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Old 13-02-2014, 11:07   #1
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Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Probably bad log entries but.....
The U. S. S. Constitution (Old Ironsides), now permanently berthed in Boston harbor.

As a combat vessel, she carried 48,600 gallons of fresh waterfor her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (i.e. fresh water distillers).

However, let it be noted that according to her ship's log, "On July 27,1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600pounds of black powder and
79,400 gallons of rum
."

Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."

Making Jamaica on 6October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and
68,300 gallons of rum.

Then she headed for the Azores , arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and
64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.

On 18 November, she set sail for England . In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships,
salvaging only the rum
aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, although unarmed she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland . Her landing party captured a whisky distillery and transferred
40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch
aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.

The U. S. S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder,
no rum, no wine, no whisky, and 38,600 gallons of water.
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Old 13-02-2014, 11:21   #2
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Yeah baby! That's what I'M talkin' about!!!
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Old 13-02-2014, 11:23   #3
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

The daily ration of rum was pretty eye-opening, like a quart or something. It was used as means of disinfecting the water, which would get fouled fairly quickly during a voyage from all the stuff growing in the casks. It was a perk that was a bit of an enticement to keep men from jumping ship, as well as to make them more tractable in general.

But those numbers from the Constitution are pretty eye-popping all the same.

I also found it intriguing that captains preferred to pressgang men who could not swim, as that dramatically reduced the likelihood of them jumping ship. An elegant solution, lol.
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Old 13-02-2014, 11:26   #4
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Hmmm. The US and Great Britain were not at war with each other in 1798-99. There was a quasi war with France at that time though, which would have made the USA a defacto, if reluctant ally of Britain against Revolutionary France, and Constitution was assigned to protect American shipping from French privateers between Cape Henry and Florida. The following year she was flagship of the Santo Domingo station and made several captures of armed vessels and retook several merchant ships.

All in all the rum/licqour story is most likely apocryphal but does illustrate the importance of spirits on a ship. Even the Pilgrims on the Mayflower had a beer or porter ration since fresh water in wooden casks would take on all the characteristics of pond water after a few weeks at sea.
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Old 13-02-2014, 11:35   #5
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

I don't get it. Is this a puzzle to try to figure out where the missing 10,000 gallons of water went? jk

"Bad log entries" to say the least.

That means that for 178 days, they used a grand total of 21 gallons of water each.

It also means that they consumed 252,000 gallons of rum, whiskey, and wine which would average them just about 3 gallons a day per person.

I admit, I have had a couple of days in the past that seemed like I drank that much, but doubt anyone could actually do it and live, especially for 178 days.
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Old 13-02-2014, 11:52   #6
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Quote:
Originally Posted by Astrid View Post
All in all the rum/licqour story is most likely apocryphal but does illustrate the importance of spirits on a ship. Even the Pilgrims on the Mayflower had a beer or porter ration since fresh water in wooden casks would take on all the characteristics of pond water after a few weeks at sea.
No, it's pretty well documented what those ships carried in terms of stores, including liquor, and what the daily ration was. That said, I doubt the rum that they were bringing on board was all that strong. Definitely not 151 lol.

Looking at the Constitution it's also amazing that they could carry all that and 475 crew members. Talk about cramped quarters.
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Old 13-02-2014, 12:01   #7
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

95.5 proof was specified by the Royal Navy.
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Old 13-02-2014, 12:13   #8
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Check snopes....
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Old 13-02-2014, 12:34   #9
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

according to legend the british navy sailors drank the rum that nelsons body was preserved in after his death!
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Old 17-02-2014, 13:14   #10
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Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Rum was used because often the water was rank and foul. Often though I am sure they gave the men rum to insure fighting sprit. You ever been in Plymouth England on a Saturday night? The police retire and the military police take over to deal the sailors! And Nelson was pickled in brandy not rum I think.
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Old 17-02-2014, 14:16   #11
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

time to change my aft water tank over to something useful!
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Old 17-02-2014, 14:44   #12
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

Nelson's body was put in a brandy cask. I have always assumed the cask was full of brandy and Nelson.

The Royal Navy gave a half a pint of proofed rum a day. Eight ounces of full strength rum(95ish%)! To prove that the rum had not been watered down, it was mixed with with gun powder and lit. If the rum burned after the powder went out, the rum was proofed, ie, was high enough alcohol and not water down.

Given how these men lived, I would think the rum was used as a pain killer, among other things.

Later,
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Old 17-02-2014, 14:45   #13
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

My understanding was that the grog was generally stored in the proof or overproof condition so that it would last indefinitely.

"Proof" was a piece of industrial relations/theatre as described by Dan, and could be requested by sailors who were suspicious of the corruptibility of a purser (which was rife).

The grog ration was then diluted in front of the sailors, on daily distribution, with the standard issue water from the general water-butt. This generally prevented stockpiling to fuel a binge, and the accompanying belligerence and inability to man the ship.

I'm told the reason this worked was that the water was usually so foul, as Gg points out, that below a certain dilution the bacteria would multiply with the sugar in the grog without being killed by the ethanol, and the ration would quickly become undrinkable. I haven't tested the veracity or scientific plausibility of this ...

It seems to me that grog was used as almost the only explicit 'treat' in the lives of people for whom sailing ships were essentially floating gaols, with the added 'benefit' of the ever-present spectre of drowning or close combat.

I wonder if the particularly unhealthy relationship with alcohol in my part of the world -- NZ being the last landmass of any size to be colonised/recolonised -- in some degree originates with the fact that all the early arrivals of the recolonisation were necessarily sailors from the grog-motivated era?

(And, as usual in the New World, the original colonisers did not have any prior contact with, and hence evolved resistance to, alcohol)
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Old 17-02-2014, 15:03   #14
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

The entire story is an implausible fabrication:

For instance:

"Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."
As Astrid points out, these two nations were not at war, being almost (albeit reluctantly) on the same side of a war with France.

But if they have the year wrong, and it WAS during one of the many periods of mutual belligerence with the English, the following line is a nonsense:

"Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum."

Jamaica was the largest English naval base in the region.

In any case, rum was sometimes used as a tradeable, durable commodity, almost universally prized, like precious metals. Part of the job description for warships was to be frequently damaged to the extent of requiring major rebuilds, and by the nature of these materials this could be done almost anywhere, so they required to carry lots of universal currency. It would not be unthinkable that at the end of a long campaign a particular store of currency in a popular form would be depleted to zero.
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Old 17-02-2014, 15:16   #15
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Re: Importance of Rum in Naval battles

FWIW, I have read somewhere in some medical naval history book that the rum (grog etc) was an important part of the caloric intake of the crew. It was simply another food (energy) source and one that both kept well and tasty. AFAIK, rum was then just a description for alcoholic sprits in general and not just the sugar cane based drink we know.

This claim was reinforced by a retired UK naval surgeon - but perhaps he had read the same book
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