Cadets on Campus: History of Military Schools of the United States

Cadets on Campus: History of Military Schools of the United States

Cadets on Campus: History of Military Schools of the United States

Cadets on Campus: History of Military Schools of the United States


Since the founding of the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1802, more than eight hundred military schools have existed in this country. The vast majority have closed their doors, been absorbed into other educational institutions, or otherwise faded away, but others soldier on, adapting to changing times and changing educational needs.

While many individual institutions have had their histories written or their stories told, to date no single book has attempted to explore the full scope of the military school in American history. Cadets on Campus is the first book to cover the origin, history, and culture of the nation’s military schools—secondary and collegiate—and this breadth of coverage will appeal to historians and alumni alike.

Author John Alfred Coulter identifies several key figures who were pivotal to the formation of military education, including Sylvanus Thayer, the “father of West Point,” and Alden Partridge, the founder of the school later known as Norwich University, the first private military school in the country. He also reveals that military schools were present across the nation, despite the conventional wisdom that most military schools, and, indeed, the culture that surrounds them, were limited to the South. Coulter addresses the shuttering of military schools in the era after the Vietnam War and then notes a curious resurgence of interest in military education since the turn of the century.


With the establishment of the Military Academy at West Point, a new educational format that included military training was introduced in the United States. From 1802 to 2014, 842 military schools have operated in the United States (appendix A). These schools, both privately and publicly funded, provided education at the elementary, secondary, and college levels. the importance of understanding this subject has grown as the number of military charter and public secondary schools has increased tenfold since 1999.

This volume’s overarching thesis is that the number of military schools, enrollment in them, and their locality have been heavily influenced by political, cultural, and economic factors ever since the military school concept was launched in the United States in 1802. This study required the assembly of the most extensive list of military schools and best available information on their dates of operation. Explanations for openings, closings, and trends in enrollment are presented and explained in their relationships to political, cultural, and economic trends regionally or nationally.

Lester Webb provided a nineteenth-century study that served as a starting point for this book. It was Webb’s hope that others would “dig deeper into the history of military education, a field hitherto ignored and neglected by educational historians.” Likewise, Alvan Hadley identified the need for future research to address the historical “social, economic, cultural, or political circumstances” that impact military schools and to pull together meaningful statistics to provide greater understanding of military school failures. His work proved to be the first comprehensive list of military schools and was a starting point for the formation of the list of 842 military schools and their years of operation addressed here.

Historians traditionally have attributed the popularity of military schools to the Southern culture and regional orientation. On the contrary, military schools have had a wide regional representation throughout the United States. the popularity of the military school, rather than being a . . .

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