History of the Engineers

The U. S. Army Corp of Engineers Castle

The Engineer Castle

    The appropriateness of the turreted castle as a symbol of the Army Corps of Engineers is readily apparent. The medieval castle is inseparably connected with fortifications and architecture. In heraldry, the castle and the tower are often used on coats of arms or given as charges in the shield of individuals who overcome walled fortifications, were the first to mount their walls ore successfully defended them.

    In this country the term "castle" has been applied to the strongest of our early fortifications such as Castle Pickney in Charleston, South Carolina, and Castle Williams and Clinton in New York Harbor. The Castle is a highly stylized form without decoration or embellishment.

    The Army officially adopted the castle to appear on the Corps of Engineers Epaulets and belt plate, in 1840. Soon afterwards the cadets at West Point, all of whom were part of the Corps of Engineers until the Military Academy left the charge of the Chief of Engineers and came under the charge of the Army at Large in 1866, also wore the castle on their cap beginning in 1841. Subsequently the castle appeared on the shoulder knot; on the saddle cloth, as a collar device, and on the buttons.

    Although its design has changed many times since its inception, the castle has remained the distinctive symbol of the Corps of Engineers.

The Engineer Corp Dress Button

The Engineer Dress Button

   The Corps of Engineers' oldest and most time honored insignia is the exclusive Essayons Button. It has not changed in basic design since the war of 1812. It is still the required button for the Army Engineers' uniform.

    Evidence which could establish the actual facts concerning the designing and adoption of the Essayons Button probably burned at West Point in 1838, when the building containing the library and earliest official Corps of Military Academy records caught fire.

    However, while early Army regulations mentioned the "button of Engineers... with only the device and motto heretofore established", apparently no authoritative detailed description of the button appeared until 1840. The Army prescribed new uniforms on February 18, 1840, in General Orders 7, AGO, which officially described the button as follows:

    An eagle holding in his beak a scroll with the word, 'Essayons,' a bastion with embrasures in the distance, surrounded by water, and rising sun; the figures to be of dead gold upon a bright field."

    In 1902, when the Army adopted "regulation" buttons, it allowed only the Corps of Engineers to retain its own distinctive Essayons Button in recognition of the distinguished traditions that it symbolized.

"Essayons" Let Us Try!

The Army Engineer Regimental Association Crest

    A silver color metal and enamel device 1 1/16 inches in height consisting of a scarlet shield with silver border and gold castle at center and attached below a scarlet scroll inscribed "ESSAYONS" in silver. The regimental insignia was approved on 11 April 1986.


 Essayons, sound out the battle cry

Essayons, we'll win or we'll die

Essayons, there's nothing we won't try

We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Pin the castle on my collar

I've done my training for the team

You can call me an engineer soldier

The warrior spirit has been my dream

We are builders, we are fighters

We are destroyers just as well

There've been doubters who met with the sappers

And then we blew them all straight to hell

Our brothers fighting on the battlefield

Look to us to point the way

We get there first and then we take the risks

To build the roads and the air strips

And bridge the mighty river streams

We don't care who gets the glory

We're sure of one thing, this we know

 Somewhere out there an engineer soldier

Designed the plan for the whole darn show

Essayons whether in war or peace

We will bear our red and our white

Essayons we serve America

And the U.S. Army Corps of engineers

Essayons! Essayons!

Play the song



16 June 1775. Continental Congress authority for a "Chief of Engineer for the Army" dates from 16 June 1775. A Corps of Engineers for the United States was authorized by the Congress on 11 March 1779. The Corps of Engineers, as it is known today, came into being on 16 March 1802, when the President was authorized to "organize and establish a Corps of Engineers...that the said Corps...shall be stationed at West Point in the State of New York and shall constitute a Military Academy." A Corps of Topographical Engineers, authorized on 4 July 1838, was merged with the Corps of Engineers on 3 March 1963.

Back to main page

Click Here!