The Spirit of Old West Point: (1858-1862)




THE happiest six months of my cadet life were those that followed my entrance into D Company at the opening of my second-class year, September, 1860. This period had its dawn when, like silent, migratory herons, our successors, the new cadets, began to appear. And, by the way, the effect of their coming was phenomenal. I remember a particular example of that in the case of “Rube” Ross of my class, a little, serious, broadshouldered Tennesseean, — his name was Ebenezer McEwen, but we always called him “Rube.” He had bristling, sandy, coarse hair and an old face, rather dead fish-eyes and low wrinkled forehead. Well, when the news reached him that the first new cadet had arrived he clapped on his cap and started downstairs on the run, exclaiming, “Hurrah for hell! Hurrah for hell! ” I never could see the connection in Rube’s mind, although we all shared his elation. When the war came on he went with his state, and I never knew what became of him.

Our abilities had been measured against the requirements of the course, and all of us above the foot of the class knew that if we applied ourselves and behaved ourselves we could graduate. In studies we had emerged from the perpetual gloom of pure mathematics into those boundless suggestions of the distant, eternal abodes of space and the duration of time which are kindled in the mind by astronomy and geology. I had made friends; I experienced the joy and gladness of manifested friendship on their part, and on the paid of some of those immediately around me in the higher classes. Above all, I was happy in my roommate, the impulsive, generous, pureminded and boyishly ingenuous John Asbury West of Madison, Georgia.

Everything seemed to conspire to brighten the heart. The course in mechanics and philosophy, although it had the repute of the most crucial of all, had some way or other proved an easy march to me, — in fact, I had moved up to the third place in it. And we had all been pleased with the discovery that beneath the professor’s nervous, twitching manner, his lean, wrinkled, and premonitory face,heavy, bristling eyebrows, and wildly erect, touzling gray hair, lay broad fields of kindness and sympathy. As for Kendrick, professor of geology, and Benton, instructor of ordnance, they displayed such uniform and natural urbanity as gave their recitation-rooms the air of a welcoming presence. Benton’s mild, unconscious blue eye came near being the “single” eye referred to in the Sermon on the Mount. Thus it was that in my academic life the autumn of 1860 was like coming out from a deeply shadowed and, in spots, corduroyed road, upon an open ridge of primeval oak-trees, the sward under them embroidered here and there with golden sunshine.

Its most memorable event was the visit of the Prince of Wales, now King of England. He and his brilliant suite, at the head of which was the Duke of Newcastle, came up from New York on the revenue cutter, Harriet Lane. This vessel, which was named for the stately and distinguished niece of President Buchanan, was captured a few years afterwards by the Confederates in the harbor of Galveston. The royal party arrived at the wharf about 3 P. M. and was met by the adjutant. Mounted on horses specially provided for the occasion, the Prince and his party were escorted to Colonel Delafield’s quarters by the detachment of grim regular dragoons on duty at the Post. On reaching the plain a national salute was fired from Battery Knox, the hills echoing grandly with each discharge. The battalion of cadets was lined up under the elms in front of the barracks, and as Captain Charles W. Field — a typical cavalry officer of the day, six feet, three inches tall, with long, dark chestnut hair, and sweeping moustache — rode by at the head of the escort, accompanied by Lieutenant Robert. Williams of Virginia, later Colonel of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry during the war, we felt very proud of them both. They rode superbly, and looked every inch the soldier. The Prince, well mounted, carried his silk hat in his hand, and acknowledged the salute gracefully as he passed the colors. After the ranks had been opened for review by Reynolds, who was then commandant, and who was killed less than three years later, at Gettysburg, and after the officers and colors had moved to the front, His Royal Highness set out for the right, of the line, the band playing “God Save the Queen,” and later, as he passed down the line, the “Flower of Edinburgh.” We were very proud of General Scott as he towered uncovered, in full uniform, at the side of the blondhaired boy, while we marched in review. The following day the Prince came into our recitation room, and, as Chaffee was reciting, he tarried till he was done. Meanwhile I had viewed him at close range, for I sat within a few feet of him. He had his mother’s conspicuous, large, open, royalty-asserting blue eyes, he was of medium height and had the English hue of health in his face.

There was another distinguished personage at West Point that autumn, one who has filled more shining pages of the world’s history than the Prince of Wales, — Jefferson Davis. He was there off and on throughout the summer, with a subcommittee of the Senate to report on the course of instruction; but my memory of him is vague. I recall him arrayed in a dark blue flannel suit, I can see his square shoulders, military walk,and lithe figure. Had I known then, as I passed him from time to time in company with professors who had been his fellow cadets, what I know now, I should certainly have looked won daringly into his spare, resolute, and rather pleading face,— looked as I did into the face of Abraham Lincoln when on his way to visit Hooker at Aquia Creek a few days after the disastrous defeat at Chancellorsville.

On that occasion some one told me that the President had just landed from the morning Washington boat, and was on the train, made up entirely of freight cars. On going out to where the train stood on the long wharf, I saw him sitting in an empty box car, on a plank or board supported on what may have been cracker-boxes. Halleck, with his big pop eyes, was at his side in undress uniform; neither said a word. The President’s habitually pensive eyes were off across the water to the Virginia shore. That was the only time I ever saw him.

