[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Part 2

This webpage reproduces part of
A Sketch of the History and Topography of West Point and the U. S. Military Academy

Roswell Park

published by
Henry Perkins,
Philadelphia, 1840

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Part 4
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

The History of West Point

["Part 3" of 5 in this Web transcription]

 p76  On the 17th of July, 1817, the orders were given relieving Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Partridge as Superintendent of the Military Academy, and appointing Major (now Colonel) Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sylvanus Thayer to succeed him. The change took place on the 28th of the same month;a and from this period we date the commencement of the pre-eminent success and reputation which the Academy has since enjoyed. Colonel Thayer had visited and studied in the military schools of France, and profited by the opportunity of forming more complete views of the management of such an institution than  p77 were then generally entertained, even among military men. Under his energetic and judicious administration, strict discipline was enforced; the regulations farther improved; the course of studies and exercises extended, and thoroughly taught; the library and apparatus increased by choice additions; and every thing done which the means permitted, to render the institution worthy of its location and its name. Colonel Thayer held this responsible station till July 1, 1833; when he was relieved from it, and appointed to superintend the construction of the important fortifications, including the new Fort Warren, in the harbour of Boston, Massachusetts. We may here add, that Colonel Thayer, after graduating at the Academy in 1808, served with distinction in the war of 1812, and was breveted a major, for "meritorious and distinguished services," particularly in the defence of Norfolk, Virginia, against the British, in 1814. This was prior to his visit to France, already referred to.

Of the professors at West Point during Colonel Thayer's superintendence, this seems the proper place to make mention. Rev.  p78 Thomas Picton succeeded to the duties of chaplain and professor of ethics, &c., July 20, 1818, some time after Rev. Mr. Empie's resignation. Mr. Picton resigned this office January 1, 1825, and we believe has since resided in New York city. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles P. McIlvaine, who was appointed April 6, 1825, but resigned the office December 31, 1827, was afterwards settled in Brooklyn, N. Y., and is now Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Ohio. Under his ministry a considerable number of the cadets made profession of piety, several of whom have since resigned and entered the sacred office, one of them being now the Missionary Bishop of the Episcopal church in Arkansas. Mr. McIlvaine was succeeded, January 1, 1828, by Rev. Thomas Warner, a gentleman of extensive acquirements, who held the office until September 1st, 1838; and who has since established a private institution for general education in Paris.b

On the resignation of Mr. Crozet, already mentioned, as professor of engineering, he was succeeded, April 29th, 1823, by David B. Douglass, who had previously been assistant  p79 professor of philosophy, and professor of mathematics in the Academy. Major Douglass resigned this professorship, February 28, 1831, and has since been employed as engineer of the New York Water Works, as he was previously of the Morris Canal in New Jersey. Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Dennis H. Mahan, of the corps of engineers, succeeded him, as professor of engineering, March 1, 1831; having previously visited France, and studied some time in the Military School at Metz. He has published valuable text-books on both the civil and military branches of this department, at the head of which he still continues. The assistant professors of engineering during the period in question, were Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Constantine M. Eakin,º from 1817 to 1820; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Henry Brewerton, from 1820 to 1821; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jonathan Prescott, from 1821 to 1822; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Edward H. Courtenay, from 1822 to 1824; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Alfred Mordecai, from 1824 to 1825; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Dennis H. Mahan, from 1825 to 1826; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George S. Greene, from 1826 to 1827; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William H. C. Bartlett, from 1827 to 1829; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles Mason, from 1829  p80 to 1831; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James Allen, from 1831 to 1832; and Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Henry E. Prentiss, from 1832 to 1833.

The office of Instructor of Tactics was introduced at the Academy by Colonel Thayer, the duties of the Instructor being to "take the immediate command, under the Superintendent, of the corps of cadets," and "superintend their instruction, so far as relates to Infantry Tactics;" he being also charged with the police of the institution. Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.G. W. Gardiner was appointed Acting Instructor Tactics, September 15, 1817, and succeeded by Captain John Bliss, of the infantry, who was appointed April 2, 1818, and relieved January 11, 1819. Captain John R. Bell, of the light artillery, succeeded him, February 8, 1819, and continued till March 17, 1820. He was succeeded by Captain (now Colonel) William J. Worth, of the artillery, who continued in this office from March 17, 1820, to January 1, 1829. Colonel Worth had served on the northern frontier, during the war of 1812, and acquired distinction which was still farther enhanced by the exact discipline and military spirit which he enforced  p81 at the Academy. He was succeeded by Captain (now Major) Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ethan A. Hitchcock, of the infantry, who held the office from January 1, 1829, to June 24, 1833. Major Hitchcock well sustained this station, and has since been offered the governorship of Liberia, but preferred remaining in the service. The assistant instructors of tactics, charged with the immediate supervision of the academic police, have been numerous, and we are compelled here to omit their names, though many of them merit an honourable record.

