Execution Hollow

A place for odd or rarely told stories about pre-WWI West Point & the Hudson Valley. 

Stay out of Philly

Stay out of Philly

In West Point's early days, the Corps would often take a long march in the summer to practice the fundamentals of overland movement and to experience camp life. It also provided an opportunity for the Academy to practice public relations and put on a show for the towns through which the cadets marched. 

William J. Worth, shown here during the Mexican-American War, was Commandant of Cadets in 1820. Source: Yale University Library (Public Domain)

William J. Worth, shown here during the Mexican-American War, was Commandant of Cadets in 1820. Source: Yale University Library (Public Domain)

In August of 1820, the march destination was Philadelphia. But, public health got in the way. After days of marching in the rain, the Corps made it to Bristol, PA, about 20 miles north of Philly on the Delaware River, but were denied entry to the city by Philadelphia officials. The reason? Malignant fever! We now know this was Yellow Fever, a recurring scourge for early American cities. In 1793, Philadelphia lost 5,000 people to the disease. So naturally, the Board of Health in 1820 was cautious about visitors to the mosquito-infested city. 

What to do? An Army officer needs to be resourceful, and Major William Worth, the Commandant and a combat veteran of the War of 1812, was just that. The cadets put on a parade at Bristol to guests from the surrounding countryside and from Burlington across the river. The maneuvers were a hit and were described as "gay and animating."

The next day, they were invited by citizens of Philly to come to the outskirts of the city. They were given use of a steamboat and headed south to Bridesburg (aka "Point-No-Point"), now one of the northernmost parts of Philly. The boat was given a salute as it neared. The Corps was then escorted to view the newly built (1816) Frankford Arsenal. Later, they were escorted by local volunteer companies to Mantua, a neighborhood in West Philadelphia near the current Philadelphia Zoo. The next day there were religious services and a dinner was arranged for the cadets. The following day, Major Worth started the Corps marching north to ensure that the young men were back before the 1st of September for classes. 

In the end, the Corps never was allowed to visit downtown Philadelphia due to the "state of alarm" there, but the safety of the cadets was paramount. 

Philadelphia, 1819 with key places noted. Source: NARA

Philadelphia, 1819 with key places noted. Source: NARA

Sources: 

"The Board of Health of Philadelphia...," Providence PatriotColumbian Phenix (Providence, RI), August 23, 1820 (68). 

"The Cadets," The Philadelphia Gazette,  as quoted i The National Advocate, for the Country, August 25, 1820 (705). 

"Major Worth," The Philadelphia Gazette,  as quoted i The National Advocate, for the Country, August 04, 1820 (699). 

West Point Academics, 1832

West Point Academics, 1832

Grave of Ransom Huntoon

Grave of Ransom Huntoon