Tuesday, January 23

A Nelson Companion

A Nelson Companion- A guide to the Royal Navy of Jack Aubrey 
by C Maynard
a VERY short book review by Tony Gerard

This is a great little book! At less than 130 small pages this book is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, but is rather a collection of interesting information about life in the royal navy during the age of fighting sail. That said it does seem to cover almost every aspect of shipboard life in some short bites. This would be an excellent primer for anyone just developing an interest in the Royal Navy. Some labeled diagrams to go along with some of the explanations would have been great, and almost all the line drawing illustrations are from a later time period, but it really doesn’t detract that much. 

A little feature I enjoyed was “Nautical origins of common phrases and sayings” which was stuck in between various sections. The book also has a nice glossary of terms, plus a bibliography of sources, websites and a mention of museums relating to the topic. Every Acasta should have a copy of this little book!

Monday, January 22

Young Henry Eden

EDEN.
Acasta Volunteer First Class under Capt. Kerr, 15 June 1811

Henry Eden is fourth son of the late Thos. Eden, Esq., of "Wimbledon, co. Surrey, Deputy-Auditor of Greenwich Hospital, by Mariana, daughter of Arthur Jones, Esq. ; brother of John Eden, Esq., a Major in the Army, and of Arthur Eden, Esq., Assistant-Comptroller of the Exchequer ; brother-in-law of Lord Brougham, and of the late Admiral Sir Graham Moore, G.C.B. ; nephew of Sir Robt. Eden, Bart., who was Governor of the province of Maryland in 1776, as also of the late Lord Auckland; and cousin of Capt. Chas. Eden, R.N.

This officer entered the Navy, 15 June, 1811, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Acasta 40, Capt. Alex. Robt. Kerr, with whom he cruized most actively on the Home and North American stations, latterly as Midshipman, until Aug. 1815. In Nov. following, after an intermediate attachment to the NAMUR 74, and Tonnant 80, flag-ships at the Nore and at Cork of Sir Chas. Rowley and Sir Benj. Hallowell, he joined the Axceste 38, Capt. Murray Maxwell, and soon afterwards sailed with Lord Amherst on an embassy to China—while on his return from which country, in Feb. 1817, he suffered shipwreck in the Straits of Gaspar.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.

Friday, January 19

The Days of the French Revolution

The Days of the French Revolution
by Christopher Hibbert
Another brief book review by Tony Gerard

I read this book with the goal of making myself more familiar with the conditions in France that lead up to the conflict between France and England and to learn more about what conditions in France were like throughout that period. The book covers the period from 1789 to 1795 with a concluding chapter on the advent of Bonaparte.  

This book does a pretty good job of setting out events in chronological order, and it does so in a readable enough manner. However, it doesn’t go into any real detail on what conditions and life were like at the time except in the most basic sense. 

I do have one big problem with the book. While the introduction says that “it is written for the general reader unfamiliar with the subject (that’s me), rather than the student”, Hibbert seems to assume that the non-student is somehow completely familiar with the various French political factions at the time. Girondins, Enrages, Hebertists, Indulgents, Montagnards and Sans- Coulottes all appear and reappear throughout the narrative generally with little or no accompanying explanation of who they are, where they came from or what they want. An index/glossary of who/what/why these various groups were would have sure been handy. Along that same line some formerly mentioned player will often reappear in the narrative. There as so many different names it was often hard for me to remember who was who. An index of important individuals would have been a wonderful thing to include also.

Thursday, January 18

Fiddlers and Whores


Fiddlers and Whores- 
The Candid Memoirs of a surgeon in Nelson’s Fleet
by James Lowry
a Brief book review by Acasta member Tony Gerard

James Lowry was a young man, classically trained in the medical arts, who joined the British Navy as an assistant surgeon in 1798 and served until the spring of 1804. His deployment was almost exclusively on the Mediterranean- he was in on the Egyptian campaign of 1801, was briefly a prisoner of war before being exchanged, then served in Italy and Sicily before being shipwrecked in 1804. He was apparently an avid journalist, as well as a sketch artist, but unfortunately his journals and sketches were almost all lost in the wreck.

