Thursday, February 27

Find Your Favorite Posts

The eclectic band of historical reenactors and interpreters that makes up the 'CREW' of HMS Acasta spans a wide spectrum of real life occupations.

We are made up of students, educators, academics (a surprising number of us are teachers) even a Ph.D., present and former Coast Guard and U.S. Naval men, artists & artisans, tailors, musicians, professionals & executives. We even have a freelance copywriter, farrier & presidential presenter thrown into the mix for good measure! (hint: look for the fellow that looks like Jackson from the twenty dollar bill!)

What does this odd lot all have in common? A love for the history of the Royal Navy and passing it on in a unique way to the public.

You can find specific content by following the labels at the bottoms of each day's posts, or by clicking on the links below, the NEW labels are highlighted in YELLOW:

200th - Posts with this label are posts that have to do with the 200th anniversary of some event that took place during the War of 1812. Either with the Acasta herself, or the war in general. Want to know what was happening on a particular date? Here you go.

Apple - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta ship's carpenter Mr. Jas. Apple.

Baptiste - Posts with this label are either written BY or about the Acasta Surgeon's Mate.

Capt Freymann - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta ship's Captain Robert Freymann

Capt Hurlbut -  Posts with this label are either written BY or about Captain Tom Hurlbut, friend to the Acasta.

Event Invite - These posts are invitations to the general public to attend specific historic events. A great way to figure out where the Acasta crew will be during the year!

Images - This label is given to any post that is picture heavy. Looking for lots of awesome War of 1812 or Royal Navy recreation pictures? Look no further! The Acasta has been gifted with some amazing photography over the years from a variety of sources.

Jane Austen Festival - Given to any post that has to do with the annual Jane Austen Festival that is held every July in Louisville, KY.

LIST - This label is given to the series of reenactor list, Ways to improve, the best and worst things about the hobby, stupid questions asked by the public and so forth.

Lt Ramsey - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta ship's Second Lieutenant Michael Ramsey.

Lt. Hamilton - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta ship's First Lieutenant Jim Hamilton.

Lt. Tumbusch - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta ship's Third Lieutenant Tom Tumbusch.

Mail Packet - This label will involve letters (real or digital) sent or received by Acasta crew. It also occasionally has to do with a call to readers for letters, a fun project for authors and historians alike!

Midshipman Raley - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta Midshipman David Raley.

Miscellany - A grab bag of odds and ends posts that couldn't really be labeled anything else.

Mission 1 - All posts pertain to the Acasta's first play test of the "Spy Game", a first person activity played between teams at Mississinewa 1812.

Mission 2 - A writing exercise by members of the crew involving the 1813 chase of the US vessel, 'Young Teazer'

Mission 3 - These posts involve the Doctor's special assignment to take part in a mock Naval assault at Niagara on the Lake.

Mission 4 - The Acastas go ashore at the Fair at New Boston in an attempt to catch a spy, and the Doctor gets engaged!

Mississinewa 1812 - Given to any post that has to do with the annual Mississinewa 1812 event that is held every October in Marion, IN.

Music - Music or lyrics (or both) to old period songs.

New Boston - Given to any post that has to do with the annual Fair at New Boston event that is held every Labor Day Weekend near Springfield, Ohio.

Press Gang - Content and images from the Acasta's Press Ganging activities at events.

Red Box - Content and images having to do with the "Red Box' game.

Signal Flags - These posts involve images and information having to do with this means of communication during the War of 1812. Sometimes they even involve fun messages to be decoded!

The Doctor - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta ship's surgeon Albert Roberts

Toasts - information pertaining to the Daily Royal Naval Toasts given at dinner.

Vassermann - Posts with this label are either written BY or about the Surgeon's personal servant James Vassermann.

Video - Any post with a video or a link to a video in it can be found here.

Wedding - These image heavy posts are all about the Doctor's 1813 style wedding.

