"Tidewater Triumph"/Geoffrey Footner




This excellent book covers the history of the so-called "Baltimore Clipper" schooner from Colonial days until the late 1800s, and it's a welcome addition to the usual stuff found in the writings of Howard Chapelle. The following is an excellent overview of the sort of shipping the Fassitts would have owned, and the environment they operated in.

I hope to follow up the footnoted items from Footner's text and will post the results of my search whenever I have a chance.

If you are at all interested in the maritime history of the Bay and the Eastern Shore, read this book and Middleton's Tobacco Coast.



 • Excerpt from Chapter Two:
   early shipowners and building.

Dr. Charles Carroll of Annapolis entered the West Indies trade in 1731 when he collected a debt for an heir in sugar, rum and molasses.•8 His fleet would eventually include baycraft, sizable cargo ships, and two large Maryland-built schooners, Annapolis•9 and Baltimore.•10 Carroll and his partners in the Baltimore Iron Works built Baltimore in anticipation of iron shipments to London. John Casdorp, a shipwright of Annapolis, received the contract to build her on 10 September 1733.•11 The shipwright's contract specified a delivery date of 1 June 1734. Her register is dated October 8th of that year and states that she measured 60 tons burden, making her the largest schooner built in Maryland up to that time.

Baltimore's contract included general specifications, some details of her design, and her dimensions. Dr. Carroll specified a "scooner" with keel measuring 38', straight rabbet, beam of 17', and depth of hold 8 or 8-1/2'. The contract expressed in general terms a requirement that she should have "sufficient rake fore and aft." As the amount of rake is not specified, it is not possible to calculate her length overall.


The earliest ship plan of a Chesapeake craft is of Mediator, a sloop built about 1744, ten years after Baltimore. Her plan is reproduced below. Baltimore's contract and Mediator's plan provide the base for a comparison of Chesapeake Bay offshore schooners as they developed over the decades. Early Chesapeake craft were deep and wide compared to length. Bows were short, high and full. Heavy short masts, bulky quarterdecks, and high bulwarks combined with the wide and deep hull, are features shared by Baltimore and Mediator. Their voyages probably took at least twice the sailing time as the next generation of vessels launched from Chesapeake shipyards.

Mediator's place of construction is not noted on the draft.•12 Her keel, with its varying thicknesses, suggests that she was Bermuda-built, and is proof enough that she was not built in Maryland. Since Virginia's plantation fleet consisted of Bermuda sloops and sloops built in Virginia by slaves taught by their counterparts in that island, it is not unusual for a Virginia-built sloop of this period to be similar to the Bermuda model.

Mediator's lines are of a vessel somewhat larger than Baltimore. She measured 61'4" x 21'2" x 9'9". Her keel length for tonnage measurement is given as 44 feet. The sloop's extremely wide beam, almost half her keel length, and her deep hold produce proportions not very different from Baltimore. It is reasonable to conclude that, in spite of different rigs, shipwrights in this period emphasized similar features, whether they were building vessels in Maryland, Virginia, or Bermuda.

There are major components of Mediator's design that are repeated in the designs of later Chesapeake-built craft. Her keel drags somewhat and her sternpost rakes significantly. Mediator's builder gave her more than customary deadrise and her beam is widest forward of amidships. Her mast rakes, she has two or more jibs, and at least two square topsails, features found in post-Revolutionary offshore schooners. This Virginia or Bermuda-built sloop has a low quarterdeck to afford more headroom in the after cabin.

[ A plan of Mediator can be found in Chapelle's The Search for Speed Under Sail. ]

Baltimore's contract called for a quarterdeck and a two-and-one-half-foot waist amidships. The contract specified a flush deck fore and aft. According to Falconer's Universal Dictionary of the Marine, published in the eighteenth century, a deck, flush fore and aft, "implies a continued floor laid from stem to stern upon one line, without any stops or intervals."•13 To be able to reconstruct the actual deck configuration of Baltimore with this definition, it is necessary to assume that Dr. Carroll's schooner had a waist amidships created by a raised cabin top, and possibly a raised forecastle. The cabin top aft served as her quarterdeck. Entrance to the cabin was through a passageway leading from the waist amidships.

