There are always new things to discover at Oatlands. Recently, we’ve been taking stock of our artifacts related to the War of 1812, because we are coming up on the bicentennial of what historians have called America’s Second War for Independence.
For example, William Eustis, the great-grandfather of the Eustis who lived at Oatlands, was Secretary of War during the War of 1812, and his portrait hangs over the sideboard in the dining room (more on him in a future post). Right across the room over the mantel hangs a portrait of Commodore Charles Morris, a naval hero of the War of 1812 and beyond. in 1835, Morris’s daughter Louise married William Wilson Corcoran, who was grandfather to William Corcoran Eustis, who owned Oatlands. As the executive officer on the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) Morris led the boarding party in Constitution’s legendary victory over HMS Guerriere. He later commanded USS Adams, raiding British merchantmen, and was nearly captured in the Battle of Hampden. His 1823-27 stint as navy commissioner was briefly interrupted when he commanded USS Brandywine in 1825 to deliver the Marquis de Lafayette safely back to France.
Upstairs at Oatlands, on a highboy in the hallway, there is an old lantern, to which little notice had been given. Recently, a visitor to Oatlands who knew some naval history pointed out that the lantern is from an 1812-era ship, and would have been used by a porthole to provide light for the cannoneer to aid with aiming the gun at night. Did Morris bring the lantern to Oatlands? Could it be from Adams, or possibly from Constitution? Or is it simply a souvenir from his postwar service commanding the Portsmouth Navy Yard? A simple discovery leads to questions with possibly thrilling answers, and we are diving into this mystery. If you know anything about these lanterns and how they were used, please contact Oatlands.