After Captain John Smith's departure from Jamestown in October 1609, a full-scale war broke out with the Powhatan Indians. They "all revolted, and did murder and spoile all they could incounter." The Indians attacked, wiping out an English post at Nansemond and pushing the English out of their garrison by the falls of the James River. With drought continuing, this moment appeared the Powhatans' best chance for ending the English settlement in the region.
The Indians organized a siege of James Fort, killing the settlers' livestock roaming in the woods and picking off any settler who ventured outside the palisade. The rapidly dwindling supplies and unsanitary conditions of the overcrowded fort soon began to cause starvation and the spread of disease.