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This webpage reproduces an article in the
William and Mary Quarterly
3rd Ser., Vol. 2 No. 3 (Jul. 1945), pp273‑285

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p273 The United States Military Philosophical Society, 1802‑1813
Scientia in Bello Pax1
By Sidney Forman*

The United States Military Philosophical Society was organized in November, 1802, at West Point, as one phase of an effort to solve the ever perplexing problem of military policy. Its founding reflected the quickening American nationalism which followed the Revolution. Young America was resentful of English, French, and Spanish connivance for empire threatening her borders; events called for the development of a national defense program. American political leadership faced the dilemma of nurturing native professional skills in the science of war, and at the same time avoiding any semblance of a standing army, considered incompatible with republican government. Tradition and political temper limited any system of preparedness to reliance upon the inadequate militia as a basic component of the armed forces. The now little-known Military Philosophical Society was a keystone in the defense program then evolved. The Society was designed to supplement the educational and scientific activities of the Corps of Engineers2 and the United States Military Academy which had been established just a few months earlier in 1802. These two organizations were expected to train a dependable corps of military technicians and officers; to provide the skillful leadership for the Army. The Military Philosophical Society was to arm the rank and file of the militia with the military science requisite p274for rapid mobilization of a well integrated, effective armed force. All three organizations were linked with the objective of achieving the new United States' deep-seated need for a defense program in keeping with their traditions and for fulfilling the American aspiration for sovereign nationhood.

Jonathan Williams, a grand-nephew of Benjamin Franklin, was the Military Philosophical Society's founder and leading spirit. In many senses the organization was an expression of his character and personality.3 Williams was born in Boston on May 26, 1750, educated there and at Harvard, and completed his training under Benjamin Franklin's guidance. Williams went to London in 1770 and became involved in various commercial ventures which kept him in Europe. During the American Revolution, under Franklin's direction, he participated as a representative of the American government in France. He did not return to the United States until 1785.

Williams evinced an interest in every phase of military art and natural philosophy. He worked with Franklin in several scientific experiments, and published a widely circulated treatise on thermometrical navigation. Other results of his inquiries appeared in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, of which he was at various times secretary, councillor, and vice-president. Thomas Jefferson remarked that Williams resembled his relative Dr. Franklin in many points of character and mind.4 On February 16, 1801, Jefferson appointed Jonathan Williams Inspector of Fortifications and Superintendent of the military post at West Point with the rank of major. When Congress established the Military Academy in March, 1802, Williams, as the ranking engineer at West Point, automatically became the first Academy Superintendent.

Jonathan Williams ordered the officers of the Corps of Engineers at West Point to assemble on November 12, 1802, to discuss his proposals for setting up the United States Military Philosophical Society.5 Articles of organization were unanimously adopted at this first meeting. The Corps of Engineers, including the cadets, were the nucleus and governing body. Officers and cadets of the Corps were members of right; civilians who were American citizens were eligible for membership. Besides the usual roster of officers, the charter members planned to have a Librarian, and a Keeper of the Cabinet who was to "have in his charge and custody p275all productions of nature, and works of Art, that shall be purchased by or presented to the Society. He shall arrange them according to their respective classes in Natural History, Philosophy, etc."

On November 29, 1802, the first permanent officers were elected to serve for one year: President, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Williams; Vice President, Major Decius Wadsworth; Recording Secretary, Lieutenant Simon M. Levy; Corresponding Secretary, Lieutenant James Wilson; Treasurer, Captain Jared Mansfield; and Keeper of the Cabinet, Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph G. Swift. Williams held office as President for the entire period of the Society's existence. Meetings were held twice each month in the Academy Hall at West Point. This was a little frame house, as large as a country school house, and ordinarily occupied by the Academy's classes; its use was authorized by Williams in his role as Superintendent. In numerous ways the Society was completely dependent on the Military Academy. For example, meetings were not held during the long winter vacations of the Academy.

