Saturday, September 27, 2008

John Garvin: U. S. Naval Academy Midshipman

John Garvin: U. S. Naval Academy

After helping defend Washington, D.C. during the last months of the Civil War, sixteen- year-old John Garvin of Fremont, Ohio, was certain he wanted a career in the United States Navy. Aided by his older brother Jacob, he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

But aboard the frigate Santee, preparing for his first cruise, he was no longer sure. He wrote his brother, "The midshipmen play some pretty rough practical jokes on the green ones. The naval school is not such a fine thing as people at home think".

A week later, young John was convinced he was entirely unfitted for the Navy. He told Jacob, “My ardor for a military life is completely quenched." He wanted out! Knowing brother Jacob would be a tough sell, John wrote his brother, anticipating his every argument.

John claimed, "We are ordered around like dogs. A person might almost as well be in the States prison. As I do not like it here, I of course will not feel like applying myself much and will possibly fall behind and get expelled." And finally, if those weren't reasons enough to come home, he told Jacob, "The graduates from here are sadly corrupt in their morals and not only swear, chew & smoke, but drink to excess."

The following morning, John wrote again in desperation. This time he used a positive approach. He assured Jacob he would be happy in Fremont. Then, John must have wondered if Jacob might not want him at home? Well - that would be fine too! He pleaded, "IF I ONLY GET AWAY FROM HERE. Please send permission to leave …as I am sick and disgusted with the whole Navy and not merely the school."

Later that same day, desperate and angry, John fired off another letter. This time he issued an ultimatum. If Jacob didn't respond within one week, he would resign with or without his permission!

It must have been a relief to Jacob when the letters stopped coming. Whether the frigate put to sea or young John gave up trying to convince his brother, history does not record. But Garvin continued at the academy and became a fine naval officer, who loved life on the high seas. As he sailed the world, he wrote his brother delightful letters, filled with descriptions of exotic cities, dangerous hurricanes, and life aboard ship.

When not at sea, Garvin taught mathematics at Annapolis and inspected naval weaponry. He returned to Fremont and married Maude Edgerton in 1876. For the next eighteen years, whenever Garvin was stationed at U. S. ports, Maude and the couple’s children traveled there to be with him.

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