Saturday, April 19, 2014

“Suffering great hunger”

From October 1609 to May 1610, most of Jamestown’s 300-odd residents literally starved to death. Sixty were found alive inside the fort.
         Why? Scholars disagree to this very day. So do existing eyewitness accounts. The men who wrote the 1612 “Proceedings, agreed with Smith’s 1624 Generall Historie that there was food to last the winter, but George Percy’s “Trewe Relacyon” observed that the food supply was soon consumed and people began to starve.
         Tales of meager rations at Jamestown reached the ears of Don Pedro de Zuñiga, the Spanish ambassador in London. In December 1609 he wrote to King Philip III that people “are suffering great hunger there.”
          But there should have been enough food to last through the winter. Do the numbers: 500 chickens (one roast chicken could feed at least two adults, perhaps more) not to mention eggs; 500 hogs (one hog=about 50 pounds of dressed meat, or roughly 25,000 to 30,000 pounds of pork), some goats (some of which no doubt gave milk) and sheep (roast mutton, lamb chops) , not to mention the fish and shellfish in the rivers, plus the grain in the storehouse, should have fed 300 men, women, and children for five or six months, until a new supply ship came the next spring. But long before winter came, the “Starving Time” arrived. 

Who was to blame?

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