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Anglo-Powhatan Wars

The Anglo-Powhatan Wars were three wars fought be- one of Powhatans capitals, was captured by a communal
tween English settlers of the Virginia Colony, and Indians hunting party led by Opechancanough. Smith much later
of the Powhatan Confederacy in the early seventeenth in life claimed that during his captivity, Pocahontas had
century. The First War started in 1610, and ended in a dramatically saved him from Powhatans clubs, but his-
peace settlement in 1614.[1] Another war between the two torians dier as to whether or not this was propaganda,
powers lasted from 1622 to 1626. The third war lasted or an actual native ritual. Smiths capture represented
from 1644 until 1646, and ended when Opechancanough just an example of the diplomatic strategies employed
was captured and killed. That war resulted in a boundary by Wahunsunacawh to make the English cooperate with
being dened between the Indians and English lands that and contribute to his expanding control in this region.[2]
could only be crossed for ocial business with a special Smith was released in time for New Years 1608, when he
pass. This situation would last until 1677 and the Treaty promised to move the colony to Capahosick. Smith had
of Middle Plantation, which established Indian reserva- convinced the grand chief that he was the son of Cap-
tions following Bacons Rebellion. tain Newport, and that Newport was their head weroance
(tribal chief).
Relations between the two peoples began deteriorating
1 Early conict again in late 1608, when the starving colonists began to
strong-arm some supplies of corn from the natives, who
Complications with natives typically resulted at most of had likewise had a bad harvest. Smiths contacts with ri-
the settlements the English tried to establish from the val tribes around the Chesapeake Bay in the summer, and
beginning. The failed Roanoke colony marked the rst Captain Christopher Newport's military expedition to the
contact between English settlers and Algonquian coastal Monacan country that fall, had not helped matters.
tribes in North Carolina. As early as 1585 an elder by By spring 1609, the local Paspahegh tribe had resumed
the name of Richard Hakluyt bluntly stated the English raiding the English fort at Jamestown. However, their
Position for the new colony: The ends of they voyage weroance, Wowinchopunk, declared an uneasy truce af-
[to America] are these: 1.to plant Christian religion 2.to ter he was captured and escaped, and as a result some
Tracke 3.to conquer.[2] colonists were even allowed to board in Indian towns.
The rst permanent English settlement, Jamestown, Vir- Then Smith, who had become president of the colony the
ginia (May 1607), was within the territory of the powerful preceding fall, antagonized the Powhatan further in sum-
yet still expanding chiefdom of Wahunsunacawh (known mer 1609, by attempting to establish new forts in their
to the English as Chief Powhatan).[3] The Jamestown lo- territory. First he sent a party with Captain John Martin
cation was less than successful, because the conditions to settle in Nansemond territory. When they could not
of this swampy area were far less than desirable , in- purchase the island with their temple, Martin ransacked
cluding: polluted water, signicant amount of insects it and the burial platforms of their weroances, and oc-
that carried disease, and soon, the lack of food supply. cupied it by force, which was not well received. Later
Jamestown, and the other colonies to be established in the he abandoned the position after 17 of his men, disobey-
New World were dependent on natives for a successful ing orders, were wiped out while trying to buy corn at the
settlement. Kecoughtan village (now Hampton, Virginia). Smith also
Captain John Smith, a colonial leader, imagined that sent 120 men with Francis West to build a fort far upriver,
someday the Virginia Indians would be doing all the at the falls of the James, right above the main town of the
work for the English,[2] but Powhatan envisioned some- Powhatan proper (and the present site of Richmond, Vir-
thing dierent: he wanted Smith and the colonists to for- ginia); Smith purchased the site from Wahunsunacawhs
sake the swamp and instead live in one of his satellite son, Parahunt, but this ended up faring no better.
towns called Capahosick where they would make metal Smith was then injured in an accidental gunpowder ex-
tools for him in exchange for full provision.[4] However, plosion, deposed as president, and sailed to England on
Smith underestimated the power of the Virginia Indians October 4, 1609, and the colony began to starve. Soon
and what they were capable of, as they knew the land afterward, the settlers succeeded in establishing a second
much better than the English. In December 1607, only fortication, Fort Algernon at Old Point Comfort, right
seven months after building the fort on Jamestown Island, beside the Kecoughtan village.
Smith, while reconnoitering the countryside near Orapax,


In November, the Powhatan ambushed and killed Cap- killing them.

