The Beginning, Progress, and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, In the Years 1675 and 1676
By T.M., a planter and representative from Stafford County
But to return from this digression, the Susquehanoughs were newly driven from their habitations, at the head of Chesepiack bay, by the Cineca Indians, down to the head of Potomack, where they sought protection under the Pascataway Indians, who had a fort near the head of that river, and also were our ffriends.
After this unfortunate exploit of Mason and Brent, one or two being kill'd in Stafford, boats of war were equipt to prevent excursions over the river, and at the same time murders being (likewise) committed in Maryland, by whom not known, on either side the river, both countrys raised their quota's of a thousand men, upon whose coming before the ffort, th' Indians sent out 4 of their great men, who ask'd the reason of that hostile appearance, what they said more or offered, I do not remember to have heard; but our two comanders caused them to be (instantly) slaine, after which the Indians made an obstinate resistance shooting many of our men, and making frequent, fierce and bloody sallyes, and when they were call'd to, or offered parley, gave no other answer, than "where are our four cockarouses, i.e. great men?
At the end of six weeks, march'd out seventy five Indians with their women children &c. who (by moonlight past our guards hallowing and firing att them without opposition, leaving 3 or 4 decrepits in the ffort.
The next morning th' English followed, but could not, or (for fear of ambuscades) would not overtake these desperate fugitives the number we lost in that siege I did not here was published.
The walls of this fort were high banks of earth, with fflankers having many loop-holes, and a ditch round all, and without this a row of tall trees fastned 3 foot deep in the earth, their bodies from 5 to 8 inches diameter, watled 6 inches apart to shoot through with the tops twisted together, and also artificially wrought, as our men could make no breach to storm it nor (being low land) coud they undermind it by reason of water neither had they cannon to batter itt, so that 'twas not taken, untill ffamine drive the Indians out of it.
They escap'd Indians (forsaking Maryland) took their rout over the head of that river, and thence over the heads of Rapahanock and York rivers, killing whom they found of th' upmost plantations untill they came to the head of James river, where (with Bacon and others) they slew Mr. Bacon's overseer, whom he much loved, and one of his servants, whose bloud hee vowed to revenge if possible.
In these frightfull times the most exposed small families withdrew into our houses of better numbers, which we fortified with pallisadoes and redoubts, neighbours in bodies joined their labours from each plantation to others alternately, taking their arms into the ffields, and setting centinels; no man stirr'd out of door unarm'd, Indians were (ever and anon) espied, three 4. 5. 6 in a party lurking throughout the whole land, yet (what was remarkable) I rarely heard of any houses burnt, though abundance was forsaken, nor ever, of any corn or tobacco cut up, or other injury done, besides murders, except the killing a very few cattle and swine.
Frequent complaints of bloodshed were sent to S'r Wm. Berkeley (then Govern'r) from the heads of the rivers, which were as often answered with promises of assistance.
These at the heads of James and York rivers (having now most people destroyed by the Indians fflight thither from Potomack) grew impatient at the many slaughters of their neighbours and rose for their own defence, who chusing Mr. Bacon for their leader sent oftentimes to the Govern'r, humbly beseeching a comission to go against those Indians at their own charge which his hono'r as often promisd but did not send; the misteryes of these delays, were wondred at and which I ne're heard any coud into, other than the effects of his passion, and a new (not to be mentioned) occasion of avarice, to both which, he was (by the comon vogue) more than a little addicted: whatever were the popular surmizes and murmurings, vizt.
"that no bullets would pierce bever skins.
"rebbells forfeitures would be loyall inheritances &c.
During these protractions and people often slaine, most or all the officers, civill and military with as many dwellers next the heads of the rivers as made up 300 men taking Mr. Bacon for their coman'r, met, and concerted together, the danger of going without a comiss'n on the one part, and the continuall murders of their neighbors on th' other part (not knowing whose or how many of their own turns might be next) and came to this resolution vizt. to prepare themselves with necessaries for a march, but interim to send again for a comission, which if could or could not be obteyned by a certaine day, they woud proceed comission or no comission.
This day lapsing and no com'n come, they march'd into the wilderness in quest of these Indians after whom the Govern'r sent his proclamacon, denouncing all rebells, who shoud not return within a limited day, whereupon those of estates obey'd; but Mr. Bacon with 57 men proceded untill their provisions were near spent, without finding enemy's when coming nigh a ffort of ffriend Indians, on the' other side a branch of James river, they desired reliefe offering paym't. which these Indians kindly promised to help them with on the morrow, but put them off with promises untill the third day, so as having then eaten their last morsells they could not return, but must have starved in the way homeward and now 'twas suspected, these Indians had received private messages from the Governo'r. and those to be the causes of these delusive procrastinations; whereupon the English waded shoulder deep thro' that branch to the ffort pallisado's still intreating and tendering pay, for victuals ; but that evening a shot from the place they left on the other side of that branch kill'd one of Mr. Bacon's men, which made them believe, those in the ffort had sent for other Indians to come behind 'em and cut 'em off.
Hereupon they fired the palisado's, storm'd & burnt the ffort and cabins, and (with the losse of three English) slew 150 Indians.
The circumstances of this expedicn Mr. Bacon entertain'd me with, at his own chamber, at a visit I made him, the occasion whereof is hereafter menconed.
Ffom hence they return'd home where writts were come up to elect members for an assembly, when Mr. Bacon was unanimously chosen for one, who coming down the river was comanded by a ship with guns to come on board, where waited Major Hone the high sheriff of Jamestown ready to seize him, by whom he was carried down to the Govern's and by him receiv'd with a surprizing civillity in the following words "Mr. Bacon have you forgot to be a gentleman. No, may it please yo'r hon'r answer'd Mr. Bacon; then replyed the Gover'r I'll take yo'r parol, and gave him his liberty in March 1675-76 writts came up to Stafford to choose their two members for an assembly to meet in May; when Collo. Mason Capt. Brent and other gentlemen of that county, invited me to stand a candidate; a matter I little dreamt of, having never had inclinacons to tamper in the precarious intrigues of govern't. and my hands being full of my own business; they preas't severall cogent argum'ts. and I having considerable debts in that county, besides my plantation concerns, where (in one and th' other) I had much more severely suffered, than any of themselves by th' Indians disturbances in the sumer and winter foregoing. I held it not (then) discreet to disoblige the rules of it, so Coll. Mason with myself were elected without objection, he at time convenient went on horseback ; I took my sloop and the morning I arriv'd to James town after a weeks voyage, was welcom;d with the strange acclamations of All's over Bacon is taken, having not heard at home of the southern comotons, other than rumours like idle tales, of one Bacon risen up in rebellion, no body knew for what, concerning the Indians.
A few of the notes from the pamphlet:
The Author says of himself, that he was a planter, that he lived in Northumberland, but was elected a member of the Assembly, in 1676, for the ty of Stafford, Col. Mason being his colleague, of which Assembly Col. Warner was Speaker, that it was the first and should be the last time of his meddling with public affairs, and he subscribes the initials of his name T. M. Whether the Records of the time, if they still exist, with the aid of these circumstances, will show what his name was, remains for further enquiry.
If this little books speaks the truth, Nathaniel Bacon will no longer be regarded as a rebel, but as a patriot. His name will be rescued from the infamy which has adhered to it for more than a century; the stigma of corruption, cruelty, and treachery, will be fixed on the administration by which he was condemned; and one more case will be added to those which prove, that insurrections proceed oftener from the misconduct of those in power, than from the factious and turbulent temper of the People.
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