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Chapter 11

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

W. D. Puleston

published by
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc.
New York • London

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 13
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

Buildings, Grounds, and Daily Routine

When the Navy rebuilt the Academy early in the century, it located its main buildings as close to deep water as possible, faced them toward the sea, and reclaimed enough of Chesapeake Bay to make a drill ground for its midshipmen. Consequently, the best approach to the Academy is not through the gates but by water in a small boat coming in from Annapolis Roads. The dome of the Chapel will be sighted first, then an indistinguishable mass of low‑lying buildings which gradually separate into Luce, Macdonough, Bancroft, and Dahlgren Halls. The housed-over hulks of the Reine Mercedes, a trophy of the Spanish War, and the Cumberland, whose predecessor was sunk by the Merrimac1 in Hampton Roads, lie across the dock from each other, testifying to the varying fortunes of the United States Navy. Old graduates who land at the dock will see the ghost of the Santee and visions of the Constitution and Constellation.​a All visitors will see a modern destroyer, a squadron of seaplanes with their attending crash boats, submarine chasers, and power boats, which show that the Navy is training its midshipmen with modern equipment. And in Santee Basin and Dewey Basin the presence of the yacht America, several ketches, numerous half-raters, sailing launches, and regulation Navy cutters assure the initiated that the Navy  p135 is teaching its future officers to sail a boat and pull an oar. The service has not lost its salty savor.

The Academy is well worth a visit. The grounds proper (usually called the "yard") contain 184 acres; the hospital grounds across Dorsey Creek, 22 acres; the rifle range across the Severn, 131 acres; and the dairy farm thirteen miles from Annapolis, 855 acres. The Academy is continually acquiring additional land and buildings. Recently it constructed a seaplane hangar, barracks for enlisted men, and a machine shop. It has enlarged the gymnasium building, has added two wings to the Administration Building, two new wings to Bancroft Hall, and a new recitation building, Ward Hall. These enlargements are still insufficient. The Academy seeks to acquire more land to increase the power plant, to improve the ferry slips, to add to the officer quarters, and, if appropriations are available, to build a new auditorium large enough to contain the Regiment. The existing auditorium can not seat the present Regiment.

The Academy, like the Navy, is growing. Alumni returning after a long absence will see few familiar objects except the monuments. The midshipmen of to‑day will have the same difficulty when they return in 1960. The Severn will be there, and the Bay, but only a bold prophet would predict what buildings will survive. In this respect the Academy is like the fleet. Its material is ever changing; only its personnel maintains a continuity with the past. The Academy personnel should be on guard lest these enormous buildings, these ever-enlarging grounds, submerge the seagoing school in a mass of brick and granite.

The first building encountered after landing is Luce Hall, named for Stephen B. Luce, head of the Seamanship Department at Newport, afterwards Commandant of Midshipmen, and author of the first text-book on seaman­ship. Inside Luce Hall are the Seamanship and Navigation  p136 Department, a merger of two of the original departments, and Languages. On the third deck are practical models used for instruction in seaman­ship. The sail loft on the fourth deck has been transformed into an examination room (if Luce were alive, he would protest such profanation), though there remains a jack stay where midshipmen are taught knotting, splicing, and some of the bends and half hitches and where, in the spring and summer, plebes are taught signaling.

Alongside is Macdonough Hall, commemorating Macdonough of Lake Champlain. It shelters the gymnasium and the offices of the Department of Physical Training. It provides wrestling lofts, fencing lofts, boxing rooms, locker rooms, a swimming pool, squash courts, and the famous "misery hall," where "charley horses" and other athletic animals are violently treated by heartless surgeons. Connected with it is the natatorium, one hundred and fifty feet long by sixty feet wide, one of the largest indoor pools, whose water is chemically treated and continuously changed. It was the scene of many near deaths from suffocation in the days of water polo, when the midshipmen had a submarine grudge fight every year with the old Seventh Regiment of New York. Midshipmen must qualify in swimming before their Uncle Sam will present them with a commission.