Building the organization was the most serious consideration during the early years of the Society's life. One of the first things done was to solicit the interest and patronage of the President of the United States. A letter sketching the Society's program was addressed to Thomas Jefferson:

West Point, Dec. 12, 1802.

Sir.

The Gentlemen composing the Corps of Engineers, thinking that, besides the duties prescribed to them, as such, it would be the most acceptable service they could at present render to their Country, to select, and preserve as far as possible the Military Science, which must still exist in the different States, among the veterans of our own revolutionary contest, and those of our fellow citizens, who gathered scientific fruits in the course of their travels, have formed a Society, for the purpose of establishing, and perpetuating a repository, as well for such knowledge, as may be furnished by past experience, as for what our Citizens, in any walk of life, may in future acquire.

They feel themselves assured, Sir, that however feeble the attempt may appear, in this infant State of their own institution, yet, to a Character distinguished in the Republic of Science, this very circumstance will be an additional inducement to honor it with the fostering aid of your countenance and protection. Before they presume to enroll your name, among the members of the Society, it was thought desirous to obtain (through their President) an introduction p276of your disposition, so to honour them, and it would highly add to their sense of this honour, if you would permit them to consider the President of the United States as their perpetual Patron. It would be gratifying to the Society, if their Constitution could be made part of an act of incorporation, with such additional clauses as are incidental to, and requisite for, all corporate bodies; but, although the President of the Society has an implied Power, to make an application to Congress; yet he has considered it proper to desist, untill another year shall have added something to the usefulness of the Institution, and given it, from that cause, a better claim to success, unless, in the judgment of those more versed in such matters, it should be thought expedient, to make the attempt now. An answer to meet me in Philadelphia, will be highly gratifying.

I have the honour to be &C.

Jon. Williams P. U. S. M. P. S.

Jefferson approved the project and encouraged this activity of the Corps of Engineers. He replied to Williams:

Wash. Dec. 25, 1802.

I have duly received your favour of the 12th instant. A friend to Science in all its useful Branches, and believing that of the Engineer of great utility, I sincerely approve of the Institution of a Society for its Improvement. From the smallness of our establishment, its numbers will be small for a‑while; but its pursuits being directly in the line of their profession, and entitled to all their time, they may render the Society important and useful. Altho' it is not probable that I may be able to render it any service, yet, I accept thankfully the Patronage you are pleased to propose, and the more justifiably as the perfect coincidence of its objects with the legal duties of the Members, will render the respects shown to the Society always consistent with the duties which I owe to their military Institution. . . .

The Military Philosophical Society was well launched when a dispute arose over Williams' right to command troops other than those attached to his own post at West Point. The Engineers then served as technical consultants with officers of other branches of the service. They were not authorized to command troops. Williams felt that the restriction placed upon the Engineers' authority stemmed from the Revolution when foreign engineers were not trusted to command American troops. To place him in the same category was insulting, and Williams resigned his commission p277on June 20, 1803. This caused a lapse in the continuity of the Society's meetings and disrupted the infant Military Academy.

Thomas Jefferson persuaded Williams to accept a lieutenant-colonelcy in 1805.6 Several concessions were made as to Williams' rights and status. As soon as he reassumed his command at West Point he activated the United States Military Philosophical Society as if it were a branch of the Corps of Engineers. Again in behalf of this Society, he wrote to Jefferson on June 18, 1805:

Among the duties that I felt myself bound to perform on reassuming my station at the head of the Corps of Engineers, that of reviving the United States military philosophical society did not appear to be the least important.

. . . . . . . .

To further the views of this establishment it became necessary and proper to associate it to the most distinguished characters in our country. . . . As this institution is evidently for public benefit, could not a small amount of supply be appropriated from the contingencies of the War department . . . ?

