Primary Resource

Voyage of Anthony Chester (1707)

Voyage of Anthony Chester is an account written by an unknown passenger of the ship Margaret and John, which left England in December 1620 bound for Virginia and was attacked by the Spanish in the West Indies in March 1621. (Anthony Chester was captain of the ship.) The passenger tells of these events and subsequent life in the colony, including an account of the beginning of the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622–1632). The manuscript was published in Dutch by Peter Vander Aa, an Amsterdam bookseller, in 1707. This English translation, by Charles Edward Bishop, was first published in the William and Mary Quarterly in 1901.

Transcription from Original

To Virginia in the year 1620, as narrated by a distinguished passenger; translated into Dutch and published by Peter Vander Aa, bookseller at Leyden, in 1707.

In the beginning of February 1620 I left England in the ship Margaret & John, our ship was of 160 ton burden, our Captain was Anthony Chester a brave seaman. Besides the crew we had on board a good many passengers of whom I was one, our ship carried 8 cannon with a valconet, our destination was Virginia where we hoped to transact some profitable business.

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About the 14th of March we came in about 20 miles off Mettalina; the next day we passed Dominica and neared Guadaloupe where we intended to take in fresh water. Nearing this place we observed two vessels lying at anchor which we took to be Hollanders, not only because the ships were built after the model of that nation, but more so because the Admiral had the Dutch flag flying from the mizzenmast. Expecting no harm we kept straight on & anchored in their immediate vicinity; but so as not to be taken by surprise we sent some sailors in a boat towards the Admiral's ship to reconnoitre, who returned in a very short time with the report that they were two Spanish men of war. Notwithstanding this we sent the boat out a second time to make a more thorough investigation while we commenced busying ourselves to make things ready in case it should come to a fight. But our ship was so full of household goods that we could not place our cannon as we wanted to, and so we had to make out the best we could.

Upon our boat reaching the Vice Admiral's ship our men inquired from whence the ship, but instead of receiving a polite reply the Spaniards demanded their surrender which of course our men declined and rowed back to our ship as rapidly as possible. Meanwhile several shots were fired at them striking and breaking some of their oars, but not a man of them was hurt. When within about a musket shot from our ship, they were fired at from a big cannon, and as soon as our men were on board of our ship, the Spaniards hoisted sail preparatory to attack us. We on our part anticipated a bloody encounter and were much troubled by our inability to properly place our guns for reasons mentioned above.

The Vice Admiral approached us with great rapidity, and in passing greeted us with a broadside which we ignored altogether, as our aim was to save ourselves by flight rather than risk an unequal contest with two such powerful vessels. The Spaniard however gave us no chance for flight, so that we found we had to choose between two evils, either to fight desperately or to surrender ourselves into slavery. In this manner we were forced into a fight, and we attacked the Spaniard so bravely and fought as heroes or rather as madmen and played upon them with our muskets and 4 cannon so furiously that they were forced to leave us the victory, taking to flight and returning to their former anchor-

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age. As soon as the Spanish Admiral saw this he took down the Dutch flag and hoisted the Spanish colors weighed anchor and sailed towards us, but before firing upon us they spoke us enquiring what nationality we were, we replied we were English and had no intention of harming them unless we were forced to do so and that it was our desire to proceed peacefully on our voyage. Hereupon, the Spaniard demanded that we take down our mainsail which according to him was required by the rights of the King of Spain and marine usage, whereupon our Captain replied that he could not subject himself to any such rights nor did he intend to harm the subjects of the King of Spain. While friendly relations existed between their respective sovereigns he wished the same to exist between their subjects. After exchanging a few more words, our Captain went down in the cabin, tired of listening any longer to the unjust demands of this Spaniard, but at the request of the Admiral our Captain came again on deck and was ordered to come on board the Admiral's ship to show his papers, but this our Captain refused to do saying if they wished to see them they could come on board his ship and he would show them his papers. But what happens? Instead of answering by word of mouth, they saluted us with two pieces of cannon and a hail storm of musket balls, drew their swords, threatened to cut us to pieces, and calling us dogs, grappled us and thought they had subdued us already, when, at a sign previously agreed upon, our men sprang forward with their muskets and received them so well, supported by our 4 pieces of cannon, that they had to retreat.

It was not long though before they returned attacking us with a loud noise, grappled us again, and began to come on board our shop but our men led by our brave and courageous Captain received them so well with their muskets, spears, and grappling axes that we drove them off a second time sending many of them to a watery grave. This, however, did not satisfy the Spaniard, they attacked and grappled us a third time and during the fierce hand to hand fight, which now ensued, we had the good luck to shoot their Admiral down upon which they raised such a hue and cry that it astonished all of us, and they immediately took to flight leaving us the victory.

