Society of Colonial Wars

in the State of Ohio

Ohio Society of Colonial Wars
:: Colonial Wars

1676 - 1677

   ||    Bacon's Rebellion

Growing unrest and tension over land demands within the colony, and a mix of fear and jealousy of the surrounding tribes, made Virginia ripe for rebellion. It was triggered in 1675 when Native traders confiscated some livestock as collateral for unpaid goods, only to be attacked by the owners. Their tribe retaliated, and soon skirmishes and raids were commonplace

The leader of the Virginia colonies, Sir William Berkeley, feared offending the Natives, and stayed on the defensive, building forts, angering the settlers. A newcomer to the colonies, Nathaniel Bacon, a wealthy landowner, who, like most newcomers was disdainful of the native tribes, rallied some citizens and attacked the natives, assuming he'd be granted a commission afterwards. Bacon realized that hatred of the natives helped distract from anger at the government, and sent Berkley a letter, asking for a commission and arguing that inciting racial hatred would ease the class tensions in the colonies and unify the whites. Berkley refused, out of loyalty to his native allies, or in protection of his trade profits, and instead called for a new assembly and removed voting restrictions on landless men. His plan backfired, when the new assembly passed reforms empowering the common folk, and legalizing the enslavement of natives.

Meanwhile, Bacon and his men continued attacking natives. After hearing that Berkeley had declared them rebels, Bacon and his followers began attacking governmental forces as well. About a thousand Virginians of all classes rose up in arms against Berkeley, chasing Berkeley from Jamestown, Virginia, forcing the new assembly to grant him a commission as "General of Virginia". The rebellion was first suppressed by a few armed merchant ships from London whose captains sided with Berkeley and the loyalists. But fighting for control of the colony continued for months, ultimately ending with the rebels torching the capital. The rebellion lost its cohesion when Bacon died suddenly in October 1676, and was then defeated by government forces who arrived in January 1677 and spent several years defeating pockets of resistance and reforming the colonial government to one more directly under royal control.

Bacon's Rebellion began as a crusade against Native Americans, but nearly became a social revolution when upset frontiersmen and former indentured servants turned on the upper class. This event precipitated a sharp decrease in the use of indentured servants, and an upswing in importing African slaves. The elite took Bacon's advice to heart and used the racial hatred of African's to protect against further class conflict.

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