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Research Guides

Henry J. Warre

Reconnaissance for Britian (1845-1846)

"In compliance with your request must of course depend very much upon what you may say in your proposed book; but that, if there is nothing in it that can be objectionable upon political grounds, there seems to be no reason why you should not publish an Account of your Journey, and a description of the Country, its features, resources, present condition, and future prospects"[36]




In 1845 and 1846, Henry James Warre, aide-de-camp to the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in British North America, made a secret military reconnaissance tour of what is now Oregon and Washington. The reconnaissance was to indicate "the capabilities of the Oregon Territory in a Military point of view."[37]


Warre and his companion, Lieutenant Vavasour, posed as private travelers and toured the region with the assistance of the Hudson's Bay Company. They assessed settlements for their strategic value and for the numbers of American or British citizens. It is uncertain whether Warre and Vavasour's report played a part in resolving the land dispute between America and Britain. That dispute was settled by the Treaty of Oregon in 1846.


The sketches Warre made during the journey, which he obtained permission to publish with his account, are valuable both for their artistry and for their portrayal of this region.


Original Publication


Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory by Captain Henry J. Warre (A.D.C. to the late Commander of the Forces). Lithographed, Printed, and Published by: Dickinson & Co., 114, New Bond Street. Copyright 1848.


Sketches includes a short text by Warre giving an overview of the journey, 16 sheets of lithographs (some 2 per page, making a total of 20 plates), and a map showing Warre's route.


The order of lithographs in Sketches does not consistently correspond to the chronology of Warre's voyage, nor are plates placed on the same sheet necessarily on the same topic or in chronological order. Some references are made to the illustrations in the text, but not consistently.


The lithographs present territorial views of the Rocky Mountains, The Dalles in Oregon, Mount Hood, Willamette Valley, Cape Disappointment, and Palouse Falls. Also shown are settlements at Willamette, Astoria, Fort Vancouver, and a Native American burial site.


Biography of Artist


Henry J. Warre (1819-1898), an Englishman, spent his career in the military. After enrolling in the Royal Military Academy as a youngster he served as an aide-de-camp to his uncle and later his father. Warre's service took him all over the world including North America, Ireland, Ionian Islands, Crimea (he also published a book, Sketches in Crimea), India, and New Zealand. He also visited Norway and made a world tour in his later life.




Special Collections holds 2 copies of Warre's Sketches: one is a bound copy with black and white lithographs; the other is a boxed set with 20 loose colored plates.


Other books about Warre include: Overland to Oregon in 1845 : impressions of a journey across North America by H. J. Warre, a publication of the Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa, which illustrates Warre's journal entries with corresponding sketches; and Sketches in North America and the Oregon Territory. With an introduction by Archibald Hanna, Jr. The title is misleading because this is not a reproduction of Warre's 1848 book. It instead re-prints Warre's text, which is then followed by 71 of Warre's sketches housed at the American Antiquarian Society.

[36] Letter of August 7, 1847 to Captain Henry J. Warre from the Office of the Right Honorable Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Palmerston, giving permission for Warre to publish his lithographs with an account of his journey. (Public Archives of Canada, Ottowa. H. J. Warre Journal. W.O. 1. vol 558, pp. 795-798. Microfilm B-3077).
[37] Letter from Lord Metcalf to Sir Richard Downes Jackson, May 2, 1845. (Public Archives of Canada, Ottowa. H. J. Warre Journal. W.O. 1. vol 552, pp. 127-130. Microfilm B-3074).