Williams' energetic interest in the Military Philosophical Society seems to have been motivated by several objectives: one was to involve influential individuals in the activities of the Military Philosophical Society for the purposes of that organization; another was to use the Society and its membership as a vehicle to win public support for the Corps of Engineers and the Military Academy. He hoped that if the Society succeeded it would prove that Americans had the capacity to absorb and apply the body of science previously considered the exclusive reserve of the Europeans.7

Jefferson again encouraged the Corps of Engineers' interest in the Military Philosophical Society. In the matter of funds, he rebuffed Williams and advised him that War Department funds were applicable only to objects known to the law. Money was essential, however, and Williams' personal contribution of the income of several shares of Eagle Fire Insurance Company stock helped sustain the Society. At a meeting in May, 1806 it was determined to tax each member five dollars per annum to defray p278expenses. Any surplus was to be used for "the encouragement of the Arts and Sciences, either by premium publicly offered for scientific improvements, or compensation for executed works of art that may be deemed of sufficient merit." This completed the main lines of the Society's organization.

The expressed purpose of the Military Philosophical Society was ". . . promoting Military Science." In practice its program expanded, complementary to that of the Corps of Engineers and the Military Academy, into the broad province of collecting the theoretical and practical military knowledge resulting from the experience of the Revolution; of establishing a library, museum, and archives of military art; of encouraging the publication of military books and the manufacture of models of useful weapons; of stimulating American technical genius by offering a monetary reward for inventions; of promoting the study of natural philosophy and the mathematical sciences; and of fostering internal improvement, commerce, and industry. Its effect was to introduce "a new and scientific character into American life."8

The scope of the Society's scholarly researches is reflected in its archives of technical studies.9 These were read at the meetings by the Engineer officers, with members, including the young cadets, for an audience. The Society's archives reveal West Point as an international center of scientific study, at which the most diverse subjects were eagerly explored. Experiment was a part of the day-to‑day life on the post, not alone for the purposes of the Philosophical Society or for the work of the Corps of Engineers, but often as an expression of the personal interest of the officers stationed at West Point.10 Experiment was employed as a method of teaching the cadets who were immersed in an environment of technical learning. No branch of scientific study was beyond their interest. Williams defended the widely varied subjects brought before the Society and encompassed in the Military Academy's curriculum. He defined military science broadly: "Science is in its own nature so diffuse, that it is almost impossible to designate any dividing lines. Astronomy, geography and mathematics, run into each other at every step. Chymistry and mineralogy are inseparable. The laws of motion, mechanics, and projectiles are also p279interwoven, and in some way or other (although the extreme points may be distant) the gradations become insensible. Military science embraces all these branches. . . ."

At the meeting of June 17, 1806 Williams described his observations of the solar eclipse of the day before. In October, 1806, he read a memoir on the construction of a floating battery; presented a detailed description of the harbor of New York; and an account of experiments made at Wilkinsville in 1801 proving that a musket barrel, reduced to 2 feet 6 inches in length, will send a ball through a 2‑inch oak plank at 180 yards. Major Barron read a paper, on October 6, 1806, relative to the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville; another was read on the fusil of Montalembert, tending to prove the superiority of the gun which is loaded at the breach over the common musket. Its introduction into the armies of the United States was recommended and the Society immediately voted to have a pattern of this gun made in New York.

Many of the papers read were descriptive accounts of official tasks performed by the Engineer officer members. Williams went so far as to promise that "The Corps of Engineers, who have been dispersed over the union, will present to this Society descriptive accounts of all the works they have erected, attended with such observations as their own experience may have suggested." This made the Society practically the official archives of the Corps of Engineers.11 For example, at the meeting of October 9, 1806 Williams ordered placed with the Society's records a report relative to the Corps of Engineers and the Military Academy of the United States. A letter from Major Wadsworth to Colonel Williams on the same subject accompanied the report. A General Return of Fortifications from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, collected from reports of their commanding officers by Jonathan Williams, was also placed in the Society's archives. The report for West Point is unique in its detailed description of the Revolutionary works. This was prepared by Williams himself:

West Point is a projection of the West Side of Hudson's River, so as to form with the upper reach almost a right angle, and totally commanding it in a direction due north; on the lower side it projects sufficiently for the battery, at the Point to command the other reach in a southern direction. p280On this Point stands the remains of Fort Clinton in which is a Magazine of two hundred feet long by twenty feet wide, the outside is built of stone and it is lined within with timber and plank. It has a covering of two or three feet thick of earth within the roof resting upon a floor of two layers of timber placed close together. Fort Putnam bears about southwest from Fort Clinton distance fifty chains or five eighths of a mile on an almost inaccessible height except where the road is made. It commands all the country in front and on the right and left. The fort has the appearance of ruin although the front part of it was rebuilt with increased height in 1795; in this part there are five or six small casements or bomb proofs, and the foundations of several more, but owing to the unfinished state in which it was left when the apprehensions of a war with Britain ceased the mortar has washed out from the joints and it is going fast to decay. The form of the fort is very irregular. The rude shape of the rock on which it stands must have superseded every consideration as to principalsº of fortification. It has eight salients and as many reentering angles, some of which are acute and some obtuse, while one part is a curve. In the rear of Fort Putnam nearly west distance forty chains is the remains of a redoubt which commands it. There are several other positions on the hills which are only distinguishable as engravings of redoubts and which form a chain of support.12

The report went on to enumerate the various buildings on the Point and their occupants.

On October, 1807 Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph G. Totten presented plans drawn by him of the Indiana territory and a "plan of the ancient works at Marietta"; Professor Francis D. Masson presented a "course of lectures on field and permanent fortifications." This was a part of his ambitious program of translating into English "all that is known in Europe" on the subject of engineering. Williams later read "an account of the Heights of the Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountains in Virginia measured by the barometer, to which is added Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Alden Partridge's Barometrical measurement of the Highlands on the North River."

Perhaps one of the most significant reports ever delivered to the Society was read by Professor Ferdinand R. Hassler. In 1807 he presented a memoir on Gallatin's Report on Canals which led the way to the Coast Survey of the United States.13 In later p281years, when Hassler became first Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, it was proposed to employ cadets as part of his technical staff.14

By 1807 the United States Military Philosophical Society was well established and of national importance. A growing membership roll, enhanced prestige, and Williams' driving enthusiasm caused the organization to extend its practical activities. The members resolved to hold occasional meetings elsewhere, measures were taken to extend the Society's membership, and the rules were amended to admit foreigners. New forces were brought into the leadership: William Popham, a former aide to General Steuben, was then elected Treasurer; and General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina accepted the Vice-Presidency and represented the Society's interests in the South. Although West Point continued as the official home of the Society, meetings were held in New York's City Hall with Mayor DeWitt Clinton in attendance; Washington meetings were held at the War Office.

A series of papers presented to the Military Philosophical Society in 1810 by Captain Alden Partridge of the academic staff of the Military Academy are of particular interest. These included the results of meteorological observations, barometrical measurements of the heights of the Catskill Mountains, and experiments in the fire of artillery and infantry made at West Point.15 The Military Academy cadets were active participants in these studies. A group of them had accompanied Captain Partridge on his Catskill expedition to the town of Windham in Greene County. The infantry and artillery fire experiments had been submitted by Captain Partridge to the Secretary of War "to guide his judgment in their [the cadets'] acquirements in the art of Gunnery." One test ascertained the number of shots a line of infantry would be liable to receive from artillery in marching over a given distance; another determined the time in which a field piece could be loaded with loose ball and fired a given number of times. Four and six pounders were used. A third experiment established the time in which a given number of ball cartridges could be fired. There were others.

