Map of the Chesapeake Bay with Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail regions hightlighted.

Every region near the Chesapeake Bay was affected in some way by the War of 1812. The British occupied the Bay through most of the war, using its tidal waterways to access towns all along the coasts.

After declaring a blockade on the Bay in 1812, the British established a base on Tangier Island and raided waterfront towns at will, burning homes, storehouses, ships, and farms. They targeted towns in Southern Maryland along the Patuxent and Potomac; ravaged properties in the upper Bay and on the Eastern Shore; raided villages and plantations along the James, Rappahannock, and other Virginia rivers; and invaded the US capital city.

The British used the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers to disrupt trade and commerce, draw American troops away from the US-Canadian border, and bring the war home to the American people. Consequently the Chesapeake Bay region became a major theater in the War of 1812.

Remnants of the War of 1812 can be seen in every region of the Chesapeake. Learn more about how the war played out in different regions thoughout the Bay below.

  • Annapolis Region
    Annapolis Region

    As a port town and Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis feared it would become a British target during the war.

  • Baltimore and North Point
    Baltimore and North Point

    After taking Washington, the British next set sights on Baltimore—America’s third largest city the region’s commercial and shipbuilding hub.

  • Bladensburg Region
    Bladensburg Region

    During three hours of intense fighting, American and British forces clashed at Bladensburg on August 24, 1814.

  • Maryland's Eastern Shore
    Maryland's Eastern Shore

    Two battles, seven skirmishes, and at least 14 British raids occurred on Maryland's Eastern Shore during the War of 1812.

  • Southern Maryland
    Southern Maryland

    No other part of the Chesapeake experienced more raids or economic devastation than Southern Maryland.

  • Tidewater Virginia
    Tidewater Virginia

    The British had their eye on several prime military targets in this region during the War of 1812.

  • Upper Bay
    Upper Bay

    The British came to the Upper Bay region at the end of April 1813 and attacked several towns.

  • Washington DC Area
    Washington DC Area

    After defeating American forces in Bladensburg, British forces marched on Washington.

Last updated: November 18, 2020

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