General History of Virginia

Author: John Smith  | Date: 1626

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John Smith 1626

Pocahontas Risks Her Neck for Captain Smith


[Smith recounts that in December, 1607, he was attacked by two hundred Indians, and, although he used his own Indian guide as a shield against their arrows, he was at last taken prisoner.]

Six or seven weeks those barbarians kept him prisoner. Many strange triumphs and conjurations they made of him. Yet he so demeaned himself amongst them, as he not only diverted them from surprising the fort, but procured his own liberty, and got himself and his company such estimation amongst them, that those salvages [sic] admired him more than their own Quiyouckosucks.

Their order in conducting him was thus: Drawing themselves all in file, the king in the middle, had all their pieces and swords borne before him. Captain Smith was led after him by three great savages, holding him fast by each arm, and on each side went six in file with their arrows nocked1. Smith they conducted to a long house, where thirty or forty tall fellows did guard him; and ere long more bread and venison was brought him than would have served twenty men. I think his stomach at that time was not very good. What he left they put in baskets and tied over his head.

At midnight they set the meat again before him. All this time not one of them would eat a bit with him, till the next morning they brought him as much more; and then did they eat all the old, and reserved the new as they had done the other, which made him think they would fatten him to eat him.

At last they brought him to Wero-wocomoco where was Powhatan their emperor. Here more than two hundred of those grim courtiers stood wondering at him, as if he bad been a monster; till Powhatan and his train had put themselves in their greatest braveries. Before a fire upon a seat like a bedstead with a great robe made of Rarowcun skins, and all the tails hanging by. On either hand did sit a young wench of sixteen or eighteen years, and along on each side of the house, two rows of men, and behind them as many women, with all their heads and shoulders painted red; many of their heads bedecked with the white down of birds; but everyone with something; and a great chain of white beads about their necks.

At ills entrance before the king, all the people gave a great shout. The Queen of Appamatuck was appointed to bring him water to wash his hands, and another brought him a bunch of feathers, instead of a towel, to dry them. Having feasted him after their best barbarous manner they could, a long consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan.

Then as many as could laid hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and being ready with their clubs, to beat out his brains, Pocahontas the king’s dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevail, got his head in her arms, and laid her own upon his to save him from death. Whereat the emperor was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper; for they thought him as well of all occupations as themselves. For the king himself will make his own robes, shoes, bows, arrows, pots; plant, hunt, or do anything so well as the rest.

1Placed upon the bowstrings.

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Chicago: John Smith, General History of Virginia, ed. John Smith in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed April 24, 2024,

MLA: Smith, John. General History of Virginia, edited by John Smith, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 24 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Smith, J, General History of Virginia, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 24 April 2024, from