Tuesday, March 31

Signal Flag Generator

Capt. C. Bertani
Captain Bertani of HMS Cornwall (74) 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!


Monday, March 30

Meet Thomas George Wills


Nearly 60 posts later we find ourselves at the end of this series of REAL Acastas! Every one of them a fellow who served aboard the Acasta at some point between 1797-1815. Did you miss any? If so, be sure to check out ALL of the REAL CREW posts.

WILLS.
Acasta 'Admiralty-Mate' under Capt. Wood & Oswald, July 1802.

Thomas George Wills died 11 May, 1847.

This officer entered the Navy, in 1792, as a Volunteer, on board the Windsor Castle 98, Capt. Thos. Byard, in which ship, bearing the flags in succession of Admirals Philip Cosby, Robt. Mann, and Robt. Linzee, he served at the occupation of Toulon and in Hotham's partial actions 14 March and 13 July, 1795. In Feb. 1797 he removed to the Cambridge 74, guard-ship at Plymouth ; he served next, from the following Dec. until Feb. 1798, in the Saldanha frigate, Capt. Geo. Burlton, on the Western station; and in Oct. 1801, after he had been for rather more than three years attached as Midshipman, in the Channel and Baltic, to the Russel 74, Capts. Sir Henry Trollope, Herbert Sawyer, and Wm. Cuming, part of Lord Nelson's fleet at the battle of Copenhagen, he joined the Wasp 18, Capt. Chas. Bullen, and sailed for the coast of Africa, where he assisted in affording protection to Sierra Leone at a time when its existence as a British colony was threatened by a powerful combination of the native chiefs. In July, 1802, he became Admiralty-Mate, on the Home station, of the Acasta 40, Capts. Jas. Athol Wood and Jas. Oswald. He was afterwards, from 30 June, 1804, until 10 May, 1 814, a prisoner-of-war in France.

He was promoted during that period to the rank of Lieutenant by a commission bearing date 22 Jan, 1806. In July, 1814, he was appointed to the Chatham 74, Capt. David Lloyd, lying at Chatham ; and in the ensuing Sept. to the Trent, flag-ship at Cork of Sir Herbert Sawyer, who placed him in command, 8 Dec. in the same year, of the Castilian sloop. He served in the Trent again from Jan. until Dec. 1815 ; in the Coast Blockade, as First of the Severn 50, Capt. Wm. M'Cullooh, from 15 March, 1817, until promoted to the rank of Commander 27 May, 1820 ; and in the Coast Guard from 6 July, 1830, until promoted to Post-rank 7 Jan. 1835. Capt. Wills had been left a widower 5 May, 1844.

His only son, Wm. Burrows Wills, a Lieutenant R.N. (1843), died 27 March in the latter year, while serving on the coast of Africa in the Alert sloop, Capt. C. J. Bosanquet.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.

Friday, March 27

Seize the Fire, a Review

Seize The Fire- Heroism, Duty and the Battle of Trafalgar 
by Adam Nicolson

A short Review by Tony Gerard

In the preface Nicolson says of the book " It is an attempt to describe the mental landscape of the people who fought and commanded at one of the great battles in history and it asks, in particular, why and how the idea of the hero flowered here.'' If that had been on the back cover I'd have never bought the book. I'm not particularly interested in cultural psychology, I thought it was a book about the Battle of Trafalgar.

If you want a book about Trafalgar get " Nelson's Trafalgar" by Roy Atkins, it's excellent. 'Seize the Fire'  uses the battle as a backdrop and conveyance for the social attitudes it examines. It's not light, easy readin. I did read the book  and I learned some things. Nelson explains why the British Navy was the unstoppable juggernaut they were, and how the difference in psychology handicapped the French and Spanish navies before the first shot was fired. There is good information here about the difference in standard naval operation between the British and their opponents.  He also explains a change in attitudes, and what was acceptable behavior, in gentlemen (read officers) between the 18th and early 19th centuries. Just at the point I would become bored with excursions into cultural psychology Nicholson would bring be back around with some interesting period account. I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm not sure that this book has that much to  offer an Acasta doing a straight up "Jack Tar" only impression. I would recommend this book to our gentlemen types to give them some insight into the proper attitudes of the time and place.