There must have been a great personal charm in Jefferson Davis notwithstanding his rather austerely courtly address; and it has occurred to me that in it, next to the almost irresistible influence of marriage ties, may be found the explanation of the fact that a number of Northern men, his personal friends, like Huse of Massachusetts, Cooper of New York, Ives of Connecticut, Gorgas and Collins of Pennsylvania, broke the natural bonds of borne and blood and fought for the Confederacy. Of these only Collins, the adjutant of the corps my first, year, and the youngest of all, met death on the field. I always associate Jefferson Davis with Hardee and Professor Bartlett, loitering in friendly intercourse at a certain spot under the elms at West Point; and from what I learn, his personal charm lasted to the end. A Southern friend who visited him at Beauvoir a few years before he died referred to it, and went on to describe his home, shaded by pines and live oaks with their drapery of swaying moss; and he told me of the way his broad porch overlooked the still and peaceful waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I wonder if, as his eye rested on that stretch of sea, where now and then a solitary pelican winged heavily into view, he thought of his cadet days on the banks of the Hudson, and contrasted their peace with the dead hopes of his old age. He was a great man; and there is reason to believe that, had it not been for the financial blundering of his cabinet in the first year of the war, he might, have won a place for his Confederacy in the family of nations. Its days, however, would have inevitably been few and full of trouble; and it would have fallen unmourned, the victim of its own arrogance.

Of the officers who were on duty at West Point, Huse, whom I have already mentioned, became the agent of the Confederacy for the purchase of arms in England and had perhaps the most varied and eventful career of any, — especially in view of the downfall of the South, and in the contrast which his old age offers with that of his classmate, Robert Williams of Virginia, Colonel of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry. He and Williams were men of striking personality. The former had a heavy windrow of united black eyebrows; the latter had steadfast, glinting, bluish-gray eyes, a long, bowing, tawny moustache and imperial. He was nearly six feet tall, had a striding walk, and spoke with measured deliberation. This Virginian was invested with the notoriety, unenviable and discordant since the days of Hamilton and Decatur, of having lately fought a duel. Such was the force of public opinion up to the war, that this barbarous custom drove officers on to the field notwithstanding it might be repugnant to one or the other, possibly to both, of the parties involved. His antagonist, who challenged, put a bullet through Williams’s hat; then Williams slowly lifted his pistol and fired into the air; so at all events ran the gossip through the corps, and I never looked at his calm face but I thought of his chivalry. He remained loyal. I have always thought that the real heroes of the war were Southerners like Bayler and Williams, who, without a tie to bind them to the North, without a drop of Northern blood in their veins, yet remained faithful to the flag. The struggle they underwent before making their decision can hardly be realized. While at Meade’s headquarters in September after Gettysburg, I saw a tall Virginian in citizen’s clothes talking with General Meade, and on his departure I heard the general say to some one, “That is ‘Bob’ Williams’s brother.”

Twenty years after the war, while on the Board of Visitors, I saw Huse. His hair was very white and he was alone. Williams at that time was a brigadiergeneral, at the head of the adjutantgeneral’s department of the army, and his name proudly borne on the army register. Huse was in narrow circumstances, at the head of a small private school. Behind these classmates lay two roads: both starting at the same point, one led up to a crest, the other bore down and lost itself in a desert; yet I hope the good angel never deserted the direly fated traveler who went on the latter way.

Among the names of those Northerners I have mentioned in connection with the fascination of Jefferson Davis’s personality, was that of Collins. Perhaps it will be recalled that at an earlier period in this narrative I referred to him and foreshadowed what seemed to me his tragic death. If I repeat that he was the adjutant of the corps my first year, every graduate will realize why the circumstances I am about to relate made a deep impression.

On the afternoon of the third day of the Wilderness, Grant ordered Warren, on whose staff I was then serving, to take his 5th Corps and, by moving behind Hancock, to gain Spottsylvania Court House between Lee and Richmond. The corps drew out just as the sun was sinking into the treetops; and as we ascended the hill from the Wilderness Run on the road towards Fredericksburg, the Confederates saw the column through the open woods of the Chewning farm, and began to cheer. The cheer was taken up all along their line. It attracted my attention, and I recollect how, looking backward whence it came, I saw the sun going down like a great copper ball. Lee’s army thought that Grant had had enough and was withdrawing to Fredericksburg. But they did not know Grant. The Army of the Potomac had crossed the Rapidan for the last time. We went on our way till we struck the Brock road, and then headed straight for Spottsylvania. Grant, in my judgment, was the only general we had who, after such an engagement as we had had for three days in the Wilderness, would have sent the army forward.

Night had fully set in by the time we reached the rear of Hancock’s position. The fire that had burned through the woods — to the death of many a poor wounded soldier of both armies—had climbed here and there to the tops of trees along the line, and flickered with wavering tongues of flame. All was still as death, save for the calls of numberless whip-poor-wills, and now and then the clank of a sabre scabbard. It was a long, dark, and gloomy ride; Grant and Meade with their staffs passed us. On our arrival at Todd’s Tavern after midnight the 5th Corps halted, and I sought a place to lie down in the yard —the house and its porch being occupied by Grant’s and Meade’s staffs. In the darkness I trod on a figure lying just inside the gate.

