Wednesday, November 30


Aboard sometimes it was not uncommon to hear three or more different languages spoke as you went past the messes at dinner. There was a German we all called "Fritz". I never learned if that was his Christian name or not. He bore a striking resemblance to the Captain and was about his same age.  There was a couple of Mids that fancied themselves poets and such. They would write and perform plays for the officers. If the officers approved, I suppose, they would then perform them for the crew. Any time they had a king or such they always got Fritz for that part- on account of his resemblance to the Captain- but if the Captain ever took offense it never showed and sometimes they did two in a month's time. One time Fritz would be Neptune and the next time Caesar. It was always good fun to hear him say his couple of lines with that accent.

Aside from that though Fritz had a spooky knack for knowing what the Captain was thinking it seemed. If ever we was wondering what was going to happen next we would go to Fritz and say "Well now Fritz what's the Old Man going to do about thus and such?" and he would say "Yah, vell I sink he vill...  " and what ever he said was always dead on. If he was ever wrong about the Captain I never knew of it.

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

Tuesday, November 29


Heart of Oak: A Sailor’s Life in Nelsons Navy
A brief recommendation by M. Araiza

Have you ever wondered, what does an Eighteenth century candle lantern or a leather fire bucket look like?  Then you need to pick up this book.

Heart of Oak was written in 2002 by James P. McGuane. A well-known photographer and filmmaker, as well as a blacksmith and sculptor.

Heart of Oak is about the tools and items used on a daily basis by the men and women of Nelson’s Navy. It displays extraordinary photographs of tar-ladles and snuff boxes to sailmakers fids and carronades. The items pictured are items that have been recovered from shipwrecks or are on display in some of the greatest naval museums. Photographed inside are also some of the most famous ships, HMS Victory and HMS Invincible. 

There are chapters on navigation, deck rigging, sails, guns, gunpowder, officers, men leisure and recreation to name a few.  

Photos of the ropewalk at the Royal Naval dockyard and a Mast Pond at Chatham Historic Dockyard are pictured to complement these items.

Beside every photo is a description, its current location and the size of the item.  Every description explains the use of the item and it location on a ship. 

Monday, November 28

To Our Ships At Sea

Ward Room aboard USS Constitution
Mr. Vassermann, who had previously washed my breeches in salt water ensuring that they were uncomfortable and barely fit to wear, has washed them out again in a barrel of rainwater that he has accumulated over the past few days. My poor small clothes should be fit to wear again once they are dried. My breeches were stiff and itchy, and caused the most unpleasant chaffing.

Dinner this evening in the Ward Room, followed by the traditional Monday toast, "To our Ships at sea!". 

It gave me pause, and I considered some of the ships of His Majesty's Navy that we have encountered thus far. 

HMS Ramillies under command of Sir Thomas Hardy 

HMS Poictiers under Capt. Beresford, in whose company we have made several significant captures.

HMS Dotterel, HMS Martin, HMS Nymphe whom we encountered at Bermuda recently.

HMS Maidstone, ├ćolus, Childers and Colibrie with whom we have shared captures.

Friday, November 25

Fiddler’s Green in New Boston Town

There was a time on North American Station that we was on some very queer business. We would anchor at New Boston Towne in the Unighted States, sometimes for several days at a time, and the Captain or the Doctor would go ashore, sometimes both. Then we might sail up coast or down coast for a day or two, anchor at some small port while one or both went ashore. Then back to New Boston Towne we’d go for another several days. A couple of times the Doctor sent his pet Frenchman ashore alone. They was all mum about whatever business it was, but the Captain looked rather grim at the time. All in all it was about a month this took.

While we was in New Boston Towne they give us shore leave by watches. Now this may seem strange, and I suppose it was. Most often you will not get shore leave in a foreign port where they speak English for fear of fellows taking French leave. But as I have said before the Acasta was a happy ship, and the Captain firm but fair, and that is what he done. The Lieutenants was all rather grim about it at first, threating to end leave for everyone if the first fellow even turned up late, but we all knew we had a good thing going and kept a watchful eye on each other so as not to spoil it. Before it was done even Jake Booke got leave to go ashore- and he had been flogged for running before and getting caught.

