St. Michaels was an active shipbuilding center at the time, supplying privateers, blockade runners and barges to the U.S. Navy. According to legend, residents learned that the British planned to attack on Aug. 10, 1813, and devised a plan of their own. They hoisted lanterns to the masts of ships and to the tops of trees, outsmarting the British, who misjudged the location of the town and fired their cannons above it. The only casualty was the Merchant residence -- now dubbed the Cannonball House -- where a cannonball broke through the roof, rolled down the stairs and frightened the dickens out of Mrs. Merchant and her infant daughter.
On the water: This scenic view of the Miles River is courtesy of the Inn at Perry Cabin. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
The town was and still is an important nexus in Maryland's lucrative seafood industry. But in recent years, it has taken on a resort town identity. St. Michaels has been inundated by upscale seafood restaurants, five-star inns, specialty boutiques, and the thousands of visitors who arrive by car, boat and even helicopter to enjoy them.
It's no surprise St. Michaels is such a popular destination. The town is situated on an elbow of land between the Miles River to the north and Broad Creek -- of James Michener's novel "Chesapeake" -- to the south. You can wander the downtown area without straying far from the expansive blue views.
Economy of crabs: Crab shanties, like this one at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, are a key piece of St. Michaels' history as a fishing town. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot) Easy access: The Town Dock restaurant has parking for cars and boats. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
Accompaning the proliferation of gourmet restaurants is an array of five-star accommodations. The luxurious Inn at Perry Cabin, considered one of the best inns in the country, sits on prime real estate along the Miles River. St. Michaels Harbour Inn & Marina is a true resort, complete with waterfront suites and guest rooms, a harborside pool and whirlpool, and a 56-slip marina. Guests can pamper themselves with herbal bath treatments, massage therapy and facials, take a swim in the indoor heated pool or relax in the sauna. Less resplendent are the Harris Cove Cottages, just five miles outside of St. Michaels in Bozman. Boats are available for fishing, crabbing and exploring the waters of Harris Creek, and guests can even steam their own crabs on a propane cooker.
Historical: St. Mary's Square contains a cannon that was used to defend the town in the War of 1812. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
Shopping is another popular pastime in St. Michaels, and there are stores to suit every taste and interest. Wood that Works personalizes your mailboxes, step stools and birdfeeders into an array of wild and domesticated creatures. Flying Fred's, a "unique pet boutique," has everything for man's best friend, including free treats. The popular Blue Swan is a "Christmas Shop for all Seasons," and St. Michaels Candy Company peddles handmade chocolates, truffles, ice cream and gifts. Canton Row Antiques, an upscale mall with 18 dealers, is a popular destination for antique hounds.
Get some sun: Church Cove Park provides a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of a resort town. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
In St. Mary's Square, between Mulberry and East Chestnut streets, you can see the cannon used to defend the town during the War of 1812. Visit the St. Mary's Square Museum to examine a number of local artifacts, including the bell that rang three times a day -- in the morning, at lunch and at quitting time -- to measure the workday for the shipbuilders.
The little town that once fooled an army has matured in a way that is both subtle and sublime. It is a place where you can partake in utter indulgence or delight in simple pleasures, appreciate natural splendors or bask in man-made delights. After visiting St. Michaels, it's easy to see why its long-ago residents protected it -- and hard not to be thankful that they did. Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times