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Chapter 6

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Annapolis

by
W. D. Puleston


published by
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc.
New York • London
1942

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 8
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p70 
Midshipmen Practice Cruises

Commodore Bainbridge, who sponsored the first practice cruises in 1817, probably obtained the idea from the French Navy. Subsequently, Commodore Rodgers, Lieutenants Maury and Powell, Chaplain George Jones, Professor Chauvenet, and others included a practice cruise as an essential feature of their plans for educating midshipmen ashore. West Point cadets encamped each summer to gain experience in the field; the analogy between a summer camp for military cadets and a practice cruise for midshipmen was obvious. An Army officer was on the 1849 board which recommended changes in the naval school; he may have repeated the suggestion, but the idea of practice cruise did not originate in the Army.

Lieutenant, soon after Commander, Thomas Tingey Craven, by common consent one of the finest sailor‑men in the Navy, commanded the first practice cruise and seven of the nine succeeding ones. Commander Craven began with a short practice cruise inside Chesapeake Bay on the steamer John Hancock, and later in the same summer he embarked the midshipmen for a cruise on the ship-rigged sloop-of‑war Preble along the coast of New England. The summer of 1852 he extended the cruise in the Preble to the Azores, Madeira, and the Canaries, returning via St. Thomas, West Indies. In 1853 in the Preble he included a visit to Coruña, Spain. It quickly became apparent that the division of a  p71 midshipman's year's work into eight months at school and three to four months at sea on ships whose paramount duty was training midshipmen made it possible to educate midshipman more systematically ashore and simultaneously to train them at sea. The officers of the Naval Academy were confident that they had found the solution to the baffling problem of preparing young Americans to be junior officers. They extended the summer cruises to include one European port except in 1855 and 1856, when Lieutenant Green cruised along the New England coast. Commander Craven returned to the academy and commanded the practice ships of 1857, 1858, 1859, and 1860. More than any other officer, he developed the organization, routine, drills, and exercises of midshipmen practice cruises which persist to the present day.

The organization of midshipmen in gun crews facilitated the transition from shore to ship. For a cruise, midshipmen were divided into six gun crews: gun crews one to four manned the four batteries; the fifth, the powder division, supplied the ammunition to the guns; the sixth, the master's (later the navigator's) division, furnished the quartermasters, helmsmen, battle lookouts, and special details. Accustomed to working and drilling ashore in gun crews, there was no confusion when midshipmen with their sea‑bags embarked on the training ships. Arriving aboard, each midshipman was given a ship's number in the watch, quarter, and station bill1 which assigned him to the first or third section of the starboard watch, or the second or fourth section of the port watch. The same number  p72 fixed his station at all evolutions under sail and his battle station at boarding an enemy ship or resisting hostile boarders; it designated the bilge pump he manned to free the ship from water if she were hulled during battle or stranded on a reef; it determined the fire pump he manned or the hose he led out if the ship took fire. The same magic number located his locker, in which he could just squeeze his clothes and toilet articles; the mess table at which he ate, and his seat at the table; the pair of hooks on which he swung his hammock, and the netting in which he stowed his hammock — after he had learned to take seven taut turns at equal distances and had tucked the clews in neatly.

Before they reached the Atlantic all midshipmen were exercised at their battle stations and the emergency drills — fire, collision, and abandon ship. Midshipmen were shown the ladders and the routes they must use going to and returning from the scene of an imaginary fire or collision; their duties in fighting the flames and getting the collision mat over the side; the equipment they supplied and the boat they manned if it were necessary to abandon ship. After every drill each midshipman returned the equipment he had supplied, secured the gear he had cast loose, and fell in with his own gun crew in its part of the ship.

