Who Was William Powell?

Colonizing the Americas wasn’t an easy task just asked the residents of Pennsylvania. You couldn’t bring everything over with you. You had to build settlements when you finished your journey overseas, and you had to find food on your own. If the members of the community weren’t up to the task and didn’t pull their own weight, then the community couldn’t thrive and sometimes didn’t survive at all. William Powell was known as somewhat as a gentleman by those around him, and he was a landowner and militia officer who was to play a major role in the new world in Virginia. He would become a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619 and provide representation for James City County in Virginia before his death.

Powell made quite the splash during his time as one of the earliest Virginian colonists. Historians are not sure whether he was born in 1577 or 1585, as there were men born in the same years that bore the same name. What we do know is that he was born in England, and he travelled to Virginia with the Third Supply mission that was comprised of nine ships in 1609. This particular mission was important, as it would help resupply the surviving colonists in Jamestown who were in an increasingly precarious position.

It wasn’t long before Powell was put to work for the greater good.

The Acting Governor Captain at the time–John Percy–gave Powell the charge to capture or kill a chief of the Paspahegh, Wochinchopunck. The band of Native Americans was seemingly responsible for the killing of several colonists after having previously escaped custody. Powell failed to capture the man, and instead decided to put him to the sword. At this point Powell was made a captain. He was placed in a position of power in the small community, and allowed to take charge of the town defenses.

Friendly Native Americans provided a man named Richard Pace with advance warning of an imminent attack on the colony, and Pace went on to tell Powell. Subsequently, Powell was able to warn nearby plantations. Although this action probably helped minimize casualties and is that which Powell is best known for conducting, the attack was still a catastrophic slaughter. Around 350 of only 1,258 Virginia colonists were killed on the day of the attack, March 22, 1622.

The exact time of Powell’s death is also unknown, but historians agree it was either late 1622 or very early the next year. Not long after the Virginia massacre, the then Captain William Powell was killed during a raid while attempting to achieve vengeance against the Native Americans responsible for decimating their community.

Who was Colonel John Lightfoot III

The term “ancient planters” often refers to a group of individuals who migrated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Colony of Virginia with the promise of personal fortune to be made by expanding British territory into what is present day American mainland. Originally under the supervision of the Virginia Company of London established in 1606, many invested coin in exchange for shares of the company or ventured to the colony on the company’s behalf. However, the early years were not nearly as fruitful as the company hoped and, at the end of the administration of Sir Thomas Dale – the deputy governor of the Virginia colony – in 1616, funds to pay out dividends to investors weren’t available. Instead, the company utilized an alternative of land grants to repay investors who had ventured to Virginia, whether it be on the company’s coin or their own out-of-pocket expense. Often, the case was that investors received what was called a “first dividend” of 100 acres of land within the 100 square miles of territory that was deemed to be used for settlement, in lieu of monetary compensation for their investment into the company. Those who ventured across the Atlantic to Virginia after Gates’ administration were still granted land, but at a considerable reduction. Because it was determined that the first colonists had endured the brunt of the dangers involved with colonization, those that arrived after the fact only received 50 acres of land.

One of these later arrivals was John Lightfoot III. Sources disagree on his birthday, narrowed down somewhere between 1646 and 1648. In 1658, he and his brother Phillip were brought to the Virginia colony, supposedly with no formal learning beyond grammar school (this is speculated due primarily to the lack of educational facilities in Virginia at this time). Details are scarce about early family life, but it is determined that he married Anne Goodrich of Rappahanock County in 1681 and later moved to New Kent County where he settled for the rest of his life. The Lightfoots provided for a family of five children, born between the years of 1683 and 1696.

During this period, Lightfoot became the subject of substantial windfall from family inheritance. Between a dowry of suspected, considerable worth for his marriage (the rights to which he would later sell to his brother) and an inheritance left to him by his grandmother, Lightfoot seemed to have managed avoiding much of the dangers of the colonization. He was said to have inherited the estate of his father in 1687 as well. Records also indicate that he had been deeply involved in affairs of state and military and had attained the rank of Colonel within the Army of Virginia.

