We are going to continue with the Gettysburg theme this Fourth of July Week with this photograph of the West Point Class of 1915 posing on the steps of the Christ Lutheran Church on Chambersburg Street. This West Point cohort is called The Class the Stars Fell On because so many of the firsties we see here went on to become generals by the time of the Second World War. Somewhere in here are Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. They arrived in Gettysburg on 2 May and toured for several days under the supervision of Colonel Gustav J. Fiebeger, the legendary instructor who for more than a quarter of a century served as chair of the Academy’s Civil and Military Engineering Department. Among Fiebeger’s important works was “Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg,” which was studied by students at West Point. Remember that military parks like Gettysburg still fell under the auspices of the War Department in 1910s, not being turned over to the National Park Service until the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration.
When these cadets graduated a month later on June 12 they were the largest West Point Class up until that time, comprising 164 second lieutenants. Secretary of War Lindley Garrison was the commencement speaker. This was the first United States Military Academy class to graduate since the outbreak of the Great War the previous year and everyone understood that these young men might eventually be leading men into battle. The Lusitania was sunk later the very week this photo was taken. A very short list of those in attendance when the West Point Class of 1915 graduated the following month included Major General and Chief of Staff Hugh L. Scott; Major General George W. Goethels, who built the Panama Canal during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration; a West Pointer from the Class of 1847 who went on to become a brigadier; and Horace Porter, another West Pointer, who was an important aid to General and President Ulysses S. Grant and who went on to build Grant’s Tomb and was managing the mausoleum up through this time.