Buchanan ship sketchHere is the third and sadly final post by research student Daniel Lange, who has been looking at the correspondence of Napoleonic midshipman, Archibald Buchanan.... If you missed the first (or second) post, catch up here. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Perhaps the most intriguing features in the letters of midshipman Archibald Buchanan are a number of small drawings he included in the margins and which illustrate his stories. A letter to his brother, dated on the 30th of June, contains a sketch that depicts the manoeuvring of the Ariadne, Ranger, and Orpheus during the blockade and which resulted in an exchange of broadsides between the Orpheus and the battery of Le Havre.

In a letter to his mother in June 1804, while the Ariadne was moored at Portsmouth, he described the uniform he wores during watch duty ashore: ‘I dare say you would have laughed to see me. Figure to yourself me with a Large Cocked hat, Large Hussar Boots & Long Coat with Large Anchor Buttons & Dirk’. Between these lines he included an illustration showing him in the described outfit and smoking a pipe.

XAGC7 sketch

Other recurrent elements in Archibald's correspondence are his training in navigation, the interaction with his crewmates and commanding officers, and his desire to receive news about the family affairs back home. His letters offer us a vivid example of the experiences a ‘young gentleman’ made on his path to becoming a lieutenant in the Royal Navy of Nelson and Hornblower. Archibald's last letters in the collection are from June 1804, but the muster books in the National Archives show that he continued his career in the Royal Navy and that he obtained the rank of lieutenant by 1810 and the rank of commander in 1814. He died in Pisa in 1822. His remains were buried in the Old English Cemetery of Livorno, Italy.

The letters of Archibald Buchanan are available to view in the Caird Library under reference XAGC/7

Daniel Lange