The First American Revolution, 100 years before 1776, as told by an eyewitness in 1705: Bacon’s Rebellion

Bacon’s Rebellion was the first major armed insurrection by American colonists against Britain and their colonial government – and it occurred a century before the American Revolution. It’s namesake was Nathaniel Bacon, a cousin of the colonial governor of Virginia, William Berkeley.

Like many of our historic events, historians at different times placed different levels of significance on the event. As I mentioned, it’s arguably the first real armed insurrection by English colonial colonists, against the crown and the colonial government. Thomas Jefferson saw it as such, and placed a patriotic emphasis on it. Many historians today, not surprisingly, cast a negative revisionist shadow on the insurrection as just another instance of European invaders pushing Native Americans off their lands, etc. etc.

Others however, have pointed out that Bacon’s Rebellion was an early example of both poor whites and poor blacks uniting to fight tyranny, in an America that was not yet completely segregated:

In defiance of the governor, Bacon organized his own militia, consisting of white and black indentured servants and enslaved black people, who joined in exchange for freedom, and attacked nearby tribes. A power struggle ensued with Bacon and his militia on one side and Berkeley, the Virginia House of Burgesses, and the rest of the colony’s elite on the other.

Inventing Black and White, Chapter 2: https://www.facinghistory.org/holocaust-and-human-behavior/chapter-2/inventing-black-and-white
This 1905 painting by Howard Pyle depicts the burning of Jamestown in 1676 by black and white rebels led by Nathaniel Bacon.

But if that was the case, it was quickly nipped in the bud:

Soon after Bacon’s Rebellion they increasingly distinguish between people of African descent and people of European descent. They enact laws which say that people of African descent are hereditary slaves. And they increasingly give some power to independent white farmers and land holders . . .

Now what is interesting about this is that we normally say that slavery and freedom are opposite things—that they are diametrically opposed. But what we see here in Virginia in the late 17th century, around Bacon’s Rebellion, is that freedom and slavery are created at the same moment.

 Ira Berlin, interview, Race: The Power of an Illusion (California Newsreel, 2003), accessed March 21, 2016.
From Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson, Torchbearer of the Revolution
Map of Virginia at the time of Bacon’s Rebellion

Tobacco is one in the same with Virginia’s origin story, and Bacon’s Rebellion was no different.

Poor farmers had been hit hard by falling tobacco prices, and many on the borders of the colony’s frontier wanted to expand westward. There, they faced threats from Native Americans intent on protecting their ancestral lands. When the colonists called on their governor for military support, he refused. 

Berkeley had long tried to balance his colonists’ wishes against those of the tribes on Virginia’s borders. But his attempts to appease all sides failed, especially when he used new trade rules to increase his wealthy friends’ fortunes. Bacon, who had recently arrived in Virginia and was Berkeley’s cousin by marriage, was disgusted by what he viewed as the governor’s disloyalty and unfairness.

Why America’s First Colonial Rebels Burned Jamestown to the Ground, by Erin Blakemore, Aug. 8, 2019: https://www.history.com/news/bacons-rebellion-jamestown-colonial-america

Sir William Berkeley enjoyed what was essentially a dictatorship over the colony of Virginia. He had been spending the tax proceeds from the local population consistent with politicians from all other recorded time periods, but was in reality unrestrained by anyone but the King.

The entire economy of Virginia was based on the tobacco industry. Prior to 1660, the Virginians did most of their tobacco export business with Holland, in exchange for Dutch goods. However, England passed the “Navigation Acts,” which required that tobacco exported from Virginia be shipped first to England, and then would be exported by merchants in England. England also began to war with Holland, resulting in disruptment of civilian tobacco export ships. Of course this pissed off the Virginia planters, and everyone employed in the tobacco economy.

In this environment of haughty British colonialism, with little to no representation of the Virginian’s interests in London, combined with a despotic and narcissistic politician ruling with an iron fist, who also happened to be enriching himself and his cronies, the outbreak of hostilities with Indians would be the breaking point.

The result was Bacon’s Rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon was the son of Thomas Bacon, a wealthy English “squire.” In 1670 he married the daughter of Sir Edward Duke, not that much to the delight of the in-laws. Following a series of bad investments, Bacon decided to pursue the American dream, and seek his fortune in Virginia.

There he might hope for quick advancement, because his cousin, also named Nathaniel Bacon, had attained a position of influence, and because he was related to Lady Berkeley, wife of the governor. Upon the advice of his grandmother, Lady Brooke, he left his wife behind until he had prepared a place for her “answerable to her quality.” Upon his arrival in Virginia he was welcomed by Sir William, and it was at his advice “or at least friendly approbation” that he purchased a plantation at Curles Neck, on the James, forty miles above Jamestown, and a tract of land at the site of Richmond, on what was then the frontier. “When first I designed Virginia my chiefest aims were a further inquiry into those western parts in order to which I chose to seat myself so remote,” he said, “I having always been delighted in solitude.”

Bacon had been in Virginia but a few months when the governor appointed him to the Council of State. This seemed a great honor indeed for a young man of twenty-eight. But Berkeley explained: “Gentlemen of your quality come very rarely into this country, and therefore when they do come are used by me with all respect.” Bacon was greatly surprised. “As to anything of public employment in the country, my tender age and manner of living, not free from follies and youthful excesses, forbad me to hope or expect any such thing…. This sudden change were enough to stagger a philosopher of more settled temper than I am.”

But it was not possible for the dictatorial governor and the hotheaded youth to get along together. Berkeley was accustomed to having obedience in return for favors. Bacon was not the man to knuckle under. It was prophetic of what was to follow that the first difference grew out of relations with the allied Indians. When poor immigrants took up holdings on the frontier rather than become tenants to wealthy men in the east, they encroached on the reservations of those Indian tribes which were under the protection of the government. They even laid out farms within the very limits of their villages. When the Indians, driven by hunger, killed any of their cattle or hogs, the frontiersmen “beat and abused them.”

Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker, 1957: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/28010/28010-h/28010-h.htm

The U.S. Library of Congress houses an original manuscript dated 1705, which appears to be a first hand account of Bacon’s Rebellion, which was apparently preserved by Thomas Jefferson himself.

Settlers roll barrels of tobacco up a ramp and onto a ship in preparation for export from Jamestown, Virginia. MPI/Getty Images

This original manuscript was presented to the Library of Congress with the following description:

This Tract was first printed in the Richmond (Va.) Enquirer, of the 1st, 5th and 8th of September 1804, from an exact copy of the original manuscript, made by Mr. Jefferson, then President of the United States; and was accompanied by the following introductory notice, addressed to the Editor:

The original Manuscript, of which the small volume now sent you is a copy, was transmitted to the President of the United States, by Mr. King, our late Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of London, in a letter of December 20, 1803. It was purchased by Mr. King at the sale of the stock of one Collins, a Bookseller in London, and when received by the President, was carefully copied by him, and with his own hand. The pages and lines of the copy correspond with those of the original. The orthography, abbreviations, punctuation, and even interleneations are preserved, so that it is a fac simile, except as to the form of the letters. The two first are evidences of the age of the writing.

