Monday, February 29

Hollybrass


Samuel Hollybrass was typical of so many tars I served with- a capable hand, generous to a fault, fearless in a scrape and broke and busted within a forenight when ashore.  His particular friend was James Vaserman- the Surgeon's man who was mute. An odd pair they made. Vasserman was as close to a dandy as a sea going man could be. Tar just would not stick to him. Hollybrass could get filthy just watching another bloke work. They both had their hair cut short in the modern fashion. We all thought Vasserman figured it appealed better to the ladies. 

Hollybrass told us that his que once caught on a broke rail as he jumped from a ship afire and almost snatched his head off. He had to cut it off hisself as he hung there. He said he would never let that happen again. Which when they was together ashore there was Vasserman looking like a Banker's son and Hollybrass looking like a chimney sweep fallen on hard times. Some said Vasserman probably thought he looked that much more dapper by comparison.

- James Cullen, Remembrances of Eight years before the Mast, 1834.

Friday, February 26

What are you reading?

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, February 25

AQUATIC MONSTER


MUCH conversation and interest have recently been excited at New York, by the description of an aquatic monster seen in the Atlantic, by the captain, passengers, and crew of the ship Niagara. The relation appeared so fabulous, that it received little credit, until the principal persons made affidavit of what they had been eye witnesses to. The following is the substance of the depositions, as they appear in the New York papers :

Affidavits.

"G. Bailey, late master of the ship Amsterdam packet, Wm. R. Handy, late master of the ship Lydias, and Adam Knox, late master of the schooner Augusta, all belonging to New York : Have deposed before me, Wm. Bleecker, notary public, that they were passengers on board the ship Niagara, which arrived at New York from Lisbon, on the 26th April ; that on the 8th April, being in lat. 43º 49', long. 48º at meridian, saw a large lump on the horizon, bearing N.W. distant six or eight miles, which they supposed to be the hull of a large ship, bottom upwards when within gun-shot of it, discovered that it had motion; and on a nearer approach, found it to be a FISH, apparently tuo hundred feet in length, about 30 broad, and from 17 to 38 feet high in the centre: its back appeared covered with a shell, formed similar to the planks of a clinker-built vessel near the head, on the right side, was, a large hole or archway, covered occasionally with a fin, which was at times eight or ten feet out of water: these deponents intended to have sent the boat to make farther discoveries, but were deterred by perceiving that the monster was moving, and that he occasioned a great rippling and current in the sea, which would, had it approached much nearer, have endangered the boat and the vessel. At one time, they approached within thirty yards of it."

From: Page 47 of The Naval Chronicle, for 1813; VOL. XXX. (From July to December.)

Wednesday, February 24

From the Medical Journal















James Calloway, aged 40, 
Seaman; 
disease and hurt,
suspended animation, from
submersion. 

Taken ill, 19 January Spithead.

Discharged to duty, 7 February.

Brought on board with the appearance of a corpse, he had fallen over the bow of the launch which had then passed over him, a second boat also drove him under water while trying to assist. He was pulled into the stern of the second boat having been in the water 12 minutes and about to go under a third time. Another 20 minutes elapsed before he was brought on board the Acasta and taken to the galley, where he was stripped and dried with warmed, dry sack. After 15 minutes of this the galley fire was needed and he was removed to the sick bay. He was again put in a warm bed with bottles of hot water under his hams, armpits and feet, and heated pewter plates, wrapped in flannel, were placed along his spine. Tobacco smoke was conveyed to his lungs through the tube of a common pipe. After a further 45 minutes, an obscure palpitation of the heart, the tobacco smoke was continued and after a further 10 minutes, he sighed faintly and closed his mouth. Shortly afterwards a pulse was detected at the wrist and the tobacco smoke was discontinued. An hour and twenty minutes after being brought on board he spoke and swallowed a little brandy.

From his general appearance, I do not find it easy to describe, I think a favourable termination to be very problematical.

Originally Recorded by: Mr. Ben Lara, Surgeon, HMS Princess Royal, 1802

Monday, February 22

Jacob Book

 

"When they pressed Jacob Booke the Boatswain turned out his pockets. He had three watches , four folding knives and a silk handkerchief embroidered "KM". He turned out to be a tolerable sailor, and if he ever actually stole anything I never heard about it, and aboard ship is a hard place to keep secrets. Sometimes he would pick a shipmates pocket for the amusement of his chums, but he always give it back afterward. I suppose he figured that if he got caught at it he had no place to run."

