Who were the English who set sail for America?

Captain John Smith

In December 1606, 144 mariners and adventurers set out from the docks east of London to sail across the Atlantic to found a colony in the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia. Aside from the crew, the group was a mixture of “gentlemen” and adventurers. Gentlemen made up between a third and a half of the group. Most of them were young, in their twenties or thirties, seeking adventure and their fortunes. Several settlers, like Captain John Smith, were ex-soldiers and privateers who had fought against the Spanish in the Dutch wars. Among those who were not part of the gentry were a dozen or so skilled craftsmen and artisans, including a blacksmith, a mason, two bricklayers, four carpenters, a tailor, two barbers, and a surgeon. The remaining colonists included unskilled workers such as laborers and boys. Many believe that the majority of these men had no long-term plans to settle in Virginia. Instead, most went to explore and find riches, like gold and silver. Some hoped to find the elusive Northwest Passage. Apparently, there was no intention to make the colony an agricultural settlement or one amenable to family life, since no women were aboard. The primary motivation for the colony was profit.

The colonists arrived with limited personal possessions and items supplied by the Virginia Company to be used for survival and trade with the Indians. They were likely dressed in the English style of the period, according to their status. This would include such dress as woolen jerkins, breeches, stockings and low-heeled shoes. In addition, because of the military nature of the early years of settlement, each man was required to serve in the militia. For that reason, men were armed with a sword, a matchlock musket and bandolier, some type of armor and a helmet. This was in great contrast to the clothing worn by the Powhatan Indians.