Nov 14, 2020 in History

A Letter Home
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A Letter Home

 

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A Letter Home

Dear family, I want to share with you the most exciting moments I have experienced in Jamestown. To be honest, I find it hard to adapt to the current environment, though historians have estimated that people have lived more than 10 000 years in present-day Virginia (Virginia Indians, 2016). For the first time I came to Jamestown in December 1607, when one of its leaders, John Smith, was captured by Indians (Appelbaum & Sweet, 2005). He was wounded and forced to go to England to get necessary treatment. I have not seen him in Virginia anymore.

The colonists and the Indians are always in conflict, but I try not to get involved in their arguments. I have always wanted to live in peace, and I am tired of constant fights and battles. Earlier in May 1607, the first head of the colonists Edward Wingfield chose the site for a new settlement and named it Jamestown after the reigning monarch (Appelbaum & Sweet, 2005). As a result, many young and adult men moved there led by their desire for precious metals. In the first year, many settlers died mostly due to the malnutrition, dysentery, malaria, and pneumonia as almost no one was immune from these illnesses. Later, when I came to the colony, it was hard for me to become accustomed to the new place, settlers, and rules.

In the sixteenth century, when the first Europeans came here, the Indians inhabited the Virginian lands. Searching for a convenient place to create a new colony, travelers sailed many miles along the James River. It is interesting to admit that the river and the new settlement were named after the reigning monarch.

In 1608, John Smith, who joined the expedition, started controlling the colony (Barbour, 2010). He forced us to engage in farming, grow corn, and build comfortable houses. The Indians were afraid of Smith. They traded food with him, but still tried to avoid additional contacts. Under the direction of Smith, we survived two winters. I consider the mayor of the colony to be the only person who managed to resolve conflicts with the natives. However, he suffered from the explosion of gunpowder and was forced to return to England for treatment. Following his departure, the real chaos started in the colony. The river froze, and the population of Jamestown encountered sufficient difficulties, including hunger. The Indians disassembled houses for firewood and ate all the cattle. The starving colonists could not withstand the Indians and cannibalism was also widely practiced. Moreover, local people were savages, and most of them were deprived of the true knowledge of god (Virtual Jamestown, n.d.). Although the settlers found Jamestowns location to be convenient from the point of view of defense organization, it was poor in terms of agriculture and hunting. The population also lacked drinking water.

From the very beginning, the new colony was not self-contained as it was highly dependent on supplies imported from England. Attempts to establish trade and good relations with the natives of Virginia were unsuccessful. Many colonists died from diseases, hunger, and conflicts with the Indians (Barbour, 2010). Moreover, food supplies from England were irregular and insufficient, while the clashes with the natives continued. At that time, Virginia was reorganized and, according to the new rule, the governor with considerable power had to guide the colony.

 
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Initially, as a new settler, I believed that Jamestown was friendly and peaceful place completely equipped with all necessary things for living. However, hot weather and nasty insects plagued colonists, while the water was undrinkable, which resulted in emergence of typhus. In addition, after John Smith left the colony, the Indians lost their friendliness and it was difficult for us to survive harsh winter. Later, the population was replenished by colonists brought in cargo ships. Nevertheless, the motives of their arrival were different. For example, those colonists, who were not engaged in the working activity were constantly involved in conflicts and battles. Moreover, the offspring of the English nobility often came to Jamestown as they were tempted by rumors of the New World wealth.

Thomas West was the first governor of the colony at Jamestown. We believed in him as he brought sufficient supplies of food that the population lacked for many years. The settlers also found out that the land of Virginia was mainly used for cultivation of tobacco, which became the main export product of Jamestown and the basis of economic prosperity. However, the colonists wanted to occupy more land. Therefore, they started clearing big territories for agriculture and cut down forests, where the Indians used to hunt. Consequently, such actions led to new conflicts. In 1619, Jamestown experienced the export boom, with tobacco being its main product (Appelbaum & Sweet, 2005). Moreover, its citizens were also engaged in the establishment of vital infrastructure.

Later, the first metallurgical plant was established to produce iron and ore and I received a job there to feed and support myself for a while. On March 22, 1622, the Indians suddenly attacked our settlement and killed approximately four hundred settlers (Barbour, 2010). Several buildings and plantations were destroyed. Our losses could be more significant, but Jamestown prepared for the defense owing to an Indian boy, who warned about the attack (Beck, 2006).

It would be great if you could join me in the nearest future as I miss you so much. However, I do not think that it will be a good place for you to live in. The main reasons are diseases, undrinkable water, constant conflicts, frequent change of leaders, lack of job, and harsh winters. Therefore, I do not encourage you to visit Jamestown and, instead, I ask you to stay at home and wait for me. When I come back, we will think together where to move taking into consideration such aspects as stability, jobs, and the conflict-free and friendly environment.

References

Appelbaum, R., & Sweet, J. W. (Eds.). (2005). Envisioning an English empire: Jamestown

and the making of the North Atlantic world. Philadelphia, PA: University of

Pennsylvania Press.

Barbour, P. L. (2010). The Jamestown voyages under the first charter, 1606-1609. Farnham:

Ashgate.

Beck, S. (2006). Northern America to 1642. Retrieved from http://www.san.beck.org/11-4-

NorthernAmericato1642.html

Virginia Indians. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.virginia.org/virginiaindians/

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Virtual Jamestown. (n.d.). First hand accounts. Retrieved from

http://www.virtualjamestown.org/exist/cocoon/jamestown/fha/J1010

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