Thursday, July 28

Jane Austen Festival 2016 Highlights

Clips that highlight some of the activities that the crew of the Acasta undertook whilst ashore at the 2016 Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY. 

And again, we'd like to thank those who contributed to the 2016 packet:

J. Miller
E. Rust
C. LeCours
A. Miller
K. Tolhurst
A. Leeds
J. Blalock
C. Nelson
J. Bernh
M. Moyles
T. Gerard
B. Mooney
S. Zahradka
S. Diatz

and Frank & Carol Jarboe for their special assistance in helping me print
this year's round of prize letters!

The Mail Packet is such an awesome part of our yearly activity, and we'd like to thank you all for your hard work! This year's packet was amazing. If you didn't get a letter into the packet this year, never fear… we'll do it again next year!

Wednesday, July 27

Monday, July 25

The Commodore at the Jane Austen Festival

Commodore Tom Hurlbut reads one of the letters he received as part of the Mail Packet at the 2016 Jane Austen Festival.

Friday, July 22

9 ways for Women to 'MAN UP' in Reenacting

Love it or hate it, women have been dressing as men in reenacting for ages. Some do it well and some need a little help to make a semi-passable gentleman. For assistance with this article I got help from two women who cross dress at reenactments, and who do it REALLY WELL. Some suggestions come from Mr. Vassermann (my good wife), with additional comments and suggestions from “An Anonymous Lady & Sometimes Gentleman, who wishes to remain unknown”, whose insightful contributions will be highlighted in RED.

Here are some suggestions for the ladies who want to cross-dress as a man and do it well!


Not every woman is built like an androgynous beanpole (my wife Maggie's own words), so it sometimes takes a little work to hide your womanly figure. Binding your bust is the first step, and can be done in a way that is not uncomfortable. Even a little bit helps the look. If you have a curvier bottom, like Vassermann does, wearing petticoat trousers over your pants can help hide that, as well as straight legged trousers that don't hug the form. Avoid breeches if possible as to hide delicate calves and ankles.

There are number of tutorials on the web for drag kings, actors, and cosplayers. Don't use an Ace bandage, as this can damage your muscles - depending on your cup size wear a sports bra or a gynecomastia binder.


In my own period of the War of 1812 the clothing includes tight pants and well-fitted jackets, and in most time periods clothes are meant to fit well, not hang on you. Ill-fitting clothes won't help you hide your figure - they just make you look like you stole your dad's or boyfriend's clothes. 

And even if your tight pants do show off your glorious behind, at least they look better than completely wrong baggy saggy trousers.

When Maggie and I created Vassermann (her male alter-ego) we decided that since she was so small to begin with, we'd scale all her clothing and accessories down to make her look bigger. Her clothing is made using mostly patterns for little boy's clothing, with her buttons being a little smaller than what is called for. If the Jacket called for a 1 inch button we'd use a 3/4 inch button instead. Vassermann’s belt and shoes are a little smaller as well.

The main goal being that we didn't want to to look like she was swimming in borrowed duds, but instead that Vassermann was a slight young man with clothes custom made for his frame.


Nothing helps sell it like a little make up. Before we sent Vassermann into the field, we watched some excellent online tutorials on how to make women look more like male characters (thank you Youtube Cosplayers!) Some of the tips we took from the tutorials was the fill in the eyebrows a little bit to make them a little beefier, and to lighten the lips to make them a little less pink.


Women's shoulders are naturally less square than men's shoulders, you might consider beefing up your shoulders with some simple pads.

You can include pads to widen your shoulders or waist in your clothes, and skillful tailoring can hide other parts of your body.


Long or short, you've got to do something with it… if you have a short haircut, style in in the fashion that men with short hair did. Take a look at some period portraits of gentlemen with short hair to seek inspiration. Take a comb and a little hair product and play in front of the mirror to get a look that's different than your everyday look.

Long hair? Don't just tie it back into a loose ponytail. Instead, braid or queue it in a period appropriate fashion like men with longer hair did.

... don't tuck [your hair] up into your hat. It fools no one.


...moving right is critical to looking male. Watch how men walk and sit and practice doing it. Practice walking confidently - get a male and female friend to watch you walk while you practice to criticize you. Throw your shoulders back and spread out. Take up lots of space at all times - when you sit, sprawl - and then sprawl more. Lean on things. Ooze out. Lounge. Practice when you're wearing your modern clothes, too. 


The most important thing you can do to be accepted as a cross-dresser costs nothing: pull your weight and learn how to be competent in camp and on the field. Learn how to do your job and how to do it well. If your impression involves carrying a musket purchase two five-pound weights and do exercises that simulate holding a musket. Learn the details of your weapon and your campaign. Learn how to put up a tent, dig a fire pit, clean a musket, and pack a trailer. Be there for set up and take down whenever you can. March and sleep in the rain and snow. Step in and get dirty, wet, and miserable.


With Vassermann, we worked on the impression for a YEAR before we finally showed it off at an event.

