Sunday, December 14, 2014

1610: Hunger a permanent resident at Jamestown

It was Somers who thought of going to Bermuda for food, but De La Warr took the credit for it. He wrote his own letter to the Earl of Salisbury after the admiral’s departure: “I dispatched Sir George Sommers back again to the Barmudas, the good old gentleman [Somers was fifty-six; De La Warr was thirty-three at the time] out of his love and zeal not motioning [opposing], but most cheerfully and resolutely undertaking to perform so dangerous a voyage, and, if it please God he do safely return, he will store us with hog’s flesh and fish enough to serve the whole colony this winter.”
That was wishful thinking.
         Meanwhile, De La Warr set his men and others who were able-bodied to work. Some were put to cleaning up the debris of ruined houses inside the fort, others to making coal for the forges (blacksmiths were essential for making tools and weapons and ammunition), still others to fish, but the latter, the Captain-General noted with disappointment, “had ill success” in the James River. The starving residents of Jamestown had become too weak and too frightened of Indians to fish in the river, and they had let their nets—fourteen of them by one count—rot to pieces. The newcomers had some nets, but they had little luck in casting them. They hauled in their nets every day and night, “sometimes a dosen times one after the other,” but they did not catch enough to feed even a fourth of the people who were there.
         Hunger--gnawing, gut-wrenching hunger, was becoming a permanent resident of Jamestown.

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