Friday, December 18, 2015

John Smith, Pocahontas, and a Romantic Meeting?


          [Pocahontas visited England for six months in 1616-17, but John Smith, the person she most wanted to see, had not come to see her. She was very disappointed. And then one day . . . . 

         Then, after Twelfth Night, George Percy had invited the Rolfes to visit him at Syon House, the home of his brother, the Earl of Northumberland, at Brentford.  On the second afternoon of their stay, a footman came to her chamber with word that Master Rolfe wanted her: there were visitors in the hall who desired to see her. Pocahontas hesitated: she was not yet dressed. That was the custom in England, she had been told. Ladies of fashion wore loose-fitting gowns at home, and laced themselves into bodice and kirtle, stomacher and gorget and ruff, when they went out. Very well then, she thought, she would receive these visitors in her gown. It was a dark red velvet robe, edged with bands of gold braid around the sleeves and the neck. Smoothing the silk net coif whose pearl clasps held her hair in place, she hurried down the broad staircase of Syon House to greet her husband and the visitors.
         John was waiting for her at the foot of the stairs. . . .


For the rest of this Twelfth Night scene, see this blog on January 2, 2016.

Meanwhile, Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Did John Smith sleep here?

Syon House, Brentford
Home of the Earl of Northumberland

Pocahontas probably visited here. John Smith may have met her here. One of England's most historic houses, built in 1567. 

More about this later. Meanwhile, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL makes a good Christmas gift!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Mystery of John Smith

         Meanwhile, what became of John Smith when he returned to England, horribly wounded from the gunpowder accident in Virginia?
Many scholars have pondered this question. One was Smith’s 19th-century biographer, William Gilmore Sims:
         On the accident:
         “While he [Smith] slept, his powder bag was accidentally fired by one of the crew, and the powder exploding tore and lacerated his body in a most shocking manner.”
         [Shocking, indeed. Maybe the reason Smith never married and never had children.]
         Smith left Virginia in bad shape as well:
          “Famine, in its most horrid forms, assailed them." ”A savage slain and buried was eaten,” and “having eaten him, [the starving colonists] followed up the horrid taste for human food, by preying upon one another.”

         When John Smith finally reached England, says Sims, his wounds were grave, and “his cure was probably a tedious one.”

         For the next five years , of what Smith did in England we know little. He lived in “comparative repose” and no doubt had many “expenses atternding his cure. On this subject we are left wholly to conjecture.”

         Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was Smith’s “best friend,” and Smith may have stayed with him. Smith dedicated his 1612 Map of Virginia to Seymour, who died in 1621. Seymour’s wife was Frances Howard, a great beauty, at 34, two years older than John Smith. Her husband was 37 years older than she. Edward Seymour was 75 in 1612.

         Mystery upon mystery.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving, 1610: 300 calories a day?

This is Thanksgiving week.
A look backward 400 or so years, to another November--NOT the Pilgrim feast at Plymouth, but the fare inside the fort at Jamestown.

Just be thankful a hardy few survived.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jamestown: Cannibalism denied.

On November 8, 1610, another piece of propaganda, the Virginia Company’s latest booklet, went on sale at the Black Bear in St. Paul’s churchyard. Its title is self-explanatory:  A True Declaration of the estate of the colony in Virginia, with a confutation of such scandalous reports as have tended to the disgrace of so worthy an enterprise. It celebrated the earlier safe return of Gates, Newport, and others from the Sea Venture expedition, and did its best to dispel the worst of the Virginia reports, especially the “Starving Time” and the “tragical history of the man eating of his dead wife in Virginia.”
Sir Thomas Gates appeared before the Virginia Company’s Council and tried to the record straight about the Jamestown colonists who had killed and eaten his wife, a story that had shocked all of London. (Apparently no one asked where Gates came by this information, since he himself had been in Bermuda when the wife-butchering incident took place.) According to Gates the man “mortally hated his wife.” So he “secretly killed her, then cut her in pieces and hid her remains in divers parts of his house.” The implication being that the husband did not kill his wife because he was starving—though he “fed daily upon her.” As further proof that there was plenty to eat in Jamestown, Gates reported that besides the wife’s dismembered body the man’s house contained “a good quantity of meal, oatmeal, beans, and peas.” Such a larder would have been news to the starving inhabitants inside the fort, who remembered existing on half a can of meal per day.

And perhaps a little meat. . . .

