Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter - Cover

Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter

Copyright© 2024 by Argon

Chapter 4: Captain

June 1801

Acting captain Anthony Carter, not quite 24 years of age, unfolded the stiff paper of his orders. He looked at the crew of HMS Medusa, swallowed once and began to read loudly from the paper in his hand:

“Orders given to me, Anthony Carter, Esq., acting Captain, Royal Navy, by Lord Wilbour Desson, KB, Vice Admiral of the White and Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Naval Forces in the West Indian waters.

“Sir, you are hereby requested and required to assume the acting command of H.M. frigate Medusa, at anchor in Kingston Harbour.

Wilbour Lord Desson, K.B.

October 3rd, 1801.”

He folded the paper. He had read himself in, a crucial formality for assuming the command of a ship. Only now was he legally in command of Medusa. He paused for a moment, trying to remember what he wanted to say.

“You officers and men! Our good Captain Fanning was appointed to a third rate. He was captain of this ship for nigh on five years. Those are large shoes to fill, but I am determined to follow his example. Let us put all our efforts into keeping Medusa the happy and successful ship for which we know her.

“Now, you all know me already. You know that I shan’t stand sloppiness in the execution of duties. Do your best as you did under Captain Fanning, and we shall write yet another successful chapter in the history of our beloved ship.

“Mr. Carson! Dismiss crew, if you please!”

“Aye aye, Sir! Hats on! Carry on!”

Mr. Woodrow, the boatswain, looked around and took a deep breath.

“Lads! Three hoorays for our new captain! One-”

“Hooray!” the men shouted as one.



“-three, and a tiger’s roar!”


The crews of the surrounding ships had climbed in the riggings to watch.

“Thank you, Mr. Woodrow,” Tony nodded.

He was moved by the gesture of loyalty, but he could not show it now.

“Mr. Carson, you are the 1st lieutenant now. You will find the necessary documents in your new cabin. We have to make ready for sea as quickly as possible. A Lieutenant Dunning will report on board later today to complete the wardroom. He is junior to you and even to Mr. Lambert. I must go ashore for a few hours. Tell Mr. Denby to have the stores replenished from the victualling yard.”

Denby was the ship’s purser and not a bad man. The new Nº1 saluted, and Tony called for his gig, realising that he had no coxswain yet. Looking over the gig’s crew, he came to a quick decision. Captain Fanning had picked the tall African, John Little, for his gig’s crew, and he stood tall amongst his fellow oarsmen.

“Think you can handle the gig, Little?” he asked the man.

A beaming smile spread over Little’s face, and he nodded.

“Yassur, Captain, Sur!”

The man spoke decent English already and had taken to being a sailor like a duckling takes to water. He was rated seaman already, and now he would be a petty officer.

“All right. Find a sixth oarsman and get the gig ready, Little!”

He called for the wardroom steward next and tasked him with packing all his uniform coats. Junior captain’s epaulettes had to replace the lieutenant’s shoulder pieces of his uniform coats. That would do for the first voyage. He would need new uniform coats soon and better shirts, breeches and shoes, but he decided to wait until his posting to Medusa appeared in print in the London Gazette, the official journal of record of the ministry.

Once ashore, with the steward in tow, he visited a hatter. There, he ordered a new cocked hat and a half dozen new white breeches. He would also need silk cravats, silk stockings and silk shirts. The tailor rubbed his hands over this windfall and promised all these things to be ready when Captain Carter would return to Kingston. Meanwhile, a journeyman tailor sewed cheap pinchbeck epaulettes to Tony’s old coats.

Less than an hour later, Tony left the tailor’s shop. He sent the steward back with the altered coats and took a cab to his house. Rushing in, he caused poor Rose to shriek in surprise before she recognised him and rushed into his arms.

“I’ve no time today, Rose. I am in a terrible hurry. I shall come home tonight for supper if you can prepare something for me. Then I shall tell you everything. How is Emily?”

Emily was the child Rose had born two years ago, a lovely girl who was the spitting image of her mother.

“She is fine. I am so happy to have her. And I am happy to have you here for a day at least. How long can you stay?”

“Three days at the most. I may not be able to come home every evening, but I’ll try. I’ll have to sleep on board though.”

“Fine, I’ll have supper ready for you; I’ll hold myself ready, too,” she added with a sly grin.

Tony hugged her tightly and kissed her lips. “You do that and I’ll have something ready for you as well.”

Rose held him at arm’s length. “Something happened,” she stated, and looked him over. Her gaze caught the epaulettes on right shoulders that identified a captain of less than three years seniority. “You’ve been posted! You’re a captain!” she exclaimed. “I am so proud of you, Tony! Wait until the neighbours will hear. What ship?”

