Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
The Virginia Rebellion in the Seventeenth Century
By T. M.
The writer of the following graphic relation signs his prefatory note to Secretary Harley simply T. M., but he is supposed by Charles Campbell to have been Thomas Matthews, son of Col. Samuel Matthews, sometime Governor of Virginia.
[Written in 1705.]
ABOUT the year 1675, appeared three prodigies in that country, which from the attending disasters were looked upon as ominous presages.
The one was a large comet every evening for a week or more, at south-west, thirty-five degrees high, streaming like a horse-tail westwards, until it reached almost the horizon, and setting towards the north-west.
Another was flights of pigeons in breadth nigh a quarter of the midhemisphere, and of their length was no visible end; whose weights break down the limbs of large trees whereon these rested at nights, of which the fowlers shot abundance and eat them; this sight put the old planters under the more portentous apprehensions, because the like was seen, as they said, in the year 1640, when the Indians committed the last massacre, but not after, until that present year, 1675.
The third strange appearance was swarms of flies about an inch long, and big as the top of a mans little finger, rising out of spigot holes in the earth, which eat the new sprouted leaves from the tops of the trees without other harm, and in a month left us.
My dwelling was in Northumberland, the lowest county on Potomac River, Stafford being the upmost, where having also a plantation, servants, cattle, etc., my overseer there had agreed with one Robt. Hen to come thither and be my herdsman, who then lived ten miles above it. But on a Sabbath-day morning, in the summer anno 1675, people in their way to church saw this Hen lying athwart his threshold, and an Indian without the door, both chopped on their heads, arms and other parts, as if done with Indian hatchets. The Indian was dead; but Hen, when asked who did that, answered, Doegs, Doegs, and soon died. Then a boy came out from under a bed, where he had hid himself, and told them, Indians had come at break of day and done those murders.
Of this horrid action Col. Mason, who commanded the militia regiment of foot, and Capt. Brent the troop of horse, in that county (both dwelling six or eight miles downwards), having speedy notice, raised thirty or more men, and pursued those Indians twenty miles up and four miles over that river into Maryland, where landing at dawn of day they found two small paths. Each leader with his party took a separate path, and, in less than a furlong, either found a cabin, which they (silently) surrounded. Capt. Brent went to the Doegs cabin (as it proved to be), who, speaking the Indian tongue, called to have a matchacomicha, weewhio (i.e., a council) called presently, such being the usual manner with Indians. The king came trembling forth, and would have fled, when Capt. Brent, catching hold of his twisted lock (which was all the hair he wore), told him he was come for the murderer of Robt. Hen. The king pleaded ignorance and slipped loose, whom Brent shot dead with his pistol; the Indians shot two or three guns out of the cabin; the English shot into it, the Indians thronged out at the door and fled; the English shot as many as they could, so that they killed ten, as Capt. Brent told me, and brought away the kings son of about eight years old, concerning whom is an observable passage, at the end of this expedition. The noise of this shooting awakened the Indians in the cabin which Col. Mason had encompassed, who likewise rushed out and fled, of whom his company (supposing from that noise of shooting Brents party to be engaged) shot (as the Col. informed me) fourteen before an Indian came, who with both hands shook him (friendly) by one arm, saying, Susquehannas netoughs (i.e., Susquehanna friends), and fled; whereupon he ran amongst his men, crying out, For the Lords sake shoot no more; these are our friends the Susquehannas.
This unhappy scene ended, Col. Mason took the king of the Doegs son home with him, who lay ten days in bed, as one dead, with eyes and mouth shut, no breath discerned; but his body continuing warm, they believed him yet alive. The aforenamed Capt. Brent (a Papist) coming thither on a visit, and seeing his little prisoner thus languishing, said, Perhaps he is powwowed (i.e., bewitched), and that he had heard baptism was an effectual remedy against witchcraft, wherefore advised to baptize him. Col. Mason answered, no minister could be had in many miles. Brent replied, Your clerk Mr. Dodson may do that office, which was done by the Church of England liturgy; Col. Mason with Capt. Brent godfather and Mrs. Mason godmother, my overseer Mr. Pimet being present, from whom I first heard it, and which all the other persons afterwards affirmed to me; the four men returned to drinking punch, but Mrs. Mason staying and looking on the child, it opened the eyes, and breathed, whereat she ran for a cordial, which he took from a spoon, gaping for more, and so by degrees recovered, though before his baptism, they had often tried the same means, but could not by no endeavors wrench open his teeth.