Now in New Boston Towne was a tavern- not a real house style building but one of those which is all canvas and planks, but a tavern none the less and your common tar only cares for being out of the weather when he has a pint- that was called “Lord Nelson’s Arms”.  This was before Trafalgar, but after Nelson had lost his arm at Santa Cruse. That name probably earned them some hard feeling among the Jonathans because there was still plenty of bad blood from the war. They seemed right glad to have some true blue Tars come in. The place had a back room with bunks to rent and a cockpit behind it.

The gal that ran the placed called herself “Sally Brown” just like in the song. We all figured she was run from something and had changed her name- and we all thought she could have done a better job of picking a false one. Right quick Nate Johnson got a leg over on her. It looked like they had known each other from before, because anytime somebody called her ”Missus Brown” Nate would smile this sly smile to hisself. I heard  after the war they was spliced and still run a tavern in America to this day.

Right quick Sam Hollybrass got a leg over on her cousin that also worked there and from then on all of us Acastas was treated like we was family. Nobody went anywhere else when they got leave.

As I said they had a cockpit back of the place, and we had a line of some good old English birds aboard the Acasta. There was a Jonathan woman named Bickenhouser- in America there is no telling what you will find a woman doing- that had a line of birds that was local champions. They was called Delaware Blues, although most of them I seen were white with blue and red spots.

Well, we started fighting these birds, and you would have thought that would have made already bad blood between us and the Jonathans get worse. It done just the opposite. Both lines of birds was so game that there was never any telling which one would win when they was pitted.  One time they would win and the next match we would. Winchester, he knew birds, said he had never seen two lines so equally matched.

If the Jonathans had won, some Acasta would exclaim, "Say cousin you are so flush now how about buying a poor tar a pint?” and some Jonathan would buy a round for all. If we had won some Jonathan would say "Here now John Bull, why be so tight with your winnings when we are all so dry?” and we would do the same. It was jolly times.

Once as I was putting on my shore going rig Apple the carpenter passed by.  I was singing to myself and in high spirits.  “So Cullen” he says “you're off to Fiddlers Green are ya?”. And I reckon that was true. It was as close to Fiddler’s Green as any poor tar will ever come while on commission.

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

*** Fiddler’s Green was a mythical afterlife among sailors where the liquor and music flowed free, the girls were always pretty and everyone was always happy.

Thursday, November 24

The 7 Most Awesome Things About Reenacting

I've said it before... every hobby has its own quirky PROS and CONS, historical reenacting is no exception. In the spirit of the holidays, please allow me to present...


Getting to travel to new places and see new things is awesome. Being a historical presenter has afforded me the opportunity to discover and visit places that I might not have found otherwise. Give me an old house, a reconstructed fort, a monument, a scenic battlefield, a tall ship, a village, a log cabin... and I will be happy. I love trying to imagine the people that were there before me, where they stood, how they lived and how they made use of the grounds.

It must be said, barring a few killjoys, I have met some of the best people through the hobby. People that I would likely not have met if I had never become a reenactor. It has been my experience that historical reenactors are some of the most kind and generous people out there.

I don't know that I've been to a single reenactment where I wasn't greeted by someone or given a spot next to someone's fire or offered a drink or a bite to eat. Friendly people who are eager to talk, listen, share knowledge and learn.

That coupled with the fact that we're all from very different corners of the world, but no matter how diverse a sampling of humanity you may have at any given event, they all seem to share a passion for history and passing it on. They always seem to know the most interesting and bizarre stuff!

Can I just say that if you were to travel back in time and meet me as a kid and tell me that one day in the future I'd be excited about history or research, the little kid version of me would call you a liar. I had no idea that I would enjoy doing research, reading about weird and obscure historical stuff and combing old illustrations and paintings in an effort to learn new things! And my favorite feeling is reading something that sends you down an all NEW rabbit trail of discovery.

The beauty of historical reenacting is, there's always something new to learn... even when you think there isn't.

Don't you remember the fun of playing 'Cops & Robbers' as a kid? When you dispensed justice with your extended index finger and thumb. It's a shame that so much of that 'play-pretend' has to go away from our everyday, adult lives. Granted, it doesn't ALL go away, we just have to channel it down more 'socially acceptable' avenues, art, writing, sewing, building and so forth. But it seems like a shame to loose some of that pure 'play-pretend' in funny hats from our childhoods. For me personally, reenacting has allowed me to recapture some of that feeling.... WITH funny hats!

