Miseries there -‑ Departure and return upon the Lord La Warre's
arriving ‑- James Town described
FROM THIS TIME we only awaited a favorable westerly wind to carry us forth, which longer than usual now kept at the east and southeast, the way which we were to go. The tenth of May early, Sir George Summers and Captain Newport went off with their longboats, and with two canoas buoyed the channel which we were to lead it out in, and which was no broader from shoals on the one side and rocks on the other than about three times the length of our pinnace. Abut ten of the clock, that day being Thursday, we set sail an easy gale, the wind at south, and by reason no mote wind blew, we were fain to tow her with our longboat. Yet neither with the help of that were we able to fit our buoys, but even when we came just upon them we struck a rock on the starboard side, over which the buoy rid; and had it not been a soft rock, by which means she bore it before her and crushed it to pieces, God knows we might have been like enough to have returned anew and dwelt there after ten months of carefulness and great labor a longer time.
But God was more merciful unto us: When she struck upon the rock, the cockswain, one Walsingham, being in the boat, with a quick spirit, when we were all amazed, and our hearts failed [...] and so by God's goodness we led it out at three fadom, and three fadom and a half water. The wind served us easily all that day and the next, when (God be ever praised for it) to the no little joy of us all we got clear of the islands; after which, holding a southerly course, for seven days we had the wind sometimes fair and sometimes scarce and contrary, in which time we lost Sir George Summers twice, albeit we still spared him our main topsail, and sometimes our forecourse too.
The seventeenth of May, we saw change of water, and had much rubbish swim by our ship side, whereby we knew we were not far from land. The eighteenth about , we sounded with the dipsing lead and found thirty‑seven fadom. The nineteenth in the morning, we sounded and had nineteen and an half fadom, stony and sandy ground. The twentieth about midnight, we had a marvelous sweet smell from the shore, as from the coast of Spain short of the Straits, strong and pleasant, which did not a little glad us. In the morning by daybreak, so soon as one might well see from the foretop, one of the sailors descried land. About an hour after, I went up and might discover two hummocks to the southward, from which northward all along lay the land which we were to coast to Cape Henrie. About seven of the clock, we cast forth an anchor because the tide by reason of the freshet that set into the bay make a strong ebb there, and the wind was but easy; so as not being able to stem the tide, we purposed to lie at an anchor until the next flood. But the wind coming southwest a loom gale about eleven, we set sail again, and having got over the bar, bore in for the cape.
This is the famous Chesipiacke Bay, which we have called, in honor of our young prince, Cape Henrie, over against which within the bay lieth another headland which we called, in honor of our princely Duke of York, Cape Charles; and these lie northeast and by east, and southwest and by west, and they may be distant each from the other in breadth seven leagues, between which the sea runs in as broad as between Queenborough and Leigh. Indeed, it is a goodly bay and a fairer not easily to be found.
The one and twentieth. being Monday in the morning
we came up within two miles of Point Comfort, when the captain of the fort
discharged a warning piece at us; whereupon we came to an anchor, and sent off
our longboat to the fort to certify who we were. By reason of the shoals which
lie on the south side, this fort easily commands the mouth of the river, albeit
it is as broad as between
True it is such who talked with our men from the shore delivered how safely all our ships the last year (excepting only the admiral and the little pinnace in which one Michael Philes commanded, of some twenty ton, which we towed astern till the storm blew) arrived; and how our people, well increased, had therefore builded this fort; only we could not learn anything of our longboat sent from the Bermudas but what we gathered by the Indians themselves, especially from Powhatan, who would tell our men of such a boat landed in one of his rivers, and would describe the people and make much scoffing sport thereat; by which we have gathered that it is most likely how it arrived upon our coast and, not meeting with our river, were taken at some time or other at some advantage by the savages, and so cut off.
When our skiff came up again, the good news of our ships' and men's arrival the last year did not a little glad our governor, who went soon ashore and as soon (contrary to all our fair hopes) had new unexpected, uncomfortable, and heavy news of a worse condition of our people above at James Town.
