Thursday, October 30

A letter to Miss Nowack

My dearest Miss Nowack

I don't mean to have you worry about not hearing from me for so long. The Doctor keeps me so busy I hardly get a moment to stop and write. Slave driver, he is. Last month he left his new bride behind to drag myself, one of the midshipmen, Haberfield, and Taylor inland for a covert mission to recover something or other related to the war.

Don't imagine my lovely Miss Nowack that I strayed an inch away from you, even surrounded as I was by some rather lovely ladies all eager to dance with me. I vowed I shant dance with a soul whilst apart from you. I'll be as true to you as I ever was.

I don't suspect I can be too candid in my note to you, you understand, on account it was for the Admiralty, but I can tell you we were successful in our mission and all returned safely. Since we have been back, though, our ship has fallen under a plague of lice, the Doctor, Jean Baptiste and I have set a large quantity of men aboard ship to the razor to remove their hair to help rid us of the pests. But don't worry my sweet, I've managed to stay clean of the vermin and keep my hair.

I will end this letter for now, but not to end my love for you, dear Miss Nowack. Write me soon so I may survive the long days apart from you.

Ever yours,

Wednesday, October 29

HMS Bounty Remembered

HMS Bounty, 29th October, 2012

Originally published 30th October, 2012

I can't help but think about this tragedy in terms of what it might have been like had it occurred in the early 19th Century and the era surrounding the War of 1812. 

No radios or GPS tracking, no Coast Guard scrambled and ready to the rescue. Just a crew that knew their ship was in dire trouble and working as hard as they could to keep her afloat in a terrifyingly difficult sea. They knew it was that, or brave the tiny, open longboats over miles of rough, freezing, stormy water. 

A shipwreck of this magnitude wouldn't be all over the news outlets in a matter of hours as it was [in October of 2012], instead, it would have just been overdue at its next port of call, likely never heard from again. Family and friends would be left to wonder about the true fate of the ship and their loved ones. 

And so, today, while I think on how tragic this entire story is for everyone involved, from ship owners, to Captain, to crew and their family and friends... I'll also be thinking about the haunting image above, and the tragedy that might have been had this happened 200 years ago. 

Tuesday, October 28

Lice Aboard Ship!

It has come to my attention that several of the men have become infested with lice. I had them brought in straight away and Vassermann, Baptiste and I have since been furiously at work with my little combs, but have made little headway (so to speak). An infestation of lice aboard a blockading vessel when nearly every man aboard, save the officers, has long hair, can very quickly become a problem.

Therefore, I have ordered each effected man to be combed thoroughly, and bathed with lye soap. Likewise all their clothing is to be washed in the freshest water available with lye soap.

If we can not be rid of the lice with a good combing and a wash of each effected man, I'll order their heads shaved and keep them in the sickbay until I feel that they can be released back among the general population.

Monday, October 27

George Francis Seymour, Volunteer First Class

A portrait miniature of a young boy, thought to be
Sir George Francis Seymour (1787-1870), leaning on
an anchor, a ship in the distance by Richard Cosway,
Watercolour on ivory, 18th Century, Oval, 89mm (3 ½ in.) high
SEYMOUR, Kt., C.B., G.C.H.
Acasta Volunteer First Class under Capt. Fellowes, c.1802, aged approx 15.

Sir George Francis Seymour, born in Sept. 1787, is eldest son of the late Vice-Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour (fifth son of Francis, first Marquess of Hertford, K.G.) by Anne Horatia, third daughter of James, second Earl of Waldegrave...

This officer entered the Navy, 10 Oct. 1797, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Princess Augusta yacht, Capt. Edw. Riou, lying in the river Thames; and from March, 1798, until May, 1802, was employed on the Channel and West India stations, the last two years and four months in the capacity of Midshipman, in the Sanspareil 80, Prince of Wales 98, and Sanspareil again, all flag-ships of his father, and Acasta 40, Capt. Edw. Fellowes. In the Prince of Wales he witnessed the surrender of Surinam in Aug. 1799 ; and in the Acasta he assisted in making a variety of prizes. He was subsequently, in the course of 1802-3, employed on the Home, Newfoundland, and Mediterranean stations, in the Endymion 40, Capt. John Larmour, Isis 50, hearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Jas. Gamhier, Endymion a second time, Capt. Hon. Chas. Paget, and Victory 100, bearing the flag of Lord Nelson...

