Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter IV Passed Midshipman, U.S.S. Congress

THE plans Mahan and his friends had made for going aboard the Levant fell through. They reported at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for duty on the U.S.S. Congress for their first cruise as junior officers. The Levant sailed without them, and disappeared in the Pacific, never to he heard of again.

The frigate Congress was a popular ship in the Navy. Built about 1840, she had shown her staunchness on a cruise around the Horn, under Captain Dupont, in the winter of 1846, and the next year, nuder Captain Stockton, she helped to add California to the Union. Mahan's love for the sea and sailing ships is nowhere better shown than in the two chapters of his autobiography which he devoted to this cruise of the Congress in the South Atlantic. After almost fifty years he recalled "the just but strong proportions in her lines" and the proud way she dared the elements to strife. Although he writes almost lyrically, he remains technically correct in his descriptions of "her peopled decks" with over five hundred prime seamen swarming on them, in the tops, and on the yards for an evolution. He tells how Captain Goldsborough and this trained crew, even in a norther, kept the ship under perfect control.

The Congress was the flagship of Captain Joshua Sands. With the temporary rank of flag officer, Sands was sailing down to Rio de Janeiro to take command of our Brazil Squadron, which also included three brigs, a small steamer, and a store ship. Captain Louis Goldsborough, who had been Superintendent when Mahan entered the academy, was in command of the Congress, and his executive or first lieutenant was Dory, an old-timer who had been twenty-

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