1842 – Letter from a West Point cadet complaining about the academy’s arbitrary and unjust demerit system
West Point, New York: 1842. Envelope or Cover. This one-page stampless folded letter Louis D. Welch to Welch’s father in Brooklyn, Connecticut, measures approximately 8” x 10” unfolded. It is undated, but pencil docketing indicates it was received in 1842. It is postmarked with a circular West Point NY “Nov 11” handstamp in red. The word “Single” is written in the lower left corner indicating the letter consisted of only one sheet of paper. A manuscript “18¾” is in the upper right corner indicating the postal rate to send a single-page folded letter a distance of 151 to 400 miles. In nice shape. A transcript will be provided.
In his long, cross-hatched letter, Welch explains what he believes to be the unjust and arbitrary nature of the Military Academy's demerit system to his father who perhaps had received a report of his son’s “spirit of insubordination.” Welch sarcastically points out that his “conduct [which] was so awfully subversive of military discipline” included having a rusty musket, unbuttoned coat, improper forage cap, inattention at parade and drill, and smoking (which “is so common that no importance is attached to it”.)In a further effort to trivialize his infractions, Louis reports that the father of one of the academy’s most honorable cadets, was “nearly made sick” by an unfounded report that his son was “in the habit of visiting dirty grog shops.” Welch managed to survive his demerits and graduate in 1845, receiving a commission in the 3rd Artillery Regiment. He was initially assigned to Fort Marion, Florida (the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine) following the Second Seminole War and later deployed with his unit during the Mexican-American War where he fought in the attack of Mexico City's Garita San Antonio in September 1847. Whether from wounds or sickness, Welch died the following spring at the age of 23.
A scarce window into life at West Point during the early 1840s. Very good. Item #009936