In the decades following the Civil War, the Chesapeake Bay became the scene of a life-and-death struggle to harvest the oyster, one of the most valuable commodities on the Atlantic coast. Nearly seven thousand men fought on the Bay for oysters until the resource was almost exhausted in the early twentieth century. First the shallow-water tongers fought with the deep-water dredgers whose scooplike instruments left few oysters for reproduction. Later, Maryland and Virginia violently disputed their state boundaries for the sake of oyster-fishing rights in the Bay and Potomac River. This regional and social history is brimming with episodes involving watermen, law enforcement officers, government officials, Bay scientists, immigrants, and oyster shuckers, all of whom were drawn into the lethal conflict.