Born in South Carolina, Charles Petigru entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1825. No sooner had he arrived than Superintendant Sylvanus Thayer formed a committee of cadets to select someone to be honored with the first monument to be raised at the academy. Five cadets—Petigru, Robert E. Lee, Charles Mason, John MacKay, and E. Basinger—discussed the issue, quickly deciding upon Tadeusz Kościuszko, the engineering officer charged with constructing the fortress during the American Revolution, as the first person to be so honored. John H. B. Latrobe, a former cadet and the son of Benjamin Latrobe, whose architectural work included the U.S. Capitol building, submitted the design of a fluted column and pedestal that was accepted. The location selected was at the northeastern corner of the storied plain, where cadets drilled overlooking the Hudson River Valley. “While your river flows and Country exists,” Latrobe commented, “no one will be at a loss to understand the Monument, its purpose, and its location.” The $5,000 cost of the monument was funded by a monthly 25¢ levy on each cadet’s stipend. When finished, it would be the second-oldest monument to the Revolutionary hero after the Kopiec Kościuszki (Kościuszko Mound) in Kraków.

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