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The Story of Bacon's Rebellion|
XIV - Death of Bacon and End of the Rebellion
by Standard, Mary Newton
|Full many "knots" the busy brain of Bacon was "knitting" indeed, among them a design to go over to the Eastern Shore, where Sir William Berkeley was still in retreat, and return the "kind-hearted visit" which Sir William and his Accomac eight hundred had made Hansford and the other Baconians at Jamestown, during his absence, and that the Accomackians might be ready to give him a warm reception, he had his coming heralded with meet ceremony.
The "prosperous Rebel" was never to see the fulfilment of his hopes and purposes, however. The week of exposure to the damps and vapors of the Jamestown swamps, during the siege, added to the physical and mental strain he had been under since the beginning of the Rebellion, had done its deadly work. The dauntless and brilliant young General met an unexpected and, for the first time during his career, an unprepared-for enemy in the deadly fever, against which he had no weapon of defense.
It is written that he was 'besieged by sickness" at the house of Mr. Pate, in Gloucester. He made the brave struggle that was to be expected from one of his fibre, but at length, upon the first day of October, he who had seemed invincible to human foes "surrendered up that fort he was no longer able to keep into the hands of that grim and all-conquering captain, Death."
He died much dissatisfied in mind at leaving his work unfinished, and "inquiring ever and anon after the arrival of the frigates and forces from England."
Sir William Berkeley, writing of his enemy's illness and death in a tone of great satisfacfion, says that Bacon swore his "usual oath"-"God damn my blood!"- at least "a thousand times a day," and that "God so infected his blood" that it bred vermin in "an incredible number," to which "God added" his sickness. Sir William adds that "an honest minister - evidently one of the Governor's own adherents-wrote an epitaph upon Bacon declaring that he was "sorry" at his "heart" that vermin and disease "should act the hangman's part."
Was this "honest minister" the Reverend Mr. Wading-the same whom Bacon had arrested and debarred from "preaching in camp" Perhaps, but the deponent saith not.
Those who had loved the Rebel in life were faithful to him in death, and tenderly laid his body away beyond the reach of the insults of his enemies. So closely guarded was the secret of the place and manner of his burial that it is unto this day a mystery; but tradition has it that stones were placed in his coffin and he was put to bed beneath the deep waters of the majestic York River, whose waves chant him a perpetual "requiescant in pace."
A feeble attempt was made by Bacon's followers, under Ingram as commander-in-chief, to carry on the rebellion, but in their leader the people of Virginia had not only lost their "hope and darling" but the Organizer, the inspiration of their party. Their "arms, though ne 'er so strong," wanted the "aid of his commanding tongue." Without Bacon the movement was as a ship without captain, pilot, or even guiding star. As soon as the news of his death was carried across the Chesapeake, to Berkeley, the Governor sent a party of men, under command of Maj. Robert Beverley, in a sloop over to York to reconnoiter. These "snapped up," young Colonel Hansford and about twenty soldiers who kept guard under his command at Colonel Reade's house, and sailed away with them to Accomac. Upon his arrival there Hansford was accorded the unenviable "honor to be the first Virginian that ever was hanged" (which probably means the first Englishman born in Virginia), while the soldiers under him were cast into prison. The young officer met his death heroically, asking of men no other favor than that he might be "shot, like a soldier, and not hanged, like a dog" (which was heartlessly denied him), and praying Heaven to forgive his sins.
With his last breath Colonel Hansford protested that he "died a loyal subject and a lover of his country, and that he had never taken up arms but for the destruction of the Indians, who had murdered so many Christians."
Major Cheesman and Captain Wilford, who was the son of a knight, and was but "a little man, yet had a great heart, and was known to be no coward," were: taken by the same party that captured Hansford, and Wilford was hanged, while Cheesman only escaped a like fate by dying in prison, of hard usage.
When Major Cheesman was brought into the Governor's presence and asked why he had taken up arms with Bacon, his devoted and heroic wife stepped forward and declared that she had persuaded him to do so, and upon her knees plead that she might be executed in his stead.
Berkeley answered her with insult, and ordered that her husband be taken to prison.
Encouraged by Major Beverley's "nimble and timely service"in ridding him of so many Baconians, Berkeley, with an armed force, took ship and sailed in person to York River. A party of his soldiers under one Farrill, and accompanied by Colonel Nathaniel Bacon, President of the Council, and Colonel Ludwell, who went along to see the thing well done, made an unsuccessful attack upon a garrison of Baconians under Major Whaly, at President Bacon's own house. During the fray Farrill was killed and some of his men were taken prisoners.
Another party of the Governor's troops which, under command of Maj. Lawrence Smith, had taken possession of Mr. Pate's house, where the Rebel died, was besieged by the Baconians, under Ingram. Although Major Smith was said to have been "a gentleman that in his time had hewed out many a knotty piece of work," and so the better knew how to handle such rugged fellows as the Baconians were famed to be, "he only saved himself by leaving his men in the lurch."
The whole party tamely surrendered to Ingram, who dismissed them all to their homes, unharmed.
In spite of these little victories, bowever, the Rebellion was doomed. Only a few days after his raid upon Pate's house, Ingram decided to give up the struggle, and made terms with Captain Grantham, of Governor Berkeley's following.
The Governor's own home, "Green Spring," which Bacon had left in charge of about a hundred men and boys, under command of Captain Drew, now stood ready to throw open its doors once more to its master.
