Primary Resource

"This starveing Tyme"; an excerpt from "A Trewe Relacyon of the procedeings and ocurrentes of Momente which have hapned in Virginia" by George Percy

In this excerpt from "A Trewe Relacyon of the precedeings and ocurrentes of Momente which have hapned in Virginia from the Tyme Sir Thomas Gates was Shippwrackte uppon the Bermudes Anno 1609 untill my departure owtt of the Cowntry which was in Anno Domini 1612," George Percy describes the events at Jamestown in the autumn of 1609; the Starving Time, during the winter of 1609–1610, when most of the colony died; and the colony's rescue, first by Sir Thomas Gates and then, in the midst of evacuating, by Thomas West, baron De La Warr. The account was written in the mid-1620s but not widely published until 1922.

Transcription from Original

Upon which defeate I sentt Capteyne James Davis to Algernowe foarte to Comawnd there in Capteyne Ratliefes place and Capteyne West I sentt To Potoamack with aboutt thirty sixe men to trade for maize and grayne, where he in shorte tyme Loaded his pinesse Sufficyently yett used some harshe and Crewell dealing by Cutteinge of towe of the Salvages heads and other extremetyes. And Comeinge by Algernowns foarte Capteine Davis did Call unto them acquainteinge them with our greate wantts exhortine them to make all the Spede they cowlde to Releve us upon which reporte Capteyne Weste by the perswasion or rather by the inforcement of his company hoysed upp Sayles and shaped their Course directtly for England and lefte us in thatt extreme misery and wantte.

Now all of us att James Towne beginneinge to feel the sharpe pricke of hunger which noe man trewly descrybe butt he which hathe Tasted the bitternesse thereof. A world of miseries ensewed as the Sequell will expresse unto yow, in so mutche thatt some to satisfye their hunger have Robbed the store for the which I Caused them to be executed. Then haveinge fedd upour horses and other beastes as longe as they Lasted, we weare gladd to make shifte with vermin as doggs Catts Ratts and myce all was fishe thatt Came to Nett to satisfye Crewell hunger, as to eate Bootes shoes or any other leather some Colde come by and those beinge Spente and devoured some weare inforced to searche the woodes and to feed upon Serpentts and snakes and to digge the earthe for wylde and unknowne Rootes, where many of our men weare Cutt of and slayne by the Salvages. And now famin beginneinge to Looke gastely and pale in every face, thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them. And some have Licked upp the Bloode which hathe fallen from their weake fellowes. And amongste the reste this was most lamentable. Thatt one of our Colline murdered his wyfe Ripped the Childe outt of her woambe and threwe itt into the River and after Chopped the Mother in pieces and sallted her for his foode, The same not beinge discovered before he had eaten parte thereof. For the which Crewell and unhumane factt I adjudged him to be executed the acknowledgment of the dede beinge inforced from him by torture haveinge hunge by the Thumbes with weightes att his feete a quarter of an howere before he wolde Confesse the same.

Upon theis Calameties haveinge one boate and a Canoe Lefte us, our Boate did accidentyally breake Loose and did dryve fower myles downe the River before she was espyed. Whereupon Capteyne Martin apointeinge some to follow her the which beinge neglected and acquaynteinge me therewith I stepped outt of my howse with my Sworde drawne and what with my Threates and their feares happy was he Colde shipp himselfe into the Canoe firste And so our Boate thatt nighte was ageine Recovered Yett wanteinge more Boates for fisheinge and other nedfull ocassions Capteyne Daniell Tucker by his greate industry and paines buylded a Large Boate with his owne hands The which was some helpe and a little Reliefe unto us and did kepe us from killeinge one of an other To eate. Many of our men this starveinge Tyme did Runn away unto the Salvages whome we never heard of after.

By this Tyme beinge Reasonable well recovered of my Sicknes I did undertake a Jorney unto Algernowns foarte bothe to understand how things weare there ordered as also to have bene Revenged of the Salvages att Kekowhatan who had trecheously Slayne dyvers of our men. Our people I fownd in good case and well lykeinge haveinge concealed their plenty from us above att James Towne, Beinge so well stored thatt the Crabb fishes wherewith they had fedd their hoggs wold have been a greate relefe unto us and saved many of our Lyves. Butt their intente was for to have keptt some of the better sorte alyve and with their towe pinnesses to have Retourned for England nott Regardinge our miseries and wantts att all. Wherewith I taxed Capteyne Davis and tolde him thatt I had a full intente to bringe halfe of our men from James Towne to be there Releved and after to Retourne them backe ageine and bringe the reste to bee Susteyned there also. And if all this wolde nott serve to save our mens Lyves I purposed to bringe them all unto Algernowns foarte Telleinge Capteyne Davis thatt another towne or foarte mighte be erected and Buylded butt mens lyves onse Loste colde never be recovered.