- James Cullen, Remembrances of Eight years before the Mast, 1834.


Friday, February 19

Sailors WANTED



The ACASTA is looking for quality reenactors
to portray English sailors circa 1800-1812

Our organization seeks to educate via a series of first person activities designed to demonstrate the real lives of sailors as they go about their business etc. 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. 

Be sure to read the ABOUT US page

If these sound like a good fit for you, then you may have what it takes to be an Acasta! Email Albert Roberts today to find out more about joining the crew at:

Thursday, February 18

The Carpenter's Letter

Mr. Apple ashore.
 The following is a letter that Mr Apple, the ship's carpenter has requested that I transcribe and send to the Admiralty:

"Dear Sirs,

It has been a month since my last post, I have been a good friend to His Majesty's Ships keeping them in good order and having said that I feel very low when I am alone at Sea. Without my current wife I have thought of dressing our boatswain Mr. Cullen up in my last wife's dress and apron. But I implore you kind sirs as I value my position. It is a sickness kind fellows and I wish you to help me before this kills me and they find me dead in my cabin.

Yrs &c.,
Jas. Apple
Ship's Carpenter
HMS Acasta"


While I can certainly appreciate Mr Apple's desire for company of the fairer sex, I do not think the Admiralty would take kindly to his crude petition and familiar tone. I can not, in all good conscience, post such a letter.

Wednesday, February 17

Of Lobsters and Jenny Haviners

A portion of a letter from Robert Watson, aboard the HMS Acasta, to his wife.

Bermuda, January 1814. 
My Dearest Polly,
   
     Wish me joy Love- for we have just fleeced a flock of high arsed lobsterbacks so completely they may freeze this winter for want of a coat! Were they not such high and mighty lobcock buggers I might even feel sorry for them. But I should start the tale at the beginning.

The Frenchman that is the surgeons mate, I have wrote of him before, had got some small skates from some fishfag here. He made them into Jenny Hanivers, that he then pickled for a time in some of the doctors sprits- to make them so they would not rott, and then he dried them out well.

When Apple the Carpenter seen them he come up with a plan by which a number of us could profit and -Lord Almighty Polly- we would have shamed the best actors at Plymouth theater we done so good at it! You might think Apple should hold hisself above such a caper- but he is a good fellow from Hackney who come up by his own talent and wit and he has never played all high and mighty just because he is a warrent officer.

So early of a morning me and Apple go into a pot house where a gaggle of Lobsters from the Diadem is on liberty. We go in and look around the place looking oh so worried  and Apple goes over to the Lobsters and says that we are looking for a certain fellow-  and he describes Jacob Booke right down to his stockings- and have they seen him? No they aint seen but what has he took French leave? they say No, no much worse says Apple- much worse says I- so who did he murder? they ask. A personal matter says Apple and if they were to see him we would pay them to catch him up- but no officers to know- just hold him and send for the Acasta's carpenter. Now they are really wondering- have a drink with us and tell us what he has done they say- Apple says no we must search more. I say to Apple what can it hurt we have looked everywhere and he acts reluctant but then says maybe just a dram. So we set with them and they keep asking and we keep telling them we must not say, but Apple acts like the spirits has loosed his tongue and finally he says they would never believe the story anyhow. How can we know unless we is told it? they say.  Finally Apple looks at me real serious and I say these coves seem like trustworthy fellows and he pulls them in real close and looks all around the place even though we are all the people in the room except the barkeep.

We was making the crossing to Halifax he tells them and we come into a blow and split the Foremast. We fished the mast but the blow kept on and off for days and we did not trust it to hold. So one night it kicks up worse, not the worst he ever seen by a long shot, but bad enough. Me and him go up on deck to see how the fished mast holds and we are talking to the officer of the watch when we hear a peculiar sound- almost like a crying baby- from up toward the bow. And the officer of the watch says that he has heard that for some time now and he thinks one of the cats is caught out on the bow somehow and if we are taking a light forward to check the mast to take Booke and have him find the cat and take it below.

So forward we go- Booke with us- but the rain and spray making it hard to see anything when all of a sudden a little cry comes from right to larboard of us and looking with the light we find a strange little creature holding to a cable- a creature like none of us had ever seen before.

