Monday, October 23

ROYAL TARS, A Book Review

A short review by Tony Gerard - 

"Royal Tars- The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy 875-1850" by Brain Lavery

When I asked about this book way back in April, Patrick Schifferdecker's response "...I tend to shy away from books that cover broad swaths of time" was prophetic. The book covers too much to be of any great value for a re-enactor doing a late 18th early 19th century impression. It does have a chapter on the time period from 1803-15, but like so many other authors Lavery tends to go too deeply into the political and military Big Picture and not deeply enough into the small picture of actual life in the lower decks for my taste. I'm not saying the book was bad, just not what I wanted.

My opinion- get "Jack Tar" by Roy and Lesley Adkins instead.

Friday, October 20

In ACTION!

 

Your Acastas in action at the various events they have attended over the years.

You can also find a listing of those events as well as additional
images and video on the IN ACTION page!

ENJOY!

Wednesday, October 18

HMS Zealous and Capt Hood


HMS Zealous

a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Barnard of Deptford and launched on 25 June 1785.

She served in a number of battles of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, notably the Battle of the Nile, where she engaged the French ship Guerrier, helping to force her surrender. She was later cruising off Cadiz in 1801. She missed out on the Battle of Trafalgar, having been dispatched to Gibraltar for resupply, and later assigned to convoy duty in the Mediterranean.
Capt. Hood

In 1797 Hood was given command of the 74-gun ship of the line Zealous, in which he was present at Admiral Horatio Nelson's unsuccessful attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Captain Hood conducted the negotiations which relieved the squadron from the consequences of its failure.

Capt. Hood is later put in command of HMS Venerable

The Doctor joined the Zealous as ship’s surgeon in 1798, a year after Hood became her captain.

Engraved by Ridley, Holl & Blood from an Original Miniature in the possession of Lady Hood. 



Enlarge and read it for yourself.
Whilst cleaning out a desk drawer a few days ago, I discover'd the old letter of introduction writ for me by the hand of my captain aboard the Zealous. Along with it was the medal for my service at the Battle of the Nile, for which my friends are always desirous to have an antic-dote.

I can tell you, it was all shouting, everyone was shouting, and smoke and fire and blood, so much blood. I remember Cutty staggered down into the cockpit when the noise above decks had ceased. He was covered from waist to foot in blood... "You are undone!" says I.

Cutty was not his jovial self that day, instead soberly says, "Tis not my blood I wear Doctor."

The Zealous was fortunate in that she and her crew did not receive the number of casualties of the other ships of the British force.

It is a gruesome tale and not one I wish to recall.

Tuesday, October 17

Thomas ‘Cutty’ Cuthbert


While aboard HMS Zealous, that first year I met Midshipman Thomas Cuthbert... the gunroom all called him 'Cutty'. 

Cutty was a most amiable fellow, well read and quite proficient as an officer. He could laugh at nigh anything. There was nothing that he could not gamble on, he must have lost three years wages over the course of our service together. And a stout lover of mirth and good liquor.

He was every bit the spitting image of Thomas Rowlandson's vision of a midshipman circa 1799, he even had the long golden locks.

I RECALL once while in a foreign port, just after Cutty had passed his lieutenant's exam, we were both quite in our cups in way of celebration. Cutty and I sang the night away playing cards and gambling in a nearby tavern. I won four if HIS pounds that night...

Cutty became so intoxicated that I had to carry him on my back to return us both to the ship. On the way, I lost my footing and staggered and we tumbled into the gutter. We both had bits of filth in our hair and on our faces, and I completely ruined the sleeve on my nice blue jacket.

The splash in the face was just what Cutty needed, and he woke up laughing. I implored him to rise, and together, we made our way back to the ship.

We eventually made it back to the ship stinking of alcohol and the gutter. The Captain stopped us, claiming he could smell us from shore. Says he, "You gentlemen may not board until you've had a bath to wash off the stink."

Cutty, who was always very obliging, immediately stripped naked and dove into the water there by the ship. What could I do but join him? And do you know, Captain Hood even had the bosun throw down a bit of soap to aid in the process.

Ah younger days!

Monday, October 16

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 
foxmovies@fox.com 
rothmana@fox.com 

(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!

Friday, October 6

6 Skills Our Forefathers Had That Reenactors Don't

It occured to me that there are a ton of skills that the people that we reenactors portray had that we, as modern people, just generally don't have much anymore. This isn't ALL reenactors of course, but it definately allies to ME and several other folks I know...



6.) COOKING
My idea of cooking is preheating the oven and getting something out of the freezer. Want a new respect for historic cooking? Take a look at the above video. We met the narrator of thisvideo over the summer whilst he cooked an amazing regency era meal outdoors, over a fire. It was awesome!

5.) HORSEBACK RIDING
When was the last time you had to get on a horse and go anywhere? For me, try 'never'. Do you ride your horse to work or school on a regular basis? Ever had to ride your horse to get your errands run? Our forefathers rode horses all the time, for almost everything. And when they weren't riding, they were...

