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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part 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.
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Chapter 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p. ix 

The first American midshipmen were trained in the colonial navies, aboard wooden sailing ships under a régime evolved from the colonial merchant service and the Regulations of the Royal Navy. The midshipmen of to‑day are trained at a well-organized and well-administered Naval Academy which has become the basic school for commissioned officers of the regular Navy and the Naval Reserve Corps. The purpose of this book is to trace the development of and describe the Naval Academy of to‑day, and to reveal how the Naval Academy — founded, dominated, and strictly controlled by the Old Navy — became the cradle of the Modern Navy.

The largest single deposit of information on the Naval Academy is in the back numbers of the United States Naval Institute Proceedings; its 90th Anniversary number of October, 1935, in particular, contains valuable essays on the history of the Academy.​a In the Library at the Academy, source material has been assembled, and it can be conveniently verified by reference to the official records in the Superintendent's office. The history of the Naval Academy by E. C. Marshall, published in 1862, gives the best account of the early practice cruises and of the Academy at Newport during the Civil War. A Historical Sketch, by Professor James R. Soley, 1876, presents an outline of the development of the Academy, with a full account of the Academy under Admiral Rodgers. Park Benjamin's history, published  p. x in 1900, is entertaining, but some of his inferences are questionable. James Fenimore Cooper's History of the Navy, published in 1839, and G. W. Allen's histories of our early naval wars give the clearest accounts of our early midshipmen. Chaplain E. C. Wines describes them in the 1830's. Mahan and Dewey give accounts of them in the 1850's. Park Benjamin, of the class of 1867, describes midshipmen of the Civil War from personal knowledge. The author was a student at the Academy from 1898 to 1902, and instructor there from 1909 to 1911. It was comparatively easy to follow the methods of training midshipmen from 1795 to the present day. And it is the progressive development in the training of midshipmen that supplies continuity to a study of the Naval Academy.

In the records of the Navy Department, the orders for Chaplain Thompson established the date of origin of the naval school at the Washington Navy Yard, probably the first naval school ashore, and a report of Commodore John Rodgers showed that the Board of Commissioners favored a naval academy ashore as early as 1816, and had very definite ideas of how it should be organized and administered.

In the Department archives, Miss Craven; in the Superintendent's office, Lieutenant C. H. Smith; in the Naval Museum, the Curator, Captain H. A. Baldridge, retired; and in the Academy Library, Associate Professor Charles W. Mixer, Librarian, were very helpful. President Kenneth Sills of Bowdoin College, who has served on the Board of Visitors several times, and Commander Felix Johnson, Secretary of the Academic Board, read the manuscript and made useful suggestions. Mr. Louis H. Bolander, Assistant Librarian, who has done much research in Academy history, assembled the source material at the Library, acted as  p. xi a guide throughout the preparation of the manuscript, and read it chapter by chapter as it progressed.

The author is indebted to the editor of the Trident, Midshipman J. C. Hill, II; to Midshipman James D. Schnepp, editor of Reef Points; to Midshipman E. E. Kintner and Midshipman C. W. Adams, Jr., editors-in‑chief of the Log, for information on the Academy of to‑day and for permission to use material and illustrations from their publications.

Special acknowledgment is made to Dr. C. S. Alden, recently retired as Head of the Department of English, History, and Government; to Dr. O. C. Paullin; to Professor Charles Lee Lewis, biographer of Buchanan and Farragut,​b whose articles in the Naval Institute Proceedings were very helpful; and to the Institute for its permission to use the material. "Captain" W. H. Stayton, 1881, furnished valuable data on graduates who had entered civil life.

Rear Admiral Wilson Brown, who was Superintendent when this work was undertaken; his successor, Rear Admiral Russell Willson; and Rear Admiral John R. Beardall, the present Superintendent, gave aid and encouragement to the author.

W. D. Puleston

Thayer's Notes:

a I took this as a recommendation, and am putting the entire issue onsite.

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b His biography of Admiral Buchanan is onsite.

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Page updated: 20 Oct 21