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United States: Maryland

Chesapeake Bay ° Baltimore Clippers ° Fell's Point ° Baltimore Clippers

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Maryland Tobacco Plantation House

In the War of 1812, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain. Causes of the war included British attempts to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy's impressment of American seamen and America's desire to expand its territory. The United States suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian and Native American troops over the course of the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans, boosting national confidence and fostering a new spirit of patriotism. The ratification of the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, ended the war; many in the United States celebrated the War of 1812 as a "second war of independence."

London Times, August 10, 1813
London, Middlesex, United Kingdom

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British Ships Blockading Chesapeake Bay
at the Outset of the
War of 1812

Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and lies off the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by Maryland and Virginia.

The American papers, of which we gave intimation yesterday, are arrived, to the 10th of July. The accounts which they present of our operations are still confused in the detail; though the sum-total of them may be comprised in a few words, and is intelligibleenough. Sir John B. Warren appears to have failed at Craney island,—to have succeeded at Hampton, and taken that town,—and still to keep the American coast in great alarm. The frigates at New London are secure adn the loss of Boerstler's corps, in Upper Canada, is confirmed. Upon thi slast subject we cannot help censuring the improper conduct of an American journal; which represents us as refusing to accept of the surrender of the defeated corps of Americans ourselves, but urging that it should be made to the Indians.

The Indian tribes of Upper Canada were at war with America before we were; and whatever they have fougth by our sides we have endeavoured to mitigate their ferocity. There is also a most singular report from General Dearborn, gving an account of an attack made by the whole of the British forces and Indians, as the General states it, upon the Americans at the head of the Lake of Ontario, on the 6th of June; the issue of which was, the same authentic author says, that though the Americans lost but few men (not more than thirty), yet Generals Chandler and Winder were taken prisoners, while we are stated to have lost 250 men; and, it is even rumoured against us, that General Vincent had been killed. Would our readers believe, that this is the very celebrated night action between the 5th and 6th of June, the account of which was published in the Extraordinary Gazette of Sunday, teh 25th ult.; wherein we, with 700 firelocks, dispersed a corps of 3,500 Americans, took the two Generals above mentioned prisoners, along with whom there also remained "upwardes of one hundred Officers and privates in our hands?" As to General Vincent, he has let the Americans know, since that date, that he is alive . . .

The (Admiral Warren) dispatch says that three of our largest boats were sunk, and that the Admiral's barge also went down, with 75 men on board, of whom only 20 were saved from a watery grave to be made prisoners. From the other sunk vessels, forty men, the American Commodore presumes, might be rescued by his countrymen; so that our whole loss being estimated,--that is, by our enemies, at 200 men, the killed and drowned will amount to 125.

It is a private letter from Richmond that gives the account of the capture of Hampton. We were bravely rrsisted, says this narralive, by the militia, 500 strong, whose loss only amounted to 40 at the most. We evacuated the place shortly after its capture, and proceeded up the James River with five frigates, three brigs, and four schooners.

In addition to these attacks at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, we may shortly expect to hear of others, directed by other officers; as we learn by intelligence from Halifax, that Admiral Cockburne had left that place on the l3th ult. with the Sceptre, Romulus, Fox and Nemesis, to assault town, near Cape Henry, in the Carrituck Inlet, named Oceanock. About 1400 marines will, it is thought, be sent from the fleet to Upper Canada.


Hagerstown Herald and Torch Light, May 30, 1889
Hagerstown, Maryland, U.S.A.

As to Baltimore.

The Mails draws a picture of the alleged decadence of Baltimore which would be startling if true. But happily for Baltimore it is not in a state of decadence at all. It keeps on growing and improving and there is no city in the world where the masses of the people live more comfortably, or where tbe rewards of labor are more steady and certain. The population has almost doubled in the last twenty years, and the best part of the city has been built during that period.

There have been changes in tbe course of trade which at times have operated tothe disadvantage of Baltimore, but in the long ran the city has more than held its own, and when one branch of industry has declined many others grown up and prospered. Last winter the receipts of grain at the Baltimore elevators greatly alarmed the Philadelphia merchants, and they actually asked the intervention of the Inter-State Commission to prevent Baltimore from getting ahead of Philadelphia. They claimed that they Pennsylvania Railroad Company was making discriminating rates in favor of Baltimore.

