The Enduring Journey of the USS Chesapeake

The Frigate and the Grain Mill

What was it exactly? 

Where had it come from, and where would it be going? 

These were more than poetic questions, for the Chesapeake Mill was built of traveling wood. Some of its beams and lintels had once grown on the coastal islands of America. They had been put together in one form, then taken apart and put together in another over the time of a circular history shared by the two Portsmouths of Virginia and England. In their construction as one of the original six frigates of the US Navy, the USS Chesapeake, they had sailed the roiling waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. They had passed through uncountable storms at sea and sat becalmed in the sun. They had taken prizes from the enemy and been taken prize themselves. They had seen the deaths of hundreds, and the birth of at least one child.  Then, as a mill in Wickham, a portion of the Chesapeake’s timbers had given livelihood and food to the farmers, people and animals of a county in southern England for nearly 200 years.


A sailing ship’s job is to seek the winds that are most productive and move with them through time and space. A navy frigate has the added task of pushing against complicated barriers and leaving history in her wake. For more than a millennium the job of an English watermill was to convert the perpetual motion of the rivers and tides into the sustaining of life. In this case, the timbers of the frigate Chesapeake and the Chesapeake Mill had, in retrospect, done splendid work. 

. . . throughout the book, it is the tale of the Chesapeake that remains front and centre, at times assuming an almost mystical significance as Dickon traces a voyage that has already touched four centuries. Combining history, detective work and heritage preservation, The Enduring Journey is a fascinating story about the amazing survival of an American icon.  - John Boileau, Halifax Daily News

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