FOR some time now the Indians had been an increasing terror to
the white men. They had grown restless and uneasy at the constantly
widening borders of the settlements. Day by day the forest
was cleared, the cornfields stretched farther and farther inland,
and the Redman saw himself driven farther and farther from his
So anger arose in the Redman's heart. He lurked in the forests
which girded the lonely farms and, watching his opportunity, crept
stealthily forth to slay and burn. Settler after settler was slain
in cold blood, or done to death with awful tortures, and his pleasant
homestead was given to the flames. Day by day the tale of horror
grew, till it seemed at length that no farm along the borders of
the colony was safe from destruction. Yet the Governor did nothing.
Helplessly the Virginians raged against his sloth and tyranny. He
was a traitor to his trust, they declared, and feared to wage war
on the Indians lest it should spoil his fur trade with them. But
that was not so. A deadlier fear than that kept Berkeley idle. He
knew how his tyranny had made the people hate him, and he feared
to arm them and lead them against the Indians, lest having subdued
these foes they should turn their arms against him.
But the men of Virginia were seething with discontent and ripe for
rebellion. All they wanted was a leader, and soon they found one.
This leader was Nathaniel Bacon, a young Englishman who had but
lately come to the colony.
 He was dashing and handsome, had winning
ways and a persuasive tongue. He was the very man for a popular
leader, and soon at his back he had an army of three hundred armed
settlers, "one and all at his devotion."
Bacon then sent to the Governor asking for a commission to go
against the Indians. But Berkeley put him off with one excuse after
another; until at length goaded into rebellion Bacon and his men
determined to set out, commission or no commission.
But they had not gone far when a messenger came spurring behind
them in hot haste. He came with a proclamation from the Governor
denouncing them all as rebels, and bidding them disperse at once
on pain of forfeiting their lands and goods. Some obeyed, but the
rest went on with Bacon, and only returned after having routed the
Indians. Their defeat was so severe that the battle is known as the
Battle of Bloody Run, because it was said the blood of the Indians
made red the stream which flowed near the battlefield.
The Indians for the time were cowed, and Bacon marched slowly home
with his men.
Meanwhile Berkeley had gathered horses and men and had ridden out
to crush this turbulent youth. But hearing suddenly that the people
had risen in revolt, he hastened back to Jamestown with all speed.
Something he saw he must do to appease the people. So he dissolved
the House of Burgesses which for fourteen years had done his bidding,
and ordered a new election. This pacified the people somewhat. But
they actually elected the rebel Bacon as one of the members of the
Bacon was not, however, altogether to escape the consequences of
his bold deeds. As soon as he returned he was taken prisoner and
led before the Governor. The stern old Cavalier received this rebel
with cool civility.
 "Mr. Bacon," he said, "have you forgot to be a gentleman?"
"No, may it please your honour," answered Bacon,
"Then," said the Governor, "I will take your parole."
So Bacon was set free until the House of Burgesses should meet.
Meantime he was given to understand that if he made open confession
of his misdeeds in having marched against the Indians without a
commission, he would be forgiven, receive his commission, and be
allowed to fight the Indians. It was not easy to make this proud
young man bend his knee. But to gain his end Bacon consented to
beg forgiveness for what he deemed no offence. The Governor meant
it to be a solemn occasion, one not lightly to be forgotten. So when
the burgesses and council were gathered the Governor stood up.
"If there be joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner
that repenteth," he said, "there is joy now, for we have a penitent
sinner come before us. Call Mr. Bacon."
The doors were thrown wide open and in marched Bacon, tall and
proud, looking grave indeed but little like a repentant sinner.
At the bar of the House he knelt on one knee, and reading from a
paper written out for him confessed his crimes, begging pardon from
God, the King, and the Governor.
When his clear young voice ceased the old Governor spoke.
"God forgive you," he said, solemnly. "I forgive you." Three times
he repeated the words and was silent.
"And all that were with him?" asked one of the council.
"Yea," said the Governor, "and all that were with him."
Thus the matter seemed ended. There was peace again and the House
could now proceed to further business.
Part of that business was to settle what was to be done about the
Indian war. Some of the people hoped that they might get help from
friendly Indians. So the Indian Queen,
 Pamunky, had been asked to
come to the Assembly and say what help she would give. Her tribe
was the same as that over which the Powhatan had ruled so long
ago. And although it was now but a shadow of its former self she
had still about a hundred and fifty braves at command whose help
the Englishmen were anxious to gain.