Upon Point Comfort our men did the last year (as you have heard) raise a little fortification; which since hath been better perfected, and is likely to prove a strong fort, and is now kept by Captain James Davies with forty men, and hath to name Algernoone Fort, so called by Captain George Percy, whom we found at our arrival president of the colony, and at this time likewise in the fort.
When we got into the point, which was the one and twentieth of May, being Monday about , where riding before an Indian town called Kecoughton, a mighty storm of thunder, lightning, and rain gave us a shrewd and fearful welcome.
From hence in two days‑only by the help of tides, no wind stirring‑we plied it sadly up the river, and the three and twentieth of May, we cast anchor before James Town, where we landed, and our much grieved governor, first visiting the church, caused the bell to be rung, at which all such as were able to come forth of their houses repaired to church, where our minister, Master Bucke, made a zealous and sorrowful prayer, finding all things so contrary to our expectations, so full of misery and misgovernment. After service, our governor caused me to read his commission, and Captain Percie, then president, delivered up unto him his commission, the old patent, and the council seal.
Viewing the fort, we found the palisadoes torn down, the ports open, the gates from off the hinges, and empty houses, which (the) owners' death had taken from them, rent up and burnt, rather than the dwellers would step into the woods a stone's cast off from them to fetch other firewood. And it is true the Indian killed as fast without, if our men stirred but beyond the bounds of their blockhouse, as famine and pestilence did within, with many more particularities of their sufferances brought upon them by their own disorders the last year than I have heart to express.
In this desolation and misery our governor found the condition and state of the colony and, which added more to his grief, no hope how to amend it or save his own company and those yet remaining alive from falling into the like necessities. For we had brought from the Bermudas no greater store of provision (fearing no such accidents possible to befall the colony here) than might well serve one hundred and fifty for a sea voyage; and it was not possible at this time of the year to amend it by any help from the Indian. For besides that they at their best have little more than from hand to mouth, it was now likewise but their seed time and all their corn scarce put into the ground. Nor was there at the fort, as they whom we found related unto us, any means to take fish, neither sufficient seine nor other convenient net; and yet, if there had, there was not one eye of sturgeon yet come into the river.
All which considered, it pleased our governor to make a speech unto the company, giving them to understand that what provision he had they should equally share with him, and if he should find it not possible and easy to supply them with something from the country by the endeavors of his able men, he would make ready and transport them all into their native country, accommodating them the best that he could, at which there was a general acclamation and shout of joy on both sides, for even our own men began to be disheartened and faint when they saw this misery amongst the others, and no less threat'ned unto themselves. In the meanwhile, our governor published certain orders and instructions, which he enjoined them strictly to observe, the time that he should stay amongst them, which being written out fair were set up upon a post in the church for everyone to take notice of.
If I should be examined from whence and by what occasion all these disasters and afflictions descended upon our people, I can only refer you (honored lady) to the book which the adventurers have sent hither entituled Advertisements unto the Colony in Virginia, wherein the ground and causes are favorably abridged from whence these miserable effects have been produced, not excusing likewise the form of government of some error, which was not powerful enough among so heady a multitude, especially as those who arrived here in the supply sent the last year with us, with whom the better authority and government, now changed into an absolute command, came along, and had been as happily established, had it pleased God that we with them had reached our wished harbor.
Unto such calamity can sloth, riot, and vanity bring the most settled and plentiful estate. Indeed (right noble lady), no story can remember unto us more woes and anguishes than these people thus governed have both suffered and pull'd upon their own heads. And yet true it is some of them whose voices and command might not be heard may easily be absolved from the guilt hereof, as standing untouched and upright in their innocencies, whilest the privy factionaries shall never find time nor darkness to wipe away or cover their ignoble and irreligious practices, who, it may be, lay all the discredits and imputations the while upon the country.
