A vignetted view of Rear Admiral Frederick McNair. E. Jacobs: New Orleans, LA, n.d. Signed in ink beneath portrait, "Yours Truly / F V McNair."
A Pennsylvania native, Frederick Vallette McNair Sr. (1839-1900) achieved the rank of rear admiral in July 1898, junior only to the illustrious George Dewey. Key dates for McNair's forty-seven year naval career include: entered as acting midshipman 9/21/53, midshipman 6/10/57, passed midshipman 6/25/60, master 10/24/60, lieutenant 4/18/61, lieutenant commander 4/20/64, commander 1/29/72, captain 10/30/83, commodore 5/10/95, and rear admiral 7/3/98. During the Civil War, McNair served as lieutenant, and later lieutenant commander. He was first assigned the Atlantic Blockade station and later with the Mississippi Squadron aboard USS Iroquois under Farragut and as Executive Officer of the USS Juanita. He participated in both naval attacks on Fort Fisher during 1864-65. Post-war duty alternated between the obligatory billets at sea and shore including the USS Brooklyn, Macedonia, and Franklin. When first assigned to the Naval Academy he headed the Department of Seamanship and in 1890 was appointed Superintendent of the Naval Observatory. He then commanded the USS Kearsarge on the distant Asiatic Station between 1895 and 1898 and is credited with having "drilled and instructed the gunners to a high degree of proficiency which played an important part in the success of Commodore Dewey during the Spanish-American War." Appointed Rear Admiral on July 3, 1898, McNair was Commandant of the United States Naval Academy during the war with Spain through 1900, and died at age 61 while still on active duty at Washington, D.C., November 28, 1900, awaiting orders.
The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection
Cowan's is pleased to offer the first contingent of an unparalleled assembly of Brown Water Navy images archived over a lifetime of study by consummate collector Richard B. Cohen, a familiar name to many in the field of Civil War photography. To those who knew him best, Richard B. Cohen will be remembered as a "disciplined collector who maintained a relatively narrow focus having built an important, perhaps unsurpassed collection in his area of specialization." Richard was particularly well read and his historical knowledge informed his collecting as reflected by the photography that follows. The array of carte-de-visites and albumen photographs gathered here include a number of identified naval officers - both famous and obscure - along with a handful of enlisted sailors and Mississippi Marine Brigade images, and, significantly, many views of unique Brown Water Navy sidewheel and sternwheel warships - no two vessels looking exactly the same. Subjectively, the most appealing aspect of the Cohen Collection are the photographs of these gunboats, transports, and impressed vessels quickly converted at St. Louis, Cairo, and Cincinnati for duty on the waters of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The gamut of improvised warships range from the earliest types of steam powered vessels first taken up by the Army to create a small timberclad flotilla, to the several purpose-built War Department Ellet rams, and later, the more numerous classes of tinclads, some converted but all built for and crewed by the Navy. A few captured Confederate vessels impressed into Union service are also present. It is supremely evident that Richard B. Cohen's collecting instincts were always evolving, but uniformly refined. We trust that both advanced and neophyte collectors will find something to pique interest now that the time has come to inevitably recycle these exceptional images to a new cadre of aficionados.
Provenance:The Richard B. Cohen Civil War Collection
Significant toning around edges with rounded corners and rough bottom, still G. Photographer added highlights to hair. No rank visible in shoulder straps.
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