Friday, January 31

Welcome Aboard

Welcome aboard HMS Acasta! 

The purpose of the HMS ACASTA and the ROYAL TARS of OLD ENGLAND is to accurately portray a crew of His Majesty's Royal Navy circa 1800-1810 for the educational benefit of the public and for the mutual research and enjoyment of the individual members.

Our organization will educate via a series of first person activities designed to demonstrate the real lives of sailors as they go about their business and live their lives. Landing Parties, Surveying Crews, Recruitment Drives, Press Gangs, Shore Leave... these are but a few of the activities that our crew will undertake whilst encamped at an event. During duty hours, we follow proper Navy protocols and sailors are expected to live a sailor's life.

If you enjoy reading the adventures of the HMS Acasta, be certain to become an honorary member of the crew. This is a easy way to show us that you're out there and paying attention. It is a simple matter really, there is a blue button at the bottom of the page that will allow you to join.

And Second, I would ask that you comment from time to time on the posts that interest you the most. This is an excellent way to let the crew of the Acasta know what you, the reader, is the most interested in seeing. It is always most gratifying to know what the readers like. For those of you that have commented in the past, we thank you for you support and interest!

If you find a post that you are particularly fond of... be sure to share a link with your friends, over Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, etc. so they can enjoy it too!

The Acasta log is generally updated every weekday at 8am CST, visit back often, and encourage your History/Royal Navy friends to visit us.

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, January 30

While Ashore

While in Bermuda, my surgeon's mate Baptiste and I chanced to espy a group of Acastas at work moving the heavy guns used aboard ship from one place to another. They were under the eye of our Bo'sun, Mr. Cullen, who seemed dissatisfied with their apparent lack of enthusiasm.

Cullen cursed their eyes and being quite broad of chest, hefted a two pounder up upon his shoulder to illustrate how he wished it to be done.

Says Baptiste, "Not many fellows can fire a Two pounder on his shoulder, no?"

"And with no recoil." says I, in a rare moment of humourous inspiration.

Tuesday, January 28

Wintering in Bermuda

28 Jan 1814, at Bermuda.

The Acasta has returned to Bermuda where we are to effect repairs and restock our provisions and stores. The harbour is full of ships of all sorts it would seem. Nearly 40 US prizes, along with the following RN vessels are currently in harbour : San Domingo (74), Endymion, Lacedemonion, Diadem (64), Romulus (36), Plantaganet, Rattler, Fox, Valiant, Belvidera, Rifleman, Ringdove, Sylph and Musquodobit, are spending winter with the flag officer, where it is a bit warmer than Halifax.

I, for one, am quite pleased by the prospect of wintering in a more tropical clime. I have not been tolerably warm since November last.

Captain Pechell of the San Domingo has extended an invitation to the Acasta's officers to dine with him at our leisure. Captain Freymann sent Midshipman Hamilton down to ask me if I thought Thursday evening was too soon, or would my duties keep me from attending.

I sent young Hamilton back with my compliments, that my duties should not keep me from attending, and that I thought Thursday evening to be most agreeable. Vassermann can be sent into the apothecary in town with a list of the medicinals I require to replenish my chest, and I can leave the rounds to Baptiste in my stead that evening.

Wednesday, January 22

Evolution of the Acastas

Sept. 2012
Oct. '12
Feb. 2013

July 2013
Aug. 2013
Sept. 2013

Oct. 2013
Oct. 2013
Jan. 2014

Thursday, January 16

A Letter to the Captain

December 27, 1813.

Dear Captain Freymann,

I trust the Christmas season was as pleasant for you as possible, perhaps with an infusion of prize money to raise your spirits and ease the tedium of blockade duty? I recently read of some of Acasta’s activities and know that you have had some exciting adventures!

You didn’t tell me Sir, that Acasta had an encounter with frigate USS United States on June 1st off Long Island, and I have heard that she was under the command of the notorious Stephen Decatur at the time! The report gave no doubt but that your saucy frigate demonstrated she has the legs of that beast!! Indeed, I believe he would have met you, ship to ship, man to man, (face to face!), but for the presence of HMS Valiant (74). Instead, after receiving a few round shot from Acasta, he withdrew up the Thames to New London and fortified the place against you! Sir, I commend you on the exploit and have confidence that your next encounter will be even more successful! Captain Freymann, a first-hand account of your engagement would go far to alleviate the sullen and depressed mood of we land-locked sailormen here in the interior. Mostly, we have been beset with more and more reports of defeats and failure and would welcome such grand news!

We have put the ships in ordinary for the winter, sending down spars and removing canvas and perishables to storehouses on shore, building temporary houses to shelter and preserve the decks and lower masts of the ships at the station here on Navy Bay. The process of preparing the ships for winter was delayed because of American movements in the last two months, ones that caused great alarm and kept the ships readied for action.

