Photography and Other Images - Civil War CDV's, Hard Images, Engravings
CDV of Admiral Charles Wilkes -- A Fascinating Fellow!
Item #: JMS-878
CDV of Admiral Charles Wilkes -- A Fascinating Fellow! CDV of Admiral Charles Wilkes -- A Fascinating Fellow!
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This is why I love this hobby so much.
You think you've read and absorbed so much information. But then a name or an event comes to your attention that you either didn't remember or maybe just missed the first time around! Charles Wilkes was a controversial and fascinating character before and during the Civil War. I'll offer more about him in a moment. But for now, just know that this CDV is a period engraving and not a "from-life" photo, which would cost significantly more. These engravatures were quite popular in their own right during and after the war. People collected them in albums and were even known to trade with their friends, much like I did as a kid with baseball cards. Today, the collector's first choice is usually a "from-life" photo...but these engravings are works of art in their own right and are frequently used when one is framing an autograph, artifact or other picture associated with the main subject.
It should be noted that the original owner of this image (someone in the 1860's, most likely) referred to him as "Gen." Wilkes in the pencil marking. This can be erased if you like. It is clearly a Naval officer in the image.
This CDV is in EXC-FINE condition with no damage whatsoever. There are period pencil ID's on front and back. And there's a very crisp maker's mark on the back. This one would frame up wonderfully with a clipped signature of the Admiral, a letter he might have written or a photo, engraving or drawing of one of his ships.
Wilkes was born in 1798 and was raised (here's one of several things I was entirely unaware of!) by his aunt, Elizabeth Ann Seton. She was the very first American-born woman to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church! What a connection! He worked with the incomparably brilliant Matthew Fontaine Maury in studying oceanography and developing related materials for the U.S. Naval Academy. Maury's work, which was at least partly based on Wilkes' studies, is still considered required reading for midshipmen! Wilkes first gained fame in his own right in 1838, when he was chosen over more seasoned officers to lead a U.S. Naval expedition to the southern oceans. Taking botanists, geologists, artists and other professionals, Wilkes commanded an expedition of six vessels on an almost four year mission of exploration and study! In January of 1840, Wilkes reported sighting the coast of an "Antarctic continent west of the Balleny Islands" -- this meant that then-Lieutenant Wilkes was the first man to confirm the status of Antarctica as a continent. To this day, a disputed district of Antarctic territory is known as "Wilkes Land". (His gravestone at Arlington National Cemetary credits this discovery.) Wilkes became an American hero not quite on the level of Charles Lindbergh or Neil Armstrong, but his accomplishments were widely known and feted.
During the Civil War, Wilkes can reasonably be called the "prime mover" in the Trent Affair. This won him further praise in the north but much criticism in both the south and in Europe. Even President Lincoln was eventually pressured into apologizing for Wilkes' actions in Bermuda in 1862. Wilkes would later serve capably in command of the important James River Flotilla and would also see blockading duty in the West Indies. There is much debate about the sort of officer and commander Wilkes was. Some literary historians have posited that Wilkes was at least partially the inspiration for Herman Melville's obsessed and brutal "Captain Ahab". Some contemporaries suggested he was capricious and cruel. Others noted that much of this gossip might have been ginned up because of a dispute between Wilkes and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. (The two of them exchanged barbs and insults via mail when Welles stated Wilkes was too old to be promoted to the rank of Commodore.
So much more can be said and reported about this intriguing man, but I'll leave further "exploration" to the purchaser of this crisp image. I have seen very few photos OR engravings of Admiral Wilkes for sale. You'll not likely find one in nicer condition!


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Shipping Weight: 0.2 lb
Your Price... $29.00 USD

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