Thursday, August 31

Vassermann's Little Book

Because my personal servant, James Vassermann, is mute, I have given him a little book that he is to carry with him that he can write in. On the first two pages of said book I have written a letter of introduction for him. You can see it clearly in these images of the book and a few of his personal items.

Wednesday, August 30

The Valiant's Storybook

"They've written us a proper storybook with this one sir!" said the midshipman as he looked across toward HMS Valiant, their signal flags whipping in the stiff breeze. It was enough breeze that they stood out straight and clear, it would make it easier to translate them.

"At least they're not all limp." said the boy as he started jotting the numbers down on his little slate for translation.

The Lieutenant of the watch frowned at the boy, but it was true, this message was fairly lengthy. Adding to his frustration, the Valiant had used several longer numbers that he didn't immediately recognize, he was going to have to fetch the book for this one.

Tuesday, August 29

HMS Ramillies is Signaling!

The Acasta, in company with HMS Ramillies and Dotterel, was sent out from the Royal Navy Dockyard at Bermuda in search of an American Frigate that is reported to be in the area. We have been on the lookout for several days.

Today, the Ramillies came within sight and was flying her signal flags. Fetch your copy of Popham's Signal Book and translate that signal straight away! Be sure to post your results in the comment area below.

Monday, August 28

Books in the Blockade

The library aboard the Acasta really is depressingly sparse. The other wardroom officers and I have worked out an arrangement that we might borrow books from one another to keep our minds active during the blockade. 

I have discover'd that this arrangement tends to work much in my own favour, as the lieutenants are not generally interested in reading up on Jones' Practical Remarks on the treatment of Wounds and Fractures, or Turnbull's System of Naval Surgery. 

As I believe I have read nearly everything that the gentlemen of the Wardroom have to offer, and have read nearly everything I can get my hands upon aboard ship (save for Mr Midshipman Calhoun's copy of 'The Young Sea Officer's Assistant' of which I have very little use), I have taken to reading up on the various instructional manuals.

Lately, I have taken to reading the Popham's Manual on Telegraphic Signals. I have also been on deck with my spyglass practicing the translation of said flags whenever the opportunity affords.

Friday, August 25

Acasta Head Money

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.]

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

Thursday, August 24

Acasta vs Porcupine

17 June 1813,

Valiant was in company with Acasta when they came upon Wasp in pursuit of an American brig off Cape Sable. The three British ships continued the chase for another 100 miles before they finally were able to capture the brig. She was the letter of marque Porcupine, of more than 300 tons, and was carrying a valuable cargo of brandy and silks from Bayonne to Boston. In his letter to the Admiralty of 7 September, a copy of which was printed in the London Gazette, Captain Robert Dudley Oliver of Valiant described Porcupine as being only eight months old and an uncommonly fast sailer. After the capture, Wasp, which had recaptured a prize that the privateer Young Teazer had taken, sailed in search of the privateer. 

HMS Valiant was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 24 January 1807 at Blackwall Yard.
From the London Gazette.

Wednesday, August 23

How to make a Royal Navy Surgeon's Uniform

It is not quite complete, but I can tell you that my reproduction of a Royal Navy Surgeon's Coat has been the result of many hours of research and hard work. And not just work on MY part, but on the part of many people.

J. Horwood's uniform
Let's talk about where it came from. In the National Maritme Museum (NMM), there is an extant example of a Royal Navy Surgeon's coat from 1807 that belonged to a surgeon by the name of Joshua Horwood. They have almost every piece of his uniform... coat, waistcoat, breeches and hat. So I decided early on that I wanted to try to emulate Horwood's uniform as best I could so as to more accurately portray a surgeon from the period.

