(about Pilgrims) It would be difficult to imagine a group of people more ill-suited to a life in the wilderness. They packed as if they had misunderstood the purpose of the trip. They found room for sundials and candle snuffers, a drum, a trumpet, and a complete history of Turkey. One William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and 13 pairs of boots. Yet, between them they failed to bring a single cow or horse or plough or fishing line. Among the professions represented on the Mayflower's manifest were two tailors, a printer, several merchants, a silk worker, a shopkeeper and a hatter- occupations whose importance is not immediately evident when one thinks of surviving in a hostile environment. Their military commander, Miles Standish, was so diminutive of stature that he was known to all as "Captain Shrimpe" hardly a figure to inspire awe in the savage natives from whom they confidently expected to encounter. With the uncertain exception of the little captain, probably none in the party had ever tried to bring down a wild animal. Hunting in seventeenth century Europe was a sport reserved for the aristocracy. Even those who labelled themselves farmers generally had scant practical knowledge of husbandry, since farmer in the 1600s, and for some time afterwards, signified an owner of land rather than one who worked it.
They were, in short, dangerously unprepared for the rigours ahead, and they demonstrated their manifest incompetence in the most dramatic possible way: by dying in droves. Six expired in the first two weeks, eight the next month, seventeen more in February, a further thirteen in March. By April, when the Mayflower set sail back to England just fifty-four people, nearly half of them children, were left to begin the long work of turning this tenuous toe-hold into a self-sustaining colony.