Wednesday, May 31

Mr. Hodge's Diary

From the article:

Diary of 18th century sailor provides fascinating insight into life below decks in Nelson's navy 

UPDATED: 07:35 EST, 14 August 2008 

"A unique record of the British navy between 1790 and 1833 that was compiled by a sailor has emerged in the US.

The diary of George Hodge shows the "below decks" view of life at sea during a crucial time for Britain's senior service.

The self-educated seaman begins the journal with the words: "George Hodge, his Book Consisting of Difrint ports & ships that I have sailed in since the year 1790. Aged 13 years." 

He recorded the ladies of leisure with whom he associated, painted stunning pictures of ships and flags as well as a self portrait.

Images of ordinary seamen from the time of Nelson's navy are very rare."

Be sure to read the rest of this article and see the rest of the images over at the Daily Mail:

Tuesday, May 30

Midshipman Hamilton, poster boy

Some time back, HMS Acasta was contacted by author Patrick Cox to ask if we had a midshipman who might be willing to pose for the cover of his next book. It just so happeend that we did indeed have such a fellow in current Acasta Middie Alex Hamilton. Patrick and Alex's father Jim made all the arrangements and above you'll see the final product of that collaboration.

Young Mr. Hamilton at the Jane Austen Festival in 2014
Well done Mr. Hamilton, well done… now back to your division with you!

Monday, May 15

A little extra Mail Inspiration

Ready for a little added inspiration to create some awesome period postage for the Acastas that attend the Jane Austen Festival in July of this present year? Have a look at these images from the past that not only show some examples of what we got, but our various members enjoying them!

Thursday, May 4

Who should I write to? 2017 edition

Wondering who to write to for the 2017 Mail Packet Project? Here's a listing to the guys who are scheduled (so far) to be in attendance at the Jane Austen festival. Some haven't submitted their short character biographies yet, I'll update this as they do. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about the project and enjoy!

Remember, this year it'll be 1805 with the Acasta having just returned to Portsmouth.

James Hamilton 1st Lieutenant- Born January 27, 1764 Northamptonshire England. 2nd son. Father: James Hamilton MP – Member of Parliament (Tory) Borough of Kettering. Mother: Frances Wellesley Uncle: Horatio Hamilton, Admiral of the Blue –retired. Formerly of the HMS Lively.

Christened in St. Andrews Church March 17, 1795. Attend school at Bishop Stopfords Acadamy in Kettering from the age of 9 to 14. Where he studied Mathematics, Latin, Greek, and theology, as well as other topics. On July 21, 1779 he received a post as Midshipman on the HMS Sphinx. 20 gun frigate. In 1783 James passed his Lt. and was immediately commissioned with the assistance of his uncle. Major actions include Battle of Camperdown, 3rd LT on HMS Triumph and the Battle of The Nile as 2nd LT aboard HMS Zealous. Currently serving as 1st LT HMS Acasta.

Thomas Tumbusch 3rd Lieutenant- the son of a Royal Navy officer who hails from Portsmouth, a seaport and naval base in Hampshire, England on the island of Portsea in the English Channel (also the modern-day home of HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar). Through a connection with one of his father’s former shipmates, he began his naval career at the age of 10. He previously served under Captain Freymann as a midshipman, and has since returned to his service after being re-posted to the Acasta as Third Lieutenant. While serving on the North American station out of Halifax, he had the good fortune to secure the affection of Antonia Norton, a tailor’s daughter, which enables him to sport much finer uniforms than he would otherwise be able to afford.

Albert Roberts Ship's Surgeon- Roberts was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England in January of 1766, the second son of a wealthy, land owning family. Roberts attended the Boston Grammar School at the age of 10 under headmaster Obadiah Bell, BA (1769-1790). Because his older brother Nigel was set to inherit, young Albert had to choose a profession. Not interested in writing sermons and too curious and energetic for the confines of a law office, Roberts decided that medicine and surgery might suit his temperament best. At age 16, Roberts trained in medicine at the hospital at Boston, Lincolnshire, and two years later was examined before the London Company of Surgeons, and found qualified for employment by the Navy.

