The Story Of American History - Albert F. Blaisdell - ebook

The Story Of American History ebook

Albert F. Blaisdell



Some sort of a first book on American history is now quite generally used in schools as a preparation for the more intelligent study of a larger and more formal text-book in the higher grammar grades. For beginners, a mere compilation of facts is dry and unsatisfactory. Such books have now given place, for the most part, to those prepared on a more attractive and judicious plan. The real aim in a first book should be to interest boys and girls in the history of their country, and to encourage them to cultivate a taste for further study and reading. This book is intended for use in the earlier grammar grades and to be preliminary to the study of a more advanced work in the higher grades. The author has also kept in mind the fact that the school life of many children is brief, and that all their instruction in American history must come from a text-book of this kind. Contents: Preface. Chapter I. America In The Old Days. Chapter II. Columbus And The Discovery Of America. Chapter III. Sir Walter Raleigh And Captain John Smith. Chapter IV. The Story Of The Pilgrims. Chapter V. More About The Pilgrims. Chapter VI. The Indians And How They Lived. Chapter VII. The Dutch In New York; The Quakers In Pennsylvania. Chapter VIII. The French And Indian Wars. Chapter IX. Everyday Life In Colonial Times. Chapter X. The Beginning Of The Revolution. Chapter XI. Lexington And Concord. Chapter XII. The Battle Of Bunker Hill. Chapter XIII. The Declaration Of Independence. Chapter XIV. The Burgoyne Campaign. Chapter XV. Washington And The Revolution. Chapter XVI. The War Of The Revolution In The South. Chapter XVII. The Story Of Arnold's Treason. Chapter XVIII. John Paul Jones: Our First Great Naval Hero. Chapter XIX. Benjamin Franklin: His Highly Useful Career. Chapter XX. Everyday Life One Hundred Years Ago. Chapter XXI. What Our Navy Did In The War Of 1812. Chapter XXII. The Settlement Of The Pacific Coast. Chapter XXIII. Lincoln And The War For The Union. Chapter XXIV.

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The Story Of American HistoryFor Elementary Schools

Albert F. Blaisdell



Chapter I. America In The Old Days.

Chapter II. Columbus And The Discovery Of America.

Chapter III. Sir Walter Raleigh And Captain John Smith.

Chapter IV. The Story Of The Pilgrims.

Chapter V. More About The Pilgrims.

Chapter VI. The Indians And How They Lived.

Chapter VII. The Dutch In New York; The Quakers In Pennsylvania.

Chapter VIII. The French And Indian Wars.

Chapter IX. Everyday Life In Colonial Times.

Chapter X. The Beginning Of The Revolution.

Chapter XI. Lexington And Concord.

Chapter XII. The Battle Of Bunker Hill.

Chapter XIII. The Declaration Of Independence.

Chapter XIV. The Burgoyne Campaign.

Chapter XV. Washington And The Revolution.

Chapter XVI. The War Of The Revolution In The South.

Chapter XVII. The Story Of Arnold's Treason.

Chapter XVIII. John Paul Jones: Our First Great Naval Hero.

Chapter XIX. Benjamin Franklin: His Highly Useful Career.

Chapter XX. Everyday Life One Hundred Years Ago.

Chapter XXI. What Our Navy Did In The War Of 1812.

Chapter XXII. The Settlement Of The Pacific Coast.

Chapter XXIII. Lincoln And The War For The Union.

Chapter XXIV. More About The War For The Union.

Chapter XXV. Our Navy In The War For The Union.

Chapter XXVI. The War With Spain In 1898.

The Story Of American History, Albert Blaisdell

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Germany

ISBN: 9783849619862

[email protected]


Some sort of a first book on American history is now quite generally used in schools as a preparation for the more intelligent study of a larger and more formal text-book in the higher grammar grades.

For beginners, a mere compilation of facts is dry and unsatisfactory. Such books have now given place, for the most part, to those prepared on a more attractive and judicious plan. The real aim in a first book should be to interest boys and girls in the history of their country, and to encourage them to cultivate a taste for further study and reading.

This book is intended for use in the earlier grammar grades and to be preliminary to the study of a more advanced work in the higher grades. The author has also kept in mind the fact that the school life of many children is brief, and that all their instruction in American history must come from a text-book of this kind.

The author has not aimed to cover the whole range of our country's history. Of many noted men and important affairs no mention is made. Only the leading events of certain periods and the personal achievements of a few representative "makers of our country" are treated in any detail. The subject is approached through biographical sketches of a few of the more illustrious actors in our nation's history. Some prominence is given to exceptional deeds of valor, details of everyday living in olden times, dramatic episodes, and personal incident.

The schoolroom test demonstrates the fact that such a treatment of the subject is more attractive and profitable to children of the lower grades than the mere recital of minor matters and petty details of public events.

The author would acknowledge his indebtedness to Dr. Homer B. Sprague of New York City for editorial help in reading and revising the manuscript. Thanks are also due to Dr. John E. Sanborn of Melrose, Mass., for editorial assistance.


November, 1900.


