We often visited Annapolis when we lived and worked in the D.C. area. It is a very pretty small town. Now it is more crowded, but it still retains the small seaport feel of our country’s early history, and there are historical reminders all around. Indeed, one even commemorates an unsavory part of our history, the slave market where Alex Haley’s ancestor Kunta Kinte was sold. Haley was the best-selling author of the 1970s book Roots.
Young men and women attend the academy for four years, graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree and then are commissioned as either an Ensign in the U.S. Navy or Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Their education is completely free and they receive a small stipend while they learn, but they are required to serve in the military for five years after graduation.
The tree-lined campus, known as the “Yard,” borders the Severn River where it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Midshipmen, as the students are known, can be seen walking along the paths between the historic old buildings named for outstanding graduates.
We walked through the lovely Academy Chapel. Attendance by midshipmen, however, is no longer mandatory. John Paul Jone’s crypt lies in the lower level. Jones, born in Scotland, moved to America after several notorious incidents. After a few years and probably feeling no love for the British, he joined the small revolutionary navy. He soon became its first hero. When challenged to surrender his much damaged ship, he famously – if perhaps inaccurately – was quoted to reply “I have not yet begun to fight” and went on to win the battle.
For a fee, one can take a tour of the grounds guided by a volunteer between nine and five (four in the winter). The proceeds of the tours and gift shop are used for the benefit of the Midshipmen.
We were interested to see the grounds, Chapel and Midshipmen’s living quarters. We saw some students taking their swimming test, fully clothed. Each year through their junior year, the test gets harder.
We were particularly lucky to be there in time to see the noon formation. All the Midshipmen gather in a formal military formation accompanied by a band each day before marching inside for lunch.
The tour does not take long, but visitors are free to remain in the Yard. We chose instead to have our own lunch in an Annapolis harbor-side restaurant.
Click on photos to enlarge.