Wednesday, October 1

Mission X part 1

Inside Chateau de Malmaison
It has been quite some time since I had to make myself presentable for 'court'. As my good wife will attest, I am a creature of habit and tend to wear a good deal of black. After some consultation with Lt. Ramsey and Mr. Cushing, the two most fashionable gentlemen of my acquaintance, and having a look at some French fashion plates, it was decided that I would wear a purple cut away coat, a while silk waistcoat and black silk breeches. I also purchased a new pair of pumps as it was pointed out to me by my wife that my old pair had become quite worn looking.

Thursday & Friday military camps moved in and set up on the far Northeast end of the property near Château de Bois-Préau. As a special guest lecturer I was freely admitted to most areas, it appeared that the general assumption was that I was well dressed and supposed to be there. Another unexpected weapon in my secret arsenal was my own wife. Mrs. Roberts in her beauty frequently gained me passage where I might otherwise not been allowed. She has a certain air and look that French guards tended not to question.

Friday night there was a Dinner at Chateau de Malmaison with the Emperor and all the local politicians and people of interest. The room was packed tightly, and there was initially some concern that there might not be room for us, but my wife and I were eventually seated at a table directly next to that of the Emperor and some of the ladies of his wife's court. I was within 10 feet of the man himself all evening.

As one would expect, Bonaparte is always flanked by his personal servants and guards. It will be a difficult thing to get close enough to administer my poisonous draught.

Our meal consisted of:

Pâté chaud de caille a la truffe.

Longe de veau dans son jus, fricassee de legumes du moment.

Assiette de fromages affines et sa verdure aux herbes.

Dome de vanille de Madagascar et sa salade d'argrumes.

...and a great deal of Champagne.

The evening was brought to a close by dancing, and I did not have the opportunity to get any closer to Bonaparte.

On Saturday, 100,000 people were estimated to have gathered in the center of the city to see the Emperor's official arrival with great fanfare. Bands and drums played upon his arrival, I could espy it all from the doorway of the town hall building.

There were speeches from local politicians followed by a great Parade through the streets of the town out to the great military encampment. There were soldiers of every sort gathered to participate in the grand show. Being a Surgeon in His Majesty's Navy, I have never borne witness to so many soldiers on the ground in one place. I would estimate over a thousand easily. The Emperor is always surrounded by scads of armed men, with all eyes upon him.

In the middle of the grand encampment was a large roped off area that was set up for the sole use of Bonaparte, Josephine and their court and guests. This area lay at a midpoint on the grounds between Château de Bois-Préau and Château de Malmaison. There was, in the center, a large tent for Napoleon and an even larger one off to the side for Josephine. The ladies and gentlemen of the court and special guests were treated to a sumptuous picnic on rugs placed in the Northeast corner of the roped off area. It was not lost on me that many of the French commanders and generals found their way in to partake in the picnic as well.

Bonaparte was secluded in his tent the entire time and we did not see him.

After eating a little light fare, I wandered the Emperor's roped off area, every corner with a guard posted and several at the entryway. Napoleon and Josephine's tents were guarded as well. There was no getting close to him here. I made some conversation with the guard closest to our picnic area in an attempt to ascertain the guard rotation schedule to no avail. 

One of Bonaparte's commanders allowed me into a tent used as a military headquarters of a sort and I was afforded an excellent view of a campaign map. It was pinned showing the forces of various French and English units, he even took the time to explain to me the meanings of the various types of pins and their colours. Each pin bore a little pasteboard placard with the name of the particular commander upon it. I made a careful mental note of each in an effort to carry the information back with me. 

to be continued...

Special thanks to the photographers who have allowed me to make use of their amazing pictures:

Tuesday, September 30

How to Paint a Bosun's Hat

ACASTA (sometimes seen as 'Acaste' or 'Akaste') - In Greek mythology, she was one of the Oceanides. A sea nymph, one of the three thousand daughters of the Titans Tethys (mother) and Oceanus (father). According to the Homeric Hymns, Acasta was one among the companions of Persephone when she was gathering wild flowers.

