The HMS Shannon captures the USS Chesapeake in the War of 1812

Henry Meyer, engraver, STRUCK with the Gallantry, Skill, and Decision, Displayed by Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, Baronet, K. C. B., Commander of his Majesty’s Frigate, the Shannon, in the attack, boarding, and capture of the American Frigate, the Chesapeake…. The Inhabitants of Suffolk… voted him this Tribute of their Affection, Gratitude and Admiration. London: the Proprietor (i.e., S. Hougham & Co.), Decr. 2d. 1816.
Hand-colored aquatint on wove paper, 15 ¼”h x 15 ¼”w plus legend and margins.

A rare and lovely aquatint of a “silver plateu” presented by the citizens of Suffolk, England to Philip Broke, Captain of the HMS Shannon, in recognition of his victory over the ill-starred USS Chesapeake.

This print offers the British side of this famous War of 1812 naval engagement off Boston, which resulted in the capture of the Chesapeake and well over than 200 casualties including the death of American Captain James Lawrence. The battle is remembered today both for the fame of the Chesapeake—whose boarding by the HMS Leopard in 1807 had nearly precipitated war–and for Captain Lawrence’s immortal “Don’t give up the ship” exhortation as he was carried below after receiving his mortal wound. The Chesapeake was subsequently repaired and taken into the Royal Navy, though in 1819 she was sold and broken up.

The plateau (i.e., “platter”) features a central vignette of the battle, with the Chesapeake and Shannon trading broadsides, “at the Period when the British Hero received his Wound on the Quarter Deck of his opponent.” This is set within a frame of a laurel wreath surrounded by an ornate rococo design replete with allegorical imagery, all explained in detail in a long engraved note at the base of the print. The upper corner of the plateau bears a scalloped frame with an inset vignette of Broke “borne in a Triumphal car” by three sea horses while Neptune looks on. At the opposite corner, “Britannia, borne on a Sea Horse, holds the Trident of Neptune in one Hand whilst she hurls her Thunder on the American Eagle, that is expiring at her Feet.” The other corners feature Victory and Commerce, respectively, while scattered throughout the design are figures “intended to convey the Characteristic of the British Nation in Contest.”

Portrait painter and engraver Henry Meyer

“was born in London about 1782. Thought to be the son of an engraver (possibly J.H. Meyer), he was a nephew of the painter John Hoppner. He trained under Francesco Bartolozzi, whose influence may be seen in the dotted manner of much of Meyer’s work in stipple and mezzotint. Meyer worked mainly for print publishers and engraved over 250 works after masters of the English school. More at home engraving in copper than in steel, Meyer did relatively little work for the book trade. He also painted a large number of portraits, both in oil and watercolour, exhibiting at the Royal Academy between 1821 and 1826. He was one of the founding members of the Society of British Artists, becoming its President in 1827. Meyer’s engraved work consists largely of portraits, including likenesses of George IV, Nelson, and Byron. He died on 28 May 1847.” (Edinburgh University Library, The Walter Scott Digital Archive)

In all, an unusual, finely-executed and extremely rare image of this famed War of 1812 engagement.

Grolier Club, The United States Navy 1776-1815, #111. Irving Olds, Bits and Pieces of American History, #228. Lossing, Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812, vol. II, pp. 709-10. OCLC 774686625 (Clements and Library of Congress only). Not in COPAC.


Minor spotting, minor discoloration and soiling and a few short mends and restorations along edges, not affecting printed image.