This copy was lately sent as a curious and interesting historical document, by the President to his venerable friend, Mr. Wythe, with a permission to the bearer to communicate its contents to the public.

The transaction recorded in this manuscript, although of little extent or consequence, is yet marked in the history of Virginia, as having been the only rebellion which took place in the Colony, during the 168 years of its existence preceding the American Revolution, and one hundred years exactly before that event.

The rebellion of Bacon, as it is improperly called, has been little understood, its cause and course being imperfectly explained by any authentic document hitherto possessed. This renders the present narrative of real value. It appears to have been written thirty years after the event took place, by a person intimately acquainted with its origin, progress, and conclusion. It was written, too, not for the public eye, but in compliance with the wish or curiosity of a British minister, Lord Oxford. The candour and simplicity of the narrative cannot fail to command belief.

On the outside of the cover of the original MS. are the numbers 3947 and 5781. Very possibly the one may indicate the place it held in Lord Oxford’s library, and the other its number on the catalogue of the bookseller, into whose hands it came before Mr. K. became the purchaser.

The Author says of himself, that he was a planter, that he lived in Northumberland, but was elected a member of the Assembly, in 1676, for the ty of Stafford, Col. Mason being his colleague, of which Assembly Col. Warner was Speaker, that it was the first and should be the last time of his meddling with public affairs, and he subscribes the initials of his name T. M. Whether the Records of the time, if they still exist, with the aid of these circumstances, will show what his name was, remains for further enquiry.

If this little books speaks the truth, Nathaniel Bacon will no longer be regarded as a rebel, but as a patriot. His name will be rescued from the infamy which has adhered to it for more than a century; the stigma of corruption, cruelty, and treachery, will be fixed on the administration by which he was condemned; and one more case will be added to those which prove, that insurrections proceed oftener from the misconduct of those in power, than from the factious and turbulent temper of the People.”

The Beginning, Progress, and Conclusion of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, In the Years 1675 and 1676.

To the right hono’ble Robert Harley esq’e. Her Maj’ties Principal Secretary of State, and one of her most Hono’ble Privy Council. The great honour of your command obliging my pen to step aside from it’s habitual element of figures into this little treatise of history ; which having never before experienced, I am like Sutor ultra crepidam and therefore dare pretend no more than (nakedly) to recount matters of fact.

Beseeching yo’r hono’r will vouchsafe to allow, that in 30 years, divers occurrences are laps’d out of mind, and others imperfectly retained. So as the most solemn obedience can be now paid, is to pursue the track of bare-fac’d truths, as close as my memory can recollect, to have seen, or believed, from credible friends, with concurring circumstances. And whatsoever yo’r celebrated wisdom shall finde amisse in the composure, my intire dependence is upon yo’r candour favourably to accept these most sincere endeavo’rs of…Yo’r Hono’rs – Most devoted humble ser’t the 13 July 1705 . . .T.M.

This is the text of “M.T.’s” 1705 narrative:

This About the year 1675, appear’d three prodigies in that country which, from th’ attending disasters, were look’d upon as ominous presages. The one was a large comet, every evening for a week or more, at south-west, thirty-five degrees high, streaming like a horse’s taile, westwards, untill it reach’d (almost) the horrison, and setting toward the northwest. Another was, flights of pigeons, in breadth nigh a quarter of the mid hemisphere, and of their length there was no visible end; whose weight brake down the limbs of large trees whereon these rested at night, of which the fowlers shot abundance and eat ’em; this sight put the old planters under the more portentous apprehensions, because the like was seen as they said) in 1640 when th’ Indians committed the last massacre, but not after, until that present year 1675.

The third strange appearance was swarms of flyes about an inch long, and as big as the top of a man’s little finger, rising out of spigot holes in the earth, which would eat the new sprouted leaves from the tops of the trees without other harm, and in a month left us.

My dwelling was in Northumberland, the lowest county on the Potomack river, Stafford being the upmost, where, having also a plantation, servants, cattle, &c., my overseer there had agreed with one Robert Hen to come thither and be my herdsman, who then lived ten miles above it ; but on a Sabbath day morning in the summer anno 1675, people in their way to church, saw this Hen lying thwart his threshold, and an Indian without the door, both chopt on their heads, arms, and other parts, as if done with Indian hatchets, th’ Indian was dead, but Hen when ask’d who did that? answered: Doegs, Doegs, and soon died, then a boy came out from under a bed, where he had hid himself, and told them, Indians had come at break of day and done those murders.

Courtesy Cook Collection, Valentine Museum. From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Sept. 6, 1866 Bacon’s Castle, Surry County, Virginia

From this Englishman’s bloud did (by degrees) arise Bacon’s rebellion with the following mischiefs which overspread all Virginia and twice endangered Maryland, as by the ensuing account is evident.

Of this horrid action, Colonel Mason, who commanded the militia regiment of foot, and Capt. Brent, the troop of horse of that county (both dwelling six or eight miles downwards), having speedy notice, raised 30, or more men, and pursu’d those Indians 20 miles up and 4 miles over that river into Maryland, where, landing at dawn of day they found two small paths each leader with this party took a separate path and in less than a furlong, either found a cabin, which they (silently) surrounded.

Capt. Brent went to the Doegs’ cabin (as it proved to be) who speaking the Indian tongue called to have a “matchacomicha, weewhio,” i.e. a councill called presently such being the usuall manner with Indians) the king came trembling forth, and wou’d have fled, when Capt. Brent, catching hold of his twisted lock (which was all the hair he wore) told him he was come for the murderer of Robert Hen, the king pleaded ignorance and slipt loos, whom Brent shot dead with his pistoll, th’ Indians shot two or three guns out of the cabin, th’ English shot into it, th’ Indians throng’d out at the door and fled, the English shot as many as they cou’d, so that they killed ten, as Capt. Brent told me, and brought away the king’s son of about 8 years old, concerning whom is an observable passage, at the end of this expedition; the noise of this shooting awaken’d the Indians in the cabin, which Coll. Mason had encompassed, who likewise rush’d out and fled, of whom his company (supposing from that noise of shooting Brent’s party to be engaged) shot (as the Coll. informed me) fourteen before an Indian came, who with both hands shook him (friendly) by one arm saying Susquehanoughs netoughs i.e. Susquehanough friends and fled, whereupon he ran amongst his men, crying out “ffor the Lords sake shoot no more, these are our friends the Susquehanoughs.

