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Josiah G. Beckwith Letters, 1853-1855: Finding Aid

Published in October 2015

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
    https://www.usna.edu/Library/sca/index.php
  • Call number: MS 425
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Josiah G. Beckwith Letters
  • Dates: 1853-1855
  • Size: 1 linear inch (15 folders)
  • Creator: Beckwith, Josiah G., 1838-1911
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Josiah G. Beckwith, Jr. was a non-graduate member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1858. Produced during his two years as a midshipman in Annapolis, the Beckwith Letters discuss various aspects of student life at the Naval Academy, including academics, conduct and discipline, summer cruises, and the activities of classmates.

Biography of Josiah G. Beckwith, Jr.

Josiah G. Beckwith, Jr., son of Dr. Josiah G. Beckwith, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1838. Beckwith was admitted to the United States Naval Academy on February 1, 1853 as a member of the Class of 1858, but resigned on March 21, 1855 due to increasing conduct offenses, including intoxication. Following his resignation from the Naval Academy, Beckwith attended Union College and Yale University Medical School, ultimately practicing medicine in Charlton, New York from 1866 until 1869, before returning to Litchfield to take over the family drug store following the death of his father in 1871. Beckwith married Anne Bonfield Alsop on January 16, 1873, and the two had three children: Josiah, Margaret, and Sutherland. Josiah G. Beckwith, Jr. died on June 9, 1911.

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Description of Contents

The Josiah G. Beckwith Letters, comprising 1 linear inch of documentation, span from February 1853 until January 1855. Produced during his two years as a midshipman in Annapolis, Beckwith's letters discuss various aspects of student life at the Naval Academy, including academics, conduct and discipline, summer cruises, and the activities of classmates.

Included with the letters are several notes and drawings, as well as Beckwith's appointment as a midshipman.

The Josiah G. Beckwith Letters are arranged into a single records series with no subdivisions. The letters written by Beckwith, which comprise the overwhelming majority of the collection, are predominantly addressed to Beckwith's father, Dr. Josiah G. Beckwith of Litchfield, Connecticut, with smaller numbers of letters addressed to Beckwith's mother and sister, Elizabeth. Much of the content of the letters concerns Beckwith's academics, including subjects studied, biannual examinations, his weekly averages, and his multiple attempts to secure summer furloughs in order to keep pace academically. Beckwith also devotes considerable length to discussions of his, and his fellow midshipmen's, struggles with demerits, as well as the general nature of conduct offenses at the Naval Academy. The letters also discuss life on the Yard in general, including living accommodations in the new midshipman quarters, the introduction of steam and gas to the Yard, the logistics of being on the sick list, and the regimented nature of Academy routine. In some letters, Beckwith also offers his opinion of various Academy faculty and staff, including Superintendent Louis M. Goldsborough and Professor Samuel Marcy. Letters written during the summer tend to focus on Beckwith's experiences during summer practice cruises aboard U.S.S. Preble, and include descriptions of port calls in France, Spain, and Portugal.

The remainder of the collection consists of two letters received by Beckwith, including one from his father, as well several notes and sketches, and a letter officially denying Beckwith's furlough requests.

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Arrangement

The Josiah G. Beckwith Letters are arranged chronologically by date sent. Additional material is arranged alphabetically by document type following the outgoing correspondence.

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Access and Use

Access

Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Josiah G. Beckwith Letters are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Purchased in August 1993, October 1993, January 1994, and June 1994. Accession Nos. 93-38, 93-56, 94-02, and 94-38.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

The Beckwith Letters have been digitized in their entirety. In addition to following the links in the Container List, the materials can be accessed through the USNA Digital Collections at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16099coll16

Related Archival Material

Material pertaining to Beckwith's conduct as a midshipman can be found in his midshipman conduct record, located in RG-405, Entry 85: Registers of Delinquencies. Letters pertaining to Beckwith's dismissal from the Academy, including one written by Beckwith to his uncle and one written by Beckwith's father to the Superintendent, can be found in RG-405, Entry 75: Letters and Reports Received by the Superintendent Relating to Individual Midshipmen. All of the above materials are available at Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library, United States Naval Academy.

Additional material pertaining to Beckwith and his family can be found in the Beckwith Family Papers (1988-01-1), Litchfield Historical Society, Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

Publications Citing These Papers

The Josiah G. Beckwith Letters have been published, in part, in Letters from Annapolis: Midshipmen Write Home, 1848-1969, edited by Anne Marie Drew.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Josiah G. Beckwith Letters, MS 425

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Beckwith family papers, 1767-1972 [Finding Aid]. Litchfield Historical Society, Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in October 2015. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in October 2015.

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Subject Headings

These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.

Name and Subject Terms

  • Beckwith, Josiah G., 1838-1911
  • France -- Description and travel
  • Goldsborough, Louis Malesherbes, 1805-1877
  • Midshipmen -- United States -- Conduct of life
  • Spain -- Description and travel
  • United States Naval Academy -- Curricula
  • United States Naval Academy -- Examinations
  • United States Naval Academy -- Midshipmen -- Cruises
  • United States Naval Academy -- School ships
  • United States Naval Academy -- Social life and customs
  • United States Naval Academy -- Students -- Correspondence
  • United States Naval Academy. Class of 1858

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Letters Sent, 1853 February-March

From United States Naval Academy. Difficulties in initial studies and adjustment to Academy life; discussions of his roommate [William] Ashe; general nature of demerits (March); receipt of goods from home; impending arrival of U.S.S. Preble following overhaul (March 14); description of living accommodations; and attempts to secure a furlough for extra studying.

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/132/rec/1

Box 1 Folder 2

Letters Sent, 1853 April

From United States Naval Academy. Midshipmen called on to fight a fire in Annapolis; difficulties in early studies; description of living accommodations and regimented lifestyle; attempts to secure a furlough for extra studies; numerous midshipmen with over 200 demerits (April 4); and illness and eye injury.

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/232/rec/2

Box 1 Folder 3

Letters Sent, 1853 May-June

From United States Naval Academy. Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay; continued attempts to secure a furlough; grades and impending Spring examinations; swimming abilities with regards to impending cruise on the U.S.S. Preble; and detailed description of Spring examinations (June 17).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/263/rec/3

Box 1 Folder 4

Letters Sent, 1853 June-September

Aboard U.S.S. Preble. Arrival at and description of Cape Henry; death of the son of Governor William Marcy of New York (July 12); shipboard drills; and descriptions of Horta on Fayal Island, the Spanish cities of Corunna (Coruna) and Ferrol (including Hercules Tower), and Madeira (September 14).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/69/rec/4

Box 1 Folder 5

Letters Sent, 1853 October-December

From United States Naval Academy. Return trip of the U.S.S. Preble up the Chesapeake (October 1); description of Annapolis as dull (October 23); serious injury to Midshipman [Washington] Totten and description of Superintendent Goldsborough as a tyrant (November 8); commissioning of the Academy's gas and steam works; celebration of Washington's Birthday; grades and challenges of and changes to the course of study; and new attempts to secure a summer furlough.

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/302/rec/5

Box 1 Folder 6

Letters Sent, 1854 January-April

From United States Naval Academy. Christmas celebrations (January 15); increasing troubles with conduct and demerits; February examinations; and implications of being on the sick list (March 21).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/155/rec/6

Box 1 Folder 7

Letters Sent, 1854 May-June

From United States Naval Academy. Visit to the Academy by Secretary of the Navy James C. Dobbin (May 6); continued troubles with demerits; criticisms of Superintendent Goldsborough (May 20); resignations in Beckwith's class (May 28); and Spring examinations.

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/203/rec/7

Box 1 Folder 8

Letters Sent, 1854 June-September

Aboard U.S.S. Preble. Dismissal of midshipmen Ashe, Colt, Cushman, Ingraham, and Wagstaff; Rip Raps Island (June 28); and description of the harbors, Navy Yards, and arsenals at Cherbourg and Brest (September 8).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/178/rec/8

Box 1 Folder 9

Letters Sent, 1854 October-November

From United States Naval Academy. Increase in the size of the Yard (October 4); grades and class standing; midshipman resignations; difficulty with debts (November 12); and the illness and impending death of Midshipman Weisman (November 15).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/109/rec/9

Box 1 Folder 10

Letters Sent, 1854 November-December

From United States Naval Academy. Concerns about demerits; conflict with professor Samuel L. Marcy (November 24); the death of Midshipman Weisman; and Christmas in and criticisms of Annapolis (December 31).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/88/rec/10

Box 1 Folder 11

Letters Sent, 1855 January-February

From United States Naval Academy. Impending February examinations; resignation of Midshipman Sutherland; the impending second dismissal of Midshipman Colt and the trivial nature of demerits; February examinations and Annapolis harbor frozen over (February 9).

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/50/rec/11

Box 1 Folder 12

Letters Received, 1853, undated

One letter from Beckwith's father and undated instructions entitled "To extract the square root of a vulgar fraction to within a certain decimal."

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/24/rec/12

Box 1 Folder 13

Midshipman Appointment, 1853 February 3

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/6/rec/13

Box 1 Folder 14

Notes, 1854, undated

Includes notes and sketches regarding the drawing of topographical maps, and a schedule for June examinations.

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/35/rec/14

Box 1 Folder 15

Official Correspondence, 1853 May 9

From Superintendent Cornelius K. Stribling to Dr. Josiah G. Beckwith. Denial of Beckwith's request for a summer furlough.

Digital copy available at: http://cdm16099.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16099coll16/id/13/rec/15

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