From the beginning, the settlers at Jamestown faced immense difficulties, but some of their problems were of their own making. They failed to plant crops early enough to assure a successful harvest. The initial choice of location was awful; their island home was little more than a malarial swamp during the summer months.
Many original settlers were unaccustomed to manual labor and had to be mobilized under the stern leadership of John Smith and Thomas Dale.
The years 1609-10 are known as the "Starving Time." Food was in such short supply that graves were robbed and corpses eaten. One colonist murdered his wife and feasted on her flesh.
Food problems were compounded by continuing strife with the local native population. The Indians attempted to discourage white settlement by killing off the colonists' livestock.
In an effort to restore discipline to the community, two men who were caught stealing food from the common storehouse were tied to posts and left to starve.
In 1610, with hope seeemingly extinguished, Jamestown was abandoned. The colonists boarded ships for the return trip to England. As their vessels prepared to clear the James River, a fleet appeared with reinforcements and supplies. The departing settlers were reluctantly persuaded to return to the colony.
See Indian Wars Time Table .