September 10, 1608
John Smith Became a Leader
Did the Indian princess Pocahontas really save
his life? Was he really captured and sold into slavery
in Turkey, escaping with the love of a Turkish
John Smith may have been the first
romantic of America; he certainly became an
appreciated leader. Explorer, adventurer, writer, and
cartographer, Smith assumed a leadership role at the
Jamestown settlement on September 10, 1608. On
the Atlantic coast of present-day Virginia, Jamestown
was the first British settlement in North America,
founded in 1607. At first, Smith wasn't even
considered for the government.
The charismatic and controversial Smith was
originally excluded from the government of the
settlement on the grounds that he had conspired to
mutiny during the voyage to Virginia. But
because of his strength and ingenuity, the people of
Jamestown needed him.
He began to run things
long before he officially received his post, leading
the settlers through struggles against disease,
starvation, and frequent raids upon the settlement by
the American Indian tribes. A brash figure with
a bold self-confidence, Smith brought his soldiering
experience to Virginia.
Smith claimed that, while fighting in Transylvania,
Hungary, against the Turks in 1600, he had been
wounded, captured, and sold into slavery in Turkey.
Smith said that a Turkish woman had fallen in love
with him and helped him escape. Whether that is
a "tall tale" or not, his most famous Jamestown
experience, equally as romantic and daring, has become
a legendary story in American history.
and brought before Algonquin Chief Powhatan in
December 1607, Pocahontas, the chief's young daughter,
supposedly saved Smith's life by throwing herself
between him and his would-be executioners.
In the summer of 1608, Jamestown prospered. Smith
was injured in a gunpowder accident in 1609 and was
forced to return to England. Returning in 1614,
he dubbed the region to the north of Virginia, New
Do you think Smith's stories are true? You might want to read more of Captain Smith's
adventures in his book, Historie of Virginia,
New-England, and the Summer Isles, published in 1624.