“Can’t you see where you’re, going?”

It was Mackenzie of my class, and I replied, “Hello, is that you, Mack?”

He offered a place beside him on his blanket, and pretty soon he asked me if I wanted to see Collins, who had been killed, Colonel of the 15th irginia Cavalry, that afternoon. He told me that he was then lying dead in the garden.

Before he was buried, McConnell of Pittsburg and of the regular artillery, who knew him and his family well, removed a lock of his light hair for his mother. His grave was marked by his old West Point friends,

Collins had married into a distinguished Virginia family, and was on duty in Washington when the war broke out. He hesitated long, while Love and Country were tugging at the strings of his heart; and was not the good angel at West Point with anxious eyes and bated breath watching the contest? But at last Love won; he took the side of his Southern bride and met his fate on the edge of the Wilderness, just as the lilacs and the trilliums had begun to bloom,—flowers with which North and South have decorated so many graves. I never see the name of the old tavern but that I think of him and of the stars shining over us all. I see him as he was at West Point, invested with all the dignity of a firstclass man, and the chief officer of the battalion; and then I see him lying in the garden, and his friends bending over as they lowered his poor clay. I sometimes think that he rose to the very height of nobility, in this: that he was ready to lay his life down for the young wife he loved.

One word now as to the ill-fated Warren. I knew him well; he had been my instructor at West Point, and I belonged to the same mess with him at Meade’s headquarters after Gettysburg. His relief by Sheridan after the victory had been won at Five Forks is too well known to be repeated. After the war he dined with me at Rock Island Arsenal. He looked like a ghost, and talked of nothing but the great wrong that Sheridan had done him. Only a little while after, he found rest in the grave, begging, before death came, that he should not be buried in the uniform he had done so much to honor. It is a singular circumstance that the very day Sheridan died, a monument was being erected on Round Top to Warren. I hope the generous Irish of Sheridan’s impulsive nature prompted his spirit, as it floated heavenward, to acknowledge openly that under the disturbing stress of battle he had done a fellow soldier a great and bitter wrong, and that he was sorry for it.



While the gallant records of the officers on duty at the Academy no doubt stimulated the ideals of the cadets as to conduct on the field, yet on account of the barriers of rank and custom which have hardened into rigid social restraints, their culture was without immediate influence in widening and enriching that of the cadets, or developing a sense of ideals other than that of bravery. The professors too, however rare and finely blended may have been their qualities and abilities, for a like reason of military isolation, had little or nothing to do with broadening and eleva ting the outlook of the corps. It is true, a few of the cadets, whose parents had been the early friends of the professors and the older officers, were now and then invited to dine with them. But rank in the army, as in the church, is generally accompanied by such pervasive self-consciousness that there was little or none of that free, exhilarating talk, so cheering and influential when age meets youth unconsciously, equal to equal.

Let me say in this connection that Grant and Sherman were the only officers of high rank I ever met who did not charge the atmosphere about them with military consequence. While at City Point I frequently joined my friends of General Grant’s staff, Porter, Babcock, “Billy” Dunn, and others, at his headquarters. The general, in undress uniform, always neat but not fastidious in appointments, would sit at the door of his tent, or sometimes on one of the long settees that faced each other under the tent-fly, smoke, listen, and sometimes talk; and not a soul of us, from the youngest to the oldest, ever had a thought of rank. Without lowering his manner to the level of familiarity, he put every one at his ease by his natural simplicity. He had none of the caprices of moods or vanity. Quiet in his presence and natural in his manner, gentle in voice, of absolute purity in speech, of unaffected, simple dignity, Grant threw a charm over his campfire. West Point never graduated a man who added so little austerity or pretense to the peak of fame.

The only door that opened to me socially at West Point was that of Professor French, and I crossed its threshold but once. His family consisted of two or three most beautiful daughters; one of them was the wife of Lieutenant Greble, already mentioned, and the other became the wife of Pennington, whose name is identified with so many fields. Years and years have rolled by since that dinner, and yet I remember two things about it, — a Virginia ham, and a question the professor asked me; and as they come into my mind again I cannot keep back the smiles. I can see the dear old professor (he had very charming, soft manners) slicing a small hickory-chip and corn-cob smoked Virginia ham (our food at that time at the mess hall was abominable) — one that he said an old Virginia friend had just sent him. I can see yet the delicious, cherry-red slices falling from his knife, with their little white border of fat, and I have no doubt that other mouths as well as my own — for there were several of us—watered well at the sight of the familiar home product.

The other incident, which is really the source of my smile, was this: After dinner was over — I cannot remember a single word or topic of the conversation while at the table — the old professor took a seat beside me and asked me if I had ever read any of Kotzebue’s historical works; and if so, had I enjoyed them ? Well, he might as well have asked me if I had ever been to the moon, and what I thought about it. And from that day to this my reason has been puzzling itself to account for his supposing for one moment that a boy from Kirkersville, Ohio, had ever heard of Kotzebue. As a matter of fact, I doubt if there were half a dozen boys in my whole state who had ever dreamed of the existence — let alone having any knowledge — of the great German dramatist. I never see the name but that the kindly face of the professor, the liquid, dark eyes of his daughters, and that glimpse of a refined household break into view with the freshness of a row of blooming hollyhocks in a garden.

