Tuesday, May 31

More Mail Packet Inspiration

'THANK YOU' to all those that participated in the 2015 Mail Packet project:

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.

Monday, May 30

A letter to Mister Loomis


The following is an excellent example of one of last year's Mail Packet entries from an Acasta reader like you. It was written to new Midshipman Saml. Loomis. Below, you can find his reply to the above missive.

August 9, 1815

Dear Mr. Loomis,

I daresay you will be surprised when you see my name to this letter, who you have not seen since you were in petticoats! But you know I was always a good friend of your mother from our school-days, and I got your direction from your aunt and Uncle Phillips when I dined with them yesterday. When I found that the road to Manchester would take us within a few miles of their seat, I resolved to call upon them, for all Mr. Barrett protested. Nothing would please your amiable aunt more than our staying to dine with them, and so we did. They could talk of little else, but the reports in the gazette of your ship and her successes. I thought you would not mind an old friend of the family writing with news from home and to ask if you would be so kind as to bring me a new shawl from the Indies. The advertisements in the lady’s Magazine for the London warehouses say that a fine Indian shawl may be got for 2 shillings, but I daresay you will find a handsome one for cheaper. Now I come to think on it I do not quite recollect if your aunt said you were in the East Indies or the West Indies, for it is only in the East that they make shawls, I find, and I have no need of Rum, or Sugar, or whatever it is they make in the West. But if you should happen to take the east Indies in your way, I would be very much obliged if you would think of your Mother’s old friend and I shall certainly make good my debt if you should find a shawl at a good price. 

Since writing the previous, Mr. Barrett has told me that I quite mistake the matter, and that you are not in the Indies at all, but the North American Station. So much the better, for America is where they make the finest furs, I believe, and my tippet is sadly wore out. I should be just as obliged to you for a new tippet as for a new shawl, if it were not too dear.

Your aunt and uncle Phillips are in very good health, and do you know will soon be grand-parents, for their daughter Mrs. Grant expects her confinement any day. Your uncle Phillips was touched with the gout last winter, but I hardly count that as ill-health since a season at Bath affords so much pleasure. It is my old nervous ailment, and it would hardly trouble me if only I did not feel the cold so. A fine new fir tippet would quite set me up, if a shawl is not to be had. Old Mr. Hayter, God rest him, has finally died, and there is a new young vicar in his place, who dined with us. It hardly seems proper for a vicar to be so young. A certain young Miss was also of the company, that everyone teazes [sic] for reading the Navy List so carefully, but I shall name no names. I hope this letter finds you well, and that you wrap up warm when the wind comes on to blow. Pray mind your language, for I hear that sailors, for all they are called the bulwark of England, are on the whole a rough, blasphemous lot. It would distress your friends if you were to turn out wild. Do spare a thought for one who wishes you well.

Your affectionate friend
Mrs. Barrett

My Dear Mrs. Barrett,

It is indeed a wonderful surprise to hear from you Mrs. Barrett, and I do in fact remember you from my mother’s annual Christmas party so many years ago. Your letter brought me a great deal of pleasure and incalculable aid to my spirits. It has indeed been some time since I laid eyes on England let alone the family estate in Bury, and I look forward to seeing everyone soon now that the war in the colonies is over. It is especially good to hear of my Aunt and Uncle Phillips, news from my father’s side of the family rarely cross the ocean to me. I must again thank you for your wonderful insight into life at home particularly Manchester.

We are indeed not station'd in either the West or East Indies, but rather just leaving our duties along the north eastern half of the colonies. The change of pace feels very good, besides Old Boney, has started to rise again and will need another proper thrashing from his majesty’s navy. As luck would have it your letter arrived just in time for me to take in the markets of Boston, and I did indeed find a rather fantastical deal on a pair of matching tippets, I figured my mother would be most jealous of yours if I failed to find her a match to it.  Please consider this a gift of the rather stupendous luck the Acasta has been having, what with the taking of the Curlew, Betsey, the schooner Prudence, and of course the Stephanie most recently I dare say I am eating most healthily of late. 

As for the young miss, and not to generate too much gossip, I would have you know that the moment I return to the white cliffs of England, after re-taking the Lieutenants exam of course, I plan on seeing the honorable Dr. in London to ask him for his daughter’s hand. Hopefully as Lieutentant Loomis .

