Out of the frying pan and into the fire! John Smith wasted no time picking a fight with the Powhatans after Christopher Newport sailed back to England. Smith had no choice. If he wanted the colony to survive, then he would have to figure out a way to feed those under his command. Smith only had one choice, go to the Indians for food.
Going to the Indians, however, was a dangerous problem. They didn’t have much food, and weren’t about to part with any that they had. Smith, ever the survivor, then switched from friendly trader, to belligerent invader. He simply wasn’t going to die sitting still.
His domineering manner saved the colony through the 1608 winter, but it came at a high cost. Powhatan and Opechancanough both tried to kill the colony president during Smith’s trading tour, thereby ensuring that relations between the two peoples would never be trustworthy for long.
But that’s not entirely what Smith cared about. He wanted to live, even if others had to suffer.
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- Kupperman, Karen Ordhal. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge, MA: The Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
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- Smith, John. The Generall History of Virginia. 1624.
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- Wooley, Benjamin. Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America. New York: Harper and Collins, 2007.
- Historic Jamestowne
- Virtual Jamestown
- Maps of John Smith’s Chesapeake Voyages
- The Pamunkey Indian Tribe
- Virginia History Podcast Store
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of “John Smith Taking the King of Pamunkey Prisoner” from Smith’s 1624 General History of Virginia.