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!

Thursday, September 18

From the Boat

The Doctor was lowered into the boat alongside Acasta, his chests and baggage already having been placed near the stern. Shortly thereafter, the order was given and the sailors let the oars splash down into the water. These men were from another ship and the Doctor realized quickly that he did not feel the same sort of warmth and comradery with them as he normally did with the Acastas. They were a mean looking lot.

As the little boat pulled away, the Doctor could see Captain Freymann busy on the quarterdeck with the signal midshipman, while he could not hear them, it was clear, even from this distance that the Captain was issuing orders. Officers and men lined up in little clusters along the Starboard rail to watch as their surgeon departed. A few minutes later, the midshipman had the flags in order and they were hoisted skyward. As the flags took their message aloft in the breeze, the men along the rail gave a great cheer, raising their hats and waving farewell.

The Doctor, flush with unexpected emotion, squinted as he looked the flags over, then turning to the man at the tiller he asked, "Do you happen to know what those flags say sir?"

Where is the Doctor going you ask? Better review his papers on the subject.

Wednesday, September 17

Farewell to Thee my Friends

FOR the regular readers of my personal letters and journals, you may recall a particularly enigmatic exchange of correspondence between myself and Commodore Hurlbut some time back. The particulars of which may be found filed away on the other, uncoded pages of my journal:

Letter 1 dated Friday, 15 November, '13

Letter 2 dated Thursday, 19 December, '13

Letter 3 dated Wednesday, 11 February, '14

Now, I would ask you bid me fair travels and good luck in my secret endeavours, for the time has come for the plan that was laid out some time back to be set in motion.

Want of time is, I think, the general complaint of all letter-writers, and it shall be mine upon this day as I depart from the relative comfort of the Acasta to undertake my covert mission for the Admiralty. I have struggled with my own conscience over it, but have finally resolved myself that it must be done, the good of the many outweighing the needs of the one. But I must confess it is a difficult thing to find yourself the 'one' in question whose needs are outweighed.

Never the less, I go forward in my beliefs, to do my duty for King and Country, therefore I shall contrive to be at leisure to pay these final respects to you, my dear friends. I shall not now pretend that my mission into the heart of the 'Lion's Den' will not be fraught with peril. War with one's neighbor is always a dangerous business, the covert sort doubly so. It is my sincere hope that the blow I deliver will be the final one required to put an end to England's never ending war with France.

As is my custom, I shall keep my journal whilst in the field, and transcribe it here for you, my dear friends, upon the occasion of my return. Should I not be so fortunate, Heaven forbid, I have left several letters in the care of Captain Freymann to be deliver'd to my wife and daughters and my man of business in London who will take care of my meager debts and arrange my financial affairs.

The little vial of 'instant death', whose formula was recommended to me by a medical colleague who occasionally has business along the intelligence line, is prepared and ready to strike its blow to tyranny. God send it a happy meeting with its intended recipient!

Watch for pictures of the Doctor from the coming 'secret mission', see if you can spot the green bottle!

I have done the last of my packing and the Captain has the longboat alongside ready to carry me to the other ship bound for my SECRET destination, therefore I will bid you all farewell, I beg that you shall think on me fondly and know that I most sincerely wish you all health and success in your endeavours; and am, with great respect, dear Friends,

Your most affectionate & obt. servant,

The Doctor

Tuesday, September 16

A Secret Mission Reveal'd

A covert letter decoded from the Doctor's journal from an entry dated October 1813:

Dear Doctor R______, 

It is with great- joy is certainly not the correct word- gratitude and relief that I received your letter of acceptance for this dangerous and offensive task. We will not likely ever have such an opportunity again. I know how repugnant such an undertaking must be for one such as yourself, who has made his life's work saving lives, but as I'm sure you realize- and I know Sir J______ has counseled- that by taking one life now we will save thousands in the future.