In front of Dahlgren Hall is a Water Battery where future battery officers get their first drills with naval guns. This sea‑going battery is on reclaimed ground; the site of the first naval battery of 32‑pounders, erected by Commander Buchanan, was well inshore of the present battery. Dahlgren Hall contains almost the latest model guns and appurtenances. The Ordnance Department continually adds to the collection in Dahlgren Hall. A new recitation building has been completed, named Ward Hall for Lieutenant  p137 James Harmon Ward, the first Head of Ordnance. Seamanship, navigation, ordnance, and languages, the four subjects on which the Academy cut its teeth, are housed in the four halls adjacent to Bancroft Hall. Before there was a Naval Academy, American midshipmen prided themselves most on being prime seamen and top flight artillerists; next in importance were navigation and then the French language.

Dahlgren Hall has witnessed many gala occasions. It is the scene of the midshipman dances where young ladies can be assured of the undivided attention of future admirals with trained feet. Naval Lotharios (called "Snakes" on the banks of the Severn) occasionally issue too many invitations for the same hop; when they receive duplicate or triplicate acceptances, they provide substitutes from unwilling but loyal Red Mikes who are more at home on their lady's feet than on their own. A wise young lady will make sure of her escort before appearing at one of the hops. Dahlgren Hall is the scene of graduation exercises when they are held indoors. This is a magnificent event, often but never adequately described.

Connecting Macdonough and Dahlgren Halls is Bancroft Hall, which, with its newest wings, can house, by squeezing a bit, 3,100 midshipmen. One of the largest buildings, even its massive walls can not shut out the atmosphere of the sea, for the Chesapeake is a bare hundred yards away, and Memorial Hall is filled with paintings of naval scenes and portraits and busts of naval officers.

Directly in front and framed by two wings of Bancroft Hall is Wilson (Smoke) Park, where informality reigns. Only midshipmen and fathers of midshipmen are permitted within its precincts. Here upperclassmen take their brief leisure and enjoy their smokes. Across Cooper Road from Wilson Park is Farragut Field, drill ground and athletic field for football, winter track, plebe baseball, battalion  p138 soccer, baseball, and lacrosse. On the southeast end is the foremast of the battle­ship Maine, sunk in Havana Harbor in 1898. Only a bronze plate marks the site of Fort Severn, as if the Navy were determined to eradicate any Army influence over its future officers. When midshipmen drill or play on Farragut Field, they are really romping on the former bottom of Chesapeake Bay, and those old salts who feared the worst when the school was established ashore can be comforted. Present‑day midshipmen still get barnacles in their shoes as they tramp across Farragut Field.

On the south side is Thompson Stadium, which will seat 20,000 spectators and could last forever, for it was built of steel intended for battle­ships that were scrapped. It, too, is due to be scrapped, and a larger stadium will be built outside the Academy grounds. Robert (Bobby) Thompson, 1868, for whom the stadium was named, first achieved fame with a "fish horn" with which he assailed the ears of Admiral Porter. After resigning in 1871 he was one of the early members of the New York Athletic Club, rode a highwheel bicycle, and competed in the "Century" matches and the races to Coney Island. He kept himself physically fit, and encouraged the midshipmen to do the same. During the dark days of Academy athletics, Bobby, as his intimates called him, spared no effort to prove to the conservative authorities that physical education and exercise were necessary for midshipmen. He worked like a Trojan to promote every sport from fencing to football, without too much success until a classmate, Commander Richard Wainwright, became Superintendent. After that time classmates or close friends of Bobby were in authority, and he began to get results.

