Tuesday, March 19

Deleted Scenes



The deleted scenes from the 2003 film Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. They're great fun if you haven't seen them already. I would LOVE a version of the film with these scenes cut back in!

Monday, March 18

The Art and Science of Knotwork: a Primer

By Buzz Mooney

When you mention the word “knotwork”, different people will picture different things: The rigging of sailing ships, 60s macramé wall hangings, or elaborate ancient Celtic graphics, seen in ancient Irish Gospels, like the Book of Kells.  It helps to sort through the confusion, by understanding that these are all, at their roots, the same thing: a form of continuous-line weaving. 

In my youth, as a Boy Scout, I struggled with knot-tying: A knot I had JUST learned, and tied successfully, was lost to me, minutes later. “The rabbit goes around the tree, and the shark jumps over it… no, the shark eats the boat, then the rabbit eats the shark… No…” Knot-tying was like Algebra: complicated, and hard to imagine how I’d use it, in real life. It wasn’t until my early 20s, when I developed a fascination for Ancient Celtic art, and knotwork, in particular, that I began to see the patterns and architecture of knots. And when I began my fascination with Sailing Ships, I began to see that knots are like old-style LEGO, or Tinkertoys: You only really have a few different pieces to work with: It’s how you COMBINE them, which makes all the different knots.  When I went to Hollywood, to work in Special Effects and Props, I took my newfound understanding of the Art of Ropework with me: When James Franco played James Dean, I did the fancywork shoulder-sling on his conga drum, and the “monkey’s fist” he plays with on the set of “Giant”. For Band of Brothers, I coiled all the letdown ropes the 101st guys wore for the Normandy jump. I even did the ropework for a prototype hammock for Master and Commander, but, alas, another Prophouse got the gig, so my work didn’t appear in the film. Having a working CONTEXT to use this knowledge, made all the difference.

I won’t go much into the TYPES of knots: Hitches, to secure a line to an object; Bends, to temporarily connect two lines, Splices, to PERMANENTLY connect two lines, or create a clean end on a line, and True Knots, to create a stop or other such feature. I’ll talk, primarily, of the STRUCTURE of knots.  In the accompanying images, I’ll be using red nylon rope: It’s easier to see the various elements of each knot, than with a natural-fiber, laid rope.

To understand what I mean about knots being made up of only a few, related elements, let’s look at the Sheet Bend (Figure 1): This is a quick, temporary hitch for connecting two lines.  You can see that one line is simply a loop, the other goes up through, around under both legs of the loop, and up and across, passing under itself. Now look at the Bowline (Figure 2): It’s EXACTLY THE SAME KNOT! The only difference, is that the working end of the line from the right, loops around to become the standing end of the line from the left.  So here, one of the most basic bends becomes one of the most basic hitches, simply by virtue of the loop. Cut the loop, and it’s a Sheet Bend.


Now, lets look at Two Half-hitches (Shown loose, in Figure 3, and taut, in Figure 4): If I slide it off the belaying pin, and snug it up (Figure 5), you can see the way is creates a diagonal, across itself, making a sort of “Letter N”.  If we look at the Clove Hitch, (Figure 6) you can see that same “Letter N” is formed around the pin, itself, instead of around the standing part of the line. If I KEEP “throwing” Hitches around the pin, I get “French Hitching” (figure 7); a decorative and protective covering, which can also improve handgrip on railings, etc. If, however, I ALTERNATE the direction of subsequent hitches, I get “Cockscombing” (Figure 8), which serves the same purpose, but with the resulting ridge running straight down one side, rather than spiraling. The Taut-line Hitch (Figure 9) many of us learned in Scouts, for adjusting tent ropes, is just another variation on the use of Half-Hitches.




To tie the infamous Sheep Shank (Figure 10), double the rope back on itself, twice, making an elongated “S” or “Z”, and throw a half-hitch over either end.


