United States Military Academy byname WEST POINT ACADEMY, institution of higher education for the training of commissioned officers for the U.S. Army

The land occupied by the old part of the reservation belonged to the British crown. The first settlement probably dates from 1723, when a royal grant was made to Charles Congreve. Another portion of the reservation was patented to John Moore in 1747. Although West Point had been occupied continuously by troops since 1779, it did not become government property until 1790, when at the request of its owner, Stephen Moore, congress appropriated the money for its purchase. Subsequent acquisitions were made from time to time until by 1943 the reservation comprised approximately 14,000 acres.

On June 3, 1784, Congress recommended to the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, that 700 men be furnished by these States, "for securing and protecting the northwestern frontiers of the United States and for garrisoning the posts soon to be evacuated by the troops of his Britannic Majesty. The term of service was to be one year, with the organization comprised of eight companies of infantry and two of artillery. The officers were selected from the several states represented, with Lieutenant Colonel Josiah Harmar of Pennsylvania as commandant. This was the beginning not only of the First Infantry, but of the Regular United States Army. These companies were stationed on the very out skirts of civilization, entirely bereft of all comforts of life, and constantly engaged in protecting the growing settlements from the attacks of Indians. During the succeeding five years, this frontier force was maintained by an annual resolution of Congress, not until 1789, was it legally declared to be troops in the service of the United States, given the designation .... "The Regiment of Infantry."

In the Fall of 1790, under the Command of Josiah Harmar, the small force of soldiers were defeated by the Miami Indians in the Ohio Territory.

The Buffalo Soldiers were never attached or assigned to the First Battalion, First Infantry, but they provided enlisted support to the Corps of Cadets. The Buffalo Soldiers ' assets were later partially absorbed by the 1802d Special Regiment, and subsequently absorbed by the First Battalion, First Infantry. The present day Headquarters and Headquarters Company and enlisted barracks of the 1st of the 1st were built for and utilized by the Buffalo Soldiers. Following is a brief history of their conception until their assignment to the United States Military Academy.

It was originally founded as a school for the U.S. Corps of Engineers on March 16, 1802, and is one of the oldest service academies in the world. Framed by the Hudson Highlands and poised above the Hudson River, the academy currently occupies about 16,000 acres (6,000 hectares) of Orange county, N.Y., 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City. Although the site of West Point had been occupied continuously by troops since 1778, it did not become U.S. government property until 1790, when at the request of its owner, Stephen Moore, Congress appropriated the money for its purchase. Subsequent acquisitions were made from time to time.

At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, both the colonists and the British had recognized the importance of gaining possession of the Hudson River valley, and West Point became the strategic key to its defense. General George Washington established his headquarters there in 1779. In 1780 Major General Benedict Arnold, who was then in command at West Point, attempted to betray it to the British; but his treason was discovered and he fled to the enemy.

The founding of an American military school had been proposed by General Henry Knox in 1776, and Washington and Alexander Hamilton had repeatedly urged adoption of the plan, but it was not until March 16, 1802, that Congress passed the act establishing the United States Military Academy at West Point. The academy opened on July 4, 1802.

Before 1812 it was conducted as an apprentice school for military engineers and, in effect, as the first U.S. school of engineering. During its early years, however, the institution suffered from lack of proper organization and discipline. An act of Congress of April 29, 1812, reorganized the academy and increased the authorized strength of the corps of cadets to 250, expanded the staff of the academy, and established a four-year curriculum. This legislative goal was not effective until the superintendency of Colonel Sylvanus Thayer (1817-33), who had been sent to Europe to study military schools there. Thayer became known as the "father of the military academy" because of his lasting influence upon the West Point physical plant, the library, the curriculum, and the pedagogical method, assumed the superintendency, and reorganized the academy so effectively that the fundamental features of its instruction and discipline remained essentially the same at the time of World War II. In 1952 the Military academy observed the sesquicentennial of its founding.

Under Thayer's leadership the academy produced military technicians whose skills were adaptable to meet the civil-engineering needs for the program of internal improvement that accompanied America's westward expansion. An act of Congress of July 13, 1866, allowed the selection of a military academy superintendent from branches of the Army other than the Corps of Engineers.

Following the Civil War, the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were created by the Army Reorganization Act of 1866. Their early service was on the Western frontier. During their 24 years of service on the frontier, the Buffalo Soldiers, as they came to be known by the Indians in reference to the soldiers' coarse black hair and dark skin, similar to that of the Buffalo, fought more than 125 engagements. The tribes they fought were the Apache, Comanche, Ute, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Shoeshone, Bannock, Kickapoo, Lipan, Mescalero, Blackfoot, and Sioux Indians. The 9th Cavalry participated in the last major Indian war against the Sioux in 1890 and the 10th served in the Spanish-American War.

