Was Captain John Smith of Jamestown a liar?


To the contrary, he is probably the most truthful forefather our country ever had. He always wished to be a knight and incorporated the ideals of knighthood, including truthfulness into his character and practiced this ideal throughout his life.

See the home page of Captain John Smith

Was Captain John Smith a liar?


Phillip Barbour wrote "nothing Smith wrote can found to be a lie"

His friends, patrons, and admirers, some of the most powerful people in England would not have supported Smith if they had any thought he was a liar. Prince Charles and Lord Pembroke among others allowed Smith to dedicate his book to them.

"Dozens of contemporaries testified that Smith was honest and truthful. Not one critic or enemies denied it" (page 96, Did Pocahontas save Captain John Smith?)

Samuel Purchas, the foremost scholarly authority on Virginia colonization, believed Smith and reprinted the story of his captivity and of being saved by Pocahontas in the 1625 Hakluytus Posthumus.



Reading Captain John Smith's writings gives insight into the wonderful character of this man.


Smith Speaks about persons Judging him

Below is statement written as an introduction to The General history (1624 2:333-34) asking that the reader consider the extraordinary circumstances and excuse himself, the author (Smith), suffered in living the events before judging what he as written too harshly.

Thus far I have traveled in this Wilderness of Virginia, not being ignorant for all my pains this discourse will be wrested, tossed and turned as many waies as there is leaves; that I have writ too much of some. too little of others, and many such objections... Ah! were these my accusers but to change place with me but 2 years, or til they had done but so much as I , it may be they would judge more charitably of my imperfections. written by Smith as an introduction to The General history (1624 2:333-34)


Captain John Smith has been unjustly maligned by some persons. It is heartbreaking that such a great man is subject to such untruths.

It is as if the ancestors of the unscrupulous factions that existed in the fort when Smith was there have resurfaced in modern day times.

Any just person who thoroughly reads Smith's works and understands it, cannot but admire this man of tremendous accomplishment. His personal integrity shines through like a penetrating lighthouse beam of light.


Smith Speaks about factions in the fort

- when undergoing an ambush by overwhelming number of 50:1, Smith says he wishes the factions in the fort were as small worry as this assault.

Early 1608. Captain John Smith leads a trading part on a food gathering expedition to visit Powhatan and his brother Opechancanough. After a failed ambush by Powhatan and the typical apology and gifts from Powhatan, Smith goes upriver to see Opechancanough.

While in the lodge with Opechancanough, warriors to the number of 600 or 700 surrounded Smith's 15 soldiers in the lodge.

Now this was a near panic situation for Smith's men seeing such numbers. The possibility of escape seemed dismal to some of the men. Smith rose to the threat and to calm his men said, " Worthy countrymen, were the mischiefes of my seeming friends no more then the danger of these enemies, I little cared, were they as many more". But this is my torment, if I escape them, our malicious council, (Ratcliff) with their open- mouthed minions (Gabriel Archer), will make mee such a peace-breaker (in their opinions) in England, as will break my neck. I wish those here, that make these seem Saints, and mee an opressor".


Rev. Crashaw

Rev. Creshaw repeats what Gates told him about factions in the fort when Smith was there

Rev. Crashaw(JNp703) wrote that Gates told him the year preceding his arrival was the time of Smith's presidency and had been a year of good government with the colony well supplied , all of which went to ruin due to the meddling of Archer and company (upon the return of Archer and Ratcliff). Crashaw says (JNp712) of Smith " his pain and service there deserves in my judgement high commendations".

Strachey Speaks about factions in the fort

Strachey says Smith was a great achiever and a victim of envious faction in the fort. (JNp216)



Though many writers have defended Smith, his own writings thoroughly read, are themselves convincing arguments that "his heart was gold" . If doubters would just read the tributes paid to Smith by his friends and well recognized authors, they should be convinced of his exceedingly good character.

Some persons recite negative comments about Captain John Smith and perpetuate them like a bad rumor that gets circulated.



Was Captain John Smith was a braggart?

I see not a braggart at all but a man writing his memoirs.

Smith Speaks

This is what Captain John Smith had to say about how his writing may appear to others.

I know I shall be taxed for writing so much of my self, but I care not much, because the judicially know there are few such soldiers as are my examples have writ their owne actions, nor know I who will or can tell my intents better than myself. -Captain John Smith's apologia, in the fourth book of The General historie (1624:2:317)


Did John Smith fabricate his experience in Turkey?


Lewis Kropf, an amateur Hungarian historian said in 1890 that Smith did not know the history and customs and could not have been there. Anyone later writing about Smith after had to deal with this unfounded accusation.

In 1953, author, Bradford Smith enlisted the services of a Hungarian historian Laura Polanyi Striker who checked Kropf's sources and to make her own investigation from material she gathered from archivist of the Central Archive of Styria in Graz, Austria, J. Franz Pichler. From this material she directed the research and assembled the material for Bradford Smith.  Her essay appeared as Appendix 1 in Bradford Smith biography Captain John Smith : His Life and Legend (1953). Striker completely discredited Kroph by demonstrating that Kroph had misrepresented and misinterpreted numerous sources and that he had overlooked others. She proved that Smith knew details of eastern Europe better than any other Westerner who wrote at that time.

