantage. Transylvania, in fact, was a Turkish dependence, and it gives us an idea of the far reach of the Moslem influence in Europe, that Stephen VI., vaivode of Transylvania, was, on the commendation of Sultan Armurath III., chosen King of Poland.
To go a little further back than the period of Smith’s arrival, John II. of Transylvania was a champion of the Turk, and an enemy of Ferdinand and his successors. His successor, Stephen VI., surnamed Battori, or Bathor, was made vaivode by the Turks, and afterwards, as we have said, King of Poland. He was succeeded in 1575 by his brother Christopher Battori, who was the first to drop the title of vaivode and assume that of Prince of Transylvania. The son of Christopher, Sigismund Battori, shook off the Turkish bondage, defeated many of their armies, slew some of their pashas, and gained the title of the Scanderbeg of the times in which he lived. Not able to hold out, however, against so potent an adversary, he resigned his estate to the Emperor Rudolph II., and received in exchange the dukedoms of Oppelon and Ratibor in Silesia, with an annual pension of fifty thousand joachims. The pension not being well paid, Sigismund made another resignation of his principality to his cousin Andrew Battori, who had the ill luck to be slain within the year by the vaivode of Valentia. Thereupon Rudolph, Emperor and King of Hungary, was acknowledged Prince of Transylvania. But the Transylvania soldiers did not take kindly to a foreign prince, and behaved so unsoldierly that Sigismund was called back. But he was unable to settle himself in his dominions, and the second time he left his country in the power of Rudolph and retired to Prague, where, in 1615, he died unlamented.
It was during this last effort of Sigismund to regain his position that the Earl of Meldritch, accompanied by Smith, went to Transylvania, with the intention of assisting Georgio Busca, who was the commander of the Emperor’s party. But finding Prince Sigismund in possession of the most territory and of the hearts of the people, the earl thought it best to assist the prince against the Turk, rather than Busca against the prince. Especially was he inclined to that side by the offer of free liberty of booty for his worn and unpaid troops, of what they could get possession of from the Turks.
This last consideration no doubt persuaded the troops that Sigismund had “so honest a cause.” The earl was born in Transylvania, and the Turks were then in possession of his father’s country. In this distracted state of the land, the frontiers had garrisons among the mountains, some of which held for the emperor, some for the prince, and some for the Turk. The earl asked leave of the prince to make an attempt to regain his paternal estate. The prince, glad of such an ally, made him camp-master of his army, and gave him leave to plunder the Turks. Accordingly the earl began to make incursions of the frontiers into what Smith calls the Land of Zarkam–among rocky mountains, where were some Turks, some Tartars, but most Brandittoes, Renegadoes, and such like, which he forced into the Plains of Regall, where was a city of men and fortifications, strong in itself, and so environed with mountains that it had been impregnable in all these wars.
It must be confessed that the historians and the map-makers did not always attach the importance that Smith did to the battles in which he was conspicuous, and we do not find the Land of Zarkam or the city of Regall in the contemporary chronicles or atlases. But the region is sufficiently identified. On the River Maruch, or Morusus, was the town of Alba Julia, or Weisenberg, the residence of the vaivode or Prince of Transylvania. South of this capital was the town Millenberg, and southwest of this was a very strong fortress, commanding a narrow pass leading into Transylvania out of Hungary, probably where the River Maruct: broke through the mountains. We infer that it was this pass that the earl captured by a stratagem, and carrying his army through it, began the siege of Regall in the plain. “The earth no sooner put on her green habit,” says our knight-errant,” than the earl overspread her with his troops.” Regall occupied a strong fortress on a promontory and the Christians encamped on the plain before it.
In the conduct of this campaign, we pass at once into the age of chivalry, about which Smith had read so much. We cannot but recognize that this is his opportunity. His idle boyhood had been soaked in old romances, and he had set out in his youth to do what equally dreamy but less venturesome devourers of old chronicles were content to read about. Everything arranged itself as Smith would have had it. When the Christian army arrived, the Turks sallied out and gave it a lively welcome, which cost each side about fifteen hundred men. Meldritch had but eight thousand soldiers, but he was re-enforced by the arrival of nine thousand more, with six-and-twenty pieces of ordnance, under Lord Zachel Moyses, the general of the army, who took command of the whole.
After the first skirmish the Turks remained within their fortress, the guns of which commanded the plain, and the Christians spent a month in intrenching themselves and mounting their guns.
The Turks, who taught Europe the art of civilized war, behaved all this time in a courtly and chivalric manner, exchanging with the besiegers wordy compliments until such time as the latter were ready to begin. The Turks derided the slow progress of the works, inquired if their ordnance was in pawn, twitted them with growing fat for want of exercise, and expressed the fear that the Christians should depart without making an assault.
In order to make the time pass pleasantly, and exactly in accordance with the tales of chivalry which Smith had read, the Turkish Bashaw in the fortress sent out his challenge: “That to delight the ladies, who did long to see some courtlike pastime, the Lord Tubashaw did defy any captaine that had the command of a company, who durst combat with him for his head.”
This handsome offer to swap heads was accepted; lots were cast for the honor of meeting the lord, and, fortunately for us, the choice fell upon an ardent fighter of twenty-three years, named Captain John Smith. Nothing was wanting to give dignity to the spectacle. Truce was made; the ramparts of this fortress-city in the mountains (which we cannot find on the map) were “all beset with faire Dames and men in Armes”; the Christians were drawn up in battle array; and upon the theatre thus prepared the Turkish Bashaw, armed and mounted, entered with a flourish of hautboys; on his shoulders were fixed a pair of great wings, compacted of eagles’ feathers within a ridge of silver richly garnished with gold and precious stones; before him was a janissary bearing his lance, and a janissary walked at each side leading his steed.
This gorgeous being Smith did not keep long waiting. Riding into the field with a flourish of trumpets, and only a simple page to bear his lance, Smith favored the Bashaw with a courteous salute, took position, charged at the signal, and before the Bashaw could say “Jack Robinson,” thrust his lance through the sight of his beaver, face, head and all, threw him dead to the ground, alighted, unbraced his helmet, and cut off his head. The whole affair was over so suddenly that as a pastime for ladies it must have been disappointing. The Turks came out and took the headless trunk, and Smith, according to the terms of the challenge, appropriated the head and presented it to General Moyses.
This ceremonious but still hasty procedure excited the rage of one Grualgo, the friend of the Bashaw, who sent a particular challenge to Smith to regain his friend’s head or lose his own, together with his horse and armor. Our hero varied the combat this time. The two combatants shivered lances and then took to pistols; Smith received a mark upon the “placard,” but so wounded the Turk in his left arm that he was unable to rule his horse. Smith then unhorsed him, cut off his head, took possession of head, horse, and armor, but returned the rich apparel and the body to his friends in the most gentlemanly manner.
Captain Smith was perhaps too serious a knight to see the humor of these encounters, but he does not lack humor in describing them, and he adopted easily the witty courtesies of the code he was illustrating. After he had gathered two heads, and the siege still dragged, he became in turn the challenger, in phrase as courteously and grimly facetious as was permissible, thus:
“To delude time, Smith, with so many incontradictible perswading reasons, obtained leave that the Ladies might know he was not so much enamored of their servants’ heads, but if any Turke of their ranke would come to the place of combat to redeem them, should have also his, upon like conditions, if he could winne it.”
This considerate invitation was accepted by a person whom Smith, with his usual contempt for names, calls “Bonny Mulgro.” It seems difficult to immortalize such an appellation, and it is a pity that we have not the real one of the third Turk whom Smith honored by killing. But Bonny Mulgro, as we must call the worthiest foe that Smith’s prowess encountered, appeared upon the field. Smith understands working up a narration, and makes this combat long and doubtful. The challenged party, who had the choice of weapons, had marked the destructiveness of his opponent’s lance, and elected, therefore, to fight with pistols and battle-axes. The pistols proved harmless, and then the battle-axes came in play, whose piercing bills made sometime the one, sometime the other, to have scarce sense to keep their saddles. Smith received such a blow that he lost his battle-axe, whereat the Turks on the ramparts set up a great shout. “The Turk prosecuted his advantage to the utmost of his power; yet the other, what by the readiness of his horse, and his judgment and dexterity in such a business, beyond all men’s expectations, by God’s assistance, not only avoided the Turke’s violence, but having drawn his Faulchion, pierced the Turke so under the Culets throrow backe and body, that although he alighted from his horse, he stood not long ere he lost his head, as the rest had done.”