1. The Story of our Country.—We are sure that every intelligent and patriotic American youth must like to read the story of our country's life. To a boy or girl of good sense no work of fiction can surpass it in interest or power.

How delightful to let the imagination summon up the forms and the deeds of the fearless Norse sailors who dared to cross the unknown seas in their frail and tiny vessels without compass and without charts! How interesting the oft-told but ever-fresh narrative of the intrepid Columbus and his memorable first voyage into and across the "Sea of Darkness"! What romance was ever more exciting than the stories of the fierce struggles between the white men and the Indians for existence and supremacy on this continent?

How deep the pathos of the simple tales that tell of the patient sufferings, the severe toils, the ever-present dangers, and the heroic self-denials of the early colonists in making for themselves homes in the New World! How richly suggestive are those pages that record the glorious events of our American Revolution—the splendid and immortal deeds of Washington and his illustrious associates!

Then there is the thrilling account of the most tremendous civil war in all history, with its four million soldiers, its two thousand battles, and its preservation of the Union.

And to come down to a time within the memory of every schoolboy, the echoes of the Spanish-American conflict have hardly yet died away. The story of this short war in the summer of 1898 still rings in our ears—with its astounding naval victories at Manila and Santiago, the freedom of Cuba, and the destruction of the last vestige of the once mighty Spanish supremacy on this western continent!

2. Lessons of Wisdom and Inspiration to be learned.—But beyond and above all mere gratification and pleasure to be derived from the study of our country's history, there are in it lessons of wisdom to be learned, there is inspiration to noble living, there is an uplifting of the soul to a higher plane of thought and sentiment, there is constant aid in the development and upbuilding of manly and womanly character.

And when we think of the marvelous growth of less than three centuries which, beginning with the infant colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth, has made us a nation of more than seventy millions; when we think of the wonderful record of trial and triumph and unceasing progress, and of the great and good and wise men that have laid the foundations and reared the superstructure of this mighty temple of liberty,—we must be blind indeed and ungrateful beyond expression not to recognize with devout thankfulness the guiding hand of a beneficent Providence.

America, under God, stood at Plymouth for religious freedom; in the Revolution, for independence; in our civil war, for the preservation of the Union. She now stands for humanity, civilization, and the uplifting of the whole race.

3. The People of Ancient America.—Wise men who have made a special study of the subject tell us that this country has been continuously inhabited by generations of men for many thousands of years. Rude tools, and human skulls, intermingled with bones of animals of species long extinct, have been found in caves or dug out of deep layers of earth; and they indicate that in the Mississippi valley and on the Atlantic and Pacific slopes there lived, perhaps hundreds of ages ago, men of a low grade of culture.

In the great museums—as the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, the Peabody Museums at Cambridge and New Haven, and the natural history rooms at New York and elsewhere—may be seen thousands of the relics of vanished races of men and animals that once inhabited this continent.

4. The Red Men or Indians.—The Indians constitute a race by themselves. Whether they are descended from some of those prehistoric inhabitants of whom we have just spoken no one can say; but they make up an American type with marks as clearly recognized as those that distinguish the Mongolians and the Malays. For long ages the red men had spread themselves over the two continents, from Hudson Bay to Cape Horn. With few or no exceptions, all had the same copperish or cinnamon color, deep-set and intensely black eyes, high cheek-bones, straight black hair, with little or no beard; but the long lapse of time, the great varieties of environment, and perhaps other causes, brought about striking differences of appearance, of manners, customs, dialects, and the like.

5. Three Principal Divisions of the Indians.—The eminent historian, Dr. John Fiske, groups the Indians in three leading divisions,—as savage, barbarous, and half-civilized.

Ancient Cliff Dwellings.

The savage Indians ranged to the west of Hudson Bay, and southward between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific, to the northern part of Mexico. They lived by catching fish or game. They knew little or nothing of tilling the soil. They did not dwell in permanent villages, but roamed from place to place like Bedouin Arabs.

The barbarous Indians inhabited the country east of the Rocky Mountains. They did not depend wholly upon hunting or fishing, but knew how to upturn the soil slightly with rude tools, and raise squashes, beans, tomatoes, and, most important of all, Indian corn. They lived in villages, and made houses that would last several years. They had dogs of an inferior breed, but no other domestic animals. Some tribes were able to weave coarse cloth and make weapons of polished stones. They had strange social customs and singular religious beliefs. Fighting was their principal occupation.

The half-civilized Indians once lived in New Mexico and the adjoining region. They have had almost nothing to do with the history of the United States. They are the Pueblo Indians, so called from the pueblos or strongholds, dwellings which they built of stones or of sun-dried brick. Some of these strongholds, story above story, would accommodate at least three thousand inhabitants! They were built oftentimes in situations almost inaccessible, like eagles' nests on cliffs, apparently that they might be defended more easily against the attack of an enemy.

6. The Northmen and their Discoveries.—The real contact between the eastern and western halves of the world practically began in 1492, the year of the first great voyage of Columbus. Occasional visitors may have sailed before that date directly across the "Sea of Darkness" from the Old World to the New. The subject is shrouded for the most part in the mists of vague stories and obscure traditions.

