Jamestown 2: John Smith and Pocahontas


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Four months alone …

When Newport left for England, conditions in Jamestown crumbled.  They didn’t have enough food, and leadership was consumed by faction fighting.  Illness ran rampant, and soon half the colonists were dead.  Kendall was executed for mutiny after threatening to tell the Spanish about the colony, and Ratcliffe’s participation in the Gunpowder Plot was revealed.

John Smith decided to take matters into his own hands, and sailed the local rivers, trading and raiding until he’d fed the colonists.

He returned only briefly, and then went exploring again.  Soon he was taken hostage and met the local peoples in a way he hadn’t before.  He learned of the Roanoke settlers, and met Wahunsenaca, leader of the Powhatan empire.  Soon, he met Pocahontas, when she (according to him) threw herself over his body to prevent him being killed.

Learn More:

My favorite book on Jamestown:

A Savage Kingdom by Benjamin Woolley

  • This book is also available as an audiobook.  I particularly like Woolley’s writing style, and the way he integrates all the primary source material.  This was the best-researched book on Jamestown at the time it was printed, and I’d say that’s still true today.

A Land as God Made it by James Horn

  • I strongly prefer A Savage Kingdom, but Horn’s book is worth mentioning because it does better address the colony’s later history.  Early on, it lacks some of the detail and scope of Woolley’s work (it’s too John-Smith-centric), but it does do a better job of discussing the colony’s history from 1619-1630.

Primary Source Documents and Articles:

John Smith’s account of early colony happenings, including his meeting Pocahontas


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