Thursday, February 11

About Baptiste, the Surgeon's Mate

Apple, the ship's carpenter, sat his empty bowl on the hanging table, leaned back against the eighteen pounder and let out a companionable belch. 

“Alright Frenchy” he said in a voice not unfriendly, “Wat’s yer story?”

The mess looked at the older French sailor. He was a recently pressed man that had been assigned as surgeon’s mate when it was learned that he’d had experience in that area. He had spoken very little since. 

“My story?”

“That’s right. This blockade ‘as gone on so long I know everything there is ta know about these ‘ere lubberly coves- ‘eard  sung ever song they know,  everything that’s ever happened to  ‘em and every lie they can think up. Yer the closest thing ta new entertainment we got.  Ya speak good enough English for a frog- so, what’s yer story?”

The Frenchman smiled. Honest, friendly curiosity wasn’t what he had expected. “I am an old man- I have many stories.”

“An we got nothing’ but time” said Apple “so it can be as long as need be. Shove off and let’s hear the first few fathoms.”

“Of myself? ” he asked, warming to his audience. Apple nodded.

“To begin I am Creole.”

“We all thought you was French” said the young gunners mate.

“I am, but born here- in America-  is as they call Creole.  My Papa- my father- he was of the Compagnie Franches de la Marine- a soldier of the Marine in de Illinois country. Is far up de river Mississippi.”

“Among the red Indians?” interrupted the gunners mate. He had dearly hoped to see a wild Indian while on North American station. The few he had seen in Halifax had been a sore disappointment.

“Yes …among the red Indians- my Grandmere- she was one, a Kaskaskia. She live with us. My Grandpere, he was French, but he die before I was borned. My Grandmere was …how do you say him in Englais? A doctor of herbs? Yes. And my Mama after her.  My Papa, he work with the surgeon at Fort DeChartres, help him to set  broke bones, hold fellows down. When I was old enough, he have me to accompany him. But most of what I wish to do was only to hunt and fish and swim with the Indian boys.”

“I was young still when de war begin.  Most is far off, but once my Papa- he go far to Niagara. He fight in de battle of de Belle Famillie. Almost everyone to home loose somebody in dat fight, but my Papa, he come home with no hurt. He save de life of his Captain dere, an de Captain, he always remember dat. I have always strange fortune, perhaps that is where it begins.”

“After de war, is a time of great worry.  De compagnie Marine is to return to France, but  dem  dat wish may take der discharge and stay as habitants, and my Papa he does dis.  No one knows but what des Englis is to come and drive us from out our homes. Some move across the Mississippi to de Spanish. But only a few hunters and merchants come to de Illinois.  I am a young man by den.”

“Is a year or so after dat my Papa receive a word, is from his Captain. De Captain, he say for my Papa to send me to a fellow in New Orleans – a merchant dat have a grand plantation. He say dis fellow will give me a position, teach me to read and look after me.”

“I do not wish to leave de Illinois, but my Papa, he say I must. So dat spring I go down de Mississippi with de bateaus to New Orleans and de wealthy fellow’s plantation.”

“Dat fellow, his name is Francois Rochambeau, he is very kind to me. He was a cousin to my Papa's Captain.  He have a grand plantation with many slaves, and he is a merchant in New Orleans. He have tree daughters and de same fellow that is a school master for dem he have to teach me to read. I find I like to read- always I like a story.”

“I have a good life dere with Masseur Rochambeu. He is very learned, a man who love science. He is a great champion of the cockpit and he put me to work with the fellow that keep his birds. I learn to both heel and set to a cock, I learn everything about dem. I come to be his favorite setter.

"He also is a champion of horses racing. When he learn that I know how to bleed a fellow- I learn from my Papa who learn from de surgeon- he have me to sometimes bleed de horses he race with. Never had I heard of such a thing, but as I say, he is a man of science. He say dat if de humors of man can come unbalance den a horse may also."

"Was Indians dere also- Homas most. I become friends among dem and hunt with dem also." 

"Messur Rochambeau grow fond of me - I think perhaps because he have no son, only daughters. Sometimes he travel about business and take me with him to look after his horses or birds. Sometimes he let me read of his books. I wish to see l'Afrique and de Indies and de other places I read of. Also I wish to see France. My Papa was from La Rochelle and he often speak of de handsome towers and copper face houses dere."

"As I say before, Messur Rochambeau have tree daughters. The most young is just a bit more young than myself. After some time she and I become fond of one another. We keep a secret of dis, for she is... how do you say him in Englis...on the top of my post, yes?"

"Above yer station." corrected Apple.

"Above my station. Yes. After some long time that we have kept company in secret she tell to me dat I should ask her Papa for her hand. Do not misunderstood me- I never... how you call him... I never make a challenge to her virtue? Yes. Never even I have a thought of it. But both we are young, and we think we love one another. Her name is Evett- did I tell dat already?"

"I would never think to do such a thing, because she is stationed above me, but she say to me 'My Papa, he is very fond of you. He think of you as a son' and she encourage me to do so. So one day I gather up all my brave and I go do so. I can tell he is taked for a surprise, but he do not become cross. He say to me 'I must think on dis for some time' and den he dismiss me."

"De next day he come to me and he say 'We are going into new Orleans, take everything you may need for you may be gone some long time.' All the way dere, when we speak, we talk of de cockpit and horses, never of Evett.  When we come to the city he send me to board the horses and partake some ...errand, dat is the word, yes? Errands, and he give me money enough for my board - he is to call at the home of a friend- and he tell to me that he will see me at de stable of de morning."

"Dat night I sleep in de stable for to save my board money- I trade de stable fellow some bread we bring. Of de morning Messer Rochombeau come and he tell to me to bring my things and come with him. We go to de waterfront, sometimes before we travel to Mobile of a boat, and I think that must be where we are to go."

"We come to a ship where dey are loading goods. Messer Rochambeau walk right aboard. The Captain see him and come and say 'So, dis is de fellow you speak to me of?' Messeur Rochambeau say 'Yes. Dis is him' den he take me by the hand and say 'Baptiste, you are a good boy. Call on me when you are returned' and with that he turn and leave. By de next tide I am sailing for de west Indies."

"I was heartbroked to be sure. First chance I have I jump de ship and think I will find another ship to return and steal Evett away . But I can find no ship to go straight away back. But what is it dat dey say...enough time and salt water make a fellow forget anything, yes? Yes. I come to find dis life suit me."

"I come to find I enjoy the pleasures of women with no virtue..." this brought howls of approval from the mess"... and soon enough I no more think of Evett. Later I find she marry well, a merchant in the city. And I have becomed a sailor.... Fathoms enough?"

"Far enough fer now" said Apple "this blockade may last for years."

Wednesday, February 10

Baptiste's Leeches

Master at Arms
HMS Acasta


I write this at the request of Mr Baptiste, Mr Girard, mate to Doctr. Roberts, who excuses himself saying that he feels his writing in English may be too poor to express the importance of his relation. He wishes it to be known that on last port liberty in Halifax, he, of his own accord, did obtain some two dozen leeches of the type used for bleeding. Bleeding being one of the duties often assigned him by Doctr. Roberts and the leeches of America being unsuitable for this purpose, those he obtained had been imported from Europe and that they came very dear.

He wishes it known that he did this as a kindness for several of the ships boys and some of the younger sailors are very fretful of being bled and that when it be necessary to bleed a man from the back of the throat it can be more easily done by such a worm in a tube. He also relates that officers could be bled while they slept with a leech behind each ear and not interfere with their duties.

These leeches, in a covered jar, he placed among the medicninals in a dark place for them to become accustomed to the motion of the ship, and that when he next looked after them the thought there might have been fewer but that he was not sure, but that over time they have certainly become fewer. That in bringing it to the Doctor's attention the Doctor suggested that perhaps the leeches preyed on one another, but that he says they do not behave as cannibals and are always housed in congress by the apothecaries that sell them.

That in this same time he had taken notice that the mess including Jacob Booke, being often near to his, always had good fresh fish in addition to their ration and that he had heard once heard Booke to say  that to catch fish always "nothing is better bait than worms" and that questioning Booke about this Booke said that he had mistook what he said, it being that "the bait must be warm", but that he was certain Booke had said "worms". 

