The Nabraska (sic) Nebraska was one of hundreds of packets (ships operating on schedule) sailing the Atlantic before the Civil War. She was built in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1845, for New York owners, and sailed to Liverpool that year and to Marseilles in 1847. She made at least one trip to China (1850), and like many packets, she switched to the southern cotton trade and was lost off Texas in 1857.
The British prided themselves on winning single-ship fights against the French. In June 1798, the 38-gun British frigate HMS Seahorse, under the command of Captain Edward J. Foote, captured the French frigate Le Sensible off the coast of Sicily. The battle, much of which took place at close quarters, lasted less than 15 minutes.
The Endymion was a 40-gun British frigate of 1277 tons and 159 feet in length. She had a crew of 320 men when launched on the Thames in 1797. The President was a 44-gun American frigate built in New York City in 1800. This vessel fired the first shot of the war (of 1812) during a skirmish with the British frigate Belvidera on the evening of June 23, 1812.
In 1869, American George Peabody died in his adopted country: Britain. Here his body is being loaded on the HMS Monarch, Britain's newest warship, for the trip back to the United States for burial. Peabody’s London to Portsmouth funeral train is in the background.
Captain Philip Broke drilled and trained the crew of the Shannon for seven years. It paid off. He captured the Chesapeake off Boston in a 15 minute fight. Evenly matched, Chesapeake, under Captain James Lawrence for only a few days, had been blockaded in Boston for months and was no match for the British, who got off 362 shots for 158. Buttersworth did not paint Shannon firing, for it would have spoiled the painting. Lawrence was shot in the fight, and died in Halifax, leaving his dying words to the U.S. Navy “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
Busy port scenes were a favorite subject for James Buttersworth. Here, he portrays a classic New York harbor view. On shore, to the left, is Castle Garden (immigration headquarters before Ellis Island) and Fort Williams on Governor's Island from which a salute is being fired. In the midst of a yacht race, a ship of the line is being towed into the harbor. A racing sloop with a prominent owner’s flag, probably belonging to Buttersworth’s paying or potential customer, dominates the foreground. Signed, lower right.
Here, Buttersworth portrays the mix of shipping traffic along the English Channel near the coast in a scene evocative of earlier Dutch paintings. The Dutch sloop, also reminiscent of an earlier era, is juxtaposed with an early steam vessel with auxiliary sails. The lug-rigged open boat on the left is in the French or British style, locating the scene perhaps on the Flemish coast or in the Thames estuary. The effect is a stunning picture. At first glance, it could be from the mid-1700s, yet in fact was painted 50-75 years after that.
It’s blowing hard enough for the little lug-rigged boat on the right to be deeply reefed with her mizzen furled. She may be a small pilot boat of the type common in the Thames estuary. The main subject, a ship-rigged vessel, has single-reefed her topsails. Her crew is furling the mainsail, while others sheet home the jib.