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Life on board a ship…

Just the thought of spending any amount of time on the water makes me nauseous because I’m the kind of person who gets seasick sitting on a ferry. To even think about doing anything besides curling up in a ball and waiting for it to be over is an accomplishment in my eyes. That’s why I just had to share what I saw in collection MS0007, the Robert Weir Papers.

In 1862, Weir enlisted in the Union Navy and served as third assistant engineer and second assistant engineer on the USS Richmond. While on board the sloop-of-war USS Richmond in the early 1860s, he spent some time to capture scenes from everyday life on board a ship in his pencil and ink drawings.

We are lucky to have his unique works in our archives, so please enjoy this small sample!

Weir gives us a glimpse into training activities. Below is an image of a broadsword exercise:

In the drawing below, Weir provides a caption for the scene: “Pikemen – Away!! Repelling boarders”. I love how he pays careful attention to the details. See that small box towards the bottom right-hand corner of the image? In the actual piece, this section is approximately 1/2 cm, but he has provided a label for the contents of the box: “LOADED IX IN SHELL 5 sec.”

In the sketch below, Weir provides the following caption for this image of the ironclad Manhattan: “a truthful sketch of the Manhattan as she was when I visited her this morning- our load was very near being landed high & dry in her decks several times-“
Finally, Weir also provides a view of the vessels Genesee, Richmond, Monongahela, Kineo, Mississippi, Mortar Boats, Essex, Albatros and Hartford in battle.

This is just a very small sampling of the drawing in the Robert Weir collection. Come on by the Library to see his other illustrative works (and to see the very fine details). In addition to these snapshots of life at sea, we also have his satirical pieces, sketches of vessels, fleets and correspondence.

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