Bacon's Rebellion: The Burning of Jamestown

Bacon's Rebellion: The Burning of Jamestown


Jamestown Burns During Bacon’s Rebellion

On September 19, 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led an irate group of followers into Jamestown and burned nearly all the buildings to the ground.

In the mid-1670s, some Virginia colonists grew concerned over the government’s lack of action in the wake of increasing Native American attacks on their settlements. Among them was Nathaniel Bacon, who also took issue with Virginia’s governor William Berkeley. Bacon felt snubbed after not receiving a political appointment or being allow to trade with the Native Americans. When word spread about a new Indian raiding party, several hundred settlers met and elected Bacon as their leader, essentially beginning the rebellion.

U.S. #4136 – Bacon’s rebellion and the burning of Jamestown are considered precursors to the American Revolution.

Though governor Berkeley warned against it, the rebels set out on a mission and destroyed much of the Susquehannock tribe. After returning to Jamestown, Bacon demanded a commission to lead a militia against the Native Americans. Berkeley initially refused, but after Bacon and his followers threatened the burgesses (elected representatives), they granted his commission.

Item #CNC01 – First Day Coin Cover featuring U.S. #4136 and $1 silver Jamestown coin.

Bacon and his army then drafted and issued the Declaration of the People of Virginia, criticizing Berkeley for unfair taxes, appointing friends to prominent positions, and failing to protect citizens from attacks. After attacking the friendly Pamunkey tribe, Bacon and his men moved toward Jamestown. Berkeley abandoned the town and avoided being captured. Bacon knew he couldn’t hold the capital city or let Berkeley take it back, so he decided to burn it to the ground. Bacon’s men ran between buildings with burning brands and torched homes, the statehouse, warehouses, taverns, and even the church. Berkeley and his loyalists who’d escaped watched the glow of their home burning from downstream.

With Jamestown destroyed, Bacon went back to attacking Native American tribes. However, about a month after the burning, he died suddenly from typhus and dysentery. Though a new leader rose to take Bacon’s place, the rebels slowly disbanded. Berkeley launched successful attacks to quiet any further uprising from Bacon’s followers. But he was later removed from his role as governor by King Charles II to consolidate power and prevent another rebellion.


The Bacon’s Rebellion in the History of Jamestown

‘The poverty of the country is such that all the power and sway has got into the hands of the rich, who by extortious advantages, having the common people in their debt, have always curbed and oppressed them in all manner of ways.” This was said by Nathaniel Bacon Jr, and it describes the motivation for the rebellion he played a key part in, aptly name Bacon’s Rebellion which took place in the summer of 1676. It took place in Jamestown, which was an English colony founded in America in 1607. Eventually it came under the governance of William Berkeley who was forced into action by the actions of Bacon.

