Going Mobile
The United States Naval Academy Moves to Fort Adams

     On Saturday the 27th of April 1861 while the federal government continued the hustle of going off to war with the Southern States, cooperation between the United States Navy and War Departments had agreed upon the essential move of the United States Naval Academy to the north and out from underneath the border state of Maryland who had openly mixed sympathies with the coming conflict.

     Secretary of War Simon Cameron received the recommended site for the school as Fort Adams, Rhode Island, of which he accented and granted approval for. Immediately, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles penned an official letter to the Captain George S. Blake, the academy's fifth and longest commanding superintendent that the school of midshipmen would be transferred to Fort Adams in Rhode Island. Instructions were sent to him to begin the transfer of personnel and materiel from Annapolis to that place with as little delay as possible.

     Available ships were being gathered with great expediency to assist the rush to remove the institution from the hostile atmosphere growing in the Old Line State. The Constitution had already set sail from Annapolis to New York before the weekend was out with the midshipmen onboard. While Captain Blake remained behind having the library, instruments and philosophical apparatus packed up for removal, he requested of the Secretary of the Navy to issue orders for the warship to proceed from New York to Newport as soon as possible.

     That answer came from Department three days later. The execution of which was left solely to the discretion of the superintendent. By May 3rd, the Constitution was completing its last leg of the voyage while the students disembarked at their new home at Fort Adams.

     The intelligence that residence of the state capital were going to engage in hostilities in and around the abandoned military facilities prompted orders to transport troops and safeguard the river system. The USS Boston had been at anchor and had the 7th New York Infantry standing by, but was entirely unable to affect a landing. Provisioning was scare in Annapolis although troops were then arriving to defend the town; the means of supplying them was quickly becoming non existent. Miraculously, however, by the time Commander Charles Steedman had returned from Perryville, Maryland several transports with an ample supply of provisions bound for Washington City had to redirect their route due to obstructions in the Potomac River, and the decision was made to land them at Maryland's capital city.

     With Baltimore still fresh from the civil riots against federal troops along Pratt Street just a week before, The Secretary of the Navy ordered a watch of all vessels proceeding out of that city and seizing all that had arms or contraband onboard. The United States Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane was ordered now to proceed to the mouth of the Patapsco River to keep the transiting lanes open between Annapolis and Perryville so that the work of evacuation continued unimpeded.

     The United States Navy mastered a cooperative effort in saving their institution from falling captive to those in deep sympathy with their Southern brethren. Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, commanding the Philadelphia Navy Yard was instrumental in providing the water transportation whose prompt action made the move an operational success. The academy would continue educating their midshipmen making naval officers of them; secure from the chaos of the war that Maryland politics clearly had stirred up for them in the spring of 1861; and the Department breathed much easier having rescued itself from the politically disgruntled citizens of Annapolis.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2005

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwars.net