What happens when a character in your novel gets entangled with a character in someone else’s novel — or with a group of living history interpretors?
I’ve been following the HMS Acasta‘s log for some time now and when they posted this letter writing challenge, I rose to the bait. Imagine you have come across a bundle of letters written to the officers and men aboard this ship… If you want to play along, or just follow, sign aboard HMS Acasta and read the premise. For background information on the War of 1812, the blockade, and the Battle of Baltimore, check out Privateers; Maryland in the War of 1812.
The year is 1812, the place is the Chesapeake Bay. Patricia (living as Patrick) MacPherson writes a desperate letter to Dr. Albert Roberts. Technically they are enemies, on opposing sides of this war.
Dr. Albert Roberts, Ship Surgeon
Dear Dr. Roberts,
I beg your humble pardon, for we have not been introduced, yet your reputation as a medical doctor and ship surgeon has reached us in the port of Baltimore and environs. (Even in these trying circumstances words fly freely and information still finds a way past the blockade.) Though our countries are again at war, I appeal to you and your sense of honor and your desire to do good for the injured and sick of any nation.
I am the master of a small coastal trading schooner moored in the Patapsico River. Andromeda is an American vessel. You must know that we harbor no deserters from British ships; our crew is comprised of family members and several free black men, born in Maryland. My daughter, who is aboard with me, has taken sick with a putrid fever and I am unable to get a Baltimore doctor to come to our vessel because of the mortars and canon fire. I have some knowledge of medicine and much experience with shipboard doctoring, but this sudden illness is quite beyond me. I fear for her life, yet this is not a surrender, I have no intention of losing my ship.
If my vessel were to be taken it would ruin our family, we are not wealthy merchants, just local traders shipping small amounts of wheat and grain from Baltimore to points south, returning with lumber and tobacco from the plantations of the Southern Chesapeake. Our schooner is small, but to us it is our home and our livelihood.
I am sending this missive via the British prisoner exchange agent who is transported by a local waterman. I await your advice by letter — or better yet, your presence. I will pay you what I am able for your services. My daughter grows weaker by the hour and I am at a loss.
With everlasting gratitude, I am your faithful and obliged servant,
Master of the Schooner Andromeda
To see what happens next, follow Acasta’s log.