One of the most famous military academies in the world has to be West Point in the United States. It first opened its doors in 1802 as a school for Engineers and had fifteen students, ten cadets and five officers. West Point is located in Orange Country with the fantastic backdrop of the Hudson Highlands behind. The vast campus extends for over fifteen thousand acres, almost as far as the eye can see.
The site of West Point was actually a military garrison long before the academy opened, as far back as 1778 troops were stationed there. It was not until 1790 that the U.S Government actually bought the land and after much debate the academy opened in 1802. This was mostly due to the demands of George Washington who demanded a place of military learning for his officers. During the war of Independence, the Hudson river valley became a strategic area to hold and occupy against the enemy. And during the Revolution, it became apparent that America seriously needed educated officers, their reliance on foreign military advice was too great and their allegiance was always somewhat doubtful.
And it was George Washington who firmly believed that practice was not good enough, the new officers of the American military needed an extended period of study in all military facets. In the formative years of the academy things did not go well and the school had no real organization or structure.
The Reorganization of 1812
The lack of discipline at the academy could not be allowed to continue, as students were not really learning anything. So, in 1812 Congress stepped in and reorganized the whole thing. The strength of the student corps was extended to two hundred and fifty, and more senior and reliable tutors were drafted in. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer was the first real superintendent of West Point and became to be known as the father of the military academy. This was due to his tireless work developing the curriculum, extending the buildings which included a new library.
Under the guardianship of this strong leader finally the school started to produce some great military tacticians who would be able to relay their skills on the field of battle. Although at this time West Point was still mainly focused on engineering, this would radically change over the years.
Some of the greatest names in American history have passed through the doors of West Point. It has educated most of America’s top military leaders. Some of the legendary names that have graduated from West Point have been, William Sherman, Robert E Lee, Ulysses Grant, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, Philip Sherman, Jeb Stuart, George McClellan, and of course George Armstrong Custer. If you look through these auspicious names one thing stands out above all, some of the greatest generals in the Confederate Army graduated at West Point, including the commander in chief Robert E Lee. Without doubt West Point has to be not just a military academy, but a great seat of learning.