Article Series

Series: Fighting for Freedom: African Americans and the War of 1812

In June 1807, the United States and Great Britain appeared on the verge of conflict: after the frigate Leopard fired on the US warship Chesapeake, British sailors boarded the American vessel, mustered the crew, and impressed four seamen -- Jenkins Ratford, William Ware, Daniel Martin, and John Strachan -- whom they claimed were deserters. The damaged Chesapeake limped back to Norfolk with three dead and 18 wounded. Historian Gene Allen Smith examines the inauspicious beginnings to the war.