Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era

By Arthur Pierce Middleton; George Carrington Mason | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Great Bay of Chesapeake

ONCE safely past the Virginia Capes and the dangerous Middle Ground Shoal that lies between them, the mariner had before him the great Bay of Chesapeake, a vast inland sea thrusting its deep estuaries and long tidal reaches far into the wooded coastal plain. Here in this delightful country, interlaced with innumerable rivers, the seed of the British Empire (and ultimately of the United States) was successfully planted in 1607, and here was the physiographical habitat in which it flourished more luxuriantly than the Virginia Council dared hope in 1609 when it prayed God "so to nourish this graine of seed, that it may spread till all the people of the earth admire the greatnesse, and seek the shades and fruite thereof."1

It is not surprising to anyone who knows the Bay country that the Chesapeake captured the imagination of Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was called the "Noblest Bay in the Universe," in which the whole navies of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands might simultaneously ride at anchor. When it came to the number of rivers and creeks, the intricacy of the drainage pattern led one to compare "the many Rivers, Creeks, and Rivulets of Water . . . to veins in humane Bodies."2 A seventeenth-century visitor thought that "no Country in the World can be more curiously watered," and predicted that the Chesapeake tidewater would eventually become "like the Netherlands, the richest place in all America."3 By the eighteenth century the extent of the Bay and its commercial advantages had become so celebrated that even writers who never came to America devoted their best rhetoric to extolling the Chesapeake. In his History of America, Robertson spoke of the Bay as "that grand reservoir, into which are poured all the vast rivers, which . . .

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Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents xi
  • Illustrations xii
  • Part I - Sea and Bay xiii
  • Chapter One - Ocean Passage *
  • Chapter Two - The Great Bay of Chesapeake 30
  • Chapter Three - Shoals and Shallows 60
  • Part II - Commerce 91
  • Chapter Four - The Tobacco Trade 93
  • Chapter Five - British and African Trade 133
  • Chapter Six - American and South-European Trade 178
  • Part III - Shipping 213
  • Chapter Seven - Ships and Shipbuilding 215
  • Chapter Eight - The Merchant Marine 244
  • Chapter Nine - Masters and Mariners 265
  • Part IV - Warfare 287
  • Chapter Ten - The Convoy System 289
  • Chapter Eleven - Defense of the Bay 310
  • Chapter Twelve - Prizes and Privateers 336
  • Part V - Conclusion 351
  • Chapter Thirteen - Conclusion 353
  • Footnotes 359
  • Abbreviations Used In Footnote Citations 361
  • Key to Short Titles In Footnote Citations 362
  • Footnotes 369
  • Bibliography 429
  • Appendices 453
  • Index 471
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