Midshipmen were divided equally between the port and the starboard watch. The starboard watch was subdivided into the first and third sections, the port into the second and fourth. Between 8 A.M. and 8 P.M. an entire watch was on deck, available for duty. During the forenoon and afternoon watches midshipmen were four hours on and four hours off duty. All three night watches lasted four hours, but only a section — one‑quarter of the midshipmen — was on watch at one time. Thus a midshipman was on deck six hours in day watches, and four hours three nights out of  p73 four; the fourth he enjoyed an "all night" in his hammock. When on watch, midshipmen answered all space calls such as trimming the windsails, wooding or coaling the galley, and laying up the gear, but their primary duty was to be ready to man all gear in bracing the yards in making, furling, or reefing sails, or any evolution such as tacking, wearing, or working ship.

Besides their day and night watches, midshipmen were given daily drills. In the forenoon, the watch on deck spent an hour and a half aloft, reefing, furling, and unbending sails, sending up and down yards, and making and taking in sail. After these sail drills, from 10:30 to 11:30 A.M. and again from 1 to 3 P.M., the watch on deck was employed in knotting, splicing, strapping blocks, and fitting rigging. The watch below studied navigation from 2 to 2:30, and both watches were exercised at the batteries at 4 P.M. Each midshipman was practised in steering, heaving the lead, and calculating the ship's speed by "heaving the log." There was little leisure, but there were no shore distractions. Midshipmen were naturally active, and usually thrived on the strenuous régime. Occasionally there was an outbreak of some juvenile disease like measles, and on one cruise, through laundry sent to washerwomen in Madeira, the midshipmen caught the Portuguese "itch" and scratched themselves across the Atlantic. They never suffered from insomnia and would fall asleep the instant they swung themselves into their hammocks.

The training of midshipmen was the paramount duty of a practice ship. Heavy weather altered but did not interfere with the daily routine of exercises; during gales, midshipmen reefed topsails under the prevailing conditions; if topsails were torn, midshipmen shifted topsails. They took great pride in becoming competent seamen, and first-class men vied with each other for the honor of passing  p74 the weather earing when the topsails were reefed.2 As long as they cruised in sailing ships midshipmen worked along seamen on the yards, in the tops, and tending and manning the gear on deck. Later, when they made practice cruises on steamers, they heaved coal with the coal passers, cleaned fires with the firemen, and, when they had learned to start and stop a pump and to watch the water gage and the safety valve, they were allowed to tend water in the boiler. In the engine-rooms they learned to feel a rapidly revolving crank pin without losing a finger, to check the temperature of the thrust bearings, to regulate the feed pumps, and to watch the pressure gages. As they gained experience, they were allowed to work the throttle valves slowly back and forth to warm up the engines. There was no idleness in port; midshipmen not on leave were exercised at boats under oars and sails, carrying out anchors, and performing other drills not feasible at sea.

Some midshipmen learned sooner than others, but within a few weeks they all found their sea legs, developed an astonishing immunity to seasickness, and could go on the double to any part of the ship. They learned that there was a place for everything aboard ship, and that lack of space made it necessary that each thing be kept in its place. The unvarying naval routine, the repeated drills and exercises, the tidiness and orderliness of the ship itself, the homely but sage advice of veteran seamen and petty officers, the friendly counsel of warrant officers, and the more formal precepts and examples of commissioned officers insensibly molded the habits of midshipmen, most of whom acquired that sixth sense of order which is the foundation of a man-of‑war's man.

Under supervision of officers, midshipmen of the senior  p75 class performed all the duties of lieutenants. Groups of them were assigned in rotation to the navigator to do a "day's work" in navigation, fixing the ship's position at 8 A.M., noon, and 8 P.M. daily. In approaching Cape Henry in 1858, the First Class located the Plymouth's position accurately; the lighthouse was sighted dead ahead. Captain Craven reported, "I have never known a more perfect landfall." First Classmen, under the watchful eye of the captain or first lieutenant, were allowed to tack, wear, or boxhaul ship. It was a great moment in the life of a midshipman when he first tacked ship, and if he brought her around smartly enough to earn a gruff, "Well done, Mr. Gish!" from his captain, midshipman Joe Gish was elated. First Classmen, under the supervision of the regular officer of the deck, were habitually in charge of the watch, and carried out the ship's routine.

