It’s New Market Day. The anniversary of the Battle of New Market when Confederate troops under General John C. Breckinridge drove Federal soldiers commanded by General Franz Sigel off the high ground around New Market and into retreat back down the Virginian Shenandoah Valley. It’s the anniversary of when 257 cadets from Virginia Military Institute filled a gap in the Confederate battle line and helped turn the conflict in favor of a southern victory and moment of “youthful glory.”
But this May 15 is unlike other New Market Days. The classes at Virginia Military Institute will not parade in front of the Virginia Memorial and graves of the cadets who died in 1864. No crowd will gather for a tour at New Market battlefield (though Lt. Col. Marshall did host a Facebook LIVE to mark the occasion). I am not hosting a tour or a booksigning. I’m sitting in my apartment about two and a half hours from New Market, wearing a “Field of Lost Shoes” T-Shirt, and working from home for my job.
We’re wrapping up the New Market Video Series for 2019, and today I’m answering some questions about my research, book tour, and ongoing interest in the history. No lectures today, just some honest, candid musings and thoughts.
I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about New Market. Don’t make this an awkward one-sided conversation! Leave a comment, question, or something relevant that’s on your mind.
Finally. It’s time to discuss the Virginia Military Institute Cadets’ role in the Battle of New Market – how they rushed to The Fence, filled the gap in the line, and then…
Hey, why am I telling you here! Watch the video…
In addition to talking about the historic happenings, this video includes footage filmed on New Market battlefield, including a walk to The Cannon. Then we’ll reflect on what the Cadets at New Market means and how it is still inspirational 155 years later.
Send In The Boys
What the VMI Cadets did when they received orders on May 15, 1864
Fight at the fence
The Cadets’ Charge
Footage from New Market Battlefield State Historical Park
Rain. Rain. On picket, wondering why we do not get relieved. It is past time for the relief to show up. Lieutenant Kerr sends a detail to camp to learn the cause. Returned in a short time, reported the regiment had left for parts unknown. The Lieutenant called in the pickets to the reserve headquarters in the woods. Formed company and were ready for action as we marched out of the woods to the pike, expecting to meet the enemy scouts. Instead we met our own cavalry scouts who reported our regiment left in the night, going up the valley towards New Market
We started on after them, making a forced march, wet, tired, hungry, well used up…. Lieutenant Kerr kept urging us on, making a forced march up the pike. Duty having been so severe, and the lack of rations for the past few days, we were near used up. The last two miles of the march we ran, and joined the regiment as they were going into action, having made a march of sixteen miles with hardly a rest, and very little to eat.
The Corps of Cadets from Virginia Military Institute took an important role in the Battle of New Market. In fact, this battle is the only time in U.S. History that a college student body fought together as a unit and they helped secured the outcome for General Breckinridge and the Confederates.
Through the decades after the battle, they helped to collect and write about the fight, ensuring their place in history and memory. To understand what the cadets did on May 15, 1864, it’s important to understand a little about the Institute’s history and the cadets of the 1860’s. In today’s video, you’ll find scenes filmed on location at Virginia Military Institute in 2018 and a discussion of this background history.
May 2, 1864 HQ, VMI Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge Comd. Dept. of Western Va. Dublin Depot
General, I have the honor to enclose herewith a letter from General R.E. Lee, Commanding Army of N. Virginia, addressed to the Adjutant General of Virginia–also–a copy of instructions from the Governor of Virginia communicated by the Adjutant General defining my duty as Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute.