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Week Two: Exploration and the Colonies

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Part Introduction Exploration and the Colonies

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

Exploration and the Colonies

European cultural exchange with North America stretched back to Leif Ericsson’s arrival at Newfoundland around the year 1000, but European settlement began to spread rapidly only after the first voyage of Columbus in 1492. For Europe in the sixteenth century, America became a golden western arena of Renaissance ener- gies that lured adventurers with shining opportunities for pelts and pelf and in- vited the colonial ambitions of rival empires. Soon Spaniards rimmed the Gulf of Mexico and pushed westward to the Pacific: Ponce de León explored the coast of Florida, Cabeza de Vaca and three companions lived eight years with tribes of the Southwest, Coronado reached the Grand Canyon, and de Soto ranged from Florida as far north as Tennessee—all by 1542. Meanwhile, Verrazzano, an Italian sailing under a French flag, explored the eastern coast from North Carolina to Maine, meeting and trading with the natives. This group constituted the first wave. After it, explorations came thick and fast for another half century. By the time the first settlers arrived at Jamestown, Plymouth, and Massachusetts Bay, the Native Americans of the Atlantic coast had experienced nearly a century of both friendly and adversarial contact with light-skinned strangers from beyond the seas.

The seventeenth-century settlers of the future United States arrived in a world that was wholly new to them. Their experiences and cultural heritage lay far be- hind them, on the other side of the wide and dangerous North Atlantic Ocean. The climate, geography, native people, and culture they found on the wooded shores of Virginia and Massachusetts bore little resemblance to conditions in the tropical Spanish territories of the West Indies and Mexico. By the time these set- tlers arrived, the earliest depredations of disease and colonial cruelty in the south- ern lands were a century in the past. Although Spaniards had destroyed the Aztec empire and taken control of Mexico by 1521, Jamestown was not settled until 1607, Plymouth until 1620. The men and women of Virginia and Massachusetts bore with them from their homes in England and the Netherlands no burden of Old World guilt for those early atrocities. Equally important to American history and literature, the Native Americans who met them possessed no tragic history of strangers from abroad imposing massive subjugation and bloodshed upon them. North American seaboard Indians did not know, much less feel aggrieved by, the circumstances of confrontation, conquest, and acculturation in the West Indies and Mexico. From Virginia to Massachusetts, for Powhatan and Pocahontas as well as for John Smith and John Rolfe, for Squanto and Massasoit as well as for William Bradford and Anne Bradstreet, the spheres of their separate existence were forever transformed in the time of their meeting and not before. The men and women who would inhabit this New World together had much to learn about

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Part Introduction Exploration and the Colonies

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themselves, about each other, and about the structures of their mutual lives. From small coastal footholds, the land stretched before the newcomers in majesty and mystery, while the inhabitants they met told of wonders yet unseen—of towering peaks and mighty rivers, of shifting sands and ancient cities, in a continent of unimaginable size, more than half of it covered by forests of fabulous density. No wonder the American imagination vibrates to this day with indelible visions of this vast richness and of the people who inhabited these forests, plains, and cities, who coursed these rivers and traversed these deserts and mountains for twenty thousand years before the coming of the Europeans.

A century and a half after the first settlements in Virginia and Massachusetts, the people who declared their independence from Great Britain and established the United States of America were predominantly English in their language and political institutions, but they were deeply indebted both to the Indians and to the people from other European nations who quickly followed them to Atlantic shore colonies. By the time of the American Revolution, the population was numerous and diverse. Virginia began with Anglican settlers who within a dozen years ac- quired their first African slaves from Dutch traders. The Plymouth Pilgrims were Separatists from the Church of England, but the Massachusetts Bay Puritans who arrived ten years later wanted only to purify the English church, not separate themselves from it. In Maryland, Catholics mingled with Protestants. New York was first settled by the Dutch, Florida by the Spanish, Canada by the French. Rhode Island built on the religious freedom proclaimed by Roger Williams. Penn- sylvania was established by William Penn as a haven of Quaker tolerance. The Carolinas were settled by the English, Scots, French Huguenots, and Barbadians— the latter, English colonists who had established a thriving black slave economy on the uninhabited island of Barbados after 1627 and gave impetus to a similar economy in the Carolinas from the 1770s on. Georgia, especially, is often remem- bered as a primary destination of English convicts, until the American Revolution forced the British to shift much of their penal transportation to Australia, but the English also sent felons and debtors from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to all the other colonies, beginning with Virginia in 1618. In the sixty years imme- diately before the Revolution, some four thousand men and women of this kind arrived to work out their seven to fourteen years of servitude. By the eighteenth century, the Middle Colonies, especially, had become home to Jews from Germany and Portugal, and by 1776 a number of Italian and Swiss colonists could also call themselves Americans.

Reasons for coming were as diverse as the people. Important early settlements on America’s East Coast derived from motives far different from those that drove the financial engines of European colonialism. While the great tide of Renaissance exploration and conquest was still at flood, the Protestant Reformation was preparing another restless host, for whom America became the Promised Land of the human spirit, offering to people of sober purpose and lofty ideals a vision of expanded freedoms and new hopes denied them in the Old World. The majority of these settled in New England and the Middle Colonies, establishing there a Protestant presence of overwhelming importance to American history and tradi- tions, a fact that continues to influence the life and thought of the United States.

Exploration and the Colonies 3

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Part Introduction Exploration and the Colonies

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

An enormous amount was written about America during the early periods of exploration and settlement. Europeans wrote descriptions of the country, its flora and fauna, its native inhabitants, its offshore fisheries. They wrote of trading with the Indians and of treaties, wars, and captivities; they created instruments of gov- ernment and law; they kept personal journals; they recorded the history of their colonies, often for political or economic purposes but also, in New England espe- cially, to “justify the ways of God to man” in the New Jerusalem. A large number of these works were printed in England or on the Continent. Most were bound to the particulars of their time and place and not very readable to later generations, although often immensely useful to historians. Still, with an amazing frequency, in view of the physical conditions of their lives, writers appeared who communicated a richness of spirit or character that time has not tarnished. Our early literature became an abundant reservoir of material and inspiration for the great burst of energy in American literature of the nineteenth century. For readers today it still provides an understanding of those bedrock American experiences that developed our national character and peculiarly American institutions.

VIRGINIA AND THE SOUTH The first permanent English settlement resulted from mercantile rather than reli- gious motives. In promoting the settlement of Jamestown (1607), the Virginia Company expected to provide goods for British trade and to attract English set- tlers in need of homes and land. The company’s conception of the New World was so unrealistic that it sent to Virginia a perfumer and several tailors. Epidemic fevers and Indian raids during the first few years reduced the colony as fast as new re- cruits could be brought in on the infrequent supply ships. The Indians, whom the company had counted on for cheap labor, refused both enslavement and incen- tives to work as free men and women. Innocent of the European concept of prop- erty, they resented the settlers who fenced and cultivated their hunting grounds, and they retaliated with blood and fire. Still, somehow the Virginia colony in- creased, first at Jamestown, and then at Williamsburg, the handsome colonial cap- ital where the second college in North America, William and Mary, was founded in 1693. Other southern colonies were established in Maryland in 1634 and in the Carolinas and Georgia in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

NEW ENGLAND In the New England colonies, the situation was different. At Plymouth (1620) and Massachusetts Bay (1630), more than twenty thousand English men and women soon found new homes. A considerable number were learned, especially the Puri- tan clergymen and governors, and some of them embodied greatness of spirit and creativity. Even in the seventeenth century they produced a considerable body of writing. Yet they were not professional literary people; they were mainly intent upon subduing a wilderness, making homes, and building a new civil society, on which they had staked their lives and fortunes. In Plymouth, which lay outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, the Pilgrims fostered a stern independence by their insistence on separation from the Church of England and by the prece- dent for American self-governance set in the Mayflower Compact. The political isolation of the Plymouth Colony proved short-lived, however, as Massachusetts

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Bay quickly assumed the natural hegemony of New England. It had the physical situation—a harbor and rivers—for expansion into a cluster of small towns in close association with each other. When the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, John Winthrop, a strong Puritan, brought the charter of his company from England to Boston, he transformed a British company directly under the con- trol of the king into an overseas colony with limited but unprecedented powers of self-government. The Puritans who followed Winthrop were thrifty, and they thrived. They initiated a town-meeting government, popular elections, a bicameral council, and other novelties that soon evolved into major parts of the machinery of democracy. Theirs was in some ways an intolerant society, for their consensus on matters of dogma left them few substantial challenges of the kind that made toleration inevitable in the Middle Colonies. Even in Massachusetts Bay, however, diversity of opinion was never stilled, and such outcasts as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson soon founded colonies of their own, accelerating the outward flow of forces of self-realization from Boston into New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In 1643, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Con- necticut, and New Haven founded the New England Federation, adopting a con- stitution for “The United Colonies of New England”—a union with limited powers that left each colony free to solve its own internal problems and provided another New World model of independent self-regulation.

