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

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter X New York Navy Yard--First Book

LATE in June, 1880, Mahan was detached from the Naval Academy and ordered to the Navigation Department of the New York Navy Yard. He sought sea duty, but there was no ship available. To escape compulsory leave on half pay he was glad to obtain another shore detail. After a summer on Mount Desert Island the Mahans returned to New York and rented a house on 11th Street, off Fifth Avenue, Mrs. Mahan's father, during his last years an invalid, had recently died in France. Her mother and her aunt had returned to New York and were living at the near-by Hotel Hanover on East 15th Street.

During this tour of duty in New York a son was born to the Mahans ( February 12, 1881) in the 11th Street house. This was their only child born in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Commander Mahan, tall, erect, spare, with "an unmistakable touch of the military" even in civilian clothes, presented his infant to the young clergyman at Trinity Church, to be christened Lyle Wans and to be dedicated to God, and "signed with the sign of the cross in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith." This meeting at the christening font was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Canon George William Douglas and Commander Mahan, Douglas has recorded that he always saw in Mahans face "the same expression of moral certainty of religious conviction charged with fine intellectuality."

The next two years Mahan passed quietly and happily with his family. He entrusted the domestic discipline of the children to his wife, but he himself undertook to teach his older daughter, Helen, history. He had already initiated

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