This is a film that we could not have made 15 years ago. And this is a film we will not be able to make in five or so years. But here, now, most of the people who narrate our account of the most complex conflict in human history come not from the Centers of population and power in the United States, but from four geographically distributed, essentially randomly-chosen, to some extent isolated, towns: Luverne, Minnesota—tiny Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut—just down the road, and Mobile, Alabama.
Where our Civil War narrative had focused primarily on the main players, like Abraham Lincoln, while trying not to sacrifice an appreciation of what the privates were doing, the story of the Second World War, the work of this center, is different, told almost exclusively from the perspectives of those who did the actual fighting and dying, as well as those back home who waited for their loved ones to return. Through the eyes of our witnesses—no Monday morning quarterback, no armchair historians dispensing safe, avuncular opinion, it is possible, I believe, in moments, to sense how our whole country got up in that now-distant war.
These towns could, of course, be any four towns. By concentrating on the specific, we had hoped that we made it possible to better receive the universal, to comprehend the whole, because we are invested—deeply and emotionally invested—in the particular. This is the work of oral history. This is the only thing that provides us the real access to the past, the individual experiences that transcend that. And if we had one deeply important understanding that came out of our series as we began to approach the bottom-up story of the Second World War—indeed, as we had tried to do years before in The Civil War with the diaries and the journals of soldiers—we came to understand, watching these citizen-soldiers, watching these ordinary people, that there are no ordinary people.
That we are all invested with a divinity—that our individual experiences matter, particularly in this country. And that was create a perpetual-motion machine. Many people tried; some went insane, some died trying, and produced, of course, the damnedest contraptions—and none of them, of course, worked. But when we think about the extraordinary passion and dedication that this institution here, the United States Military Academy, does—when we think about the ideals that propel the young men and women who now come in the service of their country—we realize the perpetual-motion machine is our Constitution and the ideals behind us.
And that what the imperatives of this Oral History Center, what, indeed, my work has been about, is try to capture, at its most fleeting moments, the power of those so-called ordinary lives; to reveal to us this magnificent perpetual-motion machine, which is, I hope, with his divine blessing, the United States of America. Thank you so much.
Free Thought Lives
But most importantly, thank you all for what you have done, and what you continue to do for West Point and for the Center for Oral History. Todd Brewster asked me all—asked me to remind you—apparently there was some question about that—that the web site is WestPointCOH. And as he said earlier, they are busy uploading a lot of interviews to it.
Now, my primary function here tonight is administrative. You should be on those by about in the morning. They will take you up to the chapel for the organ recital. Did I get that right, Nicole? I feel compelled to do my work here. As Lance mentioned at the beginning of the evening, the goal, of course, is to fully endow the Center for We struggled for the first couple of years.
You know, timing is everything, and we started doing this just at the time the economy decided to go in the tank. Be the first to know! Sign up now to get updates and email alerts when new interviews are released. The West Point Center for Oral History is a privately funded organization that relies on the generosity of donors. When you click on the link below, you will be taken to the West Point Association of Graduates website and instructions on how to give to the Center.
We appreciate your gererosity! The nameplate on his desk said rabalais. The navigation lock is not a formal place. When I first met Rabalais, six months before, he was sitting with his staff at 10 a. I knew it. Rabalais, born and raised on a farm near Simmesport, in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. When Rabalais was a child, there was no navigation lock to lower ships from the Mississippi.
The water just poured out—boats with it—and flowed on into a distributary waterscape known as Atchafalaya. In each decade since about , the Atchafalaya River had drawn off more water from the Mississippi than it had in the decade before. By the late nineteen-forties, when Rabalais was in his teens, the volume approached one-third. As the Atchafalaya widened and deepened, eroding headward, offering the Mississippi an increasingly attractive alternative, it was preparing for nothing less than an absolute capture: before long, it would take all of the Mississippi, and itself become the master stream.
Somebody way back yonder—which is dead and gone now—visualized it. We had some pretty sharp teachers. The Mississippi River, with its sand and silt, has created most of Louisiana, and it could not have done so by remaining in one channel. If it had, southern Louisiana would be a long narrow peninsula reaching into the Gulf of Mexico. Southern Louisiana exists in its present form because the Mississippi River has jumped here and there within an arc about two hundred miles wide, like a pianist playing with one hand—frequently and radically changing course, surging over the left or the right bank to go off in utterly new directions.
As the mouth advances southward and the river lengthens, the gradient declines, the current slows, and sediment builds up the bed. Eventually, it builds up so much that the river spills to one side. Major shifts of that nature have tended to occur roughly once a millennium. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east.
It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it. By the route of the Atchafalaya, the distance across the delta plain was a hundred and forty-five miles—well under half the length of the route of the master stream.
For the Mississippi to make such a change was completely natural, but in the interval since the last shift Europeans had settled beside the river, a nation had developed, and the nation could not afford nature. With its fresh water gone, its harbor a silt bar, its economy disconnected from inland commerce, New Orleans would turn into New Gomorrah.
Moreover, there were so many big industries between the two cities that at night they made the river glow like a worm.
Goodrich, E. They had come for its navigational convenience and its fresh water. They would not, and could not, linger beside a tidal creek. For nature to take its course was simply unthinkable. The Sixth World War would do less damage to southern Louisiana. Nature, in this place, had become an enemy of the state. Rabalais works for the U. Army Corps of Engineers. Some years ago, the Corps made a film that showed the navigation lock and a complex of associated structures built in an effort to prevent the capture of the Mississippi.
Our opponent could cause the United States to lose nearly all her seaborne commerce, to lose her standing as first among trading nations. We are fighting Mother Nature. Rabalais was in on the action from the beginning, working as a construction inspector. Here by the site of the navigation lock was where the battle had begun. An old meander bend of the Mississippi was the conduit through which water had been escaping into the Atchafalaya. Complicating the scene, the old meander bend had also served as the mouth of the Red River.
Coming in from the northwest, from Texas via Shreveport, the Red River had been a tributary of the Mississippi for a couple of thousand years—until the nineteen-forties, when the Atchafalaya captured it and drew it away. The Atchafalaya and the captured Red were the left-hand side. The crosspiece, scarcely seven miles long, was the former meander bend, which the people of the parish had long since named Old River. Sometimes enough water would pour out of the Mississippi and through Old River to quintuple the falls at Niagara. At Old River, we would lose the American Ruhr.
Rabalais gestured across the lock toward what seemed to be a pair of placid lakes separated by a trapezoidal earth dam a hundred feet high. It weighed five million tons, and it had stopped Old River. It had cut Old River in two. The severed ends were sitting there filling up with weeds.
