Chronicles of America 


What they found when they came to Virginia was dolor enough. On Jamestown strand they beheld sixty skeletons "who had eaten all the quick things that weare there, and some of them had eaten snakes and adders." Somers, Gates, and Newport, on entering the town, found it "rather as the ruins of some auntient fortification than that any people living might now inhabit it."

A pitiable outcome, this, of all the hopes of fair "harbours and habitations," of golden dreams, and farflung dominion. All those whom Raleigh had sent to Roanoke were lost or had perished. Those who had named and had first dwelled in Jamestown were in number about a hundred. To these had been added, during the first year or so, perhaps two hundred more. And the ships that had parted from the Sea Adventure had brought in three hundred. First and last, not far from seven hundred English folk had come to live in Virginia. And these skeletons eating snakes and adders were all that remained of that company; all those others had died miserably and their hopes were ashes with them.

What might Sir Thomas Gates, the Governor, do? "That which added most to his sorowe, and not a little startled him, was the impossibilitie. . how to amend one whitt of this. His forces were not of habilitie to revenge upon the Indian, nor his owne supply (now brought from the Bermudas) sufficient to relieve his people." So he called a Council and listened in turn to Sir George Somers, to Christopher Newport, and to "the gentlemen and Counsaile of the former Government." The end and upshot was that none could see other course than to abandon the country. England-in-America had tried and failed, and had tried again and failed. God, or the course of Nature, or the current of History was against her. Perhaps in time stronger forces and other attempts might yet issue from England. But now the hour had come to say farewell!

Upon the bosom of the river swung two pinnaces, the Discovery and the Virginia, left by the departing ships months before, and the Deliverance and the Patience, the Bermuda pinnaces. Thus the English abandoned the little town that was but three years old. Aboard the four small ships they went, and down the broad river, between the flowery shores, they sailed away. Doubtless under the trees on either hand were Indians watching this retreat of the invaders of their forests. The plan of the departing colonists was to turn north, when they had reached the sea, and make for Newfoundland, where they might perhaps meet with English fishing ships. So they sailed down the river, and doubtless many hearts were heavy and sad, but others doubtless were full of joy and thankfulness to be going back to an older home than Virginia.

The river broadened toward Chesapeake--and then, before them, what did they see? What deliverance for those who had held on to the uttermost? They saw the long boat of an English ship coming toward them with flashing oars, bringing news of comfort and relief. There, indeed, off Point Comfort lay three ships, the De La Warr, the Blessing, and the Hercules, and they brought, with a good company and good stores, Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, appointed, over Gates, Lord Governor and Captain-General, by land and sea, of the Colony of Virginia.

The Discovery, the Virginia, the Patience, and the Deliverance thereupon put back to that shore they thought to have left forever. Two days later, on Sunday the 10th of June, 1610, there anchored before Jamestown the De La Warr, the Blessing, and the Hercules; and it was thus that the new Lord Governor wrote home: "I . . . in the afternoon went ashore, where after a sermon made by Mr. Buck . . . I caused my commission to be read, upon which Sir Thomas Gates delivered up ...unto me his owne commission, both patents, and the counsell seale; and then I delivered some few wordes unto the Company .. . . and after . . . did constitute and give place of office and chardge to divers Captaines and gentlemen and elected unto me a counsaile."

The dead was alive again. Saith Rich's ballad:

And to The Virginia Company thus he writes, "Be not dismayed at all, For scandall cannot doe us wrong, God will not let us fall. Let England knowe our willingnesse, For that our worke is good, WE HOPE TO PLANT A NATION WHERE NONE BEFORE HATH STOOD."

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