Don Shomette is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on the history of the Chesapeake Bay region. Here, he talks about his experience leading our popular Cruising the Chesapeake Bay tour. Click here to read Don’s full bio and learn more about traveling with him.
Throughout my life, the Chesapeake has been a source of inspiration and delight that has never waned. Recently, I served as Study Leader on the Cruising the Chesapeake tour. After visiting Baltimore’s historic sites, we embarked the delightful small ship American Glory to explore the largest estuarine system in North America—the Chesapeake Bay. 200 miles in length, with 44 rivers feeding into its historic trunk, the bay was our home for the next week.
Our journey continued with stops at several key Virgina sites: Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America; Yorktown, where American Independence was assured; and Williamsburg, the restored capital of colonial Virginia. Later that evening, we discussed how tobacco and colonial seaport development led to the growth of these cities.
As we departed the Patapsco River for historic Yorktown, Virginia, I pointed out a remarkable site that can be easily overlooked. Fort Carroll, built on an artificial island before the Civil War by an unknown U.S. Army Engineer named Robert E. Lee, is now uninhabited and serves as a bird rookery.
Further north, the Eastern Shore town of Crisfield was literally built on oyster shells, where more than 1,000 oyster “druggers” once tied up. A century ago, this was a rough and tumble place where oysters were gold, men were shanghaied, and the gunfights and hanging judges rivaled even the Old West.