There is nothing better than this in all the tales of chivalry, and John Smith’s depreciation of his inability to equal Caesar in describing his own exploits, in his dedicatory letter to the Duchess of Richmond, must be taken as an excess of modesty. We are prepared to hear that these beheadings gave such encouragement to the whole army that six thousand soldiers, with three led horses, each preceded by a soldier bearing a Turk’s head on a lance, turned out as a guard to Smith and conducted him to the pavilion of the general, to whom he presented his trophies. General Moyses (occasionally Smith calls him Moses) took him in his arms and embraced him with much respect, and gave him a fair horse, richly furnished, a scimeter, and a belt worth three hundred ducats. And his colonel advanced him to the position of sergeant-major of his regiment. If any detail was wanting to round out and reward this knightly performance in strict accord with the old romances, it was supplied by the subsequent handsome conduct of Prince Sigismund.
When the Christians had mounted their guns and made a couple of breaches in the walls of Regall, General Moyses ordered an attack one dark night “by the light that proceeded from the murdering muskets and peace-making cannon.” The enemy were thus awaited, “whilst their slothful governor lay in a castle on top of a high mountain, and like a valiant prince asketh what’s the matter, when horrour and death stood amazed at each other, to see who should prevail to make him victorious.” These descriptions show that Smith could handle the pen as well as the battleaxe, and distinguish him from the more vulgar fighters of his time. The assault succeeded, but at great cost of life. The Turks sent a flag of truce and desired a “composition,” but the earl, remembering the death of his father, continued to batter the town and when he took it put all the men in arms to the sword, and then set their heads upon stakes along the walls, the Turks having ornamented the walls with Christian heads when they captured the fortress. Although the town afforded much pillage, the loss of so many troops so mixed the sour with the sweet that General Moyses could only allay his grief by sacking three other towns, Veratis, Solmos, and Kapronka. Taking from these a couple of thousand prisoners, mostly women and children, Earl Moyses marched north to Weisenberg (Alba Julia), and camped near the palace of Prince Sigismund.
When Sigismund Battori came out to view his army he was made acquainted with the signal services of Smith at “Olumpagh, Stowell- Weisenberg, and Regall,” and rewarded him by conferring upon him, according to the law of–arms, a shield of arms with “three Turks’ heads.” This was granted by a letter-patent, in Latin, which is dated at “Lipswick, in Misenland, December 9, 1603” It recites that Smith was taken captive by the Turks in Wallachia November 18, 1602; that he escaped and rejoined his fellow-soldiers. This patent, therefore, was not given at Alba Julia, nor until Prince Sigismund had finally left his country, and when the Emperor was, in fact, the Prince of Transylvania. Sigismund styles himself, by the grace of God, Duke of Transylvania, etc. Appended to this patent, as published in Smith’s “True Travels,” is a certificate by William Segar, knight of the garter and principal king of arms of England, that he had seen this patent and had recorded a copy of it in the office of the Herald of Armes. This certificate is dated August 19, 1625, the year after the publication of the General Historie.
Smith says that Prince Sigismund also gave him his picture in gold, and granted him an annual pension of three hundred ducats. This promise of a pension was perhaps the most unsubstantial portion of his reward, for Sigismund himself became a pensioner shortly after the events last narrated.
The last mention of Sigismund by Smith is after his escape from captivity in Tartaria, when this mirror of virtues had abdicated. Smith visited him at “Lipswicke in Misenland,” and the Prince “gave him his Passe, intimating the service he had done, and the honors he had received, with fifteen hundred ducats of gold to repair his losses.” The “Passe” was doubtless the “Patent” before introduced, and we hear no word of the annual pension.
Affairs in Transylvania did not mend even after the capture of Regall, and of the three Turks’ heads, and the destruction of so many villages. This fruitful and strong country was the prey of faction, and became little better than a desert under the ravages of the contending armies. The Emperor Rudolph at last determined to conquer the country for himself, and sent Busca again with a large army. Sigismund finding himself poorly supported, treated again with the Emperor and agreed to retire to Silicia on a pension. But the Earl Moyses, seeing no prospect of regaining his patrimony, and determining not to be under subjection to the Germans, led his troops against Busca, was defeated, and fled to join the Turks. Upon this desertion the Prince delivered up all he had to Busca and retired to Prague. Smith himself continued with the imperial party, in the regiment of Earl Meldritch. About this time the Sultan sent one Jeremy to be vaivode of Wallachia, whose tyranny caused the people to rise against him, and he fled into Moldavia. Busca proclaimed Lord Rodoll vaivode in his stead. But Jeremy assembled an army of forty thousand Turks, Tartars, and Moldavians, and retired into Wallachia. Smith took active part in Rodoll’s campaign to recover Wallachia, and narrates the savage war that ensued. When the armies were encamped near each other at Raza and Argish, Rodoll cut off the heads of parties he captured going to the Turkish camp, and threw them into the enemy’s trenches. Jeremy retorted by skinning alive the Christian parties he captured, hung their skins upon poles, and their carcasses and heads on stakes by them. In the first battle Rodoll was successful and established himself in Wallachia, but Jeremy rallied and began ravaging the country. Earl Meldritch was sent against him, but the Turks’ force was much superior, and the Christians were caught in a trap. In order to reach Rodoll, who was at Rottenton, Meldritch with his small army was obliged to cut his way through the solid body of the enemy. A device of Smith’s assisted him. He covered two or three hundred trunks–probably small branches of trees–with wild-fire. These fixed upon the heads of lances and set on fire when the troops charged in the night, so terrified the horses of the Turks that they fled in dismay. Meldritch was for a moment victorious, but when within three leagues of Rottenton he was overpowered by forty thousand Turks, and the last desperate fight followed, in which nearly all the friends of the Prince were slain, and Smith himself was left for dead on the field.
On this bloody field over thirty thousand lay headless, armless, legless, all cut and mangled, who gave knowledge to the world how dear the Turk paid for his conquest of Transylvania and Wallachia–a conquest that might have been averted if the three Christian armies had been joined against the “cruel devouring Turk.” Among the slain were many Englishmen, adventurers like the valiant Captain whom Smith names, men who “left there their bodies in testimony of their minds.” And there, “Smith among the slaughtered dead bodies, and many a gasping soule with toils and wounds lay groaning among the rest, till being found by the Pillagers he was able to live, and perceiving by his armor and habit, his ransome might be better than his death, they led him prisoner with many others.” The captives were taken to Axopolis and all sold as slaves. Smith was bought by Bashaw Bogall, who forwarded him by way of Adrianople to Constantinople, to be a slave to his mistress. So chained by the necks in gangs of twenty they marched to the city of Constantine, where Smith was delivered over to the mistress of the Bashaw, the young Charatza Tragabigzanda.
CAPTIVITY AND WANDERING
Our hero never stirs without encountering a romantic adventure. Noble ladies nearly always take pity on good-looking captains, and Smith was far from ill-favored. The charming Charatza delighted to talk with her slave, for she could speak Italian, and would feign herself too sick to go to the bath, or to accompany the other women when they went to weep over the graves, as their custom is once a week, in order to stay at home to hear from Smith how it was that Bogall took him prisoner, as the Bashaw had written her, and whether Smith was a Bohemian lord conquered by the Bashaw’s own hand, whose ransom could adorn her with the glory of her lover’s conquests. Great must have been her disgust with Bogall when she heard that he had not captured this handsome prisoner, but had bought him in the slave-market at Axopolis. Her compassion for her slave increased, and the hero thought he saw in her eyes a tender interest. But she had no use for such a slave, and fearing her mother would sell him, she sent him to her brother, the Tymor Bashaw of Nalbrits in the country of Cambria, a province of Tartaria (wherever that may be). If all had gone on as Smith believed the kind lady intended, he might have been a great Bashaw and a mighty man in the Ottoman Empire, and we might never have heard of Pocahontas. In sending him to her brother, it was her intention, for she told him so, that he should only sojourn in Nalbrits long enough to learn the language, and what it was to be a Turk, till time made her master of herself. Smith himself does not dissent from this plan to metamorphose him into a Turk and the husband of the beautiful Charatza Tragabigzanda. He had no doubt that he was commended to the kindest treatment by her brother; but Tymor “diverted all this to the worst of cruelty.” Within an hour of his arrival, he was stripped naked, his head and face shaved as smooth as his hand, a ring of iron, with a long stake bowed like a sickle, riveted to his neck, and he was scantily clad in goat’s skin. There were many other slaves, but Smith being the last, was treated like a dog, and made the slave of slaves.
