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Interest in American colonization led to the creation of the Virginia Company (chartered in 1606) by investors in London and South West England. In 1607, the Company's London branch established England's first permanent colony in North America at Jamestown, west of Chesapeake Bay.

The colony survived because of experiments with tobacco as a commercial crop in 1612; local economy grew when exports to England grew to 15 million pounds by the late 1660s.

In October 1775, Virginia's last Royal Governor, The Earl of Dunmore, made his headquarters at Gosport. After his defeat at Great Bridge and the destruction of Norfolk, he entrenched at Hospital Point, one mile north, but was driven out in May 1776.

Portsmouth was again invaded by the British: Sir George Collier in 1779, General Leslie in 1780. The traitor Benedict Arnold and General Phillips in 1881. Here, on this Portsmouth waterfront in August 1781, Lord Cornwallis embarked 7000 troops and sailed to Yorktown where he surrendered to the victorious American and French forces, 19 October 1781.

The Slave Trade

July 19, 1859, The New York Times , New York, New York

The Slave Trade of the South

The Millenium, so confidently foreseen by the Hon. Miss Murray, does not seem to be very near at hand in the prosperous City of Mobile.

Instead of bending their intellects to tbe task of emancipating the slaves they already have, the people of that cotton-loving community are evidently inflamed with the desire of adding to themselves other slaves that as yet they know not of. Mr. Forsyth, not long since Minister of the United States in Mexico, now edits a journal called the Mobile Register, and in a recent issue of that sheet has taken up the question of Slavery and its future as seen from the stand-point of the Gulf States.

Mr. Forsyth by no means agrees with her Britannic Majesty's Maid of Honor that the institution of Slavery is a calamity and an incubus upon the character and the fortunes of the South. On the contrary, Mr. Forsyth looks upon Slavery as the glory and strength of the universal Yankee nation. He assumes that after many trials and troubles the institution is at last successfully emerging from a long war waged against it by fanaticism and misguided philanthropy, and that nothing now remains to complete its triumph but the repeal of all laws prohibiting the African Slave-trade. It is, however, admitted that the time has not yet come in which to make the question a political issue.

The South itself is not fully ripe for it, while the North is unanimously hostile. But the Mobile Register intends to agitate and illuminate the Southern mind until all is ready, and then it will strike out at once for Repeal. Even now it "chafes" under the imputation of dishonor cast upon the character of the South by the existing statute, and naively observes, "if the African Slave-trade is wrong, sinful and infamous, the same is also true not only of our inter-State Slave-trade, but of the institution of Slavery itself."

Mr. Forsyth is not the wisest man in the world certainly, nor ought the Mobile Register to be in and of itself regarded as the voice of the South; but in this instance Mr. Forsythe and his Register are echoes of a general cry.

All the Indications point to a strong movement at the South for reviving the foreign Slave trade. How soon it may become general in the sugar and cotton States cannot now be predicted. There are grave political difficulties which hinder its progress, the chief being that the South itself will inevitably be distracted by the Slave-trade qnestion. Virginia has already intimated that when the division comes she will array herself with the North. All the other border Slave States will do likewise, and this consideration deters the advocates of the policy more than any regard for the world's opinion. But the pecuniary interest of the hour, always one of the strongest of human motives, impels the planters to seek cheap labor from Africa. The question, therefore, is much more likely to increase than diminish in importance, and all the efforts of politicians cannot long keep it out of the national arena.

However unwelcome the fact may be to the philanthropist, it is, nevertheless, undeniable that the Slave trade, in some of its forms, is reviving in this our enlightened day all over the world. Slavery under other names, and with more or less modification, is manifestly increasing. England and France are at this moment engaged largely in importing slaves for their colonies from Asia. That the trade differs in some respects from the African Slave-trade, and that the condition of the Coolies is not altogether the same with that of the negroes, are facts which do not essentially affect the case. The dark and emphatic truth is that the great civilized nations of the earth are all evidently bent upon elevating commercial advantages, and the development of industrial production, over those splendid theories of abstract Human Bight which electrified the world, threw down thrones, and convulsed the politics of mankind half a century ago. Mr. Caryle's doctrine of Labor is overriding the "glittering generalities" of the American Declaration of Independence, and the magnificent declarations of the French Revolutionary Tribune, and the religious earnestness which emancipated the slaves of the British Antilles. The African and the Coolie are to be treated like the birds that, being able to sing, decline to exercise their powers. They can work in the rice-field and the cane-patch; ergo, they must work in the rice-field and the cane-patch, whether they will or no.


