American History, continued

4 February 2011

These are the most important new items onsite since my last entry a year ago: Stanley Clisby Arthur’s The Story of the West Florida Rebellion (and other material relating to “West Florida”), Constance Lindsay Skinner’s Pioneers of the Old Southwest (and other Kentucky and Tennessee material), James R. Jacobs’ Tarnished Warrior: Major-General James Wilkinson, Irving Berdine Richman’s Ioway to Iowa.

In addition, a couple dozen journal articles, mostly about West Point, railroads, and the frontier from the Appalachians to the west bank of the Mississippi; about fifteen hundred more entries of Cullum’s Biographical Register of the Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy, now complete thru the year 1850 and thus including many of the generals of the War between the States — I expect to complete the transcription of all 3384, thru the Class of 1890, in March 2012; orientation pages to the History of Florida, the History of Iowa, the History of Wisconsin; Sidelights on Dutch History.

The homepage of my American history site (as of writing: 32 books, 16,000 pages of print, 700 images in 2700+ webpages) is here.

Latrobe’s Reminiscences

13 January 2010

One more West Point item, a fairly important one, bringing my History of West Point site up to a bit more than 550 pages of print: West Point Reminiscences 1818‑1882, by John H. B. Latrobe (son of the architect of the U. S. Capitol). A member of the Class of 1822, he went on to become a pioneer in American railroading in the earliest days of the Baltimore & Ohio. His memoir, unfortunately briefer than one would like — although it makes up for that by being well-written and more interesting than memoirs sometimes are — is one of the very few first-hand accounts of the “new” West Point put in order by Sylvanus Thayer. Don’t let the whiskers in my picture fool you, by the way: that was later. He was 15 when he entered the Academy.

The homepage of my American history site (26 books, 12,000 pages of print, 600 images in 800+ webpages) is here.

USMA should be abolished (etc.)

11 January 2010

Yet another West Point item, joining the 3 books and several other journal articles in my site on the history of West Point: The Attack upon West Point during the Civil War, a paper published in 1939, detailing a flare-up in popular opposition to the Academy from Northerners who viewed it, or professed to view it, as a hotbed of Confederate sentiment, aristocratic leanings, and treason; onto this bandwagon leapt a few politicians from the radical wing of Lincoln’s Republican party. The Union reverses at the beginning of the War between the States were responsible for this flare-up; as soon as the North started winning, it died down.

The attack still holds a lesson for today’s Academy: beware of creeping feelings of superiority; and remember that not only technical training but courage and common sense win wars, of course.

The homepage of my American history site (26 books, 12,000 pages of print, 600 images in 800+ webpages) is here.

Making West Point more useful

7 January 2010

Another West Point item, i.e., another part of the largish section of my site on the history of West Point: one more idea for restructuring it, or reforming it, or improving it — How to Make West Point More Useful. The 1894 article suggests a significant increase in the number of cadets, who are, however, to be divided into four groups, following respectively a 4‑, 3‑, 2‑ or 1‑year course, with the longest-trained graduates continuing on to the Regular Army, and those following the shorter courses to act as leaven in the National Guard. The author overlooks the horrific problems this would cause with morale and esprit de corps — look what happened with the World War I classes (Waugh, pp147‑150) — but his ideas have, in the main, been adopted in today’s army: at 4000 strong the Corps produces more graduates than he recommends, OCS provides the second tier of officer training, in just about the same proportion (3/4 of American army officers), and the Guard has been much more tightly integrated into the national army.

The homepage of my American history site (26 books, 12,000 pages of print, 600 images in 800+ webpages) is here.

An academic view of USMA

21 August 2009

One more addition to the largish section of my site on the history of West Point: a 1937 paper, titled Military Education in the United States: A proposal to Differentiate Training into Pre-Military and Military. It’s a critique of West Point by an educator, a professed admirer of the Academy, who doesn’t let that blind him to what he views at its flaws from an academic standpoint: (1) the non-military education suffers because the instructor and professorial staff is grossly unqualified; (2) this non-military education (calculus and French and so on) could be dispatched in a civilian college, bumping up USMA to a school teaching exclusively military subjects: a proposal rather like pre-med before med school; (3) the professorial staff is inbred, by and large themselves products of the Academy, and thus less likely to be aware of the need for change.

The well-intentioned suggestion is one of a family of such proposals over the years in favor of turning West Point into a technical school. As far as I can tell, the teaching staff is now much more academically qualified, but some of the author’s other points still seem to be valid, in particular the inbreeding, which has been looked at much more recently by other outsiders with the same general assessment. I can’t say much for his solution though; turning West Point into a technical school, no matter how high-quality, misses the boat somehow, and even graduating cadets as first lieutenants as he proposes: this guy’s approach would give us a sort of a cross between USMAPS and the War College; no go.

The homepage of my American history site (24 books, 11,000 pages of print, 600 images in 700+ webpages) is here.

Two views of West Point

2 August 2009

Two more West Point items (yet another part of the largish section of my site on the history of West Point): one of them pretty good, the other pretty bad; but as Pliny the Elder said, no book is ever so bad that something useful can’t be got from it.

The good one is an 1869 article on The System of Instruction at West Point, laudatory but not unthinkingly so, by a young graduate of Yale who finds much in Sylvanus Thayer’s educational system that might be profitably applied to civilian universities.

The other is a paper published in a 1901 medical weekly, The Nervous Exhaustion due to West Point Training. The author — a graduate of Annapolis, natch — just embarking on a mercifully brief career as a crackpot eugenicist, tells us that West Pointers are fragile (as you can tell by observing any grade-school playground), die easily in the tropics, are permanently induced to a lifetime of bibliophobia; and a bit more leisure time and vacation couldn’t do them any harm: as I said, some good points. An entertaining read, and I’ve intentionally not quoted you the most bizarre item of the lot, which has to be seen to be believed.

The homepage of my American history site (24 books, 11,000 pages of print, 600 images in 700+ webpages) is here.

West Point, 1852‑1902

28 July 2009

And, online this morning to join the previous West Point items, William Godson’s History of West Point: 1852‑1902. As doctoral dissertations go, a failure, for the reasons I point out on that page; but the summary account of those 50 years is still good to have, and there’s an OK bibliography.

The homepage of my American history site (24 books, 11,000 pages of print, 600 images in 700+ webpages) is here.