Bull Runnings at West Point

6 11 2017

On Friday, October 20, my family toured the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. Thanks to our mutual friend Dr. Carol Reardon, we were given a guided tour of the post cemetery by military history instructor Lt. Col. David Siry (Dave’s efforts bring us the wonderful West Point Center for Oral History features, which you can also follow on its Facebook page). It was all a little overwhelming – in such a small plot of land, you’re pretty much tripping over U. S. Army history with every step. Cemeteries have the most significant emotional impact of any historic sites for me – not only are they the resting places of the mortal remains of the people I’ve read so much about, but the gravesites were often the last place where loved ones gathered with them, where they were remembered and “sent off” to, well, wherever we think they go. I could have spent a week in the West Point Cemetery. But, of course, I couldn’t. Now, we only had the one day, and it was a football weekend (Army beat Temple on a pass play the next day…A COMPLETED PASS!!!), so before you say “Oh, you should have seen X, Y, or Z” we saw as much as we could see in the time we had. Below, I’ll recap the day via photos of First Bull Run related items. (I took about 275 photos, and they’re not all BR1 related, but this is a First Bull Run site. I’ll post other Civil War related shots on the Bull Runnings Facebook page if you’re interested.)

First thing, if you want to visit the Academy, you’ll need to get clearance and an ID at the off post visitor’s center, where the museum is (we didn’t get back there until after 4:00, when the museum closed.) It’s not too bad – you need your driver’s license and your social security number. Our process took a little longer because it was a football weekend, and alumni and cadet parents get preference. The photo ID is good for up to a year, and it makes a cool souvenir too. Just be patient and don’t try to make too much small talk with the processors.

We picked up Dave near his office in Thayer Hall, and it was off to the cemetery, with our guide describing points of interest along the way. One thing’s for sure: the Academy is very, very gray. Gray, stone, imposing buildings predominate. This stood out in stark contrast to the amazing Fall colors of the Hudson Valley. And we had a beautiful, clear day. (Click on any image for a great-big-giant one.)


Gray – I think that is Thayer Hall to the right.


Not gray – The Hudson Valley from Trophy Point

Here are the Fist Bull Runners as we came across them in the cemetery:


Alonzo Cushing, who was with Co. G, 2nd U. S. Artillery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in June, 2014



Erasmus Keyes, Brigade Commander, Tyler’s Division


Keyes rear


George Sykes, commanded the U. S. Regular Battalion



General-in-Chief Winfield Scott



Mrs. Scott


Sylvanus Thayer – 5th Superintendent and “Father” of the U. S. Military Academy


Joseph Audenried – ADC to Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler



George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry


George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry




George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry


George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry


Elizabeth Bacon Custer

Lt. Col. Siry and I discuss the history of the Custer memorial as my son listens in

Dennis Hart Mahan and his ideas on engineering and military theory had perhaps the greatest influence on the cadets at West Point. In 1871, after the Board of Visitors recommended he retire, he leapt into the paddlewheel of a Hudson River steamboat.


The Old Cadet Chapel served as the Academy’s place of worship from 1836 until it was replaced by the current Cadet Chapel and moved to the cemetery from its original location, brick by brick through the efforts of alumni, in 1910. It was in this building that cadets gathered in 1861, in the wake of resignations of cadets from southern states, to take a new Oath of Allegiance to the United States and its constitution. Mounted on the walls inside are war trophies and plaques to various individuals, including past superintendents, the first graduating class (2 cadets), and one plaque that lists no name, in non-recognition of former post commander Major General Benedict Arnold (the day before, in Tarrytown, NY, I visited a couple of sites pertaining to the capture of the treacherous Arnold’s British contact, Major John Andre).






Winfield Scott’s pew used in his retirement. He sat next to a column at the far end, which obscured his often dozing form from the view of the officiant.