After the resignation of Colonel Mansfield, already mentioned, as professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, he was succeeded by Lieutenant Edward H. Courtenay, of the engineers, who filled this chair in an able manner, from September 1, 1828, to December 31, 1834. Professor Courtenay had been an assistant in this department from 1821 to 1822, and in engineering, as already mentioned, from 1822 to 1824. He has since filled the chair of Mathematics in the University of Pennsylvania, and is now in the civil service of the United States. The assistant professors of philosophy, during the  p82 period now in question, were, besides Captain Douglass and Lieutenant Courtenay, Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles Davies, from 1821 to 1823; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.S. Stanhope Smith, from 1823 till his death, in 1828; Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert P. Parrott, from 1828 to 1829; and Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.T. Jefferson Cram, from 1829 to 1836.

On the death of Professor Ellicott, he was succeeded in the department of Mathematics by Captain David B. Douglass, already mentioned, who held the office from August 30, 1820 to April 29, 1823; when he accepted the chair of Engineering. He was succeeded by Lieutenant Charles Davies, who had previously assisted in this department, and in that of Natural Philosophy. Professor Davies filled this chair from April 29, 1823, to May 31, 1837; during which period he published a valuable series of text-books on all the branches of mathematics. The assistants in this department during Colonel Thayer's superintendence, were Lieutenant Charles Davies, from 1816 to 1821; Lieutenant S. Stanhope Smith, from 1821 to 1823; Lieutenant Horace Webster from 1823 to 1825;  p83 and Lieutenant Edward C. Ross, from 1825 to 1833.

The teachers of French, besides Mr. Berard, who continued at the head of this branch through the whole time in which, were Joseph Du Commun, from March 1, 1818, to August 31, 1831, when he resigned on account of ill health; and Julian Molinard, from September 1, 1831, to September 12, 1839. In the branch of Drawing, after Mr. Zoeller's resignation, Thomas Gimbrede was appointed teacher, and held the office from January 5, 1819, till his death, December 25, 1832. He had previously practised the art of engraving, and produced some valuable prints; but was peculiarly successful as a teacher of the art of drawing; and alike esteemed for his benevolence and urbanity.c

The branch of Chemistry not being made a professorship by law during this period, was taught at first by assistant surgeons of the army, and afterwards by officers of the army. The first teacher recorded on the catalogue, was James Cutbush, M. D., from September 1, 1820, till his death, December 16th, 1823. A work of his on Pyrotechny  p84 was published after his decease. James E. Percival, M. D., was teacher of chemistry from March 2d to July 6th, 1824; and with succeeded by John Torrey, M. D., the distinguished botanist, who held this place from August 25th, 1824, till his resignation as a surgeon, August 31, 1828. His successor, Lieutenant W. Fenn Hopkins, held this station from September 1, 1828, till August 31, 1835. The instructors of artillery, for whose office we are indebted to Colonel Thayer, were Lieutenant George W. Gardiner, from September 15th, 1817, to February 29th, 1820; Captain Fabius Whiting, from August 15th, 1820, to August 7th, 1821; and Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Zebina J. D. Kinsley, from December 18th, 1823, to December 1st, 1835. The sword-masters, after Mr. Thomas, were Pierre Trainque, from December 13th, 1825, till his death, June 27th, 1826; Louis S. Simon, from 1826 to 1831; and Albert Jumel, from 1831 to 1837. The leaders of the band, or music masters, were Richard Willis, the celebrated performer on the Kent bugle, from June 16th, 1817, to his death, we believe in 1830, and Alexander Kyle, his successor.