But under pardon let me speak freely to them: Let them remember that if riot and sloth should both meet in anyone of their best families in a country most stored with abundance and plenty in England‑‑continual wasting, no husbandry, the old store still spent on, no order for new provisions‑what better could befall unto the inhabitants, landlords, and tenants of that corner than necessarily following cleanness of teeth, famine, and death? Is it not the sentence and doom of the wise man? "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, and a little folding of the hands to sleep: So thy poverty cometh as one that traveleth by the way, and thy necessity like an armed man." And with this idleness, when something was in store, all wasteful courses exercised to the heighth, and the headless multitude, some neither of quality nor religion, not employed to the end for which they were sent hither, no, not compelled, since in themselves unwilling to sow corn for their own bellies, nor to put a root, herb, etc. for their own particular good in their gardens or elsewhere -‑ I say in this neglect and sensual surfeit, all things suffered to run on, to lie sick and languish, must it be expected that health, plenty, and all the goodness of a well‑ordered state of necessity for all this to flow in this country?
You have a right and noble
heart, worthy lady; be judge of the truth herein. Then suffer it not be
concluded unto you, nor believe, I beseech you, that the wants and wretchedness
which they have endured ascend out of the poverty and vileness of the country,
whether be respected the land or rivers, the one and the other, having not only
promised but poured enough in their veins to convince them in such calumnies,
and to quit those common calamities which, as the shadow accompanies the body,
the precedent neglects touched at, if truly followed, and wrought upon. What
England may boast of, having the fair hand of husbandry to manure and dress it,
God and nature have favorably bestowed upon this country; and as it hath given
unto it, both by situation, height, and soil, all those (past hopes) assurances
which follow our well‑planted native country and others lying under the
same influence. If as ours the country and soil might be improved and drawn
forth, so hath it endowed it, as is most certain, with many more which
we have made trial of our own English seeds, kitchen herbs, and roots, and find
them to prosper as speedily as in
Only let me truly acknowledge they are not [but?] an hundred or two of deboist hands, drop'd forth by year after year, with penury and leisure, ill provided for before they come and worse to be governed when they are here, men of such distempered bodies and infected minds, whom no examples daily before their eyes, either of goodness or punishment, can deter from their habitual impieties, or terrify from a shameful death‑that must be the carpenters and workmen in this so glorious a‑building!
Then let no rumor of the poverty of the country‑as if in the womb thereof there lay not those elemental seeds which could produce as many fair births of plenty and increase and better hopes than any land under the heaven to which the sun is no nearer a neighbor ‑- I say, let no imposture rumor nor any fame of some one or a few more changeable actions, interposing by the way or at home, wave [off] any man's fair purposes hitherward or wrest them to a declining and falling off from the business.
I will acknowledge, dear lady, I have seen much propenseness already towards the unity and general endeavors. How contentedly do such as labor with us go forth when men of rank and quality assist and set on their labors! I have seen it, and I protest it; I have heard the inferior people with alacrity of spirit profess that they should never refuse to do their best in the practice of their sciences and knowledges when such worthy and noble gentlemen go in and out before them, and not only so but, as the occasion shall be offered, no less help them with their hand than defend them with their sword.
And it is to be understood that such as labor are not yet so taxed but that easily they perform the same, and ever by ten of the clock have done their morning's work. At what time they have their allowances set out ready for them, and until it be three of the clock again, they take their own pleasure. And afterwards with the sun set, their day's labor is finished. In all which courses, if the business be continued, I doubt nothing with God's favor towards us but to see it in time a country, an haven, and a staple, fitted for such a trade as shall advance assureder increase both to the adventurers and free burghers thereof than any trade in Christendom or than that‑even in her early days when Michael Cavacco the Greek did first discover it to our English factor in Poland‑which extends itself now from Calpe and Avila to the bottom of Sidon, and so wide as Alexandria and all the ports and havens north and south through the Arches to Chio, Smyrna, Troy, the Hellespont, and up to Pompey's Pillar, which as a Pharos, or watchtower, stands upon the wondrous opening into the Euxine Sea.
