Robert Beverley's Description of
the 1622 Indian Attack

Indian Attack of 1622

In the meantime, by the great increase of people and the long quiet they had enjoyed among the Indians since the marriage of Pocahontas and the accession of Opechancanough to the imperial crown, all men were lulled into a fatal security and became everywhere familiar with the Indians - eating, drinking, and sleeping amongst them, by which means they became perfectly acquainted with all our English strength and the use of our arms, knowing at all times when and where to find our people, whether at home or in the woods, in bodies or dispersed, in condition of defense or indefensible...

Thus upon the loss of one of their leading men (a war captain, as they call him) who was likewise supposed to be justly killed, Opechancanough took affront in revenge laid the plot of a general massacre of the English to be executed on the 22d March, 1622, a little before noon, at a time when our men were all at work abroad in their plantations, dispersed and unarmed. This hellish contrivance was to take effect upon all the several settlements at one and the same instant except on the Eastern Shore, whither this plot did not reach. The Indians had been made so familiar with the English as to borrow their boats and canoes to cross the rivers in, when they went to consult with their neigh-boring Indians upon this execrable conspiracy. And, to color their design the better, they brought presents of deer, turkeys, fish, and fruits to the English the evening before.

The very morning of the massacre they came freely and unarmed among them, eating with them and behaving themselves with the same freedom and friend-ship as formerly till the very minute they were to put their plot in execution. Then they fell to work all at once everywhere, knock-ing the English unawares on the head, some with their hatchets, which they call tomahawks, others with the hoes and axes of the English themselves, shooting at those who escaped the reach of their hands, sparing neither age nor sex but destroying man, woman, and child according to their cruel way of leaving none behind to bear resentment. But whatever was not done by sur-prise that day was left undone, and many that made early resistance escaped.

By the account taken of the Christians murdered that morning, they were found to be 347, most of them falling by their own instruments and working tools.

Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia: A Selection (Indianapolis & New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc, 1971), 21-22.

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