The Story of Pocahontas
Her Capture, the Bargain for her Return, & her Marriage to John Rolfe
as told by Raphe Hamor, Secretary of the Jamestown Colony
Pocahontas. By Charles Staal, engraved by B. Eyles.
After Smith’s return to England, Pocahontas returned to her village & resumed her proper name of Matoaka. The English, under Sir Thomas Dale, were at war with Powhatan. To force Powhatan’s submission, Capt. Samuel Argall in 1613, lured Pocahontas on board a ship & held her hostage. During a prolonged captivity, she reportedly was converted to Christianity by the Reverend Alexander Whitaker & baptized as “Rebecca.” In 1614, she married John Rolfe, who had introduced the profitable tobacco species into the colony. Powhatan grudgingly agreed to a truce with the colony that lasted until 1622.
Marriage of John Rolfe & Pocahontas on April 5, 1614
To ramp up public relations & perhaps lure some new investors, in 1616 The Virginia Company brought the Rolfes, their son, Thomas (b. 1615), plus an entourage of 12 colorful Native Americans to England. On her publicity tour, she met many of the period's major figures, was presented at court, & had her portrait painted. She then took ill & died in March 1617, on board the ship returning her to Virginia. She was buried in Gravesend, England.
An excerpt from A true discourse of the present estate of Virginia, & the successe of the affaires there till the 18 of Iune 1614. Together with a relation of the seuerall English townes & fortes, the assured hopes of that countrie & the peace concluded with the Indians. The christening of Powhatans daughter & her marriage with an English-man. Written by Raphe Hamor the yonger, late secretarie in that colony ... London, Printed by Iohn Beale for W. Welby, 1615.
"It chaunced Powhatans delight & darling, his daughter Pocahontas, (whose fame hath even bin spred in England by the title of Nonparrella of Virginia) in her princely progresse, if I may so terme it, tooke some pleasure (in the absence of Captaine Argall (to be among her friends at Pataomecke (as it seemeth by the relation I had) imploied thither, as shopkeepers to a Fare, to exchange some of her fathers commodities for theirs, where residing some three months or longer, it fortuned upon occasion either of promise or profit, Captaine Argall to arrive there, whom Pocahantas, desirous to renue his familiaritie with the English, & delighting to see them, as unknowne, fearefull perhaps to be surprised, would gladly visit, as she did, of whom no sooner had Captaine Argall intelligence, but he delt with an old friend, & adopted brother of his Iapazeus, how & by what meanes he might procure hir captive, assuring him, that now or never, was the time to pleasure him, if he entended indeede that love which he had made profession of, that in ransome of hir he might redeeme some of our English men & armes, now in the possession of her Father, promising to use her withall faire, & gentle entreaty: Iapazeus well assured that his brother, as he promised would use her curteously promised his best indeavours & secrecie to accomplish his desire, & thus wrought it, making his wife an instrument (which sex have ever bin most powerfull in beguiling inticements) to effect his plot which hee had thus laid, he agreed that himselfe, his wife, & Pocahuntas, would accompanie his brother to the water side, whether come, his wife should faine a great & longing desire to goe aboorde, & see the shippe, which being there three or foure times, before she had never seene, & should bee earnest with her husband to permit her: he seemed angry with her, making as he pretended so unnecessary a request, especially being without the company of women, which deniall she taking unkindely, must faine to weepe, (as who knows not that women can command teares) whereupon her husband seeming to pitty those counterfeit teares, gave her leave to goe aboord, so that it would please Pochahuntas to accompany her; now was the greatest labour to win her, guilty perhaps of her fathers wrongs, though not knowne as she supposed to goe with her, yet by her earnest perswasions, she assented: so forth with aboord they went, the best cheere that could be made was seasonably provided, to supper they went, merry on all hands, especially Iapazeus & his wife, who to expres their joy, would ere be treading upó Capt. Argals foot, as who should say tis don, she is your own. Supper ended, Pochahuntas was lodged in the Gunners roome, but Iapazeus & his wife desired to have some conference with their brother, which was onely to acquaint him by what stratagem they had betraied his prisoner, as I have already related: after which discourse to sleepe they went, Pocahuntas nothing mistrusting this policy, who nevertheless being most possessed with feare, & desire of returne, was first up, & hastened Iapazeus to be gon. Capt. Argall having secretly well rewarded him, with a small Copper kettle, & som other les valuable toies so highly by him esteemed, that doubtlesse he would have betrayed his owne father for them, permitted both him & his wife to returne, but told him, that for divers considerations, as for that his father had then eigh of our English men, many swords, peeces, & other tooles, which he had at severall times by trecherons murdering our men, taken from them which though of no use to him, he would not redeliver, he would reserve Pocahuntas, whereat she began to be exceeding pensive, & discontented, yet ignorant of the dealing of Iapazeus, who in outward appearance was no less discontented that he should be the meanes of her captivity, much a doe there was to perswade her to be patient, which with extraordinary curteous usage, by little & little was wrought in her, & so to James towne she was brought, a messenger to her father forthwith dispached to advertise him, that his only daughter was in the hands & possession of the English: ther to be kept til such times as he would ransom her with our men, swords, peeces, & other tools treacherously taken from us: the news was unwelcome, & troublesom unto him, partly for the love he bare to his daughter, & partly for the love he bare to our men his prisoners, of whom though with us they were unapt for any imployment) he made great use: & those swords, & peeces of ours, (which though of no use to him) it delighted him to view, & looke upon.
