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Any military historians?

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Whiteway
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Posted Fri May 17, 2013 3:47AM
I'm a bit stuck for an explanation for this 19th century illustration.

By the uniforms this might be in the early 1800s. I'm not sure what the fighting on the river is about. And I am wondering if St. Helena / Bonaparte comes anywhere into this.

Any thoughts appreciated.
Difydave
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Posted Fri May 17, 2013 10:12AM

I don't really know Roger, but it does occur to me that the armed people are militia rather than professional soldiers. Also armed civilians wouldn't normally have bayonets I'd have thought unless they were in some sort of militia.


Some of the headgear looks French, some looks vaguely from across the Atlantic, like the animal skin hat the one man is wearing. Canada possibly? Or the American war of independence?


Barges and fighting to the death with swords or cutlasses. They're not just chucking those people off, they're killing them. If it was an action against the British for example I'd sort of expect there to be redcoats to show what was happening. The conical thing hanging up looks like an eel (or some kind of fish) trap to me.


More random thought than anything I'm afraid.
jeangill
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Posted Fri May 17, 2013 11:04AM
I wonder about the Battle of Leipsic (Leipzic) which took place in 1813 - this is published in 1818.
Whiteway
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Posted Fri May 17, 2013 11:37AM
Good summary, Dave. I was looking at the landscape and houses, which made me think of backwoods America but also, perhaps, of St. Helena. I don't know if any such action took place on St. Helena, and perhaps it's unlikely.

And you had a good thought about the conical thing. I was prepared to swear it was the first basketball net. (Which leads to another thought, since basketball (I believe) was invented by a Canadian, and this suggests how it might have come about!)

Thank you for the thought, Jean, I will look up the Battle of Leipsic and see where it gets me.

(Edited on 2013-05-17 11:40:10 by Whiteway)
theasis
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Posted Fri May 17, 2013 12:07PM
Don't know anything about the picture, but I know the signature. "I, Clark Sculpt" is the Scottish engraver John Heaviside Clark. That might help a bit.
Whiteway
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Posted Fri May 17, 2013 12:59PM
Thanks, Martin. That is probably the best lead, since the publisher had a wide portfolio.
Whiteway
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 2:55AM
Using the keywords 'barges' and 'fighting', I have come up with the Chesapeake Campaign in the The War of 1812, an event that preceded the sacking of Washington. This action may have included Canadian militia, and a notable aspect of the engraving is the presence of non-uniformed combatants with cutlasses, bayonet-fitted muskets etc.

I guess the large, hanging 'basketball net' has to be a fish trap. There are enough clues here for the right pair of eyes to identify the campaign.

This may be the story I have to run with until someone who is better-informed corrects me.
Difydave
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 3:08AM

I saw that mentioned when I did a search, although the barges used there would seem to have been bigger. Of course I doubt if the engraver / artist actually saw the action, so there will be the artistic license to factor in.


Is the fish trap there to tell us something else apart from the fact that the action took place on a river? A detail like that tends to negate my earlier comment about the artist not seeing the action if it's a detail and not making a point of some kind?


(search for "1812 Chesapeake eel shop")


Para 5 here!
Whiteway
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 4:16AM
I found this quite informative.

Those barges look like blocks of wood, I do wonder about their trueness to life!

I can't find a book published in 1818 by this publisher, or another engraving by "I. Clark", that gives convincing clues. I have sent a copy of the engraving to the V&A metalwork department to see if they have any ideas. (I chose metalwork because it was the closest I could get to weaponry and war.)

There are some early references to an explorer, John Smith, saying that clear waters of the Patuxent were stuffed with fish. Thanks for the link, it's all starting to look a quite convincing story, but it's only the best I can do at the moment!
whitemay
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 10:05AM

I've only just found this but can't actually help despite my liking for warfare!


The boats look a bit like parts of a pontoon bridge and the clothing seems like late 18th/early 19th century - though if it's in the backwoods of somewhere, that might not have any significance. The pointed baskets do look as though they have somehting to do with fishing.


What is the signature to the left of "I. Clark Sculpt"?
whitemay
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 10:17AM

I did wonder about this. http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/10/18/canadas-final-battle-in-the-war-of-1812


Some of the uniforms do look French, though, and it looks like a small skirmish rather than a full-scale battle. No cannon, Congreve rockets or any regiments of soldiers, either.
Whiteway
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 10:18AM
Posted By whitemay:
The boats look a bit like parts of a pontoon bridge...

Interesting thought, Linda.

What is the signature to the left of "I. Clark Sculpt"?

The 'I' is for Iohn, which would be John nowadays. This signature shows that John Heaviside Clark (1770 - 1863) was the engraver.
whitemay
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 10:28AM
When I get engravings which i can't properly identify, or which would have a more limited market if they are fully identified, I will make 'generic'. I'd just say this one was 'a skirmish on a river, with villagers looking on' - or something like that. Actually, it looks like something out of "It's a Knockout"...
vandervelden
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 11:36AM

I think it's from the French Revolution. Those who didn't support the Revolution were drowned, especially at Nantes during 'The Reign of Terror' during the Winter of 1793/4 (I think). I seem to remember that many thousands were killed in this way.


It would explain the attitude of the bystanders in the engraving.
Whiteway
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 11:41AM
^ Thank you for that thought. I just wonder if that looks like France in the 1790s? I don't know! ... Having done a minimal search on these Nantes drownings, the first thing that I see is a fishing trap that looks like the one in 'my' engraving. Will keep nose to ground.

Linda, just noticed your earlier link, and it's interesting that that, too, refers to the War of 1812.

Let's hope the V&A comes up with a convincing answer.

(Edited on 2013-05-18 11:46:39 by Whiteway)
whitemay
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 11:47AM
There is something French-looking about the house, I think - and I had wondered whether it could be the French Revolution. Maurice could well be on to something!
whitemay
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 11:49AM

Maurice has cracked it! Look at one of the illustrations here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drownings_at_Nantes


And here:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Noyadesnantes.jpg

(Edited on 2013-05-18 11:53:23 by whitemay)
Difydave
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 12:09PM

That looks like it. Well done!


 
jeangill
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 12:29PM
Impressive - well done!
Whiteway
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Posted Sat May 18, 2013 12:39PM
Yep, Linda, that first link is the one that has the illustration including the fish trap. I also noticed the thatch on the closest roof. Looks promising!
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