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John Smith was a British soldier who was a founder of the American colony of Jamestown in the early 1600s.
Pocahontas - Mini Biography (2:14)
Pocahontas was a Native American Princess, ambassador, and peacemaker to the first American settlers. She eventually was taken hostage by the British. She married John Rolfe and was renamed Rebecca.
When Pocahontas arrived in England with her husband and infant son, John Smith called her The Lady Rebecca and arranged for her to visit with Queen Anne.
Pocahontas was suffering from tuberculosis in London when John Smith came to visit her for the last time. She was so moved that Smith had come to visit that she called him father.
Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, married English colonist John Rolfe. At the time of their marriage, it was considered outrageously scandalous.
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Born in 1579 or 1580 in Lincolnshire, England, John Smith eventually made his way to America to help govern the British colony of Jamestown. After allegedly being saved from death by Pocahontas, he established trading agreements with native tribes. With his governing tactics called into question, he returned to England in 1609 and became a staunch advocate of colonization via his published works.
John Smith is believed to have been born in 1579 or 1580 in Lincolnshire, England. After a merchant’s apprenticeship, Smith decided on a life of combat and served with the English Army abroad. Working as a soldier for hire (and professing to be highly successful in his military ventures), Smith embarked on a campaign against France’s Henry IV and later against the Turks in Hungary. There he was captured and enslaved. He was sent to what is now Istanbul and served a kindhearted mistress who, not wanting Smith to be her slave, sent him to her brother’s home, where he was forced to do farm work. After receiving harsh treatment from his master, Smith killed him and escaped, eventually returning to England in the early 1600s.
Smith then came to meet with Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, who was involved with organizing a colony sponsored by the Virginia Company of London that would be sent to America. Smith was made part of a multi-person council that would govern the group, whose purpose was to generate profit in the form of mineral wealth and goods.
The voyagers set sail at the end of 1606. But during the trip, Smith was allegedly accused of mutiny and almost hanged. Managing to stay alive yet placed into custody, he arrived with the group at Chesapeake Bay in April 1607.
The settlement was named Jamestown and would eventually be known as the first permanent British North American colony. Yet initially the population dwindled as colonists succumbed to starvation and disease. And the settlers were not alone, as they were attempting to claim a region that was home to multiple Native American communities, later understood to be part of the Powhatan Confederacy.
Released from custody weeks after arrival, Smith helped overturn the leadership of colony president Edward Wingfield. Working with new president John Ratcliffe, Smith was tasked with overseeing the barter of food from the surrounding native tribes. He had also started to explore the region, which would later be detailed in publications.
In an expedition along the Chickahominy River, Smith was captured by a native band and taken to Algonquin chief Wahunsonacock, whom the English referred to as Powhatan. It is said that Powhatan's 12-year-old daughter, Pocahontas, rushed to save Smith from being killed as he was held down. After this, Powhatan allegedly regarded Smith as a figurative "son," granting him territory while having expectations of allegiance and mutual protection.
(There are historians who question whether this event actually happened, as the relationship between Smith and Pocahontas has been largely romanticized by popular culture.
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Throughout the centuries, brave explorers have fearlessly traveled the globe and beyond to discover new lands, people, animal species, riches and glory. Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal proved the world is round with his mission to sail around the world. His fellow countryman Vasco da Gama commanded the first European ship around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by sea. Norseman Leif Eriksson is regarded as the first European to reach North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Juan Ponce de León scoured Puerto Rico and Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed new trails during their Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western half of the United States. Traveling to new heights of discovery were mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. These intrepid explorers and more have made an indelible mark on human history. See all Explorers.
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