Part 2 out of 7
compete with the white race in the acquisition of
knowledge and property. But they have examples of
notable achievements in their own ranks which
should convince them that they have not the
slightest reason to despair of success. The doors
stand wide open, from the plantation to the National
Capitol, and every American citizen can, if he will,
attain worthy recognition."
And thus, ere we had entered upon our new duties,
were we forewarned of the kind of treatment we
should expect. To be "sent to Coventry," "to be
let severely alone," are indeed terrible dooms,
but we cared naught for them. "To be let alone"
was what we wished. To be left to our own
resources for study and improvement, for enjoyment
in whatever way we chose to seek it, was what we
desired. We cared not for social recognition. We
did not expect it, nor were we disappointed in not
getting it. We would not seek it. We would not
obtrude ourselves upon them. We would not accept
recognition unless it was made willingly. We would
be of them at least independent. We would mark out
for ourselves a uniform course of conduct and follow
it rigidly. These were our resolutions. So long as
we were in the right we knew we should be recognized
by those whose views were not limited or bound by
such narrow confines as prejudice and caste, whether
they were at West Point or elsewhere. Confident that
right on our own part would secure us just treatment
from others, that "if we but prove ourselves possessed
of some good qualities" we could find friends among
both faculty and students.
I came to West Point, notwithstanding I had heard
so much about the Academy well fit to dishearten
and keep one away. And then, too, at the time I
had no object in seeking the appointment other
than to gratify an ordinary ambition. Several
friends were opposed to my accepting it, and even
persuaded me, or rather attempted to persuade me,
to give up the idea altogether. I was inexorable.
I had set my mind upon West Point, and no amount
of persuasion, and no number of harrowing narratives
of bad treatment, could have induced me to relinquish
the object I had in view. But I was right. The work I
chose, and from which I could not flinch without
dishonor, proved far more important than either my
friends or myself at first thought it would be.
Let me not, however, anticipate. Of this importance
CANT TERMS, ETC.
AS a narrative of this description is very apt to
be dry and uninteresting, I have thought it possible
to remove in a measure this objection by using as
often as convenient the cant lingo of the corps. A
vocabulary which shall contain it all, or nearly
all, becomes necessary. I have taken great care to
make it as full as possible, and at the same time
as intelligible as possible.
There are a few cant words and expressions which are
directly personal, and in many cases self-explanatory.
They are for such reasons omitted.
"Animal," "animile," "beast," "reptile."-- Synonymous
terms applied to candidates for admission into the
"Plebe."--A candidate after admission, a new cadet.
After the candidates are examined and the proficient
ones admitted, these latter are known officially as
"new cadets," but in the cant vernacular of the corps
they are dubbed "plebes," and they retain this
designation till the candidates of the next year
report. They are then called "yearlings," a title
applied usually to them in camp only. After the
encampment they become "furloughmen" until they
return from furlough in August of the following
year. They then are "second-classmen," and are so
officially and à la cadet throughout the year.
From this time till they graduate they are known
as the "graduating class," so that, except the
second class, each class has its own peculiar cant
Candidates generally report in May--about the 20th
--and during July and August are in camp. This is
their "plebe camp." The next is their, "yearling
camp." During the next, they are en congé, and the
next and last is their "first-class camp." Of "plebe
camp," "yearling camp," and "first-class camp," more
"Rapid."--A "plebe" is said to be "rapid" when he
shows a disposition to resist hazing, or to "bone
familiarity" with older cadets--i.e., upper classmen.
"Sep."--A cadet who reported for admission in
"Fins."--A term applied to the hands generally,
of course to the hands of "plebes."
"Prelim."--A preliminary examination.
"Pony."--A key, a corrigé.
"To bone."--To study, to endeavor to do well in any
particular; for instance, to "bone demerits" is to
strive to get as few as possible.
"To bone popularity."--This alludes to a habit
practised, especially by, "yearlings" while in
camp, and is equivalent to our every-day expression
in civil life, viz., "to get in with."
"To bugle it."--To avoid a recitation. To avoid a
recitation is an act seldom done by any cadet. It
is in fact standing at the board during the whole
time of recitation without turning around, and thus
making known a readiness to recite. At the Academy
a bugle takes the place of the bell in civil schools.
When the bugle is blown those sections at recitation
are dismissed, and others come in. Now, if one faces
the board till the bugle blows, there is not then
enough time for him to recite, and he is said to have
"bugled it." Some instructors will call on any one who
shows a disposition to do so, and will require him to
tell what he knows about his subject.
"Busted," "broken."--These words apply only to cadet
officers who are reduced to ranks.
"A cold case."--A sure thing, a foregone conclusion.
To "get chevrons."--To receive an appointment in the
battalion organization. Each year, on the day the
graduates receive their diplomas, and just after--
possibly just before--they are relieved from further
duty at the Academy, the order fixing the appointments
for the next year is read, and those of the year
previous revoked. It has been customary to appoint the
officers, captains, and lieutenants from the first
class, the sergeants from the second, and the corporals
from the third. This custom has at times, and for
reasons, been departed from, and the officers chosen as
For any offence of a grave nature, any one who has
chevrons is liable to lose them, or, in other words,
to be reduced to ranks.
"A cit."--Any citizen.
"To crawl over."--To haze, generally in the severest
"A chapel."--An attendance at church.
"To curse out."--To reprimand, to reprove, and also
simply to interview. This expression does not by any
means imply the use of oaths.
"To cut," "To cut cold."--To avoid, to ostracize.
"Debauch."--Any ceremony or any thing unusual. It may
be a pleasant chat, a drill, or any thing that is out
of the usual routine.
"To drive a squad."--To march it.
"To eat up."--See "To crawl over."
"Exaggerations."--It is a habit of the cadets to
exaggerate on certain occasions, and especially
when policing. "A log of wood," "a saw-mill," "a
forest," and kindred expressions, are applied to
any fragment of wood of any description that may
be lying about. A feather is "a pillow;" a straw,
"a broom factory;" a pin, an "iron foundry;" a
cotton string, "a cotton factory;" and I have
known a "plebe" to be told to "get up that sugar
refinery," which "refinery" was a cube of sugar
crushed by some one treading upon it.
Any thing--whatever it may be--which must be
policed, is usually known by some word or term
suggested by its use or the method or the place
of its manufacture.
"To find."--To declare deficient in studies or
An "extra" is an extra tour of guard duty given
as punishment. Cadets on "extra" are equipped as
for parade, and walk in the area of Cadet Barracks
from two o'clock until retreat, or from two to five
hours, on Saturday or other days of the week. An
"extra" is sometimes called a "Saturday Punishment."
