Discussion Topic

Summaries of the Voyages in James A. Michener's "Chesapeake"


The summaries of the voyages in James A. Michener's Chesapeake detail the exploration and settlement of the Chesapeake Bay area, spanning several centuries. These voyages include the arrival of Native Americans, European explorers, and settlers who shaped the region's history through their interactions, conflicts, and contributions to the area's development.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 10 in James A. Michener's Chesapeake?

Bartley Paxmore undertakes Voyage 10, sailing from Peace Cliff up the Miles River to the home of Rachel Starbuck with the intent of asking for permission to marry her. During his time staying with the Starbuck family before the wedding can take place, Bartley experiences the full ramifications of becoming involved with a family that deeply believed that slavery was an abomination and acted on that belief by providing its home as a stopping point on the Underground Railroad.

In this accidental manner Bargley Paxmore found himself involved for the first time in abetting the flight of a runaway slave. At Peace Cliff his family had been philosophically committed to exterminating slavery in general; the Starbucks were willing to risk their lives to aid an individual black man.

As the posse, including slave-breaker Herman Cline, leaves empty-handed,

the sheriff took Paxmore by the arm. "Son, you was near killed this night. You're marryin' into a bad lot. One of these days I'll be throwin' you in jail."

Despite this warning, the Quaker wedding between Bartley and Rachel takes place.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 11 in James A. Michener's Chesapeake?

Voyage 11 portrays the ramifications in the Chesapeake Bay of weather events far away. A huge hurricane causes an enormous rainfall in the Susquehanna Valley, resulting in flood waters filled with debris and dirty-filled fresh water.

To understand what was happening, one must visualize the bay as carefully structured in three distince dimensions. From north to south the waters of the bay were meticulously graduated according to their salt content...the bay was also divided into a bottom and a top. The lowest area contained deep, cold, very salt water, often deficient in oxygen...On top rested the less salt, less heavy, warmer water replenished by the sun and containing a good oxygen content...There was a final division, this one between the western half of the bay and the eastern...the western half of the bay (was) much less saline than the eastern, more silty, more filled with accidental non-marine vegetation, and in general more active.

In this complex ecosystem of interrelated temperatures and saline and oxygen levels, oysters were unable to flee the weight of the silt settling on them as the flooding waters slowed their motion upon entering the bay. The oyster beds of Devon Island were smothered.

Jimmy the blue crab, however, was able to attempt to voyage to more suitable water when the floodwaters began to radically impact the conditions in the bay. He was in the process of moulting when the fresh water dropped the salt content of the bay. Jimmy's body required a specific level of salinity; he was forced to move away from the protection of Turlock Marsh and its quiet water during the time when his body was unprotected, while the new shell hardened.

Once Jimmy's new, larger shell was hardened, natural instinct led him to locate a female crab. Jimmy carried her in his claws and legs as she moulted, which allowed the two to mate, and then until her new shell had hardened. Then they separated, and Jimmy attempted to follow his instincts back "to the northerly areas to spend the winter in the deeps" of Chesapeake Bay. Both crabs, however, were killed by the massive amounts of manure, sewage, and industrial waste that was carried into the Chesapeake by the floodwaters from the Susquehanna.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize "Voyage 4: 1616" in James Michener's Chesapeake?

"Voyage 4: 1661" of Chesapeake starts by discussing that the indentured servant Paxmore is not trusted, has starting wandering around and has had spies set upon him monitoring his movements. For this, servants may be put on trial for "depriving his rightful master of his labor." At the trial of Kenworthy, Paxmore is indignant and loudly protests in court against the verdict. Kenworthy assures Paxmore that the "dignity of [his] scars" lies in his "heart" and not in his back because he, Kenworthy, has forgiven his whippers.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 9 in Chesapeake by James A. Michener?

Voyage Nine describes the voyage that brought Cudjo from his home village near the Xanga River in the Congo to the United States as a slave.

Cudjo was suspicious of the Arabian slave traders from the time they first came to the area, offering trade goods in exchange for items brought by the natives. Cudjo observes persons from neighboring villages being chained together by these traders, but the leaders of his own village do not want to hear his attempt to warn them. When they begin to realize what the traders are doing to some of the youth of the village and attempt to object, the traders decide to march all the villagers to the port of Luanda, where the slave ships came in.

