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The War of 1812
The Leopard and the Chesapeake - How a Cat-and-Dog Fight Led To War

The Leopard and the Chesapeake - How a Cat-and-Dog Fight Led To War
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.26

     challenging words:    rampant, able-bodied, enlist, impressment, incident, somewhat, wounded, gangs, refused, hailed, slavery, critical, aboard, pounded, ongoing, victory
     content words:    British Navy, Royal Navy, British Admiral Lord Nelson, French Navy, Former Britons, Captain James Barron, President Jefferson

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The Leopard and the Chesapeake - How a Cat-and-Dog Fight Led To War
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     These days, if the British Navy needed sailors, they might print up new recruiting posters. A Royal Navy officer might visit schools. BBC ads might urge young people to consider careers on the high seas.
2     In the early 1800s, Britain was at war with France. Naval battles were a big part of the ongoing fight. There was a critical need for sailors to man the British warships. But life aboard a British ship was miserable. Food was often rotten and dirty. Disease was rampant. The work amounted to little more than slavery. Few willingly chose the job. So how did Britain enlist men to fight its naval war with France?
3     Sailors were recruited in quite a different way than they are today. We might call the early 19th century method kidnapping. In port cities, impressment gangs roamed the streets looking for able-bodied men. They seized the men and dragged them aboard ships. The kidnapped men were then forced to work as sailors.
4     Many British sailors had but one goal. They wanted to escape their harsh lives. Hundreds "jumped ship" the first chance they got. Many fled to America. Some found better jobs on American merchant ships. Some joined the tiny U.S. Navy.
5     In 1805, British Admiral Lord Nelson won an important victory. At the Battle of Trafalgar, the British fleet nearly destroyed the French Navy. Britain proved herself the superior power on the seas. Now she was the "toughest kid on the block." The little island nation became somewhat of a bully on the seas.

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