It will take two days of activities to commemorate the bicentennial of the important role the people of Lewes played in the War of 1812. It was April 6 and 7, 1813, that Lewes was able to hold off a British bombardment in defense of the all-important mouth of the Delaware Bay.
The British bombardment in 1813 is the most significant event in Lewes – known as Lewistown in 1813 – history says Mike DiPaolo, executive director of the Lewes Historical Society.
“It's what people talked about,” he said. “Old timers would sit on their porches and talk about the bombardment. People had a great sense of pride.”
That sense of pride continued and was the guiding force that saved the last remnant of the War of 1812 in Lewes – the Cannonball House.
The Lewes Historical Society purchased the house in 1963 and it serves as a museum today. A British cannonball is still firmly cemented into the house's foundation. The house, built in 1760, was the home of the McCracken family who served as bay and river pilots.
Across the street was one of two forts – the other was on Pilottown Road – that fired shots back at the British ships. Today it's 1812 Memorial Park along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, which was a creek 200 years ago.
Two days of events
On Saturday, April 6, the Fort McHenry Guard will fire cannons from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on the parade grounds in Cape Henlopen State Park. The event is free and open to the public but visitors must pay state park entrance fees. The Guard is a historical organization sponsored by the National Park Service and The Patriots of Fort McHenry. They are trained and equipped to represent U.S. Corps of Artillery, the Baltimore Fencible Artillery and the U.S. Sea Fencibles during the Battle of Baltimore in the summer of 1814.
Also on April 6, beginning at 12:30 p.m., leading regional and national scholars will join for presentations at St. Peter's Church Hall on Mulberry Street. Speakers include Lucas Clawson, archivist, Hagley Museum and Library; Michael Crawford, U.S. Navy History Center historian; Chuck Fithian, archaeologist, state of Delaware; Bill Manthorpe, U.S. Navy retiree; and Don Shomette, author of “Hunt for HMS DeBraak.” The seminar will be moderated by Russ McCabe, retired state archivist.
On Sunday, April 7, the Fort McHenry Guard will be back in action performing drills from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lewes Historical Society in downtown Lewes. Other activities for all ages will be available.
At 4 p.m. on April 7, officials will gather for a rededication and commemoration ceremony at 1812 Memorial Park on Front Street. State officials and a representative from the British Embassy are expected to attend.
Tickets for $100 are still available for the War of 1812 commemoration dinner at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7, at the Lewes Yacht Club. The menu consists of HMS Belvidere roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, cheddar mashed potatoes, Brussels spouts with chestnuts or Lewistown stuffed pork chop with apple stuffing, cheddar mashed potatoes and Col. Samuel B. Davis glazed carrots. Dogfish Head will provide a special brew for the evening called Province Ale Porter.
Starting that weekend, and continuing through Labor Day, will be an exhibit at the Ellegood House in the Lewes Historical Society Complex. “War of 1812: A Nation Forged By War” is a traveling exhibit from the Naval History and Heritage Command.
For more information, go to HistoricLewes.org or phone 302-645-7670.