Seditious Sentiments Swell
November 24, 1860. The Richmond Times Dispatch reports, “The South Carolina cadets at West Point, numbering seven, have held a meeting and resolved, when she withdraws, to ‘be found fighting under her banner.'” The cadets report:
“Though the reception of a diploma here at the National Academy is certainly to be desired by all of us, yet we cannot so stifle our convictions of duty as to serve the remainder of our time here under such a man as Mr. Lincoln as commander-in-chief, and to be subjected at all times to the orders of a government the administration of which must be necessarily unfriendly to the Commonwealth which has, so far, preserved a spotless record, and of which we are justly proud. We hereby swear to be true to her lone star in the present path of rectitude, and if, by chance, she goes astray, we will be with her still. All we desire is a field for making ourselves useful.”
West Point Divided: Cadets Come to Blows
Historian Thomas Fleming writes, “…Inflamed Southern cadets [at West Point] aimed a lot of their remarks at Emory Upton of Massachusetts, another outspoken abolitionist. Wade Hampton Gibbes of South Carolina noted that Upton had previously attended Oberlin College, the only racially and sexually integrated school in the nation, and suggested that Upton no doubt enjoyed the Negro coeds there. Upton demanded an apology, Gibbes declined, and the young Northerner challenged him to a fight.
“They slugged it out in a room cleared of furniture, while half the corps packed the nearby halls and stairs….The bigger, stronger Gibbes gave Upton a terrific beating…But the real climax of the fight, according to Morris Schaff, came when Upton’s roommate, John Rogers of Pennsylvania, strode to the head of the stairs and, with eyes ‘glaring like a panther’s’ said, ‘If there are any more of you down there who want anything, come right up.’ Schaff recalls that moment as when the South saw ‘what iron and steel there was in the Northern blood when once it was up.’
“Of the 278 cadets at West Point on the day Lincoln was elected, 86 were from Southern states. Of these, 65 went south. Southerners also departed–en masse–from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton. There is no record of a Southern man at these colleges staying in the Union.
“All told, 286 West Point graduates opted for the Confederacy. Over 100 Regular Army officers appointed from civil life chose the Stars and Bars–totaling about a third of the more than 1,000 officers on the active list.”
— Thomas Fleming,
“Band of Brothers: The West Point Corps” in
With My Face to the Enemy,
Robert Cowley, ed., 2001, pp. 30-1, 33.
West Point and the Civil War