Jaco Jacinto Age of Sail Series
This series follows the careers of two men, an American in the Continental Navy and an Englishmen in the Royal Navy. They start as mortal enemies but meet and become friends. Later in the war, they are mortal enemies and throughout their careers, their lives intertwine testing their friendship because sometimes they are looking at each other over a gun barrel.
The Age of Sail began at the Battle of Lepanto in October 1571 when the Holy League’s fleet of sailing ships defeated a fleet of rowed galleys from the Ottoman Empire. Most naval historians agree that sailing warship design reached its peak during the Napoleonic Wars. The Age of Sail ended abruptly on March 9th, 1862 when the Confederate Navy ironclad Virginia dueled with the U.S. Navy’s iron plated Monitor. By the end of the American Civil War, steam powered, iron plated warships had begun replacing wooden sailing ships.
C.S. Forester (Horatio Hornblower), Patrick O’Brian (Jack Aubrey) and Alexander Kent (Richard Bolitho) are three of the most popular novelists who wrote Age of Sail novels. Each of their series focused on the fictitious exploits of Royal Navy officers. And, if you enjoy Age of Sail novels, this leads to the first of eight reasons why the Jaco Jacinto series is different…
One, the series focuses on the Continental Navy and the early days of the U.S. Navy. While much has been written about the U.S. Navy’s stellar performance during the War of 1812, there are few books about the trials and tribulations of its predecessor, the Continental Navy, the sea going force that took on the Royal Navy, the largest, most powerful and best trained and equipped navy in the world during the American Revolution. When the war for independence began, the Royal Navy had 355 sixth rated ships or larger and the Continental Navy hadn’t even been formed. After the American Revolution ended in 1783, the Continental Army and Navy were dissolved. The United States had no army or navy for nine years. Then, via the Naval Act of March 1794, the modern U.S. Navy was born.
Two, the main characters are an American and a Englishman. The series has two main characters. One is Jaco Jacinto, an American from Charleston, SC and the other is Darren Smythe, an Englishman from Gosport, U.K. In the first book – Raider of the Scottish Coast – they meet and become friends. Then, later in the novel, they are again mortal enemies. Throughout the series, the careers of Darren and Jaco intertwine. Depending on the global political situation, they either continue their friendship or find themselves at the opposite ends of each other’s cannon.
Three, each book is true to history and has historical tidbits one doesn’t find in most history books. Just as noted under reason one, each novel is chock full of interesting tidbits from the period that aren’t in most history books. For example, most don’t know that the first man to accurately chart and describe the Gulf Stream was none other than Benjamin Franklin.
Four, the battles, firearms and cannon described are accurate and realistic. The reader is given insight into 18th Century weapons and their limitations as well as the challenges of maneuvering a sailing ship into position when one only can fire to either side. Readers will enjoy captains basing their strategy on their visualization of the geometry of the coming engagement by determining how they will accommodate the wind and the limited fields of fire of their side mounted cannon.
Five, each novel takes on social issues of the era which are still relevant today. In each book, the characters encounter prejudices that still plague our society today. Life in the 18th Century was very different than the 21st Century. They lived without electricity, running water, telecommunications, computers, the internet, email, twitter, texts, GPS, supermarkets, modern medicine, cars, airplanes, trains and much more. The pace was a lot slower and long distance communication was via handwritten letters. Women weren’t allowed to attend medical or law school, much less vote.
Six, one doesn’t have to read them in sequence or even all of them. There’s enough backstories in each book so that you will understand what happened in prior novels. This well let you read one or all of them in any order you choose.
As of October, 2020, the Jaco Jacinto Age of Sail series will have seven books. The prospective titles and era they cover follows:
- Raider of the Scottish Coast – first three years of the American Revolution and ends in June 1778;
- Carronade – second three years of the American Revolution and ends in the June 1780;
- Death of a Lady – summer of 1780 up until the Battle of Yorktown
- Last Battles - last years of the American Revolution and the first year of peace that follows;
- For a Few Francs – The Quasi War of 1798 to 1800;
- Fight We Shall – War against the Barbary Pirates 1801 – 1805; and
- Powder & Shot – Ramp up to and the War of 1812.
When asked, which one should I start with, my answer is always the same. Pick one and dive in… You’ll enjoy the sail, errr, read!
Jaco was born and raised in Charleston South Carolina. His grandfather Caidin came to Charleston from the Netherlands in 1708 as an ambitious 18 year-old. Caidin had commissions from the British and Dutch East India Companies to find cargos for which he would be paid 20% of the value. At his death, Caidin left his two sons – Javier and Genuto - a thriving import/export business along with thousands of acres of land.
Salomon Jacinto and his family escaped from Malaga, Spain in 1588 after King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issued the Alhambra Decrees which gave practicing Jews a choice, convert or die. Solomon was a blacksmith and trader brought his family to The Netherlands.
When the American Revolution began, Jaco is 16 and had spent the prior three summers on merchant ships as “an officer in training.” The ships carried indigo, lumber, rice and cotton to Lisbon, Amsterdam, Brest and London. He spoke fluent Spanish because his parents insisted he learn the language of their ancestors and French which he learned in school.
Javier Jacinto was a member South Carolina’s delegation to the Second Continental Congress. He was a member of the Marine Committee which was responsible for funding, equipping and recruiting sailors for the Continental Navy. Although he was offered a commission on a Charleston based privateer, Jaco decided to accept an appointment as a midshipman in the Continental Navy.
Physically, Jaco is slim, 5’ 9” tall with olive skin and thick, jet black hair that begets his Spanish Mediterranean heritage. His eyes are bright blue and can be soft and gentle, or fire laser like darts. He is naturally curious about the world around him and focuses on the task at hand. In battle, Jaco is a reputation as being shrewd, unpredictable tactician. As a leader, he cares deeply for the men he commands who will fight to the death for him.
Ever since he was a little boy in Gosport, England, Darren wanted to be an officer in the Royal Navy. He’d spent countless hours watching ships come and go from the Portsmouth Naval Base across the harbor..