It seems quite certain, however, that in the year 986 a daring Scandinavian navigator, Eric the Red, founded on the southwestern coast of Greenland a colony that lasted four or five hundred years. In the same year, as the Iceland Sagas (heroic legends) tell us, another Norse sailor, voyaging from Iceland to Greenland, was driven by storms far out towards the southwest, and was perhaps the first white man to behold the American coast.

Norse Ruins in Greenland.

Many interesting ruins of stone-built houses and of a church are still to be seen on that desolate Greenland shore. In those ages the Northmen, or Norsemen, as the people of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark were called, were the most skillful sailors in the world. Eric the Red had several sons, bold sailors like their father. The oldest of these (whose statue stands on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston), Leif the Lucky, with thirty-five hardy men, sailed south from Greenland in the year 1000, to explore these lands that had been discovered fourteen years before. He landed at several points along the coast. In a place which he called "Vinland the Good" (land of vines), he found an abundance of luscious wild grapes. Just where this sturdy Norse sailor feasted on the grapes is, of course, uncertain, but good authorities are inclined to think it may have been not far from Plymouth, on the coast of Massachusetts Bay. He returned home in the spring. Two years later Leif's brother, Thorwald, came on a voyage of discovery, but was killed by the natives in the summer of 1004.

In the spring of the year 1007 an Icelandic chief, accompanied by his wife and a crew of one hundred and sixty men, in three vessels, came to this Vinland. He remained here three years, and had many dealings with the Indians.

A Norse Ship.

The Norsemen went home and gave vivid and accurate descriptions of the land they visited. They described the Indians, the fish, the animals, and the plants, all of which are given in the Icelandic chronicles. No real relic, however, of these people has yet been found upon our own coast.

Columbus, who visited Iceland in the year 1477, may have had access to the Icelandic archives, and have learned of the discoveries of these rovers of the deep. But we have no evidence on that point. After the eleventh century America remained as much unknown as if the bold Northmen had never steered their dragon-prowed ships along our shores. The waves that incessantly rolled upon its sands or dashed against its rocks brought no vessel from the far-away lands of the East. Nearly five hundred years were to come and go before, in the fullness of time, the hour struck for the real and fruitful discovery of the New World. It was left for Columbus, the great Genoese navigator, to open wide its gates!

Landing of the Norsemen.


7. Commercial Activity in the Fifteenth Century.—In southern Europe, the last half of the fifteenth century was a period of great commercial activity. Then, for the first time, many voyages of exploration were made in various directions, to find new riches, new markets, or new routes of travel and transportation. Merchants were turning their attention more and more to enterprises in far-off regions beyond the seas.

Venice and Genoa became rivals for the vast and valuable trade of India. With other Italian cities they grew rich and powerful. They kept great fleets of merchant vessels plying back and forth across the Mediterranean.

They sent out to India large quantities of copper, iron, pitch, wool, hides, and the like, and brought back cargoes of drugs, spices, silks, pearls, and other luxuries. But the path of this commerce between the Mediterranean and India required both ships and caravans; and whether by way of the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea, or by Damascus and the Persian Gulf, or by the Black Sea and the Caspian and thence across the eastern plains, the journey was long, tedious, costly; always hazardous, and often, by reason of the Turkish wars, positively dangerous.

And so it became important, especially for the merchants of Spain and Portugal, the would-be rivals of Venice and Genoa, to find a shorter and safer route. In many a country, people were asking, "Is there no easier way to get to India?"

In the attempts to solve this problem Portugal took the lead. Her sailors boldly ventured farther and farther down the coast of Africa until, about twenty years before Columbus discovered America, they crossed the equator. But it was not till five years after the memorable exploit of Columbus, that Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese captain, rounded the Cape of Good Hope and crossed the broad Indian Ocean to India. Two years later he returned home with his vessels full of rich merchandise from that country.

8. The Shape of the Earth—Spherical or Flat?—The learned men of that age, for the most part, believed the earth to be round like a ball. But the common people, and doubtless many of high rank, thought the land surface to be flat, with a flat ocean flowing around it on every side. Now if the earth were really a sphere, and no larger than was commonly supposed, it would seem that the easiest way to get to India, unless unforeseen obstacles intervened, would be to strike out to the west and sail straight across the "Sea of Darkness," as the sailors called the Atlantic. To embrace so startling a theory and deliberately to risk his life in testing its truth, required a man of keen sagacity, of lofty faith, of unbending resolution, and of the most heroic daring. Such a man was Christopher Columbus.

9. Columbus; his Early Life as a Sailor.—He was born at Genoa, in or about the year 1445. He was the son of a poor wool-comber, and while yet very young he helped in his father's daily toil. We find him a studious boy, early able to write a good hand and to draw maps and charts for mariners visiting his home. He loves the sea, listens eagerly to old sailors' "yarns," weaves their fancies and legends into his day-dreams, and is fired with ambition to go in search of strange lands. How shall he realize his visions? Who will believe in him?

