Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.
Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of the Met
The Metropolitan Museum of Art very graciously just released 375,000 works into the public domain as Creative Commons Zero 1.0 Universal copyright, the broadest possible. While about 200,000 are online, and as a whole, they represent just a fifth of the Met’s huge collection, there are some interesting pieces in the trove with a military background. These include over 70 plates from Goya’s haunting ‘The Disasters of War’ (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and dozens more from Stefano della Bella’s ‘Peace and War’ (Divers desseins tant pour la paix que pour la guerre).
Here are some pieces I found remarkable.
The archaeology department at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland has been working since 2011 to save a crate of 20 Pattern 1853 Enfield rifled muskets that were delivered to Canada via fishing trawler after an extended period on the bottom of the Atlantic.
The rifles, still in the crate they have been in since around the 1850s-60s, are housed in a large container filled with a chemical solution that includes a bulking agent and corrosion inhibitor designed to stabilize the relics.
“This soaking process will take many years and is done to prevent the wood from collapsing, cracking, or warping once dry and also to prevent any remaining iron from staining the wood surface,” Memorial’s Archaeological Conservator, Donna Teasdale, told me.
And they are now starting to find inspector’s marks on very well preserved brass and walnut.
The custom-designed four-gun battery was cast at the Cyrus Alger Foundry in Boston and arrived at VMI on June 6, 1848. A statue of Stonewall Jackson, who taught cadets artillery tactics on the guns for a decade at the school, watches over.
The guns were mounted on wooden carriages that had last been replaced generations ago. Now, equipped with brand new aluminum carriages after a seven-month refurbishment, the cannon will endure for centuries.
Named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John by William Pendleton, an Episcopal minister-turned Civil War artillery officer who commanded the unit who used them to good effect during that conflict, the guns were custom-designed at the Cyrus Alger Foundry in Boston to be small enough so that they could be moved around by the cadets without the use of horses.
For at least a decade before the Civil War, the battery and the cadets who manned it was under the tutelage of one Maj. Thomas Jackson, the professor of philosophy and artillery tactics who later went on to become one of the leading generals of the Confederacy.
“When it comes to 19th-century artillery pieces, these guns are some of the most important and historical in the entire nation,” said Col. Keith Gibson, executive director of the VMI Museum System in a statement last summer when the guns were shipped off. “We can point to these guns and know that Stonewall Jackson used the guns himself and trained cadets on the guns for an entire decade … when he was [VMI] professor of artillery tactics.”
The Siege at Petersburg was just a dumpster fire of a military campaign in the Civil War that saw Grant nail the feet of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to the floor outside of Richmond and keep him there for almost 10 months. The bloodletting included such horror as the Battle of the Crater and the assault on Fort Stedman ultimately broke Lee’s back. Within weeks of the end of the campaign came Appomattox. Within weeks of Appomattox came the end of the war in the rest of the Confederacy.
Now, it looks like the 2,700 acres of the National Park Service’s Petersburg National Battlefield could be set to balloon if the money is right.
Legislation signed days ago by President Barack Obama authorizes, but does not pay for, the addition of more than 7,000 acres to the existing 2,700 acres of rolling hills, earthworks and siege lines already under protection at Petersburg.
Expansion has been a longtime priority of park advocates and comes amid a push to bolster and protect battlefields around the country this decade as the nation marked the 150th anniversary of the war. Supporters say the larger boundary would not only protect historic sites from commercial development but also give park visitors a more comprehensive understanding of the Petersburg campaign, which left tens of thousands of men dead.
“We’re finally moving forward. … We’re looking at the park and looking at the story in a whole new way,” said Lewis Rogers, the park’s superintendent, who joked that the weeks of waiting for the president’s signature had left him in misery.
These two rare birds are a set of Griswold and Gunnison (top) and Spiller & Burr revolvers made in the Confederacy during the Civil War– both more or less poor brass framed copies of New England patented guns.
About 3,700 Griswold and Gunnison revolvers were manufactured in Georgia by Samuel Griswold, a transplanted Yankee from Connecticut. This .36 caliber sixgun was a copy of the Colt Model 1851 revolver. The bottom revolver is also a Confederate .36 caliber that was made by Spiller & Burr, initially in Richmond, Virginia and later in Georgia. It was also a copy of a Northern design, following the Whitney revolver. The latter firm had made between 1,200 and 1,500 revolvers total.
With these guns being so rare, they are also faked alot– as Phil Schreier breaks down on the very poor S&B copy below. (Which, if you think about it, is a bad copy of a bad copy).
Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Fort Sumter, famous for its role in the Civil War, received an influx of $200,000 to restore 11 vintage Parrott rifles.
The donation came from an individual who wished to keep their name private, in honor of their father, a Citadel graduate.
The guns (officially: Parrott, 6.4-inch, rifle, seacoast, Model 1861), fired 100-pound shells and are something of a mystery to the National Park Service, being shipped from Georgia’s Augusta Arsenal to the fort in December 1873. They are covered in layer upon layer of paint, rusting and pitting– obscuring their foundry numbers which would tell when they were cast and potentially where they saw service during the war between the states.
Capandball, a Hungarian black powder enthusiast and collector, puts the OG Colt Police wheelgun from 1862 next to an Italian repro side by side on the table and the range.
Just 28,000 Model 1862s were made by Colt and after 150~ years they are getting kinda scarce. However a spaghetti repro is just a mail order away.
Sure, ‘Cap has the whole Bela Lugosi thing going on (who was also Hungarian btw), but he really knows his black powder guns and not only breaks out the calipers and swaps out parts between the guns to test functionality, but stacks them up on paper as well.