Where the Atchafalaya had entrapped the Mississippi, bigmouth bass were now in charge. The navigation lock had been dug beside this monument. The big dam, like the lock, was fitted into the mainline levee of the Mississippi. On this day, he said, the water on the Mississippi side was eighteen feet above sea level, while the water on the Atchafalaya side was five feet above sea level.
Cattle were grazing on the slopes of the levees, and white horses with white colts, in deep-green grass. Behind the levees, the fields were flat and reached to rows of distant trees. Very early in the morning, a low fog had covered the fields. The sun, just above the horizon, was large and ruddy in the mist, rising slowly, like a hot-air baboon. This was a countryside of corn and soybeans, of grain-fed-catfish ponds, of feed stores and Kingdom Halls in crossroad towns.
There were small neat cemeteries with ranks of white sarcophagi raised a foot or two aboveground, notwithstanding the protection of the levees. There were tarpapered cabins on concrete pylons, and low brick houses under planted pines. Pickups under the pines. If this was a form of battlefield, it was not unlike a great many battlefields—landscapes so quiet they belie their story.
Most battlefields, though, are places where something happened once. Here it would happen indefinitely. We went out to the Mississippi. Still indistinct in mist, it looked like a piece of the sea. Sixty-five kilotons per second. By the mouth of the inflow channel leading to the lock were rock jetties, articulated concrete mattress revetments, and other heavy defenses.
Rabalais observed that this particular site was no more vulnerable than almost any other point in this reach of river that ran so close to the Atchafalaya plain. After the Corps dammed Old River, in , the engineers could not just walk away, like roofers who had fixed a leak. In the early planning stages, they had considered doing that, but there were certain effects they could not overlook. The Atchafalaya, after all, was a distributary of the Mississippi—the major one, and, as it happened, the only one worth mentioning that the Corps had not already plugged.
The Atchafalaya was also the source of the water in the swamps and bayous of the Cajun world. It was the water supply of small cities and countless towns. Its upper reaches were surrounded by farms. The Corps was not in a political or moral position to kill the Atchafalaya. It had to feed it water. By the principles of nature, the more the Atchafalaya was given, the more it would want to take, because it was the steeper stream.
The more it was given, the deeper it would make its bed. The difference in level between the Atchafalaya and the Mississippi would continue to increase, magnifying the conditions for capture. The Corps would have to deal with that. The Corps would have to build something that could give the Atchafalaya a portion of the Mississippi and at the same time prevent it from taking all. In effect, the Corps would have to build a Fort Laramie: a place where the natives could buy flour and firearms but where the gates could be closed if they attacked.
Ten miles upriver from the navigation lock, where the collective sediments were thought to be more firm, they dug into a piece of dry ground and built what appeared for a time to be an incongruous, waterless bridge. Five hundred and sixty-six feet long, it stood parallel to the Mississippi and about a thousand yards back from the water. Between its abutments were ten piers, framing eleven gates that could be lifted or dropped, opened or shut, like windows. To this structure, and through it, there soon came a new Old River—an excavated channel leading in from the Mississippi and out seven miles to the Red-Atchafalaya.
The Corps was not intending to accommodate nature. Its engineers were intending to control it in space and arrest it in time. In , shortly before the project began, the Atchafalaya was taking thirty per cent of the water that came down from the north to Old River. This water was known as the latitude flow, and it consisted of a little in the Red, a lot in the Mississippi.
In perpetuity, at Old River, thirty per cent of the latitude flow was to pass to the Atchafalaya. The device that resembled a ten-pier bridge was technically a sill, or weir, and it was put on line in , in an orchestrated sequence of events that flourished the art of civil engineering. The old Old River was closed. The new Old River was opened.
More or less simultaneously, the navigation lock opened its chamber. Now everything had changed and nothing had changed. Boats could still drop away from the river. The ratio of waters continued as before—this for the American Ruhr, that for the ecosystems of the Cajun swamps. Withal, there was a change of command, as the Army replaced nature. In time, people would come to suggest that there was about these enterprises an element of hauteur. A professor of law at Tulane University, for example, would assign it third place in the annals of arrogance.
His name was Oliver Houck. The third-greatest arrogance is trying to hold the Mississippi in place. The ancient channels of the river go almost to Texas. Houck had a point. Bold it was indeed to dig a fresh conduit in the very ground where one river had prepared to trap another, bolder yet to build a structure there meant to be in charge of what might happen. Some people went further than Houck, and said that they thought the structure would fail. But the final outcome is simply a matter of time and it is only prudent to prepare for it. We are charged by Congress not to let that happen.
Like Rabalais, he was Acadian and of the country. Dugie—as he is universally called—had worked at Old River Control since , when the water started flowing. In years to follow, colonels and generals would seek his counsel. In pitch, it was lower than a helicon tuba. He wore a large, lettered belt buckle that said to help control the mississippi. I have lived in Pointe Coupee Parish all my life. Once, I even closed my domicile and went to work in Texas for the Corps—but you always come back.
He took the vagaries of the waters for granted, not to mention the supremacy of their force in flood. He was a naval gunner on Liberty ships in the South Pacific during the Second World War, and within a year or two of his return was astonished to hear that the Corps of Engineers was planning to restrain Old River. Outside, on the roadway that crosses the five-hundred-and-sixty-six-foot structure, one could readily understand where the marbles might have gone.
Even at this time of modest normal flow, we looked down into a rage of water. It was running at about twelve miles an hour—significantly faster than the Yukon after breakup—and it was pounding into the so-called stilling basin on the downstream side, the least still place you would ever see.https://senjouin-renshu.com/wp-content/20/4154-localizar-numero.php
Deficient The Story Of A West Point Graduates Long Descent Into Hell B008bpo4eo By John Gess
The No. The Susitna River is sometimes more like it—melted glacier ice from the Alaska Range. Huge trucks full of hardwood logs kept coming from the north to cross the structure, on their way to a chipping mill at Simmesport. One could scarcely hear them as they went by. There was a high sill next to this one—a separate weir, two-thirds of a mile long and set two feet above the local flood stage, its purpose being to help regulate the flow of extremely high waters.
The low sill, as the one we stood on was frequently called, was the prime valve at Old River, and dealt with the water every day. Beyond the sound of the water, the broad low country around these structures was quiet and truly still. Here and again in the fields, pump jacks bobbed for oil. Dugie remarked that he would soon retire, that he felt old and worn down from fighting the river. It was odd to look out toward the main-stem Mississippi, scarcely half a mile away, and see its contents spilling sideways, like cornmeal pouring from a hole in a burlap bag.
Dugie said that so much water coming out of the Mississippi created a powerful and deceptive draw, something like a vacuum, that could suck in boats of any size. He had seen some big ones up against the structure. In the mid-sixties, a man alone had come down from Wisconsin in a small double-ended vessel with curling ends and tumblehome—a craft that would not have been unfamiliar to the Algonquians, who named the Mississippi.
