Bacon's Rebellion


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From the Royal Commissioners Narrative.

[Nathanial Bacon was] of a most imperious and dangerous hidden Pride of heart, despising the wisest of his neighbors for their Ignorance and very ambitious and arrogant. But all these things lay hid in him till after he was a councillor (on the Governor's Council], and until he became powerful and popular.... [The] Forwardness of Bacon [to lead the attack on the Indians with or without a commission' greatly cheered and animated the People, who looked upon him as the only Patron of the Country and preserver of their Lives and Fortunes.

For he pretended and boasted what great Service he would do for the country, in destroying the Common Enemy, securing their Lives and Estates, Liberties, and such like frauds he subtily and Secretly insinuated by his own Instruments over all the country, which he seduced the Vulgar and most ignorant People to believe (two thirds of each county being of that Sort) So that their Whole hearts and hopes were set now upon Bacon. Next he charges the Governor as neglegent and wicked, treacherous and incapable, the Laws and Taxes as unjust and oppressive....

Editor's Note: Thomas Mathews was a merchant-planter who was a prominent, but not politically involved, citizen of Virginia in 1676. He owned some property in the frontier counties which were attacked by Indians. He served as a representative from his county in the House of Burgesses in 1676, and was also a member of the Reforming or Baconian Assembly in the same year. His narrative, entitled The Beginning Progress and Conclusion of Bacons R.bellion in Virginia in the Years 1675 and 1676 was completed in 1705 from personal notes, or so the author maintains, kept during the period.



From Mathew's Beginnings ... of Bacon's Rebellion.

These (people] at the Heads of James and York Rivers (having now most People destroyed by the Indian Flight thither from the Patomack [River]) grew impatient at the many Slaughters of their Neighbors and rose for their own Defense, who chosing Mr. Bacon for their Leader sent often times to the Governour, humbly beseaching a commission to go against those Indians at their own Charge which his Honour as often promised but did not send; The Mysteries of these delays were Wondered at and which I never heard any could Penetrate into, other than the effects of his Passion, and a new occasion of Avarice,. to both which he was (by the common Vogue [opinion]) more than a little Addicted...



From a description of a battle between the English and the Indians written by one of the participants, May 1676.

Nathaniel Bacon, Esqr. being their General, the number of his men, two hundred and eleven.

We found the Indians in all places unwilling to assist us against the common enemy (the Susquehanna), they having received orders to the contrary from the Right Honorable the Governor, so that we were forced to go quite out of our way Southward, to get of the Nottoways and Mayherrings what assistance We could who at last amounted but to 24 men; during which time our provisions were much wasted...We entered Island [where "friendly" Indians had built a fortified camp] Hoping to find some small relief to the Weary and faint, We had made our agreement that the Mannekings and Annelectons should at a sign given, cut off the Susquehanocks, being in number but 30 men, besides Women and children, this accordingly was effected and the prisoners by the King [of the friendly Indians] brought in and several of the Susquahanocks by them put to death we again complained to the King for Want of provisions), and demanded the expected supply, but having viewed the Battle posture of our Men, who were in great discontent, many of them leaving the Island at the very instant and returned home the King began to alter his [plans] and desired us to stay six days, and went from us gathered together all his Indians manned all his forts, and lined the other side of the River thick with men, so that we neither will attack them, nor depart the Island, without some danger ... in this posture things stood, when by a Watch word from the other side of the River, they began and killed one of our men, which we quickly repaid them, firing in at all their men (inside the fort) so thick that the groans of Men, Women and Children were so loud, that with all their howling and singing, could not hinder them from being heard. Immediately we fell upon the Men, Women, and Children [outside the fort], and disarmed and destroyed them all ... what we did in that short time [a two day’s "battle"] and the poor condition we were in, was to destroy the King of Susquahan, the King of Ouhe, and the Mannekin King, with 100 men, besides what died unknown to us: The king's daughter we took prisoner, with some others ... what we reckon most material, is that we have left all nations of Indians, where we have been engaged in a civil war amongst themselves, so that with great ease we hope to manage the advantage to their utter ruin and destruction.



From History of Bacon's... Rebellion.

The Governour could not [tolerate] this insolent deportment of Bacon.... instead of seeking means to appease his [the Governor's] anger they [members of the Governor's Council] devised means to increase it, by framing specious pretences, which they grounded upon the boldness of Bacons actions, and the peoples affections. They began (some of them) to have Bacons merits in mistrust, as a Luminary that threatened an eclipse to their rising glories. For though he was but a young man, yet they found that he was master and owner of those [qualities] which constitute a Complete Man, wisdom to apprehend and descretion to choose. By which embellishments, (if he should continue in the Governours favor) of Seniors they might become juniors, while their younger [collegue], through nimbleness of his wit, might steal away that blessing [benefits of high public office], which they accounted their own by birthright. This rash proceeding of Bacon, if it did not undo himself, by his failing in the enterprise, might chance to undo them [members of the Council] in the affections of the people; which to prevent, they [sought] to get the Governour in the mind to proclaim him a Rebel; as knowing that once being done... it must breed bad blood between Bacon and Sir William [Berkeley], not easily to be purged. For though Sir William might forgive what Bacon had acted; yet it might be questionable whether Bacon might forget what Sir William had done.


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