Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Remember When . . . The Harbor Was Closed?

I'm up to my eyeballs in the War of 1812 right now, and since a huge part of it was the naval portion, I thought I'd chat a bit about our wonderful privateer fleet. =)

When the British fleet arrived in America, their first act was to close off the major harbors. (Shocker, right?) In the Chesapeake, that meant Norfolk, Annapolis, Baltimore etc., all supposedly sealed. Annapolis was referred to an open harbor, which means that the British let ships in and out so long as they had an innocent purpose, or if they were about diplomatic business. But Baltimore, which the area's leading merchant port, was closed. 

Naturally, this is where my story takes place. =) My hero is a merchant captain and did some privateering in the first couple years of the war, but is now on land in Baltimore for the remainder. How, you wonder, did he get his vessel back in the harbor?

Well, that was one of the fun things I discovered. While some of the so-dubbed privateer fleet were making a beautiful nuisance of themselves to the British in the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf, and even in British waters off the coast of England (how much fun is THAT??), some took it upon themselves to do blockade running in the Chesapeake. They would simply slip into an unguarded waterway miles and miles away from the Bay and then follow a maze of winding tributaries back to their home river or harbor. The British had no clue they were doing this, which left them largely unchecked and limited only by the knowledge of their pilots.

The Chesapeake area baffled (and over-heated) the British military in many ways, and this was but one of them. While it certainly wasn't business as usual in Baltimore, sealing off the harbor in many ways resulted in more privateers for them to worry with. Outraged (and bored) merchant captains more or less shrugged and said, "You're going to keep me here? Fine. See what it gets you." They they'd take their craft up the rivers to harass the British fleet there.

Oh, such fun, such fun. =)

Hope everyone's having a lovely Wednesday!


  1. Ohh - fun. Those sneaks! Can't wait to read about it :)

  2. Hilarious - that just made my day! :-D