James Kochan Fine Art & Antiques

Specializing in American and British art, manuscripts, imprints, maritime and martial artifacts, 1700-1850

Manuscripts & Rare Books
Left:  View of the two Head logbooks, with one opened to a watercolor of HMS Whiting in Cumberland Sound, January 1815

Right:  Head's sepia watercolor view of the British attack on Point Peter, Georgia from Cumberland Island, January 10, 1815.

Blockade & Boat Actions:  The Drawings and Logbooks of Horatio Nelson Head

 Two folio volumes, each bound in leather with gilt lettering and decoration and inset, vellum panels on front and rear covers, the spines titled 'LOG' and the front covers 'LACEDAEMONIAN' (the spine of first volume split and binding loose); each consisting of approximately 140 pages of entries, the first log covering the period 17 March 1813-18 July 1814 and with 12 drawings tipped in; the second log for 19 July 1814-15 September 1815 and with 4 drawings tipped in.

     Horatio Nelson Head  joined HMS Lacedaemonian at Palermo, Sicily on 8 March 1813, one month into her maiden voyage.  Eleven days later, the 14 year-old was entered on the ship's muster book as a "Volunteer 1st. Class"--just prior to the 38-gun frigate's transfer to the North American station.  For the next two years, Horatio and his 280-odd shipmates would find themselves active participants in the War of 1812--blockading American ports, battling hurricanes, chasing privateers and taking part in amphibious operations against US military strongholds.  As a Volunteer 1st Class (essentially a midshipmen-in-waiting, for lack of slot against that formal warrant), Head berthed with the midshipmen and attended classes and performed the same duties as such, but in an unofficial capacity.  Judging by his namesake, the young Briton must have been earmarked for a naval career at birth.  Before going to see, he had attended the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth and while there, probably honed his skills in drawing and painting under the tutelage of John Thomas Serres, drawing instructor at the school and a noted marine artist.

      A talented amateur artist, Head recorded his wartime adventures in a unique series of sixteen watercolor drawings made on the spot, and subsequently tipped them into the two logbooks that he also kept during his 1813-1815 service aboard Lacedaemonian.   His watercolors, coupled with his logbooks entries, capture the sense of immediacy of naval life and its hazards, from battling hurricanes to pursuit of fast-sailing Baltimore privateers in high seas.  They afford the viewer not only a rare glimpse of life aboard a British man-of-war during the War of 1812, but more importantly, including striking visualizations of naval events heretofore unrecorded--including the blockade of the USS Constellation at Hampton Roads, chasing privateers off Charleston and Savannah, and the amphibious actions against Cumberland Island and Point Peter, Georgia.  The Head drawings are an important new addition to the sparse, contemporary visual record of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Bay and Southeastern coastline of the United States. 

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