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

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XII Preparation for the War College

ORDERED by the Navy Department to duty with the War College, he communicated with Luce, who was in Newport, bringing to a very successful conclusion the first session of the college, and obtained in more detail the requirements of his new assignment. Mahan was permitted to remain in New York until the following August, to utilize the greater facilities of the libraries there in preparing his lectures. Relieved of all other duties, he devoted his entire energy to this task.

He did much of his preparatory reading at the Astor Place branch of the Public Library, where he had a desk and could work undisturbed. There he made copious notes, which he developed into lectures at home. He was permitted to draw out books and occasionally exercised the privilege, but his custom was to spend the mornings in the library gathering material which he subsequently worked into shape in his own study. In retrospect these seemed happy days to Mahan. In his autobiography, From Sail to Steam, he declared every faculty he possessed had been "alive and jumping." At times he had happy premonitions of success. In a letter written to Ashe at the time, he was in a different mood: "I find also I am of an age where the brain is not in as good working order as it was." He was, he said, "'somewhat fearful of failure, but am resolved not to break down straining after the impossible, if it proves so." These ill-founded fears caused him to go about his task very deliberately. Even the forceful Luce could not hurry him.

In October he began his reading with "a history of the French Navy, by a Lieutenant Lapeyrouse-Bonfils, published in 1845," and found very suggestive the author's

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