Tuesday, January 15

The Acasta Gamecocks

In recent years there has been a tendency among historians and re-enactors to gloss over many of the more brutal and sad aspects of actual history. Slavery, child labor and blood sports involving animals were all daily aspects of life in the early 19th century. In the Acasta we believe in portraying history “warts and all”. Just as gamecocks were not uncommon on warships, often in the Acasta camp you may see one or more fighting cocks. Of course, the actual status of these guys in the unit is that of beloved mascots.

Here’s a bit about each of your Acasta Gamecocks-

Lord Nelson has a look with his good eye
Lord Nelson- Lord Nelson is a Black Breasted Red (his coloration) Old English Game (his breed). The breed Old English Game dates back to perhaps the 16th century in Europe. Banty (extra small sized) Old English Games are still common among poultry fanciers because of their beauty, but the decline of cock fighting has resulted in standard sized birds becoming rare. As with many re-enactors “Lord Nelson” is only a persona name. Around home he goes by “Blinker”. Blinker was an 18th century cockfighting term for a bird blind in one eye. Just like his namesake, Lord Nelson is blind in one eye, the result of a disagreement with one of his brothers at a young age. At almost 6 years old, Lord Nelson is the oldest of the Acasta gamecocks.










Jonathan Blue- Jonathan Blue is a Delaware Blue Game, an 18th century American Game breed. Blue coloration does not breed true in chickens, so Jonathan’s color is “Splash”, basically white with a smattering of blue and red feathers. “Jonathan “was an English term for Americans during this period, hence the name of this American breed bird. Delaware Blue Games are even more rare today than standard sized Old English Games. The University of Delaware keeps a flock, but years ago a professor there mixed in other breed bloodlines, taking the birds further away from their historic appearance. Our Acasta Delaware Games are not from this bloodline, so they maintain the breed’s historic appearance. Jonathan Blue is the original sire of all the Acosta’s Delaware Blues.




The Surgeon's Mate with Tom Cribb













Tom Crib-Tom Cribb is a Delaware Blue Game of the blue coloration. Jonathan Blue is his father. He is named after a famous bare-knuckled boxer of the Acasta time period.





Blue Peter sounding off like a Bosun
Blue Peter- Blue Peter is the son of Lord Nelson crossed with a Delaware Blue Game hen. His appearance is actually typical for that of an 18th century Delaware Blue Game. At just going on two years old, he is in his prime. He is named after the flag signaling that a ship was getting underway to set sail, the “Blue Peter”


Monday, January 14

Gunners Training


Today's post submitted by Acasta member Mark Thomas

This being my first article for the website and Acasta pages I ask that you bear with me as this is the first of a series over the next year. In July I was asked by Capt. Bob to do a Gunners training class for the FGW (Friends Goodwill) Sloop. I had offered my services at the sail training class several of us attended earlier in the year.

To go further I  feel a little background info on me is needed. I was introduced to reenacting at 12 years old, my parents were having a rough patch one of many and dad took me to a civil war event in Georgetown Ky. A year latter they were divorcing and I was looking for a unit to join as a way to escape my reality. I had a lot of trouble with this as most would not fool with a 13 year old I had many rejections. My mother used to sell junk at festivals and it was announced at Augusta Ky there would be reenactors as part of the festival I was determined to be in it.

I met a man who changed my life an old Korean war vet who had a cannon, his name was Tom Henson. He took me in without question and I was soon on his gun crew with the coolest job in the world I fired the cannon. That’s right the #4 man life had just took an upswing. I found I had a love for the big guns and never looked back though I did do a stint in horse artillery. My experience is now at 25 years of messing with cannons and I have never regretted it I have seen some awesome things like 50 firing at once and tradgety such as the accident at north college hill Ohio. It puts me in a good place to teach and pass on my knowledge.