Industrial Baltimore (Images of America): Over the course of several centuries, Baltimore evolved from a Colonial-era port city to a thriving and dynamic city of nearly a million people at the conclusion of World War II. Industrial Baltimore.

As the city grew, a wide variety of industries were established. Railroads, ports, manufacturing sites, and public infrastructure, such as power plants, fundamentally transformed large swaths of Baltimore's landscape. However, the second half of the 20th century saw a dramatic and often traumatic restructuring of the city's economy; individual businesses and entire industrial sectors downsized, relocated, or completely collapsed. Today many such areas of Baltimore have changed radically as abandoned manufacturing sites have been demolished or converted to new uses. Industrial Baltimore documents a vital component of the city's working past through historic photographs of the people and sites that made the city an essential economic engine of the Industrial Revolution. Over the course of several centuries, Baltimore evolved from a Colonial-era port city to a thriving and dynamic city of nearly a million people at the conclusion of World War II.

Baltimore Harbor Maryland.Baltimore Harbor: A Pictorial History
Robert C. Keith

This newly revised and expanded edition of "Baltimore Harbor" provides a lively, heavily illustrated history of a vital American port that connects the Chesapeake Bay with the rest of the world. Using photographs, historic illustrations, and stories, Robert Keith traces the harbor's fascinating history. An ideal hub for the bay's network of paddlewheel steamers, the working port grew quickly alongside the shipbuilding industry at Fells Point and Federal Hill. This growth continued as the nation's first public carrier railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, linked the wharves of the Patapsco River with the coal fields of Appalachia and the towns and farms of the Midwest.

Chesapeake Bay

Iowa South West, October 16, 1875
Bedford, Iowa

Some Facts About Tides.

The Alexandria (Va.) Gazette gives the following information about some peculiarities in the tides of the Chesapeake bay: A curious fact is that it is always high tide at New Point Comfort at moon rising or setting; it is always low tide at Hooper's straits at moon rising or setting, and high tide at Sandy Point when the moon rises and sets. A vessel entering the capes with a strong, fair wind at the beginning of the flood may carry the same tide to Alexandria. But a vessel leaving Alexandria for the capes will encounter these flood tides on her way, no matter how fast she may sail, and it may be she will have to contend against several more if she has a head wind. Every flood tide that enters the Chesapeake bay goes to the head ot every tide water stream or tributary of the bay, while the same ebb tide does not run more than sixty miles, and sometimes a good deal less, so that there are always two ebb tides and two flood tides in the Chesapeake bay at the same time, and sometimes three of one or the other. The flood tide runs about six hours, the ebb a little longer, so that 12 hours and 40 minutes are required for a flood tide and ebb to pass the same point. It is always flood tide in the Wicomico River on the morning of Easter and the same at Whitsuntide.

The 1855 U.S. Coast Survey's progress chart of the Chesapeake Bay below covers the Bay from the mouth of the Susquehanna River southwards as far as Cape Henry and Norfolk. It includes both the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay in full, as well as small portions of the Potomac River, Rappahannock River, York River, James River, Patapsco River, and Patuxent River. Identifies Washington D.C, Cape May, Charleston, Baltimore, Annapolis, Chestertown, Easton, Cambridge and Norfolk. This rare map was prepared under the supervision of A. D. Bache 1855 Superintendent's Report.

Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. c 1823.
Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, c. 1823
Henry S. Tanner

Baltimore Clippers

The Baltimore Clipper appeared shortly after the Revolutionary War. The designers and architects of the Baltimore Clippers looked to countries whose maritime histories were full of conquest of speed, with and against the wind. They considered the Phoenicians broad-beamed hulls; the Viking hulls that navigated through Scandinavia's icy fjords; and Mediterranean war galleys which moved with low water resistance and speed under sails. In the mid-17th century new designs came from Holland of the first "fore-and-afters" gaff-rigged sails which allowed for quick maneuvering, culminating in the type of vessel commonly called a schooner.

Also of European ancestry was the sloop which was most common in Sweden, France, and Spain. The sloop was a single masted craft with a gaff sail and a fixed bowsprit which allowed for several triangular headsails. Finally, from the turbulent waters of the English Channel, came tall-rigged fishing boats from France and Britain called luggers. These boats were able to combine the sturdiness they needed to survive in rough water with the speed they needed to be competitive.