While an exact interpretation of the contract is impossible, Dr. Carroll's specification of a schooner with a single deck, end to end, is of note. A single deck, end to end, was a feature of all Chesapeake schooners including pilot schooners. Baltimore, like other sailing vessels of the eighteenth century, had galleries and badges, customary details built into the sterns of vessels with quarterdecks.

Under the terms of the Baltimore contract, Casdorp used two-inch oak planking in her construction and ceiled her inside with oak planks an inch and a half thick. He fastened her with locust treenails, and constructed her deck with two-inch pine planks. This was customary, substantial, eighteenth-century construction.


While it is not possible to recreate Baltimore's spars, rig or sail plan, she, unlike Mediator, probably had no rake to her masts. This conclusion is drawn from the knowledge that 30 years later the Maryland schooners' masts shown in the Gray's Inn Creek painting had no rake. Baltimore's sails included one or more jibs, gaff-rigged main and foresail, and probably gaff- or gunter-rigged topsail or top sails.

[ The Gray's Inn Creek shipyard was in Kent County, near Rock Hall. ]


A number of schooners were launched by Somerset County shipwrights, beginning with Sarah in 1731. That county and Worcester County, carved out of it in 1742, launched more schooners than any other part of Maryland. Information on 15 such vessels built before 1748 survives. Records include Mary and John,•14 four tons burden, and Peggy,•15 ten tons, probably built for trading with Accomac County, and Charming Esther registered but with no tonnage listed. The remaining 12 range from Providence•16 at 20 tons to Industry,•17 registered at 80 tons, measurements that suggest vessels burdensome enough to have been employed outside the limits of Chesapeake Bay

That merchants of Somerset and Worcester counties owned most of Maryland's first schooners sheds light on that isolated part of the lower Eastern Shore. While Virginia shipping records from this early period have not survived, Maryland registers reveal that the lower Eastern Shore counties of the two colonies conducted active trade before 1700 in grain, meat and wood products.•18 Colonel Levin Gale owned the largest merchant fleet in Somerset County in 1734. His vessels included several brigs and at least two of the earliest schooners, Sarah•19 and Bladen.•20 The Gale family of Somerset traded in partnership with the Gales of Whitehaven, England, a powerful merchant group. As tobacco shipments ceased completely in Somerset County in 1730, it is likely that other commodities such as grain and meat were traded for decades before that year... and in vessels built on the Chesapeake for trading commodities other than tobacco.

Maryland ships, sailing to New England, the Carolinas, and the West Indies, faced capture by the enemies of Great Britain through most of the eighteenth century, a time of almost continuous war at sea that sometimes spread into Chesapeake Bay. Maryland merchants favored the fast, nimble schooner as their best hope of survival. The West Indies trade required aggressive owners and clever masters. Levin Gale of Somerset led his region just as Dr. Charles Carroll provided leadership on the Western Shore. On the upper Eastern Shore, Thomas Marsh, planter and merchant of Queen Anne's County, and one of the first of that region to ship grain to the West Indies, became an early schooner owner. Colony records reveal that Thomas Marsh IV owned the schooner Nancy, 20 tons, registered in 1734 and built in Talbot County in 1733.•21 He purchased a second schooner, Swallow, 30 tons, built on the Wye River in 1734.•22 When Richard Bennett III, the richest planter in Talbot County, entered the West Indies trade his fleet included Hopewell, a schooner of 40 tons burden, built in Talbot County in 1736.•23 Bennett owned her jointly with John Bartlett. While trading in the Caribbean in 1742 Hopewell, captained by Samuel Martin, was captured by the Spanish and then retaken by HMS Rose.•24


Virginia began to increase her external trade about 1730, too, but her merchant marine differed in composition as most Virginia vessels were offshore sloops. Norfolk, a transshipment port for North Carolina's tobacco, pork and other products, developed during the 1730s.•25 Virginia's tidewater plantations increased direct trade in grain with Bermuda and the West Indies at the same time. Virginia's fleet grew at the expense of New England traders who had dominated the trade of the lower Bay since the Dutch departed at the end of the seventeenth century.•26

