A Letter From West Point.
EDITORS DAILY CRIMSON.-The graduate of West Point rarely speaks of the Military Academy as his alma mater: for alma means kind, gracious, benign, and a mother is tender and indulgent. The Military Academy has nothing of the university in either its discipline or its course of studies. Everything is made subordinate to the one purpose, that its graduates may be able engineers and soldiers that are trained to obey. The necessary hardships are such that few would prefer the necessities of West Point to the luxuries of Sing Sing, did not each one keep in mind the happy time when he should "don the army blue."
The Freshman at West Point is called a Plebe, and woe be unto that Plebe who does not always remember the respect he owes to all until his six months of probation are over. His principal enemy is the Yearling, (sophomore), who in turn trembles before the august second class man, glad to receive his notice, even though he call him but an Ex-Plebe. Every one who knows nothing about it, imagines that hazing at West Point is something terrible. As a matter of fact. force, or physical violence of any kind is never used, and the basis of all the "hazing" is merely a systematic sort of subbing.
In the Mess Hall, each table is presided over by a cadet-officer, who is principally engaged in dispensing information upon all topics whatsoever to the Yearling, and in seeing that the Plebe pours out the water promptly.
Like all other cadets, I am living in Edgar Poe's old room, which in common with his numerous other old rooms, has his name scratched on the window pane. I firmly believe that the troubles of West Point lent his character its peculiar despondency.
The library is rather small, but small as it is, we should be glad to use it more. Books can be taken out only on Saturday, to be returned Monday. Probably remembering their own youthful tastes, the authorities have forbidden the reading of any such books as Roderick Random, or Tristram Shandy; Smollet, Fielding, and Sterne are tabooed, and the principal works provided for our perusal are the Patent-Office Reports, and the Congressional Record.
Military punishment is divided into three classes; confinement to room, extra guard duty, and light prison. The first is inflicted when some unfortunate has failed to sweep his quarters properly, or has wasted his butter at dinner. The crime of smoking is visited with twelve hours of extra duty, while card-playing, or any such heinous offense, consigns the delinquent to prison for a month or two. The Barracks are inspected daily, and an inquisition officer can cause us much trouble. The clothes-bag, for instance, is probably doing duty as pantry and wine-cellar, and may contain a pipe or a pack of cards. For tunately, the inspecting officers remember the days of their youth, and give suspicious receptacles a wide berth.
So much time and energy is spent upon our military duties, that all athletic sports are practically abandoned. We have no base-ball, no foot-ball, no boating, although the material for either of the last two is splendid, and some day we may have in the field, an eleven with a five pound heavier average than Yale.
In one respect, at least, West Point is in advance of Harvard, We have no "chapel" to attend. On the other hand however, we must attend church on Sunday, and no certificate, signed with a mental reservation, can secure us from our weekly infliction.
One of our greatest bugbears is a military funeral. If the thermometer drops to ten below zero, we regard it as a sure sign that some old brigadier will need "polishing." This is a very disrespectful way to speak of burying a brave old soldier, but have we not provocation? A funeral means two hours under arms, and a tramp through the cold and snow to the grave-yard where the volley that does honor to the departed, gives us an hour's work cleaning our guns. Long life to all that in tend to be buried here !
I am afraid that I have dwelt entirely upon the dark side of cadet life. To tell you the truth, I am even now in confinement, and though that is no unusual thing with me, it actually had a depressing effect. If you would know the other side of the story, ask some summer visitor, who will tell you that a cadet is the happiest and merriest of mortals, and as for his surroundings, why lrving failed signally in his description of the grand old river and its legendary hills.
W. V. JUDSON.