Military history

VICTORY RECOLLECTED

Scenographia Americana

The Seven Years’ War brought many artistically talented officers to America. Engineers like Archibald Campbell rendered landscapes with topographical precision; amateur artists like General Wolfe’s aide-de-camp Hervey Smyth (shown supporting his chief’s right arm in The Death of General Wolfe ) practiced the genteel art of the sketch. After the war, several London printsellers engaged engravers to turn these eyewitness records into twenty-eight superb, folio-sized mezzotints. The set went on sale in 1768 for the considerable sum of four guineas (four pounds, four shillings).

Scenographia Americana: Or, a Collection of Views in North America and the West Indies . . . From Drawings taken on the Spot, by several Officers of the British Navy and Army appealed to affluent print buyers, although Britons of modest means could buy individual views for three shillings, sixpence each. French and Spanish translations of the print titles suggested that the Scenographia was also intended for export. Yet it is hard to believe that many copies sold in France or Spain, for the set as a whole illustrated a narrative of British imperial glory.

The story began with the capitals of the old British colonies. Boston (plate 1), Charleston (2), and New York (3) appeared as prosperous port towns, while a second view of New York (4) from inland depicted its setting in conventional pastoral terms. The first glimpses of the colonies thus emphasized civility, but, moving inland, a less constrained nature soon emerged. Dramatic cliffs and mountains dominate views of the Tappan Zee (5) and the Catskills (6), while eighty-foot-high cataracts dwarf human figures in Great Cohoes Falls (7) and Falls on the Passaick (8).

Yet the engravings also showed that despite nature’s power, civilization advanced with the plow. A Design to represent the beginning and completion of an American Settlement or Farm (9) directed the eye from the gloomy forest and rude cabin at the left to a Georgian house, sunlit fields, and coppiced woods on the right. A similar message appeared in A View of Bethlem (10), which testified to the industry of Count Zinzendorf’s Moravian followers, who had prospered under Britain’s beneficent rule.

War and conquest shaped the narrative’s second half. Neither Indians nor colonists played any role in this story, which began in 1758 with Britain’s first notable victory. A View of Louisburg (11) showed an artillery crew manhandling a gun into place while sailors bring fascines to shield it. The French fleet lies captive in the harbor while the British fleet rides at anchor in Gabarus Bay (left); the fortress awaits its doom.

Louisbourg’s fall opened Canada to invasion, as depicted in images from Hervey Smyth’s sketchbook. The dense forest surrounding a fishing settlement on Gaspé Bay (12) and a farming village at Miramichi (13) suggested how little the French improved their possessions, yet a note that 4,500 quintals—half a million pounds—of fish had been captured at the Gaspé settlement indicated how the conquests would improve British trade. The fleet passes Pierced Island (14) on its way to Québec, where several dramatic scenes ensue. Montmorency Falls’ natural sublimity frames the courage and self-sacrifice of Wolfe’s abortive July 31 attack (15). Plate 16 shows Cap Rouge, the departure point for the British boats on September 13, while plate 17 depicts Québec itself. The East View of Montreal (18) shows a scene from 1760, when Canada’s last defenders lay trapped within the indefensible city.

From Canada, the scene shifted to the conquest of the West Indies. This series begins outside Havana, where exotic plants (like the weirdly bent mountain aloe in plate 19) and exotic people (like the creoles and slaves in plates 20 and 21) inhabit an alien landscape. Two urban views strike a similar chord. Tropical light drenches the Franciscan Church and Convent (22) and the Market Place (23); yet both scenes remind viewers of British conquest. Men-of-war ride at anchor near the church; an infantry company forms up in the marketplace, while sailors in short, baggy trousers look on from the left foreground. Plate 24 shows boat crews towing a man-of-war seaward, past sunken wrecks. At the harbor’s mouth the Punta (left of the ship) and Morro Castle fly the Union Jack, testifying to British power.

