By Ian Clarence Hope
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Additional info for A Scientific Way of War: Antebellum Military Science, West Point, and the Origins of American Military Thought
Stephen Rochefontaine, assumed command of the garrison at West Point in 1796 and began teaching Vauban’s science of fortifications to selected young officers. Cadets and officers alike did not receive Rochefontaine well, and when a fire destroyed much of the school’s infrastructure in April 1796, instruction tapered off and stopped after only a few months. Another four years passed before opportunity came again to establish a proper military school. S. Army during the Quasi-War, and voiced dissatisfaction with progress of the First System and the poor state of officer training.
27 L’Enfant also promoted education, describing arithmetic, geometry, mechanics, architecture, hydraulics, drawing, and natural philosophy as essential. The duties of American engineer officers would include the surveying, planning, and construction of fortifications, magazines, and arsenals for mobilization and the calculation of peacetime garrison requirements for each post. His statements were remarkably prescient. L’Enfant, like Duportail, was transplanting the notion of Vauban’s ceinture de fer to America.
57 In the society’s papers, as in so many of the writings of the period, one can discern a predilection for rationalism and a continued belief in the utility of science and progress. These were common Enlightenment ideas basic to humanitarianism, deism, rationalism, and util36 early national military science itarianism, all promoting a faith that progress was the natural path for humankind and that science was the guide to progress. Science, to these thinkers, incorporated not only the physical sciences but also what is now distinguishable as technology.