Sailor's Embroidery

Sailors sometimes used their off-duty hours aboard ship to do hand crafts such as carving, knotting, and needlework. This sailor's silk embroidery on linen of patriotic symbols and Civil War-related scenes, was "Worked at sea by J. M. Adams" in the late 19th century. It is 20-1/2 inches long. The center vignette has "Liberty" seated on a wharf beside the "Mississippi River," looking at a three-masted ship flying the stars and stripes. She holds a pole topped with a liberty cap in her left hand and a shield decorated with stars, stripes, and the word "Liberty" in her right. An anchor and cannon balls are at her feet.
"United States of America" and "In God We Trust" are embroidered on the scene's circular frame. Atop the frame is an American eagle holding an "E Pluribus Unum" banner. A rising sun is behind the eagle, and a stars-and-stripes shield is at its feet. To the right and left of the eagle are rifles with bayonets and American flags. To the right of the frame is a sailor; at the left is a soldier in Zouave uniform. The corner vignettes depict: 1. The "Battle of Mill Creek," fought in Kentucky on January 19, 1862, ending in a Union victory and a Confederate retreat. It is based on an engraving published by Johnson, Fry & Co., New York, from a painting by Alonzo Chappel. 2.The "Death of Ellsworth" in Alexandria, Va. He was the first Union soldier killed in the Civil War. It is based on an illustration in Harper's Weekly of June 15, 1861, from a sketch by Francis Brownell, a young Zouave soldier who immediately avenged Colonel Ellsworth's death and became a national hero. 3. Monument in Charlestown, Mass; designed by Martin and Joseph Milmore. Dedicated in 187l, it reads, "Erected in memory of the heroes of Charlestown who fell in the late Civil War." 4. Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on "Boston Common," Massachusetts. Designed by Martin Milmore and dedicated in 1877.
Currently not on view
Date made
late 19th Century
Adams, J. M.
Place Made
At sea
Physical Description
silk (thread material)
linen (ground material)
overall: 20 1/2 in x 30 1/2 in; 52.07 cm x 77.47 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Greenwood
Patriotism and Patriotic Symbols
Liberty Cap
Sailing Ships
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Home and Community Life: Textiles
Sports & Leisure
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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