Oh Polly you could have drove a nail into the arse of any one of those Lobsters so intent was they on Apple's story. What is it like? one of them asks. Like a fish but not a fish says Apple. So we hold the lantern closer and it blinks- fishes got no eyelids- and it looks up at us like a little person- and it opens its mouth and makes a little burble. And Booke holds out his hand to it and it latches onto his hand with its little flippers. And as we are looking at it in Booke's hand we hear that same sound and there is another one right close.  In all we find half a dozen of them hanging onto lines and rails. Some of them seem close to losing the number of their mess.  They seem harmless, so we gather them all up - we take them below to my cabin -says Apple- and put them in a tub half filled.  Most of them look almost done in, but one of them hangs on the edge and looks at us pleading like and keeps burblin "Mawher". Saints between us and evil ! says a red haired Lobster- me and Apple look at him like we do not know what he means. Mother- it says Mother in Irish - he tells his mates.  Oh Polly the youngest Lobster looks like he might break and run - it is all I can stand not to bust up.

So we agree to not tell nobody - says Apple - cause if they portent doom there is nothing can be done anyway and if they grant wishes we does not want to share. But by the next watch they are dead - every one of them.

So the next day -says Apple- I take one of them and show it to our surgeon, because he is a man of science, and he almost turns a flip. Do you know what this is? he shouts. No sir it washed up on the bow in the night  Apple says. This is a Sea Bishop- a young one- it is a creature of ledged- scholars in the past have written of them but I know of none seen for more than a hundred years says our surgeon. Is it valuable? Apple says. Valuable! Why it is beyond price! says the surgeon- Natural philosophers the world over will praise you -I must get it into some spirits- and off he goes with the little dead fish man without even a by your leave or thank you.

So the three of us agree not to tell a soul about the others, except we bring the surgeons mate in on it, because he can get some spirits to pickle the rest and because he is not learned, but he knows some learned types that he sometimes sells odd fish and shells to.

So we pickle them for a bit and then dry them because they are easier to hide like that. We agree that when we get back home we sell them and divide it even. And just this morning Booke gets liberty and just to make sure I check their hidy hole-  says Apple- and sure enough he has pinched them and we are afraid he means to desert- and he might sell them for a fraction of their worth.  I was going to become an innkeep with my quarter says I  all sad like. A kings ransom gone just like that! says Apple.
We had best keep looking says I. Yes says Apple I just hope he aint slipped away yet. So we take our leave and they promise us to hold Booke if they find him and send for Apple.

So when we get out we give Booke a nod, he has been waiting across the street, and he waits a good while and then slips into the pot house. The rest was told to us by Booke

He goes in and orders hisself a dram. Thats the fellow- says one of the Lobsters- because they have been drinking too much to be quiet. Brother tar have a drink with us they say. Shove off he tells them. There is no need to be a tarter, bother says another, we are all friends here, come drink with us.  They are all looking at him like foxes at a fat hen he says. So he says maybe one if you are buying. You look troubled brother they tell him all kindly like and he says yes that he is a pressed man and had been much abused aboard his ship and he goes through a long tale of the wrongs done him by his officers and shipmates.

That is enough to make a good fellow take French leave they say to him- oh they feel so sorry for him! That is just what he intends he tells them all confiding like. He is acting like the sprits has loosed his tongue just like Apple done. How will you escape from an island such as this? they ask him. I have a plan he tells them. He says he has a brother in America at Norfolk that he means to go to. There are Americans to be exchanged soon and one of the crew doing the exchange is a chum and he can slip me among the prisoners but there are officers that must be bought off he tells them.

How will you do that? they ask him. I have something of great value he says, but I must sell it first. And what is that? they ask all innocent like. And so he reaches in his bag and pulls out one of the Jenny Hanivers- he has them all wrapped in rags like they are fine China teacups- and when he uncovers it he says the Lobster sergeants eyes almost pop out of his head. Sea Bishop! says one and the other all give him a nasty look. How did you know? asks Booke. Oh I have heard tales of them says the lobster.
I have five, says Booke and they are worth at least a hundred pounds each to a learned man, but they are of no use to me here. All I want is to be free of that cursed ship and be free in America he says. They look at each other all hungry like and the sergeant says maybe we can help you brother. What can you do? says Booke. Maybe we can buy them from you? says the Lobster sergeant. We can not give you so much, but perhaps enough to get you free and started good and easy in America. Booke acts reluctant, but they play all kind and finally he says, well they are of no value to me here. And the sergeant says, wait here, and he leaves with three others and two stay with Booke. The sergeant is gone so long that Booke says he starts to worry But finally he returns and they dicker on the price. Booke says that he is only willing to part with four because we wants to sell the fifth to set hisself up royal in America, and while they is talking over the price for the four he sees one of the lobsters steal the fifth out from his bag. This shows you how a damn lobster will treat a poor tar. So they agree to a price- coin money and Booke bargains hard- but he gets it and shoves off back to us. 