Im sure it made several people nervous when it was announced that I would teach a class for the sloop, who can blame them here I am barely out of training and some of these guys have been sailing the sloop for a decade. I must admit this was intimidating so I brought back up, no not the Acastas as they were all busy. I took my Daughter Allie who wants to attend sail training this year. She was there to take photos and video for me as well as experience her first sail. Unfortunately the sail did not happen however the crew did treat her like family and she loved it. The class started off a little rocky with some push backs and some “well that’s the way we’ve always done its”. I expected this and was prepared backing up what I was teaching with stories of disaster and triumph. I probably put a good healthy fear into several of them which is a good thing in my opinion. I slowly won most of them over I believe. We soon went out to the Ship where I asked Tom to walk through the ship board operation of firing the cannon. As he was talking and not focusing on what was going on the rest of the class was quick to see his potentially disastrous mistakes in the gun drill. It was able to be used as a teaching moment to stress the point that the gun crew needs to focus on the gun first.

As the day drew to an end I decided to talk a bit about maintenance on the cannon I realized some improvements needed to be made in that area so while the crew practiced gun drill I decided to borescope the ships swivels. The one pictured above was actually in very bad shape and full of cracks and stress fractures not a good ending to the day. It had the potential to explode given the right conditions which being on the quarterdeck with all the ships officers this could turn into a very bad thing. As of this writing contracts are in the works to replace the swivels with a new set made form ordnance grade steel.

Shortly after leaving I felt I had made a pretty good impact on the students and staff as well. Within a couple weeks I was asked to become the Master Gunner for the ship, I humbly accepted. As of now there is a rework of the manual to teach the class underway as well as other improvements in the gunners department. I have been able to show a new way of making rounds for the cannon which has made a big difference in reducing misfires. New safety procedures are also in the works. 

All in all I call this one a successful expedition with many more to follow.

Humbly yours,
Mark Thomas
Master Gunner.

Friday, January 11

A letter from the Surgeon

This letter has be translated from the original French

Dear Brother,

     As we are in port, and I find myself with more leisure time than I had expected, I will take this time to write you of a most peculiar situation which has arisen.

    I thank the Almighty each day to have left behind the prison hulks and I pray for the poor wretches there formerly in my care. Here in the Acasta I have the charge of two assistants in addition to “loblolly boys”.  One, Reid, seems adequate if unimaginative. The other, Girard, was temporarily promoted to position of surgeon during the absence of an actual surgeon. Imagine my surprise to find, upon my arrival, that he was imprisoned having shot a Marine in a duel! You can well imagine my opinion of one who-having sent their days attempting to aleve human suffering, would willingly try to take another human life!

  Through some manipulation of the Captain he was returned to the ship to occupy his former position as one of my assistants. Upon his return I had another surprise. He is French! Well, not exactly truly French but Creole, and imbued with all the superstition and jocularity of those crude but honest folk.  He is, apparently, a favorite among many of the crew, who call him by his Christian name of Baptiste. You might expect that finding me a fellow Frenchman would incline me to his favor, but such is not the case.  Having been around him for a bit now I take less offense at this, as I think my greatest fault  with him is merely that I am not the Acasta’s former surgeon. This fellow, a Doctr Roberts, was apparently also favored among the crew, and it seems Girard was dog loyal to him. I have since learned this duel was less over a personal insult to Girard and more over an insult to the good Doctr Roberts. It seems the last word of Doctor is that his transport vessel has gone missing and this is also a source of anxiety for poor Girard.

I do believe that Doctor Roberts and I would have gotten on very well. It seems he was also a student of Natural History, with an interest as great as my own. Many of his collected specimens are still aboard. Girard has a proprietary curatorship over these, as he helped in the collection of most of them and plans to deliver them to Doctor Roberts in the future. The poor fellow will not entertain the notion that Roberts may already be lost. 

When discussing the collection of some particular specimen, Girard will sometimes become animated to the point he even forgets he dislikes me, which is almost entertaining. He has an excellent informal knowledge of Natural History, again infused with many simple superstitions, and good powers of observation. He can read both French and English and is actually attempting to learn Latin. I think he could be most useful in my own studies were I ever able to win him over.


