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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Adventure on the Chickahominy

By Captain John Smith (1580–1631)

[Born in Lincolnshire, England. Died in London, 1631. A True Relation. 1608.]

OUR president having occasion to chide the smith for his misdemeanor, he not only gave him bad language, but also offered to strike him with some of his tooles; for which rebellious act the smith was by a Jury condemned to be hanged, but being upon the ladder continuing very obstinate, as hoping upon a rescue: when he saw no other way but death with him, he became penitent, and declared a dangerous conspiracy, for which Captaine Kendall as principal was by a Jury condemned and shot to death. This conspiracy appeased, I set forward for the discovery of the River of Checka Hamania….

Forty miles I passed up the river, which for the most part is a quarter of a mile broad, and three fatham and a half deep, exceeding osey, many great low marshes, and many high lands, especially about the midst at a place called Moysonicke, a Peninsule of four miles circuit, betwixt two rivers joined to the main, by a necke of forty or fifty yards, and forty or fifty yards from the high water marke. On both sides in the very neck of the maine, are high hills and dales, yet much inhabited, the Ile declining in a plaine fertile corne field, the lower end a low marsh; more plentie of swannes, cranes, geese, duckes, and mallards, and divers sorts of fowles none would desire: more plaine fertile planted ground, in such great proportions as there I had not seene, of a light blacke sandy mould, the cliffes commonly red, white and yellowe colored sand, and under red and white clay, fish great plenty, and people aboundance, the most of their inhabitants, in view of the neck of Land, where a better seat for a towne cannot be desired. At the end of forty miles this river invironeth many low Ilands, at each high water drowned for a mile, where it uniteth it selfe, at a place called Apokant the highest Towne inhabited. Ten miles higher I discovered with the barge; in the mid way, a great tree hindred my passage which I cut in two: heere the river became narrower, eight, nine, or ten foote at a high water, and six or seven at a lowe: the streame exceeding swift, and the bottom hard channell, the ground most part a low plaine, sandy soyle; this occasioned me to suppose it might issue from some lake or some broad ford, for it could not be far to the head, but rather then I would endanger the barge, yet to have beene able to resolve this doubt, and to discharge the imputation of malicious tungs, that halfe suspected I durst not for so long delaying, some of the company as desirous as my self, we resolved to hier a Canow, and returne with the barge to Apocant, there to leave the barge secure, and put our selves uppon the adventure: the country only a vast and wilde wildernes, and but only that Towne. Within three or foure mile we hired a Canow, and two Indians to row us the next day a fowling: having made such provision for the barge as was needfull, I left her there to ride, with expresse charge not any to go ashore til my returne. Though some wise men may condemn this too bould attempt of too much indiscretion, yet if they well consider the friendship of the Indians, in conducting me, the desolatenes of the country, the probabilitie of some lacke, and the malicious judges of my actions at home, as also to have some matters of worth to incourage our adventurers in England, might well have caused any honest minde to have done the like, as wel for his own discharge as for the publike good. Having two Indians for my guide and two of our own company, I set forward, leaving seven in the barge; having discovered twenty miles further in this desart, the river stil kept his depth and bredth, but much more combred with trees: here we went ashore (being some twelve miles higher then the barge had bene) to refresh our selves, during the boyling of our vituals. One of the Indians I tooke with me, to see the nature of the soile, and to crosse the boughts of the river, the other Indian I left with M. Robbinson and Thomas Emry, with their matches light and order to discharge a peece, for my retreat at the first sight of any Indian, but within a quarter of an houre I heard a loud cry, and a hollowing of Indians, but no warning peece. Supposing them surprised, and that the Indians had betraid us, presently I seazed him and bound his arme fast to my hand in a garter, with my pistoll ready bent to be revenged on him: he advised me to fly, and seemed ignorant of what was done, but as we went discoursing, I was struck with an arrow on the right thigh, but without harme. Upon this occasion I espied two Indians drawing their bowes, which I prevented in discharging a French pistoll: by that I had charged againe three or four more did the like, for the first fell downe and fled: at my discharge they did the like, my hinde I made my barricado who offered not to strive. Twenty or thirty arrowes were shot at me but short, three or four times I had discharged my pistoll ere the king of Pamaunck called Opeckankenough with two hundred men, invironed me, eache drawing their bowe, which done they laid them upon the ground, yet without shot, my hinde treated betwixt them and me of conditions of peace, he discovered me to be the Captaine, my request was to retire to the boate, they demaunded my armes, the rest they saide were slaine, only me they would reserve: the Indian importuned me not to shoot. In retiring being in the midst of a low quagmire, and minding them more then my steps, I stept fast into the quagmire, and also the Indian in drawing me forth: thus surprised, I resolved to trie their mercies, my armes I caste from me, till which none durst approch me.