"A fem," "femme."--Any female person.
"A file."--Any male person.
"Fessed," "fessed cold," "fessed frigid," "fessed
out," and "fessed through."--Made a bad recitation,
"To get off."--To perpetrate.
"A gag," "Grin," "Grind."--Something witty, a
"To hive."--To detect, used in a good and bad sense.
Also to take, to steal.
"To hoop up."--To hasten, to hurry.
"H. M. P."--Hop manager's privileges.
"A keen."--See "Gag," etc.
"To leap on."--See "To crawl over."
"Made."--Given an appointment, given chevrons as an
officer in the battalion organization.
"A make."--Such an appointment.
"Maxed."--Made a thorough recitation.
"Ath."--The last one.
"To pile in."--To retire.
"To pink."--To report for any offence.
"To plant."--To bury with military honors.
"To police one's self."--To bathe.
"To pot."--"To pink," which see.
"To put in."--To submit in writing.
"To put into the battalion."--To assign to a company,
as in case of new cadets.
"Ragged," "ragged out."--Made a good recitation.
"Reveilles."--Old shoes, easy and comfortable,
worn to reveille roll-call.
"Reekless, ricochet."--Careless, indifferent.
"To run it."--To do any thing forbidden. To risk.
"To run it on."--To impose upon.
"Shout."--Excellent, i.e., will create much comment
"Sketch-house."--The Drawing Academy.
"To skin."--See "To pink" (most common).
"To be spooney."--To be gallant.
"To spoon."--To be attentive to ladies.
"A spoon."--A sweetheart.
"To step out."--See "To hoop up."
"Topog."--A topographical drawing.
"To turn in."--To repair to one's quarters.
"To be sent in."--To order any thing sent in.
"To turn out."--To come out, or send out.
"To be white," "To treat white."--To be polite,
courteous, and gentlemanly.
"To wheaten."--To be excused by surgeon.
"To yank."--To seize upon violently.
"O. G. P."--Old guard privileges.
"To get out of."--To shun, to shirk.
"To extinguish."--To distinguish.
"To go for."--To haze.
"To freeze to."--To hold firmly.
"To wipe out."--To destroy.
"Plebeskin."--A rubber overcoat issued to new cadets.
"Turnbacks."--Cadets turned back to a lower class.
"Div," "subdiv."--Division, subdivision.
"Tab."--Tabular system of French.
"To celebrate."--To do.
"A stayback."--A graduate detained at graduation to
instruct the new cadets.*
*When the cadets are in barracks, the officer of the
guard on Sundays either has or assumes authority to
detain from church, for any emergency that might
arise, one or two or more members of his guard, in
addition to those on post on duty. Cadets so detained
are called "staybacks.
"Scratch day."--A day when lessons are hard or
"Gum game."--A joke.
"To fudge."--To copy.
BENNY HAVENS O.
[A number of cadets sitting or lounging about the
room. One at table pouring out the drinks. As soon
as he is done he takes up his own glass, and says
to the others, "Come, fellows," and then all together
--Stand up in a row,
For sentimental drinking we're going for to go;
In the army there's sobriety, promotion's very slow,
So we'll cheer our hearts with choruses of Benny
Of Benny Havens' O, of Benny Havens' O,
We'll cheer our hearts with choruses of Benny
When you and I and Benny, and General Jackson too,
Are brought before the final Board our course of
life t' review,
May we never "fess" on any point, but then be told
To join the army of the blest at Benny Havens' O.
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
To join the army of the blest at Benny Havens' O.
To the ladies of the army let our bumpers ever flow,
Companions of our exile, our shield 'gainst every woe,
May they see their husbands generals with double pay
And indulge in reminiscences of Benny Havens' O.
Of Benny Havens O, of Benny Havens' O,
And indulge in reminiscences of Benny Havens' O.
'Tis said by commentators, in the land where we
We follow the same handicraft we followed here
If this be true philosophy (the sexton, he says no),
What days of dance and song we'll have at Benny
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
What days of dance and song we'll have at Benny
To the ladies of the Empire State, whose hearts
and albums too
Bear sad remembrance of the wrongs we stripling
We bid you all a kind farewell, the best recompense
Our loves and rhymings had their source at Benny
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
Our loves and rhymings had their source at Benny
[Then, with due solemnity, every head uncovered and
bowed low, they sing:]
There comes a voice from Florida, from Tampa's
It is the wail of gallant men, O'Brien is no more;
In the land of sun and flowers his head lies
No more to sing petite coquille at Benny Havens' O.
At Benny Havens' O, at Benny Havens' O,
No more to sing petite coquille at Benny Havens' O,
"PLEBE CAMP!" The very words are suggestive. Those
who have been cadets know what "plebe camp" is. To
a plebe just beginning his military career the first
experience of camp is most trying. To him every thing
is new. Every one seems determined to impose upon him,
and each individual "plebe" fancies at times he's
picked out from all the rest as an especially good
subject for this abuse (?). It is not indeed a very
pleasant prospect before him, nor should he expect
it to be. But what must be his feelings when some
old cadet paints for his pleasure camp scenes and
experiences? Whatever he may have known of camp
life before seems as naught to him now. It is a new
sort of life he is to lead there, and he feels
himself, although curious and anxious to test it,
somewhat shy of entering such a place. There is no
alternative. He accepts it resignedly and goes ahead.
It is not always with smiling countenance that he
marches out and surveys the site after reveille.
Indeed, those who do have almost certainly received
A highly colored sketch of camp life, and are
hastening to sad disappointment, and not at all to
the joys they've been led to expect. He marches
into the company streets. He surveys them carefully
and recognizes what is meant by "the plebes have to
do all the policing," servants being an unknown
luxury. He also sees the sentry-boxes and the paths
the sentinels tread, and shudders as he recollects
the tales of midnight adventure which some wily
cadet has narrated to him. Imagination begins her
cruel work. Already he sees himself lying at the
bottom of Fort Clinton Ditch tied in a blanket, or
perhaps fetterless and free, but helpless. Or he
may imagine his hands are tied to one, and his feet
to the other tent-pole, and himself struggling for
freedom as he recognizes that the reveille gun has
been fired and those merciless fifers and drummers
are rapidly finishing the reveille. And, horror of
horrors! mayhap his fancies picture him standing
tremblingly on post at midnight's solemn hour, his
gun just balanced in his hands, while numbers of
cadets in hideous sheets and other ghostly garb
approach or are already standing around torturing
him. And again, perchance, he challenges some
approaching person in one direction, and finds to
his dismay the officer of the day, the officer of
the guard, and a corporal are crossing and recrossing
his post, or having already advanced without being
challenged, are demanding why it is, and why he has
been so negligent.