It was said that the "main service that was done for the reducing the rebels to their obedience, was done by the seamen and commanders of ships then riding in the rivers." In the lower part of Surry County, upon the banks of James River, stands an ancient brick mansion, still known as "Bacon's Castle," which tradition says was fortified by the Rebel. This relic of the famous rebellion is mentioned in the records as "Allen's Brick House," where Bacon had a guard under Major Rookins. The place was captured by a force from the Governor's ship Young Prince, Robert Morris, commander. Major Rookins, being "taken in open rebellion," was one of those afterward sentenced to death by court martial, at "Green Spring," but was so happy as to die in prison and thus, like Major Cheesman, cheat the gallows.
Drummond and Lawrence alone remained inflexible, in command of a brick house in New Kent County, on the opposite side of the river from where Grantham and the Governor's forces were quartered. Seeing that they could not long hold out against such odds, but determined not to surrender to Berkeley, or to become his prisoners, they at length fled from their stronghold.
Poor Mr. Drummond was overtaken by some of the Governor's soldiers in Chickahominy Swamp, half starved. He had been from the very beginning one of the staunchest adherents of Bacon and the people's party. A friend had advised him to be cautious in his opposition to the Governor, but the only answer he deigned to make was, "I am in over shoes, I will be in over boots."
And he was as good as his word. When he was brought under arrest, before Berkeley, Sir William greeted him with a low bow, saying, in mock hospitality:
"Mr. Drummond, you are very welcome. I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia. Mr. Drummond, you shall be hanged in half an hour."
The sturdy Scotchman replied, with perfect equanimity, and like show of courtesy:
"What your Honor pleases."
Sir William, too, was for once as good as his word, and the sentence was executed without delay.
Governor Berkeley was evidently bent upon enjoying whatever satisfaction was to be found in the humiliation and death of his enemies. Those who shared Mr. Drummond's fate numbered no less than twenty, among them Bacon's friend and neighbor, Captain James Crews.
The end of "thoughtful Mr. Lawrence" is not known. When last seen he, in company with four other Baconians, mounted and armed, was making good his escape through a snow ankle deep. They were supposed to have cast themselves into some river rather than die by Sir William Berkeley's rope.
Mr. Lawrence was thought by many to have been the chief instigator of the Rebellion, and it was rumored that it was he that laid the stones in Bacon's coffin.
By the middle of January of the new year the whole colony had been reduced to submission, and upon January 22 Governor Berkeley went home to "Green Spring," and issued a summons for an Assembly to meet at his own house-for since the destruction of Jamestown the colony was without a legislative hall.
Sir William sent a message to tbe Assembly directing that some mark of distinction be set upon his loyal friends of Accomac, who had twice given him shelter during the uprising. It fell to the lot of a Baconian, Col. Augustine Warner, as Speaker of the House, to read the Governor's message, but that fiery gentleman consoled himself by adding, upon his own account, that he did not know what the "distinction" should be unless to give them "earmarks or burntmarks "-which was the common manner of branding criminals and hogs.
So many persons had been put to death by Governor Berkeley, "divers whereof were persons of honest reputations and handsome estates," and among them some of the members of the last Assembly, that the new Assembly petitioned him to spill no more blood. A member from Northumberland, Mr. William Presley by name, said that he "believed the Governor would have hanged half the country if they had let him alone."
His Majesty King Charles II is said to have declared when accounts of Berkeley's punishment of the rebels reached his ears, that the "old fool had hanged more men in that naked country than he [Charles] had done for the murder of his father."
With the completion of Sir William Berkeley's wholesale and pitiless revenge fell the curtain upon the final act in the tragedy of Bacon's Rebellion.
As soon as the country was quiet many suits were brought by members of the Governor's party for damages to their property during the commotion. These suits serve to show how widespread throughout the colony was the uprising.
The records of Henrico County contain sundry charges of depredations committed by Bacon's soldiers, showing that the people's cause was strong in that section. Major John Lewis, of Middlesex, laid claim of damages at the hands of "one Matt Bentley," with "forty or fifty men-of- arms," in the "time of the late rebellion." Major Lewis's inventory of his losses includes "400 meals" (which he declares were eaten at his house by Bacon's men during their two days encampment on his plantation), the killing of some of his stock, and carrying off of meal "for the whole rebel army," at Major Pate's house.
The records of Westmoreland County show that the Baconians, under "General" Thomas Goodrich, had control in the Northern Neck of Virginia as late as November, 1676. Major Isaac Allerton, of Westmoreland, brought suit for thirteen thousand pounds of tobacco for damages his estate had suffered at the hands of a rebel garrison which had seized and fortified the house of his neighbor, Colonel John Washington. The jury gave him sixty-four hundred pounds.
Many illustrations of the unbroken spirit of Bacon's followers are preserved in the old records.
When Stephen Mannering, the rebel officer who had given the order for the seizure of Colonel Washington's house, inquired how many prisoners had been taken there, and how they were armed, he was told fourteen, with "guns loaden." Whereupon he exclaimed that if he had been there with fourteen men, he would "uphold the house from five hundred men, or else die at their feet."
Mannering furthermore expressed the opinion that "General Ingram was a cowardly, treacherous dog for laying down his arms, or otherwise he would die himself at the face of his enemies,"
John Pygott, of Henrico, showed how far from recantation he was by uttering a curse against all men who would not "pledge the juice and quintessence of Bacon."