Tuesday, December 6, 2011

USS Pawnee Gangway Headboards

In the museum's Civil War gallery are the gangway headboards from the steam sloop-of-war USS Pawnee. Named for the people of the Pawnee Nation, the ship was a pre-war shallow draft steamer built specifically for littoral (i.e. coastal) duties. Heavily armed and well designed, she saw frequent service during the war on both the North Atlantic and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons. Most notably, she rescued USS Cumberland from the Gosport Navy Yard at the beginning of the war and served in the Port Royal Expedition.  After the war, she was based in Hampton Roads and served as a hospital ship.

As the name suggests, gangway headboards would be found at the top of a ship's gangway, greeting the ship's company and visitors alike to the ship. Hand carved from a tropical hardwood such as teak or mahogany, the artist would typically create an image that was in line with the ship's name. In this case, the artist chose a Pawnee warrior on one side and his weapons on the other.

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