And how much was this price you are asking? Fifteen pounds Polly! Fifteen pounds! and a quarter of it mine! Where them Lobsters got that kind of coin money I have no notion, but it is no longer weighing them down! And that is not the end yet- so the Lobsters had planned to keep their Jenny Hanivers a secret and sell them when they got home, but one of them cannot keep the secret and shows one to a tar aboard the Diadem  The tar knows it for what it is right off and tells him so. So now they know they was took, which could be bad if me or Apple or Booke runs into them again- but on the other side liberty men from the Diadem bought us drinks over it. Seems the Lobster sergeant was a hard case and not well liked.

A Jenny Haniver is created from the body of a dead skate or ray which is modified, dried and often varnished. These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.  Sailors and fishermen have created the curious gaffs for centuries. Jenny Hanivers became  very popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  The practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed that "Jenny Haniver" is a corruption of the French phrase jeune d'Anvers (or "young person of Antwerp"). British sailors anglicized the name to "Jenny Haviner".    

The first published explanation of Jenny Hanivers was written by Swiss naturalist Konrad Gesner in 1558.  Gesner cautioned that these mermaids and demons were nothing more than dead, disfigured rays.  Nonetheless, Jenny Hanivers remained popular up until the 19th century.

Tuesday, February 16

A Letter from Williamsburg


From: Doctr. Lester Meade
Nassau Street
Williamsburg

To : Ship’s Surgeon,
HMS Acasta,
Halifax 

Dear Colleague,

  It may seem rather unorthodox to receive a letter from a complete stranger, but I flatter myself that in the future we may count one another among friends- and I write to ask a favor of the utmost scientific urgency. By way of introduction I am Lester Meade, doctor of physic and natural philosophy.  We have a mutual acquaintance. Mr. Jean Baptste Girard, who I understand is currently serving as your mate, has twice served me as an assistant in collecting specimens, the first instance in Louisiana where I first made his acquaintance, the second in Virginia. I would advise you that he could serve you well in this capacity also. His aboriginal upbringing in the Illinois country and interest and fondness for all creatures that creep, crawl and fly make him particularly suited to such endeavors, although he is wont to put the utmost faith in the quaintest of superstitions about such, but I digress.

 Mr. Francois Rochambeau of Louisiana, my friend and former employer of Mr. Girard, has suggested I enlist your aide. It was through Mr. Girard's letter to him that he, and through him myself, learned of your presence and interest in natural philosophy. But to my point- I am sure you have heard of the Cahow, which once inhabited Bermuda, and has been extinct now this last two centuries?  The bird still exists! I know this for a fact, for I have heard it's call with my own ears! I had booked passage to the island specifically for the purpose of collecting sea bird specimens and eggs, zoology being of particular interest to me.  I was returning from collecting on several of the smaller islets off the main island, weary but happy with the fruits of my work, in a small hired boat. Night had already fallen, but the moon had not yet risen, as we passed through Castle harbor. Suddenly, to my wonder, I heard the eerie call so often described by the island's early settlers! The two boatmen assured me that it was indeed a Cahow, that a very tiny number still nested on one of the small islets in the harbor.  I pleaded with them to take me there immediately, but they insisted that the tides were wrong at the time, and that they would bring me there on the morrow should the weather be suitable. 

It seemed that I had no sooner returned to my ship and suitably packaged those eggs I had collected, than the weather turned. For the next three days we were lashed most frightfully but a wind coming straight into the harbor and as soon as it subsided our Captain insisted on setting sail lest we be trapped in the harbor longer. Cruel fate! Vainly I searched the rocky islets we passed by as we left the harbor, but caught not a glimpse of a Cahow.