As for my own welfare, I find life at sea agrees with me, that is for the most part. Aside from some light digestive destress Dr. Roberts says I am in the peak of my health.  I do hope to this letter finds you in good health, and for a speedy reunion at my mother’s next Christmas party, or even sooner if luck would have it. 

Your Friend,
Samuel Loomis

Friday, May 27

Wax Sealing Your Letter

By now, we've written our letters and folded them and addressed them, now we just need to seal it shut so that the postman doesn't sneak a peek. Sealing wax was the common method of securing your letter. Red seems to be the most oft seen color when looking at extant examples of letters, but you also occasionally see blue and green as well. Letters sealed in black wax generally meant that someone had died, so if you get a letter sealed in black, you'd better sit down before you open it. The process of sealing is simple enough, Jas. Townsend has a good instructional video which can be seen Above: 

There are several places that offer wax and wax seals for the purpose of sealing your letter, Jas. Townsend carries wax and seals: 

I've purchased items from Nostalgic Impressions in the past, but you'll want to root through their inventory carefully. They carry a lot of modern looking seals, so choose wisely: 

Be sure to exercise caution, don't forget you're playing with fire and paper in close proximity. 

Did I answer all of your questions this week? I hope so… but if I didn't, you can contact me vis email or Facebook… or post you question in the comments below. I hope this helped, and we're looking forward to getting your letters as part of the MAIL PACKET project. Who's planning on participating? Let us hear from you!

Thursday, May 26

Addressing Your Letter

This may be the easiest part of the whole letter writing process... if you're participating in the Acasta's Mail Packet project, then addressing your letter is EASY, it would be addressed thusly:

Recipient's Rank and Name
HMS Acasta

While a 'return address' was occasionally added, it was not a universal thing like we know on the mail of today.

Here are a few examples from the period:

From the British Postal Museum & Archive

and the Bath Postal Museum

and some examples from letters that were part of the last Mail Packet addressed specifically to members of the Acasta:

Stop by again tomorrow and let's tackle my favorite bit... the wax seal!

Wednesday, May 25


So now you've written your letter and are about ready to send it on its merry way... You don't really find examples of envelopes from the period, people would fold the paper up that their letter was written on and MAKE a little envelope.

How in the world do you do that? I'm glad you asked!

I was rooting around in an attempt to find some resources and stumbled across the following tutorials. Some are easy, some are more difficult.


PLUS a video that shows a fairly common folding method...

Tomorrow, stop back by and let's learn how to properly address that folded letter.


Tuesday, May 24

What ever shall I write?

Need help with letter content? People wrote letters for all manner of reasons in the period, business, duty, amusement, love, courtship, marriage, friendship etc.

Imagine all the things you do in your modern life that involve communication, now imagine if it all had to be done with a pen and paper. The people we portray wrote as a part of their daily lives, because they had to.

There are a few interesting resources I'd like to share that might inspire you to create content for letters of the period.

A well known book was 'The Complete Letter-Writer', which offered up samples of various types of letters that people wrote. Thank heavens for the fine folks at Google Books for offering a digital version online:

Below, you'll find a the text from a letter of the period to a Royal naval Lieutenant from his Aunt back home, taken from a collection of letters that you can view HERE:

Lieut. F. Bond
on board His Majestys Ship Pompee, Devonshire
Cambridge 9th. March 1798 Received 24th. April

Dear Nephew,

With pleasure and a most agreeable surprise did I receive your letter of ye 29th. December many circumstances have occurred which has prevented me from answering it at ye time intended, and I am in fears least your ship should have left ye port - you find I am like all the world apt to flatter myself in thinking a letter may be agreeable but how natural it is to judge from ones own feelings - your apologies are and ought to be accepted as I know your time must be much taken up in professional Duties: I will candidly own that I imputed your silence at being weary of a correspondance with your aunt - and that I had no right to blame you yet I severely felt its loss - with your turn of mind ye company on board a ship cannot be pleasant whose ideas in general extend chiefly to conviviality - but you have comforts which to them are denied -they if alone find time heavy and irksome and know not what to do to arrouse them - whereas you can always find resources within yourself -if providence sends to some more tryals and likewise sensibility to feel them -yet surely the pleasures abovementioned are in some degree adequate - if so the distribution of the almighty are more equal than we are apt to imagine or allow - such has been my firm opinion for many years and thro' it have obtained many comforts in this chequered Life - you could not expect your Brother Thomas to meet with a wife like ye first I fear they are few if any like her and it is wonderful to me he should venture. You did not mention wether your Mother or Charlotte was well if you see them remember me kindly - or when you should at any time chance to meet with an officer belonging to the alarm - you would think of your deceased uncle and inquire wither any writing was found or how his effects was disposed of -I would have wrote when ye vessell came home but as I think they often change their captains knew not what mode to persue. Neither do I make an apology for troubling you to a Benevolent mind - ye acting ye part of a Father to the poor infant will meet its own reward - your uncle Charles and Family were well when I last heard of them - but living fourteen miles distant do not often see or write. I cannot prevail with your cousins to correspond with a gentleman not personally known - but I hope the time will arrive when you will meet and persuade them - I long to see peace wave Her olive branch over this once happy land -but wither it will be in my time I know not my health tho' something better than when I last wrote owing I believe to the mildness of the winter - is far from being established and I have my fears that it never will - may you enjoy that blessing and every other this world affords is the wish of 

