Transportation on the Chesapeake Highway

Annapolis at mid-18th century, the largest town on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake, served as the main port for travelers crossing to the Eastern Shore and points north to Philadelphia and beyond. Those arriving at the harbor by sail could travel south by land from Annapolis to Upper Marlboro and across the Potomac River into Virginia. Sail-powered ferries carried passengers on the 15 mile voyage across the Bay from Annapolis to Rock Hall or to other locations on the Eastern Shore.

The New Congress of the United States met in Annapolis from November 1783 until June 1784, drawing men to town from the thirteen new states that formed the nation’s government. Two days before Christmas in 1783, George Washington resigned his commission in the State House Senate Chamber.

Those delegates who traveled to Annapolis from Princeton, the previous meeting place, most likely arrived by taking a ferry across the Bay. Maryland’s own delegates to earlier meetings of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia – like the state’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence (Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Samuel Chase, William Paca, and Thomas Stone) – had traveled the same route on their journeys back and forth. With ratifi cation of the Treaty of Paris in January 1784, Annapolis became the country’s first peacetime capital.

Sail and steam vessels continued to carry people and goods to and from Annapolis throughout the 19th century. This commerce became regional rather than national when Baltimore, with its deeper harbor, emerged as Maryland’s major metropolis.

Colonial Dockside