Saturday, June 21, 2014

“Crab fishes...would have...saved many of our lives....”

         Jamestown, 1610: As warm weather came, George Percy’s health improved, and he made a momentous decision: “By this Time being Reasonable well recovered of my Sickness, I did undertake a Journey unto Algernon’s fort.” He did not go until May. He gave two reasons for going (as if he needed any): one was to “understand how things were there ordered,” and the other reason was to plan a revenge on the Indians at nearby Kecoughtan who had killed John Martin’s men months before.
         President Percy says nothing about what should have been his main concern: finding sustenance for the starving colonists at Jamestown. That is a curious omission. He knew perfectly well that there was food at Algernon Fort on Chesapeake Bay.
         Something is peculiar here. Percy pretends surprise about the plentiful food downriver. And he blames them, not himself, for the terrible neglect:“Our people [at Algernon Fort] I found in good case and well liking, having concealed their plenty from us above at James Town, being so well stored that the crab fishes wherewith they had fed their hogs would have been a great relief to us and saved many of our lives. But their intent was for to have kept some of the better sort alive and with their two pinnaces to have returned for England, not regarding our miseries and wants at all.”
            At least, that was George Percy’s story.

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