your affectionate aunt
M Bond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from 'family' this year if you please.)
A bill or request for payment.
An overdue payment of debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Tomorrow, come back and we'll talk about folding your finished letter!

Monday, May 23

Period Handwriting

There has been quite a bit of interest in the Mail Packet project that we're doing for the guys in the the Acasta group. I've gotten a lot of questions about writing letters of the period, so this week we'll be taking you step-by-step through the process of writing a letter that looks like it came from the era. Each day will deal with a different aspect of the process, we'll cover:

Period Handwriting
Period Content
Letter Folding
Wax Seals

First up we tackle...

Period Handwriting
The first problem that people tend to encounter when undertaking a hand written letter project is "I don't have nice handwriting". Well, neither did a lot of people in the period... so don't be too hard on yourself. People wrote letters to communicate with friends and loved ones over a great distance, and so long as it was legible, that was what mattered.

There is a great period reference to make use of when trying to learn how to create lettering from the period. I highly recommend George Bickham's little book about penmanship! I have owned several copies of this very book and it is delightful. Not only does it show you how to create each individual letter in various styles, it also has pages for the reader to copy for practice!

You can find a modern edition for sale on Amazon HERE:

Or, if you'd like a period correct copy along with some beginning writing supplies as seen in the image above, click HERE:

If you decide to purchase the period letter writing pack, be sure to tell them the Doctor referred you!

And to see some lovely samples of letters from the period that revolve around Royal Naval officer Francis Godolphin Bond circa 1765-1839, click HERE.

In the meantime, get out your pen and paper and practice, have some fun with it! Tomorrow we'll talk about WHAT to write.

Friday, May 20


Open Call to ALL Reenactors, 
Historians and Creative Writers!

It's July 1805. After escorting a valuable fleet to the West Indies, the Acasta has returned home to Portsmouth under the temporary command of Sir John Duckworth.

The Royal Navy reenacting group that represents HMS Acasta usually attends the Jane Austen Festival in July of every year. The JA Fest is back after a one year hiatus for July 15-17 of this year, so we're moving the Mail Packet project back to July!

This is where YOU come in!

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

Not sure what to write or how to write it? All next week we'll have instructional posts that will walk you through the process of writing a period letter.

We have several of the character biographies written so far, here are some examples of those:

Jean Baptiste Girard, Surgeon’s Mate- A well traveled old Creole who has usually worked in some medical capacity on merchant ships. He has been impressed onto the HMS Acasta, but is not unhappy there. In his time Baptiste has traveled through both the East and West Indies and spent six years among the Igorots of the Spanish Philippines when a Spanish privateer (on which he was a prisoner) was shipwrecked there. During the French revolution a Captain who he admired and respected was guillotined, cementing his philosophy as a Monarchist.  His wife Marie is Igrot; she is currently living in Louisiana on the plantation of Messr. Francois Rochambeau. They have young twin boys.

Early in his career Baptiste learned that he could make extra money by collecting curiosities from his travels to sell to educated gentlemen. His non-formal education in natural history and things medical still allows him to believe many superstitions in both fields.

Samuel Hollybrass, Able Seaman- The bulk of Hollybrass's teen and adult life has been spent at sea. Hollybrass has followed Captain Freymann for years from ship to ship, sometimes to Freymann's dismay. A competent leader of men without the learning or refinement to be an officer. A well meaning, if gruff old seaman with no family back home that he knows of.

