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HE centenary of the Military Academy, held on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of June, makes interesting the following facts as to its history, organization, and purpose.
It has long been recognized that war cannot be conducted to the best advantage by any people without the possession of military training and knowledge. This education can only be acquired by study and instruction, or by experi ence in the field; the first requires military schools, the second depends upon the existence of a standing army. A large proportion of the people of our country have always been very sensitive with regard to the maintenance of a standing army, yet those responsible for the country's welfare, as a rule, have fully recognized the advantage and desirability of having as wide a dissemination of military knowledge among the people as possible. The establishment of military schools in this country was delayed by a fear of offending the sentiment with regard to a standing army.
The early appreciation of the need for a military school is shown by the action of the Continental Congress in the autumn of 1776. This Congress, on September 20 of that year, appointed a committee to repair to Headquarters near New York, to inquire into the state of the Army, and the best means of supplying its wants." This committee while at the camp conferred with General (then Colonel) Henry Knox, of the artillery,
and received from him, on September 27, "Hints for the improvement of the Artillery of the United States," in which, among many others, is found the following: "An Academy established on a liberal plan would be of the utmost service to the continent, where the whole theory and practice of fortification and gunnery should be taught; to be nearly on the same plan as that at Woolwich, making allowance for the difference of circumstances."
The committee reported on October 3, and one of their recommendations was that the Board of War be directed to prepare a continental laboratory and a military academy, and provide the same with proper officers." On October 1, two days before its committee reported, Congress, being apparently eager for action, "Resolved that a committee of five be appointed to prepare and bring in a plan for a Military Academy at the Army." This committee does not appear to have made any report, and during the active struggles of the Revolution no further measures seem to have been devised to carry out the expressed intention of Congress.
At the termination of the war, Alexander Hamilton, chairman of the Committee on Peace Arrangements, on April 11, 1783, asked of General Washington his opinion as to what ought to constitute a proper peace establishment. Washington invited the opinions of his officers upon the matter. General Huntingdon, Colonel Pick
ering, the Quartermaster-General, and Du Portail, the Chief of Engineers, all recommended the establishment of a military academy, the first two suggesting West Point as the proper location for it. Hamilton at this time did not favor an academy, Washington did.
In 1790, Knox, as Secretary of War, in his report to the President, again dwells upon the great advantages to be had from military schools. In 1793, Washington commended the matter to the favorable action of Congress, it having been previously discussed in a cabinet meeting, at which Jefferson opposed it as unconstitutional. Hamilton and Knox favored it. Washington said that he was so impressed with the necessity for the measure that he would recommend it, and leave Congress to decide its constitutionality.
An act of Congress of May, 1794, provided for a corps of artillerists and engineers to which thirty-two cadets were to be attached, "and made it the duty of the Secretary of War to procure, at the public expense, the necessary books, instruments, and apparatus for the use and benefit of said corps. After this act, and upon the recommendation of Washington, a school was established at West Point in 1794, and continued until the destruction of its plant by fire in 1796. After this fire, Washington again, in December, 1796, urged Congress to provide for the school. In 1798 and 1799, in writing to Hamilton, the then Secretary of War, he again refers to the great importance of a military academy, and only two days before his death he alluded to his own interest and persistent efforts in trying to procure its establishment.
In January, 1800, President Adams sent, with a special message to Congress, a report of William McHenry, the Secretary of War, which report strongly set forth the necessity for a military academy, and fully stated the inadequacy of previous legislation upon the subject, and proposed a plan for a more extensive school. In July, 1801, General Dearborn, the Secretary of War, under authority of the act of 1794, ordered all cadets of the Corps of Artillerists to report to West Point for instruction.
By act of Congress of March 16, 1802, the Engineer Corps was separated from the artillerists, and it was provided that said corps, when organized, shall be stationed at West Point, in the State of New York, and shall constitute a Military Academy." This corps consisted of five officers and ten cadets.
