Saint Michaels, Maryland

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Saint Michaels is a town in Talbot County, Maryland, United States. The population was 1,193 at the 2000 census. Saint Michaels derives its name from the Episcopal Parish established here in 1677. The church attracted settlers who engaged in tobacco growing and ship building.

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Geography

Saint Michaels is located at 38°47′1″N 76°13′20″W / 38.78361°N 76.22222°W / 38.78361; -76.22222 (38.783748, -76.222214)[1].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.9 square miles (2.4 km²), of which, 0.8 square miles (2.1 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (9.89%) is water.

It is located in a long, narrow neck of land along the Miles River. The village is a tourist attraction, and there are high quality hotels, inns, seafood restaurants, and gift shops in town. Tourboat cruises connect the town with Annapolis across the Chesapeake Bay. A for-pay public ferryboat service nearby also takes people across the river to Oxford.

History

The town was laid out as a speculative development in the 1770s by James Braddock. Unlike the more typical 18th century grid-pattern town planning, Braddock laid St. Michaels out around a central square.

A rural Anglican church that long predated the town gave St. Michaels its name. Despite its presence on the shore of the harbor, the town of St. Michaels early became predominantly Methodist following visits by itinerant Methodist preachers. Braddock donated land for a Methodist church in the center of St. Mary's square, and a brick structure built as the Sardis Chapel remains on that site.

The town's earliest industry was shipbuilding, and as many as six shipbuilders were active in or near the town by the War of 1812. Their typical product was a fast schooner, a type later known as the Baltimore clipper. Such vessels were well adapted to evading blockades or outrunning pirates or foreign naval vessels at sea, and some were later used as private armed vessels carrying a letter or marque. For example, Thomas L. Haddaway launched the schooner Lottery at St. Michaels in 1812, and her owners obtained a letter of marque allowing her to take prizes at sea.

The town played a role in the War of 1812 when, in 1813, a fleet under the command of Admiral George Cockburn moved up the Chesapeake Bay, and targeted St. Michaels because of the presence of a militia battery erected to defend the town and its shipyards. Under cover of early morning darkness on August 10, 1813, the Battle of St. Michaels commenced as the British sent a landing party ashore just south of the town, and after a brief exchange, neutralized the battery and returned to their boats. The British proceeded to bombard the town from the barges and a brig, but failed to destroy the shipyards or cause any substantial damage to the town. The militia returned fire from artillery batteries at Impy Dawson's wharf (the foot of Mulberry Street) and Mill Point (the foot of Carpenter Street). A contemporary report noted that "several houses were pierced" by the British fire. Nearly a century later a story was recorded that as a result of the town's ruse of dimming the lights and hanging lanterns in the trees beyond the town, the town was spared. Based on this story, St. Michaels became known as "the town that fooled the British," a nickname selected during the sesquicentennial celebration of the battle in 1963. The Cannonball House survives as one of the structures reportedly struck by one of the shots, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Saint Michaels Historic District.

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