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A Tour Through the Mediterranean with Joseph Partridge

A recent inquiry from the Assistant Professor of Mediterranean History and Archaeology at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World brought a really cool assemblage of watercolors in our collection to my attention. The images were painted by Joseph Partridge, an artist turned Marine stationed aboard USS Warren between 1827 and 1830.

Partridge was born in England in 1792 and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1817 where he opened a school to teach watercolor drawing. A few years later he moved to Boston and then Providence, Rhode Island where he again advertised for art students. By 1824 Partridge was living in abject poverty in Taunton, Massachusetts. Still an unsuccessful artist and teacher, Partridge enlisted as a Private in the US Marine Corps on August 26, 1825. Interestingly, his enlistment papers show his occupation as an “anatomical painter” but the majority of the images in our collection are landscapes. [Looking at his rather amateurish portraits it’s no wonder why he wasn’t wholly successful! I’ve included one at the bottom of this post so you can form your own opinion.]

Following his enlistment, Partridge reported to the Charlestown Navy Yard and remained there until January 1, 1827 when he was assigned to Warren. Partridge spent the next three years aboard the ship and it was during this time that he produced his greatest body of work: watercolors depicting the ship and places it visited and two portraits of interesting people he encountered (which will be the subject of my next blog post!).

USS Warren, Act of Bearing Up in the Archipelago. The Archipelago referred to in the title is most likely the area between Cape Matapan and the western end of Crete. In a letter dated April 3, 1828 Kearny states about the voyage from Smyrna to Mahon: “We have had a long passage of 63 days, experiencing a succession of heavy gales of wind from the N.W. and squalls, rendering it not only tedious, but very dangerous to the safety of the vessel being light and badly provided with rigging.” Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1947.0851.000001)

USS Warren was a second-class 697-ton sloop-of-war built at the Boston Navy Yard. It was commissioned on January 14, 1827 with Master Commandant Lawrence Kearny in command. On February 22nd Warren sailed for the Mediterranean to become part of the naval squadron tasked with protecting American merchant ships from Greek-flagged pirates. The Greek War of independence had erupted in 1821 and by 1827 the Greek Navy and many private citizens had turned to piracy as a way of acquiring supplies and supporting the rebellion.

To protect American trade, the squadron established a regular convoy system between Malta and Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey). Besides escorting convoys and protecting merchantmen, Warren played a pivotal role in reducing Greek depredations by actively patrolling the Greek archipelago and seizing or destroying Greek-flagged vessels suspected of engaging in piratical activities. As the ship moved through the Aegean and Mediterranean seas Partridge painted views of the islands and ports the ship passed by or visited.

Malta. During one of Warren’s visits to Malta Partridge painted this view of the town of Valletta. At the extreme right is round Fort Tigné. Next to it a ship sails from Marsamxett Harbor with Fort Manoel behind. At the center is the massive Fort St. Elmo and the town. At the left is the entrance to the Grand Harbor guarded by Fort St. Angelo. The outer walls of Fort Ricasoli sit in the foreground of the town at the extreme left. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1940.0692.000001)
Castle of St. Elmo. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1948.0690.000001)

The ship arrived at Gibraltar on March 26 and after a short stay headed for Port Mahon (Minorca) in order to check in with the commodore of the squadron, John Rodgers. Warren then headed to Malta to assemble a convoy but diverted to Syracuse to avoid being detained by Malta’s quarantine practices. While in Syracuse Partridge painted an image of the landmark known as the “Ear of Dionysius.” Unfortunately the image is lost. This image of the town of Catania and a looming, snow-capped but smoking Mount Etna, which is close to Syracuse, may have been created around the same time. The ship left Syracuse on May 15th and after a quick call for a pilot at Milos arrived in Smyrna on June 14th.

Port of Catania. The blue domed building may be the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata. Painted by Joseph Partridge (Accession#: 1940.0691.000001)
View of Smyrna, Caravan Bridge over the Meles by Joseph Partridge. Interestingly, Captain Kearny made notes about the view on the watercolor’s mount. The notes were most likely made for his brother Francis who was an engraver and publisher. Kearny’s notes state: “This view is taken from a station near the caravan bridge. The cypress trees stand in Turkish cemeteries. The distant land is Cape Kara Bournon at the entrance of the Gulf of Smyrna. LK.” (Accession#: 1947.0852.000001)

Leaving Smyrna on June 16th the ship made a quick stop and Vourla (Urla, Turkey) to take on water. After leaving Urla the ship passed Ipsara (Psara, Greece), sailed through Doro Passage and anchored at Poros. It is with Partridge’s image of Poros that we learn that Commandant Kearny was apparently engaging in a little side business with his brother Francis, a noted engraver and publisher in the United States. Kearny apparently “directed” Partridge to create landscape images which he then sent to Francis for engraving and printing. Francis published four of Partridge’s images although only one identifies the artist, the rest are simply marked “original drawing done under the direction of an officer in the U.S. Navy”–one wonders how much poor Mr. Partridge benefited from this arrangement!