Saturday, October 31, 2015

“Cleannesse of teeth, famine, and death.” Jamestown, 1610

The Virginia Company’s officials rushed to shine a good light on bad news from its fledgling colony. The Company issued a little pamphlet called News from Virginia, of the happy arrival of that famous and worthy knight, Sir Thomas Gates, and well-reputed and valiant Captain Newport, into England. It was in verse, composed by one of the Bermuda castaways, Robert Rich. For its naïve cheerfulness (its 22 stanzas neglect to mention the Indians) and wildly fanciful promises about Virginia, Rich’s poem is worth quoting here in part:
There is no fear of hunger here,
(William Strachey described life at Jamestown as “cleannesse of teeth, famine, and death.”)
                      for corn much store here grows
                  Much fish the gallant rivers yield—
                      ‘tis truth without suppose.
(“The river . . . had not a fish to be seen in it. ”—Strachey.)

                  Great store of fowl, of venison,
                     Of grapes and mulberries,
(“Nothing to trade withal but mulberries.”—Sir George Somers).
Of chestnuts, walnuts, and suchlike,
                     of fruits and strawberries
                  There is indeed no want at all.

                           But some, condition’d ill,           

                  That wish the work should not go on,
                     with words do seem to kill.
There were more words to come.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An Irishman, and "pearls and diamonds" in Virginia

         Enclosed with Ambassador Velasco’s September 1610 letter to King Philip was a Spanish translation of a report from an Irishman, one Francisco Maguel [McGill?] who purported to have been a spy in Virginia for eight months. Who was he? How did he get there? There is no name resembling his on any of the lists of Virginia colonists. But Maguel somehow found his way to Madrid and to a meeting with Florencio Conryo, who claimed to be the Archbishop of Tuam, a town near Galway, Ireland. (Ireland was then under English control, and the Irish Catholics hoped to serve their cause by aiding Spain against their common enemy.)
         The Irish spy’s report gave a detailed account of Virginia’s geography, including the best way to get there by sea. He described bays and rivers, Jamestown fort, and the land’s resources—but much of the account is sprinkled with falsehoods (there are pearls, coral, and perhaps diamonds in Virginia; the English plan to settle twenty or thirty thousand colonists there) and half-truths (Indians are devil-worshipers). 
         Maguel warned that the English “want nothing more than they want to make themselves masters of the South Sea, so as to have their share of the riches of the Indies and be in the way of the traffic of the King of Spain, and to seek other new worlds for themselves.” Whether the mysterious Francisco Maguel, who hoped “to serve his Catholic Majesty” ever did so, is not known, but his report was enough to make Ambassador Velasco very nervous.

         It had a similar effect on King Philip III.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

1611: Spanish Eyes--and London Spies on Jamestown

         In September 1610, two of Lord De La Warr’s ships, the Blessing and the Hercules, returned to England with unwelcome, disturbing news about Virginia. The Virginia Company’s Jamestown settlement was still full of sick and hungry colonists and, worse yet, there were no profits in sight.  Investors looked in vain for their returns. 
The Spanish spy network in London was full of predictions that England’s failing colony would soon be dead. On September 30 Ambassador Velasco wrote to King Philip about news he had from one of his key London sources, one “Guillermo Monco.” This was Sir William Monson, former privateer, veteran of the battle of the Spanish Armada, one-time prisoner of the Spanish in Lisbon, and, since 1604, Admiral of the Narrow Seas [English Channel]. He was also a spy, handsomely paid for leaking English plans to the Spanish ambassador. Monson told Velasco that the English were desperate to recoup their investments in Virginia and were planning to send another large expedition there early in 1611. Spain needed to move now to “drive out the few people that have remained there, and are so threatened by the Indians that they dare not leave the fort they have erected.”

The Spanish ambassador was not far wrong.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

“Ask him what Powhatan says now.”

