That’s right, my dears! In one week the Young Bluestockings Book Club will be discussing Bloody Jack, by L.A. Meyer, here on Nineteen Teen. Marissa and I do hope you’ll join us.
To get you in the mood, I’m doing a little “show and tell” today, this time around naval uniforms.
First a little warning: I am NOT well versed in things military during the nineteenth century. I’ve actually avoided them when at all possible. Napoleonic war uniforms and accoutrements have been thoroughly studied by historians, re-enactors, costumers, and gamers. They know where of they speak. I just whisper softly in comparison.
So, to start us off, here’s a great Ackermann print from 1849 showing the various levels of officers. Bear in mind that Bloody Jack actually takes place about 50 years before this, but overall uniforms did not change a huge amount during that time (at least to my unpracticed eye). Also bear in mind that these are the dress uniforms — in the middle of a storm or a battle, these gentlemen wouldn’t look nearly so spiffy.
The Admiral stands on the right — notice the star on his chest and the amount of braid at his cuffs and waist. Saluting him is the captain, still impressive but rather less gilded up. The fellow with his back to us is a commodore, above a captain but lesser than an admiral. The little fellow in the rear is a midshipman. Notice the sheaf of papers under his arm to indicate he is still studying.
And here’s the commodore again. This time he’s holding papers to indicate he has the orders; he’s the one in charge. A lesser officer stands next to him on the gun deck (odd place to be examining your orders, but certainly picturesque!), with your ordinary seaman behind, ready to snap to duty. Notice that the lesser officer only has one epaulet on his shoulders.
Here’s another set of lesser officers and an able seaman. The artist did an outstanding job of showing his swagger. He’s had years at sea, seen the world and over. He’s the best of the lot, and he knows it!
If you’d like another take on the naval uniforms of the early nineteenth century, this time by a noted costumer, check out this post on the authenticity of the costumes in the movie Master and Commander: Far Side of the World at Clothesmonaut.
So, were these the way you imagined them as you were reading Bloody Jack? Jane Austen, with two brothers in the navy, was said to be taken with naval men. Is it true there’s something about a man, or woman, or Klingon, in uniform?