 p85  We now proceed to speak of the changes in the regulations, studies, and organization of the Academy, which took place under the superintendence of Colonel Thayer. An act of Congress was passed, April 14th, 1818, providing for a permanent chaplain, at the Military Academy, who should be "professor of geography, history, and ethics." The introduction of instructors of tactics, artillery, and chemistry, has already been alluded to, in naming those instructors. On the 14th February, 1818, the following Order was received by the Superintendent, from the Secretary of War. "As publishing in the Army Register the names of cadets who are distinguished for attainments and meritorious conduct may inspire attention to study, and create emulous exertion, you will report to this Department, annually in November, for that object, the names of those who have most distinguished themselves in the examination, not exceeding five in each class, specifying the studies in which they may excel." On the 15th of April, 1818, by an Order of the Engineer Department, the Superintendent was authorized to detail not exceeding four cadets,  p86 to discharge the duties of acting assistant professor of mathematics; each cadet so detailed, to receive ten dollars per month as a compensation for the extra duty. The appointment was to be considered an honourable distinction.61

On the 12th of May, 1818, an Order was given from the Engineer Department, that the pay and subsistence of all cadets who neglect to join the Military Academy at the expiration of their furloughs should be stopped, unless they assigned the most satisfactory reason for their absence; and that any cadet, absent without leave for more than two months, should be discharged from the service of the United States. On the 23d of July, 1818, the following important regulations were approved by the Secretary of War. "1. There shall be two general examinations in each year; the first to commence on the 1st of January, and the second on the 1st of June. 2. All newly-appointed cadets will be ordered to join the Military Academy for examination by the 25th of June in each year,  p87 and no cadet shall be examined for admission after the first day of September following, unless he shall have been prevented from joining at the proper time by sickness or some other unavoidable cause, in which case he may be examined with the fourth class, at the general examination in January, and if then found qualified to proceed with that class, may be admitted accordingly. 3. Until a revision of the laws relating to the Military Academy, there shall be in lieu of the vacation authorized by the existing regulations, an annual encampment, to commence on the 1st of July, and end on the 31st of August. 4. The superintendent is authorized to grant furloughs to the cadets, at the request of their parents, during the period of their encampment, provided that not more than one fourth of the whole number be absent at any one time, and provided also that every cadet, previously to his receiving a diploma, shall have been present at not less than two entire encampments.

On the 25th of February, 1820, a communication was made to the House of Representatives by Mr. Calhoun, then Secretary of  p88 War, accompanied by a report from Major Thayer, containing a series of propositions for the improvement of the Academy, with remarks thereon by General Bernard and Colonel McRee, of the corps of engineers. This Report was written and submitted by Major Thayer, in November, 1817; and the remarks, which are without date, appear to have been written early in 1819; as Mr. Calhoun's communication was in reply to a resolution dated the 26th of February, 1819, calling for information concerning the Academy. The Report urged the appointment of one additional assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy, and four of mathematics; two additional teachers of French; and recommended also a professor of languages and oratory, as distinct from the duties of the chaplain; and a teacher of military drawing; all of them to be included in the Academic Staff. It recommended that the principal professors and teacher should "constitute an Academic Board or Council, of which the Superintendent should always be president, and whose duty it should be to  p89 fix and improve the system of studies and instruction; to conduct and decide upon all examinations; and to specify in detail the duties of the several instructors." It also recommended that the age of admission should be from sixteen to twenty years inclusive; and that the most distinguished graduates, not exceeding two in each class, should be promoted to the corps of engineers. General Bernard and Colonel McRee, in their remarks thereon, recommended a professorship of artillery, but not of languages; and that the professorship of fortification should also include descriptive geometry. They recommended that the Academic Board should have power to alter the regulations or studies only with the approbation of the Secretary of War; and also that the Academy should be rendered entirely distinct from the corps of engineers, as having an equal relation to all the corps of the army; in which view Mr. Calhoun concurred.62

On the revision of the Army Regulations,  p90 by General Scott, as published in 1821, the system of Regulations for the Military Academy, previously matured, was introduced therein without change. These Regulations, being readily accessible, we may be excused from repeating here, on account of their length and minuteness.63 They embodied the different regulations of which we have already spoken, in a more systematic form; and supplied those farther details which experience had shown to be desirable, for the benefit of the institution. The principal changes in the studies proposed therein, compared with the programme of 1816, were the omission of English grammar in the first year; the introduction of descriptive geometry and fluxions or the calculus as an indispensable study of the second year; the introduction of chemistry in the third year; the postponement of engineering to the fourth year, and the entire omission of the Greek and Latin languages, with the introduction of the science of war, including artillery and infantry tactics, as a regular course of study. In these  p91 Regulations, the relative importance of the different studies in forming the merit-roll of the cadets, was first definitively settled, by a scale of numbers, nearly the same as at the present time. The text-books used at the Academy in 1824 were, Gay de Vernon's Science of War and Fortification, as translated for the Military Academy by Major O'Connor, of the United States Army; Lallemand's Artillery, translated by James Renwick, also for the United States service; Rules and Regulations for the Infantry, as prescribed for the service; Sganzin's Cours de Construction; Gregory's Mathematics; Enfield's Natural Philosophy; Newton's Principia; Henry's Chemistry; Cleaveland's Mineralogy; Lacroix's Traité du Calcul; Biot's Essai de Géométrie Analytique; Crozet's Perspective, and his Descriptive Geometry; Farrar's Trigonometry; Legendre's Geometry; Lacroix's Algebra; Berard's French Grammar, and his Lecteur François; Histoire de Gil Blas; Histoire de Charles XII, par Voltaire; Morse's Geography; Tytler's History; Paley's Moral Philosophy; and Vattel's Law of Nations.64