Man overboard drill was a regular evolution. With the Plymouth sailing at eight knots, the life-buoy was let go, the life-boat lowered, the buoy recovered, the boat brought alongside and hoisted, and the Plymouth away and standing on her course under sail in seven minutes and twenty seconds from the time of the first alarm.

The practice cruises continued substantially as developed by Captain Craven until 1909, when sailing ships made their last appearance. Usually the First and Third Classmen cruised together on a sailing ship, the Second on a steamer, and the entering Fourth Class did "knotting and splicing" and held boat drill at Annapolis until the scholastic year began on October 1st.

The practice cruises soon proved that midshipmen acquired more valuable sea training in a three months' cruise especially organized for their development than during a year at sea on a regular man-of‑war. The effect on the midshipmen was transmitted to the Naval Academy; midshipmen  p76  acquired the habits and customs of a man-of‑war's man. None was so salty as a Third Classman after his first cruise; he rolled when he walked, his nautical vocabulary was wonderful and freely displayed for the benefit of admiring girls back home, and if he had managed to have a boatswain's-mate tattoo his forearm with a mermaid or a dolphin, he was truly a seep‑sea sailor. Their exaggerated mannerisms, running along from their first cruise, arose from their honest pride in becoming seafaring gentlemen and their determination never again to be landlubbers. This professional pride helped the officers preserve the naval spirit at the Academy. Midshipmen habitually took more interest in professional subjects and were inspired to become first class sailor‑men. The cruise accustomed the young American to the habits of a seaman: to feel at home aboard ship; to stow himself and his belongings in a small compass; to sleep soundly in a hammock, unconscious of the normal ship noises; to live at close quarters with the same shipmates day after day and eat canned vegetables, kippered herring, and corned beef without becoming dyspeptic and querulous; to use the proper gangway ladder; to refrain from whistling and boisterous behavior; to conform naturally to the etiquette of a man-of‑war. These habits were acquired unconsciously, and they constituted the essential difference between a college-bred landlubber and a promising young midshipman.

There was no practice cruise in 1861, but cruises were made in 1862, 1863, and 1864. During the war, practice ships were sometimes sent in search of Confederate raiders. The Macedonian, on her return from Europe in 1863, disguised herself as a Spanish merchantman in the hope of luring the C. S. S. Alabama within reach of her guns.a After the return to Annapolis in 1865, the Macedonian, Savannah, and Dale, full-rigged ships, the steamers Winnepec  p77 and Marblehead, the ferry boat Wyandank, and the monitors Tonawanda and Amphitrite were used as practice ships. The Constitution was a school ship and the Santee was the gunnery ship, and for a time the Dale, Marion, Savannah, and Macedonian were added to the list of station ships. The famous Constellation made her first midshipman cruise in 1871, and until 1893 this stately frigate, whose war record was excelled only by the Constitution, made every cruise, sometimes in company with other ships, more often alone. It was altogether fitting that "Tom" Truxtun's flagship should have been employed for so many years to carrying out his idea that midshipmen must qualify themselves for commanding seamen by themselves becoming competent seamen.

The Bancroft, named for Secretary Bancroft, was constructed especially for cruising midshipmen. She mounted different types of guns, with various gun‑mounts and assorted breech-blocks; her engine-room and fire-rooms carried as many different kinds of pumps, auxiliary machines, and boilers as her enthusiastic sponsors could crowd into her hull. They forgot the midshipmen, who could scarcely find room aboard. Much had been expected of her, but she was a failure. After cruising midshipmen in 1894, 1895, and 1896, she was transferred to the Caribbean for gunboat duty.

