Written Assignment: During this survey course, you will have one short written paper. You will choose a brief writing assignment from a provided list of significant dates in Early American history. Your theme will depend upon which point of view you decide to take. For example, you could be a Powhatan Indian or an English settler at Jamestown or you could be an American, British, or even French soldier at the Battle of Yorktown. This will require some research on your part, but it should be a lot of fun!
I strongly discourage generic websites like History.com and do not consider Wikipedia or its clones to be acceptable college sources. Using these websites will result in the loss of a letter grade for each infraction. Textbooks and encyclopedias are also not suitable for college papers. However, to balance things out, I have many viable alternatives to such websites. On Blackboard, I will provide you with links to a number of useful primary websites that I have found to be helpful in my online teaching career. Of course, you can also consult the USC Library’s book holdings; they will have materials relevant to your topic.
The colonists at Jamestown during the starving time of 1609-1611.
The ‘Starving Time’ that lasted from 1609 to 1611 was both harrowing and deadly for the colonists in Jamestown. Their population dwindled down at a horrid rate, as they were unable to bear the natural calamity that had hit them, as a community. The colonizers were not at all prepared to survive the drought that was brought forth by nature. Their attempt to have some kind of trade relations with the Indians also did not come to fruition. This led to Colonists even stooping down to cannibalism. They were also hunted by the local Powhatan tribe. In this assignment, the ‘Starving Time’ will be presented from the perspective of a Colonist.
The Starving Time was in all probability one of the hardest challenges any colonist had to face, who was present in Jamestown between the years 1609-1611. The colonists had to suffer severe hardships during that period as they had no food to survive in the colony and were under constant threat of the ‘Savages’. Being a colonist is associated with power and authority but this period flipped the definition for me, as I felt helpless and distraught. Captain Smith’s sail home in order to get treated began a period filled with human attributes that will remain distinct to this time of hardships.
Men combined their efforts with women and children in the colony in order to survive, and keep life in their bodies. George Percy’s brutal account makes it clear that oftentimes this humanity also left people (Percy, 3). Men were so desperate with hunger that they killed their own horses, and feasted on them. After the horses were finished, then the people started to eat vermins. There was a constant threat from the Indians, who were also starving and ready to kill and feast on the colonizers. The hunger took over people so much that a man killed his wife, and took the baby out of her womb, and feasted on that too. The crime was so cruel, that despite the issue of hunger Percy decided to execute him, because of the unusual nature of the crime, as mentioned by Percy. Percy’s accounts also reveal that it was not just the Indians that the colonists of Jamestown felt antagonism from, but also other colonists established at Algernon Fort, who had plenty of provisions, so much so that they were feeding their animals but refused to inform of these provisions to the Colonists starving and dying in Jamestown, in an act of total and utter selfishness.
Nobody was living everyone was just trying to survive the brutality. The situation was so brutal that of the four hundred ninety people alive when Captain Smith left Jamestown only a meager fifty-eight managed to survive (Otis, 78). The colonists died either of hunger and starvation or because of being slain by the Indians. The savages considered this a strategic advantage and began to kill each and every colonist they laid eyes on, because of which the colonists were unable to even hunt and find food in the forest. This was because Indians knew the forest better than the Colonists and had a better grasp of the methodology they needed to use in order to attack the Colonists. In the forests, the technological advancement of the Colonists did not have much use at all. There was also a numerical advantage and the fact that the colonists were devoid both of health and animals, because of which the Indians were able to overcome them. The colonists were mercilessly attacked from all aspects and had only one way out which was to sail out of Jamestown. The colonists did not want to do that because they knew that the land was a huge avenue of advantage for their native country. The resources present in the land could immensely benefit not only their personal fortune but also establish the authority of their native country. Therefore, the survivors began to depend on God’s mercy and grace, to save them from their hardship.
There was no rhyme or reason behind the fifty-eight people surviving except God’s grace. There was nothing that was humanly possible to enact in order to stop the ruin of this starvation. People who could have benefited Jamestown with their intellect died, prior to their time. There were several heartbreaking instances that happened during that time, one of which was people not having enough strength to give a proper burial to the departed ones.
God’s grace came in the form of Master Hunt, who through his intellect managed to safeguard the lives of many colonists in Jamestown. He suggested functional methods of controlling hunger and also showcased various methods of formulating herbs from the barks of the tree, in order to sustain hunger at times when there was nothing to eat. The situation became distraught as there was no order in place. Nobody cared about who the superior authority was, or who held the post of Governor. There was no care for the wishes of people like Lord De la Warr, Sir Thomas Gates, or Sir George Somers. The only priority was to remain alive, by any means possible, and strive against unbearable hunger.
The struggle seemed to be endless when finally two small ships came. Everyone began to rejoice, but this happiness was short-lived when it was revealed that the supplies brought by the ships were not at all adequate for the 58 people and one hundred and fifty men on the ship. This was the final blow that caused all of the colonists to come to the conclusion that Jamestown was no longer a place they could inhabit, because of relentless hunger.
The departure was truly heartbreaking, as it felt that the sacrifices of so many were going to waste. The people that remained there even with the threat to their lives and relentless hunger, along with the efforts of people like Master Hunt were all going to waste. There was a certain sense of elation that was present among the people who arrived on the ships led by Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somer. The elation was present because they realized by seeing the tattered and malnourished condition of the colonists at Jamestown that they would have to face a multitude of hardships if they stuck to their principles and tried to colonize this land, as they promised in their native country. They were inspired by the courage and bravery shown by the colonists in Jamestown but ultimately were not willing to show this amount of devotion, at the cost of their lives.
The colonists were losing against savages. As the colonists sailed from Jamestown, there was a renewed sense of relief brought in the form of three ships with men and plenty of provisions led by Lord De La Warr. Along with the provisions Lord De La Warr also brought an authoritative decision, that colonization efforts were to continue in Jamestown. This was a blessing for all the colonists in Jamestown as renewed efforts for colonizing the new world could be started with fresh motivations and zeal. Many considered this as a sign from God that they were supposed to be established on this land and colonize it because even after so many hardships there was still a viable way to complete their objectives. Henceforth they also began to fight with the Indians with a renewed sense of vengeance, in order to avenge all the people that they lost during those years. The collective efforts finally led to Jamestown turning out to be a profitable venture for the Britishers.
The Colonists lived a harrowing existence in the ‘Starving Time’. They had no food and had to rely on each other for all kinds of support. At that time they also had to let go of the basic tenets of humanity. They resorted to killing each other, in order to eat each other and quench their hunger. They killed all of their animals and also began to eat small vermins. The whole ordeal made the colonists more firm in their objective of colonizing. The colonists felt extremely depressed when they had to return but were filled with zeal when a ship filled with reinforcements was sent for them.
Otis, James. Richard of Jamestown: A Story of the Virginia Colony. American Book Company, 1910.
Percy, George. “A trewe relacyon.” James Horn. Captain John Smith: Writings with Other Narratives or Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America 1093 (1922): 1115.