tain John Ratclie, who had gone to Orapax to buy corn. In May 1611, a new governor, Sir Thomas Dale, arrived
Francis West sailed to the Patawomecks, a fringe group and soon began looking for places to establish new settle-
among Powhatans subjects, for corn, but beheaded two ments; he was repulsed by the Nansemonds, but success-
of them, then absconded directly to England. fully took an island in the James from the Arrohattocs,
Unable to trade with the natives, the English began which became the palisaded 'cittie' of Henricus, despite
to starve to death, to the point that when Sir Thomas raids there led by the renegade warrior Nemattanew, or
Gates arrived in late May 1610, he decided to evacuate as they dubbed him, 'Jack of the Feather'.
Jamestown. However, on their second day of sailing, they Around Christmas 1611, Dale and his men seized the Ap-
met Lord de la Warr (Francis Wests older brother) com- pomattoc town at the mouth of their river, and quickly
ing into the Bay with the remnant of his eet, which had palisaded o the neck of land, renaming it 'New Bermu-
left England one year earlier, but been scattered in a hur- das.
ricane. They therefore returned to the fort under de la
Warrs command. The aged chief Powhatan made no major response to this
English expansion, and he seems to have been losing ef-
The nobleman, Lord de la Warr, proved far harsher and fective control to his younger brother Opechancanough
more belligerent toward the Indians than any of his pre- during this time, while the English consolidated their new
decessors, and his solution was simply to engage in wars footholds.
of conquest against them, rst sending Gates to drive o
the Kecoughtan from their village on July 9, then giving In December 1612, Argall concluded peace with the
Chief Powhatan the ultimatum of either returning all En- Patawomeck; while there in April 1613, he managed
glish subjects and property, or facing war. Powhatan re- to capture the great chief Powhatans own daughter,
sponded by insisting that the English either stay in their Pocahontas, delivered into his hands by Japazaws, brother
fort, or leave Virginia. Enraged, De la Warr had the of the Patawomeck weroance. This caused an immediate
hand of a Paspahegh captive cut o and sent him to the ceasere from the Powhatan raids on the English, as they
paramount chief with another ultimatum: Return all En- held her ransom for peace. In the meantime, English set-
glish subjects and property, or the neighboring villages tlers had begun to expand to south of the rivers, building
would be burned. This time, Powhatan did not even re- houses at City Point in what is now Hopewell, Virginia.
spond. In early 1609, Jamestown Island had been the only ter-
ritory under English control. By the end of this period,
the Powhatan had lost much of their riverfront property
2 First Anglo-Powhatan War along the James to the English conquest; the Kicough-
tan and Paspehegh subtribes had been eectively de-
The First AngloPowhatan War, between the Powhatan stroyed, and the settlers had made major inroads among
and the English colonists, lasted from 1610 to 1614.[5] the lands of the Weyanoke, Appomattoc, Arrohattoc, and
Powhatan proper. Two James river tribes, the Arrohat-
On August 9, 1610, tired of waiting for a response from toc and Quiockohannock are not heard from again after
Powhatan, De la Warr sent George Percy with 70 men this, possibly indicating that they had been dispersed or
to attack the Paspahegh capital, burning the houses and merged with the other chiefdoms.[6]
cutting down their cornelds. They killed 65 to 75, and
captured one of Wowinchopunks wives and her children.
Returning downstream, the English threw the children
overboard, and shot out their Braynes in the water. The 3 The Peace of Pocahontas
queen was put to the sword in Jamestown. The Paspa-
hegh never recovered from this attack, and abandoned
their town. Another small force sent with Samuel Argall Peace negotiations stalled over return of captured
against the Warraskoyaks found that they had already ed, hostages and arms for nearly a year; nally in March
but he destroyed their abandoned village and cornelds as 1614, Dale went with Pocahontas (Matoaka) and a large
well. force to nd Powhatan himself. Getting a shower of ar-
rows at present-day West Point, they went ashore and
Following these attacks, and the oense of killing royal sacked the town; nding Powhatan at his new capital
women and children, both sides now found themselves at Matchcot. They nally concluded a peace that was sealed
war. That fall, a party of Englishmen was ambushed at by the marriage of Pocahontas to the colonist John Rolfe.
Appomattoc; soon afterward Lord de la Warr managed This was the rst known inter-racial union in Virginia,
to establish a company of men at the falls of the James, and helped usher in a brief period of better relations
who stayed there all winter. between the Indians and the newcomers. A separate
In February 1611, Wowinchopunk was killed in a skir- peace was concluded the same year with the autonomous
mish near Jamestown, which his followers revenged a few Chickahominy tribe which even made them honorary
days later by enticing some colonists out of the fort and Englishmen, thus subjects of King James I.

