British Raid on Tappahannock
On 2 Dec. 1814, British naval forces commanded by Capt. Robert Barrie shelled and seized the town of Tappahannock during the War of 1812. Aiding the British were three companies of African American Colonial Marines composed of escaped slaves. By 4 Dec., when the British departed and Essex County militia reentered the town, the raiders had ransacked private houses, blown up a tannery, and burned two jails, the customs warehouse, and the courthouse. They also desecrated the burial vault of the prominent Ritchie family. This was one of the last British raids before the Treaty of Ghent was signed on 24 Dec. 1814.
The War of 1812
Impressment of Americans into British service and the violation of American ships were among the causes of American War of 1812 with the British, which lasted until 1815. Beginning in 1813, Virginians suffered from a British naval blockade of the Chesapeake Bay and from British troops plundering the countryside by the Bay and along the James, Rappahannock, and Potomac Rivers. The Virginia militia deflected a British attempt to take Norfolk in 1813 and engaged British forces throughout the war. By the end of the war more than 2,000 enslaved African Americans in Virginia had gained their freedom aboard British ships.