Today, I'm focusing a bit on our amazing military here in the US and paying tribute to the 116th anniversary of the US Military Academy at West Point. I live surrounded by six (6) military installations here in Colorado Springs: Fort Carson (army), NORAD, Cheyenne Mtn. Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, US Air Force Academy. Even though I can only claim military connections through my father and grandfathers, I am immersed in the military world. With the recent graduation season and our celebration of Memorial Day, I thought it fitting to honor the oldest established military installation in the country.
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West Point: U.S. Military Academy (USMA)!
|Academy in 1828. All structures
depicted here are now gone.
The history of the United States Military Academy can be traced to buildings constructed on the West Point of the Hudson River during the American Revolutionary War in 1778. I featured this general area in my second book, Quills & Promises, which took place during the French & Indian War. Following the Revolutionary War, President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy (USMA) on that very site in 1802.
|Dean's House and Professor Row
in background, circa 1870
The Connecticut militia first occupied West Point on January 27, 1778, making it the longest continually occupied post in the United States. The Continental Army occupied the land for twelve years until Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton authorized the purchase of the land for $11,085 in 1790. It was as commander of the fortifications at West Point that Benedict Arnold committed his infamous act of treason when he attempted to sell the fort to the British.
George Washington realized a need for a national military academy to teach the art and science of war, but his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson argued there was no provision in the Constitution that allowed for such a thing. Many in the Congress also feared establishing a Military Academy as too aristocratic. American military failures in frontier-fighting motivated Congress to improve the instruction at West Point, but little resulted due to a lack of qualified instructors.
By the time John Adams left office in 1801, the Corps consisted of only twelve cadets and one instructor. Despite his earlier misgivings, when Jefferson became president, he called for and signed legislation establishing a "Corps of Engineers" which "shall be stationed at West Point and constitute a Military Academy" on June 9, 1802.
The early years of the academy were a tumultuous time, with few standards for admission or length of study. Cadets ranged in age from 10 to 37 and attended between 6 months to 6 years. In 1817, Sylvanus Thayer became the Superintendent of the Academy. He is known as the "Father of the Military Academy." He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline, and emphasized honorable conduct. He also created a teaching method known today as the Thayer Method, which emphasizes self study and daily homework, as well as small class size. This method of instruction is still used today.
|Hayes Gym built in 1910, still in use
For the first half century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads. This tradition continues today in the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Although no graduate of the Academy has made general officer rank at the start of the War with Mexico, by the time of the Civil War, nearly every general officer of note from either side was a graduate of West Point.
Some famous graduates of the Academy are: Robert E. Lee (1829), Ulysses S. Grant (), Willard Young (1875), George Washington Goethals (1880), John J. Pershin (1886), Douglas MacArthur (1903), Joseph Stilwell (1904), Henry "Hap" Arnold (1907), George S. Patton (1909), Dwight D. Eisenhower & Omar Bradley (both 1915).
Although the challenge of wars and changing education in America caused West Point to struggle at times, the Academy managed to rise above by adapting its curriculum to include a greater emphasis on history and humanities, and by expanding its infrastructure on the grounds, tearing down most of the old buildings and rebuilding. By 1933, the title of Bachelor of Science was given to all graduates.
|Academy Coat of Arms
Following the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service in 1947 and until the graduation of the first United States Air Force Academy class in 1959, West Point cadets who met the eligibility standards could apply to be commissioned as Air Force officers.
To this day, West Point remains one of the most prestigious military academies in the United States. I have no doubt this will continue.
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NOW IT'S YOUR TURN:
* Do you know anyone who has attended and/or graduated from West Point?
* Has anyone in your family ever served in any branch of the military at any time? Which branch and when did they serve?
* Have you ever attended an Army/Navy game, the biggest sports rivalry in the military?
* What did you like most about today's post?
Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out. She is also an educational consultant with Usborne Books.
She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and Nova, their Shiba Inu mix, in Colorado. She has sold twenty (21) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, and LinkedIn.