By JEFF MEYERS
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Dean Mosher has found a soft spot in his heart for the history of the Champlain Valley, including that day in September 1814 when American forces defeated the invading British war machine.
Mosher, a nationally renowned artist whose work hangs in such venues as the Smithsonian Institute and the U.S. Naval Academy, is in line to create a massive mural of those moments on Plattsburgh Bay when American Commander Thomas Macdonough stole victory from a much larger British fleet in the Battle of Plattsburgh.
“I started out about 15 years ago to create an epic series of the five great naval battles in early American history,” Mosher said recently from his home in Fairholt, Ala. “You can’t do the five without including the Battle of Plattsburgh.”
The Battle of Plattsburgh Association has started working on a campaign to raise $100,000 to commission the artist to create a mural to hang at the Battle of Plattsburgh Interpretative Center and War of 1812 Museum.
Mosher visited Plattsburgh in 1998 and met several people who were involved in promoting the significant role the Battle of Plattsburgh played in America’s subsequent victory in the War of 1812 against Great Britain.
“Most notably was Keith Herkalo,” Mosher said of his initial contact with the man who would become a premier moving force in the recognition of this area’s role in the history of America.
“He was somebody who worked so hard to bring to light as much of the nuance of that history as possible.”
Herkalo, who is now president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, led the local impetus to place the importance of the Battle of Plattsburgh alongside the more commonly known battles at New Orleans, Baltimore and Sackets Harbor.
A year after his first visit to Plattsburgh, Mosher participated in a mammoth project to capture the strategies used on Plattsburgh Bay during that Sept. 11, 1814, battle by using gym space on the recently closed Plattsburgh Air Force Base to display huge maps of the battlefield.
“This allowed us to reconstruct a lot of things that had never been brought together before,” Mosher said of what he called an impressive gathering of historic minds.
One of the recent developments of the battle at that time was the discovery and removal of a large anchor from the British flagship Confiance from the bay. That anchor is now on display at Plattsburgh’s City Hall.
It was during the reconstruction on the gym floor that the exact location of the anchor’s watery grave was unveiled, providing a major clue in helping to pinpoint the location of each vessel, American and British, as they fought one another on that September morning.
“Finding out exactly where that anchor went down is a true plumb bob (to identifying the battle’s location),” Mosher said. “When that anchor drops, it’s going to go straight down. That’s exactly where the Confiance was.
“I like to do very thorough research for my projects,” he added. “I want to have an understanding of not just where the ships were but of the reasons why they were where they were.”
Mosher was commissioned to do the painting of Macdonough that now hangs in the War of 1812 Museum gallery along with a sketch of the battle itself.
With the bicentennial of the battle less than two years away, the Battle of Plattsburgh Association hopes to have Mosher’s mural completed by the anniversary date.
“We’ve been talking about it for several years now,” Herkalo said of discussions he has had with Mosher and U.S. Navy retired Rear Admiral John Paddock on creating the mural.
“The three of us together thought now might be the right time, with the current emphasis being placed on the bicentennial.”
“It takes over a year to paint one of these large canvases,” Mosher said. “I’ve already laid out a lot of the canvas, the size, the scope, the ships. It’s going to be a huge endeavor.”
The painting would include eight vessels engaged in battle along with more than 1,000 figures of the men involved in the battle, including Mosher’s impression of the feelings those men were experiencing during the height of battle.
“I look forward to it,” he said of the opportunity to complete the mural.
He has left a one-year gap in his activities to focus on the project.
“I love the folks in Plattsburgh,” said Mosher, a native of western New York. “It’s a wonderful city.”
“He’s an incredibly talented guy,” Herkalo said. “I’m very pleased that he’s been a constant partner with us. This is a very fitting time for this to happen.”
Email Jeff Meyers: firstname.lastname@example.org
TO LEARN MORE
Details about the Commemorative Campaign to raise the money for the Battle of Plattsburgh mural are found at: www.battleofplattsburg.org.