Strictly speaking, the Jamestown massacre didn’t actually happen in Jamestown, the first English settlement in North America’s Virginia Colony.
After arriving in 1607, colonists got on well with the locals, trading iron tools and weapons with the Powhatan Confederacy in return for food. But Chief Powhatan soon realized that the incomers hadn’t come to trade, but to steal his lands.
War broke out, but when the chiefs daughter Pocahontas was captured in 1613 he sued for peace. Her marriage to tobacco planter John Rolfe in 1614 cemented an uneasy standoff, but when the old chief died power passed to his youngest brother, the belligerent Opechancanough. Still smarting from defeats suffered in the earlier conflict, he decided it would be desirable to drive out the interlopers.
In March 1622 an Englishman murdered his close advisor, Nemattanew. Opechancanough immediately planned a surprise attack on Jamestown and outlying settlements, but even the best plans can be undone by the smallest miscalculation – in this case Opechancanough’s decision to entrust the murder of colonist Richard Pace to Pace’s Native American servant Chanco. Chanco warned his master and Pace promptly rowed across the James River to raise the alarm in Jamestown. Forewarned was forearmed, and the fortified main settlement was unscathed.
But there was no time to warn those in smaller communities, mainly along the James River. Native Americans appeared with provisions to sell, before seizing any weapons that came to hand and killing men, women and children. Among the places to suffer the greatest number of casualties were Henricus, Wolstenholme Town and the neighboring plantation of Martin’s Hundred. A number of settlements were abandoned in the aftermath of Opechancanough’s deadly slaughter, though his hope that the upstart English settlers would pack up their tents and steal away in the aftermath of their bloody reverse proved wildly misplaced.
When was the Jamestown Massacre: March 22 1622
Where was the Jamestown Massacre: Colony of Virginia, North America, (now Virginia, USA)
What was the Jamestown Massacre death toll: 347 settlers were killed in the coordinated attacks, around one quarter of their total number.
You should know: Revenge was sweet for the colonists and sour for the Powhatans. In 1623, after a successful campaign by the colonists that destroyed his people’s crops Chief Opechancanough requested a peace parley. Vengeful Jamestown leaders William Nicker and John Potts poisoned liquor given to the Native Americans for the ceremonial toast, killing around 200 of their number and leaving 50 survivors to be slaughtered by the less-than-hospitable hosts.