In my correspondence with the NMM's Amy Miller who is a Curator for Decorative Arts and Material Culture, she had this to say about the Horwood samples:

Horwood's Waistcoat
"I can tell you that the regulations issued in 1805 state that ‘Surgeons of Hospitals to wear two embroidered Button-holes on the Collar; Surgeons of Ships, one.’ The regulations for this period are not always clear as the admiralty would also have produced a  regulation pattern of clothing, called a sealed pattern,  for tailors to copy.  Further, our particular surgeon, Joshua Horwood,  appears to have settled for an extremely cheap coat – the tailoring and materials are not very nice at all.  Since the officer had to provide the uniform at his own expense, it would appear that Horwood did not really want to pay for high end tailoring."
My not yet finished waistcoat

For the sake of my own comfort, it was decided that the small clothes (waistcoat & breeches) would be constructed from russian drill instead of wool. Wool is great at sea and in cooler climates, but not in the American South in the heat of the summer, which is when I attend the bulk of my events.

Maggie (my seamstress/fiance) modified a Kannick's Korner waistcoat pattern to more closely resemble the Horwood waistcoat with its tabs at the bottom, and I hand drew a little pattern piece to emulate the faux pocket flaps.

The repro coat in production.
pad-stitching on the int. collar
The coat is another modified version of a Kannick's Korner pattern. We altered it so that the flaps in the front were one continuous piece instead of being separate bits that were attached. The wool is a tropical weight navy that is used in the creation of cold weather uniform coats for the NYPD. I cannot speak too highly of the quality of this wool, it's really spectacular.

Big thanks to Maggie Waterman... you made me CLOTHES! She is very talented and stuck with the project, even when it frustrated her half to death. Wanna see how talented she is? Of course you DO! Also, special thanks to Michael Ramsey who helped along the way and would give Maggie several much-needed pep talks when she'd get discouraged.

Horwood's collar.
I have had a great deal of difficulty in discovering whether the 'single embroidered button hole' design on the coat collar was stitched in silver or gold thread. Close examination of the image from the NMM's collection would seem to indicate that it is either faded gold or tarnished silver. After a great deal of consulting with friends and folks who are 'in the know' about such things, the final word (in MY mind anyway) came from my email from Amy Miller of the NMM.

"...I can tell you that after looking at the embroidery under magnification, it is gold (in this case a very cheap alloy, hence the tarnish)."

The 'test braid' pinned to my coat.
I am certain that in my quest to discover the proper color of thread, I aggravated my friends to death. Special thanks to Patrick Schifferdecker, Tom Tumbusch, Michael Ramsey and others for their input and for putting up with me.

My initial attempts at hand embroidering the collar braid looked like amateur hour at the quilting bee, it was pretty foul. After some hunting around, I found a woman in my neighborhood who could do the work, and at a price that won't break the bank.

Horwood's Chapeau Bras
Wearing the 'Chafaux' Mark I
The surgeon's hat was a different proposition. The photo from the NMM website is small and dark, making details difficult to discern. But comparing the photo to some of the drawings of hats and uniforms from the period made it possible to come up with something that resembles a proper surgeon's chapeau.

After having a look at a reproduction chapeau bras that belonged to Mr. Mike McCarty and an original hat that was part of my local museum's War of 1812 exhibit, I got my nerve up to create a series of mock-ups that would eventually lead to the construction of a finished product.

The Mark I "Chafaux Bras" as I nick-named it, was a simple hat made from two sheets of black poster board from my local drug store's school supply aisle and some clear tape like you use to wrap Christmas presents with. The Mark I was an attempt for me to get my head around the engineering involved in the hat and making it fit and fold shut when you tuck it under your arm.

The Mark II "Chafaux" was a slightly more complicated production. Slightly more rigid cardboard underneath some cheap black fabric. The Mark II hat made me more confident in some of the steps we would have to go through in order to make the finished product happen... like glue and trim.
A moment of silence for the Mark I which bravely sacrificed itself for the pattern pieces of the finished hat. The Mark II is visible at the upper left.
Thanks to Mr. McCarty for allowing me to examine the construction of his chapeau, and for making me feel like it was not the impossible task that I had originally thought it might be.