U.S.S. Warren off Poros. Engraving by Francis Kearny after a watercolor by Joseph Partridge. Published in Lawrence Kearny: Sailor Diplomat by Carroll Storrs Alden (Call#: E182.K3 A4)
Although this port is unidentified it bears a remarkable resemblance to Poros. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1940.0694.000001)

After leaving Poros the ship sailed through the straits around Hydra, Greece and headed up the Argolic Gulf to Napoli di Romania (Nafplio, Greece) where they anchored on June 23rd. The following day clerk James Parker and four or five officers climbed about a million stairs to reach the Palamidi Castle–the large fortress that guards the town. Parker called the fortress “the strongest fortress on the seaboard, and one of the strongest in all Greece.” At the time of Warren’s visit the Castle was under the control of General George Grevis, a tough man who wasn’t above opening his batteries on the town if he wasn’t happy with the quality of the supplies they provided!

Napoli di Romania. The image shows the fortified town and the stairs rising from it to the Palamidi castle. In the foreground at the left the Bourtzi Castle sits in the middle of the harbor. At the right, on a rise behind the town is the Acronauplia, the oldest part of the city and part of the town’s fortifications. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession# 1999.0005.000001)

Warren’s pirate hunting activities started in earnest after escorting a convoy from Smyrna on September 25, 1827. The ship separated from the convoy about 180 miles west of Cerigo (Kythera, Greece) to cruise between Cape Matapan and Carabusa (Gramvousa, Crete). Her first captures occurred on October 4th with a small “piratical boat” crewed by “fourteen well-armed men and one boy.” Just a few hours later they caught a newly-built 180-ton brig.

Scio. Warren visited Ipsara around July 11 and then headed for Scio (Chios, Greece). Sadly, after leaving port one of the ship’s quarter gunners fell overboard and was lost despite the crew’s best efforts to save him. Engraving by Francis Kearny after watercolor by Joseph Partridge.

Over the next few weeks the ship continued cruising and occasionally ducked into ports to check for ships that needed convoying. Warren frequently chased suspicious vessels including one particularly long chase of a suspicious looking brig from Cape Spada in Crete all the way up the Argolic Gulf. This event gave Partridge another chance to paint Napoli di Romania and he may have painted the island of Spezzia (Spetses, Greece) around the same time.

Napoli di Romania. Panoramic view of Nafplio with the Bourtzi Castle at the left. The anchored American warship may be USS Warren. This image was one of those engraved by Francis Kearny. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1947.0850.000001)
Island of Spezzia before the Gulf of Napoli di Romania. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1947.0849.000001)

While at Milos on October 26th Kearny learned from a French store ship of pirate attacks on the brigs Cherub, Rob Roy and Susana. The ships had been part of a convoy escorted by USS Porpoise but had separated from it on October 15th only to find themselves surrounded by pirates the following day while sailing between Tinos and the pirate stronghold of Mykonos.

View of the Harbor of Milo. The image shows the entrance to the Bay of Milos with large columns of dacite lava standing at the right. At the left, on the top of the tallest mountain is the town of Milos and Plaka Castle. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1940.0693.000001)

While sailing towards the site of the attacks Warren spotted a hermaphrodite brig trying to hide behind the island of Argentira (Kimolos). The brig was pursued and grounded on the south side of the island. Warren fired 40 cannon shots into the vessel and rocks along the shoreline in an effort to capture some of the crew but the pirates successfully escaped into the mountains. Since the vessel was believed to have robbed Cherub, shore parties stripped off its sails and rigging, cut away its masts and sent it to the bottom of the harbor.