"He could not without long advise & delibertion with his Councell, resolve upon anything, & it is true, we heard nothing of him till three months after, by perswasions of others he returned us seaven of our men, with each of them a Musket unserviceable, & by them sent us word, that whensoever wee pleased to deliver his daughter, he would give us in satisfaction of his injuries done to us, & for the rest of our peeces broken & stolne from him, 500 Bushells of Corne, & be for ever friends with us, the men, & Peeces in part of payment we received: & returned him answere, that his daughter was very well, & kindely intreated, & so should be howsoever he dealt with us: but we could not believe that the rest of our Arms were either lost, or stolne from him, & therefore till he returned them all, we would not by any meanes deliver his daughter & then it should be at his choice, whether he would establish peace, or continue enemies with us. This answere as it seemed, pleased him not very wel, for we heard no more from him till in March last, when with Captaine Argalls Shippe, & some other Vessells belonging to the Colony, Sir Thomas Dale with an hundred & fifty men well appointed, went up into his owne River, where his chiefest habitations were, & carried with us his daughter, either to move them to fight for her, if such were their courage & boldnesse, as hath been reported, or to restore the residue of our demands, which were our peeces, swords, tooles. Some of the same men which he returned (as they promised) ran to him again, & because he had put us to the trouble to fetch them five hundred bushels of Corne: A great bravado all the way as we went up the River they made, demaunding the cause of our comming thither, which wee tould them was to deliver Pocahuntas, whom purposely we had brought with us, & to receive our Armes, men, & corn or else to fight with them, burn their howses, take away their Canoas, breake downe their fishing Weares, & doe them what other damages we could: Some of them to set a good face on the matter, replied, that if wee came to fight with them we were welcome, for they were provided for us, councelling us rather to retire (if wee loved our safeties) then proceed, bragging, as well they might, that wee had ever had the worst of them in that River, instancing by Capt: Ratliefe (not worthy remembering, but to his dishonor) who, with most of his company they betrayed & murthered: we told them since they durst remember us of that mischief, unlesse they made the better & more speedy agreement, we would now revenge that trechery, & with this discourse by the way as we went, we proceeded, & had no sooner entred the narrow of the river, the channell there lying within shot of the shoare, but they let their arrowes flie amongst us in the shippe themselves unseene to us, & in the forehead hurt one of our men, which might have hazarded his life without the present helpe of a skillfull Chirurgion.
