This is a scarce version of Nathaniel Currier's lithograph of Major Samuel Ringgold at the moment of mortal injury in battle on May 8, 1846, the first day of battle at Palo Alto, Texas. The battle and Ringgold's injury are reported by Currier as a current event and as patriotic art describing the first major battle of the Mexican American War on American soil. Other pictorial versions of the death of Major Ringgold are in major institutional collections. This version is at the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of the City of New York.
In this drawing, Major Ringgold, mortally wounded, is being assisted off his bowing white war horse. The American officer receiving Major Ringgold in his arms is flanked by a palm tree and other foliage, with an artillery line in the background firing its cannons and soldiers on foot wielding their swords in the ongoing battle. Artistically, the print captures the red, white and blue symbolism of the American flag with the great white war horse kneeling in homage to his fallen rider, a red flower on the horse's bridle, echoed by running blood stains from Major Ringgold's wounds and the bright blue of the two American officers' blue military jackets.
Major Samuel Ringgold (1796-1846), a native of Maryland was a member of the first graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point (1818). He was promoted to the rank of major general, according to his biography at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in recognition of his two military inventions, one the McClelland saddle and the other the idea of a flying artillery, with guns mounted on horse drawn carriages that afforded tactical advantages in battle. He was one of the acknowledged heroes of the Mexican American War and his death was an event of great moment and mourning throughout American military ranks and with the American public.
Ringgold's flying artillery, recognized by Currier in his choice of title for this print, was used in the Battle of Palo Alto on May 8, 1846, to America's advantage and war victory, but also tragically where Major Ringgold suffered his mortal injury and died several days later. Currier's symbolic 1846 print contemporaneous with this historic event takes its place at the head of a body of work commemorating Ringgold's life, the Mexican American War, and Texas history. In Baltimore, Maryland, the Watson Monument was constructed many years later to honor its Mexican American War veterans among them native son Major Samuel Ringgold. `