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Written by Tarn
(10/9/2008 10:46 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Who would be interested in those lists?, penned by MarianneR
Conscription wasn't voluntary, communications were rudimentry and most sailors and marines were serving because they got a bounty to sign up, and were desperate for money. Many were pressed- hijacked from Merchant vessels, captures from foreign forces and foreign merchant vessels, and forced to serve in the British Navy.
In fact, this habit of Ruling the Waves, forcing sailors into service, without much regard for little things like what nationality they were, capturing and searching ships at will, had caused so much consternation and disgust for the Americans , that congress had actually agreed to raise taxes (although not without a great deal of carry-on) to built an American Navy (of six frigates, manned only by volunteers who were promoted on merit) to protect the large United States merchant navy that were sailing out to supply Europe (from the British point of view, their Enemy, France)with pelts and herrings and cotton and cheeses and every other kind of thing they could trade.
The British Navy - unquestionably the largest in the world at the time, and in force in every part of the world at the time, continued to reserve its right to regard Americans as British citizens to be pressed into service, or French sympathisers to be delayed with inspections that involved opening every barrel of herrings to check for contraband arms, done at leisure until the cheeses spoiled, and then taking off, leaving the vessel with not enough crew to man it to safe harbour, or enough supplies to last the distance. That sort of aggravation eventually meant the United States declared war on Britain - the war of 1812 (passionate accounts of which were published in the US newspapers at the time).
I don't think the British thought the US Navy was much of a threat - the British were by far the superior force - the USA had six frigates that had been built specially (none bigger than 44 guns) and ten other smaller vessels, the British - well just have a look at the Navy list!
I have not mentioned her brother Frank, who was also in the Navy and who had seen more action at that point in time. He actually wrote some of the reports of battles, that appeared in the gazettes. He had not been absent from England so long, but I am sure his reports would not be ignored by his family because of that. In fact, his reports of the war were as interesting to the people of the nation, as important to the national interest, then, as any embedded reporter in any war the nation happened to be in now. Unlike now, war was regarded as heroic, and individual Captains became celebrities, famous for their personal valour and boldness.
And even long after the war of 1812 ended (in 1815), these accounts were widely used as the basis for the histories of these celebrated fights.
I have been unable to get access to the original reports of the British commanders, the logs of the British ships, or their
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