If I could see the old professor now I should like to talk with him; not about Kotzebue nor about the Bay of Biscay, he had a sermon that he preached quite often that began, “It was a beautiful day in the Bay of Biscay,” — but about Blair’s Rhetoric, with which he tried to open to our mathematically barricaded vision the principles and beauties of the fields of literature. I have n’t seen the book for forty years, but remember some broad, intellectual landscapes in it which it would be a pleasure to hear him talk about; for he was a scholar and a sweet character.

Moreover, he might make plain the mysterious relations and affinities that a man’s ideals have with his surroundings. What, for instance, have the scenery, the historic associations, the ceremonials at West Point to do, not with the mere matter of its concrete education, but with those high and abstract conceptions connected with it that we call honor and duty and truth ? I do not know just how the old professor would reply; but I was detailed as his assistant in teaching the fourth class for a while in 1861, owing to the fact that the war required the services of every officer who could possibly be spared for duty in the field, and I knew his methods well. He seemed to think that, in view of our perpetual use of mathematical symbols, the only way cadets could appreciate anything was by being shown that something was equal to something else. Therefore, in teaching practical ethics he would go to the blackboard and write,

Virtue = Morality,

etc. So I should expect that in elucidating my inquiry as to the nature and source of ideals, he would say in his thoroughly considerate way, —

“You have studied astronomy. Let us then look through the telescope that sweeps the sky of the mind. Those bodies you see floating there so radiantly in the light of the imagination are Honor and Truth; and that big martial planet with the ruddy glow is Duty. Now everything that elevates the feelings, as scenery or historic associations, brings all those ideals into clearer vision; and we have the equation

Surroundings = Inspiration;

Inspiration = Accelerating waves of Sentiment.

And in the latter member I find the explanation of what makes West Point what it is.”

And I think the professor would be right. West Point is what it is by virtue of accelerated waves of sentiment.

The termination of my duties with him as his assistant is a matter of record in the archives of the Academy, a transcript of which is as follows: —

“Jan. 6, 1862. Cadet Lieutenant Morris Schaff for deliberately absenting himself from duty without permission from the proper authority is hereby deprived of his appointment in the Battalion of Cadets and will at the close of the examinations of his section in English studies be relieved from duty as an Assistant Professor and be returned to the ranks of his company. Cadet Clifton Comly appointed Lieutenant, vice Schaff reduced.”

This was by order of the late MajorGeneral C. C. Augur, who then was commandant. The circumstances of the formidable order are rather interesting, and, from one point of view at least, amusing, in that Comly, who succeeded me, and myself were both involved in the same offense, which was this: —

We were walking round Flirtation Walk, a path so well known to every visitor at West Point. It was on a Sunday, and just before call to quarters. When opposite Constitution Island, and near the spot where the great chain was anchored that stretched across the river during the Revolution to bar the passage of the British vessels, a turn in the walk brought us suddenly on two flashy—and I am afraid rather frail — young women, both somewhat haggard, and obviously in dreadful distress of mind at what they took to be the prospect of immediate arrest.

They asked us in imploring tones the way to Cold Spring, which was screened from view by the cedar and timber of the island. Who they were or how they had reached the Point we did not know nor did we ask. On our telling them the way to go, they begged us to see them across the river, winch, as it had frozen over, broken up, and refrozen, was very humpy and rough. Of course, we told them it was off limits, that we could n’t take the risk. Thereupon one of them burst into tears, and off we started with them. And I remember mighty well a thought that came into my mind as we made our way over the rough, frozen river, they clinging desperately to our arms: “Now, if this ice breaks and we go down and are drowned, what a subject for a Sunday-school book!”

After escorting them through the woods to where they could see Cold Spring, we struck out as fast as we could go for West Point. As we reached the plain near Kosciusko’s monument, Bentz’s bugle was blowing its first plaintive call for church, — how its repeated chords still vibrate the strings of the graduate’s memory! We set off on a dead run, and were completely fagged out on getting to the barracks. Now, at that time, both as leader of the choir and as assistant professor, I did not have to march to church; and being very tired I foolishly concluded to take my chance about being reported absent, threw back my bed, and proceeded to take it easy. Well, my luxury was of short duration. I was reported absent and immediately after dinner was over was put in arrest. It seems that some one, looking thoughtlessly from an upper window of the hotel, had seen two cadets crossing the river; but the distance was too great to recognize us. This with some other information reached General Augur; he put this and that together and concluded I must be one of the two offenders; but as he could not prove it, he did not prefer charges, and was limited in his wrath to the action stated above. He concluded, however, that the music would be fully as satisfactory to him and the congregation if my voice, were not heard in the choir, and assigned me a seat close up to the chancel, thinking possibly that the nearer he could get me to that sacred place the better it might be for my moral and spiritual welfare. Well, of course, I could not make any explanation to him, or to the old professor, without involving Comly and raising a breeze generally; so there was nothing left for me to do but grin and bear it.

