Arundel History

December 25, 2005

1905: courts-martial on plebe hazing

Hazing plebes at the U.S. Naval Academy is not a new issue, but it came to public light at least 100 years ago, when Congress and the Navy banned the practice.

The hazing got so rough a century ago at Christmastime that a series of courts-martial of several upperclassmen began Dec. 28, 1905, when Trenmore Coffin Jr. was tried on the charge of hazing Jerdone P. Kimbrough.

But the court-martial of Stephen Decatur Jr., a senior charged in the same case, made the most waves. Decatur came from a prominent naval family and was a direct descendant of a commodore. Decatur was expelled Jan. 25, 1906, with the order read out formally at the academy's dinner formation. He left the grounds shortly afterward.

Decatur got the worst rap, but the spectacle of more midshipmen facing courts-martial caused Congress and the Navy to adopt an anti-hazing policy at the Naval Academy in 1906.

[Sources: The Sun archives. Research by Jean Packard, Sun librarian.]

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