Following the 1614 marriage of Rolfe and Pocahon- However, summer 1627 brought renewed assaults against
tas, relative peace and good relations reigned for sev- the Chickahominy, Appamattoc, Powhatan proper, War-
eral years. This time has been called the golden age raskoyak, Weyanoke and Nansemond.
of Powhatan-English relations, in English eyes.[7] It has A 'peace' was declared in 1628, but it was more like a
also been called the peace of Pocahontas.[8][9] temporary ceasere; hostilities resumed in March 1629
In 1616, when Governor Dale had gone to England along and continued until a nal peace was made on September
with Pocahontas, the Chickahominy refused to pay their 30, 1632. The English began to expand their settlements
corn tribute to the new governor (George Yeardley), re- on the Eastern Shore and both sides of the James, as well
jected their alliance with the English, and instead nally as on the south of the York, and in 1633, they palisaded
became a part of Chief Powhatans Confederacy. o the peninsula between the York and James at about
Following Chief Powhatans death in 1618, his younger Williamsburg. By 1640 they began claiming land north
brother Opechancanough assumed full power, being their of the York as well, and in 1642, Opechancanough leased
middle brother Opitchapam the new mamanatowick, and some land on the Piankatank to English settlers for the
Nemattanew continued to be a prominent gure alongside price of 50 bushels of corn a year.

5 Palisade
4 Second Anglo-Powhatan War
By 1634, a palisade (stockade) was completed across the
Opechancanough maintained a friendly face to the Virginia Peninsula, which was about 6 miles (9.7 km)
colony, and nally even met with an English minister to wide at that point between Queens Creek which fed into
give the appearance of his imminent conversion to Chris- the York River and Archers Hope Creek, (since renamed
tianity. Then on Friday, March 22, 1622, his subjects, College Creek) which fed into the James River. The new
planted among the settlements, struck without warning, palisade provided some security from attacks by the Vir-
in what is now known as the Indian Massacre of 1622.[10] ginia Indians for colonists farming and shing lower on
A third of the colony were wiped out that day; were it the Peninsula from that point.
not for last minute warnings by Christianized natives, a Anchored at its center by Middle Plantation on land
higher toll would have been certain. patented by Dr. Potts, the palisade is partially described
Powhatan military doctrine did not call for an immedi- in the following extract from a letter written in 1634, from
ate follow-up blow, but rather to wait and see what would Jamestown, by Captain Thomas Yonge:
happen after inicting such a blow, in hopes that the set-
tlement would simply abandon their homeland and move a strong palisade ... upon a straight between
on elsewhere. However, English military doctrine did both rivers and ... a sucient force of men to
not call for reacting this way. For the next ten years, defence of the same, whereby all the lower part
they marched out nearly every summer and made assaults of Virginia have a range for their cattle, near
on Powhatan settlements. The Accomac and Patawom- forty miles in length and in most places twelve
eck allied with the English, providing them corn, while miles (19 km) broad. The pallisades is very
the English went to plunder villages and cornelds of the near six miles (10 km) long, bounded in by two
Chickahominy, Nansemond, Warraskoyack, Weyanoke large Creeks. ... in this manner to take also in
and Pamunkey in 1622. In 1623 Opechancanough sued all the ground between those two Rivers, and so
for peace. The colonists thus arranged to meet the na- utterly excluded the Indians from thence; which
tives for a peace agreement, but poisoned their wine, then work is conceived to be of extraordinary benet
fell upon them shooting them and killing many in revenge to the country ...
for the massacre. They then attacked the Chickahominy,
the Powhatan proper, the Appomattoc, Nansemond and
6 Third Anglo-Powhatan War
In 1624 both sides were ready for a major battle; the
Powhatans, Opitchapam leading their force, assembled After twelve years of peace following the Indian Wars
800 bowmen, arrayed against only 60 Englishmen, who of 1622-1632, another AngloPowhatan War began on
attempted to destroy the Powhatans cornelds. When the March 18, 1644, as a last eort by the remnants of the
Englishmen nally succeeded in destroying the cornelds, Powhatan Confederacy, still under Opechancanough, to
the bowmen gave up the ght and retreated. dislodge the English settlers of the Virginia Colony.[10]
A shortage of gunpowder in the colony delayed the Around 500 colonists were killed, but that number repre-
colonists from going on marches in 1625 and 1626. sented a relatively low percent of the overall population,
The natives seem not to have been aware of this short- as opposed to the earlier massacre (the 1622 attack had
age, and were themselves desperately trying to regroup. wiped out a third; that of 1644 barely a tenth). However,

