The promotion from Lieutenant to Captain was not unheard of although the intermediate step Commander was certainly the one that most would take.
In the vessel, Lieutenants were ranked according to their date of commision, so the first officer was the senior Lt., literally.
Sometimes, a Lieutenant was made commander of a vessel, such as a gun brig, schooner, ketch or cutter (all types of rigs) and he would be referred to as a "Lieutenant and Commander", (towards the end of the war it sometimes being called Lt. Commander) but he was still a Lt.
Through whatever means a Lieutenant impressed the higher ups (patronage or merit), he might be promoted "Master and Commander" known as Commander and might even get a command, the vessel being called a "Sloop of War" which could be rigged as a brig (two masts) or ship (three masts) but would be rated at less than 20 guns, that being reserved for "proper" "Post" Captains. On board, the Commander would be referred to as "Captain".
If he received a promotion to Captain, the fellow was normally set for life, eventually becoming an Admiral in due time, provided he lived long enough. He would command a vessel of 20 guns or more, normally ship rigged although during the 1812 war, there were a number of large brigs that were rated "Post Ships" referring to their large number of guns and the need for a "Post Captain" to command.
If a Captain demonstrated talent (like Nelson) possibly superior to that of his "betters", he might receive a posting as "Commodore" and be given a flotilla or Squadron to command. A First Class Commodore had a Captain under him to run his ship, a Second Class Commodore had to run his own ship as well as the squadron. This was a temporary posting. He was still a captain and would revert to that rank when his job was done.
During the Napoleonic Wars, there was a need for good senior officers and the Admiralty promoted a bunch of Captains just to get to the ones they wanted (like Nelson). Just because you were an Admiral, didn't mean they had to employ you.
As this practice became rather expensive, taking a bunch of supersenior Captains and promoting them to life long half pay as Admirals, they began to bypass some less deserving Captains. Since the promotion was to the various coloured squadrons (Blue, White and Red in ascending order of seniority) these superceeded Captains were said to be "Yellowed" or Rear Admirals of the Yellow Squadron, one that did not exist. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow.
Within Crown Forces (the re-enactors) we determined that the ranks should be associated with the skills to go with them. No-one in the Crown Forces Naval Establishments can expect to command anything without passing some sort of competency criteria and our Lieutenants pass their "Boards" by being grilled by merciless senior officers to see if they're worthy. (I'm still having nightmares!)
And our Captains have internationally recognised "Masters" papers that would allow them to command real vessels on international waterways. For Crown Forces, they must also have tall ship experience.
This is to ensure that somebody who dresses as Nelson and expects to command us is competant. The issue here is that boats/ships have greater potential for hurt than many things. I won't risk my boats and people to anybody unless I know they have the necessary skills. A real naval officer is someone I would trust and a graduate of Crown Forces Naval Establishments Board and is ranked Lieutenant, Commander or Captain is competant.
I think Kylie is just looking for words to use as part of the celebration. I would think that a copy of orders would fill the bill.
"From the Admiralty
You are hereby directed to repair aboard His Majesty's Ship Unbelievable (150 guns!) and assume the rank of Captain, where you are to make the ship in all aspects ready for sea for a period of no less than 6 months, then join the squadron off of Toulon under Rear-Admiral A.S. Pompous, and commence the duties of blockade.
Signed, this day,
Sir Henry Henry,
Command might be harbour duty or a company of Sea Fencibles, or whatever this fellow will command, your choice.
I hope that helps.
Lake Simcoe and Upper Lakes Station
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