Thursday, May 31

What Will YOU Write?

Hopefully, the posts this past month has given you some ideas for things to write for the Mail Packet. Have you given any thought to what you're going to write? Get your pen and paper out and let's go!

Here are some examples of fun things that we've gotten in the past as part of the project:

Baptiste got a letter with a black spot in it from an anonymous 'former shipmate'.

The Bosun got a letter from a former shipmate inviting him to join him in a business venture back in England.

The Ship's Chaplain got a solicitation letter from a company that manufactures mourning candies.

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

Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from immediate 'family' if you please. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Nieces & Nephews are fine, but none from Mothers, Fathers, children.)
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 first of JULY of this present year so that they can find their way into the Mail Packet!

Friday, May 18

Success to Nelson!

February 8, 1805
Royal Navy Dockyard,
Halifax, Nova Scotia.

To: Dr. Albert Roberts,
Ship's Surgeon,
HMS Acasta
At sea..

From: Thomas Hurlbut, 
HMS Satyr.

My Dear Doctor

While briefly at home here in Halifax, my ship receiving a much needed "small repair", I was greeted one morning with a package in the post . 

As I am known to be particular about the mail (lose not a moment!), our very dutiful, and earnestly persistent servant brought the package to our bedroom. Surprisingly, it was from your assistant, Baptiste. 

I hadn't realized the man knew I existed. I'm not sure we've had two words between us, and so to receive anything from him was puzzling. 

More to the point Doctor, his known fascination with natural philosophy (and particularly small creatures, no doubt in proud emulation of yourself!) gave both my wife and I some concern.

When the sender of the package was made known the sudden trepidation surrounding the possible contents of the parcel was palpable. The imagination can be truly frightening, can it not? We instantly were compelled to give it a wide berth.

Our morning routine ruined, we quickly made for the main room to have our breakfast. The package followed, and was placed on the table between us by the sevant. We both drew back as far as we could.

"Earnest" then produced a letter opener to enable me to see the contents. Never did I feel a weapon at hand was more inadequate to the task. I would rather a pistol, even a club!

My wife moved to the doorway, to be able to close the door and trap the contents (and me!!) so that it (they?) could not escape.

I plunged the knife into the brown paper, expecting the appearance of many legs to emerge from the hole produced.


I peeled back the paper (slowly!), wondering if a small head might poke out..

Still nothing. 

(Well, it's been at sea a while, maybe it's dead?)

Finally, knife in hand, I lifted the top of the small box, and.

Actually, I discovered a fine drinking vessel for my morning coffee (that was produced just as I pulled it from the package! "Earnest" again!).

I must express my appreciation when next I see your man. Perhaps I'll send a word through my cox'n who I understand is a friend to him (I believe they both are fluent in French!).

I am enjoying my brief respite from my patrol. The North Atlantic is miserable this time of year.

Your Humble Servant

Thomas Hurlbut,

Monday, May 14

Who are you writing to?

Wondering who to write to for the 2018 Mail Packet Project? Here's a listing to the cast of characters 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.

Shea McLean Second Lieutenant-
A newly appointed officer aboard Acasta.

Lord William Fitzroy Third Lieutenant- Lord William FitzRoy, KCB was a Napoleonic War British Naval officer and politician (and a REAL PERSON!), retiring as Admiral shortly before his death in 1857. With the Acasta Fitzroy is portrayed as a young Lieutenant just beginning his adventures. He was the third son of Augustus FitzRoy, Duke of Grafton and former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Serving in or near almost every major naval action of the Napoleonic War(s), FitzRoy’s story is an exciting and interesting tale of adventure, ambition, and promotion.

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')'.

Jean Baptiste Girard Surgeon's Mate- A well traveled old Creole who has usually worked in some medical capacity on merchant ships. He has been impressed onto the HMS Acasta, but is not unhappy there. In his time Baptiste has traveled through both the East and West Indies and spent six years among the Igorots of the Spanish Philippines when a Spanish privateer (on which he was a prisoner) was shipwrecked there. During the French revolution a Captain who he admired and respected was guillotined, cementing his philosophy as a Monarchist.  His wife Marie is Igrot; she is currently living in Louisiana on the plantation of Messr. Francois Rochambeau. They have young twin boys.

