Tuesday, January 31

A letter from the Commodore

Captain Robert Freymann,
HMS Acasta,
Halifax Station,
Nova Scotia.

Captain Thomas Hurlbut,
Royal Naval Dockyard,
Upper Canada.

January 31, 1814.

My Dear Robert, 

With the savage winter snows swirling about the buildings here at the dockyard, it encourages us to find tasks suited to the indoors. Although I am charged with making a regular inspection tour of our squadron at anchor here in Navy Bay (and do so on a weekly basis), I am mostly involved in endless accounts. As I have already completed this week’s round, and find the pile of paperwork has diminished to an acceptable level, I now have time to write to friends and colleagues on elements of Naval warfare here in the north.

Indeed, between the weather and the general idleness of many of the officers, we look to social pursuits to fill our time. It has been a custom for a generation in these parts, to have as a mid-winter distraction, a Ball to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday, and this winter was no exception. Sir James, upon noting the value of said Ball and the like, decided to dine all his senior officers in to take measure of their Spirits and to boost them as necessary. You may recall that our Autumn just past was one of great difficulties and equally great disappointments.

As the dinner was to gauge the moods of the officers present, the normal ban on discussing matters professional was lifted and so the talk became quite spirited.

One topic with much heated discourse was on carronades versus long guns, and I know you would have been quite interested and involved, had you been present.

It is perhaps not well known that our squadron has a preponderance of carronades as opposed to U. S. Commodore Chauncey’s more balanced armament. As you know, for many years, we have been removing 4 and 6 pounder long guns for the smaller vessels in the Royal Navy, and replacing them with 12, 18, 24 and even 32 pdr carronades. Our sloops and brigs on the lakes reflected that practice. We even have some 68 pdrs! Indeed, since most of our encounters up to this point were at close quarters and small warships are not stable firing platforms, closing the range seemed the only way to ensure hits. It made perfect sense.

I took the position that carronades are most useful with our ships and even postulated that this would be the weapon that would prevail.

“Why would you say that?” asked Sir James, inviting me to continue.

“Well Sir, I base this on my experience with the North Sea Fleet when I was Sailing Master aboard HMS Director (64), Captain Wm. Bligh.

“One ship of the Fleet was the fourth rate HMS Glatton (56), an ex East Indiaman launched in 1792, bought into the service in ’95 and commissioned under Captain Henry Trollope. She was initially armed with 28-68 pdr carronades on the lower deck and 28-42pdr carronades on the upper deck.”

“Ah yes, Sir Henry was always mad for carronades!” said Sir James.

“Well, although the 42s were replaced with 32 pdrs early on, she could still boast a broadside of 1400 lbs!

“On the 15th July, 1796, alone, she fought a French squadron of four frigates, three corvettes and an armed cutter, causing them so much damage that they had to break off the action.”

“Yes, it’s true,” says Sir James, “and in the last war, Sir Henry captured the French 40-gun frigate l’Hebe with the old two-decker 44 Rainbow, with 20-68 pdrs on her lower deck, 22-42 pdrs on her upper deck, 4-32 pdrs on her quarterdeck and two more on her foc’s’l! That must have given her a broadside of something over 1200 lbs!”

Consulting my notes I said, “Well, 1238 lbs. Sir James.”

“Now, Captain, can you not see that in both these situations, the enemy was unaware of the nature of their opponent, in both instances thinking they had a decided advantage and closed the distance to their ultimate peril? Had they been aware of the limited range of Sir Henry’s guns, they could have hauled off to over 500 yards and battered him to kindling!”

He paused for a moment, then,

“Have you ever heard of Commander John Wright and HM Sloop Vincejo?” he asked me.

“Yes, Sir James.” 

He continued, “In the year ’04, armed with only 18 pdr carronades but for her two chasers, she was surrounded in Quiberon Bay by French gunboats and pounded from range, compelling her surrender!

“No Captain, it’s not short range carronades we need, no matter the size of their shot, but bigger guns with longer range, miles of range, so you can hit the enemy as soon as you can see him! And with explosive shot, to increase the damage! That’s the future of Naval gunnery!” he stated with great enthusiasm.

“Hear him, hear him!” came the near simultaneous roar from the assembled officers.

Then, staring intently down the table to catch the eye of the “vice”, he nodded.

The mid seated there then raised his glass and said, “Gentlemen, the King!”

“The King!” we chorused.. 

God bless him..