It was round a table graced with veterans of heroic records, at a dinner given to General Augur by one of his staff long after the war, that he was told the true history of that morning at West Point. (It is needless to say that the champagne had exerted its usual releasing and happy functions.) The general listened to my long story with the greatest interest, then appealed quizzically to the old veterans round the table whether he had not served me right. All assured him that he had done just right; in fact, was lenient; while one old veteran, who had a glass eye in the place of one that he had lost in the Wilderness, declared, “It would have been a blessing if the ice had broken and drowned him.”

Later, I was the guest of the general at his home in Georgetown, D. C. He was a fine type of the old army, and very attractive in his home, where the fire on his hearth blazed and murmured softly night after night, as we sat before it, and he talked of other days.

It so happened that Comly roomed just above me. His promotion, and my reduction to the ranks — though to advanced position in the church — made no difference in our way of life. As neither of us was striving for class standing, despite the fact that both of us reached a staff corps, he would come down into my room or I would go up into his, and there night after night we would ramble from topic to topic as two little idle, barefoot boys might ramble along an old dusty road toward a schoolhouse among the fields.

After a life full of usefulness he lies out in the beautiful West Point cemetery, among whose grassy mounds and brooding monuments we wandered and loitered more than once, little dreaming of our experiences in the life before us, or that it would be his resting-place. He was the most beloved man in my class, and one who had the rare good fortune, granted to so few in this world, of realizing while living the esteem which usually is withheld till the grave closes over. The glee that was so natural with him came with such suddenness into his rather frowning face that it was irresistible, and his spirit of comradeship — he was never ready to go to bed — was so open and sympathetic that his cheerfulness was always contagious. Many and many a time we talked over our little trip across the Hudson on the ice, — now with the Army of the Potomac camped around us, its fires glimmering here and there over the bare, war-devastated fields of Stafford (he was the adjutant of the 1st Dragoons then), — now at Rock Island, — and now at West Point again, when he was instructor of ordnance; and hours never bore away from two old friends on happier wings. And to-day, seen through the veil of the past, there is a wistful sense of the distance between myself and him and other friends of my youth.

By following a road overshadowed by chestnut-trees, one soon reaches the cemetery where he and many officers of distinction are buried. The surroundings, the river so peacefully flowing on below you, Crow Nest rising so near and so loftily above you, the pondering presence of over-bending trees, the hills and distant fleckered landscapes, all bring pictures of beauty and a sense of great peace. It has none of that loneliness, so sincerely solemn, of the out-of-the-way country graveyards; and certainly none of the city cemeteries’ hollow mockery of death by flowers and walks and evergreens. And yet, there is sweet, holy pensiveness about it which, like plaintive music, has mellowed the heart of many a cadet. And if, while wandering here and there in it, the bugle’s notes came faintly to him, war and its glories faded away; and the butterfly wavering over the graves, now lifting up and around and over the monuments of the great, and living but for a day, seemed a fitting emblem of the vanity of all ambition.



The subtly inspiring and enduring part that ceremonials as well as scenery and historic associations play at West Point, has been mooted.

The first ceremonial I saw there was held in the chapel,— the celebration of the Fourth of July, 1858. General Scott reviewed the battalion as it marched in, and Madame Patterson Bonaparte was present. The chancel was draped with the colors, and before it was a raised platform for the reader of the Declaration and the Orator. As the notes broke from the band in the choir and reverberated along the arched ceiling, to be wafted back, as it were, from the sky of the grand painting over the chancel, every patriotic string of the heart, was set a-vibrating. I listened to the cadet orator. What a gifted and enviable child of fortune he seemed to me! And behold, at that very hour three years afterward I stood in his place!

There was a very funny incident connected with the delivery of my own address, which I must make a place for here. It was called an oration; but how I would hang my head if some one were to repeat some of it to me now! To be. sure, the war had just begun, and I suppose there was the usual amount of sanguinary froth in it. But however that may be, I committed it to memory, and, never feeling very sure of myself, concluded to put the manuscript, a roll of little note paper, in the breast of my coat so that, if worst came to worst, I could pull it out and read it.

While Burroughs was reading the Declaration, which he did well, I tried to think how my speech began, and to save my soul I could n’t recall three sentences. As he drew to the end, my perplexity deepened. He closed; the band played a patriotic air; the orator was introduced, and the fellows applauded as he arose in dazed confusion. There was a great, crowd present, filling the aisles. It seems a little dog had followed his people up into the choir, and just as I was about to carry my hand to my breast to extract my speech — for my mind was perfectly blank — some one stepped on the little creature’s tail, and out came a couple of sharp yelps. Whereupon the whole corps broke into a good laugh, — I can see Comly and three or four of them laughing now. Well, it brought me to my wits and off went the oration with a bang.

On the walls of the chapel are black marble shields bearing the names in gilt of the Revolutionary generals; and there was a reference in that address to Benedict Arnold and his shield, which is all blank save his name. For some years I could ring out the sentence, but now it has vanished like the cry of seabirds along a beach.