Prior to this date military instruction had been possible, to a limited extent, by executive action under the law, but a military academy had not been constituted by law until the passage of this act. This act of Congress was approved by Jefferson, who no longer questioned the constitutionality of an academy, and the school was formally opened on July 4, 1802, with Major Williams, Chief of Engineers, as superintendent, two teachers, and ten cadets. Washington was a most persistent advocate and one of the principal projectors of the academy; Jefferson was its legal founder, and the first superintendent was the son of the patriot Williams, who presided at the Faneuil Hall meeting to forbid the landing of the tea in Boston.
Notwithstanding the high character, great
ability, and untiring devotion of the first superintendent, the academy was of slow growth. The facilities for instruction were inadequate, interested support of the War Department was lacking, and the superintendent himself was overburdened with other weighty cases, and necessarily much absent from the academy. The first fifteen years of the academy's existence was very torpid. During this time cadets were admitted without mental or physical examinations at ages varying from thirteen to thirty years, and at all times of the year. There were no regular courses of study and no annual classes. The term usually began in April and ended in Novem. ber. The cadets were graduated whenever deemed competent for promotion in the army, and in the first fifteen years less than two hundred were graduated. Notwithstanding the unsatisfactory condition of the academy during these years, many of the cadets who passed through it were greatly benefited. Some entered the academy after having had collegiate training elsewhere; others were of mature age, and came with determined purpose; still others made the most of their opportunities, so that the institution partly met the purpose of its creation. During this time also apparatus and facilities for instruction had increased, buildings improved, and quite excellent and full regulations had been adopted, though they were not enforced.
One of these regulations provided for a permanent superintendent of the academy; and under this clause Major Thayer, of the Corps of Engineers, became superintendent in July, 1817. He was only thirty-two years of age when he assumed the command, was very able and deeply enthusiastic, had studied abroad, and had had valuable field experience in the War of 1812-15. Thayer's conception was thorough discipline in both a mental and military sense, accompanied by the most potent means for the strengthening and development of character, and for the detecion and elimination of the mentally and morally unworthy. The accomplishment of these ends he sought through (1), the establishment of proper courses of study and military exercises, (2) rigid requirements impartially enforced under strict but wise supervision The soundness of his
judgment and the wisdom of his efforts are shown by the marvelous rapidity with which he brought system out of confusion and transformed the then existing conditions.
Fortunately, almost from the beginning of his administration, he had the earnest and enlightened support of the Secretary of War, J. C. Calhoun. Within ten years, Thayer and the able colleagues whom he had gathered around him had introduced and firmly established the essential framework of the system of academic and military instruction which has since prevailed. This system has been the basis of the strict, impartial, salutary, elevating, and disciplinary government ever since existing at the academy. Three-quarters of a most progressive century have elapsed since the period referred to, during all of which the academy has been freely open to investigation, inspection, and modification. Successive companies of her children, able and earnest, have administered her affairs, studied her methods, and eagerly sought for improvement. The system of Thayer has been extended and somewhat modified, but its essential framework has remained the same, and is the support of the developed West Point of to-day.
The Military Academy at present consists of the Corps of Cadets, the Academic Board, and the other officers of the academic and military staff. The total number of cadets now permitted by law at the academy is 482, one from each Congressional district, one from each territory (including Hawaii), and one from the District of Columbia, two from each State at large, and thirty from the United States at large.
MONUMENT TO COLONEL THAYER, FATHER OF THE
appointed by the President; and, with the exception of those appointed from the United States at large, all must be actual residents of the districts from which they are appointed. Those from the United States at large are selected by the President, those from the States at large are selected by the Senators, and those from the Congressional districts and Territories by the respective Representatives in Congress. Under the new apportionment law, which goes into effect in 1903, the number of cadets allowed will be 511. It is thus seen that the Corps of Cadets is perfectly representative of the entire country. This method of making the selection from each Congressional district became a legal requirement in 1843, though it had come into very general use before that date. The actual number of cadets present at the academy is 456, the difference between this number and the maximum being due to deficiencies or failures to enter.
