[Association Copy] West Point Life: An Anonymous Communication, Read Before a Public Meeting of the Dialectic Society, United States Military Academy, March 5, 1859.
“West Point Life, I said, should be the subject of this strain…”
Entirely in verse, West Point Life: An Anonymous Communication, Read Before a Public Meeting of the Dialectic Society… “details the intense social life at West Point on the eve of the Civil War with amusing accounts of balls and dances and courtships, as well as learning soldiering.” (Jenkins) Authorship has been attributed to Horace C. Porter (Class of 1860).
The copy at hand gives this penciled inscription on its title-page: “To Miss Constant. With the compliments of Cadet Kilpatrick, U.S.M.A.” In a later hand beneath: “Gen. Judson Kilpatrick.”
Later nicknamed “Kill-Cavalry,” the Irish-American Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836–1881) was a fellow member of the Dialectic Society who acted in numerous club performances. (Martin, p17) Kilpatrick graduated with the Class of 1861, as did Custer, and it has been claimed that he was the first regular army officer to be wounded during the Civil War.
Kilpatrick’s exploits during the War were numerous, if not at times controversial or amusing. (Surprised by Confederate forces while taking his bath, purportedly sprang naked into his boots and onto his horse and then led a charge against the enemy.) He served under Sherman as cavalry chief on the March to the Sea and as a “cavalry commander he was a brilliant leader, having originated the saying that ‘cavalry can fight anywhere except at sea.’” (DAB)
In 1874, Kilpatrick co-authored Allatoona: an historical and military drama in five acts and described by Benet’s as being “one of the earliest plays to deal with the Civil War [...] a tale in which two classmates at West Point fight on opposite sides in the great struggle.” The play was re-interpreted in 1930 by Christopher Morley and published as The Blue and the Gray: Or, War is Hell.
Kilpatrick’s inscription here as a twenty-three year old West Point cadet is one of the earliest examples one could hope to find for this colorful Union General.
Description: [Association Copy] West Point Life: An Anonymous Communication, Read Before a Public Meeting of the Dialectic Society, United States Military Academy, March 5, 1859.
[New York? 1859]. 16pp. 8vo. First edition? and “Printed by Order of the Society.” Original printed wraps are darkened; general creases and soft fold lines from mailing and handling. bjcb 352231
Ref. Farley, West Point in the Early Sixties. With Incidents of the War. (1902). Martin, Kill-Cavalry : The Life of Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick… (2000).