The slave ship that collects Cudjo and the others who survive the march is the "Ariel" under Captain Matthew Turlock. He is conflicted about this involvement - he loves the large payout but hates what it has done to his ship. As his representative explains to the agent for the slave traders,

We came here in 1814 to refit the Ariel for slaving...for that one trip. Eighteen years later we're still slaving, telling ourselves this is the last trip...We have a great risk in this voyage, a great chance of profit.

Cudjo, one of the strongest and largest of the men on the ship, is chained, spread-eagled, in the lowest level of the ship, but he is still able to communicate with Akko - son of one of the village leaders in their home village, Luta  - Cudjo's particular female friend from home, and Rutak - another large man with natural leadership skills.
Cudjo, Akko and Rutak become the leaders in the conspiracy to do the unthinkable - to take over the ship and sail it themselves.

When a storm at sea provides opportunity, the chained groups of prisoners, having broken the clasps clamping the chains to the bulkhead of the ship, succeed in fighting the sailors with chains for weapons. The sailors are decapitated, strangled, thrown into the sea, or thrown into the bowels of the ship. Captain Turlock is killed and his body thrown overboard, as are "the forty-eight slaves who had given their lives for freedom," including Akko and Luta.

Cudjo's attentions soon turn to his assignment as captain of the captured ship, drawing on his observations of the work and process of sailing the ship during the first days of the voyage when he had been kept on the upper deck. Cudjo succeeds in understanding the compass's relationship to the North Star, and uses these guides to determine the ship's course.

Eventually, the Ariel is intercepted and boarded by a French vessel whose crew are startled to discover a crew of black sailors who can't communicate with them and European sailors trapped below with a story of mutiny. When a British ship also arrives, it is decided that the Ariel will be given to the French Navy while the slaves were turned over to Britain.

Some of the recaptured slaves were hanged for their roles in the leadership of the mutiny. Cudjo, in recognition of his "major role in saving the ship," along with the majority of the survivors, was sent to Havana, Cuba for sale as slaves.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What happens in Voyage 3 of Chesapeake by James Michener?

In Chesapeake, the Turlock family, descended from Timothy Turlock, reveal the struggles of a family descended from a common thief, sentenced to hanging because he has been caught stealing more than once, most recently having stolen some bread. He is spared because of his mother's pleas and Timothy Turlock's punishment is commuted to working in service in Virginia, USA. He will be required to do "seven years of just and fair labor" on a tobacco plantation in Virginia but will be "banished" from England for ever.

Each chapter in Chesapeake begins with a voyage and Timothy's voyage in  1636 takes him to marsh land, a "wretched spot," because the ship owner, Mr Barstowe cannot find a buyer for him. The buyers have realized that Timothy is probably a trouble maker and Mr Barstowe has to resort to taking Timothy further down river for a sale. He even sells him for half a batch of tobacco leaves as the family, who eventually take him are desperate for help but they also see Timothy's scars from the many lashings. They take him in because Mrs Janney recognizes his "spirit."

Timothy eventually escapes from the Janneys, having had a taste of what life could be like "across the bay." He is confronted by a group of Indians and learns many survival tips from them. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 14 in James A. Michener's Chesapeake?

Voyage Fourteen is the funeral procession, by barge and boat, carrying the body of Pusey Paxmore from Peace Cliff to the Quaker burial grounds in Patamoke after he commits suicide.

In spite of the approaching hurricane, Amanda Paxmore wants to recognize the family association and dependence upon the river. Martin Caveny and Amos Turlock, friends and supporters of the Paxmores in life and in death, agree to sail the funeral barge carrying the coffin and Amanda, her sons and their wives.

Unexpectedly, following the barge on its voyage to Patamoke are three other boats, the final one carrying Captain Absalom Cater, his wife and daughter, and Hiram Cater, who had been imprisoned as a result of Pusey's actions. The Cater family had historically been helped and supported by the Paxmores, and they remained grateful and supportive to the end.

Father Patrick Caveny spoke at the graveside, ignoring the Quaker tradition of silence to give a lengthy prayer that recognized the good Pusey had done and to allude to the injustice of Pusey's punishment following the Watergate episode.

When the nation needed him, he served. When his commander required a cover, he provided it. Little good it did him, little help he got from those he supported. We bury our friend Pusey with love and remembrance. No man or woman standing by this grave was ever poorer for what he did. Let those who loved him be the ones to place him in his final resting place.