Old River caught him, pulled him off the Mississippi, and shot him through the structure. This is where Murphy lives. A towboat coming up the Atchafalaya may be running from Corpus Christi to Vicksburg with a cargo of gasoline, or from Houston to St. Paul with ethylene glycol. Occasionally, Rabalais sees a sailboat, more rarely a canoe. One time, a cottonwood-log dugout with a high Viking bow went past Old River. A ship carrying Leif Eriksson himself, however, would be less likely to arrest the undivided attention of the lockmaster than a certain red-trimmed cream-hulled vessel called Mississippi, bearing Major General Thomas Sands.
Each year, in late summer or early fall, the Mississippi comes down its eponymous river and noses into the lock. Louis and into the Atchafalaya, stopping along the way at river towns, picking up visitors, listening to complaints. In external configuration, the Mississippi is a regular towboat—two hundred and seventeen feet long, fifty feet wide, its horsepower approaching four thousand. Their unpleasant profiles seem precarious, as if they were the rear halves of ships that have been cut in two.
The Mississippi triumphs over these disadvantages. Intended as a carrier of influenceable people, it makes up in luxury what it suffers in form. Only its red trim is martial. Its over-all bright cream suggests globules that have risen to the top. Its broad flat front is a wall of picture windows, of riverine panoramas, faced with cream-colored couches among coffee tables and standing lamps. A river towboat will push as many as fifty barges at one time. What this boat pushes is the program of the Corps. The Mississippi, on its fall trip, is the site of on-board hearings at Cape Girardeau, Memphis, Vicksburg, and, ultimately, Morgan City.
Customarily, it arrives at Old River early in the morning. Oliver Houck, the Tulane professor, gets on, and nine people—seven civilians and two colonels—from the New Orleans District of the Corps of Engineers. The gates close behind the Mississippi. The mooring bits inside the lock wail like coyotes as the water and the boat go down. The pilothouse of the Mississippi is a wide handsome room directly above the lounge and similarly fronted with a wall of windows. It has map-and-chart tables, consoles of electronic equipment, redundant radars.
Among the mutating profiles of the river, their work is complicated. One was, that in order to be a pilot a man had got to learn more than any one man ought to be allowed to know; and the other was, that he must learn it all over again in a different way every twenty-four hours. Your true pilot cares nothing about anything on earth but the river, and his pride in his occupation surpasses the pride of kings. Cano says that the difference is often as much as twenty. Now the gates slowly open, revealing the outflow channel that leads into old Old River and soon to the Atchafalaya.
The Mississippi River Commission, which is part civilian and part military, with General Sands as president, is required by statute to make these trips—to inspect the flood-control and navigation systems from Illinois to the Gulf, and to hold the hearings. Accordingly, there are two major generals and one brigadier aboard, several colonels, various majors—in all, a military concentration that is actually untypical of the U.
The Corps consists essentially of civilians, with a veneer of military people at and near the top. For example, Sands has with him his chief executive assistant, his chief engineer, his chief planner, his chief of operations, and his chief of programming. All these chiefs are civilians. The New Orleans District, U.
Army Corps of Engineers, consists of something like ten Army officers and fourteen hundred civilians. Just why the Army should be involved at all with levee systems, navigation locks, rock jetties, concrete revetments, and the austere realities of deltaic geomorphology is a question that attracts no obvious answer. The Corps is here because it is here. Its presence is an expression not of contemporary military strategy but of pure evolutionary tradition, its depth of origin about a century and three-quarters.
The Corps is here specifically to safeguard the nation against any repetition of the War of When that unusual year was in its thirty-sixth month, the British Army landed on the Gulf Coast and marched against New Orleans. The war had been promoted, not to say provoked, by territorially aggressive American Midwesterners who were known around the country as hawks.
By and large, though, the triumphs had been British. The British had repelled numerous assaults on Canada. They had established a base in Maine. In Washington, they had burned the Capitol and the White House, and with their rutilant rockets and airburst ballistics they tried to destroy Baltimore. New Orleans was not unaware of these events, and very much dreaded invasion. When it came, militarily untrained American backwoods sharpshooters, standing behind things like cotton bales, picked off two thousand soldiers of the King while losing seventy-one of their own.
Despite the Treaty of Ghent, there was a widespread assumption that the British would attack again and, if so, would surely attack where they had attacked before.
Historian Elizabeth Hinton: a profile | Harvard Magazine
One did not have to go to the War College to learn that lightning enjoys a second chance. Fortifications were therefore required in the environs of New Orleans. That this was an assignment for the Army Corps of Engineers was obvious in more than a military sense. There was—and for another decade would be—only one school of engineering in America.
The academy had been founded in General Washington, finding among his aroused colonists few engineers worthy of the word, hired engineers from Louis XVI, and the first Corps was for the most part French. The Army engineers chose half a dozen sites near New Orleans and, setting a pattern, signed up a civilian contractor to build the fortifications. Congress also instructed the Army to survey the Mississippi and its tributaries with an eye to assuring and improving inland navigation.
Thus the Corps spread northward from its military fortifications into civil works along the rivers. Bernard Parish, and ranking military engineer in the district. He served five days, resigned to become a Confederate general, and opened the Civil War by directing the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Sands is trim, athletic, and, in appearance, youthful. Only in his Vietnam ribbons does he show the effects of his assignments as a combat engineer. He grew up near Nashville, and has an advanced degree in hydrology from Texas A. As a colonel, he spent three years in charge of the New Orleans District.
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Now, from his division headquarters, in Vicksburg, he is in charge of the Mississippi Valley from Missouri to the Gulf. On a wall of his private office is a board of green slate. One day when I was interviewing him there, he spent much of the time making and erasing chalk diagrams. He used only the middle third of the slate.
The rest had been preempted. Today, Mother Nature is working within a constrained environment in the lower Mississippi. Old River is the key element. Every facet of law below there relates to what goes on in this little out-of-the-way point that most folks have never heard about. We have, in effect, stopped time in terms of the distribution of flows.
Man is directing the maturing process of the Atchafalaya and the lower Mississippi. From the pilothouse to the fantail, people wander where they please, stopping here and again to converse in small groups. Two floatplanes appear above the trees, descend, flare, and land side by side behind the Mississippi. The towboat reduces power, and the airplanes taxi into its wake. They carry four passengers from Morgan City—latecomers to the floating convention.
They climb aboard, and the airplanes fly away. In years gone by, when there were no control structures, naturally there were no complaints. The water went where it pleased. People took it as it came. The delta was in a state of nature. But now that Old River is valved and metered there are two million nine hundred thousand potential complainers, very few of whom are reluctant to present a grievance to the Corps. When farmers want less water, for example, fishermen want more, and they all complain to the Corps. Aboard the Mississippi, this is the primary theme.