Just after reveille on the morning of June 22d the
companies were marched to their company streets,
and the "plebes" assigned to each followed in rear.
At the time only the tent floors and cord stays were
on the ground. These former the plebes were ordered
to align. This we did while the old cadets looked on,
occasionally correcting or making some suggestion. It
required considerable time to do this, as we were
inexperienced and had to await some explanation of
what we were to do.
When at last we were done, tents, or rather tent
floors, were assigned to us. We thence returned to
barracks and to breakfast. Our more bulky effects
were carried into camp on wagons before breakfast,
while the lighter articles were moved over by our
own hands. By, or perhaps before, eleven o'clock
every thing had been taken to camp. By twelve we
were in ranks ready to march in. At the last stroke
of the clock the column was put in march, and we
marched in with all the "glory of war." We stacked
arms in the company streets, broke ranks, and each
repaired to the tent assigned him, which had by this
time been brought over and placed folded on the tent
floors. They were rapidly prepared for raising, and
at a signal made on a drum the tents were raised
simultaneously, 'mid rousing cheers, which told that
another "camp" was begun.
After this we had dinner, and then we put our tents
in order. At four o'clock the police-call was sounded,
and all the "plebes" were turned out to police the
company streets. This new phase of West Point life--
and its phases rapidly developed themselves--was a
hard one indeed. The duties are menial, and very few
discharge them without some show of displeasure, and
often of temper. None are exempt. It is not hard work,
and yet every one objects to doing it. The third and
fourth classes, by regulations, are required to do the
policing. When I was a plebe, the plebes did it all.
Many indeed tried to shirk it, but they were invariably
"hived." Every plebe who attempted any such thing was
closely watched and made to work. The old cadets
generally chose such men for "special dutymen," and
required them to bring water, pile bedding, sweep the
floor, and do all sorts of menial services. Of course
all this last is prohibited, and therefore risky.
Somebody is "hived" and severely punished almost
every year for allowing plebes to perform menial
duties for him. But what of that? The more dangerous
it becomes the more is it practised. Forbidden things
always have an alluring sweetness about them. More
caution, however, is observed. If, for instance, a
cadet should want a pail of water, he causes a plebe
to empty his (the plebe's) into his own (the cadet's).
If it should be empty, he sends him to the hydrant to
fill it, and, when he returns, gets possession of it
as before. An officer seeing a plebe with his own
pail--recognizable by his own name being on it in
huge Roman characters--going for water would say
nothing to him. If the name, however, should be that
of a cadet, the plebe would be fortunate if he
escaped an investigation or a reprimand on the spot,
and the cadet, too, if he were not put in arrest for
allowing a new cadet to perform menial services for
him. If he wants a dipper of iced-water, he calls
out to the first plebe he sees in some such manner
as this: "Oh! Mr.--, don't you want to borrow my
dipper for a little while?" The plebe of course
understands this. He may smile possibly, and if not
serving some punishment will go for the water.
Plebes are also required to clean the
equipments of the older cadets. They do it
cheerfully, and, strange to say, are as careful
not to be "hived" as the cadet whose accoutrements
they are cleaning. I say "required." I do not mean
that regulations or orders require this of the new
cadets, but that the cadets by way of hazing do.
From the heartrending tales of hazing at West Point,
which citizens sometimes read of, one would think
the plebes would offer some resistance or would
complain to the authorities. These tales are for
the most part untrue. In earlier days perhaps
hazing was practised in a more inhuman manner than
now. It may be impossible, and indeed is, for a
plebe to cross a company street without having some
one yell out to him: "Get your hands around, mister.
Hold your head up;" but all that is required by
tactics. Perhaps the frequency and unnecessary
repetition of these cautions give them the appearance
of hazing. However that may be, there seems to be no
way to impress upon a plebe the necessity of carrying
his "palms to the front," or his "head up." To report
him and give him demerits merely causes him to laugh
and joke over the number of them that have been
recorded against him.
I do not mean to defend hazing in any sense of the
word; but I do believe that it is indispensable as
practised at the Academy. It would simply be
impossible to mould and polish the social amalgamation
at West Point without it. Some of the rough specimens
annually admitted care nothing for regulations. It is
fun to them to be punished. Nothing so effectually
makes a plebe submissive as hazing. That contemptuous
look and imperious bearing lowers a plebe, I sometimes
think, in his own estimation. He is in a manner cowed
and made to feel that he must obey, and not disobey;
to feel that he is a plebe, and must expect a plebe's
portion. He is taught by it to stay in his place, and
not to "bone popularity" with the older cadets.
It is frequently said that "plebe camp" and "plebe
life" are the severest parts of life at West Point.
To some they are, and to others they are not. With
my own self I was almost entirely free from hazing,
and while there were features in "plebe life" which
I disliked, I did nevertheless have a far easier
and better time than my own white classmates. Even
white plebes often go through their camp pleasantly
and profitably. Only those who shirk duty have to
suffer any unusual punishment or hazing.
I have known plebes to be permitted to do any thing
they chose while off duty. I have known others to
have been kept working on their guns or other
equipments whole days for several days at a time. It
mattered not how clean they were, or how soon the work
was done. I've known them to be many times interrupted
for the mere sake of hazing, and perhaps to be sent
somewhere or to do something which was unnecessary
and would have been as well undone. Plebes who tent
with first-classmen keep their own tents in order,
and are never permitted by their tentmates to do any
thing of the kind for others unless when wanted, are
entirely unoccupied, and then usually their services
are asked for. A classmate of mine, when a plebe,
tented with a first-classman. He was doing something
for himself one day in a free-and-easy manner, and
had no thought of disturbing any one. A yearling
corporal, who was passing, saw him, thought he was
having too good and soft a time of it, and ordered
him out to tighten cords, an act then highly uncalled
for, save as a means of hazing. The first-classman
happened to come up just as the plebe began to
interfere with the cords, and asked him who told him
to do that. He told him, and was at once directed to
leave them and return to whatever he was doing before
being interrupted. The yearling, confident in his red
tape and his mightiness, ordered the plebe out again.
His corporalship soon discovered his mistake, for the
first-classman gave the plebe full information as to
what could be required of him, and told him to disobey
any improper order of the corporal's which was plainly
given to haze him. The affair was made personal. A
fight ensued. The corporal was worsted, to the delight,
I imagine, of the plebes.