 p92  The trial of cadets Ragland, Loring, Fairfax, Vining, and Holmes, for insubordination in acting as a committee of the cadets, to prefer charges against Captain Bliss,d we can allude to only as eliciting, from high authorities, the decision that the cadets are amenable to martial law. These young gentlemen were arrested, November 27th, 1818; and after a court of inquiry had examined their case, they were brought, in May, 1819, before a general court-martial, of which Colonel Hindman was president, and which decided that it had no jurisdiction in the case, as they were not subject to military law. On this occasion, the Secretary of War consulted Mr. Wirt, then Attorney General of the United States; from whose official report on the subject, dated August 21st, 1819, the following extract is made: "It is suggested by Colonel Hindman, on behalf of the court-martial, that these cadets are merely students. . . . . But if the suggestion is intended to place cadets on the footing of civil students, clothed with all their civil privileges and immunities, it is proper to remark, that those cadets occupy a very different ground; they are enlisted  p93 soldiers; they engage like soldiers, to serve five years, unless sooner discharged; they receive the pay, rations, and emoluments of sergeants; they are bound to perform military duty, in such places, and on such service, as the commander-in‑chief of the army of the United States shall order; and finally, by the act of the 3d of March, 1815, fixing the military peace establishment of the United States, the corps to which they are attached, and of which they form a part, is expressly recognised as a part of that military establishment."65 This opinion was corroborated by that of the President, and of the Secretary of War. We may here add, that the cadets above mentioned resigned their commissions soon after; and appear to have acted from erroneous views.

The act of 1821, which reduced the army to six thousand men, made no change in the corps of engineers, or in the Military Academy. On the 16th of February, 1821, a motion was made in the House of Representatives "to discontinue the pay and rations of the cadets,  p94 and discharge them from the Academy;" in other words to abolish the institution; but it was negatived by a majority of eighty-nine.e It was subsequent to these proceedings that Mr. Monroe, in his annual message, in 1822, thus expressed his opinion of the Military Academy. "Good order is preserved in it, and the youth are well instructed in every science connected with the great object of the institution. They are also well trained and disciplined in the practical parts of the profession. . . . . . The Military Academy forms the basis, in regard to science, on which the military establishment rests. It furnishes annually, after due examination, and on the report of the Academic Staff, many well informed youths, to fill the vacancies which occur in the several corps of the army; while others, who retire to private life, carry with them such attainments as, under the right reserved to the several states to appoint the officers and to train the militia, will enable them, by affording a wider field for selection, to promote the great object of the power vested in Congress, of providing for the organizing, arming, and disciplining  p95 the militia."66 We may here add, that similar encomiums have been pronounced on the Academy, by every succeeding President of the United States, down to the present time. The more recent efforts which have been made to abolish the institution, we shall notice in a subsequent place.

On the resignation of Colonel Thayer as Superintendent of the Military Academy, he was succeeded by Major (now Lieutenant-Colonel) Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.R. E. De Russy, of the corps of engineers; who continued in this office from July 1st, 1833 to September 1st, 1838; when he was relieved from his station, and assigned to the charge of the works for the defence of the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. He was succeeded by Major Richard Delafield, of the engineers; the present able Superintendent. Rev. Mr. Warner having resigned the station of chaplain and professor of ethics, &c., was succeeded, September 1st, 1838, by Rev. Jasper Adams, formerly President of Charleston College, South Carolina, and author of a treatise on Moral Philosophy.  p96 In the department of engineering, Professor Mahan was assisted by Lieutenant Frederic A. Smith, from 1833 to 1834; by Lieutenant Samuel C. Ridgely, from 1834 to 1839; be by Lieutenant J. M. Scarritt, from 1839 to the present date.

