Thirteen Chapters of American History - represented by the Edward Moran series of Thirteen - Historical Marine Paintings
by Theodore Sutro
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The eyes not only of the men in the shipping and on shore, both Union and Confederate, but of the whole country, were anxiously centred on the two iron-clads as they approached each other, and the little "Monitor" hardly seemed a match for the huge craft of the Confederates, who looked with contempt upon the diminutive "cheese box," as they called it, which dared to take up the gage of battle with their formidable "Merrimac." Soon, however, it became apparent that the prowess of the little Union craft had been entirely underestimated, and in the combat which ensued the very smallness of the "Monitor" gave her a great advantage, in the swiftness of her movements, over her gigantic opponent, not unlike an undersized but agile and skilful athlete in encounter with a large and lumbering, though more powerful, antagonist. Lieutenant Worden was the hero of the occasion in the rapidity of his manoeuvring, while Lieutenant Jones, now in command of the "Merrimac," was surprised to find that his shot made no impression on the "Monitor." After more than two hours of incessant fighting, Lieutenant Worden having been temporarily blinded through the powder from an exploding shell which struck a sight-hole in the pilot-house of the "Monitor," through which he was watching the enemy, its command devolved upon Lieutenant Greene. As in the ensuing confusion the "Monitor" had drifted into shoal water, where the "Merrimac" could not follow, the latter ship retired to the shore, and although refitted and repaired for further combat she did not again meet the "Monitor" in battle, and, on the evacuation of Norfolk by the Confederates on the 10th of May following, they consigned her to destruction.

The courage of Lieutenant Worden in the handling of the novel and untested craft under his command, and his brave words—even when blinded and wounded by the powder and particles from the shells of the enemy and suffering intense pain—when he was told that the "Minnesota" had been saved: "Then I can die happy,"—stamp him as worthy of a place in the long list of our naval heroes.

It is not surprising that Abraham Lincoln, with his quick perception of genuine merit, caused the following communication to be sent to Lieutenant Worden:

"NAVY DEPARTMENT, March 15, 1862.

"Lieutenant John L. Worden, United States Navy, Commanding United States Steamer 'Monitor,' Washington.


"The naval action which took place on the 10th[P] inst. between the 'Monitor' and 'Merrimac' at Hampton Roads, when your vessel, with two guns, engaged a powerful armored steamer of at least eight guns, and after a few hours' conflict repelled her formidable antagonist, has excited general admiration and received the applause of the whole country.

"The President directs me, while earnestly and deeply sympathizing with you in the injuries which you have sustained, but which it is believed are but temporary, to thank you and your command for the heroism you have displayed and the great service you have rendered.

"The action of the 10th and the performance, power, and capabilities of the 'Monitor' must effect a radical change in naval warfare.

"Flag-Officer Goldsborough, in your absence, will be furnished by the Department with a copy of this letter of thanks and instructed to cause it to be read to the officers and crew of the 'Monitor.'

"I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


The President followed this up with a special message to Congress on December 8, 1862, as follows:

"To the Senate and House of Representatives:

"In conformity to the law of July 16, 1862, I most cordially recommend that Commander John L. Worden, United States Navy, receive a vote of thanks of Congress for the eminent skill and gallantry exhibited by him in the late remarkable battle between the United States iron-clad steamer 'Monitor,' under his command, and the rebel iron-clad steamer 'Merrimac,' in March last.

"The thanks of Congress for his services on the occasion referred to were tendered by a resolution approved July 11, 1862, but the recommendation is now specially made in order to comply with the requirements of the ninth section of the act of July 16, 1862, which is in the following words, viz.:

"'That any line officer of the Navy or Marine Corps may be advanced one grade if upon recommendation of the President by name he receives the thanks of Congress for highly distinguished conduct in conflict with the enemy or for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession.'


In this fight the "Monitor" had been struck twenty-two times without appreciable effect, the deepest indentation having been made by a shot that penetrated the iron on her side to the depth of four inches. On the "Merrimac" ninety-seven indentations of shot were found, twenty of which were from the 11-inch guns of the "Monitor," which had shattered six of the top layers of her iron plates.

