Fell’s Point and the War of Independence
Fell’s Point helped shape the outcome of the American Revolutionary War.
Early in the war General George Washington understood that without provisions and supplies, the Revolution would fail. Seemingly beyond the reach of the Royal Navy after HMS Otter ran aground as it entered Patapsco River, Fell’s Point soon became a major supply depot for flour, guns and powder for the Continental Army.
As the war evolved, this small village became a full service center of docks, wharves, warehouses, ships and mariners. Maryland’s shipping manager, Jesse Hollingsworth, dispatched the state’s schooners around the Bay for wheat, milled locally and warehoused at Wolfe and Pitt (Fell) Sts., for shipment to General Washington’s army. Hollingsworth also shipped grain and flour to neutral ports, sold for powder and guns. By the end of the war in 1783, the region’s grain trade centered here.
In Paris, Benjamin Franklin persuaded France to accept a huge shipment of Maryland and Virginia tobacco, which he bartered for military supplies. Fell’s Point was once again the shipping hub, with so many other ports occupied by the British.
Ah, privateers. . . A merchant owned fleet, with letter of marque commissions, centered its operations at Fell’s Point during the war, reaching the West Indies and France with cargoes of flour and grain. Two of the most successful were Antelope (Captain Jeremiah Yellott) and Felicity (Captain Benjamin Folger).
Directed by Maryland’s Committee of Safety, Hollingsworth also managed the small schooners of the Maryland Navy, which sailed from here fighting Tory privateers, hauling grain into the port, delivering flour to the West Indies and returning with military supplies. All told, there were 20 such commissioned vessels owned in Fell’s Point and Baltimore Town, with dozens more commissioned by other Marylanders.
Maryland navy boats, which included the pilot boats Dolphin and Plater, hauled supplies to the Head of Elk for the army. Dolphin transported troops commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette from the Elk River landing to Yorktown, Virginia in March 1871.
Fell’s Point grew rapidly following the War’s successful conclusion.