Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter - Cover

Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter

Copyright© 2024 by Argon

Chapter 2: Mr. Midshipman Carter

August 1797

Tony arrived at Admiralty House right on time, wearing his best white trousers, pinch-buckled shoes and a blue reefers coat, the usual attire of a merchantman mate. He expected to be ushered in and out for a brief ‘thank you’ and the settlement of the fare for his passengers. Instead, the admiral showed him into a small dining room where the whole family waited for him.

Tea was served, and a friendly conversation ensued. Admiral Lambert satisfied himself that the young man had had some schooling, even spoke some French, Spanish, and Dutch, and showed good manners. Lady Lambert had sung Tony’s praise, and Sir Richard had to agree with his wife. When the ladies retired to their rooms to prepare for dinner, Sir Richard came to the point.

“Well, my dear young man, what are your plans now?”

“I have inherited a share in the shipping company of Whitney & Sons from my father. Captain Whitney promised to find me a berth as first mate in one of their ships. There may even be a chance for me to become a master soon, Sir Richard.”

“Would you perhaps be interested in joining the Royal Navy instead? From what I have seen and heard, you are a very promising young man. Why waste such talent shipping molasses around the islands? If you agree, I can post you as a midshipman, seeing how you have years of seagoing experience. Captain Fanning of the Medusa frigate has a vacancy. He’s an excellent officer, and Medusa will leave shortly on patrol duty.”

Young Tony Carter was surprised at this offer. He had expected a money hand-out and a handshake at best. Yet, he hesitated only briefly. A midshipman was an officer-in-training, a warrant officer being groomed for commissioned rank. All of a sudden, a new world was opening up for him. A world of gold-embroidered uniforms and beautiful women. A world in which he could find a place for himself. A world in which beautiful redheaded young women moved, who might even find him acceptable.

Showing the appropriate amount of gratitude, he accepted Sir Richard’s offer, and in turn, the admiral showed his satisfaction. A written order was made out for Tony to report to Captain Fanning. Admiral Lambert even gave him a personal letter of recommendation, both for immediate and future use. Still thanking Sir Richard profusely, Tony finally took his leave, slightly dazed over the development.

He stopped briefly at Captain Whitney’s house to inform him of his Naval career prospects, and the older man congratulated him sincerely, expressing his confidence in Tony’s eventual advancement in the service.

With the fare he had collected from the admiral, Tony started out on the next morning to find a new sea chest and a proper midshipman’s uniform. Mr. Rawling had seen to it that he received an advance payment on the insurance money. The rest of that money would be paid into an account with a local bank house recommended by Mr. Rawling. Tony also made arrangements for a neighbour to look after his father’s house. He planned to keep it for those times when he might be in port.

When all these preparations were finished three days later, Tony reported to Captain Fanning in the after cabin of HMS Medusa. Captain Fanning was a lightly built, shrewd looking man. After reading the Admiral’s order and the letter of recommendation, he knew that the new midshipman was his commander-in-chief’s protégé. Accordingly, he welcomed him on board and introduced him to his immediate superior, the sailing master. That worthy individual, Mr. Boyle, was a grizzled veteran of more than fifty years, but his clear blue eyes belied his age. Anthony felt instinctive respect for this veteran.

“Have your dunnage stowed in the gunroom, and report on deck for the afternoon watch,” Boyle wheezed, his voice ravaged by forty years of shouting against gales.

Two young sailors carried his sea chest down the hatchways and to the orlop deck, and then amidships to the gun room, where the master’s mates and midshipmen were berthed. A smoking tallow lantern spread its weak light over a narrow room. Tony sighed. There were no cots, only hooks where he could sling a hammock. Two children’s faces looked at him from the raw table in the centre of the room.

“Good day, gentlemen,” he addressed them. “Anthony Carter, midshipman, at your service.” The two boys mumbled their names and continued to stare at him.

“Don’t bother with those children!” a strong voice came from one of the hammocks. “Peter Brock, master’s mate! You saw Daniel Swenson on deck? He’s a master’s mate, too. I heard you were second mate in your father’s schooner?”

“Yes, for the last two years. Before that, I sailed before the mast for five years.”

“A real tar then. But you’re a midshipman?”

“That’s how Sir Richard rated me.”

“So you know the big man?”

“I was able to do him a service. Our ship was lost in the hurricane, and my father was killed. I was able to bring the admiral’s family to safety, however, and I s’pose he’s grateful.”

“You sailed the Anne-Marie’s boat into Kingston? I heard of that. It’s good to have you on board, mate!”

“Thank you for the welcome, mate.”

They shook hands. The two midshipmen stepped forward too, to offer their hands.

“By the way, who is the gun room purser? I s’pose you’ll need my contribution.”

“I am, and yes, we could use some more food and maybe some ale.”

They were a small group in the gun room, three midshipmen and two master’s mates. Tony was in a good position, rated as a midshipman, but he was also recognised as experienced sailor by the two master’s mates. The other two midshipmen were shy boys of sixteen who had come on board only recently. Two senior midshipmen had just left the ship after passing their lieutenant’s exams.

Over the next days, the Medusa made ready for sea, and Anthony was busy getting familiar with his new duties. She was a 32-gun fifth-rate frigate of over 900 tons, more than three times the tonnage of the puny Anne-Marie, and she shipped a crew of 270 officers, ratings and soldiers. Tony found himself an insignificant cog in the big machinery that kept the frigate running, and he needed to find his place. He was lucky inasmuch as his new mates, Brock and Swenson, helped him fit in, and after a week of learning his duties, he did not commit many errors anymore.