By 1701, only a few years before his death, Lightfoot had journeyed back to England as a member of the Colonial Council, returned to the Virginia as a tax collector, and later served as Commander in Chief to King and Queen County. He was also partly responsible for the recall of then-governor Nicholson, who had fallen out of favor with the colonists. Lightfoot later died in 1707 in New Kent County. His current place of burial is unknown.

JAMESTOWN: GOOD READING OPTIONS

Jamestown was a brutal existence. While it is a valuable piece of American history, even being more than 150 years before America was founded,  to learn about it as it really was might be a little too strong for those who would prefer a visual approach through film.

Books can paint a picture without so much of the brutality, other than what a reader can paint into his or her own thought.  Books about Jamestown can tell detailed, comprehensive stories from various perspectives, and the brutal conditions can be described in ways that can make you almost feel it and even hear the conversations taking place among the settlers and between settlers and natives. It would almost be like you were reading a journal from one of the settlers, or someone from the outside with a third-person account.

When it comes to history, books are the best way to get the full picture. Many of them are interpretative works, while others are strictly factual and objective (and may be drier reads as a result). But any book, or multiple books, can help bring education about early America and how hard it was to survive and thrive and make America what it is today.

Jamestown has been covered well in the literary realm, and not as much in movies or TV. So if you want to know more about Jamestown, you might have to put away Netflix and settle in with a good book. Fortunately, we have some good examples to present to you here. You can find many of these in a public library, on Amazon or from Goodreads.

  • Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Birth of a New Nation by David A. Price. This work looks deep into the colony using original documents. Debunks some common myths about the colony, explains the actual relationship between the settlers and the Powhatan Indians, and develops Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas and John Smith in more realism.
  • Jamestown, the Buried Truth by William M. Kelso. This book takes an archaeologist’s turn, as Dr. Kelso and his team dig up James Fort and find a treasure trove of artifacts, bones, and structures, some of which was believed to be washed away by the James River. Everything that was found tells a story and reveals much about the settlement and its culture and how it managed to survive as the first permanent English settlement in America.
  • Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley. Woolley takes Jamestown and expands it beyond the birth of an American colony and writes about it in a broader context that goes beyond America, into Mexico and Africa. The settlers themselves wrote about a “savage kingdom” in reference to its small island settlement on the James River in the Virginia wilderness, with tough winters and foreign Native Americans surrounding the camp.

These are just three ideas, and there are several more that take various entertaining perspectives of Jamestown, to help paint a realistic picture of what our predecessors endured to build a new nation.

JAMESTOWN: GREAT VIEWING OPTIONS

Jamestown was a first and great societal and communal experiment.

It was the foundation for America and its way of life. It was about how to survive in a New World, how to go to work and support your family and help your neighbors who couldn’t help themselves.

It was about self-determination, and the dangers of “it takes a village.”

If Jamestown didn’t survive, the Mayflower may not have happened, and the western United States might still be speaking Spanish. And Hawai’i may still be its own island kingdom.

No matter which side of the history you are on – whether all this stuff is good or bad for the country and whether it is a beacon of hope for others or just another imperialist and oppressive nation – there is very little question that Jamestown set the tone for everything that came after.

But the history of Jamestown has been fractured in the last 400 years. Some of what happened have been interpreted, rather than reported, and we may need to find multiple sources to get the full picture of what it was like.

Fortunately, we have compiled a short list of movies and documentaries that can help tell the story of Jamestown and present it in a factual and objective way as possible. Grab your popcorn and open your minds to education!

Pocahontas

Yes, this is the 1995 Disney animated cartoon film featuring Pocahontas, the Native American woman who encountered the settlers at Jamestown and helped the new arrivals cope with new surroundings and new neighbors who were already in the neighborhood. While specific details are left out or changed for the film, the overarching facts about Jamestown are included, from John Smith and Pocahontas as characters to the ship and the rationale for the settlement. A good jumping-off point for young school-age children.

Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower

While the History Channel made a documentary about the Mayflower’s trip across the Atlantic more than a decade after Jamestown was settled, this can give viewers an idea of what life was like for the Jamestown settlers as they traveled across the Atlantic and first made landfall. After all, transportation options did not improve very quickly in the 17th century, so the latter travelers did not sail in the lap of luxury relative to the Jamestowners. This video follows the Pilgrims from their original decision to leave England, across the Atlantic, then to the early days of settling in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  What these Pilgrims went through could easily be transferred 15 years earlier to the original settlers down in Virginia.

These two films would be great offerings to understand a little bit more about Jamestown, some of the hardships experienced by the settlers and the sacrifices they made in order to settle a new territory that would become the richest nation in the world with the most diverse opportunities for all. It’s always good to see that America wasn’t always the land of milk and honey.

Is The Movie The New World Historically Accurate?

You probably already know the answer to that question. Let’s face it: when Hollywood meets history, Hollywood wins. Facts don’t really matter as much as telling a compelling story that people would want to experience again and again, and The New World definitely fits that bill. The 2005 film was both written and directed by Terrence Malick, and is sometimes heralded as one of the best films of that decade. Although many loved it for its memorable story, acting, cinematography, and fantastic music, we’ll do our best to pick it apart piece by piece and obliterate any respect you might have for this (maybe) historically inaccurate Hollywood blockbuster. Actually, it’s hard to do that.

These are just a few of the most obvious historical errors we found.

First of all, the film built on the already-present historical inaccuracies of Disney’s retelling of this historical period piece. When John Smith and Pocahontas met, Pocahontas was ten or eleven years old. She wasn’t exactly ripe for the picking, and there is no historical evidence whatsoever that these two were in any way romantically involved. The film would most definitely make you think otherwise.

Although John Smith writes that Pocahontas saved him from execution by placing her (very young) head over his own, some scholars indicate that he may have either lied or been altogether mistaken in his retelling of events. Instead, it’s possible that his potential execution may have been nothing more than a ceremony played out to integrate him into the tribe as a full-fledged member. In other words, he might have never been in any danger at all. Sometimes cultures clash and a lot is lost in translation. There’s no telling what was actually happening since we weren’t there and Smith is hardly a reliable source of information.

In The New World, the Native American tribe is portrayed as innocent and mostly peaceful. In reality, Pocahontas’s father Powhatan was more into domination than submission, and that was the way he ruled throughout the region. Although the film portrayed them as violent with the English, that was probably more the rule than the exception. If a nearby tribe came into conflict with Powhatan’s, then that other tribe would be subjected to conquest. That’s the way it was. Yes, it can definitely be argued that Malick’s interpretation of the Native Americans is a lot softer–nicer, rather–than a lot of other movies that present them as cruel, ruthless barbarians, but it’s still a fabrication far from reality. Not everything is so cut and dry.

In the way of complete inaccuracy, that’s really all there is. The viewer, unfortunately, doesn’t get to see much of the Native American way of life and the film arguably focuses on historical aspects that are either untrue or don’t matter as much as the larger forces at work, but the clash between the two cultures is steeped in truth. The visual representation of Jamestown, Phoenix is perhaps the most realistic part, but the love story we could most certainly do without. Not everything needs to be romanticized in order to be fun or relatable, and sometimes history demands the truth.

Is Disney’s Pocahontas Historically Accurate? Hint: No

It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to know that Disney might not be all that concerned with historical accuracy when it writes one or two of its most brilliant screenplays for animated movies. Pocahontas was a historical figure known for her connection to the settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. She was a Native American daughter of Powhatan and is believed to be responsible for saving John Smith in 1607. Who did she save Smith from, exactly? As the story goes, her own father tried to execute the man by clubbing him to death. Pocahontas perhaps prevented the bloody killing by resting her own head on his. Whether this is true or not is unknown.

Disney’s retelling of this historical tale is rife with inaccuracies. Here are a few of the most glaring mistakes.

We know that Pocahontas was dead before her 22nd birthday. When she met John Smith, she was only ten or eleven years old. When you’re writing a story for little kids (and their parents, and okay, we all love it), you can’t really rely on a narrative of an older man wooing an eleven-year-old. It doesn’t really work. Disney fudged the age a bit in order to make the story more relevant to the present era. In the film, she’s 18 years old. Oh, and another thing–historically, Pocahontas and John Smith weren’t even an item. Pushing people into romance is also a Disney thing.

