What caused death among the colonist in Jamestown?

As I read the literature and autobiography by John Smith, I became very interested in learning why the colonists were having such a hard time starting up the new colony and why most were dying. Smith often mentioned in his writings the harsh life that him and the settlers were living. Smith described life in Jamestown by stating “it fortuned that within ten dayes scarce ten amongst vs could either goe, or well stand, such extreame weaknes and sicknes oppressed.” Not only were the settlers dying from sickness, but they were also dying from starvation and extreme weather conditions.

One hundred and four colonists came to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Many of the settlers were from different backgrounds and social class, who each were skilled in different areas of labor. However, most of these men died. The leading cause of death in the colony was disease. Jamestown was located near a swamp, which made the threat of disease even greater because of unsanitary drinking water. As a result of the unclean water, the consists developed typhoid and dysentery. The colonists were forced to use the disease infested water for cooking, washing, and drinking purposes.

Another cause of death in the colony was starvation. When the colonists sailed from England to Jamestown, they had very little food supplies because they believed they would quickly learn how to develop the land and grow their own food. However, the Powhatans refused to give over their food and firewood that were located outside of the fort walls. The colonists began to die from extreme starvation. Food became so scarce, that the colonists began to result to cannibalism to keep from starving.

20130118-114434.jpg This picture illustrates the Jamestown Fort. www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/75460/Jamestown-Fort-in-Virginia-1608

Another issue that caused the colonists to face death were the harsh winters and summers. During the winter, the temperatures in Virginia would drop to below freezing. The colonists were not prepared for the freezing temperatures and many died from freezing to death. However, during the summer, many colonists died from extreme heat exhaustion and dehydration.

20130118-115807.jpg www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/why-settle-on-jamestown.htm

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