COLONIAL DIXIE: BACON’S REBELLION AND VIRGINIA’S EXPANSION

With the Powhatan decimated and no longer a major player in Virginia, the Virginia colony was free to grow virtually unopposed. During the English Civil War (1642-1651), Virginia was forced to side with the king since it was run by the crown, not the Virginia company anymore. Trade with England fell significantly and so trade with the Dutch, Caribbean colonies, and New England increased. Governor Sir William Blakely declared a policy of neutrality however, so trade with England did continue, even with the Parliamentarians. By the 1660s, the colony had reached the Potomac river and expanded south into modern-day North Carolina as well, colonizing part of modern-day North Carolina in 1653. In the 1670s immigration from Europe declined and the colony hit a standstill and struggled to advance westward.

In 1675 trouble started with the Susquehannock Indians who lived on the border with Virginia and Maryland which had been established a few decades earlier. 500 Virginians and Marylanders then took up arms against the Susquehannock under Colonel John Washington, citing raids, rapes, and attacks as the source for their anger. In 1676 however, the governor, Sir William Berkeley, put forth a policy of setting up forts on the frontier instead of a campaign. Nathaniel Bacon, a new arrival to Virginia with a very negative opinion of Natives, did not agree with this policy and gathered together a volunteer militia force that pursued the Susquehannock across the Potomac with the aid of the Occaneechi even after being refused permission to do so by Berkeley.

Upon returning from their successful attack, Bacon proceeded to kill his Occaneechi allies who also used to be the allies of Virginia as a whole. In May of 1676, Berkeley expelled Bacon from the council and declared him a rebel. Bacon’s rebels controlled a good portion of the colony at this point, especially Henrico county. On June 6, he and his mob arrived at Jamestown where Bacon was arrested and forced to apologize to Berkeley. Berkeley responded by pardoning Bacon and restoring his seat on the Council. Bacon then assembled 500 men and stormed into Jamestown once again on June 23, demanding that Berkeley make him a general so that he can fight the Indians. After some intimidation tactics, Berkeley agreed. In July, Bacon was declared a rebel again to which he replied by taking Williamsburg with his supporters and gaining the support of 70 of the colony’s high-ranking officials. 20 Berkeley loyalists were stripped of their property as Bacon demanded for a new governor.

Berkeley had gone into hiding by August, giving Bacon the chance to try his luck against the Pamunkey Indians as the Susquehannocks and Ochaneechis whereabouts were unknown. After a few weeks of hunting in September, Bacon’s men found the Pamunkey and attacked them, defeating the tribe and scattering its survivors. When Bacon’s ships found Berkeley on the Eastern shore, they surrounded them, only to be captured by Berkeley’s men. Four were hanged for treason with their ships captured. Berkeley’s newfound fleet under Captain Thomas Larrimore joined his recently captured vessels, amounting to about 15 ships, giving him control of the Chesapeake Bay. Both sides met at Jamestown on September 14. Bacon then laid siege to it. On the 18th, Berkeley abandoned the town and once again fled for the Eastern shore. Bacon burned Jamestown the next day, reasoning that he could neither hold it or afford to allow Berkeley to retake it. Bacon then began hunting Indians again, allowing his men to flush out the loyalists in the meantime. He soon fell ill with typhus and dysentery and died on October 26.

The next day, Charles II wrote signed a proclamation approving of the suppression of Bacon’s rebellion, not knowing that Bacon had just died. 1,000 soldiers were then sent to do the suppressing, seeing as how Berkeley was largely incapable of doing so himself. Fierce fighting in the form of small skirmishes characterized November. The rebellion fell apart by February of 1767 with most of the leaders captured and hanged. By July, Virginia got a new governor anyway as Berkeley died in England of disease. In 1677 the Treaty of Middle Plantation was signed, placing many of the Native tribes as tributary states and giving them reservations.

In 1698 Jamestown burned down again, prompting the capital to be moved to Middle Plantation, which was renamed Williamsburg in 1699. By 1700, the population had reached 70,000 but Virginia ceased to expand westward until 1720 when immigration again picked up and the frontier moved west.

During the Tuscarora War (1711-1715) to its south, Virginia essentially remained neutral although its influence over the upper Tuscarora was vital as it prevented several chiefdoms from joining the attacks against North Carolina under the threat of an invasion by 2,000 Virginian troops. Thanks to Virginia’s influence over the northern Tuscarora, especially Tom Blount, a Native chief with an English name, led to the capture of the main leader of the Southern Tuscarora, chief Hancock. Without Virginia’s help, North Carolina could have possibly suffered a defeat in the war or at least a victory that was much harder to achieve.

In 1716 Governor Alexander Spotswood led an expedition named the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition, traveling west across the Blue Ridge Mountains, into the Shenandoah Valley, and to the Allegheny mountains.

The expedition paved the way for the settlement of the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s.

The settling of the valley came as a way to establish a buffer zone between Virginia and the French and Natives. It was settled primarily by German and Scots-Irish immigrants with a good amount of Anglo-Virginians as well, traveling by way of the Three Notch’d Road and the Great Wagon Road. They quickly found that their dreams of a successful life in the New World were achievable as the soil was fertile and the valley was mostly protected by mountains to the west. The land was also uninhabited as Natives only used it for hunting grounds but never settled or claimed the land. By 1745, there was at least 10,000 Europeans in the valley. With the growing British military, wheat and flour prices surged, further developing the valley as those goods were the valley’s main source of income and most farmers grew them. In modern-day West Virginia, German Pennsylvanians and Anglo-Virginians seeped westwards to establish various towns such as Harper’s Ferry, though the inner part of the state wouldn’t be settled until a few decades later.

In the early 1750s, the French and British frontier grew to overlap. The French hardly populated the American Midwest with their own people and instead resorted to using Native American tributary states to secure their claim, all kept under their thumb with strategically placed forts. When Virginians established a settlement around modern-day Pittsburgh in 1754, the French dispersed the settlers and renamed the settlement “Fort Desquesne”. Reinforcements were sent to aid the Virginians but before they could get there, they were already thrown out by the French. The leader of the expedition, Joshua Fry, also died, ceding command to George Washington.

Washington led the expedition to victory at Jumonville Glen but had his Native allies desert him. Washington and the Virginians then established Fort Necessity, featuring not much more than a palisade wall and few defenses.

The French took the fort after just a day of fighting, forcing Washington to sign a peace treaty, ceding the fort and allowing him to retire the small expedition back to Virginia.

Virginia saw very little fighting for the remainder of the war, only dedicating a few hundred volunteer militiamen to the fighting. Peace was signed in 1763 and Britain gained rights to French lands east of the Mississippi River. The next few years saw the British government back in England and the Colonial government of Virginia clash as new taxes were placed to pay for the costly war. These years would be the lead up to the American Revolution and independence of Virginia.

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