I have no doubt the “oration” was dripping with metaphors and similes, for like moths at night, when my little intellectual lamp is lit, they come flying in. And, by the way, there is nothing that the academic board and instructors in my day, save dear old Professor French, despised so much as figurative language. The sudden pallor, curling lip, and “oh spare us” look of disgust, that attended their woe, were so obvious, however, that a cadet rarely made use of a metaphor a second time. Well, while I was delivering the address, my eye fell on the face of the professor of mathematics, Church. He was scanning me with that cold and distant expression which is to be found in almost every audience. Were I to have given it translation, it would have been in these terms, —

“From all oratory, and above all from Kirkersville oratory, good Lord, deliver us! ”

But not so the dear fellows in cadet gray: they applauded the orator long and loud as he sat down. God bless them all!

The next year Michie of Ohio, the late professor of philosophy, and for many years dean of the faculty, delivered the address, which in its preparation he submitted to me; and I thought it was a great deal better than mine. There was a youth whom Nature, having in mind the prolongation of ideals, fashioned lovingly. In her abundance she did not mould Michie, either in figure or bearing, of the distinctly soldierly type; but in his personality she put an immediate and permanent charm. His laugh she made so natural and infectious that the day he arrived Custer gathered a crowd of us around him by exclaiming, “Fellows, come here and hear my fellow statesman laugh.” This anecdote will recall to many men and women the naturally agreeable and sunny-hearted Michie, for his acquaintance was wide. His laugh, I am sure, will be heard again, and recollection will bring back hours which he imbued with the charm of his candor, his scholarship, his boyishness, and an indefinable something which diffused sunlight over all the world.

While a professor, by bringing the Military Academy into cordial relations with men of influence and station, with the business, educational, and social world, he rendered the institution a great service and threw a lustre both over West Point and over the career of the army officer as well. In another direction, not only at West Point but elsewhere, he rendered a like, if not a greater service to the country and his generation: namely, by checking that pride and tendency to militarism which naturally followed the victory of the North over the South. During the war he was brevetted repeatedly for daring conduct and most creditable services — a brigadier-general within a year after graduating; but the war had barely ended before he began his sweet mission by holding out the hand of charity and friendship and hearty good will to all Southern graduates who had joined the Confederacy. No one in the army deserves more credit than he for healing the wounds and knitting back the old sweet ties. First Grant at Appomattox, then Bartlett at Lexington, then Michie at West Point, — these three, should Peace ever wish to honor her temple, would be at the very head of her great stairway. In the freshness of his intellectual height and his natural and fascinating simplicity, in his courage, purity, and honor, he came near being the incarnation of the Academy’s ideals. And now, in the joyful expectancy of that other world, whose reality he never doubted and of whose glories he loved to talk, he lies out in the beautiful West Point cemetery, and I cannot but think that the Spirit of West Point watches over his clay.

In the autumn of 1859, the remains of Taylor and Gaston, graduates, the latter a North Carolinian, who had been killed in a battle with the Indians, were brought back to the Academy and buried with military honors. This ceremonial, the first of its kind, made a deep impression. I can see the caissons with the coffins, the stars in the flag lying on them, and, immediately behind them, led by a soldier, the horse in full equipment, a trooper’s boots in the stirrups pointing to the rear. Whoever first thought of reversing the boots must have been a poet and a great one; for in that one change of direction he visualized into perfect expression all that poetry sees or can say of the end of life. I can see the drapery of the muffled drums of the band, and hear its wailing music, as slowly, with reversed arms, we marched in column of platoons to the cemetery. The leaves of the chestnuttrees were falling, the haze of October was full on the hills, and there was serious, great pomp in nature as well as in the ceremonial.

When we lined up to fire the customary three rounds over the graves, humor, as usual, was not far away from grief. A “plebe"’ anticipated the command “Fire!” and off went his piece, followed by a general ragged discharge, officers and file-closers yelling, “Steady! steady, there!” at the tops of their voices.

Before the smoke cleared away, “Report that man in B company for gross carelessness!” cried Hardee, thoroughly disgusted, and with vengeance in his tones.

Of course it was very important to Taylor and Gaston that our guns should all go off together; and the next two rounds were all that could be desired. Crow Nest echoed the volley. The smoke billowed over, and up, and disappeared; and back we marched with quick step to cheering music.

The reception of the colors was another ceremonial which never lost its sentiment by repetition, and which I saw for the first time that autumn. On this occasion they had been deposited in the hall of Colonel Hardee’s quarters, —and I wonder whether those, quarters with all their memories, that hall and the colors, with all their associations, ever came into his mind as he sat alone before his camp-fire during the waning hours of the Confederacy. After the corps was brought into line for the ceremony, the color guard fell out and proceeded to the colonel’s quarters under the elms, where his small, deep-chestnut sorrel stood saddled and bridled before the door. The colors appeared, the guard saluted, and in the hands of the color sergeant, Jones (W. G., of Cincinnati), they were borne to the front of the battalion, which was brought to present, arms. It was a beautiful sight; and again l see the flag with its long golden tassels swaying gracefully downward as the salute was acknowledged, the color guard, and the drooping elms that line the green.

