Friday, September 2, 2011

A quick excerpt...

...from a great book and one of those references that is hard to put down once picked up:

"Many muskets were levelled at him, but were prevented by our officers from firing on so bave a man." Midshipman Skiddy's story of the US officers' response to the sight of Penguin's lieutenant left alone on his forecastle points to the existence among those officers of shared values, in this particular case respect for bravery.  Equally, the adroitness of Hornet's victory over Penguin - defeating the brig despite Hornet's first lieutenant, David Conner, being grievously wounded at the beginning of the action; her captain, James Biddle, being partly disabled during its course; and ending the battle with her twenty-one-year-old seconid lieutenant, John T. Newtown, as the senior uninjured officer - all suggests a high state of training and discipline among the officers.  How had these shared values, the well-honed skills, been acquired?
            Not by accident or inadvertence.  Rather, they were the result of a conscious and sustained educational program.  One could hardly overestimate the importance that the corps attached to its educational effort during the pre-1815 years.  Operations aside, there may be no aspect of the US Navy's early history that is more extensively documented in its surviving records.  "Without officers what can be expected from a navy? The ships cannot maneuver themselves, nor will the best of soldiers answer as substitutes for seamen" Thomas Truxton exhorted Secreetary of War James McHenry as early as 1797.  "If we are to have a navy, we must make officers to manage that navy."

p. 153 A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession; The Creation of the US Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815 by Christopher McKee.

Check it out on my book scroll to the right!


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