The rebellion started with discontent and grew to something greater. Several distinct factors contributed to it, some of which were the prevailing anti-Indian sentiment, Berkeley’s favoritism, and Bacons premature actions and his subsequent threats. The first of which, anti-Indian sentiment is probably the least well founded of the three. There were small raids by the Indians so in this sentiment there is a grain of truth but they blamed several other things on Indian interference that was no fault of the Indians. One of which was the economic problems they were experiencing at the time, namely the depreciation in cost of the tobacco crop that they grew predominantly, along with increased competition from neighboring colonies, and restrictive trading laws put in place by the British. Together they all combined to create discontent among the settlers who used the Indians as a scapegoat. Another reason was Berkeley’s blatant favoritism when choosing the merchants who would have limited contact with the Indians also didn’t help matters. Due to raids and parties fighting on both sides, Berkeley called the long assembly, trying to keep the peace, and in which the town allied itself against all the Indians that they deemed bad. To protect the town, the Long Assembly designated a defense zone around the town, but this was at the cost of the citizens, who didn’t want anything the assembly was forcing upon them. On top of this, trading with the Indians was highly regulated, and only a few merchants were authorized to trade with the Indians, most of which were close friends of Berkeley. One of the traders adversely affected by these new regulations was Nathaniel Bacon Jr. who protested them vigorously and publicly before next resorting to taking it out on the Indians. Bacon decided to make his own group of men to go after the Indians they had felt wronged their colony since they felt Berkeley had not addressed it well at all. Bacons groups first action was to drive the Pamunkey Indians from their land taking the land they felt was theirs and Berkeley wanted to leave to the Indians. Berkeley in response to Bacons actions took 300 well-armed men and rode to Bacons headquarters driving him out with his 200 men. After this Berkeley released 2 petitions, That Bacons would be declared a rebel, and that Bacon’s men would be pardoned if they left Bacon and returned home. Bacon however chose to disregard Berkeley and chose instead to head after the Occaneechi Indians. Berkeley was willing to extend a branch to Bacon in the form of a pardon from him but he had to go back to England’s courts. However, before this offer could be delivered to Bacon the idea was shot down by the House of Burgesses which Bacon had been elected to recently since he had a hero of the people aspect. Bacon showed up in June 1676 to take his seat in the House of Burgesses but the forces of Berkeley caught him and took him to Berkeley. There he was made to apologize and Berkeley decided to live and let live and so pardoned him. However, Berkeley’s grace may have been wasted as this was just the precursor to the rest of the rebellion. Berkeley’s troubles were not to end there as Bacon took up his seat in the house. In the midst of a heated argument about how to handle the Indians Bacon stormed out of the house and returned with a posse of his men demanding a commission from Berkeley to go and hunt the Indians. Berkeley called Bacons bluff and purportedly bared his chest to the gun Bacons men were threatening him with and said ‘Here shoot me before God, fair mark shoot’. Bacon judged that shooting Berkeley would do him no good so he immediately turned his men upon the House of Burgesses, threatening to shoot them if Berkeley still refused. Bacons plan worked and Berkeley gave in, giving him all power against the Indians without Government interference. Berkeley’s authority was in pieces at this point so he withdrew from Jamestown and washed his hands of everything.

As Berkeley was no longer there, Bacon became the automatic leader of the people. Bacons short term as leader lasted from roughly July to September in 1676. Even by the end of his first month, on July 30th Bacon had released his Declaration of the People to the inhabitants of Jamestown. This document laid out how Bacon believed Berkeley had shown favoritism, corruption, and had wholly served his own interests through his position as the governor. After his declaration he also released an oath for the people Jamestown to take which would swear their physical, verbal, and material support for him. But even with Bacons precautions some of Berkeley’s men managed to sneak back into Jamestown and disable Bacons fleet. This was a turning point in which Bacon started to lose support quickly. As Bacons influence decreased quickly so did his health and on October 26th 1671 Nathaniel Bacon, leader of a revolution died of the Bloody Flux.

Quickly after the death of Bacon, Berkeley was able to return and reassert his control over the people. But despite the fact he had given Bacon so many chances earlier he did not extend the same graces to other rebel leaders who had helped Bacon’s rise to power. In total Berkeley hanged 23 dissidents and revoked the property rights of several other prominent supporters of Bacon. However, soon after an investigative committee sent a report back to England about the rebellion and Berkeley’s handling of it, Berkeley was recalled to England where he died soon after arriving.

A few misconceptions and discovery’s rose up tangentially to the rebellion itself. The main historical misconception about this confrontation is that it was an early stirring of the rebellion that would come nearly a hundred years later. While in a way the players had the same role, a group of the people rising up for their united interests against a government who had not treated them as they wished. However, though this does mimic the roles, the issues between both sides were still very different. Bacon goal was achieved due to prejudice against the Indians and the corrupt nature of Berkeley’s governance. Another interesting aside from this time was a discovery made by Berkeley’s men as they approached Jamestown. This discovery was of the hallucinogenic effects of the Jimson weed, Datura Stramonium. According to legend some of this weed was ingested by the soldiers and suffered several effects for the next 11 days.

In conclusion, Bacon’s rebellion was a complex conflict which involved several errors tactical, tactful, and otherwise. This is an important chapter in America’s history as it shows a willingness of the people to stand up to a government, that they believe is corrupt and it also shows the power one man could draw to himself by rhetoric. This portion of early American history is important to historians and Americans as it shows America as a people were drifting away from the British and becoming more independent, even one hundred years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted and set America’s independence formally before the entire world.


