Execution Hollow

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

West Point Academics, 1832

West Point Academics, 1832

With West Point classes starting again, let's take a brief look back at the Academy curriculum in the old days. Specifically, let's look at 1832. In that year, the subject areas of the course of study were:

This is the Academy building, built 1815-1816. Some classes were held here, as well as religious services. It burned down in 1838. 

This is the Academy building, built 1815-1816. Some classes were held here, as well as religious services. It burned down in 1838. 

Infantry tactics and military policing: Drill, how to maneuver, light infantry techniques, etc.

Mathematics: Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, mensuration, including surveying, perspective, and some aspects of calculus. 

French: Reading, pronunciation, and translation.

Drawing: The human figure, landscapes in pencil and ink, and topographical sketching.

Natural & Experimental Philosophy: Statics and dynamics, hydrostatics and hydrodynamics (including electricity, magnetism, and light), and astronomy, 

Chemistry and Mineralogy: Chemical philosophy, the application of chemistry to agriculture and industry, mineralogy, and geology. 

Artillery: Nomenclature, gunnery, and pyrotechny., which included the making of cartridges for pistols, muskets, howitzers, cannons, etc. as well as rockets, "fire balls" and other explosives.

Engineering and the Science of War:

  • Civil Engineering: Materials, architecture, construction, canal building, railroads, and harbor fortifications. 
  • Field Fortifications: Including bridge building.
  • Permanent Fortifications: Constructing, defending, and attacking fortresses. 
  • Science of War: Composition and organization of Armies, orders of battle, strategy, and campaign planning. 

Rhetoric, and Moral and Political Science: Grammar, philosophy, morality, ethics, civil society, civil rights, forms of government, U.S. government, and the law of nations.

The Use of the Sword: Small sword, broadsword, and sword exercises for cavalry. 

The breakdown by year was:

1st Year (Plebes; 4th Class): Duties of a private; French; Algebra; Geometry; Trigonometry; and, measuring planes and solids.

2nd Year (Yearlings; 3rd Class): Duties of a Corporal; Running a Company; Artillery part 1; French; Mathematics; and, Drawing, part 1. 

3rd Year (Cows; 2nd Class): Battalion operations; Duties of a Sergeant; Artillery, part 2; Drawing, part 2; Natural Philosophy; and, Chemistry.

4th Year (Firsties; 1st Class): Maneuvering; Duties of Orderly Sergeants and Commissioned Officers; Artillery, part 3; Mineralogy; Geology; Engineering and the Science of War; Rhetoric; Moral and Political Science; and, use of the sword. 

Could you handle it? 


Regulations of the U.S. Military Academy, at West Point. New York: J & J Harper, 1832.


The Great West Point Elevator

The Great West Point Elevator

Stay out of Philly

Stay out of Philly