Although agricultural diversification in tidewater Virginia resulted in larger harvests of grain in the eighteenth century, there were fewer independent merchants than there were in Maryland. The entrenched planters of Virginia dominated a commercial and political structure that continued to keep a firm grip on the colony. Replacement of white indentured servants and free men with slave labor, and low prices for tobacco, forced many farmers to abandon tidewater Virginia. Their holdings were absorbed by the larger plantations. William Byrd, Robert Carter and other large planters controlled vast holdings and intermittent communities, and to a large extent they controlled the lives of the surviving small farmers, dependent on the big operators for supplies and to purchase their crops of tobacco. The large planters also absolutely controlled the lives of their slaves. Thirty thousand slaves served Virginia masters in 1730, a figure that represented 26 percent of the colony's population.•27

Plantation vessels, many of them built by slaves who were sometimes trained by black Bermudian ship carpenters, carried much of Virginia's commerce.•28 As tobacco production fell in the tidewater region, Virginia's planters increased grain acreage in response to demand from Bermuda and the West Indies, and these cargoes were carried in Bermuda-model sloops. Tidewater Virginia's location on the wider lower Chesapeake Bay, nearer the open sea and the West Indies, with broad reaches, may have been better adapted to the sloop rig. As Maryland's shipwrights experimented with new ideas, Virginia's plantation carpenters routinely followed the models of their predecessors. Sloops continued to carry the commerce of the lower Bay. Much of Virginia's exported grain went to Bermuda in sloops built in that island, another reason for the significant presence of sloops in Virginia's portion of Chesapeake Bay. Between 3 September and 31 December 1737, 38 sloops entered or cleared Norfolk, and of this total 25 were registered in Bermuda.•29


Swedish naval architect Fredrik Henrik af Chapman devoted extensive research to the vessels of the eighteenth century. His book of plans, which included the lines of a Bermuda sloop, was published in 1768.•30 His plan of the Bermuda model confirms that those sloops had significant influence on Bay sloops such as Mediator, and less direct influence on schooner models. Subtle characteristics of rigging and hull, and the use of materials common to Bermuda-built vessels, reappear in Chesapeake Bay craft. The Bermuda sloop's hull, with significant deadrise, combined with low freeboard, less superstructure and lighter spars than other contemporary craft, increased its speed and stability. Strong, light cedar found in abundance in Bermuda, and used for framing as well as planking, reduced vessel weight, and the common sail plan, with raked mast and square topsails, made Bermuda sloops good sailers with speed under fair conditions. Reduced weight above the waterline, light construction and raked masts reappear as important characteristics of Chesapeake Bay craft.

Wars with France, King George's War (1744-48) and the Seven Years War ending in 1763, resulted in heavy losses to Bermuda's fleet, and Maryland and Virginia ships trading to the West Indies were frequently captured or lost in the 1740s and 1750s. Nothing influenced the evolving Chesapeake schooner to a greater degree than the continuing war at sea. Hulls became sharper at the expense of cargo space. Builders improved masts, rigging and sails. Topsails gave Chesapeake schooners greater speed in light air, and their sharp hulls and simple sail plans made them fast, maneuverable and capable of sailing close to the wind, features that allowed them to sail out of danger. But for all of these characteristics, by the end of the Seven Years' War the number of Maryland's schooners had been reduced by half while the fleets of Virginia and Bermuda were virtually destroyed.•31

Chesapeake-built schooner design kept evolving, as observed in the vessels pictured in the painting of Gray's Inn Creek Shipyard. The overmantel painting, reproduced in Chapter 1, depicts typical Chesapeake Bay vessels of about 1760. This was 25 years after John Casdorp launched Baltimore. Shown in the painting are big tobacco ships on the left side of the painting; a snow, a brig, and a Bermuda sloop in the center; then a sloop and two schooners on the right side of the panel.

The Maryland offshore schooners pictured on the right side are vessels for in coastwise trade and West Indies trade as well as carrying grain to southern Europe. They retain high freeboard and quarterdecks. Their sternposts are raked, and their bows, though convex, have somewhat raked stems and relatively sharp entrances. Schooner masts are still without rake and gaff topsails prevail. However, the two schooners, painted side by side, are different. The one to the left is fuller-bodied than the one on the right, which has a handsome profile because of a shallower curve of sheerline and a lower quarterdeck. It illustrates the changes as schooners became sharper and more graceful and lost the extreme curve of sheerline characteristic of earlier times. The model on the right represents advanced design circa 1760.