The Doctor not taking the plight of the leeches with proper seriousness that there were but a few left when he was finally prevailed upon to then lock the survivors away with the laudanum and spirituous medicinals. He feels certain that these valuable specimens have been villainously stolen by Booke and his mess and he wishes the Master at Arms to be made aware of the situation.

Yr obt svt
M'man S. Loomis

N.B. I feel I should also relate that this narrative is to the best of my understanding, as Mr Baptiste became impassioned in his narration and often lapsed into his horrible Creole accented French, making him difficult to understand. 

Tuesday, February 9


Submitted by Acasta crewman Cody Miller

Anyone who knows anything about punishments in the Royal Navy will have taken note of the brutality of flogging.  It is an act our modern minds cannot fathom as a humane punishment for drunkedness but was seen a necessity aboard His Majesty's ships.

Twelve year old Samuel Leech was a Boy aboard HMS Macedonia when he witnessed the punishment of flogging for the first time in 1810 and gives us a vivid account.

"The Boatswain's Mate is ready, with coat off and whip in hand.  The Captain gives the word.  Carefully spreading the cords with the fingers of his left hand, the executioner throws the cat over his right shoulder; it is brought down upon the now uncovered herculean shoulders of the MAN.  His flesh creeps-it reddens as if blushing at the indignity; the sufferer groans; lash follows lash, until the first mate, wearied with the cruel employment, gives place to a second.  Now two dozen of these dreadful lashes have been inflicted; the lacerated back looks inhuman; it resembles roasted meat burnt nearly black before a scorching fire;  yet still the lashes fall; the Captain continues merciless."  

Leech goes on to say.  "The executioners keep on.  Four dozen strokes have cut up his flesh and robbed him of all self respect; there he hangs, a pitied, self-despised, groaning, bleeding wretch; and now the Captain cries, forbear!"

Source:  Thirty Years From Home, Or A Voice From The Main Deck:  Being The Experience Of Samuel Leech.  1857

Monday, February 8

The Surgeon's Mate

Jean Baptiste Girard
“There is aboard my ship an old French sailor. He has been impressed as the surgeon’s mate, we having lost ours, and he having served in that capacity aboard others. He is a cheerful enough fellow for having been forced into the position of possibly fighting his countrymen and is full of stories from his travels. He has twice been wrecked, chased by land crocodiles in the Dutch West Indies, captured by Spanish privateers, stowed a rattlesnake aboard his ship, lived among head hunters in the South China Sea and a thousand other such tales. If a quarter of what he tells is truth he has lived a full life indeed!”

Robert Watson aboard the HMS Acasta in a letter to his wife, Sept 16., 1813

Taken up by the press gang at New Boston

Friday, February 5

2016 Schedule

Where are the Acastas planning on being?

2016 Schedule of Events

Battle of New Orleans 201st
Jan 9-10
Chalmette, Louisiana

Spirit of Vincennes
May ??
Vincennes, Indiana

Gunboat Weekend
June 10-12
Bath, Ontario

Shore Party 2
June 17-19
Edgewater, Maryland

Jane Austen Festival
July 15-17
Louisville, Kentucky

Tall Ships Duluth
August 17-21
Bayside Park, Duluth, Minnesota

The Fair at New Boston
September 2-4
Springfield, Ohio

Fort Bowyer
September 9-11
Gulf Shores, Alabama

Mississinewa 1812
October 7-9
Marion, Indiana

Thursday, February 4

Finding (C.S.) Forester

Finding (C.S.) Forester:
sorting through the Hornblower canon.
By Buzz Mooney

   Readers of Napoleonic-Era Royal Navy fiction almost universally express a preference for Patrick O’Brian’s brilliant Aubrey-Maturin series over all other works in the genre, but if there is a first-runner-up,  it has to be C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower.  Hornblower is actually a sentimental favorite of mine, because my father recommended it to me, and I finally started reading it when I found his few volumes, after he passed away. I find that I identify with Hornblower’s constant self-doubt, which compels him to pretend to be brave, in an effort to compensate for his misguided sense that he is a coward. The result, of course, is that Hornblower will stand where others will run. He will toil where others will quit, and he will persevere, where others would despair.  Hornblower is also the series that sparked my interest in the Royal Navy of this period. It was only after reading all the Hornblower I could find, and I was eager to find more about the subject, that I started reading O’Brian.

