Crisis at the Chesapeake

The Royal Navy and the Struggle for America 1775-1783

Quintin Barry

An account of the crucial battle of Chesapeake Bay in 1781, and the events leading up to it.
Date Published :
May 2021
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
18 b/w illustrations, 6 b/w maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781913336530
Pages : 264
Dimensions : 9.8 X 7.1 inches
Stock Status : Available


By the end of 1780, the war for American independence appeared to be approaching a stalemate. After five years of war, Washington’s armies remained in the field. Once France, and then Spain, joined the war, Lord Sandwich as First Lord of the Admiralty was faced with a constant struggle to balance the forces needed at home and overseas, while facing constant hostile pressure from the opposition.

However, events were conspiring to bring about a showdown in North America, which would take place in the waters off Chesapeake Bay. This book describes how, step by step, the crisis was reached. After France had accepted the need for a major effort to support the Americans, Count de Grasse arrived in the West Indies in April 1781 with a large fleet, intending to arrive off the North American coast in July. Once he had opted to sail to Virginia, Washington began to move south. Meanwhile Lord Cornwallis, the British commander in the Carolinas, had chosen without authority to march to Virginia, where he arrived in May to link up with a force that had been sent to establish a naval base in the Chesapeake.

De Grasse reached Chesapeake Bay with his whole fleet at the end of August, outnumbering the British fleet under Graves which arrived on 5 September. The battle that followed was indecisive, though the French had the best of it. Cornwallis was now besieged at Yorktown by Washington; a force intended to relieve him arrived too late and on 19 October he capitulated at Yorktown. The war for American independence was decisively lost; all that remained was a bitter debate as to who was to blame.

About The Author

Quintin Barry is a solicitor and retired Employment Judge. He has also held a wide varirty of offices in both the public sectors, including the NHS and local radio. Following a lifelong interest in military and naval history, he is the author of a number of books in both fields. These include an acclaimed two volume history of the Franco Prussian War of 1870-1871; a history of the Austro Prussian War of 1866; and the first modern history of the Russo Turkish War of 1877-1878. He has also written a number of books of naval history, including a well reviewed account of the war in the North Sea in 1914-1918.


"...a valuable study of a widespread campaign, along with a narrative of the Royal Navy’s previous maneuvers and actions starting in 1775."

- Journal of the American Revolution

"...a work finely illustrated, soundly argued, and sympathetically told..."

- Naval Historical Foundation

"Quintin Barry has placed the movements of armies and roles of navies into a sequence that explains their relationships to each other, rather than as merely disjoined rockets bursting in air that culminate in the surrender at Yorktown and the end of the war."

- The Northern Mariner

"The book covers this significant naval and ground battle in some detail, but also covers British naval policy and strategy throughout the American Revolution."

- Historical Miniatures Gaming Society

"I recommend it to anybody seeking a concise history of how the American Revolution spun out in North American waters."

- Andy Nunez, Editor, Against The Odds

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