Annapolis was a relatively young institution at the outbreak of the Civil War. President James Polk's Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft, was instrumental in establishing the academy. In 1845 the new "Naval School" opened on the site of Ft. Severn, a 10-acre Army installation in Annapolis. Franklin Buchanan, who would later go on to become the Confederate commander at Mobile Bay, served as the first superintendent. The school was rechristened the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850.
|View of the Naval Academy published in the March 1853 edition of the New York Illustrated News (courtesy of Wikipedia). Old Ft. Severn is visible in the middle of the engraving.
A few vestiges of the antebellum era at the academy remain, including the Mexican War Monument, the Herndon Monument, and the Tripoli Monument. A historical marker also indicates the spot where Ft. Severn was located.
|The Mexican War Monument was erected in 1848 to honor four midshipmen who died in the Mexican War (1846-48). Ironically, the four men never set foot in the Naval Academy.
|The Herndon Monument, located near the Naval Academy Chapel, was erected in 1860 to honor Commodore William Lewis Herndon, who gave his own life saving others during a hurricane off Hatteras on September 12, 1857. In the end, Herndon went down with his ship, the mail steamer Central America. Today, the monument is the site of the "Herndon Climb," where first year plebes scale the lard-covered monument to retrieve a plebe's hat and replace it with an upperclassman's one. The side of the monument pictured above is marked with the date of the fateful hurricane.
|The Tripoli Monument, located behind the Naval Academy Museum, was carved in 1806 and is the nation's oldest military monument. It is dedicated to six U.S. Navy officers who lost their lives during the First Barbary War (1801-05). The monument was originally located at the Navy Yard in Washington, moved to the west terrace of the Capitol in 1831, and finally relocated to Annapolis in 1860.
|A few markers at Bancroft Hall commemorate Ft. Severn, which was constructed in 1808. (For more information on the text, see here and here.) During the War of 1812, the garrison prepared for a British attack that never materialized. The fort was later transferred from the War Department to the Navy Department in connection with the establishment of the Naval School.
The 8th Massachusetts and 7th New York marched off their transports at the Naval Academy on April 22. From there, Butler set to work repairing the Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad, which connected to the Baltimore & Ohio at Annapolis Junction. The railroad had earlier been damaged by Southern sympathizers. Within a few days, the two regiments were on their way to Washington. A historical marker on the grounds of the Naval Academy commemorates Butler's actions.
|The marker at Annapolis dedicated to Benjamin Butler, located in front of Luce Hall along the Severn River. The date of the arrival of the 8th Massachusetts at Annapolis is given as April 21, 1861. Sources differ as to whether the regiment got to Annapolis on April 20 or 21. Butler's own memoirs, Butler's Book (1892), would seem to put the actual event as falling at some point during the night of April 20-21.
Following a walk around the grounds looking at markers and monuments, my wife and kids relaxed under the shade of some ancient trees near the Chapel, and I headed to the Naval Academy Museum for a quick visit. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of interesting exhibits highlighting our nation's naval history from the Revolution through the present. The Civil War part of the museum contained many artifacts, including a piece of the USS Monitor and a wheel from Admiral David Farragut's USS Hartford. I also examined the models of ironclads and ships. I left having only touched the surface, so a return visit is definitely in order.
|Wheel from the USS Hartford, Farragut's flagship at Mobile Bay in 1864.