This month we asked our contributors, which person, for whom no image is known to exist, would you like to discover a full-length portrait of?
Andrew J. O’Shaughnessy
Sir William Howe.
Robert S. Davis
Thomas Brown, the Loyalist for whom more has been written than anyone else in Revolutionary War Georgia, although an article in the Journal of the American Revolution raises the possibility that such a portrait does exist. He led such a dramatic career, as described in Edward Cashin’s King’s Ranger. Other Georgia Revolutionary War characters upon whose likeness I wish I could see are John Dooly, George Galphin, William Manson, and John Twiggs.
It must be this gentleman : Punqua Wingchong. He was a Chinese merchant, of whom no picture is known to exist. His name appeared in at least these five letters: Samuel Latham Mitchill to Thomas Jefferson, July 12, 1808; Punqua Wingchong to James Madison, February 5, 1809 and December 8, 1810; Jesse Waln to Madison, April 23, 1810; and Charles Collins (of New York) to Jefferson, March 25, 1818.
I cannot believe there is none, but I have not been able to find a portrait of Jonathan Zubly of Georgia; Patriot, member of the Continental Congress, and because his ideas did not match that of the radicals in congress, forced by circumstance to become a loyalist.
Casimir Pulaski: The image universally associated with him—thin mustache, distinctive eyes, small mouth and long hair—was painted in 1932. I don’t recall ever reading a contemporary physical description, including if he was considered short or tall. Given the recent controversy of the gender of the skeleton unearthed at his monument earlier this century—matching someone no greater than five feet four inches tall—it would be a valuable discovery to obtain a full length portrait of him that would potentially allow us to determine his height, in addition to finally knowing what he looked like.
Major General Charles Lee. To my knowledge, there is no portrait of him made by an artist who had seen him prior to painting or drawing his image. There are some paintings and drawings around that are not based on the personal knowledge of Lee by the artist, but a few exist that feature the subject with a large nose that he was known to have.
Adam Stephen, a major player in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign with no known image.
Molly Brant (Konwatsi’ Tsiaienni), the Mohawk leader, loyalist, common-law wife of Sir William Johnson, and brother of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk war leader. When Canada honored her on a 1986 postage stamp, it hired an artist to produce a “conceptual portrait” of her. Though Caty Greene, Nathanael’s wife, doesn’t qualify for the listing since there’s portrait of her when she was 55. It would be wonderful to see what she looked like when a slew of Continental generals were enamored by this formidable, charismatic, woman.
No known images of Cornelius Harnett of North Carolina exist. Accounts of his revolutionary spirit and political acumen are paired with only vague physical descriptions. His untimely death in 1781 as a result of British mistreatment means there are no images of him. At best, we have a picture of his plantation near Wilmington, North Carolina. Harnett is a character of great importance in the South, yet the lack of portrait makes him hard to easily and quickly represent. I have no doubt that if he had lived beyond the war years, then he would have sat for a portrait of some kind.
John Haslet, Colonel of the 1776 Delaware Regiment.
Henry Fisher was a Delaware Bay pilot. In 1775, upon commission by the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, he established and supervised a thirteen-station warning system to alert Philadelphia of British ships arriving at Cape Henlopen. He gradually became the de facto Naval Agent at Lewes.He provided intelligence, kept the signal books to receive and convey orders to arriving and departing ships, accepted prizes and prisoners to send to Philadelphia, conducted prisoner exchanges, and assisted arriving dignitaries throughout the war. He formed and served as honorary major of an independent militia to protect pilots from British capture and Lewes from Tories.
I would be most interested in viewing a portrait of Lt. Col. Charles Mawhood, the undaunted albeit unsuccessful commander of the British 4th Brigade at the Battle of Princeton; he was later active in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign and died from illness in 1780 at Gibraltar during the siege. Such a portrait (perhaps with the springer spaniels that are said to have accompanied him at Princeton) would be a welcome replacement for the baseless mental image of him I’ve conjured up over the years!
In the spying world the ready answer is Nathan Hale. While there exist numerous statues and related renderings of his appearance, we have no actual image of whether he was the resolute individual usually pictured. He was a brave if poorly trained spy.
I would love to see any image of key members of the Culper Spy Ring. As far as I know, there are no images of chief spy Abraham Woodhull (a.k.a. Samuel Culper); Caleb Brewster, who carried the messages across Long Island Sound; and chief courier on land, Austin Roe. In addition, the only image of Robert Townsend, Culper Junior, the main spy in New York City, was a sketch done in 1815 by his nephew. So I’d love to see any painting of him during the Revolutionary period.