The results of the investigation can be found in:
Franz Pichler, `Captain Smith in the light of Styrian sources' in Virginia Magazine for History and Biography, LXV (July 1957), pp. 332-354.
About the researcher Laura Polanyi Strike
Laura Polanyi Striker, was a Hungarian born historian. She was called upon to rule, once and forever, on the veracity of Captain John Smith and his account of his adventures. A bitter controversy had flared up at various times on the credibility of his stories of voyages, fights, loves, and captivity in Hungary and Transylvania. It was claimed by some scholars that the battles he described were never fought. If so, Captain Smith was a fabricator of tales whose whole around including information about early Virginia, could not be trusted. Captain Smith's biographer Bradford Smith felt that only a Hungarian scholar would be able to investigate the matter satisfactorily. He turned to Karl Polanyi for advice, and Polanyi suggested his sister Laura. Though she was almost seventy years old, she accepted the assignment with zest. She delved into old documents in Hungarian, Latin, and English that she found in the United States and into the material that was sent to her by J. Franz Pichler, archivist of the Central Archive of Styria in Graz, Austria, whose research she directed by correspondence. She established dates of battles and other events, and found conclusive evidence in favor of Captain Smith's stories. Thus she reaffirmed his reputation. When Bradford Smith's biography was published in 1953, it contained a scholarly appendix about Captain Smith's travels in Hungary by Laura Polanyi Striker. Four years later, she published as corroborative evidence her own translation of the Latin manuscript of Henry Warton's The Life of John Smith, English Soldier and accompanied it with a learned essay on Captain Smith in seventeenth-century literature.


Click to see the website discussing a definitive analysis of this question

Did Pocahontas actually save Captain John Smith, or did Smith make up the story in order to gain popularity? Professor J. A. Leo Lemay of the University of Delaware has recently written a book on the subject in which he argues convincingly that the story is true. Lemay is the first scholar to have seriously studied the question in over a hundred years, and due to his thoroughness and the modern conveniences that make research so much easier in our century than in previous ones, I believe that his book may well become the definitive work on the subject. In this essay I will try to summarize Lemay's arguments.


Why was Smith disliked by some of the colonists?

Ratcliff and Archer were ambitious and wanted control. Their factions and mischief caused no end to trouble in the fort. Smith showed great restraint not killing them both or allowing his soldiers to do so as they told Smith they would at his command.

West, the brother of Lord de la Ware, would not follow orders. West deserted the colony with a boat load of food leaving the colony to starve. He would have been executed if he were not the brother of Lord de la Ware.

Wingfield was an aristocratic poppas individual. He lost Smith's respect because of falsely accusing Smith of mutiny and his snob comments that "he would not be seen with Smith if back in England"

Smith did not show proper respect to people who disrespected him. Smith felt that birth and breeding did not make the man.

A man's actions spoke louder than word to Smith.

He was authoritative.

Others had ambitions to steal a ship and return to England, which Smith thwarted.

Some were troublemakers in the fort.

Some Smith disrespected because they were selfish to the detriment of others. They would kill another for trifling matters or starve others at their whim.

Some Smith disrespected because they believed themselves above work even if it meant they would themselves starve.

Smith seems to not respect those who did not deserve it.

Smith was a farmers son giving orders to higher class persons.

This was a life and death situation and keeping the colony from failing taxed Smith greatly. It would be understood that most would fail under such responsibility, but Smith did not. He had to take such steps as he thought available to save the colony. Looking back on his actions today, the steps he took can be understood and appear most reasonable. Others in such a survival situation may have resorted to robbing the Indians with force.

There was a shortage of labor in the fort. Every man was needed to help the colony survive. My sense is that Smith tried to keep the peace to such an extent that he let crimes or plots go without sufficiently punishment. This attempt by Smith to go somewhat easy on the colonists under the circumstances allowed time for those busy minds to explore other ways to create their ambitious mischief.


Was John Smith a prisoner upon arrival?

Smith was accused on the trip over by Wingfield of being a part of or concealing a planned overthrow or takeover. Some would have you think that Smith was put in chains. That was not the case. His restraint was more as a house arrest.

"Now Captain Smith, who all this time from their departure from the Canaries was restrained as a prisoner upon the scandalous suggestions of some of the chiefs (envying his repute) who fained he intended to usurp the government, murder the council, and make himself king, that his confederates were dispersed in all the three ships, and that divers of his confederates that revealed it, would affirm it; for this he was committed as a prisoner. Thirteen weeks he remained thus suspected, and by that time the ships should return they pretended out of their commiserations, to refer him to the council in England to receive a check, rather than by articulating his designs make him so odious to the world, as to touch his life, or utterly overthrow his reputation. But he so much scorned their charity, and publicly defied the uttermost of their cruelty; he wisely prevented their policies, though he could not suppress their envy; yet so well he demeaned himself in this business, as all the company did see his innocency, and his adversaries' malice, and those suborned to accuse him, accused his accusers of subornation; many untruths were alleged against him; but being so apparently disproved, begat a general hatred in the hearts of the company against such unjust commanders, that the president was adjudged to give him 200 L; so that all he had was seized upon, in part of satisfaction, which Smith presently returned to the store for the general use of the colony.