History Literature

Leif Ericsson establishes first A.D. 1001 European settlement in North America

Pueblo at Mesa Verde, Colorado c. 1073

Rise of the Aztec empire c. 1300

Mound Builders in Mississippi and Ohio River valleys c. 1400

Columbus arrives in the Bahamas 1492

Tenochtitlán surrenders to Cortés 1521

Verrazzano explores the eastern 1524 Giovanni Da Verrazzano coast of the present-day United Verrazzano’s Voyage States

Cabeza de Vaca’s travels from 1528– Florida to Mexico 1536

1542 Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca

Spanish settlement at St. Augustine 1565

Sir Francis Drake claims central 1579 California coast for Elizabeth I

Champlain explores the New 1604– England coast 1607

The English settle Jamestown, the 1607 first permanent English settlement in the New World

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Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Part Introduction Exploration and the Colonies

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

History Literature Henry Hudson discovers the 1609– Hudson River and Hudson Bay 1610

1613 Samuel de Champlain The Voyages of 1604–1607

The first step toward slavery in the 1619 future United States occurs when twenty Africans arrive in Jamestown

The Pilgrims (Puritan Separatists) 1620 establish a settlement in Plymouth on the coast of present-day southeastern Massachusetts

Dutch settle Manhattan 1624 John Smith The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles

Massachusetts Bay Colony founded 1630 William Bradford by non-Separatist Puritans Of Plymouth Plantation, Book I

John Winthrop A Model of Christian Charity

Harvard College founded 1636

1637 Thomas Morton New English Canaan

First printing press established at 1638 Massachusetts Bay

Sugar boom in Caribbean leads to 1640s increased importation of slaves

1640 The Bay Psalm Book

The English Civil War begins 1642

1644 Roger Williams The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience

1650 Anne Bradstreet The Tenth Muse

First Quakers arrive in Massachusetts 1656

1662 Michael Wigglesworth The Day of Doom

1673 Samuel Sewall The Diary of Samuel Sewall [Cus- toms, Courts, and Courtships]

King Philip’s War erupts between 1675 New Englanders and an alliance of Indian tribes led by Metacomet

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Part Introduction Exploration and the Colonies

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History Literature 1682 Mary Rowlandson

Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Edward Taylor “The Preface”; “Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children”

French Calvinists or Huguenots 1685 escape persecution in France and settle in the English colonies in America

Salem witch trials begin 1692

1693 Cotton Mather The Wonders of the Invisible World

1704– Sarah Kemble Knight 1705 The Journal of Madam Knight

England, Ireland, Scotland, 1707 and Wales unite as Great Britain

1708 Ebenezer Cook The Sot-weed Factor

George I assumes the throne 1714 of England after the death of Queen Anne

Cotton Mather starts smallpox 1720 inoculations

George II begins his reign, which 1727 extends until 1760

1728 William Byrd The History of the Dividing Line

The Great Awakening seizes 1730s– America 1740s

1741 Jonathan Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

The French and Indian War 1754 – 1763

1756– John Woolman 1772 The Journal of John Woolman

King George III ascends 1760 to the throne of England

Mason-Dixon line surveyed 1763– 1767

The Stamp Act and Quartering 1765 Act further antagonize colonists; the Sons of Liberty, a resistance group, is formed

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Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Part Introduction Exploration and the Colonies

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

History Literature British troops arrive in Boston 1768

Boston Massacre 1770 Founding of the first mission in

California by Friar Junipero Serra

1770– St. Jean de Crèvecœur 1775 Letters from an American Farmer

1771 Benjamin Franklin begins The Autobiography

The Boston Tea Party 1773

1773– Phillis Wheatley 1776 Poems on Various Subjects

John Adams and Abigail Adams Letters [Selections]

Meeting of the First Continental 1774 Logan Congress Speech

War for American Independence 1775– Battles of Lexington, Concord, 1781

and Bunker Hill fought

1776 Thomas Paine Common Sense

Thomas Jefferson The Declaration of Independence

French increase assistance 1778 and recognize America as a sovereign nation

The British seize Charleston 1780

General Charles Cornwallis 1781 Philip Freneau surrenders at Yorktown and “To the Memory of the Brave the war ends Americans”

The Treaty of Paris formally ends 1783 the American Revolution

Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts 1786– 1787

The Constitutional Convention 1787 Royall Tyler meets in Philadelphia and in May The Contrast passes the Constitution The Federalist

The Federalist No. 1 Ben Franklin

Speech in the Convention

George Washington elected 1789 Olaudah Equiano first president The Interesting Narrative of the

French Revolution begins Life of Olaudah Equiano

1791 William Bartram Travels Through North and South Carolina

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Thematic Section Introduction

Natives and Explorers © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

Natives and Explorers

The first Americans lived in relatively stable relationships with their land and each other for thousands of years. In Mexico and in Central and South America they developed stone cities and written records that describe ways of life far different from those of their northern neighbors. None of the Indians in the lands stretch- ing from Florida to Washington State and from Maine to California possessed more than the rudiments of a written language. What we know of their literature comes from a rich store of oral tradition that for the most part did not begin to find its way into print until the nineteenth century, over three hundred years after the arrival of the first European explorers. In looking for the past within these texts, it is necessary to consider the ways that folklore shifts with time and adapts to new circumstances as well as the ways it might have been altered by its recorders and translators. The selections that follow represent widespread and apparently enduring traditions. They reflect a culture much as it must have existed when it was still innocent of European newcomers.

European explorers sent home detailed reports of the people they found, pro- viding us with robust images of Indian life, but we need to read these accounts with the understanding that they are colored by European perspectives and ambitions toward colonization and trade. Columbus never reached the continental United States, but his comments anticipate the reports of those who did. From the earliest visitors to our shores, we have selected accounts of the East Coast by Verrazzano, the South and Southwest by Cabeza de Vaca, California as reported by Drake and printed by Hakluyt, and New England as seen by Champlain. They provide glimpses into lives that changed greatly after the massive influx of Europeans who dispossessed Indians of land and infected them with European diseases for which their systems had developed no defenses. Dispossession transformed traditional ways. Sickness weakened resistance. Time wrought other changes. Both their own early accounts and the reports of their first visitors remind us that many of these early Native Americans differed in significant ways from the Indians who come most readily to mind today. The Plains Indian culture that plays such a large part in our generalized understanding of American Indians arose only in the eighteenth century, after Indians acquired rifles and horses from Europeans.

Natives and Explorers 9

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

Author Bio © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2000

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1490–c. 1557)

R For eight years, from 1528 to 1536, three Spaniards and a Moroccan slave lived among the Native American tribes of the American Southwest. Part of the time they existed as slaves to the people they called “Indians,” but Cabeza de Vaca also managed for a while a slightly more free life as a trader, and in time they came to be venerated for their healing powers. Theirs is the first record of extended contact between people of the Old World and the New on the soil that later became the United States.

Born in Cádiz, Spain, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was in his late thirties in June 1527 when he left Spain with the ill-fated expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez, bound for Florida. Not quite a year later, in April 1528, when the expedition arrived at Tampa Bay, the original six hundred soldiers and colonists had already lost many of their number to shipwreck, desertion, and disease. With three hundred men, Narváez set out overland; then at Appalachee Bay he decided to try the sea again. Constructing a homemade forge, they melted stirrups and spurs to make nails, killed their horses for food, constructed water bottles of horse skins, and built five boats that carried them along the coast toward Texas. By November 1528 two boats had reached an island off Texas, where they were wrecked. Of the eighty Spaniards who reached the island, fifteen survived the winter. Eventually only four were left: Cabeza de Vaca, Alonzo del Castillo, Andrés Dorantes, and Dorantes’s black slave, Estevan.

For about six years Cabeza de Vaca remained in the same general area of Texas, “alone among the Indians, and naked like them.” Only rarely did he meet the other Spaniards when the tribes came together. When the four finally escaped, they wandered another two years before reaching a Spanish outpost in Mexico in 1536. Although their route remains unclear, it seems likely that they reached western Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They were probably the first non-Indians to see buffalo, and their reports contributed to legends of the Seven Cities of Cíbola that inspired Coronado’s expedition of 1540.

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Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

from The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2000



From The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca


At sunrise the next day,1 the time the Indians appointed, they came according to their promise, and brought us a large quantity of fish with certain roots, some a lit- tle larger than walnuts, others a trifle smaller, the greater part got from under the water and with much labor. In the evening they returned and brought us more fish and roots. They sent their women and children to look at us, who went back rich with the hawk-bells and beads given them, and they came afterwards on other days, returning as before. Finding that we had provision, fish, roots, water, and other things we asked for, we determined to embark again and pursue our course. Having dug out our boat from the sand in which it was buried, it became necessary that we should strip, and go through great exertion to launch her, we being in such a state that things very much lighter sufficed to make us great labor.

Thus embarked, at the distance of two crossbow shots in the sea we shipped a wave that entirely wet us. As we were naked, and the cold was very great, the oars loosened in our hands, and the next blow the sea struck us, capsized the boat. The assessor and two others held fast to her for preservation, but it happened to be far otherwise; the boat carried them over, and they were drowned under her. As the surf near the shore was very high, a single roll of the sea threw the rest into the waves and half drowned upon the shore of the island, without our losing any more than those the boat took down. The survivors escaped naked as they were born, with the loss of all they had; and although the whole was of little value, at that time it was worth much, as we were then in November, the cold was severe, and our bodies were so emaciated the bones might be counted with little difficulty, having become the perfect figures of death. For myself I can say that from the month of May passed, I had eaten no other thing than maize, and sometimes I found myself obliged to eat it unparched; for although the beasts were slaughtered while the boats were build- ing, I could never eat their flesh, and I did not eat fish ten times. I state this to avoid giving excuses, and that every one may judge in what condition we were. Besides all these misfortunes, came a north wind upon us, from which we were nearer to death than life. Thanks be to our Lord that, looking among the brands we had used there, we found sparks from which we made great fires. And thus were we asking mercy of Him and pardon for our transgressions, shedding many tears, and each regretting not his own fate alone, but that of his comrades about him.

Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación was first published in Spain in 1542. The source of the present text is the translation by Thomas Buckingham Smith, The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca, 1851, reprinted by Frederick W. Hodge in Spanish Explorers in the Southern United States, 1528–1543, 1907. Studies include Morris Bishop, The Odyssey of Cabeza de Vaca, 1933; Cleve Hallenbeck, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca: The Journal and Route of the First European to Cross the Continent of North America, 1534–1536, 1940; and Haniel Long, The Marvelous Adventures of Cabeza de Vaca, 1973. 1 November 7, 1528. Cast ashore on an island off the Texas coast (probably Galveston Island) the previous morning, Cabeza de Vaca and his men had asked the Indians for food and water.