The collection of technical books was a most important object of the Society. Scientific works were treasured and the Corps of Engineers and the cadets had access to the richest collection of p282technical books in the United States. They had the use of Williams' private collection, much of which was inherited from the library of Benjamin Franklin. Other Engineer officers stationed at West Point had private libraries. The Military Academy had a small library of books purchased with government funds. This included, for example, a ten-volume work of Montalembert16 which was then the only known copy in America. The Society's library consisted largely of gifts: General John Armstrong, minister to France, presented it with Jomini's Traité de Grande Tactique; it received such authors as Bacon, Newton, Marshal Saxe, Vignola, Villeneuve, and other books and pamphlets on mathematics, fortification, architecture, and natural science. The library also included an extensive manuscript collection. One of its most valued items was Captain Richard Whiley's gift of eight manuscript volumes representing all the orders issued by General Anthony Wayne during his campaign against the Indians.

The United States Military Philosophical Society sponsored several publications of its own. Major Alexander Macomb's treatise on martial law, which, it claimed, was the first full-length study of the subject published in this country, was one of these which became a standard work and was placed in all garrisons by government order.17 An anonymous essay on the "Military Constitution of Nations" was published in the National Intelligencer and then reprinted in pamphlet form in 1808.18 It also published a study of the use of horse artillery written by General Kosciuszko and translated by Jonathan Williams.19 The cost of its publication was met by the sale of copies to the War Department and to the states of New York and Virginia. American military men were avidly interested in this subject.

The Society's endorsement or acceptance of a scientific work gave it validity and authority and possibly enhanced its sales value. When Zebulon Montgomery Pike published his An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, he asked for and received permission to dedicate the book to the President and members p283of the United States Military Philosophical Society.20 Major Pike included a reference to his membership in the "U. S. M. P. S." on his title page. The book became a guide for a westward moving nation. Major Pike presented the Society with an escopet, a Spanish cavalry carbine. Tobias Lear, the United States consul at Algiers, contributed a Turkish fowling piece, its shot pouch, powder flask and charger. Many such objects were received by the Society.

Several Europeans corresponded with the Society. M. Du Buc de Marentille sent a description of his inventions to save people wrecked at sea; the Prince of Neuchatel transmitted several maps, "a plan of the late siege of Danzig, and three of the celebrated battles of Prussian Eylau . . . ."

The Society eventually numbered in its membership the most distinguished men in the United States. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, John Marshall, DeWitt Clinton, Thomas Cushing, Benjamin Latrobe, Robert Fulton, Eli Whitney, Joel Barlow, Clement Biddle, Bushrod Washington, and a host of leading Americans were listed on its rolls. It united such diverse characters as Nathaniel Smith of Dartmouth College; Professor John Williams of Harvard; David Ramsey, the historian of South Carolina; Samuel L. Mitchel, professor of natural history, of New York; and John Allen, a Litchfield, Connecticut lawyer. The army, navy, marine corps, and the militia were well represented. Edward Preble, the hero of Tripoli, who carried the war to the Barbary pirates, was an honored member. William Bainbridge, Stephen Decatur, Charles Stewart, Isaac Hull, and many other young officers who distinguished themselves in the struggle with the British navy during the War of 1812 and Louis de Tousard,a who came from France to serve in both the continental and United States armies, and Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, advisor of Kosciuszko and Polish patriot, were carried on the rolls.

The United States Military Philosophical Society's existence was brought to an end by Williams' second resignation from the army and the outbreak of the War of 1812. Williams resigned from the United States army to join the forces of his native state because he was refused command of Castle Williams on Governor's Island in New York Harbor. Having built that work, he felt entitled to the position. The disruptive effect of the war scattered the Engineer officers to their posts, making regular Society meetings impossible. The last recorded session of the Society p284was held on November 1, 1813 at Washington Hall in New York City. Its funds were transferred to the New York Lyceum of Natural History.21 Only one vote was cast against its dissolution, that of Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sylvanus Thayer.22 It is obvious that Captain Thayer was even then engrossed in the field of military technical education, in which he was later to exhibit his genius as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy.