Wednesday, February 26

A Letter to the Carpenter

My dearest,

I hope this letter finds you healthy and well fed. I rec'vd a letter from Hackney just this day from your mother, she is well and your brother Thomas has a new son named Samuel. He and his wife have moved to Shoreditch and he is working as a clerk there.
Your father has taken leave of the carriage shop and returned home to Hesse, your mother runs the shop with the help of Wm. Driver and his two sons who now live behind the blacksmith shop in the old livery.

Your mother inquires of me often if I have heard from you and if you write to me, please do and I will give her your good wishes.

I dream'd that we were together on your ship, my head on your shoulder, I miss you terribly and pray daily this blockade to end and you come back to us in the east end.

With all my undying love,

Monday, February 17

Mail Packet '14

Open Call to ALL Reenactors, 
Historians and Creative Writers!

The Royal Navy reenacting group that represents HMS Acasta will be attending the Jane Austen Festival in July of this year. One of the things that I'd like to be able to do is deliver a 'mail packet' full of letters to the various Acasta members. This is a project that I have undertaken in the past with other groups with awesome results.

This is where YOU come in!

Anyone who would like to submit a period correct letter to add to the packet is encouraged to do so! We'd love to have your contribution, however large or small! Anything added to the packet will help to enhance the historical experience for not only the Acastas who receive them, but for the public who will attend the Festival as well.

At last year's event, the Mail Packet was a huge hit with the Acastas and the public alike. Mr. Midshipman Raley delivered the packet to the Captain about mid-day on Saturday and the letters were passed out.

Some examples of things that we got as part of the project:

The Doctor got a secret coded message from Sir Joseph Blaine with the Admiralty. Obviously from a Patrick O'Brian fan.

Lt. Tumbusch got a notice from the Dutch East India Company letting him know that his stock was now worthless.

Rev. Mr. Griswold got a letter letting him know of the death of one of his parishioners.

Mr. Raley got a letter from his 'mother' back home written a professional author of nautical historical fiction.

A letter arrived for the Purser from a mysterious wife and children he claimed to know nothing of.

Capt. Freymann got a letter from a father in England looking for news of the location of his two sons.

Need some ideas for what to write? Try one of these:

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from 'family' this year if you please, last year we had to leave a letter out because Mr. Raley got TWO letters from his 'mother')
A bill or request for payment.
An overdue payment of debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Or, use the link below to see some other types of period letters:

The Complete Letter Writer...

Wondering what a period letter looks like? Here are some beautiful examples:

Contact me to find out where to send your finished letter… or questions, or for any other additional information.

Finshed letters will need to be to ME by the end of June so that they can find their way into the Mail Packet!

Don't know WHO to write to? Here's the lot of Acastas who are usually to be found at the festival:

So pick up your pen and paper and get writing, and HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, February 12

From the Doctor's Desktop

To: Captain T. Hurlbut
Royal Navy Dockyard,
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

From: Dr. A. Roberts,
Ship’s surgeon,
HMS Acasta,
Bermuda Naval Station
at Castle Harbour

My dear Captain,

I thank you of your letter of the 4th. It arrived in an uncommonly prompt fashion for the Royal Mail of late, especially, it would seem, that which is intended for this particular latitude. A group of us went over to Ireland Island the other day to have a look at the work on, what is to be the new Naval Dockyard. The Royal Engineers in charge showed us about and were very kind to point out all the key features, but I must be honest, everything was so mired in mud that I could scarcely make head nor tail of the thing. And then upon our departure, I stepped off the wooden path that lead through that primordial ooze, and my right leg sunk knee deep! Thanks to the quick thinking of Mr. Raley and a nearby Marine, I was snatched out before I could sink any further, suctioning the shoe right off my foot. The shoe was not to be retrieved.

Shipboard life continues with the daily routine of sick call at the mainmast with my assistants. My mind rebels at stagnation, and while my duties aboard Acasta in the dockyard are quite similar to those while she is afloat, I find the work does not possess the same importance in my mind. When the Acasta is in the company of so many other Naval vessels, each with a fairly competent surgeon of their own aboard, I feel my own import diminished.
The Doctor's Wife at home.

