Though I recently swore allegiance to the Air Force after a visit to their academy in Colorado Springs, no trip to Annapolis is complete without visiting the US Naval Academy. The Naval Academy campus spreads over 338 acres and is home to approximately 4,400 midshipmen. The Academy is fittingly surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, and the Severan and Magothy Rivers. Much of the academy is open to the public, but I opt to take a guided walking tour of “The Yard”.
Call to Arms
Our guide, Bill, clangs the bell in the visitor center to note the commencement of the tour. It is a short walk to Lejeune Hall. The hall contains the Naval Sports Hall of Fame, swimming, diving, and wrestling facilities. The Navy has a rich tradition in sports and its chief rival, Army. Bill further reveals the story of the Navy goat.
In 1893, a live goat named El Cid made his debut as a mascot at the fourth Army-Navy game. El Cid was a gift to the Brigade of Midshipmen from officers of the USS New York. With the goat, Navy gained a 6-3 win over Army that year, so he was adopted as part of the team.
The academy is rich in sports tradition, another such ritual is with each subsequent win over Army a golden football is added to the trophy case.
Call to Lunch
Walking through the campus I am overly impressed with the greatness of the buildings. They are huge and very ornate. We gather outside of Bancroft Hall., named after the school’s founder, George Bancroft.
The hall is home to the entire 4,400 midshipmen. It has nearly 5 miles of corridors and 33 acres of floor space.
The timing of our visit is perfect as the midshipman begin to gather in front of the hall in Tecumseh Court.
“First battalion all present or accounted for,” one midshipman announces. As the troops fall in line, the drumming begins then, my favorite, the bagpipes join in. “Forward march,” another midshipman calls. The daily routine of marching before mid-day meal is beginning. Midshipmen have been marching to lunch, in this fashion, for more than a century.
The tour continues through several other buildings. Dahlgren Hall is home to many social gatherings, the Dry Dock restaurant and the Wright Brothers B-1 Flyer hangs overhead.
The final stop of the guided tour is in the chapel. The chapel, constructed in 1908, sits on a high point in The Yard. Both Catholic and Protestant services are conducted. The stain glass windows are from Tiffany and Gorham.
In the basement of the chapel is a crypt of the Revolutionary war hero, John Paul Johns. After over 100 years in a French cemetery, he is “found” and returns for internment in the US in 1905.
Free to Roam
After the guided portion of the tour, I grab lunch at The Ally in the Naval Academy Club. The downstairs dining room is reminiscent of being in a ship’s galley. The white table clothes and heavy silverware give a sense of luxuriousness fit for an officer. The buffet style lunch was surprisingly very reasonable ($10) and the food was outstanding. I scoffed at a dish of watermelon and green beans but “wow” that was good.
After lunch, I head over to Preble hall that houses the Naval Academy Museum. The museum houses over 50,000 artifacts, ship models, paintings, and videos. The Naval has a long and storied history, trying to learn it all would take a lifetime. The museum does, however, provide a collection of memorabilia from its inception during the revolutionary war through to the present day.
I don’t understand man’s propensity for war but it certainly provides me an opportunity to see a lot of interesting things and to learn of valor and courage. I know I’m glad to have the brave men and women of the US Naval Academy on my side. Go Navy, Beat Army!
The mission of the United States Naval Academy is to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically and imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of Naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.