The contribution made by the Society to scientific thinking in American life and more particularly to the technical proficiency of the Corps of Engineers in the War of 1812, and to the success of American arms is attested by the facts.23 The Chief of the Corps of Engineers was Joseph G. Swift, the first graduate of the United States Military Academy. He was active in the Society, an intimate friend of Williams, and Chief Engineer following Williams' resignation. The Lieutenant Colonel of the Corps was Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Walker Keith Armistead, the third graduate, who planned the defenses of Norfolk. Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William McRee, Chief Engineer to General Brown, constructed the fortifications at the Fort Erie which cost the British General Gordon Drummond the loss of half his army. Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Eleazer Darby Wood of New York constructed Fort Meigs, which enabled Harrison to defeat the attack of Proctor in May, 1813. Captain Joseph Gilbert Totten of New York was Chief Engineer to General Izard at Plattsburg, where he directed the fortifications that stopped the advance of Prevost's great army. As a matter of fact, none of the works constructed by a graduate of West Point during Williams' superintendency was captured by the enemy.

There were other men influenced by Williams' West Point training and the Philosophical Society: Alden Partridge, founder of the Norwich Military Academy and many other schools, who p285probably did more than any other individual to introduce military instruction and exercises in school not national or professionally military;24 and Sylvanus Thayer, Superintendent of the United States Military Academy from 1817 to 1833, whose character and skillful leadership established the pattern of the modern Military Academy at West Point.

Jonathan Williams directed the trend of development and curriculum content of the United States Military Academy to make that institution the first engineering school in America and for many years the only one. He set a standard for the Corps of Engineers which attracted to it some of the best minds of the country. His Military Philosophical Society taught America that independence in technical skills, including military art, had to be striven for and achieved before political independence was secure.


The Author's Notes:

1 This motto was inscribed on an engraved diploma distributed to all Philosophical Society members. Jonathan Williams, the Society's founder, translated it "Science in war is the guarantee of peace."

Quotations are from The United States Military Philosophical Society, MS. Minutes and Records, Membership Lists, Correspondence and Papers Written for the Society, 1802‑1813, in four volumes. The manuscript is owned by the New York Historical Society and used with their kind permission. Quotations from other sources are cited. Manuscripts used at the Lib. of Congress, and at the Lib. of the U. S. Military Academy are so indicated.

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* Corporal Sidney Forman, DEML, West Point Military Academy, has received his master's degree at Columbia and is working on his dissertation in history. At present he is engaged in writing a full-length history of the Military Academy.

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2 The Corps of Engineers and the Military Academy were then peculiarly related by law; they were in fact a single institution. The Act of Congress dated March 16, 1802 read, "That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and empowered, when he shall deem it expedient, to organize and establish a Corps of Engineers . . . . That the said Corps when so organized, shall be stationed at West Point, in the State of New York, and shall constitute a Military Academy."

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3 Mildred E. Lombard, Jonathan Williams, Dic. Am. Biog., XX, 280‑82; George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy (New York, 1879), I, 58.

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4 MS. 1301. Memoirs of Joseph G. Swift, U. S. M. A. Library.

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5 Present were Decius Wadsworth, William A. Barron, Jared Mansfield, James Wilson, Alexander Macomb, Joseph G. Swift, Simon M. Levy, Walker K. Armistead, and Joseph G. Totten. Williams led the discussion.

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6 Date of commission, April 19, 1805.

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7 Williams stated his belief that, "The theories of Europe are undoubtedly the basis of a military education. But, the practice of our own warriors in our own country, the experience and observation of men, who have had local circumstances in view, are far more essential. With this knowledge we may be able, in case of invasion, to renew the scenes of Saratoga and York."

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8 Henry Adams, A History of the United States of America (New York, 1889‑1891), IX, 235‑36. Adams wrote that American scientific engineering ". . . owed its efficiency and almost its existence to the military school at West Point established in 1802." He made no mention of the Military Philosophical Society. More than likely, he knew nothing about it.