Hollybrass is enthusiastic and lusty, but tends to do poorly with the ladies given his general appearance and lack of hygiene.

Some examples of things that we got in 2014 as part of the project:

Lt Ramsey got a love letter from Germany with candy in it.

Captain Freymann got a letter from a surveyor about his property back in England and a map of said property.

Midshipman Hamilton got a letter from a worried Aunt with a hand knitted scarf in it.

Baptiste got a letter with a black spot in it from an anonymous 'former shipmate'.

The Bosun Mr. Cullen got a letter from a former shipmate inviting him to join him in a business venture back in England.

The Ship's Chaplain got a solicitation letter from a company that manufactures mourning candies.

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

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from immediate 'family' this year if you please. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces & Nephews are fine, but none from Mothers, Fathers, children.)
A bill or request for payment.
An overdue payment of debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

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

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

Start thinking about what you'd like to contribute this year, and HAVE FUN!

Thursday, May 19

Our Mission

The purpose of the HMS ACASTA and the ROYAL TARS of OLD ENGLAND is to accurately portray a crew of His Majesty's Royal Navy circa 1800-1810 for the educational benefit of the public and for the mutual research and enjoyment of the individual members.

Our organization will educate via a series of first person activities designed to demonstrate the real lives of sailors as they go about their business and live their lives. Landing Parties, Surveying Crews, Recruitment Drives, Press Gangs, Shore Leave... these are but a few of the activities that our crew will undertake whilst encamped at an event. During duty hours, we follow proper Navy protocols and sailors are expected to live a sailor's life.

You can learn more about our group on the ABOUT US page.

Wednesday, May 18

The Matter of James Tring

230.   JAMES TRING was indicted for feloniouly stealing, on the 23rd of December , a stone bottle, and a gallon of gin, value 10s. the property of   James Small .

  JAMES SMALL . I am a baker , and live at Holloway, near Islington. I lost a stone bottle containing a gallon of gin, and half a pound of tea, on the evening of the 23rd of December, about half past six o'clock I keep a cart, and these things were in it; I was going home with my cart, and these things were taken out  opposite the Leaping Bar in St. John-street . I am quite sure the things were safe when I went into the Leaping Bar; but when I came out, they were gone; I saw the prisoner in the cart, and when I came out, he had the gin in his possession, and he was in the hands of Thompson, the constable.

  WILLIAM THOMPSON . I am a patrole. I was present in St. John-street, when this occured, and saw Mr. Small there. I saw the prisoner in company with another or two that evening, lurking about St. John-street; he was dressed in a jacket, white corderoy breeches, and topped boots. I saw Small leave his cart once or twice; I watched him up to the Leaping Bar. The prisoner was following the cart, with his companions. Small stopped at the Leaping Bar, and went in, and I saw almost immediately the prisoner lay hold of the cask, and shoved it off the side where it stood; the other two were near the cart; they were dressed in long coats, and the prisoner had a long coat over his jacket. I saw him jump on the shafts of the cart;he had got a parcel; but I could not see what it was. He jumped off the shafts of the cart, and smashed the bottle with the gin in a thousand pieces. I laid hold of him, and picked up half a pound of tea from the middle of the road. The other two came up at first; but found I was too strong for them, and I took the prisoner into custody.

The prisoner put in a written defence, which stated that he had been in his Majesty's sea service twelve years; stated the several ships on board of which he had served, and amongst others, the Acasta Frigate, Captain  Carr , on which he had served last, and the actions in which he had been engaged; that he only was discharged the 23rd of last month, had spent all his money, and was very much in liquor when this happened, and he did not know what he was about.

CAPTAIN ALEXANDER ROBERT CARR (misspelled from 'Kerr'), of the Acasta, gave the prisoner a very good character.


As Captain Carr promised to recommend him immediately to another ship, and was confident he would do his duty as a seaman, the prisoner was fined a shilling , and delivered into the care of Captain Carr .

Second Middlesex jury, before Mr. Common Serjeant.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.0, 21 February 2014), January 1816, trial of JAMES TRING (t18160110-65).

