United States Military Academy at West Point
high atop a peninsula jutting out into the mighty Hudson
River, West Point proved to be the lynch pin
in defeating the British in the American Revolution.
Holding and defending this high ground prevented the
British from dividing the colonies in two by controlling
the Hudson River. Their goal was to take the Hudson
and eliminate the flow of commerce between the New England
colonies and the South. General George Washington knew
the strategic importance of the Hudson River and poured
his resources into its defense and military improvements.
The most important of these fortifications
was atop West Point. From this strategically important
location all shipping and river traffic was under his
control effectively bottling up the British in Manhattan.
The location was of such importance that it was the
fortifications at West Point that Revolutionary hero
Benedict Arnold attempted to surrender to the British,
bringing about his downfall and flight into exile as
a traitor to his country.
In 1802 by Act of Congress, Thomas
Jefferson created the first military academy in the
United States, at West Point. Now, the oldest military
academy in the country, West Point Military Academy
serves the US Army as its primary officer training grounds
with thousands of cadets at any one time marching and
attending classes, continuing the proud traditions of
the "long gray line."
Visiting West Point can be a fun and
exciting experience. To enter the post, you go to the
Visitors Center in Highland Falls, immediately outside
the Main Gate. The Visitor Center has interactive displays
about the "Point" showing cadet life. The
West Point Museum is located just behind the Visitor
Center and is not to be missed. It houses the largest
collection of armamant in the world and is an educational
as well as exciting museum to visit. From the Visitor
Center you can take guided tours of the Point aboard
air-conditioned coaches with guides relating the history
and pointing out the sites. On the tour you stop at
the Cadets Chapel and at Trophy Point. One of the fun
experiences of being at the Point is when the cadets,
unannounced, burst out of the barracks, in formation,
and march about chanting at the top of their lungs.
As quickly as they appear, the dissappear again into
the barracks and the field grows silent again.
Unfortunately, at the time of this
writing the post is on high alert as a result of the
September 11 attack. Access to West Point is basically
via the guided coach tours. However, during times when
the post is not on high alert, the public is welcomed
onto the post to wander the grounds and take in the
sights and sounds of cadet life. Monuments to some of
the greatest Generals of American History surround the
Parade Grounds and Trophy Point provides the single
most spectacular view of the Hudson River to be found
in the entire Valley. For those interested in investigation
the pase, the Cemetery at West Point houses some of
the most prominent people in the history of America.
Presidents and Generals as well as enlisted men can
be found resting in this hallowed ground.
The West Point Band holds scheduled
concerts in season at the amphitheatre at Trophy Point.
Make sure to check the schedule as it is an experience
not to be missed. Eisenhower Hall also provides a venu
for touring shows and theatrical events throughout the
year. When planning your trip to West Point, just remember
that it is the single most visited site in the Hudson
Valley and for awhile at least it will remain on security
high alert, so allow time and have a little patience.
You will surely enjoy your visit and the experiences
you have at West Point.
Frequently overlooked in the great
sweep of history as being the central battleground of
the American Revolution, the Hudson Valley determined
the success or failure of the Colonial States in their
quest for independence from Great Britain. Strategically,
the Hudson River was the only navigable river into the
interior of the continent and its location empowered
whoever controlled it to either allow or prevent commerce
between the northern Colonies and those in the south.
Should the British have been able to gain control of
the Hudson, the outcome of the war would surely have
And the British spent great time,
effort and resources attempting to gain control of the
mighty Hudson River just so they could control the commercial
trade routes between north and south. Their first act
in the war was to take Manhattan and drive General Washington
and his continental troups north chasing them up to
White Plains and forcing them across the river. In a
massive effort, they then descended south from Canada
under the command of Gen. Burguoyne, down through Lake
Champlain, down the Hudson battling the colonists at
every turn. Finally at Saratoga, Burguoyne lost his
momentum and was defeated and captured, bringing the
battle over the northern Hudson to a close.
Throughout the war, various fortifications
and sites in Orange County were pivotal in the efforts
of Washington and his troops to stay the British and
prevent them from coming up into the Hudson Valley.
Chief among these locations was West Point, site of
the major fortifications along the Hudson and commanded
by Benedict Arnold. Washington himself spent more time
in the Hudson Valley and Orange County than any other
location in the colonies during the war years. And as
the war drew to a close, it was Orange County that Washington
chose as his last staging ground for his troops and
his entorage to insure the British didn't attempt a
run up the Hudson before the final treaties could be
Orange County is rich in Revolutionary
sites ranging from the mundane of camp life for enlisted
men right up Washington's final residence prior to his
resigning from the Continental Army. As individual places,
they do not overwhelm the visitor with their grandeur
or the role they played in the struggle for independence.
Collectively, they should overwhelm the visitor in significance
to their daily lives and how different America would
be today were it not for the foresight, diligence and
sacrifice made to hold and defend these places in Orange
As a department of the United States
Military Academy, the Museum supports cadet academic,
military and cultural instruction. Its collections include
nearly all aspects of military history and encompass
the history of West Point and the United States Military
Academy, the evolution of warfare, and the development
of the American Armed Forces. While only a portion of
the collection is on display, all artifacts are available
for cadet academic instruction, special exhibition and
Based upon captured British materials
brought to West Point after the British defeat at Saratoga
in 1777, the Museum collections actually predate the
founding of the United States Military Academy. When
the Academy opened in 1802, many Revolutionary War trophies
remained to be used for cadet instruction.
By the 1820s, a teaching collection
of artifacts existed at the Military Academy and after
the Mexican War (1846 - 1848) West Point was designated
by Executive Order as the permanent depository of war
trophies. In 1854 the first public museum was opened
and in 1989 the West Point Museum in Olmsted Hall opened
at Pershing Center. Today it represents the culmination
of more than two centuries of preserving our military
The Visitors Center provides an excellent
central starting point for all visitors to the U.S.
Military Academy. The center is currently under renovation
but still offers information and guided bus tours. The
Visitors Center and West Point Museum are open to the
general public on a daily basis. Visitors may enter
the academy grounds only by guided tours, however, there
are no guided tours during Graduation Week, on Football
Days, or on any days the Visitors Center is closed or
closes early. Tours may be cancelled at any time. It
is strongly recommended that visitors call the Visitors
Center, (845) 938-2638 the week they are traveling to
West Point to check on the status of the tours.
For the current schedule of tours
and prices, call West Point Tours, Inc. at (845) 446-4724.
Outside tour groups should contact West Point Tours,
Inc. (845) 446-4724 or the Visitors Center (845) 938-2638.
Manifests must be provided for groups at least 48 hours
in advance. A photo ID is required for all adults wishing
to take all tours. Children must be accompanied by an
The original Visitors Center was officially
opened May 1, 1952, in the field artillery sheds at
the south end of post -- a site now occupied by the
provost marshal’s office. The current Visitors
Center, which opened September 1, 1989, on the site
of the former Ladycliff College Library, continues to
attract, educate and inform the public about the Academy
and its environs. Nearly 3 million people visit West
Point each year, including alumni, friends and families
of West Point cadets, school groups, senior citizens
groups, and tourists from throughout America and the
world. The U.S. Military Academy is one of the top three
tourist attractions in New York, according to the New
York State Department of Tourism.
The Visitors Center is open daily,
with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays,
Dec. 24 and 25, and New Year’s holidays, Dec.
31 and Jan. 1, 2006. Operating hours are from 9 a.m.
to 4:45 p.m.
The West Point Museum is open Monday
to Sunday 10:30 am to 4:15 pm, closed Thanksgiving Day,
Christmas Day & New Year's Day.