Saturday, September 17, 2016

Protecting the Newcomers - Fort Taylor, Florida by Seth Eastman 1808-1875


During the late 18C & through much of the 19C, army forts were constructed throughout the United States to defend the growing nation from a variety of threats, both perceived & real, both external & internal. Internal threats included those from the Native Americans who had been on the land for enons. 

Seth Eastman (American artist, 1808-1875) Fort Taylor, Florida

Fort Taylor, Florida

The federal government broke ground on Fort Zachary Taylor in 1845, the same year that Florida became a state. Progress was extremely slow because of the remote location at Key West harbor and the tropical climate. The former made obtaining building materials difficult, and the latter brought yellow fever and hurricanes. Although its completion was thus delayed until 1866, the fort nonetheless played a significant part during the Civil War by intercepting blockade-running ships. It may have been this role, as well as Fort Taylor’s physical setting, that inspired Eastman’s unusually expressive painting.

This is one of the more striking paintings in the series because of the ambitious and dramatic atmosphere. The fort is solid and inert, its flag positioned in the exact center of the image. The sky is a mauve-gray concoction with darker cloud trails at the top. The water is windblown and dynamic, swirling around the foreground buoys and composed in a counterpoint of movement with the sky. The huge fort is suspended between sky and water, slightly left of center, with carefully drawn sailing vessels balancing the picture to the right. Only a small portion of land is visible on the left.

From the office of the United States Senate curator we learn that in 1870, the House Committee on Military Affairs commissioned artist Seth Eastman 17 to paint images of important fortifications in the United States. He completed the works between 1870 & amp; 1875. 

Born in 1808 in Brunswick, Maine, Eastman found expression for his artistic skills in a military career. After graduating from the US Military Academy at West Point, where officers-in-training were taught basic drawing & amp; drafting techniques, Eastman was posted to forts in Wisconsin & amp; Minnesota before returning to West Point as assistant teacher of drawing. 

While at Fort Snelling, Eastman married Wakaninajinwin (Stands Sacred), the 15-year-old daughter of Cloud Man, Dakota chief. Eastman left in 1832 for another military assignment soon after the birth of Their baby girl, Winona, & declared His marriage ended When He left. Winona was also known as Mary Nancy Eastman & was the mother of Charles Alexander Eastman, author of Indian Boyhood .

From 1833 to 1840, Eastman taught drawing at West Point. In 1835, he married his 2nd wife & was reassigned to Fort Snelling as a military commander & remained there with Mary & their 5 children for the next 7 years. During this time Eastman began recording the everyday way of life of the Dakota & the Ojibwa people. Eastman established himself as an accomplished landscape painter. Between 1836 & amp; 1840, 17 of his oils were exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City. 

Transferred to posts in Florida, & amp; Texas in the 1840s, Eastman became interesed in the Native Americans & made sketches of the people. This experience prepared him for the next 5 yeas in Washington, DC, where he was assigned to the commissioner of Indian Affairs & illustrated Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's important 6-volume Historical & amp; Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, & Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. 

In 1867 Eastman returned to the Capitol, this time to paint a series of scenes of Native American life for the House Committee on Indian Affairs. Of his 17 paintings of forts, 8 are located in the Senate, while the others are displayed on the House side of the Capitol. Eastman was working on the painting West Point when he died in 1875.


At Rocky American Watersides


Winslow Homer (American painter, 1836-1910) Girls with Lobster


Winslow Homer (American painter, 1836-1910)  Children on the Beach



Walter I. Cox (American artist, 1866–1930) By the Sea


George Washington's 1777 Fight Against Smallpox


Portrait of George Washington, 1772 by Charles Willson Peale, Washington-Custis-Lee Collection, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.

This is historian Tom Shachtman’s account of George Washington's insistance that his army be inoculated against smallpox saving the lives of thousands of soldiers & in the process indirectly safeguarding the young nation he was charged with defending. This excerpt was adapted by Shachtman for The Daily Beast, from his latest book, Gentlemen Scientists & Revolutionaries: The Founding Fathers in the Age of Enlightenment.

"In early January 1777, General George Washington decided to take an action that would later be deemed his most important strategic decision of the war, even though it had nothing to do with the positioning of his troops, & to take it on the basis of his scientific understanding of the situation: he was going to order the inoculation of all Continental troops & recruits against smallpox. For an agonizing 18 months he had been wrestling with the decision, knowing it would mean having to counter the express orders of the Continental Congress & the decrees of the legislatures of half the rebelling colonies.