Queen Pamunky entered the Assembly with great dignity, and with
an air of majesty walked slowly up the long room. Her walk was so
graceful, her gestures so courtly, that every one looked at her
in admiration. Upon her head she wore a crown of black and white
wampum. Her robe was made of deer skin and covered her from shoulders
to feet, the edges of it being slit into fringes six inches deep.
At her right hand walked an English interpreter, at her left her
son, a youth of twenty.
When Queen Pamunky reached the table she stood still looking at
the members coldly and gravely, and only at their urgent request
did she sit down. Beside her, as they had entered the room, stood
her son and interpreter on either hand.
When she was seated the chairman asked her how many men she would
send to help them against the enemy Indians. All those present were
quite sure that she understood English, but she would not speak
to the chairman direct, and answered him through her interpreter,
bidding him speak to her son.
The young Indian chieftain however also refused to reply. So again
the Queen was urged to say how many men she could send.
For some minutes she sat still, as if in deep thought. Then in a
shrill high voice full of passionate fervour, and trembling as if
with tears, she spoke in her own tongue, and ever and anon amid the
tragic torrent of sound the words "Tatapatamoi chepiack, Tatapatamoi
chepiack" could be heard.
 Few present understood her. But one of the members did, and shook
his head sadly.
"What she says is too true, to our shame be it said," he sighed. "My
father was general in that battle of which she speaks. Tatapatamoi
was her husband, and he led a hundred men against our enemies,
and was there slain with most of his company. And from that day to
this no recompense has been given to her. Therefore she upbraids
us, and cries, 'Tatapatamoi is dead.' "
When they heard the reason for the Indian Queen's anger many were
filled with sympathy for her.
The chairman however was a crusty old fellow, and he was quite
unmoved by the poor Queen's passion of grief and anger. Never a word
did he say to comfort her distress, not a sign of sympathy did he
give. He rudely brushed aside her vehement appeal, and repeated
"What men will you give to help against the enemy Indians?"
With quivering nostrils, and flashing eyes, the Indian Queen drew
herself up scornfully, she looked at him, then turned her face
away, and sat mute.
Three times he repeated his question.
Then in a low disdainful voice, her head still turned away, she
muttered in her own language "Six."
This would never do. The lumbering old chairman argued and persuaded,
while the dusky Queen sat sullenly silent. At length she uttered
one word as scornfully as the last. "Twelve," she said. Then rising,
she walked proudly and gravely from the hall.
Thus did the blundering old fellow of a chairman, for the lack of
a few kindly words, turn away the hearts of the Indians, and lose
their help at a moment when it was sorely needed.
The new House had many other things to discuss
 besides the Indian
wars, and the people, who had been kept out of their rights for
so long, now made up for lost time. They passed laws with feverish
haste. They restored manhood suffrage, did away with many class
privileges, and in various ways instituted reforms. Afterwards
these laws were known as Bacon's Laws.
But meanwhile Bacon was preparing a new surprise for every one.
One morning the town was agog with news. "Bacon has fled, Bacon
has fled!" cried every one.
It was true. Bacon had grown tired of waiting for the commission
which never came. So he was off to raise the country. A few days
later he marched back again at the head of six hundred men.
At two o'clock one bright June day the sounds of drum and trumpet
were heard mingled with the tramp of feet and the clatter of horses'
hoofs; and General Bacon, as folk began to call him now, drew up
his men not an arrow's flight from the State House.
The people of Jamestown rushed to the spot. Every window and balcony
was crowded with eager excited people. Men, women and children
jostled each other on the green, as Bacon, with a file of soldiers
on either hand, marched to the State House.
The white-haired old Governor, shaking with anger, came out to
meet the insolent young rebel. With trembling fingers he tore at
the fine lace ruffles of his shirt, baring his breast.
"Here I am!" He cried. "Shoot me! 'Fore God 'tis a fair mark. Shoot
me! Shoot me!" he repeated in a frenzy.
But Bacon answered peaceably enough. "No, may it please your honour,"
he said, "we will not hurt a hair of your head, nor of any other
man's. We are come for a commission to save our lives from the
Indians which you
 have so often promised. And now we will have it
before we go."
But when the stern old Cavalier refused to listen to him, Bacon too
lost his temper, and laying his hand on his sword, swore he would
kill the Governor, Council, Assembly and all, rather than forego
his commission. His men, too, grew impatient and filled the air
with their shouts.
"We will have it, we will have it!" they cried, at the same time
pointing their loaded guns at the windows of the State House.
Minute by minute the uproar increased, till at length one of the
Burgesses, going to a window, waved his handkerchief ("a pacifeck
handkercher" a quaint old record calls it) and shouted, "You shall
have it, you shall have it."
