Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Southwell Frigate Tradeing on ye Coast of Africa, date unknown

The Southwell Frigate Tradeing on ye Coast of Africa, attributed to Nicholas Pocock, date unknown, Bristol Museums.

In a rare depiction of the eighteenth century slave trade, the artist has depicted a frigate collecting enslaved people on the coast of Africa. It is possible that the shoreline depicted in Malembo, which the Southwell visited on her second voyage in early 1749.

PortCities Bristol suggests that this may have been sketched around 1760. That would make sense if Pocock is indeed the artist. Pocock was born in 1740, and would have been far too young to depict the Southwell during her two voyages to Africa in the mid to late 1740's.

This does raise the question of why Pocock would choose to portray a vessel and a voyage that was largely unremarkable for the time, especially more than a decade after the event. Pocock's father was a sailor, so perhaps he had served aboard one of these voyages and inspired Pocock's later illustration. This will require more research.

Regardless of when or why the scene was chosen, it gives us a look at the day to day operations of the transatlantic slave trade. The artist chose to show the trading of more than just human beings. In the lower right, he shows the captain being carried by two Africans, and goods being brought to the boats in boxes, casks, and pots. The box being carried on the head of the African armed with a musket is marked "Bristol." According to the catalog entry for this sketch at the Bristol Museums website, "the long crate probably carries muskets."

In the boats, the sailors of the Southwell wear jackets that end about the top of the thigh, cocked hats (at least one of which is worn reversed), and what might be a jockey style barge cap or two.

The bottom left shows a more traditional scene on the African coast of sailors hauling enslaved people to the ship. Bound by the neck, the enslaved Africans are loaded onto a waiting boat under the watchful gaze of the captain. The ship is crowded with enslaved people who are crammed on the main deck.

According to the Slave Voyages Database, the Southwell loaded 779 enslaved people on her first voyage, which must have been dangerously overcrowded.

Standing at the stern of the jolly boat, the coxswain wears a jacket without vents and a pair of trousers. His head is topped with a round hat or cocked hat. His mate wears a cocked hat and jacket, but it is unclear if he wears petticoat trousers, trousers, or breeches.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Anglo-American Maritime Clothing, 1680-1740

Today's guest post is by David Fictum of Colonies, Ships, and Pirates. David is engaging in a new, exciting project exploring common sailor's clothing in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. If you're interested in what the slop clothes of my era of study evolved from, I encourage you to support David Fictum's research.

Frontispiece to England's Safety, 1693.

Maritime clothing in the Age of Sail is a topic that only receives minimal attention in the greater history of the maritime world. For those interested in the attire of mariners during the latter half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, learning about sailor’s garb in the time preceding that period brings further context and understanding to the latter period. In 2015, I completed and successfully defended my master’s thesis for the Maritime Studies Department at East Carolina University concerning the attire of common sailors and pirates for the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. However, before I take my thesis to a publisher, I need to conduct more research so I can provide my readers the best work possible. To conduct said research, I need to go to the archives in London for a 3-week research trip. I cannot raise the funds to conduct this trip by myself, a problem I had when I originally worked on my thesis. Therefore, I have established a GoFundMe page and am asking for donations to help fund this research trip.

I used a variety of period documents to study the mariners and pirates of this era. My research used publications from the era, newspaper accounts, Admiralty contracts with slop sellers, Navy regulations, and probate inventories. It is this last type of source that I wish to use collect more of for my studies. I managed to obtain over a dozen relevant probates through published accounts and the help of Dr. Ed Fox. All the information I collected allowed me to gain not only a better idea of what they wore, but what said clothing said about the lives and world of the sailor. They allowed me a good qualitative, but not quantitative, perspective on maritime clothing.

Photo by Ed Fox

My visit to London, specifically to the National Archives, would allow be to access and photograph hundreds of probate inventories of sailors that died at sea. These particular probates offer the best chance at seeing specifically what clothing sailors owned while at sea in a quantitative manner. In addition to probates, I will look into other period manuscripts and documents, including many more documents from the Admiralty.

Once I complete my work at the archives, I will use the data to improve my thesis and create a two-volume work. The first volume would be my main text discussing maritime clothing, while the second volume would contain many transcripts of the documents I used in my research, including those I obtained during the research trip. The latter volume will provide broader access to documents previously accessed by a small number of historians. This work overall would help establish a foundation on this subject that others in the future can build on in later years.

For those of you interested in this topic, or in maritime history, or in clothing history, or the history of the greater Age of Sail and Early Modern Era, I encourage you to donate to my GoFundMe page and to pass on links to my page to others who also might be interested.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Buckingham on the stocks at Deptford, 1752

Buckingham on the stocks at Deptford, John Cleveley the Elder, 1752, National Maritime Museum.

