Wednesday, April 02, 2014
The Connecticut River Museum, located at the foot of Main Street in Essex, is hosting the art exhibit.
The exhibition features 25 maritime paintings by 16 maritime artists, all members of the American Society of Marine Artists, which shows the arenas of military action that unfolded during this war which was largely fought on the water. According to Jennifer White-Dobbs of the museum, the exhibit is comprised of three theaters of war: the oceans, the Great Lakes and the bays, estuaries, sounds and rivers of the Eastern United States. The paintings include oils and watercolors, and depict scenes of famous engagements as well as lesser known vessels and locales. While many of the works of art present traditional views of the great navy vessels on the high seas or in action, others feature more personal views of men, giving the war a human face.
Viewing the paintings cold stir up patriotism. Six of the paintings on display feature the American warship, the U.S. Frigate Constitution. The Frigate Constitution is pictured in separate paintings that include: Sailing into the night, escaping from a British squadron, battling the Britain’s H.M Frigate Guerriere, and challenging Britain’s H.M. Frigate Java at close range.
Featured as well in the exhibition are two close-up views of the murderous gun decks of U.S. ships. In another painting, the Britain’s bombship H.M. Volcano is shown bombarding America’s Fort McHenry.
Of particular interest to Essex residents is a painting of a group of rowboats filled with British soldiers, who are preparing to row up the Connecticut River to attack the town of Essex, which at the time was called Pettipaug. In all, there were 136 British sailor and marines, who rowed the 6 miles up the river against the tide to attack the town.
While rowing up the river the British passed an unmanned fort in Old Saybroook, which demonstrated the lack of preparedness to British attack of the Americans. The overwhelming British force arrived in Essex shortly after 3 a.m. on April 8, 1814, and they were met with only a trace of defensive America gunfire.
The Americans quickly surrendered to the superior British forces, and accepted the warning not to resist, while the British methodically burned or captured 27 American ships in Essex. It was the largest single loss of American ships in the entire War of 1812.
It was a captured American soldier named Ezekiel Jackson who was in part to blame for the burning of the American ships in Essex.