Darren’s f upper middle class family owns Smythe & Sons, a manufacturer of surgical instruments and medicines. The firm was started by Dr. Joakim Schmeitz, a graduate of the University of Heidelberg’s medical school and his wife Gretchen in the early 1600s. Both were Protestants and who fled Germany during the Reformation. The couple spent several years in The Netherlands before moving to England and Anglicizing their last name to Smythe.
Darren never wanted to go into the family business and his father secured him an appointment at the Royal Naval Academy. Upon graduation at 16, he was assigned as a midshipman on the frigate H.M.S. Deer, 32 guns.
Smythe looks English with fair skin and curly blond hair. He’s a slim, 5’9” tall, studious and patient. Darren is lucky enough as a midshipman and lieutenant to have captains who mentor him. Seeing their mangled bodies on the quarterdeck forever scarred his psyche and forced him to effectively lead men much older than he. His superiors see him as a future admiral. He sees a career in the Royal Navy as a way of proving himself outside the family business, and through prize money, making his own fortune.
Historical Context for Each Novel
Historical Backdrop of the Novel Raider of the Scottish Coast
When the shots were fired on April 19th, 1775 at Lexington and Concord, the Thirteen Colonies declared war on the most powerful and one of the richest nations in the world. What had been a simmering rebellion with passive aggressive behavior by the citizens against the mother country’s laws had broken out into an all-out war.
England, which gained supremacy in North America after the Seven Years War, didn’t take the rebellion seriously at first. Those in Parliament and in the British Army thought that after a few battles, the colonists would lay down their arms. Washington’s siege of Boston made the city untenable as a British bastion so evacuated. The British invade Long Island and seized New York, a city they would hold until the end of the war.
At sea, the Continental Navy had to go from a bill passed by the Continental Congress to an effective fighting force almost overnight. While it never could match the Royal Navy ship for ship which had, at the beginning of the war over 550 ships in commission. The Continental Navy had a different mission - disrupt the British maritime commerce.
Desperate for experienced captains, the Continental Congress offered commissions to men like John Paul Jones who were, besides captaining a ship, tasked with training a group of young officers who would in turn, command ships. The war would produce several successful captains besides Jones. Nicholas Biddle and John Barry are just two.
Manning ships was another problem. Thanks to the Articles of Confederation in which the individual states retained the power to tax, the Continental Congress was always strapped for money. It had to beg and borrow money from the individual colonies, from its citizens and from France, The Netherlands and Spain to pay for an army and navy.
Many of frigates the Congress could afford were quickly captured by the Royal Navy or burned to avoid capture. However, both the Continental Congress and many of the colonies issued letters of marque to consortiums who would fund privateers.
By the end of the war, the combined efforts of the Continental Navy and the privateers captured between 12 and 15% of the British Merchant fleet along with 15,000 sailors. Their effort disrupted English commerce as well as made it difficult to keep General Sir Henry Clinton’s army in New York well-supplied.
When France entered the war on the side of the colonists, what had been a three-year rebellion became a global war. Once again, England was pitted against France, Spain and to a lesser extent, the Dutch Republic we know as The Netherlands. France and later Spain wanted to recapture the colonies it had lost in the Seven Years War. Battles were fought in the Caribbean, Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Central and South America, Europe and on the Indian sub-continent.
Raider of the Scottish Coast begins with the formation of the Continental Navy and ends in May 1778. The issue, i.e. whether or not the Thirteen Colonies would win their independence was still in doubt despite the victory at Saratoga and the formal alliance with France
Historical Backdrop of the Novel Carronade
In June of 1778, when the novel Carronade begins, the War for Independence by Thirteen Colonies had been raging for three years and three months and the outcome was still very much in doubt. However, the French King, Louis XVI, and his Foreign Minister, Charles Grazier, the comte de Vergennes, concluded the Continental Army had won enough victories to have a chance of winning independence, and saw an opportunity to recoup France’s losses from the Seven Years War. France signed the Treaty of Alliance on February 6th, 1778. The British declared war on France on March 17th, 1778 right after they learned of the treaty.
At the same time, King Carlos III of Spain was deliberating whether to shift from simply assisting the rebelling colonies with arms, ammunition and safe havens for their ships to declaring outright war on England. Unknown to the Americans, France and Spain negotiated a separate alliance via the Treaty of Aranjuez. This new treaty, signed on April 12th, 1779, committed France to help Spain retake Gibraltar and the Island of Menorca before they were allowed to make peace with Britain. This commitment, along with several others, violated the codicils of the Treaty of Alliance.
The Dutch continued to supply the Continental Army and Navy with munitions and allowed their islands in the Caribbean to be used by American privateers and Continental Navy ships. They also loaned the Continental Congress money.
In the eyes of the British, Dutch, French and Spanish governments, what started at Lexington and Concord was now a global contest for colonies in the Caribbean, Central, North and South America, and India. Whether or not the Thirteen Colonies gained independence was important only to those who wanted to throw off the British yoke.
The American Revolution was also a civil war. A sizable minority of the population preferred to stay loyal to King George III and many joined the British Army. The rebellion split many families, pitting brother against brother, father against son.
In Florida, a Spanish territory ceded to the British at the end of the Seven Years War, most of the citizens were pro-British. Despite both formal and informal invitations, Floridians elected not to join the rebellion. St. Augustine and Amelia Island became bases for the British Army to support their Indian allies and launch attacks in Georgia and South Carolina. Many battles were fought in the panhandle of Florida as the rebels tried to gain control of the colony.
To disrupt the economies of Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia, early in the war on November 7th, 1775, John Murray, the 4th Earl or Dunmore and the Royal Governor of Virginia, declared martial law in Virginia. His proclamation also promised freedom and English citizenship for slaves who joined the British Army. Dunmore’s Proclamation caused many slaves to flee the plantations, which affected loyalists and rebel owners alike. The policy ultimately backfired; most Virginians wanted independence, and Murray was forced to flee with 600 former slaves. Even so, on June 30th, 1779, General Clinton issued what is known as the Phillipsburg Proclamation which reinforced Murray’s initial offer. Those slaves who fled their plantations were formed into units known as Black Loyalists.
In Philadelphia, the Continental Congress was struggling with managing the war while at the same time working through a governing document, which became known as the Articles of Confederation. Because the Congress couldn’t levy taxes, the majority of the money to pay for the war for independence came from donations and loans from its citizens who supported the rebellion, the government’s share of prize money, and loans from foreign governments.