Again, I've known plebes to be stopped from work--if
they were doing something for a cadet--to transfer it
to some other one who was accustomed to shirk all the
duty he could, or who did things slowly and slovenly.
Indeed I may assert generally that plebes who are
willing to work have little to do outside of their
regular duty, and fare in plebe camp quite as well
as yearlings; while those who are stubborn and careless
are required to do most all the work. Cadets purposely
select them and make them work. They, too, are very
frequently objects of hazing in its severest form.
At best, though, plebe camp is rather hard, its
Numerous drills, together with guard and police duty,
make it the severest and most undesirable portion of
the four years a cadet spends at the Academy.
To get up at five o'clock and be present at reveille
roll-call, to police for half an hour, to have squad
drill during the next hour, to put one's tent in
order after that, and then to prepare one's self for
breakfast at seven, make up a rather trying round of
duties. To discharge them all--and that must
certainly be done--keeps one busy; but who would not
prefer little extra work--and not hard work at that--
in the cooler part of the day to an equal amount in
the heated portion of it? I am sure the plebes do. I
know the corporals and other officers who drill them
do, although they lose their after-reveille sleep.
After breakfast comes troop parade at eight o'clock,
guard mounting immediately after, and the establishment
of the "color line." Arms and accoutrements must be in
perfect order. The plebes clean them during the
afternoon, so that before parade it is seldom necessary
to do more than wipe off dust, or adjust a belt, or
something of the kind.
After establishing the "color line," which is done
about 8.30 A.M., all cadets, save those on guard
and those marching on, have time to do whatever
they choose. The cadets generally repair to the
guard tents to see lady friends and other
acquaintances, while the plebes either interest
themselves in the inspection of "color men," or
make ready for artillery drill at nine. The latter
drill, commencing at 9 A.M., continues for one hour.
The yearlings and plebes receive instruction in the
manual and nomenclature of the piece. The drill is
not very trying unless the heavy guns are used--I
mean unless they are drilled at the battery of
twelve-pounders. Of late both classes have been
drilled at batteries of three-inch rifles. These
are light and easily manoeuvred, and unless the
heat be intense the drill is a very pleasant one.
The first class, during this same hour, are drilled
at the siege or seacoast battery. The work here is
sometimes hard and sometimes not. When firing, the
drill is pleasant and interesting, but when we have
mechanical manoeuvres all this pleasantness vanishes.
Then we have hard work. Dismounting and mounting is
not a very pleasant recreation.
At eleven o'clock, every day for a week or ten days,
the plebes have manual drill. This is entirely in the
shade, and when "In place, rest," is frequently given,
is not at all displeasing, except when some yearling
corporal evinces a disposition to haze. At five
o'clock this drill is repeated Then comes parade,
supper, tattoo, and best of all a long night's rest.
The last two drills continue for a few days only, and
sometimes do not take place at all.
The third class, or the yearlings, have dancing from
eleven to twelve, and the plebes from then till one.
In the afternoon the plebes have nothing to do in the
way of duty till four o'clock. The camp is then
policed, and when that is done there may or may not
be any further duty to discharge till retreat parade.
After the plebes are put in the battalion--that is,
after they begin drilling, etc., with their companies
--all cadets attend company drill at five o'clock.
After attending a few of these drills the first class
is excused from further attendance during the
encampment. One officer and the requisite number of
privates, however, are detailed from the class each
day to act as officers at these drills.
I omitted to say that the first class received in the
forenoon instruction in practical military engineering
What most tries plebes, and yearlings, too, is
guard duty. If their classes are small, each member
of them is put on guard every third or fourth day.
To the plebes, being something entirely new, guard
duty is very, very obnoxious.
During the day they fare well enough, but as soon as
night comes "well enough" disappears. They are liable
at any moment to be visited by cadets on a hazing
tour from the body of the camp, or by the officers
and non- commissioned officers of the guard. The
latter generally leave the post of the guard in groups
of three or four. After getting into camp they
separate, and manage to come upon a sentinel
simultaneously and from all points of the compass.
If the sentinel isn't cool, he will challenge and
Advance one, and possibly let the others come upon
him unchallenged and unseen even. Then woe be to him!
He'll be "crawled over" for a certainty, and to make
his crimes appear as bad as possible, will be reported
for "neglect of duty while a sentinel, allowing the
officers and non--commissioned officers of the guard
to advance upon him, and to cross his post repeatedly
without being challenged." He knows the report to be
true, and if he submits an explanation for the offence
his inexperience will be considered, and he will
probably get no demerits for his neglect of duty.
But the best joke of all is in their manner of
calling off the half-hours at night, and of
challenging. Sometimes we hear No. 2 call off,
"No. 2, ten o'clock, and all is well," in a most
natural and unconcerned tone of voice, while No.
3 may sing out, "No. 3, ten o'clock and all is
well-l-l," changing his tone only on the last
word. Then No. 4, with another variation, may
call off, "No. 4, ten o'clock, and all-l-l-l's
well," changing his tone on "all-l-l-l's," and
speaking the rest, especially the last word, in
a low and natural manner of voice, and sometimes
abruptly. And so on along the entire chain of
sentinels, each one calls off in a manner different
from that of the rest. Sometimes the calling off is
scarcely to be heard, sometimes it is loud and full,
and again it is distinct but squeakish. It is indeed
most delightful to be in one's tent and here the
plebes call off in the still quiet hours of the
night. One can't well help laughing, and yet all
plebes, more or less, call off in the same manner.
Plebe sentinels are very troublesome sometimes to
the non-commissioned officers of the guard. They
receive their orders time after time, and when
inspected for them most frequently spit them out
with ease and readiness; but just as soon as night
comes, and there is a chance to apply them, they
"fess utterly cold," and in the simplest things
at that. Nine plebes out of ten almost invariably
challenge thus, "Who comes here?" "Who stands here?"
"Who goes here?" as the case may be, notwithstanding
they have been repeatedly instructed orally, and have
seen the words, as they should be, in the regulations.
If a person is going, and is a hundred yards or so
off, it is still, "Who goes here?" Everything is
One night the officer of the day concealed himself
near a sentinel's post, and suddenly appeared on it.