Here there are many more. The crawfisherman and the shrimper come up within five minutes asking for opposite things. They are benefitted by low water. As water levels go up, we divert some fresh water into marshes, because the marshes need it for the nutrients and the sedimentation, but oyster fishermen complain. They all complain except the ones who have seed-oyster beds, which are destroyed by excessive salinity.
The variety of competing influences is phenomenal. In southern Louisiana, the bed of the Mississippi River is so far below sea level that a flow of at least a hundred and twenty thousand cubic feet per second is needed to hold back salt water and keep it below New Orleans, which drinks the river. Along the ragged edges of the Gulf, whole ecosystems depend on the relationship of fresh to salt water, which is in large part controlled by the Corps. Shrimp people want water to be brackish, waterfowl people want it fresh—a situation that causes National Marine Fisheries to do battle with United States Fish and Wildlife while both simultaneously attack the Corps.
The industrial interests of the American Ruhr beseech the Corps to maintain their supply of fresh water. Agricultural pumping stations demand more fresh water for their rice but nervily ask the Corps to keep the sediment. Port authorities present special needs, and the owners of grain elevators, and the owners of coal elevators, barge interests, flood-control districts, levee boards. In addition to all the things the Corps actually does and does not do, there are infinite actions it is imagined to do, infinite actions it is imagined not to do, and infinite actions it is imagined to be capable of doing, because the Corps has been conceded the almighty role of God.
The towboat enters the Atchafalaya at an unprepossessing T in a jungle of phreatophytic Trees. Among navigable rivers, the Atchafalaya is widely described as one of the most treacherous in the world, but it just lies there quiet and smooth. It lies there like a big alligator in a low slough, with time on its side, waiting—waiting to outwit the Corps of Engineers—and hunkering down ever lower in its bed and presenting a sort of maw to the Mississippi, into which the river could fall.
Frederic Chatry happens to be in the pilothouse, too, as does Fred Bayley. Chatry is short and slender, a courtly and formal man, his uniform a bow tie. He is saying that before the control structures were built water used to flow in either direction through Old River. It would flow into the Mississippi if the Red happened to be higher. This was known as a reversal, and the last reversal occurred in The enlarging Atchafalaya was by then so powerful in its draw that it took all of the Red and kept it.
The only thing that interrupts it is Old River Control. If we had not interrupted it, the main river would now be the Atchafalaya, below this point. If you left it to its own devices, the end result had to be that it would become the master stream. If that were to happen, below Old River the Mississippi reach would be unstable. Salt would fill it in. The Corps could not cope with it. Old River to Baton Rouge would fill in. River traffic from the north would stop.
Everything would go to pot in the delta. It would be plugged. Bayley is quick to answer—Fred Bayley, a handsome sandy-haired man in a regimental tie and a cool tan suit, with the contemplative manner of an academic and none of the defenses of a challenged engineer. That is sticking your head in the sand. We are making twelve knots on a two-and-a-half-knot current under bright sun and cottony bits of cloud—flying along between the Atchafalaya levees, between the river-batcher trees. We are running down the reach above Simmesport, but only a distant bridge attests to that fact.
From the river you cannot see the country. From the country you cannot see the river. I once looked down at this country from the air, in a light plane, and although it is called a floodway—this segment of it the West Atchafalaya Floodway—it is full of agriculture, in plowed geometries of brown, green, and tan. The Atchafalaya from above looks like the Connecticut winding past New Hampshire floodplain farms.
If you look up, you do not see Mt. You see artificial ponds, now and again, as far as the horizon—square ponds, dotted with the cages of crawfish. You see dark-green pastureland, rail fences, cows with short fat shadows. The unexpected happens—unthinkable, unfortunate, but not unimaginable. At first with a modest lurch, and then with a more pronounced lurch, and then with a profound structural shudder, the Mississippi is captured by the Atchafalaya.
The mid-American flagship of the U. Army Corps of Engineers has run aground. After going on line, in , the control structures at Old River had to wait ten years to prove what they could do. The nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties were secure in the Mississippi Valley. In human terms, a generation passed with no disastrous floods. In the upper valley, snows were unusually heavy. In the South came a season of exceptional rains. High water, therefore, would flow that much higher. As the spring runoff came down the tributaries, collected, and approached, computers gave warning that the mainline levees were not sufficient to contain it.
Eight hundred miles of frantically filled sandbags were added to the levees. Bulldozers added potato ridges—barriers of uncompacted dirt. While this was going on, more rain was falling. In the southern part of the valley, twenty inches fell in a day and a half. At Old River Control on an ordinary day, when the stilling basin sounds like Victoria Falls but otherwise the country is calm and dry—when sandy spaces and stands of trees fill up the view between the structure and the Mississippi—an almost academic effort is required to visualize a slab of water six stories high, spread to the ends of perspective.
That is how it was in During the sustained spring high water—week after week after week—the gathered drainage of Middle America came to Old River in units exceeding two million cubic feet a second. Twenty-five per cent of that left the Mississippi channel and went to the Atchafalaya. In aerial view, trees and fields were no longer visible, and the gated stronghold of the Corps seemed vulnerable in the extreme—a narrow causeway, a thin fragile line across a brown sea. The Corps had built Old River Control to control just about as much as was passing through it.
In mid-March, when the volume began to approach that amount, curiosity got the best of Raphael G. Kazmann got into his car, crossed the Mississippi on the high bridge at Baton Rouge, and made his way north to Old River. He parked, got out, and began to walk the structure. An extremely low percentage of its five hundred and sixty-six feet eradicated his curiosity. When two hundred thousand tons vibrates like this, this is no place for R. I got into my car, turned around, and got the hell out of there. I was just a professor—and, thank God, not responsible. In one high water and another, the big contributors vary around the watershed.
An ultimate deluge might possibly involve them all. After Kazmann went home from Old River that time in , he did his potamology indoors for a while, assembling daily figures. In some of the numbers he felt severe vibrations. The water was plenty high as it was, and continuously raged through the structure. The structure and its stilling basin had been configured to dissipate energy—but not nearly so much energy. The excess force was attacking the environment of the structure.
A large eddy had formed. Unbeknownst to anyone, its swirling power was excavating sediments by the inflow apron of the structure. Even larger holes had formed under the apron itself. Unfortunately, the main force of the Mississippi was crashing against the south side of the inflow channel, producing unplanned turbulence.
The control structure had been set up near the outside of a bend of the river, and closer to the Mississippi than many engineers thought wise. On the outflow side—where the water fell to the level of the Atchafalaya—a hole had developed that was larger and deeper than a football stadium, and with much the same shape. It was hidden, of course, far beneath the chop of wild water. The Corps had long since been compelled to leave all eleven gates wide open, in order to reduce to the greatest extent possible the force that was shaking the structure, and so there was no alternative to aggravating the effects on the bed of the channel.
