Alan Cate on the Early History of West Point Military Academy

The United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York, has served the United States for over 200 years. President Thomas Jefferson authorized the establishment of the Academy in 1802 as an institution meant to eliminate the U. S.’s dependency on outside military specialists by creating natively-trained experts and researches of military science.

The USMA made large strides under the leadership of Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, who pushed the school to higher standards of academic proficiency, honorable conduct, and military discipline. He also foresaw the need for engineers in the nation’s future and focused the Academy’s curriculum appropriately.

During the Civil War, West Point graduates filled many of the highest positions in both the Union and Confederate armies. Postwar development of technical training institutions allowed the USMA to again broaden its focus to matters outside of civil engineering.

Alan Cate is a retired Army Colonel and Chair of the History Department at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio. His extensive military experience and interest in military history have granted him unique insight into the armed forces of the past and present.