Author's note: A diary found in British archives earlier in 2016 has been translated from Old English to make it easier to understand. Enjoy.

December 13, 1609

Jamestown grows more dismal by the day. The snow only grows worse, and the cold wind blows like frozen blades against our skin. I am barely able to bring myself to leave our small hovel, but I have the excuse of a sick father to remain inside, though it isn’t much better.

It has been almost half of a year since Captain John Smith left us to return to England. He took with him his new wife and – more importantly – his leadership. He plans to advertise for the Virginia Company, bringing more settlers to the New World. I can only pray they don’t arrive to conditions like these.

Food grows scarce, and we may not receive a new shipment of supplies for months. Men have begun to eat their own shoes and other leather, leaving their feet bare on the icy ground. Frostbite flourishes here, and the only one in our small home with anything to cover his or her fingers and toes is my younger sister, Johanna.

Yes; young Johanna, a small girl of only seven years, is still our highest priority. It is irrational when you think it through, but women and girls are rare in Jamestown, and the townspeople may go extinct if we don’t keep them alive. We could have followed the footsteps of Captain Smith and begun marrying the red-skinned women, but since he left, the Powhatans have turned on us. Our trade agreement is moot, and we are forced to hide within our city walls lest we wish for spearheads in our backs.

Johanna trusts and follows me more than anyone. She listens to everything I say without question. It seems to be a woman’s way, as that was how my mother acted around my father before she died. Still, Johanna takes it to quite a ridiculous extent. She stands by my side always, and even as I write this she refuses to leave. I thank the good Lord for her illiteracy.

As night grows deeper, I must retire before the fire dies. I shall return to this diary when there is more to enter.

* Nathaniel Harker

December 20, 1609

Our father’s condition continues to worsen, and it has come to a point where I must leave Johanna with him whenever I leave the house. I’ve been making sure he drinks as much water as possible, though he has begun to refuse it due to its brackish taste. I don’t blame him. The river water is somewhat unpleasant to the tongue, but we have no other option. If there is some way to remove the salty flavor, we do not know what it is.

A man has slain his horse today out of desperation. Though there was much anger and disagreement, no one turned down the large amount of meat that it provided. Unfortunately, everyone’s starved stomachs demanded too much, and the entire horse was eaten – hide and all. Unsure of what to do, the man buried the bones to at least give the horse some dignity. It was merely a beast, but there seemed to be some attachment there.

Still, we were finally able to give our father some real meat. Because I am the only one of the family who is worth anything to the town, we were given little real meat from the horse, but rather mostly entrails. I chose not to complain, and I gave the little amount of meat to Johanna to eat. I took the rest of it and made a stew for my father and myself, and we hope we can make it last at least a few days.

The taste of real food has reminded me of what I have been lacking for the last few weeks. Eating shoe leather out of desperation is nothing compared to real meat, no matter where it comes from. Fowl, bovine, wild beast, horse, or even dog: it’s all the same when you’ve been starved.

The anger toward the man who slew his horse dissipated once people started to eat. I just hope it doesn’t have to go any further than this.

* Nathaniel Harker

December 25, 1609

Today is the day of the birth of Christ. I prayed that He be merciful to us on at least this holy day, but the situation has only worsened.

We have eaten all the horse meat since my previous entry, and people have begun discussing the idea of slaying another horse. I personally have spoken out against it, and if this continues at the rate it is, we will have no means of transportation long before spring comes. A man who agreed with me, Charles Greene, even was so bold as to venture out into the wild beyond the walls of the town, searching for food. He was warned of our one-sided war with the Powhatans, but he stated the following:

“I am a proud man. My family is dead. If I stay, I shall most certainly join them. Whereas if I go, I have a sliver of an opportunity to keep Jamestown alive for just a little longer. I see my purpose, and it is to feed the men of this town.”

I do certainly believe he will die. Not out of pessimism, but rather out of remembering what has happened when any other man left the city walls.

The Powhatans have shown mercy to only one man, and that man sailed away to England back in the summer.