In England, the war was becoming more and more unpopular. The British population understood war with France but fighting Englishmen who wanted the same rights as they enjoyed was harder to understand. By 1780, the pro-war British prime minister Lord North still lead a majority in Parliament but was facing a growing opposition led by Lords Rockingham and Shelburne.
Despite a mix of wins and losses, Washington kept the Continental Army together; so the British, to use a modern term, had to honor the threat. American privateers and the fledgling Continental Navy constituted another threat: capturing (depending on the source) 10-15% of the British merchant marine fleet.
General Clinton’s strategy to quell the rebellion by crushing resistance in the northern colonies died in the fall of 1777 when Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga. Encouraged by Loyalists in the south and reinforced with additional British Army and mercenaries from ultimately seven German duchies (Hesse-Hanau, Hesse-Hanau, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Ansbach-Bayreuth, Waldeck, Hanover, and Anhalt-Zerbst), Clinton decided to use Florida as a base to conquer Georgia and then South Carolina.
What began in April 1775 as a rebellion against British rule had turned, by the summer of 1778, into an outright civil war pitting brother against brother, father against son. Thousands of Loyalists flocked to the Union Jack and joined the British Army. But the majority of those living in the Thirteen Colonies wanted complete independence from England.
In London, Lord North struggled to maintain his majority in Parliament. British Army General Sir Henry Clinton’s inability to defeat Washington cost North credibility. Once France and Spain joined the Continentals, England was once again fighting its traditional enemies on land and on the sea all over the globe.
Clinton sent Lord Cornwallis to capture Charleston, SC, an action he believed would force General Washington to send part of his army south to defend Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. But after successfully capturing Charleston in May 1780, Cornwallis could not subdue the countryside. Frustrated, he set out on a campaign he believed would culminate in the decisive defeat of the Continental Army.
This campaign took Cornwallis and the British army the January 1781 Battle of Cowpens where Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s British legion was decimated. Later in March 1781 at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Cornwallis was left holding the battlefield but half of his men were casualties and General Greene’s army was still intact.
Low on supplies, Cornwallis headed for Wilmington, NC. There, resupplied, he headed north to join Generals Philips and Arnold. The combined force was ordered to find a place where it could be either reinforced or evacuated. Cornwallis chose Yorktown.
When Death of a Lady begins in the summer of 1780, few on either side knew the battle that would decide the war was less than 14 months away. Or that a peace treaty wouldn’t be signed for another three years.
The Family Trees
Family Trees of the Main Characters in the Jaco Jacinto Age of Sail Series
For those readers who are interested in the familial relationships major characters, this section should provide insight into the family trees of the major characters. The notes listed below are as of the end of Carronade, the second novel in the Jaco Jacinto Age of Sail series. As their lives (and the series progresses), more and more information about these interesting people will be added.
Life was much harder and harsher in the late 1700s than it is today. Living into one’s 70s was the exception not the norm. Death from yellow fever, smallpox, typhus, and other diseases was common. Sanitation as we know it in the 21st Century simply didn’t exist.
Couples had as many children as they could because, if they were farmers, they needed the help in the fields and to carry on in future years. It was not unusual for disease to take the lives of one or more children or parents which meant children were exposed to death at an early age.
One aspirational note about the female characters. In the late 18th Century, the woman’s place was “in the home.” Her job was to raise and nurture the children. The husband was responsible for working at a profession that generated money.
However, women were, in 18th Century Colonial America, beginning to force their way out of this mold. Life on the frontier could, in a matter of minutes, make the woman the head of the household, either by disease, an accident, or an attack by Native Americans.
Even though it took the United States until early in the 20th Century to grant women the right to vote, women were beginning to strike out during the American Revolution. One of the characters, Miriam Bildesheim is modeled after a Savannah woman by the name of Abigail Minis. See https://marcliebman.com/jaco-jacinto-age-of-sail-series/ for more on the remarkable Mrs. Minis. In creating this this series, many of the women are portrayed as pioneers in that they want to enter professions dominated by men.
Miriam Bildesheim, married to Leo who died in 1744. The couple emigrated from Prussia to Charleston in 1726. Born in Konigsberg, Prussia in 1704, she owns Shayna Enterprises, which is a farming conglomerate with 100,000+ acres and a unique business model. Those that work the land reap 80% of the profits. The farms produce rice, corn, barley, indigo and some cotton as well as smoked meats. She is the owner of the Dockside Inn (11 rooms) and the Dockside Tavern; the Charleston Inn (22 rooms and tavern); Charleston Arms, a gunsmith and gun powder manufacturing firm; an indigo processing facility; and a general store. She is also a shareholder of the Bank of South Carolina and has investments in other businesses in Charleston.
Children are listed in order of age with the oldest listed first:
- Chaya Bildesheim (born 1730 in Konigsberg), daughter, married to Armando Delgado (born 1729) in 1748 and have three children, all born in South Carolina, Chayim (born in 1750, died in 1761), Naomi (born 1753) and Leon (born 1756). Couple manages several of Shayna’s large farms.
- Devorah Bildesheim (born in 1733 in Konigsberg, Prussia, daughter, married Abraham Nunez (born in 1731, died in 1765) in 1753, runs the dry goods store in Charleston. Have three children, all born in Charleston, Moses (born in 1755), Albert (born in 1757) and Sara (born in 1760, died in 1769).
- Yael Bildesheim (born 1735 in Charleston), married to Jorge Delgado. They have three daughters, all born in Charleston - Ester (born in 1767), Lynda (born in 1769) and Grace (born in 1771). The family runs the Charleston Inn.
- Adah Bildesheim (born in 1742 in Charleston), daughter, married to Max Laredo.
- Eve Bildesheim (born in 1744), farmer, married to Carlos Bassano in 1746. Twin daughters Florence and Selma born in Charleston in 1766.
- Leah Bildesheim, (born in 1746 and twin of Rivkah), married to Emory Fonseca (b. 1744) and a farmer. They have four children, all born in South Carolina Micah (b. 1765, Michael (b. 1769), Rebekah (b. 1767), and Rachel (b. 1770).
