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The Story of Jamestown (continued)

THE SECOND COMPANY CHARTER AND THE THIRD SUPPLY. The company had received a new charter in May 1609 which corrected some of the defects of the old and made provision for a strong governor to rule in the Colony. Despite discouraging news from Virginia, the supporters of the enterprise did not abandon their plans to maintain the colony. The second charter, as this was called, was subscribed and incorporated by 56 companies of London and 659 persons, of whom 21 were peers, 96 knights, 11 doctors, ministers, etc., 53 captains, 28 esquires, 58 gentlemen, 110 merchants, 282 citizens, and others not classified. Altogether they represented a cross section of English life in that period.

It was resolved to send a much larger expedition to Virginia than the three sent prior to this date. It went out in June under Sir Thomas Gates and with him were Sir George Somers and Captain Newport. There were 9 ships and about 500 settlers. The voyage was uneventful until they ran into a stiff hurricane that broke up the fleet and cast ashore in the Bermuda Islands the flagship with its three commanders. The rest of the fleet, except one small ship lost at sea, limped into the James and went on to Jamestown.

Returning to Virginia in the third supply were several men who had been earlier leaders in the colony and who were now all hostile to Smith—Archer, Ratcliffe, and Martin. A confusing scene developed over command. The old leaders, particularly Smith, refused to give way to the new in the absence of Gates, the appointed governor, and his instructions. There was considerable bickering which led to an uneasy settlement, leaving Smith in charge for the duration of his yearly term, now almost expired.

It was obvious to everyone that there were too many men for all to remain at Jamestown. John Martin was sent to attempt a settlement at Nansemond, on the south side of the James below Jamestown, while Capt. Francis West, brother of Lord Delaware, was sent to settle at the falls of the James. Returning to Jamestown after an inspection tour at the falls, Captain Smith was injured by burning gunpowder and incapacitated. The implication in the documents of the period is that Ratcliffe, Archer, and Martin used this opportunity to depose him and to compel him to return to England to face their charges against him. These three men, failing to agree on a replacement from their own number, persuaded George Percy to accept the position of president. Percy was in command during the terrible winter that followed.

THE "STARVING TIME." The winter of 1609—10 has been described through the years as the "starving time"—seemingly, an accurate description. It saw the population shrink from 500 to about 60 as a result of disease, sickness, Indian arrows, and malnutrition. It destroyed morale and reduced the men to scavengers stalking the fort, fields, and woods for anything that might be used as food. When spring came there was little spirit left in the settlement. It would seem unjust to attribute the disaster to Percy, who did what he could to ameliorate conditions by attempting trade and keeping the men busy. The "starving time" appears to have been caused by an accumulation of circumstances.

There was the matter of the third supply which arrived in such poor condition very late in the season. Bickering prevented measures that could have been taken to prepare for the winter. Dissension continued even after Smith's departure. Then, too, the Indians knew of conditions at Jamestown, for they actually kept scouts in the fort much of the time. They were learning the ways of the white man and had come to see that he was most vulnerable in the winter season. Heretofore they had supplied him corn—by gift, by trade, or unwillingly through seizure. In the winter of 1609—10, they had a good opportunity to make him suffer, and throughout this period the Indians were openly hostile. Perhaps the increasingly heavy use of force and armed persuasion in dealing with them had resulted in this attitude which, from their point of view, proved highly effective. In the fall of 1608, they had forced the settlers in from Nansemond and the falls. Then, in the winter of 1609—10, Powhatan captured and killed Ratcliffe who had gone to trade with him. All through that winter it was dangerous to be alone far from the fort.

Not having sufficient stores set aside, not able to deal with the natives, and without the use of the resources of the countryside, there is small wonder that conditions became serious, even desperate, for the settlers. Those few men fortified on Hampton Roads under Capt. James Davis (after Captain West, perhaps under threat from the crew, left Virginia for England in the colony's best ship) fared far better than did those at Jamestown. Even the coming of spring failed to restore full hope and vitality to the survivors, yet certainly it must have been good to know that winter was over.

