In Voyage 2 of Chesapeake, which takes place in the seventeenth century, James Michener presents the early years of English colonization of North America, which had initial success with the Virginia colony that was established at Jamestown in 1607. This chapter covers the ocean voyage of Captain John Smith and his men the following year, as they crossed the Atlantic from England to what is now Virginia and Maryland. Michener reveals the limits of Smith’s and other English people’s knowledge of the Chesapeake, as they believed it to be an interior sea rather than a bay. This voyage also introduces the university-educated Edmund Steed, who traveled with Smith to serve as the chronicler and to gain freedom to practice his Catholic faith. Steed’s naming of an island as Devon presages his later establishing a plantation there.
After arriving in Virginia, the Englishmen set about exploring and expanding England’s claim to previously unfamiliar areas in Virginia. Michener shows that they also retained the common European idea that they would soon find ample riches consisting of gold and silver. Smith is depicted as pompous and self-aggrandizing, though not without courage.
A significant episode is concerned with his interactions with the area’s indigenous residents, primarily the Patamokes. Smith and Ragnall meet with the Patamokes and their chief. The peaceful interaction leaves Smith disappointed for not producing the desired riches. Other incidents illustrate Smith’s hubris, such as his disproportionately tough treatment of Robert Small over a minor infraction and his constant insistence that Steed make him more heroic in the written record.
Voyage 2 (1608) of Chesapeake by James Michener begins in 1606 when Captain John Smith, who will sail to Virginia on The Susan Constant, takes the twenty five year old Edmund Steed in hand to sail across the ocean. Smith is a man full of his own importance, despite his small stature, being only about 5 foot tall and, upon arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, he is imprisoned for mutiny, captured by Indians and almost hanged except for an opportune event after which proves himself an able leader. His vision is to find "Chesapeake" which he describes as "a noble sea." He is convinced that "riches" lay somewhere, having been inspired to make this journey after a play he watched in London some years earlier.
Smith takes Edmund Steed, an Oxford scholar on this particular expedition as he will keep an account of what happens and, of course, detail the expertise of the captain - Smith himself. Steed has some reason to doubt the truth behind all of Smith's stories of his exploits but he always gives such detailed accounts that he has to be believed. Steed is particularly impressed with his knowledge of a "dusty Spanish town." With the abilities of Momford in manning the sails and the indomitable captain, Steed keeps his account, not forgetting to record the less-than-perfect conditions.
However, Smith is not happy with Steed's version, it not being poetic enough and, although Smith never said the things he insists must be recorded in the journal, Steed is persuaded that he would have said them under better circumstances and so let's the captain's version stand. In their search for silver and gold, they come to what Steed will call Devon as he is so impressed by it and concludes that "it is the best of England transported across the sea."
Steed and Chirurgeon Ragnall will accompany Smith to the chief of the Patamoke tribe, although Smith deliberates over whether this is wise, having been captured by one such tribe previously. The tribe is friendly but unfortunately with no silver and gold and again, Smith is not content with Steed's account of the events into "hostile Indian territory" even though the Indians had not been remotely hostile. He insists that the detail is altered to reveal the daring and courage of Captain Smith and Steed even has to allow the naming of Devon to appear as if it had been Smith's idea.
Having accepted that it is unlikely that they shall find silver and gold, Smith steers his crew onward. To show that he is a harsh captain, Smith punishes Robert Small for swearing when a fish he caught escapes. It is merely a show which he wants recorded to reflect that he will not tolerate poor discipline. Smith also has to accept that the passage to India cannot be found - or does not exist. On the journey back, Smith is struck by a stingray and believes he will die but he survives and laments his lost dream. Without realizing its value, he sits on a bunch of tobacco leaves believing that he is "not destined" to find the wealth that he knows exists there.