Footnotes and Cannonballs
Less than 30 years after gaining independence from the British Empire, the still fledgling United States found itself in conflict with its former rulers once again. The British interfered with trade, sovereignty, and the territorial expansion of the United States, pushing President James Madison to bring a list of grievances to Congress on June 1, 1812. Within two weeks, the United States was at war.
Far from the frontlines of the War of 1812, the Cape and Islands still endured conflick along the shores
At the time, the War of 1812 was especially unpopular. Though it gathered great support from southern and western states (Tennessee and Kentucky were the westernmost states at the time), the war was almost unanimously opposed in New England, and the war declaration narrowly passed the House and Senate. Compared to the riots in Baltimore and the burning of Washington, D.C., Cape Cod largely remained out of the line of fire. But 100 years after the conflict began, our region’s role merits a place in history.
Born in “Tonset” (East Orleans) around 1758, Isaac Snow served in two of the United States’ major wars. As a young man, Snow served as a privateersman out of Boston during the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776, when he was captured by the British. Snow miraculously escaped the British prison ship he was held on that was just off Lisbon, Portugal, and walked to France where he worked a passage home with French troops bound for the U.S. Back at sea in 1780, the British captured Snow once again and this time imprisoned him in Plymouth, England. After two years he was repatriated and returned home to Orleans.
At home, Snow led the South Parish Eastham Revolutionary War veterans in naming the newly incorporated town of Orleans. Snow and the veterans, it is said, believed the new town should bear a French name to honor France’s support of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War.
When the United States and Britain found themselves at war again in 1812, it was Snow who trained and instructed a local militia. When the British attempted to land in Rock Harbor in December of 1814, Snow’s men repelled them.
Snow found work as a shoemaker and cobbler in East Orleans until he was able to retire on his Revolutionary War Veterans Pension. He also served as builder and part owner of the East Orleans Grist Mill from 1800–1811 and continued as a miller until 1828.
When Isaac Snow passed away on March 12, 1855, he was the last surviving Revolutionary War Veteran in Barnstable County and Orleans’ oldest citizen.