We also know that the meeting between the two not-so-romantic fools wasn’t as spontaneous in reality as it was in the movie. When John Smith and company landed and populated Jamestown, it was only spring. Smith was then captured by the tribe in winter, so quite a bit of time had gone by in the interlude.

Leave it to Disney to kill off historical figures just to fit their narrative. In the movie, Pocahontas is told to wed the warrior Kocoum. She is defiant, and eventually, Kocoum is killed by one of the British colonizers. In reality, Pocahontas really did marry Kocoum not that long after John Smith got out of Virginia. We don’t know exactly how all that went down, but it’s entirely feasible that Pocahontas was in love with Kocoum. These weren’t arranged marriages: members of her Native American tribe were able to make their own choices when it came to marriage, and marriage as we know it was completely different for them.

The account of Pocahontas saving Smith comes from Smith himself, and that’s why it is sometimes regarded as truth. In the movie, the scene plays out similarly but for an altogether different reason. In the movie, Smith is to be executed because of Kocoum’s death. We know that Smith didn’t actually kill the man, and so some scholars debate whether or not Smith was ever in danger at all. The entire event could be somewhat lost in translation. It’s possible that Smith’s narrative either embellished, outright lied, or simply didn’t understand what may have simply been a ceremony intended to initiate him into the tribe. Either way, the movie didn’t get the reasoning behind the potential execution right at all.

‘Light Horse,’ The Confederacy and Antifa

The Civil War was fought 150 years ago. It is still a painful part of our history, and recent events have brought out the pain of a personal injury lawyer even more.

There is little doubt that some Americans are ashamed of that part of our history, as there were people who fought against the U.S. government in support of slavery; and in the Southern states, some of those prominent men have been honored with memorials and statues.

In the wake of the Charlottesville protests, a prominent statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was taken down, encouraged by “antifa” protestors who seemed to push for it as a middle finger to white-nationalist protestors that were in Charlottesville at the same time.

Antifa brought forward the visibility of General Lee and the Confederacy, bringing out more of the scars. And it also brings to mind the irony of Lee standing in front of men who fought against the federal government in an act of treason, in contradiction to a member of his own family who stood as a patriot in support of the United States.

General Robert E. Lee gained acclaim in U.S. history books for leading the Confederate Army against the Union during the bloody and tragic Civil War. But he was not the only military “hero” in his family. He was just the one who did not support the U.S.

Major General Henry Lee III was born in colonial Virginia and skipped a legal career when the Revolution broke out and became a major and led a dragoon unit, and and later a cavalry and light-infantry unit of the Continental Army. His unit became prominent in what is now called “guerrilla warfare” tactics, as light-infantry and cavalry was mobile and not weighed down by large cannon and heavy supply trains.

Lee’s Legion,” which was the name of the mixed unit he led, was very successful in guerrilla tactics, disrupting British supply lines, engaging British troops in several skirmishes that weakened numbers, confronting troop movements, and also doing scouting and reconnaissance work that helped the Continental Army strategize battles.

He gained much attention and respect from Continental Army commander Gen. George Washington for his leadership and skill on a horse. He had a noteworthy win in New Jersey, when a surprise attack captured 400 British soldiers with just one loss on his side. He quickly ascended to the post of major general in the Continental Army and left military service in 1782, just at the end of the war.

He gained the name “Light Horse” as a term of affection and respect, mainly for his horsemanship as well as his leadership of his troops under his command.

In 1782, he married his first wife Matilda, and the couple had four children. Lee went on to serve in Congress representing Virginia, and three terms as governor of the state. Matilda passed on in 1790, and Henry married again in 1795, with new wife Anne Carter having five children (the first child was lost early). One of those children was …

Robert E. Lee, future general of the Confederate Army.

From patriot to traitor. A sad trail for the Lee family.