My intent was to return as soon as my finances and domestic affairs allowed and then Alas! full war was declared between our countries! As a man of science I am sure you will agree that we cannot let the current difficulties between our nations stand in the way of such an opportunity. As a ship of the blockade I am sure you supply in ether Halifax- from which Mr. Girard posted his letter- or Bermuda. It is my hope that at some point you will be sent to Bermuda. I have sent a duplicate copy of this letter there.

Here is what I have learned of the Cahow  from my boatmen. The birds are gone from the harbor from mid June until October. They nest from January to June and they do so in burrows in the earth. When I questioned them of numbers both agreed that "there could not be more than a dozen" and that they nested on only one small islet.

The boatmen I had hired were John Morton and Issac Still. They can guide you to the islet, or if you can not find these two I am sure other local fishermen know the location as well. My hope is that  you might arrive during the nesting period. If you were so fortunate my suggestion is to locate the nest burrows, cover the entrance with a net, and attempt to run a long flexible pole down the burrow to drive the adult into the net. Mr. Girard would certainly be a willing assistant. Take care that he does not club an adult, but rather throttles them, so as to do no damage to the skull. Try and keep the pole to the top of the burrow so as to do no damage to any eggs it may contain. If you are successful in capturing an adult, take a distance to watch and wait for the other of the pair. Once you have collected both adults then dig out the nest to find any eggs or chicks it may contain. I have used this technique with success on other species. I admonish you to leave not a bird behind, for with so few remaining a single storm during the nesting season could destroy them all, and all would be lost.  I would also recommend that you preserve those you collect by several different methods, lest one method becomes corrupt, other specimens would still exist.

Lastly Sir, I regret to say I do not even know your name, for Mr. Girard only said you were the Surgeon of the ship Acasta and a man of science.

I pray that you will look upon me as a friend and colleague, and I anticipate a happy meeting at some future date, 

Doctr. Lester Meade



The Bermuda Petrel (Pterodroma cahow) is commonly known in Bermuda as the Cahow, a name derived from its cries. It's eerie calls at night supposedly kept the superstitious Spanish from colonizing the island. It is nocturnal and ground-nesting. Despite being protected by one of the world's earliest conservation decrees, the Governor's proclamation "against the spoyle and havocke of the Cohowes," the birds were believed to be extinct by 1625. The Cahow was rediscovered again, with specimens collected, in the early 20th century and then believed to have once again gone extinct. In 1951, 18 surviving nesting pairs were found on rocky islets in Castle Harbor. Through extensive conservation efforts the birds now number over 250 individuals, but remain critically endangered. The Cahow is now the national bird of Bermuda. 

The ethic of conservation is a relatively new facet to the world of science. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, collection for study and museum specimens, with no thought for the continued survival of the species, was the norm. The last know individuals of several now extinct species were killed in the name of science.

This post written by: Tony Gerard

Monday, February 15

The Doctor’s Specimen Jars

When we was in Halifax the Doctor purchased a large number of special jars for those fishes, livers, brains, lizards and such things that he keeps pickled in spirits. A sad waste of spirits it is too. He planned to collect many new things if we was sent to Bermuda. He left the Frenchman that is his mate and his man Vasserman to repack them in shavings and straw to protect them on the voyage.

I was on deck when they handed them aboard. As soon as I had one I knew it was too heavy by twice for what it should be.

“Whats in here?” I say to the Frenchman but he just says “jen say pa” like he does not speak good English, which he does, so I look at Vasserman- who is dumb- and he writes on a little paper pad he carries “doctors jars”.

“Too heavy Mate” I tell him, and they give each other a look, and the Frenchman tells me to just keep mum and I will see when they are stowed. So once we are below we get off by ourselves and they open a case. It’s the Doctor’s jars right enough, but each one is filled to the gills with pickled eggs. They told me that if I would keep their secret they would share them. I suppose they figured the Doctor would not have approved.

Where they got them I never knew, because so many would have cost a pretty penny. Pulled some manner of purser’s trick I reckon, probably the Frenchman because deceit is just part of their nature.

In any case they was good to their word and shared them equal and I was good to my word and never told another soul, and every jar was empty by the time the Doctor set foot on Bermuda.

Robert Watson aboard the HMS Acasta
in a letter to his wife, Dec., 1813

Thursday, February 11

About Baptiste, the Surgeon's Mate

Apple, the ship's carpenter, sat his empty bowl on the hanging table, leaned back against the eighteen pounder and let out a companionable belch. 