In this scene from JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL, Lord De La Warr, governor of Virginia, negotiates with Powhatan, the ruler of the Chesapeake tribes: 

         “Tell him,” De la Warr said, . . . “Powhatan must give back what is ours. He has taken near two hundred swords from us, and axes and pole-axes, and chisels and hoes, and he has taken some of our people prisoner.”
         Kempes spoke again. . . . “Powhatan says--“ he began hesitantly. . . . “Powhatan says because you have taken his land, he has taken your weapons and iron things. If you give him a coach and three horses, such as the great men in your country have, he will give you the iron things back.”
         De la Warr pounded his cudgel again. . . . “You see what comes of trying to civilize these damned savages?. . . Powhatan has been the cause of all our troubles,” he said slowly. “We have lost too many good men because of him. Now we shall send him a message he can understand.” Turning to Captain Martin, he said, “Take your broadsword and cut off this one’s right hand.” He jerked his head toward the Indian Okewan.
         Martin’s mouth dropped open in disbelief, and he put his hand on the hilt of his sword, not to draw it, but to keep it firmly in its place. “My lord! You cannot mean that! These two have come here in good faith!”
         “Savages have no faith!” De la Warr said. “Words do no good with them. Blood is the language they understand!”
         “But me no buts! I gave you an order! Will you carry it out, or not? . . . .
         Blood spurted, and Okewan’s right hand, cleanly severed at the wrist bone, hung at the edge of the tree stump and then fell on the grass.

--excerpt from JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Treasure Recovered

[From JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL: Meg Worley finds the gold cross her lover gave to her twenty years ago. ]

         It’s mine, Will,” she whispered, “That cross is mine!”
         Parker opened his mouth in amazement, stared at her, and then at the cross in his hand, as if he were trying to understand her meaning. Then he closed his mouth firmly and tucked the cross into one grimy palm. “Oh, no,” he said craftily, “This here is a solid gold cross, and I found it. You got no proof it’s yours. This came off a dead man three score miles from here. It don’t belong to you, but If you want, I’ll sell it to you.”  He folded his arms across his chest and grinned. “Name me a price.”
         “You bastard!” Will’s fist caught him off guard, and he fell backward against the wall of the storehouse. Before he could recover his footing, Will hit him again, knocking loose one of his front teeth. Spitting blood and clutching his chin, he watched speechlessly as Will searched in the grass for the cross, which had flown from Parker’s hand in the assault.
         “Here it is!” Will knelt to pick it up, to give it to Meg. Gently, he took her hand in his, and with the other he pressed the cross and chain on her upturned palm and closed her fingers around it. Then, for a moment, he held on to her hand tightly with both of his. Looking down, she saw that one of his hands was skinned and bleeding from his having hit Parker.
         “You hurt yourself,” she said numbly.
         “No matter.” . . .

         Then at last she opened her hand and looked at the cross. With one finger, she touched its four points, then she traced its width and length. She moved her hand so that its angles caught the noontime sun, and watched its burnished surface gleam.
         “Do you want to put it on?” Leaning over her, Will took hold of the ends of the chain nnd brought them up slowly, like one performing a religious ceremony, and fastened them around her neck. “There,” he said softly.
         She stood up, turned to face him, and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said. She said no more, and he did not ask her.

--Virginia Bernhard, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL A Story of America’s Beginnings (2014)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Roanoke Survivor Lost--and Found

In JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL, Will Sterling, a friend, tells Meg Worley that he has met a man with an improbable story of a wandering Englishman, perhaps one from Roanoke.  
         “At first, years ago, there was such talk about hunting for the lost Roanoke people, and...\.? there were those stories the Indians told about English in clothes like ours, and George Percy’s tale of the blond-haired boy in the woods, and  Henry Spelman’s claims about Englishmen living at Ritanoe--you cannot help but wonder.”
         “I think I want to know,” Meg said slowly, “and then sometimes I think maybe I don’t. . , , You know--“ she caught herself. She had been about to tell Will about about the gold cross....

 [Will takes Meg to hear the man’s story of the body he came across in the woods.]         

         “No marks on him, just lying there under a big oak tree, dead as a fish out of water. . . I looked around to see if he had anything on him that would tell who he was, but all that was on him was a little bag around his neck with this in it.” Rummaging in a pouch at his waist, Parker drew forth a thin gold chain. Attached to it, dangling from his hand, was a small gold cross. “Pretty, ain’t it?”

--Virginia Bernhard, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL A Story of America’s Beginnings (2014)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roanoke: What Might Have Happened

In JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL, Meg Worley, who came to Virginia in 1609 to seek her fiancé, one of the lost colonists of Roanoke, hears rumors in 1619 that Englishmen may be living at Ritanoe, a remote Indian village.

         It had been twenty-three years since Anthony Gage had kissed her good-bye on the heights of Plymouth Hoe, and it was folly to think she would ever see him again. . . .