In 1786, at age 20, Roberts married his first wife, Isabella and shortly thereafter was appointed Surgeon’s Mate aboard HMS _______ In 1790, at 24, Roberts returned home for a time and continued his medical studies in Edinburgh.

Two years later, in 1792, Roberts gained a medical degree from the University of St Andrews and became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London. Dr. Roberts’ wife Isabella dies in 1796 leaving him a widower with four daughters.

In 1798, at the age of 32, Roberts was the Surgeon aboard HMS Zealous under Captain Hood at the Battle of the Nile. In his time aboard the Zealous, Roberts’ elaborately illustrated medical and personal journals earned him the attention of the Royal Society and he was made a Fellow in 1799.

After his time aboard Zealous, Roberts was reassigned to HMS Acasta as Ship’s Surgeon. During his first few months he received news that his brother Nigel had mismanaged his inheritance and had lost the family property back in England.

James Apple Carpenter- Born in Hackney, England 1766 in April. Grew up in a family of Carriage makers and blacksmiths with a moderate shop in the east end. His father, james Appel was born in Hesse and went back to take care of family affairs some time ago. His mother, Barbara Bedwell still manages the shop and has a tendency to be to lenient on collecting payment for finished work. He has a son, Hunter that turned 18 in October of 1814 and since has gone to sea under the name of Nathaniel Bekket. He also has a daughter, Golden Jewel that turned 16 in August of 1814 that has moved with her mother to Chataguey, just outside of Montreal, Quebec. He has a new wife, Lynne, who now keeps his house in Hackney and looks in on his mother in addition to teaching many if the lesser-sorts to read and write at the new Church of St. John.

Nicholas Armitage Purser- Volunteered to serve aboard 'HMS Acasta' in 1792, with prior experience in London merchant grocer businesses and counting houses, that gave him some skills requisite for a ship's purser. His half-brother William St George, currently serving as a lieutenant on 'HMS Conqueror' (74), and Armitage does have a wife in London ('Georgiana Carr Armitage')'.
John Griswold Ship's Chaplain- The Rev. Mr. John Phinehas Griswold was born August 2, 1755 in the town of Kenilworth, in the [then] Colony of Connecticut.  Descended from Edward Griswold of Warwickshire and loyal to the King, John received his formal education in the Colonies during those turbulent years of the rebellion before traveling to England to complete his ordination.  Upon taking residence near Warwick, John met and married the radiantly beautiful Miss Agatha W., the younger sister to Lady Caroline Linnington.
After his ordination, it was the prolific writings of the Rev. John Newton, a former sailor, who greatly influenced Griswold’s faith and practice. Newton’s books and letters along with the sermons of Rev. James Ramsay, a former Naval Surgeon, first alerted Griswold to the possibilities of serving in His Majesties Navy as a Chaplin.  News of the successes of the Evangelicals in serving in ships under “Blue Light” Captains drove Griswold to actively seek a place to serve.  But it was not until Agatha’s tragic death three years ago that Griswold was able to consider fulfilling that call.   Preaching at sea seemed a suitable balm for his weary soul, and a salary of 11.8.0 per annum was of no consequence as eternal prospects far outweighed temporal rewards. Rev. Griswold has served onboard HMS Acasta for the past two years.

Jonathan Alexander Midshipman
Jonathan Alexander is the second son of a wig maker from Inverness. Mr. Alexander's great Uncle is the 1st lieutenant aboard HMS Atlas and was able to get him a Midshipman's position aboard HMS Acasta.
Samuel Loomis Midshipman- The second son of Mr. Adam Loomis of Bury, Mr. Samuel Loomis is a diligent young midshipman hoping to rise in the ranks of His Majesty's Navy. During leave on his father's estate in Bury, Samuel enjoys hunting, riding, and courting his young betrothed like any young man. Mr. Loomis is an avid scholar of mathematics, and, although he is devoted to his career, he still has a long way to go to understand the art of sailing.