The geographer is not able to follow Captain Smith to Nalbrits. Perhaps Smith himself would have been puzzled to make a map of his own career after he left Varna and passed the Black Sea and came through the straits of Niger into the Sea Disbacca, by some called the Lake Moetis, and then sailed some days up the River Bruapo to Cambria, and two days more to Nalbrits, where the Tyrnor resided.
Smith wrote his travels in London nearly thirty years after, and it is difficult to say how much is the result of his own observation and how much he appropriated from preceding romances. The Cambrians may have been the Cossacks, but his description of their habits and also those of the “Crym-Tartars” belongs to the marvels of Mandeville and other wide-eyed travelers. Smith fared very badly with the Tymor. The Tymor and his friends ate pillaw; they esteemed “samboyses” and “musselbits” great dainties,” and yet,” exclaims Smith, “but round pies, full of all sorts of flesh they can get, chopped with variety of herbs.” Their best drink was “coffa” and sherbet, which is only honey and water. The common victual of the others was the entrails of horses and “ulgries” (goats?) cut up and boiled in a caldron with “cuskus,” a preparation made from grain. This was served in great bowls set in the ground, and when the other prisoners had raked it thoroughly with their foul fists the remainder was given to the Christians. The same dish of entrails used to be served not many years ago in Upper Egypt as a royal dish to entertain a distinguished guest.
It might entertain but it would too long detain us to repeat Smith’s information, probably all secondhand, about this barbarous region. We must confine ourselves to the fortunes of our hero. All his hope of deliverance from thraldom was in the love of Tragabigzanda, whom he firmly believed was ignorant of his bad usage. But she made no sign. Providence at length opened a way for his escape. He was employed in thrashing in a field more than a league from the Tymor’s home. The Bashaw used to come to visit his slave there, and beat, spurn, and revile him. One day Smith, unable to control himself under these insults, rushed upon the Tymor, and beat out his brains with a thrashing bat–“for they had no flails,” he explains–put on the dead man’s clothes, hid the body in the straw, filled a knapsack with corn, mounted his horse and rode away into the unknown desert, where he wandered many days before he found a way out. If we may believe Smith this wilderness was more civilized in one respect than some parts of our own land, for on all the crossings of the roads were guide-boards. After traveling sixteen days on the road that leads to Muscova, Smith reached a Muscovite garrison on the River Don. The governor knocked off the iron from his neck and used him so kindly that he thought himself now risen from the dead. With his usual good fortune there was a lady to take interest in him–“the good Lady Callamata largely supplied all his wants.”
After Smith had his purse filled by Sigismund he made a thorough tour of Europe, and passed into Spain, where being satisfied, as he says, with Europe and Asia, and understanding that there were wars in Barbary, this restless adventurer passed on into Morocco with several comrades on a French man-of-war. His observations on and tales about North Africa are so evidently taken from the books of other travelers that they add little to our knowledge of his career. For some reason he found no fighting going on worth his while. But good fortune attended his return. He sailed in a man-of-war with Captain Merham. They made a few unimportant captures, and at length fell in with two Spanish men-of-war, which gave Smith the sort of entertainment he most coveted. A sort of running fight, sometimes at close quarters, and with many boardings and repulses, lasted for a couple of days and nights, when having battered each other thoroughly and lost many men, the pirates of both nations separated and went cruising, no doubt, for more profitable game. Our wanderer returned to his native land, seasoned and disciplined for the part he was to play in the New World. As Smith had traveled all over Europe and sojourned in Morocco, besides sailing the high seas, since he visited Prince Sigismund in December, 1603, it was probably in the year 1605 that he reached England. He had arrived at the manly age of twenty-six years, and was ready to play a man’s part in the wonderful drama of discovery and adventure upon which the Britons were then engaged.
FIRST ATTEMPTS IN VIRGINIA
John Smith has not chosen to tell us anything of his life during the interim–perhaps not more than a year and a half–between his return from Morocco and his setting sail for Virginia. Nor do his contemporaries throw any light upon this period of his life.
One would like to know whether he went down to Willoughby and had a reckoning with his guardians; whether he found any relations or friends of his boyhood; whether any portion of his estate remained of that “competent means” which he says he inherited, but which does not seem to have been available in his career. From the time when he set out for France in his fifteenth year, with the exception of a short sojourn in Willoughby seven or eight years after, he lived by his wits and by the strong hand. His purse was now and then replenished by a lucky windfall, which enabled him to extend his travels and seek more adventures. This is the impression that his own story makes upon the reader in a narrative that is characterized by the boastfulness and exaggeration of the times, and not fuller of the marvelous than most others of that period.
The London to which Smith returned was the London of Shakespeare. We should be thankful for one glimpse of him in this interesting town. Did he frequent the theatre? Did he perhaps see Shakespeare himself at the Globe? Did he loaf in the coffee-houses, and spin the fine thread of his adventures to the idlers and gallants who resorted to them? If he dropped in at any theatre of an afternoon he was quite likely to hear some allusion to Virginia, for the plays of the hour were full of chaff, not always of the choicest, about the attractions of the Virgin-land, whose gold was as plentiful as copper in England; where the prisoners were fettered in gold, and the dripping-pans were made of it; and where–an unheard-of thing–you might become an alderman without having been a scavenger.
Was Smith an indulger in that new medicine for all ills, tobacco? Alas! we know nothing of his habits or his company. He was a man of piety according to his lights, and it is probable that he may have had the then rising prejudice against theatres. After his return from Virginia he and his exploits were the subject of many a stage play and spectacle, but whether his vanity was more flattered by this mark of notoriety than his piety was offended we do not know. There is certainly no sort of evidence that he engaged in the common dissipation of the town, nor gave himself up to those pleasures which a man rescued from the hardships of captivity in Tartaria might be expected to seek. Mr. Stith says that it was the testimony of his fellow soldiers and adventurers that “they never knew a soldier, before him, so free from those military vices of wine, tobacco, debts, dice, and oathes.”
But of one thing we may be certain: he was seeking adventure according to his nature, and eager for any heroic employment; and it goes without saying that he entered into the great excitement of the day–adventure in America. Elizabeth was dead. James had just come to the throne, and Raleigh, to whom Elizabeth had granted an extensive patent of Virginia, was in the Tower. The attempts to make any permanent lodgment in the countries of Virginia had failed. But at the date of Smith’s advent Captain Bartholomew Gosnold had returned from a voyage undertaken in 1602 under the patronage of the Earl of Southampton, and announced that he had discovered a direct passage westward to the new continent, all the former voyagers having gone by the way of the West Indies. The effect of this announcement in London, accompanied as it was with Gosnold’s report of the fruitfulness of the coast of New England which he explored, was something like that made upon New York by the discovery of gold in California in 1849. The route by the West Indies, with its incidents of disease and delay, was now replaced by the direct course opened by Gosnold, and the London Exchange, which has always been quick to scent any profit in trade, shared the excitement of the distinguished soldiers and sailors who were ready to embrace any chance of adventure that offered.
It is said that Captain Gosnold spent several years in vain, after his return, in soliciting his friends and acquaintances to join him in settling this fertile land he had explored; and that at length he prevailed upon Captain John Smith, Mr. Edward Maria Wingfield, the Rev. Mr. Robert Hunt, and others, to join him. This is the first appearance of the name of Captain John Smith in connection with Virginia. Probably his life in London had been as idle as unprofitable, and his purse needed replenishing. Here was a way open to the most honorable, exciting, and profitable employment. That its mere profit would have attracted him we do not believe; but its danger, uncertainty, and chance of distinction would irresistibly appeal to him. The distinct object of the projectors was to establish a colony in Virginia. This proved too great an undertaking for private persons. After many vain projects the scheme was commended to several of the nobility, gentry, and merchants, who came into it heartily, and the memorable expedition of 1606 was organized.