“Alright Frenchy” he said in a voice not unfriendly, “Wat’s yer story?”

The mess looked at the older French sailor. He was a recently pressed man that had been assigned as surgeon’s mate when it was learned that he’d had experience in that area. He had spoken very little since. 

“My story?”

“That’s right. This blockade ‘as gone on so long I know everything there is ta know about these ‘ere lubberly coves- ‘eard  sung ever song they know,  everything that’s ever happened to  ‘em and every lie they can think up. Yer the closest thing ta new entertainment we got.  Ya speak good enough English for a frog- so, what’s yer story?”

The Frenchman smiled. Honest, friendly curiosity wasn’t what he had expected. “I am an old man- I have many stories.”

“An we got nothing’ but time” said Apple “so it can be as long as need be. Shove off and let’s hear the first few fathoms.”

“Of myself? ” he asked, warming to his audience. Apple nodded.

“To begin I am Creole.”

“We all thought you was French” said the young gunners mate.

“I am, but born here- in America-  is as they call Creole.  My Papa- my father- he was of the Compagnie Franches de la Marine- a soldier of the Marine in de Illinois country. Is far up de river Mississippi.”

“Among the red Indians?” interrupted the gunners mate. He had dearly hoped to see a wild Indian while on North American station. The few he had seen in Halifax had been a sore disappointment.

“Yes …among the red Indians- my Grandmere- she was one, a Kaskaskia. She live with us. My Grandpere, he was French, but he die before I was borned. My Grandmere was …how do you say him in Englais? A doctor of herbs? Yes. And my Mama after her.  My Papa, he work with the surgeon at Fort DeChartres, help him to set  broke bones, hold fellows down. When I was old enough, he have me to accompany him. But most of what I wish to do was only to hunt and fish and swim with the Indian boys.”

“I was young still when de war begin.  Most is far off, but once my Papa- he go far to Niagara. He fight in de battle of de Belle Famillie. Almost everyone to home loose somebody in dat fight, but my Papa, he come home with no hurt. He save de life of his Captain dere, an de Captain, he always remember dat. I have always strange fortune, perhaps that is where it begins.”

“After de war, is a time of great worry.  De compagnie Marine is to return to France, but  dem  dat wish may take der discharge and stay as habitants, and my Papa he does dis.  No one knows but what des Englis is to come and drive us from out our homes. Some move across the Mississippi to de Spanish. But only a few hunters and merchants come to de Illinois.  I am a young man by den.”

“Is a year or so after dat my Papa receive a word, is from his Captain. De Captain, he say for my Papa to send me to a fellow in New Orleans – a merchant dat have a grand plantation. He say dis fellow will give me a position, teach me to read and look after me.”

“I do not wish to leave de Illinois, but my Papa, he say I must. So dat spring I go down de Mississippi with de bateaus to New Orleans and de wealthy fellow’s plantation.”


“Dat fellow, his name is Francois Rochambeau, he is very kind to me. He was a cousin to my Papa's Captain.  He have a grand plantation with many slaves, and he is a merchant in New Orleans. He have tree daughters and de same fellow that is a school master for dem he have to teach me to read. I find I like to read- always I like a story.”

“I have a good life dere with Masseur Rochambeu. He is very learned, a man who love science. He is a great champion of the cockpit and he put me to work with the fellow that keep his birds. I learn to both heel and set to a cock, I learn everything about dem. I come to be his favorite setter.

"He also is a champion of horses racing. When he learn that I know how to bleed a fellow- I learn from my Papa who learn from de surgeon- he have me to sometimes bleed de horses he race with. Never had I heard of such a thing, but as I say, he is a man of science. He say dat if de humors of man can come unbalance den a horse may also."

"Was Indians dere also- Homas most. I become friends among dem and hunt with dem also." 

"Messur Rochambeau grow fond of me - I think perhaps because he have no son, only daughters. Sometimes he travel about business and take me with him to look after his horses or birds. Sometimes he let me read of his books. I wish to see l'Afrique and de Indies and de other places I read of. Also I wish to see France. My Papa was from La Rochelle and he often speak of de handsome towers and copper face houses dere."

"As I say before, Messur Rochambeau have tree daughters. The most young is just a bit more young than myself. After some time she and I become fond of one another. We keep a secret of dis, for she is... how do you say him in Englis...on the top of my post, yes?"

