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Special Collections & Archives

The rare or unique holdings of Nimitz Library.

Midshipman Descriptions of Candidates for Admission - 1851

by Samuel Limneos on 2019-07-31T16:42:00-04:00 in Special Collections & Archives, History | Comments

Pictured here are two pages from the Officer of the Day's journal from 1851. One of the duties of the Officer of the Day during this period was documenting the candidates arriving at the academy to be examined for admission. These pages list the candidates' names, admission status, and states of origin. However, closer inspection reveals colorful remarks about the candidates by some mischievous midshipmen.

Many comments were negative, with “bilged” - a nautical term long used at the academy in place of “resigned” or “failed” - appearing frequently. In one instance, “bilged good” appears in the journal, although it's unclear whether the officer of the day meant the candidate was an extraordinary failure or that it was a good thing he didn't make it. “Bad boy” was also used to describe a candidate. The comments could also be downright nasty, especially by contemporary standards. “Monkey,” “rascal,” and “crybaby” were used to describe one particular candidate.

(A sample of negative comments about Naval Academy candidates.)

There are good-natured remarks along with the ill. One candidate earned the comment “hard to break” after enduring some due or undue stress during the examination and was further described as a “fine fellow.” Another was deemed “one of the boys.”

(Some positive comments about Naval Academy candidates.)

Then there are neutral or mysterious comments. Some candidates from northern states were appropriately identified as “yankee” or “yankee specimen.” The phrase “passed out of the gate” appears in one instance, and while it appears to be a negative comment, the precise meaning is unclear. “Oh oh,” which during that period could be another form of “uh-oh” or could mean dismissal or disapproval, is also used to describe a candidate.

(Other comments about candidates.)

Despite the frivolity of these entries, the journal is a significant part of the academy's life and history. The equivalent of a ship's log, the Officer of the Day's journal, sometimes referred to as the “Log of the U.S. Academy” or the “Bancroft Hall Deck Log” has been kept since the academy's founding. The Officer of the Day, now referred to as the Officer of the Watch (OOW) and Midshipman Officer of the Watch (MOOW), is part of the watch organization, a formal system responsible for ensuring safety, security, good order, and discipline at the Naval Academy.

Sources:

"List of Candidates who Reported for Examination for Admission, October 1-5, 1851." Volume 2. Entry151d: Watch Logs and Reports. Office of the Commandant. RG 405 Records of the United States Naval Academy. Special Collections and Archives, Nimitz Library, United States Naval Academy. 

The Lucky Bag, 1909


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