U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS REGIMENTAL CREST

The current U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regimental Crest was not approved until 1986, but the two major components of the design—a turreted castle and the motto “ESSAYONS”—date back almost to the start of the 19th century.

Knowing precisely who introduced the turreted castle and at what time, however, is essentially an impossible task because all possibly relevant records were housed in a building at the Military Academy at West Point that was destroyed by fire in 1838. Some historians have speculated that French Engineers—in particularly General Louise Lebegue Duportail, who served as the Continental Army’s Chief Engineer from 1777 to 1783—created the design, drawing inspiration from a fortified castle near Verdun.  But while it’s certainly possible French engineers composed the design, the fact that it isn’t mentioned for more than two decades after the war makes this somewhat unlikely.

A more logical theory is that it was the brainchild of Colonel Jonathan Williams and Alexander Macomb, a member of his staff. Following his appointment as the first Commander of the Corps of Engineers and the Military Academy at West Point in 1802, Williams designed three coastal defensive fortifications—Castle Williams and Castle Clinton in New York Harbor and Castle Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina—and in 1807 sketched the earliest drawing of the now-famous Engineer button. But it was another West Point superintendent, Colonel Richard Delafield, who added a turreted castle to the uniform introduced in 1838 for West Point cadets.
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