The new (107-year-old) Cadet Chapel is adorned with representative flags of various Civil War regular units, some of which were present at First Bull Run. It’s also home to the world’s largest chapel pipe organ, with 23,511 pipes. Despite having played – in church, no less – as a youth, I was not going to embarrass myself…






This pew is not used, and the candle remains lit in remembrance of those cadets who did not return home (per an overheard tour guide)

Trophy Point overlooks the Hudson Valley and offers one of the most scenic views in the nation. For many years it was the site of graduation ceremonies, and now is home to a large artillery display (many prizes of war, hence “Trophy Point”) and one of the tallest polished granite columns (46 feet tall, 5 feet in diameter) in the world, the Battle Monument. Designed by architect Stanford White, the Battle Monument displays the names of regular army officers and men who perished in the Civil War. The column is topped by the figure of “Fame.” The names of fallen Regular officers encircle the column, first those on staff, then those in the regular regiments and batteries. Enlisted men’s names are inscribed around eight globes placed around the column.  There are over 2,200 names in all. Each of the eight globes is adorned with two cannons, each muzzle inscribed with the name of a Civil War battle. Here are a few shots of the monument, with particular attention to First Bull Run related items.









Capt. Otis H. Tillinghast, Acting Assistant Quartermaster, McDowell’s Staff, mortally wounded at First Bull Run


Lt. Patrick H. O’Rorke, ADC to B. G. Daniel Tyler; Cadet John R. Meigs, attached to staff of Maj. Henry Hunt, 2nd U. S. Artillery

I’m sure there are names I missed, but again, this was on the fly. Maybe next time.

All-in-all, a great trip. We saw a great deal in addition to what I included above, yet I can’t imagine leaving this place, particularly on such a beautiful fall day, without wishing I had more time. Thanks so much to Lt. Col. David Siry for his fine tour of the cemetery. If you get the chance to visit the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, definitely do it. And give it as much time as possible. It’s an informative and even moving experience.


Lt. Col. David Siry at the grave of Capt. Ronald Zinn, Class of 1962, whose unusual gait led him to race walking and the 1960 & 1964 U. S. Olympic teams




9 responses

6 11 2017
Chris Evans

Thanks for all the great pictures. Definitely a place I would very much like to go.

I guess I’m just a fall guy for old movies but John Ford’s ‘The Long Gray Line’ gets me every time.


Liked by 1 person

6 11 2017
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Chris.


6 11 2017
Andy Hall

Audenried‘s monument is a duplicate of that of one of the earliest historical figures in Rome, Scipio Barbartus. Very popular style in the 19th century.

Liked by 1 person

6 11 2017
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Andy.


7 11 2017

Col David Siry has spoken at our So Fairfield Ct CWRT club many times…One of his best presentations was when he and another Col came with 4 cadets..(male/female ) all majoring in different areas of focus returned from a tour of the WWI battlefields and made their presentations based on Supplyside economics/ Military fortifications / Tactics / Psychological effects / and medical care.. Truly impressive and thoughtfully done.
They then took this to the Kennedy center in Washington DC to do an even larger presentation.
A few of us are scheduled for the Cemetery tour this Spring
The Museum was revised years ago of Campus…but it was a favorite of mine growing up as a boy about an hr and a half south in Westchester Co NY
Thanks for sharing

Liked by 1 person

7 11 2017
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Brian.


8 11 2017
John Foskett

Terrific post, Harry. I haven’t seen a topical compilation like this anywhere. As for the “completed pass”, where’s the monument celebrating November 1, 1913 when a certain small private school from northern Indiana “invented” the forward pass and crushed mighty Army 35-13? (:

Liked by 1 person

8 11 2017
Harry Smeltzer

Dang, John. Must have gone right past it when we walked on the field at Michie Stadium (not kidding, we really did that).


8 11 2017
John Foskett

That’s great. And there’s no need for the additional monument at the Point. Any student at ND gets his/her fill of monuments on campus – including the replica of “Fair Catch Corby’s” statue at Gettysburg. There actually is one for Rockne, so we’ve also got the 1913 thing covered.

Liked by 1 person

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