The patent under which this colonization was undertaken was obtained from King James by the solicitation of Richard Hakluyt and others. Smith’s name does not appear in it, nor does that of Gosnold nor of Captain Newport. Richard Hakluyt, then clerk prebendary of Westminster, had from the first taken great interest in the project. He was chaplain of the English colony in Paris when Sir Francis Drake was fitting out his expedition to America, and was eager to further it. By his diligent study he became the best English geographer of his time; he was the historiographer of the East India Company, and the best informed man in England concerning the races, climates, and productions of all parts of the globe. It was at Hakluyt’s suggestion that two vessels were sent out from Plymouth in 1603 to verify Gosnold’s report of his new short route. A further verification of the feasibility of this route was made by Captain George Weymouth, who was sent out in 1605 by the Earl of Southampton.
The letters-patent of King James, dated April 10, 1606, licensed the planting of two colonies in the territories of America commonly called Virginia. The corporators named in the first colony were Sir Thos. Gates, Sir George Somers, knights, and Richard Hakluyt and Edward Maria Wingfield, adventurers, of the city of London. They were permitted to settle anywhere in territory between the 34th and 41st degrees of latitude.
The corporators named in the second colony were Thomas Hankam, Raleigh Gilbert, William Parker, and George Popham, representing Bristol, Exeter, and Plymouth, and the west counties, who were authorized to make a settlement anywhere between the 38th and 4Sth degrees of latitude.
The–letters commended and generously accepted this noble work of colonization, “which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of all true knowledge and worship of God, and may in time bring the infidels and savages living in those parts to human civility and to a settled and quiet government.” The conversion of the Indians was as prominent an object in all these early adventures, English or Spanish, as the relief of the Christians has been in all the Russian campaigns against the Turks in our day.
Before following the fortunes of this Virginia colony of 1606, to which John Smith was attached, it is necessary to glance briefly at the previous attempt to make settlements in this portion of America.
Although the English had a claim upon America, based upon the discovery of Newfoundland and of the coast of the continent from the 38th to the 68th north parallel by Sebastian Cabot in 1497, they took no further advantage of it than to send out a few fishing vessels, until Sir Humphrey Gilbert, a noted and skillful seaman, took out letters-patent for discovery, bearing date the 11th of January, 1578. Gilbert was the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh and thirteen years his senior. The brothers were associated in the enterprise of 1579, which had for its main object the possession of Newfoundland. It is commonly said, and in this the biographical dictionaries follow one another, that Raleigh accompanied his brother on this voyage of 1579 and went with him to Newfoundland. The fact is that Gilbert did not reach Newfoundland on that voyage, and it is open to doubt if Raleigh started with him. In April, 1579, when Gilbert took active steps under the charter of 1578, diplomatic difficulties arose, growing out of Elizabeth’s policy with the Spaniards, and when Gilbert’s ships were ready to sail he was stopped by an order from the council. Little is known of this unsuccessful attempt of Gilbert’s. He did, after many delays, put to sea, and one of his contemporaries, John Hooker, the antiquarian, says that Raleigh was one of the assured friends that accompanied him. But he was shortly after driven back, probably from an encounter with the Spaniards, and returned with the loss of a tall ship.
Raleigh had no sooner made good his footing at the court of Elizabeth than he joined Sir Humphrey in a new adventure. But the Queen peremptorily retained Raleigh at court, to prevent his incurring the risks of any “dangerous sea-fights.” To prevent Gilbert from embarking on this new voyage seems to have been the device of the council rather than the Queen, for she assured Gilbert of her good wishes, and desired him, on his departure, to give his picture to Raleigh for her, and she contributed to the large sums raised to meet expenses “an anchor guarded by a lady,” which the sailor was to wear at his breast. Raleigh risked L 2,000 in the venture, and equipped a ship which bore his name, but which had ill luck. An infectious fever broke out among the crew, and the “Ark Raleigh” returned to Plymouth. Sir Humphrey wrote to his brother admiral, Sir George Peckham, indignantly of this desertion, the reason for which he did not know, and then proceeded on his voyage with his four remaining ships. This was on the 11th of January, 1583. The expedition was so far successful that Gilbert took formal possession of Newfoundland for the Queen. But a fatality attended his further explorations: the gallant admiral went down at sea in a storm off our coast, with his crew, heroic and full of Christian faith to the last, uttering, it is reported, this courageous consolation to his comrades at the last moment: “Be of good heart, my friends. We are as near to heaven by sea as by land.”
In September, 1583, a surviving ship brought news of the disaster to Falmouth. Raleigh was not discouraged. Within six months of this loss he had on foot another enterprise. His brother’s patent had expired. On the 25th of March, 1584, he obtained from Elizabeth a new charter with larger powers, incorporating himself, Adrian Gilbert, brother of Sir Humphrey, and John Davys, under the title of “The College of the Fellowship for the Discovery of the Northwest Passage.” But Raleigh’s object was colonization. Within a few days after his charter was issued he despatched two captains, Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow, who in July of that year took possession of the island of Roanoke.
The name of Sir Walter Raleigh is intimately associated with Carolina and Virginia, and it is the popular impression that he personally assisted in the discovery of the one and the settlement of the other. But there is no more foundation for the belief that he ever visited the territory of Virginia, of which he was styled governor, than that he accompanied Sir Humphrey Gilbert to Newfoundland. An allusion by William Strachey, in his “Historie of Travaile into Virginia,” hastily read, may have misled some writers. He speaks of an expedition southward, “to some parts of Chawonock and the Mangoangs, to search them there left by Sir Walter Raleigh.” But his further sketch of the various prior expeditions shows that he meant to speak of settlers left by Sir Ralph Lane and other agents of Raleigh in colonization. Sir Walter Raleigh never saw any portion of the coast of the United States.
In 1592 he planned an attack upon the Spanish possessions of Panama, but his plans were frustrated. His only personal expedition to the New World was that to Guana in 1595.
The expedition of Captain Amadas and Captain Barlow is described by Captain Smith in his compilation called the “General Historie,” and by Mr. Strachey. They set sail April 27, 1584, from the Thames. On the 2d of July they fell with the coast of Florida in shoal water, “where they felt a most delicate sweet smell,” but saw no land. Presently land appeared, which they took to be the continent, and coasted along to the northward a hundred and thirty miles before finding a harbor. Entering the first opening, they landed on what proved to be the Island of Roanoke. The landing-place was sandy and low, but so productive of grapes or vines overrunning everything, that the very surge of the sea sometimes overflowed them. The tallest and reddest cedars in the world grew there, with pines, cypresses, and other trees, and in the woods plenty of deer, conies, and fowls in incredible abundance.
After a few days the natives came off in boats to visit them, proper people and civil in their behavior, bringing with them the King’s brother, Granganameo (Quangimino, says Strachey). The name of the King was Winginia, and of the country Wingandacoa. The name of this King might have suggested that of Virginia as the title of the new possession, but for the superior claim of the Virgin Queen. Granganameo was a friendly savage who liked to trade. The first thing he took a fancy was a pewter dish, and he made a hole through it and hung it about his neck for a breastplate. The liberal Christians sold it to him for the low price of twenty deer-skins, worth twenty crowns, and they also let him have a copper kettle for fifty skins. They drove a lively traffic with the savages for much of such “truck,” and the chief came on board and ate and drank merrily with the strangers. His wife and children, short of stature but well-formed and bashful, also paid them a visit. She wore a long coat of leather, with a piece of leather about her loins, around her forehead a band of white coral, and from her ears bracelets of pearls of the bigness of great peas hung down to her middle. The other women wore pendants of copper, as did the children, five or six in an ear. The boats of these savages were hollowed trunks of trees. Nothing could exceed the kindness and trustfulness the Indians exhibited towards their visitors. They kept them supplied with game and fruits, and when a party made an expedition inland to the residence of Granganameo, his wife (her husband being absent) came running to the river to welcome them; took them to her house and set them before a great fire; took off their clothes and washed them; removed the stockings of some and washed their feet in warm water; set plenty of victual, venison and fish and fruits, before them, and took pains to see all things well ordered for their comfort. “More love they could not express to entertain us.” It is noted that these savages drank wine while the grape lasted. The visitors returned all this kindness with suspicion.
