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.
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.