The successor of the Constellation, the Monongahela, had a first-class war record. In the Battle of Mobile Bay she was the first to ram the Confederate ram Tennessee, turning the tables on her opponent; not content with this, she returned and repeated her feat. After the war her engines were removed and she was given full sail power, but, designed for steam, she was always a dull sailer. Competent officers alleged that she had never been tacked without gaining sternboard. During the summer cruise of 1899 Captain  p78 Charles T. Hutchins, 1866, commanded. In a gale off the entrance to the English Channel the midshipmen reefed topsails, and then, taking advantage of the strong breeze in the rear of the gale, Hutchins sailed into Plymouth to an anchor in a manner entirely worthy of "Tom" Craven of the Preble. Five days' leave and a pound for every day was granted the midshipmen, who embarked on a special train for London and saw much of the big city in those five days. London Tower was the favorite place, with Westminster Abbey and the British Museum close seconds. Madame Tussaud's wax‑works were not forgotten, nor were the theaters and music halls overlooked. How those five pounds stretched was marvelous.

On the night of the Fourth of July all hands turned up at Edna May's "Belle of New York," and when she made a pun about the Monongahela, they cheered wildly. A few lucky souls were invited to her dressing-room between the acts, and one red‑cheeked Third Classman claimed that in honor of the Fourth, Edna gave him a kiss. He was the envy of the ship's company during the return voyage. After leaving Madeira, the Monongahela lost ten precious days becalmed. Determined to regain them, Captain Hutchins directed that all sail be carried at all times. During a squall an officer of the deck took in the royals and topgallant-sails, and the captain ordered them reset, saying that he had spare yards and sail. Every day lost at sea came off September leave. The midshipmen made a hero of Captain Hutchins.

The Monongahela was succeeded by the specially constructed Chesapeake in 1900. Like the Bancroft, the Chesapeake proved too small. She cruised midshipmen until 1907, when she was relegated to a school ship and her name changed to Severn, to allow the history of the first Chesapeake to drop into oblivion. Farragut's famous Hartford  p79 made the last sailing practice cruise in 1909, fifty-eight years after Tom Craven's first cruise on the Preble. Against the opposition of some die‑hards the Navy Department decided that time could not be spared for cruises under sail. Probably all old‑timers regretted the necessity for eliminating sailing cruises, but even the remote possibility of having to sail a captured prize into harbor could not justify the time consumed in teaching midshipmen to sail a full-rigged ship.

By 1904 the number of midshipmen had increased until it required a squadron of the North Atlantic Fleet to embark them, including the battleships Indiana and Texas, the monitors Arkansas, Florida, and Nevada, the Hartford, and seven destroyers. Since that time the increasing number of midshipmen has added to the difficulties of providing ships to cruise them. The Department tried distributing midshipmen among ships of the fleet and trusting to the fleet officers to train them in addition to carrying on their regular ship's duties. The plan failed; the demands of the fleet took precedence over training midshipmen, just as it had done in the Mediterranean Squadron in the 1830's. The Department now assigns to certain ships from the fleet the task of training midshipmen, which gives midshipmen precedence over fleet training. Midshipmen are sometimes transferred during a cruise from one type of ship to another in order to gain additional experience, but the bulk of the First and Third Class are trained on battleships, and the Second Class on destroyers.

Since the Civil War, midshipmen have received some instruction in marine engineering, and there has always been a steamer among the practice ships. During the era of a separate Engineering Corps, engineering instruction for midshipmen preparing for deck duties was elementary, but the cadet engineers specialized in engineering subjects during  p80 the academic year and made practice cruises on the sea‑going tugs Miles Standish, Mayflower, or Fortune. Their organization was derived from the one used in sailing ships for midshipmen. Engineer cadets were divided into watches and stationed in the fire- and engine-rooms, as midshipmen were stationed at guns and in the rigging. In addition to standing watch and learning to fire a boiler and run an engine by actual practise, cadet engineers were required to keep rough notes and sketch-books in which they sketched free hand, and later drew to scale, the steam and water pipes, the drainage system, the boilers, pumps, and engines of their own ships. They were rotated in the fire- and engine-rooms until they were at home in every part of the engineering department. Their summer itinerary took them first to the Washington Navy Yard to inspect the gun foundry, next to the Norfolk Navy Yard, and then along the coast as far as Boston Navy Yard, visiting private shipbuilding plants, and the heavy industries such as foundries, rolling mills, and machine shops. In 1875 forty major shore establishments were visited. The system employed for engineers was in every respect modeled after the practice cruises of Commander T. T. Craven.

