Visit the museums of the Virginia Military Institute, the oldest state-supported military college in the United States: The VMI Museum, Virginia Museum of the Civil War, Stonewall Jackson House, Marshall Museum and Library, Adams Center for Military History, and VMI Archives.
The spring of 1864 brought changes to key commanding positions for both the Union and the Confederacy. Ulysses S. Grant became Lieutenant General of all Union forces, and began pressuring the Confederate Forces on all fronts to bring about a swift end to the war. The heavily contested Shenandoah Valley was part of the newly formed Department of West Virginia under the command of Major General Franz Sigel. Sigel’s orders were to destroy granaries and rail lines in the Valley. His objective in May of 1864 was to reach the rail lines in Staunton and stop the flow of goods to the Confederacy. Standing in his way were the forces of Major General John C. Breckinridge who knew the loss of the Shenandoah Valley, “The Breadbasket of the Confederacy,” would be a devastating blow to the South.
Knowing that Sigel had superior numbers, Breckinridge called on the Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute as reinforcements. The cadets joined with the rest of Breckinridge’s forces outside of Staunton. The Confederate forces marched north and met with General Franz Sigel’s Union Forces in New Market on May 15, 1864. The days leading up to the battle had been filled with rain and storms and that Sunday the deluge continued. The Union forces lining the top of Bushong’s Hill pounded the Confederate Forces with artillery fire. The center of the Confederate line had heavy losses. With the Corps of Cadets making up his diminished reserves General Breckinridge had no other option than to order the cadets to fill the gap. The arrival of the cadets allowed the Confederate troops to regroup and push the Union army back. General Sigel’s units were forced to retreat, burning the bridge over the Shenandoah River to prevent further assaults. The days following the battle were filled with caring for the wounded and burying the dead. The total number of casualties was approximately 1,300 men. The Battle of New Market marked the last major Confederate Victory in the Shenandoah Valley before the end of the War.