This Place in History: Captain Alden Partridge and Citizen Soldiers

Vermont Historical Society

NORTHFIELD, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘, we’re in Northfield, Vt. at Norwich University with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re standing here in front of the Sullivan Museum, which talks about the history of Norwich University and all sorts of other great things. We’re going to learn about Captain Alden Partridge who founded Norwich University, and his idea of education and how that grew to other colleges and universities in the United States. The Director of the Sullivan Museum John Hart is going to join us, give us a little tour and talk about it,” said Perkins.

“Captain Alden Partridge founded the academy known as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy in 1819. Partridge had left West Point under some rather difficult circumstances and wanted a school to educate the impractical exercises. So, getting students into an environment where they can practice what they’re learning,” began Hart.

“Partridge was an engineer, so a lot of the early exercises involved engineering and surveying and being out in the field, taking part in what we consider a normal act of learning right now. His philosophy of having them educated, trained citizens and soldiers is something that Norwich still embraces today and it’s something we actively try to instill in not just our Corps of Cadets, but into our civilian students.”

“Within your museum, there’s a gallery called the Citizens Soldiers Gallery. We’re going to go in and take a look. Who are some of these Citizen Soldiers we’re going to learn about?” asked Perkins.

“In the gallery right now we have a variety of different panels that look at a number of different individuals. But, we also chose, in large part because we were given a Medal of Honor last year, to focus more on our Medal of Honor recipients. And this time around, we’re focusing on in particular Captain James Burt, who was class of 1939. He is a remarkable individual; historically someone who was given the Medal of Honor, but chose to stay more in the background of things,” answered Hart.

“So what makes Captain Burt really unique as opposed to other veterans during World War II, and really during any conflict, is that typically the Medal of Honor would be awarded for a single action of gallantry. Captain Burt’s was actually over a number of days at the Battle of Aachen in Germany in 1944.”

“In order for the tanks that he was commanding to hit target, he actually decided to put himself in harm’s way, get out of his tank, go in and radio back coordinates. So basically, he was asking to have the shots come down near him. He was wounded a number of times during that engagement, but still kept going. He would find another tank to lead the command on. What makes him fascinating from a Citizens and Soldiers standpoint, he went from this soldier role, which was taught by Norwich, left active duty and became a math teacher. And he taught for the rest of his life,” explained Hart.

“If people want to learn more about Captain Burt and about all of the alumni of Norwich and what they went on to do in military service, how can they do that?” asked Perkins.

“There are a lot of different ways. They can come to the museum and talk to any one of us on staff. We’re working on a special project, taking our Silver Star recipients and higher, through Medal of Honor, as well as a civilian medal, and put it all into a single database where folks can come in and learn about people like Captain Burt and have it all right there and ready for them. It’ll be completely interactive. It’s an exciting project. There’s a lot of time and energy going into it. It will be one of the first systems of its kind distilling all of this information from multiple sources into one place,” concluded Hart.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s historic site markers, click here.

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