Tino. The image shows a panoramic view of the town nestled between the hills and the rugged Exomvourgo mountain. The large building at the center may be the Holy Church of Panagia Evangelistria of Tinos (also called Our Lady of Tinos or Our Lady of the Annunciation) which was under construction at the time Warren visited (finished in 1830). Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1947.0890.000001)

A few days later Warren located Cherub and towed her to Syra (Syros, Greece) where she was left under the protection of USS Lexington. Warren resumed the hunt and the next day while sailing between Tinos and Mykonos found the Austrian brig Silence robbed of everything on board–including her sails, rigging and even the men’s clothes! At that point it became clear to Kearny that Mykonos was the source of many of the depredations and he resolved to combat the problem at its source.

After towing Silence to Syros, Warren cruised around Mykonos and captured every vessel it could find including a large tratta “capable of rowing 40 oars.” On October 31st Kearny sent a strongly worded message to the island’s governor in which he demanded explanations and “atonement” for the crimes and the restoration of the stolen materials or he would use the “force which is at my disposal.”

Mytelene. It’s unclear when Warren visited Mytilene (on the island of Lesvos) although the port was a frequent stopping point on voyages from Smyrna to Milos. Mytilene is less than 60 miles from Izmir so it could have happened during any one of the ship’s visits to Smyrna. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1940.0696.000001)

The ship entered Mykonos harbor on November 1st with permission to send search parties ashore to hunt for pirates and piratically plundered property, but cooperation from the island’s inhabitants was not forthcoming so Kearny launched a small bombardment of the town and temporarily took a few local authorities captive. Two or three houses were struck and there were no casualties but the townspeople quickly changed their minds about cooperating with the Americans.

Within a few minutes several vessels came alongside Warren loaded with parts of Cherub’s cargo so Kearny sent a detachment of men ashore to recover everything they could. According to clerk James Parker all the houses of the town were literally stuffed to the gills with stolen cargo including sails, rigging, figs, raisins and many other items. They also recovered two cases of opium taken from Rob Roy, and the sails and rigging taken from Silence. The townspeople also turned over four men accused of being pirates and the landing party picked up a fifth in the mountains.

View of Pantellaria, The Castle Prison Bearing Sth. USS Warren made trips to Port Mahon (Minorca) several times during its time in the Mediterranean. The ship would have passed the island of Pantellaria on each voyage to and from the Spanish port. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1940.0690.000001)

The ship returned to Syros on November 7th and Kearny returned the recovered cargo and gear to the plundered vessels. Not wasting any time, Warren put to sea that evening and headed for the island of Andros where Lieutenant William Hudson led a boat expedition around the island. Near the south end of the town they captured one small “piratical craft” and burned another. The American sailors also blew up a house owned by a reputed pirate and raised and took possession of a boat that had been sunk in the harbor to avoid detection. Rob Roy’s master later identified the boat as the craft that attacked his vessel. Possibly hearing of Warren’s attack on Mykonos the people of Andros turned over a pirate boat containing a 12-pound carronade and tools from Cherub.

Mahon, from the Quarantine Ground. USS Warren visited Port Mahon in Minorca in April 1828 and again in January-February 1829. The two American ships anchored before the military hospital on Illa del Rei are probably USS Constitution and the topsail schooner USS Porpoise. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1935.0592.000001)

On November 18th, Warren entered the port at Milos and stayed there until late November. On the 27th of that month, the American brig Sarah and Esther and six other vessels arrived and three days later sailed for Smyrna under Warren’s protection. They arrived at their destination, without incident, on December 6th.

Fire in Smyrna, Evening of the 26th of August, 1828. During one of Warren’s visits to Izmir the crew witnessed an interesting and unfortunately regular occurrence in Smyrna–a fire. Apparently it was spectacular enough that Partridge decided to immortalize it. Painted by Joseph Partridge. (Accession#: 1940.0689.000001)

Warren remained in the western Mediterranean guarding American commerce for the next two years. Captain Kearny left the vessel in late June 1829 while the ship was at Port Mahon. USS Warren and Partridge returned to Norfolk on August 31, 1830 and Sergeant Partridge was honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps at Gosport, Virginia on October 18, 1830 and died at some time before 1834.

Tripoli. One of the last ports visited by USS Warren before it left the Mediterranean was Tripoli. Painted by Joseph Partridge in November of 1829. (Accession#: 1940.0015.000001)
Unidentified port. Partridge painted two images of ports in the Mediterranean. One may be Poros but this one is a little more difficult to identify. Obviously a heavily used port, one wonders if this might be the neutral ground near Gibraltar? (Accession#: 1940.0695.000001)
Portrait of Moses Brown. Painted by Joseph Partridge in Rhode Island in 1823.
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