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Original U.S. Civil War USS Cumberland Wood Ship Straight Edge Used By Caricaturist James Albert Wales - Sunk by Confederate Ironclad CSS Virginia (Merrimack)

Regular price $995.00

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Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Now to say this item is incredible would be an understatement. The wood ship fragment was turned into what appears to be a straight edge as used by sketch artists and engineers alike. There is what appears to be graphite still retained on the downward turned edge, further confirming that this was used for sketching.

James Albert Wales was a caricaturist. After leaving school, he apprenticed himself to a wood engraver in Toledo, but soon afterward went to Cincinnati, and thence to Cleveland, where he drew cartoons for the Leader during the presidential canvass of 1872. After working for some time in Chicago and Cleveland, he went to New York in 1873, and two years later secured an engagement on an illustrated newspaper. Afterward he was employed on Puck, in which some of his best works appeared. In 1881 he went abroad, and after his return he became one of the founders of Judge, and was for some time its chief cartoonist.

Judge was a weekly satirical magazine published in the United States from 1881 to 1947. It was launched by artists who had seceded from its rival Puck. The founders included cartoonist James Albert Wales, dime novels publisher Frank Tousey and author George H. Jessop.

The piece of wood measures approximately 15 ½” in length and is in impeccable condition. The bottom side of the piece has an inlaid paper label which states the following:

Piece of U.S. Man of War Cumberland
Sunk in James River by Rebel Ram Merrimack
and taken from the water in August 1878

Accompanying the wood fragment is the original shipping “envelope” which has a great written label present:

Dr. J. A. Wales
315 William St. Elmire, New York

The condition of the shipping envelope is good, but does have tearing and stains present. The addressee is still able to be read properly and the right side still retains a lovely late 1870s George Washington 3c Stamp. These stamps alone are highly collectable and even reach prices as high as $8,000.00!

This is a beautiful piece with two different histories attached to it! Comes more than ready for further research and display.

USS Cumberland
The first USS Cumberland was a 50-gun sailing frigate of the United States Navy. She was the first ship sunk by the ironclad CSS Virginia.

Cumberland began in the pages of a Congressional Act. Congress passed in 1816 "An act for the gradual increase of the Navy of the United States." The act called for the U.S. to build several ships-of-the-line and several new frigates, of which Cumberland was to be one. Money issues, however, prevented Cumberland from being finished in a timely manner. It was not until Secretary of the Navy Abel Parker Upshur came to office that the ship was finished. A war scare with Britain led Upshur to order the completion of several wooden sailing ships and for the construction of new steam powered ships.

Designed by famed American designer William Doughty, Cumberland was one a series of frigates in a class called the Raritan-class. The design borrowed heavily from older American frigate designs such as Constitution and Chesapeake. Specifically, Doughty liked the idea of giving a frigate more guns than European designs called for. As a result, he called for Cumberland and her sister ships to have a fully armed spar deck, along with guns on the gun deck. The result was a heavily armed, 50-gun warship.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Cumberland was at the Gosport Navy Yard, with orders to monitor the situation in Norfolk and Portsmouth. After the attack on Fort Sumter, the ship's company was ordered to gather up or destroy U.S. Government property. This included several crates of small arms and possibly (not yet confirmed) gold from the U.S. Customs House in Norfolk. The company was also ordered to spike all 3,000 guns at the Navy Yard within just a few hours. This latter task was impossible, given that only 100 sailors were assigned to the task. Sailors from the Yard and the barracks ship Pennsylvania boarded Cumberland as a part of the evacuation.

She was towed out of the Yard by the tug Yankee, assisted by the steam sloop Pawnee, escaping destruction when other ships there were scuttled and burned by Union forces on 20 April 1861 to prevent their capture. She sailed back to Boston for repairs. The aft 10-inch shell gun was removed and replaced with what many officers referred to as a 70-pounder rifle. This gun did not exist in the Navy's inventory at the time. It was possibly a 5.3 in (130 mm), 60 pdr (27 kg) Parrott rifle.

She sailed back to Hampton Roads and took up station as a blockader, serving in the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron until 8 March 1862. The sloop-of-war engaged Confederate forces in several minor actions in Hampton Roads and captured many small ships in the harbor. Additionally, Cumberland was a part of the expedition that captured the forts at Cape Hatteras.

Cumberland was rammed and sunk in an engagement with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimack) at Newport News, Virginia on 8 March 1862. The engagement known as the first day of the Battle of Hampton Roads between the two ships is considered to be a turning point in the history of world naval affairs as it showed the advantage of steam-powered, armored ships over sail-powered wooden-hulled ships. Because of Cumberland, Virginia lost two of her guns, her ram, and suffered some internal damage. Congress later recognized that Cumberland did more damage to Virginia than the U.S. Navy's ironclad Monitor, which did battle with Virginia the next day.

One of the men who died aboard Cumberland was Navy chaplain John L. Lenhart, a Methodist minister. He was the first Navy chaplain to lose his life in battle.

The battle with Virginia was commemorated in a poem On Board the Cumberland that was illustrated by F. O. C. Darley.

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