* Nathaniel Harker

December 28, 1609

My father’s condition has worsened. He now refuses to eat or drink anything, claiming that I am trying to poison him. He is growing dreadfully thin, and it makes me and Johanna worry so. We fear – no, we know – he is close to death.

Johanna has a light understanding of death, as she was present when our mother died not too long ago. Still, she seems all too optimistic for our father’s getting well. She uses our excess of paper and ink to draw pictures of various creatures – faeries and such. She then puts these pictures either under our father’s pillow or beneath his bed, saying that the fae creatures will come in the night and heal him. Her mindset may be that of a child, but it is still horribly Pagan and gives me images of the devil. I do hope that I can draw her to praying for my father’s health instead of her worrisome drawings. Even if I don’t see a true wickedness in her actions (only a child’s ignorance), I fear of what the people of our town may think if they discover this.

I have been going out to help fortify our walls from native attacks, but without shoes I often begin to bleed into the snow as the soles of my feet freeze to the ground and are painfully torn off. The blood then freezes and the cycle continues. But I am not the only one suffering from red footprints; there are many others who no longer have shoes. At least some of them have stockings, but I had to give mine to our sick father. He often complains of being too cold, and with his thinning body I don’t blame him. Even as I sit here and write, I must put my wounded feet near the fire to keep the blood from freezing before it begins to heal.

It is late, and Johanna sleeps near our father. Despite the coldness of his skin, he is still a comfort to her. I fear that responsibility may fall upon me very soon.

* Nathaniel Harker

January 1, 1610

Our father is dead. We buried him beneath a hefty snowdrift, unable to breach the frozen soil. Once spring arrives, we will do a proper burial.

Johanna no longer speaks. She remains in silence at most times, most likely out of respect for our father. I understand it, but I cannot help but worry.

The people of Jamestown are growing paranoid. Many of them refuse to leave their homes, and I have even seen men forcing their wives out into the cold for fear that they would turn on them. I have even heard talk of leaving the town, though I know well that is madness. The man who left to search for food has still not returned, and I am almost certain that he is dead.

* Nathaniel Harker

January 7, 1610

Women and children are freezing to death in the streets. The men who forced them out of their homes seem to feel no remorse, as they are too fearful for their own safety. I am now unable to leave my home without either being horribly buffeted by snow or being grabbed at by freezing women who beg me to take them in. Of course, I do not. If men were forcing them to leave their homes, then they obviously had reason. I do not plan on allowing these malicious characters anywhere near myself nor my sister.

Johanna and I are growing hungrier. She is growing weaker by the day, and we have begun housing her within the bed of my father, as she and I usually slept upon the ground near the fire. We are almost living like savages, it seems.

This is no way for an Englishman to live, nor a young lady. My sister and I have no reason to be sleeping upon cold wood in the middle of a storm with no company but a small fire. This is how those Powhatans live outside these walls, and they are the ones who hunt us white men with their bows and arrows. I do not deserve to be living like a red-skinned savage. This is truly disgusting.

But despite that, we may need to resort to savage means soon in order to get food.

* Nathaniel Harker

January 16, 1610

Since my last entry, two more horses have been killed for food, as well as a dog. These men are foolish in the way they do this. They kill these animals and eat only the meat, leaving entrails and hide to rot. They did not do this with the first horse. It is as if they are losing their minds. Because they do not seem to want them, I take the innards of the animals for myself and Johanna. Other men have called me a savage for doing so, but I responded by informing them of how I was more likely to live because I had more to eat. They did not seem to like that statement.

At least we are able to eat, and we have found that we can store the food by leaving it out in the cold, as there are no insects to eat it at this time of winter, and our walls keep out wild beasts.

We should be able to survive for some time more until we are restocked with supplies.

* Nathaniel Harker

January 19, 1610

I am appalled and enraged by events that have come to pass! The entrails of the animals we were saving for ourselves have been stolen! We left them out in the cold to preserve them, and when we returned the next morning they were gone!