Tuesday, March 24

The Mail Packet… Overseas


There is a letter writing project going on for an event overseas that was inspired by the Acasta's Mail Packet project. Interested? Read all about it over here:


Monday, March 23

Meet Edmund Lechmere

LECHMERE.
Acasta Midshipman under Capt Beaver, c.1806

Edmund Lechmere died 30 Jan. 1841, at Hereford. He was a relative of the present Lieut. John Lechmere, R.N.

This officer entered the Navy, 1 Feb. 1806, as Midshipman, on board the Prince 98, Capt. Wm. Lechmere, stationed off Cadiz. Removing, in the following Dec, to the Acasta 40, Capt. Philip Beaver, he was for nearly three years employed in that ship on the West India station, where, in Feb. 1809, he witnessed the reduction of Martinique. After a short servitude in the Basque Roads on board the Scipion 74, flag-ship of Hon. Robt. Stopford, he rejoined Capt. Beaver, in May, 1810, in the Nisus 38, and in the following Dec. was present, as Master's Mate, at the capture of the Isle of France, as also, in 1811, in the operations against Java.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.

Friday, March 20

A Recollection of Young Teazer II

As it seemed that there would be a good deal of time before we would be able to intercept the American privateer, whose identity it would seem was generally believed to be Young Teazer, the order was given for hands to breakfast, I went below and Vasserman brought me coffee. Afterward, Reid and I made morning Sick Call at the mainmast.

We treated the number of ulcers and bruises to be expected from a crew so long exposed to the elements and the wet. The saltwater and handling of coarse rope is hard on the hands and feet of a sailor. The effected men formed a line for their treatments, but all eyes were distracted by the sails on the horizon as we went about our work.

"She can't be caught that one." said Mr. Rutherford as he stepped forward, hands held out to expose his neglected sores.

"What's that?" asked I looking up from my chest, removing the bottle of salve.

"The Young Teazer that is Sir," says Rutherford, "she's crafty, raised our own colours in Halifax Harbour to escape capture, they didn't even know she was there 'til she was long gone. She'll not be taken easy."

"Mister Rutherford," answers I, "I'm certain the Captain would not appreciate such stuff and nonsense. Regardless of who she is, it is only a ship, and any ship can be captured if pursued long enough by the right Captain."

"Oh yes sir, I didn't mean no disrespect to Captain Freymann or nothin'. Just a bit of idle talk..."

"No, I am certain you did not. As for these hands," I scolded whilst applying the salve liberally, "you should not have waited so long before you brought these sores to my attention. Neglect on this order is akin to rendering yourself unfit Mister Rutherford. I shall wrap them tightly and suggest you wear gloves for several days while on duty. Keep them as dry as possible when off duty."

"Y-yes sir." Rutherford saluted with a freshly bandaged appendage.

Once I was certain that my mates had things in hand, I paid my two patients belowdecks their forenoon visit.

Downie's condition seems generally improved since his emetic, but I suspect that my greatest treatment came in the form of stopping his grog. His speech is clear and his much complained of 'headache' abated. If he remains in this manner for the remainder of the day, I shall release him back to duty.

Ford's fever is down from yesterday and he seems to have regained some of his appetite.

At noon, I rejoined the officers on the Quarterdeck to have another look through my glass at the Wasp and her quarry. They were a great distance off, nearly over the horizon. Resigning myself that it would be a long chase, I went below to have something more substantial to eat.

Thursday, March 19

A Recollection of Young Teazer


At dawn, I was awakened by the drumming To Quarters, wherein Mr. Reid, Mr. Vasserman and I made ready the surgery. Afterward, it was pointed out to me by Vasserman that I had neglected to fix my cravat, and he straightened and tied it for me. Only then did I venture up on deck to ascertain the situation fully.

The men seemed to be making the proper amount of haste in readying their stations in this ungodly hour, several nearly knocking me to down whilst rounding corners quickly.

The Acasta had been off Cape Sable some distance with Capt. Oliver's HMS Valiant through the night. I bid the officers good morning and joined them in having a look at the excitement through my glass. The lookout had spotted His Majesty's Sloop Wasp in pursuit of and American vessel. I could see them both fairly clear as they came around the area the officers referred to as 'Baron Bank'. There behind the Wasp's prey flew the American flag.

"Does anyone know who that American vessel is?" queried I, still watching it.

"Looks to be 'Young Teazer' Doctor, make note of the 'Alligator' that makes up her figurehead."

I scarcely had the heart to mention that their figurehead looked nothing like the Alligators I'd seen drawings of.

I turned my eye over to the nearby Valiant, and through my glass I could espy Capt. Oliver and his officers watching the Wasp's approach from their own quarterdeck. Through my lens, Oliver lowered his own telescope and began to silently issue orders to his men. The vague sound of distant and incoherent shouting could be made out across the water between the Acasta and the Valiant.

There came a great shouting on the Quarterdeck as orders were giv'n and repeated and then passed down the chain of command to give chase.

To be continued...

Monday, March 16

Midshipman Hilton

HILTON.
Acasta Midshipman under Capt. Fellowes & Wood, c.1804, aged 19 years.

Stephen Hilton, born 9 Aug. 1785, is brother of Commander Geo. Hilton, R.N.

This officer entered the Navy, 13 Aug. 1795, as Third-cl. Vol., on board the Bristol, Lieut.-Commander Hutchison, lying at Chatham; and, from July, 1796, until Jan. 1798, was borne at Sheerness on the books of the Grana, Lieut.-Commander Dixon. Re-embarking, in Aug. 1799, on board the Pearl 32, Capt. Sam. Jas. Ballard, he proceeded to the Mediterranean, where, during a continuance of two years, he participated as Midshipman in various cutting-out affairs in the vicinity of Toulon, and attended the expedition of 1801 to Egypt. Between Feb. 1802 and March, 1805, he served on the Home station in the Acasta 40, Capts. Edw. Fellowes and Jas. Athol Wood, Revolutionnaire frigate, Capt. Walter Lock, and Queen 98, Capts. Thos. Jones and Manley Dixon. He then became Master's Mate of the Minotaur 74, Capt. Chas. John Moore Mansfield, and, after sharing in the glories of Trafalgar, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant 22 Jan. 1806.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.

Friday, March 13

A Letter from Billie


1815 28 febr
Namerican stayshun
Father & Mather

I am sorry that I ran aweigh and you must have asumd me knoked in the head in a ditch and never to come home agaen, a few of us agrid to meet up and join the war and thay told us that if we sighed our names than we we got a shiling each and we could join the navey and gett prise monies and have pleney of good meat and things green to eat the whole thyme we are on ship and we would be landsman and sounded fair since we growed up not on the cosst, thay sid I could milk cows and that lift things and ay toell them that I can do that at home so thay made me pull lines and klimb up ento the masts and I got guud at it and the give me a difrnt things to doo now thay are a lot of felleows on here with me and a few of those are kind to me bat they took patrkic fryy willam eveens robart shuemaker to diffent ships and I shant seed them since thay put us. all on this tender ship afoe id come to here and I hope they famieles got letders like this one I have sent to you and are heavy with prise monies like the say I am wen we get back home plus I git payd every month since I am gone also how is my dog?
Youer son
Billie

Thursday, March 12

12th of March 1815


On the 12th, at 6 h. 30 m. a.m., Sir George Collier went on shore to communicate with the governor, in consequence of the damage done to the houses of the town by the shot from the Acasta and Newcastle. At 11 a.m. Sir George returned ; and shortly afterwards the British squadron, accompanied by the prize, got under way, and steered for the West Indies. We must now pay a visit to the Constitution.