There is great zeal for the service and we can’t wait for the lakes to open up so that we may again attempt to fight the foe!

But only at close range until the Commodore’s long guns arrive..

I trust all is well with you and Acasta?

I wish you good hunting, my friend!
Kingston, U.C.

Ship's data and some history comes from Rif Winfield's British Warships in the Age of Sail, the 1714-1792 (Rainbow and Director) and the 1793-1815 (Glatton and Vincejo) volumes.

The service history of Sir Henry Trollope GCB comes from Volume 3 of A Naval Bibliographical Dictionary 1849. There's a footnote on the career bio of Captain George Barnes Trollope about his esteemed half-brother, the late Admiral Sir Henry Trollope (deceased 1839).

Curiously, the footnote above it is for Lieutenant Robert Trist. Lieutenant Trist was a Master's Mate and passed lieutenant aboard James Yeo's sloop of war Confiance (rated 18 although she was armed with 22 carronades!) and was confirmed Lieutenant due to heroic deeds he committed in 1808 while serving under Yeo. He served under Yeo again aboard HMS Southampton (32), Sir James' last vessel before coming to the lakes in 1813.

Monday, January 30

In The News

The London Gazette 
Publication date:8 October 1799 

Friday, January 27

During a Hot Press

From Ship's Carpenter, Jas. Apple:

Sometimes as I recall during a hot press it was often necessary while in the search of able seaman to go outside of the normal bounds and look for men. We simply needed two arms, two hands and two legs, two feet and a body with a head on top

And often those who had heard the rumor that we were on the prowl would switch into long clothes and slip right off the reel, not be seen or heard from again till the coast was clear, that is to say we had set sail.

So with very little to tender we would crack on and start to careen from tavern to pub the nasties, and as I recall rarely did we find Jack or Joe, but more likely a spitkid full of dogsbodys begging for hanky panky to stay warm if it was cold. And lord we promised them a easy number, warm food and signing bonus and prize money.

So with a fair amount of hogging, even the worst chaffered up enough to make a landsman and on occasion with time if they didn't die or get whittled down make a damn fine and able seaman.

Thursday, January 26

7 Historical 'Facts' Learned From Reenactments

It is with tongue firmly planted in cheek that I offer you the following post. What would happen if you attended a historical reenactment knowing nothing about history? What lessons would you learn?

7.) Everyone used to live in tents in the old timey days
Just go to any historic reenactment and look around. The event grounds will be virtually awash in canvas shops and domiciles of all shapes and sizes.

6.) Historic stuff only took place on weekends
It's true! Have you ever been to a historical reenactment on a Tuesday? Historical events of import also generally occured between May and October.

5.) Battles took place according to the printed schedule
Battles in the era were opened and/or closed by music parades and had announcers on the field telling the public about what was going on with a microphone through big speakers.

4,) All soldiers had terrible aim
I got that sharpshooter up in the tree!
Nailed 'em.
Pew pew!
We nailed that Zeppelin!
Okay before you pen me a sternly worded email about the finer points of weapons safety... I realize that you're supposed to cant and elevate and so forth. But elevating sure does make for some funny pictures!

3.) Almost nobody ever got killed in battle
Just watch any battle reenactment. A line of troops marches into a harrowing volley of enemy fire and one dude falls down dead! Then to add to the confusion, all the dead jump up at the end of the battle and march off with their unit.

2.) All events of historical significance ended at 3-4pm on a Sunday afternoon
Sometimes earlier if the participants think they can get away with pulling their cars onto the field to pack up and beat the rush.

1.) Fairies Existed
Been to a Ren-Faire lately? Yeah, that happened.

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!

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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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"To The Bottom!"

"The Acasta Frigate"

                                  "Captain Kerr places a due confidence in the largest, the best officered, and best manned frigate in the service, has been roaming about for his prey for several months, and we only wish him fairly alongside the President, Constitution, or the United States.  On receiving the accounts of the capture of the Guerriere, Captain Kerr assembled his crew, and addressed them as follows: 

'My lads, it is with a distress which I cannot sufficiently depict to you, that I inform you of the capture of the Guerriere, by the Constitution American frigate.  We are going to sea, and in the largest and best armed frigate in the service.  Hear my determination ‑ I am determined never to strike the colours of the Acasta ‑ My mind is made up ‑ What say you, my boys?'  The exclamation of ‑ 'To the bottom!' and three truly British cheers, followed his words, and the anchor was weighed. 

