I wrote the short sketch below as a Tabor assignment 40 years ago. Its nominal subject - a home that still stands at 330 Main Street - is now a rehab mill and last time I checked, inhabited at double legal capacity.
Oh Say Can You See?
TWO HUNDRED Limey evil-doers were dispatched to Wareham on six barges from the Superb and Nimrod anchored in Buzzards Bay on June 13, 1814, setting ashore at "British Landing".
How they not see that coming?
It was a Monday, market day, the one day of the week towns-folk from outlying areas ventured downtown to trade. An elevated rocky neck concealed the English approach, and locals were caught with their drawers down. The more prosperous of them were held hostage until the infidels arrived safely back at their anchorage.
New England profitably ignored Jefferson’s toothless trade embargo with Europe’s combatants, even when French and English navies seized their boats and impressed their crews. Deserting sailors accounted for a third or more of its infant merchant marine and occasional losses were a predictable business expense. The War of 1812, though, crippled commerce in blockaded seaside communities like Wareham and quickly became "Mr. Madison's War".
Before they departed, according to the official account, the British set fire to a ship, a brig, and several schooners and sloops. A cotton factory was hit by a Congreve rocket - innovative artillery for its time, equipped with incendiary or explosive warheads.
The British also cannon shelled the residential, inland side of Main Street, targeting the home of Joshua Gibbs in particular. If Joshua was at all like my more recent forebearers, he said or did something to irritate them. The Star Spangled Banner yet waved.
Bill Chadwick, a local carpenter who earlier built my grandparents new home five miles away, unearthed half a dozen British mini balls lodged in masonry when he renovated the “Palmer” house in the mid 1960s. According to my grandmother, the Wareham 'Hysterical Society' was given that ordinance for its collection.
No other homes were hit and London never paid reparations. They can make the cheque payable to me, if they like.
©Wm Palmer Whitehouse, 1971.
Tabor Academy, Marion, MA
[Sourced from British Admiralty records and the recollections of local residents.]
Last edited by billw (2011-10-20 07:31:39)
I always enjoy your writings, Bill :)
It's the least profitable of amusements and rarely appreciated. That paper bought me a D and a failing grade in history that semester.