Bacon's Rebellion


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From the Royal Commissioners' Narrative.

Bacon goes up again to the [frontier] where he bestirs himself lustily in order to [conduct] a speedy march against the Indians, in prosecution of his first pretentions which were against the Occannechees and Susquahannocks ... he marched to pursue the Pamunkey Indians... although it was well known to the whole country that the Queen of Pamunkey and her People had never at any time betrayed or injured the English. But among the Vulgar it matters not whether they be Friends or Foes, So [long as] they be Indians.

They marching ... at random (yet hoping and aiming still to find them out) at last met with an Indian Path against which led them to a main Swamp, where several nations of Indians lay encamped... [After a day's march Bacon's party] falls upon the Pamunky Indians, who lay encamped beyond a small branch of [the] swamp... As the onset was given they did not at all oppose, but fled, being followed by Bacon and his Forces killing and taking them Prisoners, and looking for Plunder...



Excerpts from "Nathaniel Bacon, His Manifesto Concerning the Present Troubles in Virginia," which was composed and issued during the July 1676 "convention" held at Middle Plantation.

We appeal to the Country itself what and of what nature their Oppressions have been or by what Cabal and mystery the designs of many of those whom we call great men have been transacted, but let us trace these men in Authority and Favor to whose hands the dispensation of the Country's wealth has been committed; let us observe the sudden Rise of their Estates and see what sponges have sucked up the Public Treasure and whether it hath not been privately contrived away by unworthy Favourites and Juggling Parasites whose tottering Fortunes have been repaired and supported at the Public charge...

Another main article of our Guilt is our open and manifest aversion to all, not only the Foreign but the protected and Darling Indians...they have been for many years enemies to the King and Country, Robbers and Thieves and Invaders of his Majesty's Right and our Interest and Estates ....

Another main article of our Guilt is our Design not only to ruin and extirpate all Indians in General but all Manner of Trade and Commerce with them...

Another article of our Guilt is to Assert all those neighbor Indians as well as others to be outlawed, wholly unqualifying for the benefit and Protection of the law...



Excerpts from "The Declaration of the People" composed and signed by Nathaniel Bacon and issued during the July "convention."

For having upon specious pretences of Public works raised unjust Taxes upon the Commonality for the advancement of private favourites and other sinister ends...

For having wronged his Majesty's Prerogative and Interest by assuming the monopoly of the Beaver Trade.

By having in that unjust gain Bartered and sold his Majesty's Country and the lives of his Loyal Subjects to the Barbarous Heathen.

For having protected, favored and Emboldened the Indians against his Majesty's most Loyal subjects...

For having, when the Army of the English was Just upon the Track of the Indians ... expressly Countermanded and sent back our Army.

For having...against the Consent of the People... raising and effecting a Civil War and distractions...thereby calling down our Forces, from the defense of the Frontiers...

Of these the aforesaid Articles we accuse Sir William Berkeley as guilty ... and as one who hath Traitorously violated and injured his Majesty's Interest here...

And we do further demand, that the said Sir William Berkeley with all the Persons in this List ed. note, the list contained 19 names, mostly intimates of Berkeley and members of the Governor's Council; Robert Beverly and William Sherwood were included in this list] be forthwith delivered up, or surrender themselves, within four days... or otherwise we declare that in whatsoever house, place, or ship, any of the said Persons shall reside, be hide or protected, We do delcare that the Owners, masters or Inhabitants of the said places to be Confederates, and Traitors to the People, and the Estates of the, as also of the aforesaid Persons to be Confiscated. This we the Commons of Virginia do declare desiring prime Union among ourselves ... And Let not... the Faults or Crimes of the Oppressors divide and separate us, who have suffered by their oppression.



From a conversation between Bacon and John Goode that took place in September 1676. Goode wrote down what was said and reported the discussion to Governor Berkeley in January 1677.

Bacon: There is a report that Sir Wm. Berkeley has sent to the King for two thousand Redcoats [English soldiers], and I do believe it may be true; Tell me your opinion, may not five hundred Virginians beat them, we having the same advantages against them the Indians have against us?

Goode: On the contrary, I think five hundred Redcoats may either subject [subdue] or ruin Virginia.

Bacon: You talk strangely; Are we not acquainted with the country, so that we can lay in [ambush]? Can we not hide behind trees to render their discipline of no avail? Are we not as good or better shots than they?

Goode: They can accomplish what I said without hazard or coming into such disadvantages by taking opportunities of landing where there is no opposition, firing our houses and fences, destroying our cattle, preventing trade and cutting off supports.

Bacon: We can prevent their making any progress in such mischiefs.

Goode: You see, sir, that in a manner all the principal men in the country, who disliked your proceedings, will, may you be sure, make a common cause with the Redcoats.

Bacon: I will see to it that they do not have the opportunity.

Goode: Sir, you speak as though you design a total defection from the King and our native country.

Bacon: Why, have not many princes lost their dominions so?

