Monday, August 31

Keeping it Legal

From the Orkney Library's Balfour Collection (Ref D2/19/16)
The above document gives ship captains the legal right to impress men for their ships. Captains would sign over such documents to their Lieutanants, who were the ones to lead the press gangs. Additional unseen text on this documents bears witness to that fact, it reads:

"I Do hereby Depute Lieut Wm Balfour belonging to His Majesty's Sloop Lynx under my command, to Impress Seamen, Seafaring Men and Persons whose Occupations and Callings are to work in Vessels and Boats upon Rivers, according to the Tenor of this Warrant. In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal this thirtieth day of April 1803."

In their Ernest Marwick Collection (Reference D31/1/6/15) in a transcript of a letter from Alex Skene on 6th November 1800 he states that: 

"I assure you Sir that the impress service is to me the most unpleasant part of an officers duty and it is impossible to defend the propriety of it but on the score of necessity"
All information comes from the Orkney Library, the oldest public library in Scotland.

Special Press Gang related posts all week long leading up to the
Acasta's Press Gang program at the Fair at New Boston!
Be sure to check back every day this week at 8AM!

Thursday, August 27

Shanties from the Seven Seas

"Shanties from the Seven Seas 
Shipboard work-songs and songs used as work-songs from the great days of sail"
Collected by Stan Hugill 

Reviewed by Jim Apple

First published in 1961, my copy reprinted in 1994

I saw this book mentioned in the footnotes in various places and tracked it down in its present form and hit clicked on the procedure to checkout prompt and received the book on my doorstep after ordering it later in the week, opened it up and spent the next week reading and singing many of my favorite songs (with many new verses that I had never heard) and was led to find songs that had up to this point escaped me. 

My review
1) If you are a lover of the sea and find yourself with nothing new to read, find this book and learn and keep these songs alive for the next generation.

2) This book is a must have for anyone who still sings songs of the seas and wants more....

3) Buy this book, you will thank me later.

So yeah, I liked this book, and I bet you just might too…

Wednesday, August 26

Pressgang Week is COMING!

In the week leading up HMS Acasta's Press Gang demonstration at the Fair at New Boston, there will be a series of posts dedicated solely to the act of Press Ganging in the early 19th Century.  We have dubbed it PRESS GANG WEEK! Starting Monday, August 31st and lasting until Friday Sept. 4th, each day the Acasta site will feature special articles, art, video, &c. about Impressment in the Royal Navy.

Come back Monday morning and be a part of the meanest week on the internet!

Tuesday, August 25

Mail Packet, Sneak Peek

It's almost time to start putting the Mail into the Packet, but before I did, here's a sneak peek at some of it. We got some really beautiful, amazing stuff this year and I wanted to give special thanks to the following for their amazing efforts!

Melissa Alexander
Toni Tumbusch
Tony Gerard
Lauren Muney
Catie LeCours
Stephanie Farra
Adrian Geary
K. Tolhurst
Paris Major
J. Winchester
Kat Rosewitz
L. Phillips
Sabine Schierhoff
R. Bartgis
S. Jones

…and all of our other readers who submitted pieces for the education and enjoyment of our members and the public. Without you, the mail packet project would have been woefully empty. The Packet is slated to be delivered on Saturday, Sept. 5th at the Fair at New Boston. 

Keep watching participants, there's more to come!

Monday, August 24

Two Years Before the Mast - A Review

Two Years before the Mast 
by Richard Henry Dana, Jr  
- A short review by Tony Gerard

Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast" is considered a classic and often billed as such. In my experience when a book written in the 19th century is billed as a "classic" be prepared for overly verbose descriptions and lots of moralizing commentary. That was not the case here. Dana's book is an easy and enjoyable read. 

There were many reprints of Dana's book, several in his lifetime. Apparently as time went by Dana's memories of his time as a sailor softened, and later editions were more romantic and less harsh than the original. I was fortunate to pick up the Penguin classic edition, which is a copy of the original 1840 edition.

Dana dropped out of college due to eye problems and, in 1834, signed on as a common sailor bound for California from Boston.  He gives great descriptions- around Cape Horn twice, the hide trade on the California coast, Sandwich islanders as sailors and the hard lot of a common sailor. Dana was obviously proud of becoming a competent sailor. He sometimes gets overly indulgent in his nautical descriptions of trimming sails and it often seems he is just showing off. 

Although the book was taken from experiences after the time of the Acasta there is very little that actually dates it. It is a wonderful glimpse into the life of a common sailor on a merchant sailing vessel and I highly recommend it for any Acasta who's persona back-story includes time served working aboard a merchantman and/or time on the California coast.

Friday, August 21

Read This Now!

In the event you haven't noticed, we research and write a LOT, there's always something new to discover on the Acasta website. You can find specific content by following the labels at the bottoms of each day's posts, or by clicking on the links below. Let us know what your favorite stuff is:

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.

CFNA- Posts related to the organization known as Crown Forces North America (CFNA).

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!

History - Posts involving the REAL history of HMS Acasta or her crew

HMS Bounty - Articles or images concerning this particular vessel.

HMS Victory - Articles or images concerning this particular vessel.

Hollybrass - Posts with this label are either written BY or about Acasta crew member Samuel Hollybrass, a generally unpleasant sort of fellow.

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!

Medical Journal - These posts have to do with entries in the Surgeon's log book. Some are transcriptions from log books of the period, some are fictional.

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!

Tall Ship - Posts with this label contain information about or images of tall ships.

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.

Thursday, August 20

Seaman Williams' Fits

Jonathan Williams
Aged 24
Disease or Hurt: Fits
Taken Ill 9 January 1806 At Sea.

This young man has been subject to fitts ever since he was twelve years old in consequence as he says of being frightened by his sister coming suddenly into a dark Room where he was sitting with his father, dressed in a white sheet thro' a frolick. I have twice before today seen him affected and I think they were as severe and lasted as long as Fever witnessed by any one person. this lad is a perfect picture of health and I am informed diligent, and friendly in his disposition. From the great muscular strength that he possesses it required a great number of people to keep him from injuring himself while in a fitt. He tells me that he has no previous notice of the attack, only as he thinks he hears a rattling noise like falling waters in his ears, his consciousness then leaves him. The muscles of the neck, breast and abdomen become strongly convulsed, the eyes are turned upwards, and the agitation of the whole frame becomes excessive. The Tunica adnata of the eyes by this time are highly inflamed, the face becomes red, the jaws, unless something is got between them in Time, get fast locked for a short period, and in the height of the paroxysm if the precaution of putting a spoon into his mouth has not been attended to he is apt to lacerate his tongue very severely. By a profuse sweat breaking out on his face these violent symptoms subside, and he opens his eyes and generally stares wildly round him for a few minutes and sometimes will take a drink if it is offered to him, but if spoken to he very often falls into the same state again. He has now been nearly as I have been describing for these last eight hours. I have carefully watched over him and never could perceive that the pulse was materially altered nor the heat of the skin unless about the head. but always after the convulsions subsided, and when his consciousness was returning the heart throbbed most violently until he became quite recollected. I have endeavoured to be as particular as I can about his case on account of the genuine sympathy excited in the breasts of all who have ever witnessed his malady. --

Part of the original handwritten report.
As the Pathology of this disease as well as our general knowledge of the laws of animal aeconomy are involved in much mystery, I am fearfull about hazarding a conjecture on the best mode of treating this case, yet as I will be obliged to do something, I will just say, that it appears from the time he first received the fright, he has been more or less subject to this disease; from the symptoms, which I have detailed it appears also probable, that some preternatural determination of blood to the head then took place, which by compression on the brain might have induced these violent, convulsive motions, and these may have since continued to recur by means of what some late eminent Physiologists have termed 'morbid association', even altho' the primary cause may have long ceased to act. I confess this reasoning is not very satisfactory, however it is the Best I have to offer. During the height of the Paroxysm, I tried to compress the internal Carotid by pressure with my thumbs, agreeable to the recommendation of the ingenious (Dr. Parry of Bath) but from the strong resistance of the muscles of the neck. I suppose I succeeded very partially, altho' he soon got quiet after I had begun and with an idea that they had entirely ceased I left him.

part of the second page
I confess this might be more owing to the natural termination of the paroxysm  than to any benefit devined from the imperfect compression I was enabled to use, but as it was agreeable to the theory I have detailed above I was resolved to try is as often as I could. The excessive violence of the subsequent attacks however totally put it out of my power to persevere in the compression of the carotids; with a view however to induce a new action (if I may be allowed so old a phrase) and set aside the morbid association, I tried by very strong compression with my hands on the spinous processes of the ilia (these parts being violently agitated by the contraction of the gluteal Muscles) and sticking in thumb nails on the ridge of the bones to excite pain there. Here I also thought I did some good. Because it appeared to me that a speedier termination of the paroxysms took place. The usual remedies of slapping the hands and the soles of the feet and bending back the nails of the fingers which are used by the vulgar on these occasions, and which were diligently persevered in here justified as I thought these conjectures of mine. As soon however as he is quite freed from the fitts I purpose bleeding him plentifully and then to administer half a grain of the argent: Nitrat. and daily increase it as I see it has lately been strongly recommended in cases of this description. I will notice the effects as I proceed.

Originally Recorded by: Mr. Thomas Simpson, Surgeon, HMS Arethusa, 1805-1806

Transcribed by Albert Roberts with spellings from the original journal imaes and text found at:

Medical Instrument Illustrations from Copperplate engraving from the First Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, or Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, founded in 1768 and printed in 1771.

Wednesday, August 19

Updated Crew Graphic

Meet the gents who make up the living history crew of HMS Acasta. We have recently updated the crew graphic to reflect recent changes and additions. Our unit rules state that all officers must have a secondary sailor's impression, so you'll see some of the guys repeated… These additional sailors have their names marked in white. This new graphic can also now be seen on the CREW page.

Tuesday, August 18

All About Apple

Ship's Carpenter, Jas. Apple (as portrayed by Jim Apple, YES that's really his name) is another of the crew that has contributed a great deal of content to the Acasta website.

Jim is a great 'idea-man' and always ready to jump in and tackle whatever the group is doing at full speed. He also has about seven full suits of sailor's clothing at any given event, if you need to borrow something, he's your man!

You can go back and find all of the posts labeled "APPLE", which means it was a post written BY him or ABOUT him. Either way, you come up a winner...

Monday, August 17

Images from our Dinner

As the original Acasta was called home after the war in July of 1815, we celebrated the passing of her final 200th anniversary with a 'Going Home' dinner at Locust Grove. New Acasta recruit (and real life 5 Star Chef) Mike Schwendau slaved in the period reproduction kitchen in the record setting Kentucky heat to prepare a fantastic period feast! Below are some more images taken during the dinner by Fox and Rose Photography:

Click on images to see larger versions