The Navy used to require officers to foot their total moving expenses
out of pocket and file for reimbursement at their new duty station and they
might be reimbursed several months later. In August of 1870, LCDR J. P.
Fyffe had orders to be CO of a frigate out of San Francisco. His
current duty station was in New London, Connecticut. He did not think it right that his
moving expenses should be out of pocket.|
The following is what happened. LCDR Fyffe sent a message to the
Secretary of the Navy requesting that the Navy either lay out the money
or supply him with railroad tickets or transportation via naval vessel.
The reply came from the Chief of Bureau of Navigation:
To: Lieutenant Commander J. P. Fyffe In reply to your letter of the
18th Your request is contrary to Navy regulations. Carry out your orders.
The orders also stated: While carrying out these orders, you will keep
the Bureau informed of your whereabouts. There was nothing which stated
when he was supposed to arrive in San Francisco or by what means.
LCDR Fyffe donned his best uniform and strapped his sword to his small
travel kit. At sunrise on the 25th, he walked out of New London and
headed westward for San Francisco. By sundown he reached East Haddam
where he sent the following telegram to the Chief:
25 August - Compliance orders number 1998. LCDR Fyffe en route New
London to San Francisco on foot. This telegram to keep Bureau informed my
whereabouts. Made good 22 miles this date. Spending evening in hayloft in
Mount Parnassus. Very respectfully, Fyffe.
Every evening for the next few days he sent a telegram.
26 August - En route on foot. Made good 31 miles this date. By
gracious consent, Mayor of Bristol, am spending night Mayor's stables.
Have noticed he has hybrid mules specially bred for tropics. Suggest
27 August - En route on foot. Made good only 1 1/2 miles this date.
Rained all day. Staying overnight at Litchfield with my father's friend,
General Holmes. I find standard boot worn by naval officer inadequate
for prolonged walking. Suggest Surgeon General investigate.
28 August - Spending night Lakeville. Lovely country. Expect to buy
home here as soon as I get reimbursed travel voucher submitted by me to
Navy three years ago. Tomorrow I enter New York State.
29 August - En route on foot. Make 28 miles this date despite badly
worn boots. People not familiar Navy uniforms this area. Great crowd
walked part way with me. I sang them sea chanties. Populace thinks it
a great sign of democracy for commanding officer of his ship to walk
3000 miles to new station. Police Chief, Hudson, New York has given me
best cell in jail for overnight.
30 August En route on foot. Arrived Albany. Request Recruiting
Officer be authorized issue me new shoes. Boots fell apart noon today.
Entered Albany barefooted. Will remain Seward Hotel two days awaiting
answer. Earning my keep as bartender. Local rum far superior that
served in Navy. Am sending sample. Very respectfully, Fyffe.
31 August - Fyffe received the following message:
I strike my colors. Secretary of the Navy authorized Recruiting
Officer, Albany issue you boots and provide quickest transportation from
Albany to San Francisco.
Even Chief of Bureau Navigation can laugh when outsmarted!
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