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Our Cannon Ball

As many of you know, Tappahannock is steeped in history, and our Tavern, standing for over 300 years, has witnessed much of it. Today, we’re delving into the War of 1812, fought between the United States and Great Britain from June 18, 1812, to February 17, 1815. Key issues included British violations of American maritime rights, support for Tecumseh’s confederacy, and territorial expansion conflicts in North America. Tensions escalated in 1807 when the Royal Navy restricted American trade with France and impressed American sailors, including former British citizens.

The War of 1812 affected various regions, including the Old Southwest (Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi), the Old Northwest (Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin), Coastal Maine, and the Chesapeake (Virginia, Maryland). In the mid-1660s, Captain Richard Hobbs acquired 800 acres south of Gilson's Creek at the Rappahannock River. By 1680, a surveyor, George Morris, mapped out Hobb's Hole Harbour, named after Capt. Hobbs who anchored his ship "Elizabeth and Mary" there. This area, now known as Tappahannock, was originally called "New Plymouth" before reverting to its Native American name.

Hobbs Hole became a key port town, especially after the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730 established public warehouses for tobacco inspection and export. On December 2, 1814, British naval forces under Captain Robert Barrie shelled and seized Tappahannock, burning down the courthouse and two jails before departing two days later. Tappahannock's position as a major port made it vulnerable to such attacks, and our Tavern, situated directly on the port, was also an easy target.

In the accompanying picture, you’ll see a small cannonball from the War of 1812, part of a "grape shot"—a cluster of small cannonballs wrapped in canvas that scattered upon firing, causing extensive damage. These cannonballs were fired from the port into the town to start the attack, followed by British forces setting the courthouse and jails ablaze. This particular cannonball was discovered during the excavation for our Tavern's addition and is now on display here.

That’s it for today’s Tavern/Tappahannock History! We hope you learned something new about our wonderful town. Stay tuned for more fascinating history. Until then, stop by to see this historic cannonball for yourself!

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