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Captian John Smith, runaway, soldier, slave, map maker, author

Updated on October 18, 2011

Much more to the man we thought we knew

Most of us think of Captain John Smith as the handsome bearded friend of Pocahontas in the animated Disney film. Actually, he was a much more colorful individual than a two dimentional figure any cartoonist can fathom up.

In the year 1579 John Smith was born in Elizabethian England. His parents were from Willoughby, Lincolnshire. As a youth he may have been like any other teenager, restless and defiant. Against his father's wishes he ran away from home and set sail on a land and sea adventure. His journey brought him to far away lands. He fought pirates with swords on the high seas and battled Turks in the land of Hungary. Suddenly, his boyhood adventures came to a cruel halt. He was captured by ruthless Turks and made a working slave.

Somehow this brave young man managed a successful escape. He made his way towards the sea and boarded an exploring ship that returned him to England. He was still only 27 years old. John Smith had seen much of the known world of the middle ages.

In 1607 he became an investor in the Virginia Company. As the lead investor he was chosen to head the Colony in New World Virginia. The company landed on May 13th, 1607. The town was positioned on a peninsula 32 miles from the mouth of a river the English named the James. They named this place Jamestown.

Virginia was fertile land. Endless forests once stood full of oaks, pines, and cypress trees. Grasses and flowers carpeted the forest floor. The sound of the multitudes of birds filled every tree. Strawberries grew the size of apples. Great sturgeons plunged up the rivers from the deep blue ocean. Grapevines were known to grow 'as thick as a man's leg' they would say. Smith organized trade with Native American Tribes and helped make maps of the new land. During his land explorations, Smith became freindly with a native princess of a powerful chief. The child's real name was Motoaka. She was known to the English as Pocahontas, the twelve year old daughter of Pohattan. By 1608 Captain John Smith was the President of the Virginia Colonial Council.

During a map making expedition Smith was captured by warriors from the Chickahominie Tribe. Pohattan was their leader. Smith was tied to a rock and in the process of being beaten to death by Pohattan's men. Legend says, this is where twelve year old Pocahontas threw herself over him and begged for his release. Once again, John Smith cheated death.

In 1609, Captain Smith was forced to return to England for treatment of his wounds and life threatening injuries. He never returned to America until five years later. At 30 years old he set off on an exploration ship. Sailing with the explorers he helped make more maps of the New England coast. At age 35 he became a writer and an author. By 1624 he published his work, 'The Generall Historie of Virginia'. Captain John Smith continued to write about his many travel adventures until his last book was published in 1630. Captain John Smith died in 1630. He was 51 years old.

By Joanne Kathleen farrell author of Liberty for the Lion Shield

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