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Midshipman History

by Nov 17, 2019

Image: US Naval Academy Midshipmen learn the technique of “holystoning” during their 1951 Summer training cruise aboard Missouri.

The following is provided for reference, from the 2016 issue of Reef Points, the annual Handbook of the Brigade of Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy:

“The rank of Midshipman has its traditional roots in the British Royal Navy, where boys in their early teens, knows as “Midshipmen” were apprenticed onboard sailing vessels to learn their trade as members of the Royal Navy.

The youngest known midshipman was only two years-old! Prior to the founding of the Naval Academy, midshipmen lived onboard ships. The Commanding Officer of the USS Somers, CDR Mackenzie, hung from the main yardarms Acting Midshipman Philip Spencer, son of the Secretary of War, for having been determined guilty of mutiny. This incident ignited the drive for a shore-based naval school.

In 1845, midshipmen were granted the rank of Naval Cadets. Upon graduation, Naval Cadets received midshipmen warrants, which they possessed for roughly two years. After completion of these duties, they were commissioned as officers in the Navy.

During the 1870’s, Naval Cadets who were members of the engineering program were referred to as Cadet-Engineers; this title existed until 1899.

On 01 July 1902, Congress reestablished the rank and title of Midshipman to Naval Academy students. Beginning in 1912, midshipmen were considered commissioned officer when they received their diplomas as graduation.”

Sextant training for Midshipmen during the 1951 Summer training cruise aboard USS Missouri