Being ceazed on me, they drew me out and led me to the King; I presented him with a compasse diall, describing by my best meanes the use therof, whereat he so amazedly admired, as he suffered me to proceed in a discourse of the roundnes of the earth, the course of the sunne, moone, starres and plannets. With kinde speeches and bread he requited me, conducting me where the Canow lay and John Robbinson slaine, with twenty or thirty arrowes in him. Emry I saw not, I perceived by the aboundance of fires all over the woods, at each place I expected when they would execute me, yet they used me with what kindnes they could: approaching their Towne, which was within six miles where I was taken, only made as arbors and covered with mats, which they remove as occasion requires: all the women and children, being advertised of this accident, came foorth to meet them, the King well guarded with twenty bowmen five flanck and rear, and each flanck before him a sword and a peece, and after him the like, then a bowman, then I, on each hand a boweman, the rest in file in the reare, which reare led foorth amongst the trees in a bishion, eache his bowe and a handfull of rrowes, a quiver at his back grimly painted: on eache flanck a sargeant, the one running alwaiss towards the front the other towards the reare, each a true pace and in exceeding good order. This being a good time continued, they caste themselves in a ring with a daunce, and so eache man departed to his lodging, the Captain conducting me to his lodging. A quarter of Venison and some ten pound of bread I had for supper; what I left was reserved for me, and sent with me to my lodging: each morning three women presented me three great platters of fine bread, more venison then ten men could devour I had; my gowne, points and garters, my compas and a tablet they gave me again. Though eight ordinarily guarded me, I wanted not what they could devise to content me: and still our longer acquaintance increased our better affection. Much they threatened to assault our forte, as they were solicited by the King of Paspahegh, who shewed at our fort great signes of sorrow for this mischance.

The King tooke great delight in understanding the manner of our ships, and sayling the seas, the earth and skies and of our God: what he knew of the dominions he spared not to acquaint me with, as of certaine men cloathed at a place called Ocanahonan, cloathed like me, the course of our river, and that within four or five daies journey of the falles, was a great turning of salt water. I desired he would send a messenger to Paspahegh, with a letter I would write, by which they shold understand, how kindly they used me, and that I was well, least they should revenge my death; this he granted and sent three men, in such weather, as in reason were unpossible, by any naked to be indured. Their cruell mindes towards the fort I had deverted, in describing the ordinance and the mines in the fields, as also the revenge Captain Newport would take of them at his returne, their intent, I incerted the fort, the people of Ocanahonum and the back sea; this report they after found divers Indians that confirmed. The next day after my letter, came a salvage to my lodging, with his sword to have slaine me, but being by my guard intercepted, with a bowe and arrow he offred to have effected his purpose: the cause I knew not, till the King understanding thereof came and told me of a man a dying, wounded with my pistoll: he tould me also of another I had slayne, yet the most concealed they had any hurte: this was the father of him I had slayne, whose fury to prevent, the King presently conducted me to another Kingdome, upon the top of the next northerly river, called Youghanan.