VIRGINIA ALMOST ABANDONED. In May 1610, the hearts of the weary settlers were gladdened when Sir Thomas Gates, their new governor, sailed into the James. For about a year he and the survivors of the wreck of the Sea Venture had labored in Bermuda to make possible the continuation of their voyage to Virginia. The last part of the journey was made in two boats built by them in Bermuda—the Patience and the Deliverance, names suggestive of their thankfulness for survival. It was not a pleasant sight that greeted them at Jamestown. Ruin and desolation were everywhere. Gates, with his Council, on July 7, 1610, wrote that Jamestown seemed

raither as the ruins of some auntient [for]tification, then that any people living might now inhabit it: the pallisadoes he found tourne downe, the portes open, the gates from the hinges, the church ruined and unfrequented, empty howses (whose owners untimely death had taken newly from them) rent up and burnt, the living not hable, as they pretended, to step into the woodes to gather other fire-wood; and, it is true, the Indian as fast killing without as the famine and pestilence within.

Gates promptly distributed provisions, such as he had, and introduced a code of martial law, the code that was strengthened later by Delaware and made famous by its strict enforcement under the governorship of Sir Thomas Dale. After surveying the condition of the settlement and realizing that the supplies he had brought would not last 3 weeks, Gates took council with the leaders. They decided to abandon the settlement. On June 7, 1610, the settlers, except some of the Poles and Dutchmen who were with Powhatan, boarded the ship, left Jamestown, and started down the James.

The next morning, while still in the river, advance word reached Gates that Lord Delaware had arrived at Point Comfort on the way to Jamestown and was bringing 150 settlers and a generous supply. The bad news carried to England by the returning ships of the third supply, late in 1609, had caused considerable stir in Virginia Company circles and had resulted in Delaware's decision to go to Virginia. Learning of the new supply, Gates hastened back to Jamestown. The new settlement had been saved in a manner that was recognized at that time as an act of "Providence."

LORD DELAWARE REACHES JAMESTOWN. On June 10, Delaware reached "James Citty" and made his landing. He entered the fort through the south gate, and, with his colors flying, went on to the church where Rev. Richard Buck delivered an impressive sermon. Then his ensign, Anthony Scott, read his commission, and Gates formally delivered to him his own authority as governor. Delaware's speech to the assembled colonists cheered them, advised them, warned them, and reproached them. Thanks to the pen of William Strachey, we have a good account of these events, including the best description of the fort, church, and cabins that is now known to have been preserved. With the arrival of Delaware, the settlement was given new life and new hope. Lean times lay ahead, yet the most difficult years lay behind. Virginia now had a government that made for stability under the governor, and the old settlers, who, a little later, came to be called "Ancient Planters," had learned well by experience.

Gates, after dealing with the Indians, left for England. Delaware, who continued to live aboard ship for a time, called a Council, reorganized the colonists, and directed operations to promote the welfare of the colony, including the construction of two forts near Point Comfort. He fell sick, however, and, after a long illness, was forced to leave Jamestown and Virginia in March 1611, leaving the now veteran administrator, George Percy, as governor in charge. With Delaware went Dr. Lawrence Bohun, who had experimented extensively with the curative powers of plants and herbs at Jamestown.

SIR THOMAS DALE AND MILITARY LAW. In May, Sir Thomas Dale, on military leave from his post in the Low Countries, arrived as deputy governor of Virginia. He proceeded to give form and substance to the martial law which had been evoked by his predecessors. It led to rather complete regimentation, and he was severely criticized for it later, particularly by those hostile to his administration. He began by posting proclamations "for the publique view" at Jamestown. Later, he thoroughly inspected suitable settlement sites and surveyed conditions generally. He wrote, on May 25, 1611, that on arrival at Jamestown he found ". . . no corn sett, some few seeds put into a private garden or Two; but the cattle, cows, goats, swine, Poultry &c to be well and carefully on all hands preserved and all in good plight and likeing." To get things in order at the seat of government, one party was designated to repair the church another to work on the stable, another to build a wharf. When things were reasonably well in hand at Jamestown, he made plans to push the decision to open a new settlement above Jamestown which would be come the real center of the colony. The reasons for such a removal of the seat of government are well known—not sufficient high land, poor drinking water, too much marsh, and a location not far enough upstream to be out of reach of the Spanish.


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