But to return from this digression, the Susquehannas were newly driven from their habitations, at the head of Chesapeake Bay, by the Seneca Indians, down to the head of Potomac, where they sought protection under the Pascataway Indians, who had a fort near the head of that river, and also were our friends.
After this unfortunate exploit of Mason and Brent, one or two being killed in Stafford, boats of war were equipped to prevent excursions over the river, and at the same time murders being likewise committed in Maryland, by whom not known, on either side the river, both countries raised their quotas of a thousand men, upon whose coming before the fort, the Indians sent out four of their great men, who asked the reason of that hostile appearance. What they said more or offered, I do not remember to have heard; but our two commanders caused them to be instantly slain, after which the Indians made an obstinate resistance, shooting many of our men, and making frequent, fierce and bloody sallies, and when they were called to, or offered parley, gave no other answer, than Where are our four cockarouses? (i.e., great men.)
At the end of six weeks, marched out seventy-five Indians with their women, children, etc., who by moonlight passed our guards, hallooing and firing at them without opposition, leaving three or four decrepits in the fort.
These escaped Indians, forsaking Maryland, took their route over the head of that river, and thence over the heads of Rappahannock and York Rivers, killing whom they found of the upmost plantations, until they came to the head of James River, where (with Bacon and others) they slew Mr. Bacons overseer, whom he much loved, and one of his servants, whose blood he vowed to revenge if possible.
In these frightful times the most exposed small families withdrew into our houses of better numbers, which we fortified with palisades and redoubts; neighbors in bodies joined their labors from each plantation to others alternately, taking their arms into the fields, and setting sentinels; no man stirred out of door unarmed. Indians were ever and anon espied, three, four, five or six in a party, lurking throughout the whole land, yet (what was remarkable) I rarely heard of any houses burnt, though abundance was forsaken, nor ever of any corn or tobacco cut up, or other injury done, besides murders, except the killing a very few cattle and swine.
These at the heads of James and York Rivers (having now most people destroyed by the Indians flight thither from Potomac) grew impatient at the many slaughters of their neighbors and rose for their own defence, who choosing Mr. Bacon for their leader sent oftentimes to the Governor, humbly beseeching a commission to go against those Indians at their own charge, which his Honor as often promised, but did not send. The mysteries of these delays were wondered at, and which I neer heard any could penetrate into, other than the effects of his passion, and a new, not to be mentioned, occasion of avarice, to both which he was, by the common vogue, more than a little addicted: whatever were the popular surmises and murmurings, viz.,
During these protractions and people often slain, most or all the officers, civil and military, with as many dwellers next the heads of the rivers as made up three hundred men, taking Mr. Bacon for their commander, met, and concerted together the danger of going without a commission on the one part, and the continual murders of their neighbors on the other part (not knowing whose or how many of their own turns might be next), and came to this resolution, viz., to prepare themselves with necessaries for a march, but interim to send again for a commission, which if could or could not be obtained by a certain day, they would proceed, commission or no commission.
This day lapsing and no commission come, they marched into the wilderness in quest of these Indians, after whom the Governor sent his proclamation, denouncing all rebels, who should not return within a limited day, whereupon those of estates obeyed. But Mr. Bacon with fifty-seven men proceeded until their provisions were near spent, without finding enemies; when coming nigh a fort of friend Indians, on the other side a branch of James River, they desired relief, offering payment, which these Indians kindly promised to help them with on the morrow, but put them off with promises until the third day, so as having then eaten their last morsels they could not return, but must have starved in the way homeward. And now t was suspected, these Indians had received private messages from the Governor, and those to be the causes of these delusive procrastinations; whereupon the English waded shoulder-deep through that branch to the fort palisades, still entreating and tendering pay, for victuals; but that evening a shot from the place they left on the other side of that branch killed one of Mr. Bacons men, which made them believe those in the fort had sent for other Indians to come behind them and cut them off.
