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Bacon’s Rebellion

When we hear the word bacon, we often envision some sizzling slices of it in a frying pan. Or perhaps one might think of the famous actor, Kevin Bacon. You might even go so far as to imagine Kevin Bacon eating bacon. In short, the word bacon brings to mind images of food and good times, not rebellions. You may be wondering, “How can bacon bring about a rebellion?” Well, this was not a bit of meat, but a man who started it, a man called Nathaniel Bacon.

It all happened in Virginia during 1676. Governor William Berkeley’s dismissive reaction about the Indian raids and the changing political atmosphere turned the population against him. With his lax political stance, Governor Berkeley alienated the Virginians and set in motion his own downfall. After an especially brutal raid, a large group of farmers gathered to try and figure out what course of action they should take. Then Bacon came along with an unspecified amount of brandy! After giving away the brandy to the farmers, he was promptly elected their leader--that goes to show you how much a drink can affect someone’s opinion.

With a band of farmers under his control Bacon, against the orders of Governor Berkeley, marched south until they came upon the Occaneechi Indian tribe. He was able to trick the Native Americans into attacking another tribe, the Susquehannock from New York. Bacon and his men proceeded to murder all of the Native Americans that remained in their camp. Once Bacon and his men returned, they discovered that Berkeley had called for new elections in the house of Burgesses to help deal with the Indian raids.

Bacon and five hundred of his men went to Jamestown and demanded a commission to lead a militia against the Native Americans. Berkeley refused to go along with Bacon’s demands, thus starting months of conflict.

Eventually on September 19, 1676, Bacon and his four hundred or so men moved into Jamestown and burned the entire capital to the ground. They managed to escape across the river before an English naval force was able to arrive and aid Berkeley. Eventually, the naval force destroyed pockets of the remaining rebellion after Nathaniel Bacon died of dysentery. Bacon was seen as a patriot by many people, including Thomas Jefferson.

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