Tobacco, War, and Land

The rebellion began over the conflict between landowners in the interior and the more affluent plantation owners along the coast of Virginia. The Jamestown Colony of Virginia was founded in 1607 CE, and tobacco began to be cultivated on large plantations in the east after tobacco seeds were brought to the region by John Rolfe (1585-1622 CE) in 1610 CE. Rolfe’s tobacco, which was sweeter than others on the market at the time, became Jamestown’s cash crop, and more farmers began planting tobacco than other crops such as corn or rice. Tobacco’s popularity abroad encouraged the establishment of more and more plantations, which encroached on Native American lands resulting in the Anglo-Powhatan Wars of 1610-1646 CE.

The First Powhatan War (1610-1614 CE) had little to do with tobacco per se but did arise out of the land-grabbing policies of the colonists and the refusal of Jamestown’s governor, Thomas West, Lord De La Warr (l. 1577-1618 CE) to compromise and address Native American concerns. Land was purchased for less than it was worth because the natives of the Powhatan Confederacy did not have the same concept of property rights as the English and so, to them, the transaction was more of a rental than a sale the indigenous people believed they were only giving the English the right to use their land, not to own it.

The first war was ended by the Peace of Pocahontas after Pocahontas (l. c. 1596-1617 CE), daughter of the Powhatan chief Wahunsenacah (l. c. 1547-c. 1618 CE), married John Rolfe. During this period of peace (1614-1622 CE), more land was taken for tobacco cultivation and was worked by indentured servants. These were individuals who had agreed to work for seven years in return for passage to North America and, at the end of their servitude, to be rewarded with their own land. In 1619 CE, the first Africans arrived in Jamestown and were purchased by then-governor Sir George Yeardley (l. 1587-1627 CE) to work his fields.

Although these 20 Africans had been taken as slaves by the Dutch (whose ship put in at Jamestown only for supplies, not to sell slaves), a number of scholars (David A. Price among them) argue that they were not treated as slaves upon their arrival but more along the lines of indentured servants. Slavery had not yet been institutionalized in the colonies and had been outlawed in England centuries before and so it is reasonable to suggest that the Africans would have been subject to the only system of servitude the colonists knew. Further, indentured servitude was hardly a novel practice in the colonies and the Africans would have most likely been acquainted with it.

The Second Powhatan War broke out with the Indian massacre of 1622 CE in which over 300 colonists were killed by the Powhatan chief Opchanacanough (l. 1554-1646 CE). When the war ended with an English victory in 1626 CE, more land was taken from the Powhatans and turned into farmland and settlements. From 1614 CE onwards, every seven years, roughly, another group of indentured servants were released from their contract and received land and, while this was going on, more and more were arriving from England who had made the same arrangements and so even more land was required.

Indian Massacre of 1622 CE. A colorized version of a woodcut by Matthaeus Merian published along with Theodore de Bry’s earlier engravings in a book on the New World, 1628 CE. / Wikimedia Commons

After the Third Powhatan War (1644-1646 CE), the Powhatan Confederation was dissolved, and large tracts of land taken by the colonists. The Native Americans were pushed into the interior but, as more colonists had been receiving land regularly since c. 1614 CE, this area was also where former indentured servants were now settling on their promised acreage. Tribes formerly associated with the Powhatan Confederacy, as well as others, understood this land as theirs and periodically raided settlements, killing the colonists. During this same time, slavery was first introduced as a legal option for punishment in 1640 CE establishing a class of African slaves as the lowest and thereby elevating the status of indentured servants and other landless citizens, both black and white.


The price of freedom

Without the existence of slave laws, people were initially indentured servants in North America. According to PBS, although their lives were incredibly difficult, those who survived were able to pursue a life outside of indentured servitude. A small minority even managed to become part of the "colonial elite." Some laborers, however, had their contracts repeatedly bought and sold and never attained freedom. The period of indenture could also be extended as a form of punishment. In Virginia, if women who were indentured servants became pregnant, their contract could be extended by two years.

In Virginia, the first slave law was passed in 1661, when enslavement was given statutory recognition by ruling that if African slaves and indentured servants ran away together, then the English servant shall "serve the masters of the said negroes for their absence soe (sic) long as they should have done by this act if they had not beene slaves."

According to Smithsonian Magazine, one of the first "slaves for life" in Virginia was John Casor, an African man who was captured and brought to North America. In 1654, Casor claimed that he'd long completed his working contract under Anthony Johnson and demanded his freedom. Johnson had also been captured and brought to North America from Angola but had gained his freedom from indentured servitude around 1635. But when Casor claimed a similar courtesy, Johnson denied his request, took Casor's new employer to court, and Casor became Johnson's lifelong slave under law.