From hence they returned home, where writs were come up to elect members for an Assembly, when Mr. Bacon was unanimously chosen for one, who coming down the river was commanded by a ship with guns to come on board, where waited Major Hone, the high sheriff of Jamestown, ready to seize him, by whom he was carried down to the Governor and by him received with a surprising civility in the following words: Mr. Bacon, have you forgot to be a gentleman? No, may it please your Honor, answered Mr. Bacon; then replied the Governor, I ll take your parol, and gave him his liberty. In March, 16756, writs came up to Stafford to choose their two members for an Assembly to meet in May; when Col. Mason, Capt. Brent and other gentlemen of that county, invited me to stand a candidate; a matter I little dreamt of, having never had inclinations to tamper in the precarious intrigues of government, and my hands being full of my own business; they pressed several cogent arguments, and I having considerable debts in that county, besides my plantation concerns, where (in one and the other) I had much more severely suffered than any of themselves by the Indian disturbances in the summer and winter foregoing, I held it not then discreet to disoblige the rulers of it, so Col. Mason with myself were elected without objection. He at time convenient went on horseback; I took my sloop, and the morning I arrived to Jamestown, after a weeks voyage, was welcomed with the strange acclamations of All s over, Bacon is taken, having not heard at home of the southern commotions, other than rumors like idle tales, of one Bacon risen up in rebellion, nobody knew for what, concerning the Indians.
The next forenoon, the Assembly being met in a chamber over the general court and our Speaker chosen, the Governor sent for us down, where his Honor with a pathetic emphasis made a short, abrupt speech wherein were these words:
If they had killed my grandfather and grandmother, my father and mother and all my friends, yet if they had come to treat of peace, they ought to have gone in peace, and sat down; the two chief commanders at the forementioned siege, who slew the four Indian great men, being present and part of our Assembly.
The Governor stood up again and said, If there be joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth, there is joy now, for we have a penitent sinner come before us. Call Mr. Bacon. Then did Mr. Bacon upon one knee at the bar deliver a sheet of paper confessing his crimes, and begging pardon of God, the King, and the Governor; whereto (after a short pause) he answered, God forgive you, I forgive you, thrice relating the same words; when Col. Cole (one of the Council) said, And all that were with him? Yea, said the Governor, and all that were with him, twenty or more persons being then in irons, who were taken coming down in the same and other vessels with Mr. Bacon.
About a minute after this the Governor, starting up from his chair a third time, said, Mr. Bacon! if you will live civilly but till next quarter court (doubling the words), but till next quarter court, I ll promise to restore you again to your place there, pointing with his hand to Mr. Bacons seat, he having been of the Council before these troubles, though he had been a very short time in Virginia, but was deposed by the foresaid proclamation; and in the afternoon, passing by the court door, in my way up to our chamber, I saw Mr. Bacon on his quondam seat with the Governor and Council, which seemed a marvellous indulgence to one whom he had so lately proscribed as a rebel.
The Governor had directed us to consider of means for security from the Indian insults, and to defray the charge, etc., advising us to beware of two rogues amongst us, naming Lawrence and Drumond, both dwelling at Jamestown, and who were not at the Pascataway siege.
But at our entrance upon business, some gentlemen took this opportunity to endeavor the redressing several grievances the country then labored under; motions were made for inspecting the public revenues, the collectors accounts, etc., and so far was proceeded as to name part of a committee, whereof Mr. Bristol (now in London) was, and myself another, when we were interrupted by pressing messages from the Governor to meddle with nothing until the Indian business was dispatched.
This debate rose high, but was overruled, and I have not heard that those inspections have since then been insisted upon, though such of that indigent people as had no benefits from the taxes, groaned under our being thus overborne.
The next thing was a committee for the Indian affairs, whereof, in appointing the members, myself was unwillingly nominated, having no knowledge in martial preparations; and after our names were taken, some of the House moved for sending two of our members to entreat the Governor would please to assign two of his Council to sit with and assist us in our debates, as had been usual.
When seeing all silent, looking each at other with many discontented faces, I adventured to offer my humble opinion to the Speaker, for the committee to form methods as agreeable to the sense of the House as we could, and report them, whereby they would more clearly see on what points to give the Governor and Council that trouble, if perhaps it might be needful.
These few words raised an uproar, one party urging hard, It had been customary and ought not to be omitted; whereto Mr. Presly, my neighbor, an old Assemblyman, sitting next me, rose up, and (in a blundering manner) replied, T is true, it has been customary, but if we have any bad customs amongst us, we are come here to mend them, which set the House in a laughter.