At the age of fourteen he becomes a sailor. He sails south along the African coast, and north as far as England, and even to Iceland. Always observing, studying, planning, the ardent, thoughtful boy grows up an earnest, thoughtful man. He is convinced that the earth is a globe, and that, if he sails west far enough, he will reach India by a route shorter than any to the east. Nothing can shake his faith in this belief. It becomes the inspiration of his life.

But like that of many learned men of his day, his estimate of the distance is widely wrong. He supposes it to be only a few thousand miles, requiring but a few weeks' sail. Little does he imagine that directly in his westward path lies a vast continent, and beyond this rolls an ocean far wider than the Atlantic!

10. Curious Things from the Unknown West.—To reflecting minds many facts gave hints of lands in the distant west. Curiously carved wood had been washed ashore by westerly gales; far out on the sunset sea an old pilot had picked up a quaintly wrought paddle; cane stalks of tropic growth, and huge pines that could not have come from the east, had drifted to the Azores. It was believed that these articles, strange to European eyes, had floated across the broad ocean from the eastern coast of Asia.

Meditating much upon all these and kindred facts, and upon the teachings of science, Columbus conceives himself to be divinely commissioned to open up this new route to India, incidentally discovering unknown lands and showing that the earth was round. But this stupendous project calls for ships, men, and vast sums of money. He is poor, and he has no rich patrons.

11. Columbus seeks Aid from Foreign Governments.—For ten years Columbus tried to persuade some European government to send him on this voyage across the Atlantic. First he sought help from his own people, the republic of Genoa; then from Venice, and afterwards from Portugal. For seven years he had patiently and persistently endeavored to interest Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain, in his scheme of a shorter route to India than that which their rivals, the Portuguese, were hoping to find by sailing down the western coast of the dark continent. After years of waiting and seeking, the long-sought help at last came. Isabella had faith in Columbus, and proved herself a firm friend. She listened patiently to his plans; and she finally decided to fit out an expedition at the expense of her own kingdom of Castile.

By the terms of the agreement, Columbus was to be admiral of all the oceans he sailed and viceroy of all the lands he discovered, and to have one-eighth of all the profits of the expedition—the pearls, diamonds, gold, silver, and spices.

It was hard work to get a crew willing to go on this long voyage into the mysterious western seas. It was indeed a strange and hazardous project, and prudent sailors, though stout-hearted, might well shrink from taking the risk. Some, badly in debt, consented to ship on condition that their debts should be paid. Others, convicted culprits, promising to join the expedition, were released from jail.

12. Columbus sails on his Wonderful Voyage.—Finally, in August, 1492, after a delay of several months, three vessels with ninety men sailed from Palos, a little port of Spain, on the most wonderful voyage the world has ever seen—the voyage which ended in the discovery of the great New World. What a heroic venture,—to sail out into an unknown ocean!

Vessels of Columbus crossing the Ocean.

Every day and every hour took them farther from home. Onward and still onward they were sailing, across the trackless and boundless deep, with nothing in sight but sky and ocean.

No wonder they became angry with themselves for having started upon what seemed so foolhardy an enterprise. When at first the land sank from sight on the eastern horizon, many of them lamented their sad fate, and cried and sobbed like children. Columbus, fearing trouble, took the precaution to keep two different reckonings as to the distance sailed, a true one for himself and a false one for his men.

To add to their fears, the needle of the compass no longer pointed, as usual, a little to the right of the north star, but began to sway toward the left. Columbus did not know what to make of this variation of the compass needle, but by giving an ingenious astronomical explanation he managed to satisfy his men.

"This day we sailed westward, which was our course," were the simple but grand words which the brave commander wrote in his journal day after day. The sailors, in despair and rebellion, threatened to throw him overboard; but he stood firm in his hope and courage, gazing almost incessantly towards the ever-receding western horizon.

13. The Great Problem at last solved.—Many times the eager sailors thought they saw land, and many times they were disappointed. At last birds began to circle around the ships. A bush covered with fresh red berries floated by, and a piece of carved wood. Presently the birds were seen to fly southward. By these signs Columbus felt sure that they were approaching land. "We shall see land in the morning," he said to his men. All was excitement and activity. No one could sleep. All waited impatiently for the dawn.

Columbus's First View of the New World.

The day broke, and a beautiful island appeared before them. Columbus was the first to step upon the beach; the others followed; all knelt as the great discoverer kissed the ground and gave thanks to God. He rose from his knees, drew his sword, unfurled the great flag of Spain, gorgeous with its red and gold, and in the name of Spain he took possession of the land, calling it San Salvador. From his sublime purpose the mighty navigator had not swerved a hair's breadth! He had solved the great problem! He had earned a name that should never die!

14. The New World and its Strange People; the Homeward Voyage.—The island on which Columbus first landed was one of those we now call the West Indies, the name given by him. The voyagers were wild with delight at the new country. They gazed in wonder at the rare and lovely flowers, the bright-colored birds flashing through the sunlight, the lofty palms, the strange trees bearing abundant fruits; but most of all at the singular people, whom of course they called Indians.