“Don’t tell them yet, Rose. Maybe, next time I am in port. Lord Desson has given me the Medusa,” he added and his pride showed. “Listen, I need to be back on board. I’ll return for supper.” He left her with a kiss and hurried back to where his gig was waiting.

Arriving back on board, he found a stout rating waiting for him. The man was not tall, but strongly built, and his mahogany face was framed by greying hair, bound in a neat queue.

“Alan Grimm, Sir, steward, reporting for duty! Captain Fanning sent me over, Sir. I was Captain Pennyweather’s steward, Sir.”

That was kind of Fanning, to send over an experienced man, Tony thought.

“Welcome aboard, Grimm,” he said. “Your first task will be to get cabin stores for me. I can set aside thirty pounds for that. I’ll need two cases of good wine for when I’ll entertain guests, but I prefer ale myself, so get four small kegs. Get three dozen eggs, a side of bacon, potatoes and rice, and a cask of good quality salted beef. You’ll know what else I’ll need. My sea chest is in the cabin. Let me know what needs to be replaced later on, but for now, we must ready the ship for sea. I shan’t need a supper tonight, as I’ll dine at my house, so you’re free to use the evening for organising my cabin. Savvy that?”

“Aye-aye, Sir,” the man Grimm answered stoically.

“All right, let’s give you the monies. Find the purser, Mr. Denby, and tell him from me to help you.”

Tony then proceeded to count thirty pounds in banknotes from his breast pocket and handed them over to Grimm, who nodded and saluted.

“Aye-aye, Sir! I’ll start with having a look at the cabin and the stores, Sir. Should I also get a dozen chickens and a rooster, Sir, for eggs and Sunday dinners?”

“You do that, Grimm! Tell me if I forgot anything!”

“Aye-aye, Sir!” Grimm rapped, already heading aft for the cabin. Tony shrugged. He had no idea of what he’d need in a captain’s cabin, and he only hoped that Grimm knew what to do.

Later that evening, after a whirlwind of activities, as he was rowed ashore by his gig’s crew, he thought about Rose. She had proven an invaluable help in the last years, easing the hardships of a sailor’s life and keeping his house a habitable place to which he could return. Always ready for him, always bringing happiness into his life without asking for much. He knew that she, too, had profited greatly from the arrangement: a decent living, good accommodations, a place to raise her daughter, a respectable position as a gentleman’s housekeeper, and a modest but adequate pay. Yet, he felt that he still owed her. With this in mind, he entered a small pawn shop on his way home and purchased a modest gold necklace with matching earrings.

When he entered his house, he was first greeted by little Emily who squeaked when he picked her up and pretended to poke her tummy with his finger. Rose came to relieve him of the little girl and to bring her to bed. He used the time to change out of his heavy coat and put on a fresh shirt. Supper was ready when he was done, and they sat down to eat. He told Rose of the day’s events and of his plans for the next days. She, in turn, told him about the necessary repairs to the house, the purchases she’d had to make and other mundane matters.

When they had finished supper, a certain playfulness entered their conversation. It was then when Tony asked her to sit with him on the bench by the fireplace. With some stuttering he managed to express his thanks and appreciation for her help during the last years. At last, he gave her the small parcel with the gold chain. Her response when she saw the necklace was a gasp. A second later, he suffered a violent attack on his mouth. Rose was weeping and laughing and kissing him, all at the same time. When she calmed down a bit, she looked into his eyes.

“Thank you, Tony. This means so much to me. I know that I am not a woman you could ever marry. Yet, you have been so good to me and to Emily, and now you give me this beautiful necklace, and I know that you value me. You are the first man ever to make me feel worthwhile, you know, more than just a whore.”

“But you are worthwhile, Rose. To Emily, to me, to the neighbours. They all think highly of you. I think highly of you. No matter how my life will turn out, you will always own a place in my heart, Rose.”

“Now stop it! You’ll have me crying all over again, and I don’t want to cry. I want to make love to you, I want you to feel as happy as I am. Let’s go to my room, shall we?”

“Rose, I may not stay the night. I’m the captain now, and I need my admiral’s permission to sleep ashore when in port.”

“Can you at least stay another hour or two?”

“I believe I can, Rose. I believe I want to stay.”

