Friday, August 30

Rum, Sodomy & the Lash

Not solely about pressganging, but there is some interesting information contained within. Much of it focuses on the sensational aspects of Navy life, but interesting.

Keeping it Legal

From the Orkney Library's Balfour Collection (Ref D2/19/16)
The above document gives ship captains the legal right to impress men for their ships. Captains would sign over such documents to their Lieutanants, who were the ones to lead the press gangs. Additional unseen text on this documents bears witness to that fact, it reads:

"I Do hereby Depute Lieut Wm Balfour belonging to His Majesty's Sloop Lynx under my command, to Impress Seamen, Seafaring Men and Persons whose Occupations and Callings are to work in Vessels and Boats upon Rivers, according to the Tenor of this Warrant. In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal this thirtieth day of April 1803."

In their Ernest Marwick Collection (Reference D31/1/6/15) in a transcript of a letter from Alex Skene on 6th November 1800 he states that: 

"I assure you Sir that the impress service is to me the most unpleasant part of an officers duty and it is impossible to defend the propriety of it but on the score of necessity"
All information comes from the Orkney Library, the oldest public library in Scotland.

Don't forget:

Come back at NOON (cst) for the FINAL post of PRESSGANG WEEK!

Thursday, August 29

The Press Gang - Music Video

As I walked out on London Street
A press gang there I chanced to meet.
They asked me if I'd join the fleet
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

They said that a sailor's life was fine.
Good comrades and good pay I'd find.
They promised me a bloody good time,
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

But when I went, to my surprise,
All they'd told me was shocking lies.
There was a row and a bloody old row,
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

The first thing they did, they took me in hand
And they flogged me with a tarry strand.
They flogged me till I couldn't stand,
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

They hung me up by my two thumbs,
And they cut me till my blood did run.
That was the usage they gave me,
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

If I could get one foot on shore,
I'd marry the pretty girl I adore.
And neither wind nor waves would entice me more,
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

And nothing could ever entice me more,
On board of a man-o-war, boys.

Wanted: Spirited Young Men

The Press Gang, 1858 (oil on canvas), Johnston, Alexander (1815-91)
Ferens Art Gallery, Hull Museums, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library

Don't forget:
Come back at NOON (cst) today for the second post!

Wednesday, August 28

Here's The Tender Coming

Here's the Tender Coming - new and improved! from Sharpie on Vimeo  

Here's The Tender Coming
Here's the tender coming, pressing all the men
Oh dear hinny, what shall we do then?
Here's the tender coming, off of Shields Bar
Here's the tender coming, full of men of war

Hide thee, canny Geordie, hide thyself away
Hide till the frigate makes for Druid's Bay.
If they take thee, Geordie, who's to win our bread?
Me and little Jacky: better off be dead.

Here's the tender coming, stealing of my dear
Oh dear, hinny, they'll ship you out of here
They will ship you foreign, that is what it means
Here's the tender coming, full of red marines.

Hey, bonny lassie, let's go to the Lawe*
See the tender lying, off at Shields Bar
With her colours flying, anchor at her bow
They took me bonny laddie, best of all the crew.

Here's the tender coming, pressing all the men
Oh dear, hinny, what shall we do then?
Here's the tender coming, off at Shields Bar
Here's the tender coming, full of men of war.

*The Lawe is a high vantage point at Shields; 'hinny' = henny, love or dear (cf. the Cockney 'ducks' or ducky')

Special thanks to regular reader 'Sharpie' for allowing us to make use of this video!

A Bug-a-boo to Frighten John Bull

The British Museum Catalogue describes A Bug-a-boo to Frighten John Bull... as follows;