The sloop in the painting is rigged Bermuda-fashion with a pronounced rake to her mast, three jibs, and square topsails, much like Mediator of 20 years earlier. She retains the extreme sheer associated with early sloops and shows little change in design over the years.

With the start of the Revolutionary War, the Dutch island of St. Eustatius became the port of destination for many of Maryland's blockade runners. The Chesapeake fleet, still somewhat traditional in design and small in size, had difficulty outsailing the Royal Navy and losses were high. Captain Jeremiah Yellott lost his Maryland-owned sloop Rising Sun, but he got himself to Statia, the popular name of the island, according to a report by Maryland's representative, Abraham van Bibber. Agent van Bibber wrote that Captain Yellott reported that his vessel with "every other vessel from Maryland and Virginia had been lost."•32

Little is known of Jeremiah Yellott prior to his arrival at Baltimore except that he was born in Yorkshire, England. After the loss of Rising Sun he returned to Maryland and became one of Baltimore's leading maritime figures. He is credited with the design of the topsail schooner Antelope, built by John Pearce of North Point in 1780. Owners of Antelope were John Sterett, Jesse Hollingsworth, Charles Ridgely and Yellott.•33 With Antelope, Yellott is believed to have incorporated several new features of design for larger schooners, including raked masts and square topsails.

Antelope made several voyages under Captain Yellott's command. She became Baltimore's most successful private armed schooner, and completed trading voyages to France and to Guadeloupe in the Leeward Islands. She measured 130 tons burden -- large for that time, and apparently exceeded only by the schooner Somerset, 142 tons. Antelope's keel measured 62' compared to 56' for Somerset. Antelope, with a longer keel and less capacity than Somerset, had increased deadrise, resulting in a sharper hull.•34 She mounted 14 guns and carried sweeps, but no plan of her hull or deck layout exists. Although Captain Yellott's schooner was the latest in offshore Chesapeake schooner design, she was not a pilot schooner. She was instead a cargo schooner of a type that would soon be replaced by the Baltimore schooner of the nineteenth century....


• Excerpt from Chapter Four:
  concerning Eastern Shore ties with Philadelphia and overseas.

Captain Jeremiah Yellott came ashore in 1781 for a career as merchant and shipowner which he anchored by marriage to his new partner's sister, Mary Hollingsworth.•1 He would become a leader of Baltimore's shipping community as America struggled through its formative years. Yellott's investments included 14 vessels and 44 voyages during the last years of the Revolution. In most of his ventures he shared ownership of vessels with Jesse Hollingsworth and John Sterett.•2 His brother-in-law Hollingsworth served as the Confederation's naval agent. The Steretts were important Baltimore merchants. [Later,] Yellott, as United States Navy agent beginning in 1798, purchased the converted merchant ships USS Baltimore and USS Montezuma for the new navy and supervised the construction of USS Patapsco, USS Maryland, USS Experiment and USS Enterprize.

The Revolutionary War ended on Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 1783. As with the end of all wars, pent-up demand for goods produced an increase in commercial activity. Captain Yellott returned to sea, taking command of the schooner Antelope, a survivor of many wartime voyages. With a cargo of tobacco, he sailed for Amsterdam to open a European market for this important product of Tidewater farms.•3 Bypassing England, and selling tobacco directly to customers on the continent produced an important change in Maryland's and Virginia's peacetime commerce. As the newly independent North American states would soon discover, developing new markets became the challenge as the United States struggled out of the bonds of colonialism over the next three decades.

Baltimore, after absorbing Fells Point in 1773, virtually dominated Maryland trade. Only remotely situated Somerset and Worcester Counties in Maryland, joining with Virginia's Eastern Shore counties, exported goods directly rather than through Baltimore or Norfolk. This remote area also traded with Philadelphia in locally-owned schooners and sloops operating outside the Bay on this short sea route.