In addition to practice ships, sail and steam, there have been stationed at the Academy from time to time school and gunnery ships. The most famous was the Constitution, which arrived in August, 1860, and served as a mother ship and instruction hall for the Fourth Classmen. Her presence was a continual reminder of early naval history. The Fourth Classmen quartered on her were brought up exactly as if she were at sea, and this practice was followed when the Constitution was transferred to Newport.

The ship longest associated with the Naval Academy was the 44‑gun frigate Santee. Named for a noble river in South Carolina, her keel was laid in Portsmouth, New Hampshire,  p81 in 1820. She began life as a wayward sister, a "political ship" kept on the stocks to provide work for prospective voters during the last weeks before hotly contested national elections. She was not commissioned until June, 1861. After fifteen months' blockade duty in the Gulf of Mexico, she appeared at Newport in October, 1861, and joined the Constitution as a school ship for midshipmen. She sheltered, drilled, and disciplined fifty classes of midshipmen before laying down her heavy task. In April, 1912, her slowly opening seams gaped a little more widely and she settled lower and lower until her frames rested comfortably on the soft mud of the Severn. She died in her sleep.3 Her brief war record could not compare with her famous sisters Constitution and Constellation; she managed to capture a couple of schooners attempting to run the blockade; she had been prostituted by political henchmen for forty years; yet accounts of the Santee fill pages in Shakings, Fag Ends, Junk, and the Lucky Bag,4 for the humbler Santee enjoyed long and intimate relations with midshipmen. On her decks many learned to sleep in hammocks, not without risk, as told in Junk, 1889:

You no sooner get to dozing

And on Morpheus get a mash

When some one cuts your foot-rope

And down you come "Kersmash."

During the Civil War, midshipmen at Newport ate their breakfasts on her berth deck by smelly oil lamps, which faintly illuminated the mess tables, after their appetites had been sharpened by a brisk run over the mastheads in the crisp winter air.

 p82  Traditionally, the Santee's bedbugs were the Navy's most voracious, her rats the largest, and her cockroaches the most intelligent. Imprisoned midshipmen whiled away the time coaching the roaches to race; they even steeplechased over the lee scupper. In 1866 the Santee became Gunnery Ship Santee, and at her 24‑pound guns midshipmen were trained at target practice.

Embryo poets were often inspired by the Santee. The desperate condition of one midshipman confined for smoking is poetically rendered:

Must I give up the fragrant weed

And of good comfort feel the need,

Or pace the deck firm as a rock,

Upon the ship down at the dock?

Santee.

During Captain Ramsay's vigorous régime the Santee harbored its most distinguished prisoners. Almost an entire First Class was quartered aboard the "prison ship." Their affection is revealed in verse:

When in trouble and disgrace

Who protects the hardened case

Who will, with parental care

Shelter, shield and keep him there?

The Santee.

Before being broken up for the copper on her bottom, the Santee inspired an ode among the talented class of 1881 which began:

Oh, noble mass of wood, and guns, and ropes, and sails,

Poetic remnant, left by well met gales.

The Santee had many proud moments. Admiral Porter showed his comrades-in‑arms, Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sherman, around the famous old ship, explaining how she sheltered  p83 her web‑footed warriors, and before June Week she was holystoned and polished till she fairly shone for the benefit of the Board of Examiners. Her 32‑pounders were cast loose and provided with real round shot with which expert midshipmen pointers bombarded Greenberry Point across the Severn River.