There never was a question of anchoring such a fortress in rock. The shallowest rock was seven thousand feet straight down. In three places below the structure, sheet steel went into the substrate like fins; but the integrity of the structure depended essentially on the H-beams, and vehicular traffic continued to cross it en route to San Luis Rey. Water picked up riprap off the bottom in front, and rammed it through to the tail bed. On the level of the road deck, the vibrations increased. The operator of a moving crane let the crane move without him and waited for it at the end of the structure.
The train had been put there because its weight might help keep the bridge in place, but the bridge, vibrating in the floodwater, produced so much friction that the coal in the gondolas caught fire. Soon the bridge, the train, and the glowing coal fell into the water. One April evening in —at the height of the flood—a fisherman walked onto the structure.
There is, after all, order in the universe, and some things take precedence over impending disasters. On the inflow side, facing the Mississippi, the structure was bracketed by a pair of guide walls that reached out like curving arms to bring in the water. Close by the guide wall at the south end was the swirling eddy, which by now had become a whirlpool.
There was other motion as well—or so it seemed. The fisherman went to find Dugas, in his command post at the north end of the structure, and told him the guide wall had moved. Dugie told the fisherman he was seeing things. The fisherman nodded affirmatively. When Dugie himself went to look at the guide wall, he looked at it for the last time. Its foundations were gone. There was nothing below it but water.
The structure was obviously undermined, but how much so, and where? What was solid, what was not? What was directly below the gates and the roadway? With a diamond drill, in a central position, they bored the first of many holes in the structure. When they had penetrated to basal levels, they lowered a television camera into the hole. At the conclusion of the Civil War, a struggle between 35 three million combatants, all of the armies in the field on both sides were commanded by graduates; nearly all of the corps; a large majority of the divisions; the staff corps or organization of supply of both forces, and many of the brigades.
Every important battle of the war was commanded on one or both sides by a graduate—generally both. This was the verdict of the end of the great conflict after a test to which no other institution of learning has ever been put. After the Civil War the Academy began to drop out of public notice because the people were more interested in the commercial development of the country.
Then came the Spanish War to test again the product of the Academy, but the work of the graduates in Cuba and the Philippines gave ample proof that the metal was still good and well stamped. With the advent of Colonel A. Mills as Superintendent, the Academy received a fresh impetus and many important changes were effected. The Corps in was increased by one hundred cadets, hazing in all of its forms was practically abolished after a long bitter fight, and elaborate plans were inaugurated for the enlargement 36 and rebuilding of West Point.
In this connection the late Colonel Charles W. Larned, Professor of Drawing, distinguished himself. It is largely due to his indefatigable efforts and to the foresight and ability of the late General Mills, and to the Secretary of War, Elihu Root, that West Point has its magnificent new buildings. Their construction extended over a long period, from to , during which time the courses were expanded and improved to meet the needs of our new Army.
Once again the country is at war, this time with the most powerful and resourceful enemy that our citizens have been called upon to face. The graduates of West Point will prove as true to their traditions in this struggle as they have in the past, and West Point knows that they will return in triumph to their Alma Mater who ever stands ready to press the cup of greeting to the lips of all honorable and loyal sons.
When the springtime rolls around and the Hudson River is at its best, the annual influx of visitors begins to arrive at West Point. Trains and boats disgorge official visitors, tourists, boy scouts, delegations of various brotherhoods and sisterhoods, and picknickers galore. Little groups of them appear in all corners of the Post, in the area of Barracks, on the Plain, in the Public Buildings, and along the famous Flirtation Walk.
Their chief interest, of course, is to catch a glimpse of the cadets, either en masse or individually. Some openly express their enthusiasm and pleasure, genuinely delighted at everything they see, while others remain silent and phlegmatic apparently taking only a languid interest in their surroundings. As I watch my fellow-countrymen strolling about the grounds of the Academy, I often wonder what are their impressions of this institution.
To many, of course, the historic traditions of 38 West Point, as well as its functions and purposes, are thoroughly familiar, but to a vast majority West Point is a closed book. They see the cadets, the drills, the buildings, perhaps parade, but they never have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the intimate life of the Academy.
They do not derive the full benefit from their visit, because they are in the position of regarding the institution from the outside. In many cases, the spirit of investigation is restrained by a feeling of timidity upon their part, a feeling of awe in the face of military surroundings. The Army is so little known to the people in the United States, that, to the average civilian, there seems to be some sort of mystery surrounding military life, and the presence of a man in uniform, with a waist belt and pistol, doing plain police duty, appears to act as a check on every natural impulse.
The pleasure of his visit is consequently marred to some extent and he feels somewhat ill-at-ease. I have often regretted, as I watched the crowds swarming around, that each individual might not 39 carry away a real appreciation of West Point, instead of leaving with only the most superficial impressions. Unless one has graduated from the Academy it is impossible to seize fully the spirit of the institution, or have a clear idea of its intimate life. My long familiarity with West Point, both as a cadet and as an officer, prompts me to portray for the American people the history, aims, ideals, and spirit of their National Military Academy.
West Point seen for the first time from the river, whether in sunshine or through the mists, is a sight not soon forgotten. For a moment the beholder seems withdrawn from the sordid material world, and filled with a multitude of noble impressions. When the Government determined to rebuild West Point, nearly fifteen years ago, the presence 40 of two fine buildings of Gothic design—the Library and the Cadet Barracks—decided the style of architecture. These two buildings ranked as perhaps the most successful examples of the Collegiate Gothic that was much in vogue for educational institutions in the country half a century ago.
A limited competition was held for designs and all architects who had distinguished themselves in Gothic work were invited to participate. Several beautiful designs for a Renaissance treatment were offered, but one group of architects, Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson, submitted drawings for so admirable a Gothic treatment that they received the unanimous approval of a board of judges composed of eminent architects.
The construction of the new buildings lasted over a period of about seven years, during which time the work was under the direction of Colonel John M. Carson, Jr. In writing a book on West Point, any mention of the buildings involves the name of Colonel Carson who performed his difficult work with an unusual amount of zeal and intelligence. The north road from the station passes first, on the river side, the Power House built of granite 41 from local quarries. It is designed to supply the entire institution with electricity for light and power, and the central buildings with heat from exhaust steam.
In a building of this nature, a factory-like look would be taken for granted and pardoned, but, on the contrary, its design is not only adapted for its function, but the building forms an important link in the architectural whole. It assumes its place quite naturally and modestly, almost unobtrusively in the natural landscape, tying the buildings in the upper terrace with the base. The tall smoke-stack is cleverly concealed within the walls of an imposing granite tower. On a slightly higher level, and paralleling the river, is the Riding Hall splendidly impressive with its broad flat buttresses.
