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Travels and works of Captain John Smith

by John Smith

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Although Raleigh is so often credited with founding the British colony of Virginia, the first successful plantation was in fact established by the diminutive pirate-fighting Captain-Admiral John Smith.
Orphaned by his father's early death in 1596 [iv], Smith got away from Lincolnshire to London, and Paris. On his return, he was cheated of all his money by a canny Scotsman promising him valuable introductions in Edinburgh. Smith was so reduced that he joined a troop soldiering in Flanders, only to be thrown out of employment when peace broke out.
On the way back to England he was shipwrecked on Holy Island and almost died of disease and exposure. He returned to Willoughy, and was known as an eccentric for taking up in the wood [iv], with a horse, arms, and a copy of Aurelius and Machiavelli with the sky for ceiling. Once more he sought the battlements of the Low Countries, but again fell into the company of swindlers who succeeded in robbing him, although not without loss of blood. Saved by a French soldier, he was recovered in a Bretan stronghold.
He boarded ship for Turkey by way of Italy, was thrown overboard during a storm, swam to Santa Maria off Nice, and eventually took up privateering. The Turks were rising, however, and Smith took employment first as ship captain and then as major of a horse regiment, and he was granted arms after campaigns in Transylvania, Wallachia and along the Moldau. In his final battle in the East he was left for dead, but later picked up alive by the Turks and chained in a slave gang until sold in Constantinople to an Islamic lady, and thereafter sent to a fiefdom on the Black Sea. He was treated so badly, he turned upon his tormentor, slayed him dead, but escaped by dressing in his clothes, into the wilderness. He reached a Russian port, where he was kindly treated and he caravaned to Leipsich where he met his former Princess.
With a view to more fighting, Smith then landed in Africa and fought the Barbary pirates. After some more sail with a French ship, and a spot in Ireland, at age 24 Smith returns to England [viii] to find it seething with enthusiasms for colonial adventure in "Virginia", for which few were fit to face, and none so well as Smith....(!)
On board the ship on the way over, Smith was charged with mutiny and condemned to be hanged. After landing, however, the sealed letter from the Company was opened. It named Smith on the Board of Governors and he was released.
Sidelined from the beginning by Lords, Smith tended to emerge as a savior when the colony was in peril. Many descriptions of the colony, travails and descriptions of the Powhattan. By 1612, however, Smith left Virginia, never to return; a man scorned, and a prisoner, just as he arrived. ( )
  keylawk | Feb 10, 2007 |
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