This unhappy scene ended; Col. Mason took the king of the Doegs son home with him, who lay ten dayes in bed, as one dead, with eyes and mouth shut, no breath discern’d, but his body continuing warm, they believed him yet alive; th’ aforenamed Capt. Brent (a papist) coming thither on a visit, and seeing his little prisoner thus languishing said “perhaps he is pawewawd i. e. bewitch’d, and that he had heard baptism was an effectuall remedy against witchcraft wherefore advis’d to baptize him Collo. Mason answered, no minister cou’d be had in many miles; Brent replied yo’r clerk Mr. Dobson may do that office, which was done by the church of England liturgy; Coll. Mason with Capt. Brent godfather and Mrs. Mason godmother, my overseer Mr. Pimet being present, from whom I first heard it, and which all th’ other persons (afterwards) affirm’d to me; the ffour men return’d to drinking punch, but Mrs. Mason staying and looking on the child, it open’d the eyes and breath’d, whereat she ran for a cordial, which he took from a spoon, gaping for more and so (by degrees) recovered, tho’ before his baptism, they had often tryed the same meanes but could not by no endeavours wrench open his teeth. This was taken for a convincing proofe against infidelity.

But to return from this digression, the Susquehanoughs were newly driven from their habitations, at the head of Chesepiack bay, by the Cineca Indians, down to the head of Potomack, where they sought protection under the Pascataway Indians, who had a fort near the head of that river, and also were our friends.

After this unfortunate exploit of Mason and Brent, one or two being kill’d in Stafford, boats of war were equipt to prevent excursions over the river, and at the same time murders being (likewise) committed in Maryland, by whom not known, on either side the river, both countrys raised their quota’s of a thousand men, upon whose coming before the ffort, th’ Indians sent out 4 of their great men, who ask’d the reason of that hostile appearance, what they said more or offered, I do not remember to have heard; but our two comanders caused them to be (instantly) slaine, after which the Indians made an obstinate resistance shooting many of our men, and making frequent, fierce and bloody sallyes, and when they were call’d to, or offered parley, gave no other answer, than “where are our four cockarouses, i.e. great men?

At the end of six weeks, march’d out seventy five Indians with their women children &c. who (by moonlight past our guards hallowing and firing att them without opposition, leaving 3 or 4 decrepits in the ffort. The walls of this fort were high banks of earth, with fflankers having many loop-holes, and a ditch round all, and without this a row of tall trees fastned 3 foot deep in the earth, their bodies from 5 to 8 inches diameter, watled 6 inches apart to shoot through with the tops twisted together, and also artificially wrought, as our men could make no breach to storm it nor (being low land) coud they undermind it by reason of water neither had they cannon to batter itt, so that ’twas not taken, until famine drive the Indians out of it.

They escap’d Indians (forsaking Maryland) took their rout over the head of that river, and thence over the heads of Rapahanock and York rivers, killing whom they found of th’ upmost plantations untill they came to the head of James river, where (with Bacon and others) they slew Mr. Bacon’s overseer, whom he much loved, and one of his servants, whose bloud hee vowed to revenge if possible.

In these frightfull times the most exposed small families withdrew into our houses of better numbers, which we fortified with pallisadoes and redoubts, neighbours in bodies joined their labours from each plantation to others alternately, taking their arms into the ffields, and setting centinels; no man stirr’d out of door unarm’d, Indians were (ever and anon) espied, three 4. 5. 6 in a party lurking throughout the whole land, yet (what was remarkable) I rarely heard of any houses burnt, though abundance was forsaken, nor ever, of any corn or tobacco cut up, or other injury done, besides murders, except the killing a very few cattle and swine.

Frequent complaints of bloodshed were sent to S’r Wm. Berkeley (then Govern’r) from the heads of the rivers, which were as often answered with promises of assistance. These at the heads of James and York rivers (having now most people destroyed by the Indians fflight thither from Potomack) grew impatient at the many slaughters of their neighbours and rose for their own defence, who chusing Mr. Bacon for their leader sent oftentimes to the Govern’r, humbly beseeching a comission to go against those Indians at their own charge which his hono’r as often promisd but did not send; the misteryes of these delays, were wondred at and which I ne’re heard any coud into, other than the effects of his passion, and a new (not to be mentioned) occasion of avarice, to both which, he was (by the comon vogue) more than a little addicted: whatever were the popular surmizes and murmurings, vizt. “that no bullets would pierce bever skins. “rebbells forfeitures would be loyall inheritances &c.

During these protractions and people often slaine, most or all the officers, civil and military with as many dwellers next the heads of the rivers as made up 300 men taking Mr. Bacon for their coman’r, met, and concerted together, the danger of going without a comiss’n on the one part, and the continuall murders of their neighbors on th’ other part (not knowing whose or how many of their own turns might be next) and came to this resolution vizt. to prepare themselves with necessaries for a march, but interim to send again for a comission, which if could or could not be obteyned by a certaine day, they woud proceed comission or no comission.

This day lapsing and no com’n come, they march’d into the wilderness in quest of these Indians after whom the Govern’r sent his proclamacon, denouncing all rebells, who shoud not return within a limited day, whereupon those of estates obey’d; but Mr. Bacon with 57 men proceded untill their provisions were near spent, without finding enemy’s when coming nigh a ffort of ffriend Indians, on the’ other side a branch of James river, they desired reliefe offering paym’t. which these Indians kindly promised to help them with on the morrow, but put them off with promises untill the third day, so as having then eaten their last morsells they could not return, but must have starved in the way homeward and now ’twas suspected, these Indians had received private messages from the Governo’r. and those to be the causes of these delusive procrastinations; whereupon the English waded shoulder deep thro’ that branch to the fort pallisado’s still intreating and tendering pay, for victuals ; but that evening a shot from the place they left on the other side of that branch kill’d one of Mr. Bacon’s men, which made them believe, those in the fort had sent for other Indians to come behind ’em and cut ’em off.

Hereupon they fired the palisado’s, storm’d & burnt the fort and cabins, and (with the loss of three English) slew 150 Indians. The circumstances of this expedicn Mr. Bacon entertain’d me with, at his own chamber, at a visit I made him, the occasion whereof is hereafter menconed.

