ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The More You Bro: 7 Things You Should Know About Capt. John Smith

Updated on January 30, 2016
Justin Breeze profile image

Justin is a combat veteran & writer who served the Marines for 13 years. Justin received a BSBA in 2015 and MBA (marketing focus) in 2017.

Captain John Smith
Captain John Smith

The Search for Status

Before selfies, there were diaries. Before celebrity, there was nobility. At first glance, you might believe that the legendary John Smith had little relevance to the struggles of today’s self-absorbed status seekers. Born in a time when social status was determined at birth, John Smith’s father was one of the wealthiest men in the land. There was just one problem - his father was born a “yeoman,” a social standing ranked less than that of a “gentleman.” Despite John Smith’s disgust with most anyone in this elitist community, he made it his life goal to achieve something greater. With extraordinary tales of foreign warfighting, murder, escaped slavery, treacherous sailing, mutiny, saving a settlement and falling in love, Captain John Smith was not the cartoon character you watched as a child. Mysterious, adventurous, daring and witty - here are 7 things about this historical icon you probably didn’t learn in junior high.

#1 He was a self-proclaimed “Captain”

He definitely wasn’t the captain of the ship that arrived in Chesapeake Bay in 1607. As a matter-of-fact, John Smith’s title and rank were not recognized by many of the “socially elite” colonizers during the initial voyage to the new world. The Captain of the Susan Constant (one of the ships sailed to America with John Smith aboard) was a man named Capt. Christopher Newport, who notoriously saved Smith from being executed prior to their landing.

John Smith’s rank and title of Captain was earned (initially) because of his valiant fighting with the Austrian army against the Turks in the “Long War.” Although he earned his rank during this intense conflict, the English hardly regarded Smith’s title within their own society. To the nobility with whom he traveled to America, his rank of “Captain” was neither substantiated nor recognized. Later, Smith would be once again considered a Captain by appointment of the English during his support of the colonization of Jamestown.

#2 He arrived in the Americas as a prisoner

Shackled in chains below deck as the ship named Susan Constant arrived in the new world, Captain John Smith was more likely to be hanged than lead a colony. According to varying sources, Smith’s vocal and confrontational personality lead him into a heated argument with the ship’s Captain, Christopher Newport during which, Smith pulled a knife. Charged with mutiny, the ship’s crew of socially elite wanted Smith hanged immediately. Fortunately, on Newport’s order, Smith was temporarily imprisoned instead. Smith remained a prisoner weeks after landing in Chesapeake until official documentation from England named him one of the governing council members of Jamestown, when he was reluctantly released.

Smith was hardly inexperienced with the hardships of imprisonment. During his battles with the Turks on behalf of Austrian forces, Captain Smith was captured and forced into slavery. With his head and beard shaved, Smith was only clothed with “untanned sheepskin” and a metal collar used to display his constricted status. Smith, never humble enough to be bound by such an inconvenient status, managed to find his escape. One day, while assigned to thresh wheat in the fields, Smith was confronted by his master, a Timor (government official). Catching the man by surprise, Smith “Beat out the Timor’s brains with his threshing bat,” (from Smith’s journal) stole his horse and clothing, and rode north escaping to Russia.

#3 He was a soldier of fortune

John Smith grew up dreaming of gaining notoriety and glory in battle – hoping that his triumphant exploits would grant him social status and political advantage. At the age of 16 and just after the death of his father, Smith volunteered to fight with the French forces in support of the Dutch battle for independence from Spain. Still in search of glory and fame and not satisfied with his previous experience, Smith joined the Austrian forces just a few years later (1600) to support their battle against the Turks in the “Long War.” Finally, after his successes, John Smith was named a Captain of the Austrian Army.

According to his writings, Smith was pitted against Turkish soldiers in jousting competitions (which was common at the time). Smith had previously become a skilled horseman during extensive training with notable friends of his family, which gave him an apparent advantage against his enemies. Defeating three significant enemies (by way of beheading), Smith earned awards and notoriety within Austrian social circles, even being awarded a Coat of Arms (Knighthood) by Zsigmond Bathory, the Prince of Transylvania.

