Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It is about 200 miles long, from the mouth of the Susquehanna on the north to its opening onto the Atlantic Ocean. Verrazzano sailed past Chesapeake Bay in 1524 but did not explore it. Captain John Smith explored it extensively between 1607 and 1609. Large numbers of cavaliers and their entourages migrated to the area between 1640 and 1675.
Chesapeake Bay has afforded hostile forces access into the heartland of America during several conflicts. During the American Revolution, the British Navy sailed up to Baltimore and during the War of 1812, they found little to oppose them when they marched landed near Baltimore and marched the short distance on the national capital Washington, which they burned.
During the Civil War, Chesapeake Bay was the site of the famous battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack, the first engagement between iron-sided naval vessels in history.