Forgive me, but I had anticipated your acceptance and we have already put preparations into action. We have arranged for the capture of a small packet of unimportant documents which will be uncoded with some effort. Among them is a brief mention of you- reference to alleged republican sentiments you have expressed to other officers and allowing that our suspicions have been aroused by your travel to lecture in Paris scheduled for September of [1814]. I doubt that our enemies would be so incautious as to attempt to sway your allegiance on the basis of one captured document, but if you are approached as such use your own best judgment as to how to proceed. 

Iris fulva
If present practice follows past we should expect you to be invited to dine at the Emperor's chateau the evening after your lecture. Dinner guests often arrive quite early in order to stroll about the grounds and gardens. As you do so you should inquire of any gardeners you meet about the Red Iris of North America- Iris fulva. The one that offers to share seed of this plant, he is our man. He speaks English fairly well, but can neither read nor write, should the situation arise. Try and have Mrs. R________- it is my understanding that she will accompany you- on your arm at the time that he may recognize her also. If your situation becomes dire- God forbid- attempt to return to the area where you first met this fellow. He will keep a watch for you there throughout the evening and will render you any aide within his power.

A single Rosary Pea
As to the agent which may best accomplish our task- I realize as a man of science you may have your own opinion, but my thought was that your knowledge probably ran more toward preserving life rather than taking it. To that end I have consulted with Doctor A______. His recommendation is a tincture or suspension of Abrus precatorius - the Rosary pea of the west Indies. He has  experimented extensively on dogs with these seeds and tells me that one small pea contains enough poison to be fatal to a strong man, provided the seed coat is broken. Unbroken the seed coat is so hard that it may be passed completely and do no harm. He assures me that two broken seeds, ingested with food, would certainly be fatal. A tincture made from a number of seeds would work as well. The onset of symptoms will not occur for some hours, possibly even days after ingestion, but once they begin there is no antidote or effective treatment. I shall send you a packet of these seeds, far more than you will require for the task, so that you may experiment with them ahead of time if you wish. Take care with them around any sharp objects. Doctor A______ tells me the fatal symptoms are almost immediate if any of the internal content of the seed enters the circulatory system. If you have a preference for some other agent the choice is completely yours, as you will be the one at risk.

As always burn this correspondence after you have read it thoroughly.

Godspeed and good luck, 
Yours in service, 
R______ R______

What is MISSION X?

Friday, September 12

Impressment Totals

The Acastas were charged with pressing no less than 75 men for service in His Majesty's Royal Navy, below find the final totals of the men that were taken up at New Boston.

Boy: 13
Landman: 48
Ordinary Seaman: 9
Able Seaman: 9
Gunner's Mate: 2
Blacksmith's Mate: 1
Carpenter's Mate: 1
Warrant: 1

Total: 84

There will be a group of Acastas this coming weekend at the 200th anniversary of the first battle of Ft. Bowyer, put on by the 7th United States Infantry Living History Association.

This image of Ft. Bowyer is from Lossing's Field History of the War of 1812.

The location is Ft. Morgan State Historic Site on Mobile Point. The fort is about 25 miles west of Gulf Shores Alabama on HWY 180.

Friday is a school day. Main public activities are on Saturday. No programming is scheduled for Sunday.

The Park opens at 8;30 am both days. Morning Colors are at 9. A complete schedule of activities will be available at the Fort.

If you are in the area, stop by and pay the Acastas a visit and be sure to remind them that their Doctor says they are to take their 'blue pill' while they are away from the ship!

Thursday, September 11

A Fond Recollection

From the uncoded portion of the Doctor's journal. 

Friday 17 Sept. 1810

Having collected Miss Waterman from the coach she had been placed upon by the Hegwoods, I transfered her belongings into MY carriage for the trip out to the Farnsley-Moreman Estate along the Ohio River for a relaxing weekend among friends.

In the morning, I demonstrated the Art & Mystery of Surgery to an assemblage of pupils from the local schools. They seemed to be quite taken with my lecture, but I have discover'd that children are usually eager to learn about my 'bloody' profession.

Between groups, Miss Waterman took notice of my things, strewn upon the table, namely, my recent correspondence.

