high atop a peninsula jutting out into the mighty
Hudson River, West Point proved to be the lynch
pin in defeating the British in the American
Revolution. Holding and defending this high
ground prevented the British from dividing the
colonies in two by controlling the Hudson River.
Their goal was to take the Hudson and eliminate
the flow of commerce between the New England
colonies and the South. General George Washington
knew the strategic importance of the Hudson
River and poured his resources into its defense
and military improvements.
most important of these fortifications was atop
West Point. From this strategically important
location all shipping and river traffic was
under his control effectively bottling up the
British in Manhattan. The location was of such
importance that it was the fortifications at
West Point that Revolutionary hero Benedict
Arnold attempted to surrender to the British,
bringing about his downfall and flight into
exile as a traitor to his country.
1802 by Act of Congress, Thomas Jefferson created
the first military academy in the United States,
at West Point. Now, the oldest military academy
in the country, West Point Military Academy
serves the US Army as its primary officer training
grounds with thousands of cadets at any one
time marching and attending classes, continuing
the proud traditions of the "long gray
West Point can be a fun and exciting experience.
To enter the post, you go to the Visitors Center
in Highland Falls, immediately outside the Main
Gate. The Visitor Center has interactive displays
about the "Point" showing cadet life.
The West Point Museum is located just behind
the Visitor Center and is not to be missed.
It houses the largest collection of armamant
in the world and is an educational as well as
exciting museum to visit. From the Visitor Center
you can take guided tours of the Point aboard
air-conditioned coaches with guides relating
the history and pointing out the sites. On the
tour you stop at the Cadets Chapel and at Trophy
Point. One of the fun experiences of being at
the Point is when the cadets, unannounced, burst
out of the barracks, in formation, and march
about chanting at the top of their lungs. As
quickly as they appear, the dissappear again
into the barracks and the field grows silent
at the time of this writing the post is on high
alert as a result of the September 11 attack.
Access to West Point is basically via the guided
coach tours. However, during times when the
post is not on high alert, the public is welcomed
onto the post to wander the grounds and take
in the sights and sounds of cadet life. Monuments
to some of the greatest Generals of American
History surround the Parade Grounds and Trophy
Point provides the single most spectacular view
of the Hudson River to be found in the entire
Valley. For those interested in investigation
the pase, the Cemetery at West Point houses
some of the most prominent people in the history
of America. Presidents and Generals as well
as enlisted men can be found resting in this
West Point Band holds scheduled concerts in
season at the amphitheatre at Trophy Point.
Make sure to check the schedule as it is an
experience not to be missed. Eisenhower Hall
also provides a venu for touring shows and theatrical
events throughout the year. When planning your
trip to West Point, just remember that it is
the single most visited site in the Hudson Valley
and for awhile at least it will remain on security
high alert, so allow time and have a little
patience. You will surely enjoy your visit and
the experiences you have at West Point.
overlooked in the great sweep of history as
being the central battleground of the American
Revolution, the Hudson Valley determined the
success or failure of the Colonial States in
their quest for independence from Great Britain.
Strategically, the Hudson River was the only
navigable river into the interior of the continent
and its location empowered whoever controlled
it to either allow or prevent commerce between
the northern Colonies and those in the south.
Should the British have been able to gain control
of the Hudson, the outcome of the war would
surely have been different.
the British spent great time, effort and resources
attempting to gain control of the mighty Hudson
River just so they could control the commercial
trade routes between north and south. Their
first act in the war was to take Manhattan and
drive General Washington and his continental
troups north chasing them up to White Plains
and forcing them across the river. In a massive
effort, they then descended south from Canada
under the command of Gen. Burguoyne, down through
Lake Champlain, down the Hudson battling the
colonists at every turn. Finally at Saratoga,
Burguoyne lost his momentum and was defeated
and captured, bringing the battle over the northern
Hudson to a close.
the war, various fortifications and sites in
Orange County were pivotal in the efforts of
Washington and his troops to stay the British
and prevent them from coming up into the Hudson
Valley. Chief among these locations was West
Point, site of the major fortifications along
the Hudson and commanded by Benedict Arnold.
Washington himself spent more time in the Hudson
Valley and Orange County than any other location
in the colonies during the war years. And as
the war drew to a close, it was Orange County
that Washington chose as his last staging ground
for his troops and his entorage to insure the
British didn't attempt a run up the Hudson before
the final treaties could be signed.
County is rich in Revolutionary sites ranging
from the mundane of camp life for enlisted men
right up Washington's final residence prior
to his resigning from the Continental Army.
As individual places, they do not overwhelm
the visitor with their grandeur or the role
they played in the struggle for independence.
Collectively, they should overwhelm the visitor
in significance to their daily lives and how
different America would be today were it not
for the foresight, diligence and sacrifice made
to hold and defend these places in Orange County.