The moment he saw how the Acasta was weathering him, and that he had no chance of escape by bearing up, as the Newcastle would inevitably intercept him, Captain Stewart considered the Constitution as within an hour or two of becoming a British prize. The American officers now questioned the British officers as to the manner in which the commodore of the chasing squadron would treat them ; and ; in short, began making, in regard to their clothes and other personal effects, such arrangements as they thought necessary, in the change they were about to undergo from freemen to captives. All this while Captains Douglas and Falcon and the late officers of the Levant and Cyane were blessing their stars at the good fortune that awaited them, although, as we can readily conceive, their delicacy forbade them from making a display of it before Captain Stewart and his officers. When the Cyane tacked, and the three British ships still continued in chase of the Constitution, not a doubt could remain that the English commodore, whoever he might be, was determined to have her. The Levant tacks ; and (can it be possible?) all three British ships tack after her. Here is a change ! The joy of Captain Stewart and his officers was now as extravagant as their fears had been well grounded. But what were now the feelings of Captains Douglas and Falcon and the other British officers ? What were they indeed! " The British officers on board, " says the Constitution's officer, " who had expressed the utmost confidence that the Constitution would be taken in an hour, felt the greatest vexation and disappointment, which they expressed in very emphatic terms." * From the following passage in the same account, it would appear that some one of the British officers, to save as much as possible the credit of the service to which he belonged, pretended to understand the purport of a signal that was hoisted by the Newcastle, and of which we shall speak presently. Thus: " After the other ships tacked, the Newcastle made a signal that her foretopsail yard was sprung, and tacked also. " In less than three quarters of an hour after the Newcastle had tacked from her, the Constitution was becalmed or nearly so. As soon as a breeze sprang up, Captain Stewart steered towards the coast of Brazil, and through the West Indies home ; and, early in the month of May, lucky Old Ironsides," as now she well might be called, anchored in Boston.

The three British ships, on being first discovered by the Constitution, were taken by the American officers for what, in reality, they were: the Leander and Newcastle for " ships of the line," or two-deckers, and the Acasta for a frigate. But the Cyane, according to her log, made out all three ships to be frigates, even before the Constitution cut her cables and made sail. Yet, on board the Leander, the Constitution, of 1533, the Cyane of 539, and the Levant, a flush ship, of 464 tons, all put on the appearance of "frigates." Hence, when the Cyane tacked, " Sir George directed the Acasta's signal to be made to tack after her, but countermanded the order, on observing that she would gain the anchorage before the Acasta could close with her." * It was, therefore, the respect which the British commanding officer paid to the neutrality of the Portuguese port, that permitted the Cyane to go unpursued. But, in less than an hour, a second enemy's " frigate," the Levant, tacks, and the neutrality of the port does not save her from being pursued, or from being cannonaded, " with her jib-boom over the battery," by two of the three British ships that had tacked after her. How does Captain M'Dougall reconcile this ?

It appears, now, that it was not Sir George's intention that all three British ships should have tacked after the Levant. The signal was ordered to be for the Acasta alone to tack ; but, according to the published letter of Mr. Thomas Collier, " the midshipman, Mr. Morrison, whose duty it was to make the signal, did, by mistake, hoist the general signal, " or, according to another statement, and one which bears the signature of the Leander's late first lieutenant, " in making the signal, the Acasta's distinguishing pendants got foul, and, before they could be cleared, the Newcastle mistook it for a general signal. It is a point, we conceive, of very little consequence how the mistake arose. The fact is that, of all the three ships, the Acasta was the last that should have been ordered to tack after the Levant, even admitting that ship to have been the " Constitution, President, Macedonian, or Congress, " simply because the Acasta was " weathering, " " getting into the wake of, " and the likeliest of any of the three to overtake and bring to action, the " Guerrière.'' On the other hand, that the Leander herself, if any ship did, was the most proper to have gone in pursuit of the supposed Constitution, President, Macedonian, or Congress, is clear; first, because she was " falling to leeward " of the supposed Guerrière, and next, because she was the nearest of any of her squadron to the ship that, to the Leander at least, put on so fatal a disguise. Had we seen no other statement than is to be found in the three British ships' logs, we should consider that the Leander really did tack first ; for thus says her log : "Tacked ship to cut off ship from anchorage, and made signal for ditto."

