Captain John Smith

He was a bully, a braggart and a rebel with a big chip on his shoulder. They would never have made it without him

Stock Montage / Getty

Engraved portrait of English colonist, pioneer, sailor, and soldier John Smith circa 1580 1631. Smith signed on to the Virginia Company's project at Jamestown, which became the first permanent English settlement in America.

On the way to America, aboard one of three ships that would land at Jamestown, one passenger seemed to grate on the rest like a splintered oar. He was a stocky, sawed-off stub of a man; a seasoned war fighter with a valiant past he seldom tired of highlighting; an unconscionable braggart of modest means who resented the blue bloods among the group; a bigmouthed know-it-all with a sanctimonious air and little or no regard for decorum. His name was John Smith.

In time he would save the expedition from extinction. First, though, he would be imprisoned by his fellow adventurers,...

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