HENRY HUDSON IN MANNAHATTA

September 9, 2009

The 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in Manhattan make September 2009 a teachable month. A student reading describes Hudson's 1609 voyage, relations with native people, and aftermath. Discussion questions and inquiry suggestions follow, along with information on web and museum resources.

To the Teacher

 
The 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival at Mannahatta, as it was known to the native Lenape, and exploration of a river now called the Hudson, make September 2009 a teachable month. Students can now examine the results of a 10-year scientific study of the original ecology of Mannahatta through the website of the Mannahatta Project. The Museum of the City of New York features an exhibit on that project through October 12.
 
The anniversary also presents an opportunity for students to learn about the interactions between Europeans and native people and the forces in Europe that shaped Hudson's explorations.
 
The student reading below, based on the scholarly detective work of Ian Chadwick, provides an overview of Hudson's 1609 voyage on the Half Moon. It also recounts the treatment Hudson received when he returned to his native England rather than to Holland, and describes his fourth voyage of discovery in 1610. Chadwick's website provides a fascinating trove of information about what is known of Hudson, his four exploratory voyages, and the context in which they occurred.
 
Discussion questions and inquiry suggestions follow.
 
NOTE: On Friday evening, September 11, the Museum of the City of New York will screen one episode of a four-part Dutch public TV documentary highlighting the Dutch history of the City of New York and the city's amazing diversity. The episode includes footage of Morningside Center's work on diversity with students at Brooklyn's P.S. 24. See http://www.ny400.org/events/ny400-week-premiere-the-new-york-connection for more information.
 
 

Student Reading: 

Mannahatta, September 1609

 
 
"...the moon rose higher... until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world."
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
 
 
September 3, 1609: Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon past two islands, now named Staten and Coney, and reached a wide river we call the Hudson. Hudson's son John was aboard, along with a crew of 16 or so Dutch and English crewmen, most of whom did not speak each other's language. Hudson was on his third voyage in search of a passage to the Indies. When they saw the mouth of the river, Hudson and crew hoped it would be a northwest passage. What did they see?
 
"...Manhattan was an extraordinary wilderness of towering chestnut, oak and hickory trees, of salt marshes and grasslands with turkey, elk, and black bear—'as pleasant a land as one can tread upon,' Hudson reported. Sandy beaches ran along stretches of both coasts on the narrow, 13-mile-long island, where the Lenape feasted on clams and oysters. More than 66 miles of streams flowed through Manhattan, and most of them sheltered a beaver or two..." Four hundred years ago there was a red maple swamp where Times Square is today. ("Before New York: Rediscovering the Wilderness of 1609," National Geographic, September 2009)
 
The Half Moon voyagers were not the first Europeans to reach the mouth of the river. The first recorded was Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian sailing for the French in 1524. He wrote, "We found a very pleasant situation amongst some steep hills," but did not continue up the river, which he called "The River of Steep Hills" and the "Grand River."
 
The native Lenape (their name means something like "The People"), too, were impressed with the hills, for they called the land Mannahatta, "island of many hills." (Ian Chadwick,
www.ianchadwick.com/hudson/. This reading, with exceptions noted, is largely based on Chadwick's scholarship.)
 
The Dutch East India Company had hired Hudson to find a northeast, not a northwest, passage to the Indies. Sailing for his native England, Hudson had made two earlier trips, with son John aboard, into the Arctic region above Scandinavia and Russia.
 
Hudson tried a third time to find a northeast passage in early April 1609, again setting out for the north. But bad weather, fog, ice, a quarrelsome crew of English and Dutch sailors, and then a near-mutiny led to a change of plans. Earlier in 1609 Hudson had received a letter and maps from Captain John Smith, a friend living in the new English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. Smith said Indians had told him of a body of water to the north that opened westward. Hudson showed Smith's maps to the Half Moon crew, and they agreed to reverse course and head west.
 
The Half Moon reached the Grand Banks off Newfoundland on July 2, then sailed down the coast as far as what is now called Delaware before reversing course and reaching the mouth of the Hudson early in September.
 
September 4: The native Lenape greeted Hudson and his crew with corn, which he called "Turkish wheat."
 
September 5: Most of the crew went ashore. This time Hudson received gifts of tobacco. He gave the Lenape knives and beads in return and wrote they were "very civil." However, Hudson's log of the voyage has not survived. Crewman Robert Juet's log did survive, and it reveals that the crewman was suspicious:
 
"Our men went on Land there, and saw great store of Men, Women and Children, who gave them Tabacco at their coming on Land. So they went up into the Woods, and saw great store of goodly Oakes and some Currants. For one of them came aboord and brought some dryed, and gave me some, which were sweet and good. This day many of the people came aboord, some in Mantles of Feathers, and some in Skinnes of divers sorts of good Furres. Some women also came to us with Hempe. They had red Copper Tabacco pipes, and other things of Copper they did weare about their neckes. At night they went on Land againe, so wee rode very quiet, but durst not trust them."
 