- Rivkah Bildesheim (born in 1746 and twin to Leah), married to Levi Navarro (b. 1744) in 1767 and runs the Dockside Inn and the Dockside Tavern. They have two children, April (b. 1768) and Gail (b. 1770), both born in Charelston.
Caidin Jacinto arrived in Charleston in 1708. He was a descendent of Solomon and Mima Jacinto who, along with their two sons – Haim and Gaya - left Malaga, Spain in 1492 for the Netherlands. Caidin married Ester Cordoso who was a widow with two children who died before they reached adulthood. Dolce died in 1717 and Ezra passed away in 1727. Caidin started South Carolina Imports and Exports that by 1775 has offices co-located with Laredo Shipping in Amsterdam as well as agents in New York, Hampton, Lisbon, London, Marrakech, Naples, Cadiz, Copenhagen, and other cities in Europe. They are the largest shareholder in the Bank of South Carolina.
Caidin and Ester have three children:
- Javier (born in Charleston 1735) married Perla Todros (born in 1738 in Charleston) in 1753.
- Gento (born in Charleston in 1738) Javier’s younger brother, manages South Carolina Import and Export, Ltd. while Javier is a delegate to the Continental Congress.
- Yona, his sister, was born in 1740 in Charleston and died in 1771.
Javier and Perla’s children are listed in order of age with the oldest listed first:
- Isaac Jacinto, (born in Charleston in 1755) oldest son and heir apparent to the business.
- Jaco Jacinto (born in Charleston in 1759), Continental Naval Officer. See separate bio -"Who is Jaco Jacinto".
- Shoshana Jacinto (born in Charleston in 1760), want to become a member of the South Carolina Bar.
- Saul Jacinto (born in Charleston in 1764), crippled by a fever we know call polio when he was 8 years old.
Max Laredo (born in 1740) married Adah Bildesheim in 1760. Max’s grandfather came to Charleston in 1730 from Curaçao. His forefathers fled Portugal and moved to Brazil but when the Portuguese imposed the inquisition in Brazil, his ancestors left for the Dutch island of Curaçao until his parents came to South Carolina. The Laredos own cargo ships and have offices in Amsterdam and Charleston and agents in major ports in Europe. They are one of the shareholders in the Bank of South Carolina.
Max and Adah’s children are listed in order of age with the oldest listed first:
- Amos Laredo, (born in Charleston in 1753), Captain, 4th Carolina Dragoons.
- Eric Laredo, (born in 1759 in Charleston), served as a privateer officer until captured. Freed in Carronade, he is now Laredo Shipping’s agent in Amsterdam.
- Reyna Laredo (born in Charleston in 1760). She is Jaco’s fiancée and wants to become a medical doctor.
Lester is married to Olivia Stowe Smythe. Doctor Joakim and Gretchen Schmeitz fled Mannheim, Germany in 1601 during the Counter Reformation because they did not want to convert to Catholicism. After five years practicing medicine in The Dutch Republic (now known as the Netherlands), the Schmeitz’s emigrated to England and settled in Gosport where he founded Smythe & Sons. Two generations after Joakim Schmeitz died, the family officially changed their names to Smythe so it matched the name of the family business.
Smythe & Sons began manufacturing medical instruments he either designed or modified. By the late 18th Century, the firm is known for its high-quality medical instruments and proprietary medicines made from high quality steel similar to that which was, at the time, used in swords and bayonets.
Lester Smythe was born in 1726 and Olivia Stowe of Portsmouth in 1728. They married in 1749.
Lester and Olivia’s children are listed in order of age with the oldest listed first:
- Bradley Smythe (born in Gosport in 1750), engineer and designer of many of the new or modified surgical instruments manufactured by Smythe & Sons.
- Gerald Smythe (born in Gosport in 1754), medical doctor and chemist who compounds medicines sold by Smythe & Sons.
- Emily Smythe Burdette (born in Gosport in 1756), married in 1773 to Francis Burdette (born in Portsmouth, U.K in 1753), a solicitor who has Smythe & Sons as his primary account at the law firm of Helmsley & Cole. Emily helps her mother with Smythe & Sons accounting. The Burdette’s have three sons, Jeremiah (born 1775), Jonah (born 1777) and Jeffrey (born 1779).
- Darren Smythe, (born in Gosport in 1758), Royal Navy Captain. See separate seciont - "Who is Darren Smythe".
Theodore (Theo) was born in 1741 and runs a furniture making shop. He started as a carpenter which was his father’s trade and began making high quality furniture for Charlestonians as well as many of the plantation owners in South Carolina. Theodore’s father had emigrated from England and was born in Charleston in 1731. He married Amelia Middleton (born in 1733) in 1754. She was a member of one of the founding families of Charleston in 1754. The family’s loyalties are split. Theo is a staunch Loyalist while Amelia’s and Melody’s sympathies are with the rebels and Asa who is serving in the Continental Army.
Children are listed in order of age with the oldest listed first:
- Asa Winters, (born in Charleston in 1755). Captain of Artillery and Engineers, in the Continental Army.
- Melody Winters, (born in Charleston in 1757), speaks Spanish, French, English, Latin and German and wants to become a professor of languages.
- Ezekiel Winters, (born in Charleston in 1764).
Ships in the Novels
Background on the Design, Construction and Armament of the Scorpion
In the late 18th Century, warship design was still evolving, even though the construction material—wood—and the propulsion method—wind—had not changed since the Age of Sail began at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. When the American Revolution began, ship designers were experimenting with hull configurations that could give newly built ships distinct advantages over their counterparts.
In the late 1770s, two American ship designers—Joshua Humphreys and James Hackett—were coming into their own. Humphreys had designed the conversion of the merchant ship Black Prince into the Continental Navy frigate Alfred. Hackett created and built Ranger, the frigate that John Paul Jones used to raid Scotland and capture H.M.S. Drake.
Both men were testing ideas that were ultimately incorporated into the designs of the first generation of frigates built for the modern U.S. Navy after the American Revolution. In 1794, Humphreys designed the frigate Constitution. Constitution and her sisters—Constellation, Congress, President, United States, and Chesapeake—were faster, more maneuverable, and carried heavier armament than any other comparable ship in any navy. Ton for ton, they were the best frigates ever built. Any one of these frigates was an ugly surprise to any ship that met them in battle.
