VMI Cadets in Richmond

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 :: VMI Cadets in Richmond ::
Information about the activities of the Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets in Richmond, VA during the Civil War.

The Cadet Corps of the Virginia Military Institute was marched to Richmond in April 1861 under the command of Major (later Lt. Gen.) Thomas J. Jackson. Upon arrival a portion was quartered at "Camp Lee" and served as drillmasters for incoming Confederate soldiers. Another portion was posted at the Richmond College (later the Louisiana Hospital) and served as instructors in artillery. Jackson was promoted to Colonel and ordered to Harper's Ferry, at which time Col. William Gilham (Commandant of the Cadet Corps) exercised control over the cadets. Gilham had written a drill manual for use of Virginia troops, and the cadets trained recruits using his drill methods. Later in the war, after the cadets had fought at the Battle of New Market, their barracks in Lexington were destroyed in a raid by Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley. At this time, the cadets made their way to Richmond where they were given barracks at the Richmond Alms house (General Hospital #1). This building (which still stands) is the only other building ever to serve as VMI's barracks. They served as active duty troops up till the evacuation of Richmond, when they were some of the last Confederate units to evacuate the city. Upon the evacuation, the corps was disbanded, and returned to their barracks at Lexington the next year. 


Photograph of General Hospital #1, taken by Alexander Gardner. This is the Richmond Alms House, which was used as barracks for VMI from May 1864 to April 1865.

Written Accounts

Richmond Enquirer 1/8/1861; Governor Letcher extols the virtues of VMI and its utility to the State
Richmond Dispatch 4/23/1861; train has left the Fredericksburg depot to convey the VMI cadets to Richmond
Richmond Dispatch 4/24/1861; VMI cadets have arrived in Richmond and are quartered at the Fair Grounds (Camp Lee) and parade for the Governor on Capitol Square
Richmond Dispatch 4/26/1861; VMI cadets are drilling recruits at the Fair Grounds (Camp Lee)
Richmond Enquirer 4/27/1861; list of troops at the new fair grounds (Camp Lee); Col. Gilham is in command, and VMI cadets present
Richmond Enquirer 4/27/1861; all VMI graduates and ex-cadets can find employment at the Camp of Instruction (Camp Lee)
Richmond Dispatch 4/29/1861; long article describing the “Hermitage Camp of Instruction” (Camp Lee) and praising the VMI cadets who have drilled the volunteers there.
Richmond Enquirer 5/3/1861; list of southern cadets who have left West Point, as well as those who refused to take the oath and resigned. Pelham and T. P. Turner are amongst the number
Richmond Enquirer 5/3/1861; prospective VMI cadets can apply to the acting superintendent in Richmond - notes that the academic schedule has been suspended, and cadets thus admitted will be trained free of charge until the corps returns to Lexington
Richmond Whig 5/22/1861; Camp of Instruction (Camp Lee) described. VMI cadets praised.
Richmond Enquirer 5/31/1861; notes on the present state of affairs at VMI, and advertises for new cadets - gives a table of tuition and fees
Richmond Dispatch 6/25/1861; Col. Gilham of VMI, currently commandant of Camp of Instruction, is raising an infantry regiment
Richmond Dispatch 7/6/1861; Gov. Letcher appoints VMI officers to the Provisional Army of Virginia
Richmond Dispatch 7/8/1861; West & Johnston's has published 10,000 copies of Gilham's manual
Richmond Dispatch 7/10/1861; military school has been set up at UVA - commanded by VMI graduate
Gen. John H. Winder CSR , M331 7/16, 18/1861; Gen. J. H. Winder assigned to "Camp of Instruction" to relieve Col. Gilham; two days later relieved by Col. Dimmock.
Richmond Dispatch 7/20/1861; Sergeant from the Richmond Zouaves returns to Richmond to fill up their ranks. They are commanded by a graduate of VMI
Richmond Dispatch 9/12/1861; Artillery company of VMI alumni is being formed
Richmond Dispatch 9/12/1861; VMI Board of Visitors meets again to decide the fate of the Institute during the war; notes professors engaged in service, and mistakes J. E. Johnston for T. J. Jackson
Richmond Enquirer 9/21/1861; VMI Board of Visitors is still meeting trying to figure out how to re-organize - cadets are serving as drillmasters
Richmond Whig 7/18/1862; VMI cadets contribute $177.50 for the sick and wounded soldiers.
Richmond Enquirer 12/2/1862; Col. Gilham has produced a new ink, which is sold by West & Johnson's
Richmond Whig 5/17/1864; dispatches from the Battle of New Market, describing the VMI cadets' role in the battle there
Richmond Whig 5/21/1864; seven VMI cadets have died to date after the Battle of New Market
Richmond Sentinel 5/25/1864; VMI cadets parade at Capitol Square following the Battle of New Market
Richmond Examiner 5/25/1864; VMI cadets arrive in Richmond and parade in Capitol Square and hear speeches from Governor Smith and President Davis
Richmond Whig 5/25/1864; VMI cadets parade in Capitol Square and are reviewed by President Davis. Afterwards, they listen to a speech from Governor Smith
Richmond Whig 5/26/1864; VMI cadets were quartered at Camp Lee before being put under Brig. Gen. Custis Lee's command and given new uniforms by the Secretary of War
Richmond Examiner 5/28/1864; VMI cadets parade and receive a new stand of colors
Richmond Sentinel 5/28/1864; VMI cadets parade and receive a new stand of colors
Richmond Whig 5/28/1864; VMI cadets parade in Capitol Square and receive a new Virginia flag from Governor Smith and Gen. Bragg
Richmond Sentinel 6/16/1864; brief notice of the burning of VMI buildings at Lexington. Cadets are presently at "Rope Ferry, Balcony Falls"
Richmond Sentinel 6/24/1864; Gen. Smith of VMI says that the Institute's buildings were not much damaged, and many of the academic apparatus was saved
New York Herald 7/4/1864; war news - notes the destruction (during Hunter's Shenandoah Valley raid) of the Virginia Military Institute and a branch of the Tredegar Iron Works at Buchanan

