Naval Portfolio, No 4.
Henry Walke

 
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Henry Walke's Classic Naval Lithograph Portfolio. Perhaps the rarest American Naval print series was created by then Lieutenant Walke. It is a series of eight plates depicting Naval actions in the Mexican War in the Spring and Summer of 1847. Walke served in the war as the second in command of the U.S.S. Vesuvius, a bomb brig of the Gulf Squadron. During the war the Vesuvius participated in the blockade Laguna and supported landings at Tuxpan and Tabasco.

After serving for eight months on the Vesuvius, Walke returned to the United States in October 1847 and went on extended leave until September of 1848. He immediately began work on his Naval lithograph portfolio and it was completed during this period.

All of the lithographs were after original art by Walke. He personally rendered five of them onto the lithograph stones. Numbers 1, 3, 4, 5 & 7 were executed by Walke onto the lithograph stones. The others (Nos. 2, 6 & 8) were executed on the lithograph stones by others but based upon Walke's original art.

"Naval Portfolio No. 1~8" is stated at the top of each lithograph. There is also a line of text in smaller print reading "Naval Scenes in the Mexican War by H. Walke, Lieut. U.S. Navy." The image is surrounded by a thick (2~4 mm wide) frame box. Directly below the image, and within the image frame box, small print text is seen at the left (lithographer - "Sarony & Major"), middle ("Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1847 (1848)....") and to the right the name of the artist who executed the image on lithograph stones ("Executed by H. Walke Lt. U.S.N." etc., or other named artists "after Walke"). At the bottom under the image frame box in large print is the title of the image in double line letters. This is followed by lines of smaller print descriptive text. On some of the lithographs the name and address of the lithographer/publisher ("Published by Sarony & Major, 117 Fulton Street, New York." is stated below the descriptive text.

The plate size of these lithographs is generally 20 3/4 x 26 3/4+ in (53 x 68 cm). The image areas (including the image frame box) vary slightly but generally measure 15~15 1/4 x 21 1/4~22 1/2 in (37.8~38.5 x 53.8~56.8 cm).

The four lithographs that I have examined are tinted lithographs. There are executed in black & white and contain an additional tint color tint. Some of the lithographs may be multi-color (chromolithograph) but I have not personally examined one.

This work is sometimes described as a book. It apparently was issued with a folio case to house the loose lithographs. Complete sets of all eight lithographs are rarely seen. Even single lithographs are seldom seen and generally in poor condition. The Library of Congress on-line exhibit titled "Pictorial America" contains all 8 of these lithographs.

 

Naval Portfolio No. 4

Title: "The Attack of the Mexicans from the Chapperal, on the first Division of the Naval Expedition to Tabasco (Mexico.).
Consisting of the U.S. Steamer Scorpion Comore. Perry. Capt. Breese and Comaer. Bigelo Bomb Brig Vesuvius. Comaer.Magruder. Brig Washington, Lieut. Comaer. S.S. Lee. With a Detachment of Seamen and Marines in Barges from the Steam Frigate Mississippi; Under, Comaer. Mackenzie and H.A. Adams, Marines Comanded by Capt. Edson."

"Designed and Drawn on Stone by H. Walke, Lt. U.S.N."

The image presented in this lithograph was discussed by William Elliot Griffis in his biography of M. C. Perry.

THE NAVAL BRIGADE. CAPTURE OF TABASCO.

Commodore Matthew C. Perry was one of the first American naval officers to overcome the prejudice of seamen against infantry drill, and to form a corps of sailor-soldiers. Under his predecessor, the navy had lost more than one opportunity of gaining distinction because unable to compete with infantry, or to face cavalry in the open field. Perry formed the first United States naval brigade, though Stockton in California employed a few of his sailors as marines in garrison. The men of Perry's brigade numbering twenty-five hundred, with ten pieces of artillery, were thoroughly drilled first in the manual of arms and then in company and battalion formations under his own eye. His first employment of part of this body was at Tuspan. Twenty-two days after the fall of Vera Cruz, and on the day of the battle of Cerro Gordo, the bar at the river's mouth was crossed by the light ships, the fort stormed, and Tuspan 'taken at a gallop!' Obliged to give up his marines to General Franklin Pierce, Perry drilled his sailors all the more, so that little leisure was allowed them.

The capture of Tabasco involved the problem of fighting against infantry, posted behind breastworks, with sailors. This was somewhat novel work for our navy. Hitherto all our naval traditions were of squadron fights in line, ship-to-ship duels, or boat expeditions. In the present case the flotilla was to ascend a narrow and torturous river to the distance of nearly seventy miles through an enemy's country densely covered with vegetation that afforded a continuous cover for riflemen, and then to attack heavy shore batteries.

From various points on the coast, the ships and steamers assembled like magic, and on Monday morning, June 14, 1847, the squadron came to anchor off the mouth of the Tabasco river. The detachments from eleven vessels, numbering 1084 seamen and marines in forty boats, were under the Commodore's immediate direction and command. He had prepared the plan of attack with great care. Every contingency was foreseen and provided against, and the minutest details were subject to his thoughtful elaboration.

At that point of the river called the Devil's Bend, danger was apprehended. Here the dense chapparal feathered down to the river's edge affording a splendid opportunity for ambush. The alert Commodore was standing on the upper waist deck of the Scorpion under the awnings entirely exposed, on the look-out for the enemy. Suddenly, as the flag-ship reached the elbow, from the left side of the river the guns of at least a hundred men blazed forth in a volley, followed by a dropping fire. In an instant the awnings were riddled and all the upper works of wood and iron scratched, dented, and splintered, by the spatter of lead and copper. Strange to say, not a single man on the Scorpion was touched by the volley though a sailor on the Vesuvius was hit later.

As the smoke curled up from the chapparal, Perry pointed with his glass to the guns still flashing, and gave, or rather roared out, the order "Fire." The guns of the Scorpion, Washington and the surf-boats, with a rattling fusillade of small arms, soon mowed great swaths in the jungle. From the masthead of the Stromboli, a number of cavalry were seen beyond the jungle. A ten-inch shell, from the eight-ton gun of the Vesuvius, exploding among them, seemed to the enemy to be an attack in the rear, cutting off their retreat, and they scattered wildly. Very few of the Mexicans took time to reload or fire a second shot. (At page 241-243, Matthew Calbraith Perry, A Typical American Naval Officer, William Elliot Griffis, Boston & New York, Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1890)

A tinted lithograph. The plate measures 20 3/4 x 26 3/4+ in (53 x 68 cm). The image (including the image frame box) measures 15 x 21 1/4 in (37.8 x 53.8 cm).

 
Close-up of the Title at Top

 
Close-up of the Ships

 
Close-up of the Lettering/Descriptive Caption

 
Close-up of the Lithographer

 
Close-up of "Entered According to Act of Congress"

 
Close-up of Artist's Name

This is one of the five lithographs which Walke personally drew on the lithographic stones.

 
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