The war returned in scenes from the conquests of Dominique (25) and Guadeloupe (26)—views that illustrate the heroism of amphibious assaults. The final plates, however, turned from battle to its serene aftermath. A North View of Fort Royal (plate 27) depicts soldiers at ease in camp. British social order and British services frame the scene: at left, an officer shows a lady the camp, while at center a soldier kisses an unresisting wench; on the right, a soldier and a sailor shake hands, symbolizing the cooperation that had made victory possible. An East View of Fort Royal (28) similarly shows officers, soldiers, and sailors contemplating a glorious sunset. Inshore a sloop skims the water, while along the horizon ships sail eastward at cable’s length intervals.

Viewers could decide for themselves whether those distant ships were merchantmen, deep-laden with the fruits of conquest, or men-of-war sailing off to new triumphs. Whatever they were, Britons of 1768 could read the same message in that tranquil scene. The sun had set on France’s empire. Britain reigned supreme over its dominions, safe by land and by sea. The future of empire stretched ahead toward vistas of prosperity and power as majestic as the American landscape, as boundless as the sea.

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Plate 1. A View of the City of Boston the Capital of New England, in North America. | Vue de la Ville de Boston, Capitale de la Nouvelle Angleterre, dans l’Amerique Septentrionale. | Drawn on the Spot by his Excellency, Governor Pownal; Painted by Mr Pugh, & Engraved by P. C. Canot.

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Plate 2. A View of Charles Town the Capital of South Carolina in North America. | Vue de Charles Town Capitale de la Carolina du Sud dans l’Amerique Septentrionale. | Engraved by C. Canot from an Original Painting of T. Mellish, in the Collection of Mr John Bowles.

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Plate 3. A South West View of the City of New York, in North America. | Vue de Sud Ouest de la Ville de New York, dans L’Amerique Septentrionale. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Thomas Howdell, of the Royal Artillery. Engraved by P. Canot.

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Plate 4. A South East View of the City of New York, in North America. | Vue de Sud Est de la Ville de New York, dans L’Amerique Septentrionale. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Thomas Howdell, of the Royal Artillery. Engraved by P. Canot.

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Plate 5. A View in Hudson’s River of the Entrance of what is called the Topan Sea. | Vue sur la Riviere d’Hudson, de l’entree counue sous le nom de Mer de Topan. | Sketch’d on the Spot by his Excellency Governor Pownal. Painted by Paul Sandby, Engraved by Peter Benazech.

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Plate 6. A View in Hudson’s River of Pakepsey & the Catts-Kill Mountains, From Sopos Island in Hudson’s River. | Vue sur la Riviere d’Hudson dans Pakepsey et des Montagnes de Catts-Kill, Prise de l’Isle de Sopos, situee dans cette Riviere. | Sketch’d on the Spot by his Excellency Governor Pownal. Painted & Engraved by Paul Sandby.

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Plate 7. A View of the Great Cohoes Falls, on the Mohawk’s River; The Fall about Seventy feet; the River near a Quarter of a Mile broad. | Vue de la Grande Cataracte de Cohoes, sur la Riviere des Mohawks; La Hateur est l’environ 70 pieds; l sa Riviere a pres l’un quart de Mille de large. | Sketch’d on the Spot by his Excellency Governor Pownal. Painted by Paul Sandby, & Engraved by Wm Elliott.

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Plate 8. A View of the Falls on the Passaick, or second River, in the Province of New Jersey. The height of the Fall between Eighty and Ninety feet; the River about Eighty Yards broad. | Vue de l’Cataracte du Passaick, ou seconde Riviere, dans la province du Nouveau Jersey. La Hauteur de cette Chute est de 80 à 90 pieds, et la Largeur de la Riviere d’environ 40 Toises. | Sketch’d on the Spot by his Excellency Governor Pownal. Painted and Engraved by Paul Sandby.

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Plate 9. A Design to represent the beginning and completion of an American Settlement or Farm. | Dessein qui represente la maniere d’etablir et de parachever une Habitation ou Ferme Americaine. | Painted by Paul Sandby, from a Design made by his Excellency Governor Pownal. Engraved by James Peake.

