John Smith battles Indians

This is an excerpt from chapter VI of John Smith’s third book. That is, Sir John Smith the explorer, not to be confused with Sir John Smythe, who wrote a treatise, Certain Discourses (transcription linked), praising the bow over the musket (though the two men have a surprising amount in common).

p. 65:

This gaue vs cause to prouide for the worst. Farre we went not ere seauen or eight Canowes full of men armed appeared following vs, staying to see the conclusion. Presently from each side the riuer came arrowes so fast as two or three hun∣dred could shoot them, whereat we returned to get the open. They in the Canowes let fly also as fast, but amongst them we bestowed so many shot, the most of them leaped overboard and swam ashore, but two or three escaped by rowing, being against their playnes: our Muskets they found shot further then their Bowes, for wee made not twentie shot ere they all retyred behind the next trees. Being thus got out of their trap, we seised on all their Canowes, and moored them in the midst of the open. More then an hundred arrowes stucke in our Targets, and about the boat, yet none hurt, onely Anthony Bagnall was shot in his Hat, and another in his sleeue.

This is similar to John Underhill’s account of the landing at Block Island. Surprisingly few (in this case no) casualties from a multitude of arrows, and the muskets are able to drive off the bowmen by outreaching them.

There are a couple more excerpts I want to post even though they aren’t strictly relevant evidence. Among Thomas Esper’s many mistreatments of Humfrey Barwick in his paper The Replacement of the Longbow by Firearms in the English Army, Esper reports Barwick’s suggestion that musketeers make up for their slow rate of fire by loading their piece with multiple bullets rather snidely. Yet, it was a common practice at the time, which the evidence shows if one is willing to look. For example, during the duel scene in Simplicius Simpliccissimus’s titular novel, he loads his musket with two bullets in preparation. Here are two examples of the practice from Smith:

Third book, chapter II, p. 45:

Sixtie or seaventie of them, some blacke, some red, some white, some party-coloured, came in a square order, singing and dauncing out of the woods, with their Okee (which was an Idoll made of skinnes, stuffed with mosse, all painted and hung with chaines and copper) borne before them: and in this manner being well armed, with Clubs, Targets, Bowes and Arrowes, they charged the English, that so kindly receiued them with their muskets loaden with Pistoll shot, that downe fell their God, and divers lay sprauling on the ground; the rest fled againe to the woods, and ere long sent one of their Quiyoughkasoucks to offer peace, and redeeme their Okee.

Third book, chapter V, p. 56:

Repairing our saile with our shirts, we set sayle for the maine and fell with a pretty convenient riuer on the East called Cuskarawaok,*the people ran as amazed in troups from place to place, and diuers got into the tops of trees, they were not sparing of their arrowes, nor the greatest passion they could expresse of their anger. Long they shot, we still ryding at an Anchor without there reatch making all the signes of friendship we could. The next day they came vnarmed, with euery one a basket, dancing in a ring, to draw vs on shore: but seeing there was nothing in them but villany, we discharged a volly of muskets charged with pistoll shot, whereat they all lay tumbling on the grownd, creeping some one way, some another into a great cluster of reedes hard by; where there companies lay in Ambuscado. Towards the euening we wayed, & approaching the shoare, discharging fiue or six shot among the reedes, we landed where there lay a many of baskets and much bloud, but saw not a Salvage.

Smith also lists the prices of many necessary provisions for colonists. The prices he gives for ammunition are significantly higher than the ones in my previous blog post.

Armes for a man, but if halfe your men be armed it is well, so all haue swords and peeces.

1 Armor compleat, light.

17 s.

1 long peece fiue foot and a halfe, neere Musket bore.

1 l. 2 s.

1 Sword.

5 s.

1 Belt.

1 s.

1 Bandilier.

1 s. 6 d.

2 pound of powder.

18 s.

6 pound of shot or Lead, Pistoll and Goose shot.

5 s.

One thought on “John Smith battles Indians

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s