The plebe threw his gun down to the proper position
and yelled out, "Who comes here?" The officer of
the day stopped short, whereupon the plebe jumped
at him and shouted, "Who stands here?" Immediately
the officer started off, saying as he did so, "I'm
not standing; I'm going." Then of course the
challenge was again changed to, "Who goes here? "I'm
not going; I'm coming," said the officer, facing
about and approaching the sentinel. This was kept
up for a considerable time, till the officer of the
day got near a sentry-box and suddenly disappeared.
The plebe knew he was there, and yelled in a louder
tone than before, "Who stands here? "Sentry-box," was
the solemn and ghostly response.
It is hardly reasonable, I think, to say the plebe
was frightened; but he actually stood there
motionless, repeating his challenge over and over
again, "Who stands here?"
There was a light battery in park near by, and
through this, aided by the gloom, the officer
of the day managed to pass unobserved along, but
not on the sentinel's post. He then got upon it
and advanced on him, making the while much noise
with his sword and his heavy tread. He walked
directly up to the sentinel unchallenged, and
startled him by asking, "What are you standing
here yelling for?"
The plebe told him that the officer of the day had
been upon his post, and he had seen him go behind
the sentry-box. And all this to the officer of the
day, standing there before him, "Well, sir, whom
do you take me to be?"
The plebe looks, and for the first time brought to
full consciousness, recognizes the officer of the
day. Of course he is surprised, and the more so
when the officer of the day inspects for his--the
plebe's--satisfaction the sentry-box, and finds
no one there. He "eats" that plebe up entirely,
and then sends a corporal around to instruct him
in his orders. When the corporal comes it may be
just as difficult to advance him. He may, when
challenged, advance without replying, or, if he
replies, he may say, "Steamboat," "Captain Jack,
Queen of the Modocs," as one did say to me, or
something or somebody else not entitled to the
countersign. Possibly the plebe remembers this,
and he may command "Halt!" and call another corporal.
This latter may come on a run at "charge bayonets,"
and may not stop till within a foot or so of the
sentinel. He then gets another "cursing out." By
this time the corporal who first came and was halted
has advanced unchallenged and unnoticed since the
arrival of the second. And then another cursing out.
Thus it is that plebe camp is made so hard.
Surely the officers and non-commissioned officers
are right in testing by all manner of ruses the
ability of the sentinels. It is their duty to
instruct them, to see that they know their orders,
and are not afraid to apply them.
Sometimes plebes enjoy it, and like to be cursed
out. Sometimes they purposely advance toward a
party improperly, to see what will be said to them.
It is fun to some, and to others most serious. At
best it gives a plebe a poor opinion of West Point,
and while he may bear it meekly he nevertheless
sighs for the "-- touch of a vanished hand," the
caressing hand of a loving mother or sister. I know
I used to hate the very name of camp, and I had an
easier time, too, than the other plebes.
Of course the plebes, being inexperienced for the
most part, are "high privates in the rear rank."
For another reason, also, this is the case. The
first and second classes have the right established
by immemorial custom of marching in the front rank,
which right necessarily keeps the plebes in the rear
rank, and the yearlings too, except so many as are
required in the front rank for the proper formation
of the company. Another reason, perhaps, may be
given to the same end. We have what we call class
rank, or, in other words, class standing. Every
class has certain privileges and immunities, which
the junior classes do not enjoy; for example, first-
classmen, and second-classmen too--by General Orders
of September, 1876--are excused from guard duty in
the capacity of privates, and are detailed-- first-
classmen for officers of the day and officers of the
guard, and second-classmen for non-commissioned
officers of the guard. All members of the third and
fourth classes are privates, and from them the
privates of the guard are detailed. All officers,
commissioned and non-commissioned, are exempt from
"Saturday punishment." I mean they do not walk
extra tours of guard for punishment. The non-
commissioned officers are sometimes required to
serve such punishments by discharging the duties
of corporal or sergeant in connection with the
punishment squad. Third-and fourth-classmen enjoy
no such immunities. Plebes, then, having no rank
whatever, being in fact conditional cadets until
they shall have received their warrants in the
following January, must give way to those who have.
One half or more of the privates of the company must
be in the front rank. This half is made up of those
who rank highest, first-classmen and second-classmen,
and also, if necessary, a number of third-classmen.
Plebes must then, except in rare cases, march in the
rear rank, and from the time they are put in the
battalion till the close of the summer encampment,
they are required to carry their hands with palms to
the front as prescribed in the tactics.
All this is kept up till the close of camp, and makes,
I think, plebe camp the most trying part of one's cadet
On the 28th of August the furloughmen return, and
report to the commandant at two o'clock for duty.
In the afternoon the battalion is sized and quarters
are assigned under the supervision of the assistant-
instructors of tactics.
At parade the appointment of officers and non-
commissioned officers for the ensuing year is
published, and also orders for the discontinuance
of the encampment.
In the evening the "twenty-eighth hop" takes place,
and is the last of the season. On the 29th--and
beginning at reveille--the cadets move their effects
into winter quarters in barracks. All heavy articles
are moved in on wagons, while all lighter ones are
carried over by cadets themselves. By seven o'clock
every thing is moved away from camp, save each cadet's
Breakfast is served at 7 A.M., and immediately
afterward comes "troop" and guard-mounting, after
which the entire camp is thoroughly policed. This
requires an hour or more, and when all is done the
"general" is sounded. At this the companies are
formed under arm in their respective company
streets. The arms are then stacked and ranks
broken. At least two cadets repair to each tent,
and at the first tap of the drum remove and roll
up all the cords save the corner ones. At the
second tap, while one cadet steadies the tent the
other removes and rolls the corner cords nearest
him. The tents in the body of the encampment are
moved. Back two feet, more or less, from the
color line, while the guard tents and those of
the company officers are moved in a northerly
direction. At the third tap the tents fall
simultaneously toward the color line and the south
cardinal point, amid rousing cheers. The tents
being neatly rolled up and placed on the floors,
the companies are reformed and on the centre. The
battalion then marches out to take up its winter
quarters in barracks.
When camp is over the plebes are no longer required
to depress their toes or to carry their hands with
palms to the front. They are, in fact, "cadets and
gentlemen," and must take care of themselves.
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.
IN this chapter I shall describe only those phases
of cadet life which are experienced by "yearlings"
in their "yearling camp."
Beginning July 5th, or as soon after as practicable,
the third class receive practical instruction in the
nomenclature and manual of the field-piece. This drill
continues till August 1st, when they begin the "School
of the Battery."
The class attend dancing daily. Attendance at dancing
is optional with that part of the third class called
"yearlings," and compulsory for the "Seps," who of
course do not become yearlings till the following
September. The third class also receive instruction
in the duties of a military laboratory, and "target
practice." These instructions are not always given
during camp. They may be given in the autumn or spring.