In 1907, a detachment of the 9th Cavalry was assigned to West Point to support Cadet riding instruction and mounted drill, which was conducted on the ground now called Buffalo Soldier Field, formerly known as the Cavalry Plain. In addition to giving riding instruction, the black soldiers performed guard duty for the post, harvested ice from Lusk Reservoir, provided labor details, and served as orderlies. In 1931, the USMA Cavalry Detachment was replaced by the 2nd Squadron, 10 Cavalry, which remained at West Point until its deactivation in 1946.

Under the act of congress approved June 3, 1942, the authorized strength of the corps of cadets was set at 2,496 cadets, appointed as follows: 8 from each state at large (senatorial); 4 from each congressional district; 4 from each territory (Hawaii and Alaska) ; 6 from the District of Columbia; 4 from Puerto Rico; 2 from the Canal Zone; 172 from the United States at large; and 180 from among the enlisted men of the regular and reserve components of the army and the air force. An act of congress approved June 30, 1950, provided that, when on the date of admission of a new class the total number of cadets was below the strength authorized, the secretary of the army might bring the corps of cadets to full strength by appointing qualified alternates and candidates recommended by the academic board. In addition to the 2,496 mentioned above, the secretary of the army was authorized to permit no more than four Filipinos, to be designated by the president of the Republic of the Philippines, to receive instruction at the United States Military academy. The president of the United States was authorized to permit no more than 20 persons from Latin-American republics or Canada to receive instruction at the academy. These foreign cadets, however, would not be entitled by reason of their graduation to appointment in the United States armed forces.

West Point has trained most of the great American military commanders since the first half of the 19th century. Among its graduates have been Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Robert E. Lee, Thomas ("Stonewall") Jackson, Jefferson Davis, John J. Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, and George Patton.


The academy is under the immediate supervision and control of the Department of the Army, exercised through the superintendent, in whom is vested the immediate military command of the academy and the military post. The goal of the educational program is to instruct and train the corps of cadets so that each graduate will have the qualities and attributes essential to continued development through a lifetime career as an officer in the Army. The four-year course of college-level education and training leads to a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as second lieutenant in the Army. The curriculum is balanced between mathematics and basic and engineering sciences (60%), the humanities and social sciences, military science, and physical education (40%). Cadets must be at least 17 years of age but not yet 22, as well as unmarried, at the time of their appointment. They must have a high-school education or its equivalent and must take three types of examinations: medical, mental and physical aptitude before admission. Enrollment is 4,417.

The great majority of appointments to the academy are made by U.S. Senators and Representatives. Citizens of the Philippines, the various Latin-American republics, Canada, and certain other countries, if fully qualified, may also be admitted to the academy. Women were first admitted to the academy in 1976.

Upon admission to the Military academy, each cadet takes an oath of allegiance and agrees to serve in the armed forces of the United States for not less than three years from the date of his graduation unless sooner discharged by competent authority.

The normal course at the Military academy is four years. The academic year lasts from August to May, inclusive. During the months of June, July and August, each class receives one month's leave. The remaining two months are devoted to military training. All cadets receive the same military training and pursue the same academic course. The third class (sophomores) receives extensive field training at the training areas on the academy reservation. The second and first classes (juniors and seniors) obtain supplementary instruction at other Army training centers. The second class also takes part in joint amphibious maneuvers with the midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. First classmen serve as instructors for the new fourth class (freshmen), which enters the academy in July; they also assist in training the third class.


West Point is situated in the highlands of the Hudson in a setting of great beauty. The main buildings of the academy and the Cadet chapel above them are all constructed of native granite in the Gothic style.

Some of the buildings of special interest are: the Cadet chapel; the riding hall, one of the largest in the world; the administration building, unusual for the fact that its 160-ft. tower is of solid masonry construction without a steel frame; Cullum Memorial hall, patterned after the second Erechtheum; central barracks and the old Cadet chapel, rich in associations with famous graduates; the Ordnance museum, containing an interesting collection of weapons, models and trophies; and the library, which contains many rare manuscripts, engravings and sketches.

In addition to the buildings of the Military academy there are several monuments, the most prominent of which is Battle monument, erected to the memory of the officers and men of the regular army who fell during the Civil War in the defense of the Union.

There are also seven old revolutionary redoubts in the hills behind the academy and three forts-Forts Clinton, Putnam and Constitution-which were also built during the Revolution. On Trophy point are many cannon, relics of U.S. wars and several links, of the great chain that was stretched across the Hudson at West Point during the Revolution.

Buffalo Soldier Field was named in honor of the men of the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiments. The plaque dedicating the Field is mounted at the corner of Thayer and Mills Intersection, and depicts the history the two units. On 2 September 1990, the Buffalo Soldiers visited West Point for their 200th Memorial Service and reunion at Buffalo Soldier Field. Former members of the 9th and 10th Cavalry, their families, and other former black soldiers joined together for the memorial service. The color guard from the USMA Military Police Company and buglers from the USMA Band provided support for the service which ended in a 21 gun salute.