They insisted upon retiring to their boats at night instead of lodging in the house, and the good woman, much grieved at their jealousy, sent down to them their half-cooked supper, pots and all, and mats to cover them from the rain in the night, and caused several of her men and thirty women to sit all night on the shore over against them. “A more kind, loving people cannot be,” say the voyagers.
In September the expedition returned to England, taking specimens of the wealth of the country, and some of the pearls as big as peas, and two natives, Wanchese and Manteo. The “lord proprietary” obtained the Queen’s permission to name the new lands “Virginia,” in her honor, and he had a new seal of his arms cut, with the legend, Propria insignia Walteri Ralegh, militis, Domini et Gubernatoris Virginia.
The enticing reports brought back of the fertility of this land, and the amiability of its pearl-decked inhabitants, determined Raleigh at once to establish a colony there, in the hope of the ultimate salvation of the “poor seduced infidell” who wore the pearls. A fleet of seven vessels, with one hundred householders, and many things necessary to begin a new state, departed from Plymouth in April, 1585. Sir Richard Grenville had command of the expedition, and Mr. Ralph Lane was made governor of the colony, with Philip Amadas for his deputy. Among the distinguished men who accompanied them were Thomas Hariot, the mathematician, and Thomas Cavendish, the naval discoverer. The expedition encountered as many fatalities as those that befell Sir Humphrey Gilbert; and Sir Richard was destined also to an early and memorable death. But the new colony suffered more from its own imprudence and want of harmony than from natural causes.
In August, Grenville left Ralph Lane in charge of the colony and returned to England, capturing a Spanish ship on the way. The colonists pushed discoveries in various directions, but soon found themselves involved in quarrels with the Indians, whose conduct was less friendly than formerly, a change partly due to the greed of the whites. In June, when Lane was in fear of a conspiracy which he had discovered against the life of the colony, and it was short of supplies, Sir Francis Drake appeared off Roanoke, returning homeward with his fleet from the sacking of St. Domingo, Carthagena, and St. Augustine. Lane, without waiting for succor from England, persuaded Drake to take him and all the colony back home. Meantime Raleigh, knowing that the colony would probably need aid, was preparing a fleet of three well appointed ships to accompany Sir Richard Grenville, and an “advice ship,” plentifully freighted, to send in advance to give intelligence of his coming. Great was Grenville’s chagrin, when he reached Hatorask, to find that the advice boat had arrived, and finding no colony, had departed again for England. However, he established fifteen men (“fifty,” says the “General Historie”) on the island, provisioned for two years, and then returned home.
[Sir Richard Grenville in 1591 was vice-admiral of a fleet, under command of Lord Thomas Howard, at the Azores, sent against a Spanish Plate-fleet. Six English vessels were suddenly opposed by a Spanish convoy of 53 ships of war. Left behind his comrades, in embarking from an island, opposed by five galleons, he maintained a terrible fight for fifteen hours, his vessel all cut to pieces, and his men nearly all slain. He died uttering aloud these words: “Here dies Sir Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind, for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do, fighting for his country, queen, religion, and honor.”]
Mr. Ralph Lane’s colony was splendidly fitted out, much better furnished than the one that Newport, Wingfield, and Gosnold conducted to the River James in 1607; but it needed a man at the head of it. If the governor had possessed Smith’s pluck, he would have held on till the arrival of Grenville.
Lane did not distinguish himself in the conduct of this governorship, but he nevertheless gained immortality. For he is credited with first bringing into England that valuable medicinal weeds called tobacco, which Sir Walter Raleigh made fashionable, not in its capacity to drive “rheums” out of the body, but as a soother, when burned in the bowl of a pipe and drawn through the stem in smoke, of the melancholy spirit.
The honor of introducing tobacco at this date is so large that it has been shared by three persons–Sir Francis Drake, who brought Mr. Lane home; Mr. Lane, who carried the precious result of his sojourn in America; and Sir Walter Raleigh, who commended it to the use of the ladies of Queen Elizabeth’s court.
But this was by no means its first appearance in Europe. It was already known in Spain, in France, and in Italy, and no doubt had begun to make its way in the Orient. In the early part of the century the Spaniards had discovered its virtues. It is stated by John Neander, in his “Tobaco Logia,” published in Leyden in 1626, that Tobaco took its name from a province in Yucatan, conquered by Fernando Cortez in 1519. The name Nicotiana he derives from D. Johanne Nicotino Nemansensi, of the council of Francis II., who first introduced the plant into France. At the date of this volume (1626) tobacco was in general use all over Europe and in the East. Pictures are given of the Persian water pipes, and descriptions of the mode of preparing it for use. There are reports and traditions of a very ancient use of tobacco in Persia and in China, as well as in India, but we are convinced that the substance supposed to be tobacco, and to be referred to as such by many writers, and described as “intoxicating,” was really India hemp, or some plant very different from the tobacco of the New World. At any rate there is evidence that in the Turkish Empire as late as 1616 tobacco was still somewhat a novelty, and the smoking of it was regarded as vile, and a habit only of the low. The late Hekekian Bey, foreign minister of old Mahomet Ali, possessed an ancient Turkish MS which related an occurrence at Smyrna about the year 1610, namely, the punishment of some sailors for the use of tobacco, which showed that it was a novelty and accounted a low vice at that time. The testimony of the trustworthy George Sandys, an English traveler into Turkey, Egypt, and Syria in 1610 (afterwards, 1621, treasurer of the colony in Virginia), is to the same effect as given in his “Relation,” published in London in 1621. In his minute description of the people and manners of Constantinople, after speaking of opium, which makes the Turks “giddy-headed” and “turbulent dreamers,” he says: “But perhaps for the self-same cause they delight in Tobacco: which they take through reedes that have joyned with them great heads of wood to containe it, I doubt not but lately taught them as brought them by the English; and were it not sometimes lookt into (for Morat Bassa [Murad III.?] not long since commanded a pipe to be thrust through the nose of a Turke, and to be led in derision through the Citie), no question but it would prove a principal commodity. Nevertheless they will take it in corners; and are so ignorant therein, that that which in England is not saleable, doth passe here among them for most excellent.”
Mr. Stith (“History of Virginia,” 1746) gives Raleigh credit for the introduction of the pipe into good society, but he cautiously says, “We are not informed whether the queen made use of it herself: but it is certain she gave great countenance to it as a vegetable of singular strength and power, which might therefore prove of benefit to mankind, and advantage to the nation.” Mr. Thomas Hariot, in his observations on the colony at Roanoke, says that the natives esteemed their tobacco, of which plenty was found, their “chief physicke.”
It should be noted, as against the claim of Lane, that Stowe in his “Annales” (1615) says: “Tobacco was first brought and made known in England by Sir John Hawkins, about the year 1565, but not used by Englishmen in many years after, though at this time commonly used by most men and many women.” In a side-note to the edition of 1631 we read: “Sir Walter Raleigh was the first that brought tobacco in use, when all men wondered what it meant.” It was first commended for its medicinal virtues. Harrison’s “Chronologie,” under date of 1573, says: “In these daies the taking in of the smoke of the Indian herbe called ‘Tabaco’ by an instrument formed like a little ladell, whereby it passeth from the mouth into the hed and stomach, is gretlie taken- up and used in England, against Rewmes and some other diseases ingendred in the longes and inward partes, and not without effect.” But Barnaby Rich, in “The Honestie of this Age,” 1614, disagrees with Harrison about its benefit: “They say it is good for a cold, for a pose, for rewmes, for aches, for dropsies, and for all manner of diseases proceeding of moyst humours; but I cannot see but that those that do take it fastest are as much (or more) subject to all these infirmities (yea, and to the poxe itself) as those that have nothing at all to do with it.” He learns that 7,000 shops in London live by the trade of tobacco-selling, and calculates that there is paid for it L 399,375 a year, “all spent in smoake.” Every base groom must have his pipe with his pot of ale; it “is vendible in every taverne, inne, and ale-house; and as for apothecaries shops, grosers shops, chandlers shops, they are (almost) never without company that, from morning till night, are still taking of tobacco.” Numbers of houses and shops had no other trade to live by. The wrath of King James was probably never cooled against tobacco, but the expression of it was somewhat tempered when he perceived what a source of revenue it became.
