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    Re: Master & Commander
    From: Trevor Kenchington
    Date: 2003 Dec 10, 14:54 +0000

    You asked:
    > what a relation was between the ranks post-captain and commander? When the 
    post-captain disappeared from the Royal Navy?
    > For what ship category the master began to be appointed?
    George has already touched on the first topic, though indirectly. As a
    courtesy title, the officer commanding any vessel could be termed her
    "captain". However, the rank of "Captain" in the Royal Navy was a key
    one. (In a sense, it was the highest that any officer could be promoted
    to, since all of the various grades of Admirals were simply senior
    Captains who moved up through those grades by seniority alone. Note that
    command at sea, whether of one ship, one squadron or an entire station
    was essentially independent of the rank of the individual and was a
    matter of an appointment, not a promotion.)
    To distinguish "Captain" as a position on a vessel from "Captain" as a
    rank, the latter was termed "Post Captain" and promotion to that rank
    was termed being "made Post". The date that a man was made Post
    determined his seniority in the Navy List and hence his point in the
    sequence of Captains waiting to become Admirals. An officer was made
    Post when he was first appointed to command a ship of sufficient size
    that it merited having a Post Captain in command. That meant any ship of
    the line, any frigate or a "Post ship" -- so called because they were
    the smallest vessels to carry a Post Captain. (They were 20 or 24-Gun
    vessels, similar to what the French navy called a corvette.)
    Smaller vessels were, early on, commanded by Lieutenants. Over time, a
    Lieutenant with the responsibility of individual command came to be
    termed a "Commander". Since such small vessels did not carry a Master,
    whose duties therefore fell onto the Commander, the official title was
    "Master and Commander". That was a formal rank by 1750. In 1794,
    according to Lavery, the title was simplified to "Commander". In the
    Great War ('94-'15), they commanded brigs and sloops.
    The American War had brought a requirement for very large numbers of
    very small patrol vessels and hence there were once again Lieutenants in
    individual command of war schooners. I think that the cutters used in
    European waters also had Lieutenants in command.
    As to the second question: I am not sure when the term "Post Captain"
    was dropped by the Royal Navy. It was after the period we are discussing
    but before Smyth's "Word-Book" of 1867.
    Then the ships which carried Masters: I cannot immediately find any
    confirmation but I suspect that any ship big enough to carry a Post
    Captain also carried a Master, hence any vessel of around 20 guns or
    more -- at least in theory. It should be understood that what happened
    on one particular ship at one particular time was not a perfect
    replicate of other ships at other times and reality was a mass of
    special circumstances. However, a Master on a ship carrying a Post
    captain but not on one carrying a "Master and Commander" makes sense.
    (The lonely Lieutenant facing an Atlantic crossing in an armed schooner
    might hope to have a Master's Mate to assist him.)
    One final point: Someone posted recently on this thread about an officer
    only getting a Post Captain's pay when he made Post. That was a
    misunderstanding. There was no one pay scale for a Post Captain: It
    depended on the size of the ship be commanded, with half-pay waiting for
    him if he was not appointed to any ship. Again, appointments to ships or
    to the command of fleets was separate from the rank held and seniority
    in that rank (save that nobody could be appointed to command over
    somebody with more seniority in the Navy List).
    Trevor Kenchington
    Trevor J. Kenchington PhD                         Gadus{at}iStar.ca
    Gadus Associates,                                 Office(902) 889-9250
    R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour,                     Fax   (902) 889-9251
    Nova Scotia  B0J 2L0, CANADA                      Home  (902) 889-3555
                         Science Serving the Fisheries

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