The return trip to Peace Cliff, marked by rising wind and waves and "skies...dark as if nature were lamenting the death of a son," was completed just before the storm arrived in full force. The Caters, who followed the barge to ensure that the Paxmores were able to get home safely, were unable to return to Patamoke so took shelter in Peace Cliff along with the Paxmore family and Martin and Amos. Through the evening and overnight, the group huddled in the kitchen, the least exposed part of the house built on the headland.

In the calm and light of the next day, the group inspected the damage from the storm. Structures were damaged but could be repaired. Patamoke was as yet unreachable by road due to downed trees. The most shocking discovery of all was first sighted by Amos Turlock, using binoculars to view further away.

The island had vanished....On the spot where the finest mansion on the Eastern Shore had offered its stately silhouette, nothing was visibel. The final storm which overtakes all existence had struck;...Devon Island and all that pertained to it was gone.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 12 in James A. Michener's Chesapeake?

One day in the 1930's, Woolman Paxmore

was working in the field one day, harvesting corn on the north bank of the Choptank, when a powerful, straightforward thought occurred to him: Jesus Christ was a Jew, a real Jewish rabbi with along nose, and no living man ever accomplished more on this earth. For Adolf Hitler to persecute the spiritual descendants of Jesus is wrong. It is all wrong.

So began the voyage, an effort to end the persecution of the German Jews. He meets two other elderly Quakers who agree with his concern and the three travel to Berlin to present their case to the Nazi government.

On the ship crossing the Atlantic, they join the ship's worship service and agree to conduct a Quaker service for the education of some of the passengers. Not understanding the practice of worshipful silence, the non-Quakers express their hope to hear from Paxmore, who explains his idea and mission to a skeptical audience who doubt his ability to make contact with Hitler, let alone sway him.

Upon arriving in Berlin, one brave family of distantly Jewish Germans come to meet with Paxmore and companions at their hotel.

"Are you at a disadvantage?" Herr Klippstein considered this question a moment, then relaxed his stiffness and broke into a smile. "We are condemned three ways," he said, indicating to his family that they should sit. "We were Jewish. We are Quaker. And we have always been liberals." "Condemned is a harsh word," Paxmore objected. Now Klippstein's levity vanished. "Within two years we will all be dead...if you do not help us."

After four weeks of repeated requests, the American Quakers are granted a meeting with Hermann Goring. Paxmore presents his mission. "We come as Christians, General Goring, to beg you to allow the Jews to leave Germany." Goring finds this idea amusing at first, stating that "no nation wants them." He then confirms that any Jews that do leave are required to pay large amounts of money as "compensation" for the education they have been given while living in Germany. Paxmore states that he, personally, would put up one million dollars on behalf of the German Jews.

A few days later, Paxmore and the others are taken to the Eagle's Aerie, Hitler's mountain retreat. Hitler does, in fact, confirm that the price of the education of each Jew had been calculated at five thousand dollars apiece, meaning that Paxmore's one million dollars would save only two hundred Jews.

Paxmore, enraged, approaches Hitler and states that his offer should sponsor "fifty thousand, at least. Compassion would dictate at least that many." Hitler expresses doubt that there were that many German Jews interested in leaving, but states, "Forty thousand" as he marches out of the room.

Paxmore and his companions succeed in raising the million dollars, but to Paxmore's everlasting regret,

when he and his two friends had collected the money and arranged for the rescue of the forty thousand, he could find no country that would admit them...of the forty thousand who were entitled to escape, having been paid for, only twenty-five thousand did reach safety, because the others were acceptable nowhere.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 7 in the book "Chesapeake" by James A. Michener?

The seventh voyage described in Chesapeake is unique because it is the only voyage that does not feature any of the major families from near Patamoke as principal characters. The Paxmore family helps to finance the voyage, but the traveler is a tenant farmer named Thomas Applegarth.

During the winter of 1811, when there wasn't a great deal for farmers to do, Applegarth became fascinated with the geological history of the eastern Pennsylvania - Chesapeake Bay area. Based on reading and thinking and studying maps of the eastern United States and speculating with Elizabeth Paxmore, Applegarth came to an understanding of how the topography of the area was formed.

Ice!...he saw clearly one fact: that the ice sheet must have contained within it an enormous quantity of water, and when the ice finally melted, that water must have formed a gigantic river, parent to the present Susquehanna. And that river, nothing else, had reamed out the Chesapeake Bay and deposited the silt which had become, in time, the Eastern Shore.