While enthusiastic about athletics, Colonel Thompson was interested in all phases of life at the Academy, and was usually present for June Week in his houseboat Everglades,  p139 where he dispensed regal hospitality, and never forgetting to invite some midshipmen and giving orders to his steward to see that they had a drop or two of the punch — when the officers were not around. Bobby is the only person who has two Lucky Bags dedicated to him, the second by the Class of 1902, who broke Academy precedent by acclamation.​b The Academy has always been blessed with loyal alumni, and in their forefront is Bobby Thompson, who, in top hat and fur‑lined coat, always led the rooters in his box at the Army-Navy football game. The "topper" grew more battered each year for he wore the same "lucky" lid to every game, and whenever Navy scored or broke up an Army attack, the silk hat would sail high in the air. On those terrible occasions when by some lucky fluke Army won, Bobby would be as broken-hearted as the captain of the team.

For all its marble corridors, it is easy to recognize the sea‑going organization of Bancroft Hall. The Commandant of Midshipmen is Commanding Officer of U. S. S. Bancroft Hall, flagship of the Superintendent. He has an executive officer, also the regimental officer, who is assisted by four battalion officers and a first lieutenant, comparable in all respects to heads of departments afloat, and twenty company officers, little different from watch and division officers. The first lieutenant is the Grand Housekeeper and Glorified Janitor, just as he is aboard ship; the other heads of departments are considered chiefs of battalions. One officer is "Inspector of Uniforms"; he keeps a sharp eye on the uniforms of the midshipmen. Each of the four battalions consists of five companies and lives in its own part of the ship, that is, in its own wing of Bancroft Hall. The four battalions form the Regiment, exactly as the fleet regiment is formed when it is necessary to seize an enemy harbor and no soldiers are handy.

 p140  The Regiment is directly commanded by a midshipman commander, with a regimental staff of midshipmen headed by an adjutant. Each battalion is commanded by a midshipman lieutenant commander, with his battalion staff. Each company is commanded by a midshipman lieutenant, assisted by a midshipman lieutenant (junior grade) and a midshipman ensign, with midshipmen petty officers for each squad. The ranks of midshipmen officers and petty officers are indicated by naval stripes and badges; Captain Ramsay restored naval insignia to midshipmen, which entitles him to some forgiveness for the riots he caused at Academy in the eighties.

The formations and the infantry, field-artillery, and great‑gun drills are the same as in the fleet. Throughout the corridors is the atmosphere of order characteristic of every well-disciplined man-of‑war. The midshipman officer of the day wears a navy sword which he may carry through life. His service dress uniform is cut exactly like an officer's. At a little distance a smart-looking First Classman could be mistaken for a snappy young ensign. And in Smoke Hall can be heard there are discussions over every subject under the sun as characterize the "steerages" and wardrooms of the fleets: the same heated statements, flat denials, offers to bet, and the final reference to the World Almanac, the Navy Register, Jane's Fighting Ships, the Naval Institute or Reef Points.

There are many trophies in Memorial Hall. Midshipmen could easily gain the impression that the Navy has always sailed from one victory to another. There is nothing to suggest to the Regiment that an American man-of‑war carried women for a sultan's harem;​c that one of the first naval schools was held in an infidel prison; that the frigates President, Essex, and Chesapeake, and all our original sloops-of‑war, were taken during the War of 1812; that  p141 perhaps half of our best-known officers of the Revolution and of 1812 were made prisoners of war. There is nothing to remind the 1940's that their progenitors suffered defeats before they gained victories. It might be well to have an Adversity Corner in Memorial Hall and display models of the ships that were lost, to remind the Regiment that their ancestors were reared in adversity and taught in the school of hard knocks.

When the Regiment forms for luncheon, the midshipmen quickly take their stations. With almost regal tread come the First Classmen; a consequential heir-apparent look is on the faces of the Second Class; an air of recently gained independence glows in the countenances of the Third Class; and the meek and lowly Plebes ask only to be overlooked. Appearances tell much to the trained eye, and in the faces of midshipmen of the 1940's there is more than a suggestion of the midshipmen of the 1840's who sailed around Cape Horn on the crack Brandywine, and roared out their lusty songs of the "Brandy" in their transferred army barracks at Annapolis.​d When the Regiment marches on to Franklin Field or into the Chapel, or swings by in any formation, it is plain that in spite of all the soldiering received, from grand old Professor Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lockwood down to 1941, midshipmen still march like sailors; they retain more than a suggestion of the Old Navy sea‑going roll.