Not less were the natives astonished. They thought the strange visitors divine beings from the sky, and the ships unearthly monsters from the deep. Columbus found the natives kindly and generous with gifts. Maize or Indian corn, potatoes, cotton, and tobacco were found; but neither gold nor diamonds.

Columbus felt sure that this land was some part of Asia. After a stay of twelve weeks he decided to sail back to Spain with the news of his great discovery. He took with him a number of the natives and a vast store of curiosities. On the voyage a terrific storm raged for four days, and it seemed as if the frail vessels must be destroyed. The peril being very great, Columbus wrote upon parchment two brief accounts of his discoveries; each of these he wrapped in a cloth, enclosed it in a large cake of wax, and securely packed it in a tight cask. One of these kegs was flung into the sea, and the other was lashed to the vessel.

The two frail vessels, however, rode out the storm and at last put into one of the Azores to refit. On the homeward way another storm overtook the weary voyagers, and Columbus was glad to reach at last a port in Portugal. From thence in March, 1493, he arrived safe in the harbor of Palos.

Map of Columbus's Route on his Great Voyage across the Ocean.

15. Columbus receives a Royal Welcome on his Return.—A royal welcome was given Columbus on his return. The man who had been laughed at for his strange theories, now returning from a newly discovered world beyond the sea, was regarded as the greatest of men. Ferdinand and Isabella received him with royal pomp and asked him to tell them his story. Marvelous it must have seemed, and all who heard it must have listened with breathless attention. The highest honors were bestowed upon him. His discovery of course excited intense interest throughout the civilized world.

Columbus rebuking the Courtiers.

But the high honors paid to him aroused the jealousy of the courtiers. Once, while sitting as a guest of honor at table, one of the courtiers said with a sneer that it was not such a great thing after all to discover the New World; any one else could have done it. By way of reply Columbus took an egg from a dish before him, and handing it to the courtier, asked him to make it stand on end. The man tried but could not do it. Others tried but failed, and the egg came back to Columbus. He struck it upon the table with slight force, cracking the shell a little, and then it stood upright.

"Oh, any one could do that," said the courtier. "So any one could discover the Indies after I have shown the way," was the reply of Columbus.

16. Columbus sails on Other Voyages across the Atlantic.—In spite of the joy among the Spanish people over the great discovery, there was general disappointment that Columbus brought back no gold or precious stones. It was believed that another voyage might bring better success. Accordingly he soon prepared to sail again across the ocean. There was no trouble now in obtaining crews; multitudes wished to go.

In September, 1493, he started—this time with seventeen ships and fifteen hundred men! He landed among the Caribbean Islands. The natives were frightened at the horses which were brought over, thinking the rider and the steed all one; they were doubly terrified to see the man dismount and the strange being come to pieces, making two separate animals!

Columbus coasted along the south side of Cuba, and being sure it was India, tried to find the mouth of the Ganges! Seeing traces of a gold mine that had once been worked, he concluded that in that region must have been found the gold of Ophir, which had been used for Solomon's temple, and that probably the great temple itself was not far off!

17. Queen Isabella proves a Friend.—After a great deal of trouble during his absence of nearly three years, Columbus returned home in 1496. Serious disputes followed his arrival. Much disappointment was felt that he had found no gold or diamonds; many denounced "the foreign upstart" as a fraud and a tyrant, saying that he cost more than he was worth. Jealousy, intrigue, disappointed greed, hatred for fancied slights, every motive to hostility took shape against him. Yet as Isabella was still his friend, and as he hoped for better fortune in another trial, he prepared for a third voyage. In May, 1498, with six vessels and two hundred men he again set sail.

On this voyage Columbus touched the mainland of South America and passed the mouth of the river Orinoco. The broad flow of the great river, the magnificent scenery, and the charming climate delighted him. "This must be the river," he said, "that flows through the Garden of Eden."

Meanwhile, many of the Spaniards that had been left on the islands rebelled against him. Evil-minded officials in Spain sent out a sort of inspector to examine into the rebellion. Prompted by malice, he exceeded his authority and caused Columbus to be chained as a criminal. With stern fortitude the stout-hearted mariner endured the cruel irons, and he was thus taken back to Spain. The captain of the vessel offered to free him from his chains. The brave discoverer answered sadly but proudly: "No: I will wear them as a memento of the gratitude of princes!"

18. The Fourth and Last Voyage.—His firm friend, the queen, justly indignant, received him with tears. Then the much-enduring old man broke down, and with sobs and weeping threw himself at her feet. The great-hearted Isabella encouraged him to go on still another expedition. In May, 1502, with four vessels and one hundred and fifty men, he sailed on his fourth and last voyage.

He skirted the south side of Cuba, touched at Honduras, and coasted along the northern shores of South America. Many of his men were killed by the Indians, his company was short of food, his ships began to leak, the vessel on which he sailed was wrecked, and the voyage was every way disastrous. In November, 1504, old, feeble, and broken-hearted, Columbus returned to. Spain. His royal patron and best friend, Isabella, was dead. His constitution was shattered by the labors and perils he had undergone. His last year was passed in sickness and poverty. In 1506 he closed his eyes in death.