Nathaniel Bacon (right) and his rebel followers confront Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley with his failure to protect them from Native American attacks.
MPI/Getty Images

From hence they return’d home where writts were come up to elect members for an assembly, when Mr. Bacon was unanimously chosen for one, who coming down the river was comanded by a ship with guns to come on board, where waited Major Hone the high sheriff of Jamestown ready to seize him, by whom he was carried down to the Govern’s and by him receiv’d with a surprizing civillity in the following words “Mr. Bacon have you forgot to be a gentleman. No, may it please yo’r hon’r answer’d Mr. Bacon; then replyed the Gover’r I’ll take yo’r parol, and gave him his liberty in March 1675-76 writts came up to Stafford to choose their two members for an assembly to meet in May; when Collo. Mason Capt. Brent and other gentlemen of that county, invited me to stand a candidate; a matter I little dreamt of, having never had inclinacons to tamper in the precarious intrigues of govern’t. and my hands being full of my own business; they preas’t severall cogent argum’ts. and I having considerable debts in that county, besides my plantation concerns, where (in one and th’ other) I had much more severely suffered, than any of themselves by th’ Indians disturbances in the sumer and winter foregoing.

I held it not (then) discreet to disoblige the rules of it, so Col. Mason with myself were elected without objection, he at time convenient went on horseback ; I took my sloop and the morning I arriv’d to James town after a weeks voyage, was welcom;d with the strange acclamations of All’s over Bacon is taken, having not heard at home of the southern comotons, other than rumours like idle tales, of one Bacon risen up in rebellion, no body knew for what, concerning the Indians.

The next forenoon, th’ assembly being met in a chamber over the generall court & our speaker chosen, the govern’r sent for us down, where his hono’r with a pathetic emphasis made a short abrupt speech wherein were these words. “If they had killed my grandfather and grandmother, my father and mother and all my friends, yet if they come to treat of peace, they ought to have gone in peace and sat down. The two chief comanders at the forementioned siege, who slew the ffour Indian great men, being present and part of our assembly.

The govern’r stood up againe and said “if there be joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth, there is joy now, for we have a penitent sinner come before us, call Mr. Bacon; then did Mr. Bacon upon one knee at the bar deliver a sheet of paper confessing his crimes, and begging pardon of God the king and the govern’r. Whereto (after a short pause) he answered “God forgive you, I forgive you, thrice repeating the same words ; when Col. Cole (one of the council) said, “and all that were with him, Yea, said the govern’r and all that were with him, twenty or more persons being then in irons who were taking coming down in the same and other vessels with Mr. Bacon.

About a minute after this the govern’r starting up from his chair a third time said “Mr. Bacon! if you will live civilly but till next quarter court (doubling the words) but till next quarter court, Ile promise to restore you againe to yo’r place there pointing with his hand to Mr. Bacons seat, he having been of the councill before these troubles, tho’ he had been a very short time in Virginia but was deposed by the foresaid proclamacon, and in th’ afternoon passing by the court door, in my way up to our chamber, I saw Mr. Bacon on this quondam seat with the govern’r and councill, which seemed a marveilous indulgence to one whom he had so lately proscribed as a rebel.

The govern’r had directed us to consider of meanes for security from th’ Indian insults and to defray the charge &c. advising us to beware of two rogues amongst us, naming Laurence and Drumond both dwelling at Jamestown and who were not at the Pascataway siege. But at our entrance upon businesse, some gentlemen took this opportunity to endeavor the redressing several grievances the country then labour’d under, motions were made for inspecting the publick revenues, the collectors accompts &c. and so far was proceeded as to name part of a committee whereof Mr. Bristol (now in London) was and myself another, when we were interrupted by pressing messages from the govern’r to medle with nothing, until the Indian business was dispatch’t.

This debate rose high, but was overruled and I have not heard that those inspections have since then been insisted upon, tho’ such of that indigent people as had no benefits from the taxes groand under our being thus overborn. The next thing was a committee for the Indian affaires, whereof in appointing the members, myself was unwillingly nominated having no knowledge in martial preparations, and after our names were taken, some of the house moved for sending 2 of our members to intreat the govern’r wou’d please to assign two of his councill to sit with, and assist us in our debates, as had been usuall. When seeing all silent looking each at other with many discontented faces, I adventur’d to offer my humble opinion to the speaker “for the committee to form methods as agreeable to the sense of the house as we could, and report ’em whereby they would more clearly see, on what points to give the govern’r and council that trouble if perhaps it might bee needful.

These few words rais’d an uproar, one party urging hard “it had been customary and ought not to be omitted; whereto Mr. Presly my neighbour an old assembly man, sitting next me, rose up, and (in a blundering manner replied) “tis true, it has been customary, but if we have any bad customes amongst us, we are come here to mend ’em which set the house in a laughter. This was huddl’d off without coming to a vote, and so the committee must submit to be overaw’d, and have every carpt at expression carried streight to the governor.

Our commitee being sat, the Queen of Pamunkey (descended from Oppechankenough a former Emperor of Virginia) was introduced, who

. . . entered the chamber with a comportment graceful to admiration, bringing on her right hand an Englishman interpreter, and on the left her son a stripling twenty years of age, she having round her head a plat of black and white wampum peague three inches broad in imitation of a crown, and was cloathed in a mantle of dress’t deer skins with the hair outwards and the edge cut round 6 inches deep which made strings resembling twisted frenge from the shoulders to the feet; thus with grave courtlike gestures and a majestick air in her face, she walk’d up our long room to the lower end of the table, where after a few intreaties she sat down; th’ interpreter and her son standing by her on either side as they walked up, our chairman asked her what men she woud lend us for guides in the wilderness and to assist us against our enemy Indians . . . .

. . . she spake to th’ interpreter to inform her what the chairman said, (tho’ we believed she understood him) he told us she bid him ask her son to whom the English tongue was familiar, and who was reputed the son of an English colonel, yet neither woud he speak to or seem to understand the chairman but th’ interpreter told us, he referred all to his mother, who being againe urged she after a little musing with an earnest passionate countenance as if tears were ready to gush out and a fervent sort of expression made a harangue about a quarter of an hour often, interlacing (with a high shrill voice and vehement passion) these words “Tatapatamoi Chepiack, i.e. Tatapamoi dead.

Coll. Hill being next me, shook his head, I ask’d him what was the matter, he told me all she said was too true to our shame, and that his father was general in that battle, where diverse years before Tatapatamoi her husband had led a hundred of his Indians in help to th’ English against our former enemy Indians, and was there slaine with most of his men; for which no compensation (at all) had been to that day rendered to her wherewith she now upbraided us.

Her discourse ending and our morose chairman not advancing one cold word toward asswaging the anger and grief her speech and demeanor manifested under her oppression, nor taking any notice of all she had said, neither considering that we (then) were in our great exigency; supplicants to her for a favour of the same kind as the former, for which we did not deny the having been so ingrate, he rudely push’d againe the same question “what Indians will you now contribute, &c.? of this disregard she signified her resentment by a disdainfull aspect, and turning her head half aside, sate mute till that same question being press’d, a third time, she not returning her face to the board, answered with a low slighting voice in her own language “twelve, tho’ she then had a hundred and fifty Indian men, in her town, and so rose up and gravely walked away, as not pleased with her treatment.