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, from The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca 11

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

from The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2000




At sunset, the Indians thinking that we had not gone, came to seek us and bring us food; but when they saw us thus, in a plight so different from what it was before, and so extraordinary, they were alarmed and turned back. I went toward them and called, when they returned much frightened. I gave them to understand by signs that our boat had sunk and three of our number had been drowned. There, before them, they saw two of the departed, and we who remained were near joining them. The Indians, at sight of what had befallen us, and our state of suffering and melancholy destitution, sat down among us, and from the sorrow and pity they felt, they all began to lament so earnestly that they might have been heard at a distance, and continued so doing more than half an hour. It was strange to see these men, wild and untaught, howling like brutes over our misfortunes. It caused in me as in others, an increase of feeling and a livelier sense of our calamity.

The cries having ceased, I talked with the Christians, and said that if it appeared well to them, I would beg these Indians to take us to their houses. Some, who had been in New Spain, replied that we ought not to think of it; for if they should do so, they would sacrifice us to their idols. But seeing no better course, and that any other led to a nearer and more certain death, I disregarded what was said, and besought the Indians to take us to their dwellings. They signified that it would give them delight, and that we should tarry a little, that they might do what we asked. Presently thirty men loaded themselves with wood and started for their houses, which were far off, and we remained with the others until near night, when, hold- ing us up, they carried us with all haste. Because of the extreme coldness of the weather, lest any one should die or fail by the way, they caused four or five very large fires to be placed at intervals, and at each they warmed us; and when they saw that we had regained some heat and strength, they took us to the next so swiftly that they hardly let us touch our feet to the ground. In this manner we went as far as their habitations, where we found that they had made a house for us with many fires in it. An hour after our arrival, they began to dance and hold great rejoicing, which lasted all night, although for us there was no joy, festivity nor sleep, awaiting the hour they should make us victims. In the morning they again gave us fish and roots, showing us such hospitality that we were reassured, and lost somewhat the fear of sacrifice.


The four Christians being gone,2 after a few days such cold and tempestuous weather succeeded that the Indians could not pull up roots, the cane weirs in which they took fish no longer yielded any thing, and the houses being very open, our people began to die. Five Christians, of a mess [quartered] on the coast, came to such extremity that they ate their dead; the body of the last one only was found unconsumed. Their names were Sierra, Diego Lopez, Corral, Palacios and Gonçalo Ruiz. This produced great commotion among the Indians giving rise to so much censure that had they known it in season to have done so, doubtless they would have destroyed any survivor,

2 In Chapter 13, Cabeza de Vaca tells of meeting with Andrés Dorantes, Alonzo del Castillo, and other Spaniards from another boat wrecked nearby. Four of the strongest men, accompanied by an Indian, were sent in search of a Spanish settlement in Mexico, to bring help.

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Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

from The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2000





and we should have found ourselves in the utmost perplexity. Finally, of eighty men who arrived in the two instances, fifteen only remained alive.

After this, the natives were visited by a disease of the bowels, of which half their number died. They conceived that we had destroyed them,3 and believing it firmly, they concerted among themselves to dispatch those of us who survived. When they were about to execute their purpose, an Indian who had charge of me, told them not to believe we were the cause of those deaths, since if we had such power we should also have averted the fatality from so many of our people, whom they had seen die with- out our being able to minister relief, already very few of us remaining, and none doing hurt or wrong, and that it would be better to leave us unharmed. God our Lord willed that the others should heed this opinion and counsel, and be hindered in their design.

To this island we gave the name Malhado.4 The people5 we found there are large and well formed; they have no other arms than bows and arrows, in the use of which they are very dexterous. The men have one of their nipples bored from side to side, and some have both, wearing a cane in each, the length of two palms and a half, and the thickness of two fingers. They have the under lip also bored, and wear in it a piece of cane the breadth of half a finger. Their women are accustomed to great toil. The stay they make on the island is from October to the end of February. Their subsis- tence then is the root I have spoken of, got from under the water in November and December. They have weirs of cane and take fish only in this season; afterwards they live on the roots. At the end of February, they go into other parts to seek food; for then the root is beginning to grow and is not food.

Those people love their offspring the most of any in the world, and treat them with the greatest mildness. When it occurs that a son dies, the parents and kindred weep as does everybody; the wailing continuing for him a whole year. They begin before dawn every day, the parents first and after them the whole town. They do the same at noon and at sunset. After a year of mourning has passed, the rites of the dead are performed; then they wash and purify themselves from the stain of smoke. They lament all the deceased in this manner, except the aged, for whom they show no regret, as they say that their season has passed, they having no enjoyment, and that living they would occupy the earth and take aliment from the young. Their cus- tom is to bury the dead, unless it be those among them who have been physicians. These they burn. While the fire kindles they are all dancing and making high fes- tivity, until the bones become powder. After the lapse of a year the funeral honors are celebrated, every one taking part in them, when that dust is presented in water for the relatives to drink. * * *


* * * I was obliged to remain with the people belonging to the island more than a year, and because of the hard work they put upon me and the harsh treatment, I resolved to flee from them and go to those of Charruco, who inhabit the forests

3 That is, the Indians believed the Christians to be sorcerers [Hodge’s note]. 4 “Misfortune,” “ill-fate” [Hodge’s note]. 5 The Capoques, or Cahoques, and the Hans [Hodge’s note].

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, from The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca 13

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

from The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2000



and country of the main, the life I led being insupportable. Besides much other labor, I had to get out roots from below the water, and from among the cane where they grew in the ground. From this employment I had my fingers so worn that did a straw but touch them they would bleed. Many of the canes are broken, so they often tore my flesh, and I had to go in the midst of them with only the clothing on I have mentioned.

Accordingly, I put myself to contriving how I might get over to the other Indians, among whom matters turned somewhat more favorably for me. I set to trafficking, and strove to make my employment profitable in the ways I could best contrive, and by that means I got food and good treatment. The Indians would beg me to go from one quarter to another for things of which they have need; for in consequence of incessant hostilities, they cannot traverse the country, nor make many exchanges. With my merchandise and trade I went into the interior as far as I pleased, and travelled along the coast forty or fifty leagues. The principal wares were cones and other pieces of sea-snail, conchs used for cutting, and fruit like a bean of the high- est value among them, which they use as a medicine and employ in their dances and festivities. Among other matters were sea-beads. Such were what I carried into the interior; and in barter I got and brought back skins, ochre with which they rub and color the face, hard canes of which to make arrows, sinews, cement and flint for the heads, and tassels of the hair of deer that by dyeing they make red. This occu- pation suited me well; for the travel allowed me liberty to go where I wished, I was not obliged to work, and was not a slave. Wherever I went I received fair treatment, and the Indians gave me to eat out of regard to my commodities. My leading object, while journeying in this business, was to find out the way by which I should go for- ward, and I became well known. The inhabitants were pleased when they saw me, and I had brought them what they wanted; and those who did not know me sought and desired the acquaintance, for my reputation. The hardships that I underwent in this were long to tell, as well of peril and privation as of storms and cold. Oftentimes they overtook me alone and in the wilderness; but I came forth from them all by the great mercy of God our Lord. Because of them I avoided pursuing the business in winter, a season in which the natives themselves retire to their huts and ranches, torpid and incapable of exertion.

I was in this country nearly six years, alone among the Indians, and naked like them. The reason why I remained so long, was that I might take with me the Christian, Lope de Oviedo, from the island; Alaniz, his companion, who had been left with him by Alonzo del Castillo, and by Andrés Dorantes, and the rest, died soon after their departure; and to get the survivor out from there, I went over to the island every year, and entreated him that we should go, in the best way we could contrive, in quest of Christians. He put me off every year, saying in the next coming we would start. At last I got him off, crossing him over the bay, and over four rivers in the coast, as he could not swim. In this way we went on with some Indians, until coming to a bay a league in width, and everywhere deep. From the appearance we supposed it to be that which is called Espiritu Sancto. We met some Indians on the other side of it, com- ing to visit ours, who told us that beyond them were three men like us, and gave their

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names. We asked for the others, and were told that they were all dead of cold and hunger; that the Indians farther on, of whom they were, for their diversion had killed Diego Dorantes, Valdevieso, and Diego de Huelva, because they left one house for another; and that other Indians, their neighbors with whom Captain Dorantes now was, had in consequence of a dream, killed Esquivel and Mendez. We asked how the living were situated, and they answered that they were very ill used, the boys and some of the Indian men being very idle, out of cruelty gave them many kicks, cuffs, and blows with sticks; that such was the life they led.

We desired to be informed of the country ahead, and of the subsistence: they said there was nothing to eat, and that it was thin of people, who suffered of cold, having no skins or other things to cover them. They told us also if we wished to see those three Christians, two days from that time the Indians who had them would come to eat walnuts a league from there on the margin of that river; and that we might know what they told us of the ill usage to be true, they slapped my compan- ion and beat him with a stick, and I was not left without my portion. Many times they threw lumps of mud at us, and every day they put their arrows to our hearts, say- ing that they were inclined to kill us in the way that they had destroyed our friends. Lope Oviedo, my comrade, in fear said that he wished to go back with the women of those who had crossed the bay with us, the men having remained some distance behind. I contended strongly against his returning, and urged my objections; but in no way could I keep him. So he went back, and I remained alone with those savages. They are called Quevenes, and those with whom he returned, Deaguanes.


Two days after Lope de Oviedo left, the Indians who had Alonzo del Castillo and Andrés Dorantes, came to the place of which we had been told, to eat walnuts. These are ground with a kind of small grain, and this is the subsistence of the people two months in the year without any other thing; but even the nuts they do not have every season, as the tree produces in alternate years. The fruit is the size of that in Galicia;6

the trees are very large and numerous. An Indian told me of the arrival of the Christians, and that if I wished to see

them I must steal away and flee to the point of a wood to which he directed me, and that as he and others, kindred of his, should pass by there to visit those Indians, they would take me with them to the spot where the Christians were. I determined to attempt this and trust to them, as they spoke a language distinct from that of the others. I did so, and the next day they left, and found me in the place that had been pointed out, and accordingly took me with them.

