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Opechanchanough, Character of an Indian Chief

Opechanchanough, Character of an Indian Chief

History presents few instances of greater valor and magnanimity, than are displayed in the character of Opechanchanough, an Indian Chief. Bold, artful, insinuating ; skilled in dissimulation and intrigue; he for many years kept the early settlers of Virginia in a state of continual alarm, and more than once menaced them with destruction. Although so decrepid by age as to be unable to walk, he commanded in person, and directed from the litter on which he was borne, the onset and retreat of his warriors at the dreadful massacre of 1641, which almost exterminated the colonists. The excessive fatigues of this campaign completed the wreck of his constitution. his flesh wasted away, and his sinews lost their elasticity; so that his eyelids hung over the balls and obscured their sight. In this forlorn condition, bending under the weight of years, and worn out by the hardships of war, he was surprised; taken captive and carried to James Town, where he was basely shot by one of the soldiers appointed to guard him.

To the last moment his courage remained unbroken. Like the staff of Moses, it supported him in adversity and prosperity, in sickness and in death. Just before he expired, "he heard," says the historian, "an unusual hustle in his prison. Having ordered his attendant to lift up his eve-lids, he discovered a number of persons crowding around him, for the purpose of gratifying an unseasonable and cruel curiosity. The dying chief felt this indignity with a keenness of sensibility the more violent as it was new and unforeseen. It was a burst or passion, a momentary ascendancy of nature over the habits of education, and its exhibition and effect must be acknowledged to correspond with the greatness of the occasion. Without deigning to notice the intruders, he raised himself from the earth, and with a voice and tone of authority, commanded that the governor should be immediately called in. When he made his appearance, Opechanchanough scornfully told him, had it been his fortune to have taken Sir William Berkley prisoner, he would not meanly have exposed him as a shew to his people! What nobleness of spirit. What matchless heroism! At the age of one hundred years; blind, unable to stand; wounded and a captive, his courage was unsubdued. The prospect of power and incentive of example, at e the usual sources of splendid actions; it remains for the truly great soul to preserve its equanimity in the gloom of dungeons and embrace of death.

The exploits of this extraordinary man in the vigor of life, are unknown to us. We saw him only for a short time on the edge of the horizon; but from the lustre of his departing beams, we may easily conceive what he was in his meridian blaze.

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