Monday, June 26

Last Call for the Mail!

FINAL Call to ALL Reenactors, 
Historians and Creative Writers!

The Royal Navy reenacting group that represents HMS Acasta will be attending the Jane Austen Festival in July of this year. One of the things that I'd like to be able to do is deliver a 'mail packet' full of letters to the various Acasta members. This is a project that we have undertaken in the past with awesome results.

This is where YOU come in, but HURRY! ALL submissions must be received by July 8th to be included.

Anyone who would like to submit a period correct letter to add to the packet is encouraged to do so! We'd love to have your contribution, however large or small! Anything added to the packet will help to enhance the historical experience for not only the Acastas who receive them, but for the public who will attend the Festival as well.

At last year's event, the Mail Packet was a huge hit with the Acastas and the public alike. Mr. Midshipman Raley delivered the packet to the Captain about mid-day on Saturday and the letters were passed out.

Need some ideas for what to write? Try one of these:

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from 'family' this year if you please, last year we had to leave a letter out because Mr. Raley got TWO letters from his 'mother')
A bill or request for payment.
An overdue payment of debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Or, use the link below to see some other types of period letters:

The Complete Letter Writer...

Wondering what a period letter looks like? Here are some beautiful examples:

Contact me to find out where to send your finished letter… or questions, or for any other additional information.

Finshed letters will need to be to ME by the end of June so that they can find their way into the Mail Packet! But remember, all submissions need to be received by July 8th so that they can be included.

Don't know WHO to write to? Here's the lot of Acastas who are usually to be found at the festival: 

So pick up your pen and paper and get writing, and HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, June 21

This Year's Special Guest!

We are pleased to announce our secret SPECIAL GUEST who you may also interested in writing to as part of the Mail Packet Project… Admiral Lord NELSON! He got some letters last year and was very excited and we’d like to include him again this year.

Our only rule is that etters to Lord Nelson should not be from his wife Fanny, or Lady Hamilton (as we will have Lady Hamilton with us and that would be weird).

Remember, letters need to be in to me by the first weekend in July for them to be processed and placed into the packet for delivery. If you have any questions about what might be appropriate for Lord Nelson, feel free to contact me via the Royal Navy Doctor Facebook page, or via my email at:

Tuesday, June 20

Mail Packet Addition

The fine box of letters from the writing class!
The letters for the sailors are beginning to roll in from you, our readers! I received a box full of letters from Melissa Alexander just the other day. Melissa taught a period letter writing class, and the assignment she gave her students was to pick and Acasta from the list of those that planned to attend the Jane Austen Festival in July and write a period letter to them.

But ONE sailor in particular got left off the list of attendees and now he’s woefully short of period correspondence! One of our newest fellows Mr. Johnson, as seen above.

Nathaniel Johnson was born in August of 1770 in Cawsand in south eastern Cornwall. He was the first son of three children to his parents Theodore and Melissa. His father was a priest for the Rame parish of which Cawsand was a part. Growing up near the sea and overlooking Plymouth sound and Rame Head, Nathaniel saw ships entering and leaving the bay while at home and  traveling with his father to the parish church in the hamlet of Rame. Theodore intended for Nathaniel to enter into the Lord’s work when his time came, however Nathaniel had a different calling in his heart. Listless and not ready to settle,  Nathaniel signed onto the Busbridge in 1784. The East Indiaman was headed to the Cape of Good Hope, then onwards to Calcutta and these seemed as good a place as any to start his adventure. The next few years were spent in the service of the East India Company making several voyages between England and India. In Plymouth, after returning from one such voyage in 1793, he heard of the hostilities with France. Caught up in the fervour of war, he left the East India Company to join the Royal Navy. Nathaniel was rated as an ordinary seaman on board the 24 gun sixth rate HMS Squirrel in 1794 and departed England for convoy duty in the West Indies. When the peace with France was settled in 1802 Nathaniel was paid off and left the service. Thankfully, the peace did not last long and Nathaniel found himself in Guernsey in 1803 where he was signed on board the HMS Acasta.

Letters need to be in to me by the first weekend in July for them to be processed and placed into the packet for delivery. Email me for my address at:

Monday, June 19

Apple's Fishhook

Sunday afternoon we was given to make and mend and Apple the carpenter told a yarn that was of much amusement to us all, so I shall relate it to you. Apple wears about his neck a charm of whalebone in the shape of a fishhook. I had heard him tell before that it come from the south sea islands, but on this day one of the fellows asked how he come by it and he related this tale.

Years before he was in the south sea islands, I misremember if he said he was with Cook, Furnu, Clerk or some other, but they had come to an island for wood, water and provisions. The Captain had taken a group ashore to parley with the King of the island and several Indians of the island had come about in canoes looking to trade. Apple said that this trading was always a tricky business as the Indians of some islands would trade fair, others was knavish thieves and still others was either fair traders or thieves depending on the day of the week or direction of the wind. The way it was done was an Indian would hold up what he had for trade and a Tar would do the same, they would barter back and forth with hand signs until a deal was struck then they would pitch each other the goods, as Indians were not allowed on the ship in the Captain’s absence. They was trading mostly nails for coconuts and breadfruits when Apple brings out a piece of Otahiti cloth he had got previous. All the Indians seemed desirous of the cloth, he said he later learned the art of making cloth was not much developed among these particular Indians. 

