In 1813, after the United States declared war on Britain, there was a battle between these two sailing ships outside Boston Harbour. The British captain of the Shannon, Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, is shown heroically, being rowed towards the Chesapeake in a stormy sea. John Wilson Carmichael has rather dramatised the event - it occurred in a calm sea and lasted just fifteen minutes.
Carmichael was keenly interested in the exploits of the Royal Navy and this work belongs to the traditions of marine painting, which emerged as a separate category of painting in the 17th century.
Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne, Carmichael was the son of a ship’s carpenter and was apprenticed as a ship builder. However, he established himself as a painter in 1823, initially working with water-colours. He was employed by the Illustrated London News as a war artist to record the Crimean War and in 1859 he published The Art of Marine Painting in Watercolours.