Early in his career Baptiste learned that he could make extra money by collecting curiosities from his travels to sell to educated gentlemen. His non-formal education in natural history and things medical still allows him to believe many superstitions in both fields.

Padraig 'Pogue' Mahone Master's Mate- Padraig Mahone was born just before the French War, in County Mayo, Ireland. At the early age of 16 years, he left his native home. One pleasant evening, in the month of June, from his home he started, on the rocky road to Dublin, to accept a position as Midshipman, aboard the Brig “Adamant” His first “use” of the Sea. He was impressed by the cleverness of compasses and sextants, log lines and lead lines, and his curiosity for such things led him, rather naturally, to the study of Navigation.  After some time, the Adamant was written out of service, and sent to the Knacker’s yard, to be broken up. Padraig found himself without a position, so he made his way to the West End of London, and Drury Lane, where his childhood reading of Shakespeare and other playwrights  made the Theatre another natural choice. Padraig found work as a Stagehand, working the pinrail, flying set pieces in and out of the fly loft, a task not unlike the working of running rigging, aboard ship. He also developed a fondness for making handprops; the various items used by Actors, in a play. 

When the American War broke out, Padraig went back to the Navy, but his years away had stymied his advancement, and so he signed aboard as a Volunteer, until he could demonstrate his knowledge, and eventually earn himself a position as Master’s Mate. Having always had a penchant for making things, Padraig started making much of his own equipment: Log lines, lead lines, traverse board, a quadrant, (to serve until he could afford a second-hand sextant) and such truck. When he was between ships, in a tavern near Annapolis, Maryland, Padraig (who had been left behind, following an injury) found himself singing in the cellar of a tavern, with a pair of fellow Sailors, whose names he didn’t know at the time, but who turned out to be Hollybrass and Apple, the Boatswain and Carpenter for HMS Acasta.  As his injury was mostly mended, he took the opportunity to sign on Acasta, before they sailed, a few weeks later, on the strength of his navigational and rigging experience.

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.

Nathaniel Beckett Able Seaman- Hailing from St. Katharine Docks in East End of London, came from a poor family and found himself on the streets fending for himself. He found himself one night climbing up the side of Tower Hamlet at the command of a navy man betting him he couldn't reach the top only to take the bet and walk out the side door of the tower sometime later. Young master Beckett completing his task found himself in his cups with the navy man later. After many ill deserved drinks Beckett awoke and found himself sailing away to his new life a crew member of HMS Superb. Some years later Beckett found himself at port and found himself in company of the French Man and Carpenter of HMS Acasta. He has lent his hand ever since.

Charles Winchester Landmanborn 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!

Nathaniel Johnson Able Seaman-

Sam'l Linden Volunteer 1st Class-
Former ship's boy who was recently promoted to 'Volunteer First Class' and is well on his way to 'Midshipman'.
Noah Thomas Boy-
Ship's boy who is eager for his promotion to Volunteer 1st Class
Mark Thomas Landsman-
One of the newer recruits to join the crew.
Nick Weremeichik Landsman-
One of the newest recruits to join the crew.

Drew Godzik Landsman-
One of the new recruits to join the crew.

The ‘Mail Packet’ is an educational project conducted by the ‘HMS Acasta’ Royal Naval reenactment group. The project began in 2013 and the crew have received hundreds of period letters and packages from all over the world! It’s an awesome educational opportunity, not only for the recipient and the writer, but also for the public that gets to see and share in the experience.

The MAIL PACKET for 2018 will be delivered at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky on the weekend of July 13-15! 

People wrote letters for all manner of reasons in the period, business, duty, amusement, love, courtship, marriage, friendship etc.

Imagine all the things you do in your modern life that involve communication, now imagine if it all had to be done with a pen and paper. The people the Acastas portray wrote as a part of their daily lives, because they had to.

A few prompts on what you might write:
A Letter from a friend or colleague back home. 
(But none from 'immediate family' if you please. Imagine how awkward it is to get three different letters from women claiming to be your ‘wife’ or ‘mother’.)
A bill or request for payment, they’re not just for your modern mailbox!
An overdue payment of a debt.
A letter carrying news of the war(s)

Letters should be addressed thusly:

Recipient's Rank and Name
HMS Acasta

While the sender’s 'return address' was occasionally added, it was not a universal thing like we know on the mail of today.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via the Royal Navy Doctor Facebook page, or via my email at:

Friday, May 11

An Overdue Letter

This post originally ran 7th Dec, 2012.