Apparently an American print. In the foreground is an American merchantman, the poop towards the spectator and crowded with men of un-nautical appearance; she is inscribed 'Wright of Maryland'. A few yards off is a naval ship's boat inscribed 'Revenge' in which a British officer, wearing a large cocked hat, stands, cutlass in hand, holding the tiller. There are six oarsmen. 
A man on the American vessel tipsily fires a pistol at the boat; the officer shouts: "I'll have you tuck'd up at the yard Arm, you rascal for daring to fire upon His Majestys barge." 
The man answers: "Damn you Majesty & your furbillo'd hat." 
One of the sailors, apparently hit, hangs lifeless over the edge of the boat. One American seaman swims towards the British boat, saying, "60$ a month is worth a wet Jacket any time"; a sailor prepares to help him in, saying, "Give us your fist my brave fellow you were rather too nimble for us". 
Two of the other British sailors say: "Dont be firing here & be D------d to you" and "I wish we had a Congress to Hansel us ye Dollars". 
An American seaman is about to drop overboard; he says to the British sailors: "Bear a hand shipmates or I'll be swamp'd too." 
Behind him are a Negro and an Irishman; the former says: "Ki massa I grad fo go long you my nooung massa been read say inney paper massa Wright gwine gie me 200 Dollah." The Irishman says: "Bie my sowl I'll go wid ye for 60 dollarhs a munt." 
One seaman seizes another, saying, "you shant go Nat sister Nabby will cry dreadfully if you be not to home." The man pushes him off, saying, "Leave me be Ned our marchents wunt give me 60$ wages." A third (with deformed hands) brandishes a saucepan, saying, "Rascals", while a fourth says to him: "I say Old crooked knuckles why heave the skillet overboard?" 
On the extreme right the master of the vessel looks towards the British boat, saying, "You'd best make no difficulty with my people, for there's a bill before Congress, to shoot every Englishman at 200$ pr head." 
The sails form a background to the men. In the middle distance is a British man-of-war to which the barge belongs. Behind is a harbour with vessels at anchor, backed by the houses of a small port; behind are cliffs surmounted by a castle flying a British flag. c.1806

In addition the following note has been added to the online catalogue;

The date being uncertain the situation is obscure. 'Wright' is probably Robert Wright (1752-1826), senator, and Governor of Maryland, a strong Jeffersonian, who introduced a Bill in 1806 for the protection and indemnification of American seamen, and supported measures for the protection of American commerce and the prosecution of the War of 1812 with Great Britain. Desertion for higher pay was in general from British to American ships. The tension between the two countries was great and increased until the outbreak of war.
Don't forget:
Pressgang Week features special posts TWICE A DAY. 
Come back at NOON (cst) for the next post!

Tuesday, August 27

The Doctor and the Press Gang

How do I avoid the Press Gang?

How do I avoid the Press Gang?
A Gentleman’s guide to staying out of His Majesty’s Royal Navy.
Press Gang [n.] A company of men under an officer detailed to force men into military or naval service.

Fairs were considered one of the best places for the British Navy to press new sailors because there were always plenty of young men in attendance eager to spend their money and impress their ladies. How do I get out of it you ask?

Follow these simple rules:

1.) Be extremely young or very old.
There actually were age restrictions for pressing sailors into service. Generally they avoided the very young and very old, but in times of a ‘Hot Press’ like during wartime, sometimes these restrictions were overlooked to meet quotas.

2.) Have money in your pockets to buy your way out.
Gentlemen were supposed to be exempt from being pressed and could buy their way out of service OR they could get out of it by offering up one of their male servants in their stead. Make sure to have plenty of bribe money in your pockets!

3.) Be sick or otherwise deemed unfit for service.
You‘ll have to be able to pass a rudimentary medical exam by a Navy Doctor to be admitted into the service. If you’re unwell and a risk to the rest of the ship, or have some other sort of dangerous pre-existing condition that renders you unfit for duty, you’re free to go.

4.) Run like mad.
Seriously, if they can’t catch you, they can’t press you.

The Press-gang.

From the Custom House it is but a few steps to Tower-hill.  Well, there is a view of it, and of the Tender, which is an old man-of-war, riding at anchor on the Thames, for the purpose of receiving impressed men for the king’s service.

Say, Mr. Lieutenant, before I surrender,

By what right you take me on board of your tender?

In the peaceable trader I rather would be,

And no man-of-war, Sir, I thank you, for me.

From: City Scenes, by William Darton
Transcribed from the 1828 Harvey and Darton edition by David Price

Don't forget:
Pressgang Week features special posts TWICE A DAY. 

Come back at NOON (cst) for the second post!

Monday, August 26

Horrible Histories - Join the Royal Navy!

The Press Gang & Naval Recruitment

The pressgang, or Jack in the bilboes (1790).
George Morland, from Humorous art : pictorial notes on the social aspects of life in the Royal Navy, With descriptive notes by Joseph Grego, London, 1891(?). (Source:
The Royal Navy has always had problems recruiting enough personnel to crew the ships of the fleet, mostly during the times of war. Prior to the twentieth century, there were three means of recruiting: voluntary service, impressment and Quota Acts.