The commissioned officers in the Executive Department act as guides, philosophers, and friends to the Regiment, counseling them on a wide variety of subjects from discipline and morale to the management of their personal finances. But in the daily routine, commissioned officers are extremely careful to operate the whole establishment through the midshipmen officers. The experience gained by midshipmen officers is so valuable that some superintendents have rotated midshipmen as officers to benefit as many  p142 as possible. One objection to this system is that the Regiment does not become so smart, because one set of midshipmen officers is scarcely broken in before it is displaced. A plebe should lay his plans to become a midshipman officer, if possible, without becoming a "greaser,"​2 for the experience adds to his poise and enables him to carry on his duties after graduation with less diffidence. If fate makes him a "clean sleever,"​3 he can overcome the initial handicap in a few months aboard ship, where he will have numerous opportunities to acquire leader­ship.

As the Regiment disappears into the longest mess hall in the world, to enjoy a substantial meal, it is a good opportunity to stroll down the terrace to Dewey Basin opening off the Severn. Here are sheds for navy cutters with their oars heavy as lead on the end of which every plebe must sweat before he becomes eligible to sail the knockabouts, half raters, and whale boats moored along Sands Road.

Farther down Stribling Road is the bronze replica of the figure-head of the ship of the line Delaware,​4 a likeness of the Indian chief Tecumseh. According to midshipman tradition, the original Tecumseh was their patron saint, who interceded for those in danger of failing in their examinations. The sacred powers of the original figure-head were bequeathed to the bronze successor by placing portions of the original wooden head in his metallic interior. The powers of Tecumseh have grown with the years, but he is still intercessor extraordinary for midshipmen, who appease him with votive offerings of pennies prior to every Army-Navy football game and beg that he will be the twelfth player on the football team. About half‑way to the  p143 Academic Building is the Mexican Monument to Midshipmen Hynson, Clemson, Pillsbury, and Shubrick, who lost their lives during the Mexican War.

Near Maryland Avenue is the Macedonian Monument a replica of the figurehead of the only British frigate brought into harbor by an American man-of‑war, taken by Stephen Decatur in the frigate United States. Four carronades taken from the captured frigate surround the base. But lest we forget and vaunt ourselves, the U. S. S. President, commanded by the same gallant Decatur, became H. M. S. President, and her successor is moored in the Thames not far from the Houses of Parliament.

Across Maryland Avenue is the group of academic buildings, their names testifying to their naval origin — Maury Hall for the first American oceanographer; Mahan Hall for the exponent of sea power; Sampson Hall for the victor of Santiago who, in the piping days of peace, became a first-order physicist. Sampson Hall has a large laboratory, for chemistry, physics and electricity. Maury Hall mainly houses classrooms. Mahan Hall contains the auditorium and the library of approximately 85,000 volumes, principally literature, history, biography, navigation, the usual reference books, and the outstanding current fiction. The walls of Mahan Hall are lined with glass cases containing battle flags captured in our naval wars. Behind the academic group the Department of Engineering has three buildings named for former wartime engineers — Isherwood, Melville, and Griffin — that contain the classrooms, mechanical-drawing rooms, model rooms, shops, and laboratories, among them a blacksmith shop, a metals laboratory, and an internal-combustion-engine laboratory.

Engineer-in‑Chief Melville was much more than a chief of bureau; he accompanied DeLong on the Arctic Expedition in 1881‑82. Across Dorsey Creek in the Academy  p144 Cemetery, plainly visible, is the reproduction of the cabin that the undaunted Chief Engineer Melville raised over the bodies of Lieutenant George Washington DeLong, 1865, and his devoted companions in Eastern Siberia. No one knows the day of DeLong's death, but his note-book, which reveals the full horror and heroism of his last days, indicates that he died in October, 1881. That note-book was recovered by Melville and proves that DeLong never faltered, that he and his comrades displayed true Navy stoicism as hope for rescue grew ever more dim. Their inflexible resolve to endure to the end was matched by the indomitable persistence of Melville who, as soon as he reached civilization, led a relief party to search for his commander. Not until he was assured with his own eyes that his chief was beyond human aid did Melville think of himself. The Navy takes a peculiar pride in DeLong and Melville; one from the Academy, one entering from civil life, both absorbed the Navy spirit. Let him who can decide the braver of the two.

