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Documents 1 through 3

1.The Beginning

Letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Reporting, in answer to the Senate resolution of the 4th instant, the steps taken by him to establish an advanced course of instruction of naval officers at Coasters’ Harbor Island Rhode Island.

11 February 1885

The events of the Civil War highlighted in the mind of Stephen B. Luce the need for an advanced system of higher education for naval officers.  In the two decades following the war, Luce refined and promoted his idea of a postgraduate institution designed to educate officers in the art and science of their profession: war.  In May 1884, Secretary of the Navy William Chandler appointed a board comprised of Luce, Commander William T. Sampson, and Lieutenant Commander Caspar F. Goodrich to study the question of a naval war college and to devise a plan for its organization. In this February 1885 letter to the Senate, Secretary Chandler included the board’s report which outlined the rationale for the institution, its proposed curriculum, and the benefits to be gained by locating it in Newport.  He also enclosed a copy of General Order No. 325 which formally established the Naval War College on 6 October 1884 and named Luce as its first president.

2. The Faculty

Letter of Commodore Stephen B. Luce to Secretary of the Navy William Chandler requesting the appointment of a faculty.

28 October 1884

Shortly after General Order No. 325 was issued, Luce wrote to Secretary Chandler with a proposed list of individuals to make up the first faculty.  He selected people with expertise in areas that he believed were critical to a naval officer’s professional education.  The proposed instructors included other naval officers, a civilian employee of the Navy Department, and an Army officer.  The idea of having an Army officer as an instructor at the Naval War College was controversial.  Luce did not immediately get the entire faculty that he wanted due to delays in issuing orders and other priorities within the Navy.  He however did get an Army officer.  When the first class convened in September 1885, the only instructors on the staff were Professor James Soley and Lieutenant Tasker Bliss, U.S.A.  Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan and other instructors however would join the faculty in the following year.

3. War Gaming

Rules for the Conduct of the War Games.


This 1901 rule book, owned by Lieutenant William McCarty Little, describes the three types of war games that he created to help naval officers hone their tactical and strategic decision-making skills.  McCarty Little – who served on the staff of the College for nearly thirty years – first lectured on war gaming in 1886.  Borrowing from earlier European models and games designed to simulate land warfare, he perfected a system of naval war gaming by 1894 which revolutionized the course of education at the College.  In addition, war gaming emerged as an important analytical tool, offering the Navy a means to test new concepts, evaluate war plans, and explore the use of new technologies.  The leaden ship models and paper charts eventually gave way in 1958 to the College’s Naval Electronic Warfare Simulator (NEWS) – the Navy’s first electronic war gaming system.  A new, state-of-the-art war gaming facility was opened at the Naval War College in 1999 and named in McCarty Little’s honor.

Documents 1 through 3