Jamestown: Rebellion and Psychedelia

Although I have read of Bacon’s Rebellion before today, I never really appreciated the sneakiness and subterfuge involved when British forces led by Governor Berkeley were tricked into eating food laced with Datura stramonium, a powerful hallucinogen that kept the men acting goofy and having visions for 11 days! Perhaps this is an example of the earliest English psychedelia in the New World. I can find no word on whether they were eager to take a second trip.

Meanwhile, burning the settlement of Jamestown to the ground on September 19, 1676, rebel leader Nathaniel Bacon then proceeded to exit this mortal coil (‘Jexit’?) via dysentery on October 26, 1676 before troops could arrive in support of Berkeley. Thus, Bacon’s Rebellion faded out after a while though dissatisfaction remained for many of the colonists and life continued to be dangerous.

Nothing then did I know of my ancestors from Virginia or their links to the area around the James River in the 17th and 18th centuries when over 300 years later I drew a botanical depiction of Jimson weed, aka Datura Stramonium (pictured below) which grows naturally in North America but has been used for centuries as an Old World medicinal treatment in various cultures, and is considered sacred in India for its spiritual uses.

At the time, I simply thought the plant bore a lovely purplish bloom and deserved a pencil portrait in my Secret Moon Art collection! Purple is my favorite color, you see.

Toxic in larger doses, Datura has many nicknames. Perhaps you’ve heard of it as: stink weed, hell’s bells, devil’s trumpet, Thornapple, or locoweed, just to name a few. Even the venerable herbalist (and astrologer) Nicholas Culpeper described medicinal uses for this annual plant which can relieve asthma and is handy as an analgesic during bone-setting and surgeries with its active ingredient being the more familiar atropine.

So in honor of Bacon’s Rebellion and Berkeley’s psychedelic soldiers, here’s my interpretation of Datura Stramonium, or as I like to call it, Jimson weed (in Moonlight):


Why did Bacon's revolt ultimately fail?

Even in the midst of these unprecedented triumphs, however, Bacon was not without his mistakes. He allowed Berkeley to leave Jamestown in the aftermath of a surprise Indian attack on a nearby settlement. He also confiscated supplies from Gloucester and left them vulnerable to possible Indian attacks. Shortly after the immediate crisis subsided, Berkeley briefly retired to his home at Green Springs and washed his hands of the entire mess. Nathaniel Bacon dominated Jamestown from July through September 1676. During this time, Berkeley did come out of his lethargy and attempt a coup, but support for Bacon was still too strong and Berkeley was forced to flee to Accomack County on the Eastern Shore.

Feeling that it would make his triumph complete, Bacon issued his "Declaration of the People" on July 30, 1676 which stated that Berkeley was corrupt, played favorites and protected the Indians for his own selfish purposes. Bacon also issued his oath which required the swearer to promise his loyalty to Bacon in any manner necessary (i.e., armed service, supplies, verbal support). Even this tight rein could not keep the tide from changing again. Bacon's fleet was first and finally secretly infiltrated by Berkeley's men and finally captured. This was to be the turning point in the conflict, because Berkeley was once again strong enough to retake Jamestown.

Bacon then followed his sinking fortunes to Jamestown and saw it heavily fortified. He made several attempts at a siege, during which he kidnapped the wives of several of Berkeley's biggest supporters, including Mrs. Nathaniel Bacon Sr., and placed them upon the ramparts of his siege fortifications while he dug his position. Infuriated, Bacon burned Jamestown to the ground on September 19, 1676. (He did save many valuable records in the statehouse.) By now his luck had clearly run out with this extreme measure and he began to have trouble controlling his men's conduct as well as keeping his popular support. Few people responded to Bacon's appeal to capture Berkeley who had since returned to the Eastern Shore for safety reasons.

On October 26th, 1676, Bacon abruptly died of the "Bloodie Flux" and "Lousey Disease" (body lice). It is possible his soldiers burned his contaminated body because it was never found. (His death inspired this little ditty Bacon is Dead I am sorry at my hart That lice and flux should take the hangman's part".)


