I was watching Grant on The History Channel last night, and it was mentioned that Robert E. Lee graduated second in his class, while Grant was in the middle*. They also made a point of pointing out how Grant came from humble circumstances (his father was a tanner), while of course many if not most West Pointers were from prominent families. Lee of course came from one of the First Families of Virginia.
This reminded me of something. I've read (somewhere - memory fails) that until relatively recently, Yale took family into account when determining class ranking. If that were a factor at West Point back then, a middling ranking for a tanner's son might actually be considered rather impressive. Likewise coming in second when your family is very prominent might not be a huge accomplishment.
So what exactly were the criteria for class rankings at West Point during the era Grant and Lee attended? Is there any record of that?
* - Note that they were not in the same class, which this factoid often mistakenly implies.