Back to the fictitious Scorpion. Conceptually, Scorpion incorporates design elements that would be used by Humphreys a decade later. The 600-ton Scorpion is small compared to the typical fifth- and sixth-rate Royal Navy frigates, which displaced 700 tons or more. If Scorpion had been in the Royal Navy, based on her number of guns, the frigate would have been a sixth-rate ship-of-the-line.
There is not one factor that makes Scorpion unique and a formidable adversary, but five. What follows are the five elements that give Scorpion’s captain tactical advantages in any fight with a fifth- or six-rated Royal Navy frigate.
- Hull Design
As conceived Scorpion is 155 feet long, which is about 20 feet longer than fifth- and sixth-rate frigates in the Royal Navy. Around the time of the American Revolution, ship designers had been learning how the flow around a hull affects a ship’s speed. The French were the first to note that if the shipbuilder tapered the hull beginning in the middle of the vessel to a stern slightly narrower than the bow, the ship would go faster.
Other designers rightly concluded that a narrower hull was faster than a wider one, hence Scorpion’s beam is only 28 feet vice the 35 common on Royal Navy frigates of the time and tapered slightly after the middle of the ship.
The third element is the frigate’s bow. Instead of a “bluff, rounded bow” common at the time, Scorpion has a more pointed bow, which early in the 19th century became known as the “clipper bow.”
Together, the mythical Scorpion has a longer, narrower, tapered hull with a pointed bow that reduces hydrodynamic drag. The result is a hull speed—the fastest the ship can possibly go through the water—of 15 knots vice the 10-11 of a comparable Royal Navy fifth- or sixth-rater. While the difference between 10 and 12 knots doesn’t appear to be much, the difference of two knots means Scorpion is 20% faster!
- Hull Construction
During the Age of Sail, most battle casualties were caused by “splinters”, not by the cannon balls themselves. Balls hitting the side of the ship caused the wood to shatter into deadly shards—what we now call spall—that ripped men apart.
Crews hung their rolled-up hammocks in nettings inside the bulwarks to reduce the spall. This worked until the hammocks were shredded by splinters.
Every shipbuilder experimented with layering wood to reduce penetration and/or splintering. But adding layers of wood added complexity, weight and cost. Weight required more sail area to reach desired hull speeds and caused another problem called hogging. Unless the shipwright took specific measures to reinforce the ship’s skeleton, over time the ship would sag in the middle, i.e., hog.
To prevent hogging, Humphreys used diagonal bow-to-stern stringers to strengthen the hull and resist twisting caused when the ship sailed at angle through the waves . Instead of using three layers of oak, Humphreys used pine for the middle to reduce weight. This is why Constitution and her sister ships could carry 18- and 24-pounders as well as a hull made from layered wood.
Experiments in the 18th Century, similar to those described in Raider of the Scottish Coast, empirically showed that the softer pine compressed a minute amount when the outer layer of oak was hit. The force of impact on the outer layer of oak was dissipated over a larger area, thus absorbing the energy of the ball. The inside or third layer of oak added resistance and prevented the ball from sending splinters throughout the gun deck.
The layered planking as envisioned on Scorpion was designed to be effective against 9- and 12-pound balls. In a fight with a ship with larger cannon firing 18-, 24-, or 32-pound balls, the planking on Scorpion would resist but ultimately give way from the impact of the heavier shot.
- Weighted Keel
Every ship of the 18th century carried ballast in the form of large boulders placed in the hold along the sides of the keel. Netting kept them in place so they wouldn’t shift in heavy seas. This was a practical/effective and cheap solution to keep a ship from capsizing.
Square rigged ships are at their best when running with the wind coming over their sterns or rear quarters. When the wind comes over either beam, the ship heels and moves slightly sideways—this movement is called leeway—as well as forward.
Since the late 19th Century, most modern single-masted sloops have a weighted keel that hangs below the hull. These provide stability and increase the amount (in square feet) of sail that can be carried. The keel also eliminates leeway and helps convert the push from the wind coming over the side into forward motion.
Size, weight, draught (the amount of water under the bottom of the ship needed to keep from running aground), and the depth of most harbors make large keels on sailing warships, even ones that are retractable, impractical. However, if one extended the existing keel just two feet for the length of the ship and filled the void between the sides with lead, iron ingots or stones, the ship could carry much more sail on a beam reach and reduce leeway. Scorpion has just such a keel extension.
- Copper Bottom
Until copper sheathing was attached to wooden ship bottoms, sea worms ate the wood and vegetation hung from the bottom, reducing speed and maneuverability. Ships had to be hauled out of the water regularly and cleaned to eliminate the source of ‘drag’ and repair damage from sea worms.
In 1761, the Royal Navy built its first copper-bottomed ship, H.M.S. Alarm. Due to a lack of copper in Great Britain and the expense, the Royal Navy was slow to apply copper to the bottom of its ships even though the value—ships could remain at sea longer and retain their sailing qualities—was understood.
Copper mining began in Colonial America in the late 17th Century in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. By the time the American Revolution broke out, there were coppersmiths throughout the colonies. American shipbuilders and their suppliers were quick to figure out how to roll copper plates and attach them to a ship.
- The Long 12-Pounder
Gun designers were aware that barrel length increased accuracy by minimizing the oscillations of the ball going down the barrel and the velocity of the projectile. By the time the American Revolution broke out, the “long nine,” a 9-pounder with a barrel approximately two feet longer than the standard 9-pounder, was already in wide use as a “bow chaser,” i.e., a gun mounted in the bow for firing forward.
In researching Raider of the Scottish Coast, the author came across references to “long twelves.” After the Revolution, cannon-makers created the long 18- and 24-pounders that equipped the Constitution and its sisters. So, why not, as an evolution of the long 9-pounder, lengthen the barrel of the 12-pounder and install of them as the main battery on Scorpion?
Doing this is not without design challenges for the ship designer. The long 12-pounder forces the ship designer to deal with six significant issues. The first is weight. Cast iron is heavy and the additional two feet of barrel adds between 500-800 pounds to the weight of each cannon. If a ship has 20 or 22 long twelves, that’s 10-11 tons more weight.
