A dynamic painted view of a conflict at sea between America and Great Britain over national rights and Imperial ambitions, the first frigate of the United States, aptly named UNITED STATES, de-masts the British MACEDONIAN on the way to capturing the valuable ship as a war prize on Oct. 25, 1812. Grant has imbued the scene with the dramatic impact and an aesthetically strong interpretation of the important naval battle, nailing the historic fact of the U.S. Frigate’s complete defeat of King George III’s Ship off the coast of Africa.
Slightly more than two months after the U.S.S. CONSTITUTION won the first naval engagement of the war, the frigate UNITED STATES of 44-guns fell in with H.M.S. MACEDONIAN of 38-guns. The British captain, John Carden, had been Captain Stephen Decatur’s dinner guest in January, and had jokingly bet a “beaver hat” on an outcome between their ships. Little did either know that nine months later Decatur would command his 24-pounders to fire on his friend. American marksmanship and range proved superior, and UNITED STATES would strike, bear-away slightly, reload, and strike again. In a two-hour engagement, MACEDONIAN’s masts were shot down and topped off. It is recorded that more than 100 rounds hit the Brits ‘between wind and wave’.
The two ships would take five-weeks to sail to New York, where MACEDONIAN would be purchased by the American government and become an fighting navy asset for years. Her Alexander the Great figurehead and four 18-pounders are still on display at Annapolis. Grant has put together a powerful rendering of the conflict in an impressionistic, fluid portrayal.