The latter seem almost akin to the classic order, and serve in a very large measure to reconcile the classicism of the neighboring Cullum Memorial Hall,—an exotic among its surroundings—with the dominant Gothic of the place. The present Riding Hall occupies the site of not only the old hall, but also of the old Cavalry stables, and barracks.
The old hall was built in and, for the number of cadets at West Point during the ensuing fifty years, it was sufficiently large. With the increase of the Corps of Cadets, and the quickened interest throughout the Service in equitation, however, more spacious accommodations for instruction were required. Usually when a building has served a useful and honorable purpose for 42 many years, its demolition is generally viewed with regret. There was, however, no sentimental attachment for the Riding Hall. Many a painful hour had cadets spent within its walls learning to ride on the bare back of a raw-boned horse, or floundering around in the spongy tanbark.
At this point, the bulk and dignity of the buildings are stupendous, and admiringly we stand, imprisoned, it would seem, in a quadrangle of Middle Age fortresses, whose sternness and solemnity seem symbolic of discipline and strength. The main entrance to the Riding Hall branches from the road a few paces beyond the arch, the lower level of the galleries being reached by a flight of steps that cling to the steep retaining wall of the road.
The great arena is by feet and is covered by a cantilever roof, so that when the eye first encounters this interior, a sensation of its vastness holds the spectator in its grip. The roof is mostly of glass so as to afford a maximum of light, and the floor is covered with tanbark to make more endurable any sudden and unexpected descent from the back of a capricious beast. The building is steam-heated and electric lighted, for during the winter months, equitation drills extend into the late afternoon.
The hall can be divided by curtains into three smaller halls, a scheme that permits 43 three classes to undergo instruction at the same time. In one portion of the hall are stalls for one hundred mounts, but the majority of the horses are kept at the cavalry barracks. The hall is so large that during the winter months the U. Battery of Artillery uses it for a drill ground, thereby keeping the horses in good condition and the men well instructed. Moreover, the officers and cadets are enabled to keep up their practice in polo. Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, teams of cadets play each other, or try their skill against civilian opponents.
Along the full length of the west wall, and the north and south end, are balconies for the accommodation of visitors who are welcome whenever the hall is open. Administration Building Riding Hall. Passing once more under the arch, we admire again for a moment the graceful Herculean proportions of the Administration Building whose imposing square tower, tipped with four smaller towers at the corners, rises precipitately one hundred and sixty feet.
It is an interesting fact in these days of steel construction that this tower is built of solid masonry. At the southeast angle of the building, on a level with the base of the main floor, is an enormous eagle carved in granite, its head high, its wings outstretched and flattened back proudly against the two sides of the edifice, as if proclaiming to the world its mission of protection over the Academy whose administrative heart is enclosed in this structure. As we ascend the stairway, alongside the basement at the left, 44 we pass a large Gothic window which affords light to a vaulted hall used for courts-martial.
The flight of stairs mounts to the level of the Post proper where an eastern view of the building is disclosed. A large sally-port leads into the court around which the building is constructed. The exterior walls are ornamented with shields representing the coats-of-arms of various states, territories, and foreign possessions prepared from the official seals, and expressed according to the laws of Heraldry. The only coat-of-arms of an individual is that of George Washington, at the top of the east elevation of the courtyard.
The obverse and reverse of the great seal of the United States will be found above the east and west entrances, respectively, of the sally-port. Flanking the obverse of the great seal are the seal of the War Department and the device of the Corps of Engineers. In addition to the shields, the devices of the various staff departments, usually associated with a headquarters, have been placed in the sally-port. In the courtyard the names that are carved in the granite were selected for the following reasons:.
Upon the second floor is the Academic Board room, a Gothic hall illuminated with stained glass windows containing emblems of the various arts and sciences. The description of the statuettes and the reasons for selecting the subject are given in a letter to Dr. Holden, late librarian, dated November 23, An Advisory Board of officers recommended:. That the character of the figures on the mantlepiece be of a general military type—historical or legendary—best suited to harmonize with the architectural treatment and selected by the architects themselves from the three lists in this letter of November 23, The heads appearing at the top of the mantel—in the crenelations—have no relation to the statuettes underneath.
The small shields immediately below the statuettes are, however, indicative of the subjects as follows:. Sun and Moon—taken from the Biblical legend describing the distinctly miraculous standing still of the Sun on the occasion of a certain battle. Hector of Troy. This device would apply equally to that of Troy of which Hector was the greatest figure.
King of all Israel, warrior and psalmist—the harp—selected by the architects instead of a little sling, especially since the head of Goliath is under the foot of the figure above. King Arthur of England. The Holy Grail, symbolizing the whole purpose of his career. Godfrey de Bouillon. Heraldic cross of Jerusalem of which city he was king and which forms a part of his own coat-of-arms.
Judas Maccabeus. In the mantel, the figures are arranged chronologically and historically. Three of them, i. For it is notorly known through the universal world, that there be nine worthy and the best that 48 ever were, that is to wit, three Paynims, three Jews, and three Christian men. And as for the three Jews, which were also to-fore the Incarnation of our Lord, of whom the first was Duke Joshua which brought the children of Israel into the land of behest, the second David, King of Jerusalem, and the third Judas Maccabeus, of these three the Bible rehearseth all their noble histories and acts.
And since the said Incarnation have been three noble Christian men, stalled and admitted through the universal world into the number of the nine best and worthy. Of whom was first the noble Arthur. The second was Charlemain, or Charles the Great, of whom the history is had in many places, both in French and English. And the third and last was Godfrey of Boloine. Upon the same floor as the Academic Board room are the three offices of the Superintendent, the Adjutant, and the clerks. The Headquarters building houses, moreover, the offices of the Treasurer, the Quartermaster, the printing shops, the Post Office, and the Ordnance Museum, the entrance to which is at the left of the sally-port.
Begun in , the Museum has throughout the years gathered some valuable trophies of war, interesting relics, and models of the arms of all nations. Visitors are well repaid by a visit to this 49 interesting spot. Historic relics abound in the rooms. Not the least interesting part of the exhibit are the trophies of the Revolution. In glass cases are preserved five flags captured by the American army during the Revolution, two of which were British royal colors, and three taken from the German mercenaries sent over by King George. The former were taken at Yorktown. All these flags were originally the property of General Washington by whom they were bequeathed to George Washington Parke Custis, the son of his adopted son, and grandson of Mrs.
He in turn bequeathed them to the War Department, which came into possession of them in The same year Secretary Floyd presented them to the Academy. Across the road from the Administration Building is the Cadet Mess. It is one of the oldest buildings, the main part dating from The architecture conforms in a general way to that of the new buildings.
