Bartholomew Gilbert

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Captain Bartholomew Gilbert was an English mariner who in 1602 served as co-captain on the first recorded European expedition to Cape Cod. His decisions resulted in that expedition's failure to establish a colony there.[1]

Voyage to Cape Cod[edit]

Gilbert served aboard The Concord, a small bark which sailed out of Dartmouth, Devon, to establish a colony in New England (which was then known as Northern Virginia and was considered a part of the Colony of Virginia). The ship's captain was Bartholomew Gosnold, an experienced seaman who had sailed with Walter Raleigh and who was related to Gilbert on Gosnold's father's side.[2]

The Concord had thirty-two men on board and sailed due west from the Azores to New England, arriving in May 1602 at Cape Elizabeth in Maine (latitude 43 degrees) and skirted the coastline for several days before anchoring in York Harbor, Maine, on 14 May 1602. The next day, they sailed into Provincetown Harbor and named Cape Cod.[3]

Following the coastline for several days, they discovered and touched at Martha's Vineyard, entered Buzzard's Bay (which they called Gosnold's Hope), and established a small post on Elizabeth's Island, which is now called Cuttyhunk Island and is part of the town of Gosnold. In nineteen days they built a fort and storehouse on an islet and began to trade with the Massachusett in furs, skins, and the sassafras plant. They sowed wheat, barley, and peas, and in fourteen days the young plants had sprung nine inches and more.[4]

They planned to leave Gosnold and some of the crew to start a colony while Gilbert returned to Devon for more supplies. However, when it became known that Gilbert had provided insufficient provisions to overwinter (their provisions, after division, would have lasted only six weeks), all hands decided to return to England with him. They made a very short voyage of five weeks and landed at Exmouth on 23 July. Their freight realised a great profit, the sassafras alone selling for £336 a ton.[4]

A notable account of the voyage, written by John Brereton, one of the gentlemen adventurers, was published in 1602,[5] and this helped in popularising subsequent voyages of exploration and colonisation of the northeast seaboard of North America. A second account by Gabriel Archer was not published until over 20 years later. Although the mission failed to establish a colony, the attempt is commemorated by the New World Tapestry and Gilbert is one of the people represented thereon.[6]

Voyage to Virginia[edit]

In July 1603, Gilbert returned to the Americas. Setting anchor in Chesapeake Bay, Gilbert and four crewmen went ashore to search for the missing members of the Roanoke Colony.[7] They subsequently ran afoul of and were killed by a group of Algonquians on 29 July.[8]

The date of this historic landing is represented in the Seal of Northampton County, Virginia. Not until 1607 did the English successfully establish Jamestown, Virginia, their first colony in what is now the United States.[9][10][11]


  1. ^ "Prospero's Hen" Archived 7 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.; Gookin, Warner F. and Barbour, Philip L., Bartholomew Gosnold: Discoverer and Planter, Archon Books, Hamden CT, 1963.
  2. ^ "Prospero's Hen" Archived 7 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Archer, Gabriel (1912). Ed. Frances Healey, ed. GREAT EPOCHS IN AMERICAN HISTORY: The Relation of Captain Gosnold's Voyage. Funk & Wagnalls Co. p. 38. 
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-09.  Gookin, Warner F. and Barbour, Philip L., Bartholomew Gosnold: Discoverer and Planter, Archon Books, Hamden CT, 1963.
  5. ^ Brereton, A Briefe Relation of the Description of Elizabeth's Ile, and some others towards the North Part of Virginie.
  6. ^ Caron Parsons (27 September 2004). "Art and Exhibitions: Setting sail for a pow-wow". BBC News. Helping to illustrate the story is the New World Tapestry; which, created in the West Country, is a detailed record of the early colonial period and the largest such embroidery in the world. 
  7. ^ Charles M. Hudson; Carmen Chaves Tesser (1994). The Forgotten Centuries: Indians and Europeans in the American South, 1521–1704. University of Georgia Press. p. 360. ISBN 978-0-8203-1654-3. 
  8. ^ Zandt, Cynthia J. Van (2008-07-08). Brothers Among Nations: The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580-1660. Oxford University Press. p. 50. ISBN 9780199720552. Retrieved 17 December 2016. 
  9. ^ [1] "A Timeline of Events and References Leading up to and through the founding of Jamestown"
  10. ^ [2] Historical Timeline of the Founding of Jamestown, Virginia;
  11. ^ St. John's, Newfoundland, in what is now Canada, was founded shortly before this.


  • Baigent, Elizabeth: John Brereton, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
  • Gookin, Warner F. and Barbour, Phillip Bartholomew Gosnold, Discoverer and Planter, Hamden, CT: Archon, 1963 [3]
  • Quinn, David B & Quinn, Alison M, The English New England Voyages 1602–1608, The Hakluyt Society Series II, Vol 161, 1983.
  • Venn: Alumni Cantab, 1921
  • Westby-Gibson, John: John Brereton, in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885