When I arrived near their abode, Andrés Dorantes came out to see who it could be, for the Indians had told him that a Christian was coming. His astonishment was great when he saw me, as they had for many a day considered me dead, and the natives had said that I was. We gave many thanks at seeing ourselves together, and this was a day to us of the greatest pleasure we had enjoyed in life. Having come to

6 In northwestern Spain.

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where Castillo was, they inquired of me where I was going. I told them my purpose was to reach the land of Christians, I being then in search and pursuit of it. Andrés Dorantes said that for a long time he had entreated Castillo and Estevánico to go for- ward; but that they dared not venture, because they knew not how to swim, and greatly dreaded the rivers and bays they should have to cross, there being many in that country. Thus the Almighty had been pleased to preserve me through many tri- als and diseases, conducting me in the end to the fellowship of those who had aban- doned me, that I might lead them over the bays and rivers that obstructed our progress. They advised me on no account to let the natives know or have a suspicion of my desire to go on, else they would destroy me; and that for success it would be neces- sary for me to remain quiet until the end of six months, when comes the season in which these Indians go to another part of the country to eat prickly pears. People would arrive from parts farther on, bringing bows to barter and for exchange, with whom, after making our escape, we should be able to go on their return. Having con- sented to this course, I remained. The prickly pear is the size of a hen’s egg, vermil- lion and black in color, and of agreeable flavor. The natives live on it three months in the year, having nothing beside.

I was given as a slave to an Indian, with whom was Dorantes. He was blind of one eye, as were also his wife and sons, and likewise another who was with him; so that of a fashion they were all blind. These are called Marians; Castillo was with another neighboring people, called Yguases. * * *


When the six months were over, I had to spend with the Christians to put in exe- cution the plan we had concerted, the Indians went after prickly pears, the place at which they grew being thirty leagues off; and when we approached the point of flight, those among whom we were, quarrelled about a woman. After striking with fists, beating with sticks and bruising heads in great anger, each took his lodge and went his way, whence it became necessary that the Christians should also separate, and in no way could we come together until another year.

In this time I passed a hard life, caused as much by hunger as ill usage. Three times I was obliged to run from my masters, and each time they went in pursuit and endeavored to slay me; but God our Lord in his mercy chose to protect and pre- serve me; and when the season of prickly pears returned, we again came together in the same place. After we had arranged our escape, and appointed a time, that very day the Indians separated and all went back. I told my comrades I would wait for them among the prickly-pear plants until the moon should be full. This day was the first of September,7 and the first of the moon; and I said that if in this time they did not come as we had agreed, I would leave and go alone. So we parted, each going with his Indians. I remained with mine until the thirteenth day of the moon, having deter- mined to flee to others when it should be full. * * *

7 1534. Cabeza de Vaca had evidently lost his reckoning (perhaps during his illness), as the date of the new moon in this year was September 8 [Hodge’s note].

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The second day after we had moved, we commended ourselves to God and set forth with speed, trusting, for all the lateness of the season and that the prickly pears were about ending, with the mast which remained in the woods [field], we might still be enabled to travel over a large territory. Hurrying on that day in great dread lest the Indians should overtake us, we saw some smokes, and going in the direction of them we arrived there after vespers, and found an Indian. He ran as he discovered us coming, not being willing to wait for us. We sent the negro8 after him, when he stopped, seeing him alone. The negro told him we were seeking the people who made those fires. He answered that their houses were near by, and he would guide us to them. So we followed him. He ran to make known our approach, and at sunset we saw the houses. Before our arrival, at the distance of two crossbow shots from them, we found four Indians, who waited for us and received us well. We said in the language of the Mariames, that we were coming to look for them. They were evidently pleased with our company, and took us to their dwellings. Dorantes and the negro were lodged in the house of a physician,9 Castillo and myself in that of another.

These people speak a different language, and are called Avavares. They are the same that carried bows to those with whom we formerly lived, going to traffic with them, and although they are of a different nation and tongue, they understand the other language. They arrived that day with their lodges, at the place where we found them. The community directly brought us a great many prickly pears, having heard of us before, of our cures, and of the wonders our Lord worked by us, which, although there had been no others, were adequate to open ways for us through a country poor like this, to afford us people where oftentimes there are none, and to lead us through immediate dangers, not permitting us to be killed, sustaining us under great want, and putting into those nations the heart of kindness, as we shall relate hereafter.


That same night of our arrival, some Indians came to Castillo and told him that they had great pain in the head, begging him to cure them. After he made over them the sign of the cross, and commended them to God, they instantly said that all the pain had left, and went to their houses bringing us prickly pears, with a piece of veni- son, a thing to us little known. As the report of Castillo’s performances spread, many came to us that night sick, that we should heal them, each bringing a piece of veni- son, until the quantity became so great we knew not where to dispose of it. We gave many thanks to God, for every day went on increasing his compassion and his gifts. After the sick were attended to, they began to dance and sing, making them- selves festive, until sunrise; and because of our arrival, the rejoicing was continued for three days.

When these were ended, we asked the Indians about the country farther on, the people we should find in it, and of the subsistence there. They answered us, that throughout all the region prickly-pear plants abounded; but the fruit was now gathered

8 Estevan, sometimes called Estevánico. 9 A shaman, or “medicine-man” [Hodge’s note].

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and all the people had gone back to their houses. They said the country was very cold, and there were few skins. Reflecting on this, and that it was already winter, we resolved to pass the season with these Indians.

Five days after our arrival, all the Indians went off, taking us with them to gather more prickly pears, where there were other peoples speaking different tongues. After walking five days in great hunger, since on the way was no manner of fruit, we came to a river1 and put up our houses. We then went to seek the product of certain trees, which is like peas. As there are no paths in the country, I was detained some time. The others returned, and coming to look for them in the dark I got lost. Thank God I found a burning tree, and in the warmth of it I passed the cold of that night. In the morning, loading myself with sticks, and taking two brands with me, I returned to seek them. In this manner I wandered five days, ever with my fire and load; for if the wood had failed me where none could be found, as many parts are without any, though I might have sought sticks elsewhere, there would have been no fire to kindle them. This was all the protection I had against cold, while walking naked as I was born. Going to the low woods near the rivers, I prepared myself for the night, stop- ping in them before sunset. I made a hole in the ground and threw in fuel which the trees abundantly afforded, collected in good quantity from those that were fall- en and dry. About the hole I made four fires, in the form of a cross, which I watched and made up from time to time. I also gathered some bundles of the coarse straw that there abounds, with which I covered myself in the hole. In this way I was sheltered at night from cold. On one occasion while I slept, the fire fell upon the straw, when it began to blaze so rapidly that notwithstanding the haste I made to get out of it, I carried some marks on my hair of the danger to which I was exposed. All this while I tasted not a mouthful, nor did I find anything I could eat. My feet were bare and bled a good deal. Through the mercy of God, the wind did not blow from the north in all this time, otherwise I should have died.

At the end of the fifth day I arrived on the margin of a river,2 where I found the Indians, who with the Christians, had considered me dead, supposing that I had been stung by a viper. All were rejoiced to see me, and most so were my companions. They said that up to that time they had struggled with great hunger, which was the cause of their not having sought me. At night, all gave me of their prickly pears, and the next morning we set out for a place where they were in large quantity, with which we satisfied our great craving, the Christians rendering thanks to our Lord that He had ever given us His aid.


The next day morning, many Indians came, and brought five persons who had cramps and were very unwell. They came that Castillo might cure them. Each offered his bow and arrows, which Castillo received. At sunset he blessed them, commending them to God our Lord, and we all prayed to Him the best we could to send health; for that He knew there was no other means, than through Him, by which this people

1 This may have been the San Antonio or the San Marcos–Guadalupe [Hodge’s note]. 2 Presumably the river last mentioned, where they had erected their shelters [Hodge’s note].

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would aid us, so we could come forth from this unhappy existence. He bestowed it so mercifully, that, the morning having come, all got up well and sound, and were as strong as though they never had a disorder. It caused great admiration, and inclined us to render many thanks to God our Lord, whose goodness we now clearly beheld, giving us firm hopes that He would liberate and bring us to where we might serve Him. For myself I can say that I ever had trust in His providence that He would lead me out from that captivity, and thus I always spoke of it to my companions.

The Indians having gone and taken their friends with them in health, we departed for a place at which others were eating prickly pears. These people are called Cuthalchuches and Malicones, who speak different tongues. Adjoining them were others called Coayos and Susolas, who were on the opposite side, others called Atayos, who were at war with the Susolas, exchanging arrow shots daily. As through all the country they talked only of the wonders which God our Lord worked through us, per- sons came from many parts to seek us that we might cure them. At the end of the second day after our arrival, some of the Susolas came to us and besought Castillo that he would go to cure one wounded and others sick, and they said that among them was one very near his end. Castillo was a timid practitioner, most so in seri- ous and dangerous cases, believing that his sins would weigh, and some day hinder him in performing cures. The Indians told me to go and heal them, as they liked me; they remembered that I had ministered to them in the walnut grove when they gave us nuts and skins, which occurred when I first joined the Christians. So I had to go with them, and Dorantes accompanied me with Estevánico. Coming near their huts, I perceived that the sick man we went to heal was dead. Many persons were around him weeping, and his house was prostrate, a sign that the one who dwelt in it is no more. When I arrived I found his eyes rolled up, and the pulse gone, he having all the appearances of death, as they seemed to me and as Dorantes said. I removed a mat with which he was covered, and supplicated our Lord as fervently as I could, that He would be pleased to give health to him, and to the rest that might have need of it. After he had been blessed and breathed upon many times, they brought me his bow, and gave me a basket of pounded prickly pears.

The natives took me to cure many others who were sick of a stupor, and pre- sented me two more baskets of prickly pears, which I gave to the Indians who accom- panied us. We then went back to our lodgings. Those to whom we gave the fruit tarried, and returned at night to their houses, reporting that he who had been dead and for whom I wrought before them, had got up whole and walked, had eaten and spoken with them and that all to whom I had ministered were well and much pleased. This caused great wonder and fear, and throughout the land the people talked of nothing else. All to whom the fame of it reached, came to seek us that we should cure them and bless their children.