With its broad pavement in front, it sets well back from the road, possessing not only the dignity of its more imposing neighbors, but in addition a certain quaint charm. The large central doors give access to the main hall whose walls are hung with portraits of distinguished graduates, chiefly the former Superintendents of the Academy.
Perhaps the most interesting painting is that of General Robert E. Lee, who was Superintendent in The fact that he fought against the Union, they argue, should preclude the bestowal of the honor. West Point, however, considers that since we are a united people once more, his record should be recognized by his Alma Mater from whom he learned the lessons that brought him his fame and his glory. Symmetrically arranged in the hall are the mess tables. They are made to accommodate ten cadets, but occasionally, here and there, two tables are shoved together for economy of floor space.
At these tables are twenty cadets. It is a pleasure to enter the Mess Hall prior to any meal. Every table is immaculate with its snowy clean cloth, its polished cutlery, and shining crockery. The cadets are not seated by classes but by companies, each company having a certain number of tables in the section of the hall assigned its battalion.
As a rule, the ten messmates are made up of three first classmen, two second classmen, two third classmen, and three fourth classmen. The latter 51 are given, by custom of the Corps, various duties to perform at mess such as carving the meat, procuring the coffee and milk. Three long passageways lead from the main dining-hall to the kitchen.
At first glance the super-cleanliness of the surroundings strikes the observer, but his attention is soon attracted to the numerous clever devices for cooking, and for saving time and labor. The preparation of the food for cooking occurs outside of the kitchen proper. Each department prepares its kind, whereupon it is carried to the chef to be cooked and served. The labor of preparation is greatly reduced by the liberal use of machinery. A clever electrical machine rapidly peels the potatoes, a whole bushel of them, in a few minutes; other contrivances make and cut the bread, sterilize the milk, freeze the ice-cream; and wash and dry the innumerable dishes.
Without the aid of these labor-saving devices it would be impossible to maintain such an excellent mess for the cadets. Even now the capacity of the plant is tested almost to its limit, and with the increase in the Corps to cadets, it will be necessary either to enlarge the present Cadet Mess or to build a new hall. The disappearance of the present Mess, Grant Hall, will be viewed with great regret by many graduates who dined for four long years within its really historic walls.
South of the Cadet Mess is the Hospital for cadets, a large granite building perched on a 52 terrace, well back from the road. It consists of a central portion of three stories and basement, with two wings of two stories each and basement. The older portions date from , but the wings are of more recent construction. The wings are practically detached from the main portion of the building for the possible isolation of cases.
The equipment is, of course, modern in every respect. Each wing contains two wards, making four in all, named respectively Cuyler, McElderry, McParlin, and Wheaton in honor of former distinguished military surgeons on duty at West Point. I do not suppose that there is a building on the Post which arouses in cadets so many different kinds of feeling. To some it is a place to be avoided, but to a large number, especially to those who succeed in entering for minor ailments, it is viewed as a haven of rest.
It is the one place where the cadets are free from the irksome routine, where there is no reveille, and where the convalescents revel in what appears to them epicurean feasts. Vatel, the famous French chef, never enjoyed more renown than does the cook at the hospital. I remember that upon one occasion when I was a cadet, a group of convalescents were, one winter day, holding a mutual congratulatory meeting in one of the wards, the burden of the conversation being their luck and also their skill in remaining so long in this abode of rest.
Cadet C—— was next day returned to duty. The officer in charge of the hospital is the Post Surgeon, who is assisted by three or four captains of the Medical Corps, and by several Dental Surgeons. The chief buildings of the Academy occupy relatively a small area of ground. Just north of the Cadet Mess and flanking the main road are the two Academic buildings, known as the East and West Academic.
The East building is new, having been completed in , one of the last provided for in the rebuilding of West Point. The latter building is provided with the most modern lecture rooms, electrical and chemical laboratories, besides a mineralogical and geological museum. The major portion of both buildings contain the section rooms for recitation purposes.
Visitors are admitted if accompanied by an officer. The architecture of both of these buildings is Gothic, but that of the new or East building is of a more exquisite beauty. Splendidly situated, it gives the impression of bulk and mass, much the same feeling that one has in regarding a dreadnought for the first time, but this impression soon gives way to an appreciation of a certain delicacy of treatment, a simple dignity that pleases. Immediately facing the center of the East Academic Building and across the road, is a large 55 opening known as a sally-port through which the sections of cadets must march to recitations in the East Academic building.
This passageway connects the main road with the area of barracks, a space of ground that derives its name from the brown-stone buildings that bound a portion of its perimeter. Along one side is a cement walk on which the cadets form to be marched to their recitations, and a sidewalk borders the barracks. With the exception of a small plot of grass near the Academic building the area is devoid of verdure, but is covered with a fine gravel that gives a clean and well-groomed appearance to the ground.
To a large number of cadets, it vividly brings to mind the punishment tours that they wearily trudged on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons across its surface. The building on the north and west of the area is the South Cadet Barracks, built in This edifice, of feet frontage, is constructed of native granite, with crenelations and cornices of red sandstone, and the Elizabethan style of its architecture harmonizes perfectly with the Gothic 56 of the new buildings.
It is completely supplied with modern plumbing, heating, and electric lights.
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The barracks are divided into divisions, each containing sixteen rooms. There is no lateral communication between the divisions, but a certain number of them are assigned to a company, according to its strength. At present the 1st Bn. A, B, C, and D are quartered here. I have often stood in the Area of Barracks and looked through the north sally-port to enjoy the fine vista that it framed. A section of the Plain fills half the picture, a beautiful foreground, either when resignedly spread out to the heat of the Highland summer, or shivering under its fleecy blanket of snow, over which the winter winds angrily blow.
In the upper half against the far-away background of the Highland hills is the slender flagstaff, sometimes swathed in the folds of our national emblem, sometimes resisting with all its strength the fluttering of its precious charge which seems to implore its release to join the flight of the breeze. It has a fine site on a 57 commanding spur just above the old Cadet Barracks on the west, from which point it dominates the Post. It lies in the shadow of old Fort Putnam of Revolutionary fame, and, built of stone quarried from its own hill, it seems a part of its naturally beautiful surroundings.
This edifice is in reality a large church with a seating capacity of fourteen hundred persons. In plan it is a crucifix, surmounted by a large central tower whose parapet is feet above the pavement of the interior and feet above the level of the river. Just above the stately clerestory windows, and around the cornice of the building, is a row of carved figures, little bosses, representing the quest of the Holy Grail.
Over the door of the main entrance is a great two-handed sword, Excalibur. One should pause for a moment on the terrace in front of the main entrance to enjoy the magnificent panorama. Directly below, in the shelter of the chapel hill, are grouped all of the main buildings pertaining to the cadets, the most conspicuous of which are the barracks. Viewed from this height the arrangement of the buildings resembles a regular nest, le nid des cadets.
