Diane Kalas, Inspirational Historical Romance Author

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV)

Monday, October 28, 2013

George A. Custer: Cadet Oath Upon Entering West Point

Former West Point Classmates
Photo by James F. Gibson, courtesy Library of Congress
Civil War Treasures from the New York Historical Society

The photo above shows Union Captain George A. Custer, sitting beside a former West Point classmate and friend, Confederate Lieutenant James B. Washington, who had been captured by General McClellan's men in May 1862. Custer was serving as an aide on McClellan's staff at the time. Note the men are sitting so close beside each other that their shoulders, elbows and knees are touching. The bond between West Point graduates was so strong not even a Civil War could ruin their friendships.

The Cadet Oath Taken by Robert E. Lee Upon Entering West Point, September 25, 1825:

"I, Robert E. Lee, a cadet born in the State of Virginia, aged 18 years and 9 months, do hereby acknowledge to have this day voluntarily engaged with the consent of my mother to serve in the Army of the United States for a period of five years, unless sooner discharged by proper authority. And I do promise upon honor that I will observe and obey the orders of the officers appointed over me, the rules and articles of war, and the regulations which have been or may hereafter be established for the government of the Military Academy."

Source: Freeman, Douglas, S.,R. E. LEE: A Biography, Vol. 1, page 51
Source: Civil War Talk.com

The Cadet Oath Taken Upon Entering West Point
Regulations for the United States Military Academy, 1857 edition.

"I, (cadet name) of the State of (state) aged (cadet age) years, months, having been selected for an appointment as Cadet in the Military Academy of the United States, do hereby engage with the consent of my (parent or guardian) in the event of my receiving such appointment, that I will serve in the army of the United States for eight years, unless sooner discharged by competent authority. And I (cadet name) DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR (emphasis original), that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them HONESTLY and FAITHFULLY (emphasis original), against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever; and that I will observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the Officers appointed over me, according to the Rules and Articles of War."

Source: Civil War Talk.com

The Current Cadet Oath Taken Upon Entering 
The United States Military Academy

"I, (cadet's name), do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and bear true allegiance to the National Government; that I will maintain and defend the sovereignty of the United States, paramount to any and all allegiance, sovereignty, or fealty I may owe to any State or Country whatsoever; and that I will at all times obey the legal orders of my superior officers, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Source: BUGLE NOTES, West Point Academy, 2013

Rumors came to a head at West Point Academy on George Washington's birthday, February 22, 1861. The incumbent President, James Buchanan, tried to prevent a mass resignation of cadets from the Academy before Lincoln's inauguration and directed the cadets be read:
"The Friendly Counsel and Prophetic Warnings Contained in 
Washington's Farewell Address to His Troops."

The cadets were marched into the chapel, the tradition on Washington's birthday, to listen to the staff read the address. Throughout the address, the call for union is stressed much to the annoyance of cadets from the South. All classes had been cancelled for the day because of the holiday and, after the chapel service, the cadets spent the rest of the day discussing politics and the impending war. At the end of the day, the band marched across the parade ground playing Washington's March then The Star Spangled Banner. Suddenly, all hell broke loose! Cadets rushed to every window. 

Tom Rosser of Virginia, Custer's room mate called out: "Secession, Secession - Dixie, Play Dixie!"

The Southerners broke into singing "Dixie" while on the other side of the quadrangle, Custer led the singing of The Star Spangled Banner." The Academy was divided.

Source: www.americancivilwar.asn.au/meet/2002
West Point Classmates - Civil War Enemies by Paul Kensey, October Meeting 2002

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