We did not see who had taken them, but when I went to others to demand answers, I saw a young man (younger than myself, but older than Johanna) staring at me. His eyes were accusing and hateful, and I knew then that he had taken our food. I ran at the young man, but the other townspeople pulled me away and told me I was insane. They started accusing me of lying about our food being stolen, and some even claimed I was hoarding it all for myself! Ludicrous, I tell you! These men are losing their minds! They are conspiring against Johanna and me; I just know it. They know about that boy who stole our food, and they plan on starving my sister and I out so that there are fewer mouths to feed in the town!

The people of Jamestown are going mad. The mutinous bastards are going to rid themselves of one of their strongest workers for reasons worth no more than horse dung. I may lose everything because these sons of bitches are plotting against me.

* Nathaniel Harker

January 27, 1610

I have no one left as an ally. Even Johanna has turned against me. She no longer stands by my side, and often tries to hide when I enter our home. She has lost all of her faith in me, and now even fears me! After everything I have done for her, this is how she treats me, her elder brother?

I confronted her about this behavior, and she merely stated that she is scared. She wouldn’t admit that I am the one she fears or that she has lost her trust in me, but I know the truth. I can see it in her eyes and tell in her behavior. She thinks I am her enemy.

Maybe if that is what she wants to believe, that will become the truth.

* Nathaniel Harker

February 6, 1610

We have no more food. All the horses and dogs in the town have been slain within the last month or so, and the only things that still live within these walls are the townspeople. Humans are all that remain alive, some even still fat.

Johanna now always hides beneath our father’s old bed. She only ever comes out to ask if any food has been found. Of course, there never is. She is foolish to even consider that. What a stupid girl. She never does any work - not even the work of a woman, like sewing. She is completely useless to have in the house, and she still draws her demonic pictures.

That girl is useless to keep around. She looks as if she may die soon anyway. She’s so horribly thin, but there are the slightest traces of meat on her. Her stomach is still ever so slightly round, and her arms still have a childish plumpness to them. Her cheeks are starting to hollow out, but I still notice the chubbiness of her dimples on the rare occasion that she smiles.

Johanna will never serve any purpose here, and she will die soon enough.

I might as well make use of her before she is too thin.

* Nathaniel Harker

February 7, 1610

I have finally eaten for the first time in weeks. It was amazingly satisfying, especially because I was able to keep this slain animal all to myself. No one else in the village could have any. It was all mine.

In fact, there is still quite a bit of meat left. I can’t leave it out in the snow again, for fear of it being stolen. I don’t need to lose my food to those scheming townspeople.

The taste was so much better than boiled intestines of dog or horse. It was real meat. At first, I almost dove into the animal and ate it raw, having been starved for so long. After a few seconds, however, I realized that I could prepare this animal properly and eat like a civilized gentleman.

I skinned the creature, and I think I will use its hide to make some new shoes. It may take a while to tan, but I’m sure I can get it done. I then cut the animal open and gutted it, removing all the innards that were no longer of interest to me. I sliced the meatiest parts off the bone and stabbed them through with a spit to put over the fire. I took the small amount of salt I still had and used it on the meat. As I roasted it, I was still so hungry, and I started to eat away at the lesser bit of meat that I hadn’t had the patience to cook properly.

Despite the rawness of it, it was still such a relief to eat after so much time spent going hungry. When the meat on the spit was finished, I was able to relish in the tender juiciness of cooked meat. I had never tasted an animal like this before, but I was slightly reminded of veal that I would eat in my days back in London. It was truly a delicacy to taste, and I knew I could never share it with anyone else in the town. They would likely try to take it all from me, just like they did my horse innards.

I feel like a new man after eating that meat, and I have more to last me a little while longer. I truly am more alive than ever, and I am quite shocked I did not think to slay this animal sooner.

* Nathaniel Harker

When a new ship finally came to bring supplies and new settlers to Jamestown in the spring of 1610, they were shocked to find a teenage boy being burned at the stake. When they asked what he had done, the answer was grave and blunt:


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.