Whilst some daies passed in setling the quota’s of men arms and amunicon provisions &c. each county was to furnish, one morning early a bruit ran about the town Bacon is fled, Bacon is fled, whereupon I went straight to Mr. Lawrence, who (formerly) was of Oxford university, and for wit learning and sobriety was equall’d there by few, and who some years before (as Col. Lee tho’ one of the councill and a friend of the govern’rs inform’d me) had been partially treated at law, for a considerable estate on behalf of a corrupt favourite; which Lawrence complaining loudly of, the govern’r bore him a grudge and now shaking his head, said, “old treacherous villain, and that his house was scarcht that morning, at day break, but Bacon was escaped into the country, having intimation that the governor’s generosity in pardoning him, and his followers and restoring him to his seat in councill, were no other than previous weadles to amuse him and his adherents and to circumvent them by stratagem, forasmuch as the taking Mr. Bacon again into the councill was first to keep him out of assembly, and in the next place the govern’r knew the country people were hastning down with dreadfull threatnings to double revenge all wrongs shoud be done to Mr. Bacon or his men, or whoever shou’d have had the least hand in ’em.

And so much was true that this Mr. Young Nathaniel Bacon (not yet arrived to 30 yeares) had a nigh relation namely Col. Nathaniel Bacon of long standing in the council a very rich politick man, and childless, designing this kinsman for his heir, who (not without much paines) had prevailed with his uneasy cusin to deliver the forementioned written recantation at the bar, having compiled it ready to his hand and by whose means ’twas supposed that timely intimation was conveyed to the young gentleman to flee for his life, and also in 3 or 4 daies after Mr. Bacon was first seiz’d I saw abundance of men in town come thither from the heads of the rivers, who finding him restor’d and his men at liberty, return’d home satisfied; a few daies after which the govern’r seeing all quiet, gave out private warrants to take him againe, intending as was thought to raise the militia, and so to dispose things as to prevent his friends from gathering any more into a like numerous body and coming down a second time to save him.

In three of ffour daies after this escape, upon news that Mr. Bacon was 30 miles up the river, at the head of four hundred men, the govern’r sent to the parts adjacent, on both sides James river for the militia and all the men could be gotten to come and defend the town, espress’s came almost hourly of th’ army’s approaches, who in less than 4 daies after the first account of ’em att 2 of the clock entered the town, without being withstood, and form’d a body upon a green, not a flight shot from the end of the state house of horse and foot, as well regular as veteran troops, who forthwith possest themselves of all the avenues, disarming all in town, and coming thither in boats or by land.

In half an hour after this the drum beat for the house to meet, and in less than an hour more Mr. Bacon came with a file of ffusileers on either hand near the corner of the state house where the govern’r and councill went forth to him; we saw from the window the govern’r open his breast, and Bacon strutting betwixt his two files of men with his left arm on Kenbow flinging his right arm every way both like men distracted; and if in this moment of fury, that enraged multitude had faln upon the govern’r and council we of the assembly expected the same imediate fate; I stept down and amongst the crowd of spectators found the seamen of my sloop, who pray’d me not to stir from them, when in two minutes, the govern’r walk’d towards his private apartm’t.

A coits cast distant at th’ other end of the state house, the gentlemen of the council following him, and after them walked Mr. Bacon with outragious postures of his head arms body, and leggs, often tossing his hand from his sword to his hat and after him came a detachment of ffusileers (muskets not being there in use) who with their cocks bent presented their fusils at a window of the assembly chamber filled with faces, repeating with menacing voices “we will have it, we will have it, half a minute when as one of our house a person known to many of them, shook his handkercher out at the window, saying you shall have it, you shall have it, 3 or 4 times; at these words they sate down their fusils unbent their locks and stood still until Bacon coming back, followed him to their main body; in this hubub a servant of mine got so nigh as to hear the govern’rs words, and also followed Mr. Bacon, and heard what he said, who came and told me, that when the govern’r opened his breast he said “here! shoot me, foregod fair mark shoot, often rehearsing the same, without any other words; whereto Mr. Bacon answer’d “no may it please yo’r hono’r we will not hurt a hair of yo’r head, nor of any other mans, we are come for a comission to save our lives from th’ Indians, which you have so often promised, and now we will have it before we go.

But when Mr. Bacon followed the govern’r and councill with the forementioned impetuos (like delirious) actions whil’st that party presented their fusils at the window full of faces, he said “Dam my bloud I’le kill govern’r council assembly and all, and then I’le sheath my sword in my own heart’s bloud; and afterwards ’twas said Bacon had given a signal to his men who presented their fusils at those gasing out at the window, that if he shoud draw his sword, they were on sight of it to fire, and slay us, so near was the massacre of us all that very minute, had Bacon in that paroxism of phrentick fury but drawn his sword before the pacifick handkercher was shaken out at the window.

In an hour or more after these violent concussions Mr. Bacon came up to our chamber and desired a comission from us to go against the Indians; our speaker sat silent, when one of Mr. Blayton a neighbor to Mr. Bacon and elected with him a member of assembly for the same county (who therefore durst speak to him) made answer, “’twas not in our province, or power, nor of any other, save the king’s viceregent our govern’r, he press’d hard nigh half an hours harangue on the preserving our lives from the Indians, inspecting the publick revenues, th’ exorbitant taxes and redressing the grievances and calamities of that deplorable country, whereto having no other answer, he went away dissatisfied.

Next day there was a rumour the govern’r and councill had agreed Mr. Bacon shou’d have a comission to go generall of the forces, we then were raising, whereupon I being a member for Stafford, the most northern frontier, and where the war begun, considering that Mr. Bacon dwelling in the most southern frontier county, might the less regard the parts I represented, I went to Col. Cole (an active member of the council) desiring his advise, if applicacons to Mr. Bacon on that subject were then seasonable and safe, which he approving and earnestly advising I went to Mr. Lawrence who was esteemed Mr. Bacons principal consultant, to whom he took me with him, and there left me where I was entertained 2 or 3 hours with the particular relacons of diverse before recited transactions; and as to the matter I spake of, he told me, that th’ govern’r had indeed promised him the comand of the forces, and if his hon’r shou’d keep his word (which he doubted) he assured me “the like care shoud be taken of the remotest corners in the land, as of his own dwelling-house, and pray’d me to advise him what persons in those parts were most fit to bear comands I frankly gave him my opinion that the most satisfactory gentlemen to govern’r and people, would be comanders of the militia, wherewith he was well pleased, and himself wrote a list of those nominated.

