West Point, New York

views updated

West Point, New York

WEST POINT, NEW YORK. Located on the west side of a sharp bend of the Hudson River seven miles below Fishkill, West Point was not fortified until after Clinton's expedition of October 1777 demonstrated the inadequacy of the Patriots' existing defenses. It became, in Washington's words, the "key to America," and was to have been the prize of Arnold's treason. From the completion of its works in 1778, Washington made it the center of his defensive lines against the British in New York. Many scholars hold that it served effectively to bottle the British into their positions in New York City, while others find it insignificant to the total war effort. With patrols ranging widely from this base, the Americans were able to put serious pressure on the British supply system.

A detachment of the Corps of Invalids was assigned there in 1781 to instruct officer candidates, but the plan did not materialize. Washington first proposed the establishment of a military academy at this site in 1783. Instead, Congress terminated the Continental army the next year (2 June 1784), replacing it the following day with the miniscule U.S. Army. West Point was garrisoned by fifty-five men under a captain who were charged with maintaining the decaying fort. Later it was home for the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers established on 9 May 1794, and on 4 July 1802 the U.S. Military Academy started operating with ten cadets present. West Point is the oldest continuously garrisoned U.S. military post.

SEE ALSO Arnold's Treason; Clinton's Expedition; Corps of Invalids; Hudson River and the Highlands.

                          revised by Michael Bellesiles

About this article

West Point, New York

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article