Sharp lined and capable, the Maine-built Ship BYZANTIUM owns interesting moments of maritime history. In this 1861 working portrait, she is running to Liverpool in company with a British ship, both fighting a surging storm sea. Ten men are visible on deck, attentive to the challenge of controlling a large sailing ship in such conditions, her lower main and fore sails employed with a single jib sail.
Built in 1856 in Warren, Maine, the 1048-ton BYZANTIUM ran the first-ever load of Honduran sugar to Europe, 100 barrels, in 1857. The ship served the short-lived Eastern Line of New York of Songey, Smith & Co. in 1858 on a run to Liverpool, and prior to the 1860s sailed for the Brigham Line between New York, New Orleans and Europe. Throughout it all, she was captained by American W.R. Hilton, who remained a principle partner in all aspects of the ship. It is likely that Captain Hilton and owner C. Carey were involved in the direct commission of this painting from Tudgay. Another portrait of BYZANTIUM off Dover was painted by the artist in 1861, both with the tight deck detail that is a signature element of Frederick Tudgay’s paintings.
American packet merchant vessels dominated the transatlantic trade from 1818 until the Civil War, and it was with these ship owners that the Tudgay family found most of their commissions. BYZANTIUM served faithfully, until she was captured and burnt by Confederate Officer Lt. Charles W. Read during his run in 1863 off Nantucket and Maine, where he destroyed more than 20 vessels in less than three weeks.
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