That evening I made known what had past with Mr. Bacon to my colleague Col. Mason (whose bottle attendance doubled my task) the matter he liked well, but questioned the govern’rs approbacon of it. I confess’d the case required sedate thoughts, reasoning, that he and such gentlemen must either comand or be comanded, and if on their denials Mr. Bacon should take distaste, and be constrained to appoint comanders out of the rabble, the govern’r himself with the persons and estates of all in the land woud be at their dispose, whereby their own ruine might be owing to themselves; in this he agreed and said “If the govern’r woud give his own comission he would be content to serve under generall Bacon (as now he began to be intituled) but first woud consult other gentlemen in the same circumstances; who all concur’d ’twas the most safe barier in view against pernicious designes, if such shoud be put in practice; with this I acquainted Mr. Lawrence who went (rejoicing) to Mr. Bacon with the good tidings, that the militia comanders were inclined to serve under him, as their generall, in case the governor woud please to give them his own comissions.

Wee of the house proceeded to finish the bill for the war, which by the assent of the govern’r and councill being past into an act the govern’r sent us a letter directed to his majesty, wherein were these words “I have above 30 years governed the most flourishing country the sun ever shone over, but am now encompassed with rebellion like waters in every respect like to that of Massanello except their leader, and of like import was the substance of that letter. But we did not believe his hono’r sent us all the wrote to his majesty.

Some judicious gentlemen of our house likewise penn’d a letter or remonstrance to be sent his maj’tie setting forth the gradations of those erupcons, and two or three of them with Mr. Minge our clerk brought it me to compile a few lines forthe conclusion of it, which I did (tho’ not without regret in those watchfull times, when every man had eyes on him, but what I wrote was with all possible deference to the govern’r and in the most soft terms my pen cou’d find the case to admit.

Col. Spencer being my neighbor and intimate friend, and a prevalent member in the council I pray’d him to intreat the govern’r we might be dissolved, for that was my first and shoud be my last going astray from my wonted sphere of merchandize and other my private concernments into the dark and slippery meanders of court embarrassments, he told me the govern’r had not (then) determined his intention, but he wou’d move his hono’r about itt, and in 2 or 3 dayes we were dissolved, which I was most heartily glad of, because of my getting loose againe from being hampered amongst those pernicious entanglem’ts in the labyrinths and snares of state ambiguities, and which untill then I had not seen the practice nor the dangers of, for it was observ’d that severall of the members had secret badges of distinction fixt upon ’em, as not docill enough to gallop the future races, that court seem’d dispos’d to lead ’em, whose maximes I had ofte times heard whisper’d before, and then found confirm’d by diverse considerate gentlem’n vizt. “that the wise and the rich were prone to ffaction and sedition but the fools and poor were easy to be governed.

Many members being met one evening nigh sunsett, to take our leaves each of other, in order next day to return homewards, came Genll. Bacon with his hand full of unfolded papers and overlooking us round, walking in the room said “which of these gentlem’n shall I intreat to write a few words for me where every one looking aside as not willing to meddle; Mr. Lawrence pointed at me saying “that gentleman writes very well which I endeavouring to excuse, Mr. Bacon came stooping to the ground and said “pray Sir do me the hon’r to write a line for me.

This surprizing accostm’t shockt me into a melancholy consternation, dreading upon one hand, that Stafford county would feel the smart resentment if I should refuse him whose favour I had so lately sought and been generously promis’d on their behalf; and on th’ other hand fearing the govern’rs displeasure who I knew woud soon hear of it: what seem’d most prudent at this hazadous dilemma, was to obviate the present impending peril; so Mr. Bacon made me sit the whole night by him filling up those papers, which I then saw were blank comissions sign’d by the govern’r incerting such name and writing other matters as he dictated; which I took to be the happy effects of the consult before mentioned, with the comanders of the militia because he gave me the names of very few others to put into these comissions, and in the morning he left me with an hours worke or more to finish, when came to me Capt. Carver, and said he had been to wait on the Generall for a comission, and that he was resolved to adventure his old bones against the Indian rogues with other the like discourse, and at length told me that I was in mighty favor and he was bid to tell me, that whatever I desired in the general’s power, was at my service, I pray’d him humbly to thank his hon’r and to acquaint him I had no other boon to crave, than his promis’d kindnesse to Stafford county, for beside the not being worthy, I never had been conversant in military matters, and also having lived tenderly, my service cou’d be of no benefit because the hardships and fatigues of a wilderness campaigne would put a speedy period to my daies little expecting to hear of more intestine broiles, I went home to Patomack, where reports were afterwards various: we had account that General Bacon was march’d with a thousand men into the fforest to seek the enemy Indians, and in a few daies after our next news was, that the govern’r had sumoned together the militia of Glocester and Middlesex counties to the number of twelve hundred men, and proposed to them to follow and suppress that rebell Bacon;

whereupon arose a murmuring before his face “Bacon Bacon Bacon, and all walked out of the field, muttering as they went “Bacon Bacon Bacon, leaving the governor and those that came with him to themselves, who being thus abandon’d wafted over Chese-piacke bay 30 miles to Occomack where are two countres of Virginia.

Mr. Bacon hearing of this came back part of the way, and sent out parties of horse patrolling through every county, carrying away prisoners all whom he distrusted might any more molest his Indian prosecucon yet giving liberty to such as pledg’d him their oaths to return home and live quiet; the copies or contents of which oaths I never saw, but heard were very strict, tho’ little observed.

About this time was a spie detected pretending himself a deserter who had twice or thrice come and gone from party to party and was by councill of warr sentenced to death, after which Bacon declared openly to him “that if any one man in the army wou’d speak a word to save him, he shou’d not suffer, which no man appearing to do, he was excecuted, upon this manifestation of clemency Bacon was applauded for a mercifull man, not wiling to spill Christian bloud, nor indeed was it said, that he put any other man to death in cold bloud, or plunder any house; nigh the same time came Maj. Langston with his troop of horse and quarterd two nights at my house who (after high compliments from the generall) told me I was desired “to accept the lieutenancy for preserving the peace in the s. northern counties betwixt Potomack and Rappahannock rivers, I humbly thank’d his hon’r excusing myself; as I had done before on that invitation of the like nature at Jamestown, but did hear he was mightily offended at my evasions and threatened to remember me.

The govern’r made a 2d attempt coming over from Accomack with what men he could procure in sloops and boats forty miles up the river to Jamestown, which Bacon hearing of, came againe down from his fforest persuit, and finding a bank not a flight shot long, cast up thwart the neck of the peninsula there in Jamestown, he stormed it, and took the town, in which attack were 12 men slaine and wounded but the govern’r with most of his followers fled back, down the river in their vessells.

