John Smith’s Exploration of Chesapeake Bay 1607–08


Map Code: Ax01435

The English explorer, Captain John Smith, arrived in America in 1607 under sentence of execution for mutiny en route. Before setting sail he had received a thorough education in the ‘university of warre’. As a mercenary, he had fought across Europe, for the French, Habsburgs and various Balkan warlords. Captured and enslaved, he escaped, and his luck continued at landfall in Virginia: unsealed orders appointed him co-leader of the expedition, earning his reprieve. Within months, he was at death’s door again. Exploring the Chickahominy River, he was captured by Indians, and only saved from execution through the intervention of the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas. Most of the settlers died of disease or hunger within months; many more died after fresh colonists arrived in early 1608. Smith set out to explore, forage and trade. He sailed to the head of Chesapeake Bay and far up the Potomac in a vain search for gold and the North-West Passage.

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