Goode: [There] have been such people as have been able to subsist without their prince. The poverty of Virginia is such that the major part of the inhabitants can [scarcely survive] one year without supplies from England. You may be sure that the people who so fondly follow you, when they come to feel the miserable want of food and clothing, will be in great haste to leave you...

Bacon: I know, of nothing; with which this country could not in time supply itself, save ammunition and iron, and I believe the King of France or the States of Holland would be glad to trade with us.

Goode: Sir, our King is a very great Prince and his amity is infinitely

more valuable to these countries than any advantage they could reap from Virginia. They will not provoke his displeasure by supporting rebels here. Besides, your followers do not think themselves engaged against the King's authority, but merely against the Indians.



From Governor Berkeley's letter to Henry Coventry.

... within a week [after Berkeley fled to Accomack] Bacon sent a ship with two hundred men under the Command of one [named] Bland and Captain Carver with a joint commission to take me and all my friends and Bring us to him dead or alive. . . [Carver was tricked by Berkeley's men and captured, which] put all the soldiers into our hands who having not Victuals for eight hours surrendered themselves and Arms took the Oaths of allegiance and Supremacy. ...However this action gave the Loyal party a great reputation in the country and now the fear of me made many declare for the King who never after dared go back to Bacon... [E]levated with this success we resolved with all speed to make for James-Town ... where we found five hundred of Bacons men, but our numbers being trebled in the opinion of the Enemy and I issuing out a Proclamation pardoning all the Common soldiers that would lay down their Arms and all officers but Bacon, [William] Drummond and [Richard] Lawrence, though they would not lay down their Arms Yet the same night we arrived at James-Town they all fled to Bacon, who was about fifty miles from us, ...without shooting one Gun at us...

But, Sir, twice Bacon's forces [would have] not been able to hurt us if our officers and soldiers had had Courage or loyalty, but there was a want of both in both, for the common soldiers mutinied and the officers did not do their whole duty to suppress them, but some of them, as I afterwards found, did all they could to foment the mutiny.

One night having rode from Guard to guard and from quarter to quarter all day long to encourage the soldiers, I went to bed about six at night. I was no sooner lain down but there came three or four of the chief officers to me and told me I must presently rise and go to the ship, for the soldiers were all mutinying and running away . . . . The next day came more officers to me and represented to me again the necessity of my quitting the Town...

I no sooner quitted the Town but Bacon entered it, burned five houses of mine and twenty of other Gentlemen and they say that a very commodious Church he set afire too, with his own sacreligious hands...



From the Royal Commissioners' Narrative.

But so great was the Cowardice and Baseness of the [great majority] of Sir Wm. Berkeley's Party (being most of them men intent only upon plunder or compelled and hired into his service) that of all, at least there were only some 20 Gentlemen willing to stand by him, the rest (whom the hopes or promises of Plunder brought there) being now all in haste to be gone, to secure what [loot] they had gotten; so that Sir Wm. Berkeley ... was at last persuaded [and] hurried away against his own Will to Accomack and forced to leave the Town to the mercy of the enemy.



From the Royal Commissioners' Narrative.

[After his forces put Jamestown to the torch) Bacon now begins to show a more merciless severity and absolute authority than formerly, Plundering and imprisoning many and condemning some by power of martial law.

Bacon finding that his Soldiers' Insolence growing so great and intolerable to the People (of whom they made no due distinction) and binding their actings to reflect on himself, he not only betake himself to a strict Discipline over his men but also to more moderate courses himself, Releasing some Prisoners, Pardoning others that were condemned, and calling those to account against whom any complaints came for seizures or Plundering their Estates without his order or knowledge.



From a report by the Royal Commissioners entitled "A List of the names of those worthy persons, whose services and sufferings by the late Rebel Nathaniel Bacon, Junior, and his party, ...during the late unhappy troubles in Virginia, And Particularly of such whose approved Loyalty, constancy and courage hath rendered them most deserving of, his Majesty's Royal Remark..."

The list contained 45 names and a general statement about the many unnamed "other poor Inhabitants" of James Town who lost home and possessions in the fire. Below is a selection of individual cases.

Sir Henry Chichely, Barbarously Imprisoned and treated Bacon and his party for many months and much [damage to] his Estate...

Col. Philip Ludwell, one that was constantly in the Governor's service, and was not only plundered in his own Personal Estate, but also of the Estate of an Orphan committed to his trust...

Mr. Thomas Ludwell, Secretary of Virginia, whose stock was utterly ruined and taken away by the late Rebel, though at the same time he was acting here in England (as the Country's agent, at his own [expense] ...

Col. Daniel Parkes, then also n England, and one of the Treasurers for the country's money, who was plundered (according to the computation we have made... of at least 1500 [pounds sterling] ...

Major Richard Lee, a Loyal discreet Person ... was Imprisoned by Bacon [for over] seven weeks, at least 100 miles from his own home, whereby he received great [damage] in his health by hard usage [ill treatment?] and very greatly in his whole Estate by his absence.

Col. John Smith sustained great losses by the Rebels, his stock and other estate being taken and destroyed by them.

