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American History
1.21 Captain John Smith

One of the leaders in the new expedition sent out to make a settlement in Virginia, while Raleigh was in prison, was Captain John Smith. He began life as a clerk in England. Not liking his work, he ran away and turned soldier. After many strange adventures, he was captured by the Turks and sold as a slave. His master, who was a Turk, riveted a heavy iron collar around his neck and set him to thrashing grain with a big wooden bat like a ball-club. One day the Turk rode up and struck his slave with his riding-whip. This was more than Smith could bear; he rushed at his master, and with one blow of his bat knocked his brains out. He then mounted the dead man's horse and escaped. After a time he got back to England; but as England seemed a little dull to Captain Smith, he resolved to join some immigrants who were going to Virginia.

On the way to America, Smith was accused of plotting to murder the chief men among the settlers so that he might make himself "King of Virginia." The accusation was false, but he was put in irons and kept a prisoner for the rest of the voyage.

In the spring of 1607 the immigrants reached Chesapeake Bay, and sailed up a river which they named the James in honor of King James of England; when they landed they named the settlement Jamestown for the same reason. Here they built a log fort, and placed three or four small cannon on its walls. Most of the men who settled Jamestown came hoping to find mines of gold in Virginia, or else a way through to the Pacific Ocean and to the Indies, which they thought could not be very far away. But Captain Smith wanted to help his countrymen to make homes here for themselves and their children.

As soon as Captain Smith landed, he demanded to be tried by a jury of twelve men. The trial took place. It was the first English court and the first English jury that ever sat in America. The captain proved his innocence and was set free. His chief accuser was condemned to pay him a large sum of money for damages. Smith generously gave this money to help the settlement.

As the weather was warm, the immigrants did not begin building log cabins at once, but slept on the ground, sheltered by boughs of trees. For a church they had an old tent, in which they met on Sunday. They were all members of the Church of England, or the Episcopal Church, and that tent was the first place of worship that we know of which was opened by Englishmen in America.

When the hot weather came, many fell sick. Soon the whole settlement was like a hospital. Sometimes three or four would die in one night. Captain Smith, though not well himself, did everything he could for those who needed his help.

When the sickness was over, some of the settlers were so discontented that they determined to seize the only vessel there was at Jamestown and go back to England. Captain Smith turned the cannon of the fort against them. The deserters saw that if they tried to leave the harbor he would knock their vessel to pieces, so they came back. One of the leaders of these men was tried and shot; the other was sent to England in disgrace.


Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper:
  1. Captain John Smith faced many hurdles in his life. Describe some of his difficulties.
  2. Describe the life of the settlers. What do you think their biggest challenges were? Why do you think that some settlers wanted to return to England.

Q 1: Why was Smith kept as a prisoner on the voyage to Virginia?
accused of stealing
accused of a plot
accused of killing

Q 2: Who was John Smith captured by?
an Indian
an Egyptian
a Turk

Q 3: What does condemn mean?
punishment
reward
to sleep

Q 4: Where did the settlers sleep?
in cabins
in a tent
on the ground

Question 5: This question is available to subscribers only!

Question 6: This question is available to subscribers only!


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