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Charles H. Stockton papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSC-056

Content Description

The Charles H. Stockton Papers form a small manuscript collection which documents several aspects of Stockton's naval career, including his presidency of the Naval War College, 1898-1900, and his post-war College naval service.

The papers consist of correspondence, unpublished writings and miscellany. The correspondence series contains revealing letters regarding College administrative policy and provides insights into the problems facing the fledgling institution from its detractors. The series also contains Stockton's official naval orders. Cruise journals kept on the Asiatic Station and in Alaskan waters comprise the greater part of the unpublished writings series. Photographs of the cruise of USS THETIS, Naval War College subjects and family members are included in the miscellany series, as well as newspaper clippings, books and certificates.


  • Creation: 1866 - 1908


Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Note

RADM Charles H. Stockton's naval career began in Newport, Rhode Island in 1861 as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, temporarily located there during the Civil War. While a student there he met faculty member Lieutenant Stephen B. Luce, whose text entitled Seamanship (1862) was part of the curriculum, Lieutenant Alfred Thayer Mahan, also a faculty member, and Midshipman William McCarty Little, a member of the class of 1866. All three played important roles in the reform and professionalization of the Navy during the latter part of the nineteenth century and influenced his thinking and his future naval career. Several decades later he joined them at the newly established Naval War College on Coasters Harbor Island.

Stockton returned to Newport during the summer of 1880, where he was assigned to the Torpedo School at the Naval Torpedo Station on Goat Island. In 1887, he was invited to lecture at the Naval War College on the political and military implications of an isthmian canal in Central America and made such a favorable impression on Luce and Mahan that he was invited back the next year.

After a two year assignment (1889-1891) as commanding officer of USS THETIS in arctic waters, he was ordered to the College on a special duty assignment which lasted four years. During this period he lectured on and developed an expertise in international law, supervised the construction of the College's first academic building (now Luce hall) in 1891-1892, and assisted Mahan in developing the course of 1892. He served as College President for six months in 1893 when Mahan was assigned as commanding officer of USS CHICAGO in European waters.

From 1893 to 1895, he ably assisted Naval War College President Henry C. Taylor inaugurate a new academic program and ward off attempts by the Naval Training Station command to abolish the College. With the publication of his first book, A Manual Based Upon Lectures Delivered at the Naval War College by Freeman Snow, in 1896, he began a notable career as a scholar in the field of international law.

After two years on the Asiatic Station as commanding officer of USS YORKTOWN, he returned to Newport where he served as President of the Naval War College from 1898-1900. During his tenure he vigorously supported the study of international law studies.

In 1899, Stockton was asked by the Secretary of the Navy to prepare a war code for use by the U.S. Navy in event of international crises. The U.S. Naval War Code was approved by President McKinley and issued to the naval service in June 1900. The propriety of presidential approval of the code, which established definite solutions to international law problems, was called into question by foreign nations, and it was revoked in 1904. Its importance, however, was recognized, and its content was incorporated in handbooks of international law for naval officers.

As president of the Navy's senior educational institution during its fledgling years, Stockton was also faced with the task of defending it against detractors, many of whom felt it should be abolished or moved elsewhere. A stalwart naval reformer of the same stamp as Luce and Mahan, he resolutely championed the College's raison d'etre and location and, through political persuasion, successfully ended a string of assaults from its powerful enemies.

Stockton's post-War College naval career was marked by several interesting assignments, including a two year tour on the Asiatic Station as commanding officer of USS KENTUCKY, a three year stint as U.S. naval attache in London, and after his promotion to Rear Admiral in 1906, commander of a special service squadron sent to Bordeaux, France, for the Maritime Exposition. His naval ties continued after retirement. In 1908-1910, he represented the service at the Declaration of London Conference in England.

In 1910, Stockton accepted an appointment as president of George Washington University while concurrently holding the chair of international law there. He skillfully guided the university through difficult times, including a building program, fiscal problems and selection of a new campus site. During his presidency he continued to make valuable contributions to the study of international law. Along with a corpus of articles on international law topics, his seminal work, Outlines of International Law,

Chronology of Naval Service

Born, October 13, Philadelphia, Pa.
Graduated from U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.
Promoted to Ensign.
Promoted to Lieutenant.
USS CONGRESS (ScSlp), Cruise to West Indies, Greenland and Mediterranean.
USS SWATARA (ScSlp), Cruise around the world.
Hydrographic Office, Washington, D.C.
USS PLYMOUTH (ScSlp) North Atlantic Squadron.
Navy Yard, New York, N.Y.
Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I.
Promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
USS IROQUOIS (StSlp), Executive Officer.
Naval War College, Newport, R.I., Lecturer.
USS THETIS (Aux. Str.), Commanding Officer, Cruise in Arctic Ocean.
Naval War College, Newport, R.I., Supervised construction of Luce Hall.
Naval War College, Staff. Promoted to Commander.
Naval War College, Acting President.
Naval War College, Staff.
USS YORKTOWN (Gunboat No. 1), Commanding Officer.
Naval War College, President.
Promoted to Captain.
USS KENTUCKY (BB-6), Commanding Officer.
London, England, U.S. Naval Attache.
Board of Inspection and Survey, President. Promoted to Rear Admiral.
Special Service Squadron, Maritime Exposition, Bordeaux, France, Commanding Officer. Retired from U.S. Navy.
London Naval Conference, London, England, Delegate.
George Washington University, Chair, International.
Died, June 1, Washington, D.C.


6 boxes

Language of Materials



Official and semi-official correspondence regarding naval career and Naval War College, 1866–1908; Holograph reminiscences, 1866; Personal Diary, 1904; Journals of ship’s cruises in USS Thetis and USS Yorktown and USS Kentucky 1889–1902; Published Books; Miscellany, including newspaper clippings, photographs and certificates, 1886–1936; Diary of Mrs. Stockton, London, England 1903–1905.


This collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Correspondence, 1866-1925
  2. Writings, 1866-1904
  3. Miscellany, 1897-1936

Immediate Source of Acquisition

They were presented as a gift to the Naval War College through the Naval War College Foundation, Inc., by Stockton's granddaughter, Mrs. Pauline Stockton Hoff, of Washington, D.C., in November 1981.

Related Materials

  • Early records of the Naval War College, RG-01, Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.
  • Faculty and staff presentations, RG-14, Naval Historcal Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.
  • Guest lectures, RG-15, Naval Historcal Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.
  • NWC Addresses, RG-16, Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.
  • NWC Presidents files, RG-28, Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.
  • Horatio Storer papers, MSC-004, Naval Historical Collecton, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, R.I.

Charles H. Stockton papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Naval War College Archives Repository

US Naval War College
686 Cushing Rd
Newport RI 02841 US