Tributes & Stories


By Warren D. J. Hoppe ’61

This is a companion piece to the article bearing this same title appearing in the March-April 2022 issue of Shipmate.


Charles Robert Patterson, who became known professionally as C.R. Patterson, is considered by many as the most accomplished marine artist of the first half of the 20th Century. By far, his greatest output was an untold number of paintings of merchant sailing ships that carried the world's commerce until eclipsed and then fully replaced by more mundane steamers. He knew his ships and he knew the sea and he captured both magnificently on canvas. How he came by his talent began with his childhood and was honed when he went to sea in his early teens.


Edward Julius Berwind graduated as a Passed Midshipman. hewas promoted to Ensign in July 1870 and to Master (a rank equivalent to today's lieutenant junior grade) in March 1872. He was aboard first ship in European waters during the Franco German War of 1870 and this is when he met the Prince of Wales. But for his disability, indications are that he meant to make the Navy his career–with service in the White House during the Grant Administration being a significant steppingstone. Making the most of the situation, he returned to his home state of Pennsylvania and became active in the burgeoning Coal Industry.

The Berwind-White Coal Mining Company began as a partnership between Edward Berwind, his brother Charles, who was two years older, and Judge Allison White, a former congressman, with Charles serving as its first president. Upon White's death in 1886, the firm was reorganized as Berwind-White, Inc. and following his brother's death in 1890 at age 44, Edward succeeded him, remaining president until 1930. Working closely with J. P. Morgan to expand the business, Berwind obtained the Navy's coal contract at a point when coal was becoming essential to naval operations. Besides being the major supplier of coal to the US Navy, the company provided coal to Vanderbilt's railroads, the New York City subway system, and a host of other enterprises. A dark side of Berwind was that he ruled his empire with an iron fist, refusing to bargain with his employees or allowing them to unionize.

Berwind and his wife Sarah, who predeceased him in 1922, shared a passion for the arts and their homes, the Edward J. Berwind House at a corner of East 64th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City and “The Elms” in Newport, RIwere built to house their magnificent art collection. Both mansions survive to this day, with the Edward J. Berwind House once again a private residence after several intervening incarnations and The Elms, now a property of the Preservation Society of Newport County, having become one of Newport's most popular tourist attractions. Also surviving to this day is Berwind-White, Inc., which is now known as Berwind Corporation, or simply Berwind. Still privately owned, it divested its coal operations decades ago and has grown into a multi-billion dollar diversified industrial company. 


In 1928 as Berwind approached retirement, a rekindled enthusiasm for naval history led him to commission Patterson to create a series of paintings depicting four epoch American sea battles won by the early sailing navy. By this time Patterson was considered by many as the most-accomplished painter of sailing ships–both merchantmen and yachts, and his recent paintings of modern US warships had been well received. But painting sailing warships in action was a new challenge for him which he enthusiastically accepted.

Following their discussions, Berwind and Patterson would settle upon a quartet of identically sized 42 inch by 28 ½ inch canvases capturing the combat implicit in their titles:

                             “Bonhomme Richard vs, HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779”

                             “USS Constellation vs, L'Insurgente, 9 February 1799”

                             “USS Constitution vs, HMS Guerriere, 19 August 1812”

                             “USS United States vs. HMS Macedonian, 25 October 1812”

By early 1929, Patterson had completed the commission. Arranging to have them copyrighted in the Berwind-White name, he had the images reproduced in a set of lithographic art prints which the coal company then made available to the public and would feature on its calendars. The reaction of the prints soon established that Patterson was as adept at rendering scenes of early warships engaged in battle as he was at portraying sailing ships involved in commerce.

The images were subsequently published as illustrations for the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings and in January 1963, Berwind Corp, presented the original paintings to the U. S. Naval War College Museum, where they now hang side-by-side with accompanied descriptive information captioned “Command of the Sea”.

