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Richard of Jamestown by  James Otis


 

 

"THE STARVING TIME"

WE came to know what starvation meant during that winter, and were I to set down here all of the suffering, of the hunger-weakness, and of the selfishness we saw during the six months after Captain Smith sailed for home, there would not be days enough left in my life to complete the tale.

As I look back on it now, it seems more like some wonderful dream than a reality, wherein men strove with women and children for food to keep life in their own worthless bodies.

It is enough if I say that of the four hundred and ninety persons whom Captain Smith left behind him, there were, in the month of May of the year 1610, but fifty-eight left alive. That God should have spared among those, Nathaniel Peacock and myself, is something which passeth understanding, for verily there were scores of better than we whose lives would have advantaged Jamestown more than ours ever can, who died [159] and were buried as best they could be by the few who had sufficient strength remaining to dig the graves.

I set it down in all truth that, through God's mercy, our lives were saved by Master Hunt, for he counseled us wisely as to the care we should take of our bodies when our stomachs were crying out for food, and it was he who showed us how we might prepare this herb or the bark from that tree for the sustaining of life, when we had nothing else to put into our mouths.

We had forgotten that Lord De la Warr was the new governor; we had heard nothing of the ship in which it was said Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers had sailed. We were come to that pass where we cared neither for governor nor nobleman. We strove only to keep within our bodies the life which had become painful.

Then it was, when the few of us who yet lived, feared [160] each moment lest the savages would put an end to us, that we saw sailing up into the bay two small ships, and I doubt if there was any among us who did not fall upon his knees and give thanks aloud to God for the help which had come at the very moment when it had seemed that we were past all aid.


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