On this historic day, March 16, 1802, the United States Military Academy is established at West Point


The United States Military Academy at West Point, which has trained generations of American leaders to serve from the battlefield to the White House, was established on this historic day, March 16, 1802.

Its graduates paved America’s way west and humanity’s way to the heavens.

The creation of the academy was part of the Military Peacemaking Act, introduced by Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Varnum and signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson.

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“Congress has established a separate corps of engineers to be located at West Point, New York, and has constituted it as a military academy with the chief engineer serving as superintendent,” writes the US Army Corps of Engineers website. .

“This action, taken at a time when the overall size of the Army was shrinking, placed the Corps on a permanent footing and capped a quarter century of effort to provide professional training for officers.”

View from West Point. George Washington chose Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of Saratoga’s heroes, to design the fortifications at West Point in 1778. President Thomas Jefferson established the United States Military Academy in 1802. Engraving by Milbert. Universal panorama. History of the United States of America, according to the 1st edition of the United States of America by Jean BG Roux de Rochelle in 1837. (PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The United States Military Academy opened on July 4. Massachusetts native Joseph Gardner Swift was the first graduate.

West Point, as it is commonly known, is today the world’s premier military training institute and also one of its top engineering schools.

The academy attracts the best and brightest young American patriots from coast to coast.

“West Point graduates designed nearly all of America’s first railroads, roads, and bridges, as it was the nation’s only engineering school until 1824.” — American Battlefield Trust

“West Point graduates designed nearly all of America’s first railroads, roads, and bridges, as it was the nation’s only engineering school until 1824,” writes the American Battlefield Trust.

West Point graduates in the 20th century proved essential to NASA’s space program. Two of the three astronauts on Apollo 11, the first mission to land humans on the lunar surface, were West Point graduates: command module pilot Michael Collins (Class of 1952) and moonwalker Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin ( 1951).

Crew members of NASA's Apollo 11 lunar landing mission pose for a group portrait weeks before launch, May 1969. From left, Commander Neil Armstrong and West Point graduates, pilot of the command module Michael Collins and the pilot of the lunar module Edwin "buzz" Aldrine Jr.

Crew members of NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar landing mission pose for a group portrait weeks before launch in May 1969. From left, Commander Neil Armstrong and West Point graduates, the Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrine Jr. (Space Frontiers/Getty Images)

West Point is strategically located on a dramatic West Bank bluff overlooking a bend in the Hudson River, approximately 60 miles north of New York City.

The river is navigable to Albany, about 100 miles further north, which added to the waterway’s strategic importance during the independence struggle.

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The British saw control of the Hudson as a means of driving a wedge between New England and the rest of the colonies. West Point stood in the way of their ambitions.

“West Point played a major role in the history of our nation during the American Revolution,” writes the United States Military Academy in its online history.

The engraving shows United States Army officer Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), seated at a table, as he hands over papers to British officer John Andre (1750-1780) during the American Revolutionary War , mid to late 18th century.  Arnold officially switched sides and joined the British.

The engraving shows United States Army officer Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), seated at a table, as he hands over papers to British officer John Andre (1750-1780) during the American Revolutionary War , mid to late 18th century. Arnold officially switched sides and joined the British. (Archive Edit)

“Soldiers of the American Continental Line built forts, gun batteries, redoubts, and set up a 65-ton iron chain across the Hudson to block British invasions along the river.”

West Point is “the first in magnitude and importance … and in all probability the real (object) of the enemy’s designs”, wrote General George Washington as the British made probing attacks up the river.

“West Point played a major role in our nation’s history during the American Revolution.” – United States Military Academy

The garrison was the center of perhaps the most infamous act of treason in American history.

Major General Benedict Arnold, a hero of the early years of the American Revolution, offered to trade West Point with the Redcoats in 1780 for £20,000.

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His treachery was discovered, West Point was saved, and British conspirator Major John Andre was captured and executed.

United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, circa 1915, vintage photograph.

United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, circa 1915, vintage photograph. (Educational Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Arnold fled to England, his name forever tarnished in America.

The ignominious act only reinforced the importance placed on West Point by military commanders on both sides of the conflict.

Coupled with its location on a major transportation avenue and its proximity to New York City – rapidly becoming the nation’s largest city – West Point was an obvious choice for the site of the United States Military Academy.

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West Point has produced a long list of the country’s most famous military officers. Among them: “Buffalo Soldier” Henry O. Flipper (Class of 1877), the academy’s first black graduate; World War I American Expeditionary Force leader, General John J. Pershing (1886); and World War II hero George S. Patton (1909).

Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee (1829) and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (1846), two of the most skilled battlefield commanders in American history, were also West Point graduates. Lee served as superintendent of the United States Military Academy from 1852 to 1855.

Future General and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), on the football field during his time as a military cadet at West Point Academy, New York, 1912. Eisenhower (Class of 1915) played football at West Point with classmate and future WWII general Omar Bradley.

Future General and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), on the football field during his time as a military cadet at West Point Academy, New York, 1912. Eisenhower (Class of 1915) played football at West Point with classmate and future WWII general Omar Bradley. (FPG/File Photos//Getty Images)

West Point has produced 83 Medal of Honor recipients, more than any other institution of higher learning, and two U.S. presidents.

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Ulysses S. Grant (1843) led the Union Army to victory in the Civil War and served as President from 1869 to 1877.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1915) was Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II and served as President from 1953 to 1961.

West Point is today the oldest continuously occupied regular army post in the United States.

It has about 4,400 students and produces about 900 lieutenants each year, or about 20% of the new officers required each year by the army.

United States Military Academy graduating cadets celebrate at the end of their commencement ceremonies, June 13, 2020, in West Point, New York.

United States Military Academy graduating cadets celebrate at the end of their commencement ceremonies, June 13, 2020, in West Point, New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)

“Since the day of its founding on March 16, 1802, West Point has grown in size and stature, but it remains committed to the task of producing commissioned character leaders for the United States Army,” the Military Academy proclaims online. the United States.

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“Guided by its timeless motto, ‘Duty, Honor, Country,’ the Academy stands ready to confidently provide the military and the nation with its third century of service.”


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