Constitution vs. Java – C. R. Patterson’s “Opening of the Action between the U.S.S. Constitution and H.M.S. Java, December 29, 1812,” featured in the Naval Academy’s Memorial Hall was the first of eight murals to be completed was presented in 1932 by Edward Julius Berwind (1848-1936) to memorialize the Class of 1869 as it's last surviving member. (staff photo)

At the turn of the Century, when Ernest Flagg designed the buildings of “The New Naval Academy' which included the Bancroft Hall complex, he envisioned filling the lunettes below Memorial Hall's vaulted ceiling with naval-themed frescoes, painted directly on wet plaster with the technique commonly associated with the Italian Renaissance, but this was not accomplished before the building's completion in 1906, and since the Naval Academy had subsequently been unable to secure appropriations to pay for such work, only conventional rectangular paintings had occupied the spaces.

Over the next several years a growing body of those associated with the Academy came to feel that lack of paintings specifically composed to fill Memorial Hall's lunettes made the building seem “unfinished”. This became a personal concern of Rear Admiral Samuel S. Robison, Class of 1888 following his being sworn in as the Academy's twentyeighth Superintendent on 16 June 1928.

Sometime during 1929, Berwind's associates began observing that he spent countless hours in his office, his thoughts fixed on his days as a midshipman and junior officer, wishing that all the young friends he had made back then were still alive. Eventually word of this was passed on to Admiral Robison in confidence. Armed with this information, he approached Berwind in the spring of 1930 to propose an appropriate gift in honor of his class. Apparently, Berwind agreed to fund such a gift but when the matter came up again with Robison sometime later, he said he had no recollection of ever doing this. Following gentle prodding from Robison, he reconsidered the idea.

After first describing two gift alternatives, Robison offered a third that revolved around a large 20-foot x 10-foot rectangular painting of the battleship Oregon the Academy had received which was slated to be installed in one of the two large lunettes at the ends of Memorial Hall. He proposed that Berwind consider funding a fresco for the opposite lunette, perhaps depicting the battle between Constitution and Guerriere during the War of 1812. He went on to claim that such a painting would bring Memorial Hall into a degree of conformance with Ernest Flagg's original intentions, and being across from the painting of Oregon, would present a fine contrast between the ages of sail and steam. Berwind liked the idea and said he knew just the person to handle the job. He followed up by sending Robison a picture of Patterson's earlier painting of the same sea fight and offered to contact Patterson on behalf of the Academy.

Berwind's negotiations with Patterson went on for a full year. At a meeting in May 1930 the talked about Constitution and Guerriere as subject matter but when Patterson quoted a price for the painting, Berwind' apparently thought the amount was too high because he demurred, saying he would have to get some other wealthy men to chip in. Before they concluded the meeting, Berwind asked Patterson to prepare some small sketches, promising they “would be considered” if the job went forward.

Although Berwind touted Patterson's personal knowledge of ships and the sea to Robison to convince the admiral that Patterson was the man for the project, but he need not have bothered. Several officers surviving at the Academy knew the artist and their high opinion of him had already been shared with Robison. One was his aide, Lieutenant Commander Donald B. Beary Class of 1910, who had been in New Mexico’s ship's company when Patterson was aboard during its Pacific cruise. So, Patterson was invited to Annapolis to visit Memorial Hall after which, as he was led to believe, Berwind would make a decision based on what was relayed to him about the available space.

While at the Academy, Patterson made the acquaintance of the curator of the Naval Academy Museum, Herman P. Kraft. This proved opportune because as the weeks wore on without Berwind making a decision, Kraft frequently counseled patience to dispel Patterson's concerns. And then, when the painting was finally taking shape on canvas, he would prove invaluable as a source of knowledge on many points of minutia regarding early-Eighteenth Century sailing warships.

However, as Berwind continued to dither despite whatever reassurances Kraft might have provided, Patterson seemed ambivalent about putting too much hope in receiving the commission. On the one hand, he relished the thought of doing such a large painting because it would allow him to add a level of detail he often could not accommodate to his satisfaction in his typical smaller works. On the other, he was concerned that Berwind might not be able to raise the additional funding he sought or, if he did, politics might come into play and a commission for the mural could end up being awarded to someone already involved in government-supported art programs.