On the 29th of December following, the "Monitor" herself was lost, having been foundered and sunk with sixteen of her crew, in a heavy gale, a few miles south of Cape Hatteras. But the test to which the "Monitor" had been subjected in her battle with the "Merrimac" proved beyond doubt that iron was destined to take the place of wood in the construction of our men-of-war thereafter, and the confidence of John Ericsson in the ultimate success of his experiment, after many discouragements and rebuffs on the part of the naval authorities, was fully justified in its final results, and the honors which the nation showered upon him in the evening of his life, and the tribute which it paid to his genius after his death, were merited by him quite as much as the perpetuation of his memory through this stirring canvas of the great artist, as is also the memory, in the second painting of this series, of that other Erickson, his ancestor, who, almost a thousand years before, was the first white man known to have set foot on American soil.

RETURN OF THE CONQUERORS Typifying Our Victory in the Late Spanish-American War

(September 29, 1899)



As a fitting close to the grand pictorial illustration of our marine history, this canvas represents one of the most magnificent pageants ever seen on our waters, in commemoration of the victorious close of the last great war, in which our navy added fresh leaves to its laurel wreath of heroic achievement. It, at the same time, depicts the culminating stage in the evolution of naval construction from the time when the Norsemen in their drakkars, and Columbus in his caravels, braved the perils of the ocean, until the steel-clad battleships of Dewey and Schley and Sampson met in conflict the no less formidable floating fortresses of Cervera and Montojo. It is a picture of to-day, with the well-defined outlines of the Statue of Liberty in allegorical suggestion at the mouth of the great river up which the little "Half Moon" first sailed, also on a September day, just two hundred and ninety years before. It suggests—in the great, grim, steel-clad leviathans of the ocean steaming up the river, with their powerful armament and each representing millions of dollars in its construction, along the shores of the second largest city in the world, and with flags and banners flying proudly from every mast and spar—not only the victory of our arms but the growth of the nation, from the sparse settlements in the days of the Pilgrim Fathers to a population of 80,000,000 souls, and from the thirteen little struggling provinces, at the outbreak of the Revolution, to the forty-five great States and four Territories of the Union, with its possessions even beyond the confines of the continent—imperial in its power and greatness, not dreamt of even when, only about a century before, Paul Jones and Decatur and Captain Reid performed the feats of daring which are immortalized in the earlier of these paintings.

It typifies, as the artist himself points out in his title, our conquering arms—in the very motion of the proud battleships, as in majestic array, representing both the Pacific and North Atlantic squadrons, they seem to sweep gradually forward and onward within full view. If Mr. Moran had never painted anything else, this picture would stamp him as a surpassing genius. The grouping of the great vessels and the indication of their vast number, the brilliancy of the water and the whole coloring are matchless. It suggests in the proud procession of the ships-of-war, in perspective, as far back as the eye can reach, a gathering of almost the entire navy, and is in that respect far more than a mere photographic representation of the actual occurrence. In this picture he represents the "Olympia" as the principal object, the nearest in the foreground, her hull in gleaming white, with the suggestion of the figure of Admiral Dewey standing on the bridge, with her sister ships of like hue following in her wake; while another line, on the left of the picture, headed by the "New York" and "Brooklyn," and with Admirals Sampson and Schley on board, appears in more sombre hue, only second in importance, however, to the "Olympia." Such a picture could only be produced by an artist of the most poetic and imaginative instincts as well as a close student of the actualities; for while it is to a certain extent allegoric of the event which it records and the memories connected with it, nothing could be more real or faithful than the reproduction of our iron-clads, with all the detail of armament, turret, tackle, anchor, port-holes and even the national coat of arms on the prow. Even the signal of the "Olympia," "Remember the Maine," and the answering signal of the "Brooklyn," "The Maine is avenged and Cuba is free," can be seen flying from their yards.