What is it about stuff cooked in cast iron over a 'real fire' that just makes it taste so amazing? I would be hard pressed to recall one poor meal I had at an event. I have a lot of respect for anyone that can cook with a firepit in primitive conditions, I can barely cook in my modern kitchen, unless you count preheating the oven and defrosting a pizza.

Just speaking for myself here, but since I have become a reenactor, I have learned MORE cool history than I ever did from any dry ol' dusty history class in school. This is not an attack on history teachers at all, but it was just never very dynamic in the classroom for me when I was growing up. Nothing beats getting out there and going to the places where it happened, wearing what they wore and doing it in the way that they did it in the period.

We want to hear what YOU think is the most awesome part of Historical Reenacting. So think it over, then add your thoughts in the comments below! Thanks for reading and have a great holiday season from all of us here at HMS Acasta!

Be sure to check out these other lists of interest:

The 7 Worst Things About Being a Reenactor

That does it for this reenactor list. 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. It is a simple matter really, there is a blue button at the very bottom of the page that will allow you to join.

And Second, I would ask that you comment from time to time on the posts that interest you the most. This is an excellent way to let the crew of the Acasta know what you, the reader, is the most interested in seeing. It is always most gratifying to know what the readers like. For those of you that have commented in the past, we thank you for you support and interest!

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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Wednesday, November 23

The Acasta Cleans Up!

The London Gazette 
Publication date:29 April 1800 

Tuesday, November 22

The 4 Biggest Frigates of the North American Station

The subjoined table of the comparative dimensions of British and American ships, will enable the reader to appreciate the heroism with which our officers and seamen have defended themselves in the recent actions with our trans-atlantic descendants.

By this table it will be seen, that these American frigates are longer than an English first-rate; that they are longer than, and of nearly equal tonnage with, our modern large seventy-fours, and of greater tonnage than our old seventy-fours;that they are longer, broader, and of greater tonnage than any of our sixty-fours; and that they exceed in tonnage our fifties, in the proportion of nearly three o two; and our thirty-eights in the proportion of seven to four. Is not the term frigate most violently perverted, when applied to such vessels? As well might we call the Ville de Paris a fifty, or Caledonia a sixty-four; or as well might we call the one a jolly-boat and the other a yawl.

An excerpt from 'The Naval Chronicle: The Contemporary Record of the Royal Navy at War" 1813

Monday, November 21

The Traditional Saturday Toast

If you haven't seen this movie yet, what are you wasting time here for? Go watch it immediately!

And when you're done, be sure to read about the traditional toasts from the other days of the week.

Friday, November 18

Friday's Toast

A calm, clear day today, clear enough to see the trees changing color ashore through ones glass.

Captain Frymann and the Captains of the other ships on the blockade had the Midshipmen practicing their signal flags for the majority of the afternoon. No sooner would a series of flags be hoisted then the boys would all have out their glasses, eagerly looking for the reply. All manner of mock orders were sent to and fro. 

An uneventful day at sea, followed by an equally uneventful dinner in the Wardroom. After the loyal toast, Lt. Hamilton gave the traditional Friday toast. We all drank with great gusto! We all enjoyed the possibility of prize money, and with several of our officers, the more 'willing foes' the better.

Can you decode the traditional Friday Toast via the signal flags above?

Thursday, November 17

A Bloody War or a Sickly Season

The Ward Room aboard HMS Trincomalee
Hamilton at table.
As it is Thursday, after the Loyal Toast was giv'n and drunk, Lt. Hamilton offered up "A Bloody War or a Sickly Season". As we drank, I pondered the meaning of such a toast.

Being promoted upon the death of your superiors has been the Naval tradition for time immemorial. But I cannot help think that it is quite morbid to wish the untimely demise of one's associates in order to procure advancement in one's field of occupation. Every man in the Ward Room drank glady to the idea.

Wednesday, November 16

To Ourselves

Before Copenhagen: The Ward Room of HMS Elephant, 1st April 1801 from Thomas Davidson
Sick call at the mast this morning followed by dosing and treating the various shipboard illness and injury. Nothing of any great import. Scrapes and bruises common among men whose job it is to climb, handle rope and lift heavy objects on a daily basis. 