The successor to Captain Hitchcock, as instructor of tactics and commandant of cadets, was Major John Fowle, of the infantry; who held this station from July 6th, 1833, to March 31st, 1838, when he was succeeded by Captain Charles F. Smith, of the artillery, who still holds this station. In the department of natural and experimental philosophy, Professor Courtenay was succeeded, January 1st, 1835, by Lieutenant William H. C. Bartlett, of the corps of engineers; author of a valuable treatise on the science of Optics. His assistants, successors to Lieutenant Cram, have been Lieutenant Jacob Ammen, from 1836 to 1837; Lieutenant Benjamin Alvord, 1837 to 1839; and Lieutenant Joseph Roberts, from 1839 to the present date. In the department of mathematics, Professor Davies was succeeded, June 1st, 1837, by Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert E. Church, of the artillery, who had  p97 previously been chief assistant in this department, from 1833 to 1837, as successor to Lieutenant Ross. The subsequent assistants have been, Lieutenant William W. S. Bliss, from 1837 to January, 1840; and Lieutenant A. E. Shiras, from January, 1840, to the present date.

Lieutenant Jacob W. Bailey was appointed Professor of Chemistry July 5th, 1838; and Lieutenant H. L. Kendrick has been his assistant from 1838 to the present time. Lieutenant Bradford R. Alden succeeded Mr. Molinard, as second teacher of French, assistant to Mr. Berard, from September 12th, 1839, to February 4th, 1840; since which time this station has been filled by Mr. H. R. Agnel. After the death of Mr. Gimbrede, Charles R. Leslie, R. A., was appointed teacher of drawing, March 2d, 1833; but he resigned the station April 15th, 1834, and was succeeded, May 8th, 1834, by Robert W. Weir, the present accomplished teacher. Mr. Leslie and Mr. Weir are both recognised among the most distinguished American painters; and the latter has been employed, by order of Congress, to execute one of the  p98 paintings for the rotunda of the Capitol. The successors to Lieutenant Kinsley, as instructors of artillery, have been, Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert Anderson,f from December 1st, 1835, to November 17th, 1837; and lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Minor Knowlton, from that date to the present time. Mr. Jumel was succeeded as sword-master, or instructor of fencing, by Ferdinand Dupare,g February 16th, 1837; and James McAuley became the first instructor of riding, June 12th, 1839. Joseph Lucchesi succeeded Mr. Kyle as the leader of the band; having been appointed April 1st, 1836, and this station he still continues to hold.

By an act of Congress for increasing the army, approved July 5th, 1838, it was provided, (§ 19), "That an additional professor be appointed, to instruct in the studies of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology," and that the Secretary of War may assign to the said professor an assistant, to be taken from the officers of the line, or cadets, and to receive the same pay as the other assistant professors. By the 28th section of the same law, it was enacted, "That the term for which cadets hereafter admitted into the  p99 Military Academy at West Point, shall engage to serve, be, and the same is hereby increased to eight years, unless [they be] sooner discharged." The acts of Congress making annual appropriations for the support of the Academy, and occasional appropriations for buildings and other purposes, we have not thought it necessary here to notice. A detachment of dragoons has recently been stationed at West Point, having arrived there June 12th, 1839. An opportunity is thus afforded for the cadets to exercise in horsemanship and cavalry tactics. For this great improvement in the course of military instruction, the Academy is, we believe, indebted to Mr. Poinsett, the Secretary of War.

The present regulations of the Military Academy, being voluminous, we shall not attempt here to transcribe. They are, for the most part, a digest and expansion of the different regulations already referred to; and which it has been our object to present respectively in their original form. It remains, however, to offer a brief view of the mechanism of the institution and its mode of action, as a summary of the preceding notices.

 p100  Besides the superintendent, professors, and teachers already named, there are attached to the Academy fourteen lieutenants of the army, as assistant professors or teachers, but receiving no other compensation than their regular army pay. The adjutant, quarter-master, paymaster, surgeon, and assistant surgeon of the Academy are also officers of the army detailed for these respective stations; and together constitute the Military Staff of the Academy. There are also attached to the Academy, a storekeeper, tailor, and shoemaker, who are required to supply the cadets with necessary articles, at the regulated prices. The principal professors and teachers of the Academy constitute an Academic Board, of which the superintendent is president, and which has the supervision of the studies, the selection of class books, library books, maps, models, and apparatus; and which decides on the merits of the cadets at the examinations. For this last purpose the first assistants in the principal departments, and the immediate teacher of the section under examination, constitute transiently a part of the Academic Board. The  p101 Academic Staff comprehends all those officers who are engaged in giving instruction; in contradistinction from the Military Staff, already mentioned.