The Department has kept up the original practice of routing new ships to the Academy, thus keeping midshipmen informed of the latest developments of naval architecture. After the Spanish-American War it sent the small torpedo boat Manley to Annapolis, where it became better known as the judge's boat for all crew races. The Holland, our first modern submarine, after two visits in 1901 and 1902, became a regular school ship for the midshipmen. To this was added the Vesuvius, with its dynamite-throwing guns from which so much was expected during the Spanish-American War. Midshipmen are still instructed in the various types of ships; learning by seeing and doing is the approved Annapolis method.

During the present emergency no capital ships, cruisers, or destroyers are available. Midshipmen are cruised in sub‑chasers or other small craft.

Ordinarily the summer practice cruise commences at the end of June Week. The midshipmen of the new Third and First Class embark in a squadron of battleships for a summer of practice cruise. Until the European War of 1939 it was customary to include three or four ports in western Europe. During the cruise midshipmen of the Third Class perform the duties usually done by seamen; they scrub the decks, fire the boilers, operate the engines, steer the ship, and familiarize themselves with life aboard ship. Throughout the cruise they have practical instruction in gunnery, navigation, seamanship, electrical and marine engineering and radio. The high point of the cruise is the  p84 midshipman target practice, when they fire the 5‑inch and the 12‑ or 14‑inch guns.

The Second Class is divided into three sections. Each section spends one month aboard a destroyer cruising along the Atlantic coast. The midshipmen act as junior officers of the deck and stand watch in the engine- and fire-rooms. The two remaining months are spent at the Academy where Second Classmen are given practical instruction in aviation, engineering, navigation, and seamanship.

The midshipmen of the First Class cruise in the battleship squadron with the Third, but their duties are practically those of junior commissioned officers. They alternate duty on deck and in the engine-room and do a day's work of navigation just as Commander Craven's midshipmen did on the cruise of the Preble.

The colorful tumult of June Week reaches its high point for the graduating class when they give three cheers for those they leave behind and sail midshipman caps high in the air with the last note. The Senior Class is graduated! Long live the Senior Class! The next day they embark on their last midshipman cruise to get the finishing touches in seamanship, ordnance and navigation, and steam engineering; to stand their last midshipman watches and contribute a bit to the Academy by assisting in training the Third Classmen who accompany them. In rotation they spend one month doing navigation, another in deck duties, and the third in practical engineering

Midshipmen who cruised with Commander Craven on the Preble would feel at home with the midshipmen of to‑day on the battleship Arkansas. They would shoot the same stars at morning and evening twilights, measure the altitude of the sun as it neared the prime vertical, and follow it more and more assiduously as it neared the meridian at  p85 local apparent noon. Craven's midshipmen would prefer the modern sextant with its telescopic attachments and sharply etched vernier; they would be puzzled at first by the greatly enlarged Bowditch by Dutton's new and extensive treatise on navigation with its many strange formulas. But they would recognize the elements of the astronomical triangle and quickly see that the formulas were only new ways of determining elements of that famous triangle as it patiently pursues its endless journeys through the heavens. The midshipmen of 1851 would need much instruction in Weems' aerial navigation;b in return they could show the modern class how to work a "lunar" and obtain the longitude.

The 1851 midshipmen would welcome the patent logs which make it unnecessary to heave the "chip log" every hour to get the ship's speed, and would be much impressed with the fathometer which automatically sounds and records the ocean depths; it was an all‑hands job to use the "deep sea (dipsy) lead" in the fifties. They would understand the principle of the gyroscopic compass and rejoice at its accuracy, for the magnetic compass required constant care. They would have difficulty in concealing their amazement at the "dead reckoning" machine which continuously plots the ship's position on the chart. Craven's midshipmen might be astonished at the speed of destroyers and cruisers, but they would not be confused. Sailing ships required instantaneous mental reactions to constantly changing situations; sailors, then as now, always had their wits about them.