My dear Emily,

The scolding of your most recent letter is, I suppose, well deserved, as I have not written as I ought. You must forgive me my dear, but my duties have conspired to keep me from writing you. There is so much writing to be done over the course of the day, with the filling out of logs, forms, reports and such, that when I am finally at my leisure to do so, I scarcely have the vigor, much less the desire, to pick the pen up again. I know that Mr. Hegwood has very romantic views of the service, but you can not imagine how much mundane business there is to be tended to aboard a ship of war. If I had been thinking when I initially employed Vasserman, I would have made certain that he was a better writer so as to make use of him as a clerk in addition to his other duties. But then I expect he would demand higher wages, and that simply would not do. I do solemnly promise that I shall make every attempt to be a more faithful correspondent in the future my love.

I was pleased to hear that Mr. Hegwood is in good health and spirits, and I shall infer by your description of Mrs. Hegwood's recent activity that she is also well. You will be gratified to know that we are reasonably well here. The weather here upon the blockade has been unseasonably warm, and thus has kept the usual cold-weather complaints and injuries to a minimum. We have been fortunate, in that, there has been little more than the average sort of illness and minor injury to deal with, things that I imagine would be common for Mr. Hegwood to deal with in his business with his farm-hands and horses.

Since I last saw you in October, we have taken several American ships, the Privateer Two Brothers on the 26th, and a little schooner called Snapper on 5th November. Both should make for pretty little prizes and I suspect they will go quite a way toward paying for any additional wedding debt that Mrs. Hegwood might dream up for our affair.

We have recently come into the company of HM Ship Poictiers under Capt. Sir John Beresford. The Acasta officers have been over to dine with Sir John and his people several times, and they set a magnificent table. 'Magnificent' by Naval standards, you must understand, is quite a different thing than what you should expect on land. Ones demands upon the quality of a meal are significantly lessened after a great deal of time on blockade. The Poictiers is very richly set up, and is easily the largest ship I have ever been on; in my mind, even bigger than the Zealous was when I served aboard her in '98.

You will be gratified to know that I have seen to it that the announcement of our engagement has been placed in the papers as it ought. It will be quite the adjustment to call you 'Mrs. Roberts' after having gotten so accustom'd to calling you 'Miss Waterman' these many years. I shall do my best to rise to the occasion. 

Know my dear, that you are always in my thoughts, and that you are the joy of my life. I must leave off, for I have written to the bottom of my paper. Love then to all our friends, and duty to the Hegwoods, conclude me, 

Your faithful love till death,
Albert Roberts

Thursday, May 10

The Carpenter's Letter

Mr. Apple ashore.
 The following is a letter that Mr Apple, the ship's carpenter has requested that I transcribe and send to the Admiralty:

"Dear Sirs,

It has been a month since my last post, I have been a good friend to His Majesty's Ships keeping them in good order and having said that I feel very low when I am alone at Sea. Without my current wife I have thought of dressing our boatswain Mr. Cullen up in my last wife's dress and apron. But I implore you kind sirs as I value my position. It is a sickness kind fellows and I wish you to help me before this kills me and they find me dead in my cabin.

Yrs &c.,
Jas. Apple
Ship's Carpenter
HMS Acasta"

While I can certainly appreciate Mr Apple's desire for company of the fairer sex, I do not think the Admiralty would take kindly to his crude petition and familiar tone. I can not, in all good conscience, post such a letter.

Tuesday, May 8

A Letter from the Top

To my lovely wife,

Today's Post by
Acasta Crew member
Michael Araiza
I hope this letter reaches you and the children in good health.  I was hoping to write you days ago but I have been busy in the tops. I have worked so hard even the ship’s carpenter, J. Apple, says I could one day be captain of the top, or so he says.

