Gates, Sir Thomas

Gates, Sir Thomas, fl. 1585–1621, English colonial governor of Virginia. He was knighted for his services under the 2d earl of Essex in the successful expedition against Cádiz in 1596. Gates, who had been a lieutenant in the expedition (1585–86) under Sir Francis Drake that removed Sir Walter Raleigh's first colony from Roanoke Island, was the first named of the grantees in the original charter (1606) of the London Company, which founded Virginia. In 1609 he commanded, as deputy governor, the “third supply” to the colony, a fleet of nine ships with over 500 colonists. Two of the ships, including Gates's, the Sea Venture, were wrecked in the Bermudas (the story of this wreck apparently inspired William Shakespeare's Tempest). The survivors supported themselves for 10 months in the Bermudas before they completed two pinnaces in which they finally reached Jamestown in May, 1610. Arriving to find that only about one tenth of the colonists had survived the rigorous winter, Gates resolved to abandon the colony. As he was departing for England in June, however, he was met by the governor, Lord De la Warr, heading a new relief. At De la Warr's orders the settlers turned back to Jamestown. That autumn Gates returned to England, and in Sept., 1611, he reappeared at Jamestown with a new expedition containing 300 persons (including his wife and daughters) and many cattle and swine. Since De la Warr had returned to England in March, Gates now served as governor until Mar., 1614, when he also went back to England. He planned further expeditions to Virginia, but they never materialized. He is thought to have died in the East Indies in 1621.

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