When the Cuthalchuches, who were in company with our Indians, were about to return to their own country, they left us all the prickly pears they had, without keeping one: they gave us flints of very high value there, a palm and a half in length, with which they cut. They begged that we would remember them and pray to God that they might always be well, and we promised to do so. They left, the most satis- fied beings in the world, having given us the best of all they had.

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29We remained with the Avavares eight months, reckoned by the number of moons. In all this time people came to seek us from many parts, and they said that most truly we were children of the sun. Dorantes and the negro to this time had not attempted to practise; but because of the great solicitation made by those com- ing from different parts to find us, we all became physicians, although in being ven- turous and bold to attempt the performance of any cure, I was the most remarkable. No one whom we treated, but told us he was left well; and so great was the confi- dence that they would become healed if we administered to them, they even believed that whilst we remained none of them could die. * * *

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Samuel de Champlain (c. 1567–1635)

R Foremost among the founders of New France, Samuel de Champlain also made significant incur- sions into territory later settled by the British and eventually incorporated into the United States. Some years before John Smith, he explored the New England coast as far south as Martha’s Vineyard, making the first detailed charts of the region. In 1605 on Cape Cod he and his men exchanged shots and arrows with the Indians fifteen years before the Pilgrims’ similar “First Encounter,” which occurred about three miles away, on the other side of the peninsula. The French sailor buried at that time was the first European interred on New England soil, save, perhaps, for a much earlier Viking. In 1609, accompanying a war party of Huron Indians, Champlain became the European discoverer of Lake Champlain; the defeat of the Iroquois on that occasion at the later Fort Ticonderoga introduced firearms in a major way into that part of the world and contributed to the longstanding enmity between the Iroquois and the French. In 1615, still five years before the arrival of the Pilgrims, he made another incursion into New York, accompanying a Huron war party in an attack on an Iroquois fort near Oneida Lake. Meanwhile, in 1608 he had established at Quebec the first permanent European settlement in America north of Florida. Exploring westward as far as Georgian Bay, he established the pattern for the French explorers and voyageurs who not long after opened up the trade routes to the west and south while the English were still settling the east- ern seaboard.

Born in Brouage, France, Champlain served King Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) in the reli- gious wars of the period and then for a while commanded a Spanish fleet, visiting the West Indies, Mexico, and Panama. In 1603 a fur-trading expedition took him up the St. Lawrence River as far as Lachine. In 1604 he helped found a colony on the Bay of Fundy, and from that base he explored the New England coast until he turned his attention a few years later to the new colony at Quebec and explorations from there. Captured when the English took Quebec in 1629, he spent four years in exile in England, but he returned to the New World after the restoration of New France to France in 1632.

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From Voyages of Samuel de Champlain: The Voyages of 1604–1607

Samuel de Champlain


Continuation of the Discoveries Along the Coast of the Almouchiquois, and What We Observed in Detail * * * The same day we sailed two leagues along a sandy coast, as we passed along which we saw a great many cabins and gardens.1 The wind being contrary, we entered a little bay to await a time favorable for proceeding. There came to us two or three canoes, which had just been fishing for cod and other fish, which are found there in large numbers. These they catch with hooks made of a piece of wood, to which they attach a bone in the shape of a spear, and fasten it very securely. The whole has a fang-shape, and the line attached to it is made out of the bark of a tree. They gave me one of their hooks, which I took as a curiosity. In it the bone was fastened on by hemp, like that in France, as it seemed to me, and they told me that they gath- ered this plant without being obliged to cultivate it; and indicated that it grew to the height of four or five feet. This canoe went back on shore to give notice to their fellow inhabitants, who caused columns of smoke to arise on our account. We saw eighteen or twenty savages, who came to the shore and began to dance. Our canoe landed in order to give them some bagatelles, at which they were greatly pleased. Some of them came to us and begged us to go to their river. We weighed anchor to do so, but were unable to enter on account of the small amount of water, it being low tide, and were accordingly obliged to anchor at the mouth. I went ashore, where I saw many others, who received us very cordially. I made also an examination of the river, but saw only an arm of water extending a short distance inland, where the land is only in part cleared up. Running into this is merely a brook not deep enough for boats except at full tide. The circuit of the bay is about a league. On one side of the entrance to this bay there is a point which is almost an island, covered with wood, principally pines, and adjoins sand-banks, which are very extensive. On the other side, the land is high. There are two islets in this bay, which are not seen until one has entered, and around which it is almost entirely dry at low tide. This place is very conspicuous from the sea, for the coast is very low, excepting the cape at the entrance to the bay. We named it the Port du Cap St. Louis, distant two leagues from the above cape, and ten from the Island Cape. It is in about the same latitude as Cap St. Louis.2

On the 19th of the month, we set out from this place. Coasting along in a southerly direction, we sailed four or five leagues, and passed near a rock on a level with the surface of the water. As we continued our course, we saw some land which

The source of the present text is W. L. Grant, ed., Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 1604–1618, 1907; Grant reproduces Charles Pomery Otis’ translations of Champlain’s Voyages of 1613 and 1619, first printed in Edmund F. Slafter’s Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, 3 vols., 1878–1882. Studies include Francis Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World, 1865; Morris Bishop, Champlain: The Life of Fortitude, 1948; and Samuel Eliot Morison, Samuel de Champlain: Father of New France, 1972. 1 Champlain here sailed along the Massachusetts coast, south of Boston. Port du Cap St. Louis, mentioned at the end of the paragraph, was his name for Plymouth Harbor. The year was 1605. 2 Brant Point, a few miles to the north.

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seemed to us to be islands, but as we came nearer we found it to be the main land, lying to the north-north-west of us, and that it was the cape of a large bay,3 con- taining more than eighteen or nineteen leagues in circuit, into which we had run so far that we had to wear off on the other tack in order to double the cape which we had seen. The latter we named Cap Blanc,4 since it contained sands and downs which had a white appearance. A favorable wind was of great assistance to us here, for oth- erwise we should have been in danger of being driven upon the coast. This bay is very safe, provided the land be not approached nearer than a good league, there being no islands nor rocks except that just mentioned, which is near a river that extends some distance inland, which we named St. Suzanne du Cap Blanc,5 whence across to Cap St. Louis the distance is ten leagues. Cap Blanc is a point of sand, which bends around towards the south some six leagues. This coast is rather high, and consists of sand, which is very conspicuous as one comes from the sea. At a distance of some fifteen or eighteen leagues from land, the depth of the water is thirty, forty, and fifty fathoms, but only ten on nearing the shore, which is unobstructed. There is a large extent of open country along the shore before reaching the woods, which are very attractive and beautiful. We anchored off the coast, and saw some savages, towards whom four of our company proceeded. Making their way upon a sand-bank, they observed something like a bay, and cabins bordering it on all sides. When they were about a league and a half from us, there came to them a savage dancing all over, as they expressed it. He had come down from the high shore, but turned about short- ly after to inform his fellow inhabitants of our arrival.

The next day, the 20th of the month, we went to the place which our men had seen, and which we found a very dangerous harbor in consequence of the shoals and banks, where we saw breakers in all directions. It was almost low tide when we entered, and there were only four feet of water in the northern passage; at high tide, there are two fathoms. After we had entered, we found the place very spa- cious, being perhaps three or four leagues in circuit, entirely surrounded by little hous- es, around each one of which there was as much land as the occupant needed for his support. A small river enters here, which is very pretty, and in which at low tide there are some three and a half feet of water. There are also two or three brooks bordered by meadows. It would be a very fine place, if the harbor were good. I took the altitude, and found the latitude 42°, and the deflection of the magnetic needle 18° 40'. Many savages, men and women, visited us, and ran up on all sides danc- ing. We named this place Port de Mallebarre.6

The next day, the 21st of the month, Sieur de Monts7 determined to go and see their habitation. Nine or ten of us accompanied him with our arms; the rest remained to guard the barque. We went about a league along the coast. Before reaching their cabins, we entered a field planted with Indian corn in the manner before

3 Cape Cod Bay. 4 Cape Cod. 5 Perhaps the Herring River, in Eastham. 6 Nauset Harbor, on the outer edge of Cape Cod. 7 Pierre du Gua, Sieur de Monts (c. 1560–c. 1630), French nobleman who held the trade monopoly in New France and was Champlain’s patron.

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described. The corn was in flower, and five and a half feet high. There was some less advanced, which they plant later. We saw many Brazilian beans, and many squash- es of various sizes, very good for eating; some tobacco, and roots which they culti- vate, the latter having the taste of an artichoke. The woods are filled with oaks, nut-trees, and beautiful cypresses,8 which are of a reddish color and have a very pleas- ant odor. There were also several fields entirely uncultivated, the land being allowed to remain fallow. When they wish to plant it, they set fire to the weeds, and then work it over with their wooden spades. Their cabins are round, and covered with heavy thatch made of reeds. In the roof there is an opening of about a foot and a half, whence the smoke from the fire passes out. We asked them if they had their per- manent abode in this place, and whether there was much snow. But we were unable to ascertain this fully from them, not understanding their language, although they made an attempt to inform us by signs, by taking some sand in their hands, spread- ing it out over the ground, and indicating that it was of the color of our collars, and that it reached the depth of a foot. Others made signs that there was less, and gave us to understand also that the harbor never froze; but we were unable to ascertain whether the snow lasted long. I conclude, however, that this region is of moderate temperature, and the winter not severe. While we were there, there was a north-east storm, which lasted four days; the sky being so overcast that the sun hardly shone at all. It was very cold, and we were obliged to put on our greatcoats, which we had entirely left off. Yet I think the cold was accidental, as it is often experienced else- where out of season.