"It would be a daring, possibly dangerous move because, a quarter-century before the introduction of the Jenner “cowpox” vaccine that would make immunity to smallpox widely available, smallpox was still the biggest killer of the age. It had been so for the American colonies since the earliest days of European settlement: once or twice every decade, smallpox would sweep through cities & countryside, causing between 10 & 20 percent of all deaths in the years it appeared. 

"In July 1775, when Washington had 1st taken command of the Continental Army, outside of Boston, smallpox was rampant in the city. Reporting to John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, Washington wrote that he & his staff had been “particularly attentive to the least Symptoms of the Small Pox; hitherto we have been so fortunate as to have every Person removed so soon, as not only to prevent any Communication, but any Apprehension or Alarm it might give in the camp. We shall continue the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous enemy.” 

"Vigilance, yes; but taking the most aggressive action—not so much. While Washington was acquainted with a technique for protecting people against smallpox, he would not then use it, partly because it was deemed illegal by the Continental Congress & colonial legislatures, & partly because many physicians believed the technique did more to spread the disease than to halt its progress.

"The technique, called “variolation,” was a form of inoculation in which pus from an infected person was inserted under the skin of an uninfected one; that gave the inoculee a mild case of the disease and, after the passing of a period of high communicability, lifetime immunity. But although championed by such scientific heroes as Benjamin Franklin, & undergone willingly by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, & other leaders, variolation was castigated as unsafe for the community because the patient had to be isolated for a week prior to the inoculation & two weeks or more after it. Congress had forbidden military doctors to administer it & forbidden army officers to take variolation or have their subordinates do it, on pain of being cashiered.

"During the 1st year of the Revolutionary War, Washington’s tactic of isolating army patients of smallpox didn’t stop the disease; that year, smallpox caused the deaths of more Continental troops than died on the battlefield.

"Washington had his own immunity to smallpox, acquired in the “natural way,” through having survived a case of smallpox when still a teenager; the pock marks on his face were its testament. When the British abandoned Boston in the spring of ’76, Washington ordered that all the 1st Continental troops to enter the city have pock-marked faces, & that among their 1st tasks was the removal of any infected civilians. 

"After Washington’s victory in Boston, the remaining nine months of 1776 were among the most difficult for the commander & the American cause, with significant losses in the New York area in the summer & fall. He & the troops then retreated across New Jersey to a winter redoubt. 

"Meanwhile, Massachusetts had seen the light in regard to smallpox: after the military action had moved away from the area, & wanting to prevent a resurgence of the epidemic, the Massachusetts authorities lifted their ban on variolation & an orgy of it ensued—nearly 5,000 of the Boston area’s 10,000 inhabitants were inoculated in a relatively short period of time. 

"For Washington, the advent of winter meant fewer battles & more time for uninterrupted thought. During it, he reached two linked realizations that thereafter shaped his strategy: first, that preserving his forces was more important than controlling territory, & second, that to properly preserve those forces he would have to prevent them from dying of smallpox.

"The scientific evidence on which he would base the decision was accumulating. The Massachusetts mass variolations proved it could be done. On a personal level, he had more evidence. He had his wife, Martha, inoculated in Philadelphia, & she came through the process healthy. But he also knew that the moment for ordering mass variolation would have to be opportune. Knowing that Congress would not be easily convinced, he softened them up by repeatedly petitioning for permission to allow troop detachments on their way to join the main army to skirt smallpox-prone Philadelphia. Each time, when he made these requests, Congress acceded to them, but still did not relent & issue a general order to inoculate the troops. Indeed, the idea of mass inoculation seems not to have occurred to the delegates, not even to the handful of physicians among them. 

"Military victory always gives a field commander added clout with his civilian overseers. Washington’s shocking success in the December 1776 raid across the Delaware River to seize Trenton had that effect—and he decided to seize the moment to unilaterally decree inoculation for smallpox as the policy of the army.

"There then arose another roadblock in the path toward troop immunization, the result of intrigue among the fraternity of physicians in Philadelphia that led to a change in command of the medical services. Dr. John Morgan, perhaps the best-trained physician in the colonies, was then the leader. Dr. William Shippen Jr., Morgan’s rival since the days when they had both been at prep school, successfully connived to replace Morgan by accusing him of poor management bordering on dereliction of duty. Washington did not like the change but accepted it. He knew Shippen, who had recently inoculated Martha, & he was on even more familiar terms with Shippen’s brothers-in-law, the Lee family of Virginia. Partly to win Shippen to his position on mass variolation, Washington confided to him that he was going to petition Congress to raise the pay of surgeons willing to travel with the troops. But the main point of Washington’s argument to the new chief medical officer was, as he would soon put it, “Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure [inoculation against smallpox], for should the disorder infect the Army… & rage with its usual Virulence, we should have more to dread from it than from the sword of the enemy.”

