On April 17 at noon, Alan Taylor will deliver a Banner Lecture entitled "The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832."
In 1813, British warships appeared in the Chesapeake Bay to punish Americans for declaring war on the empire. Over many nights, hundreds of slaves paddled out to the vessels seeking protection for their families from the ravages of slavery. The runaways pressured the British into becoming liberators. As guides, pilots, sailors, and marines, the former slaves used their intimate knowledge of the countryside to transform the war. Tidewater masters had long dreaded their slaves as "an internal enemy." By mobilizing that enemy, the war ignited the deepest fears of Chesapeake slaveholders. It also alienated Virginians from a national government that had neglected their defense.