David Moniac: West Point’s First American Indian Graduate

David Moniac graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1822. He was the academy’s first American Indian graduate and the first graduate from the state of Alabama. He lived as a civilian and died a soldier.

Moniac was born in 1802 in present-day Montgomery County, in what was then part of the Mississippi Territory. His mother was Elizabeth Weatherford, sister of William Weatherford, the Upper Creek chief who surrendered to Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814). 

David’s father, Sam, owned a tavern on the newly-built federal road through Creek territory. During the Creek War (1813–14), Sam served as a scout for the US military.

After the war, David moved to Washington, DC, where he studied under tutor John McLeod to prepare for the entrance exam at West Point. In 1817, David was admitted to the academy. At the time, the academy served primarily to train future military officers and engineers.

In 1821, Moniac marched with his fellow cadets all the way to Boston, where they drilled, and their marching band played. Former President John Quincy Adams had them to his house. Moniac’s commandant, Major William Worth, tried to introduce him to Adams but Moniac didn’t want to, which the commandant told Adams was due to shyness. 

Moniac’s shyness was likely due to his refusal to be made a celebrity and his exhaustion at the constant gawking. Worth told Adams that on more than one occasion, gawkers had mistaken him for the Indian that everyone knew was attending West Point.

Although Moniac had few demerits, he did not perform exceptionally well — likely due to his limited early education. He graduated 39th out of a class of 40 after being held back a year at his request. However, two-thirds of the students who entered the academy when he did failed to graduate. 

His class included five future generals in the US army, two generals in the New Jersey militia, two officers in the Confederate army, three college presidents, and five civil engineers or chief operating officers of railroads.

The army commissioned him as a second lieutenant in the Sixth US Infantry Regiment upon graduation. He promptly resigned, however, because his father had drunk himself to destitution, and his family needed someone to manage its clan’s estate. Continue reading…