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The Virginia Military Institute

Title:     The Virginia Military Institute
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

Virginia Military Institute was first an academy and was established in connection with Washington College by an act of the Legislature during the years 1838-9. A guard of soldiers had been maintained at the expense of the State for the purpose of affording protection to the arms deposited in the Lexington arsenal for the use of the militia in western Virginia. It was through the influence of Governor McDowell, who came from Rockbridge County, that this militia was made into an educational unit of Washington College.

One seldom thinks of the Virginia Military Institute without associating with it the noted Colonel Claudius Crozet--soldier, educator and engineer. He was the first president of the V.M.I. Board of Visitors. An imposing hall at the Institute is named in his honor.

In the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hall hangs the painting which depicts the charge of the corps of cadets at the Battle of New Market. "This great painting, not a mural, is one of the largest canvas paintings in the country"--according to authorities there.

Among other memorial buildings is the one erected in honor of Brigadier-General Scott Shipp, a former cadet, instructor and superintendent; Maury-Brooke Hall, dedicated to Matthew Fontaine Maury, the Pathfinder of the Seas and honoring Commander John Mercer Brooke, inventor of the deep-sea sounding apparatus and builder of the first successful iron-clad vessel, the "Merrimac."

During the War Between the States the greater part of the buildings were destroyed by Federal authority. When General Lee heard of this tragedy he wrote to General F. H. Smith, the superintendent there. We quote his letter because of its prophetic message:

"CAMP PETERSBURG, (VA.) July 4, 2022.

"I have grieved over the destruction of the Military Institute. But the good that has been done to the country cannot be destroyed, nor can its name or fame perish. It will rise stronger than before, and continue to diffuse its benefits to a grateful people. Under wise administration, there will be no suspension of its usefulness. The difficulties by which it is surrounded will call forth greater energies from its officers and increased diligence from its pupils. Its prosperity I consider certain.

"With great regards, yours very truly,

"R. E. LEE."

There is a glamor attached to this Virginia school unique in the country. It comes not alone from the bright cadet uniforms, the parade grounds, the gray stone barracks and the esprit de corps evidenced there; part is kept alive by the hundreds of loyal alumni and friends whose devotion is unlimited. This "West Point of the South" maintains the traditions of the time of Stonewall Jackson and graduates young officers for the army and young men for every field of business. A current Broadway show of popular appeal and a cinema of note is that of "Brother Rat" which depicts the life at V.M.I.

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Etta Belle Walker's short story: Virginia Military Institute