...In 1818 Sir G. F. Seymour was appointed by his uncle, the Marquess of Hertford, then Lord Chamberlain, Serjeant-at-Arms to the House of Lords. From 4 Aug. 1830 until he resigned, 11 Nov. following, he was a Naval Aide-de-Camp to William IV.; under whom he filled the office of Master of the Robes from 13 Sept. 1830 until the period of his death.
Mezzotint of Admiral,
Sir George Francis Seymour
(1787-1870), Admiral of the Fleet.


Friday, October 24

Capt. Kerr's Grave Monument

St John and St Cuthbert (joint)'s Church Cemetery, Edinburgh, Lothian, Scotland 

Capt Alexander Robert Kerr
age 61

Charlotte Maule
age 70
wife of Alexander Robert Kerr

Jessie Kerr
age 1
daughter of Alexander Robert Kerr

Matilda Ann Kerr
age 17
daughter of Alexander Robert Kerr

John Hunter Kerr
age 53
son of Alexander Robert Kerr

Charles Maule Kerr
age 74
son of Alexander Robert Kerr

Robert Kerr
son of Alexander Robert Kerr

Anna Maria Beresford Kerr
age 76
daughter of Alexander Robert Kerr

Wednesday, October 22

Mission X part 3

When our walk concluded, my wife and I eventually returned to our rooms to clean up and ready ourselves for supper. Another meal might offer me the opportunity to complete my secret mission for King and Country.

That night there was a supper laid out in the upper rooms of the town hall. The court and guests were all in attendance followed by Josephine. While there were fewer guards, there was a table of well-dressed French commanders and generals just behind me who were relaxing, drinking and telling stories in an animated fashion. This particular meal was more in the style of a buffet, making it an ideal opportunity to administer my dose covertly, but as it turned out, Bonaparte did not see fit to attend. I was crestfallen.

After the dishes were removed, I passed the time by playing cards with Mr. Evans and Mr. Flory. I taught them how to play One & Thirty and won every hand against Mr. Evans, relieving him of his pocket full of Italian bills. At one point my wife nudged me to quietly alert me to the fact that Josephine had taken notice of our game and seemed to have cast a disapproving glance upon the venture. Mr. Evans seemed agreeable to continue our game, asking if I would accept his note of hand. I was about to let him know that I would when the exit doors were filled with armed French soldiers.

They were here to escort us down into the square where we were met by Bonaparte. An impromptu parade formed that lead back to the park behind Château de Bois-Préau. The party was lead under arms as the public crushed in around us. They followed us back to the private area where Bonaparte's tent stood and we were treated to a magnificent display of fireworks.

The display seemed to originate from the back of Château de Bois-Préau and was as lovely a presentation as I have ever seen. 

…to be concluded

Have you spotted the little green bottle yet? Keep looking!

Special thanks to the photographers who have allowed me to make use of their amazing pictures:

Monday, October 20

John Moon Potbury, Volunteer Second Class

Acasta Volunteer Second Class under Capt. Dunn, 1 Nov. 1805.

John Moon Potbury died at the commencement of 1848.

This officer entered the Navy, 1 Nov. 1805, as Second-cl. Vol., on board the Acasta 40, Capt. Rich. Dalling Dunn, under whom he fought in the action off St. Domingo, 6 Feb. 1806. Between Deo. in the latter year and July, 1808, he served on the Plymouth station, part of the time as Midshipman, in the Porcupine 24, Capt. Hon. Henry Duncan, in another ship, the name of which has escaped us, and in the El Firme, Capt. Wells. He was next, from June, 1810, to March, 1811, employed in the North Sea on board the Christian VII. 80 ; and in May, 1812, he joined the Namur 74, stationed at first on the coast of North America, and then in the West Indies;


Thursday, October 16

Mississinewa: 1812 in Images

You can now find the first images from this year's Mississinewa:1812 event on their website.
You're likely to find a few fellows you know…

Wednesday, October 15

A Report from Hollybrass

5th October, 1814
Admiralty Office


The Admiralty commands and requires the ACASTA to send a party ashore that can covertly surveil the American forces at Mississinewa. 

Once arrived, the landing party should take up such a position or positions as to be able to view the American camp to their best advantage and make note of which companies are there encamped and a tally of fighting men in each company. Additionally an accurate map of the encampment should be produced for use of the Admiralty. The map should show relative size, number of tents or other significant structures with special emphasis on the dwellings of the commanders of the various companies

The landing party from the Acasta must not be espied by the Americans while about their task, and under no circumstance should they enter the American camp. If the information is to be of value to the Admiralty and the war effort, the landing party must do all within its power to remain unobserved while about their duty.