Men who volunteered to join the navy received conduct money and two month's salary in advance. From this, the sailor was expected to purchase clothes and equipment from the Purser, known as slops. This usually included the purchase of a hammock. One of the benefits of volunteering for the navy was that the sailor would be protected from any creditors if the debt owed was less than £20.

Impressment was a long standing authority from the state for the recruitment to military service, either on land or on sea. The impress service, or more commonly called the press gang, was employed to seize men for employment at sea in British seaports. Impressment was used as far back as Elizabethan times when this form of recruitment became a statute and later the Vagrancy Act 1597, men of disrepute (usually homeless vagrants) could be drafted into service. In 1703, an act limited the seizure of men for naval service to those under 18, although apprentices were exempt from being pressed. In 1740, the age was raised to 55. Officially, no foreigner could be impressed although they were able to volunteer. If, however, the foreigner married a British woman, or had worked on a British merchant ship for two years, their protection was lost and they could be impressed. However, these limits were often ignored and the impressment of Americans into the British navy became one of the causes of the American War of 1812.

The Press Gang by Robert Morley (1857–1941)
Once a man had been seized by the press gang, he was offered a choice. He could either sign up as a volunteer and receive the benefits that came with being a volunteer (advance payment etc.) or he could remain a pressed man and receive nothing. Some governments issued "Protections" against impressment, including Britain. These were mainly issued  by the Admiralty and Trinity House for specific types of employment. These protections had to be carried at all times and shown to the press gang on demand to prevent the holder being impressed. However, in times of crisis, even the protections became invalid. The order "press from all protections" - known as the "hot press" meant that no person was exempt from impressment.

Additionally, in times of war, other methods of recruitment were used. In 1795, during the French Revolutionary War, the Prime Minister, William Pitt, introduced the Quota Acts to supplement recruitment to the navy. This meant that each county in Britain had to provide a quota of men for naval service. The number of men to be provided was dependant on the county population and the number of seaports it contained. As an illustration, London was expected to provide 5704 men for naval service. To induce men to sign up, counties usually offered a bounty. However, this did not usually ensure the required number and counties had to resort to other methods of recruitment. Criminals, convicted of petty offences, were offered the choice of joining up for naval service (with the added incentive of a pension at the end of their service) or the normal harsh prison sentence for the crime committed. In some cases, the presence of convicts added to the navy's problems by bringing with them diseases that were rife in the jails and causing the spread of  disease amongst the crew.

Impressment was last used in Britain during the Napoleonic wars of 1803-1815. Although not used after that period, the right to use impressment was retained. In 1835, a statute was passed that exempted sailors who had been impressed and had served for five years in the navy from any further impressment. In 1853, the navy introduced continuous service for sailors who wished to make a career in the navy. After a fixed number of years, they would receive a pension. This reduced the need for general impressment and it died out in the form that it had been used previously.

However, in the twentieth century, during the two world wars, another type of impressment has been used in the form of compulsory national service or conscription and this type of service continued until the early 1960s.

From: the Royal Naval Museum Library, 2001
Don't forget:
Pressgang Week features special posts TWICE A DAY. 

Come back at NOON (cst) for the second post!

Friday, August 23

School Fundraiser UPDATE!

The competition is heating up in the Beech Magazine Fundraiser. As you may recall, Miss Patterson and I have a little competition going that whoever's class raises the least amount of money, that teacher has to shave their head in front of the entire school.

Not sure what I was thinking taking this little wager, but here I am.

This past Wednesday was the first donation turn in day and Miss Patterson's class turned in a whopping $1000 compared to MY class who turned in $700!

This is a very respectable distance, and one that can completely be closed with a little help from you guys!

There are 4 more big turn in days between now and the end of the Magazine drive.  Our next turn in day is next Wednesday, August 28th. The final day is Wednesday, Sept 18th. With YOUR help, I can still pull this thing off!

Here's what you can do to help:

Go online and buy magazines! These are alot of the publications you're likely to buy anyway. Buy some for yourself, buy a few for friends, get some for your kids, buy one for your doctor or dentist's office. No janky off-brand mags here, these are all legit magazines you've heard of and read. TIME, Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Entertainment Weekly and a TON MORE! A publication for every interest, kids and adults alike!

Not just the print versions either, you can also subscribe to the digital versions of your favorite publications. Check it out...

Follow the link to and enter the School Code 2682037

That's the code for BEECH HIGH SCHOOL.