These ships, and the design principles used to create them, were the backbone of the Maryland shipbuilding industry for many years. Because of the importance of watercraft on Maryland's economy in the eighteenth century, the Chesapeake Bay was an area of shipbuilding innovations. One such predecessor would be the Chesapeake schooners that were mainstays of the bay industries in the late 1700's. These boats were "sharp built", with a merchant type or fast sailing hull for use in letter of marque service (to engage enemy vessels and take prizes) or for privateering.

Clippers are said to have originated with the small, swift coastal packet known as the Baltimore clipper, the true clipper evolved first in the U.S. (c. 1833) and later in Britain. The basic concept of the Baltimore Clippers was first seen in the ship Ann McKim, one of the largest and fastest clippers ever to sail. Though no two Balitmore Clippers were ever built to the same dimensions or specifications, they share common bonds:

A long, slim, graceful vessel with a projecting bow, a streamlined hull, and an exceptionally large spread of sail on three tall masts. Clippers carried tea from China and goldminers to California. Famous clippers included the American Flying Cloud and the British Cutty Sark. Though much faster than the early steamships (already in use when the clipper appeared), they were eventually outrun by improved steamship models and largely disappeared from commercial use in the 1870s.

All Clippers were approximately 100 feet in length from stern to bow. Baltimore Clippers had heart shaped midsections with short keels and raking sterns. The undecorated hulls of these ships were black, low-sided, and sharped bowed, leaving the Clippers with minimum freeboard. Quite unlike other ships of the period, the clippers bore no figureheads, headboards or trailboards.

Reprints of the Baltimore Clipper Ship available by clicking on the image.
Baltimore Clipper Ship

Because Clippers could outsail their opponents, Baltimore Clippers were responsible for more than 500 sinkings or seizures of British ships. But after the treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, the uses for the Baltimore Clippers declined in number. They were still known worldwide for their usefulness in trade, both legal and illegal, allowing merchants the speed they needed to be competitive. They went to the West Indies with cargoes of flour and cotton, returning with coffee and sugar.

A Clipper's mast was further aft on the ship just as the foremast was proportionately taller, therefore allowing a more efficient use of sails.

Baltimore Clippers were often the ship of choice for slavers, smugglers, and West Indian pirate craft. They also carried light cargoes, but Baltimore Clippers received their true recognition for their role in the War of 1812 when Captain Thomas Boyle commanded the Chasseur which was able to capture 45 British merchant ships in a five month period. Because of its impressive performance, it returned home with its new nickname Pride of Baltimore. Chasseur's history is illustrative of the fate of Baltimore Clippers. Just three months after her triumphal return to Baltimore from her exploits against the British Isles, she set sail for Canton, China. According to the super cargo's log of the six month voyage around Africa, through the Indian Ocean, and up the coast of Southeast Asia, she encountered gale force winds, but sailed well. In Canton, she loaded on a cargo of tea, silk, satin, porcelain and other high demand items for the return voyage. Despite deteriorating conditions of the ship, she set a speed record from Canton to the Virginia Capes in 95 days. This Orient-to-America record held for 16 years until it was broken by the clipper Atlantic in 1832. Her cargo of exotic goods sold for a handsome profit for her owners.

Historical reproductions of seaports, posters, people.
City and Seaport of Baltimore, Maryland.
Reproductions are available by clicking on the image.

The Baltimore Clippers faded away to be replaced by larger ships capable of carrying greater cargoes with the same speed as that of the Clippers. In the 1840s a new generation of fast large ships evolved that came to be known as Yankee Clippers or simply Clipper Ships. These were three masted, full-rigged ships, that is, they had square sails on all three masts.

Fell's Point

Fell’s Point, Baltimore’s original deep-water port, was founded in 1726 by William Fell, a shipbuilder from England.

The War of 1812 kept Baltimore shipyards busy. Since the early 1800s, the city had been building small, fast schooners such as pilot boats, which carried pilots familiar with local waters out to guide larger vessels in Chesapeake Bay. When war broke out, an area of Baltimore’s waterfront known as Fells Point began building slightly bigger schooners that could raid enemy shipping and outrun enemy blockades. The community’s shipyards developed the famed Baltimore Clippers; built two of the first ships in the United States Navy, the USS Constellation and the USS Enterprise; and financed the privateers that helped win the War of 1812.

In the late 19th century, Baltimore was second only to Ellis Island as an entry port for European immigrants, many of whom initially settled in Fell’s Point. When the Great Fire of 1904 swept through Baltimore, Fell’s Point was the only historic neighborhood that survived.