Maybe you can't afford a well-fitted coat right now or do a single push-up or recite the armament of all the frigates of the Navy circa 1812, but get excited! Make plans. Read read read. And always be looking to improve yourself - every reenactor no matter what their gender should always be working on improving their knowledge and impression.


If your body is extremely female or you're extremely out of shape, consider not cross-dressing, or not cross-dressing in all circumstances.

Let’s face it, cross dressing isn’t for everyone and not everyone CAN or WILL do it well.

Do you have any easy suggestions for reeanactors to improve their impressions? Please feel free to share them in the COMMENTS section below, we'd love to hear your ideas!
If you have enjoyed reading this or the other adventures of the HMS Acasta, be certain to become an honorary member of the crew. This is a easy way to show us that you're out there and paying attention. If you find a post that you are particularly fond of... be sure to share a link with your friends, over Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus, etc. so they can enjoy it too!

The Acasta log is generally updated every weekday at 8am CST, visit back often, and encourage your History Nerd/Reenacting/Royal Navy friends to visit us.

Thanks for reading!

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Images by Stefan Barges and Tony Gerard

Thursday, July 21

Lord Nelson's mail

A special guest speaker at the Jane Austen Festival this year was Bryan Austin giving a talk as Admiral Lord Nelson. I invited several of our regular Mail Packet contributers to write him special 'Nelson-themed' letters and they delivered in spades!

As you might imagine, Lord Nelson had a little difficulty in opening his letters, so Mr. Hollybrass  and Mr. Apple stepped in to assist the Admiral in the absence of his clerk, Mr. Scott.

We'll end today's post with a word of thanks from Bryan Austin, who played Nelson:

Once, in a blue while, you have the opportunity to come across an instance of living history or reenactment that is so complete and appellant to every sense that all at once you find yourself entirely transported from where you stand to another time and place. It was my real privilege to have that opportunity this past weekend meeting the crew of HMS Acasta. Sitting as a spectator to their camp and the stories of each man on board would have been enough, however when the time to deliver the mail arrived to my surprise I was included. 

I was entirely overwhelmed, to see brief slices of Horatio Nelson's life both personal and professional left me in awe and gave me that much more of a greater appreciation for him, the history, and those human experiences that knit the present with the past. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank those who contributed to making this an experience I will never forget. For the briefest of moments, you turned an actor into an Admiral with greater ease than years of study could…Thank you!

Wednesday, July 20

The Ruffian v. Jack Power

The excellent bare knuckle boxing matches are always a favorite of Acastas whilst ashore, this year was no different. Hollybrass has bet on 'The Ruffian' (seen in black sash) to win, while Baptiste has put his money on Jack Power in the red sash to win it. Who will win it? Watch and find out!

Special thanks to Bingley's Teas for the use of the footage of the match on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 19

Jane Austen Festival 2016 in images

Acastas ashore at the Jane Austen Festival and their special guest Commodore Hurlbut.

Acasta officers pay a visit to Lady Caroline 

Reclining in camp.

The Commodore and his wife under the dining fly.

Practice with the pikes under Lt. Tumbusch.

Acastas pose with the fighters after the bare knuckle boxing match.

Captain Freymann and Admiral Lord Nelson in the Acasta camp.

Nobody wants their photo with Mr. Hollybrass!

Friday, July 15

2016 Mail Packet, Sneak Preview

The MAIL PACKET gets deliver'd to the ACASTA tomorrow while they are ashore at the Jane Austen Festival! Herein find a sneak preview of a few of the many excellent letters we rec'd this present year for inclussion in the packet. 

As you can see, it was another year of beautiful submissions from our friends and readers! We'd like to take a minute to thank those who contributed to the 2016 packet:

J. Miller
E. Rust
C. LeCours
A. Miller
K. Tolhurst
A. Leeds
J. Blalock
C. Nelson
J. Bernh
M. Moyles
T. Gerard
B. Mooney
S. Zahradka
S. Diatz

and Frank & Carol Jarboe for their special assistance in helping me print
this year's round of prize letters!

We are so pleased and honored by the interest you all showed and by the submitted pieces themselves. Without you, the mail packet project would be woefully empty. The Packet is slated to be delivered on Saturday, July 16th at the Jane Austen Festival. 

Keep watching participants, there's more to come!

Wednesday, July 13

A Look Back at Jane Austen part IV

Originally posted in 2014

Lovely footage of Lt. Tumbusch's private tea in the garden with friends and lots of footage from the recent Jane Austen Festival. You will see a good deal of your Acastas as well.

Tuesday, July 12

A Look Back at Jane Austen part III

Originally posted in 2014

29th October 1813

My dear Mr Ramsey, 
I dare say it is like a severe fever, that weakens our beloved German countrie, and lately it has befallen me. This fever has our countrie kneel weeping and mourning at the graves of hundereds and thousandes lost in battle, and it strangels my faint heart with the coldest hands.

