West Point, New York

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For other uses, see West Point (disambiguation).
West Point, New York
CDP
Aerial view of West Point, 2013. West Point is at center on the near (western) side of the river. Highland Falls is at right; Cold Spring is at left, across the river in Putnam County.
Aerial view of West Point, 2013. West Point is at center on the near (western) side of the river. Highland Falls is at right; Cold Spring is at left, across the river in Putnam County.
Location in Orange County and the state of New York.
Location in Orange County and the state of New York.
West Point, New York is located in New York
West Point, New York
West Point, New York
Location in the state of New York
Coordinates: 41°23′N 73°58′W / 41.383°N 73.967°W / 41.383; -73.967Coordinates: 41°23′N 73°58′W / 41.383°N 73.967°W / 41.383; -73.967
Country United States
State New York
County Orange
Area
 • Total 25.1 sq mi (64.9 km2)
 • Land 24.3 sq mi (63.0 km2)
 • Water 0.7 sq mi (1.9 km2)
Population (2010)
 • Total 6,763
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 10996-10997
Area code(s) 845
FIPS code 36-80747[1]
Looking north on the Hudson River from West Point

West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States of America. West Point was established in 1775 by George Washington who considered it the most important strategic position in America. Until January 1778, West Point was not occupied by the military. On January 27, 1778, Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons and his brigade crossed the ice on the Hudson River and climbed to the plain on West Point and from that day to the present, West Point has been occupied by the United States Army. It comprises approximately 16,000 acres (6,500 ha) including the campus of the United States Military Academy at West Point, which is also frequently called "West Point". It is a Census Designated Place (CDP) located in the Town of Highlands in Orange County, New York,[2][3] located on the western bank of the Hudson River. The population was 6,763 at the 2010 census. It is part of the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the larger New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area.

History[edit]

West Point had many advantages for being selected as a site to build fortifications on the Hudson River. Vessels passing by West Point had to make a sharp, ninety-degree turn to the west, sail a quarter of a mile, then make another right-angle turn to the north as they continued upriver. These bends were sharper than any point along the Hudson, creating hazards for ships passing through. In addition to the turns in the river, the river was also very narrow, the tidal effects were the greatest, and the current was the swiftest at this location. The treacherous winds also created difficulties for ships trying to navigate through this section of the Hudson.

Construction of forts and batteries in the area of West Point began in the summer of 1775. However, the original location was not the site of the future military academy, but across the Hudson River on Constitution Island (then called Martelaer’s Rock). Problems immediately became apparent in the use of Constitution Island by the Continental Army. The area was vulnerable to attack by land and was dominated by higher ground on all sides, especially from West Point across the river. Other fortifications were built along the Hudson River including twin forts to the south of West Point at the confluence of Popolopen Creek and the Hudson River. Fort Montgomery was constructed on the north shore of Popolopen Creek, and Fort Clinton was located on the south shore. Many of these fortifications were destroyed by the British in October 1777.

Until January 1778, West Point was not occupied by the military. On January 27, 1778, Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parsons and his brigade crossed the ice on the Hudson River and climbed to the plain on West Point and from that day to the present, West Point has been occupied by the United States Army. To reinforce the defenses at West Point, Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish Army General and Engineer, to design the fortifications for West Point in 1778. Washington himself transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779.

Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and fashioned an iron chain across the Hudson to prevent the British from separating the colonies. The chain, known as the Great Chain, was placed in the river on April 30, 1778, measured approximately 1,600 feet, and weighed between 180 and 186 tons. At the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the materials used to construct West Point were sold in an attempt to recoup some funds. Although West Point continued to be occupied, its importance as a strategic point along the Hudson River would not be a focus until 1794 when tensions between France and England began to rise in Europe.

In perhaps the most infamous act of treason in American history, General Benedict Arnold attempted to turn the site over to the British Army in 1780 for a bribe consisting of a commission as a Brigadier General in the British Army and a cash reward of £20,000 (about $1.3M in 2009 dollars). However, Arnold's plot failed when British Major John André was captured as a spy. Arnold received a decreased cash reward of £6,000 (roughly $350,000) but was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the British Army.

Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, and remains the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

Several soldiers and legislators, including George Washington, Henry Knox, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, desiring to eliminate America's wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare. President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1802. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the Academy would be representative of a democratic society. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is the United States of America’s oldest service academy.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point first cadets were assigned to the Corps of Artillerists and Engineers (which later became the Corps of Engineers) at West Point in 1802. The cadets were instructed in practical experience in the use of artillery. Joseph Gardner Swift was the first graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and would later serve as the third Superintendent from 1812 to 1814. West Point remained under the control of the Corps of Engineers until June 1866 when it was returned to the supervision of the Secretary of War.

Sylvanus Thayer, the "Father of the Military Academy," served as the fifth Superintendent from 1817 to 1833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Aware of our young nation's need for engineers, Thayer made engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half of the nineteenth century, U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation's infrastructure. In the late part of the nineteenth century, U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduates filled political, economic and cultural posts throughout America.

In 1937, the West Point Bullion Depository was constructed just outside the northern most gate of West Point; in 1988, it became the West Point Mint, as a branch of the United States Mint.[citation needed]

Geography and climate[edit]

West Point is located at 41° 23′ N 73° 58' W. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 25.1 square miles (65 km2); 24.3 sq mi (63 km2) land and 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2) water. West Point and the contiguous village of Highland Falls, New York, are on the west bank of the Hudson River.

West Point lies in the transition between the humid continental (Köppen Dfa) and humid subtropical (Cfa) zones, although lying closer to the former, with four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid, while winters are cold with moderate snowfall. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 27.5 °F (−2.5 °C) in January to 74.1 °F (23.4 °C) in July; on average, temperatures reaching 90 °F (32 °C) or 0 °F (−18 °C) occur on 17 and 1.4 days of the year, respectively. The average annual precipitation is approximately 50.5 inches (1,280 mm), which is distributed fairly evenly throughout the year; snow averages 35 inches (89 cm) per season, although this total may vary considerably from year to year. Extremes in temperature range from 106 °F (41 °C) on July 22, 1926 down to −17 °F (−27 °C) on February 9, 1934.

Demographics[edit]

View of West Point from the eastern shore of the Hudson River

As of the census[1] of 2010 there were 6,763 people, and 685 households residing in the CDP. The population density was 293.4 per square mile (113.3/km2). There were 1,044 housing units at an average density of 42.9/sq mi (16.6/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP was 82.31% White, 9.09% African American, 0.50% Native American, 3.35% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 1.64% from other races, and 2.96% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.56% of the population.

There were 685 households out of which 75.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 87.8% were married couples living together, 4.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 5.7% were non-families. 5.4% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.69.

The age distribution is 16.7% under the age of 18, 51.2% from 18 to 24, 23.0% from 25 to 44, 3.8% from 45 to 64, and 0.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 21 years. For every 100 females there were 207.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 259.7 males. All of these statistics are typical for military bases.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $56,516, and the median income for a family was $56,364. About 2.0% of families and 2.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.6% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

• United States Army Garrison West Point