A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
Re: Moby Dick Tales
From: Don Seltzer
Date: 2019 Jan 15, 14:06 -0500
...It would appear from what you say, I’ve not read Nordhoff Senior yet, that as the 19th Century progressed the proportion of Passed Midshipmen, i.e. experienced Midshipmen qualified and awaiting a vacancy as a commissioned Lieutenant, who took Master’s Mates posts in order to receive more pay increased. Such Master’s Mates might well have been accepted as ‘gentlemen’ and have privileges not normally available to many in the broad Petty Officer category. Over which time period would you say the balance changed, and which would be the best Nordhoff Senior book available at less than $10 to read about it in?
I would not describe it in that manner, that midshipmen 'took MM posts in order to receive more pay'. It was a promotion within the midshipman ranks, and master's mates continued to live in the same midshipman quarters, as the senior presiding members. I think that the uniform was identical. Master's mates were qualified to stand a watch and were the logical choice for prize master to bring a captured vessel into port. A midshipman did not have to pass through the MM rank to make the step to lieutenant, but it certainly helped in the resume.
Nordhoff will be of no use in understanding any of this. He was a half century later, and his only naval service was in the US Navy as a boy going to sea for the first time. The best source for this that I know is Basil Hall, a Royal Navy officer of the early 19th century. His writings were published under many titles, including a multivolume Voyages and Travels, and smaller individual books titled Midshipman and Lieutenant. He has a nice chapter on navigation during his first experience as a prizemaster trying to bring his vessel into Bermuda.
They can be found online as free ebooks.
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