On this day in history, July 4, 1802, the US Military Academy opens at West Point

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The US Military Academy at West Point is a higher education academy where commissioned officers are trained as leaders for the United States Army.

And on this day in history, July 4, 1802, the US Military Academy first opened at West Point, New York.

Typically, 1,200 cadets are admitted each year, according to Britannica.


The idea for an American military school came from General Henry Knox in 1776.

General George Washington and Alexander Hamilton quickly supported the idea, according to Britannica.

US Military Academy at West Point

The United States Military Academy at West Point opened on July 4, 1802, in New York’s Hudson Valley. (Prisma Group/Universal Images via Getty Images)

The Revolutionary War highlighted the continuing need for American youth to be developed and trained to become military leaders.

At the time, however, the Secretary of State at the time, Thomas Jefferson, did not see eye to eye with Washington and Hamilton regarding a higher education institution to be dedicated to training officers for the army, according to West Point.

It wasn’t until Jefferson became president of the United States that he realized that the defense of the republic against a possible attack was extremely important.

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He signed legislation to establish the US Military Academy on March 16, 1802, according to Britannica.

The first class of five officers and 10 cadets would enroll in the school for the US Corps of Engineers.

West Point Students

Cadets at West Point are trained to become military leaders while also receiving a solid college education. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The United States Military Academy at West Point officially opened as an apprenticeship school for military engineers, according to Britannica.

Students would be involved not only in physical training but also study to become engineer officers.


Soldiers have lived at West Point since 1778 – considered the most strategic location in America during the American Revolution by Washington himself, according to West Point.

graduated at West Point

U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, salutes at the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2022 graduation ceremony at West Point, New York, on May 21, 2022. (REUTERS/David Dee Delgado)

The location of the academy was extremely important, as the Hudson River Valley was a key location during the Revolutionary War.

Washington established his headquarters on the land in 1779 shortly before Major General Benedict Arnold tried to give it to the British, according to Britannica.

After the failed attempt, Washington made sure West Point was never captured.

Today, less than 10% of applicants are usually accepted into the academy with a total enrollment of about 4,400, according to Britannica.

West Point Graduation

Approximately 1,200 young people are accepted each year to the United States Military Academy at West Point. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Those eligible for admission to the academy must be at least 17 years old, but no older than 23.

They must also be a US citizen, not married, not pregnant and not legally responsible for child support, according to West Point.

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“Since its establishment two centuries ago, the military academy has fulfilled its mission by developing cadets in four essential areas: intellectual, physical, military and moral-ethical – a four-year process called ‘West Point Experience,'” according to the academy’s website.

“Specific development goals are addressed through a number of highly coordinated and integrated programs.”

Old photo of West Point

The US Military Academy at West Point, New York, is seen here in a vintage photo, circa 1915. (Educational Image Group/Universal Images via Getty Images)

The site also explains, “A challenging academic program that offers 37 majors provides a balanced education in the arts and sciences. All cadets receive a Bachelor of Science degree, which specially designed to meet the intellectual requirements of a commissioned officer in today’s Army.”

The motto of the US Military Academy is “Duty, Honor, Country” — “a wonderful statement of West Point’s time-honored ideals,” according to West Point itself.

These mottos are embedded in the academy’s logo.

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Noting the academy, “The favorite expression at West Point is that ‘much of the history we teach was made by people we taught.’ Great leaders such as Grant and Lee, Pershing and MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton, Westmoreland and Schwarzkopf are among the more than 60,000 graduates of the military academy. pursuing their careers in uniform.”

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