When you start getting into Stop-knots, like the Wall, the Crown, the Wall-and-Crown, or even the Matthew Walker, or Splices, or into Turk’s Heads, the principles of the aforementioned Celtic Art come in: In Knotwork, the Artist generally follows a rule of “Over one, under one” (or Over 2, under 2, etc.) In addition, on splices, and most good Stop-knots, you’ll be using the individual yarns of the line, untwisted from each other, to create your knot.  Here, I’ll be using three separate ropes, taped in a bundle, to represent the three individual yarns, unlaid from the end of the rope, to create a basic Crown Knot. First, laying open the yarns, I bring one up and over, down between the other two, laying it alongside the standing part of my rope (Figure 11). I then take the next end, and do the same (Figure 12 and 13). But I can’t simply bring the third yarn up and over the other two: it has to be interwoven with them, so that each holds its neighbor in place.  To do this, I’ll draw the first two loops tighter, to help me see where I need to go.  As you can see here, (Figure 14) yarn#1 isn’t holding anything down, and nothing is holding down yarn #2. So Yarn # 3 has to go OVER #2, and UNDER #1, like so: (Figure 15). When I draw them up tight, (Figure 16) you can see that they form a tight triangle, with each going over one, then under the next. If I continue this pattern, (Figure 17 and 18) I can build a larger knob, useful to stop a line running out of a block, or to form a handhold at the end of the line.





This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of knotwork, but, hopefully, it gives a basic understanding of the structure and architecture of ropework: The basic, geometric principles that help to create not just a knowledge of how to tie several knots, but how to UNDERSTAND how knots work, and to choose or develop the knots needed for any task.

Recommended reading:
The Arts of the Sailor. Hervey Garret Smith

The Marlinspike Sailor. Hervey Garret Smith

Celtic Art: The methods of its Construction. George Bain

Ashley Book of Knots.  Clifford W. Ashley

The Sea Scout Manual. Boy Scouts of America.
(I recommend looking into some of the earlier editions, since content changes over time. I also suggest seeing what the British Naval Brigade/National Sea Cadets may have published. Such guides tend to focus on the basics, and can be very helpful for “learning the ropes”, quite literally.)

Friday, March 15

HMS ACASTA by Patrick O'Brian

It's no secret that we here at HMSACASTA.com are huge fans of Patrick O'Brian and the Aubrey-Maturin series. When reading through the books, I discovered that the Acasta makes a couple of cameos. So, here are the 'O'Brian-verse' connections to our particular favourite ship!

MILD SPOILER ALERT: You're about to read some very LIGHT, almost completely inconsequential, semi-spoilery info from The Fortune of War, Treason’s Harbour, and The Hundred Days.

From the WikiPOBia:

Acasta is one of a series of ships in the Aubrey-Maturin series whose commands are promised to Captain Jack Aubrey by the Admiralty, but are ultimately given to other, more influential officers. Another such ship, promised to Aubrey but never delivered, is the fictional frigate HMS Blackwater.

The Admiralty’s promise of Acasta is first made to Aubrey in The Fortune of War. She is described by Aubrey to his friend Maturin as a "forty-gun frigate, pretty well the heaviest in the service … And the finest sailer of the lot, on a bowline. Two points off the winds, she could give even dear Surprise foretopgallant, at least. A true, copper-bottomed plum, Stephen…."

Aubrey's fictional characterization of Acasta's speed likely overstates the historical ship's actual performance. The historical Acasta is described as "not outstandingly fast," but is acknowledged to have been "very weatherly" and more maneuverable than most other frigates her size. Likewise, Aubrey's description of Acasta as the "heaviest in the service" is not entirely accurate. Although she was among the largest fifth-rates of her time, she was not the heaviest of her contemporaries. For example, two other British 40-gun fifth-rates launched at the same time as Acasta (Endymion and Cambrian) both outweighed her and mounted heavier weaponry (24-pound cannon).