How my wife would laugh and declare me a 'melancholy creature'! She cannot, I suppose, understand a man's life in the service of the Navy.

As to the problems you pose in yr recent letter, I'm afraid I cannot be of much assistance as I do not know the area or the people or parties involved. As to the 'omen' of your white wolf, it is my understanding that the habitat of the Canis lupus arctos is generally 70° North latitude and higher. But it is not beyond the realm of believability that a few might have strayed as far South as Halifax. Think no more on omens sir, bear in remembrance that superstition is the enemy of reason.

Since your latest letter, I find that my mind has returned to the debate we began some time back, and how it continued upon our visit in Halifax. My impending visit to the surgical institute in Paris looms large in my thoughts. You had mentioned it was your belief that, in my hypothetical task, I will be forced to weigh my professional ethics and honour against my duty to King and Country. I feel that, were such a mission possible, that it would be my duty to not only King and Country, but to Mankind as well. To be in a position to lance the boil of humanity so as to save the life of the jeopardized patient, is the duty of the surgeon. In this instance, the patient would be the populations currently under the boot of a tyrant.

There are months ahead before I must contemplate the particulars of such a task, in the interim, I have insisted to the Captain that we must purchase a quantity of brimstone, enough that I might have the entire ship fumigated and dried to the best of our ability. As you well know sir, the most unpleasant manner of things tend to breed in moist dark areas of ships on prolong'd assignment.

It is my sincere hope that you are able to stay warm and dry for the remainder of the Winter and know that I wish you all health and success in your endeavours, and that I remain Sir,

Yr humble Svt.

Dr. A. Roberts

Tuesday, February 11

A Letter to the Doctor

To: Dr. Albert Roberts,
Ship’s surgeon,
HMS Acasta,
Bermuda Naval Station.

From: Captain Thomas Hurlbut
Royal Navy Dockyard,
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Februrary 4th, 1814.

My Dear Doctor Roberts,

Our lengthy conversations in Halifax before you shipped out for Bermuda show us to be gentlemen concerned with matters that go beyond that of the actions of single ships of war and more to the greater strategies of our global struggle against tyrants large and small. As such, I feel that I can touch on some of the less public elements of the war with you, and mull over options for various projects, if you take my meaning? As you have been open and forthcoming with me on sensitive matters, I feel I can do likewise.

As command opportunities here are few, and those reserved for officers for whom Sir James has a special attachment, I have been pushed about the upper colony, doing various assignments as necessary and as possible. It seems in many cases that the decisions to perform these tasks are often taken too late to be wholly successful, or to have any success at all, such as the mission to deliver ordnance to Amhertsberg for HMS Detroit. However, in my wanderings about the inland seas, I have become something of an “Exploring Officer” much as Lord Wellington employs in Spain to gain and deliver information through difficult terrain and circumstances. You are aware that I have obtained and passed on specifics of American ships of war to my superiors but I have not mentioned how that was done. I dare not, for it might endanger not just myself, but others whose risk is greater than my own.

I will tell you this much. While I attempt to bolster the spirits of our sailors here in the Canadas and those blockading the American coast by telling of our massive ship construction on the lakes, I tell the other side of the story to only those whose decisions matter, that the Americans will again demonstrate their resourcefulness and that they have plans to dominate the lakes in the new season. I will therefore seek the particulars of their constructs by all the means at my disposal.

It is interesting to note that those in power do not appreciate the methods of this information gathering, or those who collect it. Still, they clamour for it, and are quite willing to put those who do the work at risk. And who reaps the reward? I ask you, how many exploring officers have received a knighthood? Or command of a ship..

So, to work..

