Picked up and enjoying “Planting an Empire, The Early Chesapeake in British North America” by Jean B. Russo & J. Elliot Russo. Some of it is ground covered by Virginius Dabney in “Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present,” but as they say, the key to learning is repetition. I also like their writing style.
When we first arrived here in 1995, I remember hearing about the “Eastern Shore.” I thought, wait a minute. That part of Maryland is on the western shore of the peninsula. Then I figured it out – the orientation is from the Chesapeake.
Whenever I read a book, I like to be able to see the setting in my mind’s eye. This book challenged me to learn the geography of the Chesapeake region.
As a Virginian, I’ve become more familiar with the geography of the Commonwealth than the Old Line State. Reading about the Nanticoke and the Pocomoke, two major rivers in southern Maryland, made me realize how ignorant I was of the Eastern Shore.
I like the authors’ approach, covering both Virginia and Maryland as a whole. It’s interesting that Virginia developed as a royal colony while Maryland fell under the rule of the Lord Baltimores.
But it’s the geography that pulls me in the most. The lay of the land favored Virginia with proximity to the mouth of the bay and a longer growing season. Maryland was less suited to growing tobacco. At the same time, the Eastern Shore residents “experienced neither Virginia’s extremes of wealth and the large scale investment in enslaved labor.”
Settlers in Maryland also avoided large-scale war and conflict with the Native Americans, whereas much blood was shed in Virginia.
Illustrations are helpful, including the classic 1612 map drawn by John Smith. The authors also cover the dreadful treatment of enslaved humans and the conflicts with the Native Americans.
Of that map, land lovers beware. North-south is left and right. We have to remember the perspective is from a ship coming from the old world...