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[Smith recounts that in December, 1607, he was attacked by two hundred Indians, and, although he used his own Indian guide as a shield against their arrows, he was at last taken prisoner.]

Six or seven weeks those barbarians kept him prisoner. Many strange triumphs and conjurations they made of him. Yet he so demeaned himself amongst them, as he not only diverted them from surprising the fort, but procured his own liberty, and got himself and his company such estimation amongst them, that those salvages [sic] admired him more than their own Quiyouckosucks.

Their order in conducting him was thus: Drawing themselves all in file, the king in the middle, had all their pieces and swords borne before him. Captain Smith was led after him by three great savages, holding him fast by each arm, and on each side went [p.108] six in file with their arrows nocked. Smith they conducted to a long house, where thirty or forty tall fellows did guard him; and ere long more bread and venison was brought him than would have served twenty men. I think his stomach at that time was not very good. What he left they put in baskets and tied over his head.

At midnight they set the meat again before him. All this time not one of them would eat a bit with him, till the next morning they brought him as much more; and then did they eat all the old, and reserved the new as they had done the other, which made him think they would fatten him to eat him.

At last they brought him to Wero-wocomoco where was Powhatan their emperor. Here more than two hundred of those grim courtiers stood wondering at him, as if he bad been a monster; till Powhatan and his train had put themselves in their greatest braveries. Before a fire upon a seat like a bedstead with a great robe made of Rarowcun skins, and all the tails hanging by. On either hand did sit a young wench of sixteen or eighteen years, and along on each side of the house, two rows of men, and behind them as many women, with all their heads and shoulders painted red; many of their heads bedecked with the white down of birds; but everyone with something; and a great chain of white beads about their necks.

At ills entrance before the king, all the people gave a great shout. The Queen of Appamatuck was appointed to bring him water to wash his hands, and another brought him a bunch of feathers, instead of a towel, to dry them. Having feasted him after their best barbarous manner they could, a long consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan.

Then as many as could laid hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and being ready with their clubs, to beat out his brains, Pocahontas the king's dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevail, got his head in her arms, and laid her own upon his to save him from death. Whereat the emperor was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper; for they thought him as well of all occupations as themselves. For the king himself will make his own robes, shoes, bows, arrows, pots; plant, hunt, or do anything so well as the rest.

John Smith 1626


Historical Summary


FEW REPORTERS can boast the hair-raising adventures of that brash, ebullient, but astonishingly able statesman, historian, explorer, and ex-slave of a Turkish pasha, Captain John Smith. A soldier of fortune, he portrayed himself as a scourge of Turks and Indians, an artful contriver of miraculous escapes, and a favorite of the ladies of many nations. At the time of the romantic incident which he recounted in his General Historie of Virginia, published sixteen years later, the doughty captain was twenty-eight years of age, Powhatan's youngest daughter approximately thirteen. Any romantic attachment between the two seems to have been an embellishment of later biographers. A perennial bachelor, Smith looked upon his colonial career as "my wife, my hawks, my hounds."

Our heroine later married John Rolfe, the pioneer tobacco planter in the New World, and was received by the King and Queen in England. Although some cynics have been inclined to scoff at the episode, it is well known that Pocohontas was the patron saint of the Jamestown colony, brought food to the starving settlers during the early critical period, and was their stalwart friend. In Smith's own words, "she next under God was still the instrument to preserve this Colonie from death, famine, and utter confusion."

Smith, after escaping from a dire fate at the hands of Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, went from the frying pan into the fire, and had to stand trial for murder on returning to the settlement. Condemned to death, he melodramatically escaped hanging by the last-moment intervention of an influential friend who returned in the nick of time. Later, in January, 1609, when Powhatan planned to surprise Smith, his daughter stole out through the woods, Smith testifies, and, "with watered eies" and at the risk of her own life, gave him timely warning. Smith finally quit Virginia in disgust, and spent the remainder of his American career exploring the New England coast.

As a reporter Smith is now considered to have given a generally accurate account of maladministration in Virginia. Although he describes himself as "only a reporter of [men's] actions in Virginia," without aiming "to disgrace any, accuse any, excuse any, nor flatter any," he has sharply censured his opponents and given us a glowing account of his own not inconsiderable achievements. Such partisanship is unavoidable when the reporter is not a mere onlooker, but a principal actor in a tense, dramatic epoch.

His vivid descriptions of the early struggles of the Virginia pioneers remain unsurpassed. At the beginning, he reported, "there was no talke, no hope, nor worke, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold. Such a brute of gold, as one mad fellow desired to bee buried in the sandes, least they should by their art make gold of his bones." Unfortunately for the prospectors, there was no gold in Virginia. A few years later Pocahontas's husband began to cultivate the sot-weed (tobacco), which placed the settlement on a sustaining basis. But until the get-rich-quick spirit had been dissipated, the colonists had to experience the most desperate starvation in American history. Between October, 1609, and May, 1610, Smith reports, destitution was so terrible that only sixty out of five hundred survived, and these "most miserable and poore creatures." Smith took up his pen to let all pioneers know what had happened when there had been a "want of providence, industrie, and government."

Indian atrocity stories have been abundant in American literature, from the days of colonial captivities down to the time of Fremont. In addition to recounting the cruelties and barbarities of the early Indians, Smith kept a careful record of their customs, arts and crafts, and music. Powhatan, Smith's nemesis and the absolute monarch of Virginia (whose kingdom descended through the female line), is described as "a tall, well-proportioned man, with a sower looke, his head somewhat gray, his beard so thinne that it seemeth none at all. His age near sixty." Awake and asleep, the Indian ruler had "as many women as he" wished, and when he wearied of them, he bestowed "them on those that best deserve them at his hands."

Source:
Original Sources http://www.originalsources.com

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