The events which are recalled by this painting are so recent that it would seem superfluous to refer to them at all, and yet, in continuation of the historic outline presented in these pages, it may be of interest to record that the battle of Manila was fought on May 1, 1898; that not a single life was lost on the American side and only a few men wounded, without any material injury to the American ships, consisting of four cruisers and two gunboats, while the whole Spanish fleet, under the command of Admiral Montojo, consisting of seven cruisers and five gunboats, was destroyed, with the exception of two, and these were captured, and that our ships, in addition, silenced and captured the formidable shore batteries on Cavite Point. Furthermore, that our naval operations came to a close off Santiago Harbor on July 3, 1898, through the destruction or capture by our fleet—under the command of Admirals Schley and Sampson, consisting of four battleships, one armored cruiser and two converted yachts, one of them the "Gloucester," under the command of the intrepid Richard Wainwright—of the entire Spanish fleet, consisting of four powerful armored cruisers of the highest class and two torpedo boat destroyers, under the command of Admiral Cervera.

Space forbids even a passing reference to the instances of individual heroism displayed during this war by the officers and men of our ships, as for example that of Lieutenant Richmond P. Hobson, all of which are conjured up by a contemplation of this painting. It is also impossible to refer at length to the reception itself to Admiral Dewey and the other officers and men of our fleets, of which the naval procession constituted only one feature; but no eye-witness can ever forget the march of the returning victors in the land parade on September 30, 1899, as it passed under that masterpiece of American sculpture, the arch located at Madison Square.

There were also some touching incidents connected with this celebration. Among them, and as suggested by this picture, should be mentioned the fact that a sailor by the name of Bartholomew Diggins presented Admiral Dewey with the blue flag of Admiral Farragut, which had been in the possession of Diggins, who had served with Dewey under Farragut in the Civil War, and this flag flew from one of the mast-heads of the "Olympia" as she steamed up the river in the van of the magnificent array.

How doubly glorious will appear this splendid ovation to our heroes immortalized in this picture, if the war, from which they are shown returning as conquerors, shall result in a full realization of the noble motive, which inspired it, of liberation and not of conquest, and we may in patriotic pride address Columbia in the words of Timothy Dwight:

"To conquest and slaughter let Europe aspire; Whelm nations in blood, and wrap cities in fire; Thy heroes the rights of mankind shall defend, And triumph pursue them, and glory attend!"

* * * * *

With this picture the artist closes the commemoration of our naval achievements in the four great periods of our history, the War of the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War of 1898, to which the last six pictures of the series are devoted, as the preceding six illustrate the dawn of our history from the first landing of the white man to the settlement of the Pilgrim Fathers—preceding all of which is the mysterious and unfathomable past symbolized by the trackless "Ocean," the first of these paintings.

From the time that Eirek the Red sailed to the bleak shores of Greenland down to the brilliant exploit of Admiral Dewey in the Philippine Islands, how true it is, in view of each and every one of the events immortalized in this unequalled series of paintings, that, in the words of Bishop Berkeley,

"Westward the course of empire takes its way!"


Agreement of Confederation, written on board "Mayflower," 61, 62

America, Early Discoveries of, 33, 34

American Flag, First Recognition of, painting, description of, 68; Designing and Adoption of Present Form, 81.

Armaments: "Armstrong," 79; Modern Battleships, 68; "Ranger," 68

"Armstrong," Brig, Engaging the British Fleet, painting, description of, 82, 83

Bainbridge, Captain, 73

"Baltimore," Cruiser, 95

Braine, Admiral, 96

Brig "Armstrong" Engaging the British Fleet, painting, description of, 82, 83

"Brooklyn," Cruiser, 106, 107

Buchanan, Commodore, 88, 89

Burning of Frigate "Philadelphia," painting, description of, 75, 76

Byron, Lord, quotation from, 29

Caravels, 40, 105

Castelar, Emilio, quotation from, 41, 42

Cervera, Admiral, 105, 107

Chicago, Columbian Exposition, 40, 80

Columbus, Christopher, 39 to 43; Death, 42; Transfer of Remains, 43

Columbus, Debarkation of, painting, description of, 41, 42; "Santa Maria," "Nina" and "Pinta," painting, description of, 41, 42

Compact of Pilgrim Fathers, 61, 62

"Congress," Frigate, 88, 89, 90

Constitution of United States, Preamble, 62

Cowper, quotation from, 69

"Cumberland," The, 87 to 92, 95, 97; Sinking of, by the "Merrimac," painting, description of, 90, 91

