Thursday, February 6, 2014

1610 - the Starving Time

Winter 1610 - the "Starving Time", the Jamestown colony is decimated by famine.

After eating up poor corn crops harvested around Jamestown and cooked all beasts, including rats or snakes, the settlers had for food nothing more than boiled roots and herbs or a few fish caught in the river with bad equipment. Hunger, cold and disease made on average four dead a day. Famine was so frightful that some indulged in cannibalism. Corpses were disinterred to be eaten. A settler killed his own wife and salted her body for consumption. A dead girl was, as it seems, butchered to be eaten. Meanwhile, Indians laid siege to Jamestown, ready to shoot their arrows against all those who would dare to leave the fort. President George Percy had not hesitated to make execute those who had stolen foods in the storehouse but he was more helpless, trapped in Jamestown facing wrath and despair of cadaverous survivors.

February 28, 1610 - The Virginia Company chooses Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr as the future governor of the Jamestown colony.  [05/23/1610]

May, 1610 -  The Powhatans having lifted the siege of Jamestown for springtime planting, George Percy sails away to visit captain Davies positioned since last October in Fort Algernon.

He was the first surprised to find alive the 30 men left in garrison for winter. Unlike Jamestown, supplies were not lacking to the point that hogs were even fed with leftover crab.

May 22, 1610 - Admiral George Somers, Captain Christopher Newport and 140 survivors of the Sea Venture, arrive at Jamestown aboard two makeshift boats, the Patience and the Deliverance. Their journey will have lasted ten months after a storm diverted them to the Bermuda shore. Among the newcomers are Sir Thomas Gates, Ralph Hamor and John Rolfe.

They found, upon their arrival, the colony in full distress and literally decimated by starvation after a particularly harsh winter. Over the 490 settlers recorded in autumn, 1609, it had no more than about 60 survivors gathered around President George Percy who had showed, in these circumstances, a regrettable lack of experience.

May 23, 1610 - Thomas West, Baron De La Warr is appointed President of the Jamestown colony council. [06/08/1610]

May 24, 1610 - Sir Thomas Gates, appointed by Thomas West, Lieutenant Governor of the colony, institutes the " Laws Divine, Moral and Martial " which will remain in force until 1619. He is also commissioned by the Virginia Company of London to go in search of the possible survivors of the Roanoke colony.

Thomas Gates had taken a part in the settlement on Roanoke Island in 1587 and ensured the rescue of the first journey's survivors. The mystery of the Lost Colony had occupied the minds for many years and reports of individual travelers or Natives of the area helped to maintain the idea that some survived and enjoyed a tribe's hospitality. More or less reliable stories alluded in particular to the possibility that they lived under the protection of a mysterious Gepanocon, an enemy of the Powhatans. [06/07/1610]

June 7, 1610 - Thomas Gates decides to abandon Jamestown, admitting this colonization as a failure. Powhatan's strategy has just served its purpose.

The results were actually disastrous. The colony was decaying while all livestock had been stolen by Indians. After burying more than 500 of theirs, they were only few settlers who wished to stay in Virginia. They convinced Gates to lead them to Newfoundland where England held fishing rights.

Sir Thomas Gates (d.1622)
Lieutenant-general of Virginia and governor of the Jamestown colony in 1610 and 1611, and from 1614 till 1616.
Gates arrived at Jamestown when the colony was starved.
He had been one of Sir Francis Drake’s lieutenants, taking part in the rescue of the first Roanoke colony founded by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585. He had been knighted in 1596 for services alongside the 2nd Earl of Essex in the 1st victorious Cadiz Expedition.
After being commissioned by the Virginia Company of London, he set sail in 1609 to Jamestown aboard the Sea Venture, the flagship commanded by Captain Christopher Newport, leading an 8 vessel-fleet loaded with supplies for the settlers in trouble. The expedition was dispersed in a storm and the Admiral of Virginia, Sir George Somers preferred to beach the Sea Venture on rocks to prevent her sinking.