In The Surgeon’s Mate, Aubrey learns that Acasta has, in his absence while a prisoner-of-war in Boston, been given to Capt. "Robert Kerr." Acasta re-appears later in the Aubrey-Maturin series near the end of The Hundred Days, as part of Admiral Lord Barmouth’s squadron at Gibraltar.

Thursday, March 14

The Trial of Mr. Cox



Robert Cox, a seaman of the Acasta, was also tried for deserting to the enemy, on the 13th of May, 1813, with the cutter, when employed on the coast of America, and for encouraging the other part of the boat's crew to give way, cheering them up himself. The charges being fully proved, the Court adjudged him to suffer Death on board such of his Majesty's ships as the Commissioners for executing the office of the Lord High Admiral may direct.

from: The Naval Chronicle : containing a general and biographical history of the royal navy of the United kingdom with a variety of original papers on nautical subjects
Volume: 34 Page 165

Wednesday, March 13

The Master-at-Arms: Between Two Worlds

Today's post written by Acasta member Nathaniel Johnson


As a “great man, among the little ones” the Master-at-Arms held much responsibility among his fellow seamen. He was in a precarious position between two worlds: that of the common seaman and that of the warrant officer. With a responsibility to police his peers, he was in a position with high potential for alienation, often times putting himself in dangerous situations as well. The Master-at-Arms of HMS Barbadoes found himself in just such a position in 1811 when John Pogerty, a Marine, struck him, the Boatswain’s Mate and kicked the Gunner while being restrained for acting in a mutinous manner toward one of the ships Lieutenants. The punishment for striking a superior officer was almost always death, but in this case Pogerty is recommended to the “mercy of the Lords of the Admiralty” due to the fact that he seems to have saved many of his shipmates lives in the past.  


The Master-at-Arms was also held to a higher standard than other seamen. He had a warrant but was not afforded the privileges of superior warrant officers. At times, the expectations put upon him strained his standing with the crew, who saw him as a potential informer. Walking the line between the fo’c’sle and the wardroom he held a difficult but critical task: maintaining the good order and discipline of a ship of war.

On a daily basis the Master-at-Arms was responsible for observing the conduct of the ships company and checking anyone disrupting its good order and discipline. Discipline onboard a ship of war was essential for the survival of the ships company. Immediate obedience to orders could be the difference between life and death in a battle or during severe weather. The officers of the ships company relied upon that discipline to keep order amongst the seamen. In the event that someone fell astray, the Master-at-Arms was directed to take charge of them as the ship’s nominal provost marshal. If punishment for an offence came to flogging, they were charged with lashing the offender to the grating and stripping his back in preparation for the cat of nine. The Boatswain or his mates would then be responsible to dole out the lashes as ordered by the Captain. In addition to those duties, as the ships day progressed and the galley fires were lit for cooking or at the time for lights out, the Master-at-Arms was responsible to see all flames extinguished onboard at their proper times. 

Traditionally, as the title implies, the Master-at-Arms was responsible for drilling the ships company in small arms, pike, and cutlass exercises. Throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century though, the small arms exercise transferred to the Master Gunner and his mates. It was suggested that in appointing a Master-at-Arms, the chosen seamen should already have a martial air about him. Captain Fredrick Marryat who served in the Royal Navy from 1806 – 1830 commented as such, saying “The Master-at-Arm’s berth can never be filled up by a seaman, a soldier would answer the purpose much better”. In one such instance, Benjamin Chapman, a Marine turned able seaman and Gunner’s Mate received his warrant for Master-at-Arms in 1794. This example seems to be the exception to the rule, however, with the majority of Masters-at-Arms being selected from the seamen’s ranks. 


