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

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

CHAPTER THREE
Shoals and Shallows

THE maritime flavor which the many tidal estuaries gave to life in the Chesapeake tidewater forcefully manifested itself in colonial travel conditions. Early in the seventeenth century the governor of Virginia told King James I that the inhabitants of the colony required boats and canoes for their "sudden transport" across creeks and rivers. Near the end of the colonial period, William Eddis wrote that one could not travel any considerable distance in Maryland without crossing rivers "wider than the Thames at Woolwich." Such rivers, of course, were too wide to bridge. Consequently, transportation in the Chesapeake country was dependent upon a series of ferries on both sides of the Bay. Tidewater roads often did little more than connect one ferry with another. Travel was a constant alternation between riding a few miles--perhaps a dozen--overland and ferrying over a broad creek or river. Before the middle of the eighteenth century the colonial traveller going from Williamsburg to Annapolis, a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles as the crow flies, had to cross no fewer than a dozen ferries.1

Chesapeake travel required two kinds of ferry: one that crossed a narrow river or creek in well-protected waters, and another that crossed a wide expanse of water like the Bay itself or the lower courses of the great rivers, where a sudden squall might raise a rough sea. The boats used for the two kinds were very different. The former were described as "a kind of flat-bottomed lighter or scow" with "upright sides of about two feet six inches or three feet, and sloped up at each end so as to ride over the waves" Drawing very little water, they could come close to shore, and the lowering of a gangplank or apron allowed horses and men to pass directly from the ferry to dry land. On some occasions, how

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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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