"Is that a letter to you from my Aunt Elizabeth?" she queried, her slender gloved finger extended toward it.

My heart leapt in my chest, "It is." answered I.

"Whyever do you have a letter from my Aunt?" she continued.

I offered her no excuse, choosing instead to distract her and move on to a more agreeable subject.

After my demonstrations, it was requested of me to stay in the pavilion and wait for a reporter who was desirous to speak with me about my profession. I do believe that Miss Waterman had grown weary and asked if she might stretch her legs down by the river's bank.

"And leave you unchaperoned?" asked I.

Says she, "Do you not think Doctor that you will be able to see me plainly from here?"

I could not argue it and released her to go on her way.

Once the reporter had gone, I packed my instruments away in their box, and looked down the hill to espy Miss Waterman seated on a bench along the path that lead down to the water.

Miss Waterman and I took a stroll by the river and made the appropriate comments on the weather, humidity, the unkempt state of the dock and so forth. We also briefly discussed the nature of the local birds and beasts.

In the cooler portion of the afternoon, Mrs. Cooper had planned to have archery practice for any of the ladies that might wish to participate in the competition that was to be held the next day. I escorted Miss Waterman to the front lawn where they took their exercise, taking aim at a target I had painted for the occasion.

Mrs Cooper and Miss Waterman prepare for Archery practice on the front lawn.

The novelty target I painted for the ladies to make use of.

Miss Waterman keeps Mrs Cooper from browning in the sun whilst she takes aim.

Taking aim.

Miss Waterman was very pleased that hers was the only
arrow to strike cupid. I was QUITE amused by its placement in
the lower Serratis posticus inferior region.

Mr. Cooper came down the lawn from the direction of the house and we discussed plans for supper. A number of us gathered to take a meal of various types of fish and potatoes. In the party were Mr & Mrs Cooper, Mr & Mrs Dubbeld and a blacksmith by the name of Mr Aubrey.

A grand time was had by all. We had so much left over by meal's end that we collected it and carried it out to poor Captain Cushing, who seemed not to have a single morsel to eat.

The remainder of the evening was spent in pleasant conversation outside Capt. Cushing's tent where, I also shew'd Miss Waterman how to make use of my mechanical quill'd pen. She took great care in writing her name with it on a scrap of paper, followed by her letters and numbers.

Saturday 18 Sept. 1810

Ladies Archery at 11 in the forenoon

Demonstration at midday

Ms Waterman placed 3rd behind Mrs. Martin and Miss Martin, who, as I understand, have been at archery for a long time. One present even said in jest that miss Martin had been at it since the womb. Miss Waterman wore her participation cockade with pride. First on her little brown spencer, then later transfered it to her beret.

Tea at 2pm

Dance instruction at 3

Ms. Waterman was taken with the heat. Rested in tent. I fed her spoonfuls of iced cream and sips of water while bathing her brow and neck with a moist handkerchief.

Blind Man's Bluff after supper followed by a country dance at the pavilion

Sunday 19 Sept. 1812

The night was less cool than previously and woke to a warmer morning.

It was decided that perhaps a nature walk in the cool of the morning might be in order, so therefore, we gathered a party and began straight away. Our line slowly passed the Farnsley-Moremen house and wove around through the gardens to the side. On the far edge of the garden there was a break in the fence that lead outward into a grouping of trees with a path down the middle.

The farther we went, the more of the ladies dropped out of the walk and ventured back, stating a bevy of excuses from 'poison ivy' to 'heat'.

Eventually we made our way away from the trees and into a clearing only to discover that there were only five of us left. Mrs. Dubbeld escorted by Capt. Cushing, Mrs. Mudd and Miss Waterman and myself.

"I want to run!" Miss Waterman confided in me as she began to slow and let the others move ahead.

I feel certain that my demeanor begged the question, 'why?'.

"It's so open and beautiful here," says she, "I feel the need to run across the field."

"That would he highly improper." says I with eyebrow cocked, and knowing she was of her own mind on the subject, I continued, "I shall not speak a word of it to anyone if you were to do so."

