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Preservation Virginia > Jamestown Rediscovery > Exhibit > Jamestown Fort: Rediscovered > The People > Captain John Smith in Virginia

Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith "For in Virginia, a plaine Souldier that can use a Pick-axe and spade, is better than five Knights."

Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith is best known for his excellent leadership in the colony's early years. He arrived at Jamestown still imprisoned for dissent during the voyage and was eventually released. While exploring the Chickahominy River region, he was captured by Powhatan's men in December 1607. Chief Powhatan, the supreme leader in the Chesapeake region, released Smith on January 2, 1608, after Powhatan's favorite daughter, Pocahontas, intervened. Smith says of Pocahontas that she "hazarded the beating out of her owne braines to save mine." On September 10, 1608, Smith became president of the council in the colony and orchestrated such improvements as expanding the settlement around the fort and repairing many buildings. He remained in Virginia until the fall of 1609 when he suffered a severe powder burn and had to return to England.

John Smith was instrumental in disseminating knowledge about Virginia, publishing such works as True Relation of Virginia in 1608, Map of Virginia in 1612, Generall Historie of Virginia beginning in 1624 (there were six editions in eight years), and True Travels in 1630. While his writing contains important factual information about Virginia as it was when inhabited only by Indians and a few colonists, Smith is also noted for embellishing his stories with boasts and conceit, some of which has been proven to be based in truth. He died in England in 1631 at age 51.

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