Contributor Question: If We Only Had A Portrait . . .


May 23, 2022
by Editors Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

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.

Haimo Li

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.

James Smith

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.

Gary Ecelbarger

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.

Christian McBurney

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.

Michael Harris

Adam Stephen, a major player in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign with no known image.

Don Glickstein

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.

Travis Copeland

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.

David Price

John Haslet, Colonel of the 1776 Delaware Regiment.

Rick Gardiner

Crispus Attucks.

Bill Manthorpe

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.

Rand Mirante

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!

Ken Daigler

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.

Bill Bleyer

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.

Pat Hannum

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.

Norm Fuss

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.]

John McCurdy

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.”

Edna Gabler

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.

Len Travers

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.

Bill Reynolds

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.

Bill Welsch

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.”

Dayne Rugh

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.

Will Monk

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.

Nichole Louise

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.

Roger Smith

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.

Phil Weaver

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.

Keith Muchowski

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.

Gene Procknow

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.

Art Cohn

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.

Timothy Symington

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.

Eric Sterner

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.



  • Rand Mirante is interested in an image of Lt. Col. Charles Maywood with his “springer spaniels” that he had brought with him.

    I can’t come up with any picture of the Colonel nor of those exact springing spaniels as they would have been called then but here is a history of the springing/springer spaniel in England. Note that all land spaniels ultimately descend from the same well and it was much later in history before they were separated into individual breeds.

      1. I think no portrait of Colonel Mawhood will ever be unearthed. He only just found time to get married when he was back in England in 1779, before going to Gibraltar, where he died.

        The nearest you’ll get, perhaps, is in John Trumbull’s dramatic painting ‘Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton’. On the right of the picture, just behind the falling Captain Leslie (the redcoat officer dropping his sword), is a British officer in a tricorn hat who just may be intended to represent Lieutenant-Colonel Mawhood. But it is hardly a portrait!

  • General Samuel Holden Parsons of Connecticut. He was a major general in the Continental Army and drowned on a canoe expedition in western PA shortly after the end of the war. Another patriot leader with no known portrait is Colonel John Durkee of Norwich.

  • Colonel James Wood, II. His contributions were quite numerous in the cause of freedom. Commander of the 12th Virginia Regiment of foot, personally commended for bravery by General Washington, later Commander of the 8th Virginia after the army reorganized. He was later commander of the garrison where Burgoynes’ captured army was held. Brigadier of VA Militia, member of the Executive Council of Virginia, Governor of Virginia and President of the Society of the Cincinnati followed. An exceptional man.

    1. I was going to say the exact same thing. I know there is a black and white image of a sketch or painting, but nothing else I have been able to find. As a Governor of Virginia, I’d think there would be something more. Maybe in some storage archives in the Commonwealth…

  • Marquis de Bretigny, Charles-Francis Sevelinges was a French cavalry officer and was the only nobleman elected to the North Carolina Legislature. He was closely connected with Governor Alexander Martin.

  • Colonel John Brown, who exposed the traitor Benedict Arnold’s despicable character in a handbill three years before the actual betrayal occurred. Brown died a patriot’s death at the battle of Stone Arabia, October 19, 1780, fighting Sir John Johnson in the Mohawk Valley.

  • Colonel Jonathan Latimer who led a group of Connecticut militia at the battle of Saratoga. A veteran of the French and Indian War, he, along with his sons, all served during the Revolution. Afterward they relocated to the Tennessee frontier. Would love to see an image of him.

  • Colonel Daniel Hitchcock – he was a member of the Providence, RI Sons of Liberty who helped burn the HMS Gaspee 250 years ago in June of 1772. He became a colonel in the Continental Army and fought at the Battles of Nee York, Trenton, Assunpink, and Princeton before dying of consumption in January of 1777.

  • I’d be interested in portraits of French officer Francois Malmedy and South Carolinian Eliza Wilkinson. In my view, it’s a little painful to research a historical figure without being able to place a “face” to a “name”.

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