February 21, 2023
An artifact's mysterious absence has perplexed authorities in Delaware.
A British cannonball dating back to the War of 1812 has either been stolen or gone missing from its spot outside the historic Cannonball House in Lewes, Sussex County, according to the Lewes Police Department.
"We can't believe it, but we have received a report that the cannon ball is either missing or stolen from our historic Cannonball House," the department wrote in a Facebook post on Friday, Feb. 17.
In the first photo, the cannonball can be seen lodged into the side of the Cannonball House, while the second picture shows an empty space following the artifact's disappearance. Police called on their "Facebook Friends" to offer suggestions on its whereabouts.
The many comments flooding the post range from tips ("Maybe it just fell out") to proclamations of hopelessness ("Why would anyone want to steal the cannonball! Nothing is safe in todays world") to jokes ("I pulled on that cannonball probably over 100 times as a kid. Im sure I loosened it for this person").
Police also allude to an "art heist," possibly referencing an incident in late August in which an elderly man stole a watercolor painting from the Lewes Public Library. The painting was recovered by early September, and it's unclear whether authorities are trying to connect the cases.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the cannonball is still missing and no public updates on the case have yet been revealed.
The cannonball's existence alone helped make the Cannonball House, which now contains Lewes Historical Society's Maritime Museum, one of the most famous sites to visit in the small town, located on the Delaware Bay.
During a battle in the War of 1812 known as the Bombardment of Lewes, a British naval squadron spent 22 hours pelting Lewes with hundreds of shells. One of the cannonballs lodged into a building at 118 Front Street, which at the time was the home of two maritime pilots, and has remained there since ... until now, anyway.
"I think it's probably devastating for a lot of folks; this house has come to represent Lewes Historical Society, the community of Lewes, [and] our maritime heritage, so it's far more than just 'I'll steal an object'," Andrew Lyter, executive director of the museum, told WDEL radio station. "It's literally a symbol of the historical society of this town."
Lyter speculates that the cannonball did not fall out of the wall on its own, but instead was likely stolen.
Anyone who has information on the artifact is urged to contact the Lewes Police Department at 302-645-6264.
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