The savages of North America gave early evidence of the possession of imaginative minds, of rare power of invention, and of an amiable desire to make satisfactory replies to the inquiries of their visitors. They generally told their questioners what they wanted to know, if they could ascertain what sort of information would please them. If they had known the taste of the sixteenth century for the marvelous they could not have responded more fitly to suit it. They filled Mr. Lane and Mr. Hariot full of tales of a wonderful copper mine on the River Maratock (Roanoke), where the metal was dipped out of the stream in great bowls. The colonists had great hopes of this river, which Mr: Hariot thought flowed out of the Gulf of Mexico, or very near the South Sea. The Indians also conveyed to the mind of this sagacious observer the notion that they had a very respectably developed religion; that they believed in one chief god who existed from all eternity, and who made many gods of less degree; that for mankind a woman was first created, who by one of the gods brought forth children; that they believed in the immortality of the soul, and that for good works a soul will be conveyed to bliss in the tabernacles of the gods, and for bad deeds to pokogusso, a great pit in the furthest part of the world, where the sun sets, and where they burn continually. The Indians knew this because two men lately dead had revived and come back to tell them of the other world. These stories, and many others of like kind, the Indians told of themselves, and they further pleased Mr. Hariot by kissing his Bible and rubbing it all over their bodies, notwithstanding he told them there was no virtue in the material book itself, only in its doctrines. We must do Mr. Hariot the justice to say, however, that he had some little suspicion of the “subtiltie” of the weroances (chiefs) and the priests.
Raleigh was not easily discouraged; he was determined to plant his colony, and to send relief to the handful of men that Grenville had left on Roanoke Island. In May, 1587, he sent out three ships and a hundred and fifty householders, under command of Mr. John White, who was appointed Governor of the colony, with twelve assistants as a Council, who were incorporated under the name of “The Governor and Assistants of the City of Ralegh in Virginia,” with instructions to change their settlement to Chesapeake Bay. The expedition found there no one of the colony (whether it was fifty or fifteen the writers disagree), nothing but the bones of one man where the plantation had been; the houses were unhurt, but overgrown with weeds, and the fort was defaced. Captain Stafford, with twenty men, went to Croatan to seek the lost colonists. He heard that the fifty had been set upon by three hundred Indians, and, after a sharp skirmish and the loss of one man, had taken boats and gone to a small island near Hatorask, and afterwards had departed no one knew whither.
Mr. White sent a band to take revenge upon the Indians who were suspected of their murder through treachery, which was guided by Mateo, the friendly Indian, who had returned with the expedition from England. By a mistake they attacked a friendly tribe. In August of this year Mateo was Christianized, and baptized under the title of Lord of Roanoke and Dassomonpeake, as a reward for his fidelity. The same month Elinor, the daughter of the Govemor, the wife of Ananias Dare, gave birth to a daughter, the first white child born in this part of the continent, who was named Virginia.
Before long a dispute arose between the Governor and his Council as to the proper person to return to England for supplies. White himself was finally prevailed upon to go, and he departed, leaving about a hundred settlers on one of the islands of Hatorask to form a plantation.
The Spanish invasion and the Armada distracted the attention of Europe about this time, and the hope of plunder from Spanish vessels was more attractive than the colonization of America. It was not until 1590 that Raleigh was able to despatch vessels to the relief of the Hatorask colony, and then it was too late. White did, indeed, start out from Biddeford in April, 1588, with two vessels, but the temptation to chase prizes was too strong for him, and he went on a cruise of his own, and left the colony to its destruction.
In March, 1589-90, Mr. White was again sent out, with three ships, from Plymouth, and reached the coast in August. Sailing by Croatan they went to Hatorask, where they descried a smoke in the place they had left the colony in 1587. Going ashore next day, they found no man, nor sign that any had been there lately. Preparing to go to Roanoke next day, a boat was upset and Captain Spicer and six of the crew were drowned. This accident so discouraged the sailors that they could hardly be persuaded to enter on the search for the colony. At last two boats, with nineteen men, set out for Hatorask, and landed at that part of Roanoke where the colony had been left. When White left the colony three years before, the men had talked of going fifty miles into the mainland, and had agreed to leave some sign of their departure. The searchers found not a man of the colony; their houses were taken down, and a strong palisade had been built. All about were relics of goods that had been buried and dug up again and scattered, and on a post was carved the name “CROATAN.” This signal, which was accompanied by no sign of distress, gave White hope that he should find his comrades at Croatan. But one mischance or another happening, his provisions being short, the expedition decided to run down to the West Indies and “refresh” (chiefly with a little Spanish plunder), and return in the spring and seek their countrymen; but instead they sailed for England and never went to Croatan. The men of the abandoned colonies were never again heard of. Years after, in 1602, Raleigh bought a bark and sent it, under the charge of Samuel Mace, a mariner who had been twice to Virginia, to go in search of the survivors of White’s colony. Mace spent a month lounging about the Hatorask coast and trading with the natives, but did not land on Croatan, or at any place where the lost colony might be expected to be found; but having taken on board some sassafras, which at that time brought a good price in England, and some other barks which were supposed to be valuable, he basely shirked the errand on which he was hired to go, and took himself and his spicy woods home.
The “Lost Colony” of White is one of the romances of the New World. Governor White no doubt had the feelings of a parent, but he did not allow them to interfere with his more public duties to go in search of Spanish prizes. If the lost colony had gone to Croatan, it was probable that Ananias Dare and his wife, the Governor’s daughter, and the little Virginia Dare, were with them. But White, as we have seen, had such confidence in Providence that he left his dear relatives to its care, and made no attempt to visit Croatan.
Stith says that Raleigh sent five several times to search for the lost, but the searchers returned with only idle reports and frivolous allegations. Tradition, however, has been busy with the fate of these deserted colonists. One of the unsupported conjectures is that the colonists amalgamated with the tribe of Hatteras Indians, and Indian tradition and the physical characteristics of the tribe are said to confirm this idea. But the sporadic birth of children with white skins (albinos) among black or copper-colored races that have had no intercourse with white people, and the occurrence of light hair and blue eyes among the native races of America and of New Guinea, are facts so well attested that no theory of amalgamation can be sustained by such rare physical manifestations. According to Captain John Smith, who wrote of Captain Newport’s explorations in 1608, there were no tidings of the waifs, for, says Smith, Newport returned “without a lump of gold, a certainty of the South Sea, or one of the lost company sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh.”
In his voyage of discovery up the Chickahominy, Smith seem; to have inquired about this lost colony of King Paspahegh, for he says, “what he knew of the dominions he spared not to acquaint me with, as of certaine men cloathed at a place called Ocanahonan, cloathcd like me.”
[Among these Hatteras Indians Captain Amadas, in 1584, saw children with chestnut-colored hair.]
We come somewhat nearer to this matter in the “Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia,” published from the manuscript by the Hakluyt Society in 1849, in which it is intimated that seven of these deserted colonists were afterwards rescued. Strachey is a first-rate authority for what he saw. He arrived in Virginia in 1610 and remained there two years, as secretary of the colony, and was a man of importance. His “Historie” was probably written between 1612 and 1616. In the first portion of it, which is descriptive of the territory of Virginia, is this important passage: “At Peccarecamek and Ochanahoen, by the relation of Machumps, the people have houses built with stone walls, and one story above another, so taught them by those English who escaped the slaughter of Roanoke. At what time this our colony, under the conduct of Captain Newport, landed within the Chesapeake Bay, where the people breed up tame turkies about their houses, and take apes in the mountains, and where, at Ritanoe, the Weroance Eyanaco, preserved seven of the English alive–four men, two boys, and one young maid (who escaped [that is from Roanoke] and fled up the river of Chanoke), to beat his copper, of which he hath certain mines at the said Ritanoe, as also at Pamawauk are said to be store of salt stones.”
