The Wasp and the Frolic
Thomas Birch, American (born England), 1779 - 1851
Oil on canvas
Currently not on view
2011-91-3Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection, 2011
LabelThe United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812 and sent the sloop of war Wasp out to harass all British shipping. Sailing from the Delaware River that October, the Wasp encountered a convoy of merchant ships escorted by the British HMS Frolic. The Wasp attacked and both vessels were damaged, but commander Jacob Jones and his men seized victory by aggressively boarding the Frolic. Thomas Birch made a name for himself by painting the exploits of the young American Navy. Here, he commemorates a fleeting moment of triumph as the Wasp crew bravely storms the decks of the enemy ship, just a few hours before a larger British warship arrived to force their surrender.