19. Columbus and his Mighty Achievement.—After all his four eventful voyages, this prince of explorers died in the belief that he had reached the eastern shores of Asia, and that, too, by the best and most direct route. He never imagined that he had found a new continent. Although self-deceived as to the true nature of his discoveries, he yet well deserved all the honors that have crowned his memory. His own time was not worthy of him; but after-ages have paid him due and ever-increasing reverence. His name will forever be linked with lofty ideas and magnificent achievements.

Columbus was a man of noble and commanding presence, tall, and powerfully built. He had long-waving hair, a fair, ruddy complexion, and keen blue-gray eyes that easily kindled and glowed. He inspired strong affection and deep respect. He always carried himself with an air of authority, as became a man of great heart and lofty thoughts.

Why was this continent not named for Columbus? Let me tell you. Because in his life it was not known as a new world, and hence had no need of a new name. It already had the names India and Cathay (China). In 1501 Americus Vespucius, a Florentine merchant and a mariner already familiar with the western waters, sailed on his third voyage far southward along the eastern coast of South America. The vast size of that country thus became partially known. He wrote an account of his voyages to the "New World," and in his honor it was named "America." Gradually this name was applied to the northern continent also.


20. The Cabots and their Voyages.—We need not be told that these expeditions made a great sensation in Europe, and that many bold mariners started out from Portugal and Spain. The sovereigns of other nations, too, as England and France, soon sent navigators to make claims for their own countries. Among the most notable of these were the Cabots, John and his son Sebastian. Though natives of Genoa, they lived in England and had entered the service of King Henry VII. They had permission from him to sail across the Atlantic and to take possession, in his name, of any lands which were not known to Europeans.

In May, 1497, with one ship and eighteen men, John Cabot with his son Sebastian left England. The first land he saw is supposed to have been either Cape Breton Island or the shores of Labrador. He did not remain long on that cold and dismal coast, but returned home to England after an absence of about three months. John Cabot was probably the first European since the days of the Northmen to set foot upon the mainland of North America.

On his return he was received with much honor by the king. He was called "The Great Admiral," and he went about the streets richly dressed in silk, followed by a crowd of admirers. The next year the Cabots set out upon a second voyage. This took a wider range. The exact limits of these explorations are not clearly known; but it is believed that they discovered the coast of Labrador, sailed along to Newfoundland, thence probably as far south as Cape Cod, and perhaps to Cape Hatteras. Inasmuch as Columbus never set foot upon the mainland of North America, the Cabot discoveries are of importance. It is claimed that they gave England a right to the settlement and ownership of this northern continent.

Sebastian lived to be a very old man, and to the last was full of enthusiasm about the new-found world He was known as "The Great Yeoman." It was said of him: "He gave England a continent—and no one knows his burial place!"

21. A Spanish Knight seeks the Fountain of Youth.—A singular expedition was that of Ponce de Leon, a brave knight who had sailed with Columbus on his second voyage. The Spaniards had heard somewhere in eastern Asia the old, old legend, of a fountain whose water gave perpetual youth to any one who drank of it. In 1513 Ponce de Leon sailed from Porto Rico, where he had been governor, with three vessels, in search of this wonderful "Fountain of Youth."

On Easter Sunday (which in Spanish is Pascua Florida, flowering Easter) he first came within sight of a coast to which he gave the name Florida, partly in honor of the day and partly because it was indeed a region of flowers. He took possession of it in the name of the King of Spain. Never before had he seen so beautiful a region. It seemed the land of eternal summer.

He landed not far from what is now St. Augustine, and followed the coast south to its western shore; but he went back disappointed. If he or any one else ever saw this spring of magic power, it was only in dreams. In 1521 our romantic knight sailed again in search of the hoped-for fountain; but by reason of a severe wound from an Indian arrow he was forced to return to Cuba. There he died of his painful injury.

22. How De Soto sought in Vain for Gold.—Another adventurous Spanish knight was Ferdinand de Soto. He attempted to explore and conquer the country across the waters to the north of Cuba. In 1539, with nine vessels and five hundred and seventy men, he left Havana. Landing on the eastern coast of Florida, De Soto marched north to the Savannah River, thence going westward. Dangers beset him on every side. Sometimes the natives, who had learned to fear and hate the Spaniards, sent poisoned arrows flying through the air. Sometimes they purposely led their greedy foes into swamps in the search for gold. The Spaniards in turn treated the Indians with extreme cruelty.

De Soto's First View of the Mississippi River.

A number of dreadful battles were fought in which De Soto lost many men. Through tangled forests and swamps the Spaniards, suffering from hunger and sickness, plodded on their weary march. De Soto would not turn back. He was determined to find gold. The proud Spaniard could not endure the thought of failure. He had promised his followers an abundance of treasure, and he resolved to keep that promise.

At last they reached the banks of a mighty river. Compared with other streams it was like the sea. It was the great Mississippi. De Soto was probably the first white man that ever gazed upon it. Under his direction the men built rafts, crossed the "Father of Waters," and pushed far on to what is now Arkansas and Missouri, in search of the fabled land of gold. They never found it. Instead of gems and gold, they found hunger, sickness, and death.

23. Death of De Soto.—At last, a little group exhausted and emaciated, they turned their steps southward and toward the great river again. De Soto was broken-hearted. A fever seized him, and he soon died.

The Indians stood in great awe of De Soto. They called him a "child of the Sun," and believed he would never die. His men therefore wished to conceal the fact of their leader's death. They wrapped his dead body in a mantle and sank it at night beneath the waters of the Mississippi. The wretched remnant of his followers managed to build a few boats, and in these they floated down the stream. A few of them at last reached friends to whom they told the story of their failure.


Sir Walter Raleigh.

24. Sir Walter Raleigh: Soldier, Sailor, and Courtier.—Not until many years after the voyages of the two Cabots did the English begin to make settlements in the New World. For more than three-quarters of a century no one seemed to comprehend the vast importance of the discoveries of those explorers, or to dream of the wonderful changes that would follow during the coming ages. But there was at last one man in England of high rank who foresaw that a great nation would some time people the realm beyond the Atlantic. That man was Sir Walter Raleigh. He was a skillful sailor, a daring soldier, an accomplished scholar, an elegant poet, a learned historian, a graceful courtier—in fact, a prince among men. He became a great favorite with Queen Elizabeth. He was very rich, and when he asked permission to fit out ships and establish colonies in America, the queen readily granted his request.

The first two vessels sent out by Raleigh reached the coast of North Carolina in 1584. No attempt at colonization was then made, and they soon sailed back to England. When Queen Elizabeth heard of the wonders of the new country—its luscious fruits, its "sweete-smelling timber trees," its rich soil, whereon the natives seemed to live "after the manner of the golden age"—she said: "This place shall be named Virginia in honor of me." For the great queen was called the "Virgin Queen," and she used to boast that she was wedded to her kingdom alone.

25. First Attempts to colonize Virginia.—Soon afterwards Raleigh sent out vessels on a second voyage "to plant an English nation in America." It had been planned to make a settlement on Roanoke Island; but the Indians were warlike, food was scarce, and the colonists instead of planting corn searched for gold. After they had nearly died of starvation a vessel arrived, which carried the homesick men back to England. Two years afterwards a third company was sent out by Raleigh. This company included men, women, and children. These also settled at Roanoke Island. There, in August, 1587, was born Virginia Dare, the first American child of English parentage.

This colony also fared hard. The governor sailed back to England for supplies, and when he returned to America, after being delayed for three years, every trace of the colony had disappeared. It was never known whether the colonists had gone far away, to live with the Indians, or had somehow perished. They were never heard of again.

26. How Tobacco and Potatoes came into Popular Use.—And thus it was that in the first colonizing of this country Sir Walter Raleigh had as much to do as any other one man. Although his various attempts at settlements proved failures, yet he opened the way, set the example, and made it less difficult for others to come to America.

One of the most wholesome and nutritious of vegetables, the common white potato, had never been seen in Europe until some of the Virginia settlers sent to Sir Walter as a present several of the "roots," as they were called. He showed the poor how easily potatoes could be raised. Thus they first came into use as a staple article of food.

The settlers in Virginia soon found that the Indians took great comfort in smoking the dried leaves of a certain fragrant herb. This was the now well-known tobacco plant. The English colonists tried smoking,—and liked it. They sent some of the plant across the ocean as a present to Sir Walter. He tried smoking, and he also liked it!

At first it seemed a strange sight in England to see a man smoking. The story is often told that as Raleigh was one day enjoying his pipe, a servant came into the room. As the man had never before seen any one smoke, he was much astonished; he thought his master was on fire. He rushed out of the room, seized a pitcher of water, and running back threw it over Sir Walter!

Raleigh's Servant interrupts his Master's Smoke.

From that time till now tobacco has been most extensively used. The settler who raised tobacco could buy with it whatever he needed. Large crops of it were carried to England and sold. It did much to establish the commercial prosperity of the Virginia colony.

27. Captain John Smith and his Early Career.—In the year 1607 there came to Virginia a remarkable man by the name of John Smith. He plays an important part in the early history of that colony.

This the most famous John Smith that ever lived, was born in England in 1580. While yet a boy he was fond of wild and daring adventures. When thirteen years old he sold his school books and ran away from home. When he became a young man he went to the continent, and for two or three years fought in the Dutch and French armies.

Once, when Smith was a sailor on a ship going from Marseilles to Italy, a terrible storm arose; the sailors, believing that he was the cause of their bad luck, threw him overboard. But, swimming "with lusty sinews," he managed to reach an island near by, and thus his life was saved. He was rescued from the shore and was taken on board a French man-of-war. Soon afterwards the ship met an enemy, and a battle ensued. In that conflict the young English sailor fought so hard that the ship's officers gave him a share of the plunder of the captured vessel.

