, 2014

New historical marker recalls War of 1812
naval activity on the Rappahannock River

by Audrey Thomasson

WHITE STONE—In a region rich in history, the War of 1812 is largely overlooked, according to historian and author Stuart L. Butler, keynote speaker at the December 3 dedication of “The Capture of the Dolphin” historical marker.

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The Mary Ball Washington Museum sponsored the newest roadside marker, one of several new markers going up in Virginia to acknowledge the courage and sacrifices of Virginians during the struggle to remain independent of Britain.

According to Butler, the British vessels ran a blockade of the Chesapeake Bay disrupting commercial shipping and seizing cargo. Also, British troops plundered the Virginia countryside along the James, Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.

On April 3, 1813, an American privateer ship from Baltimore, the Dolphin, joined three smaller privateers—the Arab, Lynx and Racer—to engage in battle with the British Navy on the Rappahannock River. The ships were greatly outnumbered and outgunned by two dozen British gunboats and naval vessels at the mouth of the Corrotoman River in what became the largest naval engagements of that war. The British naval and marine forces quickly overran the Americans—but Captain W.J. Stafford of the Dolphin, stubbornly refused to give up after the other ships were captured until he was severely wounded and could no longer keep the British from boarding his ship.

“It was an example of American courage and bravery under fire,” said Butler.

Lancaster County administrator Frank Pleva presented a resolution from the board of supervisors honoring a young nation that stood up to “...the strongest nation on earth to defend the freedom, honor, sovereignty and economic interest of the United States in what became known as America’s Second War of Independence.” Supervisors praised the early citizens of Lancaster County who for over two years “...suffered greatly from the interruption of commerce and destruction of property...”

Past and present museum presidents Stevenson Walker and Jane Henley unveiled the marker. Also, R. Page Henley Jr. told a story of his family’s encounter with the British invasion while Ret. Lt. Col. Myron Mike E. Lyman Sr. gave a history of the War of 1812 flag and Dr. Cheryl Davis, of the James Monroe chapter of the U.S. Daughters of 1812, sang the national anthem.

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