Only Arlington contains more naval dead than the Academy Cemetery. Admiral C. R. P. Rodgers, who stood guard with Commodore George Blake when Maryland secessionists uttered their threats in 1861, who never lost faith in its future, still watches over the Academy from across the Creek. Edward Simpson, 1880, a gentleman unafraid; Joel P. R. Pringle, 1892, a brilliant, forceful wartime chief of staff; W. E. T. Neuman and Thomas Ward, 1903, killed in a turret of the Missouri;​e Theodore G. Ellyson, with something of Cushing's spirit of deviltry and courage, the Navy's Number One aviator, charter member of the pioneer band who flew planes glued together of sticks, paper, and linen cloth;​f Midshipmen Grigsby E. Thomas, and Sherman M. Nason, who gave their lives as many of their naval forbears had done, in a vain attempt  p145 to save the life of another — these are only a few whose names on simple headstones evoke poignant memories. Not far from DeLong and Melville is another heroic pair that the Academy can claim for its very own — Charles W. Flusser, 1847, and William B. Cushing, 1861, who for a boyish prank was denied his diploma. They served together on the gunboat Perry in the Blackwater River and again in Albemarle Sound when Cushing took over the uncompleted task of his captain and sank the Confederate ram Albemarle.​g

McNair Road, named for the genial Frederick V. McNair, 1853, Superintendent during the Spanish-American War, winds along the bank of Dorsey Creek. Admiral McNair might have been the victor at Manila Bay if the war had occurred two years earlier when he commanded the Asiatic Fleet. His successor at the Academy, Commander Richard Wainwright, improved his opportunity off Santiago in the Gloucester, but Captain Willard H. Brownson, who followed Commander Wainwright after giving brilliant promise in Rio de Janeiro, was denied the opportunity of battle. Naval careers abound in "breaks." Admiral Brownson passed a harder test. As Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, after carrying out an order from the President, his Commander-in‑Chief, which he considered illegal and detrimental to the service, he resigned his position. Punctiliously correct and subordinate to the end, he left an example of what a proper officer should do under conditions more perplexing than battle. Some of that Brownson spirit was communicated to the Academy during his three years as Superintendent.

Worden Field conjures up pictures of the Monitor and Merrimac as well as recollections of brilliant dress parades. Charming girls in gay spring frocks make the proper setting for a martial display of midshipmen in blue dress  p146 jackets and white trousers. The day when the colors are presented to the winning company is a proud moment for the company commander. It also proves that "only the brave deserve the fair." After crossing Dorsey Creek over a fine new bridge, it is easy to reach the well-equipped headquarters of the Navy crew, named, as it should be, for John Hubbard, 1866, who stroked the crew to victory in 1870 and justified David D. Porter's challenge to the world to race his midshipman crew. If tradition is true, Hubbard, afterwards a rear admiral, did much to introduce golf into the United States. Just beyond the boat house is Lawrence Field where the Navy's baseball diamond, varsity soccer field, and plebe lacrosse field are located. Adjacent is Halligan Hall, the post-graduate school named for John Halligan, chief of staff at Brest during the war and exposer of the Teapot Dome scandal; fearless John risked his career to protect the Navy's oil reserves. He also reorganized the post-graduate school after the war.​h

Returning via Bowyer, Rodgers, and Balch Roads, each named for a former Superintendent, one can reach the officers' Mess in time to "splice the main brace"​5 with an old shipmate and relax for lunch. The Officers Club is the same comfortable place it always has been; that it has been invaded by the ladies, God bless them, adds to its cheerful chatter.