Jones was a handsome cadet with softly red hair. Before I came to know him I thought he was the coldest and most arrogant man I had ever seen; and when he was put into the same ward with me at the hospital some time in the winter of ’58 or ’59, I felt, to use exaggeration, like yielding up the ghost on the spot. But soon we were the only occupants, and before we returned to duty I was as much an admirer as I had been a silent critic. He was simply delightful, and ever afterward, when we met, his smile carried a charm; and when the news reached me that he had fallen at Chickamauga,a mist clouded my eyes. “One of the finest and bravest men who ever graduated at the Academy,” says his classmate, General Harry Wilson.

The corporals composing his color guard were Babbitt, Farquhar, Buell, Audenried,and “Dick" Hlill. Audenried, whose eyes were very black, his cheeks a mingled white and red, and who was himself the personification of fastidiousness and neatness, became Sherman’s aide, and his monument is now one of the most conspicuous in the cemetery at West. Point. Hill — Richard Mason Hill of the Hill and Mason families of Maryland and Virginia — graduated in the Ordnance, and we served together at Fort Monroe. He became one of my closest friends. But his days at the end were so sad, that death was a relief as he sighed them away. He sent for me a few weeks before he died, at Springfield Armory, — he asked to have his sword buried with him.

In my day the graduating exercises were held in the chapel, accompanied as now by a short address from a member of the Board of Visitors. The exercises were very simple, yet the consecration of the place invested them with the impressive and inspiring elevation of a ceremonial. The first class I saw receive its diplomas was that of 1859. With band at the head of the column, the battalion marched in side arms to the chapel, escorting the graduating class, the companies taking their customary seats as at church service. Delafield, in full uniform, with heavy bullioned epaulettes, his Roman nose spanned with glasses that gave him the look of an old eagle, stood on one side of the chancel, the adjutant on the other. Between them was a drum with one of the heads removed, holding the diplomas. The cadets were called in the order of their standing, when Delafield, the diploma having been handed him by the adjutant, would open it and read with deep tones, “You are recommended for the Engineers,” or the Topographical Engineers, the Ordnance, Artillery, Infantry, Dragoons, Cavalry, or Mounted Rifles, as the case might be, according to the class rank. The cadet, on receiving the diploma, would bow and march back to his seat amid the applause of the battalion; and if he were an especially popular man, as Hardin, Reese, and Lockett, for instance, it was plainly manifested.

The late General Joseph Wheeler graduated fourth from the foot, and had the corps been called upon to predict who of the class would probably be the last to emerge from obscurity, the chances are that the choice would have fallen upon Wheeler; and yet to-day his fame throws a shadow far beyond that of any one of his class.

In 1860 graduated the class to which Wilson, Porter, Jones, and Bowen belonged, — it was the most popular one in the corps, — and we applauded them well. The man who graduated at the foot of the class, who had been six years at the Point and had just squeezed through at last, was Harold S. Borland, commonly known as “Ginger” on account of his hair being the exact color of ground ginger. Borland had distinguished himself while reciting to Captain Benton in Ordnance by a remarkable answer to the question, “Mr. Borland, how many pieces will a 12pound shell burst, into?”—the average number having been determined well by experiment.

“Ginger” threw his eyes, unexpressive but very blue, on the floor, and deliberated a while; then slowly lifted them to a point near the ceiling over Captain Benton’s head, still deeply reflecting; and finally responded, “Not less than two.”

When his name was called, he marched up and stood before Delafield, who surveyed him coldly for a moment, then read in his deepest chest tones, “Harold Borland of Arkansas, you are recommended ” (aslight pause) “for the Mounted Rifles,” — the only thing under the heavens he could be recommended for. The old eagle gave him a beaky look, and then handed him the diploma, whereupon “Ginger” bowed nearly to the floor, came down the aisle with an inane smile, and was greeted with the heartiest applause. As a Confederate major he was exchanged for the late Major J. M. Forbes of Boston.



Not long ago, at a smoke talk at the University Club in Boston, I listened to the architect whose stately plans have been accepted for the reconstruction and enlargement of the buildings at West Point. There were a number of graduates present, and, when called upon for comment, the only building they spoke of as having any sentiment for them was the chapel. All the others might go, — the barracks, the adjutant’s office, and the academic buildings, — but when the architect laid his hand on the chapel, there was feeling at once.

It would seem that this is the only building of them all that has made an appeal. Has this fact, so declarative of the simple and abiding elements of our natures, and, moreover, so fundamentally spiritual in its relation to the real as well as to the ideal West Point training, been given due weight in the determination of the new location ? Have the exalting, refining, and glorifying influences which stream from Nature and mankind’s spiritual being been overlooked in the reconstruction of West Point, to satisfy the craving of artistic ambition and at the same time pander to the vanities of the pomp of war ?