I hunted for anything from the historical naval record that would indicate that the original HMS Acasta had a crest or something that could be used on a hat of this sort with no luck yet. So, to hold its place until we find evidence of the original design, I did several small sketches that involved a sea-nymph/mermaid design in keeping with the ship's mythological namesake. The mermaids are based on several original mermaid illustrations from the period. Most hats of this sort involve a ribbon that bears the ship's name, so I included one of these in each design. Each design also included the mermaid holding a sword as a representation of England's power, and one involved a shield with the Union flag on it.

I eventually settled on the upright tail design with the shield, but the sword was changed to a trident to offer up a little more visual balance. I then traced her onto the hat and started painting. The bosun's hat is felt with about 4 layers of exterior grade black latex house paint on it. The design itself is painted over top of that with Testor's model paint… gold, red, white & blue with black to indicate some of the mermaid's details.

After giving the design a few days to dry, I tackled the lettering, again just black Testor's model paint on the gold. You can also see where I added some detail with the black around the crown at the top.

Here you can see the finished design on the hat as well as on the head of Bosun's mate 'Samuel Hollybrass' at the Fair at New Boston in Aug 2014.

Monday, September 29

John Parson, Master's Mate

Acasta Master's Mate under Capt. Dunn, c. 1806, aged approx. 20 years.

John Parson died 29 Nov. 1847, at St. Helier's, Jersey, aged 62.

This officer entered the Navy, in the spring of 1800, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on hoard the Leviathan 74, Capt. Jas. Carpenter, bearing the flag in the West Indies of Sir John Thos. Duckworth; with whom he continued employed as Midshipman in the Hercule 74, until Feb. 1805. He was in consequence present in the latter ship at the unsuccessful attack upon Curaçao in 1804, and in various other operations. After sharing, we believe, as Master's Mate of the Acasta 40, Capt. Rich. Dalling Dunn, in the battle fought off Cape St. Domingo, and serving for a short time as a Supernumerary on board the Dolphin, bearing the flag of Hon. Sir Alex. Cochrane, he was constituted, 6 May, 1806, Sub-Lieutenant of the Pert sloop, Capt. Jas. Pringle.


Friday, September 26

Admiral Popham's Telegraph Signal Book

Popham as a young Lt.
The Admiral Popham Telegraph Signal book of 1806 is the book used on board Royal Navy ships, including the Acasta. Lord Nelson's final signal at Trafalgar was giv'n using the same system.

In way of explanation as to how to read the Popham Signals:

I. Preparatory flag consisting of a red-and-white diagonal flag which is flown at the start of a signal to show that it was a telegraphic signal.

II. The message finished flag consisted of blue and yellow diagonal.

III. If the message was understood the affirmative signal or a repeat of the signal that was sent.

IV. If the message was not understood then the affirmative signal with a white flag was flown.

V. If the message was to be answered a further flag was flown.

VI. If a number was to be sent then a numeral pennant was flown.

You may find a copy of Popham's Telegraph Signal book HERE. Have a look through it, it is a fairly simple system. You will need this as a reference from time-to-time when the Acasta hoists her signal flags.

Here is a signal hoisted just before our Trafalgar Dinner, for practice:
Click on image to see a larger version.

 This message was hoisted after the capture of the Two Brothers to the Prize Crew from the Acasta

Thursday, September 25

Popham's Telegraph Signal Flags

Capt. C. Bertani
Lately, Captain Bertani of HMS Cornwall (74) North Sea station, has written a program that will translate typed text into 1806 Popham Telegraph Signal Flags!

Not only can you choose to use the start and finish flags, but you can alter the shape and size of the flags themselves.

Thanks to Capt. Bertani for writing this fun program and for pointing it out to me!

Wednesday, September 24

In The News

The London Gazette 
Publication date:26 September 1818