The Long Gray Line and their endless gold bands
Occupied by the Continental Army in 1778, the strong point in a sharp S-bend above the Hudson River at West Point, New York was considered a strategic key to the region– which is why one of Washington’s most trusted generals, known then as “America’s Hannibal,” given command of the garrison there the next year.
Following the war, West Point was one of the few military installations retained by a cash-poor Congress, and by 1794, new cadet artillerists and engineers were being trained there. That made it a logical place to establish the U.S. Military Academy in 1801, some 43 years prior to Annapolis opening its doors. The first class, consisting of Joseph Gardner Swift (later, Colonel) and Simeon Magruder Levy, matriculated in 1802.
Fast forward to the USMA’s bicentennial in 2002, and the West Point Association of Graduates assisted with a plan in which class rings worn by past cadets were donated, melted, and mixed into the gold used for the new rings of the rising First Class cadets.
The tradition continues today, with the most recent Ring Melt ceremony saw the 575th vintage ring recycled to help cast the new rings for the 2020 Class.