Capt. Sir George Collier
Sir George Collier was remarkable for the kindness with which he treated his officers, and for the, in this instance, most unfortunate, deference he was in the habit of paying to their opinions on points of service. By whose suggestion he tacked, let his late first lieutenant's own words determine : " When the Acasta had filled on the starboard tack, I observed to Sir George, that, if the ships standing in shore were really frigates, which it was impossible to ascertain, owing to the haziness of the weather, they would be more than a match for the Acasta. He replied It is true, Kerr can do wonders, but not impossibilities ; and I believe I must go round, as, when the ship that tacked first hears the Acasta engaged, she will naturally come to her consort's assistance." Captain M'Dougall here says " it was impossible to ascertain " whether or not a low flush ship, of 464 tons, sailing for more than an hour, at the distance certainly not of more than five miles, upon the weather beam of the Leander, and consequently with her whole broadside exposed to view, and every port, one might suppose, as easy to be counted, as the ports of the Leander herself were by the British and American officers on board the Levant, was a "frigate ;" and such a frigate as, with another like her, it would be "impossible" for the Acasta to cope with. Lieutenant Henry Richmond, who was a midshipman on board the Leander, appears to have sanctioned Mr. Thomas Collier in saying, that " all on board " the Leander fully believed that the Constitution, Cyane, and Levant were three American frigates. The only answer we shall give to this will be to subjoin the names of the five lieutenants, who belonged to the Leander at the time. 1st. John M'Dougall, 2d. William Edward Fiott, 3d. Robert Graham Dunlop, 4th. George William St.-John Mildmay, and 5th. Richard Weld. We believe it is not yet admitted by Captains Kerr and Lord George Stuart, that the Acasta was the first ship that tacked, or that the weather, at the time the Constitution was left to go her ways, was not sufficiently clear for the water-lines of all the ships to be seen.

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Wednesday, March 11

11th March 1815


On the 11th of March, at 0 h. 15 m. p.m., when, as already stated, they first discovered the Constitution, Cyane, Levant, and cartel brig, the three British ships were standing close hauled on the starboard tack, with a moderate breeze from the north-east by north ; and the ships in Porto-Praya then bore from the Leander, the leewardmost ship of her squadron, northeast by north distant seven miles. In less than 10 minutes after she had discovered the approach of the British ships, the Constitution cut her cables and stood out of Porto-Praya on the larboard tack, followed by the Levant and Cyane. At 1 p.m., just as the Constitution had got upon the Leander's weather beam, the three British ships tacked in chase. At this time the strange squadron was about four miles in the wind's eye of the Acasta, the Acasta about one mile upon the weather quarter of the Newcastle, and the Newcastle about two miles ahead of the Leander. At this time, also, the Acasta made out the strangers to be " one large frigate and two sloops." The Newcastle has merely noted down in her log, that one ship was larger than the others ; and the Leander, in her log, describes all three of the ships as " apparently frigates." But the Leander's first lieutenant on the occasion, the present Captain John M'Dougall, has subsequently stated as follows: " Weather very thick and hazy ; took the two stern-most ships for frigates, the headmost, from appearance, a much larger ship, for the Guerrière; who, we understood, had long 32-pounders on her main deck." *

At 1 h. 30 m. p.m. Captain Stewart found that the Constitution sailed about equal with the ships on her lee quarter, but that the Acasta, by luffing up, was gaining her wake and rather dropping astern. It was at the same time observed, that the Cyane was dropping astern and to leeward, and would soon be overtaken by the Acasta. At 1 h. 40 m., therefore, Captain Stewart made the signal for the Cyane to tack ; expecting that the British commodore would detach a ship in pursuit of her, and that she would succeed in reaching the anchorage of Porto-Praya before the detached ship could come up with her ; or, if no ship chased, that she would be able to double the rear of the British squadron and escape before the wind. The Cyane, just when bearing from the Leander north-north-east distant four miles, tacked accordingly ; but no British ship tacked after her, Sir George rightly judging that she would reach the neutral port before either of the British ships could get within shot of her. The Cyane shortly afterwards bore away, and was seen no more. At 1 h. 45 in. the Leander hoisted her colours and fired a gun to windward; and then telegraphed that, in case of parting company, the Isle of Mayo was to be the rendezvous. Both the Leander's consorts also hoisted their colours, and the Newcastle scaled her guns. The Constitution's log notices the circumstance thus: " The ship on our lee quarter firing broadsides by divisions, her shot falling short of us." An officer of the Constitution, in a letter to a friend, says : " The shot fell short from 100 to 200 yards. " † This would, indeed, have brought the ships near together ; but the American officer must have greatly underrated the distance. For our part, we cannot see the necessity of scaling the guns at all : not only was the concussion calculated to check the ship's way, but it was very likely to calm the breeze, already beginning to slacken as the day drew towards its close.

