What Were Some Of The Challenges Faced By The Pilgrims And The Crew During The Journey

What problems did the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation face? Specifically, what did they face on their voyage and during the "starving time?"  What were their relations with the Indians like?

According to Bradford, some of the challenges faced by the pilgrims of the Plymouth Plantation and the crew during their journey included stormy weather and seasickness. During their first winter in their new home, the pilgrims lost half of their small population to infection and exposure to the elements. The Native people made contact with the group and established terms for coexisting peacefully.

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In chapter 9, Bradford describes some of the extreme trials the pilgrims faced in their journey at sea. As many passengers suffered with seasickness, one of the seamen cursed them for their illness, screaming profanities that he hoped to "cast half of them overboard" before the journey was over. The ship was shaken by violent storms, and the upper works were made quite leaky by storm damage. One man was blown overboard during a particularly bad storm; fortunately, he was able to grab a topsail halyard and cling to it underwater until he could be pulled up again.

After landing and setting up a crude establishment, the pilgrims faced a particularly challenging winter. In January and February, nearly half of the settlers died due to inadequate housing, exposure to the elements, and infection. On the worst days during this winter, only about six or seven people were capable of providing for the needs of the group and gathered wood, made fires, cooked, and washed linens for all those who were sick.

During this time, the Native people watched the group, being careful to keep at a distance and to flee when the settlers came too close. Eventually, an English-speaking Native approached the group and began sharing his own knowledge of the East Coast. Massasoit and Squanto made a friendly visit; gifts were exchanged to make peace, and terms were established for a peaceful coexistence. Squanto in particular aided the group in navigating the land. He told them where they should fish, how they should plant corn, and how they could obtain needed supplies.

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My goodness!  What didn't the Pilgrims face?  From the very first instance of their accepting their religion in Europe, they faced opposition.  That's why they first fled to Holland, and then sought passage to the New World.  Aboard ship, conditions were horrific!  There were no comfortable accomodations below decks where they stayed, the ship leaked, the food spoiled, there were rats, and storms tossed the ship around, often for days at a time.  They arrived late in the year in a strange land.  Over half of them did not survive that first winter due to starvation and exposure to the elements.  Most of the unfortunate victims were men, the women seeming to have a stronger constitution than the men. 

The Wampanoug Indians were, for the most part, friendly and helpful.  Everyone has heard of Chief Massasoit and Squanto, and how they brought food to the settlers and showed them how to plant their crops, build their homes, and survive.

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In his history of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford writes quite dramatically, and often movingly, of the voyage on the Mayflowerand the settlers' first winter in the new land. The voyage over "fast and furious seas" was dangerous and miserable. Many of the Pilgrims suffered from seasickness, and they also endured the hateful taunting and verbal abuse of some of the rough sailors who made up the crew. One of the Pilgrims, a young man named John Howland, was swept overboard but was saved and brought back onboard the ship.

A terrible situation developed about halfway through the voyage when one of the main beams cracked, making it very uncertain that the ship could complete the voyage. Temporary repairs were made, and the ship sailed on, sometimes meeting with violent storms that forced them to drop the sails and drift helplessly in the ocean.

When they finally landed, their misery continued. The winter was fierce. The people stayed aboard the ship, trying to survive on the rations that were left. They had not taken food to prepare for being stranded during the winter. In the section of his history called "The Starving Time," Bradford writes that in two or three months, at least half of the Pilgrims had died, sometimes two or three a day--of starvation, scurvy, and other illnesses. Out of more than 100 Pilgrims, barely 50 lived. Those that lived also were terribly sick. At one time, only six or seven were well enough to care for the others.

In March, the Indians finally made contact with the settlers. Samoset, who spoke broken English, came first. He told them of Squanto, another Indian who had actually been to England and spoke English well. Squanto stayed with the Pilgrims at Plymouth for the rest of his life, acting as their teacher and guide. He taught them how to plant corn and where to fish. He also was "their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit." Bradford considered Squanto "a special instrument sent of God."

During that first spring, Chief Massasoit and the Pilgrims made a peace agreement that had lasted 24 years when Bradford wrote his history. Without the assistance of these Native Americans, the Plymouth Colony most likely would have perished.

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The Pilgrims, as we usually refer to them, had a very hard time on their voyage to the New World and in their first months on land.  They survived thanks in large part to help from some Native Americans.

The voyage on the Mayflower lasted 65 days.  The weather was very bad, with the ship encountering a severe storm midway across the Atlantic. Throughout the voyage, the Pilgrims had to spend most of their time cooped up below decks.  The close quarters would, of course, have smelled very bad and been very uncomfortable.

Although they meant to go to Virginia, they ended up landing in Massachusetts in November.  That meant that they would have no time to grow any food of their own.  Because of this, and because they were weakened by the voyage, roughly of them starved.

Although there were some skirmishes with Indians early on, the Pilgrims probably owed their survival to people from the Wampanoag tribe.  These were the people who helped teach them how to farm in ways that would work in Massachusetts.  Because of the good quality of their relationship, the Pilgrims and the Indians shared the famous first Thanksgiving feast.

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