The number of candidates for admission is so great that early applications are made to the Secretary of War, by those desirous of obtaining an appointment as cadets. The number of cadets being nearly equal to that of the members of Congress, it is understood that there is generally one cadet from each congressional district, and that their nomination is in some degree confided to the respective members. The age of admission was restricted by a regulation, we believe in 1833, and is now from sixteen to twenty-one years inclusive; regard being also had to health, stature, and character. The acquirements necessary for admission, as established by law, are reading, writing, and practical arithmetic; though a knowledge of English grammar, geography, and even of the Latin language, is highly desirable and advantageous. To raise the standard of admission would be to exclude many young men of worth, whose early education has been neglected,  p102 and to depress it would deprive the nation of such moderate qualifications as it has a right to expect, for the prosecution of important higher studies. The newly appointed cadets are required to join the Academy between the 1st and 20th of June; and they engage to serve eight years, or four years after graduating at the Academy. As opportunity is afforded for gratuitous instruction at the Academy from the 1st of June until the examination of the candidates near the close of the month, those who are imperfectly prepared would do well to be present during this period.

The months of June, July, and August, in each year, after the close of the examination, are devoted solely to military exercises; for which purpose the cadets leave the barracks, and encamp in tents on the plain, under the regular police and discipline of an army in time of war. Their organization varies occasionally, while drilling in particular arms; but for purposes of discipline, police, and the ordinary drills in infantry tactics, they are arranged as a battalion of four companies, under the commandant of the corps and his assistants; the corporals  p103 being appointed from the cadets of the third class; the sergeants from those of the second; and the captains and lieutenants from those of the first or senior class. The other cadets fill the ranks as soldiers, though required to act as officers at stated times. They perform in rotation the duties of sentinels, or guard duty, night and day, during the encampment; but only in the evening and at meal-times when in barracks. They are drilled daily, during the greater portion of the year, except on Saturdays and Sundays, and several times a day, during the encampment either as artillery, infantry, riflemen, or cavalry troops, the riding exercises being continued through the whole year. They are thus practically taught the use of the musket or rifle, the cannon, mortar, and howitzer, the sabre and rapier, or broad and small sword; as also the construction of field works and the preparation of all kinds of munitions and materials for war. The morning parade during the encampment, and guard mounting throughout the remainder of the year, and the evening parade at retreat (or sunset), are highly imposing, especially as enlivened  p104 by the excellent band of music. The cadets' uniform is a gray coatee with standing collar, bullet buttons gilt, and black silk cord; gray vest and pantaloons in winter, and white in summer, with white belts for the bayonet and cartridge box. The dress cap is of black felt, round crown, with black pompon, brass front plate, and eagle on the front of the cap. A forage cap is worn when off duty, and a guard cloak is provided for wet or cold weather. Cadets who have been present two encampments, are allowed, if their conduct be correct and their parents or guardians consent thereto, to be absent the third on furlough.

The cadets return from camp to barracks on the last of August; and the ceremony of striking the tents on this occasion is well worth an effort of the visiter to witness it. The remaining nine months of the academic year are devoted to study. The studies of the first year, or fourth class, are algebra, geometry, trigonometry, descriptive geometry, mensuration, and the French language. All the mathematical studies are practically taught, and applied to numerous problems not  p105 found in the books; on the solution of which, greatly depends the reputation and standing of the rival candidates for pre-eminence. The studies of the second year are the theory of perspective and shades and shadows, practically illustrated; analytic geometry, with its application to conic sections; the integral and differential calculus, or science of fluxions; practical surveying; with the French language, geography, English grammar and rhetoric, and the elements of drawing, or the human figure in pen and pencil, and topography in plain tints, colours, and with the pen. This completes the course of mathematics, and also of French, which the cadets learn to translate freely, but which few of them can be expected to speak fluently. The third year is devoted to the course of natural and experimental philosophy, comprising mechanics in all its divisions; optics, magnetism, and electricity; and astronomy; together with chemistry, including the laws of heat, and practical applications; and the completion of the course of drawing, including landscapes in pencil and colours. The fourth and last year is appropriated to the review of artillery and  p106 infantry tactics, the former including military pyrotechny; the science of war and fortification, or military engineering; a course of civil engineering, embracing architecture, the construction of roads and bridges, railroads and canals, with the improvement of rivers and harbours; a course of mineralogy and geology; a course of rhetoric, moral philosophy, and political science, including constitutional and international law. In most of these studies the classes are divided into sections, usually of about fifteen cadets in each; and each section has its own instructor. This each cadet is called upon at almost every recitation, to explain a considerable portion of the lesson. The written or delineated demonstrations, chiefly algebraic or geometrical, are explained at the black board in the presence of the whole section. The hours of study are from reveille until breakfast time, at 7 o'clock, A.M.; from 8 o'clock, A.M., to dinner time, at 1 o'clock, P.M.; from 2 to 4 o'clock, P.M.; and from the call "To quarters," about one hour after sundown, until taps, at 10 o'clock, P.M., for which tattoo, at 9 o'clock, is the preparatory signal. The  p107 recitations vary from one hour and a half to one hour in length, and occur twice or thrice daily. When the interval from 4 o'clock, P.M., to sunset exceeds one hour and a half, it is devoted to military exercises, but the rest of the year to recreation.

