Ecce Homo

Fortune’s Bounty

On Sept. 3, 1748, the Colonial town of Brunswick, across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington, was attacked by three Spanish ships, causing the townspeople to flee. Many ships in the port were destroyed. Three days later, a group of local men under the command of Capt. William Dry, a planter and early settler of Brunswick, returned to drive out the Spanish. Thirty prisoners were captured. The remaining Spaniards fled to the privateer La Fortuna, which was anchored in the Cape Fear River. Suddenly there was a huge explosion, which destroyed the ship and killed 90 onboard. The other two ships retreated back down the river to Smith Island (now Bald Head), where they exchanged prisoners. Among the spoils of the Fortuna discovered in the captain’s cabin was the painting above, Ecce Homo (Behold, the Man!) by the Spanish painter Francisco Pacheco (1571-1654). In 1751, the North Carolina General Assembly presented the painting to St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Wilmington, where it remains to this day.

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