Wednesday, March 16, 2016

BIRTH | Mar. 16–West Point

U.S. Military Academy, West Point
This day in 1802 Congress created the United States Military Academy, which was the first U.S. military academy.  It is located on the Hudson at a town called West Point that was the location of a fort to defend the Hudson Valley against the Redcoats.

In 1780, the West Point fort commander was Gen. Benedict Arnold, who had served the Continental Army well up to then, having captured Fort Ticonderoga.

Gen. Arnold agreed to surrender the fort for £6,000, but his plan was outed. He fled to the Brits and retired in Britain, but his name has ever since been associated with treason.

Ten years after the formation of the Academy, Congress responded to threat of  war with Britain by expanding West Point. From 1817, it was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer, called the “father of West Point”.

West Point became a source of high-quality civil engineers, harking back to the first U.S. general, George Washington, who was a trained surveyor in his private life. It is appropriate that Edgar Jadwin, who graduated first in his class from West Point, would become Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers in 1926-29. A new self-published book has appeared, written by Jadwin's grandson, also named Edgar, about his distinguished military family.

During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the officer corps of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their states.

In 1870, the first African-American cadet was admitted into the U.S. Military Academy, and in 1976, the first female cadets. The academy now has more than 4,000 students and is under the direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army.

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