100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Army Vs Carlisle Indian School at West Point

James Francis Thorpe was born sometime in May 1888 in Indian Territory near Prauge, Oklahoma. Both grandfather were of European heritage and he was raised by his Sac and Fox parents as a Roman Catholic. His Native American name is Wa-Tho-Huk – “path lit by great flash of lightning” or”Bright Path” but he was soon called “Jim”. After attending Indian Agency schools, 16 year old Thorpe decided to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first off-reservation boarding school in the US, founded in 1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with the goal of total assimilation for Indian children from over 140 tribes. “To civilize the Indian, get him into civilization. To keep him civilized, let him stay.” In 1907 Carlisle re-hired athletic coach Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner who had left Carlisle to coach at Cornell. Warner recognized Thorpe’s athletic talents when he walked past the track and beat all the school’s high jumpers with an impromptu 5ft 9in jump still in street clothes! Thorpe played competed in football, baseball, lacrosse. In a 1911 football game Thorpe, playing running back, defensive back, placekicker and punter score all his teams points in an 18-15 victory over top-rated Harvard.

In 1912 Thorpe participated in the Summer Olympics games in Stockholm, Sweden. He had only trained in jumps, hurdles and shot-puts, but added pole vaulting, javelin, discus, hammer and 56 lb weight. 2 new multi-event disciplines were included the pentathlon and the decathlon. Thorpe won 8 of the 15 individual events comprising the pentathlon and decathlon as well as individual events.Only 22 years ago the Native American massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota took place. The animosity between the US Army and Native Americans was keenly felt and the teams had only met once before on the sporting field

On November 9, 1912, the Carlisle Indians met the West Point Cadets at West Point, New York. 5,000 people filled the grandstands that ringed Army Field in West Point. Dwight D Eisenhower playing for Army tackled Thorpe and forced a fumble. Later in the game, Eisenhower injured his right knee while attempting to bring down Thorpe again. Thorpe scored a 92-yard touchdown which was nullified by a teammate’s penalty and on the next play rushed for a 97-yard touchdown against Army. Carlisle was thought to be at a disadvantage but due to their willingness to strategize and incorporate unusual maneuvers into their playing style, the Carlisle Indians defeated the Army team 27-6.

Great article on Carlisle football and the “Big Game” by Sally Jenkins, Sports Illustrated :

1912 Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team
Jim Thorpe top right

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