The United States Military Academy: A Historical Overview of the Oldest Military Academy in the US

The United States Military Academy is one of America's oldest military institutions with a rich history dating back to 1802. Learn more about its history here.

The United States Military Academy: A Historical Overview of the Oldest Military Academy in the US

The United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, is the oldest military academy in the United States. Established in 1802, West Point has been a major part of our nation's history since the American Revolution. Norwich University, also known as The Military College of Vermont, is the oldest private military university in the United States. Although troops had been occupying the West Point site since 1778, it wasn't until 1790 that Congress allocated money for its purchase.

An act of Congress on April 29, 1812 reorganized the academy and increased the authorized strength of the cadet corps to 250, expanded the academy's staff, and established a four-year curriculum. The superintendency of Col. Sylvanus Thayer (1817—3), known as the “father of the military academy” for his lasting influence on West Point's physical plant, library, curriculum, and pedagogical method was instrumental in achieving this goal. Under Thayer's leadership, the academy trained military technicians whose skills could be adapted to meet the civil engineering needs of the internal improvement program that accompanied the expansion of the United States to the west.

An act of Congress on July 13, 1866 allowed for a superintendent of the military academy to be selected from branches of the military other than the Corps of Engineers. The objective of West Point's educational program is to instruct and train cadets so that each graduate has the qualities and attributes essential for continuous development throughout a lifetime career as an army officer. The four-year course of education and training at the university level leads to a degree in science and a position as a second lieutenant in the military. The curriculum is balanced between mathematics and basic and engineering sciences, humanities and social sciences, military sciences and physical education.

The academic year lasts from August to May, inclusive. The third class (second-year students) receives extensive field training in the training areas of the academy reserve. The second and first classes (first and final year students) receive complementary instruction at other army training centers. The second class also participates in joint amphibious maneuvers with midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis (Maryland).

First-year students act as instructors for new fourth class (first-year students) which enters in July; they also help train third class cadets.West Point has trained most of America's great military commanders since the first half of 19th century. Among its graduates are Robert E. Lee (class of 182 people), William T. Sherman (1840), James Longstreet (184) and Ulysses S.

Grant (1843). The extraordinary class of 1846 graduated Thomas (“Stonewall) Jackson, George H. Gordon, George McClellan and George Pickett. Two of Civil War's most talented cavalry commanders Philip Sheridan (185) and Jeb Stuart (185) graduated within two years; George Armstrong Custer (186) graduated last in his class just a month before Bull Run fighting began.

Graduates from late 19th and early 20th centuries include John J. Pershing (188), Douglas MacArthur (190), Henry (“Hap”) Arnold (190) and George Patton (190). The class of 1915 became known as “the class where stars fell” because extraordinary number of graduates earned “stars” as generals; among 59 generals were Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley who achieved five-star rank of Army general.Graduates who led wars late 20th and early 21st centuries include Creighton Abrams (193), William Westmoreland (193), Norman Schwarzkopf (195), Eric Shinseki (196), David Petraeus (197) and Stanley McChrystal (197).

West Point graduates who rose to prominence outside military field include astronauts Frank Borman (1950), Buzz Aldrin (195), Edward White (195), Michael Collins (195).(195) and David Scott (195); AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey (196); National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (196). Among international graduates are Anastasio Somoza Debayle (194), president Nicaragua; Fidel Ramos (1950), president Philippines.Thomas Jefferson signed Military Peacemaking Act 1802 in March that year; this established United States Military Academy. The Virginia Military Institute is first state-supported military university United States; New Mexico Military Institute is unique because it is only state-supported mixed military boarding school United States.While there's no reason to suggest any other school except United States Military Academy is oldest country, there are other long-established military institutions worth mentioning.