Our miseries now beinge att the hygheste and intending as I formerly Related unto yow to Remove some of our men to Algernowns foarte the very nextt Tyde, we espyed towe pinnesses Comeinge into the Baye nott knoweinge as yett whatt they weare, butt kepinge a Courte of guard and watche all thatt nighte. The nextt morneinge we espyed a Boate Comeinge of from one of the pinnesses So standeinge upon our guard we haled them and understood thatt Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George: Somes weare Come in these pinnesses which by their greate industry they had buylded in the Burmudes, with the remaynder of their wracktt ship and other woode they fownde in the Cowntry. Upon which newes we Come ashoare the which they refused, and Retourned aboard ageine for Sir Thomas Gates haveinge noe knowledge of any foarte to be Builded there, was dowtfull whether we weare frends or noe butt beinge possesed of the trewthe he and Sir George Somers with dyvers others did Come ashoare at Algernownes foarte and the next Tyde went upp to James Towne where they mighte Reade a lecture of miserie in our peoples faces and perceve the skarsety of victewalles and understande the mallice of the Salvages, who knoweinge our weaknes had dyvers Tymes assawlted us withoutt the foarte. Fyndeinge of fyve hundrethe men we had onely Lefte aboutt sixty, The reste beinge either sterved throwe famin or Cutt of by the salvages. And those which weare Liveinge weare so maugre and Leane thatt itt was Lamentable to behowlde them, for many throwe extreme hunger have Runne outt of their naked bedds beinge so Leane thatt they Looked lyke anotannes, Cryeinge owtt we are starved. We are starved. others goeinge to bedd as we imagined in healthe weare fownd deade the next morneinge and amongst the Reste one thinge hapned which was very Remarkable wherein god sheowed his juste Judgement. For one Hughe Pryse beinge pinched with extreme famin, In a furious distracted moode did Come openly into the markett place Blaspheameinge exclameinge and Creyinge outt thatt there was noe god, alledgeinge thatt if there were a god he wolde nott Suffer his Creatures whome he had made and framed to indure those miseries and to perishe for wante of food and Sustenance Butt itt appeared the same day thatt the Almighty was displeased with him, for goeinge that afternoene with a Butcher a Corpulentt fatt man into the woods to seke for some Reliefe, bothe of them weare slaine by the Salvages. And after beinge fownde gods Indignacyon was sheowed upon Pryses Corpes which was Rente in pieces with wolves or other wylde Beastes and his Bowles Torne outt of his boddy beinge a Leane spare man. And the fatt Butcher nott lyeinge above sixte yardes from him was fownd altogether untoutched onely by the salvages arrows whereby he Receaved his deathe.

Theis miseries Considered itt was Resolved uppon By Sir Thomas Gates and the whole Collonie with all Spede to Retourne for England. whereupon moste of our men weare sett to worke some to make pitche and Tar for Trimmeinge of our shoppes others to Bake breade and fewe or noene nott imployed in one occasyon or another. So thatt in a small Space of Tyme fowere pinnesses weare fitted and made Reddy all prepareinge to goe aboarde. And if Sir Thomas Gates had nott Laboured with our men they had sett the Towne on fyer, useinge theis or the lyke works unto them. My masters lett the towne Stande we knowe nott butt thatt as honeste men as our selves may come and inhabitt here. Then all of us enbarqueinge our selves, Sir Thomas Gates in the Deliveranse with his company Sir George Somers in the patience my selfe in the discoverie and Capteyne Davis in the Virginia, all of us sayleinge downe the River with a full intente to have proceded upon our voyadge for England, when Suddenlye we espyed a boate makeinge towards us. wherein we fownde to be Capteyne Bruster sentt from my Lorde La Ware, who was come unto us with many gentlemen of quallety and the hundrethe men besides greate store of victewles municyon and other privisyon. Whereupon we all Retourned to James Towne ageine where my Lorde shortly after Landed and sett all things in good order selecteinge a Cowncell and makeinge Capteines over fifty men apiece.