Colonial American History - The Atlantic and Pacific Worlds - New Spain and New France - British America

Chapter 2: Death on a Coastal Fringe (Section 3-5) :: The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “They called this quasi- island Jamestown, and on May 14, 1607, they unloaded their men and equipment, threw together tents and huts behind a brushwood barrier, and set about building “a triangular palisade of posts, rails, and poles, with bulwarks at the corners where cannon were mounted.” The three years that followed was a period of violent dissension within the tiny palisaded settlement, confusion of purpose, physical devastation, and the emergence of a permanent pattern of race conflict. Death was everywhere.”
  • “By August, three months after the expedition’s arrival, the settlers in their small encampment were facing annihilation. The indispensable and inspirational organizer Bartholomew Gosnold died on August 22, one of dozens whose names George Percy recorded despondently day after day—victims, he explained, “of the bloudie flixe … of the swelling … of a wound”—in sum, of many “cruell diseases … and by Warrs … but for the most part they died of meere famine.” The groans “in every corner of the fort [were] most pittifull to heare,” he wrote; it made one’s heart “bleed to heare the pittiful murmurings and out-cries of our sick men.” Some fled to the Indians to avoid starvation, but soon straggled back from that strange world. For six weeks, until some relief came in from the Indians, three or four died each night, and “in the morning their bodies [were] trailed out of their cabines like dogges to be buried.” By September, 46 of the 104 settlers had died, and among the survivors there were not 6 able-bodied men. By January 2, 1608, when Newport arrived back from England in one of the two vessels of the “first supply,” only 38 were still alive—and only barely alive.”
  • “he knew there was a scattering of several hundred Algonquian villages, organized into some thirty chiefdoms, each village with less than one hundred souls, totaling perhaps fifteen thousand people. They were led, with imperfect authority, by the “chief of chiefs,” Powhatan and his warrior brother Opechancanough”
  • “Two episodes, minuscule events in a confused world, seemingly mere curiosities in the bloody struggles for survival, reveal the mutuality, the parallelism, of hopes and expectations, reasonable in themselves but that would prove to be contradictory, ultimately the source of bitter conflict.”
  • “These were calm passages in a tumultuous sea of uncertainty and conflict. And there were others. Young boys were exchanged on both sides, to learn the languages, the “designs,” and the ways of life of the other people.”
  • “Smith, in his Elizabethan love of drama and pageantry, may have relished the feasts and ceremonies, but most of his contacts with the natives were ruthless raids on their villages to extract corn and other supplies for the starving settlers. When his demands were not met, he threatened murder, took hostages at gunpoint, “negotiated” by intimidation, and without hesitation seized from the natives precious supplies that were necessary for their tribes’ survival. Believing the Indians to be inherently barbarous, he attributed to them deceits and plots they did not have and provoked them in ways they did not understand.”
  • “Then the ultimate catastrophes began. A few of the “gastely and pale” inhabitants of the fort— we do not know how many— did “those things w[ hi] ch seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corp[ s] es outt of graves and to eate them… and some have Licked upp the Bloode w[ hi] ch hathe fallen from their weake fellowes.” And even beyond that, Percy wrote, one man murdered his wife, “Ripped the Childe outt of her woambe… Chopped the Mother in pieces and sallted her for his foode.” Forced to confess “by torture haveinge hunge by the Thumbes w[ i] th weightes att his feete a quarter of an howere,” the murderer was executed. Many of those who “To eate… did Runn away unto the Salvages” fared no better: “we never heard of [them] after.””

Thought Questions

  • What was the organization of the company that sent the Jamestown Colonists?
  • What were the instructions, principle objectives and advice issued to the Jamestown Colonists?
  • How did religious circumstances generally and Catholic missionaries particularly impact the initial Jamestown settlement plan and Colonists?
  • Describe the initial contact and reactions between the Chickahominy Indians and the Jamestown settlers and Colonists.
  • Explain and Expand: “Partly the confusion was generated by conflicts of purpose.”
  • Describe the condition of the Jamestown settlement at by the time of the first relief shipment and how this condition came about
  • Describe the first relief shipment and how it impacted the Jamestown settlement
  • In what ways did John Smith contribute to European knowledge of the Chesapeake and New England. What were the strengths and weaknesses of this knowledge?
  • How did John Smith’s knowledge of the Chesapeake and New England impact future English settlement?
  • Who are the Chickahominies?
  • Who were the Monocans?
  • In what ways did the experience of the English in Ireland impact the Jamestown settlement
  • Describe the decline in relations between the Jamestown settlement and the Chickahominies
  • Explain and Expand: “By such means a marginal survival was preserved”
  • Explain and Expand: “The Indians were not even bothering to attack the protected blockhouse since they assumed the people within it would shortly perish.”
  • Describe the setting leading up to the First Anglo- Powhatan War

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