“Welcome aboard sailor!
“You're a sailor now. Dress the part.
Here’s your packing list:
2 shirts, 2 jackets, 1 red or white waistcoat (vest), 3 pants, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 hats.”
Without an officially regulated uniform in 1812, sailors wore clothing well suited to their occupation. They “shifted” or changed their clothes weekly, and mended what they could. When the clothes wore out, the purser sold them replacements.
“As purser, I run the ship's store.
No respectable person goes without a hat.
A uniform essential, you have to wear it for inspection and muster.
Saves the toes from bumps and frostbite.
An extra layer of warmth, an extra touch of class.
Checked Linen Shirt
With its repeating patterns, this shirt won’t show the dirt.
A second shirt to wear while the other is drying.
Paint, tar, or grease? Wear these if you please.
Sturdy and warm, they must be paired with your jacket for muster.
Needle & Thread
Sew, sew, sew your coat.
A filthy sailor is an unhappy sailor.
You’ll need a clean shave for inspection and muster.
$0.37½ per lb
For mixing up a warm drink.
$1.80 per lb
It keeps you warm and healthy – or so says the surgeon.
$0.30 per lb
If you want any tobacco you will have to pay for it.
$0.28 per lb
A luxury for those who can afford it.
Sailor vs. Officer Clothing
The distinctive clothing you wore on board ship reflected who you were and the work you did.
What would you rather wear?
Why would sailors and officers wear different clothing?
A Ranked Society
Of the 485 sailors aboard for each cruise, about two thirds were enlisted sailors, another 60 were Marines, and the rest were commissioned, warrant, or petty officers. Each rank and rate carried specific responsibilities to help the ship function efficiently at times of peace and war.
I am the captain! How impertinent of you to ask what I do!
There are a half dozen of us senior and junior lieutenants on board. Though we take our orders from the captain, as commissioned officers we are in charge of the day-to-day command of the ship.
Other Commissioned Officers
The captain and lieutenants aren’t the only commissioned officers on board. As purser, I’m the ship’s banker and store manager. There’s also a naval surgeon and surgeon’s mate who keep the crew fit and free of disease.
As warrant officers, we are expert specialists with the authority to direct operations. I’m one of several midshipmen. There’s also a chaplain, sailing master, sailmaker, carpenter, gunner, boatswain, and captain’s clerk among us.
We petty officers assist the senior officers on board. I’m the cook. There’s also a ship’s corporal, master-at-arms, quartermaster, master’s mate, steward, coxswain, boatswain’s mate, boatswain’s yeoman, gunner’s mate, quarter gunner, armorer, gunner’s yeoman, carpenter’s mate, cooper, carpenter’s yeoman, and sailmaker’s mate.
There are 276 of us on board. We’re all dedicated and experienced sailors. It’s our skills that keep the ship sailing, and our bravery that ensures victory in battle.
We are still learning our trade. All 55 of us are volunteers, of course, and what we lack in experience we make up for in strength and valor.
There’s a dozen of us boys on board. We’re the lowest rank of seamen and do much of the grunt work, but in battle each of us has a job that’s vital to victory.
We have our own organization. There are two Marine lieutenants, two Marine sergeants, four Marine corporals, a fifer, and a drummer.
We are Marine privates, and our job is to police and defend this fine ship and pick off the enemy with our trusty muskets.