The present text-books in use at the Academy are Mahan's Treatise on Field Fortification, with Lithographic Notes on Permanent Fortification, Attack and Defence, Mines and other accessories, the Composition of Armies, Strategy, &c.; Mahan's Course of Civil Engineering, with Notes on Architecture, Stone Cutting, and Machines; Rules and Regulations for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of the United States Infantry; United States Artillery Tactics, Kinsley's Pyrotechny, Thiroux's Instruction Théorique et Pratique d'Artillerie, and Knowlton's Notes on Powder, Cannon, and Projectiles; Blair's Rhetoric, Paley's Moral Philosophy, Kent's Lectures, and Bayard's Exposition of the Constitution; Dana's Mineralogy, Bakewell's Geology, and Turner's Chemistry; Boucharlat's Mechanics, translated by Courtenay; Roget's Electricity and Magnetism; Bartlett's Optics;  p108 Gummere's Astronomy; Davies' Descriptive Geometry, Surveying, Analytical Geometry, Calculus, Bourdon's Algebra, and Legendre's Geometry; Berard's French Grammar, Leçons Françaises, and Gil Blas; and Murray's Grammar and English Reader.

To test the progress of the cadets in their studies, there are held semi-annual examinations, commencing on the second day of January, unless it be Sunday, and on the second Monday of June; at the latter of which a Board of Visiters, invited by the Secretary of War, is present, to make a critical inspection and official report of the state of the Academy. Each of these examinations occupies about a fortnight, and is very strict, but still it is not considered as the sole test of merit. Each instructor makes a weekly class report, in which is recorded the daily performance of each cadet under his charge; those who do perfectly well being marked 3, or the maximum, and those who fail entirely in their recitation being marked 0; between which extremes there are nine intermediate grades of merit, having reference only to the members of that section; but transfers are freely  p109 made between the higher and lower sections, according to individual merit. These marks are accessible to the cadets from week to week, and doubtless stimulate their exertions. They are summed up at the end of the term, and laid before the Academic Board and Board of Visiters; so that the standing of each cadet, depends not only on his personal examination but on all his previous recitations. A certain proficiency being required of the cadets, those who fall below this limit are either discharged from the service, or turned back to repeat the course of studies of that year with the succeeding class. Averaging the last ten years, we think, a class of about one hundred entering the academy, is reduced from want of inclination for the service and other causes, to about eighty at the end of six months; seventy at the end of one year, and sixty at the end of two years; about fifty, or one half of the whole number remaining to complete the course.

There is a general merit-roll of every class, made out at the end of each academic year; the merit of each cadet being expressed by a number denoting his relative proficiency or  p110 acquirements. The final standing of each cadet, on which depends his relative rank for army promotion, is determined by the sum of his merit in all the different branches; regard being had to their relative importance. This latter is at present estimated as follows: Engineering and the Science of War, 300; Natural Philosophy, 300; Mathematics, 300; and Conduct, 300; Rhetoric and Moral and Political Science, 200; Chemistry and Mineralogy, 200; Infantry Tactics, 150; Artillery, 150; French, 100; and Drawing, 100. Hence the individual who should reach the maximum in all the branches would be credited with 2100 on the final merit-roll; but such cases are of course extremely rare. The cadet in each class having the highest sum of merit is placed first on the roll, and so onward; and he who is deficient to a certain extent even in the last year, is not permitted to graduate. In estimating the merit in conduct, every neglect or duty, or case of tardiness, being reported against a cadet, and not satisfactorily excused, is charged against him in the roll of demerit, with a number proportioned to its degree of criminality, as  p111 fixed by the regulations. Hence the amount of demerit, on the academic records is not to be considered so much a test of moral as of military character. Each cadet, on graduating, receives a diploma signed by the Superintendent and members of the Academic Board; and his name is presented by the Inspector to the Secretary of War, with a recommendation for a commission in the army, which has in no case hitherto been refused.

