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Bill Thayer

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Gangway to the Quarterdeck
Captain W. D. Puleston, U. S. Navy

The Author

William Dilworth Puleston (1881‑1968), USNA 1902, was a career naval officer who wrote several books on naval history, the best-known of which is The Life and Work of Alfred Thayer Mahan (1939). He received the Navy Cross for valor in the North Sea minefields in World War I; in the 1930s he became Director of Naval Intelligence, his work apparently focusing on China and Japan — to the extent that anything is ever really known about spook work: see the rather detailed article "A US Naval Intelligence Mission to China in the 1930s" on the website of the Central Intelligence Agency — and was recalled to active service to work on economic warfare in World War II.

 p. vii 

When the eyes of the entire nation are centered on its fighting services, the publication of a book recording the history of the Naval Academy is particularly timely. For the Naval Academy is the veritable cradle of the Navy, and has been so for nearly one hundred years. The author, a Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1902, reveals a deep affection for his Alma Mater and a genuine devotion to the naval service.

In his early chapters he describes the methods employed in training and educating midshipmen before the Naval Academy was founded in 1845. He shows how opposition to a naval school ashore was gradually overcome and how the achievements of its graduates in both war and peace endeared the Academy to the country. Some of the Academy's outstanding graduates who have distinguished themselves in the service and in civil life have been singled out for special mention, but the author considers the unknown sons of the Academy to be her greatest glory.

Captain Puleston performs a distinct service to the Navy by correcting an impression which has long prevalent and which has been fostered by responsible writers. That is the idea that ranking officers in our early Navy opposed the education of its junior officers. The leading officers of the old Navy, including such redoubtable characters as John Paul Jones, Thomas Truxtun, and Edward Preble, vigorously urged the adoption of some regular system of  p. viii education for its young officers. They differed only as to the means to be employed. The proponents of a naval school ashore won out. Captain Puleston explains how this was accomplished and how the Naval Academy, from small beginnings, developed into the modern institution of the present day.

John R. Beardall
Rear Admiral, United States Navy
Superintendent, United States Naval Academy



Introduction, by Rear Admiral John R. Beardall, Superintendent, United States Naval Academy





Genealogy of the Naval Academy


Colonial Midshipmen


The First Midshipmen of the United States Navy


Early Education of Midshipmen


The Navy without a Naval Academy


Evolution of the Naval Academy


Midshipmen Practice Cruises


From the Mexican War to the Civil War


The Period of Naval Stagnation


The Naval Renaissance


The Hub of the Navy's Educational System


Buildings, Grounds, and Daily Routine


Academics and Athletics


Extracurricular Activities


How to Enter and Graduate



The Academy and Its Alumni


Superintendents of the Naval Academy


Glossary: Current Naval Academy Slang


Now You Know That



The ensign has crossed the gangway to the quarterdeck


Four early American naval commanders


George Bancroft


Four members of the first Academic Board, 1845‑46


Commander Franklin Buchanan, first Superintendent of the Naval Academy


The U. S. sloop-of‑war Preble, first Naval Academy practice ship


Naval Academy practice ships Santee, Constitution, and John Adams


A bird's eye view of Annapolis in the late 1850's


First Class midshipmen on the deck of the U. S. S. Constellation, 1885


The United States Naval Academy, 1942


"Tecumseh," bronze replica of the figurehead of the Delaware


The "steady study method" enables plebes to prepare themselves for daily recitations


Examinations are as much a part of the academic system to‑day as they were in 1846


After preliminary instruction with rifles, midshipmen begin the marksman course on the rifle range


Broadside drill in the gun shed over­looking the bay is a preliminary to operating the turret guns aboard ship


Jackstay drill — practice in "knotting and splicing"


Boat drill is an important part of the plebe's summer curriculum


Youngsters measuring the altitude of the sun with sextants


Signal drill


Second Classmen operating generators in Marine Engineering laboratory


Midshipmen boarding motor launches to embark in battle­ships for the summer cruise


Regular and reserve ensigns distinguished themselves on sister ships to this destroyer at Pearl Harbor


Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here was the first edition; there may have been subsequent reprints or revised editions. It is in the public domain because the copyright (© 1942 by the author) was not renewed in 1969‑1970 as then required by law; details here on the copyright law involved.


All the illustrations in the printed edition are in black-and‑white: in keeping with my usual practice in other parts of my American Naval History subsite, I've colorized them to shades of navy blue, but have made no other changes. As can be seen from the table above, in the printed edition these illustrations are tipped in, singly or in groups, on photographic stock at appropriate places in the text. Not being limited by the constraints of print, I've moved some of them a little.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was very well proofread. The inevitable typographical errors were few, and all trivial: I marked them with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Similarly, glide your cursor over bullets before measurements: they provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked. They are also few.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A photograph of a large group of low buildings by the shore of a body of water and behind several rectangular sea basins. It is an aerial view of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and the image serves as the icon on this site for the book 'Annapolis — Gangway to the Quarterdeck' by W. D. Puleston.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is the photograph of the Academy in 1942, the year this book was published, found facing p136 of the print edition.

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Site updated: 11 Nov 20