Virginia authorities used force to seize Marylanders who were illegally dredging for oysters
Source: Library of Congress, The oyster war in Chesapeake Bay (John Ogilby, ~1671)
In 1830, Maryland lawmakers decided that only Maryland residents should be allowed to harvest oysters growing in Maryland waters. To enforce the state's 1865 requirement that everyone harvesting oysters must purchase a license, Maryland created a State Oyster Police Force in 1868.
Virginians took advantage of confusion over the location of the border between Virginia and Maryland to gather oysters without authorization. Virginia allowed use of dredges, while Maryland allowed harvest only with tongs. The dredges were more efficient, though they could wreck a reef by scattering the shells. Virginia boats dredged reefs in Maryland, sneaking in at night with boats that were fast enough to escape if the Maryland police appeared.
Maryland watermen and state officials considered the Virginians to be pirates.1