"Shippen’s initial answer to Washington’s request on mass variolation was a surprising but logical no; the doctor objected to it on the grounds that provision for post-inoculation isolation was inadequate, which might spread rather than limit the disease. During the remainder of January, Washington deferred to Shippen’s caution, but as February began & renewed outbreaks of the disease confronted the army, he overruled Shippen’s caution. 

"He had to inform Congress, but he decided to do so by burying the smallpox-prevention decision in the middle of a long letter to Hancock about other matters. Even so, the 1st draft of the paragraph about mass inoculation, written on February 5, contained a dollop of self-doubt: “The small Pox is making such Head in every quarter that I am fearful it will infect all the Troops that have not had it. I am divided in my opinion as to the expediency of innoculation, the Surgeons are for it, but if I could by any [other] means put a Stop to it, I would rather do it. However I hope I shall stand acquitted if I submit the Matter to the Judgment & determination of the medical Gentlemen.”

"Washington re-read the draft of the paragraph & judged the wording as too weak, that his “divided opinion” or his deference to the “surgeons” might provide Congress with reason to order him not to inoculate, or a way to use the doctors to gainsay him. That would not do. So aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman was instructed to cross out that wording & substitute a stronger one, making the tenth paragraph of Washington’s February 5, 1777 letter to Hancock read: “The small pox has made such Head in every Quarter that I find it impossible to keep it from spreading thro’ the whole Army in the natural way. I have therefore determined, not only to innoculate all the Troops now here, that have not had it, but shall order Docr Shippen to innoculate the Recruits as fast as they come in to Philadelphia. They will lose no time, because they will go thro’ the disorder while their cloathing Arms & accoutrements are getting ready.”

Not waiting for a reply from Congress, the next day Washington issued unequivocal instructions to Shippen to begin mass variolation for smallpox. The entire inoculation campaign was carried out in secret to prevent the British—and American Tories—from finding out about it & taking advantage. Small groups of Continental officers at a time were permitted to leave the Continental Army’s main camp to go to Philadelphia for the inoculation process; & physicians were dispatched to Kingston, New York & to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to set up facilities for inoculation, isolation, & recuperation. The isolation sites were mostly in private homes & churches.

"Not all of Washington’s field commanders immediately agreed to the procedures. When there were objections, Washington’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton, writing while the commander-in-chief was ill for a few days, reinstructed such officers as General Alexander McDougall & Major-General Adam Stephen on the unyielding nature of Washington’s demands for inoculation. To Stephen, in answer to an objecting letter to headquarters from Colonel Andrew Ward, a Stephen subordinate, Hamilton penned the most complete articulation of Washington’s reasoning:
"His Excellency desires that this objection, with respect to Colonel Wards regiment, should cease; & that they may immediately be admitted to the benefit of innoculation, in the usual proportion. He begs also that the present opportunity, while the roads continue incommodious for any movements of the enemy, may be improved to the greatest advantage, as we do not know how long it may last; & shall have no time to spare, even if the utmost diligence is used …. Let this be urged upon the Doctors, & every thing else done which may be conducive to dispatch, in a matter of so great importance."

"Washington also convinced Governor Patrick Henry to repeal Virginia’s law against inoculation. Troops traveling north from the Carolinas were soon stopping in Virginia to be inoculated before continuing on.

"In the spring of 1777, the Continental Congress, acknowledging Washington’s success with mass variolation, at last issued a formal inoculation order. Before the end of 1777, nearly 40,000 troops had been inoculated. In the year following the start of mass inoculation, the infection rate from smallpox in the Continental Army fell from 17 percent to 1 percent.

"Inoculating the American troops against smallpox effectively shielded Washington’s army from being decimated by disease until the arrival of foreign arms made it possible for them to turn the tide of battle in America’s favor. Nothing that Washington did had a greater impact on the outcome of the war than his actions to protect his troops from death by smallpox."

Tom Shachtman (b 1942) is an author, journalist, filmmaker, & educator. He has published more than 30 books across a variety of topics, including histories, biographies, & books for children.


Morning Madonna


Unknown Flemish Master Virgin and Child 1490s

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.