William Miller Ordinary- Will was born in May of 1775 and hails from the west country.  He had previously served in His Majesty's Army as an artillery soldier.  Will later found work in a tavern but had a tendency to drink away much of his pay.  While at the tavern, he saw a broadside posted by some Tars recruiting for HMS Acasta and signed on in hopes for travel, adventure, and a chance to man the guns again.
Michael Schwendau CookHaving been a jaeger with the Tyrolean Landwehr (milita) and after the forced peace, left the Bavarian occupation as to avoid conscription by the French puppet government. Having left Austria during the occupation by the French and wandering the world. He took the King's shilling and enlisted his skills as a chef and tavern keeper to humor the crew with his talents and is often found to prepare meals for the captain’s table. Despite leaving the beloved Austrian Alps behind, he keeps a smile and enjoys a good joke. He hopes that England will prevail and will take his discharge and make his way home to take up the Tavern his family is known for in the valley of Zell am Ziller.

Charles Winchester Ordinaryborn in 1760 in Dorchester, England.  His mother, Anne Marie Bousard was of French Hugenot descent. His father, James Winchester was a farmer and horse trader from Weymouth. Anne died during childbirth giving birth to the couple’s fourth child.  Shortly afterwards James was accused and arrested for a horse deal gone wrong. He spent a year in gaol.  During this time Charles and his three sisters were sent to Weymouth to live with his aunt Beatrice.  In 1770 upon his release from gaol James sold his farm and business giving the money to his sister-in-law and moved to Portsmouth. After a failed business venture there he joined the Royal Navy aboard HMS Antelope in 1772.  He never returned.

     Charles was sent to Bournemouth to apprentice as a blacksmith.  His master, Silas Hartford, was a hard man, being overly fond of gin. Charles was a little too free with his tongue for Silas and the master struck Charles across the face with a bar of pig iron. After less than a year Charles broke his indenture and ran away to Portsmouth and took a job on a fishing vessel. At age seventeen Charles signed on to a coastal trading ship making runs between Portsmouth, Plymouth and Falmouth. At age twenty-two he joined the crew of a mail packet making the run from Portsmouth to Cardiff and Bristol.

     In 1787 he married a nineteen year old Bristol girl, Sarah Powels and settled in Bath.  Like his father he took up horse trading, also dabbling in farming and sheep. He and Sarah had six children; four daughters and two sons: Elizabeth (b.1789), Rachel (b.1793), Johnathon (b.1795), Sarah (b. 1797), James (b.1799) and Anne (b.1807). In 1800 with the farm failing the family moved to Portsmouth for a year and then to Plymouth.

     In April 1802 Charles signed aboard the 18 gun brigantine HMS Imogene on a coastal cruise looking for smugglers. Over the next three years he sailed on several cruises to the Cape of Good Hope and off the coast of Guinea.  The ship ran aground and was lost in March 1805, but the entire crew was saved.  After this close scrape Charles left the service, returned to Plymouth and took a job aboard a number of coastal trading vessels over the next two years.  In 1812 Charles signed aboard a merchant vessel, the Nancy, bound for Barbados.  This vessel was captured by the American brig Federal off the coast of the Azores two weeks later.  The entire crew was taken captive and were to be taken to France.  Charles, along with 32 others, signed aboard to supplement the crew after part of the crew of the Federal went aboard the captured Nancy. En route to Boston one month later the Federal was taken by the HMS Acasta.  All British crew members (and a number of Americans) joined the crew of the HMS Acasta. At present Charles is still aboard HMS Acasta and solemnly vows if he ever sets foot on the shores of old England he will never go to sea again!

Sam Linden Boy- 

Wednesday, May 3


It has been decided that the MAIL PACKET for 2017 will be delivered to the crew again in July at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky! 

The year for the mail will reflect events of 1805 and should be written thusly. More posts will follow soon about WHO plans to attend and their respective biographies so that you may write to the sailor(s) of your choosing. We're looking forwar to an awesome year at the JA Fest, and your letters in the packet will be a big part of it!