In this fierce and bloody encounter we, for reasons mentioned before, could not bring but 4 of our 8 cannons into use, but these

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were handled so rapidly and skillfully that several times the Spaniard would have gotten away from us but for their ship being lashed to ours until finally one of our men, with orders from our Captain, cut the ropes with his grappling axe upon which they immediately took to flight giving us several volleys from their big and small guns as they retreated.

The Vice Admiral, seeing we did not pursue his Admiral, acted as if he wanted to fight us again, but we did not mind him much, and set to work to face them both if they were so inclined. But the admiral's ship held off and we now attacked the Vice Admiral so furiously that we disabled his ship to such an extent that the whole crew had to take to shore to save themselves from a watery grave.

The night following this battle, all on board our ship, passengers as well as crew, were busy filling cartridges, cleaning cannons and muskets repairing damages etc. so as to be ready in case the Spaniard should feel inclined to attack us again, and by dawn of day it looked as if we had not been working all night in vain, the Spaniards seemingly preparing to attack us again. However, after looking at each other for about two hours with frowning faces, the Spaniard hoisted sail and took their course towards the nearest island, their movements being such that it was plain that they must have a good many dead and wounded. On our side we had 8 dead, and of the 16 wounded 2 died afterwards; how many of the Spaniards were killed we never knew but certain it is that during the encounters we saw many of them fall and not a few find their grave in the water which was actually red with their blood.

The Admiral's ship was of 300 ton burden, carried 22 big guns and was well supplied with men and ammunition; the Vice Ad-

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miral's ship was also of 300 ton burden and carried 16 big guns with a correspondingly ample supply of men and ammunition; on the other hand ours was a small ship, as stated before, with 8 big guns of which we could use only 4, notwithstanding which we were so fortunate as to come out victorious.

We now proceeded on our voyage and landed without further accidents in Virginia. Soon thereafter Captain Chester obtained a return cargo and set sail again for England.

It is not my purpose to give a description of the country and its inhabitants; this has been done by the invincible and courageous John Smith in his Voyages in such a way that it cannot be improved upon.

From the beginning that our people settled in Virginia, they have been subjected to a great many adversities, difficulties and hard labor; but what I wish to relate here has been one of the greatest setbacks they ever could have encountered, for the devil had through the medium of the priests such an influence upon the natives that they only waited for a good opportunity to extirpate the foreigners. In order to accomplish this Powhatan, King of the savages, succeeded in closing a treaty with the English by which he and his subjects promised to be faithful subjects of the King of England, in gratitude of which they offered to pay a yearly tribute. These articles of peace were engraved in copper and fastened to an oak tree close by the residence of King Powhatan, while both parties were greatly rejoiced over the success of closing this treaty. The savages were rejoiced, because they found the English too powerful to successfully resist and also because now the English were to defend them against attack of hostile tribes; the aim of the English was to obtain by means of this treaty a better and safer opportunity to inspect and conquer the country. This treaty lasted uninterruptedly for quite a while and both parties adhered to the terms of it so well that our people went among them unarmed and the Savages became so friendly that they often visited the English and dined with them which compliment the English frequently returned hoping by these means to reform the savages and induce them to embrace the Christian religion.

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For some reason, best known to the English government, in March 1622 the King of England had to remind King Powhatan of the articles of the treaty of peace existing between them, in answer to which King Powhatan said that he would prefer seeing the country turned upside down rather than break a single act of the treaty, but, as will be proved later on, this conduct of the savages was nothing but hypocrisy and deceit, they only awaiting a favorable opportunity to kill out the English.

Several days before this bloodthirsty people put their plan into execution, they led some of our people through very dangerous woods into a place from which they could not extricate themselves without the aid of a guide, others of us who were among them to learn their language were in a friendly way persuaded to return to our colony, while new comers were treated in an exceedingly friendly manner.

On Friday before the day appointed by them for the attack they visited, entirely unarmed, some of our people in their dwellings, offering to exchange skins, fish and other things, while our people entirely ignorant of their plans received them in a friendly manner.

When the day appointed for the massacre had arrived, a number of the savages visited many of our people in their dwellings, and while partaking with them of their meal the savages, at a given signal, drew their weapons and fell upon us murdering and killing everybody they could reach sparing neither women nor children, as well inside as outside the dwellings. In this attack 347 of the English of both sexes and all ages were killed. Simply killing our people did not satisfy their inhuman nature, they dragged the dead bodies all over the country, tearing them limb from limb, and carrying the pieces in triumph around.