A winding road back of the barracks leads to the Chapel. The interior of the Chapel is feet long, and across the transepts, 72 feet wide. The nave contains fourteen large Gothic windows, now filled with temporary glass but which will later be replaced with memorial windows. Erected to the glory of the God of Battles and in faithful memory of the departed graduates of the United States Military Academy, West Point, by the living alumni.
The deep shades of purple and red give the window an extraordinary richness. It is of rare richness and beauty, and for subject, color, and arrangement it is thought to be unexcelled in our country. There are twenty-seven panels, each of which contains an almost life-size figure representing one of the chief militant figures in the Bible.
Services are held in the Chapel every Sunday morning at a quarter before eleven and are attended by 59 cadets, officers, enlisted men, their families, and a large number of visitors. In addition to the regular service in the Chapel, where the cadet choir of one hundred and five voices is a feature, a series of organ recitals, free to the public, is given each year.
The organ is of unusually fine quality and is surprisingly effective for an instrument of three manuals, or keyboards. But it is still incomplete, being both undersized for this cathedral-like building and inadequate to the proper performance of the finest music. The addition of a fourth manual, with its pipes located in the gallery opposite the present organ, now eloquently vacant, is needed to bring the musical part of the service and the recitals up to the highest efficiency.
Upon the completion of the improvements contemplated the organ will become one of the art glories of the country, and with the Chapel,—perfect in architecture, surroundings, and acoustics—would create an atmosphere of rare idealism. The acquisition of every new stop given is indicated by a bronze tablet placed upon the console, or key desk, of the organ. The significance of such tablets would make this organ and console unique, not only in establishing historic traditions but also in affording substantial encouragement to the volunteer organist and to the choir. The opportunity here presented is most worthy for anyone desirous of establishing a memorial 60 to a graduate of the Academy, for a graduate wishing to honor the memory of one of his immediate family, for a class gift, or for anyone interested in furthering an artistic influence over the lives of the future officers of the Army of our country.
In the transepts are galleries but they are not at present equipped with seats. Along the nave also are covered galleries, almost hidden from view by the suspended flags. To care for the spiritual welfare of the cadets and other residents of the Post, there is a Chaplain who is appointed by the President. His term of office is for four years, but he is usually re-appointed. The location of the Chapel makes it visible from many places on the Post.
In walking around the grounds, every once in a while an extraordinarily effective view of the fine building strikes the beholder. Each glimpse seems more beautiful than the previous one, and a general impression remains that the Chapel holds a spiritual dominion 61 over the institution. Every corner of the main part of West Point seems under its influence. This feeling is particularly strong as we stand on the sidewalk between the old and new Cadet Barracks and gaze at this monumental pile of ethereal beauty that seems to lose itself in the sky.
In the southwest angle of the Plain, from where I like to view the Chapel, is a white granite statue of Major Sylvanus Thayer, class of The funds for this modest but beautiful monument, which was unveiled June 11, , were contributed by loyal graduates of the Academy and by loving friends. General Thayer was Superintendent of the Academy from to The sculptor of the monument was Carl Conrad.
On the west side of the Plain is the North Cadet Barracks, one of the new buildings completed in The Gothic style employed in the treatment of this building, while resembling somewhat that of the old barracks, has more dignity, beauty, and grace. Not enough difference exists between the two to cause any lack of 62 harmony.
Chief among the changes made in the new barracks are the windows which are triple instead of single. As far as the interior is concerned the arrangement is identical. Modern plumbing has been installed in the old barracks to conform to its new neighbor, so that the cadets of today are no longer obliged to run down to the area to draw their water from the hydrant.
The very mention of this ancient and picturesque custom brings back many memories, chiefly centered around reveille on a bitterly cold morning. Now, upon each floor of barracks are faucets with hot and cold water! I wish that I were a cadet again! No one would judge the building to be a military barracks. Rather, a study of its lines would suggest that it was the home of some religious order. It has an undeniable ecclesiastical character that impresses one immediately. I have always derived great pleasure in contemplating its beauty and my imagination at these times fancies it as the refuge, the shelter, the sanctuary of a body of men separated from the material affairs of the world.
It seems made to house only the best and noblest in nature, to be the environment from which high ideals receive their greatest inspiration. A group of happy smiling 63 cadets coming out of their rooms at this moment tells me that my imagination has been dwelling upon reality and not wandering into fantastic fields. This building is indeed the home of a splendid Order, the inspiring order of young manhood, clean-minded and honorable, trained in a school where they are taught the most scrupulous regard for the truth, and where they are given a mens sana in corpore sano.
In the quadrangle the light brick facing gives, in all sorts of weather, a bright cheerful aspect, a sunny appearance, that contrasts in a most welcome manner with the gloom of the quadrangle of the old barracks. Set well back from the Plain, and to the north of the new barracks, is the Gymnasium. It is not built of granite like its neighbor, the new barracks, but has received from the hands of the architect an artistic and interesting treatment of brick and limestone.
The broad wall-like surface of the front is broken by six flat buttresses, whose terminals are richly decorated. The second story is devoted to the gymnasium proper. It is lighted by large skylights, and 64 equipped with every possible device for physical development. The remainder of the building houses a fine natatorium, 77 feet wide and 92 feet long, with a swimming-pool 40 feet wide and 80 feet long; a fencing-room, a boxing-room, a wrestling-room, besides the necessary dressing-rooms for both cadets and officers.
In the basement is a shooting gallery for indoor rifle and pistol practice. North of the Gymnasium and fronting the Plain, are the quarters of the Superintendent of the Academy, an interesting old house that dates from Surrounding the house is a quaint old ironwork porch of later date, but old enough to be a curiosity today. A well-proportioned central hall gives access to charming suites of spacious rooms on both sides of the quarters, but the suite on the left is the more beautiful for it offers a fascinating vista of three large rooms terminating in a conservatory filled with exotic plants.
Delightful hospitality has been dispensed in these rooms to some of the most noted people in the world. Royalty, distinguished foreigners, civilians, and soldiers, noted American men and women are constantly visiting West Point to inspect the school and are always entertained by the Superintendent. If the walls of these quarters could speak they would relate some interesting incidents of the official life of West Point. The beauty of the rooms is today enhanced by a number of fine family portraits, 65 painted by Thomas Sully, and the property of the present Superintendent, Colonel John Biddle, Corps of Engineers.
At any official function the guests usually crowd the fascinating old porch to watch the evolutions of the cadets upon the Plain opposite, or sometimes they indulgently stand on the front stone steps to pose for the breathlessly impatient movie men and photographers. The quarters are surrounded by beautiful, well-kept lawns and tall graceful elm trees.
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