It is true there are counter-movements going on at the same time. In Africa itself the loyal believers In the faith of Wilberforce and Clarkson are building up free communities of the African race and threatening a yet distant but declaive competition with the slaveholding countries of the world. The pause which has marked itself, the whole world over, in the movement of mankind towards higher theories of interest and duty than men like Mr. Forsyth are capable perhaps of imagining, is an eddy in the current, not a return of the tide. But it is a strong eddy, nevertheless, and it must not be overlooked by the statesmen of America, who mean to govern the nation nationally, and to maintain our true traditional policy of devotion alike to vested rights and to rational progress.


During the early 1800s, Alexandria was the primier port on the Potomac River. In its harbor, ships unloaded their cargoes of Antigua rum, Puerto Rico coffee and Lisbon wines, as well as manufactured goods from Great Britain. The population was said to be 4971 in 1800, but grew to 6543 by 1808 and to 7143 in 1810.

Alexandria, Virginia.

Although Alexandria's shipping interests had been harmed by the undeclared naval war with France, trade soon rebounded. The Alexandria Advertiser editorialized in 1802, that

"Not more than two years since it was a rare thing to see a square rigged vessel in our harbour; we now have our wharves lined with vessels destined for foreign ports. Our merchants have generally received their fall goods, and we sincerely hope they will reap the reward of their labors..."

From 1801 to 1810, Alexandria shipped to foreign countries 613,895 barrels of flour and 233,139 bushels of wheat. The town's major markets were Portugal and Spain. The West Indies remained the best market for flour, taking nearly one-third of Alexandria's exports in addition to 35% of its corn. A large percentage of Alexandria's commerce also centered around its coastwise trade with New England. Tobacco, preserved meats, grain and forest products account for the majority of commodities exchanged.

Two sugar houses stood at the corner of South Alfred and Cameron street; 800,000 pounds of sugar was produced annually. About seven enslaved men and boys toiled at each refinery at the physically strenuous and dangerous tasks of refining the raw West Indies muscovado to hard, white sugar cones for domestic use and export. By 1810, Alexandria ranked third in the nation (behind New York and Pennsylvania) in the production of refined sugar . . . which was shipped in raw from the West Indies and New Orleans in exchange for cargoes of flour and tobacco.

Tobacco Culture. T.H. Breen.

As in most world seaports, trade brought tragedy in the form of plagues and epidemics including yellow fever in 1803 when more than 200 people died.

Shortly after the world rushed to gold fields in California, Alaska and Australia, America's Union and Confederate troops battled throughout the southern states; it's as though the mass migration of people around the world meant nothing to those fighting to maintain ownership of their slaves.

May 1864 was the date of the opening battle in the biggest campaign of the war. General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union forces, had joined George Meade's Army of the Potomac to encounter Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the tangled Wilderness forest near Chancellorsville, Virginia, the site of Lee's brilliant victory the year before.

The Union Sloop of War Kearsarge Sinking
the Confederate Ship Alabama
June 19, 1864

Kearsarge sinking the Alabama. 1864.

The fighting was intense, and raging fires that consumed the dead and wounded magnified the horror of battle. But little was gained in the confused attacks by either side. On May 6, the second day of battle in the Wilderness, Grant sought to break the stalemate by sending Winfield Hancock's corps against the Confederate right flank at the southern end of the battle line. The Federals were on the verge of breaking through the troops of James Longstreet when they stumbled in the dense undergrowth. Lee entered the fray to rally the Confederate troops, but his devoted solders urged him away from the action.

In two days, the Union lost 17,000 men to the Confederates' 11,000. This was nearly one-fifth of each army. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. Grant pulled his men out of the Wilderness on May 7 and moved further south to yet another fierce battle at Spotsylvania.

April 18, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A

Virginia's Historic Ground
Richmond Times

Lincoln's entry into Richmond. 1865.The large price paid the owner of the farm on which the famous "bloody angle" in Spottsylvania is situated has obtained for his property, having made a sale to Northern parties, recalls how Important a proportion of Virginia soil has an extensive value on account of its Association with historic events. With the possible exception of Greece and England — we doubt even whether an exception ought to be made in the instance of these countries — there is no land in the world which contains more localities which derive their interest from the records of history, and which, if put up for sale, would bring a larger sum for reasons which have do relation whatever to th« question of natural productiveness or general convenience. Fortunately, though, these scenes may change hands, they cannot, like Libby Prison, be removed beyond the borders of the old State. Jamestown, Yorktown, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Manassas, the Wilderness, they are here to stay and to call up in the minds of the remotest generations of Virginians the heroic deeds of their ancestors, which are a part of the character of the living.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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