Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

U.S. Mil. Academy West Point

8 Sept. 1854


Upon the reception today, of your letter of the 6th Inst., directing the organization of the course of studies at the Acady into five years, I assembled the Academic Board for the purpose of dividing the Cadets admitted since the 30 June last, into a 4th & 5th Class as set forth in your letter of the 5th July.

Upon a careful consideration of the plans proposed in their report of the 28th July, the Board concluded it best to adopt that based upon the age of the Cadets, & have arranged in the 5th Class all below the age of 18; & in the 4th Class, all who are 18 & above that age. Rolls of each class as proposed, with the names & ages of each Cadet, & the state whence appointed, are herewith submitted. The reasons for adopting this basis of division, in the absence of instructions on the subject from the Dept. are briefly these. The older Cadets are generally more advanced in their studies & education than the younger. Their minds & bodies are more developed & matured, & more capable of undergoing the labour of the 4 Years Course, than the younger. The two classes will also have more nearly attained the same age on graduating. It will avoid the errors & complaints that will naturally follow, from the attempt to class them according to merit, on an examination at this time, & give a more equal division of talent & capacity to each class. You will see that on this principle, the 4th class will be composed of 48 Members, & the 5th of 55. A division it is supposed near enough to equality, & giving to the last & youngest class, which will be more liable to reduction, the greater number.

I have directed that the necessary text books for the 5th Class be at once procured, & as soon as recd, the organization of the class as proposed, if approved, will be made. As no time will therefore be lost in its instruction, & as the Dept. may prefer some other mode of its organization, I have thought it proper to submit for approval the action of the Board.

I have the honour to be Your obedt. Servt.Signed/ R. E. Lee Br. Col:
Supt: Mil: Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, pp. 135–36. Addressed “Genl: Jos: G. Totten Chief Engineer Washington City D.C.”