Servants, Slaves, & Sinners

Servants, Slaves, and Sinners: A Life in Virginia

This is a collection of stories about an ancestor, John Cleburne, who came to Virginia in 1672. I thought it would be interesting to see what life might have been like for him and his family. Interesting times.

A young furniture apprentice in England follows his master to Virginia where he becomes indentured for years of grinding work in the new tobacco fields near the Chesapeake Bay. One hundred years before the American Revolution, Indian wars and a colonial rebellion thrust him into manhood.

Excerpt from the story Rebellion

Two armed men escorted a heavy, wigged gentleman to near the entrance of the Grand Assembly building occupied by the Burgesses. Another cheer rose as Bacon burst forth from the tavern and dashed toward the guarded figure. The light from the torches swathed Bacon in the yellow-orange light that followed him to his stopping point a few feet away from the man now plainly seen as Governor Berkeley.
   “You ungrateful bastard,” Berkeley said. John saw the Governor barely dressed, having been rousted from his bed. “I give you a pardon for your rebellious behavior, and then you lie to me about your sick wife. How dare you strut into town as a rooster, and with an army, no less? This is an affront to all colonial laws, to me, and to the King.”
   “May God curse my blood if my actions are treasonous,” Bacon said. “We are merely here for our commissions.”
   “You have a commission, young fool.”
   “I want a commission as general of this army, commissions for my lieutenants, and blank commissions for any others wishing to join our cause.”
    Berkeley threw up his hands and stomped around his opponent, his heavy jowls shaking with each step. He drew the sword his escorts had failed to confiscate and pointed it at Bacon. A few soldiers raised their muskets at Berkeley. “Draw your sword, you bastard. We shall settle our differences now.”
   Bacon stood motionless, all eyes on him. “If you will not fight me, then take this weapon and run me through,” Berkeley said, poking the handle of his sword toward Bacon. He again allowed silence to cover the area. Only the wind in the tops of the trees and the crackling of the torch fires disturbed the temporary serenity.
   “Sir, I do not wish your blood on my hands,” Bacon said. “The differences we have are not particular to us but to all Virginians. Either of our deaths would not suppress the mistrust of the people that have grown with each day.”
   “And what do you know of the people?” asked Berkeley, practically spitting each syllable into Bacon’s face. “Your father is one of the upper class in England and gave you a fine plantation to live on in Henrico. Now you portend to know the desires of the common people? You know nothing. These men here—look at them. They are a rabble. A rabble of farmers whose minds have been manipulated by an ungrateful, treasonous rebel.”
   There was an explosion of angry shouts and jeers from Bacon’s army, drowning out their leader’s response. To the right of Bacon, near the edge of the lighted street, John could see Robert Breathered, his face barely distinguishable in the faint light, but he was sure it was him. Before the noise had again died down, Breathered shouted, “We will have our commissions. We will have our commissions.” His words grew into a chorus from his cohorts.
   Bacon breathed deeply, his pride bursting from the united front his soldiers presented. He waved an arm and said, “If you do not grant us our request, then we will demand it from them.” He pointed upward to the leering faces of the Burgesses watching above. Several of the soldiers, followed by all, raised their muskets and gazed at the windows. The Burgesses closest to the windows stumbled backward, falling over some of their colleagues.
   Berkeley relented. “Very well, young fool,” he muttered, gritting his teeth. “You shall all have your commissions. I hope the natives show no mercy on you.”

Copyright 2017-2021 by Mark Edward Jones, Edmond, Oklahoma  73034.

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