At some point after he returned to Ireland he wrote a series of letters to his brother chronicling his adventures from memory. While he was certainly involved in some serious military actions, his main interest was in Italian society and its lax (by English standards of Lowry’s time) sexual morals. While the dust jacket notes that Lowry recounts his exploits in “perhaps rather more detail than is proper” I found this true only in 19th century terms. I personally found Lowry frustratingly lacking in the details of historic life that we living historians love so much. Not only are his romantic encounters lacking in detail, but so are the accounts of his military adventures. Personally disappointing for me, his medical endeavors barely get a mention.

This is not a bad book, but it is an easy book to put down and pick up again later. If an individual had service in the Mediterranean, Sicily or Italy as part of their back story it would be an excellent resource.

Wednesday, January 17

On the Purser's Gambling


Today's post written by Steven Diatz, who portrayes Mr. Armitage, our esteemed Purser.


Now Gentlemen (and ladies), 

I would have it known my gambling forays are mostly limited to on-shore locales, such as decent taverns, gaming clubs, and balls and soirees (that I have been invited), and only with like-minded gentlemen and lady gamesters. Aside form the occasional entertaining odd hand at whist, or dicing (for low stakes), with my fellow warrants and lieutenants, in the Acasta wardroom, I would never use my acumen, at the 'green table' against any 'below decks' ratings, as many of them are already in-debted to me, as purser, and my 'pursers bank' (which I am permitted to operate, and which some of my wardroom 'brothers' have utilized, when in need of cash or credit). I maintain that I play strictly 'upon the square', upon my honour. I gained some skill, at play, when (in my youth), I frequented some notable London 'gaming hells'. I developed the expertise of procuring wholesome victuals and (later on) sturdy clothing, while employed at various London merchant grocers, with a long stint at the prosperous firm of Fortnum and Mason (St James St, Piccadilly), and the counting house of Wm Giles and Company (Temple Bar). 

'The Hazard Room'..above, drawn in 1792, by Mr Thomas Rowlandson.
I developed the art of 'the barter', but always made sure of quality goods, at the best price, a credo I employ, as ship's purser. I have endeavoured to use my gambling winnings and purser's profit (which is not begrudged me, by regulations) to benefit our crew, by laying in a goodly supply of various 'greens' and dried fruit, to augment the ship's rations, which I bear, at my expense. Dr Roberts, our scholarly ship's surgeon (and 'man of science'), will atest, I believe, that the health, vitality and disposition of the Acasta crew has much improved, by this, which I had already discovered by conferring with other RN pursers. I long realized I do not have any great skill at seamanship or 'fighting tactics', but to properly feed and clothe our Acasta crew, using my experience and abilty, is the best way of 'serving King and Country'.

I have the honour to be, yr servant,
N. Armitage, Purser, H.M.S. Acasta

Tuesday, January 16

England Expects...


The National Maritime Museum explores how the Navy secured its place in the fabric of the nation in Nelson, Navy, Nation - a new permanent exhibition opening on Trafalgar Day, 21 October 2013. 


Monday, January 15

Mr. Midshipman Dundas

DUNDAS.
Acasta Midshipman under Capt. Kerr, c.1809-1815

John Burnet Dundas, born 14 Nov. 1794, is youngest son of the late Sir David Dundas, Bart., by Isabella, daughter of Wm. Robertson, Esq., of Richmond, co. Surrey; nephew of the late Capt. Ralph Dundas, R.N. ; and brother of the present Sir Rich. Fullerton Dundas, Bart.

This officer entered the Navy, 10 July, 1807, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Spencer 74, Capt. Hon. Robt. Stopford, one of the ships employed in the ensuing expedition against Copenhagen. From Oct. 1809, until the receipt of his first commission, 25 April, 1815, he served, as Midshipman, on board the Unicorn 32, and Acasta 40, both commanded, on the Home and North American stations, by Capt. Alex. Robt. Kerr ; under whom he appears to have been most actively employed, and to have witnessed the recapture of L'Esperance (late H.M. 22-gun ship Laurel), and the capture, independently of many other vessels, of five privateers, carrying in all 57 guns and 510 men.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.