Drummond’s House

In the fall of 2008, archaeologists focused excavations on a brick-lined cellar after uncovering a chimney base and a shallow foundation from the same building 20 feet to the east. The alignment of the chimney base with the cellar left little doubt they were the remains of the same building. The overall dimensions of the building were 40 feet by 20 feet. The cellar itself was 14 feet by 19 feet. Burnt timber in the cellar indicated that the building was timber framed and set upon a brick foundation that had been plowed or robbed away. The structure was oriented east to west on the same axis as the mid 17th-century brick church tower to the southeast, suggesting that the two structures stood at the same time. The building may have been a casualty of the intentional burning of Jamestown in 1676 during Bacon’s Rebellion.

After the building burned, the cellar became a trash pit and it was filled mostly by brick and mortar rubble generated during the salvaging of the building’s ruins. In these rubble layers a 1656 French coin was found, confirming that the building was destroyed after this date. Under the trash layers was the destruction layer, a dense burnt layer, which confirmed that the superstructure over the cellar had burned. This layer contained the charred remains of timber framing and the structure’s contents. The charred remains of six upright casks, two bucket bottoms, and a small wooden box with a lock plate were found in the debris along the southern and western walls. These objects indicate that the cellar was being used for storage at the time of the fire. Dry goods likely were kept in the upright casks because liquid-tight casks were generally stored on their sides with the tap at one of the heads.

The removal of the fill layers revealed the brick foundations or cellar walls, the builder’s trench for these walls, a brick floor, a sump pit, and two sets of steps. The brick floor was laid after the construction of the walls and consisted mostly of bricks placed in a soldier course (on edge), but contained several cobbles and brick tiles set on end. The bricks were various sizes, had been fired in differing conditions, and some were whitewashed, which indicated that the material for this floor was laid with recycled bricks.

The sump pit was located in the center of the cellar and was brick lined with a brick bottom. The sump was rectangular in plan, 2′ wide, and 1󈧎” deep below the floor. The entire brick floor of the cellar gently sloped towards the sump pit to facilitate drainage, keeping the cellar dry.

There were two sets of cellar steps, both located at the southeastern corner of the cellar. The wider set of steps, located along the southern wall, was a 4′-wide exterior entrance. This width allowed for larger containers, like barrels, to be loaded into the cellar. The stair treads were brick with wooden nosings that had burned or rotted away. The second set of steps was located along the eastern wall near the southeastern cellar corner. These 2′-wide steps led to the interior of the structure. They were steep and some charred sections of the wooden nosings survived. A hole left between the brickwork along the side of the steps revealed where a wooden nosing had been secured.

Artifact evidence found among the destruction rubble could date the destruction of this building to 1676. If the building burned during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, the land plats from this period show that either Richard Lawrence or William Drummond owned the property. The building seems to be located along the property line between the two plats. Both Lawrence and Drummond were co-conspirators with rebel leader Nathanial Bacon during Bacon’s Rebellion, and both burned their own homes during the sacking of the town to set an example for the other rebels.

In September 1804, the Richmond Esquire published a letter written by the anonymous T. M. to Privy Council member Robert Harley that described the event:

“Here resting a few daies they concerted the burning of the town, wherein Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Drumond owning the two best houses save one, set fire each to his own house, which example the souldiers following laid the whole town (with church and state-house) in ashes, saying, the rogues should harbour no more there.”


Jamestown Burns During Bacon’s Rebellion

On September 19, 1676, Nathaniel Bacon led an irate group of followers into Jamestown and burned nearly all the buildings to the ground.

In the mid-1670s, some Virginia colonists grew concerned over the government’s lack of action in the wake of increasing Native American attacks on their settlements. Among them was Nathaniel Bacon, who also took issue with Virginia’s governor William Berkeley. Bacon felt snubbed after not receiving a political appointment or being allow to trade with the Native Americans. When word spread about a new Indian raiding party, several hundred settlers met and elected Bacon as their leader, essentially beginning the rebellion.

U.S. #4136 – Bacon’s rebellion and the burning of Jamestown are considered precursors to the American Revolution.

Though governor Berkeley warned against it, the rebels set out on a mission and destroyed much of the Susquehannock tribe. After returning to Jamestown, Bacon demanded a commission to lead a militia against the Native Americans. Berkeley initially refused, but after Bacon and his followers threatened the burgesses (elected representatives), they granted his commission.

Item #CNC01 – First Day Coin Cover featuring U.S. #4136 and $1 silver Jamestown coin.