On the 23d of July, four or five seamen having gone on shore with some kettles to get fresh water, which was to be found in one of the sand-banks a short distance from our barque, some of the savages, coveting them, watched the time when our men went to the spring, and then seized one out of the hands of a sailor, who was the first to dip, and who had no weapons. One of his companions, starting to run after him, soon returned, as he could not catch him, since he ran much faster than him- self. The other savages, of whom there were a large number, seeing our sailors run- ning to our barque, and at the same time shouting to us to fire at them, took to flight. At the time there were some of them in our barque, who threw themselves into the sea, only one of whom we were able to seize. Those on the land who had taken to flight, seeing them swimming, returned straight to the sailor from whom they had taken away the kettle, hurled several arrows at him from behind, and brought him down. Seeing this, they ran at once to him, and despatched him with their knives. Meanwhile, haste was made to go on shore, and muskets were fired from our bar- que: mine, bursting in my hands, came near killing me. The savages, hearing this dis- charge of fire-arms, took to flight, and with redoubled speed when they saw that we had landed, for they were afraid when they saw us running after them. There was no likelihood of our catching them, for they are as swift as horses. We brought in the murdered man, and he was buried some hours later.9 Meanwhile, we kept the prisoner bound by the feet and hands on board of our barque, fearing that he

8 Red cedars. 9 This sailor was the first white man to be buried on New England soil, save perhaps Thorwald, son of Eric the Red [Grant’s note].

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might escape. But Sieur de Monts resolved to let him go, being persuaded that he was not to blame, and that he had no previous knowledge of what had transpired, as also those who, at the time, were in and about our barque. Some hours later there came some savages to us, to excuse themselves, indicating by signs and demonstrations that it was not they who had committed this malicious act, but others farther off in the interior. We did not wish to harm them, although it was in our power to avenge ourselves.

All these savages from the Island Cape wear neither robes nor furs, except very rarely: moreover, their robes are made of grasses and hemp, scarcely covering the body, and coming down only to their thighs. They have only the sexual parts con- cealed with a small piece of leather; so likewise the women, with whom it comes down a little lower behind than with the men, all the rest of the body being naked. Whenever the women came to see us, they wore robes which were open in front. The men cut off the hair on the top of the head like those at the river Choüacoet.1 I saw, among other things, a girl with her hair very neatly dressed, with a skin col- ored red, and bordered on the upper part with little shell-beads. A part of her hair hung down behind, the rest being braided in various ways. These people paint the face red, black, and yellow. They have scarcely any beard, and tear it out as fast as it grows. Their bodies are well-proportioned. I cannot tell what government they have, but I think that in this respect they resemble their neighbors, who have none at all. They know not how to worship or pray; yet, like the other savages, they have some superstitions, which I shall describe in their place. As for weapons, they have only pikes, clubs, bows and arrows. It would seem from their appearance that they have a good disposition, better than those of the north, but they are all in fact of no great worth. Even a slight intercourse with them gives you at once a knowledge of them. They are great thieves and, if they cannot lay hold of any thing with their hands, they try to do so with their feet, as we have oftentimes learned by experience. I am of opinion that, if they had any thing to exchange with us, they would not give themselves to thieving. They bartered away to us their bows, arrows, and quiv- ers, for pins and buttons; and if they had had any thing else better they would have done the same with it. It is necessary to be on one’s guard against this people, and live in a state of distrust of them, yet without letting them perceive it. They gave us a large quantity of tobacco, which they dry and then reduce to powder. When they eat Indian corn, they boil it in earthen pots, which they make in a way different from ours. They bray it also in wooden mortars and reduce it to flour, of which they then make cakes, like the Indians of Peru.

In this place and along the whole coast from Quinibequy, there are a great many siguenocs,2 which is a fish with a shell on its back like the tortoise, yet different, there being in the middle a row of little prickles, of the color of a dead leaf, like the rest of the fish. At the end of this shell, there is another still smaller, bordered by very sharp points. The length of the tail varies according to their size. With the end of

1 The Saco River, in Maine. 2 Horseshoe crabs.

Samuel de Champlain, from Voyages of Samuel de Champlain: The Voyages of 1604-1607 25

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Samuel de Champlain from Voyages of Samuel de Champlain: The Voyages of 1604−1607

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it, these people point their arrows, and it contains also a row of prickles like the large shell in which are the eyes. There are eight small feet like those of the crab, and two behind longer and flatter, which they use in swimming. There are also in front two other very small ones with which they eat. When walking, all the feet are con- cealed excepting the two hindermost, which are slightly visible. Under the small shell there are membranes which swell up, and beat like the throat of a frog, and rest upon each other like the folds of a waistcoat. The largest specimen of this fish that I saw was a foot broad, and a foot and a half long. * * *


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Christopher Columbus Author Bio © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007


Christopher Columbus sought one land, found another, and never knew that he had failed to open a way to the Indies. He knew that the world was round but misunderstood its size and thought he was close to his goal when he reached the West Indies. In three more voyages he never corrected his mistake, and he never reached the land that would become the United States. Little is known of his back- ground. He seems to have been a weaver, born in Genoa, who took to the sea, conceived of a voyage west, and spent years seeking support in Portugal before he convinced Queen Isabella of Spain to back his expedition. His report of his voy- age opened the gates to a flood of exploration, conquest, and settlement.

Samuel Eliot Morison, Christopher Columbus, Mariner, 1955, is a good introduction. Morison’s Ad- miral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, 2 vols., 1942, is more complete.

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Christopher Columbus Report of the First Voyage © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007


[Report of the First Voyage]1

SIR, since I know that you will take pleasure at the great victory with which Our Lord has crowned my voyage, I write this to you, from which you will learn how in twenty2 days I reached the Indies with the fleet which the most illustrious King and Queen, our lords, gave to me. And there I found very many islands filled with people without number, and of them all I have taken possession for their Highnesses, by proclamation and with the royal standard displayed, and nobody objected. * * *

The people of this island3 and of all the other islands which I have found and seen, or have not seen, all go naked, men and women, as their mothers bore them, except that some women cover one place only with the leaf of a plant or with a net of cotton which they make for that. They have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well-built people of hand- some stature, because they are wonderfully timorous. They have no other arms than arms of canes, [cut] when they are in seed time, to the ends of which they fix a sharp little stick; and they dare not make use of these, for oftentimes it has hap- pened that I have sent ashore two or three men to some town to have speech, and people without number have come out to them, and as soon as they saw them coming, they fled; even a father would not stay for his son; and this not because wrong has been done to anyone; on the contrary, at every point where I have been and have been able to have speech, I have given them of all that I had, such as cloth and many other things, without receiving anything for it; but they are like that, timid beyond cure. It is true that after they have been reassured and have lost this fear, they are so artless and so free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts; and whether the thing be of value or of small price, at once they are content with whatever little thing of whatever kind may be given to them. I forbade that they should be given things so worthless as pieces of broken crockery and broken glass, and ends of straps, although when they were able to get them, they thought they had the best jewel in the world; thus it was as- certained that a sailor for a strap received gold to the weight of two and a half castellanos,4 and others much more for other things which were worth much less;

From Christopher Columbus, Mariner by Samuel Eliot Morison. Copyright © 1942, 1955 by Samuel Eliot Morison; Copyright © renewed 1983 by Emily Morison Beck. By permission of Little, Brown and Co., Inc.

1. Sometimes printed as “Letter to Santangel,” this is Columbus’s official report to Ferdinand and Is- abella. We print Samuel Eliot Morison’s translation and notes from his Christopher Columbus, Mariner. 2. Actually thirty-three days. 3. Hispaniola. 4. $7.50, or a guinea and a half in gold.

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yea, for new blancas,5 for them they would give all that they had, although it might be two or three castellanos’ weight of gold or an arrova6 or two of spun cotton; they even took pieces of the broken hoops of the wine casks and, like ani- mals, gave what they had, so that it seemed to me to be wrong and I forbade it, and I gave them a thousand good, pleasing things which I had brought, in order that they might be fond of us, and furthermore might be made Christians and be inclined to the love and service of their Highnesses and of the whole Castilian na- tion, and try to help us and to give us of the things which they have in abundance and which are necessary to us. And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in the sky, and they believe very firmly that I, with these ships and people, came from the sky, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they had overcome their fear. And this does not result from their being ignorant, for they are of a very keen in- telligence and men who navigate all those seas, so that it is marvelous the good account they give of everything, but because they have never seen people clothed or ships like ours.

And as soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island which I found, I took by force some of them in order that they might learn [Castilian] and give me in- formation of what they had in those parts; it so worked out that they soon under- stood us, and we them, either by speech or signs, and they have been very serviceable. I still have them with me, and they are still of the opinion that I come from the sky, in spite of all the intercourse which they have had with me, and they were the first to announce this wherever I went, and the others went running from house to house and to the neighboring towns with loud cries of, “Come! Come! See the people from the sky!” Then all came, men and women, as soon as they had confidence in us, so that not one, big or little, remained behind, and all brought something to eat and drink, which they gave with marvelous love. In all the islands they have very many canoas like rowing fustes,7 some bigger and some smaller, and some are bigger than a fusta of eighteen benches. They are not so broad, because they are made of a single log, but a fusta could not keep up with them by rowing, since they make incredible speed, and in these [canoes] they navi- gate all those islands, which are innumerable, and carry their merchandise. Some of these canoes I have seen with 70 and 80 men in them, each one with his oar.

In all these islands, I saw no great diversity in the appearance of the people or in their manners and language, but they all understand one another, which is a very singular thing, on account of which I hope that their Highnesses will determine upon their conversion to our holy faith, towards which they are much inclined. * * *

Done in the caravel, off the Canary Islands, on the fifteenth of February, year 1493.

At your service. THE ADMIRAL


5. A copper coin worth half a maravedi, about a third of a cent. 6. A weight equivalent to 25 lbs., or 111⁄2 kilos. 7. Long, light boats propelled chiefly by oars, common in the Mediterranean.

Christopher Columbus, Report of the First Voyage 29

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

John Smith Author Bio © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

JOHN SMITH (1580–1631)

The first book written in English in the New World was John Smith’s A True Re- lation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Happened in Virginia since the First Planting of that Colony (1608), printed in London less than a year and a half after its author’s arrival in Virginia with the first settlers. Smith was a professional soldier, an adventurer and explorer, perhaps a braggart; he was also a born publicist. His were not the first books to tell of the New World, and when he wrote them, that world was not as new as it had been over a hundred years ear- lier, when Christopher Columbus first laid claim to his discoveries for Queen Is- abella and King Ferdinand of Spain. When Smith wrote, however, interest was high. Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe (1577–1580), his return to England with the Golden Hind loaded with treasure, the English defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), and the publication of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navi- gations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589) had combined to give the English a sense of destiny lying to the west. Smith wrote for settlers when settlement began to look possible. For many of the earliest comers, he drew the maps and created the visions that lured them on. Squarely aimed at readers in his own time, his books gave early expression also to some of the most enduring and cherished American beliefs.