Mr. Charles Roane, one that had his dwelling House and other Houses Burned down to the ground, and most part of his goods and provisions destroyed and carried away by a party of the Rebels Commanded by Gregory Wolkate after Bacon's death.

Mr. Philip Lightfoote, a great Looser and sufferer both in Estate and person being both Plundered and imprisoned by the Rebels.



From Gov. Berkeley's letter to Henry Coventry.

...But within three weeks after [Bacon seized and burned down James Town] the Justice and Judgement of God overtook [Bacon]. His usual oath which he swore at least a Thousand times a day was Goddamn my Blood, and God so infected his blood that it bred Lice in an incredible number so that for twenty days he never washed his shirts but burned them.. To this God added. the Bloody flux [ed. note, this was a severe case of dysentery Bacon probably contracted while marching through the swamp in pursuit of the Pamunkey Indians] and an honest Minister wrote this Epitaph on him:

Bacon is Dead I am sorry at my heart

That Lice and flux should take the hangman's part.

And now [it is] Right honorable that God has brought this most Atheistic man to his deserved end, I must [summarize] the rest and say that Bacon being dead, the Rabble chose another General which had been [a man named] Bland but he was out of their reach; continued the other officers who soon disagreed among themselves, mistrusting one [to] the other. In the meantime my soldiers Killed four of their most obstinate officers, two are dead in Prison, and fourteen Executed. Their Lieutenant General first, and after, their General gave up all their men and Arms into my hands and are pardoned. More than one hundred I had in prison before this surrender.



From the Royal Commissioners' Narrative.

After Bacon's Death one Joseph Ingram, a stranger in Virginia and came over but the year before this Rebellion, under whose conduct the Faction began to fall into several parties and opinions, which gave Sir Wm. Berkeley's party opportunity by these divisions to surprise the Rebels in small Bodies as they sculked up and down the country.

After Ingram had [surrendered] to the Governor ... Lawrence, that notorious Rebel, fled... some others were taken Prisoner after they had laid down their arms, and the rest went home in Peace. About the 16th of January, 1677, the whole country had submitted to the Governor and the 22nd he came home to his house at Green Spring, and had issued out new... summons for the convening of a free assembly at his own house, the State house being ruined with the rest of James Town.



From the Royal Commissioners "List of the names of worthy persons" victimized by Bacon.

Major Robert Beverley, clerk of the Assembly, a person very active... in surprizing and beating up of Quarters and small Guards about the country, and as himself says (and we have no reason to believe the only person that got by the unhappy troubles) in Plundering (without distinction of honest mens Estates from others) as will be found when accounts are adjusted... and [he] was one that had the confidence to say he had not plundered enough, so that the Rebellion ended too soon for his purpose; Besides we ourselves have observed him to have been the Evil Instrument that fomented the ill humors between the two Governors [Berkeley and Bacon] then on the place and was a great occasion of their clashing and Difference.



From The Humble Remonstrance... of Charles City County.

And since your Honors are willing to be informed of such other matters (besides what seduced us into the Rebellion...) ... we have of late feared that our representatives (of which for this country in nine years time past there hath been very doubtful elections as we conceive) have been overswayed by the power and prevelency of Sir Wm. Berkeley and his council (diverse instances of which we conceive might be given and have neglected our grievances ...) we are moved humbly to present the following to your Honors:

That besides the great quantities of Tobacco raised and paid for building of forts which were never finished but suffered to go to ruin... great quantities of Tobacco have been raised upon us his Majesty's poor Subjects... for erecting a [public] house for the use of the country which Colonel Edward Hill [friend of Gov. Berkeley and one of his principal officers during the Rebellion] received... and converted to his own use....

That on or about the 15th of January last past, when the late commotions were appeased and quieted, the Colonel Edw. Hill without any warrant or authority unlawfully took upon him to raise by impress a company of men within this country... whom he presumptuously did take upon him to lead out of the county at his will and pleasure..

That the Col. Edw. Hill covetously minding to enrich himself by the ruin of diverse of us his Majesty's subjects, hath endeavoured most arrogantly to smother, conceal and [invalidate] his Majesty's late gracious proclamation of pardon, and by menaces and threats extorted diverse compositions and Rewards from diverse of us (not to inform against them as he said and to procure their pardon) namely from [ed. note, here the petition lists nine names]...although he well knew the said persons and every of them were not only absolutely pardoned by the King's proclamations as aforesaid but also by Sir Wm. Berkeley's proclamation likewise .... And the more to terrify and frighten his Majesty's subjects... Edw. Hill by his interest and prevelency with Sir Wm. Berkeley procures warrants to be to him directed from Sir Wm. Berkeley for seizing and securing the persons and estates of diverse in this county that had (and that he knew had) laid hold of and were pardoned by the Governor's and the King's proclamations...

That Edw. Hill contrary to his duty and trust in him reposed by the warrants aforesaid, converted diverse of the goods by him seized for the use of the King to his own use...

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