Thinking that they might have to defend their colony from a possible Spanish attack and not knowing how they would be received by the Virginia Indians, the colonists brought with them many weapons, elements of body armor, and other military equipment. The leaders of the colony and many of the settlers were practiced in the art of war, having served as soldiers in Ireland and the Low Countries. They retained military methods that worked in Virginia and abandoned or adapted those that did not.

There had been no major military battles in England since the war against Spain that ended in 1603; so, at the time of Jamestown’s settlement there was a shortage of arms and armor in England for the Virginia Company to supply to its colony. The English government strictly controlled all the military equipment, which was stored in city armories or private households of the rural gentry. The James Fort collection of weaponry reflects this situation. There are both high-quality personal arms that were probably brought by the colony’s gentlemen and there are old weapons that were considered obsolete for the modern European battlefield. These old weapons were useful to the colonists whose skirmishes and guerilla warfare with the Indians involved old-fashioned fighting.