HMS Acasta

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HMS Acasta was a 40-gun fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. She was laid down in September, 1795, launched on March 13, 1797, and sailed June 24, 1797. [1] Acasta mounted thirty 18-pound cannon on her upper deck, eight 9-pound cannon and four 32-pound carronades on her quarterdeck, and two 9-pound cannon and four 32-pound carronades on her forecastle. She measured 154 feet in length at the lower deck, 40'9 1/2" in beam, weighed 1,143 tons, with a compliment of 320 officers and men.[2] Acasta was among the largest of the "18-pounder" frigates. [3]


The Historical Acasta

Highlights of Acasta’s Royal Navy service include the following:

Under Capt. Edward Fellowes

1800 -- Captured Spanish Juno
1802 -- Destroyed French privateer Victoire

Under Capt. James A. Wood

1803 -- Captured French privateer Avanture , with two prizes Royal Edward and St. Mary’s Planter
1806 -- Participated with in the burning of two French ships and the capture of a third off Santo Domingo

Under Capt. P. Beaver

1809 -- Served as command ship for the landing of 4500 troops on Martinique
1809 -- Served as Commodore Beaver’s flagship in operation to blockade French naval forces and reduce French forts on Iles des Saintes. Commodore Beaver had rigged Acasta with gratings between the gangways, which allowed the shipped to be worked while simultaneously fighting the guns. Acasta, because of these modifications, demonstrated the ability during this operation to fight both her broadsides without interruption while tacking and even anchoring.[4]

Under Capt. Alexander R. Kerr

1812 -- Captured the American brig Federal and re-took the schooner Blonde; Participated in the capture of the American privateer Snapper, the American schooner Farmer’s Fancy, the letter of marque brigs Harold and Porcupine;
1814 -- Captured sloop Diana and Jane, schooners Providence, Stephanie and Hazard
1815 -- Participated in chase of the American frigate USN Constitution. and in the retaking of Levant, one of Constitution’s prizes

Acasta returned to England in July 1815, and was broken up in January, 1821.

SPOILER WARNING:  Plot or ending details for "The Fortune of War, Treason’s Harbour, and The Hundred Days "  follow.

In the Canon

Acasta is one of a series of ships in the Aubrey-Maturin series whose commands are promised to Captain Jack Aubrey by the Admiralty, but are ultimately given to other, more influential officers. Another such ship, promised to Aubrey but never delivered, is the fictional frigate HMS Blackwater.

The Admiralty’s promise of Acasta is first made to Aubrey in The Fortune of War. She is described by Aubrey to his friend Maturin as a "forty-gun frigate, pretty well the heaviest in the service … And the finest sailer of the lot, on a bowline. Two points off the winds, she could give even dear Surprise foretopgallant, at least. A true, copper-bottomed plum, Stephen…."

Aubrey's fictional characterization of Acasta's speed likely overstates the historical ship's actual performance. The historical Acasta is described as "not outstandingly fast," but is acknowledged to have been "very weatherly" and more maneuverable than most other frigates her size. [5] Likewise, Aubrey's description of Acasta as the "heaviest in the service" is not entirely accurate. Although she was among the largest fifth-rates of her time, she was not the heaviest of her contemporaries. For example, two other British 40-gun fifth-rates launched at the same time as Acasta (Endymion and Cambrian) both outweighed her and mounted heavier weaponry (24-pound cannon). [6]

In The Surgeon’s Mate, Aubrey learns that Acasta has, in his absence while a prisoner-of-war in Boston, been given to Capt. "Robert Kerr." Acasta re-appears later in the Aubrey-Maturin series near the end of The Hundred Days, as part of Admiral Lord Barmouth’s squadron at Gibraltar.


  1. Gardiner, Robert, (2000), Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, Annapolis, MD, Naval Institute Press, page 47
  2. Gardiner, Robert, supra, page 46
  3. Id.
  4. Gardiner, Robert, supra, page 99
  5. Gardiner, Robert, supra, page 145
  6. Gardiner, Robert, supra, page 43-46


Michael Phillips Ships of the Old Navy,

Gardiner, Robert, (2000), Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, Annapolis, MD, Naval Institute Press

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