REBEL REEFERS: The Organization and Midshipmen of the Confederate States Naval Academy

By Stringer, Kevin D. | Military Review, May/June 2005 | Go to article overview

REBEL REEFERS: The Organization and Midshipmen of the Confederate States Naval Academy


Stringer, Kevin D., Military Review


REBEL REEFERS: The Organization and Midshipmen of the Confederate States Naval Academy, James Lee Conrad, Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA, 2003,214 pages, $30.00.

Thousands of books have been written about the American Civil War with hundreds of those focusing on the Confederate Army. Relatively few books, however, have delved into the Confederate States Navy and its associated institutions as does James Lee Conrad's Rebel Reefers: The Organization and Midshipmen of the Confederate States Naval Academy. This book is the exception that explores the Confederate Naval Academy and the education of midshipmen for the Confederate States Navy. Conrad provides an insight into the daily lives of the student-sailors and the workings of their naval school through the use of well-considered primary and secondary sources. He opens a window into one of the lesser-known pages of military history.

On 21 April 1862, the Confederate Congress passed an act to establish a naval academy for midshipmen. The CSS Patrick Henry, the paddlewheel flagship of the Confederate James River squadron, was converted into a school ship to teach naval officers. For the remainder of the war, the ship served as a naval academy with midshipmen-in-training alternating between the Patrick Henry and the fleet. Some ask why the Confederacy bothered to establish a naval academy after the disastrous battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg sealed the fate of the Confederacy. …

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