On behalf of His Most Britannic Majesty and the Admiralty,

I am Sir, &c. &c.

Captain Freymann,

After the men had their liberty on Friday evening I was hard pressed to rouse them all back to camp at the agreed upon time Saturday morning. I looked all over the camp and Lundy and Vassermann were no where to be found, even Mr. Raley was tardy to morning colors. I ended up giving the orders to young Mr. Midshipman Calhoun to read (after we had tended to his breakfast in the mess of course, and don't you know I looked after him like you told me). We also fetched one of HMS Nancy's boys, I reckon him to be about thirteen, Mr. Swanson by name. 

Young Mr. Calhoun was half way through sounding out some of the larger words in the orders when Mr. Raley arrived to take over things. Mr. Raley had a young, well dressed gentleman friend with him that stayed by his side and under foot. He wore a military uniform I couldn't put a finger on. Didn't nobody ask it, but my opinion of it is that Mr. Raley's friend didn't have no business there, but I ain't gonna question no officer in the execution of his duty.

The five of us, we set out to go and have a look at the American camp like the orders said and ended up down by the river where we could get down and espy the camp with our glasses and not be seen. I only had to remind Mr. Calhoun and Swanson a few times to keep their heads down. Mr. Raley on the other hand wouldn't hardly get down in order to keep his new trousers from getting dirty, and his friend stood in full view and smoked his pipe.

We were able to get a good look at a company of green frocked riflemen practicing a drill right in plain view. We counted their number and made a record of it on one of the slates I brought along. Their commander seemed to be making use of a whistle that could be heard a great way off, much in the same way we use the bosun's pipe aboard ship.

Mr. Raley and his friend moved to a different position so as to get a look into the camp from another angle but they was run off by an elderly American engineer set up nearby. I hate to confess, but it ain't no tattle sir when I says that Mr. Raley wasn't near as careful as I think he might have been. 

Then we moved over to the indian encampment that was located near enough to see the Americans. There were several of their lot that were sympatetic to the Crown, it was decided that when the Americans marched toward the battlefield nearby that they would have to pass right through this particular area and we picked out one of their larger wig-wams to hide out in. After a few minutes of waiting, Mr. Raley announced that I was in charge and that I should carry on in his absence and he and his gentleman friend returned to the British camp.

After some thinking on my part, I figured that we could get a better look at the passing American forces from within the great tent set up near their camp was we to sneak into it. I gathered the boys up and we ran over and made our way inside. It was empty, and the far back end of it was within ten feet of the road leading in and out of the camp. We heard them start sounding the drums and I positioned Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Swanson at one end of the tent where they could peek out a small opening in the canvas and myself at the other end. I told them boys to count the soldiers as they passed and I'd do the same and we could compare our sums afterword.

The Americans marched past and not a one thought to look in the direction of the tent.

The boys came up with 102 men

My list was a bit more detailed on the first go:
5 guns
22 men in the gun crews
6 officers
81 soldiers of various companies
6 natives

115 total men

The boys and I headed back to camp in time to see the British forces rout the Americans. It was then that we found Mr. Vassermann, and Mr. Raley rejoined us without his friend. We all took a quick meal and returned to count the Americans again, the rumor being that they would regroup and try to gain the field once more. Mr. Raley and Vasserman went into the woods on one side of the path and I took Mr. Calhoun and Swanson over to the other side and hid from view behind some trees.

Vassermann came up with 127 men

We came up with 138

After the Americans passed, we took up my measuring cord and hurried to measure the outside boundries of their camp so as to be able to make a more accurate map likes the orders says to do. Mr. Calhoun and Swanson did most of the leg work on that after I shows them how to run out the line, and I followed to keep the tally of the distance measured off. Between the lot of us, we managed to measure four of the five sides of the American camp. Mr. Calhoun and Swanson were eager to go up into the camp itself and brave hell and death to get the final measurement, but I wouldn't let them seeing how you put me in charge of young Calhoun's safe keeping (although, by God I think they could have done it had I let 'em!).

We returned to camp and discovered Mr. Lundy with Mr. Dubbeld and his gun crew. Our mission wasn't what you might call a success, being that some of the objectives didn't get accomplished, we didn't get no count on tents and didn't get no company names, I'm afrear'd to report that it was a lack of leadership that kept the mission from getting accomplished proper.

