• General History
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

The practice of Impressment – while used by many 17 to 19th Century World Navies, is more closely associated with The British Royal Navy. It's sheer size in the 18th Century required that able bodied seamen be sought for Service by ''less than noble'' means. The life of a Sailor was not one that was actively sought out by most men, due to the harsh conditions and real possibilities of death. Conversely, capture by Pirates was another factor which turned volunteers away. With Impressment possibly beginning in England around the 14th Century AD under the Reign of Edward I, the process was as such. Groups of Naval Officers and ''Associates'' (known as a ''Press Gang'')– normally ''well built strongmen'' already serving as Non-Commissioned Officers, would search the Ports and Harbor Towns for ''likely candidates''. Often, these ''recruits'' were plied with ''women and much drink''. Once suitably intoxicated beyond control, they were taken aboard an awaiting Naval Ship. Made to sign Impressment Papers (sometimes referred to as Conscription Documents) – these poor souls would often wake up with hangovers and a long term service contract (as long as 4 years!). There was no legal recourse against Impressment save avoiding Port Bars and Taverns!


The practice of Impressment would lead to quite a business venture for some. By the 18th Century many Tavern Owners ran their own Press Gang service. Many Royal Naval Captains would eagerly pay for recruits gathered this way. The British Navy by the 1780s had slowly begun to regulate and outlaw Press Gangs and Impressments. However, they turned a ''blind eye'' to the civilian ''counterpart''. The practice was not as common in the early American Navy (but it was known). Impressment would soon move into The British Army as well. Army Press Gangs (or Conscription Gangs) were quite common during The Napoleonic War of the 19th Century. By 1814, The Royal Navy (by and large) scaled back of Impressment, with The Army following around the 1850s.