I've tried to leave out all the tedious bits like cutting out the small clothes from the Russian Drill around the weird bleachy spots, the never ending quest for proper buttons that don't cost a fortune, finally finding said buttons and having too manually adjust the shanks to all face the same direction, etc.

Thanks to everyone who helped design, construct, glue, stitch, research or encouraged me over the course of the project. You guys are awesome and have helped make something really special for me, and I won't forget that.
No collar embroidery, but otherwise finished. From the Fair at New Boston.
And also, I'd like to thank Joshua Horwood and his descendants for taking care of the uniform and eventually donating it to the NMM so us history nerds could pour over it with a fine tooth comb for details. Because, as Amy Miller from the NMM said in her email to me,  

"...this uniform is an extremely rare survival and is, to my knowledge, the only extant example."

The finished uniform with collar braid.

Tuesday, August 22

From the London Gazette

Capt. Bertani
Capt C. Bertani found these on the London Gazette, and I wanted to pass them along.

Admiralty-Office, June 1, 1795.

THE King having signified to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty His Royal Pleasure, that the Uniform Cloathing at present worn by the Flag Officers, Captains ahd Commanders of His Royal Navy, shall be altered in the Manner undermentioned. Their Lordships do hereby give Notice thereof to all Flag Officers, Captains and Commanders, and require and direct them strictly to conform thereto;
Evan Nepean.

Full Dress
Blue Coat, with Blue Lappels and round Cuffs; the Lappels to have One Row of Gold Lace, and the Cuffs and Pockets Two; laced Button-Holes:—- Two Gold Epaulettes:—- Gold-laced Hat, White Lining:—- White Waistcoat and Breeches.
The Rank of the respective Flag Officers to be distinguished as follows, viz;
Admirals. Three Silver Stars on each Epaulette, arid Three Rows of Lace on the Sleeves.
Vice-Admirals. Two—Ditto—Ditto.
Rear-Admirals. One-—Ditto—Ditto.

Plain Blue Coats, lappelled, with the Buttons now in Use on the Sleeves aud Pockets.—-Ranks to be
distinguished by the Epaulettes and Rows of Lace on the Sleeves, as in the Full Dress.

CAPTAINS, Post of Three Years—Full Dress.
Blue Coat with Blue Lappels, and long Slash Sleeve, as formerly worn :—The Lappels to have One Row of Gold Lace, and the Cuffs and Pockets Two : — Two plain Gold Epaulettes : —- White Lining :—White Waistcoats and Breeches :—Gold-laced Hat.
DITTO, —Undress.
Plain Blue Coats, lapelled:—Buttons on the Sleeves and Pockets:—Epaulettes to take off and put on occasionally : — Plain Hat, and Blue Breeches, as maybe convenient;

CAPTAINS, under Three Years.—Full Dress.
The same in every Respect as Post Captains of Three Years, but to wear only One Epaulette on the Right Shoulder.
DITTO, —Undress.
The same as Post Captains of Three Years with the Difference only of wearing but One Epaulette as in the Full Dress.

The same as Post Captains with a plain Gold Epaulette on the Left Shoulder.
DITTO, —Undress.
The fame as Post Captains, with a plain Gold Epaulette, as in the Full Dress, to take off and put on occasionally.

N. B. The Lace to be of the same Pattern as was in Use previously to the Year 1787 ; but that to be worn by Flag Officers to be of greater Breadth than that of the Captains.
Officers will be allowed to wear their present Uniform till the 1st of June 1796.
Pattern Suits, with the Laces and Buttons, may be seen at the Admiralty-Office.

Admiralty-Office, March 23, 1812.

HIS Royal Highness the Prince Regent hath, in the name and on the behalf of the King, signified to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the royal pleasure, that the Uniform Clothing at present worn by the Flag Officers, Captains, Commanders, Lieutenants, Masters'-Mates, and Midshipmen of His Majesty's Royal Navy shall be altered in the manner undermentioned, namely:

Coat of blue cloth, blue cloth collar, white cloth lappells, and cuffs with five laces round the cuffs; laced as at present. Epaulettes as at present; buttons the same as at present, with the addition, of a crown over the anchor.
Blue cloth, blue cloth collar, white lappells and cuffs with five laces; laced round the collar and lappells to the end of the skirts ; flap and frame, hips and back skirts laced; twist button-holes in lappells and flaps as at present ; epaulettes and buttons same as in the dress uniform.