– From the excellent equipment of the Acasta, her great size, weight of metal, and number of men, we are confident that with her there will be no desecration of the seaman's religion ‑ the Flag!  The Acasta has taken on board 24‑pounders on her maindeck ‑ and we may cheerfully trust the national honour to her efforts."

from THE NAVAL CHRONICLE: The Contemporary Record of the Royal Navy at War.  Nicholas Tracy, editor.  London: Stackpole Books, 1999‑2000. Volume 5, Page 148

Wednesday, January 25

A Recollection

by Jas. Apple

Once we had this lieutenant who told me of when he first sailed  from Portsmouth, his wife was pregnant with their second child due but a fortnight past his leaving. And having been away the short side of three years, he received news upon his return to Halifax of the birth of his new son and of the passing of his beloved wife during birthing.  He said that his three children were being raised by his older brother as his own, and his brother had a substantial estate and raised blooded horses, his brother's only wife was lost to some kind if fever as he would recall.

He once told me of the day that he and his brother were saddling horses to go have a chase with the dogs, he told me that a his stud horse cow-kicked his brother in the face over and over again till he was gone. 

He buried his only brother next to his own wife, the mother if his three children on the south side of a hill.

He said that when I leave the sea that I should visit him on his new estate and we could take out the hounds for a chase, we still post to each other but I don't believe I shall ever saddle up with him.

Tuesday, January 24

Naval Wives and Mistresses

Naval Wives and Mistresses 
by Margarette Lincoln
A brief review by Tony Gerard

“This book aims to fill the gap between social and maritime history.” That is the first sentence of the book’s introduction. Having said that- it’s not light reading. Lincoln has approached the topic is a scholarly and academic manner.

Lincoln basically divides female society in regards to the British navy into three segments, the Aristocracy, the “Middling–Sort” and the “Laboring and Criminal classes”. She deals with each segment individually.  Due to the scarcity of written material from the “Laboring and Criminal Classes” most of the information here is implied from other sources.  She does a good job of covering various forms of welfare and charities that were available to the wives of sailors during the period.

While it’s not a riveting “page turner” I do recommend this book for the women of the Acasta. I would recommend first, however, “Jane Austen’s England” by Roy and Lesley Adkins. These two books in conjunction would give a nice background for anyone portraying a sailor’s wife in the Acasta time period.

Friday, January 20

At Boston Bay

The British force stationed in Boston bay in the beginning of December, 1814, consisted of the 50-gun ship Newcastle, Captain Lord George Stuart, 18-pounder 40-gun frigate Acasta, Captain Alexander Robert Kerr, and 18-gun brig-sloop Arab, Captain Henry Jane. On the 11th, when this squadron was cruising off St.-George's shoals, the Newcastle parted company, to reconnoitre the road of Boston. On the 12th Lord George discovered lying there the 44-gun frigate Constitution, Captain Charles Stewart, in apparent readiness for sea, and the Independance 74, with her lower yards and topmasts struck. The Newcastle then steered for Cape Cod bay ; where, in a few hours, after having grounded for a short time on a shoal, she came to an anchor. On the 13th one of her men, from a boat sent on shore, deserted to the Americans. On the 16th the Acasta arrived, and anchored near the Newcastle.

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Thursday, January 19

Acasta vs Prince of Neufchatel

Capt. Sir G. Collier of Leander
19 Dec 1814 - Leander sailed from Halifax bound off Boston, and on the 24th fell in with the Newcastle and Acasta.

22 Dec 1814 - Arab reported to the Leander, Newcastle and Acasta that the Constitution had sailed from Boston on the 17th inst. who departed in search of the US frigate.

28 Dec 1814 - the Leander, in company with the Newcastle and Acasta, captured the celebrated privateer Prince de Neufchatel.

Extract of the letter from Capt. Sir George Collier, of His Majesty's ship Leander 1815, Jan 28


I have the pleasure to acquaint you, that with the squadron under my orders, being in quest of the American ships of war, which escaped during the late gales from the Ports of Massachusetts, I had the good fortune, yesterday, at sunset, to capture the celebrated privateer, Prince of Neufchatel, hermaphrodite rigged, pierced for 22 guns, and having 18 mounted, six of which are long nine, and twelve pounders, and the rest twelve pounder carronades; measures 330 tons, with a crew of 130 men under the Command of Nicholas Millin, by birth a Frenchman and one of superior professional skill and enterprize. She sailed from Boston on the 21st inst. and is the completest vessel I have ever saw. The activity of the Captains of the Newcastle and Acasta cut off the chance of escape from this cruizer during a chase of ten hours, the wind blowing a hard gale… etc

G.R. Collier, Captain.