Bacon and his army then drafted and issued the Declaration of the People of Virginia, criticizing Berkeley for unfair taxes, appointing friends to prominent positions, and failing to protect citizens from attacks. After attacking the friendly Pamunkey tribe, Bacon and his men moved toward Jamestown. Berkeley abandoned the town and avoided being captured. Bacon knew he couldn’t hold the capital city or let Berkeley take it back, so he decided to burn it to the ground. Bacon’s men ran between buildings with burning brands and torched homes, the statehouse, warehouses, taverns, and even the church. Berkeley and his loyalists who’d escaped watched the glow of their home burning from downstream.

Item #M10058 – Isle of Man stamps honoring 400th anniversary of Jamestown.

With Jamestown destroyed, Bacon went back to attacking Native American tribes. However, about a month after the burning, he died suddenly from typhus and dysentery. Though a new leader rose to take Bacon’s place, the rebels slowly disbanded. Berkeley launched successful attacks to quiet any further uprising from Bacon’s followers. But he was later removed from his role as governor by King Charles II to consolidate power and prevent another rebellion.


Bacon's Rebellion: The Burning of Jamestown - History

Bacon in most incens'd manner threatens to be revenged on the Governor and his party, swearing his soldiers to give no quarter and professing to soorne to take any themselves, and so in great fury marches on towards James Towne, onely halting a while about New Kent to gain some fresh forces, and sending to the upper parts of James River for what they could assist him with.

Having increased his number to about 300 in all, he proceeds direcdy to towne, as he marcheth the people on the high wayes coming forth praying for his happiness and railing ag't [against] the Governour and his party, and seeing the Indian captives which they led along as in a shew of tryumph, gave him many thankes for his care and endeavours for their preservation, bringing him forth fruits and victualls for his soldiers, the women telling him if he wanted assistance they would come themselves after him.

Intelligence coming to Bacon that the Governour had good in towne a 1000 men well arm'd and resolute, "I shall see that," saith he, "for I am now going to try them.".

In the evening Bacon with his small tyr'd body of men comes into Paspahayes old Fields and advancing on horseback himselfe on the Sandy Beech before the towne commands the trumpet to sound, fires his carbyne, dismounts, surveys the ground and orders a French worke to be cast up.

All this night is spent in falling of trees, cutting of bushes and throwing up earth, that by the help of the moone light they had made their French worke before day, although they had but two axes and 2 spades in all to performe this work with.

About day-break next morning six of Bacons soldiers ran up to the pallasadees of the Towne and fired briskly upon the guard, retreating safely without any damage at first (as is reported). [T]he Governor gave comand that not a gun should be fir'd ag't Bacon or his party upon paine of death, pretending to be loath to spill bloode and much more to be beginner of it, supposing the rebells would hardly be so audacious as to fire a gun against him, But that Bacon would rather have sent to him and sought his reconciliation so that some way or other might have bin found out for the preventing of a warr, to which the Governour is said to have shewne some inclination upon the account of the service Bacon had performed (as he heard) against the Indian enemy, and that he had brought severall Indian prisoners along with him, and especially for that there were several! ignorant people which were deluded and drawne into Bacon's party and thought of no other designe than the Indian warr onely, and so knew not what they did.

But Bacon (pretending distrust of the Governor) was so fair from all thought of a Treaty that he animates his men against it, celling them that he knew that party to be as perfidious as cowardly, and that there was noe trust to be reposed in such, who thinke it noe Treachery by any wayes to Suppresse them, and for his tendernesse of Shedding Blood which the Governor pretends, and preventing a warr, sayes Bacon, "There are some here that know it to be no longer since than last weeke that hee himself comanded to be Fired against us by Boats which the Governor sent up and downe to places where the country's Provisions were kept for mainteinance of the Indian Warr, to fetch them away to support a warr amongst ourselves, and wounded some of us (which was done by Sorrell) which were against the designe of converting these stores to soe contrary a use and intention of what they were raised for by the People." Bacon moving downe towards the Towne and the Shipps being brought before the Sandy Beach the better to annoy the enemy in case of any attempt of theirs to storme the Palassadoes, upon a signall given from the Towne the Shipps fire their Great Gunns, and at the same tyme they let fly their Small-shot from the Palassadoes. But that small sconce that Bacon had caused to be made in the night of Trees, Bush and Earth (under w'ch they lay) soe defended them that the shott did them noe damage at all, and was return'd back as fast from this little Fortresse. In the heat of this Firing Bacon commands a party of his men to make every one his Faggott and put it before his Breast and come and lay them in order on top of the Trench on the outside and at the end to enlarge and make good the Fortification, which they did, and orders more spades to be gott, to helpe to make it yet more defensible, and the better to observe their motion [Bacon] ordered a constant sentinel in the daytime on top of a brick chimney (hard by) to discover from thence how the men in Towne mounted and dismounted, posted and reposted, drew on and off, what number they were, and how they moved. Hitherto their happen'd no other action then onely firing great and small shott at distances.

