Victorious Navy - 1898
Digital Art - Digital Painting/photographic Art
An interpretation of an American victory poster produced by Currier and Ives after the Spanish-American war - the American flag flying from the top masts of American battleships and gunboats.
The Spanish-American War -
USS Maine, a second-class battleship built between 1888 and 1895, was sent to Havana in January 1898 to protect American interests during the long-standing revolt of the Cubans against the Spanish government. In the evening of 15 February 1898, Maine sank when her forward gunpowder magazines exploded. Nearly three-quarters of the battleship's crew died as a result of the explosion.
While the cause of this great tragedy is still unsettled, contemporary American popular opinion blamed Spain, and war followed within a few months. Maine's wreck was raised in 1912 to clear the harbor and to facilitate an investigation into the cause of her sinking. Her remains were subsequently scuttled in deep waters north of Havana.
"Remember the Maine" became the rallying cry for the war which highlighted the power of the U.S. Navy - though the actual immediate cause of the war was Spain's refusal to recognize Cuba's independence after three years of revolution.
From the Office of the Historian:
War in the Pacific:
The Spanish-American War of 1898 ended Spain's colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere and secured the position of the United States as a Pacific power. U.S. victory in the war produced a peace treaty that compelled the Spanish to relinquish claims on Cuba, and to cede sovereignty over Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the United States. The United States also annexed the independent state of Hawaii during the conflict. Thus, the war enabled the United States to establish its predominance in the Caribbean region and to pursue its strategic and economic interests in Asia. After isolating and defeating the Spanish army garrisons in Cuba, the U.S. Navy destroyed the Spanish Caribbean squadron on July 3 as it attempted to escape the U.S. naval blockade of Santiago.
War in the Caribbean
The Battle of Santiago de Cuba, fought between Spain and the United States on July 3, 1898, was the largest naval engagement of the Spanish-American War and resulted in the destruction of the Spanish Navy's Caribbean Squadron. With the exception of Commodore George Dewey's squadron in the Pacific, nearly every warship in the United States Navy was near or on its way to Cuba. The primary elements of the U.S. force in Cuban waters were divided between two men: Rear Admiral William T. Sampson of the North Atlantic Squadron and Commodore Winfield Scott Schley and the "Flying Squadron".
On the morning of May 29, Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete's squadron was sighted inside the safety of Santiago Bay, Cuba, by elements of the "Flying Squadron". On May 31, Schley was joined by Sampson, who took command of the situation and instructed a general blockade.
So long as Cervera remained within Santiago Harbor, his fleet was relatively safe. For more than a month, the two fleets faced off, with only a few inconclusive skirmishes resulting. For his part, Cervera was content to wait, hoping for bad weather to scatter the Americans so that he could make a run to a position more favorable for engaging the enemy. However, U.S. land forces began to drive on Santiago de Cuba, and by the end of June 1898, Cervera found himself unable to remain safely in the harbor. He would have to break out immediately if the fleet was to be saved.
The breakout was planned for 09:00 on Sunday, July 3. This seemed the most logical time: the Americans would be at religious services, and waiting until night would only serve to make the escape that much more treacherous. By noon on Saturday, July 2, the fleet had a full head of steam and had fallen into position for the breakout.
At about 08:45, just as his ships had slipped their moorings, Admiral Sampson and two ships of his command, his flagship, the armored cruiser USS New York, and the torpedo boat USS Ericsson had left their positions for a meeting with Major General William Shafter of the U.S. Army. This opened a gap in the western portion of the American blockade line, leaving a window for Cervera. Further, the battleship USS Massachusetts had left that morning to coal. With the departure of Admiral Sampson, immediate command devolved to Commodore Schley in armored cruiser USS Brooklyn, which now became the de facto flagship of the U.S. blockade.
Thus, the American blockade formation that morning consisted of Schley's Brooklyn, followed by the battleships USS Texas, Oregon, Iowa and Indiana and auxiliary cruisers USS Vixen and Gloucester. At 09:35, the navigator of Brooklyn sighted a plume of smoke coming from the mouth of the port. He anxiously signaled the rest of the fleet.
The Spanish ships began their race from the mouth of Santiago Bay at about 09:45, traveling in a rough line ahead formation. In the lead was Cervera's flagship, the armored cruiser Infanta Maria Teresa, followed by the armored cruisers Vizcaya, Cristobal Colon, and Almirante Oquendo, and finally the torpedo-boat destroyers Furor and Pluton. Upon sighting the emerging Spanish ships, the American blockaders had to turn to the south since they had all been facing towards the harbor entrance. Brooklyn headed nearly straight for Infanta Maria Teresa at first, but when it appeared that she would be surrounded by all four of the Spanish cruisers, Commodore Schley ordered a "retrograde loop" that pulled her away, and then alongside, the line of Spanish ships fleeing southwest. Other American ships - Texas, Oregon, Iowa and Indiana then swung behind Brooklyn.
Within a little more than an hour, five of the six ships of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron had been destroyed or forced aground. Only one vessel, the speedy new armored cruiser Cristobal Colon, still survived, steaming as fast as she could for the west and freedom. Though modern in every respect and possibly the fastest ship in either fleet, Cristobal Colon had one serious problem: she had little armament. This day, speed was her primary defense.
There was only one ship in the U.S. fleet with a chance of maintaining the pursuit, the Oregon. For 65 minutes, Oregon pursued Cristobal Colon. Cristobal Colon had to hug the coast and was unable to turn toward the open sea because Oregon was standing out about 1.5 mi from Cristobal Colon's course and would have been able to fatally close the gap had Cristobal Colon turned to a more southerly course. Captain Emilio Diaz Moreu, declining to see his crew killed to no purpose, abruptly turned the undamaged Cristobal Colon toward the mouth of the Tarquino River and ordered the scuttle valves opened and the colors struck as she grounded. His descending flag marked the end of Spain's naval power in the New World.
Digitally hand-painted recreation of a victory naval poster from the Currier and Ives collection in the Library of Congress - rendered first in pencil from the tiny original, scanned to graph paper, enlarged to 1 inch grid and then painted on Wacom with pen/brush.
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Copyright Lianne Schneider 2014
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March 8th, 2014
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