You’ll recall that the US forces had exploited the loss on Lake Erie by following up with a quick invasion of the Western Frontier, defeating General Proctor at the Moravian Town after capturing Forts Detroit and Malden. The remnants of the Right Division retreated to Burlington Heights and the headquarters of the army there under General Vincent. It was daily expected that Harrison would appear with his army and begin to assault the stronghold but he did not continue. Instead, he secured the recently acquired forts by assigning garrisons, and released the militias from military service. The bulk of his army was transported east to Niagara by the Lake Erie Squadron and then to Sackets’ Harbour by the Lake Ontario Squadron, taking with them many of the men on the Niagara frontier. It became apparent that the next major effort of the US forces was an assault in the Kingston region and within a month of the disaster in the west, a major invasion was occurring in the east. This shift in force from front to front echoes the swift actions of the late General Brock last year and shows how disastrous the loss of control of the lakes can be.

Lieutenant John Johnson had been sent to Sacket’s Harbour under a flag of truce and returned to Kingston on the 15th of October with news that the place was filled with all manner of small craft and that many troops were assembling. Commodore Sir James Yeo in concert with General De Rottenburg, had been endeavouring to send supplies up the lake to the beleaguered garrison on the Niagara frontier and Burlington Heights, but bad weather had delayed them. With Johnson’s news, it was decided to retain the squadron for the moment and several new gunboats were dispatched with the Lord Beresford and Sir Sidney Smith (later joined by the Earl of Moira and Lord Melville) to observe the Americans’ actions, this force under the overall command of the recently posted Captain William Mulcaster. HM Ships Wolfe and Royal George were retained by Sir James to aid in the direct defense of Kingston itself.

On the night of October 17th, the US force under Major-General James Wilkinson left Sacket’s Harbour and made for Grenadier Island near the head of the St. Lawrence River. It has been reported that this army was 7000 or 8000 men strong, thereby dwarfing any British force in the area. Reports about the size of this invasion cased great concern in Kingston and the garrison was put on a basis of high readiness, for to lose Kingston was unthinkable.

To compound matters further, another US army under Major-General Wade Hampton in Plattsburg, NY, on Lake Champlain, began its march west and north to commence an invasion of its own. On the 21st of October, this force crossed into Lower Canada and began to descend the Chateauguay River which closely parallels the St Lawrence between Kingston and Montreal. This army was said to consist of 4000 infantry, 200 dragoons and 10 field guns.

Commodore Chauncey supported the US Army’s move to Grenadier Island but indications are that he was concerned that they might be trapped in the St Lawrence by winter ice. This allowed Mulcaster to get in amongst the invasion force and in a driving snowstorm on November 1st, he attacked their camp at French Creek and again the next morning, only withdrawing after fierce shore-based artillery fire (including hot shot!) began to cause significant damage. Captain Mulcaster then returned to Kingston.
On the 2nd, the American squadron sailed up to the east end of Wolfe Island and dropped anchor while the remaining bateaux of the invasion force continued to re-enforce the camp at French Creek. 

At dawn on the 5th, the American army struck out downstream from the camp at French Creek. That afternoon, Sir James arrived with our fleet and anchored north of the US squadron. As the gap between Wolfe and Grindstone Islands is strewn with shoals, neither squadron closed with the other and, the following morning, Commodore Yeo withdrew to Kingston again. After the Royal Navy Squadron had vanished from sight, Commodore Chauncey was concerned that we would mount batteries on Carleton Island and blockade the south channel with our Lake Ontario Squadron so took this opportunity to withdraw his ships and return to Sacket’s harbour.

By now, it was apparent that Kingston was not the Americans’ intended objective and that we must prepare for an attack on Montreal. Governor-General Prevost ordered a corps of observation to be formed at Kingston including 550 men of the 89th Foot, 300 men of the 49th Foot, and 20 gunners with two field guns, all under Lt.-Col. Joseph Morrison, to pursue the enemy. This force was loaded into HM Schooners Lord Beresford and Sir Sidney Smith, six gunboats and several bateaux and began the descent from Kingston late on the 6th under the command of Captain Mulcaster. (I was fortunate to be included in this group, commanding the gunboat Alliance).

The Americans would need to pass the strong point at Prescott where Fort Wellington dominated the river, and this they did, at night on the 6th. Over the next two days, an advance force under Brigadiers Macomb and Brown cleared the way of any resistance between Prescott and Cornwall while the main body continued down river.

On the 9th, we reached Fort Wellington and added her garrison to our force, bring the total to more than 1000 men. Here, we left the schooners and carried on in pursuit. We caught them next day and opened fire on the rear elements of their flotilla. They landed field guns and fired back, severely damaging the gunboat Buffalo which withdrew to Prescott. That night, the British troops were landed and established a camp around the farm of John Crysler. The Americans camp was just downstream of the farm and Wilkinson determined that the pursuers were to be engaged. 

On the 11th, Brigadier-General Boyd led about 2400 of the American force against Colonel Morrison’s redcoats but came off the worse, 350 casualties to 185. The next day, the US army shot the Long Sault rapids and rejoined the advance brigades under Brown and Macomb at Cornwall. Surprisingly, Major-General Wilkinson then took his army across the river to the US side and up the Salmon River to French Mills where he began to make winter camp.