On that very sad day we set sail you asked “Oh, Araiza why you set sail with the Acastas and not some rich privateer.” Well I am going to try and explain this. I was 14 years of age and was serving as a cabin boy on board the Spanish privateer Juno for el Capitan Jimenez. We were carrying a load of indigo and coco when we were overrun by the Ship Acasta. We made a run for it but we were outgunned and outmanned. So sadly el Capitan Jimenez surrendered his ship and cargo, much to his dismay. Upon inspection of the crew, Captain Fellows took a liking to me and asked if I would come aboard and serve on the Acasta. I of young mind and fearing otherwise, accepted. Not knowing I was being impressed.

As the years passed and the captains changed hands I took a liking to other daily tasks of the Acasta. To include sails and the top masts. So the captain graciously allowed me to learn the ways of a top. Once I learned enough I joined a mess of tops. Since that time I have busy working up top and have made a many good friends. Ships Carpenter J. Apple and the Surgeon’s assistant T. Gerard have also taken a liking to me. So now that I am part of the crew I stay because of my duty to my fellow shipmates, and we are also rumored to be the best officered and best frigate in the service. Also the prize money may be good on French ships.

My dearest I hear the watch bells ringing and I must return to the top. I will write to you again soon.

Your dearest husband,
  M. Araiza

Monday, May 7

At War's End

May 17, 1815
Dearest Marie

   I am sure you heard the joyous news of the war’s end before me, but as the English would say- I wish you joy on the war’s end!  Our happy reunion is now within reach!

When word first reached us of the end of the war my only thought was to return to you and the boys as swiftly as possible. I thought of various ways to quit the ship and make the shore. But on sober reflection there are many other things to consider.  I am owed all my wages for the endless time I have been aboard the Acasta- plus a goodly amount of extra money from the prizes we have taken. The Doctor has always treated me with kindness and through some effort of his I am listed as an assistant surgeon. This entitles me to a better wage and is normally given only to those with a formal medical education. I know this is true for he showed me myself listed as Assistant Surgeon in the Navy chronicle. As I have said before, I believe he is more than just a doctor, how else could he have such influence? The only way to collect my wages and prize money will be to return to England with the ship. I would never put money above my love for you and the boys, but to have such an amount would perhaps justify a delay of our happy reunion?

And another consideration. The Doctor has made me the offer to continue as his assistant in England. I have flattered myself to think that he and I worked well together and it seems he agrees. I have no wish to try and remake myself as a gentleman, and I know you are content there in Louisiana, but this could be an excellent chance to better our situation. Perhaps a formal education for the boys. The Doctor assures me he could easily find you employment there among his friends and acquaintances. I feel I would be foolish to not at least look at how things are in England before I give him an answer.

I wish we could talk about these things, but we are daily expecting to receive our orders to return to England. Write to me as quickly as you can with your thoughts about this. Tell Mr. Clark it is urgent and help will help you right away I am sure. Give my best regards to Mr. Clark and M. Rochambeau.

Ever your loving husband, 

Don't forget to check back every weekday at 8AM CST for brand new ACASTA content!

Thursday, May 3

A Wounded Knee

Our patient in this video is Robert Evans, who came all the way from England to participate in the 200th of the Battle of New Orleans In January of 2015. Evans has a special connection to that particular battle, his 6x great grandfather, William Paterson, served and was wounded at New Orleans. Evans decided that he wanted to participate in the British Hospital and recreate one of the particular injuries that his ancestor Patterson received.

Colonel William Paterson joined the British Army in 1786 as an Ensign in the 57th Foot – shortly after transferring to the 21st Fusiliers and serving with them for the rest of his military career. He saw a great deal of action, including the capture of Martinique in 1794; the Irish Rebellion in 1802; and the capture of various French-held possessions in the Mediterranean from 1810 to 1813. 

From 1813 until 1815 he served with the British Army in America, commanding a Brigade during the Chesapeake campaign (which involved significant command at both the battles of Bladensburg and Baltimore) and leading his old regiment, the 21st, during the assault on Line Jackson at New Orleans. During this battle he was wounded twice: in the shoulder by grape shot and in the knee by a rifle ball.

Happily he survived, and went on to be knighted in 1831 and made a Lieutenant-General in 1837. He died in 1849, at the age of 82.   

Special thanks to Mr. Evans who let us participate in this very special recreation!

"Give 'em wot for Lt. Evans!"