Captain John Smith

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Captain John Smith

  Captain John Smith was a soldier, an explorer, and a writer. He helped establish the first permanent English colony in North America. This colony was a success mainly because of Smith's leadership skills.

      Smith was born in Willoughby, England, around 1580. He attended school and worked on a farm until he joined the army at the age of 15. He fought in several battles and was promoted to the rank of captain while fighting in Hungary. He was fighting against the Turks in Eastern Europe when he was captured and sold into slavery. He escaped and returned to England. After returning to England, Smith signed up with the Virginia Company of London to help start a new colony in North America. The company believed there was gold and silver in the Americas that could be brought back to England for profit. The colonists were to establish a colony to send the riches back to England.

     Smith's ship landed in Virginia in 1607, and the group started a settlement called Jamestown. Jamestown grew to be the first permanent English settlement in North America. The first years at Jamestown were difficult. Disease, lack of food, and attacks by American Indians threatened the new settlement. Many of the settlers were not used to hard labor and the rough conditions. Smith, however, was well suited for the hard work and adventure. He did a lot of exploring along the Virginia coastline and Chesapeake Bay. He even learned the language of the American Indians in the area.

     Smith was the governor of the Jamestown Colony from 1608 to 1609. He improved the conditions at Jamestown by teaching the colonists to support themselves and by trading with the American Indians in the area. Smith was strict with the colonists and tough on the American Indians, who feared Smith and hated the settlers. They made few attacks while Smith was in charge. In 1609, Smith was hurt in a gunpowder accident and was forced to return to England for treatment. After Smith left, Jamestown came under heavy attack by American Indians. The food supplies ran out, but the settlement survived.

     Smith sailed back to North America in 1614. He explored parts of what are today the states of Maine and Massachusetts. He named these areas New England. After this trip, Smith returned to England, where he lived the rest of his life. In his later years, Smith wrote many books about his experiences in North America. In these books, he stressed the importance of fish, animal skins, and forestry resources in North America. He felt that the search for gold and silver by the Virginia Company overlooked these simple, valuable resources. He also pointed out that the people chosen to colonize North America should be strong and willing to work hard. In one of his books, Smith also describes meeting Pocahontas. He tells about being captured by Chief Powhatan and how Pocahontas saved his life. Captain John Smith died in London in June 1631 at the age of 51.

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