4.) WALKING... EVERYWHERE!
You read historical accounts all the time about people who just got a notion in their head and walked from one state to another. As modern people we walk, some, usually for exercise purposes. When was the last time you walked with a mission, so that you could GET somewhere? 

I often hear of Lewis & Clark's expedition in 1803 compared to Mankind's first trip to the Moon, except Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn't have to WALK a bunch of the way to the moon.

3.) HOUSE BUILDING
I have an idea, let's go fetch an axe, a saw and a few other simple tools from the garage and go out in the woods and build a house from trees! Then, we're gonna live in it, no big deal.

2.) LETTER WRITING
Who does this anymore? Our forefathers wrote all the time, for work, for fun, to communicate over long distances, to state ideals and even forge nations. Theirs was a golden age of letter writing. And have you SEEN their handwriting? It's gorgeous! When was the last time you had to actually WRITE something with a pen, in CURSIVE? Cursive writing is considered of such little value these days, they barely teach it in schools anymore. And as far as modern writing, sure there are text messages, but when was the last time you texted anything that's going to change the shape of the nation or its inhabitants?
1.) FIRE MAKING
I've been an historical reenactor since 2001. In that time I've seen every period correct method (and few less-than-period methods) for making fire that you can think of, and my fire making skills are embarrassing. My attempts usually end with me on my hands and knees desperately blowing into a funny little kindling ziggurat while the cabin I'm in fills with ominous black smoke.

Have some suggestions for additions to this list? You KNOW I've left something off of here... leave YOUR ideas for everyone's enjoyment in the Comments section below this post.


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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Thursday, October 5

5 Easy Ways for Reenactors to Improve their Game

'How can I improve my impression'? Here are some of the easiest ways I can think of to do so with very little effort or expense. Please keep in mind that the suggestions are coming from a fellow who's regular time period ranges from 1750-1820, so these may not apply to YOUR particular time period...

Image by Asha Ananda
5.) DON'T BE SO CLEAN
This goes double for soldiers and sailors who regularly worked and fought in the mud, tar, gunk and grease of the world of old. Months on end on campaign would really take its toll on your uniform, even if there were dedicated people in the unit who did nothing but laundry. And have you ever seen a proper period laundry demonstration? The beating that the garments got was brutal.

Next time you're at an event and get a little dirt on your elbows or knees, let it stay.


4.) SHAVE/DON'T SHAVE
Facial hair was either 'in' or 'out' depending on what time period you reenact. If you're doing a time period where facial hair wasn't the thing, shave it off... conversely if you're doing a time period where beards were the thing, grow it out.

Facial hair, or the lack thereof can go a long way toward improving the authenticity of your period appearance. Razors are easy to lay hands on... and facial hair isn't all that difficult to grow back between events.

3.) TRY A LITTLE FIRST PERSON
Okay so I get that not every event is geared for this sort of interpretation, and honestly, not every guest or visitor to a historic site is going to be up for this either. But if they ARE, you should give it a try. It's a lot of fun and a great way to get outside yourself for a little while and come just a smidge closer to the period by portraying someone from the era.

2.) GET RID OF YOUR HAVERSACK
I'm liable to make a few enemies with this one, but haversacks weren't generally worn by civilians to carry your stuff around in (like a modern purse or messenger bag). Haversacks were primarily used by soldiers.

Need something to carry your stuff in? Make a simple market wallet. Baskets are also good.


1.) READ MORE
The best way to improve your reenactor game? Reading. Read everything that interests you about the time period you portray. It will serve to teach you new aspects about the period you enjoy, or even refresh your memory about things you read long ago that you'd forgotten.

Don't 'plateau' or get stagnant, don't be rigid in your interpretation, always be learning and working toward new and interesting things... and remember to always be as accurate as you can be. You might be the spark that ignites an interest in history for the next generation of historians, museum professionals or reenactors!

Do you have any easy suggestions for reeanactors to improve their impressions? Please feel free to share them in the COMMENTS section, we'd love to hear your ideas!

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. 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!

Like the Doctor on Facebook!

Wednesday, October 4

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...

...THE 7 MOST AWESOME THINGS ABOUT REENACTING!

7.) SEEING STRANGE NEW PLACES
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.

6.) THE PEOPLE
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!


5.) THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO LEARN
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.

4.) YOU GET TO BE SOMEONE ELSE FOR A WHILE
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!


3.) THE FOOD
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.


2.) THE HISTORY!
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.

1.) YOU DECIDE!
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!

Like the Doctor on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 3

The 7 Worst Things About Being a Reenactor

Every hobby has its own quirky PROS and CONS, historical reenacting is no exception. While there are a LOT of delightful PROS, there are plenty of CONS as well...