Directly in front of the Club is the Tripoli Monument bearing the names Richard Somers, Henry Wadsworth, John Dorsey, James R. Caldwell, Joseph Israel, and James Decatur, officers of the golden age of the Navy whose examples have inspired subsequent generations. Like the officers it commemorates, the beautiful marble statue led an adventurous life. Designed and executed abroad, brought home on the Constitution, erected in the Washington Navy  p147 Yard, mutilated by the British in 1814, placed on Capitol Hill with the bare statement, "This is the way Britain makes war," it remained a barrier to good relations between the English-speaking nations until it was restored and removed to Annapolis in 1860. Close by is the Naval Museum whose energetic curator, Captain H. A. Baldridge, 1902, will soon have an option on all the scattered relics of the Navy. At least a week is necessary to explore this treasure house, which "Friends of the Navy" are filling with priceless mementos.

In the same building is the Naval Institute, an extracurricular undertaking by naval officers and civilians interested in the Navy and nautical matters. The Institute, founded for the "advancement of professional, literary, and scientific knowledge in the Navy" has not interpreted its mission narrowly; its associate members, mainly civilians interested in ships, the sea, and the service, are among its most valuable assets. They contribute regularly to the monthly magazine, the Naval Institute Proceedings, enter its annual competition for prize articles, and frequently win them. Any reformer convinced that the Navy is "going to the bow‑wows" can give vent to his indignation and his ideas; he can be sure that his Philippic will be read and that if there be merit in it, other officers will take up the cudgels for his forlorn hope. Current service problems are discussed in the Proceedings, and while language must be temperate, opinions can be fearlessly expressed. Among the regular features are "Notes on International Affairs," "Professional Notes," and "The Secretary's Notes." A busy officer or one who on a long cruise misses the daily papers can catch up with the current world situation by reading these notes, and a regular peruser of the press will find that he has overlooked many interesting naval items when he reads them here. The bound volumes of the Institute are an  p148 excellent record of naval activities since 1873. Any writer on naval history would do well to consult its index in planning his program of research.

Directly in front of the Chapel toward the Severn is a plain marble shaft in honor of Captain William Herndon who went down with his ship, the S. S. Central America. Herndon's monument reminds the Regiment of the oldest tradition of the sea, the privilege of the captain to be the last to leave his ship. Captain T. A. M. Craven gave a courtly version of this honor with his "After you, pilot," on the Tecumseh at Mobile Bay in 1864, and Captain Herbert G. Sparrow, 1899, commanding the Tacoma in January, 1924, proved that the tradition was still binding. In the Chapel, the windows to Farragut, Porter, Samson, and the one presented by the Class of 1927 assure the visitor that the Navy has done its part in the past, and that her sons in the future will seek to realize "her ideals of honor, courage, loyalty and duty in the service of God and country." Members of 1927 were buckling on their swords when they placed that window in the Chapel, and until they lay them aside no one can say how well they have kept the faith. But this much is certain: graduates with the spirit of the class of 1927 inspire confidence in the future of our Navy. The Chapel has many beautiful moments: Dr. Alden, who has seen it under all circumstances, believes the Regiment receiving communion on Easter Morning stirs the heart strings a little more than the Sunday before graduation, when visiting parents and relatives gather with the regular congregation to sing the Navy hymn, "For Those In Peril on the Sea."

Every one interested in the Church must visit the tomb of Commodore John Paul Jones in the crypt. Just outside the Chapel are yew and lavender bushes from Burnham-Thorpe, the birthplace of England's Nelson. After the  p149 battle of Trafalgar, Napoleon said that John Paul Jones had not lived to fulfil his destiny. What a fight there would have been if John Paul Jones had lived to command the French and Spanish Fleets at Trafalgar — a battle of the centuries. Admiral Nelson and Commodore Jones would have thoroughly enjoyed the battle royal. What would Paul Jones think of America's two‑ocean Navy? With all his pride in the greatest navy in the world, might he not fear that line officers were letting the naval constructors win wars before they started? That prospect would have troubled him. John Paul Jones did not ask for odds; he would have concentrated one fleet in the Pacific, defeated one enemy, returned to the Atlantic and given the same treatment to another. Poor old Paul is hopelessly out of date. He did not know that it is smarter to let the ship's carpenters win wars. He thought that "hard fighting," and a whole lot of it, was the proper way to defeat the enemy. He would not approve of shipbuilding companies pilfering a victory in time of peace.