The reason for Wilkinson’s sudden change was due to some news he received at Cornwall. General Hampton’s force on the Chateauguay River had met with an unexpected obstacle in an entrenched army consisting of Canadian embodied militia and fencible regiments and had suffered a defeat on the 26th of October. As this second army was to co-ordinate on an attack on Montreal with the St. Lawrence force, Wilkinson must have deemed it too difficult a task to complete alone. And so, with most barriers past and few remaining in his way, he called off the invasion. I confess I was amazed.

Captain Mulcaster brought the gunboat squadron down the rapids and tied up at Coteau du Lac opposite the Americans. When it became obvious that they were not leaving their camp, we began our return to Kingston.

The November storms are famous in these regions and efforts by both sides to move supplies to soldiers on the frontier are greatly hampered. 

After returning to Sacket’s Harbour November 10th, Commodore Chauncey instantly prepared for a voyage up the lake to relocate troops from the garrisons at Forts George and Niagara to Sacket’s Harbour whose defenders had mostly gone downriver with Wilkinson. Departing on the 13th, a stiff northeast wind brought them to the Niagara River on the following evening. By now, the wind was so strong, they could not enter the river and had to wait until the next day. Eventually, provisions were landed and a brigade of troops was embarked and the squadron sailed for Sacket’s Harbour, the Pike arriving on the 20th. However, the gale had scattered the squadron, the Fair American running ashore at Niagara and the Julia caught for a time in Burlington Bay with that lee shore that had caused Chauncey to leave us alone after our encounter in September. It wasn’t until the 27th that the US squadron had all returned to Sacket’s. 

Our efforts were of a lesser degree, sending the schooners to supply posts up the lake while keeping the sloops closer to Kingston, eventually beginning the process of placing them in their winter states after their last trips on December 3rd.

And so, the long dark cold northern winter begins. We will not rest however, as the next campaigning season will be upon us soon enough and we are not prepared for a renewal of hostilities. We have plans and they may surprise you. As I may, I will inform you of them, in the New Year.

I wish you good fortune, Sir.

I remain,
Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant,
Thomas Hurlbut, Captain

Friday, January 10

The Second Lieutenant

In another day and time Lt. Michael Ramsey recently graduated from University with a degree in history.  Ramsey works in various positions at Burdett’s Tea Shop and Trading Company and as a Research Annalist with a Health Care Consulting Firm.  When not at work, Ramsey spends much of his time as father to his 6-year-old son.

In his “spare” time, Ramsey continues studying history, particularly British and American history during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Ramsey has participated in living history since 1997 time traveling from the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the battlefields of Europe during WWII.

Ramsey only began interpreting 18th and early 19th century history in 2004 and has done so for the public through living history event, lectures, and demonstrations.  For the past three years Ramsey has enjoyed recreating historical clothing, equipment, and other articles of material culture.

Thursday, January 9

The Doctor

In your 'modern world', the Doctor is Albert Roberts, mild-mannered high school Visual Communications teacher. Before teaching, Roberts was a professional Graphic Designer for ten years for various design firms and sign companies.

Roberts spends his free time in the pursuit of strange and obscure medical and scientific knowledge of the 18th & 19th centuries, and typically has a heap of books on his night stand that range from period texts and journals to historical fiction.

Roberts has been interpreting history and reenacting since 2001. As the Doctor, Roberts has gone on to bring his medical demonstrations to historical sites and events all over the eastern United States, to the praise of public and reenactors alike.

When asked why he doesn't portray a specific doctor or surgeon from history, Roberts replies, "My love is for passing on the knowledge of the medical and surgical techniques... not for trying to BE some particular historical figure. That way, the public doesn't get hung up on who I AM, but instead what I'm DOING becomes more central. Just as it SHOULD be."

When not saving the past from disease and injury, or teaching design to the next generation in a classroom, Roberts stays busy chasing after his four daughters.

Wednesday, January 8

The First Lieutenant

Jim Hamilton was born and raised in Maryville, Tennessee and is of Scotch-Irish descendent. Hamilton is the 10th generation living in Maryville and the 5th generation of his family living in his current home which was built in 1899.

Hamilton spent most of his career in management roles including the last 16 years as either a CFO of Executive Vice President of midsized manufacturing firms. He is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Broadway Electric Service Corporation. For 15 of those years he worked for foreign companies (mainly British) and worked and traveled abroad extensively, primarily in the UK, Germany, Italy, and Russia, and Canada.

Hamilton has always loved history and reading and believes that this passion was fueled by being able to visit many historical European sites.

He began reenacting in 2000 portraying American Continental Light Infantry from the Rev. War where he currently portrays a Sergeant. This unit finds on average 25 solider per event and can field a total of 40. He also portrays a French and Indian British Private at Fort Loudon as a member of the Independent company of South Carolina. On some occasions you might find him in Colonial Militia garb when no other uniform will work.

Along with commanding, soldering, and “civilianing,” Hamilton has a great passion for period cooking and often prepares meals at events. He has also been a wine maker for 25 years, and loves sharing wine with his reenacting companions.

Hamilton graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Accounting & Finance with a minor in Geography in 1986. Jim is married and has two sons, Houston (16) and Alex (13) and a niece Taylor who all enjoy history and reenacting.