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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP03 May 2017 11:25 a.m. PST

… age: The case of the Anglo-American war of 1812-1814 – part 1

"Sylvain Pagé charts the breakdown of relations between France, Britain and America as the continental blockade came into operation, leading into the War of 1812 and the attack on the British North American colonies (today Canada). The author takes into account the various factors that drove the United States to declare war on Britain, and situates the conflict in the wider Napoleonic geopolitical context.

An unexpected attack
On early morning of June 22 1807, the American warship USS Chesapeake weighed anchor from its naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, and soon cleared the bay whose name she carried to put to sea. Built less than seven years before, she had just been refitted after a four-year hiatus in the shipyard. She was now headed for a two-year assignment as flagship of the American squadron in the Mediterranean. On board were important civilian passengers – government officials- on their way to postings in Europe, travelling along with their relatives and their belongings. As a result, baggage and extra gear were scattered all over the lower decks and took priority over the battle readiness of the frigate; moreover, the extra weight also slowed her down considerably. However, since the country was at peace and she was going to sail in known and friendly waters, no one was too concerned by her state.

Chesapeake's senior officer was newly-appointed Commodore James Barron, an experienced seaman and captain of good repute who was heading for his post as Head of the American fleet in the Mediterranean. As his frigate rounded Cape Henry and made for open sea, a watchman signalled a British warship nearby. The Commodore was well aware that the Royal Navy was patrolling just off the three-mile limit which marked the boundary of international waters: before leaving port, he had heard of two French ships which had taken refuge in the Chesapeake Bay during a recent storm and which were now hiding from the Royal Navy. Surely, the British were waiting for them to come out, in some cat-and-mouse game. However, just as he crossed the three-mile limit, he saw that HMS Leopard, a 50-gun frigate, was actually hailing his ship. Extending naval courtesy, Barron ordered his men to drop sail to allow Leopard to catch up. Signals were exchanged and a small party of British officers came on board the American warship. Once civilities were exchanged, a young lieutenant flatly demanded of Barron that his whole crew be immediately assembled on deck for an inspection: the Chesapeake was suspected of having deserters from the Royal Navy in her ranks and the captain of the Leopard wanted to have them removed on the spot to be accordingly pressed back into His Majesty the King's service…"
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