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Bacon’s Rebellion

Nathaniel Bacon
Nathaniel Bacon

Nathaniel Bacon (b.1647-d.1676) came to the North American colony of Virginia in 1674 and purchased 800 acres of land at Curles Neck in eastern Henrico. Although a relative of the English Governor of Virginia, William Berkeley, Bacon began to foster dissent with the Jamestown authority. Bacon and his followers led what became known as Bacon’s Rebellion.

Throughout 1676, Bacon would muster 300-400 volunteers and move along the Virginia frontier to attack friendly Virginia Indian Tribes who occupied fertile lands. For his actions, Governor Berkeley had Bacon arrested and removed from the Governor’s Council. Nathaniel Bacon’s supporters were able to secure his release, and Henrico County voters elected him to the House of Burgesses. In July, Bacon and his army issued a Declaration of the People, which brought criticism to Berkeley’s administration and accused him of corruption, unfair taxes, and being soft on Indian issues.

Following several attacks on friendly Indian tribes, the Pamunkey and Appamatuck, and off and on rebukes from Governor Berkeley, Bacon, along with forces numbering between 300-500 men, marched on Jamestown and burned the capitol to the ground on September 19, 1676. An overwhelmed Governor Berkeley escaped Jamestown to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. As news reached England, King Charles II dispatched a naval squadron to suppress the revolt. Before the reinforcements could arrive, Nathaniel Bacon died on October 26, 1676 of dysentery. Fellow rebel John Ingram took charge of the rebellion, but without Bacon’s leadership and the arrival of the naval squadron, the revolt soon dissipated.

Although the events were originally interpreted as a precursor to the revolutionary era a century later, most historians now concur that Bacon and his band of rebels were most concerned with ridding the colony of American Indian occupation.

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