The 150 survivors spent then nine months in Bermuda, the time to build two other boats using remains of the Sea Venture and cedar wood locally plentiful. Two groups formed due to frequent disputes between Sir George Somers and Thomas Gates, the latter having gradually gained the upper hand on the first one. As an officer, Gates knew that the rightful authority returned to him once ashore but Somers thought instead to remain in power as long as the passengers had not reached Jamestown. The survivors set  sail to Virginia onboard two new vessels named the Deliverance and the Patience, leaving three men in Bermuda in order to claim ownership of this territory to the English Crown. The Charter of the Virginia Company included accordingly Bermuda from 1612. By leaving the islands, Sir Thomas Gates made set up a cross bearing the following inscription:

Building the Patience and  the Deliverance 
"In Memory of our deliverance both from the Storme and the Great leake wee have erected this cross to the honour of God. It is the Spoyle of an English Shippe of 300 tonnes called SEA VENTURE bound with seven others (from which the storme divided us) to Virginia or NOVA BRITANIA in America. In it were two Knights, Sir Thomas Gates, Knight Governor of the English Forces and Colonie there: and Sir George Somers, Knight Admiral of the Seas. Her Captain was Christopher Newport. Passengers and mariners she had beside (which all come to safety) one hundred and fiftie. Wee were forced to runne her ashore(by reason of her leake) under a point that bore South East from the Northerne Point of the Island which wee discovered first on the eighth and twentieth of July 1609."

When they landed in Jamestown, the survivors were amazed to find the village in such a state of agony. Living conditions had become so precarious that it was decided to abandon the site and repatriate the survivors to England. The timely arrival of Lord De La Warr and 150 new planters would however allow to give the colony a new reprieve.
June 8, 1610 - Passing off Mulberry Island, hardly 13 miles from Jamestown, the return fleet headed by Sir Thomas Gates meets the Blessing of Plymouth and the Hercules of Rye, two ships being part of Lord De La Warr's fleet.

June 10, 1610 - Lord De La Warr, the new governor appointed by the Virginia Company orders the settlers to return to Jamestown. He arrives aboard the De La Warr with supplies and 150 new planters.

He had received instructions from the Virginia Company of London to capture Indian children and to lash out at the Iniocassockes, cultural leaders of the nearby Powhatan tribe. Lord De La Warr had somehow mission to declare war to Powhatan. It was about a radical change in strategy. The investors considered that negotiations with the Indians brought no tangible results and that it was time to impose a true colonial rule, even using violence. As veteran of the campaigns against the Irish, Lord De La Warr had used methods which had proved to be effective. He was ready to implement them again against Indians by plundering villages, burning houses, destroying crops and stealing provisions. Appointed a governor for life and Captain General of Virginia, he had chartered for that purpose three ships, recruited and equipped his crew at his own expenses.
He had as such decided to bring with him Frenchmen to grow vines and Swiss to find mining.

Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr
Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (Wherwell Abbey (Hamps.) 1577 - 1618)
He gave his name to the Bay, the Indian tribe and the state subsequently called "Delaware".
He was the son of Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr from Wherwell Abbey, Hampshire and Anne, the daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey. After studies in Oxford, West served under Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and was involved in the failed uprising of the latter against Queen Elizabeth. He was however acquitted in 1601 and succeeded next year his father as Baron De La Warr. He became then a member of the Queen's Privy Council.
He headed a party of 150 men who landed in Jamestown on June 10, 1610, when the first settlers got ready to give up the place to return to England.
After delegated his powers to deputy Sir Samuel Argall (c. 1580-c. 1626), Lord De La Warr went back to England and published in 1611 a book entitled The Relation of the Right Honourable the Lord De-La-Warre, of the Colonie, Planted in Virginia. He remained however titular governor and received from the settlers such a chorus of complaints against the tyrannical government of Argall that he had to return in 1618 to Virginia in order to investigate.
He died on the way and was thought for a long time to have been buried on the Azores. Recent research has found that his body was transported to Jamestown for burial.

June 10, 1610 - The first Dutch settlers land on the island of Manahattan. They attempt to introduce fur trade with the local Indian tribes.

The trip achieved by Henry Hudson the previous year had revealed the interest that could represent fur trade and more particularly beavers pelts, much valued in Europe.
It is reported that, left from Monnikendam, captain Symen Lambertsz Mau sank with his boat into the Mauritius River (Hudson River).

June 10, 1610 - Just landed in Jamestown, Lord De La Warr hears a sermon by Reverend Richard Buck.

Recruited by the Virginia Company, Rev. Richard Buck had traveled with his wife and his children aboard the Sea Venture after being appointed minister of Jamestown to replace chaplain Robert Hunt died in 1608.
Arrived at Jamestown a few days earlier, Buck had already been able to bring long-awaited comfort to the starving and often discouraged colonists.

