12 at Midnight: The Hibernia Attempting to Run the Comet Down

Artist Thomas Whitcombe (British, 1763-1824) completed his painting 12 at Midnight: The Hibernia Attempting to Run the Comet Down in 1814, the same year as the battle between the two schooners during the War of 1812.

According to the Smithsonian: "Privateers like the Comet - privately armed vessels acting under legal authority from President Madison to seize enemy vessels as prizes of war - were sleek and fast, cramming in crews of 100 to 150.

During the War of 1812, President Madison issued 500 letters of marque authorizing privateers; 200 of the ships took prizes. It cost $40,000 to buy and fit out a large privateer. Prizes could net $100,000.

Thomas Boyle, one of the most successful privateers, captained the 350-ton, 16-gun schooner Comet from 1812 to 1814, taking 27 prizes with a crew of 130.

On January 11, 1814, Boyle engaged the 22-gun, 800-ton Hibernia in the West Indies in a battle beginning at 7:30 p.m. At half past midnight, the Hibernia, as depicted in the painting, attempted to ram the Comet. The battle ended indecisively at 3:00 a.m., with eight dead and 13 wounded on the Hibernia to three dead and 16 wounded on the Comet."

Artist: Thomas Whitcombe
Date: 1814
Original medium: Oil on Canvas
Reproduction enhanced by Rebel Seed Studio