Bacon's Rebellion

     10 May 1676 - 18 October 1676

    In 1675 Susquehannock Indians, as a result of conflicts with other tribes, began to move southward into the colonies of Maryland and Virginia. There they committed a number of atrocities against the Euro-American settlers. A force of Marylanders, under the command of Thomas Trueman, along with a force of Virginians, under John Washington, met the Indians at Piscatawy Creek on 27 September. The Indians were victorious, and stepped up their attacks. It was reported that they killed thirty-six settlers in a single raid. Understandably, some of the settlers began to desert their homesteads while others sent pleas to the provincial government (i.e. the Virginia Company) for assistance.

    Sir William Berkeley, the Virginia Company's governor was involved in the fur trade. Perhaps the safeguarding of his own interests is why he did not respond to the frontier settlers' calls for help.

    As the spring of 1676 dawned, Nathaniel Bacon, a member of the provincial Council on behalf of Henrico County, assembled a force to confront the Susquehannock. Because he had assembled and marched his force of frontiersmen without a commission, Bacon was declared a traitor and arrested upon his return from a victory against the Susquehannock.

    Bacon was ultimately pardoned by Governor Berkeley, but he returned to Henrico County and raised another force of about five hundred men. This time, rather than marching against the Indians, Bacon and his men marched unopposed into Jamestown. On 23 June, Bacon scored a minor victory by forcing Governor Berkeley to sign his commission. The governor once again declared Bacon and his followers to be in rebellion against the colony and called for his arrest. But the most of the people was in agreement with Bacon and wanted the Indians ousted from their region. On 03 August, the plantation owners met at the Middle Plantation to sign an oath of support toward Bacon and his cause. The governor was unable to raise a force to go against Bacon, so he fled to the Eastern Shore.

    Bacon led his army on an expedition against the Indians, driving them beyond the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. He then returned to Jamestown, and, on the 18th of September 1676, as a show of force, he drove governor Berkeley's supporters from the town and burned it.

    Bacon's Rebellion was brought to an untimely halt on 18 October 1676 with the sudden death of its leader, Nathaniel Bacon. His army became dispirited; one by one they surrendered to Berkeley after receiving his promise of amnesty. But Berkeley was not one to keep his word. On 10 February 1677, he declared the amnesty to be null and void. Twenty-three of Bacon's followers were executed. They were stopped only by the removal of Berkeley from power and the takeover of Colonel Herbert Jeffreys on 27 April.