Our committee being sat, the Queen of Pamunky (descended from Oppechankenough, a former Emperor of Virginia) was introduced, who entered the chamber with a comportment graceful to admiration, bringing on her right hand an Englishman interpreter, and on the left her son, a stripling twenty years of age, she having round her head a plat of black and white wampum peague three inches broad, in imitation of a crown, and was clothed in a mantle of dressed deer-skins, with the hair outwards and the edge cut round six inches deep, which made strings resembling twisted fringe, from the shoulders to the feet. Thus with grave, court-like gestures and a majestic air in her face, she walked up our long room to the lower end of the table, where, after a few entreaties, she sat down; the interpreter and her son standing by her on either side, as they had walked up. Our chairman asked her what men she would lend us for guides in the wilderness and to assist us against our enemy Indians. She spake to the interpreter to inform her what the chairman said (though we believed she understood him). He told us she bid him ask her son, to whom the English tongue was familiar, and who was reputed the son of an English colonel; yet neither would he speak to or seem to understand the chairman, but, the interpreter told us, he referred all to his mother, who, being again urged, she (after a little musing), with an earnest, passionate countenance, as if tears were ready to gush out, and a fervent sort of expression, made a harangue about a quarter of an hour, often interlacing (with a high, shrill voice and vehement passion) these words, Tatapatamoi Chepiack (i.e., Tatapatamoi dead). Col. Hill being next me, shook his head. I asked him what was the matter. He told me all she said was too true, to our shame, and that his father was General in that battle, where, divers years before, Tatapatamoi her husband had led a hundred of his Indians in help to the English against our former enemy Indians, and was there slain with most of his men; for which no compensation at all had been to that day rendered to her, wherewith she now upbraided us.
Her discourse ending, and our morose chairman not advancing one cold word towards assuaging the anger and grief her speech and demeanor manifested under her oppression, nor taking any notice of all she had said, neither considering that we then were in our great exigency supplicants to her for a favor of the same kind as the former, for which we did not deny the having been so ingrate, he rudely pushed again the same question, What Indians will you now contribute? etc. Of this disregard she signified her resentment by a disdainful aspect, and turning her head half aside, sat mute till that same question being pressed a third time, she not returning her face to the board, answered with a low, slighting voice in her own language, Six; but being further importuned, she, sitting a little while sullen, without uttering a word between, said, Twelve, though she then had a hundred and fifty Indian men in her town; and so rose up and gravely walked away, as not pleased with her treatment.
Whilst some days passed in settling the quotas of men, arms and ammunition, provisions, etc., each county was to furnish, one morning early a bruit ran about the town, Bacon is fled, Bacon is fled; whereupon I went straight to Mr. Lawrence, who formerly was of Oxford University, and for wit, learning and sobriety was equalled there by few, and who some years before (as Col. Lee, though one of the Council and a friend of the Governors, informed me) had been partially treated at law, for a considerable estate on behalf of a corrupt favorite; which Lawrence complaining loudly of, the Governor bore him a grudge, and now shaking his head, said, Old treacherous villain, and that his house was searched that morning at daybreak, but Bacon was escaped into the country, having intimation that the Governors generosity in pardoning him and his followers, and restoring him to his seat in Council, were no other than previous wheedles to amuse him and his adherents and to circumvent them by stratagem, forasmuch as the taking Mr. Bacon again into the Council was first to keep him out of the Assembly, and in the next place the Governor knew the country people were hastening down with dreadful threatenings to doubly revenge all wrongs should be done to Mr. Bacon or his men, or whoever should have had the least hand in them.
And so much was true that this young Mr. Nathaniel Bacon (not yet arrived to thirty years) had a nigh relation, namely, Col. Nathaniel Bacon, of long standing in the Council, a very rich, politic man, and childless, designing this kinsman for his heir, who (not without much pains) had prevailed with his uneasy cousin to deliver the forementioned written recantation at the bar, having compiled it ready to his hand, and by whose means twas supposed that timely intimation was conveyed to the young gentleman to flee for his life; and also in three or four days after Mr. Bacon was first seized I saw abundance of men in town, come thither from the heads of the rivers, who, finding him restored and his men at liberty, returned home satisfied; a few days after which the Governor, seeing all quiet, gave out private warrants to take him again, intending, as was thought, to raise the militia, and so to dispose things as to prevent his friends from gathering any more into a like numerous body and coming down a second time to save him.
In three or four days after this escape, upon news that Mr. Bacon was thirty miles up the river, at the head of four hundred men, the Governor sent to the parts adjacent, on both sides James River, for the militia and all the men could be gotten to come and defend the town. Expresses came almost hourly of the armys approaches, who in less than four days after the first account of them, at two of the clock, entered the town, without being withstood, and formed a body upon a green, not a flight shot from the end of the state-house, of horse and foot, as well regular as veteran troops, who forthwith possessed themselves of all the avenues, disarming all in town, and coming thither in boats or by land.