The position was warranted by the Navy Board and any rated ship was required to have one assigned by the Captain. Despite being warranted, the position lacked any specialist skills requiring recognition (unlike the Sailing Master, Surgeon, Master Gunner, etc.) and therefore was rated as a Senior Petty Officer. Being such, by regulation of the Admiralty, the Master-at-Arms was not allowed the privileges of the other warrant officers. He rated no distinct uniform and dressed in the same manner as all other seamen. Joseph Dodge, the Master-at-Arms for HMS Acasta in 1805, clothed himself by buying a dead man’s cloths after transferring to Acasta from HMS Hercule. No special berthing was allotted for this position either, and the seaman promoted to this rank ate and slept with the rest of the crew. This could lead to complications from constantly being so closely intertwined with the men they were charged with observing. In one such instance, in April of 1804 a conspiracy was discovered amongst 20 of the seamen of HMS Montagu to kill the officers aboard. The first amongst their targets were the second Lieutenant, the Master-at-Arms, and a day mate by the name of Mr. Reed. Though the plot was put down before it could begin, it illustrates the depth of animosity that the crew had for the Master-at-Arms (or the importance of his position being eliminated for the rest of the plot to succeed). 

To aid in his duties, the Master-at-Arms was allowed his own mates known as Ship’s Corporals. On a 5th rate ship of war such as Acasta, he was allowed two Ship’s Corporals who could perform some of his daily duties and other tasks as directed by the senior warrants and commissioned officers. However, it appeared that in 1805 Acasta had only one, a Welshman from Abergavenny, Edward Warberton. Similar to the number of subordinates he was allowed, the Master-at-Arms’ pay was regulated according to the ships rating. Onboard ships of equal rating as the Acasta, Masters-at-Arms were paid £2 6d a lunar month, a cut up from an able seaman’s £1 13s 6d. In addition to the pay bump, the Master-at-Arms split an eighth of total prize money with the Midshipmen, the Sailing Master’s Mates, Surgeon’s Mates and the Sergeants of Marines. For a seaman with no formal education or skilled trade, the position of Master-at-Arms offered one of the few paths to promotion. With the pay increase, potential for prize money and rise in station that came with this position, it is no wonder why it would be an ideal promotion for a foremost hand. 

Bibliography

Lavery, Brian. Nelsons Navy the Ships, Men, and Organisation: 1793-1815. (Revised ed. Annapolis, (Md.): Naval Institute Press, 2005) 135-137.

"The Gazette." Page 152 | Issue 15231, 15 February 1800 | London Gazette | The Gazette. 

"The Ispwich Journal, 12 May 1804 Sat." Newspapers.com. 

"The Leeds Mercury (09 Nov 1811)." Newspapers.com. 

The National Archives of the UK (TNA): ADM 36 /I16216.

Tuesday, March 12

12th of March 1815


On the 12th, at 6 h. 30 m. a.m., Sir George Collier went on shore to communicate with the governor, in consequence of the damage done to the houses of the town by the shot from the Acasta and Newcastle. At 11 a.m. Sir George returned ; and shortly afterwards the British squadron, accompanied by the prize, got under way, and steered for the West Indies. We must now pay a visit to the Constitution.

The moment he saw how the Acasta was weathering him, and that he had no chance of escape by bearing up, as the Newcastle would inevitably intercept him, Captain Stewart considered the Constitution as within an hour or two of becoming a British prize. The American officers now questioned the British officers as to the manner in which the commodore of the chasing squadron would treat them ; and ; in short, began making, in regard to their clothes and other personal effects, such arrangements as they thought necessary, in the change they were about to undergo from freemen to captives. All this while Captains Douglas and Falcon and the late officers of the Levant and Cyane were blessing their stars at the good fortune that awaited them, although, as we can readily conceive, their delicacy forbade them from making a display of it before Captain Stewart and his officers. When the Cyane tacked, and the three British ships still continued in chase of the Constitution, not a doubt could remain that the English commodore, whoever he might be, was determined to have her. The Levant tacks ; and (can it be possible?) all three British ships tack after her. Here is a change ! The joy of Captain Stewart and his officers was now as extravagant as their fears had been well grounded. But what were now the feelings of Captains Douglas and Falcon and the other British officers ? What were they indeed! " The British officers on board, " says the Constitution's officer, " who had expressed the utmost confidence that the Constitution would be taken in an hour, felt the greatest vexation and disappointment, which they expressed in very emphatic terms." * From the following passage in the same account, it would appear that some one of the British officers, to save as much as possible the credit of the service to which he belonged, pretended to understand the purport of a signal that was hoisted by the Newcastle, and of which we shall speak presently. Thus: " After the other ships tacked, the Newcastle made a signal that her foretopsail yard was sprung, and tacked also. " In less than three quarters of an hour after the Newcastle had tacked from her, the Constitution was becalmed or nearly so. As soon as a breeze sprang up, Captain Stewart steered towards the coast of Brazil, and through the West Indies home ; and, early in the month of May, lucky Old Ironsides," as now she well might be called, anchored in Boston.

