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Union Naval Commanders.

Excerpts from "Strange Waters" By Craig L. Symonds

The Civil War famously pitted brother against brother, but it also pitted comrade against comrade: especially in the opposing officer corps, the Union and Confederate armies were staffed with men who had earlier served on the same side, and in many cases were even at West Point together, both as students and instructors.

For one thing, fewer than half of the Southern-born Navy officers resigned their commissions to serve their native states during the war — just 95 Naval Academy graduates, as well as 59 young men who were Academy students when the war began. For another, the Confederate Navy was relatively small, and many of those who did go South ended up serving not in the Rebel Navy but in the Army, often as artillerists.

Perhaps more important, though, was the fact that the Naval Academy was a relatively new institution in 1861, and its few graduates therefore occupied relatively modest ranks during the war (mostly as lieutenants), while the senior officers — commanders, captains and all of the flag officers — were men who had grown up in what then called the “Old Navy.” Most of the Navy hierarchy in the 19th century believed that the sea itself was the best school for young men who aspired to become officers.

Prior to the academy’s founding in 1845, young men — boys really, most of them teenagers — sought a direct appointment into the Navy as midshipmen. As the title suggests, midshipmen occupied a kind of middle status between the hands of the forecastle and the officers of the quarterdeck. After a suitable period of indenture, lasting from three to 10 years, they took an exam, and if they passed, they became “passed midshipmen,” eligible for promotion to lieutenant when an opening occurred.

Craig L. Symonds is a professor emeritus of history at the United States Naval Academy and the author of the author or editor of 25 books on the Civil War and naval history.

Source: "Strange Waters", by Craig L. Symonds, N.Y. Times, The Opinion Pages, July 12, 2011, 9:26 pm

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Record Details

Title: Union Naval Commanders.


From top to bottom, left to right, list of the Naval Commanders; John A. Winslow, L.M. Goldsborough, Sam J. DuPont, John A. Dahlgren and S.H. Stringham.

Entered according to act of Congress. AD 1867 by Virtue & Yorston, in the clerks office of teh district of the United States for the southern district of New York.

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