6: Studies, Etc.
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THE academic year begins July 1st, and continues
till about June 20th the following year. As soon
after this as practicable—depending upon what
time the examination is finished—the corps moves
into camp, with the exception of the second class,
who go on furlough instead.
Between the 20th of August and the 1st of September,
the "Seps," or those candidates who were unable to
do so in the spring previous, report. Before the 1st
they have been examined and the deficient ones
dismissed. On the 1st, unless that be Sunday,
academic duties begin. The classes are arranged
into a number of sections, according to their class
rank, as determined at the previous annual examination,
or according to rank in some particular study—for
instance, for instruction in engineering the first
class is arranged according to merit in philosophy,
and not according to general merit or class rank. The
fourth, or "plebe" class, however, is arranged
alphabetically since they as yet have no class rank.
The first class study, during the first term,
engineering law, and ordnance and gunnery. They
recite on civil engineering from 8 to 11 A.M.
daily, on ordnance and gunnery from 2 to 4 P.M.,
alternating with law.
The second class have natural and experimental
philosophy from 8 to 11 A.M. daily, and chemistry,
alternating with riding, from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.;
also drawing in pencil from 2 to 4 P.M. For
instruction in this department the class is divided
into two as nearly equal parts as practicable, which
alternate in attendance at the Drawing Academy.
The third class have pure mathematics, analytical
Geometry, descriptive geometry, and the principles
of shades, shadows, and perspective, from 8 to 11
A.M. daily. They also have French from 11 A.M.,
till 1 P.M., alternating with Spanish.
The entire class attend drawing daily till November
1st, when it is divided into two equal parts or
platoons, which attend drawing and riding on
alternate clays. Riding! "Yearling riding!" I must
advert to that before I go further. First let me
describe it. A platoon of yearlings, twenty, thirty,
forty perhaps; as many horses; a spacious riding-
hall, with galleries that seat but too many mischievous
young ladies, and whose interior is well supplied with
tan bark, make up the principal objects in the play.
Nay, I omit the most important characters, the
Instructor and the necessary number of enlisted, men.
Area of barracks. At guard-house door stands an
orderly, with drum in hands. In the area a number
of cadets, some in every-day attire, others dressed
à la cavalier. These à la cavalier fellows are going
to take their first lesson in riding. About four-
fifths of them were never on a horse in their lives,
and hence what dire expectations hover over their
ordinarily placid heads! They have heard from the
upper classmen what trials the novice experiences
in his first efforts, and they do not go to the
riding-hall without some dread. Four o'clock and ten
minutes. The drum is beaten.
Officer of the Day.—Form your platoon! Right, face!
Call your roll!
Section Marcher.—Bejay! Barnes! Du Furing!
Swikeheimer! Du Flicket, etc.
Platoon (answering to their names).—Here! Here-re-
re! ho-o-o! hi-i-i! har-ar-ar! Heer-r!
Section Marcher (facing about salutes).—All are
Officer of the Day (returning salute).—March off
your platoon, sir!
Section Marcher (facing about).—Left face! forward.
March! (Curtain falls.)
The riding-hall, a large, spacious, rectangular
structure, door on each side and at each end,
floor well covered with tan bark, spacious
gallery over each side door, staircases outside
leading to them. Galleries are occupied, one by
ladies, and, perhaps a number of gentlemen, and
the other by enlisted men usually. In the centre
of the hall are a number of horses, each equipped
with a surcingle, blanket, and watering bridle.
A soldier stands at the head of each one of them.
As curtain rises enter platoon by side door, and
marches around the left flank of the line of
horses and as far forward as necessary.
Section Marcher.—Platoon, halt! left, face!
(Saluting Instructor) All are present, sir!
Instructor (saluting).—The Section Marcher will
take his place on the left.
He then gives all necessary instruction.
"To mount the trooper the Instructor first causes
him to stand to horse by the command 'Stand to
horse!' At this command—" Well, see "Cavalry
We've got the trooper mounted now. After some
further explanation the Instructor forms them
into a column of files by the commands:
"By file, by the right (or left) flank. March!"
They are now going around the hall at a walk, a
slow, snail-like pace, but what figures some of
them present! Still all goes on quite well. The
Instructor is speaking:
"To trot," says he, "raise the hands" ("yearlings"
use both hands) "slightly. This is to apprise the
horse that you want his attention. Then lower the
hands slightly, and at the same time gently press
the horse with the legs until he takes the gait
desired. As soon as he does, relax the pressure."
A long pause. The occupants of the galleries are
looking anxiously on. They know what is coming next.
They have seen these drills over and over again. And
so each trooper awaits anxiously the next command.
Alas! It comes! "Trot!"
What peals of laughter from that cruel gallery! But
why? Ah! See there that trooper struggling in the
tan bark while a soldier pursues his steed. He is
not hurt. He gets up, brushes away the tan bark,
remounts and starts off again. But there, he's off
again! He's continually falling off or jumping off
purposely (?). What confusion! There comes one at a
full gallop, sticking on as best he can; but there,
the poor fellow is off. The horses are running away.
The troopers are dropping off everywhere in the hall.