At 2 h. 30 m. p.m., the Constitution having dropped the Levant considerably, the situation of the latter, in reference to the Acasta, became as critical as that of the Cyane had been. Captain Stewart accordingly made the Levant's signal to tack ; and the Levant did immediately tack. At this time, says the Acasta, " the frigate had gained on us, but we had gained on the sloop." One of the Constitution's officers gives a different statement from that in the Acasta's log. He says:

"The Acasta sailed faster than the Constitution,
and was gaining on her."

At all events the Acasta, although she might drop a little astern, was weathering upon the Constitution, and had now brought her to bear upon her weather cat-head. The instant the Levant tacked, the Leander made a signal, the nature of which we shall discuss presently ; and, in obedience to that signal, the Acasta " tacked in chase of the sloop." In a minute or two afterwards, according to statements that have appeared in print, the Leander and Newcastle successively did the same. When the Newcastle tacked, the Constitution was five or six miles to windward of her, and, " in the prevailing haze, nearly out of sight " from the deck of the Leander ; from whom the Newcastle then bore south-east by east, and the Acasta north-east.

At 2 h. 50 m. p.m., which was just 14 minutes after she had tacked, the Newcastle lost sight of the Constitution, owing to the increased haziness of the weather as the former approached the land, and the opposite course steered by the latter. The Levant, shortly after she had tacked, bore away for Porto-Praya road, and at about 3 h. 15 m. p.m. received from the Leander in passing an ineffectual fire. " At 4 h. 30 m.," says the Newcastle log, "saw her (Levant) anchor. Acasta fired a broadside. At 4 h. 56 m. tacked and fired our larboard broadside." An American account says: "The Levant ran into port, so as to run her jib-boom over the battery. The Acasta and Newcastle came in, and, although her colours were hauled down, fired at her a number of times. They were obliged to hoist and lower their colours twice ; yet not a gun was fired from the Levant. Lieutenant Ballard, who commanded, had ordered his men to lie on the deck, by which they all escaped injury, although considerable damage was done to the town. It seemed unnecessary for two heavy frigates to fire into one sloop of war, who neither did nor could make any resistance." † When the Leander opened her fire she discovered, clearly enough, the force of the ship in pursuit of which the squadron had tacked. Sir George then made the signal for the Acasta to take possession of her. The Acasta did so ; and, by 5 p.m., all three British ships had anchored in Porto-Praya road.

To be continued...

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Tuesday, March 10

Jane Austen's England, a Review

A mini book review by Tony Gerard

Jane Austen's England
Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods
by Roy and Lesley Adkins

Ok, so it's not a naval book, but it is still material that all Acastas should be familiar with. It covers pretty much all aspects of English life in the time frame we portray. Various chapters cover childhood, marriage, transportation, crime and punishment, religion and superstition, social status, food, leisure pursuits, medical treatment, funeral customs and much more. 

As with their other books, the Adkins have continued the practice of  using very readable, non academic wording. Once again they have liberally stocked their text with lots of actual period quotes and accounts. One of their main sources is a 19th century parson, which should be of interest to our chaplain.

I especially recommend this book to the wives and sweethearts among our members. It will be an invaluable resource for developing your first person persona as you wait for your love to return from his commission!

Monday, March 9

Mr. Midshipman Hay

HAY.
Acasta Midshipman under Capt. Wood, c.1804-1805

James Hay is son of the late Jas. Hay, Esq., of Belton; great-grandson of John, first Marquess of Tweeddale ; and a distant relative of the present Lord John Hay, Capt. ILN.

