177 “The Capture of Pocahontas” and “Her Marriage with John Rolfe”

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The General Historie of Virginia by Captain John Smith, 1624; the Fourth Booke is an anthology of Captain John Smith’s logs and writings pertaining to his experience and knowledge of Virginia. He covers years from approximately 1609 to 1623. The anthology includes entries such as “The Starving Time”, “Capture of Pocahontas”, “Peace with the Indians”, and “The Indian Massacre”. Many anthologies that can be found today are a collection of various authors and typically cover times from the present back to a certain time period, such as the puritan times. Modern anthologies are created to capture the literature of the past in a way that the author enjoys, rather than to capture history. Some of these pieces include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, journal entries and maps. Major Writers of Early American Literature, edited by Everett Emerson, is simply a collection of various authors’ biographies and studies on early American writers. This anthology strongly differs from other modern anthologies with its both historic and personal entries that capture the thoughts and ideas of a man in Puritan America.

Within this anthology, Captain John Smith wrote the pieces, “The Capture of Pocahontas” and “Her Marriage with John Rolfe”. The first, “The Capture of Pocahontas” discusses how Pocahontas was taken into captivity and the reasoning behind it. This is a first hand account of what happened, as Captain John Smith was aboard the ship in which Pocahontas was held captive on. Smith begins this account by introducing Captaine Argall as an old friend of his that was sent to spend twelve months in the country along with eighty other men. Pocahontas was then persuaded to go abroad with her friend Japazaws and his wife in order to see the ship because Captain Argall had promised Japazaws a Copper Kettle if he brought Pocahontas there. There, Pocahontas was taken captive aboard the ship. Japazaws and his wife were sent to shore while Pocahontas was taken to Jamestowne. A messenger was then sent to her father to tell her that she had been stolen by Argall. Pocahontas’ father, Powhatan, sent Argall seven of the men he had captured from him and said that he would send the rest of the men, upon the return of his daughter. Argall, however, sent back that he did not trust this and that until he received all of his men back, they would be keeping Pocahontas. Powhatan did not answer back again, and therefore, Captaine Argall’s ship went into Powhatan’s own river with his daughter and said they were there to return his daughter and collect their ransom. Rather than, returning the men, Powhatan’s people began firing arrows at their boat and after being provoked by this, Argal and Smith went onto shore and burned all of their houses. They then declared peace and the people said that the captured men had run away but that Powhatan’s men were looking for them. They told them that their weapons and other stolen things would be returned to them the next day, but they were not. Two of the men came onto the ship and saw that their sister, Pocahontas, was alive and well, even though they had heard the contrary, and said they would persuade their father to collect her and declare forever peace with them.

In the second piece, “Her Marriage with John Rolfe”, Captain John Smith is recounting how he found out about the love between John Rolfe and Pocahontas. Smith says that when he learned about the love between the two, he told Sir Thomas Dale. Sir Thomas Dale then wrote a letter with his advice to Pocahontas. She then shared the letter with her brother, who also approved of the love. The news of the marriage soon traveled to her father, Powhatan, and he also approved and sent her uncle and two brothers to send his blessing and help with the marriage. Smith then states that since then, they have also had friendly trade and commerce with Powhatan and his people.

The General Historie of Virginia by Captain John Smith, 1624; The Fourth Booke contains a wide variety of genres. The first would be that this text is an anthology, but the entries within this anthology include non-fiction, autobiography, history, creative nonfiction and possibly a bit of memoir. Smith does cover historical events and people in his entries, but these pieces may also be tainted by personal goals and objectives, thus fitting this collection of writings into creative nonfiction. Also, being a collection of various writings, some writings may fall under certain genres while others may not apply to those genres whatsoever. The autobiography and memoir fits into entries such as those titled “Captain Smith’s Letter to Queen Anne” or “Smith’s Review of his Administration”.


“The Capture of Pocahontas”

Since there was a ship fraughted with provision, and fortie men; and another since then with the like number and provision, to stay twelve moneths in the Countrie, with Captaine Agrall, which was sent not long after. After hee had recreated and refreshed his Companie, hee was sent to the River Patawomeake, to trade for Corne: the Salvages about us having small quarter, but friends and foes as they found advantage and opportunitie. But to conclude our peace, thus it happened. Captaine Argall, having entred into a great acquaintance with Japazaws, and old friend of Captain Smiths, and so to all our Nation, ever since hee discovered the Countrie, heard by him there was Pocahontas, whom Captaine Smiths Relations intituleth the Numparell of Virginia, and though she had beene many times as a preserver of him and the whole Colonie, yet till this accident shee was never seene at Jamestowne since his departure. Being at PAtawomeke, as it seems, thinking her selfe unknown, was easily perswaded to goe abroad with him and his wife to see the ship: for Captaine Argall had promised him a Copper Kettle to bring her but to him, promising no way to hurt her, but keepe her till they could conclude a peace with her father; the Salvage for this Copper Kettle would have done any thing, it seemed by the Relation. For though she had seene and beene in many ships, yet hee caused his wife to faine how desirous she was to see one, that hee offered to beat her for her importunitie, till she wept. But at last he told her, if Pocahontas would goe with her, hee was content: and thus they betrayed the poore innocent Pocahontas aboord, where they were all kindly feasted in the Cabbin. Japazaws treading oft on the Captaines foot, to remember he had done his part; the Captaine when he saw his time, perswaded Pocahontas to the Gun-roome, faining to have some conference with Japazaws, which was onely that she should not perceive hee was any way guiltie of her captivitie: so sending for her againe hee told her before her friends, she must goe with him, and compound peace betwixt her Countrie and us, before she ever should see Powhatan; whereat the old Jew and his wife began to howle and crie as fast as Pocahontas, that upon the Captaines faire perswasions by degrees pacifying her selfe, and Japazaws and his wife, with the Kettle and other toies, went merrily on shore; and shee to James towne. A messenger forthwith was sent to her father, that his daughter Pocahontas he loved so dearely, he must ransome with our men, swords, peeces, tooles, that he trecherously had stolne.