The midshipmen of 1851, accompanying those of to‑day to the anti-destroyer batteries, would quickly get the idea of the training and elevating gear and would be enthusiastic over the efficient mechanism which handles the heaviest guns with ease. They knew the batteries of their time, from  p86 the 6‑ to the 42‑pounders, and could fire anything from a carronade to a howitzer, afloat or ashore. The present‑day midshipmen would have some difficulty in explaining, and his brother of 1851 would have more difficulty in understanding, the fire-control system used against hostile aircraft — that superhuman instrument which almost pulls the pointer onto a fast-moving airplane. Both classes would content themselves with knowing how to work it and leave to ordnance experts the explanation of how its complicated mechanism is actuated. In the main battery turrets, midshipmen of 1851 would soon understand the explanation of salvo firing and, with modest pride, would tell how they had been instructed by the veterans of 1812 to fire 32‑pounders in salvo "on the down roll" which sent 22 round shot crashing through the sides of enemy frigates and sloops-of‑war. Two hours would determine a naval engagement in those days.

Craven's midshipmen would be taken aback when they visited the engine-rooms and fire-rooms; they were familiar with the boilers and engines of the John Hancock and were prepared for improvements. Prophets were predicting that sails would give way to steam, but the oil‑burning steam generators — formerly called boilers — and the smooth‑running almost silent turbines in no way resembled the engineering plant which drove the Hancock through the water at seven to eight knots. Craven's midshipmen could show a modern class how to stow a locker and take care of their possessions; which gangway to use; the etiquette of the quarterdeck; how to lash and carry a hammock, to muster a watch, to keep a bright lookout and to see that the watch on the forecastle was alert, to belay or lead out a boat falls, to man and lower a life-boat. In fact, the midshipmen of the Plymouth could challenge their successors on the Arkansas to equal their 1858 record in dropping and  p87 recovering a life-buoy, hoisting and securing the boat, and resuming the course and speed.

The old and new classes would mingle in­distinguishably around the galley in the morning watch and regale themselves with the morning coffee. Their sweaters, blouses, and reefers would differ, but their trousers would roll up in the same manner. The decks of the practice ships would be different, but the "holystones" would be the same. The same sand and canvas would be used on paint work; the First Classmen would keep the same fatherly eye on the Third Class to see that holystoning was properly done. The mates of the decks would find "clothes adrift on the berth decks"; the junior officer of the watch would have to report the same proportion of underclassmen "late to muster" or "inattentive on drill." There would be about the same amount of grumbling and skylarking at the mess tables. The middies of 1851 would be astonished at the modern menus and the gallons of milk consumed by their successors. Their captain sometimes had a nanny goat, which gave him some milk for his morning coffee, but no midshipman aspired to such luxury. There would be the same last-minute hustle to get navigation and seamanship books ready to turn in to the officer in charge; and worst of all, that dreary inevitable midshipman's journal, that has defied every modern improvement.

The classes of 1851 and the present would have much in common, for they are products of the same daily routine of drills and exercises. They would be drawn together by their interest in three fundamental professional subjects — navigation, seamanship, and gunnery; they are reared by and on the sea, they are blood brothers, descendants of the same breed of sailor‑men who, in the seventeenth century, regarded their homes along the Atlantic coast as places to shelter their women and children while they went to sea.


The Author's Notes:

1 A large diagram of the ship's organization on which, after each number, appear the name, the rating, the duties, the mess table, and the hammock hooks of every sailor aboard. Copies of the watch, quarter, and station bill are hung on bulletin boards in various parts of the ship, so that every man can familiarize himself with his duties and his place to eat and sleep.

[decorative delimiter]

2 A difficult and dangerous operation, executed on the end of the yardarm.

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3 C. S. Alden, "The Santee: An Appreciation," Naval Institute (June, 1913).

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4 Of these early midshipman publications, only the Lucky Bag has survived.


Thayer's Notes:

a C. S. Alden, Makers of Naval Tradition, p209.

[decorative delimiter]

b Philip Van Horn Weems, USNA 1912, became a preëminent expert in navigation and wrote several books on the subject, the best-known being Air Navigation (first edition, 1931; the 3rd edition of 1942 is online at Archive.Org.


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