West Point, East

The home of the father of U.S. military education

Thayer House 2007 1

T

he U.S. Military Academy on the west bank of the Hudson River in New York was already 15 years old when Braintree native General Sylvanus Thayer took over, but so thoroughly did he revamp the school that he is known as the father of West Point. Thayer remained superintendent until 1833, when he returned to his birthplace and took over the job of building Boston Harbor’s military fortifications, including the monumental Fort Warren on George’s Island. In 1867, he retired from the military and founded and endowed the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Thayer’s house, built in 1720 by his great-great grandfather, has his personal traveling writing desk, saber, commission signed by Abraham Lincoln, and one of only three surviving Dublin-style New England dovetail press cupboards, a piece of furniture literally pressed together instead of being pegged, screwed or nailed.

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One of the largest and best-preserved military forts on the East Coast open to the public, Fort Warren took more than 25 years to build, beginning in 1833, with emplacements for 350 cannon, enlisted men’s clubs, a semi-subterranean prison, underground passageways, a drawbridge, and a shot hoist elevator that could lift 1,000-pound rounds to elevated guns installed when ironclad ships came into service. More than 3,000 Confederates were imprisoned here, including Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens.

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