The solution for Scorpion was to reduce the main armament from 24 traditional 12-pounders to 20 long 12s. Later, in a refit during this novel, the main battery is increased to 22 long twelves. The traditional 6-pounders on the quarterdeck are replaced with lighter swivel guns, two on each masthead and two in the forecastle.
Gun crew size is issue two. The added weight of the cannon has to be hauled back in battery by the crew after reloading. This requires more men, i.e., 10 men vs. six or eight for an ordinary 12-pounder.
The long 12-pounder has a third disadvantage caused by the longer barrel. The cannon has to be pulled farther back into the ship so the crew has the space to ram the powder charge and then the ball down its barrel.
On a narrow ship such as the Scorpion, this presents problem four: room for the gun to recoil. The solution was to offset the cannon so they are not directly opposite each other.
Number five is heavier guns require a stronger ship’s structure. Joshua Humphrey’s diagonal riders and heavier/stronger frame solves this problem and prevents hogging.
Problem six comes with the nature of the 18th Century manufacturing process for cast iron guns. Liquid iron is poured into a mold and allowed to cool. The bigger the mass, the longer the molten iron takes to cool. The larger the mass of metal, the greater the chance a large bubble forms in the gun which, under the stress of firing, may cause the cannon to fail catastrophically.
With all these known disadvantages, why the long 12-pounder? The answer: accuracy and “stopping power.”
In the 18th Century, the muzzle velocity of the average 12-pounder averaged between 900 and 1,100 feet/second. The variation was (and still is) caused by atmospherics—temperature and humidity—and inconsistencies in the gunpowder manufacturing process.
Aerodynamic drag begins slowing the ball as soon as the projectile exits the barrel. For the sake of argument, assume at 200 yards, the ball has slowed from 900 to 800 feet/second from the standard 12-pounder. Let’s hypothesize the muzzle velocity for the long 12-pounder is at the top of the 12-pounder muzzle velocity range 1,100 ft/sec and drops to 1,000 at 200 yards.
The formula for calculating kinetic energy (KE) is KE = Mass x velocity-squared divided by two. The following chart shows why the long 12-pounder is so devastating. The ball hits with 56.25% more force than a standard 12-pounder!
|Cannon||Weight of typical projectile||Muzzle velocity||Velocity at 200 yards||Force on impact in Joules||Force in lbs./ft2*|
|Standard 12-pounder||12 pounds||900||800||3,480,000||2,814,600|
|Long 12-pounder||12 pounds||1,100||1,000||6,000,000||4,440,000|
Conversion rate:1 Joule = .74 lbs./ft2
Ships in the Jaco Jacinto Age of Sail Series
What follows are high level specifications from the ships that appear in this series which will, when the last book is publish, consist of seven novels. As each book is published, this section, along with other parts of the web site will be updated.
Ships on Which Jaco Jacinto Served as a Junior Officer
|Book(s) in Which the Ship Appears||Raider of the Scottish Coast||Raider of the Scottish Coast|
|Rigging||Square rigged with 3 masts||Single mast with a lateen sail and a square-rigged top sail|
|Displacement||440 tons||65 tons|
|Length||140 feet||65 feet|
|Beam||32 feet||20 feet|
|Max Speed||10 knots||12 knots|
|Crew (officers and men)||220||65|
|Main Armament||Twenty 9 pounders
Fourteen swivel guns
Ships Jaco Jacinto Commanded
|Book(s) in Which the Ship Appeared||Raider of the Scottish Coast||Raider of the Scottish Coast, Carronade|
|Rigging||Lateen rigged with two masts||Square rigged with 3 masts|
|Displacement||80 tons||600 tons|
|Length||65 feet||155 feet|
|Beam||18 feet||28 feet|
|Max Speed||14 knots||14 knots|
|Crew (officers and men)||35||200|
|Main Armament||Ten 6-pounders
Four swivel guns
|Twenty 12-pounders on 1778 cruise
Twenty-two long 12-pounders on its 1779, 1780, and 1781 cruises
4 long 9-pounders
10 swivel guns
Ships on which Darren Smythe
Served as a Junior Officer
|Book(s) in Which the Ship Appeared||Raider of the Scottish Coast||Raider of the Scottish Coast||Raider of the Scottish Coast|
|Class Based On||Alarm||Modified Richmond||Amazon|
|Rigging||Squared rigged with 3 masts||Squared rigged with 3 masts||Squared rigged with 3 masts|
|Displacement||683 tons||677 tons||689 tons|
|Length||125 feet||127 feet||126 feet|
|Beam||35 feet||34 feet||35 feet|
|Speed||11 knots||11 knots||11 knots|
Twelve swivel guns
Twelve swivel guns
Six 18-pounders carronades
Ships Darren Smythe Commanded
|Book(s) in Which the Ship Appeared||Carronade||Carronade|
|Class Based On||Swan||Enterprise|
|Rigging||Square rigged with 3 masts||Square rigged with 3 masts|
|Displacement||220 tons||593 tons|
|Speed||12 knots||11 knots|
|Armament||Fourteen 6-pounders||Twenty 12-pounders
Four swivel guns
Prize Money Formulas Used in the Jaco Jacinto Age of Sail Series
To sailors on warships and privateers in the 17th and 18th Centuries, prize money was a big deal. For a ship’s captain, capturing a prize could bring generational wealth. To an ordinary seaman, his share could be a year or more of his wages.
Prize law became relatively well defined during the Seven Years War and by the end of the American Civil War, prize law, as we know it today, was fully developed. A discussion of the legal issues is well beyond the scope of this section of Carronade that is intended to help the reader understand the amount of money at stake.
Prizes taken by the Royal Navy were usually turned over to a British Admiralty Court either in England or in a colony which then handled the disposition of the ship. Royal Navy captains were then free to go back to sea knowing the process that will pay them and their crews was well-defined.
Privateer captains were faced with a different set of choices. One, they had the option of waiting until the sale of the prize and its cargo was complete. Two, they could take payment in “cash” or a draft. Or three, they could accept an IOU in which the court would collect the sale price, deduct its fee, and the write a draft which would be sent to the owner of the privateer. The IOUs were negotiable instruments.