The three British ships, on being first discovered by the Constitution, were taken by the American officers for what, in reality, they were: the Leander and Newcastle for " ships of the line," or two-deckers, and the Acasta for a frigate. But the Cyane, according to her log, made out all three ships to be frigates, even before the Constitution cut her cables and made sail. Yet, on board the Leander, the Constitution, of 1533, the Cyane of 539, and the Levant, a flush ship, of 464 tons, all put on the appearance of "frigates." Hence, when the Cyane tacked, " Sir George directed the Acasta's signal to be made to tack after her, but countermanded the order, on observing that she would gain the anchorage before the Acasta could close with her." * It was, therefore, the respect which the British commanding officer paid to the neutrality of the Portuguese port, that permitted the Cyane to go unpursued. But, in less than an hour, a second enemy's " frigate," the Levant, tacks, and the neutrality of the port does not save her from being pursued, or from being cannonaded, " with her jib-boom over the battery," by two of the three British ships that had tacked after her. How does Captain M'Dougall reconcile this ?

It appears, now, that it was not Sir George's intention that all three British ships should have tacked after the Levant. The signal was ordered to be for the Acasta alone to tack ; but, according to the published letter of Mr. Thomas Collier, " the midshipman, Mr. Morrison, whose duty it was to make the signal, did, by mistake, hoist the general signal, " or, according to another statement, and one which bears the signature of the Leander's late first lieutenant, " in making the signal, the Acasta's distinguishing pendants got foul, and, before they could be cleared, the Newcastle mistook it for a general signal. It is a point, we conceive, of very little consequence how the mistake arose. The fact is that, of all the three ships, the Acasta was the last that should have been ordered to tack after the Levant, even admitting that ship to have been the " Constitution, President, Macedonian, or Congress, " simply because the Acasta was " weathering, " " getting into the wake of, " and the likeliest of any of the three to overtake and bring to action, the " Guerrière.'' On the other hand, that the Leander herself, if any ship did, was the most proper to have gone in pursuit of the supposed Constitution, President, Macedonian, or Congress, is clear; first, because she was " falling to leeward " of the supposed Guerrière, and next, because she was the nearest of any of her squadron to the ship that, to the Leander at least, put on so fatal a disguise. Had we seen no other statement than is to be found in the three British ships' logs, we should consider that the Leander really did tack first ; for thus says her log : "Tacked ship to cut off ship from anchorage, and made signal for ditto."