Debarkation of Columbus, painting, description of, 41, 42

Decatur, Stephen, 10, 74, 106; Birth, Death, 75; Sword, 74; Toast to our Country, 74

De Soto, Ferdinand, 47 to 49; Birth, Death, 47; Expedition of, 47 to 49; Midnight Mass over the Body of, painting, description of, 48, 49

Dewey, George, Admiral, 10, 105, 106, 107, 109

Drake, quotation from, 67

Drakkars, 35, 105

Eirek the Red, 33, 34, 109

Embarkation of Pilgrims, painting, description of, 60

Ericsson, John, Birth, Death, 95; "Monitor," 92, 97 to 101; White Squadron's Farewell Salute to body of, painting, description of, 95, 96

Erickson, Lief, Landing in New World, 33, 34; painting, description of, 35, 36, 101

Esquimos, 34

Everett, Edward, quotation from oration on the Pilgrims, 60, 61

Exhibition of Paintings of Edward Moran, 9, 18, 19

Farewell Salute to John Ericsson, painting, description of, 95, 96

Farragut, Admiral, 108

Fayal, 79, 81, 83

First Recognition of American Flag, painting, description of, 68, 69

Fiske, John, 40

Flag, United States, 67, 68; First Recognition of, painting, description of, 68, 69; Captain Reid, 81; Resolutions of Congress authorizing, 67, 81

Florida, 47, 48

Greenland, Settlement of, 33, 34

"Half-Moon," ship of Hudson, 53, 105

Hamilton, James, 16

Hemans, Felicia, quotation from, 62, 63

Herald, New York, quotation from, 9

Hobson, Richmond Pearson, 10, 73, 92

Holland, 53, 54, 59

Hopkins, Admiral, 27

Hudson, Henry, 53 to 55; Entering New York Bay, painting, description of, 55

Hudson River, Discovery of, 54

Iceland, 33, 34, 36

Iron versus Wood, Sinking of "Cumberland" by "Merrimac," painting, description of, 90, 91

Jackson, Andrew, Defence of New Orleans, 82; Special Message to Congress about burning of frigate "Philadelphia," 75

Jefferson, Thomas, Special Message to Congress about Lieutenant Decatur, 74

Jones, John Paul, 10, 68, 106; Birth and Death, 69; Letter to Naval Committee, 68

La Motte Piquet, Admiral, 68

Landing of Lief Erickson in the New World, painting, description of, 35, 36, 101

Lincoln, Abraham, Special Message to Congress about Lieutenant George U. Morris, 92; about Lieutenant John Worden, 100; Commendation of Lieutenant John L. Worden, 99, 100

Litigation about thirteen paintings, 8

Lloyd, Commodore, 79, 82

Louisiana Purchase, 10, 49, 82; Exposition, 50

Manila Bay, Battle of, 107

"Mayflower," 59, 60, 61

"Merrimac," The, Confederate Ram, 87 to 92, 95, 97 to 101; of Spanish-American War, 92

Metropolitan Museum of Art, 9

Midnight Mass over the Body of Ferdinand De Soto, painting, description of, 48, 49

Mississippi River, Discovery of, 48, 49

"Monitor," The, 92, 95, 97 to 101

Montojo, Admiral, 105, 107

Moran, Annette, 8, 20; Death, 21; Paintings, 20

Moran, Edward, 15 to 21; Academies, Clubs, Societies, 16, 17; Birth, Death, 15; Marriage, 8, 20; Paintings of, 17, 18

Moran, Thomas, etching by, 96

Morris, George U., 10, 88, 89, 92

Nantucket, 34

Napoleon, Louis, Arbitration about Brig "Armstrong," 81

Navy, Ships of, 68, 73, 74, 79, 82, 88, 90, 97; Improvement, 87, 97, 105

New Orleans, 82

New York, City of, 54

"New York," Cruiser, 106

Norse Costumes, 35

Norsemen, 33, 34, 40, 105

Norse ships, 35

Norway, 33

Ocean, The, painting, description of, 10, 27, 28, 109

"Olympia," The, 106, 107, 108

Paintings of Edward Moran, partial list of, 17, 18

Parmentier, Antoine Augustin, 20

"Philadelphia," Frigate, Burning of, painting, description of, 75, 76

Pilgrims, 59 to 63, 109; Compact in "Mayflower," 61; Embarkation of, painting, description of, 60