With the loss of the Lake Erie fleet, we need to find other ways to supply the base at Michilmackinac. We have one transport schooner on Lake Huron and, as long as it can stay out of harm’s way, it can continue to make trips to and from the island from supply depots at the mouths of rivers that empty into Georgian Bay. One such is the French River that the Canadian fur trading voyageurs have used for over a century. Another is the Nottawasaga River which is connected to Lake Ontario by some smaller rivers and lakes. I expect to be given the task of opening up these routes to greater use for military purposes.

Some 20 years ago, the Lieutenant-Governor, John Simcoe, traveled Georgian Bay by canoe and discovered a hidden inlet he deemed suitable for a naval station. I will suggest that we re-examine the possibility and perhaps construct a fleet of warships there, hidden and unknown to the enemy until the moment they sortie out to do battle.

Recent history would suggest that it will be difficult to get men and material from Sir James to complete this project, let alone haul it through the wilderness to the hidden harbor. Still, we must try. Perhaps ships can be constructed in frame in Britain, dismantled and shipped here and reassembled and planked after arrival? That bears some consideration..

I must to bed, for we leave by sleigh early in the morning. I shall write soon to keep you up on activities here.

Your Servant,

Thomas Hurlbut.

Post Script: After I put out the candle, I gazed out through the window upon the ground behind the cottage where I have my bed and saw a white wolf! Could it be canis lupus arctos this far south? Doctor, were I a superstitious man, I would take it as a bad omen.

Thursday, February 6

A Letter to the Captain

To: Captain Robert Freymann,

HMS Acasta,
Bermuda Naval Station.

From: Captain Thomas Hurlbut
Royal Dockyard,
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

February 4th, 1814.

Dear Captain Freymann,

I must say what a delight it was to meet with you recently in Halifax and talk at great length on old times when we served together briefly on the old Dolphin after you had completed the Pacific adventure in ’68. Oh for lost youth! I must say that you have held your upright bearing and still look a man of good health and vigor!

And your ship, Sir! Why, I am very impressed with her and her crew indeed! I much regret my warning against engaging an American frigate. I believe Acasta would fare well against any Yankee, for there is no doubt that your fine vessel is of the first order! Let Brother Jonathan beware after you have completed your Bermuda refit!

Would that we had such a ship and crew on our inland seas! And yet, I would tell you of the progress we are making for we have a vessel on the stocks at this moment that should turn the tide in the spring! And she bears a striking resemblance to Acasta!

HMS Prince Regent is a spar-decked frigate, 155 feet between perpendiculars and a beam of 43 and one half feet which compares favourably with Acasta’s 154 feet by 41 feet. However, taking a leaf from our enemy’s book, she is equipped with 28-24pdr long guns on her upper deck and 24-32 pdr carronades on the spar deck as well as 4-68 pdr carronades. Part of my mission to Halifax was to ask Admiral Warren for men to crew Prince Regent.

In addition, a second frigate is being built. Originally to be a transport, she was lengthened soon after construction began. To be named Princess Charlotte, she is 121 feet between perpendiculars, breadth 37 feet 8 inches, she will be armed with 24-24 pdrs on the upper deck and 16-32 and 2-68 pdr carronades on forecastle and quarterdeck. As such, she is similar in size to the Southampton class of 32 gun frigates but slightly heavier and broader of beam. It is my hope to be assigned to command one of these vessels upon their launch in the spring.

In the meantime, after having completed my mission to Halifax, I am returning to Upper Canada by the land route. This is not as daunting as you might imagine as the roads are frozen and thus hard enough for horse drawn sleighs. Unless we have severe sustained snowfalls which would fill in and block the roads, I expect to be back in Kingston in a few weeks (but not before spending some time enjoying the winter activities of the City of Quebec!).

The Naval and Army officers stationed in Quebec are having some sort of sporting game played on the frozen river. It involves the wearing of metal runners on the shoes to enable the players to glide on the ice and the use of wooden clubs to strike a ball into a goal formed of upright sticks. I am intrigued and may take part. Since winter occupies a great deal of the year in this northern land, it would do well to find amusing pursuits to occupy the cold months.

