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Today's Featured Biography

Captain John Smith

      Of the antecedents of John Smith, Esquire, Captain and Knight, little is recorded beyond the facts that he was of gentle blood and honorable lineage, and that he was born in Lancashire, England, in 1579.

      He was still under age when he enlisted as a private soldier and fought with "our army" in Flanders. Sigismund Bathor, Duke of Transylvania, was warring with the Turks, and young Smith, athirst for adventure, next took service under him. Before the Transylvanian town of Regall, he killed three Turkish officers in single combat, for which doughty deed he was knighted. The certificate of Sigismund's patent empowering the Englishman to quarter three Turks' heads upon the family coat-of-arms is in the Herald's Office in London.

      The tables were turned by his subsequent capture by the Turks. He was sent to Tartary as a slave, not a prisoner of war, and compelled to perform the most ignoble tasks, until, escaping by killing his brutal master, he made his way by his wits to his native country in 1604. He was now twenty-five years of age, and emphatically a soldier of fortune. The tale of his prowess and adventures had preceded him, and he was eagerly welcomed in London by kindred spirits who were preparing to emigrate to America to form the colony of Virginia under the grant and direct patronage of James I. By the time the enterprise was ripe for execution, Smith had made himself so useful in counsel and preparation that the king named him as one of the councillors of... more of the Biography of Captain John Smith

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