Further Reading

Impressment: A British Perspective

An American Perspective

The British Royal Navy was a notorious floating hell. The pay was low, when it came at all, shipboard conditions were miserable, and there was the ever-present risk of death or injury in battle. Small wonder then, that so many British sailors chose to abandon the Royal Navy for the rapidly expanding American merchant marine, which offered better pay and better conditions.

When British commanders began to board American ships in search of Royal Navy deserters, the Americans were highly offended. First of all, searching an American ship was an insult to national sovereignty. Secondly, legitimate Americans were sometimes "impressed" into British service on the pretext that they were British deserters. As there were no obvious differences in physical appearance, language or clothing, the British Navy was able to abduct as many as 6,000 Americans in the early 1800s.