March 22 was a significant date two years in a row. In 1621, Massasoit, the Great Sachem of the Wampanoags, negotiated a mutual defense pact with the Pilgrims recently ensconced at Patuxet, which they called Plymouth. Though his people were depleted by plague, Massasoit produced a show of force that led the Pilgrims to believe the Wampanoag were far more numerous and powerful than they really were. In the end, Edward Winslow kissed his hand and agreed to all the articles of peace, including the critical Article 4: “If any did unjustly war against him, we would aid him; if any did war against us, he should aid us.” With that, Massasoit gained European allies against the Narragansett and guaranteed the Wampanoag the valuable position as middlemen in Euro-American trade. The pact would hold for nearly fifty years.
In Jamestown, Virginia, things were not going as smoothly. Powhatan’s successor would not be played the fool by the English. They were swindling his people in trade debts, taking prime maize land, and converting it to tobacco strictly for export to London. Opechancanough summed up his strategy, “We are going to have to push them out before they kill us all!”
The English population stood at 1,240, spread up the York and James Rivers in eighty different settlements. On the morning of March 22, friendly Indians arrived at white homesteads with a greeting, stopped by to trade, came in for breakfast, and pulled out their knives. By the end of the day, 347 English men, women, and children were killed.
And so in one day everything changed. The English called for “a perpetuall warre without peace or truce, surprising them in their habitations, intercepting them in theire hunting, burning theire Townes, demolishing thiere Temples, destroying theire Canoes, plucking up theire weares, carrying away theire Corne, and depriving them of whatsoever may yield them succor or relief.”