Since the date of Thayer's superintendency the candidates appointed to the Military Academy have had to pass an entrance examination. A law of 1812 provided that the candidates should be "well versed" in reading, writing, and arithmetic. These were the requirements until 1866, when a "knowledge of English grammar, United States history, and geography" was added. No other change was made until after the annual examination of June, 1901. This year, for the first time, candidates who can furnish certificates of graduation from public high schools having a specified curriculum, or who are students in good standing in an incorporated college, may enter without examination; other candidates will still be examined, and for these the requisites for admission have been made to embrace algebra, geometry, general history, English composition, and physical geography. The change from the previous method of admission to that prescribed for the present year is the most radical single change made in the methods of the academy since 1820.
The Academic Board consists of the superintendent of the academy and the heads of the departments of instruction, and corresponds to the faculty of other institutions. The superintendent is charged with the immediate government and military command of the academy, as well as of the post of West Point. The heads of the departments of instruction are ten in number, of whom six are permanently at West Point; the other four, like the superintendent, are detailed to the academy for a period of years. The other officers of the academic staff are the associates and assistants of the heads of the departments in the work of instruction. The military staff is composed of the administrative officers both of the academy and of the post, and at the present time consists of seven officers. The departments of instruction are (1) mathematics, (2) modern language, (3) chemistry, (4) natural and experimental philosophy, (5) drawing, (6) law and history, (7) civil and military engineering, (8) ordnance and gunnery, (9) practical and military engineering, etc., (10) tactics.
The instruction given by departments 9 and 10 is all military and mainly practical, not academic. The instruction of 10 is distributed over the entire course of four years, and that of 9 over the last three years. The instruction given in department 8 is entirely professional; in 7 it is mainly so, and in 6 to a considerable extent; the work of these three departments is confined to the last, or fourth year. Departments 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 occupy by far the greater proportion of the academic hours of the cadets during the first three years. The instruction in department 5 is in part general, but more largely professional.
Department 2 is more largely devoted to the French and Spanish languages, and may be considered as both general and professional. Department 3 embraces some professional instruction, but it, with Nos. 1 and 2, may be considered to include general scientific instruction, strictly professional only in the sense that it afterward becomes the basis of the higher professional work, and is itself of great disciplinary value. Each of the departments embraces several kindred subjects, so that in the ten departments named there are included forty-one distinct but connected subjects of instruction. The cur riculum of studies and the apportionment of time to each is the outcome of the best judgment of the Academic Board, which, under the law, is made responsible for them. This board is aided and influenced by the constant criticism and sug gestions of the many able young officers of the army detailed as instructors, of whom about onefourth or one-fifth are relieved every year and others take their places. The academy too has had the benefit of the investigations and sugges tions of the official boards of visitors, who, for eighty years, have annually reported upon the
From this brief outline of the curriculum it will be observed that while the practical military field exercises are given during each year of the course, and a small amount of theoretical military instruction also, by far the greater proportion of the professional information, that requiring serious mental effort to acquire,-is taken during the fourth year; during the first three years the education is mainly of a general scientific nature, rather than specially professional. The advantage and necessity for this arrangement are due to two facts: (1) The academy was called upon to edu
cate the great majority of its pupils both generally and professionally; (2) it has always attempted what no other school has, to educate scientific soldiers for all branches of the service.
For practical military instruction the Corps of Cadets is organized into a battalion, which is divided into six companies, and these companies
THE ACADEMIC BUILDING,
into still smaller units, depending upon the nature of the instruction. The academic instruction is based upon the use of text-books, oral recitation, and blackboard discussion and demonstration, with a certain amount of written recitation. The time of a single recitation is either one or one and a half hours. For purposes of recitation the classes are all subdivided into sections; for the one-hour periods the sections contain eight to ten cadets; for the longer periods, twelve to fourteen. By this arrangement marked personal attention can be given to each cadet at each recitation. By
a system of transfers the cadets showing about the same proficiency are kept in the same sections, thus greatly facilitating the instruction. All the cadets take the same subjects of study; but the more proficient, or upper, sections generally take considerably more than the lower. Progress of the individual cadets, as fixed by the system of marking, is publicly posted each week. Every cadet is required to pass through all the studies of each of the four years.
The day for academic exercises extends from 8 to 4 o'clock, with one hour's inter