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Third Supply

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Title: Third Supply  
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Subject: Popham Colony, History of Jamestown, Virginia (1607–99), Colony of Virginia, George Yeardley, Thomas Gates (governor)
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Third Supply

The Third Supply was the first truly successful wave of colonization in the first English settlement in the Americas, at Jamestown. It also resulted in the settlement of Bermuda (as an unintended side effect).

However, from the perspective of the colonists anxiously awaiting supplies at Jamestown, the Third Supply was anything but smooth, and four out of five of the colonists perished during the "starving time" before the leaders and some of the supplies which had been aboard the ill-fated flagship Sea Venture finally arrived in Virginia, ten months later than expected. Even then, the salvation of the colony only came with the timely arrival of Lord Delaware and another supply mission a few weeks later.


The Third Supply Mission from England to Jamestown consisted of five to six hundred people, in a fleet of eight ships, with William Strachey, Sylvester Jourdain and Sir Thomas Gates. These three men were on the new flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture.

The ships were:

  • Sea Venture with Captain Christopher Newport
  • Blessing with Captain Gabriel Archer and Captain Adams
  • Lion with Captain Webb
  • Falcon with Captain John Martin and Master Francis Nelson
  • Unitie with Captain Wood and Master Pett
  • Diamond with Captain John Ratcliffe and Captain King
  • Swallow with Captain Moone and Master Somers
  • Virginia of the North Colony with Captain Davis and Master Davis
  • Catch with Master Matthew Fitch [1]

The ships ran into a massive forty-four hour 'tempest' believed to have been a hurricane on Saint James Day, July 25, and became separated. Thirty two people from two ships were thrown overboard with yellow fever, and the London plague broke out on the Diamond. After the storm, The Blessing, the Lion, the Falcon and the Unitie (all on board were sick) came together and headed for Virginia, "falling into the James River." The Diamond appeared a few days later, and the Swallow a few days after that. The Catch was lost at sea, and nothing has been found as to when the ship Virginia arrived. The Diamond, Falcon, Blessing, and Unitie would return to England leaving October 14, 1609, with John Smith and thirty unruly youths sent from England but rejected by the colony.[2]

The Sea Venture started taking on water four days after the storm through her new caulking. On Thursday night, August 6, Sir George Somers, who sat upon the poop of the ship guiding her, saw "an apparition of a little round light, like a faint Starre, trembling and streaming along with a sparkling blaze, half the height of the Main Mast; and shooting sometimes from shroud to shroud, running sometimes along the main yard to the very end, and then returning." [3] On the next day, August 7, the Seaventure was deliberately run aground and wrecked between two reefs off the shores at Discovery Bay of Bermuda on 28 July 1609. All of approximately 150 passengers safely made land, "Not a hair perished." The rest of the fleet continued on to Jamestown, not knowing of the fate of the Sea Venture.

Over a period of nine months, the survivors on Bermuda built two new pinnances — Patience and Deliverance — using John Rolfe's daughter, Bermuda had died there. On "Monday, May 31", they reached Comfort Point, but the date is obviously incorrect, and May 30 was a Saturday.[4]

Their struggle to survive may have been the inspiration for Shakespeare's play, The Tempest.,[5] first produced on stage November 11, 1611.

Without the leadership, and most of the supplies, all of which had been aboard the Sea Venture, the rest of the group which arrived at Jamestown on the other ships and those already there were ill-prepared to survive, resulting in the "starving time" of 1609-1610 when over 80 per cent of the colonists perished.

The fate of Jamestown and the surrounding colony only turned when the officers showed up less than a year later in their replacement vessels, and were resupplied by yet another supply mission from England headed by Lord Delaware.

John Rolfe was one of the surviving colonists who had been shipwrecked with the Sea Venture. Despite the death of his wife and young son in Bermuda, he went on to Virginia, and in 1611, successfully cultivated new strains of tobacco, providing a critical cash crop for the colonists to grow and export beginning in 1612. Rolfe later married Matoaka (Pocahontas), Chief Powhatan's daughter. Reverend Richard Bucke of Wymondham officiated the wedding.[6] Reverend Alexander Whitaker converted Pocahontas to Christianity. He renamed her "Rebecca" when she had her baptism. Through their son, Thomas Rolfe, many of the First Families of Virginia trace both English and Native American heritage roots.



  1. ^ "The First Republic of America", Alexander Brown D.C.L., Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1898, pg 92
  2. ^ "The First Republic of America", Alexander Brown D.C.L., Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1898, pg 92
  3. ^ "The First Republic of America", Alexander Brown D.C.L., Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1898, pg 114
  4. ^ "The First Republic of America", Alexander Brown D.C.L., Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1898, pg 116
  5. ^ Woodward, Hobson, A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest (Viking, 2009) pp. 191-199
  6. ^ Hecht, Irene W. D. "Richard Bucke (1581 or 1582–ca. 1624)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
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