28. His Romantic Adventures.—Our bold adventurer now went farther east and enlisted in the Austrian army to fight against the Turks. In that service he soon became well known as a brave and dashing fellow, and before long he was made a captain of cavalry. After a battle in which the Austrians were defeated, Smith, badly wounded, lay a while among the dead. But he was found and cared for. After his wounds had healed, he was taken to Constantinople and sold to the Turks as a slave. A Turkish lady showed him great kindness.

Captain John Smith.

Then he was sent to Russia. There, at a place about a mile from the house of his cruel master, he was set to threshing grain. One day his owner rode up and shamefully abused him. Stung by his insolence, Smith killed the man with a flail, exchanged his own slave garments for his victim's clothes, hid the body in the straw, mounted a horse, and started off. He traveled over Russia, Austria, France, and Spain, and at last, after many stirring adventures, drifted back to his old home in England again.

All these stories and many more Captain John tells us in his book of travels. Perhaps they are true, and perhaps we may conclude with some other persons that Smith was a daring fellow at telling stories as well as at fighting Turks!

29. Captain John begins his Career in the New World.—When our adventurer arrived in England, all the talk was about the wonderful western world. Although he had roamed so widely and had fared so hard, he was then less than thirty years old and was ready for new adventures. All of his previous life seemed a preparation for a career of romance and heroism in the New World. So he joined an expedition which sailed for Virginia in the early part of 1607.

On the voyage his superior talents and experience were so evident that his comrades became jealous of him, and on some pretext caused him to be put in chains. They had a long and stormy voyage. It was as late as April when they reached Chesapeake Bay. They were so glad to leave the stormy ocean and find a place of rest that they named the land near their first anchorage Point Comfort, a name it still bears.

They entered between two capes, which they called Charles and Henry from the king's two sons. From their king, James the First, they named the river up which they sailed the James, and they called the village that they built Jamestown. Thus was laid in the year 1607 the foundations of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

30. How Smith managed the Virginia Colonists.—These Virginia colonists were not suited to the rough, hard work of making a settlement in this new country. They had not been accustomed to earn their living by manual toil. They liked to call themselves "gentlemen," as if that title somehow made an excuse for shiftless idleness. The real need was for farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, masons—useful mechanics and willing laborers. These genteel settlers expected to find in this wonderful region plenty of gold; their sole purpose was to get enough of the precious ore, and then go back to England and remain there.

But Captain Smith was the saving spirit of the colony. He showed the immigrants the necessity of labor, and told them plainly that if they would not work they must not expect to eat. He taught them to fell trees and build huts. Their voyage had been so long, and so much of their provisions had been spoiled, that, when they landed, their stock of food was almost gone. Something must be done, and that soon, or they would starve.

Then was shown the courage, skill, and good sense of an energetic leader. The corn that a few friendly Indians brought to the settlers was not enough to feed so many. Therefore Smith took some companions, went in his boat up and down the rivers, made friends of the Indians, and bought from them corn and game, giving in payment shiny trinkets, beads, and little mirrors.

But the river lands were low and unhealthful; the water was bad; very many of the settlers became sick; and, before the autumn frosts came, more than half of them had died. Smith worked hard to help the survivors and to teach them to help themselves. Meanwhile, in his boat, he made long excursions up the James and the Potomac rivers, hoping perchance to find a way to the South Sea, as every one then called the Pacific Ocean.

Smith Explaining the Compass To The Indians.

31. Captured by the Indians.—On one of these exploring expeditions a gang of natives attacked Smith and killed all his men. He seized an Indian and holding him as a shield, shot down three of the savages. The place being swampy, he suddenly sank to his knees in the oozy soil and was captured by the enemy. Then the quick-witted prisoner, taking out his pocket compass, showed the vibrations and use of the needle, and spoke of the sun, moon, and stars. He interested his captors so deeply that they were sure he must be a supernatural being from some far-off world. They were afraid to kill him.

He persuaded them to send to the colony a piece of paper on which he had written. The result surprised them all the more! This strange being could make paper talk!

32. How Pocahontas saved Captain John's Life.—At last Captain John was sent to the great chief Powhatan, and by him was held captive during several weeks. These Indians, too, he amused with his compass and his writing; but after a while they grew tired of him, and Powhatan concluded to kill him.

So one day they gathered around the victim; he was stretched on the ground, his head was placed on a stone, and all was ready. A savage was just raising his club for the fatal blow, when forth rushed the bright young Pocahontas, the pet daughter of the old chief. Throwing her arms around Smith's neck, she turned her face to her father and begged him to spare the captive's life. "Kill me," she cried; "kill me; you shall not kill him!" It seems that Smith had been improving his time in making whistles and rattles and strings of beads and shells for the Indian girl, and so had won her affection; and she in return saved his life! Indian chiefs do not often indulge in pity; but for the sake of his beloved daughter Powhatan released Smith and soon after let him go back to Jamestown. Such is the story of his romantic rescue as Captain John told it years afterwards. While there is nothing improbable about it, yet some people believe that he invented the story to magnify his own importance.