Saturday, October 3, 2015

1611: Spanish Eyes--and London Spies on Jamestown

         In September 1610, two of Lord De La Warr’s ships, the Blessing and the Hercules, returned to England with unwelcome, disturbing news about Virginia. The Virginia Company’s Jamestown settlement was still full of sick and hungry colonists and, worse yet, there were no profits in sight.  Investors looked in vain for their returns. 
The Spanish spy network in London was full of predictions that England’s failing colony would soon be dead. On September 30 Ambassador Velasco wrote to King Philip about news he had from one of his key London sources, one “Guillermo Monco.” This was Sir William Monson, former privateer, veteran of the battle of the Spanish Armada, one-time prisoner of the Spanish in Lisbon, and, since 1604, Admiral of the Narrow Seas [English Channel]. He was also a spy, handsomely paid for leaking English plans to the Spanish ambassador. Monson told Velasco that the English were desperate to recoup their investments in Virginia and were planning to send another large expedition there early in 1611. Spain needed to move now to “drive out the few people that have remained there, and are so threatened by the Indians that they dare not leave the fort they have erected.”

The Spanish ambassador was not far wrong.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

“Ask him what Powhatan says now.”

In this scene from JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL, Lord De La Warr, governor of Virginia, negotiates with Powhatan, the ruler of the Chesapeake tribes: 

         “Tell him,” De la Warr said, . . . “Powhatan must give back what is ours. He has taken near two hundred swords from us, and axes and pole-axes, and chisels and hoes, and he has taken some of our people prisoner.”
         Kempes spoke again. . . . “Powhatan says--“ he began hesitantly. . . . “Powhatan says because you have taken his land, he has taken your weapons and iron things. If you give him a coach and three horses, such as the great men in your country have, he will give you the iron things back.”
         De la Warr pounded his cudgel again. . . . “You see what comes of trying to civilize these damned savages?. . . Powhatan has been the cause of all our troubles,” he said slowly. “We have lost too many good men because of him. Now we shall send him a message he can understand.” Turning to Captain Martin, he said, “Take your broadsword and cut off this one’s right hand.” He jerked his head toward the Indian Okewan.
         Martin’s mouth dropped open in disbelief, and he put his hand on the hilt of his sword, not to draw it, but to keep it firmly in its place. “My lord! You cannot mean that! These two have come here in good faith!”
         “Savages have no faith!” De la Warr said. “Words do no good with them. Blood is the language they understand!”
         “But me no buts! I gave you an order! Will you carry it out, or not? . . . .
         Blood spurted, and Okewan’s right hand, cleanly severed at the wrist bone, hung at the edge of the tree stump and then fell on the grass.

--excerpt from JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Treasure Recovered

[From JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL: Meg Worley finds the gold cross her lover gave to her twenty years ago. ]

         It’s mine, Will,” she whispered, “That cross is mine!”
         Parker opened his mouth in amazement, stared at her, and then at the cross in his hand, as if he were trying to understand her meaning. Then he closed his mouth firmly and tucked the cross into one grimy palm. “Oh, no,” he said craftily, “This here is a solid gold cross, and I found it. You got no proof it’s yours. This came off a dead man three score miles from here. It don’t belong to you, but If you want, I’ll sell it to you.”  He folded his arms across his chest and grinned. “Name me a price.”
         “You bastard!” Will’s fist caught him off guard, and he fell backward against the wall of the storehouse. Before he could recover his footing, Will hit him again, knocking loose one of his front teeth. Spitting blood and clutching his chin, he watched speechlessly as Will searched in the grass for the cross, which had flown from Parker’s hand in the assault.
         “Here it is!” Will knelt to pick it up, to give it to Meg. Gently, he took her hand in his, and with the other he pressed the cross and chain on her upturned palm and closed her fingers around it. Then, for a moment, he held on to her hand tightly with both of his. Looking down, she saw that one of his hands was skinned and bleeding from his having hit Parker.
         “You hurt yourself,” she said numbly.
         “No matter.” . . .

         Then at last she opened her hand and looked at the cross. With one finger, she touched its four points, then she traced its width and length. She moved her hand so that its angles caught the noontime sun, and watched its burnished surface gleam.
         “Do you want to put it on?” Leaning over her, Will took hold of the ends of the chain nnd brought them up slowly, like one performing a religious ceremony, and fastened them around her neck. “There,” he said softly.
         She stood up, turned to face him, and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said. She said no more, and he did not ask her.

--Virginia Bernhard, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL A Story of America’s Beginnings (2014)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Roanoke Survivor Lost--and Found

In JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL, Will Sterling, a friend, tells Meg Worley that he has met a man with an improbable story of a wandering Englishman, perhaps one from Roanoke.  
         “At first, years ago, there was such talk about hunting for the lost Roanoke people, and...\.? there were those stories the Indians told about English in clothes like ours, and George Percy’s tale of the blond-haired boy in the woods, and  Henry Spelman’s claims about Englishmen living at Ritanoe--you cannot help but wonder.”
         “I think I want to know,” Meg said slowly, “and then sometimes I think maybe I don’t. . , , You know--“ she caught herself. She had been about to tell Will about about the gold cross....

