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13 January, 2012
The Story of Bacon's Rebellion|
IX - The Indian War-Path Again
by Standard, Mary Newton
|Bacon at once began making ready to continue his oft-interrupted Indian campaign, but first, to be sure of leaving the country safe from Berkeley's ire,-for he feared lest "while he went abroad to destroy the wolves, the foxes, in the mean time, should come and devour the sheep," --he seized Captain Larrimore's ship, then lying in the James, and manned her with two hundred men and guns. This ship he sent under command of Captain Carver, "a person acquainted with navigation" and Squire Bland, "a gentleman of an active and stirring disposition, and no great admirer of Sir William's goodness," to arrest Sir William Berkeley for the purpose of sending him-as those of earlier times had sent Governor Harvey-home to England, to stand trial for his "demerits toward his Majesty's subjects of Virginia," and for the "likely loss of that colony," for lack of defence against the "native savages."
Before leaving "Middle Plantation" the Rebel issued a summons, in the name of the King, and signed by four members of his Majesty's Council, for a meeting of the Grand Assembly, to be held upon September 4, to manage the affairs of the colony in his absence.
Jamestown he left under the command of Colonel Hansford, whom he commissioned to raise forces for the safety of the country, if any should be needed. He then set out, with a mind at rest, upon his Indian warfare. The few who had had the hardihood to openly oppose his plans he left behind him safe within prison bars; others, who were at first unfriendly to him, he had won over to his way of thinking by argument; while any that he suspected might raise any party against him in his absence, he took along with him.
For the third time, then, he marched to the "Falls of James River," where it is written that he "bestirred himself lustily, "to speedily make up for lost time in carrying on the war against the Ockinagees and Susquehannocks" but seems to have been unsuccessful in his search for these tribes, which had probably fled far into the depths of the wilderness to escape Bacon's fury, for he soon abandoned the chase after them and marched over to the "freshes of York, "in pursuit of the Pamunkeys,"--whose "propinquity and neighborhood to the English, and courses among them" was said to "render the rebels suspicious of them, as being acquainted and knowing both the manners, customs and nature of our people, and the strength, situation and advantages of the country, and so, capable of doing hurt and damage to the English."
The "Royal Commissioners" condemn the pursuit of the Pamunkeys, saying that "it was well known that the Queen of Pamunkey and her people had ne 'er at any time betrayed or injured the English," and adding, "but among the vulgar it matters not whether they be friends or foes, so they be Indians."
It is indeed evident that the war with the Indians was intended to be a war of extermination, for by such war only did the Virginians believe they would ever secure safety for themselves, their homes, and their families.
Governor Berkeley himself had no faith in the friendship of the Indians, however. While Bacon was gone upon his expedition against the Ockinagees, the Governor sent forces under Colonel Claiborne and others to the headwaters of Pamunkey River. They found there the Pamunkey Indians established in a fort in the Dragon Swamp-probably somewhere between the present Essex and King and Queen Counties. The red men said that they had fled to this stronghold for fear of Bacon, but their explanation did not satisfy the Governor, who declared that as soon as his difficulty with Bacon was settled he would advance upon the fort himself. The Queen of Pamunkey herself was in the fort, and when requested by Berkeley to return to her usual place of residence said "she most willingly would return to be under the Governor's protection, but that she did understand the Governor and those gentlemen could not protect themselves from Mr. Bacon's violence."
At the "freshes of York" Bacon was met and joined by "all the northern forces from Potomac, Rappahannock, and those parts," under the command of Colonel Giles Brent, and the two armies marched together to the plantations farthest up York River, where they were brought to an enforced rest by rainy weather, which continued for several days. Even this dismal interruption could not chill Bacon's ardor, but it filled him with anxiety lest the delay should cause his provisions to run short.
Calling his men together he told them frankly of his fears, and gave all leave to return to their homes whose regard for food was stronger than their courage and resolution to put down the savages, and revenge the blood of their friends and neighbors shed by them. He bade them (if there were any such) with all speed begone, for, said he, he knew he would find them the "worst of cowards, serving for number and not for service, starving his best men, who were willing to "bear the brunt of it all," and disheartening others of "half mettle."
In response to this speech, only three of the soldiers withdrew, and these were disarmed and sent home.
The sullen clouds at length lifted, and the army tramped joyfully onward. Ere long they struck into an Indian tribe, leading to a wider one, and supposed from this that they must be near the main camp of some tribe. Some scouts were sent out, but reported only a continuation of the wide path through the woods. The army broke ranks and, to save time, and make the rough march under the sultry August sun as little - uncomfortable as possible, followed the trail at random. They soon came in sight of a settlement of the Pamunkey tribe, standing upon a point of high land, surrounded upon three sides by a swamp.