The traditional Wednesday toast was offered up in the Ward Room this evening from Lt. Hamilton, "To Ourselves". 

It was followed by the amusing reply from our purser, Mr. Armitage, "As no-one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare!"

Tuesday, November 15

To Our Men

Early this morning, it was thought that a ship was espied attempting to escape the blockade. The men were all excitement that we might be taken into action to give chase, but it was not to be, the American schooner was simply moving about within the harbour and not attempting to 'make a run for it'. After it was discovered that our day was not to be punctuated with a chase and engagement, there was a great deal of sullen coiling of ropes as the men returned to their duties. 

This evening in the Wardroom, Lt. Tumbusch raised his glass and says, "To our Men", the traditional toast giv'n on a Tuesday. 

I took a sip and then passed my glass of Port behind me to Mr. Vassermann. He finished the glass in a single swallow by snapping his head back, then refilled the glass and thanked me as he passed it back. Several of the other Wardroom officers followed suit.

Monday, November 14

Nelson's Navy

Nelson’s Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization 1793-1815

A brief recommendation by M. Araiza

If you could only have one book in your collection that could cover the vast majority of the history of Nelson Navy, you might be hard pressed to find just one.  But I think I have found it. 

Nelsons Navy written in 1989 by Brian Lavery, a maritime history consultant.

Nelson’s Navy is 352 pages divided into 61 lovely chapters examining all aspects of the British Royal Navy from its organization, to ship types, to officers training, the crew, marines, ship handling, life on the ocean waves, dockyards, bases, fleets and ship distribution, tactics, signals, blockading, amphibious operations and much more. Each chapter is very descriptive and includes period paintings, drawings and photos of items from various museums.

Also included is a chapter on Foreign Navies of the same time period.

A gorgeous Appendix is included that includes charts that cover prices of slop clothes to monthly pay of every sailor on board.

The sources index at the end include printed primary sources, secondary sources and even manuscript sources so that you can always go back and find the original source item.  

So, if I could only have one book in my collection on the Royal Navy this would be it, I believe it is second to none.  

Thursday, November 10

Master & Commander 2!

My missive to Mr. Rothman concerning a sequel of some interest to those assembled here:

My dear Sir,

Though the agreeable news of Captain Aubrey's capture of the Acheron arrived here in the North American Station some time back, their too long silence has given us all so much uneasiness of late. It has been quite some time since any word was received from our mutual friends aboard H.M.S. Surprise and I will speak frankly when I say that we have all begun to fear for their safety. It is not that I doubt the skill of our Captain Aubrey or his men, but as you know, the perils of life in His Majesty's Service combined with the deviousness of Bonaparte's forces are not to be underestimated. 

It is my hope that you can forgive this impertinence, but your address was supplied to me by Capt. Aubrey himself some time ago. He suggested that if there were no news of the Surprise that you might be the man to inform us of her where-abouts. And as you may know, there has been no word of her these long years. It is my hope that you know something of her that we do not. I am very sorry to press you ; but if I had not reason, I should not have called upon you. 

Any word of the fate of the Surprise that you might be able to pass along would be greatly appreciated by myself and the crew of the Acasta. It would certainly bolster the morale of His Majesty's forces here in the North American Station during this long war. 

We are all, thank God, very well, and desire to be remembered to you; and be assured a letter from you will give great pleasure to all your friends here, but none more than 

Your Humble and Obt Servant, 
Dr. A. Roberts 
Ship's Surgeon 
HMS Acasta 
Navy Hall, Halifax
 You may contact Mr. Rothman yourself as instructed by Capt Aubrey if you wish by addressing your missive to the following:
20th Century Fox Theatricals 
ATTN: Tom Rothman (Master and Commander 2) 
P.O. Box 900 
 Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900 

(N.B. It would seem that Mr. Rothman is no longer the fellow at the Admiralty to contact concerning Captain Aubrey and his company, but I am quite at a loss as to who I ought to forward this missive to. I should greatly appreciate any suggestions along that line.)

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Because you KNOW you'd love to see Master & Commander 2.
Get me Russell Crowe on the horn, stat!