This, it will be observed, is on the testimony of Machumps. This pleasing story is not mentioned in Captain Newport’s “Discoveries” (May, 1607). Machumps, who was the brother of Winganuske, one of the many wives of Powhatan, had been in England. He was evidently a lively Indian. Strachey had heard him repeat the “Indian grace,” a sort of incantation before meat, at the table of Sir Thomas Dale. If he did not differ from his red brothers he had a powerful imagination, and was ready to please the whites with any sort of a marvelous tale. Newport himself does not appear to have seen any of the “apes taken in the mountains.” If this story is to be accepted as true we have to think of Virginia Dare as growing up to be a woman of twenty years, perhaps as other white maidens have been, Indianized and the wife of a native. But the story rests only upon a romancing Indian. It is possible that Strachey knew more of the matter than he relates, for in his history he speaks again of those betrayed people, “of whose end you shall hereafter read in this decade.” But the possessed information is lost, for it is not found in the remainder of this “decade” of his writing, which is imperfect. Another reference in Strachey is more obscure than the first. He is speaking of the merciful intention of King James towards the Virginia savages, and that he does not intend to root out the natives as the Spaniards did in Hispaniola, but by degrees to change their barbarous nature, and inform them of the true God and the way to Salvation, and that his Majesty will even spare Powhatan himself. But, he says, it is the intention to make “the common people likewise to understand, how that his Majesty has been acquainted that the men, women, and children of the first plantation of Roanoke were by practice of Powhatan (he himself persuaded thereunto by his priests) miserably slaughtered, without any offense given him either by the first planted (who twenty and odd years had peaceably lived intermixed with those savages, and were out of his territory) or by those who are now come to inhabit some parts of his distant lands,” etc.
Strachey of course means the second plantation and not the first, which, according to the weight of authority, consisted of only fifteen men and no women.
In George Percy’s Discourse concerning Captain Newport’s exploration of the River James in 1607 (printed in Purchas’s “Pilgrims “) is this sentence: “At Port Cotage, in our voyage up the river, we saw a savage boy, about the age of ten years, which had a head of hair of a perfect yellow, and reasonably white skin, which is a miracle amongst all savages.” Mr. Neill, in his “History of the Virginia Company,” says that this boy” was no doubt the offspring of the colonists left at Roanoke by White, of whom four men, two boys, and one young maid had been preserved from slaughter by an Indian Chief.” Under the circumstances, “no doubt” is a very strong expression for a historian to use.
This belief in the sometime survival of the Roanoke colonists, and their amalgamation with the Indians, lingered long in colonial gossip. Lawson, in his History, published in London in 1718, mentions a tradition among the Hatteras Indians, “that several of their ancestors were white people and could talk from a book; the truth of which is confirmed by gray eyes being among these Indians and no others.”
But the myth of Virginia Dare stands no chance beside that of Pocahontas.
FIRST PLANTING OF THE COLONY
The way was now prepared for the advent of Captain John Smith in Virginia. It is true that we cannot give him his own title of its discoverer, but the plantation had been practically abandoned, all the colonies had ended in disaster, all the governors and captains had lacked the gift of perseverance or had been early drawn into other adventures, wholly disposed, in the language of Captain John White, “to seek after purchase and spoils,” and but for the energy and persistence of Captain Smith the expedition of 1606 might have had no better fate. It needed a man of tenacious will to hold a colony together in one spot long enough to give it root. Captain Smith was that man, and if we find him glorying in his exploits, and repeating upon single big Indians the personal prowess that distinguished him in Transylvania and in the mythical Nalbrits, we have only to transfer our sympathy from the Turks to the Sasquesahanocks if the sense of his heroism becomes oppressive.
Upon the return of Samuel Mace, mariner, who was sent out in 1602 to search for White’s lost colony, all Raleigh’s interest in the Virginia colony had, by his attainder, escheated to the crown. But he never gave up his faith in Virginia: neither the failure of nine several expeditions nor twelve years imprisonment shook it. On the eve of his fall he had written, “I shall yet live to see it an English nation:” and he lived to see his prediction come true.
The first or Virginian colony, chartered with the Plymouth colony in April, 1606, was at last organized by the appointment of Sir Thomas Smith, the ‘Chief of Raleigh’s assignees, a wealthy London merchant, who had been ambassador to Persia, and was then, or shortly after, governor of the East India Company, treasurer and president of the meetings of the council in London; and by the assignment of the transportation of the colony to Captain Christopher Newport, a mariner of experience in voyages to the West Indies and in plundering the Spaniards, who had the power to appoint different captains and mariners, and the sole charge of the voyage. No local councilors were named for Virginia, but to Captain Newport, Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, and Captain John Ratcliffe were delivered sealed instructions, to be opened within twenty-four hours after their arrival in Virginia, wherein would be found the names of the persons designated for the Council.
This colony, which was accompanied by the prayers and hopes of London, left the Thames December 19, 1606, in three vessels–the Susan Constant, one hundred tons, Captain Newport, with seventy-one persons; the God-Speed, forty tons, Captain Gosnold, with fifty-two persons; and a pinnace of twenty tons, the Discovery, Captain Ratcliffe, with twenty persons. The Mercure Francais, Paris, 1619, says some of the passengers were women and children, but there is no other mention of women. Of the persons embarked, one hundred and five were planters, the rest crews. Among the planters were Edward Maria Wingfield, Captain John Smith, Captain John Martin, Captain Gabriel Archer, Captain George Kendall, Mr. Robert Hunt, preacher, and Mr. George Percie, brother of the Earl of Northumberland, subsequently governor for a brief period, and one of the writers from whom Purchas compiled. Most of the planters were shipped as gentlemen, but there were four carpenters, twelve laborers, a blacksmith, a sailor, a barber, a bricklayer, a mason, a tailor, a drummer, and a chirurgeon.
The composition of the colony shows a serious purpose of settlement, since the trades were mostly represented, but there were too many gentlemen to make it a working colony. And, indeed, the gentlemen, like the promoters of the enterprise in London, were probably more solicitous of discovering a passage to the South Sea, as the way to increase riches, than of making a state. They were instructed to explore every navigable river they might find, and to follow the main branches, which would probably lead them in one direction to the East Indies or South Sea, and in the other to the Northwest Passage. And they were forcibly reminded that the way to prosper was to be of one mind, for their own and their country’s good.
This last advice did not last the expedition out of sight of land. They sailed from Blackwell, December 19, 1606, but were kept six weeks on the coast of England by contrary winds. A crew of saints cabined in those little caravels and tossed about on that coast for six weeks would scarcely keep in good humor. Besides, the position of the captains and leaders was not yet defined. Factious quarrels broke out immediately, and the expedition would likely have broken up but for the wise conduct and pious exhortations of Mr. Robert Hunt, the preacher. This faithful man was so ill and weak that it was thought he could not recover, yet notwithstanding the stormy weather, the factions on board, and although his home was almost in sight, only twelve miles across the Downs, he refused to quit the ship. He was unmoved, says Smith, either by the weather or by “the scandalous imputations (of some few little better than atheists, of the greatest rank amongst us).” With “the water of his patience” and “his godly exhortations” he quenched the flames of envy and dissension.
They took the old route by the West Indies. George Percy notes that on the 12th of February they saw a blazing star, and presently. a storm. They watered at the Canaries, traded with savages at San Domingo, and spent three weeks refreshing themselves among the islands. The quarrels revived before they reached the Canaries, and there Captain Smith was seized and put in close confinement for thirteen weeks.
We get little light from contemporary writers on this quarrel. Smith does not mention the arrest in his “True Relation,” but in his “General Historie,” writing of the time when they had been six weeks in Virginia, he says: “Now Captain Smith who all this time from their departure from the Canaries was restrained as a prisoner upon the scandalous suggestion of some of the chiefs (envying his repute) who fancied he intended to usurp the government, murder the Council, and make himself King, that his confedcrates were dispersed in all three ships, and that divers of his confederates that revealed it, would affirm it, for this he was committed a prisoner; thirteen weeks he remained thus suspected, and by that time they should return they pretended out of their commiserations, to refer him to the Council in England to receive a check, rather than by particulating his designs make him so odious to the world, as to touch his life, or utterly overthrow his reputation. But he so much scorned their charity and publically defied the uttermost of their cruelty, he wisely prevented their policies, though he could not suppress their envies, yet so well he demeaned himself in this business, as all the company did see his innocency, and his adversaries’ malice, and those suborned to accuse him accused his accusers of subornation; many untruths were alleged against him; but being apparently disproved, begot a general hatred in the hearts of the company against such unjust Commanders, that the President was adjudged to give him L 200, so that all he had was seized upon, in part of satisfaction, which Smith presently returned to the store for the general use of the colony.”–
Neither in Newport’s “Relatyon” nor in Mr. Wingfield’s “Discourse” is the arrest mentioned, nor does Strachey speak of it.
