The Smuggler’s Gambit is set in 1765 in what was at the time known as Port Beaufort (modern day Beaufort, NC).
Although Port Beaufort was positioned right on the coast of North Carolina, it wasn’t a place that saw heavy shipping traffic. This is because Beaufort had no means of connecting to points further inland. In other words, there were no rivers that ran directly from Port Beaufort into North Carolina’s interior. They received the same sorts of items as other colonial ports, only less frequently.
The fact that imports coming into Port Beaufort were intended only for the surrounding region, and that they came less frequently than some other ports, made it the ideal setting for my novel.
There were certain factors that had to be in place, and Port Beaufort fit the bill perfectly. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t talk about all of that now. You’ll have to wait until you read the book.
Something I will talk about is this: The colonial capitol of New Bern, unlike Beaufort, was a bustling port. This was in spite of the fact that it was about 50 miles from the sea. New Bern had the good fortune of being seated at the confluence of two major waterways — the Neuse River and the Trent River — which allowed imported items to be easily carried along those rivers to their inland destinations.
In my research, I spent a great deal of time poring over old newspapers from the 1760s in an effort to learn all that I could about eastern North Carolina in the volatile period between the end of the French and Indian War and the start of the American Revolution. I’ve read Stamp Act notices, news items about sinking vessels, lists of ships that recently arrived in nearby ports, and items imported from England.
I was interested in knowing just what kinds of items folks would have wanted to buy that, perhaps, couldn’t have been obtained locally.
One list dated January 1765 lists a wonderful array of items that, in essence, served as a sort of colonial mail order catalog. Some of the items include various sorts of fabric, spices, sugar, flat irons, candlesticks, jewelry and hats.