So all the Indians is harranging him to trade for the cloth when a big one brings his canoe right along side and makes signs he wants to see it closer. Apple tosses him one end, it was two fathoms long, and the fellow is carefully examining the other end- when all at once he yanks the cloth out of Apples hands and at the same time shoves off the ship’s side hard with his foot and his mate in the stern starts paddleing them away.  The big Indian reels in the cloth and holds it up, smiling a and gabbing. Apple thinks he’s either taunting him or bragging to his friends or both. 

Well, there was a fishing line set with several big mackerel hooks close at hand, and it had a lead on it so a fellow could get a good heave. Real quick Apple grabs it and heaves it over the fellow’s canoe. He then gives it a good yank and as luck would have it he sets a hook right in the big fellow’s buttock. Apple said maybe the fellow though he had been shot or speared cause he gives a yelp and jumps over the side and starts to swim. Apple then puts the fishline a couple of turns around a pin, so the fellow is making no headway. Then a couple of Tars join in and they start to haul the fellow back to the ship. At this the fellow becomes more inspired and swims so hard that the line breaks. So he gets away with both the cloth and the mackerel hook, so to speak. Apple said he swum so hard the beat his mate in the canoe back to the beach.

When the Captain returns it seems he has got along well with the King of the Island, because they are to go into a cover to clean the ship’s foul bottom, as well as wood and water.

Two days later as Apple is with a wood detail they are approached by a group of Indians. The big Indian what stole the cloth is among them. He hobbles up to Apple and lays the stold cloth and a warclub on the ground before him making signs for him to take them both. Apple takes them both then draws the mackerel hook in the dirt, for to say “where’s my hook?” At that all the Indians, even the big one, laugh and he turns his rump to Apple to show him the hook is still buried in his arse cheek, all the way up the shank.

So Apple is never one to hold a grudge after a fellow has tried to set things straight, so he gets permission to take the fellow to the surgeon. The hook was a barbed one, and the Indians had worried it considerable trying to remove it. The surgeon has some difficulty but finally resolves to push it all the way out through the skin, cut off the barb and then with draw it. The Indians bore the procedure manly, but when he seen that they was going to file off the barb he becomes upset like he knows it will ruin the hook. He will not have it but they pull the whole hook out by the barb, which I am sure caused him more pain that what the surgeon would have done. He bears it manly, and as soon as the surgeon has the hook out the big fellow takes it from him and hands it back to Apple with a grin.

Apple is touched, so he gives the hook back to the fellow, and after that they is best friends for while they is there. His name was Pemutoo, which was also the source of a joke among them, as Apple learned that Pemutoo was their name for a small kind of fish and whenever the Indians seen them together they would laugh and gab and slap him on the back and he supposed they were congratulating him on catching the biggest Pemutoo ever.  He even ended up giving him the Otahiti cloth back again. It was Pemutoo what give Apple the hook charm.

Before they left they even traded names, which among them is a sign of everlasting brotherhood and affection. Yes boys- says Apple- somewhere in the south sea is an Indian who goes by James Apple, and if I ever return there I shall be Pemutoo again. 

Our Reverend Griswall was listen through the whole tale and when Apple finishes he speaks up and says – Mister Apple I applaud your Christian endeavors- at which none of us, but most especially Apple- knows what to say. And the Reverend says -Our Lord admonishes us to be fishers of men, and you, Sir are one of the few men I know to have truly done so.  He said it all serious like, but we knew he ment it for a joke, which shows that all fellows from Indians to a starched collared Parson, can poke fun at a fellow on occasion.   

Exerpt from a letter from Robert Watson, aboard H.M.S. Acasta, to his wife. June 1810

Friday, June 9

Friday's Toast

A calm, clear day today. 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. 

Thursday, June 8

Rules to Observe in Roasting:

In the first place, take great care the spit be very clean; and be sure to clean it with nothing but sand and water. Wash it clean, and wipe it with a dry cloth; for oil, brick dust, and such things, will spoil your meat.

For Pork: Pork must be well done. To every pound allow a quarter of an hour: for example; a joint of twelve pounds weight three hours, and so on; if it be a thin piece of that weight two hours will roast it. You may baste with fine nice dripping. Be sure your fire be very good and brisk; but don't lay your meat too near the fire, for fear of burning or scorching.

"We gots a few porkers when in Bermooda. The Doctor is always fond of a good swine to sup on. Ifn it lasts a week, I will be color'd surprised."

From the book: "The Servant's Directory, Improved" or "House Keeper's Companion; Wherein the duties of the Chamber-maid, Nursery-maid, House-maid, Laundry-maid, Scullion or Undercook, are fully and distinctly explained. To which is added, Cookery and Pickling sufficient to qualify a person to act as THOROUGH SERVANT in any family."

Tuesday, June 6

Ship's Bisket

Special thanks to Matthew Cullen for pointing this series out to me.

Monday, June 5

Food at Sea

Mess Deck aboard HMS Trincomalee
The standard allotment of food for sailors for the week is as follows: 

4 pounds of salt beef 
2 pounds of salt pork 
2 pints of pease 
3 pints of oatmeal 
6 ounces of butter 
12 ounces of cheese 

There is also a daily allotment of a pound of bread (generally in the form of Ship's Bisket) and a gallon of beer (or some other type of alcohol depending upon the availability). Other variations include once a week flour, suet (beef fat) and currants or raisins being issued so a "duff" can be made as prevention against scurvy.

Thursday, June 1

Young Gentlemen Playing at Cards

I shoot quite a good deal of footage at historical events. This footage is from the Christmastide event at Locust Grove, KY. I taught the young men how to play One and Thirty and they ran with it in first person!