It is better to leave these perplexing problems to the younger generation. The 1840's solved their problems, and what to do with a two‑ocean navy can be safely left to the Regiments of to‑day who, even at the Academy, learn what sea power means, are alive to the competition between airships and surface ships, and already have more than a clue to the solution — for one midshipman essayist plainly contemplates a union of air force and naval force to gain and exercise sea power. Mahan could do no better; he always included army garrisons at necessary bases and important harbors. Good surface sailors will have to make room in the fleet for sailors of the air. Early in the century they admitted the undersea sailors in submarines. After all, Pensacola, Corpus Christi, Jacksonville, and San Diego are only post-graduate schools of Annapolis. The 1840's had  p150 to shift from sail to steam; the 1940's can sail on the sea, under the sea, and over the sea, and Uncle Sam can come into his birthright, sea power. These modern youngsters are scientific in their terminology; they will probably call it ocean power.

With the cheerful thought that the future is safe in the capable hands of midshipmen of to‑day, a visitor can return to Maryland Avenue and pass out the handsome gates presented by the class of 1907.

Visitors leave, but the Naval Academy goes on forever. The daily tasks of a midshipman make it imperative for him to utilize every minute to advantage. He commences at 6:15 with reveille. Thirty minutes are allowed for the morning shower, shaving, and dressing. Breakfast formation is at 6:45, when daily orders are read and midshipmen are inspected by midshipmen officers and commissioned officers, who note their general appearance and see that their shoes and uniforms are in immaculate condition. The Regiment is then marched to breakfast, where they sit twenty‑one to a table in a huge mess hall, the only place indoors where the midshipmen can be assembled simultaneously. After breakfast, morning prayers are read by the chaplain. Midshipmen then return to their rooms, make up their beds, and do all those chores which are reputed to bring on "housemaid's knee."

At 7:45 half the Regiment marches to the first recitation while the other half begins the study hour. The academic day is divided into six periods of approximately one hour each — four in the forenoon, two in the afternoon. These periods are subdivided into one‑hour periods — one for study, one for recitation.

Lunch formation is at 12:20. Midshipmen are again inspected and regimental orders are published. The fifth recitation period begins at 1:15. For some battalions this is  p151 followed by long afternoon drills, and for others by the sixth recitation period and short drills. All drills are completed by 4:35. Until 6:40 the midshipmen, except those on duty, engage in athletics or extra-curricular activities. How little the daily routine has changed since 1850 is indicated below:

1850 To‑day
Reveille 6:15 to 6:30 6:15
Breakfast roll call 6:45 to 7
Chapel before breakfast
Prayers after breakfast
Recitations 8 to 1 7:45 to 12:05
Dinner Lunch
Midday meal 1 to 2 12:20 to 1
Recitations 2 to 4 1:5 to 3:15
Drills and recreation 4 to sunset 3:30 to 4:35
Parade, roll call, followed by supper At sunset 6:40
Evening study 6:25 or 6:55 to 9:30 8 to 9:50
Taps 9:30 to 10 10

In 1845 the authorities were under the same necessity as those of 1850 and of to‑day to utilize every minute of the day. The courses to‑day are more advanced and more difficult, but the Fourth Classmen enter better prepared. The numbers of midshipmen have risen and fallen, but over the entire period they have increased. In 1845 there was an average of fifty to sixty midshipmen, of whom only seven were acting midshipmen; the remainder were preparing for final examinations. In 1851, when the present system was established, there were nine midshipmen preparing for their final examinations and seventy-five acting midshipmen. In  p152 1857 there were 176 midshipmen. This number rose to 281 in 1860, when twenty-five midshipmen graduated, the largest class to that time. The percentage of graduates has always been small; from 1854 to 1864, according to Park Benjamin, one‑third of the applicants for entrance could not pass the entrance examinations, and of the 1,209 who managed to enter, only 269 graduated. (According to the Alumni Association records, only 258 graduated.)

