John Smith is often regarded as the first hero in U.S. history. He is also famous for falling in love with the beautiful Indian princess, Pocahontas. Though his time in America was short, Smith indeed is the first important American. He was not perfect. His policies kept the earliest Jamestown settlers alive, but they also led to conflict with the neighboring Indians. Smith and his militia routinely raided Indians stealing food and supplies.
It was because of his raids, that Smith met Pocahontas, daughter of the powerful Indian chief, Powhatan. Smith was captured, and on the brink of execution, when Pocahontas rushed in threw herself atop Smith and proclaimed that anyone attempting to kill him would have to kill her too. The rest as they say is history. Or is it?
We must always question the authenticity of history. In the case of John Smith, why do we know what we know about him? Who recorded it and passed it on to subsequent generations and why?
In the case of Smith, the question is easy to answer. After he returned from Virginia to England, John Smith wrote several autobiographies about his many worldwide adventures. Smith wrote about himself in the third person and had an extremely high opinion of himself. We must regard his writings with skepticism. Is it possible that he added exciting elements to his story to make it more marketable?
Smith wrote about his American, European, and Turkish adventures as a mercenary fighting great warriors and being captured and rescued by exotic women. His magnetism won their hearts and their loyalty. Going against their own people, the women set him free. Those stories sound remarkably like the story of Pocahontas. It is also suspicious that Smith did not write about her until after she had toured England as a celebrity.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.