Applegarth undertook to observe the remaining signs of this process by tracing the Susquehanna River north to its headwaters. He traveled by water and by land, alone much of the time but with a local hunter accompanying him into the wooded fields of New York to search for the river's origin. On May 4, 1811,

he came to the ultimate source of the river. It was a kind of meadow in which nothing happened...merely the slow accumulation of moisture from many unseen and unimportant sources

Applegarth recorded the story of his travels and his conclusions in a book entitled To the Ice Age, which came to be recognized as the perceptively written observations of a scientist with no formal training but a great appreciation of the powers of observation and the unity of all the forces working together to shape the territory he had explored.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Can you summarize Voyage 13 in Chesapeake by James A. Michener?

Pusey Paxmore left Peace Cliff and his family to work for President Richard Nixon. He ardently believed in the need for President Nixon's leadership in the face of rising civil dangers in the United States, and, to that end, he became involved in the planning and execution of the Watergate burglary. When arrested and brought to trial for his involvement, Paxmore remained steadfast in his support of the president and his refusal to cooperate with the prosecution. He was sentenced to serve two years at the federal penitentiary in Scanderville, Pennsylvania.

The thirteenth voyage is undertaken by Amanda Paxmore, going to Scanderville to pick up her husband when he has completed serving his sentence. Acting as crew for the boat that sailed from Peace Cliff to Annapolis were Martin Caveny and Amos Turlock, who respect Amanda's quiet fortitude in the face of what happened to Pusey. Caveny openly admits, "In a hunnerd years I'll never understand what happened to Pusey Paxmore." Turlock's reply: "Only person who does understand is Richard Nixon, and he ain't tellin'."

Amanda is stoic and forthright when confronted by the press outside the prison gate.

Our nation has survived a score of disasters. If we elect Jimmy Carter this autumn, we'll have survived Watergate...Naturally, I have often thought of President Nixon sitting free in San Clemente while my husband sat in this prison, and only because he did what Nixon directed. But long ago I learned that life does not dispense justice, and I do not expect it.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What events unfold in Voyage 1 of James A Michener's Chesapeake?

Voyage 1 is the story of Pentaquod, a Native American who leaves his home on the Susquehanna, probably in what is now Pennsylvania, and finds his way to the Choptank River, on the Delmarva peninsula. Pentaquod arrives as a young stranger. He is accepted into the local tribe and finds his way, over time, to becoming the werowance (chief), leading the people to peace and prosperity.

The story is rich in details about the way the Native Americans lived in today's Maryland Eastern Shore. Pentaquod's boat and tools are described, and Michener follows his character as he fends for himself in the wilderness. The wildlife and plants are part of the story as well. The honking of the Canada geese that winter on the Eastern Shore is first heard in Voyage 1 and continues through the story; as I sit here, perhaps forty minutes' drive from the Choptank, I can hear them, and it must be experienced to be appreciated!

All of this is setting the stage: Voyage 1 ends when the Europeans arrive, and everything starts to change. Chesapeake's broad span tells many stories, including the ways in which humanity damaged the incredible ecosystem that was the Eastern Shore in pre-colonial days.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What events unfold in Voyage 1 of James A Michener's Chesapeake?

In Chesapeake by James A Michener, the story begins with Voyage 1 in 1583. Pentaquod, a Susquehannocks, is a peace-loving Indian but this goes against his tribe which believes that its ability to thrive is based on its fighting prowess. An old warrior warns Pentaquod that the day "we are afraid to fight, we lose the river." Their livelihood is based around the "great" river. Rumors abound about Pentaquod because of his stance against a "meaningless" war and even children insult him which drives him to his decision to leave before the elders demand his banishment or even death, convincing themselves that he is spy for the Northern tribes.

Pentaquod, in order not to raise suspicion decides to leave quietly and deliberates over which canoe he should take. Having made his decision to take "the yellow," he knows he must outsmart those who are watching him on behalf of the council and, being fast, he is able to run, collect some paddles so that no one can follow him and push the canoe into the river. He watches the commotion on the bank as the tribe realizes that it cannot pursue him without paddles for the boats. Even though he is only twenty five, Pentaquod is wise and knows that his tribe will send word to other tribes in order to ensure his capture further down river so, because time is on his side, he manages to pass one village but is more cautious when he reaches the next. Fortunately, he passes without being seen. He even manages to negotiate the rapids, realizing that that will give him several days lead on his pursuers as they would not dare to take the same route as it is too treacherous.

