Colonist Casualties: Why So Many?
When the colonists first settled in the Americas, all was going well. They had brought plenty of supplies to start the first permanent settlement, Jamestown. Then the colonists started dropping like flies. Why? They didn’t have farmers, they contaminated their fresh water and they had bad relations with the natives.
One of the main reasons many colonists died was because they didn’t bring enough farmers and thus, they didn’t have enough food. In Document C (ship list), both the first ship and the re-supply ship had no passengers who were farmers. As we know, farmers are necessary to grow food. Farmers know how to tend to plants and grow them on many different terrains and land types. In Document C, many of the crew members were gentlemen (wealthy people, who usually didn’t labor) who weren’t planning on working. Many of them sat back with their money (which was worthless) and let others try to gather food. Because many were sitting back, the ones who weren’t relaxing couldn’t gather enough food, causing many to die of starvation. In Document C, it said that only 12 were laborers and four were captains, so they weren’t as prepared to build a settlement as it seemed. In Document B, the winter of 1609-1610 was called the ‘starving time’. This was a period of cold which froze over much of the river and caused animals to hibernate or camouflage themselves, limiting the amount of food for the colonists. A large majority of the colonists died during this time.
Another reason the colonists were dying was because of the contamination of drinking water. The river flowed down towards the ocean, so the colonists assumed that whatever waste they dumped into the river would flow out into the ocean. Sadly, they were mistaken. In Document A, it says that the force that the sea put against the river caused the waste to flow back and forth. In Document B, it shows that when the English first colonized, they entered a period of little rainfall, which is bad when you are just starting a colony. As said in Document A, brackish water also mixed with the fresh water, raising the solidity levels of the river causing it to be too salty for colonists to drink.
When the colonists landed, they were quickly introduced to the natives, who offered them food and water to help them start the colony. The Powhatan natives were…