From the three and twentieth of May unto the seventh of June, our governor attempted and made trial of all the ways that both his own judgment could prompt him in and the advice of Captain George Percy and those gentlemen whom he found of the council when he came in, as of others whom he caused to deliver their knowledges concerning the state and condition of the country. But after much debating, it could not appear how possibly they might preserve themselves -‑ reserving that little which we brought from the Bermudas in our ships, and was upon all occasions to stand good by us‑ten days from starving.
For besides that the Indians were of themselves poor, they were forbidden likewise by their subtle King Powhatan at all to trade with us; and not only so but to endanger and assault any boat upon the river or straggler out of the fort by land, by which not long before our arrival our people had a large boat cut off and divers of our men killed, even within command of our blockhouse, as likewise they shot two of our people to death after we had been four and five days come in. And yet would they dare then to enter our ports and truck with us, as they counterfeited underhand, when indeed they came but as spies to discover our strength, trucking with us upon such hard conditions that our governor might very well see their subtlety, and therefore neither could well endure nor would continue it. And I may truly say beside, so had our men abased, and to such a contempt had they brought, the value of our copper that a piece which would have bought a bushel of their corn in former time would not now buy a little cade, or basket, of a pottle.
And for this misgovernment chiefly our colony is much bound to the mariners, who never yet in any voyage hither but have made a prey of our poor people in want, insomuch as unless they might advance four or five for one, how assured soever of the payments of their bills of exchange, they would not spare them a dust of corn nor a pint of beer to give unto them the least comfort or relief, although that beer purloined and stol'n perhaps either from some particular supply or from the general store, so uncharitable a parcel of people they be and ill conditioned. I myself have heard the master of a ship say even upon the arrival of this fleet with the lord governor and captain general, when the said master was treated with for such commodities as he brought to sell, that unless he might have an East Indian increase, four for one, all charges cleared, he would not part with a can of beer! Besides, to do us more villainy and mischief, they would send off their longboats full by night, and well guarded make out to the neighbor villages and towns and there, contrary to the articles of the fort, which now pronounce death for a trespass of that quality, truck with the Indians giving for their trifles otter skins, beavers, rokoone furs, bears skins, etc., so large a quantity and measure of copper as when the truck master for the colony in the daytime offered trade, the Indians would laugh and scorn the same, telling what bargains they met withal by night from our mangot quintons, so calling our great ships, by which means the market with them forestalled thus by these dishonest men, I may boldly say they have been a consequent cause this last year to the death and starving of many a worthy spirit.
But I hope to see a true amendment and reformation as well of those as of divers other intolerable abuses thrust upon the colony by these shameless people, as also for the transportation of such provisions and supplies as are sent hither and come under the charge of pursers‑a parcel, fragment, and odd ends of fellows, dependencies to the others‑a better course thought upon; of which supplies, never yet came into the store or to the parties unto whom such supplies were sent, by relation hitherto, a moiety or third part.
For the speedy redress of this, being so sovereign a point, I understand how the lord governor and captain general hath advised unto the council that there may be no more provisions at all delivered unto pursers but hath entreated to have the provision thus ordered. He would have a commissary general of the victuals to be appointed who, receiving the store for the colony by indenture from the treasurer, and victualers in England, may keep a just account what the gross amounteth unto, and what is transported every voyage, in several kinds, as of bread, meat, beer, wine, etc., which said commissary shall deliver over the same to the master of every ship, and take an indenture from the said master of what he hath in charge and what he is to deliver to the treasurer of the store in Virginia; of which, if any be wanting, he the said master shall make it good out of his own entertainment. Otherwise the pursers, stewards, coopers, and quartermasters will be sure still not only to give themselves and their friends double allowances, but think it all well gotten that they can purloin and steal away.
Besides that the Indian thus evil entreated us, the river, which were wont before this time of the year to be plentiful of sturgeon, had not now a fish to be seen in it. And albeit we labored and haul'd our net twenty times day and night, yet we took not so much as would content half the fishermen. Our governor therefore sent away his longboat to coast the river downward as far as Point Comfort, and from thence to Cape Henry and Cape Charles and all within the bay, which after a seven nights' trial and travail returned without any fruits of their labors, scarce getting so much fish as served their own company.