The valiant and noble gentleman George Thorpe, one of the most influential among the English then in Virginia, took a

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great interest in the savages, and embraced every opportunity that presented itself to speak to them about the Christian religion, and was either held in such high esteem or so feared by the Indians that they would apparently not harm him in any way whatever. In fact, they submitted to punishment for misbehavior if Mr. Thorpe deemed such a course necessary. Mr. Thorpe in order to befriend King Powhatan [i.e., Opechancanough] as much as possible caused a good substantial house to be built for him, of which the King was very proud, in place of his hut built of mats and straw; he was particularly pleased with the locks and keys, amusing himself frequently for an hour or more at a time locking and unlocking the doors; by these means Mr.

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Thorpe tried to win the friendship and confidence of the King and his subjects, embracing every opportunity to speak on religious topics, until finally the King confessed that he had come to the conclusion that the God whom the English worshipped was mightier and far superior to the gods they served; for, he said, the God of the English had done him more good than all his gods combined, upon which Mr. Thorpe answered that if he and his subjects would be converted to the Christian religion, they would receive many more and much greater blessings.

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The result of Mr. Thorpe's efforts was that the King and his subjects began to show much inclination to embrace the Christian religion, from which the English expected much good, but it was not long before they found out that the savages were false and great hypocrites, for in the general massacre mentioned heretofore even Mr. Thorpe was not spared though he could have saved his life by flight. An hour before his death he was warned of the danger by one of his Indian servants who had embraced the Christian religion, but he had such faith in these savages that he remained at his post; his servant though was more prudent and fled to Jamestown, a place fortified by the English to protect themselves against the attacks of the Indians.

At the time of this massacre a party of Indians embarked in four boats for Jamestown, with the intention of attacking and murdering the English in this town and the surrounding country, but this hellish plan was frustrated by the disclosure of the project by a converted Indian in the employ of a Mr. [Richard] Pace; on the night preceding the contemplated attack two Indians, brothers, who had embraced the Christian religion, one in the employ of a Mr. Perry [possibly William Perry], the other in the employ of a Mr. Pace, on retiring for the night discussed the plan of murdering their masters and by thus doing assist and please their King Powhatan and thus also to aid the massacring party who were to arrive the following day by order of King Powhatan to murder all the settlers. Apparently the plan as discussed by the two brothers was agreed upon, but the Indian in the employ of Mr. Pace arose early in the morning while his brother was yet asleep and repairing to his master's residence he disclosed to him the entire murderous plan, for he regarded and loved Mr. Pace as a father while Mr. Pace loved this Indian as a son. Mr. Pace was not slow in heeding the warning, at once placing his residence in a state of defence; and hastily rowed in a canoe across the river to Jamestown to notify

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the Governor of the impending danger. Hardly had we completed our defensive preparations when the boats bearing the savages hove in sight, but as soon as we opened fire upon them with our muskets they retreated in a cowardly manner.

By the mercy of the Lord who had moved the heart of this converted Indian to give us timely warning the lives of more than a thousand of our people, of whom I was one, were spared.

About a year previous to the event just narrated King Opechankanough had made strenuous efforts to obtain from another Indian King [Esmy Shichans, of the Accomac Indians], whose land was very fertile in poisonous herbs, a large quantity of poison with the intention to therewith exterminate the English, but neither presents nor threats could induce this King to accede to the demands of Opechankanough.

In regard to the reason of this murderous attack of the Indians upon the English there is considerable difference of opinion; some say that a certain Indian by the name of Nemaltenow [Nemattanew], by the English named Jack-of-the-Feather, who was looked upon by the Indians as supernatural, had induced a certain Englishman, by the name of Morgan, to go with him to Pamunkey to barter his wares, and Morgan not returning after the lapse of a reasonable time his friends investigated the matter and found that he had been murdered by this Indian, whereupon they took Nemaltenow prisoner and brought him before Mr. Thorpe to be dealt with according to his misdeed; on the way thither, however, the Indian escaped from his captors, and being unable to overtake him they shot him dead. This occurrence enraged King Opechankenough so that they say he swore to revenge the death of this Indian upon the English on the first favorable opportunity; but my opinion is that their heathen priests, who are the tools of the devil, were constantly working upon the credulity and ignorance of this people to make them believe that the English had come to exterminate them in the same way as the Spaniard had done in other parts of the West Indies, and to prevent this the murderous attack was decided upon and brought into execution.

When the occurrence of this massacre became known in the mother country, the English were ordered to take revenge by destroying with fire and sword everything of the Indians; conse-

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quently they set out for Pamunkey, destroyed both the houses and crops of the Indians, took Opechankenough prisoner and shot him on the very place where his house stood before it was burned down. On this spot the English then built a new town. By these means the Indians became very much subdued and lived in constant dread of the English.

The English in the meantime became thereafter more prudent in their dealings with the Indians. Moreover, the King of England sent from his arsenals all sort of weapons and ammunition and ordered his subjects to more and more cultivate the land and bring the Indians into submission.