Classic Bermuda Civil War Painting Is For Sale

May 27, 2013

A classic watercolour of a Confederate cruiser painted in Bermuda when the warship wasn’t wreaking havoc on US Navy vessels during the American Civil War [1861-1865] has been offered for sale by a Virginia gallery.

The watercolour “Florida — Running Before A Gale” has been attributed to Bermuda-based Edward James and was painted while the ship was in port in St. George’s in 1863.

Alexandria fine arts dealer Christopher H. Jones says painter Edward James capitalised on the “near celebrity status” of Confederate raiders and blockade-runners which visited Bermuda during the War Between the States, placing an advertisement in September, 1863 offering drawings of the various ships in St. George’s harbour.

Captained by John Newland Maffitt [1819-1886] of Wilmington, North Carolina the “Florida” — launched in 1862 — had gained fame for her relentless attacks on US Navy ships blockading Confederate ports.

“The ‘Florida’ operated as a commerce raider from the West Indies to New England throughout the first months of 1863,” said a Christopher H. Jones spokesman. “By the summer she had sunk or captured millions of dollars of Union shipping and was constantly pursued by warships of the US Navy.

“On July 17 the Florida reached Bermuda where Maffitt hoped to take on coal and contract for repair but was refused access to official British government fuel stockpiles or drydocks. He was allowed to await the arrival of a coal ship and secure emergency repairs by private commercial yards.”


During this brief stay in Bermuda, Captain Maffitt encountered Edward Copeland Stiles [circa 1827-1895] who had been in Saint George’s as early as December, 1862 where he was reported by the US Consul as deeply involved in Confederate naval activities.

The painting of the “Florida” was commissioned by the “Florida’s” captain and presented to the Confederate agent, carrying the inscription: “Presented to Capt. E.C. Stiles by his friend Capt. Maffitt C.S.N. Commanding C.S.S. Florida July 21, 1863.”

Ship’s logs show that the Liverpool-built “Florida” sailed for France for repairs on July 27 indicating that the presentation of the painting took place only a few days before her departure.

“The dramatic image of the ship, decks cleared and battened down, running before a gale must certainly have depicted a particular event but the details have proven elusive,” said the Christopher H. Jones spokesman. “With the exception of the stacks, the ship portrayed closely resembles surviving images of the Florida and it seems certain that the proud Maffitt would have only presented his friend with a painting of the Confederate States Ship ‘Florida’.”

Edward James [c.1820-1877] is thought to have been the pseudonym for an Englishman who worked as a journalist and artist in Bermuda from the outbreak of the US Civil War until his death.

Contemporary photograph of the CSS “Florida”


“His surviving paintings are closely related stylistically and show a flair for drama and detail that are quite similar to the depiction of the ‘Florida’,” said Christopher H. Jones. “James was well known in St. George’s and was commissioned by the US Consul, Charles Allen to make sketches of various Confederate vessels for the use the US Navy in inentifying the rebel vessels which changed their names frequently.”

While anchored in a Brazilian harbour in October, 1864, the “Florida” was caught defenseless in an illegal night attack by Commander Napoleon Collins of USS “Wachusett.”

Towed to sea, she was sent to the United States as a prize despite Brazil’s protests at this clear violation of their sovereignty. Commander Collins was court-martialed and was convicted of violating Brazilian territorial rights, but the verdict was set aside by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.

At Newport News, Virginia on November 28, 1864, “Florida” sank under dubious circumstances after a collision with a troop ferry.

The sinking was most likely carried out with Admiral David Dixon Porter’s encouragement to prevent “Florida” from being delivered to Brazil in satisfaction of the final court order — a move which would have allowed the cruiser to rejoin the Confederate Navy.

For further details about the painting, contact the Christopher H. Jones gallery at [703]-622-9978.

Read More About

Category: All, Entertainment, History

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Always interested in old Bermuda books, maps, prints, paintings and photographs. especially Edward James