Tag Archives: USMA

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.

“The Million Dollar View” from Trophy Point at the USMA, an easy way to see why West Point was the key to the Hudson River Valley in 1778.

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.

More here.

It’s never too late to return library books

From the USMA library at West Point:

These books were returned to us this week by the son of a former faculty member who taught in the Department of Economics, Government, and History from 1956-1962. These books predate formal departmental libraries and were likely office copies that were packed up with his belongings when he departed in 1962.

188 years ago this week: West Point torn apart by the Eggnog Riot

(Note- This article pulled from an article of mine over at Guns.com)

Things got a ittle more out of hand than what this historic painting of the event dipistc. In fact, there was a gooog bit of both swordplay and gunfire from the rowdy cadets.

Things got a little more out of hand than what this historic painting of the event depicts. In fact, there was a good bit of both swordplay and gunfire from the rowdy cadets.

You wouldn’t know it by visiting the campus today, but in 1826, the United States Military Academy at West Point was the scene of an all-out holiday riot — over eggnog.

The U.S. Army of the time was much different from the force we know currently. Besides numbering just 6,000 regulars spread across coastal defense and frontier forts in the 24 states of the Union, a staple of the day was a regular alcohol ration for soldier and officer. This even extended to the Military Academy at West Point, that was, until 1817 when Colonel Sylvanus Thayer took over the facility.

Thayer banned the possession of booze but made an allowance for the regular Christmas eggnog, which, in a tradition that heralded back to the Revolutionary War, was liberally spiked with whiskey. However as the holiday approached in 1826, Thayer likewise ordered that the coming bash would feature unadulterated ‘nog sans the alcohol.

This didn’t sit too well with a number of the 260 cadets, many of whom would soon leave the following spring for hard service on the frontier and were eagerly awaiting the upcoming festivities. Several left campus and traveled to nearby taverns to obtain a few gallons of whiskey and at least one of rum, which they snuck back to the Academy with the help of an enlisted guard.

By Christmas Eve night, cadets were found wandering the grounds, singing, making merry, and sleeping in odd places. This degenerated into an ever-growing campaign that eventually involved as many as 90 cadets by morning to include Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and possibly Robert E. Lee, who went on respectively to become the only President of the Confederate States and future commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

When regular Army officers assigned as instructors to the school attempted to restore order, they were met with resistance, broken windows, and even a few assaults on the more disliked of the school staff — one of whom was hit with a log. At least one fake reveille was sounded and cadets attempted to sign out a number of other musical instruments. A good bit swordplay also ensued, which, luckily, caused no fatalities.

When the smoke cleared, a large part of the barracks used by the cadets was in ruins and 19 students as well as the enlisted man who allowed the whiskey past his guard post in the first place were brought up on charges. In the end, 11 cadets were dismissed from the service for their part in the riot and the soldier was given one month at hard labor.

The cadets involved were mainly from the South and included at least two future Confederate Army generals: Brig. Gen Benjamin G. Humphreys from Mississippi (expelled, readmitted, graduated class of ’28 and later led “Humphreys’ Brigade” from Antietam to Appomattox) as well as Brig. Gen Hugh W. Mercer from Virginia (expelled over the riot, readmitted, graduated 3 of 33 in the class of ’28, and led “Mercer’s Brigade” at Kennesaw Mountain and the Battle of Atlanta).

President John Quincy Adams later commuted many of the sentences passed by the courts marshal on Thayer’s recommendation. Those implicated but not punished included future U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Archibald Campbell (who later went on to be Jeff Davis’s Asst Sect’y of War) and overall, the academy has distanced itself from the event over the past two centuries.

“Years have passed since the cadets overindulged on eggnog, but the moral of their story is still applicable,” wrote Carol S. Funck of the U. S. Army’s Heritage and Education Center’s page on the Eggnog Riot. “Too much of the ‘good stuff’ can lead to serious consequences. So remember this story as the holiday parties approach; let’s not let one night of fun alter our future as nineteen West Point cadets had.”

Col. Thayer's statue.

Col. Thayer’s statue.

As for Thayer, he left the Academy in 1833 over a disagreement with President Andrew Jackson. Nevertheless, he returned for good after his death and is interned on campus where a statue has long been placed to remember the strict Colonel.

There is no word on if cadets from time to time leave eggnog for him.

Happy holidays.


West Point Should be at least as good as ROTC

Tom Ricks takes a look at the military training accorded to college ROTC units, whose officers get reserve commisions, to the United States Military Academy at West Point, whose members get regular commisions and the lineage of the ‘long grey line.’

“Sir, West Point is the only place in the country where it is not only legal, but mandated, that 18 year old boys hide their dirty underwear … and 30 year old men go looking for it.” (For the record, he was referring to barracks inspections conducted by the “tactical officers” who oversee the cadets.) Of course, all of this is belied by the nearly instantaneous sentiment of nostalgic gilding applied by 95 percent of new Lieutenants the moment they see Highland Falls disappearing in their rear-view mirrors. But the bottom line about military training at USMA came as a shock to me…there is practically none, and what there is, is limited.

The rest of the article here

University of TN ROTC combat training….