In half an hour after this the drum beat for the House to meet, and in less than an hour more Mr. Bacon came with a file of fusileers on either hand, near the corner of the state-house, where the Governor and Council went forth to him. We saw from the window the Governor open his breast, and Bacon strutting betwixt his two files of men, with his left arm on Kenbow, flinging his right arm every way, both like men distracted; and if, in this moment of fury, that enraged multitude had fallen upon the Governor and Council, we of the Assembly expected the same immediate fate. I stepped down, and amongst the crowd of spectators found the seamen of my sloop, who prayed me not to stir from them, when, in two minutes, the Governor walked towards his private apartment, a quoits cast distant, at the other end of the state-house, the gentlemen of the Council following him; and after them walked Mr. Bacon with outrageous postures of his head, arms, body, and legs, often tossing his hand from his sword to his hat, and after him came a detachment of fusileers (muskets not being there in use), who with their locks bent presented their fusils at a window of the Assembly chamber filled with faces, repeating with menacing voices, We will have it, we will have it, half a minute, when as one of our House, a person known to many of them, shook his handkerchief out at the window, saying, You shall have it, you shall have it, three or four times; at these words they sat down their fusils, unbent their locks and stood still until Bacon, coming back, followed him to their main body. In this hubbub a servant of mine got so nigh as to hear the Governors words, and also followed Mr. Bacon and heard what he said, who came and told me, that when the Governor opened his breast, he said, Here! shoot me. Foregod, fair mark! shoot! often rehearsing the same, without any other words; whereto Mr. Bacon answered, No, may it please your Honor, we will not hurt a hair of your head, nor of any other mans; we are come for a commission to save our lives from the Indians, which you have so often promised, and now we will have it before we go.
But when Mr. Bacon followed the Governor and Council with the forementioned impetuous (like delirious) actions, whilst that party presented their fusils at the window full of faces, he said, Damn my blood, I ll kill Governor, Council, Assembly and all, and then I ll sheathe my sword in my own hearts blood; and afterwards t was said Bacon had given a signal to his men who presented their fusils at those gazing out at the window, that if he should draw his sword they were on sight of it to fire, and slay us; so near was the massacre of us all that very minute, had Bacon in that paroxysm of frantic fury but drawn his sword before the pacific handkerchief was shaken out at window.
In an hour or more after these violent concussions Mr. Bacon came up to our chamber and desired a commission from us to go against the Indians. Our Speaker sat silent, when one Mr. Blayton, a neighbor to Mr. Bacon and elected with him a member of Assembly for the same county (who therefore durst speak to him), made answer, T was not in our province or power, nor of any other, save the Kings vicegerent, our Governor. He pressed hard nigh half an hours harangue on the preserving our lives from the Indians, inspecting the public revenues, the exorbitant taxes, and redressing the grievances and calamities of that deplorable country, whereto having no other answer, he went away dissatisfied.
Next day there was a rumor the Governor and Council had agreed Mr. Bacon should have a commission to go General of the forces we then were raising; whereupon I being a member for Stafford, the most northern frontier, and where the war begun, considering that Mr. Bacon dwelling in the most southern frontier county, might the less regard the parts I represented, I went to Col. Cole (an active member of the Council) desiring his advice, if applications to Mr. Bacon on that subject were then seasonable and safe, which he approving and earnestly advising I went to Mr. Lawrence, who was esteemed Mr. Bacons principal consultant, to whom he took me with him, and there left me, where I was entertained two or three hours with the particular relations of divers before-recited transactions; and as to the matter I spake of, he told me that the Governor had indeed promised him the command of the forces, and if his Honor should keep his word (which he doubted) he assured me the like care should be taken of the remotest corners in the land, as of his own dwelling-house, and prayed me to advise him what persons in those parts were most fit to bear commands. I frankly gave him my opinion that the most satisfactory gentlemen to Governor and people, would be commanders of the militia, wherewith he was well pleased, and himself wrote a list of those nominated.
That evening I made known what had passed with Mr. Bacon to my colleague Col. Mason (whose bottle attendance doubled my task); the matter he liked well, but questioned the Governors approbation of it.
