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

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XXII Admiral Erben

WHILE Mahan enjoyed his literary triumph, his personal relations with his commanding officer went from bad to worse. At Villefranche they reached the breaking point. In January, 1894, Admiral Erben gave Mahan a copy of an unfavorable report of fitness that he was forwarding to the Navy Department. " CaptainMahan," he stated, "always appears to advantage to the Service in all that does not appertain to ship life or matters." But his "interests are entirely outside the Service for which, I am satisfied, he cares but little and is therefore not a good officer." This was taking full advantage of Mahan's frankness and making a very unwarranted distortion of the regrets at the interruption of his writing which Mahan freely expressed before leaving New York not only to Erben but in a formal request to the department.

To all these charges, Mahan made full reply. In answer to the only specific charge, that the condition of the ship was discreditable for the first few weeks, he responded that he had taken command at the navy yard, where the ship was under extensive overhaul, only two weeks before the admiral arrived. He pointed out that immediately after sailing he was incapacitated for a month, but that, in spite of his injury and the unusual nature of the cruise, when the Chicago was regularly and thoroughly inspected by Erben himself, in October, no specific fault had been found sufficiently serious to be brought to the commanding officer's attention As for the implication that he had devoted his time to his literary work at the expense of the ship, he made the categorical statement: "My rule has been not to touch my literary work until the ship's work for the day

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