"Being thus justly provoked, we presently manned our boats, went ashoare, & burned in that verie place some forty houses, & of the things we found therein, made freeboote & pillage, & as themselves afterward confest unto us, hurt & killed five or sixe of their men, with this revenge satisfying our selves, for that their presumption in shooting at us, & so the next day proceeded higher up the River, & Indians calling unto us, & demaunding why we went ashoare, burnt their houses, killed & hurt their men, & tooke away their goods. We replied that though we came to them in peaceable manner, & would have beene glad to have received our demaunds with love & peace, yet we had hearts & power to take revenge, & punish where wrongs should be offered, which having now don, though not so severely as we might, we rested content there with & are ready to imbrace peace with them if they pleased. Many excuses they seemed to pretend, that they shot not at us, but (if any such abuse were offered) it was some stragled Indian, ignorant of our pretence in comming to them, affirming that they themselves would be right glad of our love, & would indeavour to helpe us to what we came for, which being in the possession of Powhatan their King, they would without delay dispatch messengers to him, to know his purpose & pleasure, desiring faire quarter some 24 howers, for so long they pretend it would be before their messengers might returne this wee graunted, & what we promised, we ever exactly performed, the time now come, we inquired what Powhatan would doe, & had for answere, that our Englishmen lately with him, fearefull to be put to death by us, were runne away, & some of Powhatans men sent abroade in quest of them, but our swords & peeces so many as he had should be brought the next day, which meerely to delay time, they bare us in hand the next day they came not, higher up the river we went, & ancored neere unto the chiefest residencie Powhatan had, at a towne called Matchcot where were assembled (which we saw) about 400 men, well appointed with their bowes & arrowes to welcome us, here they dared us to come a shoare, a thing which we purposed before, so a shoare we went, our best landing being up a high steepe hill which might have given the enemy much advantage against us, but it seemed they as we were unwilling to begin, & yet would gladly have bin at blowes, being landed as if they had no shew of fear, they stirred not from us, but walked up & downe, by & amongst us, the best of them inquiring for our Weroance or king, with whom they would gladly consult to know the occasion of our comming thither, whereof when they were informed, they made answere that they were there ready to defend themselves, if we pleased to assault them, desiring neverthelesse some small time to dispatch two or three men once more to their king, to know his resolution, which if not answerable to our requests, in the morning if nothing else but blood would then satisfie us, they would fight with us, & thereby determine our quarrell, which was but a further delay to procure time to carrie away their provisions, neverthelesse we agreed to this their request, assuring them till the next day by noone we would not molest, hurt, nor detaine any of them, & then before we fought, our Drum & Trumpets should give them warning: upon which promise of ours, two of Powhatans sonnes being very desirous to see their sister who was there present ashore with us, came unto us, at the sight of whom, & her well fare, whom they suspected to be worse intreated, though they had often heard the contrary, they much rejoyced, & promised that they would undoubtedly perswade their father to redeem her, & to conclude a firme peace forever with us, & upon this resolution the two brothers with us retired aboarde, we having first dispatched two English men, Master John Rolfe & master Sparkes to acquaint their Father with the businesse in hand, the next day being kindly intreated, they returned, not at all admitted Powhatans presence, but spake with his brother Apachamo, his successor, one who hath already the commaund of all the people, who likewise promised us his best indeavors to further our just requests, & we because the time of the yeere being then Aprill, called us to our businesse at home to prepare ground, & set corne for our winters provisions, upon these termes departed, giving them respite till harvest to resolve what was best for them to doe, with this Proviso, that if final agreement were not made betwixt us before that time, we would thither returne again & destroy & take away all their corne, burne all the houses upon that river, leave not a fishing Weere standing, nor a Canoa in any creeke thereabout, & destroy & kill as many of them as we could.
"Long before this time a gentleman of approved behaviour & honest carriage, master John Rolfe had bin in love with Pocahuntas & she with him, which thing at the instant that we were in parlee with them, my selfe made known to Sir Thomas Dale by a letter from him, whereby he intreated his advise & furtherance in his love, if so it seemed fit to him for the good of the Plantation, & Pocahuntas her selfe, acquainted her brethren therewith: which resolution Sir Thomas Dale wel approving, was the onely cause: he was so milde amongst them, who otherwise would not have departed their river without other conditions.
"The bruite of this pretended marriage came soone to Powhatans knowledge, a thing acceptable to him, as appeared by his sudden content thereunto, who some ten daies after sent an olde uncle of hirs, named Opachisco, to give her as his deputy in the Church, & two of his sonnes to see the marriage solemnized, which was accordingly done about the fifth of Aprill & ever since we have had friendly commerce & trade, not onely with Powhatan himselfe, but also with his subjects round about us; so as now I see no reason why the Collonie should not thrive a pace..."
The rescue episode did not appear in John Smith’s accounts of Virginia published in 1608 & 1612, but surfaced in his Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624). Doubts have been cast ever since on its authenticity &, if true, its meaning.
See: Eric Foner & John A. Garraty, Editors. The Reader’s Companion to American History. 1991 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.