Chesapeake at War

Chesapeake at War > Aftermath > War’s Impact on the Chesapeake

For the Chesapeake region, recovery from the war was not so easy. The region began feeling the effects on its economy sooner than other parts of the country when the British blockaded the Chesapeake Bay early in 1813. The blockade effectively shut the region off from markets for tobacco and other trade goods. Even worse, the British attacked towns, plundered plantations, and torched tobacco stores throughout the region over an 18-month campaign of terror. The Chesapeake sustained more enemy raids and property losses than any other region in the war.

Southern Maryland was hit the hardest. Property losses ran in the millions of dollars. Many homeowners in St. Mary’s County moved out of the state to begin new lives in Kentucky or elsewhere. Populations declined in other counties, too. For Maryland as a whole, the white population fell by nearly 35,000 between 1810 and 1820.

The loss of slave labor during the war was also a factor in the slow recovery of the region’s plantation economy. As a strategy of war the British promised freedom to enslaved Africans who would desert the plantations and join the British side. Several thousand former slaves escaped to British ships and camps, and many aided the British cause as Colonial Marines and scouts. For the former slaves who left with the British to new homes in Nova Scotia, the West Indies, or elsewhere in the British Empire, the War of 1812 was a passport to freedom.

While the Chesapeake Region suffered most, it took particular pride in the outcome of the war. Out of the successful defense of Baltimore came two symbols of the new United States: the Star-Spangled Banner flag and the song that would become the national anthem.

The Pride of Baltimore II, a near replica of the Baltimore clippers that operated as privateers through the War of 1812, sails the oceans today as a good-will ambassador for Maryland the City of Baltimore. Courtesy Jason Kopp

Two other symbols of the Chesapeake’s legacy in the War of 1812 endure today. The Pride of Baltimore II, which sails the seas as a goodwill ambassador for Maryland, is a near replica of the Chasseur, one of the most daring and successful privateers in the war on the high seas. And Defenders Day continues to be commemorated in Maryland each September to honor the men and women who defended Baltimore and the nation in the War of 1812.

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