Some ten Indian scouts who served Bacon's army were sent ahead to reconnoiter. The Pamunkeys, seeing the scouts, suffered them to come within range of their guns, and then opened fire upon them. The report of the guns gave the alarm to Bacon and his troops, who were about half a mile distant, and who marched in great haste and confusion to the settlement. The Indians took refuge in the edge of the swamp, which was so miry that their pursuers could not follow, and the only result of the chase, to the Englishmen, was the not overglorious feat of killing a woman and capturing a child.
It so happened that the "good Queen of Pamunkey," as the "Royal Commissioners" styled her, with some of her chiefs and friends, was in the neighborhood of the settlement. Being warned that Bacon and his men were coming, she took fright and fled, leaving behind her provisions and Indian wares, as a peace offering, and charging her subjects that if they saw any "pale faces" coming they must "neither fire a gun nor draw an arrow upon them." The "pale faces," in their chase, overtook an aged squaw who had been the "good queen's" nurse, and took her prisoner, hoping to make her their guide to the hiding-places of the Indians. She led them in quite the opposite way, through the rest of that day and the greater part of the next, however, until, in a rage at finding themselves fooled, they brutally knocked her upon the head and left her dead in the wilderness. They soon afterward came upon another trail which led to a large swamp, where several tribes of Indians were encamped, and made an attack upon them, but with small fruits, as the red men took to their heels, and most of them made good their escape.
Bacon now found himself at the head of an army wearied by the rough march through swamp and forest, weak for want of food, and out of heart at the contemplation of their thus far bootless errand.
Moreover, the time appointed for the meeting of the Assembly was drawing nigh, and he knew that the people at home were looking anxiously for the return of their champion, and expecting glorious tidings of his campaign. In this strait he gave the troops commanded by Colonel Brent provisions sufficient for two days, and sent them, with any others who were pleased to accompany them, home ahead of him, to make report of the expedition and to carry the news that he would follow soon.
With the four hundred of his own soldiers that were left the indefatigable Bacon now continued to diligently hunt the swamps for the savages, for he was determined not to show his face in Jamestown again without a story to tell of battles won and foes put to confusion. At length he struck a trail on hard ground, which he followed for a great distance without finding the "Indian enemy." What he did find was that his provisions were almost entirely spent, which melancholy discovery forced him to reduce rations to "quarter allowances." His pluck did not desert him, however. In the depths of the wilderness, miles away from white man's habitation, hungry and worn, and with four hundred wearied and half-starved men looking entirely to him, his fortitude was still unbroken, his faith in his mission undimmed, his heart stout.
Finally, he saw that the only hope of escape from death by starvation was to reduce his numbers by still another division of his army. Drawing the forlorn little band up before him he made the dark forest ring with the eloquence that had never failed to quicken the hearts of his followers and which made them eager to endure hardship under his leadership.
"Gentlemen," he said, "the indefatigable pains which hitherto we have taken doth require abundantly better success than as yet we have met with. But there is nothing so hard but by labor and industry it may be overcome, which makes me not without hope of obtaining my desires against the heathen, in meeting with them to quit scores for all their barbarous cruelties done us.
"I had rather my carcass should lie rotting in the woods, and never see English-man's face in Virginia, than miss of doing that service the country expects of me, and I vowed to perform against these heathen, which should I not return successful in some manner to damnify and affright them, we should have them as much animated as the English discouraged, and my adversaries to insult and reflect on me, that my defense of the country is but pretended and not real, and (as they already say) I have other designs, and make this but my pretense and cloak. But that all shall see how devoted I am to it, considering the great charge the country is at in fitting me forth, and the hopes and expectation they have in me, all you gentlemen that intend to abide with me must resolve to undergo all the hardships this wild can afford, dangers and successes, and if need be to eat chinquapins and horseflesh before he returns. Which resolve I have taken, therefore desire none but those which will so freely adventure; the other to return in, and for the better knowledge of them, I will separate my camp some distance from them bound home."
Next morning, as the sun arose above the tree-tops it looked down upon the divided forces-one body moving with heav'y step, but doubtless lightened hearts, toward Jamestown, the other pressing deeper into the wilds.
A few hours after the parting Bacon's remnant fell upon a party of the Pamunkey tribe, whom they found encamped-after the wonted Indian fashion-upon a piece of wooded land bounded by swamps. The savages made little show of resistance, but fled, the English giving close chase. Forty-five Indian captives were taken, besides three horse-loads of plunder, consisting of mats, baskets, shell-money, furs, and pieces of English linen and cloth.
A trumpet blast was the signal for the prisoners to be brought together and delivered up to Bacon, by whom some of them were afterward sold for slaves while the rest were disposed of by Sir William Berkeley, saving five of them, whom Ingram, Bacon's successor, presented to the Queen of Pamunkey.
As for the poor queen, the story goes that she fled during the skirmish between Bacon's men and her subjects, and, with only a little Indian boy to bear her company, was lost in the woods for fourteen days, during which she was kept alive by gnawing upon the "leg of a terrapin," which the little boy found for her when she was "ready to die for want of food."