They locked the door, extinguished the candles and went to Rose’s room. Within seconds they were locked in a passionate embrace, kissing and fondling each other. Piece by piece their clothing disappeared until their bare bodies intertwined. This was not the lusty coupling to which Tony was used. There was an urgency to their action, a deep feeling of togetherness. That evening, Rose became his lover, and he felt a deep fondness for her. They stayed together even after the heat of their coupling passed, kissing and whispering endearments. Before he fell asleep though, Tony forced himself to get up, and it was a rather grumpy captain who returned to his ship.

Two days later, Tony took the Medusa out to sea, joining the rest of Lord Desson’s squadron. The last two days had seen him working tirelessly through the day, not only getting the ship ready for sea, but also studying the ship’s books. He had to reorganise the crew, promote petty officers, and make sure his officers knew their new tasks. In between, whenever he found the time, he stayed at his house with Rose, enjoying their newly found closeness. Now he had to concentrate on his tasks to keep Medusa sailing in her prescribed position at the head of the squadron’s vanguard.

For almost two weeks, Lord Desson worked his squadron through battle line evolutions, nightly alarms, landing operations, and simulated emergencies until everybody in the squadron, officers and men alike, cursed him. Yet, the purpose was well served, since more and more shortcomings were revealed until, near the end, even seasoned captains showed the strain. Everyone was relieved when the flagship, after 15 days, hoisted the signal for their return to Kingston.

Once back in port, the tired captains received an invitation by their admiral to dine at Admiralty House. After a delicious dinner, and before the wine could dull their senses, Lord Desson began to discuss the exercise. He was surprisingly positive, avoided to pin criticism to individual ships and their captains, and in general gave a boost to the squadron’s morale. He knew that he had driven them to the breaking point and that his experienced officers had seen their shortcomings themselves. When Tony staggered into his cabin late that night, he thought that he had met his commander-in-chief’s expectations, at least as much as most of the other captains.

Rose was waiting for him when he came ashore in the next morning. Of course, she had seen the squadron put into harbour, and she had hoped that he would come home for supper. When he did not come, she rightly assumed that he was still busy in some way.

After a belated breakfast, he promised Rose that he would be back for supper and hurried back to the harbour. His gig brought him out to the Medusa. For several hours he was immersed in the task of organising the replenishment of stores. Several repairs had to be effected urgently, too. When he finally told himself that he could rest for a moment and have something for lunch, a boat from the flagship approached. A midshipman came up the entry port and saluted the quarterdeck. He handed an envelope to Tony, saluted and hurried back into his boat.

In the privacy of his cabin, Tony opened the envelope. It was an order to go to sea. In a week, Medusa was to guard a convoy of merchantmen from Kingston to London. Convoy duty was an unwelcome routine tasks for frigates, but as the youngest captain in the squadron, Tony could hardly expect to be asked his preferences.

“Sentry, pass the word for Mr. Carson!”, he shouted at the cabin door.

A minute later, the first lieutenant appeared. “Sir, you asked for me?”

“Mr. Carson, we have new orders. We’ll take the convoy to London next week. See to it that you use this week in port to renew the water. Have the purser and the doctor inspect the pork barrels and the other provisions and have the boatswain look at the running rigging. It’s not often that we have a week in port.”

“Aye, aye, Sir!” came the answer, although until three weeks ago they had been sharing the Medusa’s wardroom.

Left alone in his cabin, he felt tempted to chide his steward for not having prepared the lunch he desperately needed. He thought better of it and called for his gig instead. He had himself rowed to the shore and visited an upscale eating house where he had an excellent lunch. Then he visited his tailor. His new shirts and breeches were ready, as was the rest of his orders. The bill amounted to more than £12, a small fortune, but a necessary expenditure. His career might well depend on making a favourable impression on a superior.

With another week in port, Tony also gave rush orders for Nº1 and Nº2 uniform coats. He might have to show up at the Admiralty when arriving in London, and the way he was dressed might decide over the confirmation of his acting rank.

The tailor sent one of his apprentices to accompany him and to carry the new clothes to his house. This was almost ridiculous to Tony; he was an able-bodied man who could carry a few breeches and shirts himself, but the tailor insisted that it was inconsistent with the dignity of a post-captain to carry a bundle of clothes.

When Tony reached his home, several neighbours greeted him on the street to give their respects and felicitations. He had never realised it, but he had become popular with the neighbours who had watched him growing up. He was one of them, and he had reached the exalted rank of a Navy captain.

