The VMI Cadets!


"Put the Boys In" by Don Troiani, gift to VMI by the Class of 1976

The Battle of New Market is the only occasion in American history in which
a student body has charged to victory in pitched combat.

The participation of the VMI Cadet Corps in the Battle of New Market marks a moment when young people-- college students-- were called upon to accomplish an assignment of heroic proportions. Called out of their classrooms on 11 May, the Corps marched 80 miles over four days (much of it in a soaking rain). On 15 May the Corps found itself in the center of the Confederate reserve line as General Breckinridge called for an infantry attack. Fate as much as planning resulted in the VMI Cadets advancing across a field into the path of waiting Union artillery and Infantry. The conduct of the cadets would determine the outcome of the struggle. The charge was a success and brought victory to the Confederates.

In 1839 the Virginia legislature approved replacing the guard company at the Lexington Arsenal with a military school. The school was intended to provide a source of competent militia officers, engineers, and teachers. It proved to be the states greatest source of officers in 1861; of sixty-four regiments raised that year, twenty-two were commanded by VMI graduates. Of 1,902 VMI matriculates from 1839 to 1865, 1,781 served in the Confederate Army. In April 1861 the Corps of Cadets, 200 strong, performed training duties in Richmond. The school resumed "normal" operations in January 1862 with 269 cadets. The corps was called out as reserve in April and May 1862 during Jackson's McDowell Campaign and took to the field three times in 1863 to support resistance against Federal cavalry raids in southwest Virginia. Following New Market, the corps was ordered to Richmond, where it served briefly in the city's defenses. It returned to Lexington in June to resist Hunter's advance, but could do little to prevent the Federal burning of Institute facilities. The corps was furloughed from July to October, when it was reassembled at Richmond where it served again periodically in the city defenses. It was disbanded on 2 April 1865 on the eve of the evacuation of Richmond. The Institute reopened at Lexington in October 1865.

Of course, there's lots of other things-- like the Bushong Family.

To learn more. . .