Finding him possessed of those positive attributes I was then disappointed to learn he is an avid patron of the cockfighting pit! How can one so often involved with trying to heal suffering find entertainment in such contrived combat between two creatures, human or otherwise? Such is the inconsistency of Man!

One other small incident, and abord ship where there is no escaping one another, small injuries can quickly become large grievances. Early in our acquaintance Girard came upon me sitting reading. He quickly informed me that the chair I was in was, in some unspecified but very potentially dangerous way, broken and should not be used. The chair was perfectly fine, but I vacated it regardless. He said he would have the carpenter see to it and later put a line across it lest I forget and transgress again. I later asked one of the Loblollies of the chair. It seems it was the former throne of the good Doctor Roberts.

And now I find that I have become weary of my rendition. As always, I keep you and your family in my prayers as I trust you do me,

Your loving Brother,
Ducett


Thursday, January 10

Further Investigation

Captain Sir Jas. Rehme, K.B.
His Majesty's Ship Acasta
St. Kitts, West Indies Station

Dear Sir,

I have the pleasure of delivering the good news that our surgeon reports Sargent Major Cockburn’s wound appears beyond the danger of sepsis and he is expected to make a full recovery. Should he have died I feel I would have had no option but to have hung your man Girard.

I have done some further investigation and found that several members of your crew were present at this dual, as you have no doubt already surmised.  A man named Apple- it is my understanding that he may be a petty officer- apparently served as Mr. Girard’s second. I have also learned that Mr. Girard rendered the good Sargent major medical aid after he had shot him. One can only speculate weather this was done through Christian charity or the sudden realization of his own dire situation.

I can return your man to you or keep him imprisoned as you see fit. There will need be some manner of official inquiry. Let me know your preference for the result of this official inquiry and we can make it so.

I await your response at your leisure.

I remain, your friend & humble servant,
Wm. Jas. Severn, Port Admiral
HMS Ganges, Pump Bay
Brimstone Hill, St. Kitts

Wednesday, January 9

A found letter

A letter found on the Quarterdeck by the officer of the watch 

Sir Captain Rehme,

Sir,

Firstly we want to say that we are as loyal to the King and yourself as any ships company in the fleet and have no complaint against you or any of our officers.

Secondly we want to humbly beseech you to do what you can for Mr Batise that he don’t get hanged as he is a good surgeon what we all trust and he was trained my Dr Roberts and surgeons don’t come no better than him.

Thirdly we wish you to know that that Lobster what Mr Baiste shot had it coming and then some for he had insulted both Dr Roberts and his wife most villainously and the fact that Mr Baiste only wounded him not mortal  shows what a kindly fellow he is.

Fourthly we wish you to know that Mr Apple did not serve as secont to Mr Batiste as some have said and that is just a slanderous rumor.

Fifthly which  that we are much indidposed to have Frenchman for our new surgeon as how can a loyal subject of the King trust to a Frenchman even of he can sing God Save and such

Your loyal crew

Tuesday, January 8

A letter to Mother Linden

A portion of a letter from Volunteer First Class Samuel Linden to his mother

“So many changes! Just as we are beginning to become accustomed to the new Captain more things have happened to topple the egg basket!

Volunteer First Class Samuel Linden
Most recent Mr. Baptiste was promoted to acting surgeon as Doctor Roberts was to be gone for some time on some particular circumstance. The Mids all thought it very peculiar, but Mr. Baptiste told me he has done similar in the past. That is true I suppose, but they had not prompted Mr. Baptiste before.

Then Mr. Baptiste seen in the Lloyd’s list that the ship the Doctor was to travel on did not make the rendezvous with the convoy it was to travel with, although it had plenty of time to do so. This seemed to disconfigure him greatly, as he was very attached to the Doctor.

Then Mr. Baptiste fails to return from an errand ashore – and word is he has shot a Marine Sargent in a duel! It did not kill the fellow, but he is under arrest just the same.

