VMI Corps of Cadets

8895 George Collins Pkwy New Market

Virginia Military Institute Museums & Archives
Written By Virginia Military Institute Museums & Archives

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 Corps of Cadets

Officially established in 1839 in Lexington, VA, the Virginia Military institute was small at first but grew quickly and at the start pf the Civil War was home to approximately 250 cadets between the ages of 13 and 23. With the Civil War raging around them, they were anxious to do their part. Although they had never seen battle, they were used to drill new recruits, had served on guard duty, and had been called to aid their teacher General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. On the evening of May 10, 1864, the Cadets were ordered to reinforce the troops of Confederate General John C. Breckinridge. The Cadets would march 84 miles over four days before arriving in New Market. The Confederate Forces met the Union Forces, under the Command of General Franz Sigel, in the fields outside of the town of New Market. The heaviest of the fighting happened around the Bushong home and orchard. General Breckinridge did his best to keep the Cadets out of the fight, but a gap made in the Confederate line forced him to make the difficult decision. “Put the boys in,” he said, “And may God forgive me for the order.” As the Cadets moved towards the front lines they were forced to split in half to maneuver past the Bushong Farm House. Companies A and B passed on the West side of the house, and Companies C and D on the East. The Corps of Cadets reassembled on the other side of the house in the Bushong orchard and pressed the final yards to join their fellow Confederate Forces along the fence line.

The Cadets joining in to reinforce the line, allowed the forces to regroup and push back the Union Army. The VMI Cadets and the rest of the Confederate line charged across the field up Bushong’s Hill. Rain had been falling heavily all day causing Jacob Bushong’s fields of wheat to turn into mud pits, sucking the shoes off the feet of the advancing army. The VMI Corps of Cadets successfully captured a Union artillery piece. With their position overrun, the Union Army was forced to retreat north, burning the bridge as they crossed the Shenandoah River into Mount Jackson. The day’s fighting was over and the Cadets celebrated their victory and mourned their loss, while making their way back towards the Bushong home in search of fallen comrades. The Cadet casualties from the battle were 10 killed and 47 wounded of the 257 that fought.

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