I confessed the ease required sedate thoughts, reasoning that he and such like gentlemen must either command or be commanded, and if on their denials Mr. Bacon should take distaste, and be constrained to appoint commanders out of the rabble, the Governor himself with the persons and estates of all in the land would be at their dispose, whereby their own ruin might be owing to themselves. In this he agreed and said, If the Governor would give his own commission he would be content to serve under General Bacon (as now he began to be entitled), but first would consult other gentlemen in the same circumstances; who all concurred t was the most safe barrier in view against pernicious designs, if such should be put in practice. With this I acquainted Mr. Lawrence, who went rejoicing to Mr. Bacon with the good tidings that the militia commanders were inclined to serve under him, as their General, in ease the Governor would please to give them his own commissions.
We of the House proceeded to finish the bill for the war, which by the assent of the Governor and Council being passed into an act, the Governor sent us a letter directed to his Majesty, wherein were these words: I have above thirty years governed the most flourishing country the sun ever shone over, but am now encompassed with rebellion, like waters, in every respect like to that of Massanello, except their leader, and of like import was the substance of that letter. But we did not believe his Honor sent us all he wrote to his Majesty.
Some judicious gentlemen of our House likewise penned a letter or remonstrance to be sent his Majesty, setting forth the gradations of those eruptions, and two or three of them with Mr. Minge, our clerk, brought it me to compile a few lines for the conclusion of it, which I did (though not without regret in those watchful times, when every man had eyes on him); but what I wrote was with all possible deference to the Governor and in the most soft terms my pen could find the case to admit.
Col. Spencer, being my neighbor and intimate friend, and a prevalent member in the Council, I prayed him to entreat the Governor we might be dissolved, for that was my first and should be my last going astray from my wonted sphere of merchandise and other my private concernments into the dark and slippery meanders of court embarrassments. He told me the Governor had not then determined his intention, but he would move his Honor about it, and in two or three days we were dissolved, which I was most heartily glad of, because of my getting loose again from being hampered amongst those pernicious entanglements in the labyrinths and snares of State ambiguities, and which until then I had not seen the practice nor the dangers of; for it was observed that several of the members had secret badges of distinction fixed upon them, as not docile enough to gallop the future races that court seemed disposed to lead them, whose maxims I had ofttimes heard whispered before, and then found confirmed by divers considerate gentlemen, viz., That the wise and the rich were prone to faction and sedition, but the fools and poor were easy to be governed.
Many members being met one evening nigh sunset, to take our leaves each of other, in order next day to return homewards, came Gen. Bacon with his hand full of unfolded papers and overlooking us round, walking in the room, said, Which of these gentlemen shall I entreat to write a few words for me? where, every one looking aside as not willing to meddle, Mr. Lawrence pointed at me, saying, That gentleman writes very well; which I endeavoring to excuse, Mr. Bacon came stooping to the ground and said, Pray, sir, do me the honor to write a line for me.
This surprising accostment shocked me into a melancholy consternation, dreading upon one hand that Stafford County would feel the smart of his resentment if I should refuse him whose favor I had so lately sought and been generously promised on their behalf; and on the other hand fearing the Governors displeasure, who I knew would soon hear of it. What seemed most prudent at this hazardous dilemma was to obviate the present impending peril; so Mr. Bacon made me sit the whole night by him filling up those papers, which I then saw were blank commissions signed by the Governor, inserting such names and writing other matters as he dictated; which I took to be the happy effects of the consult before-mentioned with the commanders of the militia, because he gave me the names of very few others to put into these commissions; and in the morning he left me with an hours work or more to finish, when came to me Capt. Carver, and said he had been to wait on the General for a commission, and that he was resolved to adventure his old bones against the Indian rogues, with other the like discourse, and at length told me that I was in mighty favor and he was bid to tell me, that whatever I desired in the Generals power was at my service. I prayed him humbly to thank his Honor, and to acquaint him I had no other boon to crave than his promised kindness to Stafford County, for beside the not being worthy, I never had been conversant in military matters, and also having lived tenderly, my service could be of no benefit, because the hardships and fatigues of a wilderness campaign would put a speedy period to my days. Little expecting to hear of more intestine broils, I went home to Potomac, where reports were afterwards various. We had account that General Bacon was marched with a thousand men into the forest to seek the enemy Indians, and in a few days after our next news was that the Governor had summoned together the militia of Gloucester and Middlesex Counties to the number of twelve hundred men, and proposed to them to follow and suppress that rebel Bacon; whereupon arose a murmuring before his face, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, and all walked out of the field, muttering as they went, Bacon, Bacon, Bacon, leaving the Governor and those that came with him to themselves, who being thus abandoned wafted over Chesapeake Bay thirty miles to Accomac, where are two counties of Virginia.