Source

#4 He liked to brag

In fact, Smith told so many stories of his exploits that many individuals during his time doubted they ever occurred. Smith recorded his many incredible happenings in his personal diary, which was later used to confirm some of his tales through historical comparison. Not all of them; however, can be verified without doubt which still leaves his credibility (on specific tales) a matter of debate.

I am no compiler by hearsay, but have been a reall Actor; I take my selfe to have a propertie in [these events]: and therefore have beene bold to challenge them to come under the reach of my owne rough Pen. That, which hath been indured and passed through with hardship and danger, is thereby sweetened to the Actor, when he becometh the Relator. I have deeply hazarded my selfe in doing and suffering, and why should I sticke [hesitate] to hazard my reputation in Recording?” - John Smith

Translation – “I risked my life with what I’ve done, why should I not risk my reputation in telling about it?”

One thing is not debatable; however, his exploits within American history are easily verifiable, credible and accepted. For some, his legitimate performance in the colonization of America lends credit to the veracity of other previous escapades.

#5 He never hooked up with Pocahontas

Perhaps one of the most ironic facts about Captain John Smith, is that nearly everything portrayed about his relationship with Pocahontas is false. In December of 1607, Smith was exploring the Chickahominy River region when he was captured by Chief Powhatan’s men. Although many historians cast doubt on what actually took place next, Smith’s own recollections of the event state that he was set to be executed, but was saved by Powhatan’s 12 year old daughter, Pocahontas. Regardless of the events that took place while Smith was captured, history has proven that Smith developed a mutually beneficial relationship with Chief Powhatan. This relationship was pivotal in many of the successes and struggles that took place between the early settlers of Jamestown.

Many years later during disputes between the Native Americans and the English settlers, Pocahontas was taken captive in order to negotiate a treaty between the two parties. During her captivity, Pocahontas fell in love with an English tobacco farmer, John Rolfe. Their marriage in April of 1614 would seal permanent peace between the tribes and the English settlers of that time.

John Rolfe and Pocahontas married in Jamestown - April, 1614
John Rolfe and Pocahontas married in Jamestown - April, 1614

#6 He was the original Google Maps

John Smith was an exceptional cartographer, mapping out over 2,500 miles of land and waterways surrounding the Chesapeake area. Even more impressive, he accomplished this task with levels of astounding precision, using only primitive map-making tools and during a relatively short amount of time. “Smith’s maps,” as they became known, were used for nearly a century by settlers and sailors alike.

Check out Smith’s map below.

Smith's map was finally published in England, 1612
Smith's map was finally published in England, 1612

#7 He ran Jamestown

Smith clearly didn’t arrive at Jamestown in a position to take a leadership role – he simply took it anyway. Faced with attacks by natives, starvation, lack of labor and government bureaucracy, Smith’s background in warfighting, fort building and overall survival made him the most highly underrated asset to the colony. Developing partnerships with the local natives, Smith provided diplomatic means to provide increased levels of security for his own, while bartering to bring in new sources of food and supplies. Later, Smith’s ingenuity became an even bigger asset. After being named the President of the Council for the colony in September of 1608, Smith was able to institute higher standards of defensive construction as well as strict rules to enforce labor. Famously, Smith created a rule which stated “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Although not popular among the social elite at the colony, this one principal ensured the labor and longevity of Jamestown. Because of Captain John Smith's dedicated persistence and fearless leadership, Jamestown in now the oldest English settlement in American history.

Captain John Smith - An American icon
Captain John Smith - An American icon

Feedback

Was this article interesting?

See results

Additional Resources

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Justin Breeze profile imageAUTHOR

      Justin Best 

      2 years ago from Melbourne, Florida

      Thank you!

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      2 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great hub. I learned something new. Shared.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)