William Russell Birch (British/American, 1755-1834) Commander Thomas MacDonough (1783–1825), standing, profile to the right, wearing white trousers, blue coat with gold buttons, piping and epaulettes, white frilled chemise and black stock, the hilt of his sword at his right hand
Lot 90*
William Russell Birch
(British/American, 1755-1834)
Commander Thomas MacDonough (1783–1825), standing, profile to the right, wearing white trousers, blue coat with gold buttons, piping and epaulettes, white frilled chemise and black stock, the hilt of his sword at his right hand
Sold for £1,250 (US$ 2,101) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
William Russell Birch (British/American, 1755-1834)
Commander Thomas MacDonough (1783–1825), standing, profile to the right, wearing white trousers, blue coat with gold buttons, piping and epaulettes, white frilled chemise and black stock, the hilt of his sword at his right hand.
Watercolour and ink on paper, signed on the obverse and dated W. Birch. ptr/ 1814/ Com. Thomas Macdonough. U.S.S.Saratoga/ 1814, gilt-wood frame.
Rectangular, 117mm (4 5/8in) high
Provenance: The Elizabeth L. Maurier Collection

Footnotes

  • At the age of 16, Thomas received a warrant as a midshipman in the navy. He fought in the West Indies and Tripoli before being appointed a lieutenant in 1805/6.

    During the following years the British began impressing American sailors. While in Liverpool, England, Macdonough was impressed into the English Navy. The story is related that he was taken on board a British Ship and assigned sleeping quarters with the corporal of the guard. Once the corporal fell asleep Macdonough went out onto the deck and when he saw the corporal appear out of the hatchway, Macdonough knocked him down, jumped into a small boat and was on his way. The sentry shot at Macdonough but he safely made his way to shore. He swore "If I live, I'll make England remember the day she impressed an American soldier."

    In 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. In August, Macdonough received orders to command a division in Burlington, Vermont. In 1813, he was designated Master Commandant and thereafter called "Commodore". On the morning of September 11th, 1814, Macdonough's fleet opened fire on the British at Plattsburgh and within hours defeated the British in one of the decisive battles in American History. It prevented the invasion and conquest of New York State. The present lot, dated 1814 was presumably drawn to commemorate Macdonough's victory.

    Commodore Macdonough continued in the service of his country after the war of 1812 had ended. In 1825, while commanding the frigate Constitution in the Mediterranean, Macdonough received the news that his wife, Lucy Ann had died. Thomas was already sick with tuberculosis and the news devastated him. He died on his return journey home.
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