         [At Jamestown, Meg has a conversation with Captain George Yardley.]

         “Ritanoe is a long way off,”         
         “Not when you’ve come three thousand miles.”        
         “But I know of no plan to search for any English.”
         “Not yet. . . . Maybe in the spring. . . who knows? I can wait. I have waited twenty years and more.”
         George was touched. “I leave tomorrow to take command of the new Fort Charles . . . If there is any way I can spare some men, I shall send them to Ritanoe as soon as warm weather comes.”. . .
         As George turned to go, Meg unfastened the gold chain around her neck. She dropped it and the small cross in the palm of one hand and touched them lovingly. Then she closed her fingers over them and held out her fist. “Here. Take this with you. Send it with your men to Ritanoe. It will be a message from me to Anthony.”

--Virginia Bernhard, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL A Story of America’s Beginnings (2014)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Roanoke mystery: Where did the “Lost Colonists” go?

     New graves unearthed at Jamestown, now new findings at a site that may hold clues to the “Lost Colonists” (1587-1590) of Roanoke.

     This puzzle is far from solved. Two sources from 1609 and 1612 mention signs of the lost colonists at a remote place the Indians called Ritanoe (near modern Clarksville, Virginia), about 60 miles southeast of Jamestown.  See *RITANOE on the map, lower left.

The Sources:

. . . you are neere to riche Copper mines of Ritanoe and may passe them by another branch of this River and by another Peccareamicke where you shall finde foure of the englishe alive, left by Sir Walter Rawely whch escaped from the slaughter of Powhaton of Roanocke,upon the first arrival of our Colonie, and live under the protection of a wiroane called Gepanocon enemy to Powhaton, by whose consent you shall never recover them.
--Council of the Virginia Company, Instructions to the Colony (1609), Records of the Virginia Company, Susan M. Kingsbury, ed., III, 17.

 . . the People have howses built with stone walles, and one story above another, so taught them by those Englishe who escaped the slaughter at Roanoak . . . at. . . Ritanoe the Weroance Eyanoco preserved 7 of the English alive, fower men, twoo Boyes, and one younge Maid . . . .
--William Strachey, “The Historie of Travaill into Virginia Brittania,” (1612).

More digging awaits.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gabriel Archer’s lost letter--and other mysterie

August, 1609: Four small, battered ships wallowed into Chesapeake Bay. They were all that was left of the great Sea Venture fleet that had sailed for Virginia in June of that year. One of these ships, the Blessing, was captained by Gabriel Archer, whose bones have been recently unearthed at Jamestown.
By August 11, 1609 the Blessing, the Lion, the Falcon, and the Unity were moored to trees on the riverbank at Jamestown. Neither the ships nor their passengers were in good shape. Gabriel Archer (John Smith’s old enemy) wrote a letter to a friend in London: “The Unity was sore distressed when she came up with us, for of seventy land men, she had not ten sound, and all her Sea men were downe, but onely the Master and his Boy, with one poor sailor. . . . In the Unity were borne two children at Sea, but both died, being both boyes.” A few days later the Diamond arrived, with her mainmast gone, and “many of her men very sick and weake . . . And some three or four dayes after her, came in the Swallow, with her maine Mast overboord also, and had a shrewd leake . . . .”
It is ironic that Gabriel Archer, who died during the “Starving Time,”  also wrote of the colony’s perpetual food shortage. He blamed “Captain Newport and others” for leading the Virginia Company in London to believe that there was “such plenty of victuall in this Country, by which meanes they [the Virginia Company] have been slack in this supply.” “Upon this,” Archer wrote to his friend, “you that be adventurers [investors] must pardon us, if you find not return of Commodity so ample as you may expect, because the law of nature bids us seek sustenance first, and then to labour to content you afterwards. But upon this point I shall be more large in my next Letter.” Unfortunately, Archer’s “next letter” has been lost.
         Another Jamestown mystery.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

More Jamestown Mysteries Unearthed!

