He saved England’s first permanent colony in the New World from certain doom.
Yet he’s known mainly as the guy who boinked Pocahontas.
Which he didn’t do.
Smith was born in January 1580 in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. He took to the sea at age 16 shortly after his father died and served as a mercenary in the army of Henry IV of France against the Spanish. After that fun came to an end, he traveled to the Mediterranean to enjoy some piracy then hired on to fight against the Ottoman Turks in the Long Turkish War. During this time Smith supposedly killed and beheaded three Turks in combat duels. The Prince of Transylvania was so impressed by this that he knighted Smith, gave him a horse, and a coat of arms that depicted three decapitated Turk heads.
How cool is that!
Smith’s luck quickly changed however when he was wounded while fighting the Tartars. He was captured and sold as a slave. Being the kind of badass that carries a coat of arms with three severed heads on it, Smith managed to escape and made his way back to England around 1604. In 1606, Smith joined up with the Virginia Company of London and made his way to the New World to financially exploit the hell out of whatever awaited. En route to fame and fortune, Smith was charged with mutiny by expedition leader Captain Christopher Newport. Smith was set to be executed but given a promotion instead when Newport unsealed orders from the Virginia Company that stated Smith was to be one of the leaders of the new colony.
In your face Newport!
Things in the new colony of Jamestown went sour fast. The colony quickly ran out of food, there was disease, people kept dropping dead on a daily basis, newly built structures burned to the ground, and nobody wanted to work. Smith summed this period up pretty well when he later wrote, “more than half of us died.” Smith basically saved the other half by having everyone pull their fair share and using threats, intimidation, and force to get the local Indians to handover much-needed food. Because of Smith’s actions the colony not only survived but flourished. More colonists arrived and the natural world of and around Jamestown produced plenty of cash in the form of goods sent back to England. Smith returned to England himself in 1609 after being injured when a good deal of gunpowder in the canoe in which he was traveling exploded.
Smith passed his recovery time and the period thereafter writing book after book about his adventures in the New World. Not only were these big sellers but were responsible for attracting more and more settlers to the New World colonies. One of the reasons for Smith’s literary success hinged on his ability to tell a tale and on his every now and again making things up. Such was the case with Pocahontas. Smith wrote that he was captured by the Powhatan people while hunting along the Chickahominy River in December 1607. This was most likely true. What’s probably not true is the fact that these indigenous folks were about to bash his brains in until he was saved at the last minute by the chief’s daughter Pocahontas. If this really happened – and that’s a huge if – Pocahontas was probably on the heavy side as she was the chief’s daughter and ate pretty well. The story grew well beyond Smith’s account and by the time Disney got a hold of it 1995 Pocahontas was hot as hell and had a smoking bod. This along with centuries of exaggeration led many to believe that Smith and the chief’s daughter got it on. No, in all likelihood they never did if they ever met at all.
It is unknown if at the time of his death in June 1631 people believed that Smith slept with a chubby chick.