But by their movings and drawings up about towne, Bacon understood they intended a sally and accordingly prepares to receive them, drew up his men to the most advantageous places he could, and now expected them (but they observ'd to draw off againe for some tyme) and was resolved to enter the towne with them, as they retreated, as Bacon expected and foretold they would do. In this posture of expectation Bacons forces continued for a hour till the watchman gave notice that they were drawne off againe in towne, so upon this Bacons forces did so too. No sooner were they all on the rebells side gone off and squandered but all on a sudden a sally is made by the Governors party,. . . But we cannot give a better account, nor yet a truer (so far as we are informed) of this action than what this Letter of Bacons relates.

". Yesterday they made a sally with horse and foote in the Van they came up with a narrow Front, and pressing very close upon one anothers shoulders that the forlorne might be their shelter our men received them so warmly that they retired in great disorder, throwing downe theire armes, left upon the Bay, as also their drum and dead men, two of which our men brought into our trenches and buried with severall of their armes. They shew themselves such pitifull cowards, contemptable as you would admire them. It is said that Hubert Farreii is shot in the belly, Hartwell in the legg, Smith in the head, Mathewes with others, yet as yet we have no certaine account. "

After this successless sally the courages and numbers of the Governors party abated much, and Bacons men thereby became more bold and daring in so much that Bacon could scarce keepe them from immediately falling to storme and enter the towne but he (being as wary as they rash) perswaded them from the attempt, bidding them keepe their courages untill such tyme as he found occasion and opportunity to make use of them, telling them that he doubted not to take the towne without losse of a man, and that one of their lives was of more value to him than the whole world.

Having planted his great guns, he takes the wives and female relations of such gentlemen as were in the Governors service against him (whom he had caused to be brought to the workes) and places them in the face of his enemy, as bulworkes for their battery, by which policy he promised himself (and doubdess had) a goode advantage, yet had the Governors party by much the odds in number besides the advantage of tyme and place.

But so great was the cowardize and baseness of the generality of Sir William Berkeley's party (being most of them men intent onely upon plunder or compell'd and hired into his service) that of all, at last there were onely some 20 gende-men willing to stand by him, the rest (whom the hopes or promise of plunder brought thither) being now all in haste to be gone to secure what they had gott so that Sir Wm. Berkeley himselfe who undoubtedly would rather have dyed on the place than thus deserted it, what with importunate and resisdess solicitations of all, was at last over persuaded, now hurryed away against his owne will to Accomack and forced to leave the towne to the mercy of the enemy.

Bacon haveing early intelligence of the Governor and his party's quitting the towne the night before, enters it without any opposition, and soldier like considering of what importance a place of that refuge was, and might againe be to the Governor and his party, instandy resolves to lay it level with the ground, and the same night he became poses'd of it, sett fire to towne, church and state house (wherein were the country's records which Drummond had privately convey'd thense and preserved from burning). The towne consisted of 12 new brick houses besides a considerable number of frame houses with brick chimneys, ail which will not be rebuilt (as is computed) for fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco.

Now those who had so lately deserted it, as they rid a little below in the river in the shipps and sloop (to their shame and regret) beheld by night the flames of the towne, which they so basely forsaking, had made a sacrifice to ruine.

1 (1677). In Charles M. Andrews, ed., (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915), pp. 129-36. A True Narrative of the Rise, Progresse, and Cessation of the Late Rebellion in Virginia, Most Humbly and Impartially Reported by His Majestyes Commissioners Appointed to Enquire into the Affaires of the Said Colony Narratives of the Insurrections, 1675-1690


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