In the end, Berwind decided to pay for Patterson's services entirely on his own, by which time Patterson's fears of having the job snatched out from under his nose had already been allayed when Kraft explained to him that in underwriting the project as a private citizen, Berwind would be completely free to engage the artist of his choosing.

Berwind's unsuccessful search for one or more co-donors had taken several months and maybe his going through the motion had caused Patterson to adjust his quote downward, However, if true, the total reduction could not have been substantial. Although the amount of the original quote does not seem to have been recorded, circumstantial evidence suggests it was probably in the $15,000 range. Regardless Berwind's attempts to share the cost – which he finally decided to bear himself - seem a bit peculiar in light of his great wealth (following his death six years later, his estate had a net value of just over $31 million – or more than $600 million today).

On 17 April 1931, while approval of the project still languished, Patterson sent Berwind a three-foot wide “rough sketch” for his consideration. Without prompting, the scene he had chosen was the action between Constitution and Java off Bahia, Brazil on 29 December 1812 rather than that battle between Constitution and Guerriere fought earlier that year as Berwind had proposed. Patterson chose the battle with Java because it took place in deep blue water and strong sunlight which should lend themselves well to the bright lighting that the intended location for the completed work seemed to call for. Surprisingly, Berwind showed no displeasure with the change of subject but instead pronounced the sketch “very pleasing” and the subject fit for the planned location. This first sketch, which shows the two antagonists much further apart and on opposite sides of the canvas than in the final work is now in the possession of the USS Constitution Museum in Boston.

Berwind had still not committed to funding the project when on 1 May 1931, Rear Admiral Thomas C. Hart USN (Ret.), Class of 1897, relieved Robison as Superintendent. Sharing Robison's determination to secure the mural for Memorial Hall, Hart came to the job with a personal connection to Berwind, having once lived in a Newport, RI home that Berwind owned. Nothing more than this bare statement about Hart having lived in a Newport property owned by Berwind could be pinned down but it's quite likely the property was Berwind's mansion “The Elms” or a smaller house on its grounds. There are two occasions when this could have occurred, during both of which Hart was a captain. The first of which was when he was in attendance at the Naval War College in Newport for its 1922-23 Academic Year and the second was from 4 October 1927 through June 1929 when he was Inspector of Ordnance in Charge at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport. The Elms was the Berwinds' summer residence, so it was probably seldom, if ever, used by them during the months of the War College's Academic Year. Also, Berwind's wife died on 5 January 1922 and he may have stayed away from Newport much of the time that followed. Since he and Hart were both Academy alumni and then Hart was already a senior naval officer, Berwind might have very happy to have Hart and his family stay at The Elms one or the other times Hart was assigned to duty in Newport.

Having learned second-hand that someone close to Berwind's office said that “the old gentleman” would decide to fund the painting “but may need a little urging”, Patterson wrote Kraft on 24 April 1931, urging him to write Berwind at once to tactfully attempt to obtain his commitment. Kraft did so, but not until 12 May. Finally on 18 May, Berwind phoned Hart to convey his decision to fund Patterson's painting of the mural, confirming this in a formal letter on 5 June. Although Hart, as Superintendent, was certainly the appropriate person to officially receive the news, his hearing it during a personal telephone call from Berwind suggests they might have developed a cordial relationship when Hart was living in property owned by Berwind in Newport.

Now that the project was underway, Kraft and several officers assigned to the Academy proposed some minor adjustments to his sketch. However, Hart made one to Berwind which was quite significant, and this was his thought that perhaps the ships were too small in the scene and ought to be moved forward to take up more space. He relayed the suggestion in a low-key manner, indicating he was sure Patterson's judgment and artistic sensibilities were correct, but Patterson ended up following the advice in the final picture.

Meanwhile Patterson was faced with two obstacles before he could begin to paint - a space large enough to accommodate a painting that would be more than 33-feet wide and 11 feet high, when his own studio was far too small, and obtaining canvas of sufficient size for such a work. After searching Manhattan for a location, he settled on the loft of a church, which appears to have been in the 300th block of East 47th Street. Regarding the canvas, he learned it had to be specially ordered from a company in Belgium and it only arrived in New York by ship in June or early July.