Jacob Broom (1752-1810), from Delaware, was one of the thirty-nine men who signed the United States Constitution. Among his many skills, he was a map maker and reportedly made the map that George Washington used during the Battle of Brandywine. Library of Congress and National Archives publications confirm no known image, although some appear on internet searches, these are likely inaccurate. Jacob and I trace our ancestry to John and Margery Hannum, Jacob’s great grandparents and my 7th great grandparents, making him my second cousin six times removed.
J. L. Bell
Of the many people of whom I wish we had portraits, one top choice is Dr. Benjamin Church, the first surgeon-general of the Continental Army who turned out to be a British spy. Not just because it would be interesting to look into the eyes of America’s first arch-traitor. A genuine portrait would, I hope, wipe away the image first published in 1903, described then as “an ideal drawn from contemporary description” but a far from ideal depiction of any real human face.
Matthew M. Montelione
Loyalist Colonel Richard Floyd IV (1731/2-1791) of Mastic on Long Island in New York; he is my chief character of study. A portrait exists for his Patriot cousin and signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Floyd, but no portrait of Richard IV exists.
Don N. Hagist
Although there are dozens of influential people whose faces I’d like to see, I’d most like a detailed, accurate picture of a British soldier and his wife in an encampment in Rhode Island in the summer of 1778. Almost all surviving pictures of British soldiers from this era depict troops in England. Did they dress the same way in America? How tattered did a soldier look when he was off duty, at his own leisure? Did his wife attempt to retain a look of fashion in spite of an itinerant lifestyle? There is much we don’t know about the everyday lives of everyday people.
Mark R. Anderson
Atiatoharongwen aka Louis Cook, an amazing warrior and diplomat in the Revolutionary Era, who served as a Kahnawake, Oneida, and Akwesasne chief and was even commissioned a Continental lieutenant colonel. He is depicted in John Trumbull’s “Death of General Montgomery,” and a crude depiction rendered by Jean-Baptiste Verger is probably Atiatoharongwen. But a dedicated full-length portrait would probably reveal much about this man who mixed and moved so adeptly and influentially across Abenaki, Iroquois, French-Canadian, and American cultures. Such a picture may even exist; Atiatoharongwen reportedly had one painted at Albany, but it has been unseen for over two centuries.
Joseph Plum Martin. [Editor’s note: a mid-1800s photograph exists that some believe depicts Martin, but the identity of the subject is not certain.]
I would like to have a full length portrait of British Rev. Robert Newburgh of the 18th Regiment. Newburgh served in North America from 1773 to 1779, and in 1774 he was court-martialed for buggery. Newburgh’s trials shed new light on sexuality in Revolutionary America, and is the topic of my current book project. There is no extant portrait of Newburgh, which is unfortunate, since part of the accusation against him was based on his flamboyant clothing. According to one of his accusers, Newburgh looked like “what is now termed a Maccaroni Dishabille.”
Sally Hemings. There is so much we don’t know about the enslaved woman with whom our third president fathered six children. The biggest mystery to me is why she didn’t stay in France, where she would have had her freedom, when Thomas Jefferson returned to the United States. Any children she might have had in France would have been free from day one, not at age twenty-one as Jefferson promised her. Was it love? Security? I wish there was a portrait of any size of Hemings.
Deborah Sampson (or Samson), the young woman who served in the Continental Army for a year and a half before being found out.In Masquerade, the late Al Young had a thoughtful discussion about how she did it. The only image currently known of her, from an early “memoir,” is crude and unsatisfactory.
Donaldson Yeates, Deputy Quartermaster General for Maryland and Delaware from late 1780 through the end of the Revolutionary War. Yeates was located at Head of Elk, Maryland, where he coordinated transportation for the Lafayette expedition to Virginia in early 1781 and the Continental/French expedition to Yorktown later that year and was responsible for storage of supplies at that key location. His correspondence with Robert Morris, Samuel Hodgdon, Timothy Pickering and others shows that he was diligent and possessed great integrity; the latter was demonstrated by his stewardship of the vast quantity of stores that passed through his post. He was one of the many people who contributed to the successful conclusion of the war but are largely unknown today.
Being from New Jersey and with a particular interest in the Continental generals, I would like to see a portrait of Brigadier General William Maxwell. He was an important presence in the army from the beginning until his resignation in July, 1780, despite Lafayette’s assessment that Maxwell was “the senior but most inept brigadier general in the army.”
