Jamestown 3: The Coronation of Powhatan

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Bad to worse …

There were two opposing groups, with different interests in Jamestown.  Newport represented the London Company, which wanted to find a “get rich quick” scheme.  John Smith represented the colonists, who needed to be able to survive in the wilderness.  In 1608, the two repeatedly clashed, with devastating results for the colonists.

John Smith and Mosco

I mentioned John Smith’s voyage around Masawomeck and Monican territory in the show, and said you could come here and learn some more about what happened.

Here’s a link to John Smith’s account of the voyage.

To summarize, though:

Once again, Smith accompanied Nelson’s vessel to Cape Comfort, and went on to explore.  This time, he took fifteen men, including Scrivener, the company’s Doctor Walter Russel and Reed, the Blacksmith whose revelations had led to Kendall’s execution.  This time, he was looking for other tribes that may be hostile to the Powhatan, including the Massawomac and Manoan.  This trip ends up being a relatively positive one.

When they encountered a village experiencing a deadly illness outbreak, Russel managed to give them medicine that helped alleviate it.  This increased goodwill in the area.  Soon, they were joined by an Indian named Mosco, whose friendliness and full beard made Smith suspect he was a Frenchman’s son.

When they saw some warriors emerge from the trees, ready to attack, Smith shot his gun into the water to intimidate them, and it worked.  The company soon learned that they had been sent by Wahunsenaca at Ratcliffe’s encouragement.  Ratcliffe had told Wahunsenaca about the factions among the settlers, and evidently indicated that the Powhatan could benefit more from English relations with Smith out of the way.  The attack dispersed, they continued their exploration, and Mosco led them to a mine where they gathered the minerals used to paint some of their “idols.”

Russel’s medicine was useful again when Smith nearly died from a ray sting while trying to catch fish with a sword.

After this encounter, they briefly returned to Jamestown, where colonists begged Smith to depose Ratcliffe, who had been treating them cruelly, and had been putting them to work building a governor’s mansion.  Smith did depose Ratcliffe and put Scrivener in charge before heading out to explore again.

It wasn’t long before they reunited with Mosco, who warned them not to visit the Toppahannocs anymore.  The Toppahannocs were ready to kill the English for befriending the Moraughtacunds.  Hearing this news, John Smith of course headed straight for Toppahannoc.  They attacked, he threatened to destroy their village if they didn’t agree to trade corn for beads and metal, they agreed, and Smith returned victorious to the Moraughtacunds.

When a group of warriors appeared ready to attack him and his crew, he bluffed his way out of a confrontation.  He ordered each of his men to hold up two helmets and two guns.  Confrontation averted, he learned that these were the Maraughtacunds, and that they were on edge because the Rappahannoc chief had stolen three of their women.  After trading a little bit, Smith’s company encountered the Massawomeck, who immediately attacked.  They fought back and dispersed the fighters, capturing an injured soldier and dressing his wound.  When Mosco interrogated him, he said the Massawomec had attacked because they were told that the English were “a people coming from under the world to take their world from them.”

He proceeded to give them the most detailed information yet on the Indians to the South.  Entering Rappahannoc, Smith threatened the local chief and demanded his bow and arrow, and his son.  The chief responded with an invitation to meet, and brought the three stolen women to the meeting instead of his son.  Smith told the chief he had defeated the Massawomacs and taken their weapons, and the Rappahannocs were impressed.

Smith gave each of the women a necklace, and told the Maraughtacund chief to select which one he loved the most, and then the Rappahannoc chief, and finally Mosco.

At this point, Mosco left, promising his people “ever to be their friends, and to plant corn purposefully for them,” and telling the English he would change his name to Otesantesua, which was derived for Otesantesuac, which meant wearer of leg coverings, and which was the term the Powhatan used to refer to Europeans.  They never heard from him again.

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