the beginning of british america

On May 14, 1607, the Virginia Company settlers landed on Jamestown Island to establish an English colony 60 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Discovery of the exact location of the first fort indicates its site was in a secure place, where Spanish ships could not fire point blank into the fort. Within days of landing, the colonists were attacked by Powhatan Indians. The newcomers spent the next few weeks working to "beare and plant palisadoes" for a wooden fort. It was inside this fort that England’s first permanent colony in North America took hold and the seeds for the United States of America grew. And here today you can learn from the experts who are adding vibrant details to the Jamestown story with their archaeological research.

It is a dramatic story. Disease, famine, and sporadic attacks from the neighboring Powhatan Indians took a tremendous toll on the early population of James Fort, but there were also times when trade with the Powhatan revived the colony with food in exchange for glass beads, copper, and iron tools. Captain John Smith was particularly good at this trade. But his strict leadership also made enemies, and a mysterious gunpowder explosion badly injured him and sent him back to England in October 1609. What followed was Jamestown’s darkest hour, the "starving time" winter of 1609-10. About 300 settlers crowded into James Fort when the Indians set up a siege, and only 60 settlers survived to the next spring. Some years of peace and prosperity followed the 1614 wedding of Pocahontas, the favored daughter of Chief Powhatan, to tobacco grower John Rolfe. But her uncle led a surprise attack in 1622 that killed a third of the colonists and caused the king to take full control of the colony. In these pages you will find the thrilling story of America’s birthplace.