The Corps (song)

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"The Corps" is a poetic hymn associated with the United States Military Academy. It is second in importance to only the Academy's Alma Mater. The words were written by West Point Chaplain, Bishop H.S. Shipman, around 1902. The accompanying music was composed in 1910 specially for the ceremonial closing of the Old Cadet Chapel and opening of the new Cadet Chapel. "The Corps" was first sung on the steps of the Cadet Chapel on 12 June 1910, and became part of the graduation ceremony starting in 1911. [1] Today, "The Corps" is typically sung by the Cadet Glee Club (West Point's choir) in companion to the Alma Mater at alumni gatherings, graduation, memorial ceremonies and funerals.



The original words to The Corps, as written in 1902 are: [2]


The Corps, bareheaded, salute it, with eyes up, thanking our God.
That we of the Corps are treading, where they of the Corps have trod.
They are here in ghostly assemblage. The men of the Corps long dead.
And our hearts are standing attention, while we wait for their passing tread.
We Sons of today, we salute you. You Sons of an earlier day;
We follow, close order, behind you, where you have pointed the way;
The long gray line of us stretches, thro' the years of a century told
And the last man feels to his marrow, the grip of your far off hold.
Grip hands with us now though we see not, grip hands with us strengthen our hearts.
As the long line stiffens and straightens with the thrill that your presence imparts.
Grip hands tho' it be from the shadows. While we swear, as you did of yore.

Or living, or dying, to honor, the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

Gender specific lyrics controversy

In 2008, the superintendent of the United States Military Academy, LTG Franklin L. Hagenbeck ordered a change to the lyrics of The Corps and the Alma Mater. The change was to remove gender-specific language in both century-old songs, which were both written at the turn of the 20th century, when the academy only admitted male cadets. LTG Hagenbeck wrote a letter to the Association of Graduates explaining the reasoning for his decision. [3] Many graduates objected to this alteration of the original and hallowed lyrics of West Point songs, but to no avail. A poll taken of former graduates resulted in a majority of objections, but the Superintendent proceeded to make the changes notwithstanding.

The changes to The Corps' lyrics were thus:

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  1. Hulse, LTC Glenn Ed., Bugle Notes, 86th Edition, 1994. Academy Press, p 276
  2. Hulse, LTC Glenn Ed., Bugle Notes, 86th Edition, 1994. Academy Press, p 276-277
  3. Update of Lyrics to Alma Mater and The Corps Letter from the Superintendent to AOG retrieved 20 December 2008