September 1609 The First Anglo-Powhatan War

The Colonial Period in North America, which spans from the founding of the Jamestown colony in 1607 to the Declaration of independence in 1776, is a period of conflict and war.  The Colonial History section of the General Society of Colonial War’s website states the case well by saying that although war “signifies the breakdown of negotiation and compromise”, human history is dominated by stories of war throughout the millennia.  In North America, armed conflict existed among the Native population long before the colonialists arrived. So, the history of Colonial North America is no different, and we should study the numerous colonial wars because they are crucial to understanding America as a nation.

The conflicts and wars of the Colonial period were fought among the colonialist and the Native Americans, and also among the colonialists from rival nations.  One of the earliest was the First Anglo-Powhatan War fought between the Jamestown colonists and an alliance of Algonquian-speaking Virginia Indians led by Powhatan (Wahunsonacock).  The Encyclopedia Virginia website provides a detailed account of this conflict, which was essentially a struggle between the colonialists and Natives for land.  The war starts after Jamestown is resupplied with people and material from England, with the goal of expanding the Colony’s land holdings, and ensuring its success.

Specifically, in the month of September, 1609 John Smith, Governor of the Jamestown colony, sent 120 men to the falls of the James River. The purpose of the expedition was to bargain for an island with the Nansemond Indians, one of the Algonquin alliance tribes. Two English messengers are killed, so the colonialists burn the Nansemonds’ town and their crops.  

The War continues for 9 more years before concluding with a peace treaty. This blog will return to this war in subsequent posts that align with the month in question.

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