The 4th of July is one of the most loved and inspiring days of the year in the United States. However, in the early stages of the War of 1812, patriotism proved difficult, and inspiration was in scarce supply. USS Constitution’s victory over HMS Guerriere helped coalesce and inspire the American citizens to fight against the British.
The Navy has always been a model of innovation, but this has not always been easy. Faced with a problem of a power source (wind) that was inconsistent, naval leaders and scientists set out to see if they could solve this problem. They did, and the first Naval steamship was produced. Today, the Navy is faced with another problem: how to operate independently without dependence on external sources of fuel. Today’s object helps tie these two issues together.
After nearly three decades of peace the U.S. Navy went to war again, this time with Mexico. This conflict was fought both on the Pacific coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, and marked the Navy’s first large-scale amphibious operations.
After the War of 1812, the U.S. entered a new period of exploration, commercial expansion, and self-awareness. Just like today, when we travel abroad and bring back souvenirs from whatever exotic locale we visit, so did Navy sailors bring home artifacts and tokens while deployed with small squadrons which were protecting expanding American interests.
The Barbary Wars were the first real test abroad for the new United States Navy, and as we have discussed before, it was where many of our early naval heroes cut their teeth and learned their craft. Today’s object remembers those early navy heroes who died at Tripoli to protect Americans. One of the earliest military memorials in the U.S., it has stood as a tribute to their sacrifice for over 200 years.
The Marine Corps is rich in history and tradition, and the Marine officer’s Mameluke sword is one of the most historic items of that tradition. Its story goes hand in hand with that of one of the most famous early Marines, First Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon. Less well known, however, is the role of a midshipman in the same attack that brought fame to O’Bannon, and this midshipman’s role in the real story of how the Marine Officer’s sword came to be.
We conclude our discussion, for now, of the history of the Naval Academy by discussing one of the Academy’s most iconic symbols: the class ring. A beautiful display of rings, passed on to the museum by family members of deceased graduates, adorns the wall near the entrance to the museum. The class of 2013 became the most recent class to permanently wear their ring as graduates, and this episode looks at some of the graduation statistics of the Academy over the past 150 years. It concludes with a look at the history of the class rings and, in honor of fallen alumni, a performance of the Navy Hymn by the Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club.
This iconic piece of stone has graced the Academy’s grounds since 1860, and it has symbolized the completion of “Plebe Year” for almost one hundred years. Erected as a memorial to remember the heroism of one of the Navy’s early leaders, the monument has become the site of an ever-evolving set of traditions and customs held dear to the Brigade of Midshipmen. Jim Cheevers goes more in depth into its history, and the background of the plebe recognition ceremony.
Transitioning the training of midshipmen from an on-board apprenticeship to an academic curriculum on shore supplemented by time on training ships was a significant change in thought when it came to the development of the navy’s officer corp. The man who guided this transition was Franklin Buchanan. He founded the Navy School at the direction of George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy in 1845, on the banks of the Severn River in Annapolis, MD. Today, we look at two objects that mark this transition from ship to shore: Buchanan’s own training journal when he was a midshipman on board U.S.S. Franklin, and a copy of the first rules and regulations of the new Naval School, signed by Buchanan himself.
It is relatively well-known that students at the Naval Academy are called midshipmen. But what is less-known is where that term comes from. How were officers prepared and trained prior to the founding of the Naval Academy and other, later commissioning programs like ROTC? For the month of May, we are looking at the midshipman training process at the Naval Academy, and we begin with a discussion of the origin of the term midshipman using today’s object, a dirk owned by Stephen Decatur.
- Sea Control 12: Innovation
- A History of the Navy in 100 Objects #22: Battle of the Models: Constitution and Guerriere Square Off
- A History of the Navy in 100 Objects #21 Model of Demologos (USS Fulton)
- Midrats Sunday 8 Dec 13 Episode 205: “A 21st Century Navy” With John C. Harvey, Jr, ADM USN (Ret)
- USNI Happy Hour – Newport