The Chesapeake’s Western Shore/Southern Maryland
Where the Potomac and Patuxent rivers meet the Bay, these beautiful peninsulas once held Maryland’s first permanent English colony, grew tobacco plantations which imported slaves, and witnessed Civil War operations and numerous water-bound escapes from slavery.
Start your journey where the slave trade began in Southern Maryland at Sotterley Plantation at Historic Sotterley on the Patuxent River.. This UNESCO documented international slave trade site received shiploads of human cargo - captured Africans - during the transatlantic slave trade from the early to mid 1700’s. See the Middle Passage Port Marker that memorializes and honors the lives of those who endured bondage and cruelties of the slave trade. Tour the authentic slave cabin that exemplifies typical slave housing in the Tidewater region. Exhibits and artifacts at the cabin tell the history of slavery at Sotterley, where, remarkably, 49 enslaved people fled during the War of 1812 to join the British Navy on the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay.
44300 Sotterley Lane
Hollywood, MD 20636
Point Lookout State Park boasts stunning views of the Chesapeake’s open waters and offers a swimming beach, water trails and campground. Its strategic location at the confluence of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay created a significant site during the Civil War. The location offered opportunities for escape from slavery. Four Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites are on the property.
At the Union’s Hammond Hospital, nurses and doctors assisted with the flight of several Maryland bondsmen. The U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) served as guards at the Prisoner of War Camp for Confederates, and a contraband camp sheltered thousands of runaways from Virginia who took refuge under the protection of Federal Authorities.
After touring the historic sites on land, paddle a water trail to experience the viewshed of Point Lookout Creek, where on April 15, 1848, a ship named The Pearl carrying 77 freedom seekers stopped to wait out a storm and was captured.
11175 Point Lookout Road
Scotland, MD 20687
Nineteen enslaved African Americans fled from Mackall Plantation by joining British forces during the War of 1812, escaping to Vice Admiral Alexander Cockburn’s British fleet, anchored at St. George’s Island in the Potomac River. Admiral Cockburn issued a proclamation of emancipation in 1814 for all enslaved Marylanders and their families who would either enlist with the British or agree to settle in British territories. The proclamation broke John Mackall Jr.’s hold over the people he enslaved on lands that are now part of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Visit the outdoor memorial to the freedom seekers at the St. Mary’s College of Maryland athletic fields on land that was once part of the Mackall Plantation, then drive to St. George’s Island to experience the beautiful waterfront that beckons even today’s travelers to find freedom. A pier and public landing offer a spot to fish and launch a boat. Vacation cottages, a beach and seafood restaurants serve up a generous helping of relaxation as you imagine the fateful and gripping events that transpired here more than two centuries ago.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland
47645 College Drive
St. Mary’s City, MD 20686-3001
St. George’s Island Landing
16036 Thomas Road
St George Island, MD 20674
Explore the museum and bucolic waterfront grounds at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum where The Battle of St. Leonard Creek, a large War of 1812 naval engagement, took place where the St. Leonard Creek meets the Patuxent River. Launch a kayak at the park to paddle the shoreline and envision Charles Ball, an enslaved man who escaped slavery and fought in this battle. He described fighting the battle in his book, Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball. Slaveholder George Peterson owned part of the property that is now the park at the beginning of the Civil War. Two of the people Peterson enslaved enlisted in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War and were freed.
10515 Mackall Road
St. Leonard, MD 20685