 [Will takes Meg to hear the man’s story of the body he came across in the woods.]         

         “No marks on him, just lying there under a big oak tree, dead as a fish out of water. . . I looked around to see if he had anything on him that would tell who he was, but all that was on him was a little bag around his neck with this in it.” Rummaging in a pouch at his waist, Parker drew forth a thin gold chain. Attached to it, dangling from his hand, was a small gold cross. “Pretty, ain’t it?”

--Virginia Bernhard, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL A Story of America’s Beginnings (2014)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roanoke: What Might Have Happened

In JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL, Meg Worley, who came to Virginia in 1609 to seek her fiancé, one of the lost colonists of Roanoke, hears rumors in 1619 that Englishmen may be living at Ritanoe, a remote Indian village.

         It had been twenty-three years since Anthony Gage had kissed her good-bye on the heights of Plymouth Hoe, and it was folly to think she would ever see him again. . . .

         [At Jamestown, Meg has a conversation with Captain George Yardley.]

         “Ritanoe is a long way off,”         
         “Not when you’ve come three thousand miles.”        
         “But I know of no plan to search for any English.”
         “Not yet. . . . Maybe in the spring. . . who knows? I can wait. I have waited twenty years and more.”
         George was touched. “I leave tomorrow to take command of the new Fort Charles . . . If there is any way I can spare some men, I shall send them to Ritanoe as soon as warm weather comes.”. . .
         As George turned to go, Meg unfastened the gold chain around her neck. She dropped it and the small cross in the palm of one hand and touched them lovingly. Then she closed her fingers over them and held out her fist. “Here. Take this with you. Send it with your men to Ritanoe. It will be a message from me to Anthony.”

--Virginia Bernhard, JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL A Story of America’s Beginnings (2014)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Roanoke mystery: Where did the “Lost Colonists” go?

     New graves unearthed at Jamestown, now new findings at a site that may hold clues to the “Lost Colonists” (1587-1590) of Roanoke.

     This puzzle is far from solved. Two sources from 1609 and 1612 mention signs of the lost colonists at a remote place the Indians called Ritanoe (near modern Clarksville, Virginia), about 60 miles southeast of Jamestown.  See *RITANOE on the map, lower left.

The Sources:

. . . you are neere to riche Copper mines of Ritanoe and may passe them by another branch of this River and by another Peccareamicke where you shall finde foure of the englishe alive, left by Sir Walter Rawely whch escaped from the slaughter of Powhaton of Roanocke,upon the first arrival of our Colonie, and live under the protection of a wiroane called Gepanocon enemy to Powhaton, by whose consent you shall never recover them.
--Council of the Virginia Company, Instructions to the Colony (1609), Records of the Virginia Company, Susan M. Kingsbury, ed., III, 17.

 . . the People have howses built with stone walles, and one story above another, so taught them by those Englishe who escaped the slaughter at Roanoak . . . at. . . Ritanoe the Weroance Eyanoco preserved 7 of the English alive, fower men, twoo Boyes, and one younge Maid . . . .
--William Strachey, “The Historie of Travaill into Virginia Brittania,” (1612).

More digging awaits.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gabriel Archer’s lost letter--and other mysterie

August, 1609: Four small, battered ships wallowed into Chesapeake Bay. They were all that was left of the great Sea Venture fleet that had sailed for Virginia in June of that year. One of these ships, the Blessing, was captained by Gabriel Archer, whose bones have been recently unearthed at Jamestown.
By August 11, 1609 the Blessing, the Lion, the Falcon, and the Unity were moored to trees on the riverbank at Jamestown. Neither the ships nor their passengers were in good shape. Gabriel Archer (John Smith’s old enemy) wrote a letter to a friend in London: “The Unity was sore distressed when she came up with us, for of seventy land men, she had not ten sound, and all her Sea men were downe, but onely the Master and his Boy, with one poor sailor. . . . In the Unity were borne two children at Sea, but both died, being both boyes.” A few days later the Diamond arrived, with her mainmast gone, and “many of her men very sick and weake . . . And some three or four dayes after her, came in the Swallow, with her maine Mast overboord also, and had a shrewd leake . . . .”
It is ironic that Gabriel Archer, who died during the “Starving Time,”  also wrote of the colony’s perpetual food shortage. He blamed “Captain Newport and others” for leading the Virginia Company in London to believe that there was “such plenty of victuall in this Country, by which meanes they [the Virginia Company] have been slack in this supply.” “Upon this,” Archer wrote to his friend, “you that be adventurers [investors] must pardon us, if you find not return of Commodity so ample as you may expect, because the law of nature bids us seek sustenance first, and then to labour to content you afterwards. But upon this point I shall be more large in my next Letter.” Unfortunately, Archer’s “next letter” has been lost.
         Another Jamestown mystery.