Another delight of the yearling is to "bone colors."
Immediately in front of camp proper is a narrow path
extending entirely across the ground, and known as the
"color line." On the 1st of August--sometimes before--
the "color line" is established, this name being
applied also to the purpose of the color line. This
ceremony consists in stacking arms just in rear of the
color line, and placing the colors on the two stacks
nearest the centre of the line.
From the privates of the guard three are chosen to
guard the stacks and to require every one who crosses
the color line or passes within fifteen paces of the
colors to salute them. These three sentinels are known
as the "colors," or "color men," and are numbered
"first," "second," and "third."
Those are chosen who are neatest and most soldierlike
in their appearance. Cadets prepare themselves
specially for this, and they toss up their guns to
the adjutant at guard-mounting. This signifies that
they intend competing for "colors." The adjutant falls
them out after the guard has marched to its post, and
inspects them. Absolute cleanliness is necessary. Any
spot of dirt, dust, or any thing unclean will often
defeat one. Yearlings "bone" their guns and accoutrements
for "colors," and sometimes get them every time they
A "color man" must use only those equipments issued to
him. He cannot borrow those of a man who has "boned
them up" and expect to get colors. Sometimes-- but
rarely--plebes compete and win.
The inducement for this extra labor is simply this:
Instead of being on duty twenty-four hours, color men
are relieved from 4 P. M. till 8 A. M. the next day,
when they march off. They of course enjoy all other
privileges given the "Old Guard."
"Sentinels for the Color Line.--The sentinels for the
color line will be permitted to go to their tents from
the time the stacks are broken till 8 A.M. the following
morning, when they will rejoin the guard. They will be
excused from marching to meals, but will report to the
officer of the guard at the roll-call for each meal, and
also at tattoo and reveille."--(From Résumé of Existing
Orders, U. S. C. C.)
It is the yearling who does most of the hazing. Just
emerged from his chrysalis state, having the year
before received similar treatment at the hands of other
yearlings, he retaliates, so to speak, upon the now
plebe, and finds in such retaliation his share of
The practice, however, is losing ground. The cadets
are more generous, and, with few exceptions, never
interfere with a plebe. This is certainly an advance
in the right direction; for although hazing does
comprise some good, it is, notwithstanding, a low
practice, one which manliness alone should condemn.
None need information and assistance more than plebes,
and it is unkind to refuse it ; nay, it is even not
humane to refuse it and also to haze the asker. Such
conduct, more than any thing else, discourages and
disheartens him. It takes from him all desire to do
and earn, to study or strive for success. At best it
can be defended only as being effective where
regulations are not, viz., in the cases of rough
specimens who now not infrequently manage to win
Formerly in yearling camp the corporals were all
"acting sergeants." They were so acting in the
absence of the de facto sergeants. These corporals
got the idea into their heads that to retain their
appointments they had to do a certain amount of
"skinning," and often "skins" were more fancied
than real. This was a rather sad condition of
affairs. Plebes would find their demerits
accumulating and become disheartened. It was all
due to this unnecessary rigor, and "being military,"
which some of the yearling corporals affected. No
one bears, or rather did bear, such a reputation
as the yearling corporal. As such he was disliked
by everybody, and plebes have frequently fought
them for their unmanly treatment. This, however,
was. It is no more. We have no yearling corporals,
and plebes fare better generally than ever before.
Not because all yearling corporals thus subserved
their ambition by reporting men for little things
that might as well have been overlooked, did they
get this bad reputation, but rather because with it
they coupled the severest hazing, and sometimes even
insults. That was unmanly as well as mean. Hazing
could be endured, but not always insults.
Whether for this reason or not I cannot say, the
authorities now appoint the corporals from the
second class, men who are more dignified and courteous
in their conduct toward all, and especially toward
plebes. The advantages of this system are evident.
One scarcely appreciates cadet life--if such
appreciation is possible--till he becomes a
yearling. It is not till in yearling camp that
a cadet begins to "spoon." Not till then is he
permitted to attend the hops, and of course he
has but little opportunity to cultivate female
society, nor is he expected to do so till then,
for to assume any familiarity with the upper
classes would be considered rather in advance of
his "plebeship's" rights. How then can he--he is
little more than a stranger--become acquainted
with the fair ones who either dwell at or are
visiting West Point. Indeed, knowing "femmes" are
quite as prone to haze as the cadets, and most
unmercifully cut the unfortunate plebe. Some are
also so very haughty: they will admit only first-
classmen to their acquaintance and favor.
But Mr. Plebe, having become a yearling finds that
the "Mr." is dropped, and that he is allowed all
necessary familiarity. He then begins to enjoy his
cadetship, a position which for pleasure and happiness
has untold advantages, for what woman can resist those
glorious buttons? A yearling has another advantage. The
furlough class is absent, and the plebes--well, they
are "plebes." Sufficient, isn't it? The spooneying
must all be done, then, by the first and third classes.
Often a great number of the first class are bachelors,
or not inclined to be spooney; and that duty then of
course devolves on the more gallant part of that class
and the yearlings.
The hop managers of the third class have been mentioned
elsewhere. They enjoy peculiar facilities for pleasure,
and, where a good selection has been made, do much to
dispel the monotony of academic military life. Indeed,
they do very much toward inducing others to cultivate a
high sense of gallantry and respect for women. The
refining influence of female society has greater play,
and its good results are inevitable.
