Captain John Smith

Virginians know that Captain John Smith was one of the first American heroes. But because he was a proud and boastful man, it is difficult to know which parts of his life, as recorded in the written record, are fact and which are fiction. What many people may not know is that Smith’s adventures started even before Jamestown.

Born in 1580 in Willoughby, England, John Smith left home at age 16 after his father died. He began his travels by joining volunteers in France who were fighting for Dutch independence from Spain. Two years later, he set off for the Mediterranean Sea, working on a merchant ship. In 1600 he joined Austrian forces to fight the Turks in the “Long War.” A valiant soldier, he was promoted to Captain while fighting in Hungary. He was fighting in Transylvania two years later in 1602. There he was wounded in battle, captured, and sold as a slave to a Turk. This Turk then sent Smith as a gift to his sweetheart in Istanbul. According to Smith, this girl fell in love with him and sent him to her brother to get training for Turkish imperial service. Smith reportedly escaped by murdering the brother and returned to Transylvania by fleeing through Russia and Poland. After being released from service and receiving a large reward, he traveled all through Europe and Northern Africa. He returned to England in the winter of 1604-05.

Here begins Captain John Smith’s American adventures. Apparently restless in England, Smith became actively involved with plans by the Virginia Company to colonize Virginia for profit, as had been granted by a charter from King James I. After setting sail on December 20, 1606, this famous expedition finally reached Virginia in April 1607 after enduring a lengthy voyage of over four months in three tiny ships. When the sealed box that listed the names of the seven council members who were to govern the colony was opened, Smith’s name was on the list. On May 13, 1607 the settlers landed at Jamestown ready to begin the task of surviving in a new environment.

The harsh winter, lack of fresh water, and the spread of disease made life in Jamestown difficult for the settlers. Attacks by the native Algonquian Indians made life almost impossible. The Indians, hoping that the settlers would give up and leave, raided their camps, stealing pistols, gunpowder, and other necessary supplies. John Smith became leader of the colonists and did his best to fight off the Indians.

In December 1607, he and some companions were ambushed by Indian deer hunters. After killing the other Englishmen with him, the Indians carried Smith back to their powerful chief, Powhatan, to decide his fate. Powhatan was apparently greatly impressed by Smith’s self-confidence as well as such mystical instruments as an ivory and glass pocket compass he carried with him. Smith was questioned about his colony and then made to take part in some sort of ritual or trial, after which, in keeping with an Indian custom, he was made a subordinate chief in the tribe. Powhatan’s 11 year old daughter, Pocahontas, took part in the ceremony in some way. Smith was constantly unsure of his fate, and he was convinced afterward that Pocahontas had saved his life. Smith was released in friendship after about four weeks of captivity and returned to Jamestown, guided by Indians. Meanwhile, dissent within the colony fermented due to laziness, lack of supplies, and periodic attempts at desertion by many of the colonists. Personal conflicts among Smith and various leaders, as well as disagreements over new policies being formulated in London, added to the discontent. As a result, Smith left Jamestown to explore and map the Chesapeake Bay region and search for badly needed food supplies. Due to bad government and near chaos, Smith was eventually elected president of the local council in September 1608. He instituted a policy of rigid discipline, strengthened defenses, and he encouraged farming with this admonishment: “He who does not work, will not eat.” Because of his strong leadership, the settlement survived and grew during the next year. Unfortunately, Smith was accidentally injured by a gunpowder burn and had to return to England for treatment in October 1609, never to return to Virginia.

In London he actively promoted the further colonization of Virginia, but was unpopular with the Virginia Company. In April 1614, he returned to the New World in a successful voyage to the Maine and Massachusetts Bay areas, which he named New England, with the approval of Prince Charles. He was denied further opportunities to return to America due to his independent nature and spent the rest of his life writing his memoirs and advice until his death in 1631 at age 51

Historic Jamestowne, Jamestowne, Virginia, USA

Olympus SP570 UZ

Photography is not about cameras, gadgets and gizmos. Photography is about photographers. A camera didn’t make a great picture any more than a typewriter wrote a great novel.
Peter Adams

View Full Profile


  • Kim McClain Gregal
    Kim McClain Gr...over 4 years ago

    Excellent treatment and tones on this one Francis!

  • Corinne Pouzet
    Corinne Pouzetover 4 years ago

    Très bel angle de photo et superbe éclairage.
    Tu as rajouté des choses que je ne connaissais pas à l’histoire de cet homme. C’est toujours très intéressant de lire l’historique que tu donnes à tes photos

  • anaisanais
    anaisanaisover 4 years ago

    Stupendo!! very very..all wonderful..

  • Victoria McGuire
    Victoria McGuireover 4 years ago

    Super work!

  • anisja
    anisjaover 4 years ago

    Very nice work. Good angle and tones.

  • MarianaEwa
    MarianaEwaover 4 years ago

    Excellent shot Francis.

  • kilmann
    kilmannover 4 years ago

    Great capture, with amazing details.

  • reindeer
    reindeerover 4 years ago

    Well, this story certainly conflicts with the Disney version….haha. I’m glad to know the truth, well….of course, we’ll never really know that! I always enjoy Native American History, especially when it collides with English History, as I have both English and Cherokee blood. Your image is so clear! Really like the darker beveled edge. And the sculptor was seriously talented. =)

  • artisandelimage
    artisandelimageabout 4 years ago

  • icesrun
    icesrunabout 4 years ago

    Wonderufl angle for this capture of the statue!! I like the Disney version better than real one too! Good to hear the real history

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait