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why did jamestown was in a penissula,
When Jamestown was founded in 1607, the settlers built their fort on a peninsula. This peninsula did not have good land for farming and didn’t even have access to fresh water, and many colonists died in the first few years.
The English were not the first people to arrive in Virginia, just as Columbus was not the first person to realize the earth was round. Asian hunter-gatherers got here first, about 15,000 years earlier. The Spanish explored the Chesapeake Bay before the English. In 1570, the Spanish even sent Catholic missionaries to convert the natives in Virginia and to expand the power of Spain north from Cuba.
In 1565 the Spanish established the first permanent European settlement in North America, St. Augustine in Florida. That settlement never developed beyond its role as a fort (presidio). Its primary role was to prevent pirates or other nations from establishing a base for capturing Spanish ships carrying gold and silver home from the New World. St. Augustine also protected Catholic missionaries – but the Spanish never tried to “plant” a large number of permanent settlers there.
Jamestown was intended to become the core of a long-term settlement effort, creating new wealth for the London investors and recreating English society in North America. The colonists arrived at Jamestown after a 4-month journey from London.
The three ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, left on December 16,
1606 from the docks at Blackwall on the Thames River, stopped at the Canary Islands for water, reached Martinique in the West Indies on March 23, sailed north from the Caribbean on April 10, reached Cape Henry on April 26 – and then spent over two weeks exploring places along the James River before settling at Jamestown on May 14, 1607.
The colony was a private venture, financed and organized by the Virginia Company of London. King James I granted a charter to a group of investors for the establishment of the company on April 10, 1606. During this era, “Virginia” was the English name for the entire East Coast of North America north of Florida.
The charter gave the company the right to settle anywhere from roughly present-day North Carolina to New York state. The company’s plan was to reward investors by locating gold and silver deposits and by finding a river route to the Pacific Ocean for trade with the Orient.
A contingent of approximately 105 colonists departed England in late December 1606 in three ships—the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery—under the command of Christopher Newport. They reached Chesapeake Bay on April 26, 1607. Soon afterward the captains of the three ships met to open a box containing the names of members of the colony’s governing council: Newport; Bartholomew Gosnold,
one of the behind-the-scenes initiators of the Virginia Company; Edward-Maria Wingfield, a major investor; John Ratcliffe; George Kendall; John Martin; and Captain John Smith, a former mercenary who had fought in the Netherlands and Hungary.
Wingfield became the colony’s first president. Smith had been accused of plotting a mutiny during the ocean voyage and was not admitted to the council until weeks later, on June 10.
After a period of searching for a settlement site, the colonists moored the ships off a peninsula (now an island) in the James River on the night of May 13 and began to unload them on May 14. The site’s marshy setting and humidity would prove to be unhealthful,
but the site had several apparent advantages at the time the colony’s leaders chose it: ships could pull up close to it in deep water for easy loading and unloading,
it was unoccupied, and it was joined to the mainland only by a narrow neck of land, making it simpler to defend. The settlement, named for James I, was known variously during its existence as James Forte, James Towne, and James Cittie.
Careful studies have enabled historians and scientists to piece together what kind of environment greeted the Virginia Company in 1607. When the first settlers arrived, what is now Jamestown Island was a peninsula,
and sea level was about 1 meter (3 feet) lower than today. Erosion resulting from rising sea level carved the island away from the mainland about two centuries later. By early seventeenth century, however, brackish (salty) water had already invaded the James River, making freshwater scarce.
Life was hard for the first settlers at Jamestown. Historians’ opinions differ about the ability of the original settlers to conquer the wilderness. Some scholars suggest that the gentlemen in the Virginia Company would have disdained hard work, others arguing that everyone worked hard to help the colony survive. Nevertheless,
in the winter of 1609-1610, nearly 90 percent of the settlers died in a period called “the starving time.” Assorted culprits have been offered to explain the die-off, but one factor was probably environmental. A 1998 tree-ring study indicated that, during that time, the region suffered the worst drought in almost eight centuries.
In the decade to come, Jamestown’s situation would improve. Martial law was imposed, solving, however harshly, some of the discipline problems experienced in the first three years of the colony, according to Historic Jamestowne.
The problem of the colonists finding a marketable commodity was solved in 1612 when John Rolfe, experimenting with tobacco seeds ― possibly from Trinidad ― developed a marketable crop that could be exported to England. King James I would give the Virginia Company a monopoly on tobacco, making the trade even more profitable. He even allowed the company to set up a lottery to provide additional funds for the Jamestown venture, according to Historic Jamestowne.
Growth of the Colony
The English began to build other forts and settlements up and down the James River,
and by the fall of 1611 had managed to harvest a decent crop of corn themselves. They had also learned other valuable techniques from the Algonquians,
including how to insulate their dwellings against the weather using tree bark,
and expanded Jamestown into a New Town to the east of the original fort.
A period of relative peace followed the marriage in April 1614 of the colonist and tobacco planter John Rolfe to Pocahontas, a daughter of Chief Powhatan who had been captured by the settlers and converted to Christianity. (According to John Smith,
Pocahontas had rescued him from death in 1607,
when she was just a young girl and he was her father’s captive.) Thanks largely to Rolfe’s introduction of a new type of tobacco grown from seeds from the West Indies, Jamestown’s economy began to thrive.
1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia’s male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies. That same year, the first Africans (around 50 men, women and children) arrived in the English settlement; they had been on a Portuguese slave ship captured in the West Indies and brought to the Jamestown region.
They worked as indentured servants at first (the race-based slavery system developed in North America in the 1680s) and were most likely put to work picking tobacco.
why did jamestown was in a penissula
It was the piece of advice that appears to have been least considered and most costly to the colonists – “Neither must you plant in a low and moist place, because it will prove unhealthful.” Jamestown Island is low lying, surrounded largely by marshes, and the James River is still brackish and tidal along its shores. The colonists chose Jamestown Island for their colony on May 13, 1607. Leaving 104 men and boys in Virginia,
on June 22, Captain Newport departed Jamestown with the Susan Constant and Godspeed, leaving the smallest ship – Discovery – behind for the colonists’ use. George Percy’s account of the colony quickly takes a dark turn. His often-detailed descriptions of the local flora and fauna are replaced with almost daily accounts of colonists dying.
In an especially descriptive passage, Percy writes that:
“Our men were destroyed with cruel diseases, as swellings, flixes, burning fevers, and by wars, and some departed suddenly,
but for the most part they died of mere famine. There were never Englishmen left in a foreign country in such misery as we were in this new-discovered Virginia. . . Our food was but a small can of barley sod in water to five men a day; our drink cold water taken out of the river, which was at a flood very salt, at a low tide full of slime and filth, which was the destruction of many of our men.”
By the time Captain Newport returned to Jamestown with more supplies and colonists in January of 1608,
hardly 40 of the original 104 colonists were still alive. In the end, Jamestown survived, but just barely. The choice of
Jamestown Island proved unhealthy and contributed to the high fatality rate seen in the first years of the colony. Only the successful voyaging of ships thousands of miles across the Atlantic with more colonists and supplies allowed Jamestown to survive its early years. The capital of the colony was moved to what is now Williamsburg in 1699.
why did jamestown was in a penissula,