Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Only Independent Unit
The Virginia Military Institute; VMI, the oldest state supported military college is located in Lexington Virginia. VMI has been referred to as the West Point of the south. VMI students known as cadets, are required to take ROTC, they are not however expected to serve in the military after graduation.
VMI was founded on November 11th 1839 on the site of the Lexington, Virginia state arsenal. The first superintendent was Major General Francis Henry Smith, and the first cadet was Private John Strange. In 1842 the school graduated sixteen cadets. Thomas J Stonewall Jackson became a professor at VMI in 1851 teaching Natural and Experimental Philosophy. Infantry and artillery units from VMI attended the execution of John Brown, providing security.
Upon the out break of the Civil War VMI cadets were called to serve the Confederate army during fourteen different battles. On May 15th 1864 at the Battle of New Market, VMI became only military school in the country to fight as an independent unit. The Confederate commanding General John C Breckinridge held the VMI cadets in reserve until the Union troops broke through lines. The VMI students held their line and eventually moved forward capturing Union artillery. Union forces under General David Hunter shelled the Institute on June 12th 1864 as part of the Valley campaign. The school was destroyed and class had to be held in Richmond, Virginia until after the end of war. VMI reopened on the Lexington campus on October 17th 1865.