And to take anything from the Indian by force we never used nor willingly ever will. And though they had well deserved it, yet it was not now time, for they did, as I said before, but then set their corn, and at their best they had but from hand to mouth; so as what now remained‑such as we found in the fort‑had we stay'd but four days, had doubtless been the most part of them starved. For their best relief was only mushrooms and some herbs, which sod together made but a thin and unsavory broth, and swelled them much.
The pity hereof moved our governor to draw forth such provision as he had brought, proportioning a measure equally to everyone alike. But then our governor began to examine how long this his store would hold out and found it, husbanded to the best advantage, not possible to serve longer than sixteen days, after which nothing was to be possibly supposed out of the country, as before rememb'red, nor remained there then any means to transport him elsewhere. Whereupon he then ent'red into the consultation with Sir George Summers and Captain Newport, calling unto the same the gentlemen and council of the former government, entreating both the one and the other to advise with him what was best to be done. The provision which they both had aboard, himself and Sir George Summers, was examined and delivered, how it, being rack'd to the uttermost, extended not above as I said sixteen days, after two cakes a day. The gentlemen of the town, who knew better of the country, could not give him any hope or ways how to improve it from the Indian. It soon then appeared most fit, by a general approbation, that to preserve and save all from starving, there could be no readier course thought on than to abandon the country, and accommodating themselves the best that they might in the present pinnaces then in the road, namely in the Discovery and the Virginia, and in the two brought from and builded at the Bermudas, the Deliverance and the Patience, with all speed convenient to make for the New found Land, where, being the fishing time, they might meet with many English ships into which happily they might disperse most of the company.
This consultation taking effect, our governor having caused to be carried aboard all the arms and all the best things in the store which might to the adventurers make some commodity upon the sale thereof at home, and burying our ordnances before the fort gate, which looked into the river, the seventh of June, having appointed to every pinnace likewise his complement and number, also delivered thereunto a proportionable rate of provision, he commanded every man at the beating of the drum to repair aboard. And because he would preserve the town (albeit now to be quitted) unburned, which some intemperate and malicious people threat'ned, his own company he caused to be last ashore, and was himself the last of them, when about noon giving a farewell, with a peal of small shot, we set sail, and that night with the tide fell down to an island in the river, which our people have called Hog Island; and the morning tide brought us to another island, which we have called Mulberry Island, where lying at an anchor in the afternoon stemming the tide, we discovered a longboat making towards us from Point Comfort. Much descant' we made thereof; about an hour it came up, by which, to our no little joys we had intelligence of the honorable my Lord La Warr his arrival before Algarnoone Fort, the sixt of June, at what time, true it is, His Lordship, having understood of our governor's resolution to depart the country, with all expedition caused his skiff to be manned and in it dispatched his letters by Captain Edward Bruster (who commandeth His Lordship's company) to our governor, which preventing us before the aforesaid Mulberry Island, the eight of June aforesaid. Upon the receipt of His Honor's letters, our governor bore up the helm with the wind coming easterly, and that night, the wind so favorable, relanded all his men at the fort again, before which, the tenth of June, being Sunday, His Lordship had likewise brought his ships, and in the afternoon came ashore with Sir Ferdinando Weinman, and all His Lordship's followers.
Here (worthy lady) let me have a little your pardon. For having now a better heart than when I first landed, I will briefly describe unto you the situation and form of our fort. When Captain Newport in his first voyage did not like to inhabit upon so open a road as Cape Henry nor Point Comfort, he plied it up to the river, still looking out for the most apt and securest place, as well for his company to sit down in as which might give the least cause of offense or distaste, in his judgment, to the inhabitants.
At length, after much and weary search, with their barge coasting still before‑as Virgil writeth Aeneas did, arriving in the region of Italy called Latium, upon the banks of the River Tiber‑in the country of a werowance talled [called] Wowinchapuncke, a ditionary to Powhatan, within this fair river of Paspiheigh, which we have called the Kings River, a country least inhabited by the Indian, as they all the way observed, and threescore miles and better up the fresh channel from Cape Henry, they had sight of an extended plain and spot of earth which thrust out into the depth and middest of the channel, making a kind of Chersonesus, or peninsula, for it was fastened only to the land with a slender neck no broader than a man may well quait a tile shard, and no inhabitants by seven or six miles near it. The trumpets sounding, the admiral struck sail, and before the same the rest of the fleet came to an anchor and here, as the best yet offered unto their view‑supposed so much the more convenient by how much with their small company they were like enough the better to assure it to lose no further time, the colony disembarked, and every man brought his particular store and furniture together with the general provision ashore; for the safety of which, as likewise for their own security, ease, and better accommodating, a certain canton and quantity of that little half island of ground was measured, which they began to fortify, and thereon in the name of God to raise a fortress with the ablest and speediest means they could; which fort, growing since to more perfection, is now at this present in this manner:
low level of ground about half an acre ‑- or so much as Queen Dido might
buy of King Hyarbas [Iarbus],
which she compassed about with the thongs cut out of one bull hide, and therein
And thus enclosed, as I said, round with a palisado of planks and strong posts, four foot deep in the ground, of young oaks, walnuts, etc., the fort is called, in honor of His Majesty's name, James Town. The principal gate from the town through the palisado opens to the river, as at each bulwark there is a gate likewise to go forth, and at every gate a demi‑culverin, and so in the marketplace. The houses first raised were all burnt by a casualty of fire the beginning of the second year of their seat, and in the second voyage of Captain Newport‑which since have been better rebuilded, though as yet in no great uniformity, either for the fashion or beauty of the street.
A delicate‑wrought fine kind of mat the Indians make, with which, as they can be trucked for or snatched up, our people do dress their chambers and inward rooms, which make their houses so much the more handsome. The houses have wide and large country chimneys in the which is to be supposed, in such plenty of wood, what fires are maintained. And they have found the way to cover their houses now as the Indians, with barks of trees as durable and as good proof against storms and winter weather as the best tile, defending likewise the piercing sunbeams of summer, and keeping the inner lodgings cool enough, which before in sultry weather would be like stoves whilest they were, as at first, pargeted and plastered with bitumen or tough clay.
And thus armed for the injury of changing times and seasons of the year, we hold ourselves well apaid, though wanting arras hangings, tapestry, and gilded Venetian cordovan, or more spruce household garniture, and wanton city ornaments, rememb'ring the old epigraph:
We dwell not here to build us bowers,
And halls for pleasure and good cheer,
But halls we build for us and ours,
To dwell in them whilst we live here.
True it is, I may not excuse this our fort, or James Town, as yet seated in somewhat an unwholesome and sickly air, by reason it is in a marish ground, low, flat to the river, and hath no fresh water springs serving the town but what we drew from a well six or seven fathom deep, fed by the brackish river oozing into it; from whence I verily believe the chief causes have proceeded of many diseases and sicknesses which have happened to our people, who are indeed strangely afflicted with fluxes and agues; and every particular season, by the relation of the old inhabitants, hath his particular infirmity too; all which, if it had been our fortunes to have seated upon some hill accommodated with fresh springs and clear air, as do the natives of the country, we might have, I believe, well escaped.
And some experience we have to persuade ourselves that it may be so. For of four hundred and odd men which were seated at the Falls the last year when the fleet came in with fresh and young able spirits, under the government of Captain Francis West, and of one hundred to the seawards on the south side of our river in the country of the Nansamundes, under the charge of Captain John Martin, there did not so much as one man miscarry, and but very few or none fall sick; whereas at James Town, the same time and the same months, one hundred sick'ned and half the number died. Howbeit, as we condemn not Kent in England for a small town called Plumsted continually assaulting the dwellers there, especially newcomers, with agues and fevers, no more let us lay scandal and imputation upon the country of Virginia because the little quarter wherein we are set down, unadvisedly so chosed, appears to be unwholesome and subject to many ill airs, which accompany the like marish places.