June 19, 1610 – Facing food shortage that suffer most settlers, Lord De La Warr orders Admiral George Somers and Samuel Argall to get supplies in Bermuda.

Argall was surprised by a storm right out of Chesapeake Bay and his pinnace, the Patience, was driven northward up to a Bay to which he gave the name of Delaware in honor of Thomas West. He sailed then along the coast up to Cape Cod where he filled his boat with fish before returning to Virginia early September.

June 22, 1610 - Ralph Hamor is appointed clerk to the Virginia Council by Lord De La Warr.

Ralph Hamor (1580-1626) was with his father, a wealthy merchant-tailor of London, member of the Virginia Company. Left the previous year with the Somers-fleet, he had traveled aboard the Sea Venture shipwrecked on the coast of Bermuda before reaching Jamestown with 140 other castaways barely a month earlier.

July 9, 1610 - Lord De La Warr sends Thomas Gates at the head of a retaliative raid against the Kecoughtans, accused to have murdered Humphrey Blunt 3 days earlier. He attracts them outside the village involving a player of tambourine before getting them slaughtered. The survivors take refuge at Powhatan.

The Kecoughtans suffered Powhatan's rule since the death of their chief in 1597. Powhatan had conceded their territory to his son Pochins after making kill their leaders and most of their people. The survivors had been first dispersed in other tribes before being allowed to occupy the lands of the Piankitanks expelled in 1608 by Powhatan for disloyalty.
The Kecoughtans had generally been friendly to the settlers until summer, 1609, when governor John Smith commisssionned captain John Martin to take over an uninhabited island belonging to the Nansemonds near the James River mouth. 17 of his men had rebelled and left to find refuge at Kecoughtan to get some corn but they had been all killed by the Indians. Martin had then no other choice but to return to Jamestown.
When Thomas Gates attacked Kecoughtan, the village had about 150 inhabitants led by Pochins and his 30 warriors.

July 9, 1610 - The settlers found Kecoughtan Parish at the southern tip of the peninsula, not far from Point Comfort.
Unlike the rest of Virginia mostly covered with forests, this land, consisted of meadows, was conducive to crops and the Kecoughtans were regarded as the best farmers in the area, able to supply  most other tribes with maize. Upon their arrival in 1607, the settlers had been attracted to this place but it seemed to them too open and difficult to defend against Indian attacks. Traumatized by what they had suffered in Jamestown, farming the rich soils of Kecoughtan was essential not to rely any more on the goodwill of the Natives. Nearby Fort Algernon was that comforting.

Summer, 1610 - Lord De La Warr makes build two new forts in place of Fort Algernon and Old Point Comfort at the mouth of the James River. He names them Fort Charles and Fort Henry. He also organizes the reconstruction of Jamestown and restores order in the colony.

July 15, 1610 - Lord De La Warr sends an ultimatum to Powhatan threatening to declare war if he continues to refuse the presence of the settlers.

To show his determination, Lord De La Warr made cut the hand of a Paspahegh and sent it to Powhatan.

August 9, 1610 - Chief Powhatan failing to reply to Lord De La Warr's ultimatum, this one decides to send George Percy and 70 men to attack the nearby Paspahegh capital. They kill more than 70 Indians, capture one of the wives of weroance Wowinchopunk with her children, burn houses and raze cornfields. On the way back, they throw the children overboard. The queen is stabbed upon her arrival in Jamestown.

By fawning to Lord De La Warr, George Percy got personally involved in the execution of the children. He told even the pleasure he had taken when he saw their brains bursting under oar strokes.
The Paspahegh never recovered from this attack and preferred to abandon definitively their area.

Early September, 1610 - Samuel Argall and a small group of men go to attack the Warraskoyaks village.
The Indians had all fled shortly before their arrival but the settlers took the opportunity to burn their houses and destroy cornfields.

October 28, 1610 - Lord De La Warr becomes the first Governor of Virginia.

Autumn, 1610 - Thomas Gates leaves for England. They are at that time about 200 settlers in Virginia.

December, 1610 - Samuel Argall is sent to the Patawomecks in search of new supplies for Jamestown.

He went to Passapatanzy, the main town of the tribe where lived their leader Iopassus and managed to buy him corn and furs for winter.

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