Patrick Henry: Liberty Before Death

He never became president, never led an army and was actually one of the opponents of the burgeoning U.S. Constitution. He didn’t write any vital documents, only held major public office after the Revolution and wasn’t very well-heeled until after the U.S. became a nation. And yet, Patrick Henry wound up being one of the most influential Founding Fathers for the United States.

Patrick Henry was most known as one of the great orators in the American colonies, and was gifted with words – whether spoken or written – were valuable weapons in drumming up the anger and visceral emotion that carried the colonists through the war for independence from the mighty British Empire. Words are great in developing emotion, and Thomas Paine was known for his written words, and Patrick Henry had a famous speech that catalyzed the bubbling revolution.

Patrick Henry was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses through most of the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, so he was on the front lines of the various tyrannical encroachments of the Crown on the American colonies. Up until 1765, the British Empire had pretty much let the colonies run their own affairs with minimal interference, but at that time the Crown was looking to recoup some of the money that it had spent protecting the colonies during the French and Indian wars, which were fought a decade earlier.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was the start of the revolutionary fervor, as the Crown required every piece of paper in the colonies had to have a stamp on them and colonists were charged for each paper they used. Henry saw this usurpation of independence and became a vocal opponent of the Crown while serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses.  He advocated for the colony’s continued autonomy, and things finally came to a head in 1775.

Finally, Henry moved to approve resolutions that would develop a militia in Virginia to defend the colony from the British. This is where he stood up in the legislative body and gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, which was advocating for independence for the colony and speaking out against the increasing tyrannical pressure of the Crown thousands of miles away.

The Revolution was not only fought on the battlefield, it was also fought politically, and Patrick Henry was one of the most vocal members of the Continental Congress supporting the revolution. He had other eloquent floor speeches, but the “Liberty or Death” speech was the rallying cry as a spoken inspiration, while Thomas Paine’s Common Sense pamphlet lit the fire with the written word.

After the Revolution, he served several terms as Governor of Virginia and was a key member of the Anti-Federalists when the U.S. Constitution was being debated through the colonies. Being an Anti-Federalist, he spoke out against centralized power in the proposed new federal government and protested the perceived erosion of state and individual rights in the document. His work helped lead to the adoption of the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, which gave states and individuals specific liberties and removed federal government interference.

This became ironic, as he eventually flipped his allegiance when Federalist John Adams was elected president in 1797, and he supported his presidency, which included the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts, which imposed punishments for speaking out against the federal government.

Henry retired from public service in 1794 and passed away at Red Hill Plantation in 1799 at the age of 63.

George Rogers Clark: Riches To Rags

Every war has its share of forgotten heroes. Every single person who served as a representative of the United States in any conflict is a hero, and some of those who are forgotten are those who were survivors and did heroic deeds of leadership and sacrifice, and yet time and generations fade those memories.

George Rogers Clark is one of those unfortunately forgotten warriors. He is most known these days as the father of explorer William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame), but there is more to him that has been revealed in recent years. He is actually one of the more important role players in the Revolutionary War, but was lost in a “wilderness” of the new country and thus perhaps didn’t get the due he deserved.

Clark was born in 1752 in what was known as Virginia, though he grew up and became a member of the militia in the area currently called Kentucky (not Nashville), and he wound up leading a small militia detachment in securing what was called “northwest territory” of the fledgling nation.

Clark became the highest ranking military officer in the “northwest territory,” which was basically the area known today as Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. He served with great valour, leading his ragtag band into his greatest accomplishment of capturing Fort Sackville from the British near Vincennes, Indiana, in the dead of winter 1779.

His work in the area contributed to that land being awarded to the United States upon the British surrender in the Treaty of Paris which was signed in 1783. Not only were the colonies free, but Clark’s military work and leadership gave the United States even more territory that would contribute to the further expansion and essentially took the British out of the United States as it’s known, leaving only French and Spanish territory.

Shortly after that, Clark was removed from his leadership position in the northwest militia because of accusations of being drunk on duty. He fought by demanding a formal investigation into the charges, but no inquiry ever came and he was forced to resign in disgrace. He returned to private life in Kentucky after the Revolutionary War ended, and he was part of a commission that allotted land parcels to those in his militia and fought for him in the 1778 and 1779 campaigns, settling the area across the Ohio River from Louisville.

This was something that Clark took seriously, as he and his man fought for the colonies with no pay, and ultimately they never got paid for their military work and sacrifice on behalf of the Revolutionaries.

After that, Clark was helpful in reaching treaties with regional tribes as part of a commission that negotiated peaceful living along the Wabash River. However, he eventually returned to military life when the treaties weren’t being honored, and he led a detachment in Kentucky on a retaliation march through several Indian villages to protect the settlers in the region.

However, several of the militia members questioned his authority and ended up pulling off a mutiny. He then had to abort the mission and he went back to Vincennes to protect the area with a garrison before heading back to Kentucky.

At this point, Clark fell into rags as a campaign was undertaken to destroy his reputation as a leader and as a military man, which did succeed to a certain extent. He wrote a memoir about his Fort Sackville campaign to buttress his image, but ultimately he fell into disgrace and wound up trying to regain his fortune by working with Spaniards to help settle areas in Louisiana and elsewhere. He then had several attempts to settle Americans in Spanish territory, but he was rebuffed each time by President George Washington, starting in 1793.

He was finally given his due for his service to Virginia with a sword and half-pay annually, but it was in 1812, 25 years after his service and three years after a debilitating stroke and amputation of a leg that left him as an invalid. He died of a stroke in February 1818 at the age of 65. But his legacy was the establishment of American territory outside the 13 original colonies, which helped lay the groundwork for Manifest Destiny.

Who Was Captain John Smith?

Many people who have had a passing interest of U.S. history know about Jamestown, Va., as the first European settlement on the American mainland starting in 1607. Due to religious persecution in the British homeland, these settlers decided to take their chances in a new world and try to live the life they wanted for themselves and their brethren.

For those who generally have thought that any town, village or city should have its own mayor, one could say that Captain John Smith was the “mayor” of this pioneering settlement, the first permanent English settlement in North America.

Smith had several roles – explorer, soldier and author. His life is colorful, but he is most known for his work in the Jamestown settlement. But how did he get there in the first place?

Smith did not want to be a farmer like his father, so when his father died, 16-year-old John saw that as an opportunity to leave for France to become a sailor, but he instead found himself on the battlefield, fighting for the French in its battles with the Spanish.

After returning to England, he was drawn to help the Christians in the Holy Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) against the Turks of the Ottoman Empire starting in 1600. After detouring to serve on a pirate ship, Smith finally got to the fight and  earned several awards for bravery while fighting in Slovenia, Transylvania (now Romania) and Hungary, and he was most proud of his promotion to “captain,” which he kept the rest of his life.

After being captured by the Turks and forced into slavery, Smith escaped when he subdued his master, finding his way back to England in 1604 (at age 24). There, he befriended a Captain Gosnold, who was looking to develop an English colony in Virginia. Impressed by Smith’s military service, Gosnold invited Smith on one of the three ships that contained more than 100 settlers which set sail for America in December 1606.

Smith was named to the initial seven-member council that ran Jamestown in the early months, but with in-fighting and the death of Captain Gosnold, the village suffered – not to mention shortage of food, a brutal winter and disease which killed off two-thirds of the original settlement group.

After about a year, and an encounter with Pocahontas and her father Chief Powhatan, Smith was soon named president of the settlement and head of the council. This is when communal living ended, as Smith instilled a rule that “he who does not work, shall not eat” in order to improve food production, and build work ethic in the village which drove up production of products to be sold back to England, development of new crops and construction and rebuilding of the fort that they had lived in prior to a fire.

Smith managed the village until 1609 when he was injured in a gunpowder incident and was sent back to England. He wanted to return to America, either at Jamestown or another settlement, but heturned away until he took a voyage of his own in 1615 to map out the northern part of Virginia which he called New England.  He was passed over by Miles Standish for the role of military advisor for the Plymouth settlement, but those Pilgrims did utilize Smith’s maps of the area to establish its foundation for success in what would soon be called Massachusetts.

He wrote books about his various adventures, and died in London in 1631.