Born in Lincolnshire, Smith received a grammar school education and at fif- teen was apprenticed to a merchant. Not long after his father’s death, when he was sixteen, he began his travels, enlisting as a soldier in France and the Netherlands. Within the next ten years, he saw much of Europe and a little of North Africa. Captured and sold into slavery in Turkey, he escaped and eventually made his way back to London. He set sail for Virginia with the first three ships of the newly formed London Trading Company, which established the colony at Jamestown in May 1607. One hundred men were left in Virginia when the sailors returned home in June; by the time the first supply ship arrived in January 1608, hardship and ar- rows had reduced the number to thirty-eight. Meanwhile, Smith had been stripped of his position on the ruling council by the English settlers, returned to good graces and sent foraging among the natives, captured by Powhatan’s men, and rescued by Pocahontas, who proved crucial to the survival of the English in the early years. When the second supply ship was ready to return to England in June 1608, Smith’s first book, A True Relation, was ready to go with it.

Wounded in a gunpowder explosion, Smith returned to England in 1609. His second book, A Map of Virginia, with a Description of the Country, the Com- modities, People, Government and Religion (1612), covered considerably more than the earlier and briefer True Relation. In 1614, he left England again to spend the spring and summer exploring and mapping the American coast from Maine to Cape Cod, a region he named “New England.” The immediate result of that trip was A Description of New England (1616), written in part “to keep my perplexed

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thoughts from too much meditation of my miserable estate” while a prisoner of French pirates.

In Smith’s most important book, The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624), he brought together, revised, and expanded the earlier material. In this, for the first time, he told the story of his rescue by Pocahontas. Here, too, readers could see side by side the problems of the Virginia settlement and Smith’s promise of a great future for New England: Given the “means to transport a colony,” he said, “I would rather live here than anywhere.” He was not to have that chance, however. Although thousands of English settlers were soon living in Massa- chusetts, he was not among them. He died in England when the great wave of settle- ment was just beginning.

Smith’s Works, ed. Edward Arber, 1884, is the source of the selections from The General History of Vir- ginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, which have been modernized in spelling and punctuation. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, 3 vols., was edited by Philip L. Barbour, 1986. See also Captain John Smith: A Select Edition of His Writings, ed. Karen Ordahl Kupperman, 1988. Biographical and criti- cal studies include Bradford Smith, Captain John Smith, His Life and Legend, 1953; P. L. Barbour, The Three Worlds of Captain John Smith, 1964; P. L. Barbour, Pocahontas and Her World, 1970; Everett H. Emerson, Captain John Smith, 1971; A. T. Vaughan, American Genesis: Captain John Smith and the Founding of Vir- ginia, 1975; F. Mossiker, Pocahontas: The Life and Legend, 1976; and J. A. Leo Lemay, The American Dream of Captain John Smith, 1991.

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John Smith from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

1. The common stores. 2. Small sailing ship.


From The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles

The Third Book. The Proceedings and Accidents of the English Colony in Virginia


Being thus left to our fortunes, it fortuned that within ten days scarce ten amongst us could either go, or well stand, such extreme weakness and sickness oppressed us. And thereat none need marvel, if they consider the cause and reason, which was this:

While the ships stayed, our allowance was somewhat bettered by a daily pro- portion of biscuit, which the sailers would pilfer to sell, give, or exchange with us, for money, sassafras, furs, or love. But when they departed, there remained nei- ther tavern, beerhouse, nor place of relief, but the common kettle.1 Had we been as free from all sins as gluttony and drunkenness we might have been canonized for saints; but our President would never have been admitted for engrossing to his private [use] oatmeal, sack, oil, aquavitæ, beef, eggs, or what not, but the kettle; that indeed he allowed equally to be distributed, and that was half a pint of wheat, and as much barley boiled with water for a man a day, and this having fried some twenty-six weeks in the ship’s hold, contained as many worms as grains; so that we might truly call it rather so much bran than corn. Our drink was water, our lodgings castles in the air.

With this lodging and diet, our extreme toil in bearing and planting palisades, so strained and bruised us, and our continual labor in the extremity of the heat had so weakened us, as were cause sufficient to have made us as miserable in our native country or any other place in the world.

From May to September [1607], those that escaped lived upon sturgeon, and sea crabs. Fifty in this time we buried; the rest seeing the President’s projects to es- cape these miseries in our pinnace2 by flight (who all this time had neither felt want nor sickness) so moved our dead spirits, as we deposed him [10 Sept. 1607]; and established Ratcliffe in his place, (Gosnoll being dead), Kendall deposed. Smith newly recovered, Martin and Ratcliffe was by his care preserved and re- lieved, and the most of the soldiers recovered with the skillful diligence of Master Thomas Wotton our surgeon general.

But now was all our provision spent, the sturgeon gone, all helps abandoned, each hour expecting the fury of the savages; when God, the patron of all good en- deavors, in that desperate extremity so changed the hearts of the savages, that they brought such plenty of their fruits and provision, as no man wanted.

And now where some affirmed it was ill done of the Council to send forth men so badly provided, this incontradictable reason will show them plainly they are too ill advised to nourish such ill conceits; first, the fault of our going was our own, what could be thought fitting or necessary we had; but what we should find,

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3. A boat for use in shallow waters. 4. A village near the mouth of the James River ruled by the son of Powhatan. 5. Priests.

or want, or where we should be, we were all ignorant, and supposing to make our passage in two months, with victual to live, and the advantage of the spring to work; we were at sea five months, where we both spent our victual and lost the opportunity of the time and season to plant, by the unskillful presumption of our ignorant transporters, that understood not at all what they undertook.

Such actions have ever since the world’s beginning been subject to such acci- dents, and everything of worth is found full of difficulties: but nothing so difficult as to establish a commonwealth so far remote from men and means, and where men’s minds are so untoward as neither do well themselves, nor suffer others. But to proceed.

The new President [Ratcliffe], and Martin, being little beloved, of weak judg- ment in dangers, and less industry in peace, committed the managing of all things abroad to Captain Smith: who by his own example, good words, and fair promises, set some to mow, others to bind thatch, some to build houses, others to thatch them, himself always bearing the greatest task for his own share, so that in short time, he provided most of them lodgings, neglecting any for himself.

This done, seeing the savages superfluity begin to decrease [he] (with some of his workmen) shipped himself [9 Nov. 1607] in the shallop3 to search the country for trade. The want of the language, knowledge to manage his boat without sails, the want of a sufficient power (knowing the multitude of the savages), apparel for his men, and other necessaries, were infinite impediments, yet no discouragement.

Being but six or seven in company he went down the river to Kecoughtan:4

where at first they scorned him, as a famished man; and would in derision offer him a handful of corn, a piece of bread, for their swords and muskets, and such like proportions also for their apparel. But seeing by trade and courtesy there was nothing to be had, he made bold to try such conclusions as necessity enforced, though contrary to his commission: let fly his muskets, ran his boat on shore; whereat they all fled into the woods.

So marching towards their houses, they might see great heaps of corn: much ado he had to restrain his hungry soldiers from [the] present taking of it, expecting as it happened that the savages would assault them, as not long after they did with a most hideous noise. Sixty or seventy of them, some black, some red, some white, some parti-colored, came in a square order, singing and dancing out of the woods, with their Okee (which was an idol made of skins, stuffed with moss, all painted and hung with chains and copper) borne before them: and in this manner, being well armed with clubs, targets, bows and arrows, they charged the English, that so kindly received them with their muskets loaded with pistol shot, that down fell their God, and divers lay sprawling on the ground; the rest fled again to the woods, and ere long sent one of their Quiyoughkasoucks5 to offer peace, and redeem their Okee.

Smith told them, if only six of them would come unarmed and load his boat, he would not only be their friend but restore them their Okee, and give them beads, copper, and hatchets besides, which on both sides was to their contents performed; and then they brought him venison, turkies, wild fowl, bread, and what they had, singing and dancing in sign of friendship till they departed. * * *

John Smith, from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply 33

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

John Smith from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

6. In actuality, about three weeks. 7. Agreement. 8. Compass card.

But our comedies never endured long without a tragedy, some idle exceptions being muttered against Captain Smith for not discovering the head of Chicka- hominy river, and [being] taxed by the Council, to be too slow in so worthy an at- tempt. The next voyage he proceeded so far that with much labor by cutting of trees asunder he made his passage; but when his barge could pass no farther, he left her in a broad bay out of danger of shot, commanding none should go ashore till his return. Himself with two English and two savages went up higher in a canoe; but he was not long absent but his men went ashore, whose want of government gave both occasion and opportunity to the savages to surprise one George Cassen, whom they slew, and much failed not to have cut off the boat and all the rest.

Smith little dreaming of that accident, being got to the marshes at the river’s head, twenty miles in the desert, had his two men slain (as is supposed) sleeping by the canoe, while himself by fowling sought them victual: who finding he was beset with 200 savages, two of them he slew, still defending himself with the aid of a savage his guide, whom he bound to his arm with his garters, and used him as a buckler. Yet he was shot in his thigh a little, and had many arrows that stuck in his clothes but no great hurt, till at last they took him prisoner.

When this news came to Jamestown, much was their sorrow for his loss, few expecting what ensued.

Six or seven weeks6 those barbarians kept him prisoner. Many strange tri- umphs and conjurations they made of him, yet he so demeaned himself among them, as he not only diverted them from surprising the fort, but procured his own liberty, and got himself and his company such estimation among them, that those savages admired him more than their own Quiyoughkasoucks.