From the London Gazette
The captors of an enemy Ship of War, national warship, privateer or letter of marque, were entitled to a bounty known as HEAD MONEY; this allowed that £5 would be paid for every member of the enemy crew whose was aboard the prize at the commencement of the action.

The three documents here comprise the HEAD MONEY papers for the capture of the American Privateer Prince of Neufchatel during the War of 1812.

Before a claim could be placed for Head Money the vessel in question had to be condemned in an Admiralty Prize Court, a sworn statement had to be taken from the surviving members of the captured crew as to the number of men aboard.

Having obtained these documents the Prize Agent, acting for the captors, could forward his claim, as shown below.

The State of the Case of Messrs. Wm. Marsh & Rd. Creed and Mr. Edmd. Lockyer jointly and severally Thos. Collier Esq. and Messrs. James Sykes and James Sykes jun. claiming payment of Bounty Money of £5 per Head for one hundred and thirteen Men belonging to the Prince of Neufchatel American Ship of War, which was taken on the 28th. December 1814 by H Ma. Ships Leander, Newcastle and Acasta commanded by Sir Geo. Collier, Alex. Rob. Kerr and the Right Honourable George Stuart 
They have produced
  • Proof of Condemnation of the said American Ship of War The Prince of Neufchatel in the High Court of Admiralty.
  • A Certificate of the number of Men above mentioned, grounded on Affidavits made before a master Extraordinary in the High Court of Chancery
  • Letters of Attorney from the Commanders Officers and Companies of the Ships appointing them their Agents
  • Lists of the said Ship's Companies certified as usual.
The Vouchers produced, being conformable to what are required by Act of Parliament, let a Bill be made out for the Head Money claimed.

[The supporting documents are the extract of the sentence of condemnation, given below, followed by the sworn statements from the officers of the Prince of Neufchatel as to the number of crew she carried.]

A photo posted by @hms_acasta on

Extracted from the Registry of His Majesty's High Court of Admiralty of England. 
On Friday the forth day of march in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifteen before the Right Honourable Sir William Scott, Knight, Doctor of Laws, Lieutenant of the High Court of Admiralty of England, and in the same Court Official Principal and Commissary General and Special and President Judge thereof, and also to hear and determine all and all manner of Causes and Complaints as to Ships and Goods seized and taken as Prize specially constituted and appointed in the Common Hall of Doctors Commons London present James Farquhar one of the Deputy Registrars

Nicholas Millin Commander 
Our Sovereign Lord the King against the said Ship her Tackle Apparel & Furniture and the Arms Stores and Ammunition therein taken by His Majesty's Ship Leander, Sir George Collier Bart, Commander in Company with His Majesty's Ship Newcastle and Frigate Acasta and brought to Penzance and against all persons in general.

In pain of Parties cited thrice called and not appearing Bishop [Acting for the Crown] gave the usual Allegation which in like pain the Judge at his Petition admitted and assigned the Cause for Sentence on the first and second assignations immediately, and having heard the Proofs read, on Motion of His Majesty's Advocate by Interlocutory Decree pronounced the said Ship her Tackle Apparel & Furniture, Arms Stores and Ammunition to have belonged at the time of the Capture & Seizure thereof to Enemies of the Crown of Great Britain and as such or otherwise subject and liable to Confiscation, and condemned the same as good and lawful Prize taken by His Majesty's Ship Leander Sir George Collier Knight Commander in Company with His Majesty's Ship Newcastle and Frigate Acasta
And moreover pronounced the said Ship to have been a Ship of War in the Service of the Enemy, and that there were alive and on board the same at the commencement of the Engagement in which the same was taken one hundred and thirteen men.

Statement by the Officers of the Prince of Neufchatel as to the number of crew.