The same as the Admiral of the Fleet, with only four laces on the cuffs.

The same, with only three laces on the cuffs.

The same, with only two laces on the cuffs.

The epaulettes, with the respectives distinctions of three, two, and one stars, the same as at present. Buttons as at present, with the addition of a crown over the anchor.
The undress or frock uniform of Flag Officers, except the Admiral of the Fleet to be the same as at present, with the alteration only of the button.

The Captain to the Admiral of the Fleet, and First Captains to Commanders in Chief (if not Flag Officers), to wear, while so employed, the undress or frock uniform of Rear-Admirals.
Captains and Commanders of His Majesty's Fleet to wear uniforms of the same pattern.
The full dress to be similar to that now in use, excepting that the lappells and cuffs are in future to he white, laced as at present, with a crown over an anchor on the button.

Captains and Commanders are both to wear two epaulettes, of the same pattern as at present, with only the following distinctions :
The epaulettes of Captains three years post, to have an addition of a silver crown over a silver anchor.
The epaulettes of Captains under three years post, to have the silver anchor without the crown.
The epaulettes of Commanders to be plain.
Lieutenants of His Majesty's fleet to wear a dress uniform of the same pattern as Captains and Commanders, but without any lace, and with one plain epaulette (similar to that now worn by Captains and Commanders) on the right shoulder; buttons of the same pattern as for Captains.
The undress or frock uniform of Captains, Commanders, and Lieutenants, to be the same as at present worn by Captains and Commanders, with the addition of the epaulettes and button, which are to be worn the same as in the full dress.

The whole of the Commissioned Officers of His Majesty's Fleet to have the linings of their dressed uniforms, white. The Flag Officers only, to have the linings of their dressed uniforms, white silk.
Masters'-Mates and Midshipmen to wear the same uniform as at present, with the alteration of the button only, which is to be of the same pattern as that of the Captains and Lieutenants.

Their Lordships do hereby give notice thereof to all Flag Officers, Captains, Commanders, Lieutenants, Masters'-Mates, and Midshipmen, and require and direct them strictly to conform thereto. The said alterations being to take effect generally on the 12th August 1812; but such Officers of the Royal Navy as may have occasion before that period to make up new uniforms, are at liberty to have them made up according to the new patterns.


N. B. The several patterns may be seen at this Office.

Monday, August 21

Strange Fortune

An original Acasta Tale by Tony Gerard

So the old Frenchman what is the Doctor’s mate told a yarn for true, I am not sure that it is so, for he has an endless supply of them, and his being French besides, but they are an amusement.

It seems his wife is a headhuntress from the Spanish Philippines. I know this for a truth because I heard the Doctor speak of it to Lieutenant McLean. It seems that she is now a domesstick for the Doctors wife and Lieutenant McLean said he would like to get an exotic for his wife also. I suppose that is what passes for a prize among the better sorts these days.

Which he had been wrecked while a prisoner of the Spanish on that coast and that is how he come to be among the headhunters. So after he has been with them a number of years he decides he wants to return to Christian folk and his wife comes with him. 

They take a canoe that he has rigged with a sail and make their way from careful from island to island. He wants to hide from the Spanish, see? Whenever they come upon other Indians he shows them a jawbone of a fellow the Headhunters killed and tells them the jawbone is from a Spaniard, and they are welcomed.  No one likes the Spaniards. But they mostly try to keep away from other people. His plan is to try and make the coast of China and find an English ship to work passage on.
So they finally make a long haul across the South China Sea to the coast. That is the part that is the hardest for me to believe, cause he aint much of a sailor now, how could he be better when he was young? Which when they get to the China coast they are going to be even more cautious. They have heard China pirates are worse than Spaniards and they decide to find some desert place and rest up for a bit.