The passed summer with the fires and ceased fires, treaties and sudden infringements and with the waiting, with all that waiting! turned into a darkened autumn when the armies clashed near Leipzig to aim for victory or defeat and gained solely death…and more waiting.

No éclat. No bonnefires. The French defeat, barely two weeks ago, fell upon us like a wave of suffer with letters written by the blood-stained hands of loss, despair and agony.

No letters from my mother’s brother and his family near Magdeburg in the passed days. 

I shall say, that is what caused the fever in me and benumbed me, but the truth is: no letter from you…not one single letter since May 1812.

First I wondered if my letters would have failed to reach you, although my goode-hearted Aunt Seckenberg obliged to send the letters from Hamburg to London. 

My letters remained unanswered.

It deeply aggrieved me that my dear Mr. Ramsey must have forgetted me or else would he not answer? Answer like in that letter, which I received late in May, months after father and I returned from London to Cologne.

But now, in the midst’s of my countrie’s agony from facing all the death, a question distresses me with the direst pain, that I dare not write it down...I shant ever feel rejoicing again.

Please, my dear Mr Ramsey, tell me you’re alive! You have to! Indeed, you’ve said you fear nothing. Is it not?

My dear Mr. Ramsey, I beg you kindly, do not scold me for telling you, that your letter is the last I cast my eyes upon before I blew out the candles at night. I’ve read it over and over again, since you’ve sent it, recalling the most fond memories of my life.

The September of 1811 is still vivid in my heart, as I thought it would be in your heart!
My dear father and I stayed at Aunt Seckenberg’s house south of Audeley Street, before she moved back to Hamburg in March 1812. 

I shall ever remember my first assemblée at Mr Heathcote’s house at Portman Square.

I shall remember the golden lustre of illumination, the chatter, the music, and the enchanting and utmost pleasing atmosphere. 

I remember you.

Your stately appearance in the uniform (which my Aunt Seckenberg described ‘utterly handsome’), your witty remarks and your endearing kindness toward my Aunt and me.

My heart felt faint when Mrs Heathcote asked me to perform a German traditional, but your acclaim after my tune was singed did allay my fears and doubts. Bless you, Mr Ramsey!

And my heart danced from faint to fortune, when you kindly invited my father, dear aunt and me to the opera on the following Friday.

I shant never forget that night at Covent Garden at Sheridan’s play ‘The Duenna’. Mr Sinclair’s performance of Carlos. He did it with such exceedingly fervour, that it bringed tears to my eyes. It was the most beautiful play I have ever seen, and never before I have heard such abundant acclaim.
I could not sleep that night!

My heart was full of song and cheer…and you have left us that night with the promise to show us the Tower of London with it’s beasts on Sunday, before duty would called you back to your ship in Portsmouth. 

Chaperoned by Aunt Seckenberg we took a carriage to the Tower of London. The 22nd of September was such a bright day, with blu skies. No winter yet lingering in the air.
The last page of the letter.

I however recall the cold and dark of the Tower. And the fierce beasts! The savage Grizley bear, which was brought from America that very month! 

My brave Mr. Ramsey! While the audience fearfully flinched at that Grizley’s gasthly roar, you did not move an inch. You do not fear anything in the world, Mr Ramsey!

And while waiting, that certainity has become my humble prayer and it consoles my heart.

On the long-passed assemblée in September, when I’ve performed Arnim’s ‘Der Himmel ist oft hell’ and the applause has ceased, it was that brave and bold Mr Ramsey, who said to me, that my voice and song was the sweetest thing ever. ‘The sweetest thing’, I did replied, ‘of which I know, are Hagedorn’s Himbeer Bonbons’

Do you remember your answer, my dear Mr Ramsey? 

This morning I went to Hagedorn’s Confectionery to chuse a box of said raspberry bonbons. 

I cannot enclose a song, nor my voice in this letter, nor the sweetness, which hasn’t ever touched my lips - I shall send you bonbons instead, singing my song…and the plea to take the wave of suffer from me:

End my waiting…please, do write, Mr Ramsey. Do write!

Yours affably...

Special thanks to Acasta reader Sabine Schierhoff for this AMAZING little package for 2nd Lt M. Ramsey! It was such a joy to watch it come together over the last few months and it was a HUGE hit at the festival.

Monday, July 11

A Look Back at Jane Austen part II

In the days leading up to the 2016 Jane Austen Festival, we'll be looking back at some older posts that showcase the Acastas and their participation in the Festival!

Originally posted in 2013

Whilst ashore, there was some unpleasantness between our purser, Mr. Cushing and Lord Westlake. If I understand it correctly, there was some discussion as to his lordship's courage in comparrison to that of his brother's.

Capt May of the Marines and Capt Freymann acted as the seconds for the two duelists.
Lt. Tumbusch implores the gentlemen, surely there must be some other way to settle things?
Capt Freymann gives Lord Westlake his pistol.
His Lordship fires!
Cushing's leg is merely grazed by the musket ball.

Fit to return fire, Cushing fires back.
Cushing's musket ball strikes true, Lord Westlake is killed.