Midshipmen served as Constitution‘s trainee officers. Often the sons of wealthy or powerful families, some were as young as 15. Their duties on board were to study, and write journals. As they learned, they also stood watches, and the oldest might even command a captured enemy ship. In front of seamen, midshipmen inspired respect by behaving like the officers they hoped to become. But here, in the cramped space they shared next to the wardroom, they could relax, and be loud and rowdy.
Meet Pardon Mawney Whipple
Pardon Mawney Whipple was a Midshipman onboard Constitution during the War of 1812. As a Midshipman, Whipple was an educated, respectable, young man. Not all sailors could read, but Whipple could. Read emotional and gripping excerpts from his letterbook to learn about Whipple’s personal views and emotions, as well as his first hand accounts of such moments in history as the Constitution’s battle with the HMS Cyane and HMS Levant. View his sword, hat, and even a lock of his hair.
Could You Be a Midshipman?
Ask your students these simple questions to learn how to become an officer-in-training during the War of 1812 for the United States Navy. Do they have the qualifications to be a midshipman in 1812? Are these the same qualifications necessary today? Today the title of midshipman refers to students studying at the United States Naval Academy.
Make Your Own Officer’s Hat
During the early 19th century, all naval officers, including midshipmen, wore a folding cocked hat or chapeau bras with their full dress uniforms. The chapeau was flat and crescent-shaped, and it stood 9” to 11” high, and from point to point it could stretch 16” (or more). Designed to fold flat, the hats could be easily stored in a box or carried beneath the arm. Students can make their own paper versions to wear at special occasions.