Mr. Bacon, hearing of this, came back part of the way, and sent out parties of horse patrolling through every county, carrying away prisoners all whom he distrusted might any more molest his Indian persecution, yet giving liberty to such as pledged him their oaths to return home and live quiet; the copies or contents of which oaths I never saw, but heard were very strict, though little observed.
About this time was a spy detected pretending himself a deserter, who had twice or thrice come and gone from party to party, and was by council of war sentenced to death, after which Bacon declared openly to him, That if any one man in the army would speak a word to save him, he should not suffer, which no man appearing to do, he was executed. Upon this manifestation of clemency Bacon was applauded for a merciful man, not willing to spill Christian blood; nor indeed was it said that he put any other man to death in cold blood, or plunder any house. Nigh the same time came Maj. Langston with his troop of horse and quartered two nights at my house, who (after high compliments from the General) told me I was desired to accept the lieutenancy for preserving the peace in the s. northern counties betwixt Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. I humbly thanked his Honor, excusing myself as I had done before on that invitation of the like nature at Jamestown, but did hear he was mightily offended at my evasions and threatened to remember me.
The Governor made a second attempt, coming over from Accomac with what men he could procure in sloops and boats forty miles up the river to Jamestown, which Bacon hearing of, came again down from his forest pursuit, and finding a bank not a flight shot long cast up thwart the neck of the peninsula there in Jamestown, he stormed it, and took the town, in which attack were twelve men slain and wounded, but the Governor with most of his followers fled back down the river in their vessels.
Here, resting a few days, they concerted the burning of the town, wherein Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Drumond, owning the two best houses save one, set fire each to his own house, which example the soldiers following, laid the whole town (with church and state-house) in ashes, saying, The rogues should harbor no more there.
On these reiterated molestations, Bacon calls a convention at Middle Plantation, fifteen miles from Jamestown, in the month of August, 1676, where an oath with one or more proclamations were formed, and writs by him issued for an Assembly. The oaths or writs I never saw, but one proclamation commanded all men in the land on pain of death to join him, and retire into the wilderness upon arrival of the forces expected from England, and oppose them until they should propose or accept to treat of an accommodation, which we who lived comfortably could not have undergone, so as the whole land must have become an Aceldama if Gods exceeding mercy had not timely removed him.
During these tumults in Virginia a second danger menaced Maryland by an insurrection in that province, complaining of their heavy taxes, etc., where two or three of the leading malcontents (men otherwise of laudable characters) were put to death, which stifled the farther spreading of that flame. Mr. Bacon (at this time) pressed the best ship in James River, carrying twenty guns, and putting into her his Lieutenant-General, Mr. Bland (a gentleman newly come thither from England to possess the estate of his deceased uncle, late of the Council), and under him the forementioned Capt. Carver, formerly a commander of merchants ships, with men and all necesaries, he sent her to ride before Accomac to curb and intercept all smaller vessels of war commissioned by the Governor, coming often over and making depredations on the western shore, as if we had been foreign enemies, which gives occasion to this place to digress a few words.
At first Assembly after the peace, came a message to them from the Governor for some marks of distinction to be set on his loyal friends of Accomac, who received him in his adversity; which when came to be considered, Col. Warner (then Speaker) told the House, Ye know that what mark of distinction his Honor could have set on those of Accomac, unless to give them ear marks or burnt marks for robbing and ravaging honest people, who stayed at home and preserved the estates of those who ran away, when none intended to hurt them.
Now returning to Capt. Carver, the Governor sent for him to come on shore, promising his peaceable return, who answered, He could not trust his word, but if he would send his hand and seal, he would adventure to wait upon his Honor, which was done, and Carver went in his sloop well armed and manned with the most trusty of his men, where he was caressed with wine, etc., and large promises, if he would forsake Bacon, resign his ship or join with him; to all which he answered that If he served the devil he would be true to his trust, but that he was resolved to go home and live quiet.