After several days, Pentaquod reaches "Chesapeake,"  which means "the great river in which fish with hard shell coverings abound" and he is in awe. He had intended to join the Pontamac tribe, hopeful that they would accept him because of his stature but, on the river, he decides that he does not want to be a warrior so instead of turning towards the "turbulent western shore," he turns towards the "quieter eastern shore" which will be a turning point in what lies ahead.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Summarize Voyage 2 of Chesapeake by James A Michener, including important characters and facts.

In Voyage 2 of Chesapeake, which takes place in the seventeenth century, James Michener presents the early years of English colonization of North America, which had initial success with the Virginia colony that was established at Jamestown in 1607. This chapter covers the ocean voyage of Captain John Smith and his men the following year, as they crossed the Atlantic from England to what is now Virginia and Maryland. Michener reveals the limits of Smith’s and other English people’s knowledge of the Chesapeake, as they believed it to be an interior sea rather than a bay. This voyage also introduces the university-educated Edmund Steed, who traveled with Smith to serve as the chronicler and to gain freedom to practice his Catholic faith. Steed’s naming of an island as Devon presages his later establishing a plantation there.

After arriving in Virginia, the Englishmen set about exploring and expanding England’s claim to previously unfamiliar areas in Virginia. Michener shows that they also retained the common European idea that they would soon find ample riches consisting of gold and silver. Smith is depicted as pompous and self-aggrandizing, though not without courage.

A significant episode is concerned with his interactions with the area’s indigenous residents, primarily the Patamokes. Smith and Ragnall meet with the Patamokes and their chief. The peaceful interaction leaves Smith disappointed for not producing the desired riches. Other incidents illustrate Smith’s hubris, such as his disproportionately tough treatment of Robert Small over a minor infraction and his constant insistence that Steed make him more heroic in the written record.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Summarize Voyage 2 of Chesapeake by James A Michener, including important characters and facts.

Voyage 2 (1608) of Chesapeake by James Michener begins in 1606 when Captain John Smith, who will sail to Virginia on The Susan Constant, takes the twenty five year old Edmund Steed in hand to sail across the ocean. Smith is a man full of his own importance, despite his small stature, being only about 5 foot tall and, upon arrival in Jamestown, Virginia, he is imprisoned for mutiny, captured by Indians and almost hanged except for an opportune event after which proves himself an able leader. His vision is to find "Chesapeake" which he describes as "a noble sea." He is convinced that "riches" lay somewhere, having been inspired to make this journey after a play he watched in London some years earlier.

Smith takes Edmund Steed, an Oxford scholar on this particular expedition as he will keep an account of what happens and, of course, detail the expertise of the captain - Smith himself. Steed has some reason to doubt the truth behind all of Smith's stories of his exploits but he always gives such detailed accounts that he has to be believed. Steed is particularly impressed with his knowledge of a "dusty Spanish town." With the abilities of Momford in manning the sails and the indomitable captain, Steed keeps his account, not forgetting to record the less-than-perfect conditions.

However, Smith is not happy with Steed's version, it not being poetic enough and, although Smith never said the things he insists must be recorded in the journal, Steed is persuaded that he would have said them under better circumstances and so let's the captain's version stand. In their search for silver and gold, they come to what Steed will call Devon as he is so impressed by it and concludes that "it is the best of England transported across the sea."

Steed and Chirurgeon Ragnall will accompany Smith to the chief of the Patamoke tribe, although Smith deliberates over whether this is wise, having been captured by one such tribe previously. The tribe is friendly but unfortunately with no silver and gold and again, Smith is not content with Steed's account of the events into "hostile Indian territory" even though the Indians had not been remotely hostile. He insists that the detail is altered to reveal the daring and courage of Captain Smith and Steed even has to allow the naming of Devon to appear as if it had been Smith's idea. 

Having accepted that it is unlikely that they shall find silver and gold, Smith steers his crew onward. To show that he is a harsh captain, Smith punishes Robert Small for swearing when a fish he caught escapes. It is merely a show which he wants recorded to reflect that he will not tolerate poor discipline. Smith also has to accept that the passage to India cannot be found - or does not exist. On the journey back, Smith is struck by a stingray and believes he will die but he survives and laments his lost dream. Without realizing its value, he sits on a bunch of tobacco leaves believing that he is "not destined" to find the wealth that he knows exists there. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on