         Gabriel Archer, now a “person of interest” whose grave was discovered in recent Jamestown excavations, was always a thorn in John Smith’s side--for reasons unknown. In January 1608 Archer, then a member of the Virginia Company Council, tried to have Smith executed for causing the deaths of two men who had been killed by Indians on Smith’s recent expedition upriver. John Robinson died with “20 or 30 arrows in him.” Thomas Emry simply disappeared. Archer, “indicted him [Smith] upon a chapter in Leviticus for the death of his two men.” The Old Testament book of Leviticus, contains the famous “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” passage that ends “just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted upon him.” (Leviticus, 20:24.) For an account of this incident see Edward Maria Wingfield, “A Discourse of Virginia,” in Jamestown Narratives, Edward Wright Haile, ed., (1998), p. 196, and Virginia Bernhard, A Tale of Two Colonies: What Really Happened in Virginia and Bermuda? (2011), pp. 42-43.                 
         Did Archer have a Bible handy in the wilds of Virginia in 1608? Or was he so well versed in Scripture he could cite chapter and verse as needed? (The Geneva Bible of 1560 was the standard English one, and the first one with numbered verses.) Just how religious was Archer, who, it appears, was buried in 1610 with a Catholic reliquary in his grave?
         Smith was saved by a stroke of luck: On the very day of his trial, who should arrive but Captain Christopher Newport with supplies and a hundred new colonists? In the excitement, Smith’s alleged crime was apparently cancelled. But Archer’s vendetta against John Smith was not.
         None of the extant sources say what Archer had against Smith. Gabriel Archer (1575-1610), educated at Cambridge and Gray's Inn, and John Smith (1580-1631), a grammar school dropout, were nearly the same age, but of vastly different backgrounds. Something set them against each other. Four centuries later, we are still looking for answers.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Smith bids a sad farewell to Virginia

         After the assassination attempt, Smith’s allies, his “old soldiers,” the men who had been with him in his expeditions all over the Chesapeake, wanted revenge. They begged him to let them get rid of his enemies, “to take their heads that would resist his command.” But John Smith had had enough. He was desperately weak and in excruciating pain from his burns. Most people—and perhaps Smith himself—did not expect that he would live. And so, as he and his co-authors wrote afterward, Smith’s time in Virginia had come to a sad end: “his commission [as president] to be suppressed he knew not why, himselfe and souldiers to be rewarded he knew not how, and a new commission graunted they knew not to whom . . . .so grievous were his wounds, and so cruell his torment, few expected he could live, nor was hee able to follow his businesse to regaine what they had lost, suppresse those factions and range the countries for provision as he intended, and well he knew in those affaires his owne actions and presence was as requisite as his directions, which now could not be.”


         In October 1609, John Smith sailed for England. He would never return to Virginia.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A failed assassination plot, September 1609

 On that September afternoon when Smith’s barge came into view on the river, people at Jamestown were shocked at what they saw—or rather, what they did not see. Smith was always at the bow shouting orders when his barge came in. This time he was not there. As soon as the mooring was made fast, the reason for his absence at the bow was clear: He was “unable to stand, and neere bereft of his senses by reason of his torment.” Smith’s sailors were preparing to carry their gravely wounded leader ashore on a makeshift litter. After the gunpowder accident his men had brought him downriver as quickly as they could, but by now his untreated burns were hideously blistered and blackened. They oozed. Flies and gnats swarmed around them.
People who saw John Smith lying helpless and crazed with pain, shook their heads.
What would become of Jamestown now?
Smith’s enemies, John Ratcliffe, Gabriel Archer, and John Martin, seeing him “near bereft of his senses,” were disappointed to see him still alive. Soon they and their confederates “plotted to have him murdered in his bed.”

The story is not altogether clear, but it is mentioned in two of the existing sources: “The Proceedings of the English Colonie in Virginia,” published in 1612, and Smith’s own Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, published in 1624. But about the attempted assassination of the wounded John Smith, the wording in both the “Proceedings” and the Generall Historie is identical and frustratingly brief: “But his hart did fail him that should have given fire to that mercilesse pistol.”
So, apparently did the pistol, which did not go off.
Did Smith, feverish and wracked with pain, hear the click of a pistol being cocked and know at the time that someone had tried to kill him, or did he learn about it afterward?
No one knows.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

“John Smith may not live to fight again.”

        John Smith had been hideously wounded in the accident upriver. The Indians, who watched and knew everything that happened along the river, had seen what happened. Wahunsonacock, the father of Pocahontas and the ruler of the Powhatan people discussed it with his brothers. He had developed a grudging admiration for his enemy.