But what a wretched existence was mine when all this
was denied me! One would be unwilling to believe I had
not, from October, 1875, till May, 1876, spoken to a
female of any age, and yet it was so. There was no
society for me to enjoy--no friends, male or female,
for me to visit, or with whom I could have any social
intercourse, so absolute was my isolation.* Indeed, I
had friends who often visited me, but they did so only
when the weather was favorable. In the winter season,
when nature, usually so attractive, presented nothing
to amuse or dispel one's gloom, and when, therefore,
something or some one suited for that purpose was so
desirable, no one of course visited me. But I will not
murmur. I suppose this was but another constituent of
that mechanical mixture of ills and anxieties and
suspense that characterized my cadet life. At any rate
I can console myself in my victory over prejudice,
whether that victory be admitted or not. I know I have
so lived that they could find in me no fault different
from those at least common to themselves, and have
thus forced upon their consciences a just and merited
recognition whether or not they are disposed to follow
conscience and openly accept my claim to their brotherly
*I could and did have a pleasant chat every day, more
or less, with "Bentz the bugler," the tailor, barber,
commissary clerk, the policeman who scrubbed out my
room and brought around the mail, the treasurer's
clerk, cadets occasionally, and others. The statement
made in some of the newspapers, that from one year's
end to another I never heard the sound of my own voice,
except in the recitation room, is thus seen to be
IT is a common saying among cadets that "first-class
camp is just like furlough." I rather think the
assertion is an inheritance from former days and the
cadets of those days, for the similarity at present
between first-class camp and furlough is beyond our
conception. There is none, or if any it is chimerical,
depending entirely on circumstances. In the case of
a small class it would be greater than in that of a
large one. For instance, in "train drill" a certain
number of men are required. No more are necessary. It
would be inexpedient to employ a whole class when the
class had more men in it than were required for the
drill. In such cases the supernumeraries are instructed
in something else, and alternate with those who attend
train drill. In the case of a small class all attend the
same drill daily, and that other duty or drill is
reserved for autumn. Thus there is less drill in camp,
and it becomes more like furlough when there is none
Again, first-classmen enjoy more privileges than
others, and for this reason their camp is more like
furlough. If, however, there are numerous drills,
the analogy will fail; for how can duty, drills,
etc., coexist with privileges such as first-class
privileges? Time which otherwise would be devoted
to enjoyment of privileges is now consumed in drills.
Still there is much in it which makes first-class
camp the most delightful part of a cadet's life.
There are more privileges, the duties are lighter
and more attractive, and make it withal more enjoyable.
First, members of the class attend drill both as
assistants and as students. They are detailed as
chiefs of platoon, chiefs of section, chiefs of
caissons, and as guidons at the light battery; as
chiefs of pieces at the several foot batteries;
attend themselves at the siege or sea-coast batteries,
train drill, pontoon drill, engineering, ordnance, and
astronomy, and they are also detailed as officers of
the guard. These duties are generally not very
difficult nor unpleasant to discharge. Second, from the
nature of the privileges allowed first-classmen, they
have more opportunity for pleasure than other cadets,
and therefore avoid the rather serious consequences of
their monotonous academic military life. A solitary
monotonous life is rather apt to engender a dislike for
mankind, and no high sense of honor or respect for women.
I deem these privileges of especial importance, as they
enable one to avoid that danger and to cultivate the
highest possible regard for women, and those virtues and
other Christian attributes of which they are the better
exponents. A soldier is particularly liable to fall into
this sans-souci way of looking at life, and those to
whom its pleasures, as well as its ills, are largely
due. We are indebted to our fellows for every thing
which affects our life as regards its happiness or
unhappiness, and this latter misfortune will rarely
be ours if we properly appreciate our friends and
those who can and will make life less wretched. To
shut one's self up in one's self is merely to trust,
or rather to set up, one's own judgment as superior
to the world's. That cannot be, nor can there be
happiness in such false views of our organization as
being of and for each other.
At this point of the course many of the first-class
have attained their majority. They are men, and in
one year more will be officers of the army. It becomes
them, therefore, to lay aside the ordinary student's
rôle, and assume a more dignified one, one more in
conformity with their age and position. They leave
all cadet rôles, etc., to the younger classes, and
put on the proper dignity of men.
There are for them more privileges. They are more
independent--more like men; and consequently they
find another kind of enjoyment in camp than that
of the cadet. It is a general, a proper, a rational
sort of pleasure such as one would enjoy at home
among relatives or friends, and hence the similarity
between first-class camp and furlough.
But it is not thus with all first-classmen. Many,
indeed the majority, are cadets till they graduate.
They see every thing as a cadet, enjoy every thing
as a cadet, and find the duties, etc., of first-class
camp as irksome as those of plebe or yearling camp.
Of course such men see no similarity between first-
class camp and furlough. It is their misfortune. We
should enjoy as many things as we can, and not sorrow
over them. We should not make our life one of sorrow
when it could as well be one of comfort and pleasure.
I don't mean comfort and pleasure in an epicurean
sense, but in a moral one. Still first-classmen do
have many duties to perform, but there is withal one
consolation at least, there are no upper classmen to
keep the plebe or yearling in his place. There is no
feeling of humbleness because of junior rank, for the
first class is the first in rank, and therefore need
humble itself to none other than the proper authorities.
Again, their honor, as "cadets and gentlemen," is
relied upon as surety for obedience and regard for
regulations. They are not subject to constant watching
as plebes are. The rigor of discipline is not so severe
upon them as upon others. It was expended upon them
during their earlier years at the Academy, and, as a
natural consequence, any violation of regulations, etc.,
by a first-classman, merits and receives a severer
punishment than would be visited upon a junior classman
for a like infringement on his part.
The duties of first-classmen in first-class camp are
as follows: The officer of the day and two officers
of the guard are detailed each day from the class.
Their duties are precisely those of similar officers
in the regular army. The junior officer of the guard
daily reports to the observatory to find the error of
the tower clock. Also each day are detailed the
necessary assistants for the several light batteries,
who are on foot or mounted, as the case may require.
The remainder of the class receive instructions in
the service of the siege and sea-coast artillery.
These drills come in the early forenoon. After them
come ordnance and engineering.
The entire class is divided as equally as may be into
two parts, which alternate in attendance at ordnance
In ordnance the instructions are on the preparation
of military fireworks, fixing of ammunition and
packing it, the battery wagon and forge. This
instruction is thoroughly practical. The cadets
make the cases for rockets, paper shells, etc., and
fill them, leaving them ready for immediate use. The
stands of fixed ammunition prepared are the grape and
canister, and shell and shot, with their sabots.
The battery wagon and forge are packed as prescribed
in the "Ordnance Manual."
The instructions in engineering are also practical
and military. They are in the modes of throwing and
dismantling pontoon bridges, construction of fascines,
gabions, hurdles, etc., and revetting batteries with
them. Sometimes also during camp, more often after,
foot reconnoissances are made. A morning and night
detail is made daily from the class to receive
practical instruction in astronomy in the field
Night signalling with torches, and telegraphy by day,
form other sources of instruction for the first class.
Telegraphy, or train drill, as the drill is called,
consists in erecting the telegraph line and opening
communication between two stations, and when this is
done, in communicating so as to acquire a practical
knowledge of the instruments and their use.
These various drills--all of them occurring daily,
Sunday of course excepted, and for part of them
Saturday also--complete the course of instruction
given the first class only during their first-class
camp. It will be observed that they all of them are
of a military nature and of the greatest importance.
The instruction is thorough accordingly.
