Print, A View in America 1778

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  • Publisher: Matthew Darly
  • London, England
  • August 1, 1778
  • Black and White Etching
  • 1960-67

The lower margin reads: "A VIEW IN AMERICA IN 1778/ Pub'd by M. Darly Aug.t 1 1778."

At the center, attired in an elegant uniform, an expression of satisfaction on his face, stands Sir Henry Clinton, British commander in chief. With his tricorn hat he directs attention to a black man lying on the ground, his wound obvious to all. Clinton faces a man wearing a long fur-trimmed coat and smoking a pipe who probably is intended to represent Baron von Steuben, a former Prussian officer hired late in 1777 to assist in training and commanding colonial troops. Steuben appears unconcerned about the fate of the black man as he points to a face buried in his cuff that may represent Charles Lee, a former British officer, now second in command to Washington and considered a hero by the colonials until the battle of Monmouth.

Expecting a major attack in the area, Washington stationed Steuben near Monmouth to watch Clinton's movements carefully, while Lee was charged with the defense. Shortly after fighting began, Lee, for reasons that are still not completely understood, misjudged the progress of the battle and, believing it lost, ordered retreat. On hearing the news, Washington was incensed and sent Steuben to assume command. Lee was arrested and later was court-martialed. Steuben successfully rallied the troops but, although they bombarded the English forces,throughout a long hot day, the Americans were unable to win a clear-cut victory. Clinton, pessimistic about his army's position, decided to retreat quietly under cover of night.

The satire focuses on a problem that was of particular concern to the colonist, that of the blacks who were known to be fighting on both sides during this and other battles in the area. Clinton's position suggests that the black man was under his command and that Steuben's American forces were responsible for wounding him. A group behind represents the ambivalent feelings of the colonists. Yankee Doodle Dandy America (indentified by the feather in his cap) smiles his approval at the wounding of an enemy as he acknowledges those responsible, a group of ragged colonial soldiers. The soldiers, however, appear distressed because they have wounded one who should have been on their side. Steuben's gesture toward the concealed face in his cuff suggests that he believes the black man's disloyalty to his new homeland is as serious a mistake as Lee's withdrawal.

In the background a lone soldier in the American fort continues to cannonade the enemy.

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