Friday, June 21, 2013

Battle of Craney Island Watercolor

(click image to enlarge)
The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Craney Island is this Saturday.  We invite you to both read the very good articles on the War of 1812 in Hampton Roads by Mark Erickson of the Daily Press and attend this weekend's live festivities.

Shown above is a modern day watercolor by Gerry Embleton, a veteran artist who has illustrated many military history publications.  The Maryland Historical Society commissioned this work for its book The Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake and have given us permission to use it here.

The watercolor is among the most accurate illustrations of the battle ever produced.  It shows the British assault barges attempting to launch an amphibious attack on Craney Island.  This attack was in conjunction with a land assault force headed up by General Syndey Beckwith that attacked Craney Island from the west.

In the forefront is the green  hulled assault barge called Centipede .  The illustration accurately portrays the moment in the battle when the British sailors on the barges realized that the water was too shallow to row with oars.  While under deadly accurate fire from cannons manned by Constellation's sailors and Virginia militia at Carney Island (in the distance, right) and Isle of Wight County riflemen wading out from shore to engage the enemy (in the distance, center), the barges began to withdraw. 

In the forefront of the illustration is a  man standing at the back of the boat with an umbrella in one hand and pointing out orders with his other hand.  This is Royal Navy Captain J.M. Hanchent.  He carried the umbrella into combat because he believed the climate was too hot.  He also brought along his small dog into the battle. Hanchent came from royal stock as he was one of King George III's many illegitimate children.  His status forbade him from ever claiming the throne, but it still allowed him be an officer of high status in the Royal Navy.  Hanchent was one of the few casualties in this engagement.  A piece of shrapnel struck him the thigh.  He later died from blood loss.

Another loss was Centipede.  Unable to get free of the muddy, shallow flats, the militia captured the boat and all of the sailors manning it.  Hanchent's dog was among the prisoners. 

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