Sunday’s Salute #36 ~ Bacon’s Rebellion ~ Thomas Hayes

Bacon’s Rebellion was an armed rebellion by Virginia settlers that took place in 1676. It was led by Nathaniel Bacon against Governor William Berkeley.

Starting in the 1650s, as English colonists began to settle the Northern Neck frontier of Virginia the Chicacoan, some Doeg, Patawomeck and Rappahannock Indians began moving into the region and joined then local tribes in disputing the settlers’ claims to land and resources. In July 1666, the colonists declared war on them. By 1669, colonists had patented the land on the west of the Potomac as far north as My Lord’s Island. By 1670, they had driven most of the Doeg out of the Virginia colony and into Maryland.

Thousands of Virginians from all classes, including those in indentured servitude and races rose up in arms against Governor Berkeley because of his lack of leadership. They chased him from Jamestown, Virginia, and ultimately torching the capital. The rebellion was first suppressed by a few armed merchant ships from London whose captains sided with Berkeley and the loyalists. Government forces from England arrived soon after and spent several years defeating pockets of resistance and reforming the colonial government to be once more under direct royal control.

Modern historians have suggested that the rebellion was a power play by Nathaniel Bacon against Berkeley and his favoritism towards certain members of the court. While Bacon was on the court, he was not within Berkeley’s inner circle of council members and disagreed with him on many issues.

Bacon’s followers used the rebellion as an effort to gain government recognition of the shared interests among all social classes of the colony in protecting the “commonality” and advancing its welfare.


Nathaniel Bacon

According to the Historic Jamestown National Park website, “For many years, historians considered the Virginia Rebellion of 1676 to be the first stirring of revolutionary sentiment in North America, which culminated in the American Revolution almost exactly one hundred years later. However, in the past few decades, based on findings from a more distant viewpoint, historians have come to understand Bacon’s Rebellion as a power struggle between two stubborn, selfish leaders rather than a glorious fight against tyranny.”

Thomas Hayes, my 7th Great Grandfather, was born in Ireland in 1645. He arrived in Surry County, Virginia in 1665. He married Prudence Flake (1657-1702), in Surry County in 1677. They had 6 children, 5 sons, and 1 daughter. As a witness in a lawsuit, he made a deposition stating that he was 23 years of age in 1668. He took part in Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676, and had to flee the James River valley after Bacon’s death. In vengeance, Governor Berkeley hunted down every known participant in that popular uprising. Thomas Hayes found refuge in Maryland and then in Northumberland County, VA where he dies in 1715 at the age of 70.

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