Today, let's have a look back at the Mail Packets of the past. This time, updated with the most recent images and video...

In December 2009, I attended the annual Christmas event at Fort Loudoun in Vonore, TN and decided that I'd put together a packet of 'mail' to take and distribute to those that attended. The soldiers at the fort were always fond of gathering in the barracks in the evening and singing period songs, so I thought it would be fun to burn CDs for everyone with some period songs on them. I wrapped each CD in period repro paper and wax sealed and addressed each as if they were mail and bundled them into the packet. These, along with a few period repro letters for some of the officers are what the first packet was made up of. It was a big hit and a LOT of fun. I made the entire thing from start to finish, the contents and exterior of the packet were all on me. It was fun, but it was also a LOT of work.

the 2009 mail packet, front and back

A much younger 'Doctor' at Loudoun. Make note of the Mail Packet there on the table.
After the creation of the HMS Acasta unit, I decided it might be fun to try it again for the guys in the group. So in 2013 I gave it another go, enlisting the aid of my goode wife and Midshipman Raley. At that year's Jane Austen Festival, every officer and sailor got two handwritten 'prize letters' from the Admiralty, along with some other fun miscellaneous correspondence. And, after putting the call out to the readers of the Acasta site, many of you assisted with some fun submissions, including one from a published historical nautical fiction author. It was a big hit with the guys of the unit and gave them and the public a look at one of the aspects of Naval life in the era we portray. The 2013 mail packet was double the size of the first one from 2009.

 the 2013 mail packet, back and front

Our Midshipman with the 2013 Packet in his arms ready to be delivered at the JA Festival.
So for 2014's Mail Packet Project… I started putting the call out early to see if outside people (YOU the readers) wanted to participate. The increased daily traffic on the Acasta website as well as social media like Facebook helped to propel the project to a level of success that I could not have imagined! 

The response to the invitation to participate came from all over and some unexpected places… a librarian teaching kids about the War of 1812 by having them write letters, an officer in a 'rival' American naval unit, several fellow reenactors, Acasta fans from as far away as Germany & Switzerland, even a university professor offering her Modern World Civilization students an opportunity to reach back in time and write to guys from the War of 1812. 

The size of the packet itself had again doubled from last year! Here are a few images of the final exterior of the packet in 2014:

The Captain enlists the aid of a sailor's knife to open the 2014 packet.

In 2014, I also decided it was time to add a new aspect to the project… VIDEO! I shot video of some of the Acastas reading their letters so that you, our readers, could enjoy them reading some of the awesome submissions. It was my attempt to reward all the hard work of our letter writers.

With the success of the 2014 project under our belt, we were definately going to do it again in 2015, but there was a problem. The Jane Austen Festival was being put on hiatus for that year, so we'd have to deliver the packet during a different event. We selected another of our largely attended events, the Fair at New Boston, to deliver the 2015 packet.

It was another HUGE success. In 2015, I actually got more video of the Acastas enjoying their letters than photographs. So much so that I was able to put together a little highlight reel of them:

And then we moved the delivery location BACK to the Jane Austen Festival when it returned in 2016. The letters and their delivery play a big part in the highlight video from the event...

In short, the Mail Packet project has been an amazing success because of everyone involved who wrote letters and took the time to jump in and participate. It's because of YOUR help that the project has been such a success!

The 2017 Mail Packet gets delivered to the Acastas at this year's Jane Austen Festival in July!

Tuesday, May 2

A Birthday (HMS) Surprise!

This past weekend was ship's carpenter, Jim Apple's birthday. To surprise him, his wife Mecca invited the Acastas down to their home in Florida and rented out a local theater to screen Jim's favorite Royal Navy movie! We had the place all to ourselves so we could 'nerd out' in appropriate Naval fashion by toasting when they toast and singing when they sing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend and shipmate Jim Apple.
In case you haven't figured it out yet Jim, we think you're awesome!

And extra special thanks to Mecca for planning this and letting us take over your home for the weekend! You're the REAL MVP!