John Rolfe Seeks Chief Powhatan’s Consent to Marry Pocahontas

Christian Bale as John Rolfe

Governor Dale sends Captain Samuel Argall and 150 men aboard the Treasurer up the York River seeking the Indians. In order to show a peaceful intent, John Rolfe and Pocahontas are on board. Captain Samuel Argall is again part of the Pocahontas and John Rolfe story. Captain Argall and his men meet some resistance at the first Indian village they encounter, so they sack and burn the village and kill five or six Indian men.

Farther upriver, at Werowocomoco, which in the early days of Jamestown had been paramount Chief Powhatan’s village, the English go ashore with Pocahontas. She refuses to speak to any Indians other than royalty, and two of her brothers come to speak with her. Pocahontas’ brothers agree to remain as hostages while John Rolfe and young Rob Sparkes seek Powhatan’s permission for Rolfe to wed Pocahontas.

Powhatan is three days journey away, so Rolfe meets with Powhatan’s younger brother Opechancanough (sometimes Opechankeno). A message is received from Powhatan. Chief Powhatan gives permission for the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and Chief Powhatan further suggests a general peace between the natives and the settlers.

After Chief Powhatan Agrees to the Ransom Demands, Captain Argall Keeps Pocahontas Prisoner

On April 13, 1613, after receiving a favorable answer to his ransom demands, Captain Samuel Argall leaves Potowomac, but sails to Jamestown rather than to meet Chief Powhatan and receive the ransom. After reaching Jamestown, Princess Pocahontas is sent to the new village of Henrico, 55 miles upriver from Jamestown. Sir Thomas Dale, the Marshal, is headquartered in Henrico.

Captain Argall Holds Pocahontas For Ransom

Knowing Pocahontas to be a princess, Captain Samuel Argall asks for ransom. He asks for the release of English prisoners held by paramount Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas’ father, and return of all English weapons that were acquired by the Indians over the years. Chief Japazaw sends messengers to Chief Powhatan. Two days later the messengers return and report that Chief Powhatan accepts the ransom terms and asks Captain Argall to sail his ship up the Pamunkey River to the village of Matchut to receive the ransom.

Captain Argall Goes to the Potowomac Indian Village and Discovers That Pocahontas Lives There

In early April 1613, Captain Samuel Argall goes on a trading mission to the Potowomac village. Unknown to him, this is the village where Princess Pocahontas, her husband Kocoum, and their child Little Kocoum, live. It has been at least four years since Princess Pocahontas has had any interaction with the English settlers. She is 15 years old, having been born September 17, 1597.

Chief Japazaw of the Potowomac village is Kocoum’s older brother. By chance, Captain Argall learns that Pocahontas lives in the village. He threatens Chief Japazaw and his wife and gets them to bring Pocahontas to lunch on his ship.

The Third Supply Is Coming Soon

Captain Samuel Argall

Captain Samuel Argall, who looms large later in the history of Jamestown, reaches Jamestown on July 13, 1609, in only nine weeks instead of the usual 16 weeks. But the Sea Venture fleet doesn’t know this, as it departs only ten days after Argall. Captain Argall tells the colonists in Jamestown that the Third Supply fleet will be arriving soon.

The Long Ocean Voyage to Virginia

1609 Era English Sailing Ship

On May 5, 1609, the Virginia Company of London sends Captain Samuel Argall to Virginia to explore a more direct route to Virginia instead of going south along the coasts of Europe and Africa and then sailing west to the Caribbean and then north up the Gulf Stream along the Atlantic coast of America. The traditional southern route is the one John Rolfe and the Sea Venture will take ten days later.

The rationale for trying a more northern route is twofold. First, despite the peace treaty of 1604 between England and Spain, the Spanish are attacking English ships in the Caribbean. For example, in 1606, the Richard, a ship of the Virginia Company of Plymouth which holds the royal charter for more northern lands, sails the traditional route to the Americas and is then to head up to Pemaquid on the Maine coast north of the Kennebec River, but it is captured by a Spanish ship and all hands are sent to Spain and imprisoned. The second reason is to see if they can find a faster route to Virginia.