This table illustrates the increase of regular midshipmen at the Naval Academy:

First Class 25 39 184 400 570
Second Class 8 55 208 583 626
Third Class 71 214 654 817
Fourth Class 7 94 625 965 1,105
Total 40 259 1,231 2,602 3,118
(Approx.) (About capacity)

The regular class of 1941, about four hundred, graduated early in February; the Academy then received over six hundred reserve ensigns and hundred 583 in May. The regular class of 1942, 565, graduated in December, 1941, six months ahead of schedule. Another class of seven hundred reserve ensigns for engineering duty only took their places in Bancroft Hall in January, 1942, for an intensive three months' course. When they graduate, the plebe class of 1946 will enter, to begin the new three-year course. The class of 1943, now 626 strong, will graduate in June, 1942, a year ahead of time. Between January, 1941, and June, 1942, the Academy will provide about 1,800 junior officers for the fleet, compared with the 600 it provided in a similar period in 1916‑18, and with the 184 between  p153 1861 and 1864. Thereafter all regular classes will graduate after three years until the demand for junior officers of the two‑ocean Navy is met.

These changes in the program, and the adjustments necessary to accommodate two large classes of reserve ensigns without interrupting the education and training of the regular midshipmen, is a tribute to the flexibility of the Academy's organization and the devotion of the officers, professors, and instructors to their duties. It is comparable to the loyal efforts of Buchanan, Upshur, Ward, Marcy, Chauvenet, Lockwood, George Jones, and Girault in the transition period of 1845‑48.

Reserve Ensign Graduation week was in May, 1941; the pomp, the ceremony, all the colorful accompaniments of graduation were in honor of the reserve midshipmen on completion of their course and entry into active service of the Navy. As these reserve ensigns marched down Stribling Row, they gave promise of being easily absorbed into the fleet. They were somewhat older in appearance than the regular midshipmen and marched more stiffly, with a determined look on their faces that boded well for Uncle Sam and ill for all his enemies.

The readiness with which the Academy authorities accommodated the reserve ensigns, and the welcome the regular midshipmen extended them, is the best possible proof that the Naval Academy has not been used by its alumni to fasten an unnecessary monopoly on commissions in the United States Navy.

The Author's Notes:

1 Under command of Captain Buchanan, first Superintendent.

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2 A sycophant.

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3 A First Classman who has not been appointed a midshipman officer or midshipman petty officer.

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4 The Delaware was a smart ship of the old Navy in which both Farragut and Buchanan served.

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5 To have a drink.

Thayer's Notes:

a The Constellation can be seen rather prominently, and the Santee just barely and indistinguishably, in an 1893 photograph of the Naval Academy crew at practice, in Proceedings of the U. S. Naval Institute, 61:1558.

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b Lucky Bag, 1896, 1902.

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c "The absolute nadir in the history of United States Navy"; Ferguson, Truxtun of the Constellation, p219 f. and somewhat obliquely, Irwin, American Diplomatic Relations with the Barbary Powers, pp94 f.

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d "The Founding of the Naval Academy by Bancroft and Buchanan" (Proceedings of the U. S. Naval Institute, 61:1371) and the further note there.

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e O'Gara, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of the Modern Navy, p61 f.

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f Turnbull & Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, Chapter II.

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g Clark et al., A Short History of the United States Navy, pp350‑364; Hamilton, History of North Carolina, III.21‑29.

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h Brief but interesting character sketch in G. E. Wheeler, Admiral William Veazie Pratt, p317 f.

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Page updated: 22 Jul 21