Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14, 2012. The Hawthornes Travel To Lexington, Virginia. Part 1 Of 3. Virginia Military Institute And The VMI Museum.

This post is for YOU, Brother Rat Hawthorne.

Welcome to Virginia Military Institute.
VMI is the oldest state-supported military college in the US,
founded on the site of the Lexington state arsenal in 1839.
In 1849, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson  
became a member of the faculty
and a professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy.

VMI played an active part in the training of Southern armies.
During the Civil War, VMI cadets were called into active
military service on 14 occasions.
Under Jackson, VMI artillery and infantry units were present at
the execution of John Brown at Charles Town, Virginia,
(now West Virginia) in 1859.
In 1864, VMI cadets fought as an independent unit at the
Battle of New Market.
They weren't used until the Union troops broke 
through Confederate lines.
The VMI Corps of Cadets held the line
and pushed forward, securing victory for the Confederates.

VMI also produced some of the most significant commanders
in WW II, the most important of whom was George C. Marshall,
who was the first five-star general and only career officer
to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
VMI has also produced more Rhodes Scholars
than all senior military colleges combined.

This van was in the parking lot.
Check out the bumper stickers.

Is this bringing back good memories, Brother Hawthorne?

 Next, the Hawthornes are heading to the 
Virginia Military Institute Museum.
The Museum collects, preserves,
exhibits, and interprets the heritage of VMI
in their 15,000 artifact collection.

 This is creepy.
It's the mounted hide of "Little Sorrel,"
Stonewall Jackson's favorite horse.

Little Sorrel

"Little Sorrel" gained fame as the favorite mount of "Stonewall" Jackson during the Civil War.  Jackson purchased the small horse from a Baltimore & Ohio train in 1861 for $150, with the intention of sending him to Mrs. Jackson.  Little Sorrel (so named to distinguish him from a larger sorrel-colored horse Jackson owned) proved to be so calm on the battlefield Jackson decided to keep him.  The pair were together throughout Jackson's celebrated 1862 Valley Campaign.

Little Sorrel on the VMI Parade Ground ca. 1880.

 There stands Jackson like a "Stonewall"

An 1846 graduate of West Point and veteran of the Mexican American War, Thomas Jackson left the U.S. Army in 1851 to assume his new position as Professor of Natural Philosophy and Artillery Tactics at VMI.  Initially lacking a thorough knowledge of his subject,
the Major struggled to stay one lesson ahead of his students.  The cadets called him "Tom Fool" and "Old Hickory."

Major Jackson's first command of the Civil War came on 21 April 1861 when he marched the VMI cadets to Richmond to serve as drill instructors.  By the end of the yer, the world knew the eccentric professor as "Stonewall."

Jackson intended to return to VMI after the war.  An accidental mortal wound - from a bullet fired by his own men - cut short his life in May 1863.  His body was brought back to Lexington for burial.  He was 39 years old.

 The nickname, "Stonewall," came from the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as Manassas, in July 1861, when Jackson rushed his troops forward to close a gap in the line against the Union.  One of his fellow generals, observing Jackson, reportedly said, "Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall!"

Jackson received this saddle from British admirers in 1862.  Made by "H. Peat, Sadler to her Royal Highness," it is a Pattern 1850 light cavalry saddle.

Jackson may have been using this saddle while riding Little Sorrel the night of his accidental wounding, 2 May 1863. 

 Major Jackson wore this VMI professor's uniform on three of the most important occasions of his Civil War service: when he left VMI with the Cadet Corps on 21 April 1861 to assume command of Harper's Ferry; when he earned his nickname "Stonewall" at the Battle of Manassas, 21 July 1861; and when he narrowly escaped capture by Ohio cavalrymen (wearing very similar blue uniforms) at the Battle of Port Republic, 8 June 1862.

In a letter to his wife the day after the Battle of Manassas Jackson mentioned that the coat had been "wounded" in the right hip - the repair is still visible.

Presented to VMI by the general's grand daughter in 1926, this is the only Jackson uniform to survive the war.

 General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's Desk
A design used by VMI professors in the 19th century, this desk was most likely crafted by local furniture makers Varner and Pole around 1850.

Major Jackson used the desk between 1851 and 1863.  When Jackson left the Institute in April 1861, at the start of the Civil War, he carried the functional desk with him.  After Jackson's death in May 1863, the desk was given to General Richard Ewell when he took over Jackson's command.  In 1910, General Ewell's niece presented the desk to VMI.

 I don't care what you say.
This is creepy.

 St. Francis of Assisi

By William Marks Simpson, VMI 1924

 Mr. Simpson won the famed Prix de Rome in 1930 with this portrayal of St. Francis.  He taught sculpture at VMI in the 1950s.
Painted plaster, ca. 1927

Notice the bullet hole in the arm.

 On May 2, 1863, at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was mistaken for the enemy and the Confederates opened fire.  Jackson fell wounded. His arm was amputated.  He was later diagnosed with pneumonia and his condition became critical.  Jackson died May 10, 1863.  Although Jackson's own doctors cited "pleuro-pneumonia,"  (an 1863 medical term) as cause of death, modern medical experts believe that Jackson may have died from some intra-abdominal pathology (pancreas, gall bladder, renal dysfunction associated with trauma) or possibly a blood clot to the lung from a pulmonary embolus from the vein at the amputation site.

Mr. Hawthorne thought he'd died and gone to heaven 
Over a 50-year period, Henry M. Stewart, Jr., VMI class of 1935,
assembled a stunning collection of the world's greatest antique firearms.
Many of the pieces in the collection are one-of-a-kind
or the only known surviving example of its type.
The total collection numbers over 800 pieces.

I shot pictures of almost every display case
until a dour museum employee told me to stop.

 The Cadet Battery

In 1848 the foundry of Cyrus Alger in Boston, Massachusetts, cast the specially designed VMI Cadet Battery.  Each tube of the training guns weighs 562 pounds, three hundred pounds less than the standard six-pound cannon of the time.  The Adjutant General of Virginia requested that the carriage be painted red with black metal parts so that whenever the cadets were on parade, the public would instantly identify the cannon as the VMI Cadet Battery.  The cadets took special pride in their unique guns.

Major Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson instructed artillery tactics with the red guns for ten years prior to the Civil War.  The battery originally consisted of two 12-pounds howitzers and four 6-pound tubes, but one howitzer was lost during the war.  The guns were issued to the Rockbridge Artillery and other units at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and saw action at Falling Water, First Manassas, Savage Station, and Malvern Mill.

 George C. Marshall statue.
Marshall is one of VMI's most illustrious alumni.
He was Chief of Staff for the US Army during WW II, 
Secretary of both Defense and State after WW II, 
and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.



Every Friday afternoon, weather permitting, 
the Corps of Cadets marches in formation on the Parade Ground.

Brings back memories,
 doesn't it Brother Rat?

Next up, Washington and Lee University
and the Lee Chapel.

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