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Nine days after the outbreak of the American War of 1812, the British ship ‘Belvidera’, commanded by Captain Richard Byron, was off New London, Connecticut. She was waiting for the French privateer ‘Marengo’ to come out, when at daybreak she saw the sails of five vessels to the south west. They were the American frigates ‘President’, the ‘Congress’, the ‘United States’ and the sloops ‘Hornet’ and ‘Argos’, effectively the entire American navy in commission at the time. The Americans gave chase and the ‘President’ closed on the ‘Belvidera’. Commodore Rodgers of the ‘President’, himself fired the first shots. When a bow gun on her gun-deck was fired for the second time it blew up wrecking the forcastle deck and killing and wounding 16 people, including the Commodore, who broke a leg.
On the left of the picture the ‘Belvidera’ runs on a very broad reach. She has shot holes in her sails and can be seen firing her stern guns. Astern of her the ‘President’ can be seen repeatedly firing her starboard broadside. To the right of her, and in pursuit, are the ‘Congress’, ‘United States’, ‘Hornet’ and ‘Argus’. There is a French lithograph of this action by Auger.
oil on canvas marouflaged onto Sundeala board
H 56 x W 76 cm