This officer entered the Navy, 13 Oct. 1799, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Anson 44, Capt. Philip Chas. Durham, on the Home station, where, until Nov. 1804, he further served with the same Captain, as Midshipman, in the Endymion 40, and with Capts. Jas. Athol Wood and Jas. Oswald in the Acasta 40. He then rejoined Capt. Durham in the Defiance 74, and on 1 March, 1806, after having participated in that ship in Sir Robt. Calder's action, and in the battle of Trafalgar, was promoted to a Lieutenancy in the Electra 18, Capt. Geo. Barne Trollope, on the Leith station. Being next appointed, 11 May, 1807, to the Amaranthe 18, Capt. Edw. Pelham Brenton, he proceeded to the West Indies, where, on 13 Dec. 1808, he took command of the boats of a small squadron, and much distinguished himself by the gallant manner in which, although under a heavy fire'from the enemy's batteries and troops on the beach, he boarded and carried the French 18-gun brig Le Cigne, lyiftg aground to the northward of St. Pierre's, Martinique. On the subjugation of the latter island, during the operations connected with which he acted as Commander of the Amaranthe, in consequence of Capt. Brenton's absence on shore, Mr. Hay became Signal-Lieutenant to the present Sir Geo. Cockburn in the Belleisle 74, and immediately returned to England.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.

Friday, March 6

8th of March 1815


On the 8th of March the Constitution, having in company, along with her two prizes, a merchant brig of which she intended to make a cartel, anchored off the isle of Mayo, one of the Cape de Verds ; and on the next day got under way, and anchored, a few hours afterwards, in the harbour of Porto-Praya, island of Saint-Jago. While on his way to these islands, Captain Stewart had caused the Cyane to be painted so as to resemble a 36-gun frigate. The object of this was to aggrandize his exploit, in the wondering eyes of the gaping citizens of Boston ; not one in a hundred of whom, he knew, would trouble themselves to inquire any further on the subject. The American captain would doubtless have played of the same deceptio visûs upon the Levant, had he not been aware, that no efforts of the painter could make a low flush ship of 464 tons resemble a frigate. On the 11th, at 15 minutes past noon, just as Captain Stewart had sent his master to bring the cartel brig under the stern of the Constitution, in order that the prisoners might be removed to her, three strange a ships were discovered through the haze, standing into the harbour. These were the British 50-gun ships Leander and Newcastle, Captains Sir George Ralph Collier, K. C. B. and Lord George Stuart, and 18-pounder 40-gun frigate Acasta, Captain Alexander Robert Kerr. We will now step back for a moment, and endeavour to show what had brought these three ships to a spot so distant from the station on which they had hitherto been cruising, the north-eastern coast of the United States.

On the 19th of December the Leander sailed from Halifax bound off Boston, and on the 24th fell in with the Newcastle and Acasta. By their captains, it appears, Sir George was informed, that the Constitution had sailed from Boston, and the Congress from Portsmouth, New-Hampshire, and that the President was to join those ships " from the Delaware." Unfortunately, although it had been stated over and over again in the Halifax papers, neither of the three captains appears to have been aware, that the Congress had, some months before, been dismantled and laid up at Portsmouth, and that the President was not lying in the " Delaware, " but in New York. On turning to the Newcastle's log, to see who it was that had been playing off such a hoax on Lord George, we find that, on the 22d, while the Newcastle and Acasta were lying at anchor in Cape Cod bay, the 18-gun brig-sloop Arab, Captain, Henry Jane, joined company, "with intelligence that the Constitution had sailed from Boston on the 17th instant." Not another word is there. This, however, was quite enough to hasten the two ships in getting under way, and to make their captains wish. no doubt, that they had kept under way in front of the port which they had been ordered to watch.