As a warrant officer, he was also entitled to shore leave. Thus, on their last day in port, he made a tour through the familiar establishments of Kingston. He met a few of his father’s acquaintances and friends who expressed their sympathy, but also their surprise that he had joined the Royal Navy.

Later that evening, he drifted into the Blue Posts, one of the better houses of convenience in Kingston. It was a place frequented by warrant officers and merchant navy mates. Anthony had been there before and he planned to relieve his needs before he went out to sea again for God knew how long.

Being a young, well dressed man, the girls flocked around him instantaneously. Looking around to make his pick, he saw a slender girl of no more than 17 or 18 years, with a reddish hue in her blond curls and a trim figure. Forgetting the other girls around him, he approached her. She looked at him with a mixture of apprehension and pride, and Tony sensed that she was not yet a seasoned veteran of her trade.

“Hullo, my lovely. What be your name, pray tell?” he asked her.

“Me name’s Rose,” she answered in so low a voice he could hardly understand her.

“And would you be willing to give a lonely sailor a little loving, my lovely Rose?”

She nodded. “You’ll have to pay a sovereign to Master Phillips for the room,” she stated. “And I’ll have five shillings if it pleases you.”

“So much beauty for such a pittance,” Tony quipped, eliciting a blush on the girl’s face.

He took her hand and walked over to the bar. He gave the innkeeper a sovereign and the order to be roused by eight bells in the middle watch. That left him five hours with the girl. When they reached their allotted room, he gave her another sovereign up front. She showed her surprise, not being used to such generosity.


“I want us to take our time. Like a we’re a real couple, you know?”

“I can do slowly. How to start?”

“Undress and open your hair!”

Hesitantly, the girl complied. She was still awkward undressing before a man’s eyes. When she was naked, she reached up and untied her hair, offering the glorious view of her reddish blonde tresses cascading over her shoulders.

Tony approached her, put his hands on her shoulder and drew her near. “You are very pretty.”

He kissed her, first her mouth, then her throat, and he felt her shiver under his touch. After he’d had his fill kissing her neck, he led her to the cot and made her lie down. Quickly taking off his clothes, he joined her on the bed and resumed his kissing. Her small pointy breasts were his next target, and her laboured breathing told him of her arousal.

“Will you ... Umh ... kiss me, too?” he asked her gently.

She nodded, and in the following hours and under her surprisingly capable care, young Tony had a very good time indeed. With their last bout finished, Rose smiled at him.

“Was I good?”

“You were perfect, Rose. Thank you.”

“No,” the girl sighed. “You made me feel good, too. I should not take your money.”

“Oh yes, you should. Just consider it a gift, not a payment. This night will give me enough fodder for dreams during my voyage.”

“When will you have to leave?”

“I have to be back on board at 4 bells in the morning watch. We’ll weigh anchor with the morning tide.”

“Will you ever come back here?” the girl asked.

“I shall be back. Next time, I may take you out of this place for a few days.” He bent over the bed and kissed her.

“That would be nice. I’ll wait for you.” She smiled up at him whilst he dressed methodically. When he was ready, Rose got up and hugged him for a moment. “You be careful out there,” she said and shoved him out into the dimly lit corridor.

An hour later, Tony reported back for duty, worn out but thoroughly satisfied.

The next weeks and months were immensely taxing on young Anthony Carter. Not only was the sailing of a square rigged frigate entirely different from the fore-and-aft rigging to which he was accustomed. He also had to learn the military side of his profession, such as gunnery and tactical sailing. He also had to familiarise himself with the small arms, pistol and cutlass.

The master at arms, Carling, had the midshipmen and master’s mates practice both with the cutlass and with pistols whenever there was time, but those times were far between. The handling of a wooden sailing ship was a full time task, after all. The constant gun drill added to that, but also the mad races to break records whilst clearing the ship for action and the navigation classes with the sailing master. The young midshipmen were in a constant tired stupor.

When Tony joined the Medusa’s crew, he was eighteen years of age, clearly senior to the other two midshipmen who were boys of sixteen. It took him two or three months, but he rapidly acquired the skills and knowledge expected of him. The sailing master acknowledged his navigation skills and let him calculate the ship’s position routinely. Soon, when he was midshipman of the watch, the officer of the watch would let him handle the ship all by himself, only watching over things from the background. This, of course, with the blessing of Captain Fanning. After barely more than a year, he was looked upon by the wardroom as next in line for becoming a watch officer.

That moment came earlier than anybody expected. Medusa was completing a patrol of the Caiman Islands when she came upon the Citoyen, a French frigate of equal strength. The ships approached each other with respect, and both captains tried for a while to out-manoeuvre each other. The aim was to win the windward position, generally considered a decisive tactical advantage.

Captain Fanning was aware of the fact that his ship, the Medusa, was the lesser of the two frigates. French ships were generally better built than their English counterparts, and the French captain proved himself equal to the task of thwarting each of Captain Fanning’s feints.

In the end, Captain Fanning saw himself forced to begin the battle from the leeward position. Both ships converged to pistol shot’s distance. Fortunately, the wind was moderate, and Medusa was hardly lying over to leeward, allowing her gunners to train their guns on the hull of the Frenchman, as was the preferred tactic in the Royal Navy.

For young Tony, the minutes of the approach felt like hours. He was serving under the third lieutenant, Mr. Masters, who commanded the starboard battery on the main deck. The men under their command had readied and loaded the long 12-pounder guns that constituted the frigate’s main armament. Now they stood to their guns silently, waiting for the pipe signal from the Captain.

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