"Above yer station." corrected Apple.

"Above my station. Yes. After some long time that we have kept company in secret she tell to me dat I should ask her Papa for her hand. Do not misunderstood me- I never... how you call him... I never make a challenge to her virtue? Yes. Never even I have a thought of it. But both we are young, and we think we love one another. Her name is Evett- did I tell dat already?"

"I would never think to do such a thing, because she is stationed above me, but she say to me 'My Papa, he is very fond of you. He think of you as a son' and she encourage me to do so. So one day I gather up all my brave and I go do so. I can tell he is taked for a surprise, but he do not become cross. He say to me 'I must think on dis for some time' and den he dismiss me."


"De next day he come to me and he say 'We are going into new Orleans, take everything you may need for you may be gone some long time.' All the way dere, when we speak, we talk of de cockpit and horses, never of Evett.  When we come to the city he send me to board the horses and partake some ...errand, dat is the word, yes? Errands, and he give me money enough for my board - he is to call at the home of a friend- and he tell to me that he will see me at de stable of de morning."

"Dat night I sleep in de stable for to save my board money- I trade de stable fellow some bread we bring. Of de morning Messer Rochombeau come and he tell to me to bring my things and come with him. We go to de waterfront, sometimes before we travel to Mobile of a boat, and I think that must be where we are to go."

"We come to a ship where dey are loading goods. Messer Rochambeau walk right aboard. The Captain see him and come and say 'So, dis is de fellow you speak to me of?' Messeur Rochambeau say 'Yes. Dis is him' den he take me by the hand and say 'Baptiste, you are a good boy. Call on me when you are returned' and with that he turn and leave. By de next tide I am sailing for de west Indies."

"I was heartbroked to be sure. First chance I have I jump de ship and think I will find another ship to return and steal Evett away . But I can find no ship to go straight away back. But what is it dat dey say...enough time and salt water make a fellow forget anything, yes? Yes. I come to find dis life suit me."

"I come to find I enjoy the pleasures of women with no virtue..." this brought howls of approval from the mess"... and soon enough I no more think of Evett. Later I find she marry well, a merchant in the city. And I have becomed a sailor.... Fathoms enough?"

"Far enough fer now" said Apple "this blockade may last for years."

Wednesday, February 10

Baptiste's Leeches

Master at Arms
HMS Acasta

Sir, 

I write this at the request of Mr Baptiste, Mr Girard, mate to Doctr. Roberts, who excuses himself saying that he feels his writing in English may be too poor to express the importance of his relation. He wishes it to be known that on last port liberty in Halifax, he, of his own accord, did obtain some two dozen leeches of the type used for bleeding. Bleeding being one of the duties often assigned him by Doctr. Roberts and the leeches of America being unsuitable for this purpose, those he obtained had been imported from Europe and that they came very dear.

He wishes it known that he did this as a kindness for several of the ships boys and some of the younger sailors are very fretful of being bled and that when it be necessary to bleed a man from the back of the throat it can be more easily done by such a worm in a tube. He also relates that officers could be bled while they slept with a leech behind each ear and not interfere with their duties.

These leeches, in a covered jar, he placed among the medicninals in a dark place for them to become accustomed to the motion of the ship, and that when he next looked after them the thought there might have been fewer but that he was not sure, but that over time they have certainly become fewer. That in bringing it to the Doctor's attention the Doctor suggested that perhaps the leeches preyed on one another, but that he says they do not behave as cannibals and are always housed in congress by the apothecaries that sell them.



That in this same time he had taken notice that the mess including Jacob Booke, being often near to his, always had good fresh fish in addition to their ration and that he had heard once heard Booke to say  that to catch fish always "nothing is better bait than worms" and that questioning Booke about this Booke said that he had mistook what he said, it being that "the bait must be warm", but that he was certain Booke had said "worms". 

The Doctor not taking the plight of the leeches with proper seriousness that there were but a few left when he was finally prevailed upon to then lock the survivors away with the laudanum and spirituous medicinals. He feels certain that these valuable specimens have been villainously stolen by Booke and his mess and he wishes the Master at Arms to be made aware of the situation.

Yr obt svt
M'man S. Loomis

N.B. I feel I should also relate that this narrative is to the best of my understanding, as Mr Baptiste became impassioned in his narration and often lapsed into his horrible Creole accented French, making him difficult to understand.