When it asks you the name of the student you want to give the sale to, tell it "Albert Roberts", That's me! I know I'm not a student, but it counts toward my class this way.

 Otherwise, I may end up like THIS:

Nobody wants THIS, myself most of all!

Thursday, August 22

The Press Gang at New Boston

The ships of the North American Station have been operating for some time without the proper number of sailors to man them. Yesterday, Captain Freymann was summoned aboard the Valiant where we were ordered to break off from the blockade of the port of Baltimore and assemble a party to go ashore at New Boston at the end of this current month.  We are to bring enough men back with us to make use of aboard the Acasta and distribute the rest to the other ships of the blockade.

Our intelligence indicates that there is to be a great fair held there, and a fair is an excellent opportunity to clap onto some prime hands.

We have set course for New Boston and, I am told, if the wind and weather hold true, we should arrive in plenty of time for the fair.

Tuesday, August 20

Stay Tuned!

Starting NEXT MONDAY, August 26th and lasting until Friday the 30th, each day the Acasta site will feature special articles, art, video, &c. about Impressment in the Royal Navy.

But not just posts once a day as usual... 

Pressgang Week will feature special posts TWICE A DAY. 

Look for the first post at 8am cst and the next at Noon each day.

This is a special event leading up the HMS Acasta's Press Gang demonstration at the Fair at New Boston, there will be a series of posts dedicated solely to the act of Press Ganging in the early 19th Century.
Stay Tuned!

Monday, August 19

And now for something completely different! UPDATED

Miss P. & I shake on it
For those of you who don't know, I'm a high school teacher in my real life. Our school is holding a magazine sale in an effort to raise money for things that we need in our 30 year old building.

But wait, there's more! This year, my 3rd block class has entered into a competition with the Criminal Justice class to see who can generate the most money for the school overall. That teacher and I have decided as an extra incentive that whoever loses will shave their head in front of the entire school!  


Please help me NOT be bald (and raise money for the school)!

Pass this post around and lets get as many people involved as we can!

Follow the link to and enter the School Code 2682037

When it asks you the name of the student you want to give the sale to, tell it "Albert Roberts", That's me! I know I'm not a student, but it still counts toward my class this way.

"LIKE" us on Facebook under 'Beech High School Magazine Drive'

Follow us on Twitter & Instagram at @BeechMagDrive

The poster I designed to hang all over school...

Friday, August 16


In the week leading up the HMS Acasta's Press Gang demonstration at the Fair at New Boston, there will be a series of posts dedicated solely to the act of Press Ganging in the early 19th Century.  We have dubbed it PRESS GANG WEEK! Starting Monday, August 26th and lasting until Friday the 30th, each day the Acasta site will feature special articles, art, video, &c. about Impressment in the Royal Navy.

Invite your friends and stay tuned for further developments!

It's just like SHARK WEEK, except MEANER!

Tuesday, August 13

Prickly Heat, Symptoms & Cure

     ...It consists of small red spots, somewhat resembling fleabites, and chiefly spread over those parts of the body which are covered with clothes, particularly the inside of the arms, thighs, breast, and forehead. This eruption is attended with a very troublesome itching, which is increased by warm liquids, or warm clothing. The spots are also rendered more numerous by the same means. This affection, though inconvenient, is considered as a mark of high health; and, in consequence of this idea, many persons suffer great anxiety, either on its disappearance, or because they have not so extensive an eruption of it as others. Hence an improper mode of treatment is often adopted by the patients themselves, who indulge in warm diluent liquors, which increase the eruption, and render the itching still more uncomfortable. The duration of this eruption, when left to itself, is very uncertain; at times it disappears entirely in a few minutes, and re-appears almost immediately after. The disease gradually ceases in proportion as the person becomes accustomed to the climate. With respect; to the treatment, all the precaution that is necessary is to keep moderately cool, to avoid drinking warm liquors when the itching is severe, and to take occasionally a gentle dose of salts.

Taken from: The Naval Surgeon Comprising the Entire Duties of Professional Men at Sea
By William Turnbull

Page 236-237

Monday, August 12

Recruitment Banner

Miss Waterman and the Doctor in the dark garage tracing out the letters projected on the canvas.
The penciled lettering.
Miss Waterman and the Doctor hard at work painting in the letters and other details.

There were plenty of details to paint!

The first test of the banner in the Doctor's front yard.
Midshipman Alexander stands by the banner's first event appearance at the Jane Austen Festival, July '13