I would love to discover a portrait (full length or otherwise) of Col. Christopher Leffingwell, Deputy Commissary of Connecticut during the Revolution and Connecticut’s first chocolatier among other notable distinctions. The only ‘unofficial’ likeness seen of him is a nineteenth century silhouette which does not appear to reflect the eighteenth century gentleman he was, at least from a fashion perspective.
If I had to pick only one (from so many!) I would say Eliza Lucas Pinckney: a good story, many manuscripts available, subject to a very nice recent biography by Lorri Glover, and she could have been a major character is the literature all this time if there were a good portrait.
Gregory G. W. Urwin
I dream of discovering a portrait of Lieutenant Colonel James Webster, 33rd Regiment of Foot. Historian J.A. Houlding rates the 33rd Foot as the British regiment most “fit for duty” when the War of Independence erupted. Much of the credit for that goes to the 33rd’s colonel, Lord Charles Cornwallis, but he was ably seconded by Webster, who oversaw the regiment’s day-to-day training and discipline. Webster commanded a brigade composed of the 33rd Foot and 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers during Cornwallis’s 1781 invasion of North Carolina, and he suffered a mortal wound while bravely leading his troops at Guilford Court House.
Sally Hemings. She was integral to Jefferson’s life and witnessed history unfolding both in America and France. It is unfortunate we do not have an actual portrait of her.
Michael J. F. Sheehan
I would be absolutely delighted to see a proper portrait of Lt. Col. Francois de Fleury, who certainly deserves one for his achievements at Fort Mifflin, Stony Point, the Yorktown Campaign, and service in the early parts of the French Revolutionary Wars.
Manuel Vicente de Zespedes, governor of Spanish East Florida, 1784-1790. Governor Zespedes was a peninsular-born hidalgo of aristocratic origin. He had a close relationship with the Galvez family, and stellar military career—yet I can find no portrait of him. I talk about Gov. Zespedes every semester in my History of Florida class at Flagler College, but I’m not able to show his image.
If I may, I am going to pick two. The easy one is Joseph Bloomfield of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment. Painted in 1777, after his return from New York, Peale’s portrait was done only from the waist up! Believe me, I am not the only one who wants to see that entire early-war officer’s uniform. Beyond that specific interest, what I also want to see is a portrait of Richard Montgomery—full-length or otherwise. None of the so-called portraits or illustrations of him are actually him.Matthew ReardonI would love to see authenticated portraits of Maj. General David Wooster and Maj. General William Tryon.
As far as I know there are no renderings of Richard King. One likely reason is because King’s Massachusetts neighbors burned many of his possessions during the Stamp Act crisis. If not on par with the Adams family, across generations the Kings certainly rose to the level of, say, the Lowells. Richard’s son Rufus was a framer of the Constitution, early senator from New York, 1816 presidential candidate, and more. Son William became the first governor of Maine following the creation of that state via the Missouri Compromise. A grandson was the first Republican governor of New York. Other Kings contributed well into the twentieth century. It is unfortunate that we do not know with certainty what the patriarch of the family looked like.
The discovery of a portrait of Ethan Allen would add immeasurably to our understanding of his life. The only extant images of the Vermont founder are idealized statues and pictures which were completed after his death. It would be captivating to know if his physical appearance belied his rough and tumble Green Mountain Boy image.
Captain Nathan Hale. I’ve recently been studying the life and death of Nathan Hale who was hanged by the British as a spy on September 22, 1776. My interest in Captain Hale was stimulated by my research into British Major John Andre which has caused me to wondered why George Washington chose to hang Andre while still in prisoner-exchange negotiations with Sir Henry Clinton. I wanted to explore if Washington’s apparent haste might have been influenced by the trauma he might have carried from Hale’s execution. While I am still working to better understand Washington’s decision to hang Andre when he did, for the ultimate sacrifice young Nathan Hale made for his country I would sincerely value being able to see his accurate likeness.
I would like to see a painting of the Native Americans who were “living” in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia (what we know as Independence Hall) in the spring and summer of 1776, when the Declaration of Independence came into being. There have been several references to the fact that they were there, and I am curious to know how they looked. An image of any one of them, or indeed the entire delegation, would be fascinating.
No Native American had his portrait painted more frequently than Thayendenegea, aka Joseph Brant. I wish we had a similar visual record for Koquethagechton, aka White Eyes, a Sachem/Chief of the Delaware. White Eyes was a leading voice for Delaware neutrality in the early years of the American Revolution, despite constant pressure from British-allied nations and from within his own tribe, to ally with the British. His political and diplomatic skills were unparalleled, but the task proved too great when American authorities pressured the Delaware into an alliance. Koquethagechton died while scouting for the Americans in 1778, likely assassinated by whites.