Description

    DEATH OF HERKIMER
    Unknown American Artist. Circa Nineteenth Century.
    25" x 30" sight size. Framed to an overall 30" x 35".
    Oil on canvas.

    Nicholas Herkimer (1728-1777) was a militia general in the American Revolutionary War who died of wounds suffered at the Battle of Oriskany of the Saratoga Campaign. It was a very interesting situation in that Americans fought against Americans and Indians fought against Indians. The battle took place on August 6, 1777; Loyalists and Native Americans fought against Patriots (there were no British soldiers). The Oneidas allied with the American militia and fought against members of the other Iroquois nations. Herkimer's horse was shot, and he was seriously wounded in the leg. In spite of his injuries, he sat propped against a tree, lit his pipe, and directed his men in battle. Afterwards, the brigade surgeon dressed the wound and placed him on a litter. His leg quickly became infected but nothing was done for about ten days when an inexperienced surgeon botched an amputation. Herkimer bled to death and died on August 16, 1777.

    This painting shows a soldier of the period with a seriously wounded and broken right leg leaning against a tree handing his sword to another officer standing beside him. Previous owners have identified it as the scene of Herkimer's death probably due to a passing similarity to F. C. Yohn's "Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany." It is possible that this is correct. It is also possible that it is an imaginary scene, not picturing a known event. We also feel, due to the sword being passed along, that it might possibly portray the scene of the death of another, even more famous patriot, General Richard Butler.

    Richard Butler (1743-1791) was an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. At Yorktown, George Washington conferred the honor on Butler of receiving Cornwallis' sword of surrender (which Butler passed on to his second in command, Ebenezer Denny). Later in his career, when American Indians resisted U.S. occupation of Ohio, Butler, now a major general, was sent north from Fort Hamilton, second-in-command in an expedition led by General Arthur St. Clair. Two of his brothers Thomas and Edward were in the company with him. On the morning of November 4, 1791, Indians led by Chief Little Turtle ambushed the army and killed 600 men and scores of women and children in the Battle of the Wabash, also known as St. Clair's Defeat. Richard was mortally wounded; his brother, Thomas, was shot in both legs. Richard ordered their younger brother Edward to leave him and save Thomas, which he did. Richard gave his sword to another officer with the admonition never to wipe Butler blood from the blade. That sword, years later, was given to Edward's son Edward George Washington Butler for his father's bravery in attempting to save his brothers. Richard Butler was later killed with a tomahawk blow to the head.

    Whichever scenario is correct doesn't really matter. This is a dramatic and emotional scene of a long-past period in our country's history. It displays very well and would certainly be at home in any historical or art collection. Craquelure is evident on much of the painting and there are a few tiny paint chips that could easily be repaired. This does not detract though from its overall appeal.


    Fees, Shipping, and Handling Description: Framed - without Glass, Large (view shipping information)

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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    12th-13th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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