Opechancanough, still preferring to use Powhatan tactics, the Blackwater, northwesterly to the Appomattoc village
did not make any major follow-up to this attack. beside Fort Henry, and continuing in the same direction
This was followed by a last eort by the settlers to deci- to the Monocan village above the falls of the James, where
mate the Powhatan. In July, they marched against the Pa- Fort Charles was built, then turning sharp right, to Fort
munkey, Chickahominy, and Powhatan proper; and south Royal on the York (Pamunkey) river. Necotowance thus
of the James, against the Appomattoc, Weyanoke, War- ceded the English vast tracts of still-uncolonized land,
raskoyak, and Nansemond, as well as two Carolina tribes, much of it between the James and Blackwater. English
the Chowanoke and Secotan. settlements on the peninsula north of the York and below
the Poropotank were also allowed, as they had already
In February 1645, the colony ordered the construction of been there since 1640.
three frontier forts: Fort Charles at the falls of the James,
Fort James on the Chickahominy, and Fort Royal at the
falls of the York. In August, Governor William Berke- 7 Result of the Wars
ley stormed Opechancanoughs stronghold and captured
him. All captured males in the village over age 11 were
deported to Tangier Island.[11] Opechancanough, around The wars end ushered in 30 years of relative peace be-
92 years old, was taken to Jamestown where he was shot tween the colonists and the Powhatan, shattered only by
in the back by a guard.[10] Opechancanoughs death re- the attacks of Bacons Rebellion in 1676. This resulted in
sulted in the disintegration of the Powhatan Confederacy the Treaty of Middle Plantation signed by Cockacoeske,
into its component tribes, whom the colonists continued Powhatans matrilineal successor. The treaty set up reser-
to attack. In March 1646, the colony decided to build a vations for each tribe, and allowed them hunting rights
fourth frontier fort, Fort Henry, at the falls of the Appo- outside their reservations. It established that all the Indian
mattox, where the modern city of Petersburg is located. rulers were equal, with the provision that the Queen of
Pomunky was now owed the ancient subjection of sev-
eral scattered groups of Indians.[12]
6.1 Treaty of 1646 Under her next two successors, lands within the original
Pamunkey reservation, which was coterminous with King
William County, Virginia, would be sold to the English,
resulting in the relatively small Pamunkey and Mattaponi
reservations of the present.

8 See also
List of conicts in the United States

History of Virginia

9 References
[1] First Anglo-Powhatan War (16091614)". Encyclopedia
Virginia. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
Red line shows boundary between the Virginia Colony and Trib-
utary Indian tribes, as established by the Treaty of 1646. Red [2] Puglisi, Michael J. (1991). Capt. John Smith, Pocahon-
dot shows Jamestown, capital of Virginia Colony. tas and a Clash of Cultures: A Case for the Ethnohistor-
ical Perspective. The History Teacher. 25 (1): 97103.
In the peace treaty of October 1646, the new weroance, JSTOR 494612.
Necotowance, and the subtribes formerly in the Confed-
eracy, each became tributaries to the King of England. [3] Glenn, Keith (1944). Captain John Smith and the Indi-
ans. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 52 (4):
At the same time, a racial frontier was delineated be-
228248. JSTOR 4245316.
tween Indian and English settlements, with members of
each group forbidden to cross to the other side except by [4] Helen Rountree, Pocahontass People, p. 38.
special pass obtained at one of the newly erected border
forts. The extent of the Virginia colony open to patent by [5] Rountree 1990, p. 55n; she notes that while historians
such as Fausz place the beginning in 1609, her 'emphasis
English colonists was dened as: All the land between the
on diplomatic relations would rather date the outbreak of
Blackwater and York rivers, and up to the navigable point the full-edged war to 1610.
of each of the major rivers - which were connected by a
straight line running directly from modern Franklin on [6] Rountree, p. 80 n.

[7] Rountree, p.61

[8] Historic Jamestowne National Park Service

[9] [Pocahontas http://teacherlink.ed.usu.edu/tlresources/

units/byrnes-famous/poca.html] Tammy Rodeback

[10] Spencer C. Tucker; James R. Arnold; Roberta Wiener (30

September 2011). The Encyclopedia of North American
Indian Wars, 16071890: A Political, Social, and Military
History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 1719. ISBN 978-1-85109-
697-8. Retrieved 30 March 2013.

[11] A Study of Virginia Indians

[12] 1677 treaty text

10 Further reading
Grenier, John (2005). The First Way of War, Amer-
ican War Making of the Frontier, 1607-1814. New
York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 2425.
ISBN 0521845661.

Rajtar, Steve (1999). Indian War Sites. Jeerson,

NC: McFarland. ISBN 0786407107.

Rountree, Helen (1990). Pocahontass People.

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN

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