The Thirteen Colonies and the Continental Navy followed roughly the same process as the Royal Navy except if the colony did not have an Admiralty Court, either an auction house or a local court supervised the transaction. On January 15th, 1780, after repeated urging by General Washington, the Continental Congress pass the law that created the Court of Appeals in the Case of Capture to specifically handle sale of ships taken as prizes.
Once the captured ship was in port, a surveyor appointed by the court evaluated the ship and its cargo. This assessment became the basis of the IOUs as well as the auction value of the ship. Repairing battle damage were usually paid for by the buyer.
The Continental Navy used a variation of the Royal Navy’s prize money formula. And, within the Continental Navy, captains used the promise of prize money as a recruiting tool by changing the allocation.
When he was captain of Providence and later on Ranger, John Paul Jones reduced his share and increased the percentage given to the crew. What follows is a comparison of the formulas used by the Royal and Continental Navies and what I am calling the ‘John Paul Jones Formula’. All of these are net of court fees.
|Category||Royal Navy Formula||Continental Navy Formula||Typical American Privateer Formula||John Paul Jones Formula|
|Admiral, Congress, Consortium Owner||1/8||1/8||2/5||1/8|
|Lieutenants, Marine officers, Surgeon, Ship's Master||1/8||1/8||1/10||1/8|
|Warrants - Bosun, Gunner, Carpenter, Purser, Quartermaster||1/8||1/8||1/10||1/8|
|Midshipmen, Marine Sergeants, Mates||1/8||1/8||1/10||1/8|
|Remainder of the Crew||1/4||1/4||1/10||3/8|
Privateers had crew sizes that were all over the map and their pay scales varied from consortium to consortium which makes comparisons difficult. Therefore, to continue the comparison, only the Royal Navy and the John Paul Jones formulas are used because that is how Darren Smythe and Jaco Jacinto were paid.
Throughout the rebellion, sellers of goods and services preferred to be paid in silver Spanish dollars, English pound notes or coins or Dutch guilders.
Conversion rates for Continental dollars to British pounds vary because there was no standard and the value of the Continental dollar plummeted like a rock once the currency was issued. By most, it was considered worthless.
Pay in the Continental Navy was based on the skill of the individual, so the figures in the chart below are averages for that prize money category. The Royal Navy was a bit more specific and captains were compensated based on the rating of the ship, i.e., a captain of a first-rate ship of the line made more than the captain of a fifth-rate frigate shown in this chart.
The following table uses a mythical prize that assumes the ship and the cargo is sold for £10,000. To understand the impact on an individual, particularly how prize money compares to their annual pay, the table is expanded to have a mythical frigate crew of 216.
Typcial Number of Men who Participate
Royal Navy Individual Prize Money Share
Annual Royal Navy Wages
John Paul Jones Formula
Individual Share Under John Paul Jones Formula
Aprrox. Annual Continental Navy Wages
|Admiral, Congress, Consortium||
|£2,500.00||£2,500.00||£146.00||£1,250.00||£ 1,250.00||£ 384.00|
|Lieutenants, Marine Officers, Surgeon||
|£1,150.00||£312.50||£73.00||£1,250.00||£ 312.50||£ 340.00|
|Warrants - Bosun, Carpenter, Gunner, Purser, Quartermaster||
|£1,250.00||£250.00||£25.00||£1,250.00||£ 250.00||£ 144.00|
|Midshipmen, Marine Sergeants, Mates||
|£1,250.00||£156.25||£20.00||£1,250.00||£ 156.25||£ 127.92|
|Remainder of the Crew||
|£2,500.00||£12.69||£12.00||£3,750.00||£ 19.04||£ 79.92|
In this section, I plan to put separate notes that are in the background of the plots and the characters.
Value of an English Pound in 1775 versus 2021
In each of the books in the Jaco Jacinto series, I decided to standardize on the English pound as the primary currency for two reasons. One, it was the primary currency in the Thirteen Colonies prior to and then during the American Revolution. Yes, the Continental Congress and several of the state legislatures issued their own currency, but by the end of the war, they weren't worth much, if anything. The other currencies common in the Thirteen Colonies and up through the early 19th Century were Dutch guilders, French francs and Spanish dollars.
The second is a logistics one - conversion from prices in pounds to the value today. By doing this is it easy to show the value of the price or what a 1775 transaction in pounds to what it would be worth in 2021. Thanks to the magic of computers, I often use a site called Currency Conversion - https://www.in2013dollars.com/uk/inflation/1782 - to calculate the value to determine if the monetary value is realistic. On the site, you can choose the year as well as the amount and it will calculate the value into pounds as of the date of entry.
In 1775, £100 is the equivalent of £16,570.73 in August 2021 or, using the exchange rate of £1 = US$1.28, $21,210.53. According to Currency Conversion, £1 today only buys about .6% of what it would or could buy in 1775.
Value of a Barrel of Rum on the London Market in 1781
Crusaders brought back from the Middle East what they called ‘sweet salt.’ Traders and farmers of the Ottoman Empire introduced ‘refined’ sugar to Europe. The Portuguese brought sugar cane seeds to Eastern Brazil early in the 16th Century. By the mid 1650s, there were several thousand sugar cane mills along the coast of Brazil.
Around 1625, the Dutch brought sugar cane seeds to the Caribbean where the climate was ideal for sugar cane growth. By the end of the 17th Century, sugar cane was grown on islands controlled by the British, Spanish, Dutch and French.
Until the early 18th century, sugar production methods were inefficient and sugar was considered a luxury. However, the demand (and potential profit to be made from sugar production) spurred the development of iron casting technology to produce gears which could be used in sugar mills. In 1768, the first steam-powered sugar mill began operations in Jamaica. Much of the technology developed to process sugarcane more efficiently can be considered early steps in what became the Industrial Revolution.
Why? Money, lots of money was to be made from processing sugar cane. The three most desirable products were sugar and molasses. Rather than ship the molasses overseas, the refiners in the Caribbean began distilling the syrupy liquid into rum.
According to a research piece “Value of a gallon of rum” from The University of Missouri Public Library Online (the link is https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822015912926&view=1up&seq=908 ), a trader in Jamaica in 1781, could buy rum for 5 shillings/gallon. That same gallon sold for between £2 and £3/gallon in London.