Then a NEW surgeon shows up! Which shows that the Admiralty did not intend to let Mr. Baptiste keep that post anyway. On top of that he is a Frenchman- which did not set well with the crew! Mr. Baptiste was a Frenchman, and the crew liked him well enough, but Mr. Apple explained to me that Mr. Baptiste was a Creole, which is what they call a Frenchman born in America. He said that Mr. Baptiste was more like a Jonathan that a real Frenchman. He called him a counterfeit Frenchman at best.

This new surgeon is an old man and seems sad. Mr. Mooney says it is because of what is happening in France. I suppose that would make sad also if I were French. Like the Doctor he is interested in Natural History. He must have a particular fondness for tortoises.  In his dunnage was a box containing nothing but tortoise shells and bones. He come to the mids and said he would pay anyone who could make some sketches of the shells for him, as he said he had no such skill himself. I may try to do this, as a bit of extra coin would be nice when I am sent ashore on errands.

But back to Mr. Baptiste. They are holding him under arrest, and I suppose they will most likely hang him. Dueling is illegal in addition to shooting a Marine. Rumor is that he was once a second in a duel for our former firebrand lieutenant. I suppose that his how he knew about how to go about it. It makes me sad to think of him hung, as he was my friend and was kind to me. Please say a prayer for him when you are in church.”


Monday, January 7

A "damned unfortunate business".

Captain Sir Jas. Rehme, K.B.
His Majesty's Ship Acasta
St. Kitts, West Indies Station

Sir,

I'm afraid this must be brief, as I write to you in great haste. As you and I are of long-standing acquaintance, and I owe you my heartfelt thanks for having taken on my poor boy George (who you might remember was cut in twain by the wind of Spanish hot shot at Tenerife), I felt I might return the kindness by attempting to save the life of your surgeon, Monsieur Baptiste Girard, who was taken up by the local guard for duelling whilst on liberty.

As you well know, duelling has been recently outlawed, but it seems that from witness accounts, M. Girard took issue when a very drunk Sergeant-Major of the Royal Marines, Nicholas Cockburn, late of the frigate Boreas (now attached to the garrison here at Saint Kitts after she paid off and was towed to the yard in Jamaica for repairs), made very low and black remarks & accusations regarding your late surgeon, a Dr. Rbt. Alberts. Cockburn cast aspersions upon M Girard's loyalty to the Crown - he was publicly accused of being a French spy - and lastly, made vile and ungentlemanly remarks about the virtue of Dr. Albert's wife. I am afraid I am unacquainted with the doctor and his poor wife, but M. Girard spoke of them both most loyally and with a moving show of deep affection. Cockburn may be an idle drunk, and is given to wild stories, but he is an honourable sort of fellow - when sober - and a great asset to the garrison when kept out of the rum shops. Thus, appreciating the merits of each of the principle parties involved, you must see why I am so loathe to bring them up on charges for duelling. 

Regarding the particulars of the event in question, I am informed that the duel took place by the light of the moon on Sandy Point, between Charles Fort & the Fortress on Brimstone Hill. It seems Cockburn's pistol jammed, likely from sand kicked up by the winds, but your man Baptiste's ball struck Cockburn in the shoulder (not mortally wounding him, thank god, but taking him out of commission for a few weeks, surely.).

It's damned unfortunate business, but I cannot turn a blind eye to an incident of this nature; I must see them at least brought up on charges. Cockburn has family with money and thus might weasel his way out of the bilbows he is currently strapped to his hospital bed with, but M. Girard appears to have no connections on the island other than yourself whose influence may be brought to bear in his favour. 

You seem to be a captain who keeps to his ship, thus this message comes by my man Bartholomew, who has searched the whole of the island for you, having heard rumor you were about. I would take it as a kindness if you would see him fed, as he's had a long day of it, running notes to see this unfortunate event hushed up. 

Until the next, I remain, your friend & humble servant,

Wm. Jas. Severn, Port Admiral
HMS Ganges, Pump Bay
Brimstone Hill, St. Kitts