It is currently January of 1580, and John Smith was just born in Lincolnshire England. Little did anyone know, he would become an explorer for England and early leader of the first permanent English settlement in North America.
As Smith grew, so his curiosity and need for adventure. At age 16 or 17, his adventuresome spirit found an outlet on the battlefields of continental Europe, where he fought for the Netherlands in its war of independence from Spain. He then traveled to Hungary in 1601 as a mercenary to join Austrian forces fighting the Ottoman Empire; he advanced to the rank of captain. Captured by the enemy the following year and taken to Turkey, he escaped to Russia and returned to England in 1604 or 1605.
After his explorations and war, he attached himself to a group preparing to establish an English colony in North America. A royal charter was then granted to the Virginia Company of London, permitting the voyage to make an English settlement that lasts.
Smith and about 100 other colonists led by Christopher Newport set sail on December 20, 1606. On April 26, 1607, the voyagers arrived at the Chesapeake Bay, and on May 14 they disembarked at what was to become Jamestown.
In his dealings with Native Americans, Smith’s approach differed from those of the Spanish conquistadores and later English settlers. Smith chose to keep the Powhatan empire at bay through psychology, diplomacy, and intimidation—not massacre. He believed the English could avoid bloodshed by projecting an image of strength.
Smith became president of the Jamestown Colony on September 10, 1608. He conducted military training and continued to secure corn from the Indians by trade. He required greater discipline of the colonists, announcing a policy that "he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness or disabled)." Under Smith’s direction, small quantities of tar, pitch, and soap ash were made, a well was dug, houses were built, fishing was done regularly, crops were planted, and outlying forts were built. The colony bore little loss of life during his presidency, compared with the enormous suffering and mortality of the years before and after his rule.