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Cadet Life at West Point

Hugh T. Reed

102 pages
Library of Alexandria
I was not more than eight years old when I first heard about West Point, and then I was told that it was Uncle Sam’s Military School; that the young men there were called cadets; that they were soldiers, and that they wore pretty uniforms with brass buttons on them. The impression made upon me at the time was such that I never tired talking and asking questions about West Point. I soon learned to indicate the site on the map, and I longed to go there, that I might be a cadet and wear brass buttons. I talked about it so much that my good mother made me a coat generous with brass buttons. I called it my cadet coat, and wore it constantly. Ah! for the day I should be a big boy and be a real cadet. With a wooden gun I played soldier, and when the war broke out and the soldiers camped in our old fair grounds, I was in their camp at every opportunity. The camp was about half-way between our home farm and father’s store in town, and many is the time I have been scolded for being so much at the camp. My only regret at that time was that I was not old enough to enlist, for I loved to watch the drills and linger around the camp-fires, listening to stories of the war. I learned a good deal from the soldiers about West Point. They told me that I could not go there until I was seventeen years old, and not then unless I was appointed as a cadet by my congressman. They also told me that I must be a good boy at school and study hard, for the reason that after securing the appointment I would have to pass a rigid examination at West Point before admission. This was bad news to me, because we farm boys never attended school longer than four or five months in a year. Fortunately, however, the family moved to “town” when I was fourteen years old. I was then assured that I would have my wish, and I never missed a day at school. I was so anxious to learn rapidly that I overtaxed my eyes, and was in a dark room for nearly a year. Still I did not give up hope, and when my eyesight permitted I returned to school again. I found out that there could be only one cadet at a time at West Point from the same congressional district, and also that there was then a young man there from my district; still I had hopes of getting there myself before I got too old, that is, over twenty-one. Then there was no book published about West Point, and magazines and newspapers never described it.