Tuesday, May 17

Naval Gunnery & Small Arms Training

Lieutenants Wand and Tumbusch lift glasses at Tavern Night at Navy Hall.
All proceeds went to benefit the Friends of Fort George, a most worthy cause.
To: Captain Robert Fryman, HMS Acasta, at sea
From: Lieutenant Thomas Tumbusch, Fort George, Niagara

15 May 

Captain Fryman,

I write to express my sincere thanks for granting me leave to assist in the gunnery training exercises held these three days past at Fort George. Having on many occasions heard you express the opinion that the men of the Royal Navy should more regularly be trained with powder rather than merely running the guns in and out in dumbshow fashion, and having long been in full and complete agreement with you regarding the inestimable value of such training, it is my great pleasure to inform you of the capital and professional manner with which the said exercises were carried out.

Briefing session with Lieutenant Commander Reed.
I believe I make no idle boast when I say that every man among us, from the saltiest jack tar to the greenest landsman who kissed the gunner's daughter for the first time this Saturday past, shall return to his vessel with new skills and insights that cannot fail to bring honor to his shipmates, his commanding officers, and to His Majesty’s Service.

Officers, left to right: Warrant Officer Gurth Pretty (cook and event organizer), Lieutenant William Wand, Lieutenant Commander Andre Reed, Lieutenant Tumbusch, and Sgt. Gregory Renault.
I had the honor to serve under the command of Lieutenant and Commander Andre Reed, whose welcoming courtesy, candor, and close attention to the safety and well-being of the men swiftly earned my admiration. I was also much impressed by Acting Lieutenant William Wand, who commanded the port watch (myself being entrusted with the starboard). He is a most amiable gentleman whose experience and skill greatly exceeds my own. We were further assisted by a detachment from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencibles under the able command of Sergeant Gregory Renault.

Dinner in the barracks at Ft. George.
Warrant Officer Pretty and friends with Sunday’s breakfast. Being on shore,
we received the full soft bread ration of one pound per man.
Some 35 men of divers ships were present for training, which included the exercising of great guns, plus hands-on training in the use of swivel guns, railguns, muskets and small arms, as well as pike and cutlass drill. Our artillery exercises concluded with a demonstration for an eager gathering of the local citizenry, where we had the satisfaction of firing a near-simultaneous volley of four guns. I have it on good authority that our public demonstrations throughout the day were observed by some 100 persons, by means of which I hope we may have provided encouragement to future volunteers.

The only observation which has given me cause for concern, through no fault whatsoever of any officer here present, is the great and pressing need for Warrant Officer Gurth Pretty, cook for the Royal George, to be speedily assigned a mate, the said post having, in my humble judgment, been vacant overlong. Mr. Pretty's dedication to his duty — not to mention to ensuring that men are well fed to a degree far exceeding the usual custom at sea — are to be commended most highly. I nonetheless fear his great zeal shall presently compel him to overtax his powers and work himself into a state of dangerous exhaustion and fatigue, to the great loss and detriment of his shipmates and His Majesty’s Service, if he is not provided with some relief apace. I should thus be greatly obliged to you, sir, should you be willing convey some similar encouragement unto the Commodore, that the said Mr. Pretty may swiftly have some succor and assistance. While a man with prior experience in cookery would be most preferable, I am in no doubt whatsoever of Mr. Pretty’s ability to train any man with the least bit of wit — even, if need be, one who has been maimed or wounded to the point of being unfit for other service — to perform the said tasks most admirably in short order should no more experienced man presently be available.

Beating to divisions.
In closing, sir, I should be most remiss if I failed to mention the exceptional hospitality granted to us these past three days by the men of Fort George and their many Friends here in the Town of Niagara. They have made warm quarters and other facilities available to us most generously, refusing any and all remuneration for the same, whilst enlivening our brief leisure hours with fine music, refreshment, camaraderie, and a thousand other kindnesses great and small. We are further obliged to several victualers, including ACE Bakery, who hath in goodwill donated all of our bread rations; Pine River Cheese & Butter for a most capital old cheddar; and not least to Corby Wine & Spirits and Admiral Suthren, who contributed the rum for our grog.

I shall most happily supply you with any further details of these proceedings as shall interest you upon rejoining the Acasta, whence I am bound without delay upon posting this letter via the packet presently at anchor here. Moreover I shall not conceal from you my earnest desire that it may be convenient for a greater number of our men to participate in such exercises in future. It is the Admiralty’s intention to make the said training available on an annual basis, either at Fort George or other divers places associated with His Majesty’s Service, the said enterprise having my wholehearted and enthusiastic support. 

I remain, sir, your obedient humble servant,

Lt. Tumbusch