Not that I'd presume to tell you your business Sir, but my recommendation is that Mr. Calhoun get an extra ration of grog for his eagerness to do his duty and Mr. Swanson have a letter sent to his Commanding Officer commending him for his fine service.

And you know I don't like to write no unfavourable reports on no fellow Tar, but I'd recommend that Mr. Raley get a stern talking to about the nature of a young officer's duty, and while Mr. Vassermann and Mr. Lundy's absence might be considered something to fall under Article 26, being valuable sailors that they are, perhaps a few lashes might set them straight again.

writ and enter'd into the log
with a copy being sent to the Cap't by
Sam'l Holybrass
Bosun's Mate
HMS Acasta

Tuesday, October 14

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:

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.

Book Review - These posts take a look at books written about Naval subjects of interest.

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.

Capture - Information regarding historical captures made by the Acasta during her service.

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.

In The News - Historical news articles that make mention of the Acasta or her crew.

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.

Letter Writing - Posts relating to writing letters that look to be from the period portrayed by HMS Acasta. Great help if you wish to participate in the Mail Packet project.

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.

Master & Commander - Posts that have to do with the Aubrey-Maturin series of books by author Patrick O'Brian or the 2003 movie.

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!

Mission X - All posts related to the Doctor's covert mission to France.

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.

Real Crew - Posts with this label are either written by or about REAL historical members of the crew of the Acasta between 1797-1815.

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.

Monday, October 13

Meet John Pickthorn

Acasta Midshipman under Capt Beaver, c. 1806.

John Pickthorn is a native of Devonport, co. Devon.

This officer entered the Navy, 12 Oct. 1796, as Ordinary, on board the Alexander 74, Capts. Joseph Bullen, Alex. John Ball, and P. Ormsby; in which ship he came into frequent action with the enemy's gun-boats and batteries in the neighbourhood of Cadiz, and took part in the battle of the Nile, in the blockade of Malta, and in various operations along the coast of Italy. Quitting the Alexander in Sept. 1800, he was next, until April, 1802, employed on the Mediterranean and Home stations as Midshipman (a rating he had previously attained) in the Guillaume Tell 84, Capt. Thos. Elphinstone, flag-ship of Admiral Milbank, Alkmaar, Capt. Fred. Lewis Maitland, and Malta 84, Capt. Albemarle Bertie. In March, 1803, he returned to the latter ship, commanded at the time by Capt. Edw. Buller on the coast of Spain ; and, from July, 1804, until Oct. 1806, he served in the West Indies and Channel on board the Eagle and Kent 74's, and Ville de Paris 110, all flagships of Sir Edw. Thornbrough ; whom, in Feb. 1807, after having been for about three months attached to the Acasta 40, Capt. Philip Beaver, he again joined in the Royal Sovereign 100, on the Mediterranean station.


Thursday, October 9

New Orleans Advertisement

A commercial for the coming 200th of the Battle of New Orleans, with footage of some naval fellows you may recognise.

Tuesday, October 7

Mission X part 2

From the park, the court and guests gathered up and walked down the tree lined pathway to Chateau de Malmaison. We were allowed passage through the front gate by the guards who held back the mob of locals come to have a look at their Emperor. We were lead up the gravel drive to the front of the house where we flanked either side of the main entry. 

Bonaparte and Josephine arrived at Chateau de Malmaison that afternoon in grand fashion, they were in a fine black carriage followed by soldiers on horseback. The court and guests assembled at the entrance of the house. 

Bonaparte and Josephine took an afternoon walk about the grounds with the court and guests en tow. They were long, meandering affairs through lovely gardens, the soldiers had every corner and path covered. It was nearly impossible to get close to him and I began to despair that my mission would be a failure.

There was a good deal of walking punctuated occasionally by some standing and sitting. We were, of course, completely at the mercy of Bonaparte and his whims. If he decided to stop and comment on a particular flower with Josephine, the entire party would come to a halt. If he decided to stop to kiss Josephine's hand, leaving us to stand in the full afternoon sun, he would do so. At one point I commented to my wife that it never seemed to occur to the Emperor to stop in the shade.

Finally, they found a lovely little grassy area beneath a tree in the back of the gardens to come to a stop and sit. The ladies of the court drew up close around Bonaparte and Josephine, followed by the gentlemen, guests and then the guards. I was so close to my goal, but with all these people swarming about, he might as well have been a hundred miles away.

…to be continued

Have you spotted the little green bottle yet? Keep looking!

Special thanks to the photographers who have allowed me to make use of their amazing pictures: