Was Captain George Kendall Truly A Mutineer?

We recently spoke about the rocky road embarked upon by the first settlers of Jamestown in 1607. Not only did the settlers — the first of whom were all male — have to deal with harsh winters, sickness, and starvation, but they also had to deal with threats amongst themselves. Captain George Kendall was blamed for a mutiny in the early days of the settlement, but he was ultimately put to death by firing squad.

Historians wonder if this was the full story, though.

Captain John Smith had laid extraordinary praise at the man’s feet before his death. Smith said that Kendall was diligent, a gentleman, but one against whom “hainous matter” had been proved. Interesting how a mutineer can be such a gentleman! 

In 1996, the remains of an assumed early 17th-century settler were unearthed near the Jamestown fort. Historians believed they had found Kendall.

Bly Straube, curator of the Jamestown Rediscovery team, said, “It would be absolutely wonderful if we could tie these remains to a real, live person. But it’s going to take a lot more work.”

The detectives responsible for identifying the body quickly discovered how violent his death had been. There were several wounds made by musket balls, which would have been fatal. The diggers also believed that amongst the artifacts found with the body inside a coffin was a pin for a blindfold — maybe.

It should be mentioned, of course, that the historical details surrounding the supposed mutiny are nonexistent. We really have no idea what happened. 

But some believe his execution occurred after he was found to be a Catholic spy. Historian Philip L. Barbour said, “There is no clear-cut evidence. Captain George Kendall: Mutineer or Intelligencer.”

The team hopes to, in the future, gain more DNA evidence to prove that the body is Kendall. The investigation into whether or not Kendall was a spy or mutineer remains ongoing.