No one is hurt. Alas! they pressed too hard to keep
on, and instead of relaxing the pressure at the
desired gait, the trot, they kept on pressing, the
horse taking the trot, the gallop, the run, and the
trooper, alas! the dust. Again they had the reins
too long, and instead of holding on by the flat of
the thighs with their feet parallel to the horse,
we see them making all sorts of angles. But that
gallery! that gallery! how I used to wish it wasn't
there! The very sight of a lady under such
circumstances is most embarrassing.
Fair ones, why will you thus torture the "yearlings"
by your at other times so desirable presence?
The fourth class have pure mathematics, and algebra,
daily from 8 to 11 A.M., and French also, daily,
from 2 to 4 P.M. Beginning on October 15th, or as
near that time as practicable, they have fencing,
and the use of the bayonet and small-sword.
During the month of September cadets of all classes,
or the battalion, are instructed in the infantry
tactics in the "School of the Battalion." Near the
end of the month it is customary to excuse the
officers of the first class from these drills, and
to detail privates to perform their duties for one
drill only at a time. The other classes are in ranks,
or the line of file-closers, according as they are
sergeants, guides, or privates.
During October the several classes receive practical
instruction as follows: The first class in military
engineering, the manner of making and recording the
details of a military reconnoissance, and field
sketching; the second class in siege and sea-coast
artillery, and military signalling and telegraphy.
The class is divided into two parts, composed of the
odd and even numbers, which attend drills on alternate
days—that is, artillery one day and signalling the
next; the third class in light or field artillery,
and the theory and principles of "target practice."
Sometimes this latter is given during camp, as is
most convenient. Sometimes, also, they receive
instruction in ordnance. This, however, is generally
deferred till they become first-classmen.
For further instruction of the first class the
following part of the personnel of a light battery
is detailed from that class, viz.: three chiefs
of platoon, one chief of caissons, one guidon, and
six chiefs of section. Each member of the class is
detailed for each of these offices in his proper order.
The fourth class receives instruction in field
artillery at the "foot batteries." This instruction
is limited to the nomenclature and manual of the
piece. Here, also, to assist the instructor, a chief
of piece for each piece is detailed. They are required
to correct all errors made by the plebes, and sometimes
even to drill them. Hence a knowledge of tactics is
indispensable, and the means of fixing such knowledge
in the mind is afforded.
Sometimes also two first-classmen are required to
assist at the siege or sea-coast batteries.
Every day throughout the year a guard is mounted.
It consists of two officers of the guard—sometimes
only one—one sergeant, three corporals—or more—
and twenty-four privates—sometimes, also, eighteen
or twenty-one in camp, and twenty-seven in barracks.
Every day, also, there is one officer of the day
detailed from the first class.
The weather permitting, we have "dress parade" daily.
When unfavorable, on account of snow, rain, or severe
cold, we have "undress parade"—that is, parade without
arms and in undress or fatigue uniform, the object
being to get us all together to publish the orders,
etc., for the morrow. After November 1st we usually
have "undress parade," and then "supper mess parade."
Between these two ceremonies the cadets amuse themselves
at the gymnasium, dancing or skating, or "spooneying,"
or at the library; generally, I think—the upper classmen
at any rate—at the library. After supper we have
recreation and then study. And thus we "live and do" till
The semi-annual examination begins January 1st, or as
soon thereafter as practicable. The plebes are examined
first, and started in their new studies as soon as
possible. After the plebes the other classes are examined
in the order of their rank—that is, first class, second
class, and third class—and of the importance of their
studies, engineering being first, then philosophy, and
The examination being over, the deficient ones,
after receiving orders from the Secretary of War,
are dismissed. Studies are then resumed as follows:
For the first class military engineering, ordnance,
and gunnery, constitutional law, military law, rules
of evidence, practice of courts-martial, mineralogy,
and geology, strategy, and grand tactics, and the
throwing and dismantling of pontoon bridges. For the
second class, acoustics and optics, astronomy,
analytical mechanics in review; infantry, artillery,
and cavalry tactics; drawing, riding, and signalling.
For the third class, calculus, surveying, geometry,
and riding. Immediately after the examination the
entire third class receive instruction in mechanical
drawing before they begin their other mathematical
studies. For the fourth class the studies are plane
geometry, trigonometry, descriptive geometry, and
fencing, including the use of the small-sword, broad-
sword, and bayonet.
Parades, guard duty, etc., remain as previously
described until about the middle of March usually.
At that time the ordinary routine of drills, dress
parades, etc., is resumed; but drills in this order,
viz., from March 15th to April 1st instruction in
the school of the company; in artillery tactics, as
before described during April; and in infantry
tactics, in the "School of the Battalion," during
May. The annual examination takes place in June. The
following diary, made for the purpose of insertion
here, will best explain what generally occurs during
Thursday, June 1, 1876.—Resumed white pants at 5.10
P.M. Received Board of Visitors by a review at 5.10
P.M. Examination begun at 9 A.M. First class,
engineering. Salute of fifteen guns at meridian to
Board of Visitors.
Friday, June 2.—First class, engineering finished.
Second class, philosophy commenced. Siege battery
drill at 5.10 P.M.
Saturday, June 3.—Second class, philosophy
Monday, June 5.—Light battery at 5.10 P.M. A
yearling lost his "white continuations." Plebes
went to parade.
Tuesday, June 6.—Fourth class, entire in French.
Examination written. Second class, philosophy
finished. First class, mineralogy and geology
begun. Third class, mathematics begun. Battalion
drill at 5.10 P.M.
Wednesday, June 7.—Second class turned out, marched
to sea-coast battery at 11 A.M. Three detachments
selected. Rest marched back and dismissed. Cavalry
drill at 5.10 P.M. Six second-classmen turned out.
Plebes put in battalion.
Thursday, June 8.—Plebes put on guard. Pontoon
bridging, 5.10 P. M.
Friday, June 9.—Battalion skirmish drill 5.10 P.M.
Deployed to front at double time. Second, fourth,
and seventh companies reserve. Almost all manoeuvres
at double time. Deployed by numbers and charged.
Marched in in line, band on right. Broke into
column of companies to the left, changed direction
to the right, obliqued to the left, moved forward and
formed "front into line, faced to the rear." Arms
inspected, ammunition returned. Dismissed.
Saturday, June 10.—Third class, mathematics finished.
Miss Philips sang to cadets in mess hall after supper.
First class, ordnance begun.
Sunday, June 11.—Graduating sermon by Hon.—, of
Princeton, N. J., closing "hime," "When shall we meet
again?" Graduating dinner at 2 P.M.
Monday, June 12.—Detail from first class to ride in
hall. Use of sabre and pistol on horseback. First
class, ordnance finished. Law begun.
Tuesday, June 13.—First class finished. Board divided
into committees. Second class, chemistry begun.
Graduating parade. Corps cheered by graduates after
parade. Hop in evening; also German; whole continuing
till 3 A.M. Rumor has it two first-classmen, Slocum
and Guilfoyle, are "found" in ordnance and engineering.
Wednesday, June 14.—Fourth class, mathematics begun.
Salute seventeen guns at 10 A.M. in honor of arrival
at post of General Sherman and Colonel Poe of his
staff. Graduating exercises from 11 A.M. till near
1 P.M. Addresses to graduates. Mortar practice and
fireworks at night.
This ended the "gala" days at West Point in '76.
Thursday, June 15.—Usual routine of duties resumed.
Company drills in the afternoon from 5.10 to 6.10
P.M. Rather unusual, but we're going to the Centennial.
Rumor has it we encamp Saturday the 17th for ten days.
Friday, June 16.—Dom Pedro, emperador de la Brasil
estaba recibiado para un "review" a las cuatro
horas y quarenta y cinco minutos. El embarcó por la
ciudad de Nueva York inmediatemente Second class,
chemistry finished. Third class, French begun.
Saturday, June 17.—Third class, French finished.
Third class, Spanish begun. "Camp rumor" not true.
Monday, June 19.—Moved into camp, aligned tent
floors at 5 A. M. in the rain. Required by order
to move in effects at 9 A. M., and to march in and
pitch tents at 12 M. Rained in torrents. Marched
in, etc., at 9 A.M. Effects moved in afterwards.
Rain ceased by 12 M. Marched in. Second class,
tactics finished. Third class, Spanish finished.
Ordinarily as soon as the examination is over the
third class take advantage of the two months'
furlough allowed them, while other classes go into
camp. This encampment begins June 17th, or a day or
two earlier or later, according to circumstances.
This brings me to the end of the first year. I have
described camp life, and also, I observe, each of
the remaining years of cadet life. On July 1st the
plebes become the fourth class; the original fourth
the third; the third, now on furlough, the second;
and the second the first. I have given in an earlier
part of my narrative the studies, etc., of these
The plebe, or fourth class of the previous year, are
now become yearlings, and are therefore in their
"yearling camp." At the end of every month an extract
from the class and conduct report of each cadet is
sent to his parents or guardian for their information.
I insert a copy of one of these monthly reports.
UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY,
West Point, N. Y., March 26, 1875.
EXTRACT from the Class and Conduct Reports of the
MILITARY ACADEMY for the month of February, 1875,
furnished for the information of Parents and Guardians,
THIRD CLASS—Composed of 83 Members.
Cadet Henry O. Flipper
Was, in Mathematics.........No. 48
" French..............No. 48
" Spanish,............No. 37
" Drawing.............No. 40
His demerit for the month is 2, and since the
commencement of the academic half year, 23.
Robt. H. Hall,
Captain 10th Infantry,
Adjutant Military Academy.
REGULATIONS FOR THE MILITARY ACADEMY.
Par. 71.—When any Cadet shall have a total of
numbers [of demerit] thus recorded, exceeding one
hundred in six months, he shall be declared deficient
Par. 153.—No Cadet shall apply for, or receive money,
or any other supplies from his parents, or from any
person whomsoever, without permission of the
Note.—The attention of Parents and Guardians is
invited to the foregoing Regulations. The permission
referred to in paragraph 153 must be obtained before
the shipment to the cadet of the supplies desired.
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