With the outbreak of the war, the men of West Point faced very different challenges depending on which side they fought. Those who defended the Confederate cause had the enormous task of building an army from scratch, while their Union counterparts had to deal with the beauracracy that denied them promotion. Either way, they had to take what they had learned at West Point and put it to the ultimate test on the battlefield. Of the 278 cadets at West Point on the day that Lincoln was elected, 86 were appointees from the South. Of them, 65 were discharged, dismissed or resigned because of their loyalty to their native states. More than 300 West Point cadets and graduates affirmed their loyalty to the South.
If there was one graduate whose class ranking overshadowed the greatness to come, it was Robert E. Lee, the legendary Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee was known as “the Marble Model” at West Point. He had a perfect record in conduct. He never received a single demerit, an accomplishment that remains unmatched, and he graduated second in his class.
Being a graduate of West Point himself, Jefferson Davis appointed West Pointers throughout his administration as general officers in the Confederate Army.
Davis, William C., Ponhanka, Brian C. & Troiani, Don, ed. Civil War Journal, The Leaders, (Nashville, Tennessee: Rutledge Hill Press, 1997), 33-41