These are to certify the Principal Officers and Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy, or whom else it may concern that there came and personally appeared before me
  • Nicholas Millin late Commander
  • William Stutson late first Lieutenant
  • John Martin late second Lieutenant
on board of and belonging to an American Privateer called the Prince of Neufchatel, and Jointely and severally made Oath and said that: 

the said American Privateer was taken and seized about five o' clock in the Evening of the twenty eight day of December one thousand eight hundred and fourteen by his Britannic Majesty's Ship Leander, commanded by Captain Sir George Ralph Collier Bart in sight of his Majesty's Ships of War Newcastle, commanded by Captain A. R. Kerr, And that they the said Deponents had since been brought into the Port of Plymouth, being the first Port they were brought into after being taken,
- And that he the said Deponent Nicholas Millen, with William Stutson late first Lieutenant and John Martin late second Lieutenant taken as aforesaid And the three Deponents further said that they were actually alive on board of and belonging to the said American Privateer at the Time She was taken as aforesaid one hundred and thirteen men including the Deponents.

Nichs Millin
Wm Stutson
John Martin
Sworn at Asburton in the County of Devon the twenty eighth day of February one thousand eight hundred and fifteen.

Reference: Head Money Vouchers: ADM 43/67 from The National Archives, Kew

Wednesday, January 18

In The News

The London Gazette 
Publication date:14 January 1800 

Tuesday, January 17

COD, a fishy review

by Mark Kurlansky
A brief review by Tony Gerard

Once I was working in Portugal. At lunch there were a couple of choices, one of which was cod. One of the Portuguese crew assured me it was delicious. It was horrid. It wasn’t just frozen cod- it was salted cod. One of the Portuguese guys later told me salted cod was the favorite food of the Portuguese.

I’d often wondered since how a country on the ocean (and having access to fresh seafood I assumed) came to be so fond of a slated fish from so far away. This book told me why.

Kurlansky takes the history of humans and codfish from their beginnings up to the late 1990s, when the book was written. Ever heard of the Cod Wars? Me neither, but they happened, and they were a big deal at the time. I between chapters the author throws in little edible tidbits about cod- usually a historic recipe. He covers the basics, although not in great detail, about cod fishing- both historic and modern.

If an Acasta had a back-story of being a former fisherman, or coming from a fishing family this would be a book I recommend. Heck, if you like to eat fish, or are just interested in odd history I recommend this book. It’s well written and an easy read. It even encouraged me to check on where codfish stocks stand today (Spoiler alert- the picture is not as bleak as they did when the book was published).

Friday, January 13

From the Naval Chronicle


Sept, 28. Arrived the Venerable, of 74 guns, Captain Hood; and the Russel, of 74 guns, Captain Cuming, from Sir J. Saumarez's squadron, off Cadiz. Also the Tartar, of 36 guns. Captain Walker, from off Havre; and the Glenmore, of 36 guns, Captain Talbot from Plymouth. Sailed the Mondovi sloop of war, Captain Duff, with dispatches for Egypt.

29. Arrived the Arethusa frigate, Captain Wolley, from Madeira.

30. Arrived the St. Antonio, of 74 guns, Hon. Captain Dundas; and on

Oct 1. Arrived the Audacious, of 74 guns, Captain Peard, from Sir James Saumarez's squadron.

2. Arrived the Fortunee frigate, Captain Lord A. Beauclerc, from attending his Majesty at Weymouth; Acasta, of 36 guns, Captain Fellowes, from the West Indies, last from the Downs; and the Union cutter, Lieutenant Rowed, from a cruise.

3. Arrived the Wasp sloop of war, Captain Bullen, from a cruise; and the Racoon, Captain Rathborne, with a smuggler, which the captured off Beachy Head. Sailed the Union cutter, Lieutenant Rowed, on a cruise.

5. Sailed the Barfleur, of 98 guns, Rear-Admiral Collingwood, Captain Ommaney, to join the Channel Fleet; Tartar, of 36 guns, Captain Walker, for Cork, to take the trade from thence to Jamaica; and the Constance, of 24 guns, Captain Mudge, with General Count Viomenil and suite on board, for Lisbon.

from the Naval Chronicle Vol 6. Page 346 1801

Wednesday, January 11

Saving Private Miller

Reenactor Mark Miller volunteered to act as wounded after every battle and his fantastic performances always drew large crowds of public to the British hospital tent. I'd like to publicly thank him for his assistance, his help contributed greatly to the success of the British Hospital demonstration at New Orleans.

Tuesday, January 10

Trepanning at New Orleans

The crew of HMS Acasta ran the British Field Hospital at the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in Jan. 2015 located in the town of Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish, LA. The Hospital was open after every battle that took place that weekend and was intended to serve as a tribute to the men on both sides of the line that fought and died in that final battle of the War of 1812.