Captain, I look forward to hearing about the exploits of Acasta with the coming of spring and that she will have taken many prizes including one of those damned Yankee frigates!!

I wish you every good fortune,

I remain,

You Most Humble and Obedient Servant,

Thomas Hurlbut,
Royal Navy Dockyard,
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Wednesday, February 5

From the Carpenter's Log at Bermuda

6 Feb 1814, the Sylph arrived Halifax, 9 days from Bermuda, where nearly 40 US prizes, along with the following RN vessels were in harbour : San Domingo, Acasta, Endymion, Lacedemonion, Diadem, Romulus, Plantaganet, Rattler, Fox, Valiant, Belvidera, Rifleman, Ringdove, and Musquodobit, and the flag officer, San Domingo (74).

The following was writ by the hand of Acasta carpenter, Jas. Apple:

29 Jan. 1814
The Capt. gave his orders for today, I am to take a crew and salvage what we may while stationed in Bermuda. To this task we were to meet with the carpenter and mates of the Romulus, she is a 5th rate and was at the Nile.

We counted close to forty prizes today. Sea was glass and good time was made of initial inspections

30 Jan. 1814
Broke up amongst Acasta and Romulus a goodly number of spars this day Sort and count
47 sacks of oakum which split equal with Romulus
9 kegs of locust trunnels
2 lg. Tarring ladles

1 leg vice
Ditto mousehole anvil 1.0.4 weight
Iron rounds
Ditto flat
1 lg. Box of charcoal
Qty. of long bolts sort and ct.
1 keg nuts
1 set threading tools

1 caulkers box with leather seat
Ditto hammer
Ditto single crease straight iron
Ditto deck iron
Ditto reefing iron
Ditto bent deck iron
Ditto single crease bent iron
Ditto double crease bent iron
Ditto bent trunnel iron
Ditto reef hook
2 small seam rakers

A quantity of rope was located and secured for transport tomorrow

We messed today on new beef and fresh greens

31 Jan. 1814
Orders to stay aboard today off-shores at five ft. 12sec. In the morning

1 Feb. 1814
Today we will collect the rope and have left part of my crew to various sorting and repairs of our ship

Rope has vanished, a search of ship gave no prize

17 coops containing no less than 40 brooding hens twenty and 25 eggs which we split with Romulus equally

Three coops containing gamecocks were also found and two were brought on board A further inspection of supplies is in order to fresh my inventory

Tuesday, February 4

The New Dockyard

Workmen in Bermuda, waterclour by Thomas Driver
While at my leisure in Bermuda, several of us decided to go over to Ireland Island to have a look at the new Naval Dockyard being constructed there. It is our understanding that the dockyard is being moved from Castle Harbour (located at the Eastern side) to Ireland Island (located on the Western side) so as to better defend against possible attack from the United States.

We arrived to find construction well under way, workmen and carts were everywhere and all were busy about their various tasks. I was quite surprised to discover how many prisoners had been employed in the construction effort, they being immediately identifiable by their heavy gray smocks emblazoned with the King's broad arrow, marking them as the King's property.

"Where do you suppose the buildings will be going?" Mr. Midshipman Raley asked as we puzzled over the site of the construction.

"I'm afraid I can hardly say." replied I as two Royal Engineers approached us atop the hill overlooking the work.

They greeted us in a cordial enough manner, though from their looks, I should suspect had we not been adorned in our uniforms, they would have dealt with our intrusion quite severely.

They warmed up presently, and were kind enough to point out to us the foundations of some of the buildings that were planned for the new Dockyard. As it was, I could hardly identify anything, every surface was covered in a layer of mud that ran right down to the shore and seemed to extend even into the sea. A rainy winter and the many feet of horses and construction workers conspired to keep the ground thick in mud.

Monday, February 3

Scenes from Bermuda

Admiralty House, in Pembroke Parish, where the Admirals lived and had their offices
A view of the Royal Naval Dockyard today.
Watercolour by Thomas Driver