         Had Pocahontas not flung herself at John Smith, Wahunsonacock might have adopted him into the tribe. But Pocahontas had to be disciplined, and her father told himself he did not want his daughter sleeping with a foreigner.
         “He has the courage of a hawk, but he is badly wounded. I saw the fire aboard his ship myself, and I saw how it burned him as he leaped into the river. His clothes were all in flames. When his men pulled him out of the water, he was very near death. They said it was his gunpowder bag that caught fire.” Wahunsonacock inhaled the fragrant smoke from his tobacco leaf, exhaled, and squinted at his brothers through a fine blue haze. “I say Francis West tried to kill him.”
         “Smith made him stay at the Falls. They had hot words. West said he wanted to go back to England and Smith said he could not.”
         Opechancanough smiled. “If these English begin to quarrel among themselves, they may kill each other and save us the trouble.”....
         But Wahunsonacock, whose heart ached for his banished daughter and who wished that John Smith could have been his son, not his enemy, was silent.

--Virginia Bernhard, Jamestown: The Novel, 77-78.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pocahontas's people get federal recognition!

        After 400 years, the U.S. government has extended recognition to the Pamunkey Indians of Virginia.

       They join more than 300 other tribes so recognized. About time! Pocahontas and her father would be glad.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July--thanks to John Smith?

We can celebrate this holiday because of what John Smith and others began at Jamestown 400 years ago.

Worth a thought!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

An accident that changed a life

          Like so many things about early Jamestown history, the source of John Smith’s accident remains a mystery. But the accident changed his life forever. Miraculously, he survived the severe injury and did not die of infection. But it is possible that, as a twenty-first-century scholar bluntly put it: the accident “destroyed Smith’s genitals.” David S. Shields, “The Genius of Ancient Britain,” in Mancall, ed., Atlantic World, 489-509, argues that Smith, so severely injured that he was unable to father children, turned to writing instead. 
          There is, however, no evidence of that. But the description of the injury’s location was very specific, and the gunpowder explosion in that area damaged “flesh” as well as skin. Medical evidence suggests that such a wound and its scars could have caused infertility, and/or serious problems with sexual relations. John Smith returned to England, and never returned to Virginia. He did not go to sea again until 1612. He never married. He put his formidable energies into writing about Virginia and New England. Years later, he wrote, "By that acquaintance I have with them [the colonies] I may call them my children, for they have been my wife, my hawks, my hounds, my cards, my dice, and total my best content. . . .”
If the gunpowder accident had been a deliberate attempt on Smith’s life, it had fizzled. Smith’s enemies would have to devise another scheme to get rid of him.
         They would not be long in doing so.

--Virginia Bernhard, A Tale of Two Colonies: What Really Happened in Virginia and Bermuda (2011), 94-95.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A bag of gunpowder explodes.

There are two versions of another Jamestown mystery: an accident aboard John Smith’s boat, in September 1609. One was written by Smith, and the other by George Percy, who had no love for Smith.

         According to Smith’s account, he had sailed with  “with his best expedition,” but there is no record of who was aboard the boat with him. While Smith was “Sleeping in his boat, (for the ship was returned two daies before) accidentallie, one fired his powder-bag, which tore the flesh from his body and thighs, nine or ten inches square in a most pitifull manner; but to quench the tormenting fire, frying him in his cloaths he leaped over bord into the deepe river, where ere they could recover him he was neere drowned. In this state, without either Chirurgeon, or chirurgery, he was to goe neere 100 miles.”
         George Percy’s version of this incident is somewhat different. When he wrote his “Trewe Relacyon” years later.

         And so Capteyne Smithe Retourninge to James Towne ageine [was] fownd to have too mutche powder aboutt him, the which beinge in his pockett where the sparke of a matche lighted, very shrewdly [sharply] burned him.” A pocket was a small bag tied around the waist, by men or women, to carry miscellaneous objects. A match was a slow-burning wick made of hemp, used to ignite a charge of gunpowder to shoot a musket. What Smith probably had was a leather gunpowder bag attached to a belt around his waist. In his sleep, the bag could have slipped from his side to the front of his body. As he slept, one of his men standing watch on deck, with a match kept burning at the ready, could have accidentally ignited the bag. A spark from the match, caught by a gust of wind, perhaps, could have been the cause of the accident. Percy, however, does not use the word, “accident.” Smith was a seasoned soldier, and it is unlikely that he had “too much powder” in his bag. . . . And there would be another attempt on Smith’s life when he returned to Jamestown.

--Virginia Bernhard, A Tale of Two Colonies: What Really Happened in Virginia and Bermuda (2011), 94-95.