Capt. Sir George Collier
Sir George Collier was remarkable for the kindness with which he treated his officers, and for the, in this instance, most unfortunate, deference he was in the habit of paying to their opinions on points of service. By whose suggestion he tacked, let his late first lieutenant's own words determine : " When the Acasta had filled on the starboard tack, I observed to Sir George, that, if the ships standing in shore were really frigates, which it was impossible to ascertain, owing to the haziness of the weather, they would be more than a match for the Acasta. He replied It is true, Kerr can do wonders, but not impossibilities ; and I believe I must go round, as, when the ship that tacked first hears the Acasta engaged, she will naturally come to her consort's assistance." Captain M'Dougall here says " it was impossible to ascertain " whether or not a low flush ship, of 464 tons, sailing for more than an hour, at the distance certainly not of more than five miles, upon the weather beam of the Leander, and consequently with her whole broadside exposed to view, and every port, one might suppose, as easy to be counted, as the ports of the Leander herself were by the British and American officers on board the Levant, was a "frigate ;" and such a frigate as, with another like her, it would be "impossible" for the Acasta to cope with. Lieutenant Henry Richmond, who was a midshipman on board the Leander, appears to have sanctioned Mr. Thomas Collier in saying, that " all on board " the Leander fully believed that the Constitution, Cyane, and Levant were three American frigates. The only answer we shall give to this will be to subjoin the names of the five lieutenants, who belonged to the Leander at the time. 1st. John M'Dougall, 2d. William Edward Fiott, 3d. Robert Graham Dunlop, 4th. George William St.-John Mildmay, and 5th. Richard Weld. We believe it is not yet admitted by Captains Kerr and Lord George Stuart, that the Acasta was the first ship that tacked, or that the weather, at the time the Constitution was left to go her ways, was not sufficiently clear for the water-lines of all the ships to be seen.

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Monday, March 11

11th March 1815


On the 11th of March, at 0 h. 15 m. p.m., when, as already stated, they first discovered the Constitution, Cyane, Levant, and cartel brig, the three British ships were standing close hauled on the starboard tack, with a moderate breeze from the north-east by north ; and the ships in Porto-Praya then bore from the Leander, the leewardmost ship of her squadron, northeast by north distant seven miles. In less than 10 minutes after she had discovered the approach of the British ships, the Constitution cut her cables and stood out of Porto-Praya on the larboard tack, followed by the Levant and Cyane. At 1 p.m., just as the Constitution had got upon the Leander's weather beam, the three British ships tacked in chase. At this time the strange squadron was about four miles in the wind's eye of the Acasta, the Acasta about one mile upon the weather quarter of the Newcastle, and the Newcastle about two miles ahead of the Leander. At this time, also, the Acasta made out the strangers to be " one large frigate and two sloops." The Newcastle has merely noted down in her log, that one ship was larger than the others ; and the Leander, in her log, describes all three of the ships as " apparently frigates." But the Leander's first lieutenant on the occasion, the present Captain John M'Dougall, has subsequently stated as follows: " Weather very thick and hazy ; took the two stern-most ships for frigates, the headmost, from appearance, a much larger ship, for the Guerrière; who, we understood, had long 32-pounders on her main deck." *

At 1 h. 30 m. p.m. Captain Stewart found that the Constitution sailed about equal with the ships on her lee quarter, but that the Acasta, by luffing up, was gaining her wake and rather dropping astern. It was at the same time observed, that the Cyane was dropping astern and to leeward, and would soon be overtaken by the Acasta. At 1 h. 40 m., therefore, Captain Stewart made the signal for the Cyane to tack ; expecting that the British commodore would detach a ship in pursuit of her, and that she would succeed in reaching the anchorage of Porto-Praya before the detached ship could come up with her ; or, if no ship chased, that she would be able to double the rear of the British squadron and escape before the wind. The Cyane, just when bearing from the Leander north-north-east distant four miles, tacked accordingly ; but no British ship tacked after her, Sir George rightly judging that she would reach the neutral port before either of the British ships could get within shot of her. The Cyane shortly afterwards bore away, and was seen no more. At 1 h. 45 in. the Leander hoisted her colours and fired a gun to windward; and then telegraphed that, in case of parting company, the Isle of Mayo was to be the rendezvous. Both the Leander's consorts also hoisted their colours, and the Newcastle scaled her guns. The Constitution's log notices the circumstance thus: " The ship on our lee quarter firing broadsides by divisions, her shot falling short of us." An officer of the Constitution, in a letter to a friend, says : " The shot fell short from 100 to 200 yards. " † This would, indeed, have brought the ships near together ; but the American officer must have greatly underrated the distance. For our part, we cannot see the necessity of scaling the guns at all : not only was the concussion calculated to check the ship's way, but it was very likely to calm the breeze, already beginning to slacken as the day drew towards its close.

