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"Jumping Bill" and "Sudden Death": Gun names on carriages

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A always nicely presented little detail in many films: The names painted onto the carriages of the guns. To be seen for example in MaC in the first scene on the gun deck.


Fiction - means invention from writers and film makers - or are there any historical hints or proves for it?


Thank you, Daniel

Edited by dafi
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I think it is a movie maker fiction. As late as 1841, 33% of all Englishmen signed their names as "X", they simply could not write even their own names.

The situation was not much different in the rest of Europe. And that is the percentage for the entire male population, including nobility, clergy and business classes. The illiteracy percentage on the lower deck of a man o'war would have been much greater.



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I'll have to re-read the book, but I remember reading in the "Billy Ruffian" that the crew named the guns.  It's not hard to believe as military men have named their equipment for seemingly forever. 

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It's true!


In William James's 'Naval History of Great Briton' (or possibly his earlier work 'Naval Occurances ...') , the author lists all the names applied to the 28 main deck guns of the captured USS Chesapeake in 1813. Each gun and its opposite shared a name selected by its crew. One was "Willfull Murder" was one. "John Bull" was another. Her Carronade names were not recorded, although they surely had them. The Constitution's and United States's crews were known to have done the same, although only a couple names have survived. Chase guns in general were named "Long Tom". I'll look them up tonight and re-post.


By the way, during the war of 1812, the  American Frigate President flew a huge motto flag from her main truck every time she cleared for battle:


"Here is the Haughty President! How do you like her?"

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According to"Surgeon of the Seas" by Jonathan M. Foltz, published 1931, at the attack at Quallah Batoo:


"Jan. 20th, [1832]. This afternoon the troops to land on Sumatra were exercised in order of the landing - the rear formed by the 'flying artillery', with 'Betsy Baker', the six pounder carronade. The twelve pounder in the launch, commanded by Mr. Gordon, is 'The Bonnets So Blue', and the six pounder in the cutter is 'Polly Hopkins'."


William James's "Naval Occurrances Between Great Britain and America", 1816, names all of Chesapeake's guns, including her carronades:


'The Chesapeake's guns all had names, engraven on small squares of copper-plate. To give some idea of American tastes on these matters, here follows the names of her guns upon one broadside: - Main Deck: "Brother Jonathan, True Blue, Yankee Protection, Putnam, Raging Eagle, Viper, General Warren,  Mad Anthony, America, Washington, Liberty Fore Ever, Dreadnaught, Defiance, Liberty or Death." Fore Castle: - "United Tarts" the shifting 18-pounder, "Jumping Billy, Rattler", carronades. Quarter Deck:  "Bull-dog, Spitfire, Nancy Dawson, Revenge, Bunker's Hill, Pocohantas, Towser, Wilful Murder", carronades; Total 25.'


The USS United States even had two all English gun crews, during her fight with HMS Macedonian, who actually named their yankee batteries "Nelson" and "HMS Victory"!

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Dang, I had a vision of the chase guns in pink frilly petticoats.

Interesting discussion. I know in the Aubrey/Maturin books O'Brien talks about the gun names, so I thought the opening scene of MaC was cool. It's nice to read the real history behind it.

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Typo Correction! The Chesapeake's chase gun was called "United Tars" not "United Tarts"! 



THIS made my day!


Thanks for the wonderful input, Daniel

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