Land of the Brave

The Starving Time

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

The Starving Time - Background Info
The Virginia Company of London, a private stock venture, was formed by investors  who included many London merchants and politicians attracted by the possibility of finding gold and trade opportunities in North America. The Virginia Company choose the location of the colony in the Chesapeake Bay area.

The Virginia Company also hope to find a water passage to the Pacific Ocean - there are no maps of North America at that time. The eager Colonists who agree to make the journey are promised 50 acres of land and a share of the profits.

About 50% of the first colonists were out-of-work "gentlemen". None of whom had any experience of hard manual labor. The "gentlemen" expect to do little work believing others will work and feed them. Other colonists include tradesmen (carpenters, a tailor, a blacksmith, a mason, a goldsmith and a barber). Other passengers include two surgeons and some ex-soldiers.

Starving Time - Location and Natural Resources
The area chosen to establish Jamestown was a small, swampy area that was almost an island and only connected to the mainland only by a narrow sandbar. The natural resources were limited. There was a poor fresh water supply and the land was swampy. The hunting potential on the island was also limited and the colonists quickly exhausted the supply of small game. The mainland, however, consisted of forests and rivers that provided an abundance of plants, fish and animal life. The soil in the forest areas was rich and suitable for farming - Refer to Colonial Food.

Starving Time - Trade and Defence
The question must be asked - why did the colonists chosen the island for the site of colonization? The island provided a good location in terms of defence. The colonists were not concerned about the Native Indians, but they were very concerned about the possibility of attacks from the Spanish. The colonists were dependent upon trade with the Indians and periodic supply ships from England for their food. 

Starving Time - The Colonists were badly equipped
The colonists were ill prepared and badly equipped for a self-sufficient lifestyle. They had no real farming experience, little experience of physical labor, and farming tools and equipment were in short supply. The colonists had not expected that it might become necessary to feed themselves. The colonists were armed with a sword, a matchlock musket and bandolier. They were also equipped with armor and a helmet.

Starving Time - No time to plant crops
They were prepared to fight and explore not to farm. To add to these difficulties the planting season ended before the colonists had finished building their houses. Unable to plant crops they became very short of food. They failed to make lasting friendships with the Native Indians. There were few supply ships to bring edible provisions. The scene was set for the colonists to endure an infamous period in history that would become known as the 'Starving Time'.

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