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Plate 10. A View of Bethlem, the Great Moravian Settlement in the Province of Pennsylvania. | Vue de Bethlem, principal Etablissement des Freres Moraves dans la Province de Pennsylvania. | Sketch’d on the Spot by his Excellency Governor Pownal. Painted and Engraved by Paul Sandby.

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Plate 11. A View of Louisburg in North America, taken near the Light House when that City was besieged in 1758. | Vue de Louisburg, dans L’Amerique Septentrionale, prise du fanal durant le dernier Siege en 1758. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Ince of the 35t Regt. Engraved by P. Canot.

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Plate 12. A View of Gaspe Bay, in the Gulf of St Laurence. This French Settlement used to supply Quebec with Fish; till it was destroyed by General Wolfe after the surrender of Louisburg in 1758. During the stay of the British Fleet in 1759, General Wolfe resided at the House on the Beach. | Vue de la Baye de Gaspé dans le Golfe de St Laurent. Cet Établissement François fournissoit Québec de Poisson jusqu’à ce qu’il fut détruit par le Général Wolfe, après la reddition de Louisbourg en 1758. Pendant le séjour de la Flotte Angloise en 1759 le Général Wolfe fit sa residence dans la Maison sur la Grève. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Hervey Smyth. Engraved by Peter Mazell.

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Plate 13. A View of Miramichi, a French Settlement in the Gulf of St Laurence, destroyed by Brigadier Murray detached by General Wolfe for that Purpose from the Bay of Gaspe. | Vue de Miramichi Établissement François dans le Golfe de St Laurent, détruit par le Brigadier Murray, détaché à cet effet de la Baye de Gaspé, par le Général Wolfe. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Hervey Smyth. Etch’d by Paul Sandby. Retouch’d by P. Benazech.

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Plate 14. A View of the Pierced Island, a remarkable Rock in the Gulf of St Laurence. Two Leagues to the Southward of Gaspée Bay. | Vue de l’Isle Percée, Rocher remarquable dans le Golfe St Laurent a 2 Lieues de la Baye de Gaspe. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Hery Smyth. Engraved by P. Canot.

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Plate 15. A View of the Fall of Montmorenci and the Attack made by General Wolfe on the French Intrenchments near Beauport, with the Grenadiers of the Army, July 31, 1759. | Vue de la Chute ou Saut de Montmorenci et de l’Attaque des Retrenchments François près de Beauport, par le Général Wolfe avec le Grenadiers de l’Armée le 31 Juillet 1759. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Hervey Smyth. Engraved by Wm Elliott.

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Plate 16. A View of Cape Rouge or Carouge, Nine Miles above the City of Quebec on the North Shore of the River St Laurence. From this place 1500 chosen Troops at the break of Day fell down the River on the Ebb of Tide to the place of Landing 13 Sept. 1759. | Vue de Cap Rouge vulgairement Carouge, à 9 Miles au dessus de la Ville de Québec, sur le bord septentrional de la Riviere de St Laurent. C’est de Carouge que 1500 Hommes de Troupes choisies descendirent ave La Marée, au Lieu du debarquement 13 Sept. 1759. | Drawn on the Spot by Capt Hervey Smyth. Engraved by Peter Mazell.

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Plate 17. A View of the City of Quebec, the Capital of Canada, Taken partly from Pointe des Peres, and partly on Board the Vanguard, Man of War, by Captain Hervey Smyth. | Vue de la Ville de Québec, Capitale du Canada, Prise in partie de la Pointe des Peres, et en partie abord de l’Avantgarde Vaisseau de Guerre par le Capt Hervey Smyth. | To the Right Honourable William Pitt, One of his Majestie’s most Honourable Privy Council & Principal Secretary of State, These Six Views of the most remarkable Places in the Gulf and River of St Laurence are most humbly Inscribed, by his most Obedient humble servant Hervey Smyth, Aid du Camp to the late Genl Wolfe.

