Richard of Jamestown - James Otis

The Accident

Captain Smith had gone up the bay in the hope of soothing the trouble among the savages, and, failing in this effort, was returning, having got within four and twenty hours' journey of Jamestown, when the pinnace was anchored for the night.

The boat's company lay down to sleep, and then came that accident, if accident it may be called, the cause of which no man has ever been able to explain to the satisfaction of Master Hunt or myself.

Captain Smith was asleep, with his powder bag by his side, when in some manner it was set on fire, and the powder, exploding, tore the flesh from his body and thighs for the space of nine or ten inches square, even down to the bones.

In his agony, and being thus horribly aroused from sleep, hardly knowing what he did, he plunged overboard as the quickest way to soothe the pain. There he was like to have drowned but for Samuel White, who came near to losing his own life in saving him.

He was brought back to the town on the day before the ships of the fleet, which had brought so many quarrelsome people, were to sail for England. With no surgeon to dress his wounds, what could he do but depart in one of these ships with the poor hope of living in agony until he arrived on the other side of the ocean.

Nathaniel and I would have gone with him, willing, because of his friendship for us, to have served him so long as we lived. He refused to listen to our prayers, insisting that we were lads well fitted to live in a new land like Virginia, and that if we would but remain with Master Hunt, working out our time of apprenticeship, which would be but five years longer, then might we find ourselves men of importance in the colony. He doubted not, so he said, but that we would continue, after he had gone, as we had while he was with us.

[Illustration] from Richard of Jamestown by James Otis

What could we lads do other than obey, when his commands were laid upon us, even though our hearts were so sore that it seemed as if it would no longer be possible to live when he had departed?

Even amid his suffering, when one might well have believed that he could give no heed to anything save his own plight, he spoke to us of what we should do for the bettering of our own condition. He promised that as soon as he was come to London, and able to walk around, if so be God permitted him to live, he would seek out Nathaniel's parents to tell them that the lad who had run away from his home was rapidly making a man of himself in Virginia, and would one day come back to gladden their hearts.


Front Matter

Who I am
Left Alone in the World
An Idle Boy
Captain Smith Comes to London
Meeting Captain Smith
Captain Smith Speaks to Me
Plans of the London Company
The Vessels of the Fleet
How I Earned my Passage
When the Fleet Set Sail
The Voyage Delayed
Nathaniel's Story
We Make Sail Again
The First Island
Captain Smith Accused
Captain Smith a Prisoner
I Attend My Master
Several Islands Visited
A Variety of Wild Game
The Tempest
The New Country Sighted
The Leader Not Known
Arrival at Chesapeake Bay
An Attack by the Savages
Reading the Company's Orders
Captain Smith on the Council
Smith Remains Aboard
Exploring the Country
People Land from the Ships
Captain Smith Proven Innocent
We Who were Left Behind
Baking Bread without Ovens
Unequal Division of Labor
Building a Home of Logs
Keeping House
Lack of Cleanliness
Cave Homes
The Golden Fever
Ducks and Oysters
Roasting Oysters
Leaning to Cook
The Sweet Potato Root
A Touch of Homesickness
Master Hunt's Preaching
Neglecting the Future
Surprised by Savages
Strengthening the Fort
Sickness and Death
Smith Gains Authority
Disagreeable Discipline
Signs of Rebellion
Second Proclamation
Building a Fortified Village
Trapping Turkeys
A Crude Kind of Chimney
Cooking a Turkey
Candles or Rushlights
The Visit of Pocahontas
Captain Kendall's Plot
Death of Captain Kendall
Captain Smith's Expedition
An Exciting Adventure
Taken Before Powhatan
Pocahontas Begs for Smith
Captain Smith's Return
A New Church
Captain Newport's Return
A Worthless Cargo
Condition of the Colony
Captain Newport's Return
Gazing at the Women
Hunt Brings Great News
Captain Newport's Instructions
The Story of Roanoke
The Crowning of Powhatan
Preparing for the Future
Stealing Company Goods
What the Thieving Led To
Fear of Famine
The Unhealthful Location
Gathering Oysters
Sturgeon for Food
Turpentine and Tar
Making Clapboards
Providing for Children
Dreams of the Future
A Plague of Rats
Treachery During Smith's Absence
Captain Smith's Speech
The New Laws
The Accident
Captain Smith's Departure
The "Starving Time"
Our Courage Gives Out
Abandoning Jamestown
Lord De la Warr's Arrival
The Young Planters