Baltimore Clippers

From the Baltimore Sun

During the 1800s, there were shipyards scattered from the foot of Federal Hill to Locust Point, from Fells Point to Canton. Thousands of workers earned their living by building and repairing the ships that plied the Patapsco River, Chesapeake Bay and the oceans of the world. Until steam power supplanted wind and sails, the most efficient way to move passengers and freight was by water and canvas. Baltimoreans routinely went to Philadelphia, Richmond and New York by ship until the mid-19th century.

Baltimore shipbuilders constructed a craft that sat low in the water and carried plenty of sail on steeply raked masts. The fast, agile Baltimore clippers of the 1790s and early 1800s helped inspire the larger, square-rigged clipper ships built mostly after 1840 that put America in the race for world trade.

Baltimore Clippers.
Baltimore Clipper Ship

Launched mainly in Baltimore, New York and Boston, these greyhounds of the sea generally were 140- to 250-feet long, had top speeds of 15 knots and made the trip to China in 15 weeks. The largest clippers measured more than 300 feet, displaced 2,000 tons and had as many as four masts.

Traders called on the busy port of Canton, China, during the 18th century. Baltimore merchant Capt. John O'Donnell's ship, the Pallas, returned with a rich cargo in August 1785; his exploits became so well known that he named what is today the city neighborhood of Canton after the city in China.

Historians believe his was the first ship from Baltimore to reach China. A newspaper notice recorded the goods O'Donnell brought back for sale: "hyfon teas of the first quality in quarter chests ... Nankin blue and white stone china . . . satins, the greatest part black . . . silk umbrellas of all sizes, elegant paper wallhangings . . . cinnamon and cinnamon flavors, rhubarb, opium."

George Washington ordered an agent to buy "if great bargains are to be had."

Baltimore clippers often carried more routine cargo -- barrels of flour from the farms of Central Maryland and Pennsylvania. They brought back sugar and rum from the Caribbean. The city established a sub-industry in cotton textiles. In what are today Hampden and Woodberry, millworkers made canvas sailcloth called cotton duck.

On June 25, 1851, a large Baltimore clipper, the Seaman's Bride, was launched with fanfare -- lemonade and ice cream -- at Locust Point in South Baltimore. The Sun reported, "Thus is added to our unsurpassed fleet of clipper vessels."

On her first major voyage, the Seaman's Bride left New York, sailed around Cape Horn, put in for repairs at Valparaiso, Chile, and arrived in San Francisco on May 20, 1852. It took another 57 days to make port in Shanghai.

Baltimore would build many of these sleek sailing ships until they were gradually displaced by steam. When the steam engine was perfected, tall masts and fields of canvas began to disappear from the harbor. Until the tall ships would make their triumphant return.

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Model IXI Brand, Baltimore Oysters

The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931:
A History with Details on All Ships

Jonathan Kinghorn

In 1881, the dynamic Baltimorean Bernard N. Baker established the Atlantic Transport Line, an American-owned but British-operated steamship company with service from London to New York that became famous for shipping expensive livestock and for carrying only first-class passengers. Although moderately sized, the company remained a significant presence in international shipping until World War I caused major business disruptions, followed by changed priorities during peacetime. Finally, the Great Depression led to its closure. This volume chronicles the history of the line and its absorption into J.P. Morgan's International Mercantile Marine Company against the background of efforts to revive the American mercantile marine. Descriptions of life on board Atlantic Transport Line vessels, individual histories of every vessel owned by the line, and biographies of key figures associated with the company make this the most complete account of this important player in the history of American trade.

Author Jonathan Kinghorn served as a senior regional curator for English Heritage, responsible for collections at more than 50 historic sites in Britain. His great-grandfather was the engineering superintendent for the Atlantic Transport Line and responsible for the mechanical operation of the entire fleet.

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Harvested for food, harnessed for power, and home to more than 3,600 species of plants, fish, and animals, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have long been essential to the sustainability and survival of the region’s populations. Historian William S. Dudley explores that history in an engaging and comprehensive account of Maryland’s storied maritime heritage through descriptions of shipbuilding, steam technology, agricultural pollution, commercial and passenger transportation, naval campaigns, watermen, crabbing, and oystering . . . and the role of underwater archaeology in uncovering the bay's shipwrecks.

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