In the time of this reception and parley, an armed boat was prepared with many oars in a creek not far off, but out of sight, which when Carver sailed, rowed out of the creek, and it being almost calm the boat outwent the sloop, whilst all on board the ship were upon the deck, staring at both, thinking the boats company coming on board by Carvers invitation to be civilly entertained in requital of the kindness they supposed he had received on shore, until coming under the stern, those in the boat slipped nimbly in at the gunroom ports with pistols, etc., when one courageous gentleman ran up to the deck, and clapped a pistol to Blands breast, saying, You are my prisoner, the boats company suddenly following with pistols, swords, etc., and after Capt. Larimore (the commander of the ship before she was pressed) having from the highest and hindmost part of the stern interchanged a signal from the shore by flirting his handkerchief about his nose, his own former crew had laid handspikes ready, which they (at that instant) caught up, etc., so as Bland and Carvers men were amazed, and, yielded.
Carver, seeing a hurly-burly on the ships deck, would have gone away with his sloop, but having little wind and the ship threatening to sink him, he tamely came on board, where Bland and he with their party were laid in irons and in three or four days Carver was hanged on shore, which Sir Henry Chicheley, the first of the Council, then a prisoner (with divers other gentlemen) to Mr. Bacon, did afterwards exclaim against as a most rash and wicked act of the Governor, he (in particular) expecting to have been treated, by way of reprisal, as Bacons friend Carver had been by the Governor. Mr. Bacon now returns from his last expedition sick of a flux, without finding any enemy Indians, having not gone far by reason of the vexations behind him; nor had he one dry day in all his marches to and fro in the forest, whilst the plantations (not fifty miles distant) had a summer so dry as stinted the Indian-corn and tobacco, etc., which the people ascribed to the powwowings (i.e., the sorceries of the Indians). In awhile Bacon dies and was succeeded by his Lieutenant-Gen. Ingram, who had one Wakelet next in command under him, whereupon hastened over the Governor to York River, and with him they articled for themselves and whom else they could, and so all submitted and were pardoned, exempting those nominated and otherwise proscribed, in a proclamation of indemnity, the principal of whom were Lawrence and Drumond.
Mr. Bland was then a prisoner, having been taken with Carver, as before is noted, and in few days Mr. Drumond was brought in, when the Governor, being on board a ship, came immediately to shore and complimented him with the ironical sarcasm of a low bend, saying, Mr. Drumond! you are very welcome; I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia. Mr. Drumond, you shall be hanged in half an hour; who answered, What your Honor pleases; and as soon as a council of war could meet, his sentence be dispatched and a gibbet erected (which took up near two hours) he was executed.
This Mr. Drumond was a sober Scotch gentleman of good repute, with whom I had not a particular acquaintance; nor do I know the cause of that rancor his Honor had against him, other than his pretensions in common for the public, but meeting him by accident the morning I left the town, I advised him to be very wary, for he saw the Governor had put a brand upon him. He, gravely expressing my name, answered, I am in over shoes, I will be over boots, which I was sorry to hear, and left him.
The last account of Mr. Lawrence was from an uppermost plantation, whence he and four others, desperadoes, with horses, pistols, etc., marched away in a snow ankle-deep, who were thought to have cast themselves into a branch of some river, rather than to be treated like Drumond.
Near this time arrived a small fleet with a regiment from England, Sir John Berry, Admiral; Col. Herbert Jefferyes, commander of the land forces; and Col. Morrison, who had one year been a former Governor. There, all three joined in commission with or to Sir William Barclay, soon after when a general court and also an Assembly were held, where some of our former Assembly (with so many others) were put to death, divers whereof were persons of honest reputations and handsome estates, as that the Assembly petitioned the Governor to spill no more blood; and Mr. Presley, at his coming home, told me he believed the Governor would have hanged half the country if they had let him alone. The first was Mr. Bland, whose friends in England had procured his pardon to be sent over with the fleet, which he pleaded at his trial was in the Governors pocket (though whether t was so, or how it came there, I know not, yet did not hear t was openly contradicted), but he was answered by Col. Morrison that he pleaded his pardon at swords point, which was looked upon an odd sort of reply, and he was executed; as was talked, by private instructions from England, the Duke of York having sworn, By God, Bacon and Bland should die.
The Governor went in the fleet to London (whether by command from his Majesty or spontaneous, I did not hear), leaving Col. Jefferyes in his place, and by next shipping came back a person who waited on his Honor in his voyage (and until his death), from whom a report was whispered about, that the King did say, That old fool has hanged more men in that naked country than he had done for the murder of his father; whereof the Governor hearing died soon after, without having seen his Majesty:which shuts up this tragedy.