Reasons for the death toll at Jamestown remain a mystery to this day. There was plenty of food, but who ate it?
Two 17th-century documents provide a detailed list of supplies in the colony when John Smith left--supplies that should have kept Jamestown alive and well all winter until the next supply ship came:
There were six mares and a horse (Gabriel Archer reported that he had brought “six mares and two horses” aboard the Blessing), five or six hundred hogs (these, including a good number of piglets from the summer litters, would probably have been on Hog Island, three miles across the river from Jamestown). Besides the hogs there were “as many hens and chickens,” plus an unspecified number of goats and sheep. There were nets for fishing and tools of all kinds, and a good supply of clothing. Besides all this, there were “3 ships [these were the pinnaces Discovery and Virginia, plus the larger Swallow Francis West had taken to sail to England], 7 boates, commodities ready to trade, the harvest newly gathered, 10 weekes provision in the store . . . 24 peeces of ordnances, 300 muskets, snaphances and fire lockes [types of firearms], shot, powder, and match sufficient, cuirasses, pikes, swords, and moryons [helmets] more than men.”
To use these weapons if necessary there were a perhaps a hundred trained soldiers who had been in Virginia long enough to know the Indians’ habits and language.
What went wrong?