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Bacon's Rebellion

Please add Geni profiles of the participants of this conflict to the project.

  • Date: 1676
  • Location: Jamestown, Colony of Virginia
  • Goals: Indian policy
  • Methods: Demonstrations, vigilantes
  • Parties to the civil conflict: Colonial settlers, Royal Colonial Governor
  • Lead figures: Nathaniel Bacon, William Berkeley
  • Deaths: 23 hanged[1] Injuries: Arrests: Deaths: Injuries:

From info please

Bacon's Rebellion, popular revolt in colonial Virginia in 1676, led by Nathaniel Bacon. High taxes, low prices for tobacco, and resentment against special privileges given those close to the governor, Sir William Berkeley, provided the background for the uprising, which was precipitated by Berkeley's failure to defend the frontier against attacks by Native Americans. Bacon commanded two unauthorized but successful expeditions against the tribes and was then elected to the new house of burgesses, which Berkeley had been forced to convene. When he attempted to take his seat, Berkeley had him arrested. Soon released, Bacon gathered his supporters, marched on Jamestown, and coerced Berkeley into granting him a commission to continue his campaigns against Native Americans. A circumspect assembly then passed several reform measures. The governor, having failed to raise a force against Bacon, fled to the Eastern Shore. He gathered enough strength to return to Jamestown, where he proclaimed Bacon and his men rebels and traitors. After a sharp skirmish Bacon recaptured the capital (Berkeley again took flight) but, fearing that he could not hold it against attack, set fire to the town. Bacon now controlled the colony, but he died suddenly (Oct., 1676), and without his leadership the rebellion collapsed. After a few months Berkeley returned to wreak a bloody vengeance before he was forced to return to England. Berkeley's removal and the end of attacks by Native Americans were the only benefits the yeomen had won in the rebellion, and the tidewater aristocracy long maintained its power.

From National Park Service:

Bacon's Rebellion was probably one of the most confusing yet intriguing chapters in Jamestown's history. For many years, historians considered the Virginia Rebellion of 1676 to be the first stirring of revolutionary sentiment in America, which culminated in the American Revolution almost exactly one hundred years later. However, in the past few decades, based on findings from a more distant viewpoint, historians have come to understand Bacon's Rebellion as a power struggle between two stubborn, selfish leaders rather than a glorious fight against tyranny.

The central figures in Bacon's Rebellion were opposites. Governor Sir William Berkeley, seventy when the crisis began, was a veteran of the English Civil Wars, a frontier Indian fighter, a King's favorite in his first term as Governor in the 1640's, and a playwright and scholar. His name and reputation as Governor of Virginia were well respected. Berkeley's antagonist, young Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., was actually Berkeley's cousin by marriage. Lady Berkeley, Frances Culpeper, was Bacon's cousin. Bacon was a troublemaker and schemer whose father sent him to Virginia in the hope that he would mature. Although disdainful of labor, Bacon was intelligent and eloquent. Upon Bacon's arrival, Berkeley treated his young cousin with respect and friendship, giving him both a substantial land grant and a seat on the council in 1675.

Bacon's Rebellion can be attributed to a myriad of causes, all of which led to dissent in the Virginia colony. Economic problems, such as declining tobacco prices, growing commercial competition from Maryland and the Carolinas, an increasingly restricted English market, and the rising prices from English manufactured goods (mercantilism) caused problems for the Virginians. There were heavy English losses in the latest series of naval wars with the Dutch and, closer to home, there were many problems caused by weather. Hailstorms, floods, dry spells, and hurricanes rocked the colony all in the course of a year and had a damaging effect on the colonists. These difficulties encouraged the colonists to find a scapegoat against whom they could vent their frustrations and place the blame for their misfortunes.

The colonists found their scapegoat in the form of the local Indians. The trouble began in July 1675 with a raid by the Doeg Indians on the plantation of Thomas Mathews, located in the Northern Neck section of Virginia near the Potomac River. Several of the Doegs were killed in the raid, which began in a dispute over the nonpayment of some items Mathews had apparently obtained from the tribe. The situation became critical when, in a retaliatory strike by the colonists, they attacked the wrong Indians, the Susquehanaugs, which caused large scale Indian raids to begin. ...


  • * Giles Brent (1652-1697) His Virginia fame arose from Bacon’s Rebellion. In July 1675, Captain Brent served in Colonel George Mason (I)’s party, which pursued an Indian contingent into Maryland and killed several in retaliation for the Indians’ killing some Virginians. Despite confusion over Giles’ and cousin George’s roles, Giles Brent (II) definitely joined forces loyal to Nathaniel Bacon to battle Pamunkeys and other tribes. Referred to as “Colonel” Brent, he collaborated with Bacon until the rebel leader turned his forces against Governor Berkeley (1676) and laid siege to Jamestown. Brent then turned against Bacon and gathered approximately 1,000 men to confront Bacon’s forces. When the men learned Bacon had burned Jamestown, they deserted. Brent’s part ended (saving him from execution).


  • See T. J. Wertenbaker, Torchbearer of the Revolution (1940, repr. 1965) and Bacon's Rebellion, 1676 (1957); W. E. Washburn, The Governor and the Rebel (1957, repr. 1967); J. D. Rice, Tales from a Revolution (2012).
  • Encyclopedia Virginia
  • Wikipedia:
    • Allen, Theodore W. The Invention of the White Race, Vol. 2: The Origins of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America. London: Verso (1997).
    • Billings, Warren M. "The Causes of Bacon's Rebellion: Some Suggestions," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 1970, Vol. 78 Issue 4, pp. 409–435
    • Cave, Alfred A. "Lethal Encounters: Englishmen and Indians in Colonial Virginia" (University of Nebraska Press, 2011) ISBN 978-0-8032-4834-2 pp. 147–165
    • Cullen, Joseph P. "Bacon's Rebellion," American History Illustrated, Dec 1968, Vol. 3 Issue 8, p. 4 ff.
    • Rice, James D. "Bacon's Rebellion in Indian Country," Journal of American History, vol. 101, no. 3 (Dec. 2014), pp. 726–750.
    • Tarter, Brent. "Bacon's Rebellion, the Grievances of the People, and the Political Culture of Seventeenth-Century Virginia," Virginia Magazine of History & Biography (2011) 119#1 pp 1–41.
    • Thompson, Peter. "The Thief, the Householder, and the Commons: Languages of Class in Seventeenth-Century Virginia," William & Mary Quarterly (2006) 63#2 pp 253–280 in JSTOR
    • Webb, Stephen Saunders (1995). 1676, the end of American independence. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0361-0.
    • Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. Torchbearer of the Revolution: The Story of Bacon’s Rebellion and its Leader (Princeton University Press, 1940)
    • Washburn, Wilcomb E. The Governor and the Rebel: A History of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia (University of North Carolina Press for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1957)
    • Wiseman, Samuel. Book of Record: The Official Account of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia, 1676–1677 (2006)
  • Legends of America - Nathaniel Bacon, America's First Rebel

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