By Alan Taylor, winner of the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes for his histories of early America. ISBN 978-0-393-07371-3. Copyright 2013. Hardcover with 605 pages including 37 black and white maps and illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography and index.
Finalist for the 2014 George Washington Book Prize.
Frederick Douglass recalled that slaves living along the Chesapeake Bay longingly viewed sailing ships as “freedom’s swift-winged angels.” In 1813, those angels appeared in the bay as British warships coming to punish the Americas for declaring war on Britain. Over many nights, hundreds of slaves, seeking protection for their families from the ravages of slavery, paddled out to the warships and pressured the British admirals to become liberators. As guides, pilots, sailors, and marines, the former slaves used their intimate knowledge of the countryside to transform the war. They enabled the British to escalate their onshore attacks and to capture and burn Washington, D.C. Tidewater masters had long dreaded their slaves as “an internal enemy” and by mobilizing that enemy, the war ignited the deepest fears of Chesapeake slaveholders and alienated Virginians from a national government that had neglected their defense. In 1820 Thomas Jefferson observed this sectionalism as a turn from the national purpose of the founding toward the threat of disunion.