Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Academy on the James: The Confederate Naval School

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Academy on the James: The Confederate Naval School

Article excerpt

Academy on the James: The Confederate Naval School. By R. Thomas Campbell. (Shippensburg, Pa.: Burd Street Press, c. 1998. Pp. xii, 283. $39.95, ISBN 1-57249-130-2.)

In March 1861 the new Confederate States of America authorized the establishment of a school to educate young naval officers. R. Thomas Campbell rejects criticism that the naval school represented a dissipation of resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere. Instead, he argues that it was a natural action for leaders confident that southern independence was inevitable and that the new nation would need trained naval leaders.

From the start of the Civil War young men were taken into the Confederate States Navy as midshipman and dispersed to ships and shore stations all over the South. Establishing the school took two years, and it was not until July 1863 that 56 of the Confederacy's 106 midshipmen received orders to report to the training ship Patrick Henry, a converted passenger steamer stationed at Drewry's Bluff on the James River below Richmond. Over the next twenty months the midshipmen's studies were often interrupted by calls to active service, usually manning shore batteries when Union gunboats moved up the James River but sometimes on detached service such as when eight midshipmen traveled overland to New Bern, North Carolina, to participate in the capture of the USS Underwriter in February 1864.

Campbell, author of four volumes; on Confederate naval forces, has thoroughly researched this account, but his presentation of this material does the school less than complete justice. …

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