...Here are the 7 worst things about being a reenactor:


7.) PACKING/UNPACKING
For a weekend event, I need almost an entire day to cram all my clothing and gear into the car and another day to get it all unpacked when I get home. I'm fortunate in that I have a mini van with a little more space, but even then there's the hassle of dragging the heavy seats out of the back to make room. It can turn a Saturday/Sunday event into a Friday/Saturday/Sunday/Monday event.

6.) WEATHER
Why must it be a thousand degrees outside when you have to wear a wool coat on top of other thick layers of clothing? Why must it begin raining right as it's time for the battle reenactment to start? Or it starts raining right before it's time to start packing your canvas? Or it's crazy cold outside when you didn't pack appropriate clothing for it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fair weather reenactor. I am aware that it was occasionally hot/cold/rainy in the past, but yikes!

It can only mean one thing... God hates reenactors.


5.) STUPID QUESTIONS
We've covered these in a previous post... you know the ones I'm talking about. Don't get me wrong, I love working with the public, but these can wear on a body after repeated application.

4.) TRAVEL
I love seeing new places and attending events at far flung historic sites... but yikes I get tired of the hours in the car! I have worn a hole in the carpet where the heel of my gas foot goes and mashed a dent in my armrest where my elbow sits. I've worn through oil and tires and put a zillion miles on my poor car in the pursuit of my beloved hobby. I know reenactors who have burned up tires, engines and entire cars in their travels. A moment of silence for our four-wheeled friends who have lost their lives in the tireless pursuit of our hobby.

3.) THE 'EVENT DIET'
I'm the worst about it in the world. I goto an event to present or demo for the public, or with some other agenda, and I'm so busy all weekend that I completely forget to eat or drink. Or it's nasty hot and I'm just too sweaty to even consider food of any sort. Then to compound the problem, when the public leaves there's a rum ration issued to the unit or an adult beverage offered to me on an empty stomach.

Crash starvation + Alcohol = I'm missing colors on Sunday morning


2.) REENACTOR CLIQUE-ISHNESS
For some years I labored under the mistaken impression that cliques went away after high school, SPOILER ALERT... they do not. 

North, South, Indians, Slaves, English, French, American, Militia, Army, Navy, Longhunters, Stitch Nazis, Librarians, Farbs, Mainstreamers, Progressives, Old-timers, Spirit of 76ers, Costumers, Steampunks, Quebecois, Western, Performers, Presenters, Demonstrators, Craftsmen, Research hoarders, Doctors and Surgeons, Officers, NCOs, you name it.

In the end we're all doing roughly the same thing in our own way, giving the public a glimpse of life in the 'old-timey' days while trying to learn and experience some aspect of history for ourselves. Play nice out there kids!


1.) PORT-A-POTTIES IN PERIOD GARB
I already don't enjoy using strange toilets. But I REALLY don't enjoy using strange PUBLIC toilets. Then, put that strange public toilet in a cramped, outdoor blue plastic booth while wearing my 'funny clothes'... and it is my ultimate recipe for discomfort. There are so many layers of clothing between you and your eventual goal that it is the least graceful and practical thing you can do at an event.  

I have been known to avoid port-a-potties like the plague unless I'm just absolutely desperate. And even IF I decide to make use of one, I usually try to use the 'handicapped' potty because they're so much bigger than the regular ones, there's generally enough room to take off and hang up the five layers of clothing between me and the plastic seat. God forbid my clothing be allowed to touch any of the mysterious and fetid fluids that lurk on any and ALL of the potty's surfaces.

Now, a tale that the lovely Mrs. Roberts twisted my arm to make me include.

A year or so ago, I was at a nice little event whose name I won't mention (but it rhymes with 'Long Run Massacre') and I had avoided the port-o-johns all weekend and finally was beside myself with desperation. So I picked out one that was partially obscured from public by the treeline. At least the event coordinators had made an attempt to hide them a little bit.

I enter and immediately realize this is going to be an unpleasant visit. The little blue booth was full in the hot afternoon sun and had been baking there for several hours. To make matters worse, it would seem that everyone else had used it before me, leaving it a complete wreck!

There were no interior hooks for me to hang my waistcoat etc from, so I very carefully folded it up and placed it precariously on a little shelf attached to the exhaust pipe. Then, I very carefully got myself arranged so as to do my duty (as it were). I was mindful the entire time not to allow my breeches to touch the wet floor.

Once my transaction was complete, I stand to pull up my breeches. But because of the small size of the little potty and the awkward angle at which I had to stand in order to keep my breeches from touching the floor. I was having a hard time. Then the perfect storm occurred, Leather soled period repro boots met slick plastic floor, awkward crouching angle met wonky balancing act center of gravity. I sliped forward and banged my head on the plastic door then fell in a half-clothed crumple onto the wet floor.

Needless to say, the scream that issued forth from the interior of that little blue hell must have sounded like a middle school girl.
Be sure to check out this other list of interest:


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!

Like the Doctor on Facebook!