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

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.


Friday, January 12

British Frigate vs French Frigate

British Frigate vs French Frigate 1793-1814
by Mark Lardas
a VERY short book review by Tony Gerard

This is one of the Osprey series, and like all books in the series it is well illustrated.  The author is an architect and engineer and consequently spends quite a bit of time on the technical aspects of ship design, technical specifications, statistics and analysis. I was actually more interested in the differences in life for the men aboard the ships. There is a chapter, “The Combatants”, that deals with this, but not in any great depth. I found the discussions of differences in ship’s armament interesting. The most interesting chapter for me was “Combat”, in which the author describes four different historic frigate duels.

Thursday, January 11

About Charles Monnier

Today's post written by Tony Gerard

So most recent we received some new hands, which we was sore in need of. Better yet these was actual sailors off a ship what had been decommissioned after a rough crossing, They said they had pumped almost the whole passage after her timbers had started to work during a blow. Among them was a  Royalist Frenhman and I though the old French surgeon’s mate we have aboard would weep with joy- so happy was he to have another frog aboard.

They was having a big gab in frog right after they discovered each other and who should come upon them from behind but our new hard horse Leftentant Lord Fitzroy.  Now we have plenty of hands whats not English aboard. You might hear three or four different languages spoke if you was to walk past the messes at supper, but Fitzroy is new and a tartar to boot. He makes them both jump like cats when he roars out in a Quarterdeck voice “You two men! I will not have THAT language spoken shipboard in my presence!”. The old Frenchman knuckles his forehead real quick and say “Aye, my Lord” but the new one just makes knuckle and says nothing. “I will have you make your obedience to me IN ENGLISH, sir” he says to the new one.

The new one knuckles his forehead again and says “ My apologies, my Lord. I was quite overcome at finding a fellow countryman aboard and forgot myself. It will not happen again.” Says it without a trace of a frog accent! I was close enough I heard it myself. If anything he sounded just like a Jonathan. Well Frizroy, the surgeon’s mate - and me to I am sure- just stand there with our mouth open for a second. Then Firzroy comes to hiself and says “Very well’ and stomps off.

Much later the Surgeon’s mate and the fellow hisself – his name is Monnier- told me more of his story. It seems his family was associates of the celebrated Lafayette. His father was one of his officers in the late war or some such. After the war they had lots of business dealings in America and he grew up mostly in America-which is how he come to speak English like a Jonathan. When the French started up that Republican madness and Lafayette had to flee the country his family did as well and went to America. They had been well off in the old country- but now had all their property took and lost most of everything. Most of their kin what did not flee was guillotined. 

Well Monnier could probably have been an officer in a Jonathan ship. But he is determined to “help regain his country” as he says it.  So he signs on as a common sailor in the Britain’s navy. He laughs, sings and cuts up with his mates like any common tar- and him educated and from a middling sort of family. It goes to show how common that leveling Republicanism streak is in all Frenchmen. Or maybe it was just nurtured by his time in America, cause the Jonathans is just as bad about that sort of thing.

-Robert Watson abord the HMS Acasta
in a letter to his wife, Feb. 1809

Wednesday, January 10

The Drunken Marine

John Downie, aged 26,
Marine; headache

Taken ill 15 Nov’r at Cove,
discharged to duty 25 Nov’r.

This is a coltish drunken fellow of such a ghastly wretched appearance in general that it is a difficult matter to ascertain at anytime whether he is in health or otherwise especially if it is convenient for him to affect indisposition - which is very often the case. He has been bred a butcher and from the facilities of his early years he has acquired habits that are in some degree rare - he can imitate with the greatest possible exactness the howling of a pack of hounds, the crowing of a cock, the bellowing of a bull, cow or calf and a number of other animals. On account of these curious qualifications he is often solicited by his shipmates to give a specimen of his talents and a glass of grog is of course the reward. I presume he has been drunk in consequence of something of this kind and has affected sickness to avoid punishment. He says his head aches

I have given him an emetic and will stop his grog till he is better.

 Originally Recorded by: Mr. Thomas Simpson, Surgeon, HMS Arethusa, 1805