Alden Partridge

Alden Partridge bigraphy, stories - United States Army officer

Alden Partridge : biography

February 12, 1785 – January 17, 1854

Alden Partridge, (February 12, 1785 – January 17, 1854) was an American author, legislator, officer, surveyor, an early superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York and a controversial pioneer in U.S. military education, emphasizing physical fitness training, advocating the concept of citizen soldier and establishing a series of private military academies throughout the country, including Norwich University.


Partridge wrote widely, mostly in local newspapers and in books, about his many travels, several mathematical and scientific subjects, and his constant, vocal opposition to the academy at West Point. The following is an incomplete list of his writings.

  • "Observations Relative to the Calculation of the Altitude of Mountains, etc, by the Use of the Barometer" (1812)
  • "Method of Determining the Initial Velocity of Projectiles" (1812)
  • "Account of Some Experiments on Fire of Artillery and Infantry at the Military Academy in 1810 and 1814"
  • "Newton’s Binomial Theorem" (1814)
  • "Meteorological Tables" (1810–1814)
  • "A General Plan for the Establishment of Military Academies" (1815)
  • "Reports of the National Academy" (1814–1817)
  • "Lectures on National Defense" (1821–1827)
  • "Discourse on education" 1826. The art of epistolary composition, or Models of letters, billets, bills of exchange … with preliminary instructions and notes : to which are added, a collection of fables … for pupils learning the French language; a series of letters between a cadet and his father, describing the system pursued at the American, literary, scientific and military academy at Middletown, Conn.: E. & H. Clark, 1826. PE1481 .P4
  • The Military Academy, at West Point, unmasked: or, corruption and military despotism exposed. By Americanus [pseud.], Washington [D.C.], Sold at the bookstore of J. Elliot, 1830, [3], 4-28 p. 22 cm. Attributed to Alden Partridge by Sidney Forman in his West Point. A History of the United States Military Academy (New York, 1950), p. 62. USMA: U410.F7 P258 .

Military career

Upon his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1806, Partridge received the rank of lieutenant of engineers and an appointment at the academy as an assistant instructor of mathematics. In its early days, the post served both as academy and headquarters for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the superintendent was also chief of engineers. In 1808 chief Jonathan Williams promoted Partridge professor of mathematics and delegated to him the responsibilities of acting superintendent.Barnard, Alden Partridge, p. 51 Partridge set an example for physical fitness during his administration, frequently leading the cadet corps on extended marches in New York and neighboring states. Never profane or intemperate, superintendent Partridge required cadets to attend church services, occasionally preparing and delivering the sermon on Sundays.Guidotti, John A., The Legacy of Alden Partridge, p. 8 Named professor of engineers in 1813, and officially appointed as superintendent in 1814, "Old Pewt" developed a reputation among academy faculty as a martinet, often micromanaging subordinates, and occasionally demonstrating preference toward favorite cadets.

The "Long Gray Line" that West Point has become known as originated during Partridge’s tenure. Partridge had gray uniforms made in New York City in 1814 because of the blue cloth shortage. Then in 1816, when the War Department decided to select a new Cadet uniform, gray was chosen because "it better suits the finance of the Cadets than one of blue." In simple terms, the gray uniforms were cheaper.U.S.M.A. Corps of Cadets, The Military Images, Sep/Oct 2000 by McAfee, Michael J"Cadets, U.S. Military Academy, 1816-1817," Military Uniforms in America, Vol II, Years of Growth 1796-1851, Company of Military Historians, 1977