Here resting a few daies they concerted the burning of the town, wherein Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Drumond owning the two best houses save one, set fire each to his own house, which example the souldiers following laid the whole town (with church and state-house) in ashes, saying, the rogues should harbour no more there. On these reiterated molestacons Bacon calls a convention at Midle plantation 15 miles from Jamestown in the month of August 1676, where an oath with one or more proclamations were formed, and writts by him issued for an assembly; the oaths or writs I never saw, but one proclamation comanded all men in the land on pain of death to joine him and retire into the wildernesse upon arrivall of the forces expected from England, and oppose them untill they shoud propose or accept to treat of an accomodation, which we who lived comfortably could not have undergone, so as the whole land must have become an Aceldama if God’s exceeding mercy had not timely removed him.

During these tumults in Virginea a 2d danger menaced Maryland by an insurrection in that province, complaining of their heavy taxes &c. where 2 or 3 of the leading malecontents (men otherwise of laudable characters) were put to death, which stifled the father spreading of that flame, Mr. Bacon (at this time) press’t the best ship in James river carrying 20 guns and putting into her his lieutenant general Mr. Bland (a gentleman newly come thither from England to possesse the estate of his deceased uncle late of the council) and under him the forementioned Capt. Carver formerly a comander of merch’ts ships with men and all necessaries, he sent her to ride before Accomack to curb and intercept all smaller vessels of war comission’d by the govern’r coming often over and making depredations on the western shoar, as if we had been fforreign enemies, which gives occasion to his place to digresse a few words.

At first assembly after the peace came a message to them from the govern’r for some marks of distinction to be sett on his loyal friends of Accomack, who received him in his adversity which when came to be consider’d Col. Warner (then speaker) told the house “ye know that what mark of distinction his hon’r coud have sett on those of Accomack unlesse to give them earmarks or burnt marks for robbing and ravaging honest people, who stay’d at home and preserv’d the estates of those who ran away, when none intended to hurt ’em.

Now returning to Capt. Carver the govern’r sent for him to come on shoar, promising his peacable return, who answer’d, he could not trust his word, but if he woud send his hand and seal, he wou’d adventure to wait upon his hono’r which was done, and Carver went in his sloop well armed and man’d with the most trusty of his men where he was caress’d with wine &c. and large promises, if he would forsake Bacon, resigne his ship or joine with him; to all which he answer’d that “if he served the Devill he woud be true to his trust, but that he was resolved to go home and live quiet.

In the time of this recepcon and parley, an armed boat was prepared with many oars in a creek not far off, but out of sight, which when Carver sail’d, row’d out of the creek, and it being almost calm the boat outwent the sloop whilst all on board the ship were upon the deck, staring at both, thinking the boats company coming on board by Carvers invitation to be civilly entertained in requitall of the kindness (they supposed he had received on shoar, untill coming under the stern, those in the boat slipt nimbly in at the gun room ports with pistols &c. When one couragious gentleman ran up to the deck, and clapt a pistoll to Blands breast, saying you are my prisoner, the boats company suddainly following with pistolls swords &c. And after Capt. Larimore (the comander of the ship before she was prest) having from the highest and hindmost part of the stern interchang’d a signal from the shoar by flirting his handkercher about his nose, his own former crew had laid handspikes ready, which they (at that instant) caught up &c. so as Bland and Carvers men were amazed and yielded.

Carver seeing a hurly burly on the ships deck, would have gone away with his sloop, but having little wind and the ship threatning to sink him, he tamely came on board; where Bland and he with their party were laid in irons and in 3 or 4 daies Carver was hang’d on shoar, which Sir Henry Chicheley the first of the councill then a prisoner, (with diverse other gentlemen) to Mr. Bacon, did afterwards exclaim against as a most rash and wicked act of the govern’r. he (in particular) expecting to have been treated by way of reprizall, as Bacons friend Carver had been by the govern’r. Mr. Bacon now returns from his last expedicon sick of a fflux; without finding any enemy Indians, having not gone far by reason of the vexations behind him, nor had he one dry day in all his marches to and fro in the forest whilst the plantations (not 50 miles distant) had a sumer so dry as stinted the Indian corn and tobacco &c. Which the people ascribed to the pawawings i.e. the sorceries of the Indians, in a while Bacon dyes and was succeeded by his Lieuten’t Genll. Ingram, who had one Wakelet next in comand under him, whereupon hasten’d over the govern’r to York river, and with him they articled for themselves and whom else they could, and so all submitted and were pardoned exempting those nominated and otherwise proscribed, in a proclamation of indempnity, the principall of whom were Lawrence and Drumond.

Mr. Bland was then a prisoner having been taken with Carver, as before noted, and in few daies Mr. Drumond was brought in, when the govern’r being on board a ship came imediately to shore and complimented him with the ironicall sarcasm of a low bend, saying “Mr. Drumond! you are very welcome, I am more glad to see you, than any man in Virginia, Mr. Drumond you shall be hang’d in half an hour; who answered what yo’r hon’r pleases, and as soon as a council of war cou’d meet, his sentence be dispatcht and a gibbet erected (which took up near two houses) he was executed.

third statehouse at Jamestown, burned in Bacon’s Rebellion
Source: National Park Service, America’s Oldest Legislative Assembly and Its Jamestown Statehouse

This Mr. Drumond was a sober Scotch gentleman of good repute with whome I had not a particular acquaintance, nor do I know the cause of that rancour his hono’r had against him, other than his pretensions in comon for the publick but meeting him by accident the morning I left the town, I advis’d him to be very wary, for he saw the govern’r had put a brand upon him he (gravely expressing my name) answered “I am in over shoes, I will be over boots, which I was sorry to heare and left him.

The last account of Mr. Lawrence was from an uppermost plantation, whence he and four others desperado’s with horses pistols &c. march’d away in a snow ancle deep, who were thought to have cast themselves into a branch of some river, rather than be treated like Drumond.

Bacons body was so made away, as his bones were never found to be exposed on a gibbet as was purpos’d, stones being laid in his coffin, supposed to be done by Lawrence.

Near this time arrived a small fleet with a regiment from England S’r John Berry admirall, Col. Herbert Jefferies comander of the land forces and Collo. Morrison who had one year been a former govern’r there, all three joined in comission with or to S’r William Barclay, soon after when a generall court and also an assembly were held, where some of our former assembly (with so many others) were put to death, diverse whereof were persons of honest reputations and handsome estates, as that the assembly petitioned the governour to spill no more bloud, and Mr. Presley at his coming home told me, he believed the govern’r would have hang’d half the countrey, if they had let him alone.

The first was Mr. Bland whose friends in England had procured his pardon to be sent over with the fleet, which he pleaded at his tryal, was in the govern’rs pocket (tho’ whether ’twas so, or how it came there, I know not, yet did not hear ’twas openly contradicted,) but he was answered by Coll. Morrison that he pleaded his pardon at swords point, which was look’d upon an odd sort of reply, and he was executed; (as was talked) by private instructions from England the Duke of York having sworn “by God Bacon and Bland shoud dye.

