Richard of Jamestown - James Otis

A Time of Sickness and Death

The first who went out from among us, was John Asbie, on the sixth of August. Three days later George Flowers followed him. On the tenth of the same month William Bruster, one of the gentlemen, died of a wound given by the savages while he was searching for gold, and two others laid down their lives within the next eight and forty hours.

Then the deaths came rapidly, gentlemen as well as serving men or laborers, until near eighty of our company were either in the grave, or unable to move out of such shelters as served as houses.

A great fear came upon all, save that my master held his head as high as ever, and went here and there with Master Hunt to do what he might toward soothing the sick and comforting the dying.

It was on the twentieth day of August when Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, one of the Council, died, and then Master Wingfield forgot all else save his own safety. More than one in our village declared that he was making ready the pinnace that he might run away from us, as if the Angel of Death could be escaped from by flight.

It was starvation brought about by sheer neglect, together with lying upon the bare ground and drinking of the river water, which by this time was very muddy, that had brought us to such a pass.

Save for the king, Powhatan, and some few of the other savages in authority, we must all have died; but when there were only five in all our company able to stand without aid, God touched the hearts of these Indians.

They, who had lately been trying to kill us, suddenly came to do what they might toward saving our lives after a full half of the company were in the grave.They brought food such as was needed to nourish us, and within a short time the greater number of us who were left alive, could go about, but only with difficulty.

[Illustration] from Richard of Jamestown by James Otis

It was a time of terror, of suffering, and of close acquaintance with death such as I cannot set down in words, for even at this late day the thought of what we then endured chills my heart.

When we had been restored to health and strength, and were no longer hungry, thanks to those who had been our bitter enemies, the chief men of the village began to realize that my master had not only given good advice on all occasions, but stood among them bravely when the President of the Council was making preparations to run away.


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