This story about the sailing of the American squadron, whether derived, in the first instance, from fishermen, cattle-dealers, or any other of the cunning New-England folk, was credited by Sir George Collier ; and away went the Leander, Newcastle, and Acasta, in search of the Constitution and the "two other heavy frigates" that had sailed "in her company." the 4th of January, when off the Western Isles, the three ships fell in with a brig-prize belonging to the American privateer Perry; and, having chased under American colours, were taken for an American squadron. The consequence was, that the prize-master of the brig voluntarily came on board the Leander, and pretended to take that ship for the President, the Newcastle for the Constitution, and the Acasta, not for the Congress, but for the Macedonian. In short, the fellow would have said or sworn anything, that he thought would ingratiate himself with his hearers. Mr. Marshall says, "Nothing could have happened better" than this farcical interview with the American privateer's-man. On the contrary, looking to the serious impression it appears to have made onboard the Leander, we should rather say, nothing could have happened worse.

 To be continued...

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Tuesday, March 3

Wreck of the Medusa, a Review

A mini book review by Tony Gerard

Wreck of the Medusa- 
Mutiny, Murder, and Survival on the High Seas 
by Alexander McKee.

While technically outside the time period we portray (occurring in 1817), the wreck of the Medusa is an interesting and tragic story.  The Medusa was carrying a load of passengers, soldiers and dignitaries to Senegal at the end of the Napoleonic wars. Through a combination of inept leadership and poor judgment the ship ran aground on an extended sandbank off the coast of the Sahara desert. Through more poor judgment the ship is abandoned and about 150 people end up on a hastily constructed raft and are then abandoned. Fifteen of this group survive to be rescued two weeks later. The incident becomes an embarrassment for the new French government, which attempts an unsuccessful cover-up.

While I found the chapters about the voyage, wreck and the survival stories very interesting I have to confess I got bored with the politics of the coverup and only skim read most of this section. McKee also devotes a chapter to an English ship, the Alceste, which wrecked shortly after the Medusa and had many similarities. In this case the Captain made all the right decisions and didn't loose a man. I found this chapter really interesting. Another chapter is devoted to Savigny Gericault's painting of the Medusa raft survivors. Strangely the final chapter compares the Medusa case to a WWII shipwreck survivors, Airplane hijack victims in Jordan in the 1970s and even the famous soccer team airplane crash in the Andes. It was like the book tried to change from a story about history to a psychological analysis in mid stream. I kept waiting for some really relevant connection to be made here which, at least for me, never happened.

The Raft of the Méduse was painted by Théodore Géricault in 1819,
and is now displayed at the Louvre.'


Monday, March 2

Meet Francis Decimus Hastings


HASTINGS.
Acasta Midshipman under Capt. Kerr, c.1811.

Francis Decimus Hastings entered the Navy, 19 Aug. 1807, as Third-cl. Vol., on board the Temeraire 98, Capts. Sir Chas. Hamilton and Edw. Sneyd Clay, successively stationed in the Channel and Baltic. In June, 1809, having attained the rating of Midshipman a few months previously, he removed to the Amethyst 36, Capt. Jacob Walton, with whom he appears to have been employed on Home service until wrecked in Plymouth Sound 16 Feb. 1811. He then joined, for a short period, the Acasta 40, Capt. Alex. Robt. Kerr ; after which we find him, until Aug. 1815, employed, on the Spanish, North American, Jamaica, and Home stations, latterly as Master's Mate, in the Iris 38, Capt. Hood Hanway Christian, St. Domingo 74, flag-ship of Sir John Borlase Warren, Emulous brig, Capt. Wm. M'Kenzie Godfrey, and Argo 44, and Ville de Paris 110, bearing the flags of Rear-Admiral Wm. Brown and Lord Keith.

Source: A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY: COMPRISING THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF EVERY LIVING OFFICER IN HER MAJESTY'S NAVY, FROM THE RANK OF ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET TO THAT OF LIEUTENANT, INCLUSIVE. Compiled from Authentic and Family Documents. BY WILLIAM E. O'BYRNE, ESQ.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, PUBLISHER TO THE ADMIRALTY. 1849.


Above image is a cropped version of "Portrait of Augustus Leopold Kuper as a midshipman, in the year he entered the Royal Navy at the age of fourteen."
by FISCHER, T. Paul. London: June, 1823.