Given the amount of effort and resources the U.S. Navy has dedicated to the War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration, it is gratifying to see an outstanding display of historical art and artifacts on exhibit at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum honoring the event. The breadth and depth of the exhibit are created by interweaving War of 1812 art and artifacts from the collections of William I. Koch with the Naval Academy’s Beverley R. Robinson Collection. Koch, a descendant of Captain James Lawrence on his mother’s side, decided to acquire Lawrence-related memorabilia years ago, and the collection grew to include many valuable objects relating to Royal Navy Captain Philip B. V. Broke, whose frigate Shannon defeated Lawrence’s Chesapeake in an 1813 engagement off Cape Ann, Massachusetts.
The exhibit, titled “Seas, Lakes, and Bay,” is displayed in the Hart Room on the second floor of Mahan Hall, and visitors are reminded of naval traditions of the era as they proceed through the foyer toward the elaborate marble staircase. Encased on each side of the stairs are faded battle ensigns of several British ships captured during the war, including those of HMS Macedonian , Frolic , Confiance , Levant , Cyane , Peacock , Penguin , Detroit , Reindeer , and Lady Prevost . On entering the Hart Room, the exhibition commences with the section “Why War?” and contains images, paintings, and graphics that exemplify and explain the prewar tensions among the United States, Britain, and France as America tried to steer a neutral course between these nations and their allies that had been at war since 1793.