Abstract Background Image Banner
#102 Overall Influence #55 Desirability Rank

United States Military Academy

Federal service academy in West Point, New York, United States
By James Barham, PhD

The United States Military Academy (universally known as “West Point,” or just “the Point”) is the officer-training school for the United States Army. The other US armed services have their own separate officer-training schools elsewhere: the Navy and the Marines, in Annapolis, Maryland; the Coast Guard, in New London, Connecticut; and the Air Force, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

West Point is unique on this list in having what one might call a “prehistory”—that is, a history as a military encampment and a fortress that considerably predates its inauguration as an officer-training college.

The Point is strategically situated on a high bluff along the west bank of the Hudson River a little less than 60 miles north of New York City. It was first occupied early in 1778 during the Revolutionary War by George Washington’s Continental Army under the command of General Benedict Arnold and the Polish patriot, military engineer, and supporter of the Colonial cause, Tadeusz Kościuszko, making it the oldest continuously operating military installation on American soil.

For the next two years, Kościuszko oversaw construction of fortifications on the site, which overlooks a narrow bend in the Hudson River, giving the fortress a commanding position over the river. In this way, the Colonials were able to deny the British Navy access to the Hudson north of the Point.

Originally known as “Fort Arnold,” before the general’s effort to sell the garrison to the British in 1780, West Point was renamed “Fort Clinton,” after Major General James Clinton. (This Fort Clinton should not be confused with an earlier fort named after the same individual that existed for a short time at a different location on the Hudson River closer to New York City.) This name, too, lapsed after the founding of the US Military Academy on the site.

Instruction for officer cadets in artillery and engineering studies began to be offered informally at the Point in 1794. Around 1799, President John Adams’s “Senior Officer of the US Army” (equivalent to the modern Secretary of Defense), Alexander Hamilton, introduced a bill in Congress with the aim of establishing a national military academy at West Point.

This legislation was signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802, which is therefore considered to be the official date of the founding of the academy.

The curriculum at the Point is rigorous, not only in math, science, engineering, and military studies, as one might expect, but also in the humanities, in physical training, and in morality and ethics. Many of the humanities courses, including those in the military curriculum, include classical texts on their syllabus. Thus, in some ways West Point resembles a Great Books–style program academically.

Cadets are expected to dine together and must abide by a strict Honor Code. In general, great attention is paid to maintaining esprit de corps.

As one might expect, the list of famous military commanders connected with West Point is a long one, including both opposing military leaders during the American Civil War:

On the Union side,

  • General Ulysses S. Grant
  • General George B. McClellan
  • General William Tecumseh Sherman
  • General Philip Sheridan
  • Major General George Meade

On the Confederate side,

  • General Robert E. Lee
  • General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson
  • General J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart
  • General James Longstreet
  • Major General George Pickett

In the war of the US against the Plains Indians, General George Armstrong Custer was a West Point graduate.

In World War I, the Point sent its graduates General John J. Pershing to France. World War II saw a much larger cohort of West Point graduates in the upper echelons of the war effort, including the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with his opposite number in the Pacific, five-star General Douglas MacArthur. Other famous WWII West Point graduates include General Omar Bradley and General George S. Patton.

More recently, the Point has contributed to America’s wars, among many others,

  • General William Westmorland, General Creighton Abrams & General Alexander Haig — Vietnam
  • General Colin Powell & General Norman Schwarzkopf — Gulf War
  • General Wesley Clark — Kosovo
  • General David Petraeus — Iraq
  • General Stanley McChrystal — Afghanistan
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster — Iraq and Afghanistan

A number of these generals went on to distinguished careers in civilian government service, with, of course, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower both rising to the Presidency of the United States. During the Civil War, the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was likewise a West Point graduate.

Several of NASA’s astronauts have graduated from the Point, as well.

Other notable West Point graduates include:

  • Poet and short-story writer, Edgar Allan Poe
  • National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft
  • Present Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards
  • Current US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo
  • Current US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper

From Wikipedia

The United States Military Academy , also known as West Point, Army, Army West Point, The Academy, or simply The Point, is a four-year federal service academy in West Point, New York. It was originally established as a fort, as it sits on strategic high ground overlooking the Hudson River with a scenic view, north of New York City. It is the oldest of the five American service academies and educates cadets for commissioning into the United States Army.

Source: Wikipedia


What does this school look for?

Annual Applications




Graduation Rate


Median SAT Score


Median ACT Score



How much does it cost to attend?

After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

Student Body




The Campus

Where will you be attending?


646 Swift Rd (ATTN: MASG), West Point NY 10996-1905

What is United States Military Academy known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#60 World Rank
#48 World Rank
#61 World Rank
#64 World Rank
#68 World Rank
Political Science
#69 World Rank
#349 World Rank
#291 World Rank
#378 World Rank
#355 World Rank
Computer Science
#433 World Rank
#490 World Rank
#372 World Rank
#505 World Rank
#885 World Rank

Other areas of influence

#46 World Rank
Criminal Justice
#77 World Rank
#112 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#143 World Rank
#147 World Rank
#232 World Rank
#366 World Rank
#439 World Rank
Religious Studies
#472 World Rank
Social Work

Influential People

Who are United States Military Academy's Most influential alumni?

United States Military Academy 's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Criminal Justice, Engineering, and Literature

Martin Dempsey

Martin Dempsey

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Alfred Worden

Alfred Worden

American astronaut

Timothy Kopra

Timothy Kopra

American astronaut

John Schofield

John Schofield

United States Army Medal of Honor recipient and Union Army general

Mike Mullane

Mike Mullane

American astronaut

John C. Pemberton

John C. Pemberton

United States Army officer

Michael Wynne

Michael Wynne

Federal government official; U.S. Air Force officer; business executive

Peyton C. March

Peyton C. March

9th Chief of Staff of the United States Army

John C. H. Lee

John C. H. Lee

United States Army general

Edwin Walker

American army officer and conservative activist

Jim Kimsey

Co-founder, America Online

Roger Hilsman

Roger Hilsman

American soldier, government official, political scientist, and author