“Stand your ground, surround him and don’t let him take you,” said Capt. Whitehurst to his crew and the other oyster dredgers. And when Whitehurst refused to heave-to upon the command of Capt. Clarke of the Maryland Oyster Navy sloop Folly, the state’s sailors fired their Winchesters, shredding the sails of Whitehurst’s Nickel.
Now that I have been writing this column for more than a year, I have to check the same issue of Soundings from 2015 to make sure I don’t do what my grandchildren point out from time to time: tell the same story again.
The Potomac River tumbles down the mountains from Fairfax Stone, West Virginia, (the North Branch) and Highland County, Virginia, (the South Branch) and flows just over 400 miles to its 19-mile-wide mouth at Point Lookout in southern Maryland on Chesapeake Bay. Along the upper Potomac you’ll find rapids, waterfalls, good smallmouth bass fishing, canoeing and kayaking along the Potomac National Trail route, in addition to a good deal of Civil War history, including the site of John Brown’s uprising at Harpers Ferry.
The Top of the Ditch has been pretty quiet for pleasure boat viewing, but the commercial side presses on regardless. In the words of Calvin Coolidge: The business of America is business. Big bulk carriers pass by, heading for the myriad facilities on the Southern Branch, and the Port Authority posted a record in container traffic earlier this year.
When John Smith explored Chesapeake Bay, he found five rivers along the Western Shore. In his words: The fift [fifth] river is called the Pawtuxunt, of lesse proportion then the rest; but the channel is 16 fadome deepe in some places. Here are infinit skuls [schools] of divers kinds of fish more than elsewhere. More than 400 years later, boaters and fishermen still enjoy the Patuxent, and nowhere so much as on Solomons Island, at the mouth of the river.
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Jack has been cruising Chesapeake Bay and writing about the region for more than 25 years. His critically acclaimed book, "Maryland's Vanishing Lives," was published by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Press and is now in its second printing. Before joining Soundings, Jack was a feature writer at the Washington (D.C.) Star for nearly 20 years and a senior editor at Chesapeake Bay magazine from 1995 to 1998. His monthly Bay Tripper column focuses on the Chesapeake.