Sunday, October 23, 2011


Jamestown Map
Jamestown Fort Reconstruction
Jamestown Island Swamp
Jamestown, Virginia

I dimly recall the history classes of my youth; trying to memorize the names of colony leaders and the locations of the early colonies.

Dry, dull, boring stuff.

As I walked through the bones of the reconstructed Jamestown settlement, I found myself rethinking the history I'd learned.

I knew 104 men had settled the original colony.  What I had no foundation to try to picture before walking the grounds was the close quarters in which they had to live, or the flimsiness of the rough palisade surrounding their small camp.

That first fence they built encircled little more than an acre - call it a good city block.  Outside the fence were enemies - on two legs and four.  Ordered to choose a defensible site, they'd not chosen a good location to feed themselves; the surrounding land is swampy, there is little fresh water available.  Available game on the small island was quickly hunted to extinction.

Most of the original settlers quickly died from famine or disease - a mixture of 'gentlemen', boys and laborers, they were not equipped to fend for themselves in the wilderness.

One of the graves they've uncovered at the site contains the bones of a fourteen year-old boy, who died from complications of an arrow wound.  As one trying a bit of adventure myself, he caught my heart. I have a mental picture of him boarding the ship back in England.  In my mind, he is a bit cocky, as are most young men of that age.  He is thrilled to be getting on the ship, ready to see new places, eager for the journey ahead.  Fast forward a few months - he is hungry, tired, scared, wounded, disillusioned.  He misses his mother.  And shortly after that, he dies, far from his family and home; his name never made it into the history books.  May he rest in Peace.

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