Many were the mischief's that daily sprung from their ignorant (yet ambitious) spirits; but the good doctrine and exhortation of our preacher Master Hunt reconciled them, and caused Captain Smith to be admitted of the council" General Historie of Virginia" by John Smith - Book III - 1612



A writer and editor for the Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Dennis Montgomery, wrote a article that appears to be filled with what appears to be misrepresentations, untruths and distortions about Captain John Smith. I address a few of his statements below that appear to be untrue.


If seems to me that if someone knew Captain John Smith, he would not, he could not not defame Smith. Any article written in a malicious manner is without grace and to an authors dishonor and is unworthy to be in print.

The author Montgomery says "Smith arrived a prisoner". He did not travel as a prisoner. Smith would write that on the Island of Nevis "I have remained a good time to wod (wood) and water and refresh my men". He does not talk like he was a prisoner but a leader of an expedition ashore.

At one point Smith said a gallows was constructed but that he could not be convinced to use it. If he was a prisoner, if he were in chains, he would have had no choice in the matter.

Soon after arrival Smith accompanied Newport on a week long expedition to explore further up the river. Doesn't sound like a prisoner. Smith was a part of the party's going ashore and being entertained by the Indians.

Smith was sworn in to council June 10, 1607

Actually Smith was never a prisoner. He was accused of concealing a mutiny and placed under something like house arrest. He was still allowed to go ashore on the Caribbean Islands and explore with Captain Newport at arrival. He was awarded 200 Pounds in damage from Wingfield for making this false accusation of mutiny. Smith donated the proceeds to the welfare of the colony.

The author, Montgomery says"Before his fellow settlers threw him out of Virginia 32 months later, they would again propose to stretch Smith's neck, to banish him, and even to murder him" But in fact, Smith was not thrown out by fellow settlers. This is completely false. This is completely false. Smith left because he was badly injured. Smith summoned the Captain to go home as he lay in his terribly burned condition aboard ship. There were a couple of bad and overly ambitious individuals, namely Ratcliff and Archer who had been sent home previously, who returned, and were ambitious to the point of lying and even murder. They would both soon get their just deserts; Ratcliff at the hands of the Indian women who skinned him alive and Archer who starved to death or died of sickness.

In another statement of miss-fact, The author Montgomery says' "In fact, Smith was not the only one to publish and proclaim them. In 1631, the year Smith died, the London press issued a satirical poem, The Legend of Captain Iones, by the Welsh clergyman David Lloyd. A bawdy, ridiculing parody of Captain Smith's autobiography, the poem's popularity sustained a half dozen editions during the next 40 years." Actually below is a review of the THE LEGEND OF CAPTAIN JONES. . As you can see below, it refers to events that Smith was not involved with. That the poem refers to Smith is a big stretch of the truth and an undeserved slander.


Though sometimes attributed to Martin Lluelyn (1616-1682) and/or William Marshall (fl. 1617-1650), there is no reason to think that this verse ballad telling of the exaggerated exploits of Capt. Jones was not by Lloyd. The hero Jones is apparently historical, and his extraordinary exploits were the stuff of legend.
The first part was originally published in 1631; and both parts were first published in 1648; and this issue is the result of "the supplemental rodomontade of successive editors." - DNB.

The author Montgomery writes "And so Smith left Virginia, never to return; a man scorned, and a prisoner, just as he arrived." But in fact, at arrival, Smith was "restrained" [p114 TWCJS] (more like house arrest) for thirteen weeks at the direction of Wingfield who accused Smith of "concealing an intended mutiny" [p149 [p114 TWCJS] ] . Wingfield would be put on trial at Jamestown and ordered pay Smith 200 L in compensation for making this false accusation . But of course author Montgomery does not mention this, just the half truths.


But you read the article by Montgomery and you be the judge. If you do not like the way Montgomery has treated Captain John Smith in the article, contact him and tell him by writing him through the CW Journal, or contact me, (john) by email and I may post your comments.




Captain John Smith .

Pocahontas .

Smith's Philosophy .

Smith's Friends .

Ambushes attempted on Captain John Smith .

Factions at Jamestown .

Who Shot JR ?Who was Jr? ----we don't know yet who shot him but JR's idenity is revealed .

Questions about Captain John Smith.













What Powhatan said to Captain John Smith

Powhatan said, "Captain Smith, I have never used anie Werowances so kindlie as your self; yet from you, I receave the least kindness of anie." , "if you intend to be friendlie as you saie, sende hense your arms that I may believe you : for you see the love I beare you". Smith Replied "

work in progress


John Sutton