Samuel Argall: Wikis


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Sir Samuel Argall (died ca. 24 January 1626) was an English adventurer and naval officer.

As a sea captain, in 1609, Argall was the first to determine a shorter northern route from England across the Atlantic Ocean to the Virginia Colony based at Jamestown, and made numerous voyages to the New World. He captained one of Lord Delaware's ships in the successful rescue mission to Virginia in 1610 which saved the colony from starvation. As a sea warrior, he is best-known for his successful diplomacy with the Powhatan Confederacy. He kidnapped the Chief's daughter, Pocahontas, as security against the return of English captives and property held by Powhaton. Pocahontas had long been a friend of the English and was treated with great respect according to her rank, in the eyes of the English, as an Indian Princess. This action eventually resulted in the restoration of peace and trade relations between the English and the Powhaton Confederacy. He was also successful in his actions against French efforts at colonization in New England and North Africa which were upheld in London as violations of the Charter of the Virginia Company.

Knighted by King James I, Argall was criticized by his rival and successor Yeardley as having been excessively stern in his term as Governor of Virginia, but the examinations of his conduct in London and the opinion of most modern historians have cleared him of these charges.



Samuel Argall was the son of Richard Argall, a military man of East Sutton, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Reginald Scott of Scott’s Hall, one of the foremost houses in Kent (both in the English county of Kent).

Shorter route to Virginia

In 1609, Argall, an English ship captain employed by the Virginia Company of London, he was the first to develop a shorter, more northerly route for sailing from England across the Atlantic Ocean to the Virginia Colony and its primary port and seat of government at Jamestown. Rather than following the normal practice of going south to the tropics and west with the trade winds, Captain Argall sailed west from the Azores Islands to Bermuda and then almost due west to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. His voyage took only nine weeks and six days including two weeks becalmed. This new route enabled the English to avoid enemy Spanish ships and to save on provisions.

Upon his arrival at Jamestown, Captain Argall found the colonist in dire straits. He resupplied the colonists with all the food he could spare, and returned to England at the end of the summer. The help came to the colony at one of the most critical moments in its history, as it began the Starving Time, during which less than 20% survived. However, without the provisions Argall had left, the colony may have been totally wiped out.

Under Lord de la Warr

He arriving back at the Colony in the summer of 1610, when Royal Governor Sir Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr reinforced the defences of the English against the sometimes hostile Native Americans in Virginia. Lord Delaware, as West later became known, became so ill that in the spring of 1611 he sailed home to England, and Sir Thomas Dale took his place as Deputy Governor in charge of the Virginia Colony. When he returned to England, Lord de la Warr wrote a book, The Relation of the Right Honourable the Lord De-La-Warre, of the Colonie, Planted in Virginia, and remained nominally the Royal Governor until his death in 1618.

Serving under Dale, in March 1613, Captain Samuel Argall, who was looking for food for the settlement, sailed up the Potomac River. There, he traded with the Patawomecks, a Native American tribe. They lived at the village of Passapatanzy in present-day Stafford County on the Potomac River near Fredericksburg.

When two English colonists began trading with the Patawomecks, they discovered the presence of Pocahontas, the daughter of Wahunsunacock, Chief of the Powhatan Confederacy. According to a book by Captain John Smith, she had been living there for several years. As soon as he heard this, Argall resolved to get kidnap Pocahontas. Sending for the local chief, Japazaws, Argall told him he must bring her on board his ship, and suggested luring her with the present of a copper kettle.

With the help of Japazaws, they tricked Pocahontas into captivity. Their purpose, as they explained in a letter, was to ransom her for some English prisoners held by Chief Powhatan, along with various weapons and farming tools that the Powhatans had stolen.[1] Powhatan returned the prisoners, but failed to satisfy the colonists with the amount of weapons and tools he returned, and a long standoff ensued. During the year-long wait, Pocahontas was kept at Henricus, in modern-day Chesterfield County. While in captivity, the young Indian princess converted to Christianity, eventually marrying John Rolfe in 1614. While holding Pocahontas as a hostage had not worked to bring peace with the Powhatans, her marriage did, and era of peace lasted about 3 years.

After the capture of Pocahontas, later in 1613, under orders from London, Argall eradicated a French Jesuit colony on Mount Desert Island in Maine. After the first of two trips to accomplish this, he carried 14 prisoners back to Jamestown. He then went on to take & burn the French settlements of Saint-Sauveur, Sainte-Croix in Quebec & Port Royal in Nova Scotia. One of his principle French captives later wrote in praise of Argall's character and conduct. Argall was also the first Englishman to visit Manhatton where he landed and warned the Dutch of their encroachment upon English territory.

In the Virginia Colony, where he required strict discipline, Argall was viewed by his rival as an autocrat who was especially insensitive to the poorer of the colonists. After he served his term as Principal Governor of Virginia beginning in 1617, Lord Delaware was en route from England to investigate complaints about Argall when he died at sea in 1618. Argall was succeeded by his rival Sir George Yeardley in 1619. In London, Argall was cleared of these accusations and continued his steady rise at court as a useful servant of King James I.

Fighting the French, New England, Knighthood

In 1620 he was captain of a merchant vessel which took part in an expedition against Algiers, which at the time was a French Colony in North Africa. On his return, he was made a member of the Council of New England. Later he was named admiral for New England.

On 26 June 1622, he was knighted by King James I. In 1625, he was the admiral of a fleet of 28 vessels which took many prizes off the coast of France and in October commanded the flagship in an unsuccessful attack on Cadiz.

Argall was never married. He died at sea on or about 24 January 1626. He left a will dated 23 May 1625, which was proved 21 Mar 1626. In it he mentions the following relations: sister Filmer, niece Sarah Filmer, nephew Samuel Filmer; sister Bathurst, nephew Samuel Bathurst; sister Fleetwood; brother John Argall esq and John's son Samuel Argall whose descendants have flourished in Virgnia and the West. [2]


  1. ^ Argall, Letter to Nicholas Hawes. p. 754.
  2. ^ "Genealogical Gleanings in England, Vol II"


External links

Government offices
Preceded by
George Yeardley
Colonial Governor of Virginia
Succeeded by
George Yeardley


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