Annapolis, Maryland (JFK+50) Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft* opened a naval school on the grounds of Fort Severn**, a former an Army post, here in Annapolis 170 years ago, on October 10, 1845.
Assisting in both the founding of the institution and its' curriculum was Commodore Matthew C. Perry, a strong proponent of an apprentice system to train new seamen.
The Naval School enrolled 50 students and employed 7 professors.The curriculum for the midshipmen included math and navigation, gunnery and steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy and French.
The course of study was to be completed in five years with the first and last years being at school while the others would require service at sea.
The first class graduated in June 1854.**
*George Bancroft (1800-1891) was born in Worcester, Massachusetts & graduated from Harvard in 1817. He earned his PhD from the University of Gottingen in Germany.
Professor Bancroft published a multi-volume History of the United States (1834-1874). He served in President James K. Polk's cabinet as Secretary of the Navy (1845-46) and one month as Secretary of War.
**Fort Severn was built on the site of a Revolutionary War bastion in 1808 to guard the city of Annapolis against British attack.
The USNA used the fort for classrooms until it was demolished in 1909 and replaced with modern buildings. In 1977, the DAR placed a marker at the site in honor of the original fort.
In 1850, the Naval School became the UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY. The following year the curriculum was altered to 4 years with training on ships in the summers.