Friday, October 28

The Clothing of a Boatswain

'Sailors Carousing' 1802 by Julius Caesar Ibbetson (1759–1817)
And the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty do hereby further give Notice, that the Uniform directed, in pursuance of His Majesty's Order on the 17th November 1787, to be worn by the Warrant Officers of His Majesty's Fleet, viz. Blue Cloth Coat, with Blue Lappels and round Cuffs, fall down Collar, Three Buttons to the Pocket and Cuff, white lining, but not edged with white; Button with an Anchor, same as the Captain's former one; white Cloth Waistcoat and Breeches. Shall be worn only by Gunners, Boatswains and Carpenters; and the subordinate classes of Warrant Officers shall not be allowed to wear Lappels.

From the Admiralty Rules, 1807

It it generally believed that the seated fellow  visible at the left through the doorway/window in the Ibbetson painting above, is a Bo'sun given his mode of dress and the chain about his neck. See enlargement detail.

Above Left: Bo'sun, HMS Venerable, 1799. Above Right: Bo'sun's Mate, HMS Gloucester, 1812

Thursday, October 27

7 Stupid things asked of Historical Reenactors

As reenactors we work with the public at historic sites and events all over. We invest small fortunes and zillions of hours of research to make sure that we are dressed and outfitted properly in order to teach history to the masses. Sometimes the public will ask really thoughtful, intelligent questions...

...and then, there's everyone else.

That being said, I believe that every question can be of value and that they all deserve to be answered... that's what people attend historical reenactments for, right? So, I take a second to answer even the most goofy questions...

This is one of those questions I've never been asked personally, but I've heard stories of other reenactors being asked it. Maybe it's a reenactor 'urban legend'... I like to hope that people aren't stupid enough to really ask this sort of thing.

6.) ARE YOU NORTH OR SOUTH? (to any NON Civil War reenactor)
There is always at least ONE of these couples wandering around any historical event of any era at any given time. They wander up to your camp, see you cleaning your 1770s style brown bess flintlock musket while wearing your tricorn hat and buckle shoes to ask this one. They seem to be of the opinion that ALL reenactments MUST be of the Civil War variety.

When I first got started in reenacting, my daughters were still quite young. One day I laid my youngest one down for a nap in a cabin at the site so she could get a nap in and not be crabby later. A mom and her son marched into the cabin, stomped over to the cradle loudly and practically shouted, "Hey look! Is that a real baby?" No nap THAT day.

You've crammed your tiny vehicle full of your clothes, canvas, tent poles, coolers, camp furniture, gear, cots and enough blankets to smother an army. You get to the site early because you need several hours, and potentially a few friends to set it all up. Then, not only does the public ask this question of your tented weekend home, they generally wander on in without asking. Hey public, don't do that!

I'm wearing a wool coat in Kentucky in July and it's 98° in the shade,  yeah I'm a little toasty.  Aren't YOU a little hot in YOUR costume? Also while we're here... what I'm wearing isn't a 'costume', this is clothing. I only wear a costume on Halloween. If you think of your historical clothing merely as a costume, you're doing it wrong.

It never fails that you slave all day over a firepit at an event just to have a group approach and ask this one. This question is usually accompanied by a look of horror or disgust from the asker.  Are the people of the 21st Century so far removed form their food preparation that they don't know it when they see it?

It never ceases to blow my mind that human beings in this modern age cannot identify REAL fire when they see or smell or feel it. The same people that ask this sort of question when confronted with a real fire are the same people who are allowed to operate heavy machinery, take care of children and vote! And to add insult to injury, their vote counts as much as yours does!

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Wednesday, October 26

HMS Valiant signals

"The Flag is signaling sir," the young midshipman said as he looked across the water to the northeast at HMS Valiant, "and she's made our number."

"Very good Mr. Calhoun." Lieutenant Tumbusch called out from the focsle, where he was consulting with the master, "What do they have to say?"

Young Calhoun, the youngest of the Acasta's midshipmen, fumbled with the copy of Popham's book, attempting to hold the glass to his eye in one hand and the book in the other.

Tuesday, October 25

A Letter from Mr. Wyman

Today's post written by Acasta Sailor A. Wyman

June 2, 1805

Dr. Thomas Jones
Aberystwyth, Wales

Dear Thomas,

I pray this letter finds you hale and healthy. I have only just yesterday had a letter from my Dear Sister, she keeps up to date me with all the news of your Family. She writes that you are well and your Doctoring practice is thriving; it does my heart good to know that my Sister has such a fine and prosperous Husband.