I have sufficiently described, I think, a cadet's
first-class camp. I shall, therefore, close the
OUR FUTURE HEROES.
THE WEST POINT CADETS' VACATION.
Ten Days of Centennial Sport for Prospective Warriors
--The Miseries of three hundred Young Gentlemen who
are limited to Ten Pairs of White Trousers each.
"ALMOST at the foot of George's Hill, and not far
to the westward of Machinery Hall, is the camp of
the West Point cadets. From morning till night the
domestic economy of the three hundred young gentlemen
who compose the corps is closely watched, and their
guard mountings and dress parades attract throngs of
spectators. It would be hard to find anywhere a body
of young men so manly in appearance, so perfect in
discipline, and so soldier-like and intelligent. The
system of competitive examination for admission, so
largely adopted within the past few years in many of
our large cities, has resulted in recruiting the corps
with lads of bright intellect and more than ordinary
attainments, while the strict physical examination has
rigorously excluded all but those of good form and
perfect health. The competitive system has also given
to the Academy students who want to learn, instead of
lads who are content to scramble through the prescribed
course as best they can, escaping the disgrace of being
"found" (a cadet term equivalent to the old college word
"plucked") by nearly a hair's-breadth.
"The camp.--The camp is laid out in regulation style,
and has four company streets. Near the western limit
of the Centennial grounds are the tents of the
commandant and the cadet captains and lieutenants.
Below, on a gentle incline, are the wall tents,
occupied by the cadets. Each of these has a board
floor, and it is so arranged that when desired it
may be thrown open on all sides. From two to four
narrow iron cots, a bucket for water, an occasional
chair, and now and then a mirror, comprise the
furniture. But scanty as it is, every article of this
little outfit has a place, and must be kept in it, or
woe to the unlucky wight upon whom the duty of
housekeeping devolves for the day. The bucket must
stand on the left-hand side of the tent, in front;
the beds must be made at a certain hour and in a
certain style--for the coming heroes of America have
to be their own chambermaids; while valises and other
baggage must be stowed away in as orderly a way as
possible. Every morning the tents are inspected, and
any lack of neatness or order insures for the
chambermaid of the day a misconduct mark. It may be
easily conceived that under a regime so strict as
this the cadets are particularly careful as to their
quarters, inasmuch as one hundred of these marks mean
dismissal from the Academy.
"At daybreak the reveille sounds, and the cadets turn
out for roll-call. Then come breakfast, guard mounting,
and camp and general police duty, which consume the
time until 8.30 A.M., from which hour those who are not
on guard have the freedom of the Centennial grounds. At
5 P.M. they must fall in for dress parade; at 9 they
answer to 'tattoo' roll-call, and a few minutes later
'taps' or 'lights out' consigns them to darkness and
"West Point Aristocracy.--Small as is this corps, it
is still patent that the distinction of caste is very
strong. A first-classman--cadet officers are selected
from this class--looks down upon lower grade men, while
second-class cadets view their juniors with something
nearly allied to contempt, and third-class men are
amusingly patronizing in their treatment of 'plebes'
or new-comers. For the first year of their Academy
life the 'plebes' have rather a hard time of it; but
no sooner do they emerge from their chrysalis state
than they are as hard upon their unfortunate successors
as the third-class men of the year before were upon
"The cadets are delighted with their reception and
kind treatment in Philadelphia, and look upon their
ten days' visit to the Centennial as a most pleasant
break in the monotony of Academy life. That they
maintain the reputation of the Academy for gallantry
and devotion to the fair sex is evidenced by the
presence of numbers of beautiful young ladies in
their camp after dress parade every evening. Given,
a pretty girl, the twilight of a summer evening, and
a youth in uniform, and the result is easily guessed.
"The Cadet Corps is to return to West Point to-morrow
morning. There the cadets are to go into camp until
September. General Sherman at one time purposed to
have them march from this city to the Academy, but
it was finally decided that the march would consume
time which might be more profitably devoted to drill.
"One of the complaints of the cadets is that in the
arrangements for their visit, the Quartermaster's
Department was stricken with a spasm of economy as
regarded transportation, and each of the future heroes
was limited to the miserably insufficient allowance of
ten pairs of white trousers.
"The cadets speak in warmly eulogistic terms of the
Seventh New York, to whose kindly attentions, they
say, much of their pleasure is due."
Of this article, which was taken from the Philadelphia
Times, I need only say, those "two or four narrow iron
cots" and that "occasional chair" existed solely in the
imagination of the reporter, as they were nowhere
visible within the limits of our encampment.
A brave and honorable and courteous man
Will not insult me; and none other can."--Cowper.
"How do they treat you?" "How do you get along?" and
multitudes of analogous questions have been asked me
over and over again. Many have asked them for mere
curiosity's sake, and to all such my answers have been
as short and abrupt as was consistent with common
politeness. I have observed that it is this class of
people who start rumors, sometimes harmless, but more
often the cause of needless trouble and ill-feeling.
I have considered such a class dangerous, and have
therefore avoided them as much as it was possible. I
will mention a single instance where such danger has
been made manifest.
A Democratic newspaper, published I know not where,
in summing up the faults of the Republican party,
took occasion to advert to West Point. It asserted in
bold characters that I had stolen a number of articles
from two cadets, had by them been detected in the very
act, had been seen by several other cadets who had been
summoned for the purpose that they might testify
against me, had been reported to the proper authorities,
the affair had been thoroughly investigated by them, my
guilt established beyond the possibility of doubt, and
yet my accusers had actually been dismissed while I was
retained.* This is cited as an example of Republican
rule; and the writer had the effrontery to ask, "How
long shall such things be?" I did not reply to it then,
nor do I intend to do so now. Such assertions from such
sources need no replies. I merely mention the incident
to show how wholly given to party prejudices some men
can be. They seem to have no thought of right and
justice, but favor whatever promotes the aims and
interests of their own party, a party not Democratic
but hellish. How different is the following article
from the Philadelphia North American, of July 7th,
*This article was cut from a newspaper, and, together
with the name of the paper, was posted in a conspicuous
place, where other cadets, as well as myself, saw and
"It is very little to the credit of the West Point
cadets, a body of young men in whose superior
discipline and thoroughly excellent deportment we
feel in common with nearly all others a gratified
pride, that they should be so ungenerous and unjust
as they confess themselves to be in their treatment
of the colored boy, who, like themselves, has been
made a ward of the nation. We know nothing of this
young man's personal character or habits, but we
have seen no unkind criticism of them. For that