The allowance to cadets for pay and rations, is $28 per month; amply sufficient for their comfortable maintenance; including board and clothing, and the purchase of all the books, stationary, and other articles required for their academic course. They are liable to trial by either a garrison or general court-martial, and to any degree of punishment which martial law may prescribe. The use of ardent spirits or tobacco, and all games of chance are strictly forbidden; as also going beyond the limits of the post without permission, or being absent from quarters during the hours of study. Insubordination, and neglect of military duties, or disrespect  p112 towards a superior officer, are among the more serious offences. The cadets are not only required to abstain from all vicious, immoral, or irregular conduct, but they are enjoined on every occasion to conduct themselves as becomes officers and gentlemen, on penalty of dismission from the service. The inmates of each room or tent act in turn as orderlies; and the orderly for the time being is responsible for the police and good order of the room or tent, and for any violation of the regulations which may take place therein. Each room is also visited at least three times every day by the officer in charge, who is one of the assistant instructors of tactics; each performing this duty in his turn. Every cadet is required to attend divine service on the Sabbath, unless excused from duty by the surgeon; and if sick, he is comfortably provided for and attended. Under these and other subordinate regulations, we presume to say, that there is better order and less immoral conduct at West Point, than in almost any college in the United States.

The Author's Notes:

61 Mil. Affairs, II.26.

Thayer's Note: Among these assistant mathematics teachers was Robert E. Lee; the extra duty adversely affected his own studies (Freeman, I, p64).

[decorative delimiter]

62 Military Affairs, II.75, 86.

[decorative delimiter]

63 See Army Regulations of 1821, Article 78.

[decorative delimiter]

64 Military Affairs, II.661.

[decorative delimiter]

65 Mil. Aff. II.30.

[decorative delimiter]

66 Johnson's Report, 7, 8.

Thayer's Notes:

a This papers over what actually happened: see Waugh's West Point, pp63 ff.

[decorative delimiter]

b For some further details on Chaplain McIlvaine, see Freeman's Lee, Vol. I, pp60 and 71; the latter passage also tells us something about Chaplain Warner. The unnamed missionary bishop of Arkansas is Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Leonidas Polk, Class of 1827 — a graduate, although the text above might lead a reader to think he resigned from the Academy — who would serve as a general in the War Between the States.

[decorative delimiter]

c For other cadet reminiscences of Professor Gimbrede, see Latrobe's Reminiscences of West Point, p31; and Francis H. Smith, "West Point Fifty Years Ago", p12 (with further biographical information, including a self-portrait).

[decorative delimiter]

d For details on what merely appears somewhat mystifying here, see Waugh's West Point, pp71‑72.

[decorative delimiter]

d An ambiguous phrase: 89 votes more than the majority required of those voting? or a total of 89 votes, constituting a majority of the votes cast? At the time, the House had 186 members: the latter seems likelier. I've been unable to find a record of the vote.

The abolition of the Academy came up from time to time on the Congressional agenda in the early 19c; Franklin Pierce, the future president, spoke against the Academy in the Senate in 1836, and in 1845, not so long after Park wrote, apparently a very tight contest in the House ensured West Point's survival by just one vote.

[decorative delimiter]

e Still in the future when Park wrote: Robert Anderson, Class of 1825, would be the commanding officer at Fort Sumter when it was fired upon by one of his former artillery students, P. G. T. Beauregard, Class of 1838 — the event now traditionally viewed as the start of the War Between the States.

[decorative delimiter]

f Dupare would be such an unusual French name, Duparc such a common one, and the letters c and e so frequently to mistake, especially in the occasionally pasty printing of the early 19c, that despite the consistently seen spelling Duparc — there seems to be no more information on the man himself than his mere name — I'm inclined to feel it is wrong, and that the source of the error, also perpetuated by Boynton in his History of West Point, is the official register that Park is relying on here. Another possibility would be the even commoner Dupré, often Americanized without its accent.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 6 Mar 13