They finds a place that looks right, all jungle and such and they put to in a nice little cove. The Frenchman says he dont know if it were the actual coast or an  island just off it.

He has a headhunter spear, which he goes hunting with and kills a big lizard, which they is glad to have for a change. So his wife goes to boil some in a pot they has – which was her best thing- and she spits the rest to dry over the coals for later. 

Now they is taking their ease as the pot simmers when all at once they her a fellow cough in the forest nearby. Both of them hears it. They figure it for some Indians sneaking up.

So without a word the wife takes the pot and the spits and heads for the canoe and the Frenchman starts backing down with his spear pointed toward the woods.

About the time the wife is in the canoe and the Frenchman is just shoving off something runs out of the jungle and jumps over the Frenchman toward the wife on the stern. Quick as a cat- or quicker in this case- she whollops it on the nose with the pot and jumps over the side.  It then turns on the Frenchman and he does the same. The canoe has outriggers, which is the style in the Pacific, which they both end up hanging onto. The tide was ebbing fast and already they is in deep water.

So they listen to whatever it is eat what was to be their dinner off the spits and what spilled from the pot. Then it realizes that it is afloat and gets frantic, running back and forth on the canoe, then trying to climb the puny little mast, which shredded the sail and it was all they could do, one on each outrigger, to keep it from flipping it. The Frenchman said they was double scared of having it in the water with them.

They stay like that till dawn, when they see it is a leopard they has caught. The Frenchman still has his spear which he thinks maybe he can spear the leopard, but after a few tries he gives it up, as the leopard has the advantage and he is afraid if he provokes it too much it may jump on him.
So, they hang there all day and the next, without a drop to drink. The worst he says was listening to the leopard drink the water from a clay pot they has. A few times they come close enough to swim to an island or ashore, but they discuss it and decide that to be afoot on this wild shore they would just be eat by another leopard or something worse.

Several times sharks come close, but thankfully they offer them no trouble. On the third morning the tide is on the rise and it pulls them shoreward and up a creek. The leopard, which has been asleep on the bow wakes up, and as soon as they gets close jumps two fathoms to shore. The Frenchman and the wife jump back in and paddle frantic against the tide till they get well away.  They had some coconuts in the canoe otherwise they would have died of thirst he says cause they was both to scared to go back ashore for water. He says after that they tried to only stop at small islands which they thought was less likely to be infested with leopards.

He told this for a truth, and I can believe it all but for him sailing across the South China Sea. Mayhaps his headhunteress knew better how to mind a sail.

                  Robert Watson, aboard HMS Acasta, in a letter to his wife July 1810

Friday, August 18

Recent Captures

Jas. Apple waves across at a recently captured schooner.

American schooner Prudence, captured by the Acasta, arrived at Halifax in July.

American sloop Diana, captured by the Acasta
arrived at Halifax same date.

From The London Gazette 
Publication date:14 March 1815 

Thursday, August 17

Acasta in the News

PORTSMOUTH, June 6. This morning the battalion of marines under the command of Major R. Williams, embarked on board the Diadem, supposed for North America.

The outward bound East-India fleet, consisting of the Carmarthen, Apollo, Fairlie, Alexander, Earl Howe, and Marchioness of Ely, dropped down to St.Helen's on Wednesday, and sailed on Thursday, under convoy of the Junon, of 38 guns. Major-General Nightingale, appointed to a command in Bengal, is a passenger on board the Marchioness of Ely; Sir S. Toler[?], appointed to succeed as Advocate-General at Madras, is a passenger on board the Apollo.

The Acasta takes out Vice-Admiral Martin to Lisbon, instead of the Pique.

Lieuts. Banks and Weeks, of the Northumberland, and Growler gun-vessel, are promoted to the rank of Commanders, for their exertions in the recent destruction of the French frigates off L'Orient.