At 2 h. 30 m. p.m., the Constitution having dropped the Levant considerably, the situation of the latter, in reference to the Acasta, became as critical as that of the Cyane had been. Captain Stewart accordingly made the Levant's signal to tack ; and the Levant did immediately tack. At this time, says the Acasta, " the frigate had gained on us, but we had gained on the sloop." One of the Constitution's officers gives a different statement from that in the Acasta's log. He says:

"The Acasta sailed faster than the Constitution,
and was gaining on her."

At all events the Acasta, although she might drop a little astern, was weathering upon the Constitution, and had now brought her to bear upon her weather cat-head. The instant the Levant tacked, the Leander made a signal, the nature of which we shall discuss presently ; and, in obedience to that signal, the Acasta " tacked in chase of the sloop." In a minute or two afterwards, according to statements that have appeared in print, the Leander and Newcastle successively did the same. When the Newcastle tacked, the Constitution was five or six miles to windward of her, and, " in the prevailing haze, nearly out of sight " from the deck of the Leander ; from whom the Newcastle then bore south-east by east, and the Acasta north-east.

At 2 h. 50 m. p.m., which was just 14 minutes after she had tacked, the Newcastle lost sight of the Constitution, owing to the increased haziness of the weather as the former approached the land, and the opposite course steered by the latter. The Levant, shortly after she had tacked, bore away for Porto-Praya road, and at about 3 h. 15 m. p.m. received from the Leander in passing an ineffectual fire. " At 4 h. 30 m.," says the Newcastle log, "saw her (Levant) anchor. Acasta fired a broadside. At 4 h. 56 m. tacked and fired our larboard broadside." An American account says: "The Levant ran into port, so as to run her jib-boom over the battery. The Acasta and Newcastle came in, and, although her colours were hauled down, fired at her a number of times. They were obliged to hoist and lower their colours twice ; yet not a gun was fired from the Levant. Lieutenant Ballard, who commanded, had ordered his men to lie on the deck, by which they all escaped injury, although considerable damage was done to the town. It seemed unnecessary for two heavy frigates to fire into one sloop of war, who neither did nor could make any resistance." † When the Leander opened her fire she discovered, clearly enough, the force of the ship in pursuit of which the squadron had tacked. Sir George then made the signal for the Acasta to take possession of her. The Acasta did so ; and, by 5 p.m., all three British ships had anchored in Porto-Praya road.

To be continued...

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Friday, March 8

8th of March 1815


On the 8th of March the Constitution, having in company, along with her two prizes, a merchant brig of which she intended to make a cartel, anchored off the isle of Mayo, one of the Cape de Verds ; and on the next day got under way, and anchored, a few hours afterwards, in the harbour of Porto-Praya, island of Saint-Jago. While on his way to these islands, Captain Stewart had caused the Cyane to be painted so as to resemble a 36-gun frigate. The object of this was to aggrandize his exploit, in the wondering eyes of the gaping citizens of Boston ; not one in a hundred of whom, he knew, would trouble themselves to inquire any further on the subject. The American captain would doubtless have played of the same deceptio visûs upon the Levant, had he not been aware, that no efforts of the painter could make a low flush ship of 464 tons resemble a frigate. On the 11th, at 15 minutes past noon, just as Captain Stewart had sent his master to bring the cartel brig under the stern of the Constitution, in order that the prisoners might be removed to her, three strange a ships were discovered through the haze, standing into the harbour. These were the British 50-gun ships Leander and Newcastle, Captains Sir George Ralph Collier, K. C. B. and Lord George Stuart, and 18-pounder 40-gun frigate Acasta, Captain Alexander Robert Kerr. We will now step back for a moment, and endeavour to show what had brought these three ships to a spot so distant from the station on which they had hitherto been cruising, the north-eastern coast of the United States.

