Titles of the Naval Academy and Classes
On October 10, 1845 the Naval School was opened at Annapolis. From 1845 to 1850 students at the Naval School were referred to as “acting-midshipmen” and classified according to the dates of their warrants. In 1851 the school adopted a new four-year collegiate program and was retitled the Naval Academy. Under the new organization, official designations of the four classes followed West Point terminology. Acting-midshipmen were identified as "fourth classmen" (freshmen), "third classmen" (sophomores), "second classmen" (juniors), and "first classmen" (seniors). Informally, fourth classmen became known as "plebes". Third classmen were called "youngsters" and second classmen were called "oldsters."
Titles of Midshipmen
In 1865 a unique two-year course was introduced to educate engineers. The Congressional Act of July 15, 1870 changed the designation of the Naval Academy midshipmen to “cadet-midshipmen,” and that of the two-year students to “cadet-engineers.” Under the act, academy graduates did not become full-fledged midshipmen until after they had completed the four-year (or two-year) academic course, performed a tour of sea duty, and returned to the academy to take a graduating examination. In February 1874 Congress abolished the two-year engineering program and provided for the annual appointment of twenty-five cadet-engineers to a four-year course. The Personnel Act of August 5, 1882 abolished the titles of “cadet-midshipman” and “cadet-engineer,” and substituted the comprehensive term “naval-cadet.” On July 1, 1902, Congress passed an act abolishing the term “naval-cadet” and reinstating the title “midshipman.” In 1912 Congress approved commissioning graduates on graduation day and ended the requirement for two-year sea service as passed midshipmen.
Titles of the Brigade
Throughout much of the nineteenth century, the various classes of students were collectively referred to either as a battalion or regiment. In 1903 the student body was expanded and transformed into a brigade.