Since you have been so kind as to consent to act as my man of business and to look after my monetary affairs while I am at sea- Siwsan writes that you have been steadily increasing my small store of wages and prize money by wise investments, for which I Thank You most heartily- I thought to write to inform you of a matter that may have come to your attention. I receiv’d yesterday in the Mail Packet two letters, sent several months apart. I will enclose copies for your perusal. Be Warned- I have copied them out as written & the writers are quite unschooled as to their letters and write with a terrible fist. The first letter-

Missus Ammy Tubring
The Crown and Swan
Portsmouth, Ingland
11 Nowember

Mister Alun Wiman
HMS Acasta

Mister Wimman
As you has been a verry good custumer these many years, and we has always been pleesed to give you good serviss and a clean bed, I must say I am verry distrest to have to have are Tom rite out this letter to you. Now, I nose that you Salers has you ways, and you comes and gose as yor dooty rekwires, and I has allwas donn as fare by you as enny tavern owner shudd, but I must say you has come it to hie this time, and I must ensist that you make things rite. I runs a sespecable house, and it is none far and wide that we serves peeple of the shest kwalledy here. We relies on are repatashen as a respecable place, and now I find that are Mary has got herself in a fammelly way. Now I seen you dandeling her on you nee, and I sad nothen abote it becoss you been soch a good custumer, all, and I feggared yode not tak sosh lebbatees in a respecable house. Now I suppos you did not no Mary was with child wen yor ship saled away, and so I’ll not accoos you of runnen of, but I must have som asherance that youl do the honnerabel thing by are Mary. Why, the poor dere is in her litel garet now, a-soben of her ays out. I must ensest that you rite me back to let are Mary know that you wont leev her berrin of a bastid. If you dozzen do rite by her, then I must warn you nevvir com back round heer.

Missus Ammy Tubring
The Crown and Swan
Portsmouth, Ingland

Tom- I know that you will not believe this slur against my good name! I don’t deny that I have sometimes frequented the Crown and Swan when I have been landed in Portsmouth. And I don’t deny that I am acquainted with Mary. But as any one who knows Mary (and I am not disclosing a secret when I assure you that most sailors know Mary) knows that she is a great strapping Man O’ War of a woman- 6 foot tall in her stockings if she is an inch. And I am of course something less than tall. So the notion of my having Dandled her on my knee is ridickulous, to say the least. As well to say I Dandled the Rock of Gibraltar or Canterbury Cathedral.

I would not under normal circumstances write to you with such rubbishing untruths, yet I was struck with the thought that mayhaps Mrs. Tubring had written also to you, and tried to solicit monies from you on my behalf. I do indeed trust that that was not the case. The second letter-

Mises Ammy Tubring
Te Cro(illegible) and Swan
Porsmoth Englen
11 Aprel
Mister Alen Waymen
HMS Acasta

I hop my leter finds yo wel and I hop my last leter didden afrite you oermuch. It sems that letel hoozy Mary tol me lize and sed yo was the fother of her letel basted child but yestaday she ran of with that raskel Tom what rot out the last leter I sent yo. I allus thot he war a bit of. I hop yo wel not hold my last leter agenst the repatashen of this hows. and wel conteney to gev us the plezer of yor custem. We allus take prid in ar navvy and is thankfel that prateks ar good king and contre for the Frinchees and the Dons and them what wod do us arm. Yo and yor shipmats is allus wekem her at the Croun and Swan and we hop to see yo hol and wel wen yo returns from yor voyaj.

Misses Ammy Tubring
The Crown and Swon
Porsmoth Englen

So you see, even Mrs. Tubring in the end came to understand that I was not the Guilty Party. I do not for a moment believe she ever did think so, rather she was “chancing her arm” as the gunners say.
It is my hope that you have not been troubled at all in this matter. If you have been, and have expended any monies I will endeavor to repay you forthwith. My fear is mainly that I might lose your Trust and Good Will, and that would be the Saddest loss to me. I remain, 

Yr Affectionate Brother,
Alun Wyman

Monday, October 24

Atrocities of the Pirates

The Atrocities of the Pirates 
by Aaron Smith
A brief review by Tony Gerard

 In 1822 Aaron Smith’s merchant ship was captured by Cuban pirates. The rest of the crew was released, but Smith was held captive for the next ten months. Smith is forced to work as a navigator, doctor and member of several boarding parties. Most of the atrocities he witnesses are perpetualed by the pirates on one another. Eventually he escapes and makes his way to Havanna- where he is imprisoned as a pirate! He is sent to England in chains and eventually stands trial for piracy there.

Although the book is slightly after our time period there is really nothing that marks it as such. I highly recommend this book for any members interested in the West Indies and associated piracy.

Thursday, October 20

Sailor's Kit

"The Doctor's man, Vasserman, was mute as a bedbug, but not deaf or simple. He did right well with the ladies despite being dumb- I think it was because he worked double hard at it."

- James Cullen, Remembrances of Eight years before the Mast, 1834.