The manner how they used and delivered him is as follows. The savages having drawn from George Cassen whether Captain Smith was

gone, prosecuting that opportunity they followed him with 300 bowmen, con- ducted by the King of Pamaunkee, who in divisions searching the turnings of the river found Robinson and Emry by the fireside. Those they shot full of arrows and slew. Then finding the captain, as is said, that used the savage that was his guide as his shield (three of them being slain and divers others so galled) all the rest would not come near him. Thinking thus to have returned to his boat, regarding them, as he marched, more then his way, [he] slipped up to the middle in an oozy creek and his savage with him, yet durst they not come to him till being near dead with cold he threw away his arms. Then according to their composition7 they drew him forth and led him to the fire where his men were slain. Diligently they chafed his benumbed limbs.

He demanding for their captain, they showed him Opechankanough, King of Pamaunkee, to whom he gave a round ivory double compass dial. Much they mar- velled at the playing of the fly8 and needle, which they could see so plainly, and yet not touch it, because of the glass that covered them. But when he demonstrated by that globe-like jewel, the roundness of the earth, and skies, the sphere of the sun, moon, and stars, and how the sun did chase the night round about the world continually; the greatness of the land and sea, the diversity of nations, variety of

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9. A military maneuver. 1. Forearm armor. 2. A red dye. 3. Medicine. 4. Notebook.

complexions, and how we were to them antipodes, and many other such like mat- ters, they all stood as amazed with admiration.

Notwithstanding, within an hour after they tied him to a tree, and as many as could stand about him prepared to shoot him, but the King holding up the com- pass in his hand, they all laid down their bows and arrows, and in a triumphant manner led him to Orapaks, where he was after their manner kindly feasted and well used.

Their order in conducting him was thus: Drawing themselves all in file, the King in the midst had all their pieces and swords borne before him. Captain Smith was led after him by three great savages, holding him fast by each arm, and on each side six went in file with their arrows nocked. But arriving at the town (which was but only thirty or forty hunting houses made of mats, which they remove as they please, as we our tents) all the women and children staring to behold him, the soldiers first all in file performed the form of a bissone9 so well as could be; and on each flank, officers as sergeants to see them keep their orders. A good time they continued this exercise, and then cast themselves in a ring, dancing in such several postures, and singing and yelling out such hellish notes and screeches, being strangely painted, every one his quiver of arrows, and at his back a club; on his arm a fox or an otter’s skin, or some such matter for his vambrace;1 their heads and shoulders painted red, with oil and pocones2 mingled together, which scarlet- like color made an exceeding handsome show; his bow in his hand, and the skin of a bird with her wings abroad dried, tied on his head, a piece of copper, a white shell, a long feather, with a small rattle growing at the tails of their snakes tied to it, or some such like toy. All this while Smith and the King stood in the midst guarded, as before is said, and after three dances they all departed. Smith they conducted to a long house, where thirty or forty tall fellows did guard him, and ere long more bread and venison was brought him than would have served twenty men. I think his stomach at that time was not very good; what he left they put in baskets and tied over his head. About midnight they set the meat again before him. All this time not one of them would eat a bit with him, till the next morning they brought him as much more, and then did they eat all the old, and reserved the new as they had done the other, which made him think they would fat him to eat him. Yet in this desperate estate to defend him from the cold, one Maocassater brought him his gown, in requital of some beads and toys Smith had given him at his first arrival in Virginia.

Two days after, a man would have slain him (but that the guard prevented it) for the death of his son, to whom they conducted him to recover the poor man then breathing his last. Smith told them that at Jamestown he had a water3 would do it, if they would let him fetch it, but they would not permit that, but made all the preparations they could to assault Jamestown, craving his advice, and for rec- ompense he should have life, liberty, land, and women. In part of a table book4

he writ his mind to them at the fort, what was intended, how they should follow that direction to affright the messengers, and without fail send him such things as

John Smith, from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply 35

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

John Smith from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

5. Mustaches.

he writ for. And an inventory with them. The difficulty and danger he told the savages of the mines, great guns, and other engines exceedingly affrighted them, yet according to his request they went to Jamestown, in as bitter weather as could be of frost and snow, and within three days returned with an answer.

But when they came to Jamestown, seeing men sally out as he had told them they would, they fled; yet in the night they came again to the same place where he had told them they should receive an answer, and such things as he had promised them, which they found accordingly, and with which they returned with no small expedition, to the wonder of them all that heard it, that he could either divine, or the paper could speak.

Then they led him to the Youthtanunds, the Mattapanients, the Payankatanks, the Nantaughtacunds, and Onawmanients upon the rivers of Rappahannock and Potomac; over all those rivers, and back again by divers other several nations, to the King’s habitation at Pamaunkee, where they entertained him with most strange and fearful conjurations:

As if near led to hell, Amongst the devils to dwell.

Not long after, early in a morning a great fire was made in a long house, and a mat spread on the one side, as on the other; on the one they caused him to sit, and all the guard went out of the house, and presently came skipping in a great grim fellow, all painted over with coal, mingled with oil; and many snakes’ and weasels’ skins stuffed with moss, and all their tails tied together, so as they met on the crown of his head in a tassel; and round about the tassel was as a coronet of feathers, the skins hanging round about his head, back, and shoulders, and in a manner covered his face; with a hellish voice, and a rattle in his hand. With most strange gestures and passions he began his invocation, and environed the fire with a circle of meal; which done, three more such like devils came rushing in with the like antique tricks, painted half black, half red, but all their eyes were painted white, and some red strokes like mutchatos,5 along their cheeks. Round about him those fiends danced a pretty while, and then came in three more as ugly as the rest, with red eyes, and white strokes over their black faces. At last they all sat down right against him, three of them on the one hand of the chief priest, and three on the other. Then all with their rattles began a song, which ended, the chief priest laid down five wheat corns. Then straining his arms and hands with such vi- olence that he sweat, and his veins swelled, he began a short oration. At the con- clusion they all gave a short groan and then laid down three grains more. After that, began their song again, and then another oration, ever laying down so many corns as before, till they had twice encircled the fire. That done, they took a bunch of little sticks prepared for that purpose, continuing still their devotion, and at the end of every song and oration, they laid down a stick betwixt the divisions of corn. Till night, neither he nor they did either eat or drink, and then they feasted mer- rily, with the best provisions they could make. Three days they used this ceremony, the meaning whereof they told him was to know if he intended them well or no. The circle of meal signified their country, the circles of corn the bounds of the sea,

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Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

John Smith from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

6. Platter. 7. The chief’s town, on the James River, where they arrived January 5, 1608. 8. Raccoon. 9. Capable.

and the sticks his country. They imagined the world to be flat and round, like a trencher,6 and they in the midst.

After this they brought him a bag of gunpowder, which they carefully pre- served till the next spring, to plant as they did their corn, because they would be acquainted with the nature of that seed.

Opitchapam, the King’s brother, invited him to his house, where, with as many platters of bread, fowl, and wild beasts as did environ him, he bid him wel- come; but not any of them would eat a bit with him, but put up all the remainder in baskets.

At his return to Opechancanoughs, all the King’s women and their chil- dren flocked about him for their parts, as a due by custom, to be merry with such fragments.

But his waking mind in hideous dreams did oft see wondrous shapes, Of bodies strange, and huge in growth, and of stupendous makes.

At last they brought him to Meronocomoco,7 where was Powhatan their Em- peror. Here more than two hundred of those grim courtiers stood wondering at him, as he had been a monster, till Powhatan and his train had put themselves in their greatest braveries. Before a fire upon a seat like a bedstead, he sat covered with a great robe, made of rarowcun8 skins, and all the tails hanging by. On either hand did sit a young wench of 16 or 18 years, and along on each side the house, two rows of men, and behind them as many women, with all their heads and shoulders painted red, many of their heads bedecked with the white down of birds, but every one with something, and a great chain of white beads about their necks.

At his entrance before the King, all the people gave a great shout. The Queen of Appamatuck was appointed to bring him water to wash his hands, and another brought him a bunch of feathers, instead of a towel to dry them. Having feasted him after their best barbarous manner they could, a long consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan; then as many as could laid hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and being ready with their clubs to beat out his brains, Pocahontas, the King’s dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevail, got his head in her arms, and laid her own upon his to save him from death, whereat the Emperor was con- tented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper, for they thought him as well9 of all occupations as themselves. For the King himself will make his own robes, shoes, bows, arrows, pots; plant, hunt, or do any thing so well as the rest.

They say he bore a pleasant show, But sure his heart was sad. For who can pleasant be, and rest, That lives in fear and dread: And having life suspected, doth It still suspected lead.

John Smith, from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply 37

Perkins−Perkins: Selections from American Literature

John Smith from The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Chapter II: What Happened Till the First Supply

© The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2007

1. Cannons capable of firing shots of about ten pounds.

Two days after, Powhatan having disguised himself in the most fearfulest man- ner he could, caused Captain Smith to be brought forth to a great house in the woods, and there upon a mat by the fire to be left alone. Not long after from be- hind a mat that divided the house, was made the most dolefulest noise he ever heard. Then Powhatan more like a devil than a man, with some two hundred more as black as himself, came unto him and told him now they were friends, and presently he should go to Jamestown, to send him two great guns, and a grind- stone, for which he would give him the country of Capahowosick, and forever es- teem him as his son Nantaquoud.

So to Jamestown with 12 guides Powhatan sent him. That night they quar- tered in the woods, he still expecting (as he had done all this long time of his im- prisonment) every hour to be put to one death or other, for all their feasting. But almighty God (by his divine providence) had mollified the hearts of those stern barbarians with compassion. The next morning betimes they came to the fort, where Smith, having used the savages with what kindness he could, he showed Rawhunt, Powhatan’s trusty servant, two demiculverins1 and a millstone to carry Powhatan. They found them somewhat too heavy, but when they did see him dis- charge them, being loaded with stones, among the boughs of a great tree loaded with icicles, the ice and branches came so tumbling down, that the poor savages ran away half dead with fear. But at last we regained some conference with them, and gave them such toys; and sent to Powhatan, his women, and children such presents, as gave them in general full content. * * *


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