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United States Military Academy at West Point

Perched 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.


American Revolution in the Hudson Valley

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 been different.

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 signed.

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 County.

West Point Museum

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 research.

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 heritage.

Visiting the US Military Academy at West Point

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 adult.

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.

Specifics on visiting the United States Military Academy at West Point were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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