If I am rightly informed, not only the chapel, but the very scenery itself has been subordinated to a strictly military conception of the Academy. In harmony with this mediocre conception, for it is far below the level of what I believe the mission of the Military Academy to be, the superintendent’s office and residence are to take the present site of the hotel, thrusting themselves with all their commonplace associations into the very heart of West Point’s scenery, in which there is something almost divine. Instead of the Hudson, the mountains, the distant leaning landscape, the dragging mists, the sun-bathed fields, all appealing with immediate address to the heart of every cadet, he is to see a building devoted to not a single mental elevation, and associated with possibly a severe military slaughter-house glare and feverish vanity. What freedom will he have when the superintendent’s residence and the adjutant’s office are on the present site of the hotel? At every step, from the time he leaves barracks, he will be under the snooping eye of somebody in official life, keeping alive a restless self-consciousness. If the little chapel is to be moved, and the hotel is to be removed, — which I think the public has a right to say “no” to,— where, in the æsthetic sense, should the chapel go ? In view of first impressions, should it not go where West Point’s scenery culminates; and that point I think is universally conceded to be somewhere near the present site of the hotel. There, close to the daily life of the cadet., with Nature as its auxiliary chancel, it would go on in sweet harmony with the scenery so imbued with celestial peace appealing to his heart, cherishing his ideals, and elevating his courage, more and more, to the high level of scholarship and righteousness. In selecting its choicest spot, too, the country, at its national school of war, would have conveyed its recognition of the preëminent element of our spiritual nature, of God, of art, and of that ideal world whence come our conceptions of truth, duty, and magnanimity. West Point should stand for more than a routine military post. The loftiness of the appeal of Nature about it calls for more than that.

The secret of the precedence of the old chapel over the other buildings in the affections of the cadets does not seem mysterious to me. Two coexistent and intercommunicate realities supply the explanation, — imagination and the sense of freedom. The latter the cadet gains as he enters the door; for there he passes beyond the restraints of rank, age, ancestry, and scholarship. There for one hour he is free from all earthly distinction; and a seriously uplifting feeling comes over him that it makes no difference in his case whether he stands at the head or the foot of the class, — a private in the ranks, or a professor on the Board, cadet corporal, or a lieutenant-general. Nowhere else at the Academy does he rise to this freedom, and once attaining it, his imagination becomes operative with marvelous directness through the objects before him: the shields, the captured colors with their dreaming memories, and, above all, Weir’s great suggestive painting, Peace and War, mounting with a sense of great height in the circular space over the chancel, and bearing this solemn admonition from Proverbs on a tablet between the figures, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.” Thus led on by the association of ideas, mental images rise that transport him far beyond the domain of drums, and there is established between him and the chapel a companionship that lasts.

The choir and organ loft is over the door; besides the broad aisle there are two side aisles. The latter with their pews are reserved for the professors and officers. The cadets occupy the main body of the church, their gray and white uniforms giving a fine mass of color.

As I have indicated, the painting on which the eye sooner or later rests is over the chancel. At one end of a tablet, Peace, draped in creamy, flowing white, with very dark hair across her temples, stands with uplifted, pleading eyes, holding out an olive branch. At the other, and partially resting against the tablet, is War, represented by a Roman soldier, bared, powerful in figure, and of stern countenance. His look is downward and deeply reflective, while with one hand he grasps firmly the fasces of imperial authority. Near where the arch of the ceiling springs, on one side is a vase with a bit of color, balanced on the other by a reclining flag loosely gathered on a staff, its colors mingling deeply. On a level with the figures, and surmounting a globe rising behind the tablet, is a bald eagle with partially outstretched wings; the steely white of his head and neck contrasting with the browns of the tablet and the soldier’s garb. The upper background is faint, distant, and sprinkled with stars.

In my day there were no studied or superficial decorations; everything was freely harmonious, — guns, shields, colors, and painting all tending to elevate, and to carry the mind up to the level of the mood of Peace and of the seriousness reflected in the face of War. It was easy to hear the acclamation of all ages greeting Peace; it was easy to imagine voices breaking from a dome higher than that studded with stars over the Roman soldier. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

The shields are of black marble, having the names, dates of birth and death of the Revolutionary generals. Benedict Arnold’s is the last on the right and near the door. The date of his death is not. given; that event, so sacredly preserved in the case of his fellow generals, had no concern for the American people. He died to them when he set out for the deck of the Vulture, which, flying the British flag, lay off the Robinson House just below West Point.

When compared with its successor rising with towers and battlements in stately loneliness, and at the very front of conscious achievement in architecture, the present chapel is not an imposing building, — far from it. It is small, modest, and low. Four massive wooden columns, with broad steps leading up to the door between them, sustaining a pediment of substantial presence, are its only dignity. But in its secular relations it is fortunate in its company. It has the Library on one side and the Academic Building on the other, and in such close fellowship that it can hear the rain pattering on their roofs and all those varied sounds that mark the life of mortals, — footfalls, voices, and the daily murmur of coming and going. In its present location it hears the laugh of the young fellows who in the bloom of life pour through its door on Sunday; it follows them at drill; pauses reflectively with them while they parade at sunset; and with tenderness, if the impersonation be allowed, she hears their voices mellowed by distance as they sing in the twilight of summer nights; and we have no doubt that, as one after another of her boys fell at Antietam and Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and Chickamauga, the stars at midnight surprised her more than once trying to hide the tears on her cheek.

(To be continued.)