More and more people joined. There was no other way, he had to invite the neighbours into his house. Rose rushed into the cellar to fetch a few bottles of wine, and it took almost three hours until the last well wisher had his fill. Tony himself had drunk sparingly; he did not like the feeling of being drunk and much preferred thin ale to slake his thirst. When they were finally alone again, he helped Rose with clearing the wreckage his neighbours had left in the living room, against her protestations to be sure. Little Emily watched them from her stool and, finally, Tony remembered that she, too, had something to celebrate. He rushed to his room, where the tailor’s apprentice had dropped the parcels and sifted through them. When he had found what he had been looking for, he returned to the living room.

“Happy birthday, Emily,” he said, handing her the parcel he had brought. The child clumsily ripped off the paper wrappers and a huge smile lit up her pretty face.

“Mummy, look! A doll!”

Indeed it was a doll that Tony had ordered from the tailor. Little Emily clutched it to her chest and beamed at her mother. Rose, in turn, looked at Tony with a look of deep affection in her eyes.

“You’re just too good to us,” was all she managed to say.

“Ah, forget it! It’s her birthday after all,” Tony tried to downplay the matter.

“If anything should ever happen to me, will you look after her, please?” Rose suddenly asked with a slightly trembling voice.

“Why, I certainly shall,” Tony assured her. “You are both dear to me. I should feel honoured to take care of Emily. But why d’you ask? Is anything amiss?”

“No, dear. I am just worried. I am the only person Emily has. You know, when my mother died, nobody cared for me. This is how I ended up in the Blue Posts. I don’t want that to happen to Emily.”

“My dear Rose, be assured that I shall look after Emily if ever that need will arise. Does that soothe your worries?”

“Yes, it does. Thank you for your kindness.”

“Now, Rose, let’s stop this. You know damn well that you mean a lot to me, and how much I appreciate you as a woman you should know as well,” he added with a grin.

“I’ll put Emily to bed now,” she responded. “Say Good Night to the Captain, Emily. Yes, you may keep the doll.”

“Good night, Sir,” the child chirped and followed her mother upstairs to her room.

Tony had asked for and received permission to sleep ashore, and later that evening, Rose joined Tony in his bed. There was no passionate love making. Both were content to sleep in each other’s arms, to enjoy the comfort of the other’s embrace.

A week later, using the weak puffs of the dying land breeze, HMS Medusa crawled out of Kingston Harbour under her topsails. Behind her, the ships that formed the convoy followed suite. The captains of the merchantmen were experienced in the convoy business. The war had been lasting for eight years, and those who could not or would not learn to co-operate with the Navy escorts had long since been weeded out by the French and Spanish privateers.

Once the convoy caught the trade winds, Tony positioned Medusa to windward of his charges. From this position, he could reach each of the ships entrusted to his protection without delay. The 32-gun frigate was likely to be of superior strength to any privateer that might attempt to catch one of the valuable merchantmen. As long as each ship stayed in the prearranged position within the convoy, they were reasonably safe, and indeed, the three-week journey went without any incident.

It was a sunny Sunday in late November when they cast anchor in the Pool of London, and Tony was rather excited. He had been to London twice before, whilst still sailing in his father’s sloop, but he had been merely a boy then. He was looking forward to visiting the centre of the British world. He was also anxious to get his command confirmed. He had to be “posted” in the London Gazette, the official bulletin of H.M. Ministry, to have his rank for certain. Promotion by the commander in chief of a foreign station was usually confirmed without much questioning. Yet, one could never be certain.

Therefore, the next morning saw acting captain Anthony Carter in his best uniform and with all his papers sitting in the anteroom of the Secretary to the Admiralty, Mr. Evan Nepean, waiting for an interview with the man who, in effect, ran the Royal Navy. After waiting for an hour, he was shown in. Mr. Nepean was the son of an innkeeper, but he’d had a stellar career in the ministry. He took his time studying the documents Tony had produced, then reread parts of them. Looking up, his clear blue eyes fixated on Tony.

“You are aware, Captain, that our government is negotiating a peace with France? No? Well, it is so. As soon as an agreement is reached, we shall have an armistice. Of course, the Royal Navy will be cut down in size, and no promotions will be authorised anymore.”

A chill ran down Tony’s spine. “You mean to say, Sir, that I shall not be posted?”

Mr. Nepean allowed himself a smile. “No, Captain, I mean to say that we shall have to hurry to get you into the Gazette. I gather that you have no interest in Parliament of in the ministry?”

The relief must have been evident in Tony’s features. “Thank you, Sir. No, I have no interest, although Sir Richard Lambert has been furthering my career whilst in command in Kingston.”

“I see. Your father was the master-owner of a merchantman out of Kingston, Jamaica?”

“Yes, Sir. He perished at sea in a hurricane. I was his second mate, and I succeeded in bringing our passengers to safety.”

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