Cleveley was a shipwright by trade, and many of his paintings depict ships on the stocks. He also populates his paintings with sailors and people. Unlike many other marine artists of the time, Cleveley never separated the image of the ship from the people who built and sailed them. A tangible reminder of the importance of the sailors and the tradesmen in creating these beautiful machines.

Astern of the landlocked Deptford is a small barge with two bargemen. They lay on their oars, but have built up enough moments for a very slight wake to follow their rudder.

They are clad in shirtsleeves, white stockings, blue breeches, and black jockey style barge caps.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Portrait of Arthur Phillip, 1786

Portrait of Arthur Phillip, Francis Wheatley, 1786, National Portrait Gallery UK.

Special thanks to Matthew Brenckle, former historian for the USS Constitution Museum, for pointing out this piece and connecting the dots to Jacob Nagle for me.

An experienced officer, Arthur Phillip is today remembered as commander of the First Fleet. This portrait was painted the year before his fateful voyage, and depicts him stepping ashore from his personal barge. A very similar scene may have transpired when he arrived on the shores of New South Wales, where he would soon be made governor.

Phillip's flagship was the small ten gun Sirius. Thankfully for historians, one of the common sailors aboard the Sirius was Jacob Nagle, who is one of very few such men to leave us a primary source account of his experiences.

Nagle wrote of a rather unfortunate morning:
In the morning when I awoke, the Governors barges cap that I wore was gone, my hankerchief off my neck, and what money I had about me was gone.  The cap was silver mounted, with a large silver plate in the front with the Portegee coat of arms stamp'd on it, with Portegees letters or charictors on it.
Commodore Phillip had served as a captain in the Portuguese navy in 1774, commanding the Nossa Senhora do Pilar in transporting convict labor. During the voyage, he sailed into a storm and survived only with the assistance of the convicts. It was for this reason that he was selected to command the First Fleet over a decade later.

Apparently, Phillip held the experience close to his heart, as Nagle indicates that he still outfitted his bargemen in the caps of his Portuguese service.

It is possible that one of these two men is Jacob Nagle himself. Certainly this is the uniform he would have worn when working the barge. Like many bargemen, it is remarkably simple: white shirt without waistcoat or jacket, plain trousers, and a black barge cap trimmed in white with a silver seal affixed to its front.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Representation of Capt. Cheap, 1745

A Representation of Capt Cheap, Commander of the ship Wager, Shooting Mr. Cozens his Midshipman; with the Crew building their Huts after the Ship was Cast away on a desolate island on the coast of Patagonia, artist unknown, published 1745 in A voyage to the South-seas, and to many other parts of the world, from 1740 to 1744, by an officer of the fleet.

This particular print was exceptionally difficult to find. I saw reproductions of the original in Leo Heaps' Log of the Centurion (without attribution) and Rear Adm. C.H. Layman's The Wager Disaster: Mayhem, Mutiny and Murder in the South Seas. Having searched through all of the usual sources, I turned to digital collections with the help of Adam Hodges-LeClaire, who found scans of widely varying quality across the internet.

The Wager was a 6th Rate 24 gun frigate with a company of 243 officers and men. She was assigned to the 1740-1744 Anson expedition to raid Spanish holdings and shipping in the Pacific, but like nearly every vessel in the fleet was doomed. Her fate was to be wrecked on the Patagonian shore. From there, the officers and men splintered under the ineffectual command and short temper of David Cheap.

The harrowing experience of the men, and the eventual death of most of them, was the subject of Patrick O'Brian's early maritime novel The Unknown Shore, a predecessor to his famous Aubrey-Maturin novels.

Midshipman Henry Cozens quarreled with Cheap, the purser, the surgeon, and other officers on occasion, but things came to a head on June 10, 1741. While at the mess tent, Cozens learned that rations had been stopped for one of the men. Confronting the purser, he demanded to know the reason. The purser's reply was to accuse Cozens of mutiny and attempt to shoot him. At the sound of the shot, Captain Cheap dispatched a lieutenant to find the reason, and was informed (incorrectly) that Cozens was a mutineer. In a rage, Cheap unceremoniously shot the midshipman in the head without a word.

The event was a major factor in the eventual collapse of discipline and dissolution of the stranded crew.

In the background, numerous sailors work at setting up camp on the Patagonian shore. They are mosty dressed in round hats with low crowns and floppy brims, plain trousers that end at about the bottom of the calf, single breasted jackets cut to about the top of the thigh, and plain, short neckcloths. Though difficult to tell from the piece, it appears that they wear no waistcoats. A couple of sailors wear caps, and at least one wears a cocked hat reversed.

In the detail depicting Captain Cheap shooting Midshipman Cozens, there is one fellow in the immediate background wearing a bob wig. I am inclined to think he is a warrant officer or commissioned officer, given how the cuffs on his coat contrast with the cuffs on the sailors jackets throughout the image.

Even when stranded thousands of miles from home, sailors still carry their trusty sticks! It is worth noting the open slit cuffs of the sailor in the foreground here.