About 1629, Smith, in writing a description of the Isle of Mevis (Nevis) in his “Travels and Adventures,” says: “In this little [isle] of Mevis, more than twenty years agone, I have remained a good time together, to wod and water–and refresh my men.” It is characteristic of Smith’s vivid imagination, in regard to his own exploits, that he should speak of an expedition in which he had no command, and was even a prisoner, in this style: “I remained,” and “my men.” He goes on: “Such factions here we had as commonly attend such voyages, and a pair of gallows was made, but Captaine Smith, for whom they were intended, could not be persuaded to use them; but not any one of the inventors but their lives by justice fell into his power, to determine of at his pleasure, whom with much mercy he favored, that most basely and unjustly would have betrayed him.” And it is true that Smith, although a great romancer, was often magnanimous, as vain men are apt to be.
King James’s elaborate lack of good sense had sent the expedition to sea with the names of the Council sealed up in a box, not to be opened till it reached its destination. Consequently there was no recognized authority. Smith was a young man of about twenty-eight, vain and no doubt somewhat “bumptious,” and it is easy to believe that Wingfield and the others who felt his superior force and realized his experience, honestly suspected him of designs against the expedition. He was the ablest man on board, and no doubt was aware of it. That he was not only a born commander of men, but had the interest of the colony at heart, time was to show.
The voyagers disported themselves among the luxuries of the West Indies. At Guadaloupe they found a bath so hot that they boiled their pork in it as well as over the fire. At the Island of Monaca they took from the bushes with their hands near two hogsheads full of birds in three or four hours. These, it is useless to say, were probably not the “barnacle geese” which the nautical travelers used to find, and picture growing upon bushes and dropping from the eggs, when they were ripe, full-fledged into the water. The beasts were fearless of men. Wild birds and natives had to learn the whites before they feared them.
“In Mevis, Mona, and the Virgin Isles,” says the “General Historie,” “we spent some time, where with a lothsome beast like a crocodile, called a gwayn [guana], tortoises, pellicans, parrots, and fishes, we feasted daily.”
Thence they made sail-in search of Virginia, but the mariners lost their reckoning for three days and made no land; the crews were discomfited, and Captain Ratcliffe, of the pinnace, wanted to up helm and return to England. But a violent storm, which obliged them “to hull all night,” drove them to the port desired. On the 26th of April they saw a bit of land none of them had ever seen before. This, the first land they descried, they named Cape Henry, in honor of the Prince of Wales; as the opposite cape was called Cape Charles, for the Duke of York, afterwards Charles I. Within these capes they found one of the most pleasant places in the world, majestic navigable rivers, beautiful mountains, hills, and plains, and a fruitful and delightsome land.
Mr. George Percy was ravished at the sight of the fair meadows and goodly tall trees. As much to his taste were the large and delicate oysters, which the natives roasted, and in which were found many pearls. The ground was covered with fine and beautiful strawberries, four times bigger than those in England.
Masters Wingfield, Newport, and Gosnold., with thirty men, went ashore on Cape Henry, where they were suddenly set upon by savages, who came creeping upon all-fours over the hills, like bears, with their bows in their hands; Captain Archer was hurt in both hands, and a sailor dangerously wounded in two places on his body. It was a bad omen.
The night of their arrival they anchored at Point Comfort, now Fortress Monroe; the box was opened and the orders read, which constituted Edward Maria Wingfield, Bartholomew Gosnold, John Smith, Christopher Newport, John Ratcliffe, John Martin, and George Kendall the Council, with power to choose a President for a year. Until the 13th of May they were slowly exploring the River Powhatan, now the James, seeking a place for the settlement. They selected a peninsula on the north side of the river, forty miles from its mouth, where there was good anchorage, and which could be readily fortified. This settlement was Jamestown. The Council was then sworn in, and Mr. Wingfield selected President. Smith being under arrest was not sworn in of the Council, and an oration was made setting forth the reason for his exclusion.
When they had pitched upon a site for the fort, every man set to work, some to build the fort, others to pitch the tents, fell trees and make clapboards to reload the ships, others to make gardens and nets. The fort was in the form of a triangle with a half-moon at each comer, intended to mount four or five guns.
President Wingfield appears to have taken soldierly precautions, but Smith was not at all pleased with him from the first. He says “the President’s overweening jealousy would admit of no exercise at arms, or fortifications but the boughs of trees cast together in the form of a half-moon by the extraordinary pains and diligence of Captain Kendall.” He also says there was contention between Captain Wingfield and Captain Gosnold about the site of the city.
The landing was made at Jamestown on the 14th of May, according to Percy. Previous to that considerable explorations were made. On the 18th of April they launched a shallop, which they built the day before, and “discovered up the bay.” They discovered a river on the south side running into the mainland, on the banks of which were good stores of mussels and oysters, goodly trees, flowers of all colors, and strawberries. Returning to their ships and finding the water shallow, they rowed over to a point of land, where they found from six to twelve fathoms of water, which put them in good comfort, therefore they named that part of the land Cape Comfort. On the 29th they set up a cross on Chesapeake Bay, on Cape Henry, and the next day coasted to the Indian town of Kecoughton, now Hampton, where they were kindly entertained. When they first came to land the savages made a doleful noise, laying their paws to the ground and scratching the earth with their nails. This ceremony, which was taken to be a kind of idolatry, ended, mats were brought from the houses, whereon the guests were seated, and given to eat bread made of maize, and tobacco to smoke. The savages also entertained them with dancing and singing and antic tricks and grimaces. They were naked except a covering of skins about the loins, and many were painted in black and red, with artificial knots of lovely colors, beautiful and pleasing to the eye. The 4th of May they were entertained by the chief of Paspika, who favored them with a long oration, making a foul noise and vehement in action, the purport of which they did not catch. The savages were full of hospitality. The next day the weroance, or chief, of Rapahanna sent a messenger to invite them to his seat. His majesty received them in as modest a proud fashion as if he had been a prince of a civil government. His body was painted in crimson and his face in blue, and he wore a chain of beads about his neck and in his ears bracelets of pearls and a bird’s claw. The 8th of May they went up the river to the country Apomatica, where the natives received them in hostile array, the chief, with bow and arrows in one hand, and a pipe of tobacco in the other, offering them war or peace.
These savages were as stout and able as any heathen or Christians in the world. Mr. Percy said they bore their years well. He saw among the Pamunkeys a savage reported to be 160, years old, whose eyes were sunk in his head, his teeth gone his hair all gray, and quite a big beard, white as snow; he was a lusty savage, and could travel as fast as anybody.
The Indians soon began to be troublesome in their visits to the plantations, skulking about all night, hanging around the fort by day, bringing sometimes presents of deer, but given to theft of small articles, and showing jealousy of the occupation. They murmured, says Percy, at our planting in their country. But worse than the disposition of the savages was the petty quarreling in the colony itself.
In obedience to the orders to explore for the South Sea, on the 22d of May, Newport, Percy, Smith, Archer, and twenty others were sent in the shallop to explore the Powhatan, or James River.
Passing by divers small habitations, and through a land abounding in trees, flowers, and small fruits, a river full of fish, and of sturgeon such as the world beside has none, they came on the 24th, having passed the town of Powhatan, to the head of the river, the Falls, where they set up the cross and proclaimed King James of England.
Smith says in his “General Historie” they reached Powhatan on the 26th. But Captain Newport’s “Relatyon” agrees with Percy’s, and with, Smith’s “True Relation.” Captain Newport, says Percy, permitted no one to visit Powhatan except himself.
Captain Newport’s narration of the exploration of the James is interesting, being the first account we have of this historic river. At the junction of the Appomattox and the James, at a place he calls Wynauk, the natives welcomed them with rejoicing and entertained them with dances. The Kingdom of Wynauk was full of pearl-mussels. The king of this tribe was at war with the King of Paspahegh. Sixteen miles above this point, at an inlet, perhaps Turkey Point, they were met by eight savages in a canoe, one of whom was intelligent enough to lay out the whole course of the river, from Chesapeake Bay to its source, with a pen and paper which they showed him how to use. These Indians kept them company for some time, meeting them here and there with presents of strawberries, mulberries, bread, and fish, for which they received pins, needles, and beads. They spent one night at Poore Cottage (the Port Cotage of Percy, where he saw the white boy), probably now Haxall. Five miles above they went ashore near the now famous Dutch Gap, where King Arahatic gave them a roasted deer, and