The govern’r went in the ffleet to London (whether by comand from his majesty or spontaneous I did not hear) leaving Col. Jefferyes in his place, and by next shipping came back a person who waited on his hono’r in his voyage, and untill his death, from whom a report was whisper’d about, that the king did say “that old fool has hang’d more men in that naked country, than he had done for the murther of his ffather, whereof the governo’r hearing dyed soon after without having seen his majesty; which shuts up this tragedy.

To avoid capture by Nathaniel Bacon’s army, Governor Berkeley fled from Jamestown to the original Arlington Plantation, owned by John Custis in Northampton County (route in red). In 1676 the British officials appointed by King Charles II ended up defeating the rebellious colonists. A century later, Lord Dunmore fled Williamsburg at the start of the American Revolution, to attack Norfolk and then to his final base at Gwynn’s Island (route in yellow).
Map Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service Wetlands Mapper, http://www.virginiaplaces.org/military/baconsrebellion.html

To avoid incumbering the body of the foregoing little discourse, I have not therein mentioned the received opinion in Virginia, which very much attributed the promoting these perturbacons to Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Bacon with his other adherents, were esteemed, as but wheels agitated by the weight of his former and present resentments, after their choler was raised up to a very high pitch, at having been (so long and often) trifled with on their humble supplications to the govern’r for his imediate taking in hand the most speedy meanes towards stopping the continued effusions of so much English bloud, from time to time by the Indians; which comon sentim’ts I have the more reason to believe were not altogether groundlesse, because myself have heard him (in his familiar discourse) insinuate as if his fancy gave him prospect of finding (at one time or other) some expedient not only to repaire his great losse, but therewith to see those abuses rectified that the countrey was oppressed with through (as he said) the forwardness advarice and French despotick methods of the govern’r. and likewise I know him to be a thinking man, and tho’ nicely honest, affable, and without blemish, in his conversation and dealings, yet did he manifest abundance of uneasiness in the sense of his hard usages, which might prompt him to improve that Indian quarrel to the service of his animosities, and for this the more fair and frequent opportunities offered themselves to him by his dwelling at Jamestown, where was the concourse from all parts to the govern’r. and besides that he had married a wealthy widow who kept a large house of publick entertainm’t. unto which resorted those of the best quality, and such others as businesse called to that town, and his parts with his even temper made his converse coveted by persons of all ranks; so that being subtile, and having these advantages he might with lesse difficulty discover mens inclinations, and instill his notions where he found those woud be imbib’d with greatest satisfaction.

As for Mr. Bacon fame did lay to his charge the having run out his patrimony in England except what he brought to Virginia and of that the most part to be exhausted, which together made him suspected of casting an eye to search for retrievment in the troubled waters of popular discontents, wanting patience to wait the death of his oppulent counsin, old Col. Bacon, whose estate he expected to inherit. But he was too young, too much a stranger there, and of a disposition too precipitate, to manage things to that length those were carried, had not thoughtful Mr. Lawrence been at the bottom.

THE END – of the narrative. But the legacy of Bacon’s Rebellion was the ignition of a rebellious spirit, as well as a fear of that rebellious spirit by the English monarch:

With the death of Berkeley a main cause of discontent and insubordination in Virginia was removed. Though Culpeper and Effingham, who succeeded in turn to the governorship, made onslaughts on the liberties of the people, they acted, not from any overwhelming desire to make themselves absolute, but because they reflected the spirit of the Second Stuart Despotism. But this came to an end with the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, and from that time to the passage of the Stamp Act, the people of Virginia had no need to take arms to defend their liberties. For decades after Bacon’s Rebellion, the King and the governors were wary of bearing down upon them too hard for fear of causing another uprising. For the time they had learned their lesson. And had they not forgotten it after the lapse of a century, there might have been no American Revolution.

Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker, 1957: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/28010/28010-h/28010-h.htm

Interestingly, apparently some of the rebel leaders mysteriously disappeared . . . .

Lawrence and Whaley with three others determined to risk torture at the hands of the Indians rather than fall into the hands of the governor. They were last seen on the extreme frontier, pushing on through the snow into the forest. We shall probably never know their fate. They may have died of hunger and exposure, they may have been killed by the Indians; it is barely possible that they found refuge in one of the northern colonies.

Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker, 1957: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/28010/28010-h/28010-h.htm

As for some of the others:

But though the fate of Lawrence and Whaley is shrouded in mystery, that of many others is known. The enraged governor drew up a long list of those he had marked for the gallows. When the reports of Berkeley’s savagery reached Charles II, he is said to have remarked “That old fool has hanged more men in that naked country than I have for the murder of my father.”

Drummond was found hiding in Chickahominy Swamp and brought before the governor at King’s Creek. The vindictive old man made a low bow, saying, “Mr. Drummond, you are very welcome. I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia. Mr. Drummond, you shall be hanged in half an hour.” However, he decided to give him at least the pretence of a trial. But his ring was snatched from his finger, his clothes taken from his back, and he was kept overnight in irons. The next morning he was forced to walk, still in irons, in bitterly cold weather, all the way to Middle Plantation. There, after a brief hearing, in which he was not allowed to defend himself, he was hurried away to the scaffold. His widow and five children were driven out of their house and forced to flee into the woods and swamps, where they came near starvation.

When Anthony Arnold, who was one of the sturdiest supporters of the rebellion, was brought into court, he boldly defended the right of the people to resist oppression. “It is well known that I have no kindness for Kings,” he told the court. “They have no rights but what they got by conquest and the sword, and he that can by force of the sword deprive them of it has as good and just a title to it as the King himself. If the King should deny to do me right I would make no more to sheathe [52]my sword in his heart or bowels than of my mortal enemies.” The court was sorry that the country was not “capable of executing the sentence peculiar to traitors according to the laws and custom of England.” This was to hang the victim for several minutes, cut him down when still alive, rip him open, cut off his head, and then quarter him. So they contented themselves with hanging him in chains, “to be a more remarkable example than the rest.”

The executions continued for several months. Thomas Young, James Wilson, Henry Page, and Thomas Hall were executed on January 12, 1677; William Drummond and John Baptista on January 20; James Crews, William Cookson, and John Digbie on January 24; Giles Bland and Anthony Arnold on March 8; John Isles and Richard Pomfrey on March 15; and John Whitson and William Scarburgh on March 16. There is no telling how many Berkeley might have hanged had not the Assembly asked him to stop.

Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker, 1957: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/28010/28010-h/28010-h.htm

This would actually make an awesome movie. Another crazy story from history, if translated into 21st century entertainment style, it would be dramatic, and action packed, to say the least.

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