Last In Their Class:
Custer, Pickett and the Goats of West Point
Major General Henry "Harry" Heth, CSA
Division Commander, A.P. Hill's Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
Goat of the Class of 1847
Dabney Maury, a Virginian who graduated near the middle of the Class of 1846 and who later served as a Confederate Major General, said that the four years he spent at West Point were “the only unhappy years of a very happy life.” Henry Heth, Maury’s friend, fellow Virginian, and Goat of the Class of 1847, had a much different experience.
“Dabney was a good boy at West Point,” Heth observed, “but he was not happy; I was not good, I was happy, and had a good time.” It was clear from the very beginning that Heth would enjoy his stay at West Point -- he chalked up his first two of many demerits for “Laughing in ranks at morning parade.”
Henry Heth’s disciplinary record was impressively long, filling three and a half folio pages. He was mostly skinned for the kind of infractions one might expect from someone seeking to perfect the role of the Goat as bon vivant: lateness, inattention, wearing slippers at reveille, visiting, being caught out of barracks (a serious infraction, worth 8 demerits), distracting sentinels at post and making boisterous noise, talking in ranks, and looking around, swinging arms or spitting on parade.
Heth’s first roommate was Augustus H. Seward, son of William H. Seward, recently Governor of New York, later a Senator and Secretary of State under Presidents Lincoln and Johnson (while in the latter capacity negotiating the purchase of Alaska from Russia, known then as “Seward’s Folly”). Gus Seward, like Heth, began to accumulate demerits, and the Superintendent decided to separate them and place them with well-behaved cadets so they might learn from their example. Heth was matched up with a tall, handsome and respectable cadet from Indiana named Ambrose Everett Burnside. The Supe’s plan backfired. Rather than Burnside reforming Heth, the fun-loving Virginian found “a very ready pupil” in the charismatic Midwesterner. “Burnside had but a few demerits when he came to live with me,” Heth recalled, “in a few months he had over a hundred."
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