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The Jamestown Colony

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Jamestown was first settled in 1607 in the month of April, by the English. Jamestown was the second attempt at colonizing the new world after a failed attempt at Roanoke. The leader of Roanoke left his settlers for a short period of time to get resources from England and when he returned the town was abandoned and all that was left was a wooden stake with the Indian word CROATOAN carved on it. However, the English began to try to colonize the New World in hope to find new treasures and a way for even more income to strengthen England. Although many colonists feared that they might have the same fate as the settlers of Roanoke had, 144 potential settlers boarded the ships to sail to the New World to begin a new life and maybe become extremely wealthy from the rumored fields of gold that lay beneath the trees of the forests in the New World. However, when the settlers arrived the fields of gold were found to be myth, the land held a home to fierce Indian tribes willing to fight for the land, and the place of settlement was near a swamp which was invested with disease carrying mosquitoes that killed many colonists and greatly weakened the colony. However, the perseverance of great leaders, English technology, the discovery of tobacco, and the land of Virginia, the Jamestown colony would never have survived and most likely would have ended with the same fate as Roanoke and would have been a second failed attempt at colonizing the New World by the English.

The English landed on a small strip of land connected to Virginia just outside the Chesapeake Bay. Jamestown was built on a marsh near the river the English named James River. The water was bad, and the land was swampy and filled with mosquitoes that carried disease (Barrett, 30). However, the land was useful in many ways that helped the settlers as well. On May 14, 1607, the Englishmen began putting up huts and building a fort. They chopped down trees, sharpened the tops into points, and buried them in a ditch to make wooden walls (January, 16). The land had many tall trees that were great for defense and also for making houses. The dunes were overgrown with holly and thickets of sweet-smelling bayberry, and with dwarfed evergreen oaks that had been shaped by the winds. Beyond, the Englishmen saw great forests of pine and cypress and hardwood trees, where dogwood and redbud were in bloom (Davis, 9). The trees could provide a defense against the harsh weather and mosquitoes, and also against the Indians that lived in the forest that were always a threat to the settlers.

Also, Jamestown had many leaders that helped the colony survive and kept replenishing the resources to continue the settlement of Jamestown. The men soon learned that Smith (John Smith) was a true leader. He was energetic, forceful, and intelligent, and quickly taught his men to cut reeds and grass near the fort, to thatch the houses they built, and to make nets for fishing. He had a well dug inside the fort, one of excellent sweet water, and built a log blockhouse on the neck of land leading to the mainland, to halt the coming and going of Indians (Davis 21). This shows that captain John Smith made the settlers work to help build the colony and make a place that was better and easier for people to live and prosper in. It appears that eventual structured leadership Captain John Smith kept the colony from dissolving (Mallios). Smith was not the only leader that had a good influence on the colonization of Jamestown. Sir Thomas Dale arrived with three hundred more people and livestock and supplies. Soon afterward six more ships arrived, bringing more craftsmen and women and children and many cattle (Davis 29). Dale replenished the dying colony with more settlers and supplies which helped keep the colony alive.

Perhaps the greatest event that kept the colony alive was the discovery of tobacco. The colonists were sent to the New World to try to find a place that will make the settlers and most importantly England richer. In 1612, a man named John Rolfe made an important discovery. The Native Americans grew tobacco, but Europeans had found it harsh and bitter. Rolfe planted milder tobacco seeds from the West Indies in the Virginian soil. To his delight, the golden leaves grew strong and healthy. In June 1613, Rolfe sent a ship filled with tobacco to England (January 33). Finally the colonists found a crop that grew abundantly in the New World that the colonists could grow and sell to make money off of. People became so crazy to make profits off this plant that they even planted seeds in cracks of the streets (Barrett 31)! This introduction led to a quick increase in the population of Jamestown. Word spread quickly. In 1619 alone, 1,261 Englishmen arrived. They moved into the nearby forest and quickly cleared land. Tobacco fields sprouted up and down the James River (January 34). The fields helped improve the wealth of Jamestown which improved the living of the settlers which allowed their life expectancy to rise making Jamestown a better colony.

Finally, the settlers of Jamestown would not have made it a week in the New World without the technology England had. The Indians were a constant threat to the settlers of Jamestown; however the use of guns and canons frequently scared the Indians away and killed more as well. Naked brown men with painted bodies scrambled down the dunes on all fours with bows in their mouths and then ran toward the Englishmen shooting arrows and yelling. Two settlers fell wounded. Someone fired a musket, and the frightened Indians disappeared in the thickets (Davis 10). The Indians had never been introduced to the weapons that the English invented and were frightened to hear the loud noise that it made. The fort was only half finished when Native Americans charged out of the forest. The colonists fled in confusion. One man was killed and another was wounded. On the nearby ships, the men fired the cannons with great blasts. Scared by the booming noise the Native Americans fled (January 17). The settlers used large weapons like the cannon to defeat the Indians in battle. The Indians used mainly bow and arrows to defeat their enemy. The Indians were at a great disadvantage with the technology they had compared to the colonists.

Jamestown was England’s second attempt at colonizing the New World. Many English doubted the success of Jamestown because of the failure of Roanoke. At first, the colony seemed like it may have the same fate as Roanoke. However, the hard work of leaders and colonists helped keep the colony alive. Also, the technology helped defend Jamestown from the Indians and the discovery of tobacco in Virginia helped provide a source of income for the settlers and the country of England.





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