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9 Many of these studies are included in the Society's records in toto. Others are merely mentioned by title.

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10 Swift Papers, U. S. M. A. In a letter to J. G. Swift, dated April 24, 1804, Jonathan Williams writes to encourage Swift's astronomical studies at West Point.

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11 This fact vastly enhances the value of the Society's records. The archives of the Corps of Engineers and of the United States Military Academy for the years before the War of 1812 were probably destroyed in a fire at West Point in 1838. The papers of the Society complete the records of the Corps of Engineers available at the National Archives and make possible a detailed study of the early Military Academy.

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12 Fort Clinton and Fort Putnam have been partially restored. Traces of the redoubts may still be seen in the hills.

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13 MS. 1301. Memoirs of J. G. Swift, U. S. M. A.

Thayer's Note: For Prof. Hassler and the early history of the Coast Survey, see Adm. L. O. Colbert, "Hitching Our Country to the Stars" (SciM 65:372 f.).
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14 Cf. letter from Capt. Alden Partridge to the Secretary of War, July 6, 1817. Hitchcock Papers, Lib. of Cong., "I am informed that it is contemplated to employ several of the young Gentlemen from the Academy upon the grand survey of the Coast under the direction of Mr. Hassler."

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15 Captain Partridge published a detailed account of these experiments in a Philadelphia publication, The Home Journal and Citizen Soldier, of January, 1844. He tells of having repeated these experiments in 1814. From The Bucks County Historical Society Collection.

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16 Marquis Marc René de Montalembert, La Fortification Perpendiculaire . . . (Paris, 1776‑1793).

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17 Alexander Macomb, A Treatise on Martial Law and Courts-Martial; As Practised in The United States of America, Published by Order of the United States Military Philosophical Society (Charleston, S. C., 1809). This was based on an English study of the same subject by Alexander Fraser Tytler, published in 1800.

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18 A Short Essay on the Military Constitution of Nations, Communicated to the U. S. Military Philosophical Society, and Published by Their Order . . . (New York, 1808).

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19 Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Manoeuvres of Horse Artillery, by General Kosciuszko, Written at Paris in the Year 1800 . . . tr., with notes and descriptive plates, by Jonathan Williams (New York, 1808).

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20 Zebulon Montgomery Pike, An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi and Through the Western Parts of Louisiana to the sources of the Arkansaw, Kans, La Platte, and Pierre Jaun Rivers . . . In the Year 1807 (Philadelphia, 1810).

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21 Herman LeRoy Fairchild, History of the New York Academy of Sciences (New York, 1887), 109‑12. The Society's books and papers seem to be dispersed between the New York Historical Society and the United States Military Academy. The location of its museum collection has not as yet been discovered.

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22 MS. 1301. Memoirs of J. G. Swift, U. S. M. A. Library. Swift notes that he regretted the dissolution. Captain Thayer was a distinguished young Engineer officer. He had been actively interested in the Society since his graduation from the Military Academy in 1808. He became Superintendent of the United States Military Academy in 1817.

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23 Henry Adams, Hist. of the U. S., IX, 235‑36. Adams offered the opinion that "had an engineer been employed at Washington by Armstrong and Winder, the city would have been easily saved." He concluded with a tribute: "Perhaps without exaggeration the West Point Academy might be said to have decided next to the navy the result of the war . . . . During the critical campaign of 1814, the West Point engineers doubled the capacity of the little American army for resistance . . . ." The "West Point Academy" includes of course the Corps of Engineers and the United States Military Philosophical Society.

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24 This conclusion is reached by Henry Barnard in an editorial comment on the report of the Board of Visitors for 1863. See American Journal of Education, XIII, or New Ser. III (1863), 688.


Thayer's Note:

a French military engineer Louis de Tousard came close to being the founder of the Military Academy. His background and his proposal (1798) for a military school are examined in some detail in "The Forgotten 'Founder' of West Point", Military Affairs 24:177‑188.


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