  Interested readers, however,  will find that reading Hornblower is not as easy as reading O’Brian, and not for stylistic reasons.   While O’Brian wrote his stories in narrative order, starting with MASTER AND COMMANDER in 1969, and ending with the incomplete novel posthumously published as “21”, in 2004, Forester did not follow any particular order.  Forester began with the novel THE HAPPY RETURN, set in 1808,  (Published in the US as BEAT TO QUARTERS) and ended with the HORNBLOWER AND THE CRISIS, set in 1805. The rest of the canon stretches from 1793 to 1848. This allowed Forester more flexibility in his time settings, avoiding such narrative quick-fixes as O’Brian’s several-year-long summer and fall of 1813, but resulting in some overlap among his stories; the short story Hornblower’s Charitable Offering occurs aboard the Sutherland, which Hornblower OTHERWISE commands only during  the novel A SHIP OF THE LINE.  Also, many of the books and stories were published under different titles in the UK and the US.

  The biggest difficulty in reading the entire Hornblower canon is simply FINDING all the stories. Some were published as novels, but some of the stories appeared first in magazines. No single publisher has published the entire canon, and it cannot be found in a tidy set, unlike O’Brian. The Hornblower aficionado  is almost compelled to seeking out electronic copies of some stories.  HORNBLOWER AND THE CRISIS sometimes includes Hornblower and the Big Decision/Hornblower and the Widow McCool, and  The Last Encounter, while The Hand of Destiny, Hornblower’s Charitable Offering, and Hornblower and His Majesty were only published in book form in 1976, in HORNBLOWER ONE MORE TIME, which can rarely be found for less than $800. However, those three stories and the two included with Crisis are available on line as THE HORNBLOWER ADDENDUM.

  Prospective readers may be somewhat put off by the complications I’ve mentioned, but they only apply for readers who want to read the ENTIRE canon: Most of the books are commonly available at libraries and bookstores. Perhaps, one day, we may even be able to convince a publisher to find a way to publish the entire canon, in a single series. Until then, here is a list of the Hornblower stories in approximate narrative order: Book titles are in bold caps, story titles are italicized. Approximate narrative dates and the ship to which Hornblower is assigned, are included.

MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER (Jan 1793 –Nov 1797): includes the following stories:
   Hornblower and the Even Chance (Justinian)
   Hornblower and the Cargo of Rice (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower and the Penalty of Failure (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower and the Man who Felt Queer (indefatigable)
   Hornblower and the Man Who Saw God  (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower, the Frogs, and the Lobsters (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower and the Spanish Galleys (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower  and the Examination for Lieutenant (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower and Noah’s Ark (Indefatigable)
   Hornblower, the Duchess, and the Devil (Indefatigable)
The Hand of Destiny (1796, Frigate Marguerite)
Hornblower and the Big Decision (aka Hornblower and the Widow McCool  and Hornblower’s Temptation)  (1799, Renown)
LIEUTENANT HORNBLOWER (Spring 1800- March 1803, Renown)

HORNBLOWER AND THE HOTSPUR (March 1803-April 1805, Hotspur)
BEAT TO QUARTERS (aka THE HAPPY RETURN) (June 1808-Summer 1808, Lydia)
SHIP OF THE LINE (aka A SHIP OF THE LINE) (May 1810-Oct 1810, Sutherland)
Hornblower’s Charitable Offering (1810, sometime during the narrative period of SHIP OF THE LINE, Sutherand)
FLYING COLORS (Nov 1810-Fall 1811, escaping captivity, through France)
Hornblower and His Majesty (1812, Royal Yacht Augusta)
COMMODORE HORNBLOWER (April 1812-Dec 1812, Nonsuch)
LORD HORNBLOWER (Oct 1813-June 1815, Porta Coeli)
The Last Encounter (1848, Hornblower’s estate at Smallbridge)