For those of you who don’t remember the pre-decimal English monetary system, there were 10 pence to a shilling, 20 shillings to a pound. In short, the cost of a gallon of rum in Jamaica was roughly 1/12 to 1/8 of what it cost in London.
Fortunes were made in the rum and sugar trade and by the end of the 18th Century, it was the most important import to England! During the Seven Years War, the American Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, England and France fought over control of the Caribbean so they could control the supply of sugar, molasses and rum to Europe.
A high-level P&L shows why the economics of the 18th Century rum and sugar trade from the Caribbean was so important. Cost to the trader for the 200 barrels is £5,000 (50 gallons X 5 shillings = £25/barrel) plus shipping costs of £5/barrel or £1,000.
There were other fees involved. Some merchants paid a commission to the ship owner which was split amongst the captain and his crew. When the rum arrived in England, the sale of the rum was taxed. Warehousing and drayage fees were negotiated between the bulk buyers and sellers and had little impact on the margins.
During the six-week transit, it was not uncommon for some of the rum to evaporate, usually about a gallon so for the sake of this example, assume 49 gallons remain in the barrel. At £2/gallon, each barrel is worth £98. At £3/gallon, each barrel is worth £147 which makes the sale price of the 200-barrel shipment between £19,600 and £29,400.
Traders often negotiated a “commission” to the ship owner and crew which amounted to 10% of the retail value of the shipment or £1,960 and £2,940. Assuming a retail sale price of £2/gallon, the trader’s cost to deliver the rum to England is £7,960 and at £3/gallon it is £8,940. This gives the trader a healthy gross profit of between £11,640 and £20,460 for his shipment.
What is this gross profit worth in 2021 English pounds and U.S. dollars? According to the link https://www.in2013dollars.com/uk/inflation/1781, £11,640 in 1781 is worth £2,045,731.65 in September 2021 and £20,460 is worth £3,595,847.91. Converted to dollars at the exchange rate of £1 = $1.28, the gross profit is $2,618,536.51 and $4,602,685.32.
Sugar and molasses had similar margins which meant the sugar, molasses and rum trade was worth fighting over.
Value of a gallon of rum - The University of Missouri Public Library on line and the link is https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822015912926&view=1up&seq=908.
Word usage, diction, spelling and punctuation in the late 18th Century were a lot different than they are today. To make the story, particularly the dialogue easier to follow, 21st Century syntax is used. However, throughout the Jaco Jacinto series, you will find common 18th Century words and expressions that are not used today. The context of their usage should be evident in the story, but if not, here’s an excellent (and my) source: Partridge’s Dictionary of Unconventional Slang, 1954 Edition, printed by The McMillan and Company, New York.
Origin of the Character Miriam Bildesheim
During the American Revolution, a woman by the name of Abigail Minis of Savannah, Georgia, played a significant role in keeping the guerrilla units as well as the Continental Army fed, clothed and sometimes housed. She arrived from Prussia on July 11th, 1733. After her husband died, she was left to find a way to support eight children. When the American Revolution began, Minis was in her 70s. She was arrested and jailed twice for her anti-British activities and then released. Much has been written about this woman, who lived into her mid-90s. Here are the sites of two articles to learn more about the remarkable Abigail Minis.
Book of Tables for Celestial Navigation
Nevil Maskelyne was a British astronomer who was the first person to accurately estimate the mass of the Earth. He is best known for his effort to that built on the works of German astronomer Tobias Mayer to provide mariners with tables that enabled them to take accurate measurements among the moon, stars and sun so their ship’s latitude and longitude could be accurately estimated without a chronometer. These books were "widely" distributed to mariners. Reliable, accurate chronometers were not available until the early 19th Century and revolutionized navigation at sea.
Historical note about Curaçao and Congregation Mikvé Israel Emanuel
When Scorpion visits Curaçao in April of 1779, there were over 2,000 Jews on the island roughly 40% of the population. Most were descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled the Inquisition and came either from Spanish and Portuguese colonies in South America or The Netherlands. The first to arrive was Samuel Cohen who settled on the island in 1634.
They made their living buying and selling sugar, coffee, chocolate and other raw materials produced nearby in what is now Venezuela and Columbia. The Jewish community reached its peak in the late 18th Century/early 19th Century and then its members began to look elsewhere for opportunities. Many came to what became the United States, particularly through Charleston, New Orleans and Savannah.
In 2021, the population on Curaçao has dwindled to about 600 individuals which make up a vibrant Jewish community. Congregation Mikvé Israel-Emanuel is the oldest synagogue in the Americas that has been in continual existence since it was founded. The Torah, brought to the island in the mid-1650s, is still there in Curaçao and on exhibit in the museum next to the original synagogue that was built in 1674
Partial list of Reference Books Used by the Author
The following are books I frequently use for research and background information for this series. Many are out of print and copies had to be found at used bookstores all over the country. Not included on this page are the many websites used the author uses for reference.
A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge, MacMillan Company, NY, 1956 edition.
A Most Fortunate Ship, Tyrone Martin, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1997 edition.
A Treatise on Naval Gunnery by Sir Howard Douglas Bart. First published in 1820, my edition is a reprint of the fourth revised edition published in 1855.
A Voice from the Main Deck by Samuel Leech, Chatham Publishing, London, UK, 1999 edition.
Feeding Nelson’s Navy by Janet MacDonald, Frontline Books 2014 edition.
Fighting at Sea in the 18th Century by Sam Willis, The Boydell Press, UK, 2008 edition.
Naval Customs, Traditions and Usage by Leland Lovette, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1936 edition.
Naval Miscellany by Agnus Konstam, Metro Books, NY, 2011 edition.
Seamanship in the Age of Sail by John Harland, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, U.K. 2015 edition.
The American Sailing Navy by Howard Chapelle, W.W. Norton, 1988 edition.
The Men Who Lost America by Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, Yale University Press, 2013 edition.
The Frigates by James Henderson, Barnes and Noble Books, 1994 edition.
The Wooden World by N.A.M. Rodger, W.W. Norton and Company, NY, 1986 edition.
The Young Sea Officers Sheet Anchor by Darcy Lever, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1998 edition.