"NOW fifty years of silence; wet the time Was filled with growth and action. These we bass."
The semi-finals in the colony's bitter school of experience, which were to terminate in the so-called Bacon's Rebellion, were first staged in the northern neck of Virginia and on the Maryland side of the upper Potomac.
One Sunday while on the way to church, in the summer of 167, some of the Colonists discovered the bodies of Robert Hen, a herdsman, and his Indian helper, lying across his doorstep.
The victims had been scalped, and, though both were apparently dead. Hen managed to gasp, "Doegs! Doegs-"
The Doegs were from the Maryland side of the river and for sometime had been unfriendly to the English, though their depredations had been confined to the running, off of horses, cattle and pillage of the products of the field. They had become notorious for quickly disappearing from the vicincity of their crimes and the skill in which they diverted suspicion upon Indians friendly to the colonists. In the massacre of Hen and companion, leaving loth apparently (lead, theca thought themselves secure from suspicion when they had recrossed the Potomac. Hen's dying disclosure of the identity o f the murderers check-mated their lest laid plans and incited the people of the entire section to a frenzy of uncompromising hate, that would find full fruition only in the annihilation of the intruders.
The militia of Stafford was called to arms and volunteers from adjoining counties hastened to offer assistance. Col. John Washington great-grand father of Gen. George Washington, assumed command, assisted by Colonels Giles Brunt, assigned commander of the horse, and George Mason in command of the foot soldiers.
Brent and Mason hastened preparations for pursuit, and crossed into Maryland without awaiting permission from either Berkeley or the Maryland authorities. All Indians encountered were slaughtered ,indiscriminately, many of them being members of friendly tribes. Especially was this true with the Susquehannocks, recently driven h\the mar-like Senecas, from their ancestral seat near the headwaters of the hay-, and the Piscataways,<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
A Jesuit mission had been established among them in 1640, but had been abandoned before the above tragic events.">1 who were dwelling near the upper waters of the Potomac. Ruth of these tribes had always been friendly to the English.
The Doegs continued their depredations, murder and pillage, oil both sides of the river, before the colonists were prepared to offer armed resistance, but, nom- finding themselves pursued, their Chief shot and his young sun captured, they fled to the protection of the Piscataways and Susquehannocks. I3\- this ruse, the\- evidently, thought to throw the English off the trail and escape their vengeance. but this proved a vain hope and their hosts were to grieviously softer the result of hospitality thus Innocently extended.
With a force estimated at one thousand hose and loot, Col. Washington layed Beige to the stronghold. The Indians were surrounded and the siege lasted seven weeks, the besiegd to prevent starvation having to eat horses captured from the colonists. In desperation over the situation, six of their "great men" were sent to parley-only to be shot down (for reasons we have no knowledge, therefore, cannot understand) and the Indians received notice of their tragic fate. This cemented the tribes as one, and united former friend and foe, in desire for ample revenge.
While plotting to escape, the savages made such desperate resistance, fifty of their number were killed. This did not deter them from stealing forth, in the dead hours of a moonless night, and making their escape. So well did they succeed, ten of the besiegers were killed, as the Indians trickled through the lines, and their bodies hidden so that their fate would not be discovered until too late for pursuit of the fleecing tribesmen. The thoroughly enraged Indians entered Virginia, and unmolested, swept southward, murdering and plundering without a warning voice being raised to herald their coming.
Along the headwaters of the Potomac, Rappahannock and the James, men, women and children fell beneath the tomahawk and scalping knife. No quarter was shown; age and sex was no protection.
The Indian invaders declared it their intention to require a toll of ten English for each of their "great men" who had been shot by Col. Washington's men, and well they carried out their fell design. On the upper plantations of the Potomac and Rappahannock, thirtysix persons were massacred, and daily were other defenseless victims added to the score as the warriors continued their march toward the Falls of the James. Here, among others, the overseer and servant of Nathaniel Bacon, residing at Bacon's Quarter Plantation, were scalped and murdered. Berkeley, responding to the frantic appeals of the colonists, commissioned Sir Henry Chickeley and placed a competent force at his command. He was given full power to make peace or war. This was the great opportunity, the psycological moment for Berkeley to again win the confidence of the people and place himself upon the high pedestal of esteem occupied during his former administration. Not equal to it, he vacillated, probably urged by fear of his profitable fur trade being damaged beyond repair. The great opportunity was lost.
What a commentary upon the governor, when contemporary writers find justification in asserting that he was not man enough to respond to the despairing call of humanity. Repenting his former action, he withdrew the commission, disbanded the troops, and left the defenseless settlers to their fate. Every planter found it necessary to defend his own fireside, or desert his humble cabin and flee with wife and children to the protection of more populous sections. In one neighborhood, it is recorded, the number of plantations occupied were reduced from seventy-one to eleven.<a href="#2" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 2
The general opinion that many of the Colonial houses and churches were constructed of brick brought from England, is incorrect. Very few, if any, brick were imported.">2
It was the cry of despair of these people, coupled with the intolorence of Berkeley and his refusal to come to the defense of the colony, that awakened Nathaniel Bacon to the responsibility, resting collectively upon him and other patrotic settlers, to take up arms in defiance of the royal governor's arbitrary will. The murder of his overseer and servant gave personal pustifica tion for the course he decided to pursue.
The semi-finals were shifted to Jamestown and vicinity and neared their close with the death and secret burial of the young patriot. Like unto the grave of Moses, no man knoweth, to this day-, his sepulcher.
That he answered the call of his fellow colonists, and nobly, is beyond successful gainsaying of the few historians who have endeavored to cast aspersion upon leis patriotism. Had they taken as much trouble to investigate, without prejudice, the true status of Bacon's connection with the spontaneous uprising of the people, as they used in casting aspersion upon his memory their infamous tirades would never have been given to print.
The details of the story of the Rebellion have been published so often in the Histories of our State and Nation, it is not necessary- to enlarge upon them in this volume. For the most comprehensive and valuable account, it has been the pleasure of the writer to review, the delightfully written "Story of Bacon's Rebellion," by Mary Newton Stanard, is suggested to those who desire the full details of this critical period in the colony's history.
It has been the endeavor of the author, of the present work, to present the true causes leading up to the First Declaration of Independence of July- 4, 1676, and to prove justification for Bacon's actions during the short period he commanded his little band of Virginia patriots. If this has been done, to the satisfaction of the reader, the writer is amply repaid for the endeavor.
One can but speculate as to what would have been the destiny of the colony had Bacon survived and continued the work so well begun.
One hundred years were to intervene, ere the gifted great grandson of Col. John Washington, the Northern Neck Commander, was to banish forever, from our shores, the overlordship of a foreign power. The seed of democracy-, sown in 1633, when Harvey- was deposed, germinated by- Nathaniel Bacon and his men in 1676, yielded an abundant harvest in 1776-81. Today-, the love of liberty and the realization of its benefits, resultant of the sacrifices of the patriot colonists, has found lodgement in the universal heart of man. Democracy stands, triumphant, before the vacant thrones of despotic kings.