September 6: Hudson sent John Coman (Coleman) and four others to explore another river some 12 miles away. On their journey north, Native Americans in two canoes attacked. Coman was killed by an arrow shot into his throat and two others were badly wounded.
 
September 7: The dead were buried on land, and the crew of the Half Moon that night kept "a careful watch," Juet wrote.
 
September 9: A number of native people in "great canoes" came on board the Half Moon, and "in an attempt to deceive us," Juet wrote, "pretended interest in buying knives. But we were aware of their intent and took two of them prisoners." One later jumped overboard and escaped.
 
September 10: The Half Moon headed up the river.
 
September 11: The ship sailed through the Narrows, and that night Hudson anchored it at the northern tip of Manhattan.
 
September 12: As the Half Moon moved upriver, women and children approached in 28 canoes. Juet wrote, "we saw the intent of their treachery and would not allow any of them to come aboard." But the crew bought food from them.
 
September 13: This day the ship was near today's Yonkers, and the crew traded for oysters with the natives.
 
September 18: After accepting an invitation from a chief to eat with them, Hudson went ashore, where natives "killed a fat dog and skinned it." Later, he was invited to stay overnight. Probably to ease his suspicions, the natives broke their arrows and threw them into the fire, but Hudson went back to his ship anyway.
 
September 19: The Half Moon anchored near the site of what today is Albany, 150 miles north of Manhattan.
 
September 22: An advance party discovered further upriver that the water was very shallow, only seven feet deep, and returned to the Half Moon with this bad news.
 
September 23: The Half Moon began its return. The 300-mile round trip had featured friendly meals, even drinking bouts, with native people, along with several fights with them and ship groundings in shallow water.
 
October 4: Back at the mouth of the river, Hudson's Dutch mate suggested that they spend the winter in Newfoundland and resume their search for a northwest passage the following year. But Juet wrote in his log that the men began to "threaten" Hudson "savagely," if they did not leave for home.
 
November 7: The Half Moon arrived at Dartmouth, England, not Holland. The reason is unclear. What is clear is that English authorities were angry with Hudson.
 
Mid-December: Hudson was officially censured for "voyaging to the detriment of his country." He was placed under house arrest, forbidden to serve any further foreign service, even forbidden to have any correspondence with the Dutch East India Company.
 
1610-1611: Back in favor with England's royalty, including Henry, Prince of Wales and financed by merchants and the British East India Company, Hudson set sail again in April 1610 on the ship Discovery. This would be his fourth and last voyage, again with his son John, to find a northwest passage. In June, 1611, Hudson's crew mutinied and apparently put the captain and several of his crewmen on the ship's boat and abandoned them in the middle of Hudson Bay. The Discovery sailed back to England without Henry Hudson. 
 
 

For discussion

1. What questions do students have about the reading? How might they be answered?
 
2. Why were the English and the Dutch so eager to find a shorter way to reach the Indies? If you don't know, how might you find out?
 
3. Soon after the Half Moon arrived at the river, Juet writes of the native people that we "durst not trust them." Why not? How did the Lenape respond to the strangers? What do you suppose might explain the inconsistent reactions of the Europeans and the Lenape to each other?
 
4. What inferences can you draw about Hudson's relationship with his crew?
 
5. What inferences can you draw about why Hudson was arrested after he returned to England?
 
6. What do you know about the nature of the rivalry between the Dutch and the English? If you wanted to learn more, how might you find out?
 
 

For inquiry

 
See in the high school section of "Thinking Is Questioning" for materials on helping students learn to ask good questions.
 
1. Questions about Henry Hudson
 
See Ian Chadwick's website (http://www.ianchadwick.com/hudson/) for detailed information on each of Hudson's four voyages of exploration and what is known about his life.
 
2. Questions about Manhattan's natural history
 
"Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City" will be at the Museum of the City of New York through October 12. The museum is at Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street (212) 534-1672, www.mcny.org. For more information: www.mcny.org.
 
Go to www.themannahattaproject.org for detailed scientific information based on a decade of research about the original ecology of Manhattan, whose "biodiversity per acre rivaled that of national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains." The site includes a photograph prepared by 21st century ecologists showing what Henry Hudson and the Half Moon crew saw 400 years ago. Using a "virtual Mannahatta map," students can locate any address and see "block by block species information for Mannahatta." Materials include a curriculum for teachers. Eric Sanderson, an ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, began the Mannahatta Project in 1999. It now includes more than 50 historians, archaeologists, geographers, botanists, zoologists, illustrators, and conservationists.
 
For additional information about the work of Eric Sanderson and the team of scientists who worked on the Mannahatta Project, see "Before New York: Rediscovering the Wilderness of 1609," National Geographic, September 2009.
 
 
 
This lesson was written for TeachableMoment.Org, a project of Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. We welcome your comments. Please email them to: lmcclure@morningsidecenter.org