So the tumult was quieted. A commission was drawn up making Bacon
Commander-in-Chief of the army against the Indians, and a letter
was written to the King praising him for what he had done against
them. But the stern old Governor was still unbending, and not till
next day was he browbeaten into signing both papers.
The young rebel had triumphed. But Berkeley was not yet done with
him, for the same ship which carried the letter of the Burgesses
to the King also carried a private letter from Berkeley in which
he gave his own account of the business. "I have for above thirty
years governed the most flourishing country the sun ever shone
over," he wrote, "but am now encompassed with rebellion like waters."
And as soon as Bacon was safely away, and at grips once more with
the Indians, the Governor again proclaimed him and his followers
to be rebels and traitors.
Bacon had well-nigh crushed the Indian foe when this news was
brought to him. He was cut to the quick by the injustice.
"I am vexed to the heart," he said, "for to think that while I am
hunting Indian wolves, tigers, and foxes which
 daily destroy our
harmless sheep and lambs, that I, and those with me, should be pursued
with a full cry, as a more savage and no less ravenous beast."
So now in dangerous mood he marched back to Jamestown. Things were
looking black for him, but his men were with him heart and soul.
When one of them, a Scotsman named Drummond, was warned that this
was rebellion he replied recklessly, "I am in over shoes, I will
be in over boots."
His wife was even more bold. "This is dangerous work," said some
one, "and England will have something to say to it."
Then Sarah Drummond picked up a twig, and snapping it in two, threw
it down again. "I fear the power of England no more than that broken
straw," she cried.
Bacon now issued a manifesto in reply to Berkeley's proclamation,
declaring that he and his followers could not find in their hearts
one single spot of rebellion or treason. "Let Truth be bold," he
cried, "and let all the world know the real facts of this matter."
He appealed to the King against Sir William, who had levied unjust
taxes, who had failed to protect the people against the Indians, who
had traded unjustly with them, and done much evil to his Majesty's
So far there had only been bitter words between the old Governor and
the young rebel, and Bacon had never drawn his sword save against
the Indians. Now he turned it against the Governor, and, marching
on Jamestown, burned it to the ground, and Berkeley, defeated, fled
Everywhere Bacon seemed successful, and from Jamestown he marched
northward to settle affairs there also "after his own measures."
But a grim and all-conquering captain had now taken up arms against
this victorious rebel—Captain Death, whom even the greatest soldier
must obey. And on October 1st, 1676, Bacon laid down his sword
ever. He had been the heart and soul of the rebellion, and with
his death it collapsed swiftly and completely.
Bacon was now beyond the Governor's wrath, but he wreaked his
vengeance on those who had followed him. For long months the rebels
were hunted and hounded, and when caught they were hanged without
mercy. The first to suffer was Colonel Thomas Hansford. He was a
brave man and a gentleman, and all he asked was that he might be
shot like a soldier, and not hanged like a dog. But the wrathful
Governor would not listen to his appeal, and he was hanged. On the
scaffold he spoke to those around, praying them to remember that
he died a loyal subject of the King, and a lover of his country.
He has been called the first martyr to American liberty.
Another young Major named Cheesman was condemned to death, but died
in prison, some say by poison.
The Governor, when he was brought before him, asked fiercely: "What
reason had you for rebellion?"
But before the Major could reply his young wife stepped from the
surrounding crowd, and threw herself upon her knees before the
Governor. "It was my doing," she cried. "I persuaded him, and but
for me he would never have done it. I am guilty, not he. I pray
you therefore let me be hanged, and he be pardoned."
But the old Cavalier's heart was filled to overflowing with a
frenzy of hate. He was utterly untouched by the poor lady's brave
and sad appeal, and answered her only with bitter, insulting words.
Drummond too was taken. He was indeed "in over boots" and fearless
to the last. The Governor was overjoyed at his capture, and with
mocking ceremony swept his hat from his head, and, bowing low,
cried exultantly, "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."
 "What your honour pleases," calmly replied Drummond. And so he
It seemed as if the Governor's vengeance would never be satisfied.
But at length the House met, and petitioned him to spill no more
blood. "For," said one of the members, "had we let him alone he
would have hanged half the country."
News of his wild doings, too, were carried home, and reached even
the King's ears. "The old fool," cried he, "has hanged more men
in that naked country than I did for the murder of my father." So
Berkeley was recalled.
At his going the whole colony rejoiced. Guns were fired and bonfires
lit to celebrate the passing of the tyrant.
Berkeley did not live long after his downfall. He had hoped that
when he saw the King, and explained to him his cause, that he would
be again received into favour. But his hopes were vain. The King
refused to see him, and he who had given up everything, even good
name and fame, in his King's cause died broken-hearted, a few months