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Plate 18. An East View of Montreal, in Canada. | Vue Orientale de Montréal, en Canada. | Drawn on the Spot by Thomas Patten. Engraved by P. Canot.

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Plate 19. A View of the Harbour & City of the Havana, taken from the Hill near the Road, Between La Regla & Guanavacoa. | Vue du Port et de la Ville de la Havane, prise de la Montagne près du Chemin entree la Regla et Guanavacoa. | Vista del Puerto y Cuidad de la Havana, desde el Monte inmediato del Camino entre La Regla y Guanavocoa. | To the Right Honourable George Earl of Albemarle, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Forces on the late Expedition to Cuba; These Six Views of the City, Harbour, & Country of the Havana, are most humbly Inscribed, By his Lordship’s most Obedient & Devoted Humble Servt Elias Durnford, Engineer.

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Plate 20. A View of the City of the Havana, taken from the Road near Colonel Howe’s Battery. | Vue de La ville de La Havane prise du chemin pres de La batterie du Colonel Howe. | Vista de la Ciudad de la Havana desde el camino de la bateria del Coronel Howe. | Drawn by Elias Durnford Engineer. Etch’d by Paul Sandby, & Engraved by Edwd Rooker.

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Plate 21. A View of the Harbour and City of the Havana, taken from Jesu Del Monte. | Vue du Port et ville de La Havane prise de Jesu del Monte. | Vista del Puerto y Ciudad de la Havana desde Jesus del Monte. | Drawn by Elias Durnford, Engineer. Engraved by T. Morris.

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Plate 22. A View of the Franciscan Church & Convent in the City of Havana, taken from the Alcalde’s House in Granby Square. | Vue de l’Eglise et du Convent des Franciscains, dans la Ville de la Havane, prise de la Maison de l’Alcalde das la Place de Granby. | Vista de la Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco en la Ciudad de la Havana, desde la Casa de los Alcaldes en la Plaza de Granby. | Drawn by Elias Durnford, Engineer. Engraved by Edward Rooker.

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Plate 23. A View of the Market Place in the City of the Havana. | Vue de La Place du Marché dans La ville de La Havane. | Vista de la Plaza del Mercado en la Ciudad de la Havana. | Drawn by Elias Durnford Engineer. Engraved by C. Canot and T. Morris.

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Plate 24. A View of the Entrance of the Harbour of the Havana, taken from within the Wrecks. | Vue de L’entrée du Port de la Havane prise en dedans des Bâtiments echoues. | Vista de La entrada del Puerto de la Havana desde los Naufragios. | Drawn by Elias Durnford, Engineer. Engraved by Peter Canot.

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Plate 25. A View of Roseau in the Island of Dominique, with the Attack Made by Lord Rollo & Sr James Douglass, in 1760. | Vue de Roseau dans L’Isle de Dominique, avec L’Attaque faite par Milord Rollo et le Chevalier Js Douglass, en 1760. | Drawn on the Spot by Lt Arch. Campbell. Engraved by James Peake.

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Plate 26. A South West View of Fort Royal in the Island of Guadaloupe. | Vue du Fort Royal dans l’Isle de la Guadaloupe, du Cote du Sud Est. | Drawn on the Spot by Lieut Arch. Campbell Engineer. Engraved by P. Benazech.

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Plate 27. A North View of Fort Royal in the Island of Guadaloupe, When in Possession of his Majestys Forces in 1759. | Vue du Fort Royal dans l’Isle de Guadaloupe du Cote du Nord, Occupé par les troupes de sa Majesté Britannique en 1759. | Drawn on the Spot by Lieut Arch. Campbell Engineer. Engraved by Grignion.

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Plate 28. An East View of Fort Royal in the Island of Guadaloupe. | Vue du Fort Royal dans l’Isle de Guadaloupe, du Cote de l’Est. | Drawn on the Spot by Lieut Arch. Campbell Engineer. Engraved by Peter Mazell.

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