Plymouth Rock, 59

Portuguese Government, 79, 80

Quiberon, 10, 68

"Ranger," 68

Reid, Capt. Samuel Chester, 10, 79, 106; Birth, Death, 82; Long Tom, 79, 80, 81; Sword, 81; United States Flag, 81

Return of the Conquerors, painting, description of, 105, 106, 107

Sampson, William T., 10, 105, 106

"Santa Maria," "Nina" and "Pinta," painting, description of, 41, 42

Santiago Harbor, Battle of, 107

Schiller, Friedrich, quotation from, 43

Schley, Winfield Scott, 10, 96, 105, 106

Ships of Captain Bainbridge, 73; Columbus, 39, 40; Commodore Decatur, 74; De Soto, 47; Dewey, 106, 107; Henry Hudson, 53; Paul Jones, 68; Commodore Lloyd, 79; Commander George U. Morris, 88; Norsemen, 35; Pilgrim Fathers, 59; Captain Samuel C. Reid, 79; Sampson, Schley, 106, 107; Lieutenant Worden, 98

Sinking of the "Cumberland" by the "Merrimac," painting, description of, 90, 91

Southampton, 60

Spanish-American War, 105 to 109; Return of Conquerors, painting, description of, 105, 106, 107

Statue of Liberty, 18, 96, 105

Taylor, Bayard, quotation from, 36

Thirteen, number connected with events in history of the United States, 9, 10, 67

Thirteen Paintings, Exhibition of, 9, 27; General Description, 7 to 11, 68; Litigation about, 8; Sizes of, 27, 33, 39, 47, 53, 59, 67, 73, 79, 87, 95, 105

Tripoli, 73, 74

United States, Constitution of, 62; Number of States, 9, 67, 81, 106; Population, 106

Vinland, 34, 36

Virginia, Colony of, 59

Wainwright, Richard, 10, 107

Wars: Civil, 82, 87, 108; 1812, 82, 108; Revolution, 67, 108; Spanish-American, 43, 108

Webber, Paul, 16

Welles, Gideon, Alarm about "Merrimac," 91; Letter to Lieutenant John L. Worden, 99, 100

West Indies, origin of name, 43

White Squadron's Farewell Salute to the Body of Capt. John Ericsson, painting, description of, 95, 96

Worden, John L., 10, 98, 99

World's Fair, Chicago, 40, 80


[A] Moran v. Morrill, 78 Appellate Division Reports, 440.

[B] Moran v. Morrill, 177 New York Reports, 563.

[C] Size of canvas: nine and one-half feet in length by six and one-quarter feet in height.

[D] About six feet long by about three and one-half feet high.

[E] Eight feet long by four and one-half feet high.

[F] Four and one-half feet long by three feet high.

[G] It is difficult to preserve the full beauty of the original of these concise verses in a translation; but in attempting this I have found it quite as easy to rhyme them as to reproduce them simply in the blank verse of the original, in which rhymes occur in only two lines.

[H] About four feet long by two and one-half feet high.

[I] About eight feet long by four and one-half feet high.

[J] About four feet long by about two and one-half feet high.

[K] About six feet long by about three and one-third feet high.

[L] This is the only upright canvas of the series, being about five feet in height by about three and one-half feet in width.

[M] About five and one-half feet long by about three feet high.

[N] About four and one-quarter feet long by about three feet high.

[O] About four and one-half feet long by about three feet high.

[P] This, it would seem, ought to be March 9th.

[Q] Four and one-half feet long by about three feet high.

Transcriber's Note: Italics are rendered as underscores, and accents and ligatures have been removed from the following words: manoeuvring (oe lig.), Phoenicians (oe lig.), Nina (n tilde), Longpre (e acute), nee (1st e acute). In the original book, omitted text within quotations was indicated with a series of asterisks rather than ellipses. These have been retained as printed. Hyphenation has been regularized in the words gunboat(s) and northwestern. One spelling error was corrected: Acording to According (p. 33, "According to these, Eirek the Red...")


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