William G. Yorke (1817-1892) Lived/Active: New York, England, Canada
Capture of the Frigate U.S.S. President, January 15, 1815
Signed (l.r.): W.G. Yorke, ca. 1850-1860
Oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 28” x 22”. Framed 35.5” x 29.5”.
Condition: Over-all in great condition, evidence of small patches on verso, very minor in-painting. In a period carved, gilt frame.
Provenance: Skinner Auctions, Boston, June 2006.
The Kelton Collection of Marine Art & Artifacts.
This work depicts the chase and eventual capture of the American 44-gun frigate U.S.S. President by the British Naval vessels H.M.S. Endymion, Majestic and Pomone on January 15, 1815. The U.S.S. President was one of the U.S. Navy’s original six frigates. In January 1815, under the command of Stephen Decatur, President slipped the blockade that had held her in New York Harbor for nearly a year. The Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, had already been signed, but word had not yet reached New York. During its escape, the President grounded on a sandbar for several hours during the night, damaging her keel and badly straining her hull. Working her way off the bar the following morning, the frigate soon encountered a British squadron led by the 50-gun Endymion, which immediately gave chase. The following account is from Decatur’s after-action report to Crowninshield, Secretary of the U.S. Navy: ”The Endymion, mounting 50 guns, had now approached us within gun shot, and had commenced a firer with her bow guns, which we returned from our stern.” Decatur, realizing he could not outrun the British in his damaged condition, turned for a broadside action and had actually gained the advantage over Endymion until Majestic and Pomone arrived. After a fierce battle where he lost nearly half his crew, Decatur was forced to strike his flag. President was seized as a war prize and taken to England, too badly damaged for further work. She was broken up at Portsmouth in 1817, but not before her lines were taken off by the Admiralty, which were used for a new British warship of the same name.
Item ID: WoA-AMP-OC 601