Sometimes you look at the data for an individual and something about it does not look right. So you look deeper for an explanation, a reason for why they don’t make sense. Take for instance the two dates connected with the Naval Academy and Midshipman Bayard E Hand of Georgia. He was appointed from that state’s fourth district by Representative Hugh A. Haralson on April 7, 1847. He graduated (or became a Passed Midshipman) from the Academy on June 10th 1853. That would seem to indicate that he was six years at the Academy. But not so.
It is helpful to know the history of an institution to better understand the details about an individual attached to that institution. When the academy was founded in 1845 it was called simply the Naval School and set up with a 5 year course – the first year ashore – three at sea – and the last back at the school. But it underwent a reorganization in 1850. From then on it was to be called the Naval Academy and the course extended to a total of seven years, the first 2 at the academy – 3 at sea – and the last 2 at the Academy. Only a year later this was revised again to 4 yrs at the Academy and practice cruises to give them experience at sea.
Bayard was caught in the middle of all these changes. Though appointed in 1847, he did not report to Annapolis at this time. Perhaps, because Bayard attended the University of Georgia the year before, he did not need to spend his first year at Annapolis. And the fact that the Mexican War was in full swing may have been a factor. Originally he was ordered to ship out of New York City aboard the USS Ohio for the Pacific and the blockade of Mexican ports there. Instead he wound up in Norfolk and shipped on the US frigate Brandywine for the Brazil Station.
When the Brandywine returned she put into New York in December of 1850. Hand did not go to Annapolis at this time either, rather he was on leave until October 1851 when he departed on the US sloop Cyane, then attached to the Home Squadron. This meant patrols along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean. Aboard the Cyane, Hand met the poet James Barron Hope, who would later dedicate his poem “A Story of the Caracas Valley” to him.
After the Cyane’s return in June 1852, and another short leave, Hand finally reported to Annapolis. He would put in a total of nine months on this “shore” duty, graduating as noted above in June of 1853. So looking at the totals, Bayard E Hand had been in the navy a total of five years and eight months, of which one year he was on leave, nine months physically at the Naval Academy, and three years and eleven months at sea.
Two months after becoming a Passed Midshipman, Bayard was again off for the Brazil Station for another three year cruise. That would take half of the six years he had left to live.
The rest of his story next time.