On the 19th of December the Leander sailed from Halifax bound off Boston, and on the 24th fell in with the Newcastle and Acasta. By their captains, it appears, Sir George was informed, that the Constitution had sailed from Boston, and the Congress from Portsmouth, New-Hampshire, and that the President was to join those ships " from the Delaware." Unfortunately, although it had been stated over and over again in the Halifax papers, neither of the three captains appears to have been aware, that the Congress had, some months before, been dismantled and laid up at Portsmouth, and that the President was not lying in the " Delaware, " but in New York. On turning to the Newcastle's log, to see who it was that had been playing off such a hoax on Lord George, we find that, on the 22d, while the Newcastle and Acasta were lying at anchor in Cape Cod bay, the 18-gun brig-sloop Arab, Captain, Henry Jane, joined company, "with intelligence that the Constitution had sailed from Boston on the 17th instant." Not another word is there. This, however, was quite enough to hasten the two ships in getting under way, and to make their captains wish. no doubt, that they had kept under way in front of the port which they had been ordered to watch.

This story about the sailing of the American squadron, whether derived, in the first instance, from fishermen, cattle-dealers, or any other of the cunning New-England folk, was credited by Sir George Collier ; and away went the Leander, Newcastle, and Acasta, in search of the Constitution and the "two other heavy frigates" that had sailed "in her company." the 4th of January, when off the Western Isles, the three ships fell in with a brig-prize belonging to the American privateer Perry; and, having chased under American colours, were taken for an American squadron. The consequence was, that the prize-master of the brig voluntarily came on board the Leander, and pretended to take that ship for the President, the Newcastle for the Constitution, and the Acasta, not for the Congress, but for the Macedonian. In short, the fellow would have said or sworn anything, that he thought would ingratiate himself with his hearers. Mr. Marshall says, "Nothing could have happened better" than this farcical interview with the American privateer's-man. On the contrary, looking to the serious impression it appears to have made onboard the Leander, we should rather say, nothing could have happened worse.

 To be continued...

Excerpt from "Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. VI" by William James

Thursday, March 7

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

Wednesday, March 6

Seaman Garnerray- Voyages, Adventures et Combats


A book review by Tony Gerard

Voyages, Aventures et Combats (Seaman Garneray) 
By Louis Garneray, A new translation by Roland Wilson


While it seems, a person could spend a lifetime reading all the various accounts of British seamen and books about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars there is very little written about, or by, the opposition.

Garneray’s account is one of the few available written from the French side of the wars. Louis Garneray joined the French navy in 1796 when he was 13. Three years later he was serving as an aide to Robert Surcouf, one if the most famous French privateers. He was then captured and spent nine years as a prisoner of the British, and time he also wrote about (and previously reviewed on this website).

Garneray writing. as translated, is very readable, almost novel like in form, with many direct quotes. Written decades after the actual events this should not be taken as such. He had a tendency to stretch the truth in telling, elevating his own importance and always putting himself close to the principle characters. I would have appreciated it if he had included more of what  daily life was like on a French privateer and a bit less of the hero worship and quoted speeches of various important figures. Having said that it was a very enjoyable and easy read. I did learn some things. I was shocked to learn how lackadaisical the French navy was about desertion, especially considering the harsh penalty it drew in the British Royal Navy.

The editor and translator of the edition I have, Roland Wilson, provides a great introduction with excellent insights into Garneray as an individual, revolutionary France and the French navy and privateers at the time. He also provides excellent explanatory and supplemental notes printed on the sides of the page, much preferable to  having to look up a footnote in the back of the book!



Tuesday, March 5