Since painting on canvas requires it to be taut, the canvas is fastened to a rigid frame, or “stretcher”, of an appropriate length and height for the finished artwork. With lunette murals being curved, these are painted on stretched rectangular canvases and the completed paintings are then trimmed to fit in the arches in which they are be mounted. As a result, artists creating lunette paintings will extend the edges of their compositions slightly onto the curved portions of canvas that are to be cut off and probably discarded.

Without prior experience in preparing a large canvas, once Patterson had the canvas from Belgium in hand, fastening it to the stretcher had to have presented him with an entirely new challenge. But his success at ultimately doing this is attested to by photograph in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection showing a perfectly flat canvas on which images of Constitution and Java have already taken shape.

Once he'd begun painting, Patterson worked rapidly but at the same time expended considerable energy on getting details correct. He asked Kraft to send photographs of “Old Ironsides” as well information from published accounts of naval actions during the War of 1812. He engaged Hart in discussions regarding whether Bainbridge had the right to fly the Commodore's “broad pennant” while commanding Constitution and if so, where – their agreed-to results visible in the painting as the flags at the head of the ship's fore and main masts. And so it went.

By early December 1931 when the mural was nearing completion, Patterson, ever the stickler for detail, had still not resolved whether the studdingsail booms would have been set during the engagement or remained on deck to be hoisted aloft and rigged as needed. When in use, these would extend from the ends of the yards to carry a ship's stun'sls, up to the topmost royal stun'sls, added canvas meant to eke out just a little more speed from the wind. At the time, he showed the yards of both Constitution and Java lacking these extensions but he thought they should be in place so their sails could be run up quicker because he knew as a student of naval history of many instances when a fight turned into a chase. Also, with flying splinters being the chief cause of injury to sailors in battle, having the booms stowed below on deck would add to the mass of lumber that could be hit and splinter as ships exchanged shot. To consider the problem, a meeting of a small group of older officers with sailing ship experience was convened in Washington to discuss the battle and the issues involved and give Patterson their recommendation. Their conclusion was that both ships would have had the booms in place, but no sail would bet set on them.

As the mural neared completion, the Naval Academy prepared the empty large lunette at the northern end of Memorial Hall to mount it there – inspecting the wall and adjacent ceiling for imperfections and evidence of leaks. For a $200 fee Patterson engaged Aaron Ross, who was considered an expert at mounting canvases to walls without distortion or blistering, and after arriving together at the Academy on 4January 1932, he and Patterson soon completed the installation process without problems. In the meantime, plans had been made for a formal unveiling and on Saturday, 9 January, officers assigned to the Academy, instructors, their families and the first midshipmen who made up the Class of 1932 gathered in the hall for the ceremony. Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams III, a direct descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams accepted the gift from Berwind, who with Patterson was in attendance with friends. As a final keepsake, Berwind received the “final sketch” of the painting – a canvas about five feet in width which was different from the rough sketch Kraft and Hart has initially approved.

But Patterson's work on the painting was still not over. Some old Navy men felt the image had one flaw – splashes from Constitution’s cannonballs were simply high. Apparently, this was an ongoing criticism because finally in January 1934, Hart made the objection known to Patterson, indicating that the round projectiles from frigate's low powered guns could not have made such high and prominent splashes. He tactfully added his own observation that there were too many “overs” hitting the water from Constitution ‘s guns, considering that she was just opening her first broadside. Patterson pointed out he and contemporary marine artists had not seen an actual shot splash and he had painted the splashed as he envisioned, they would be. He also suggested that, possibly, Hart could have some old smooth-bore cannon fired so a photographer might record round shot hitting the water, but Hart explained that although this was possible, it was not practical since even though the Navy had plenty of smooth-bore cannons, the only gun carriages for them were on Constitution and getting her to fire the shots would have been met by a wall of objections.           

Eventually Patterson would bring the height of the shot splashes and their number into agreement with the opinions voiced by the Naval Academy's gunnery technicians.

