Little Bits of History

Fort Severn No More

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 10, 2015
United States Naval Academy in 1853

United States Naval Academy in 1853

October 10, 1845: The United States Naval Academy (USNA) opens. Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft founded the Naval School at Annapolis, Maryland on the grounds of the former US Army post Fort Severn. The school opened with 50 midshipmen and seven professors. The first course of study was five years in length with the first and last spent at the school and the middle three spent at sea. Supervision of the school was changed to the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography in 1850 . The course of study was changed to seven years. The middle three were still spent as sea, but the first two and last two were spent at the school. The next year, the four scholastic years were made consecutive and practice cruises were substituted for the three years at sea. The first class graduated on June 10, 1854.

The US Civil War was highly disruptive to the Academy. Maryland did not secede, but sympathies with the South were high throughout the state where rioting took place. The government planned to move the school, but the suddenness of war forestalled the move. The three upper classes were immediately detached to sea and the freshman were transported to Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island in April 1861. A temporary campus was set up there. About 24% of the officers of the US Navy resigned and joined the Confederate States Navy. This included 95 USNA graduates and 59 midshipmen. Other leaders of the school also left to join the opposition. Admiral Franklin Buchanan, the USNA’s first superintendent, left for the Confederate side. Robert E. Lee’s brother, Captain Sidney Smith Lee was the second commandant of the midshipmen and he also left to join his brother.

In the summer of 1865, with the war over, classes were moved back to Annapolis and Civil War hero Admiral David Dixon Porter became the superintendent. The place was a wreck due to the war and Porter had to reestablish facilities. He also had to find appropriate professors. Rather than using civilians, he choose to use naval officers who had served well during the conflict. Porter was the man who instituted the term Cadet for his students and he was also the person to introduce organized athletics to the school. At the time, they were intramural. Antoine Joseph Corbesier was brought over from Belgium as Swordmaster and began fencing at the school.

The student body is known as the Brigade of Midshipmen and they serve on active duty. They are classified as officers of the line, but their authority is limited by their training status. Rather than freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, they are known as fourth class, third class, second class, and first class. A member of the fourth class is also known as a plebe and they are given a set of rules which are relaxed in later years. The campus or Yard covers almost 340 acres now as opposed to the nearly 10 acres in 1845. Today, there are about 4.600 midshipmen at the Academy where Walter Carter is Superintendent and Andrew Phillips is Dean.

The United States Navy is the envy of every other navy in the world. They don’t want to be like us – they want to be us. – Admiral Leighton Smith

Control of the seas means security. Control of the seas means peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the sea if it is to protect our security. – John F. Kennedy

A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guarantee of peace. – Theodore Roosevelt

Sailors have the cleanest bodies and the filthiest minds. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Also on this day: Don’t Be Snookered – In 1865, a new type of billiard ball was patented.
Water – In 1913, Gamboa Dike was blown and the Panama Canal was opened for business.
TNT – In 1933, the first airline sabotage blows a plane out of the sky.
Mystery – In 19 AD, Germanicus Julius Caesar died mysteriously.
Good Bye – In 1973, the US Vice President resigned.


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