Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Great Encouragement for Seamen, 1777

"Great Encouragement for Seamen" broadside, E. Russell, 1777, Library of Congress American Memory.

Today's entry is a bit different. Broadsides were a useful recruitment tool for naval and privateer vessels throughout the eighteenth century. Encouraging sailors to sign up with promises of prize money, the authors of these advertisements tried to play to both the sailor's patriotism and their pocketbook.

This broadside is an important piece of history in that it is calling for sailors to man the Ranger under the legendary John Paul Jones. It was this voyage that brought news of Burgoyne's defeat at Saratoga, and brought France into the American Revolutionary War on the side of the Americans.

This figure does not appear to be a sailor. He wears a mitre cap, a regimental coat, breeches, stockings, and a soldier's spatterdashes. Matched with the field gun on the left (clearly not a naval cannon), I think we can safely say this is not a tar. Still, the pose is a familiar one, having appeared on numerous broadsides, not unlike "The British Flag Insulted, a Satyrical Song" from 1757.

Here's where things get interesting. The coat of arms depicted here shows a two masted vessel over a whale or fish. To the left is a phyrgian cap on a pole, a commonly used symbol of liberty. To the right is a figure that almost perfectly matches the previous detail: regimental coat, spatterdashes, and cutlass. His cap might be a mitre cap, a thrum cap, a Dutch cap...maybe even another phyrgian cap! Regardless, this figure is clearly meant to be associated with the nautical nature of the seal.

Is this broadside intended to equate the service of naval seamen with that of the Continental soldiers? Is this image meant to depict a marine? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I'm just catching up on some old entries when I saw this one. Not too long ago I was doing some research into the issue of cloth mitre caps still being worn at the start of the Revolutionary War (particularly 1775 where there are a couple claims of mitre caps being taken from British grenadiers at Bunker Hill).

    This print adds more fuel to the speculation. Unfortunately very little is actually written about mitre caps (or even grenadier bearskins). There's a Rhode Island unit that was raised in 1774 which has leather caps, and a CT one also raised in 1774 that was cloth. That lends credence to the idea that perhaps British soldiers were still wearing them.

    OTOH, the one example of a mitre cap supposedly from Bunker Hill has lots of issues (I think it's actually a French & Indian war cap myself), and, AFAIK, there aren't any accounts which say anything at all about grenadier caps at that battle.

    Then you come along with this print to add more fuel to the speculation, as it shows a soldier wearing a mitre cap in 1777. However the soldier's uniform appears to me to be pre-1768, so was the printer reusing older prints (which we know happened on a regular basis)? Or was he using a contemporary image and thus indicating that cloth mitre caps were still being worn regularly (or at least sometimes)?

    Near as I can tell the answer will probably remain "We don't know, but possibly", which is essentially the answer I got from Don Hagist when I asked him about the whole thing.

    Oh, have you seen this?

    I know it's a bit later than you normally cover (the diary starts in 1790), but I figured you'd probably find the article interesting, even if it is from 2008.