Miss Waterman smiled and clutched at her blue dress to avoid stepping on it as she set off at a fearful pace. As she ran, one of the feathers fell from her upturned straw hat.

I collected it and held it behind my back as I approached the party. The group seemed none the wiser that she had made such a vigourous run.

Covertly, I handed Miss Waterman the feather, saying, "This seems to have become dislodged from your hat by an errant breeze."

The remainder of our party became quite wilted from the heat and decided to turn back toward the house and the shade. Miss Waterman however wanted to proceed to the small chapel we could see in the distance, so I escorted her to it.

The aged little building had long since been boarded up, its windows and doors all shut up. The grass was quite tall around its exterior and the brambles and thorns clung to my knee breeches and to her blue dress's hem.

Tea at 3pm. This time, tea was served under the shade of a convenient grouping of nearby trees. The two teas served were a delightful lemon and a vanilla caramel. Miss Waterman was quite taken with our hostess's little copy of 'PAMELA or Virtue Rewarded'. She sat and read for quite a while.

The company assembled asked me to read from my copy of Henry V. Below, find an abbreviated version of the speech I read them.

Enter the KING

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here 
But one ten thousand of those men in England 
That do no work to-day! 

KING. What's he that wishes so? 
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin; 
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow 
To do our country loss; and if to live, 
The fewer men, the greater share of honour. 
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more... 
...Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, 
That he which hath no stomach to this fight, 
Let him depart; his passport shall be made, 
And crowns for convoy put into his purse; 
We would not die in that man's company 
That fears his fellowship to die with us. 
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian. 
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, 
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, 
And rouse him at the name of Crispian. 
He that shall live this day, and see old age, 
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, 
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' 
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, 
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.' 
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, 
But he'll remember, with advantages, 
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, 
Familiar in his mouth as household words- 
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, 
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester- 
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red. 
This story shall the good man teach his son; 
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, 
From this day to the ending of the world, 
But we in it shall be remembered- 
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, 
This day shall gentle his condition; 
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed 
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, 
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks 
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Shortly after tea was served, at about three of the clock, I went once again to demonstrate the Art & Mystery of Surgery. Every chair was full, and when more people showed up to watch, we brought more chairs down out of the back to accommodate them.

Some of the gents were quite desirous to have me join them in some fencing practice, but I was far too exhausted to take them up on their offer after my demonstration. 

There will be a group of Acastas this coming weekend at the 200th anniversary of the first battle of Ft. Bowyer, put on by the 7th United States Infantry Living History Association.

This image of Ft. Bowyer is from Lossing's Field History of the War of 1812.

The location is Ft. Morgan State Historic Site on Mobile Point. The fort is about 25 miles west of Gulf Shores Alabama on HWY 180.
Friday is a school day. Main public activities are on Saturday. No programming is scheduled for Sunday.

The Park opens at 8:30 am both days. Morning Colors are at 9. A complete schedule of activities will be available at the Fort.

If you are in the area, stop by and pay the Acastas a visit and be sure to remind them that their Doctor says they are to take their 'blue pill' while they are away from the ship!

Tuesday, September 9

Trouble with the Americans

Things got out of control quickly when an American mob came by the Acasta camp to cause trouble. The men of the Acasta fought valiantly, but being outnumbered 3 to 1 they were no match for the mob.

Friday, September 5

Images from New Boston

Captain Freymann in camp, Surgeon's Mate Baptiste on the fairgrounds

Samuel Hollybrass, Bosun's Mate.

Men brought into camp to be pressed into service, 1st Lieutenant J. Hamilton

3rd Lieutenant T. Tumbusch, Houston Hamilton, Sailor

Preparing to press the linen weaver in front of his shop. His mistress arrived in time to show off his indenture papers and we left him be.

 Benj. Dover, Sailor, Jas. Apple, Carpenter.

Mr. Miller, new recruit, 2nd Lieutenant, M. Ramsey

Baptiste inspects the newly pressed men for lice.