But this was not the end of the involvement of both Patterson and Hart with the Memorial Hall murals. As future articles in this series will show. Patterson would paint another three of the murals and begin a fourth and Hart would play a role with four more – the second large mural and the last three of the six small murals. 


            During research on the mural, language stating Berwind dedicated it “to his class as its last surviving member” was encountered almost everywhere. However, Information in any edition of the USNA Alumni Association's “Registry of Alumni” on the composition of the Class of 1869 shows the claim is false.

              The book was only consulted at the last minute due to curiosity about the size of Berwind's class. All of the registry's lists by class are split into graduates followed by non-graduates, each grouping in alphabetical order by last name.

The number of individuals per class in each group down to the present day, can only be determined by a manual count.

              In the case of 1869, this works out to be 74 graduates, including Berwind, and 56 non-graduates. The information on each person from classes before the late 1930s is very sparse, and for 1869 consists of full names, 64 final ranks and 69 dates of death for the graduates but only the full names are given for the non-graduates. In counting the number of graduates, two of the three names starting with “B” prior to Berwind show dates of death in 1938, which was after he died in 1936. Then names of two other graduates were found who also survived him.

Beginning with Berwind, the five longest living members of 1869 were:

Edward Julius Berwind, 8/18/1936
Alexander Montgomery Thackara, 1/17/1937
RADM Albert Gleaves Berry, 5/2/1938
RADM Edward Buttevant Barry, 11/25/1938
RADM Newton Eliphalet Mason, 1/23/1945

The identifying information on the wall plaque beneath the mural more correctly states “Gift of Lt(jg) Edward J. Berwind, USNA 1869, in the name of USNA Class 1869.”

Note that Berwind left the Navy with the rank of “Master”, which was intermediate between Ensign and Lieutenant, and it was only replaced by “Lieutenant, Junior Grade” on 3 March 1883. The use of the latter rank in conjunction with Berwind's gift may have been to avoid any confusion that might have resulted from using of the now-anachronistic earlier rank of Master. 


Constitution’s victory over Java was her second of the War of 1812 and the third successful American frigate-on-frigate engagement during that conflict's opening year. The preceding two victories were Constitution’s defeat of HMS Guerriere on 19 August and the United States’ capture of HMS Macedonian on 25 October - which would be taken into the U.S. Navy under the same name. Loss of the three ships led to the Royal Navy issuing an order to its frigates in 1813 to henceforth avoid single-ship actions with their American counterparts.

These American successes resulted from the U.S. Navy having realized early on that it was in no position to challenge the European maritime powers in fleet actions. Instead, when authorizing the “six original” U.S. frigates under the Naval Act of 1794, it opted for ships which would be faster, hardier, and more heavily armed than similar type ships of the British, French and other European navies, enabling them to overpower such similar type ships and evade the larger ships of the line.

Constitution was the third of the six frigates to be placed in service. Her displacement and waterline length were equal to United States, the first completed, and President, the sixth completed, and the trio were markedly larger than the other three - Constellation, Chesapeake, and Congress.

There were 70 sailing frigates on the combined rolls of the Continental Navy of the Revolutionary War and its eventual successor, the U.S. Navy, but there was no continuity between the two services because soon after auctioning off Alliance, the last of its 25 frigates in 1785, the Continental Navy was disbanded due to spending priorities of the recently formed federal government precluding funding a naval force.

In less than 10 years, however, emerging threats to the nation's maritime interests caused a growing demand for creation of a new navy. This culminated in the 1794 authorization of the construction of the six frigates which included Constitution, although work on the ships proceeded in fits and starts and at one point their possible cancellation was only narrowly avoided. Surprisingly, the first three were already in commission when the Department of the Navy was officially established on 30 April 1798.

During the ensuing seventeen years the resurrected Navy faced wars with France, the Barbary Pirates, Great Britain, and a second time with the Barbary Pirates and would deploy another 20 frigates besides its original six against these adversaries. Following this series of hostilities, a further 19 sailing frigates were placed in service, The last of these joined the fleet in 1848, by which time the first two steam-powered frigates had been completed. The latter were a transitional type which still carried a full set of square-rigged sails on three masts as the main source of propulsion on extended voyages. Following the initial two such ships, another 26 steam-powered frigates were eventually ordered – most soon after the start of the Civil War, but by the time of the North's victory, half of the 28 were either canceled or laid up in ordinary – the equivalent of modern-day mothballing - never to see active service.

