Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Rebel Raiders’ Happy Birthday to the USNA - & Its Rebel Admiral

On this date in 1845 Franklin Buchanan – who later became the first admiral of the Confederate navy – opened the doors of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.    “Old Buck” was the academy’s first superintendent, and many of the midshipmen who studied while he was at the helm of the academy would see him again through the smoke of battle during the Civil War.

 Buchanan did not stay long at Annapolis, as the old salt longed to go sea – which he did as second in command of Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition that “opened” Japan. At the start of the Civil War he was commandant of the Navy Yard in Washington, but resigned his commission and went South after the Baltimore riots in 1861.  (Although when his native Maryland failed to secede, he tried to get his federal commission back, but Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles would have none of that and sent him packing, with a curse).

Buchanan’s reputation and service, however, propelled him up the ranks of a grateful Confederacy, which named him its first admiral.  “Old Buck” was a fighting admiral, a combat sailor in the finest tradition of the USNA, personally taking charge of the South’s first ironclad, the CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads in 1862 and later the CSS Tennessee in the fateful battle at Mobile Bay in 1964.

Buchanan is represented three ways in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas; first, as a leader counter for the South, and then twice more in the cards – for the two ironclads he commanded during their historic encounters with the Union navy.  Those ships are represented by CSN Cards 70 and 86.  Despite having “gone South,” Buchanan has not been forgotten by the Navy or the Academy: three U.S. Navy destroyers were named for him, as is the house that serves as the superintendent’s quarters at Annapolis.

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