This unwelcome newes much troubled Prowhatan, because hee loved both his daughter and our commodities well, yet it was three moneths after ere hee returned us any answer: then by the perswasion of the Councell, he returned seven of our men, with each of them an unserviceable Musket, and sent us word, that when wee would deliver his daughter, hee would make us satisfaction for all injuries done us, and give us five hundred bushels of Corne, and for ever be friends with us. That he sent, we received in part of payment, and returned him this answer: That his daughter should be well used; but we could not beleeve the rest of our armes were either lost or stolne from him, and therefore till hee sent them, we would keepe his daughter.

This answer, it seemed, much displeased him, for we heard no more from him for a longtime after: when with Captaine Argalls ship, and some other vessels belonging to the Colonie; Sir Thomas Dale, with a hundred and fiftie men well appointed, went into his owne River, to his chiefe habitation, with his daughter. With many scornfull bravado’s they have affronted us, proudly demanding Why wee came thither; our reply was, Wee had brought his daughter, and to receive the ransome for her that was promised, or to have it perforce. They nothing dismayed thereat, told us, We were welcome if wee came to fight, for they were provided for us: but advised us, if wee loved our lives to retire; else they would use us as they had done Captaine Ratcliffe: We told them, Wee would presently have a better answer; but we were no sooner within shot of the shore than they let flie their Arrrowes among us in the ship.

Being thus justly provoked, wee presently manned our Boats, went on shore, burned all their houses, and spoiled all they had we could finde; and so the next day proceeded higher up the River, where they demanded Why wee burnt their houses, and wee, Why they shot at us: They replyed, it was some stragling Salvage, with many other excuses, they intended no hurt, but were our friends: We told them, Wee came not to hurt them, but visit them as friends also. Upon this we concluded a peace, and forthwith they dispatched messengers to Powhatan; whose answer, they told us, wee must expect  foure  and twentie houres ere the messengers could returne: Then they told us, our men were runne away for feare we would hang them, yet Powhatans men were runne after them; as for our Swords and Peeces, they should be brought us the next day, which was only but to delay time; for the next day they came not. Then we went higher, to a house of Powhatans, called Matchot, where we saw about foure hundred men well appointed; here they dared us to come on shore, which wee did; no shew of feare they made at all, nor offered to resist our landing, but walking boldly up and downe amongst us, demanded to conferre with our Captaine, of his coming in that manner, and to have truce till they could but once more sent to their King to know his pleasure, which if it were not agreeable to their expectation, then they would fight with us, and defend their owne as they could. Which was but onely to deferre the time, to carrie away their provision; yet wee promised them truce till the next day at no one, and then if they would fight with us, they should know when we would begin by our Drums and Trumpets.

Upon this promise, two of Powhatans sonnes came unto us to see their sister: at whose sight, seing her well, though they heard to the contrarie, they much rejoiced, promising they would perswade her father to redeeme her, and for ever be friends with us. And upon this, the two brethren went aboord with us; and we sent Master John Rolfe and Master Sparkes to Powhatan, to acquaint him with the businesse: kindly htye were entertained, but not admitted the presense of Powhatan, but they spoke with Opechancanough, his brother and successor; hee promised to doe the best he could to Powhatan, all might be well. So it being Aprill, and time to prepare our ground and set our Corne, we returned to James Towne, promising the forbearance of their performing their promise, till the next harvest.


“Her Marriage with John Rolfe”

Long Before this, Master John Rolfe, and honest Gentleman and of good behavior, had beene in love with Pocahontas, and she with him: which thing at that instant I made knowne to Sir Thomas Dale by a letter from him, wherein hee intreated his advice, and she acquainted her brother with it, which resolution Sir Thomas Dale well approved: the bru[i]te of this mariage came soone to the knowledfe of Powhatan, a thing acceptable to him, as appeared by his sudden consent, for within ten daies he sent Opachisco, and old Uncle of hers, and two of his sons, to see the manner of the mariage, and to doe in that behalfe what they were requested, for the confirmation thereof, as his deputie; which was accordingly done about the first of Aprill. And ever since wee have had a friendly trade and commerce, as well with Powhatan himselfe, as all his subjects.


Discussion Questions:

1) Why do you suppose the story of Pocahontas has continued to carry such cultural influence for Americans well into the twentieth century, and how would you describe that cultural influence?

2) What kind of picture does he paint of the Native Americans he encounters?

3) What does Smith imagine as ideas for the future of the American continent?

4) What made John Smith’s colony successful? What did they do differently from other colonies like Columbus?


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