Together the U.S. Navy and its predecessor the Continental Navy commissioned a total of 84 frigates of both types, none of which compiled a war record even close to rivaling Constitution’s.

Of the 45 sailing frigates in service with the U.S. Navy from the late 1790s through 1815, Constitution is undoubtedly the most successful of the group, and quite possibly, the most successful surface warship ever

Early in her career she had fought in the Quasi-War with France (1798-1800), which had begun before she was completed, and the First Barbary War (1801-1805), defeating several small warships and taking several prizes. By the end of the second conflict, her number of vessels destroyed or captured already totaled 17.

Then, during the War of 1812, she achieved another 15 combat victories, including her only battles against other commissioned warships, all five of which belonged to the Royal Navy. Besides her actions against Guerriere and Java mentioned above, she also destroyed the schooner HMS Pictou (on 14 February 1814 ) and captured the 6th rate frigates HMS Cyane and Levant (on 20 February 1815). The last battle occurred after the war had ended but before the news had reached any of the trio of combatants.

With the onset of an extended peace, nearly three decades would elapse before she achieved her final victory, capturing the slave ship HN Gambril on 3 November 1853 while serving as flagship of the African Squadron. This brought her overall total of vessels captured to 33 during her 55 years of service as a commissioned warship.

For the full list ships captured or destroyed by Constitution readers are directed to the Navy History and Heritage Command site at “”. Once there, enter “Vessels Captured by USS Constitution” in the Search Box and then click on the seventh entry down from the top of the list on the left side of the page.

After settling back into the routine of the Academy back at Annapolis, Constitution received a series of upgrades which included steam heat supplied from shore and gas lighting. Annually, she would set sail with midshipmen aboard on their summer training cruises, resuming her duties as a classroom upon return. Serving as an instructor at the Academy from 1868 to 1870, George Dewey, Class of 1857, by then a lieutenant commander, also commanded Constitution. The year following his departure, her condition had deteriorated to the point she was retired as a training ship and once more placed in ordinary.         

Although the caption of the picture of Constitution pierside at Annapolis included in the companion article appearing in the March-April 2022 print edition of Shipmate implies it's from 1860, when the ship first reported to the Academy, the picture is, in fact, a post-Civil War view taken between 1866 and 1871. The second date is easy to pin down because it was the year Constitution was retired as a training ship. The full story involving the first date is an intriguing one but all that is necessary is to point out that the vessel lying low in the water in the Severn at the left side of the image is the Miantonomoh-Class coastal monitor Tonawanda. Laid down in 1863 for the war, she was completed in October 1865 and deactivated soon after, only to be specifically placed back in commission on 23 October 1866 to serve as an Academy training ship.

For a more thorough sense of Constitution’s nearly 250 year history, making her the oldest warship still afloat and the second oldest still in commission after Victory, which is permanently drydocked, readers are once again directed to the Navy History and Heritage Command site at “”. This time enter “USS Constitution Chronology” in the search box and then click on the entry at the top of the list that appears. 

Finally, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.'s poem “Old Ironside” follows below.

Aye tear her tattered ensign down
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon's roar;—
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes' blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o'er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor's tread,
Or know the conquered knee;—
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!

Little could Holmes have foreseen the glorious future that lay ahead for Constitution as de facto flagship of the mightiest navy the world had ever seen, a force of sailors and fellow marines plying the oceans on submersibles, sailless warships, and flying machines armed with deadly weapons of pinpoint accuracy.


            Although much of the above information is from primary and secondary sources found online, a great deal about the life of C. R, Patterson and the narrative of creation of the mural itself was found in Robert Lloyd Webb's Sailor-Painter – The Uncommon Life of Charles Robert Patterson. Mystic, CT: Flat Hammock Press, 2005.