On February 9, 1799 in the waters off Nevis, USS Constellation engaged and defeated the French frigate L’Insurgente. The capture of L’Insurgente was the first ship-to-ship victory in United States naval history. This week’s artifact spotlight is an oil on canvas painting of the engagement painted by maritime artist Charles Robert Patterson. This painting is part of a set of four scenes of important naval engagements commissioned by Edward Berwind in 1928, The others include the battles between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis, USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, and the frigate United States and HMS Macedonian. The set was generously donated to the Naval War College Museum in 1963 by Charles E. Dunlap.
|Constellation vs L'Insurgente by Charles Patterson|
Charles Robert Patterson was an English painter born on July 18, 1878 in England. He was a son of a shipbuilder and always held a deep fascination with the sea. In 1892, he went to sea as a cabin boy and spent approximately 14 years at sea on various vessels. Between voyages, Patterson spent time studying art and moving around the United States. In 1920, he became a United States citizen and travelled aboard a number US Navy vessels witnessing battle maneuvers. His works were part of a revival of the Age of Sail in art. During his life, he created hundreds of works related to maritime and naval themes. Patterson died in 1958 and his cremated remains were scattered from the deck of a US naval vessel.
Constellation was involved in a number of other engagements throughout her illustrious career. In 1845, she was ordered to the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth Virginia. In 1853, she was broken up and a new sloop-of-war bearing her name was launched the following year.
Image courtesy of the Naval War College Museum