Richmond Sentinel

11/12/1864; VMI will commence its term starting Dec. 1 at the Alms House; all faculty and cadets requested to report at that time

Richmond Sentinel

11/12/1864; order from Superintendent of VMI for cadets and faculty to report to the Alms House for the next term, and details financial arrangements

Richmond Sentinel

12/5/1864; VMI Board of Visitors approves the occupation of the Alms House, and city agrees to rent it to them

Richmond Sentinel

12/18/1864; Alms House rented to VMI for $15,000 a year

Hughes, Thomas. A Boy's Experiences in the Civil War 1860-1865, 1904 late 1864; excellent description of the VMI cadets' use of the Alms House as barracks and classrooms and cadet life in general; also mentions the cadets tending Confederate graves in Hollywood cemetery after the war
OR, Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1093 2/17/1865; J. T. L. Preston, Acting Superintendent of VMI, offers the services of the corps in training negro troops and cites the corps' previous experience as drillmasters in 1861 and notes that they drilled 15,000 recruits in 2 months.
National Archives, RG 109 3/16/1865; Jackson Battalion (black Confederates) moved from Jackson Hospital to the front, under the command of Col. Ship, commanding the VMI Corps. Reports on their good conduct
OR, Series IV, Vol. 3, p. 1194 4/2/1865; T.P. Turner writes about raising negro troops
Southern Historical Society Papers Vol. 13 (1885), p. 247. Ewell, Richard S. "Evacuation of Richmond: Report of General R. S. Ewell." Letter from Ewell to Robert E. Lee, December 20, 1865. Notes on VMI cadets being some of the last soldiers in Richmond.
Southern Historical Society Papers 26, 1898, pp. 241- 246 Shields, John C. "The Old Camp Lee." Reprint from Richmond Dispatch, 22 May 1898

Page last updated on 03/12/2008